Saturday, February 02, 2002

THE TRENCHANT ANTI-EUROPEAN sentiments of this Bull Moose post (and why am I the only blogger who seems to read the site?) will doubtless be welcome reading for many an aggrieved blogger, but I thought I'd take the time to say that for all the recent anti-Americanism coming from Europe and the anti-Europianism coming from America that we should see all this bitching and moaning for what it is -- bitching and moaning among a family or a circle of friends.

We all know that the European population is less anti-American than the local media elites. We also know that some Americans share European disdain for America. There's a whole gradation going.

The point, fundamentally, is that the whole reason so many disputes fly back and forth across the Atlantic is that we can argue with the Europeans. We're in the same cultural conversation and share many of the same underlying values so we have things to say to each other about how those values should be applied.

SOME WEENIE HUMAN RIGHTS-TYPES are whining away in the Times that amidst all the bitching about conditions in American detainee camps, people are forgetting to whine about the Northern Alliance.

This, you will remember, used to be a big theme of the anti-war movement, so let's all recall the counterargument: Only two armies in Afganistan; one is Taliban, one is Northern Alliance; Northern Alliance, despite its problems, clearly superior; Taliban is winning the war; failure to support Northern Alliance constitutes de facto support of the Taliban; Taliban bad; bad for women, bad for children, bad for Shi'ites, bad for WTC employees, bad for ethnic minorities.

At any rate, I do thinks its important for the US to remain a member in good standing of the "international community" and since we send troops around all the time in its our interest to treat our detainees fairly (and it seems like we've done so). But if the Northern Alliance doesn't care -- I say that should treat these guys every bit as brutally as they would've treated any prisoners they managed to take.

TED BARLOW POINTES ME TO the intriguing Human For which informs me that I am worth $2,261,626.00 -- Ted's got me beat, though, he's $2,368,190.00.

STEVEN DEN BESTE RESPONDS to my queries about the other European settler-states by emphasizing the different historical contexts of settlement. What he has to say about Canada seems convincing to me. I'm just not sure whether or not Australia's population really consists largely of the descendents of convicts -- I know it started as a penal colony.

The main point, though, is this:

And none of Canada, Australia or New Zealand had the kind of ethnic mix that the United States had by 1910, nor have any of them ever permitted the kind of free flow of immigrants or had the same kind of cultural crosspollination that this caused in the US.
Which is quite true, but sort of begs the question of why America was so much more open. Something having to do with the ins-and-outs of British colonial policy I would guess.

Friday, February 01, 2002

NICHOLAS KRISTOF ADDS UP THE death toll in Afghanistan and comes up with the astonishing figure of negative nine hundred eight-nine thousand killed by US forces. How does that work? 8,000-12,000 (I'll call it 10,000) Taliban fighters plus 1,000 civilians, minus one million lives saved due to the fact that significant aid can now safely pour into the country.
THEY SAID YOUR METHODS WERE...UNSOUND Deroy Murdoch condemns what he calls George Pataki's long march to the left. He's right to condemn the recent goings-on in Albany, but the genius of the Pataki-as-Kurtz conceit that Murdoch uses is that it appropriately characterizes the total incoherence of recent Patakism.

His massive giveaway to SEIU (and its politically powerful president) is like a caricature of liberal economics and his two Democratic opponents have quite rightly condemned it.

As Murdoch (and Coppola and Conrad) say: the horror. The horror.

USS CLUELESS HAS A POST that's been attracting a lot of attention that argues that America should be thought of as the anti-Europe -- composed of the descendents of people who saw what Europe was like and decided to leave.

It sounds plausible, but aren't Canada, Australia, and New Zealand similarly made-up of ex-Europeans. I would say that there are some important similarities between those countries that aren't shared with Europe, but I don't think that they would explain the US/Europe divide over, say, the war.

Then again, I don't know too much about the places I've just listed. Hopefully someone who does (say, Tim Blair) will speak out on this topic.

NOT ONLY DOES BJORN STAERK unmask yet more Arab anti-semitism, but he also responds to my earlier Norway-baiting. Nevertheless, with the halo of my InstaPundit mention now gone, traffic levels are collapsing.
TROUBLE AT HARVARD? Nick Schultz seems some on display at a recent Kennedy School of Government panel on "should Iraq be next?"
The students and faculty at the Kennedy school are among the brightest in the country, many the future leaders of global government bodies in the United States and at the UN, World Bank, and IMF. Many of them compose the next generation elite that will help shape global political realities. So the collective reaction was instructive.

There was evidence of an unwillingness to engage ideas that challenge certain typical academic prejudices (such as aversion to American power). The mood reflected a posture that the important questions are settled and that they preclude the use of force to promote freedom and democracy around the globe.

In addition, I note that word on the street has it that the philosophy departmen is about to lose another promising young professor to Princeton.
ANY DEMOCRATS CONSIDERING SUPPORTING Robert Reich for governor should remember the fact that his idea of helping his party when it's down is to proclaim it dead.
IF YOU LIKE BORING, PIOUS, HIGH-MINDED op-eds then you'll definitely want to check out Wesley Clark's contribution to today's Wash Post. Seriously, though, I admire Clark -- the neglected hero of America's neglected war. Buried under acronyms somewhere in there is the sentence: "But wait a minute -- the Kosovo campaign was a success!"

And indeed it was and it was among our finest hours. Any appropriate evaluation of the Clinton administration needs to keep that campaign in mind -- we did a lot of good and helped a lot of people. Plus -- just imagine what kind of esteem we'd be held in now by the rest of the world if we'd followed Tom DeLay's advice and wussed out.

