Thursday, February 07, 2002
Morally, president Bush's State of the Union address was compelling. Intellectually, it was incoherent. And unless that changes, all the tough talk will end in tears.
Second we need to realize that though poor economic policies were undoubtedly the proximate cause of the meltdown that the political crisis has been caused by a more fundamental problem: The Argentine political class's total lack of credibility.
We, fortunately, do not have this problem yet in the United States. Even though President Bush came into office on dubious terms he retained enough baseline credibility with almost all democrats that in time of crisis the country rallied together rather than tearing itself apart. I'm concerned, however, that a many western democracies may be vulnerable to a similar loss of faith if troubled times hit.
In Britain and Canada, for example, various regional divisions that exist have created situations where it's hard to see how the party of the center-left could ever lose power no matter what it did. Italy now has its richest man for Prime Minister and he either owns outright or controls all the TV stations. In the US itself, we have a President elected by the constitutional quirk of the electoral college rather than public preference.
None of these things strike me as boding particularly well for the ability of our nations to weather a serious storm like the one that hit Argentina. Of course we can all hope that our leaders never engage in massive economic mismanagement, but if you read the Bush budget you'll see just how vain a hope that is.
Admittedly, however, taxes were too high when he came into office, but he didn't take the opportunity to rationally deal with the situation (by, say, cutting payroll taxes and putting Social Security on budget) but went instead for a demagogic giveaway to the wealthy.
His "Mexico City" policy de facto banning the US from supporting family planning efforts abroad ruined the lives of an untold number of women and children around the globe, not to mention contributing to an increase in the number of abortions. His fundamentalist support for "abstinence only" sex ed programs and his abortion gag rule did much the same at home.
He appointed arrogant power-grabbers like Scalia and O'Connor to the Supreme Court where they seek to bring as much power as possible to themselves and undermine democracy in the process.
But. And it's a big but. There's the Cold War. Now I don't really think Reagan "won" the Cold War in any meaningful sense (I think if you read conservative historians like Martin Malia or Richard Pipes you'll see that the USSR's failings were basically systemic), though I don't doubt he hastened beyond what would have taken place under the democrats. His main contribution, however, was moral support. "Evil Empire" "tear down this wall!" those were (and are) great speeches and well worth remembering at times like our own.
There is, however, so much more that could be said about what a bad, bad, bad, bad man he was.
Who wants to take bets on what their reaction would be to a former Clinton advisor like, say, Rahm Emmanuel or Paul Begala explaining in "behind the scenes" terms how brilliant Clinton's anti-terrorism policies were?
Is the reason that Dick Morris' word is give more credence that he's an overall more honest person? Dick Morris? Mr unscrupulous triangulator? Doesn't sound right to me.
Or could it be that they formed an a priori assumption that Clinton was to blame for 9/11 and now recognize only the facts (or "facts") that tend to confirm their prejudices?
I also agree with with their Foreign Minister when he says "you have got to tackle the root causes, the situations, poverty" and I think Bush agrees, too (to wit, efforts to rebuild Afghanistan). Nevertheless, it's very much in our interests to deny caring at all about the root causes to avoid giving any hint of an impression that terrotism can pay off.
Wednesday, February 06, 2002
Because our civilisation no longer rests on a positive ideal, it can define itself only negatively. This accounts for the increasing prominence of the holocaust in political rhetoric. Holocaust memorials and remembrance days are the rites of a new state religion. Like all state religions, it aims to create unity.Isn't it possible that people commemorate the holocaust simply because the final survivors of an enormous tragedy won't be around much longer and there's a movement of good-hearted people not to let the world forget? Or that the holocaust is a good example of what happens when anti-semitic attitudes become so ingrained that people become ready to sit idly by and watch a slaughter?
Nope. State religion. Controlling the media just isn't enough for those people.
Moreover, the journalistic convention of just pretending that politicians come up with the things they say is actually very important to the working of our democracy (it really is, I can explain later) and shouldn't be trampled on just because the column you write will allegedly contain "scuttlebutt."
