Saturday, February 09, 2002
At night, apartment blocks appear dark or lit with flickering candles. Once-productive factories are being pulled down for scrap metal, as there is no power, spare parts or raw materials to keep them going. At those still running, workers are pushed to increasing manual effort-yet these workers cannot be paid in anything other than the virtually worthless won, and cannot be fed because the country has neither produced enough food to feed its population nor has enough dollars to import the food it needs.
What the people of North Korea need from us is sensible policy aimed at actually improving things, not smug moralizing that makes us feel better (and is even accurate) but does nothing toward actually ending the repression.
Nozick then poses a killer question: if the original egalitarian ‘distribution was just, and people moved voluntarily from it to the new, inegalitarian one, transferring parts of their shares they were given [under the egalitarian distribution], isn’t the new distribution also just?’ When I first read the book, I tried everything to find an answer to that question which wasn’t ‘Yes’. I failed. I eventually took some comfort from the fact that Nozick’s more elevated and sophisticated philosophical critics failed as well. They failed because there is no way round the central truth: individual free choices will destroy every attempt to maintain an egalitarian pattern of social justice.The answer to that question, as Nozick himself came to acknowledge, is "no." On an egalitarian account of liberalism, the right to property is a legal right created by the political community for the mutual benefit of its membership and, as such, it is not an absolute right.
Rather, the right to property is subject to certain conditions, among which being that property shall be subject to taxation. Hence it is not any particular pattern of distribution of property that is just, but rather an underlying economic system, including taxation, that allows for property to be justly acquired.
This, incidentally, is an account of the just acquisition of property, an account that Nozick's book is lacking and that it requires. He tells a Lockean story about mixing one's labor and dividing the world, but it's obvious from a cursory glance at human history that the actual distribution of property has been overwhelmingly influenced by unjust conquests, rampages, etc. and that, therefore, appealing to history will not explain how people could hold property justly.
The genius of that system is that any congressmen who'd like to see the administration tied in knots over Enron will have to face the public consequences of doing so, rather than being able to hide behind some prosecutor.
Villaraigosa in LA tried a coalition of Latinos with white liberals and lost to James Hahn's coalition of blacks and white conservatives. In New York, Ferrer put the Latinos together with the blacks but got narrowly edged out by a liberal/conservative white coalition. In a last minute twist, however, Bloomberg was able to put together a winning coalition of white conservatives and Latinos.
Clearly since the demographics vary from time to time and from place to place and since different candidates get different proportions of the votes of different ethnic groups, it would be wrong to draw from this the immediate conclusion that a conservative/Latino alliance will be the future of politics.
Rather, it is as yet undetermined where all the cards will land, but it may well be very important. Another -- and, I think, more likely than is realized -- possibility is that the "Latino" vote may prove to be a chimera and Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans, etc. will show little in the way of common voting patterns.
Friday, February 08, 2002
"Giant Food Stores officials apologized after one of its stores offered savings on fried chicken in honor of Black History Month."Which caught my eye because my senior year in high school the cafeteria served a fried chicken lunch in honor of black history month and though it seemed very dubious to me at the time, no one else seemed to agree.
The deep instinct of liberals to believe that Clinton's success at expanding the party's electoral coalition was won solely at the price of sacrificing its neediest constituents can be sustained only by ignoring the actual record of the 1990s. Under Clinton, low-income and working-class families made their biggest gains since the 1960s--largely because of the booming economy, but also because of the policies Didion derides as "silly": a set of initiatives that encouraged and rewarded work. It turned out that "making work pay" was not only a good political slogan but an effective strategy.If his editors read the article and take note, the Prospect might become a decent publication.
But just look at the wild success of Harvard bloggers!
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.