PEOPLE ARE QUITE RIGHTLY charging Jeb Bush for asking that his drug-addled daughter be treated reasonably rather than subjected to the inane procedures and punishments stipulated in law. I think it might be an interesting experiment to see what would happen if the drug laws on the books started getting enforced against rich white people's kids. I'm guessing we'd have legalization within six months.
PLEDGE BASHING! Hopefully as a card-carrying (well okay, I don't really have a card) Arab-bashing warblogger I'll have enough patriotism credentials to join Mac Thomason in denouncing the suspension of two girls in Georgia who refused to stand during the pledge of allegiance. As he says:
The Pledge has always disturbed me. I'm a patriot, but I'm not pledging allegiance to America. I'm pledging allegiance to its flag, to a symbol. Then the Republic for which it stands. I'm not comfortable with that.
I'm also not comfortable with the "one nation, under god" business. It's not a big deal, but since I don't believe in god I don't see how I could possibly believe that we are one nation under him. Lastly, I'm supporting America in this war because I think our government's position is correct. If the government were doing something outrageous, then I'd be out on the street protesting. The whole pledge frankly reeks of "my country, right or wrong" sentiments that are every bit as idiotic as the "the enemy of my country, right or wrong" sentiments we've been hearing from Chomsky, et. al.
ACCORDING TO THE BOSTON GLOBE John Kerry thinks Arab leaders are prepared for change.
''They are challenged now to adjust and modernize and open up their governance, and they are wrestling with how you do that at a pace that is genuine but at the same time not opening up to the kind of instability that encourages the radicals to create mischief,'' says Kerry.
This man is kidding himself. I was going to compare him to those people who still thought the most important thing to do was protect Gorbachev from the radicals as late as 1991, but this is really much worse. Gorby at least made some real changes. Inveterate fear of "instability" is really just cover for fear itself in a case like this.
I WAS GOING TO MENTION THAT this Matt Welch article uses the phrase "the New McCarthyism" that I thought I'd pioneered in this Indy article, but just to be sure, I googled the new McCarthyism and discovered that everyone and his mother has been tossing the phrase around for years. Looks like we're all drinking out of the same stale meme-pool.
THEN AGAIN, MAYBE WE SHOULD PROTEST. The Times's account of party-jockeying ( "WEF Smackdown" as they call it) is every bit as appalling as a tale of the rich and famous should be. I can't wait 'till next week when the Observer will get a crack at it.
GOOD NEWS FOR AMERICA, but bad news for the Democrats (and, by extension, America) as the unemployment rate unexpectedly dips to 5.6% in January.
COMMON GROUND Matt Welch has some with the anti-globalization crowd and so do I. Read his list for yourself, but long story short -- the protestors are against some very bad things, but stopping "globalization" or the IMF won't achieve their goals. Neoliberal methods and rhetoric need not be a cover for unvarnished corporate greed.
I SEEM TO HAVE MADE IT onto pornographer extraordinaire UnaBlogger's list of links on the left-hand side. Not quite sure when this happened, why, or what it means, but I doubt that it bodes well.
PRESIDENT BUSH HAS DECIDED TO take a step backwards in the war against religious fundamentalism by reclassifying fetuses as "unborn children."

This has some kind of implication for eligibility for the State Children's Health Insurance Program, but abortion is the real story of course.

The decision gives low-income women access to prenatal care, but abortion rights advocates believe the decision could be a step closer to overturning the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion.
But why is it a step closer to overturning Roe v. Wade? Bush can't overturn a judicial decision by fiat. It's not clear what implications his reclassification will have, but insofar as this order conflicts with Roe it'll just be thrown out.
THE NEWS ALSO COMES IN that President Summers has decided to back raises for low-wage workers in an attempt to diffuse the "living wage" issue here on campus. He declined, however, to commit himself to establishing a fixed wage floor, so the activists are still complaining. Plus the article hinted that part of their response may be to simply raise their demand to $15 per hour.
FAIR HARVARD MAKES IT INTO the news again as the rabble-rousers of HarvardWatch decide to call for an inquiry into Herbert S. "Pug" Winokur, a member of our top governing board as well as a directory of Enron.

There's no evidence of any wrongdoing on Enron's part, but as a member of the Enron board it seems like he would have had insider information and at Harvard he was in charge of overseeing the university's investments. If he used insider knowledge of Enron to make profits for Harvard then that, of course, is illegal. But what if he had knowledge of the fact that Enron was a house of cars and let Harvard invest anyway? Is that really any better?

Thursday, January 31, 2002

I DOUBT ANYONE CARES ABOUT NORWAY but we in the blogosphere do care about Bjorn Staerk so when he brilliantly mocks a hapless fellow named Morten Strand I read it with pleasure.
GOOD, NON-RANTING BIT FROM INSTAPUNDIT on the failure of the anti-war movement to even begin to spark a serious discussion about the war's merits. Reynolds rightly exempts Robert Wright from this criticism (though we should also note that Wright's not anti-war per se).

I would only add to his comments that if one thing is clear to me about the future of counterterrorist military actions it's that they won't all be as clear-cut as the anti-Taliban campaign. There are limits to what is prudent, possible, and, yes, moral for the US to try and accomplish through armed force and the country (indeed, the world) will need to think about these things.

That's almost impossible to do, however, when the skeptics of forceful action don't seem to offer any principle besides the idea that everything America does is wrong.