The former drug czar General Barry McCaffrey has pointed out that at least four different agencies oversee 303 official points of entry into the United States. After staffing increases over the past three years there are 334 U.S. Border Patrol agents guarding the 4,000 miles of Canadian border. The nation has 95,000 miles of shoreline to protect. "No one is in charge," McCaffrey says.He's right to say that we'll never really be safe unless we deter people from attacking us, and that we shouldn't break the bank or wreck our values in pursuit of the chimera of total safety. On the other hand, when we're already spending money on things, like the agencies overseeing our points-of-entry, there's no reason we shouldn't try and make things efficient and effective.
By the same token, our massive Canadian border doesn't need to be a massive problem. There's no reason why it should be hard to convince the Canadians to cooperate with us on securing the external borders of the north of the Rio Grande area and to engage in extensive intelligence sharing regarding people already in the US or Canada.
For one thing, we already cooperate on everything else. For another, we'd be taking on the two really difficult tasks in such a partnership: The Mexican border and foreign intelligence. Lastly, it's only a matter of time before some terrorist gets confused and decides to blow up Toronto.
Tuesday, February 05, 2002
The reason that we don't is that by discouraging these countries from spending more on defense we guarantee that they'll remain the sort of impotent whiners we bloggers like to bitch about rather than people we need to take seriously on the world stage.
This isn't a very sound plan, however, since at the end of the day if Europeans and Japanese had to shoulder some actual responsibilities in world affairs they might come to have some more responsible views about the world. That would create a situation where multilateralism wouldn't need to come at the expense of good sense and that would set us on the path to building a peaceful and stable world for the long term.
Plus, as Welch says, it would free up money to spend on health care. Liberals love health care.
TNR editor Peter Beinart says Rep. Billy Tauzin should be "hounded out of public life" for his role in blocking an SEC regulation designed to prevent accounting firms from consulting for the firms they audit. Fine by me, but a) what did Tauzin do that Sen. Chuck Schumer (who took $386,000, more than twice as much as Tauzin, from accounting firms since 1995) didn't do?It's unfair to state that Chuck Schumer received twice as much Enron money since 1995 and make it sound like that means he was twice as indebted to Enron.
You can see here that Schumer's raised over $20,000,000 since 1997 alone (I can't find 95-96 stats) whereas Tauzin has raised something on the order of $3,300,000 since 1995 ($2.5 million since '97).
Tauzin, in other words, was depending on Enron for something like 5% of his financing, whereas for Schumer it was less than 1.6% (can't calculate the exact figure without either Schumer's 95-96 total or his 97-2002 Enron receipts).
Long story short: Let's be fair here people, of course a Senator from a big state is going to have raised more money than a Congressman with a safe seat. By the same token, President Bush must have recieved far more money from his top contributor than any Senator did from his, but that doesn't make Bush more endebted to that contributor, it just means that Presidential candidates raise fuckloads of money.
A freely-chosen faith or custom, however abhorrent to outsiders, is not something good liberals should seek to reform or abolish. What good liberals should seek to abolish is the political tyranny that makes real choice for women such an impossibility in such cultures. That's why feminists should be behind this war -- and the war to liberate Iraq and Iran. Not because women will be freed of burqas, but because people will be freed from the tyranny that makes female dignity and equality impossible.But it's not that simple. Anyone really interested in the problematic relationship between feminism and showing proper respect for other cultures (or multiculturalism, which is what Sullivan is advocating, though he'd doubtless deny it) should read this volume containing Susan Okin's essay "Is Multiculturalism Bad for Women?" (she thinks so) and replies from many thinkers.
The point is that while it's all well and good to say that there's nothing wrong with women wearing burqas or whatever or not working outside the home or choosing any sort of "traditional" lifestyle you can name, it's another question entirely of whether or not we think it's acceptable to raise your daughter in a social environment that indocrtinates her into believing that she should wear a burqa and not have a career.