MY PAL GLENN KINEN IS BACK with a sharp analysis of the role of democracy (or lack thereof) in the Israel/Palestine standoff. One observation I would add is that the undemocratic nature of the PA makes it very unclear who the Israelis are holding responsible for what: One guy blows himself up on the street, the Israelis hold the PA responsible for having failed to stop him, so they crack down, so various Palestinians who may have had nothing to do with the bombing suffer.

If the PA were democratic then Israel could say with more credibility that there were no "innocent" Palestinians -- that they were all complicit in their government's see no evil attitude toward terror. As things stand now the situation is rife with ambiguity that Israel's enemies in the Middle East and Europe are all-too-happy to exploit.

I KNOW THE TIMES LOVES campaign finance reform, but do they really need to run editorials on local political issues inMassachusetts? Was there some Globe/Times computer network foul-up. Beware the media merger.
20/20 HINDSIGHTS STRIKES AGAIN According to Reuters
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said in an interview on Thursday Israel should have killed Yasser Arafat in 1982 when it had the Palestinian leader under siege in Beirut.
Of course, Israel should have killed Yasser Arafat in 1982, but should Israel really be saying now that they should have. What's the upside? It'll only piss people off.
TIM BLAIR'S "STUPID WORLD VS. REAL WORLD joins the anti-anti-globalization feeding frenzy. Unlike previous entries, this one is more funny than bilious.
VIA INSTAPUNDIT I CAME UPON Jeff Jacoby's critique of Saudi non-cooperativeness. He writes
Saudi Arabia can be turned around, too. But first Bush has to give the order. Can he do it?
But we know he can't. If there's one thing we know about the family Bush it's that their first loyalty is to the oil industry and said industry doesn't want anyone rocking the Saudi boat.

This is a huge opportunity for the Democrats who are less weighed down by such concerns and who are also better situated to extend the critique of Saudi Arabia beyond their poor anti-terror record to the fact that their running a horrifyingly backwards totalitarian dictatorship that would have made Hitler proud [why better situated? -- because Republicans are evil -- media bias abounds].

[Can I steal Mickey Kaus's internal dialogue gimmick? -- plagiarism abounds as well]

Contrary to the naive hopes of some free- market advocates, the book argues, removing government controls isn't enough. Good institutions, particularly a trustworthy judicial system, are essential.

In Argentina, for example, the government of Carlos Menem liberalized the economy but did nothing to restore the independence of the judiciary.

This, of course, is a long way from transforming a libertarian into a universal health care advocate but it is -- as I hope to spell out some day -- the first step on the path.
YOU KNOW IT'S A STRANGE DAY when the absence of violence leads a newspaper article, but
Under cloudy skies and light rainfall, the World Economic Forum began today in New York City and through midafternoon was noticeably absent of violent activity from protesters who had previously sought to disrupt similar events elsewhere
If you read the article between the lines, it sounds like the police have been effectively employing something of a "broken windows" strategy to deter protests. This graf:
By midmorning, the police had arrested five women from ACT-UP, a coalition of AIDS activists, who were accused of using a fire escape to climb onto the roof of a building at 124 Watts Street in lower Manhattan and unfurling a banner that read, "Bush & big biz agree that people with AIDS drop dead." They were charged with criminal trespassing and reckless endangerment, the police said.
Shows how that can work: Using a law that probably wouldn't have gotten enforced on a regular day as a pretext for arrest showed that the city wasn't going to take any shit from these people. Perhaps these angry blogger may also have had some effect. But then again, if blogs ruled the world Bush would've mentioned the axis of evil running from Mecca to Medina.
THE ALWAYS INCOHERENT JOHN DERBYSHIRE writes an ostensibly pro-Israel column in which he compares the Jewish state to both the Crusader Kingdoms and White Rhodesia. In the mind of a lunatic like Derbyshire those are probably flattering comparisons, but considering that they could've been lifted straight from the collected works of Osama bin Laden I'd say that Israel doesn't need those kind of friends.
HYPER-HAWKISH TNR EDITORIAL gets overly enthusiastic about Bush's when they write:

Not since "evil empire" has the most extreme term of moral disapprobation been used so appositely by a president as it was in George W. Bush's characterization of the regimes of Iraq, Iran, and North Korea as an "axis of evil."
Evil -- yes, of course -- but an "axis?" I don't think so. I'm not quite sure why no one else seems to be pointing this out, but Iraq, Iran, and North Korea have nothing to do with one another and even though we should take them all out, pretending that they're some sort of allies is foolish.

Worse, it's counterproductive because it makes it sounds to potential partners in an attack on any one of them that it's not worth signing up unless they want to go after all three, and no other nation on earth will go after all three.

Plus the piece is pretentious. Paragraph one contains both the term "appositely" and the notion of a "semantics of belligerance" (I'd like to see Michael Dummett take that one on).

It's still a good editorial, but I hold these guys to a higher standard.

JOHN COLE HAS WHAT I BELIEVE to be the definitive list of anti-anti-globalization ranting and raving. And we're all just nice folks who spend lots of time staring at computer screens, imagine what the cops'll do.
I SENT TIM BLAIR AN E-MAIL a while ago in which I wrote the word "reduntant" when I meant to say "repugnant" and now he's gone and changed it to "redundant" (it was kind of him to try) and published it leaving me look like I can't construct a coherent sentence when really I just can't spell. Ah the perils of blogging....
YOU'D PROBABLY FORGOTTEN ALL ABOUT Skylab, but this hilarious Jeff Jarvis anecdote will make you remember.
WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM UPDATE no violence reported yet, but notice this telling quotation in an AP story:
"People have different ways of expressing their outrage," said Yvonne Liu, a Columbia University student planning to be among the protesters. "But we don't want to harm people."
Not harming people is a key principle with these people, but they distinguish between harming people and destroying property which they claim is not violence. I agree that there's a distinction to be made here (that's why I'm not a libertarian) but it can only be pushed so far.

I'd much rather suffer through, say, a paper cut or a bruise than have my home or my livelihood destroyed and whether they realize it or not, wrecking Starbucks, McDonalds, and other chain stores does destroy peoples' livelihoods -- not the bosses, but regular people.

SALON'S PULLED TOGETHER AS PREMIUM CONTENT a piece called "We were wrong," a promising-sounding confession of a former member of the anti-war left.

The author hits all the right anti-anti-war notes:

Where their placards talked of a "racist" war and predicted a backlash of hatred against Arab-Americans and Muslim-Americans, at home, relations with our fellow Islamic citizens have (with some repugnant exceptions) been vastly improved. Where they promised millions of dying Afghans, cut off by American bombs from critical humanitarian aid, the life-saving convoys are now thundering in. Where they were confident that bombing would provoke Muslim rage on Middle Eastern and Pakistani streets, those streets are silent. Where they advocated an inept alternative to U.S. military intervention -- something to do with world courts and increased domestic security -- the agile assault, combining U.S. air power with local militias and U.S. Special Forces on the ground, quickly dismantled the terrorist cabal that had enslaved the nation and menaced the world, interrupting mass murder plans in active preparation, and yielding evidence against terrorists already ensconced within our borders. Above all, where the antiwar crowd begged Americans to contemplate the role of our Middle Eastern policy in provoking the attacks of 9/11, the videotape confession of Bin Laden and the text of the hijackers' plans conclusively demonstrate its near-total irrelevance.
What he doesn't do, however, is what would have made for a really interesting confessions piece: Provide an insider's diagnosis of the pathology affecting these people.
ON THE SAME SUBJECT, HOW IS IT that the Bush administration believes so fervently in the principle of government secrecy when it comes to revealing things -- like Enron meetings -- that might be embarrassing, but so unconcerned when it comes to revealing things that make the administration look good.

Do we really need to keep our energy policy more secret than national security?

MEDIA BIAS WATCH has it occured to any of the right-wing watchdogs of liberal media bias that possibly Bob Woodward and Dan Balz's ten days in September is total bullshit -- a complete fabrication designed to make Dubya look good?

Now I'm not sure that it is -- I don't know what went on in the secret councils of government during those fateful days and neither does the Washington Post. I'm willing to accept my ignorance, but the Post is publishing a ten-part series based entirely on the recollection of George Bush's paid employees.

WHY IS IT THAT TODAY'S New York Times editorial and op-ed pages contain zero references to the World Economic Forum that's about to open in their (and my) hometown and doubtless engulf the city and violence.

There is one article about globalization, arguing that poor countries should be allowed to pursue protectionist policies, but no one making the case for globalization.

On Alice Amsden's specific complaint, we should note that the globalization-related complaint one hears most often from the leaderships of developing nations is not that they want more protectionism for themselves, but rather that they want the rich world to practice less protectionism in fields like agriculture, textiles, and steel where they have comparative advantage.

Someone who really cared about the world's poor would be arguing for more globalization, not less.

GLENN REYNOLDS MOCKS THE IDEA of car control as a way of getting at us gun grabbers, but the wildest scheme of gun control advocates -- gun licensing and registration -- was implemented as "car control" long ago.
ALSO OF INTEREST TO THE OUTSIDE WORLD Herbert "Pug" Winokur a member of our top governing board here at Harvard is in hot water for his role as a member of the Enron Board of Directors.

Historian for idiots Doris Kearns Goodwin, a member of our lesser governing board is getting off scott free for plagiarism.

Those priorities seem a little screwed up to me. We know, after all, that Goodwin did something wrong, Winokur is only guilty by association.

SADLY, THE PARENTS OF AN MIT SOPHOMORE who committed suicide a couple years back are suing the university for wrongful death. It was the verdict holding MIT responsible for the fact that Scott Kruger voluntarily drank himself to death at an off-campus event that's lead to the crackdown on fun that's ruining college for generation Y and I shudder to think what the world will be like once students aren't allowed to be unhappy either.
THANKS TO AN INSTAPUNDIT MENTION experienced a record 127 visits yesterday, more than double the previous (from two days ago) high of 61. It's fun to play with low numbers, but I promise to keep on growing.

Wednesday, January 30, 2002

TOM FRIEDMAN'S OTHERWISE EXCELLENT column today on the Middle East bizarrely lists "NATO takes over the West Bank and Gaza" as one potential outcome of the current situation.

I understand that this is a pet idea of Friedman's, but he must realize that no one but Friedman has taken it up (and with good reason too I might add) and that, therefore, it's not going to happen.

WHO WANTS TO SAY "VOLKERWANDERUNG" FOR NO REASON? Nick von Hoffman in this immigration scare story that assumes without argument that the rich world is about to be overwhelmed by a horde of immigrants. According to Hoffman:
A vast mass movement of humanity against its borders hit the Roman Empire and, in the opinion of some, accounted for its collapse. Before it subsided, it was a social tidal wave, a gigantic seiche. This huge movement of peoples is referred to by the historians as the Volkerwanderung
I never trust an analogy to the fall of Rome.
MAC THOMASON NOTES THE REALLY important story: The sad, sad decline of Joe Rogan from the heights of Newsradio to the depths of Fear Factor.