I, and Okin, feel that when you consider the issue from this perspective, multiculturalism turns out to be a conservative rather than a liberal doctrine, and that while no one thinks people should be prohibited from wearing what they like, that it may be morally obligatory to take conscious action to change ingrained social practices.
American conservatives not being so concerned with the potential damage done by social images of gender roles will not, I think, be particularly upset about the structure of Pashto village life, but anyone actually concerned about Afghan women should be.
By the same token, however, Europe needs us to do many of the same things and more. We're also major trading partners with each other.
I think that when you consider how reciprocal US-European interdependence is and combine that with the fact that when President Bush saw that we clearly needed better relations with Pakistan and Uzbekistan he did what it took to get them despite differences of opinion between our government that were quite a bit larger than the Atlantic Ocean, I think a lot of this fear of Bush's unilateralism messing everything up is misplaced.
America and Europe are like a great Western good cop-bad cop routine and the real bad guys know that Europe can't really restrain us. It's like the Powell-Rumsfeld game or the House of Saud-Saudi street game. The important thing to note is that we're really on the same team and believe basically the same things.
No one cares, after all, when America comes in for harsh criticism from China or Belorussia because we wouldn't want to have policies that were agreeable to the value system of the Chinese Communist Party. There's not even any real disputes we can have with China because we're just not talking about the same things.
When Europe bitches at us, on the other hand, they're appealing to principles we also recognize -- Universal human rights, standards of international justice, notions of due process. In our war on terrorism we've been trying to defend those common values in a way that's consistent with them and we're trying pretty damn hard, that's why it's infuriating when Europeans accuse us of failing.
The other thing to remember is that there are many, many countries in Europe, but the way things tend to get covered in America is that whenever one or two countries has some complaint we say "the Europeans are complaining again" when it may be Britain one week, Sweden the next, etc.
Long story short, things aren't so bad, and we'll always reconcile whenever it's important to do so.
As Glenn Kinen wisely asks
I wonder how readily she would have opened with these quotes: "What's the difference between blacks and snow tires?" or "What do you say to a Puerto Rican in a three-piece suit?" or "What do you call a gay man in a wheelchair?She wouldn't have done it at all of course. She would have paraphrased, something about "a joke that was offensive to Puerto Ricans.
Monday, February 04, 2002
Taxation is the clearly abrogation of such rights that one could have and I think that the whole libertarian structure sort of rises and falls with it. That's probably why corporate America is made so happy by things like the Bush tax cut even though the long-term harm it will do to the economy by blowing a hole in the budget is probably against the interests of most corporations. They sense that if taxation can be delegitimized then regulation will go with it, leaving the world open for the sorts of problems Dodgson discusses.
No doubt it would, but Dick Cheney is the Vice President of the United States, Trent Lott was Majority Leader of the US Senate for most of the relevant time period. Chuck Schumer is a first-term Senator who's only been on the Energy Committee since last spring. In other words, the media pays more attention to stories that have to do with important political figures. That's why you here more about George Bush than you do about Tom Daschle, more about Tom Daschle than about Trent Lott, and more about Trent Lott than Chuck Schumer.
My own contribution to this is that if I recall correctly the drugs lead to terrorism argument was something that originated in Tony Blair's first (and otherwise terrific) speech on the war, but then didn't seem to get picked-up in America. I was glad. That was total bullshit.
If even the dialogistas don't think Arafat can cut it anymore, it's all over for him. Someday soon, maybe King Hussein can oppress the Palestinians. I am really oppress them. The way all Arabs who don't live under Israeli control are oppressed. Then no one will even care.
At the Ward 8 (the Harvardiest of them all) caucus I stood for election as an alternate delegate from Tom Birmingham. Since this was his home Ward and he had a clear majority, Reich tried to use illegal procedural moves to shorten the caucus and give himself more time to campaign.
Fortunately for sound policy everywhere, yours truly, ever a student of Robert's Rules was able, along with his roommate, to keep the pipsqueak stuck in a small room with no TV or major print media for four and a half hours.