Phil Hartman, we hardly knew ye....

MATT WELCH, ADDING TO THE CHORUS of anti-anti-globalization sentiment implies that there's something unusual about a "born and bred Democrat" opposing the protestors.

But these characters didn't start their movement when Dubya took office, they've been going at it since Bill Clinton was President. Bill Clinton, as you may recall, was a Democrat and they were protesting against him, too.

This reminds me of my pet peeve of associating regular liberal folks like myself with the anti-war scum, or at least placing us in some special category of unusual liberals who support the war. Liberals have been wholehearted in their support of this war (see, e.g., Ted Kennedy and Paul Wellstone).

A distinction should be drawn between what might be called the "liberal" and "radical" wings of the left much as we all recognize a divide between libertarians and conservatives.

CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATORS AND PUNDITS, especially "National Greatness" conservatives have been wetting themselves over Bush's "reference to Iraq, Iran, and North Korea as the 'axis of evil.'"

But lets hold are horses for a minute, eh. The obvious allusion to the Rome-Berlin axis works in one way -- these guys are evil. But Mussolini and Hitler were allies and that's what made it a Rome-Berlin axis rather than just an odd confluence of bad guys.

I don't think North Korea is allies with anyone and Iraq and Iran are legendary rivals. I'm not quite sure what we should do, but I know that forcing rivals to ally together against you is not how you defeat an enemy. Divide and conquer.

I DON'T QUITE SEE WHAT the problem is with pundits, commentators, etc. taking money from rich guys and/or corporations. If we were talking about news writers, such money-taking would, of course, compromise their "objectivity" (assuming we believe in that), but commentators aren't supposed to be objective.

When Michael Kinsley or Paul Krugman or Andrew Sullivan or whomever writes a column, they're putting forth an opinion and the reader has to judge whether (or to what extent) they find it convincing.

Say the worst comes to worst and a columnist writes a column that's the precise reverse of what he really thinks just because he has a financial interest in putting the other view forward. So what? If what he writes is correct, then it's correct; if it's not, it's not -- who cares why he wrote it?

MUSLIMS GOOD, ARABS BAD? Barbara Lerner urges Americans dubious of Dubya's much-repeated claims that we have Muslim allies to remember Turkey.

I concur, but think that the point can be widened -- we've received a good amount of support from the non-Arab bits of the Muslim world -- not as much as I think we deserve, but considering how we've been treated by Europe that's not really surprising.

Afghans seem to like us. Pakistan (despite some issues) is with us, as are all the other Central Asian 'stans (proposal: re-name Central Asia "Stanistan"). I don't have any real problems with Malaysia. India has a lot of Muslims, but they seem fine -- so does Bangladesh.

The overwhelming majority of the shit we take is either universal shit (i.e. we have to hear it from even Jack Straw) or else pretty circumscribed to the Arab world.

I MENTIONED EARLIER THAT Rod Dreher's National Review piece on sexual abuse in the Catholic Church sadly degenerated into homophobia. This WaPo Op-Ed rightly blames Cardinal Law rather than a mysterious gay cabal for Cardinal Law's sins.
DESPITE HAVING RECIEVED scathing criticism for my last attempt to discuss continental politics, this piece in the Times proves that I have to do it to save the American people from the even more grotesque ignorance of the major media. In all their efforts to uncover reasons why European politics has been trending right, they neglect to mention that since the left was in power everywhere except Spain it could hardly trend in any other direction.
THE HARVARD CRIMSON IS A BIT behind the times (we've been having exams and vacation) but now that they've gotten around to publishing you can read their account of the Afro-Am plot twist or even Robert Nozick's death. Caveat emptor on the latter, however, it contains a number of errors that would not bother any normal person but that drive a philosophy major crazy.
SHAMED DOGAN WHO'S BEEN INEXPLICABLY missing since Thursday has some interestingthoughts on the Christian Science Monitor's kid gloves treatment of Arafat.

I must demurr, however, from his proposal to take the war to France. But not until I get some sleep.

THE RIGHT WINS! neither the Democratic National Committee nor Josh Marshall have any instant reaction to the State of the Union Speech.

The DNC's situation is particularly shamefull since they must have had the text of Gephardt's reply a while ago all ready for posting when the moment was appropriate.

I know Mickey Kaus is technically a liberal of some sort, but his site mostly focuses on liberal-baiting so leaving the field open to him and Andrew Sullivan isn't a good idea at all.

Maybe conservatives are just harder work -- that's why liberals prefer to loaf around and live off other people's hard-earned tax dollars.

IN CASE YOU WERE WONDERING I notice here in le Monde that French for "stock options" is, inexplicably, "les stock-options" rather than "les stock options" as one would think.

Don't tell me -- you weren't wondering.

Tuesday, January 29, 2002

THE GUARDIAN's WILLIAM KEEGAN has made a shocking discovery: US foreign policy isguided by American interests.

As he tells it, Treasury Secretary O'Neill is asking Japan to strengthen the yen, but only (?) sixteen years ago the US succesfully pursued a weak dollar policy. This stunning fact leads us to:

The US treasury secretary, Paul O'Neill, recently had a bash at Japan for its weak yen policy. But Mr O'Neill's attack suggested that he was somewhat lacking in historical perspective on the subject of exchange rates.
Possibly the US Treasury Secretary's comments to foreign leaders are being guided by his estimation of what would be good for the US. Horrifying.
THE STATE OF THE UNION SPEECH that Andrew Sullivan claims to have seen sounds like an excellent one.