Interestingly, less-than-brilliant black conservative economist Catherine Hoxby, a would-be leading opponent of affirmative action (if only I could bump that Sowell off) has also signed the letter.
Sunday, February 03, 2002
But you don't see that in the New York Times you'll have to ask them why.Well I can think of two possibilities. Number 1: American media is controlled by the Jews. Number 2: oh yeah, the totalitarian Saudi government doesn't allow non-Muslims to enter Mecca. Hm....
When contemplating college liberals, you really regret once again that John Walker is not getting the death penalty. We need to execute people like John Walker in order to physically intimidate liberals, by making them realize that they can be killed too. Otherwise they will turn out to be outright traitors.Besides the bloodthirstiness, I really must object again to having liberals associated with either traitors or anti-war protestors. Tom Daschle supports the war. So does Paul Wellstone. So does Ted Kennedy. So does Terry McAuliffe. So do I.
Admittedly, there are people to the "left" (in some sense) of all these folks, but they're not the liberals. I'm not quite sure what to call them, but there is a difference. Think how a conservative would feel if I just went around lumping George Bush, Pinochet, Hitler, and King Charles I together because they were all right-of-center political figures in their day. It would be absurd.
this is the part of class-warfare liberalism that I'm most sympathetic towards: wealth, particularly large amounts of it, is best acquired by hard work of some kind, and merely knowing people who are willing to give you money for doing nothing is hardly what capitalism is about.Forgive me, but I thought capitalism was all about me getting as much money as possible from whoever will give it to me willingly. It seems a lot less objectionable to me that we would put taxes on people in order to pay for important services than do what he seems to be suggesting and sit in judgment of everyone's money-making schemes to see if they're deemed worthy of the payoff.
The Palestinian vision of peace is an independent and viable Palestinian state on the territories occupied by Israel in 1967, living as an equal neighbor alongside Israel with peace and security for both the Israeli and Palestinian peoples.Well, the 1967 borders are more than Israel wants to give, but not much more, and it seems like a fairly reasonable requests and nothing a few negotiations ought to settle.
More trouble comes in with the request for "true independence" meaning, it would appear, a military and other things that Israel would rather not see lest Palestine become (as the West Bank is now) a base for terror attacks on Israel. Arafat, I suppose, would tell me that there would be no terror attacks if the occupation ended.
The problem is that for many Arabs, the occupation is identical with Israel's existence. Arafat's guarantees that such people could be kept under control are more than a little undermined by his own insistence on referring to Israel as 78% of historical Palestine.
That, of course, is not a way of looking at things that seems likely to inspire trust between the two peoples. It's misleading as hell, too, as it seems to imply that at some "historical" time there was a country called "Palestine" 78% of whose territory is currently in Israel proper and the remaining 22% of which is under Israeli propaganda.
Of course, there never has been such a state, only provinces of the Roman, Turkish, British, etc. empires and in addition to the post-1967 Israeli occupation, there were almost two decades of Jordanian occupation.
The kicker, as always, is the right of refugees to return. Arafat waves a hand in the direction of "Israel's demographic conerns" and insists that:
Israelis too must be realistic in understanding that there can be no solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict if the legitimate rights of these innocent civilians continue to be ignored. Left unresolved, the refugee issue has the potential to undermine any permanent peace agreement between Palestinians and Israelis.Israel, in other words, has the following options:
1. They can allow the refugees (and their children, grandchildren, etc.) to "return" to Israel, demographically swamping the Jews and leading to not one, but two Arab states west of the Jordon.
2. They can offer money in lieu of a right of return that will be used to arm and equip a state whose leader refers to the country next door as "78% of historical Palestine" and who insists that a great injustice has been done in refusing to allow the refugees to return. Then, of course, the terrorism will start up again and Arafat will claim again that he's powerless to stop it.
Someone please show this guy to the dictator's retirement home.
Saturday, February 02, 2002
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.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.
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.
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.
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.
''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.
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.
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?