The speech I saw, however, was a lot of platitudes and vague assurances. We'll do something about Iraq, Syria, and North Korea, but I won't tell you what.

Maybe the White House should hire Sullivan as a speechwriter.

JEWS FOR ALLAH (via Mac Thomason) unbelievable. Probably a joke. See also this bizarre celibacy site, and -- that's the homepage of the Libertarian National Socialist Green Party and the king of all "is it a joke?" sites.
MEDIA BIAS WATCH I'm not sure who's at fault here, but I'm noticing that the color and sound feed on Gephardt's speech are noticeably better on (liberal) CBS than on ABC, NBC, and CNN and that they're worse on (conservative) FOX News.
I AM NOTICING, HOWEVER that Dick Gephardt is recycling his "Mr President: We need to trust you and you need to trust us" anecdote from Meet the Press last Sunday. My roommate asks "who cares?" no one watches the show anyway. Well, I watch it and I think it's bad form. Here at Harvard, moreover, plagiarizing yourself is still plagiarism.
I WANTED TO POST SOMETHING about the State of the Union, but since Bush didn't really say anything, I don't have anything to say. I'm not afraid that the evildoers will acquire any "nuculer" weapons anymore.
MY PREVIOUS POST ABOUT Germany didn't really make much sense, but this Chris Mooney piece on how the Friends of the Earth getting involved in anti-cloning activism helps illustrate the point I was trying to make.

If environmentalist groups start splitting with the rest of the left over biotech issues, and if biotech issues (as seems likely) become more and important in the future, that could pose trouble.

Of course, anti-regulation libertarians and religious fundamentalists on the right will have the same problem, but the American right at least has been dealing with that factional problem for years and seems to have it mostly under wraps.

TED BARLOW QUITE RIGHTLY refutes (and I mean refutes, not just contradicts damnit) Matt Drudge's inane attempt to make a scandal out of the fact that Terry McAuliffe once owned some stock in a company that later went bankrupt.

Crucial quotation from Drudge's piece: "McAuliffe, in his role as chairman of the Democratic National Committee, has been a vocal opponent of the ENRON collapse."

Is Drudge trying to tell us that the administration or the RNC are supporters of the Enron collapse? If so, I think that's something McAuliffe could use in his next TV appearance.

AS NOTED EARLIER, I quit smoking recently so I was interested, of course, in thishare-brained scheme devised by the Russian Army in collaboration with one Vyacheslav Zakharov to create a cigarette with two red lines on it that will supposedly help people quit.
While dragging on such a cigarette, the smoker sees the red lines before him, a constant reminder of how dangerous the cigarette is becoming, Zakharov said. He can then conscientiously choose to reduce his tobacco intake. As Zakharov sees it, the smoker will at first smoke only two-thirds of a cigarette, then cut down to one-third and finally quit.
Not that there's any harm in it, but I think anyone's who's quit can tell you that this won't work.
THE FRANKFURTER ALLGEMEINER'S ENGLISH EDITION (I don't speak German, sorry) reports that Chancellor Gerhard Schroder was prepared to back a significant relaxation of that country's anti-stem cell research laws, but that
resistance turned out to be surprisingly strong, especially among the government coalition of the Social Democrats and Alliance 90/The Greens.
This Green / Social Democrat split is probably not that big a deal for Schroder who could always form a coalition with the pro-science Free Democrats instead, but it doesn't bold well for Lionel Jospin's neo-Popular Front coalition in France, especially as it heads into the first round of a Presidential race which will certainly exacerbate tensions within Gauche plurielle.
BIG, BIG PARIS DAILY reports that in the State of the Union speech:
Il paraît probable que M. Bush évoquera la situation des prisonniers de Guantanamo et répondra, à ce sujet, aux critiques européennes.
Meaning that he will mention the Gitmo prisoners and respond to European criticisms of the situation there.

That doesn't sound like something that we be in a State of the Union to me -- why would he draw attention to criticism of a situation when Americans don't have a problem with it.

Maybe that's why that item didn't make it into the Times account.

On the other hand, maybe European journalists just have superior sources. It couldn't be that they're just making stuff up could it?

EVERYONE'S ABUZZ ABOUT THE COMING clash between the city of New York and the ignorant, dirty, protestors who will soon have their heads crushed by the good people of the NYPD.

More interesting than the fact that these people suck, however, is the end of the worker-student alliance. Regardless of what one thinks of the anti-globos' actual program, they had accomplished that elusive alliance between activists and the real, live working class that was missing in the '60s.

The war, however, has revealed the deep-seated anti-Americanism that was lurking in the student protestors all along, and the hardhats who wanted to see protectionist policies that protect their jobs aren't likely to play along any more. That means that increasingly the battle in the streets is going to be separated from the battle in Congress over things like Trade Promotion Authority.

WAITING IN THE MARINE AIR TERMINAL for my shuttle to Boston this morning I overheard an announcement about the shuttle to National (I'll be a cold day in hell when I call it "Reagan") airport. They said that people should go to the bathroom now because standing would be strictly prohibited on the flight. If anyone stood while the plane was in the air, the announcer said, then the flight would be diverted to Dulles.

That sounds more (way more, in fact) then a little extreme. If they really think the La Guardia-National flight is such an extraordinary security risk then they should just post an air marshall on all the flights or something.

For better or for worse, though, I just can't believe that any US flight is as much at risk as, say, every El Al flight and though I've never been to Israel I feel like they let their passengers use the toilet.

ROD DREHER'S OTHERWISE INTERESTING National Review piece on pedophile priests (sadly, not available online -- why is it that Catholic-bashers fear the internet?) takes a sharp turn for the worse in its conclusion.
One disturbing facet of this willingness to overlook serious sexual sin, sat a number of priests and seminarians, is the existence of a discrete but powerful homosexual network within seminaries and chanceries.
To start with, any talk of "discrete but powerful" networks makes me suspicious, whether it comes from Arabs about Jews or conservatives about gays.

Moreover important, though, is the conflation of pedophilia with homosexuality when they are clearly distinct issues. An adult man could desire: a) male children, b) female children, c) male adults, d) female adults or any combination of the four.

This is such an obvious point that it makes one think Dreher is merely using the (real) problem of priestly sexual abuse as a pretext to attack more "liberal" catholics who'd like the church to rethink its attitude toward homosexuality.

AN INTERESTING COUNTERPOINT to the blogsphere's disdain for the proposed (now abandoned) multi-racial fireman's monument can be found here.
JOSH MARSHALL'S GOT an updated list of administration employees who owned Enron stock. He says "the data speaks for itself" but I'm not quite sure what it's saying. I do wonder, however, about the title "Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary" that some of these guys have. Are there any "ordinary" embassadors?
THE MORE I THINK ABOUT our prisoners in Gitmo the clearer it becomes that Mickey Kaus is right and we need a new convention to deal with non-state actors. We can argue 'till our faces turn blue about the "correct" interpretation of the Geneva Conventions, but the fact is that they just weren't meant for this kind of a situation. If you ask me, we should be magnanimous as a temporary measure and give these guys POW status. If there's any of them that we feel we really, really, really need to execute, we can always have them "shot while trying to escape" or something.

Monday, January 28, 2002

THIS IS OLD, BUT Charles Dodgsom's post on Andrew Sullivan's anti-Krugman crusade is the best thing I've get read on the subject.
THE SMOKING GUN? Mac Thomason notes the story in today's Times about how state legislatures are hoping that raising cigarette taxes will cut their massive deficits. Thomason says:
I'm not comfortable with the idea of balancing state budgets by taxing tobacco. I have no problem with cigarette taxes, but if you set up a situation where the government has a vested interest in tobacco sales, they aren't going to try a seriously to reduce usage.
I'm also not comfortable with this plan, but because I do have a problem with cigarette taxes. I've been smoke free since January 1 after 4 years of pack-a-day puffing and I have no regrets about my time as a smoker and plenty of resentment about the government's ceaseless campaign to get me to quit.

It's really just not the role of the state to try and make me do what the majority happens to think is in my best interests. Plus, getting people to quit smoking only worsens the long-term budget situation by drastically driving up health care costs for the elderly. We all die, whether we smoke or not, but smokers tend to die relatively quickly instead of dragging on for decades in nursing homes.

ROBERT KUTTNER, who bloggers have taken to calling "crazy Bob" at the behest of Mickey Kaus has an op-ed in the Washington Post that helpfully uses the goddamn phone solicitors as an example of why some regulation of business is necessary.

Then he goes and makes himself sound like the sort of man who deserve the name "crazy" referring to Congressmen "on the take" from Enron, and talking about "capitalists." Worst of all is his claim that "the ideology of deregulation of deregulation lends cover to old-fashioned corruption."

It could lend cover to that, I suppose, but doesn't it seem likely that the more regulations there are the more public official there will be who'd be worth corrupting?

ANDREW HOFER HAS A NICE POST up that explains in detail what is actually known about the Enron scandal thus far. Only problem: It's boring -- much more boring than, say, conflating Enron executives' wrongdoings, the administration's ties to Enron, the administration's ties to business in general, and the administration's general domestic policy agenda into one giant scandal blob that devours anything in its path. Would that be fair? No. Do I care? No. Should the President care? Probably not -- he can always just rig another election no matter what kind of BS the media makes up about Enron.
ROBERT FULFORD PENNED A paen to the excellent Arts and Letters Daily which got his column linked to by Arts and Letters Daily doubtless generated many an extra hit for his online work. No fair, say I. But of course now I'm linking to his article, which may generate as many as two additional hits for the insidious Fulford.
JERUSALEM POST REPORTS THAT a few IDF reservists are refusing to serve in the West Bank (or "Judea and Samaria" as the J Post would have it). It doesn't actually sound like this is a very big deal (there's only fifty or so people actually involved) but it doesn't bode particularly well.
DIDN'T REALIZE THAT ODIOUS Naderite and Salon cartoonist Tom Tomorrow now has a blog of his own. Unfortunately, I didn't actually see anything particularly odious up there. Maybe he's reforming himself. Maybe.
MICHAEL NOVAK'S NOT HAPPY about Daniel Jonah Goldhagen's recent New Republic essay about anti-semitism in the Catholic church, and goes so far as to state that Goldhagen is calling for "nothing less than the extermination of the Catholic Church."

I don't really think that's what Goldhagen's calling for at all, but I think I might be willing to do it. As Novak helpfully points out, Goldhagen's single-minded focus on the treatment of the Jews blinds him to much else about the Catholic church like its oppression of gays and lesbians, its fundamentalist opposition to life-saving biotechnical research (part of a centuries-long Church campaign on behalf of ignorance), its endless campaign to deny women the right to abortion, its even odder campaign to deny people the ability to use contraceptives.

Plus there's all the anti-semitic behavior Goldhagen points too. Then there's the current Church's laughable attempt to canonize Pius XII about whom the only real argument to be had is whether he was simply a coward (as Novak implicitly concedes) or an active ally of Hitler's. Either way, he doesn't sound like a saint to me.

PETER BEINERT'S THOUGHT that Republicans won't be a majority party unless they moderate their stance on social issues is probably correct, but what makes him think that -- as the teaser on the TNR homepage asserts -- that Richard Riordan's race for governor is the GOP's "last chance." Maybe they'll lose the race for governor. And some more races over the years. But is there any real chance that sooner or later any American political party that lost a bunch of elections would shift to make itself more appealing to the electorate.
I THINK JOSH MARSHALL's negative prognosis for the Bush White House regarding their Enron meeting notes is largely correct, but as long as Marshall's "scenario 4" -- real live, honest-to-god lawbreaking -- doesn't come true, I wonder how much it matters.

Speaking for myself, I just don't see scandals of any sorts changing my vote in a big general election. In a primary, sure, I'd want not just any democrat, but the best democrat to win. In a general election, though, the big policy issues just seem so much more important than any little improprieties the media manages to scare up.

I understand that the political reporters need something to write about every day, but I don't think we should let that delude us into thinking that the crap they cover is actually important.

THE SAUDIS TRY TO IMPRESS but if you ask me it ain't gonna work. Elaine Sciolino reports on a major shindig held by Crown Prince (and de facto ruler) Abdullah. Some highlights:
[Abdullah] repeated that charge on Saturday, telling his guests, "The people of the kingdom have not been affected by what certain newspapers publish and you know who is behind this media." He added, "The Muslim people hold steady and we will stay Muslim until God claims our soul."
Hm...I wonder who is behind "this media." Could it be millions of stockholders around the world? No, my guess would be -- the Jews. Sure enough:
Even some of the most cosmopolitan, American-educated Saudis in this capital of four million profess a deep conviction that American news media are owned, controlled and directed by Jewish organizations, lobbies and individuals who are working together to defeat the Arabs.
As opposed, I suppose, to the fair and balanced Arab media which is owned, controlled and directed by a diverse group of Islamic fundamentalists, totalitarian dictators, Islamists, anti-semites, Islamic extremists, pan-Arab nationalists, and Islamic militants. Apparently,
The Saudis host the festival every year to help preserve the cultural identity of the kingdom against the onslaught of globalization.
Godwilling they won't get a chance to hold the 2002 edition. Israeli Arabia, anyone?

Sunday, January 27, 2002

AMEN, BROTHER Jeff Jarvis who sadly doesn't have standing links to his posts writes:
If the anti-world-trade bozos coming to New York cause me the slightest inconvenience or fear as I head into the city, I swear, I will bite their noses off and spray them with mace and spit on them and find any way I can to humiliate the little twerps. The last thing New York needs is trouble and we will not tolerate it.
I couldn't agree more and plan to stand on the roof of my apartment throwing heavy objects at any unruly protestors I happen to see.
MICKEY KAUS BRINGS HOME perhaps the first interesting idea to arise out of the Gitmo prisoners controversy. Namely that in today's crazy world of assymetrical warfare we may need a new Geneva Convention. I think he's right, but I'm afraid that the combination of American hatred for treaties, and European disdain for America would make it awfully hard to get any such project off the ground.

Such a new convention could also attempt to codify into international law something regarding the responsibility of territorial states vis-a-vis terrorists operating from within their borders. I'm all for the Bush Doctrine of making no distinction between terrorists and their harborers, but it's the sort of thing that could use some sort of official status and attempted definition of "harboring."

CALM, DETAILED CRITICISM of President Bush's proposed military tribunal scheme can be found inthis New York Review of Books essay by Aryeh Neier. The piece does stumble at one crucial point, however. Discussing whether or not our detainees should be considered POWs or unlawful combattants, Neier concedes that to qualify for POW status the Geneva Convention requires that you have "a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance."

This is typically considered to mean that you must wear uniforms, which al-Qaida soldiers did not do. Neier writes

In Afganistan, neither Taliban fighters now members of the Northen Alliance have worn uniforms. Therefore the requirement of a "fixed distinctive sign" can't be met literally; but since most of these comatants were not attempting to disguise themselves as civilians pretending to be other than what they were, the lack of uniforms should not prevent those captured in combat from being recognized as prisoners of war.
I think that the most you can say about this argument is that it shows that the government would be resting on a technicality if it chose to deny these people POW status. I would expect, however, than anyone seeking to defend these men before any tribunal whatsoever will probably want the ability to rely on technicalities in putting there case forward.

Indeed, the bulk of the case against military tribunals consists in the fact that such tribunals propose to dispense with "technicalities" like the rules of evidence that might get in the way of convictions.

I think giving POW status would probably be the right thing to do, but only as a gesture of American generosity and benevolence, it seems to me that we're within our rights to deny that status.

Of course we could always just send them all to the UK and see how their newspapers like it then....

WHO ROBBED THE BANK? Instapundit disses Rep. James Greenwood's sound bite about Enron robbing the bank and Arthur Andersen providing the getaway car by saying:
This wasn't a bank robbery. It wasn't even like a bank robbery. (For one thing, Enron is broke -- an unusual condition for a "bank robber" right after the heist). Greenwood's trying to make things simple, and get on TV. But what he's really showing is that he cares more about getting attention than he cares about getting to the truth.
If we want to be pedantic about it, of course, Enron is broke, but it's top executives aren't -- they're rich. Filthy rich. Far richer than any bankrobbers could ever become.