Friday, March 22, 2002

I'M OFF TO PARIS to see my long-lost studying abroad girlfriend. Hopefully this means I won't have any time for posting until my return on March 29.

Spring Break!

THE SAME WHITE HOUSE THAT can't seem to keep America's nuclear plans secret seems to be engaged in a paranoid attempt to micromanage the annual White House Correspondents' Dinner. Maybe Karen Hughes needs to get out of the press office and move over to the Pentagon.
I SEE VIA SHAMED DOGAN that this anti-Scientology site is being censored by google under threat of bogus-sounding DMCA prosecution. I don't actually know anything about Scientology and its critics seem unhealthily concerned with the bogus cult/religion dichotomy, but I'm certainly not a fan and in the interests of free discourse, here's another link.
JOHN TIERNEY SHIFTS HIS CAMPAIGN to minimize the extent of the wrongdoing in the Catholic Church from his earlier "everyone does it" line to the "they're not really pedophiles line."

The distinction, of course, is real and important in a general sense, but Tierney doesn't seem to appreciate that the Catholic Church, as an institution almost uniquely obsessed with creating fine-tuned rules to govern every aspect of sexual life, is under a very strict obligation to uphold commonsense precepts of sexual morality like "don't have sex with children, even post-pubescent children, especially when they're entrusted to your care and especially when you've taken an oath of celibacy."

It's simply not a good enough defense for an organization that's all about moral leadership to point out that it hasn't done anything really, truly, tremendously awful...run of the mill wrongdoing is good enough. Knowing what we know now, what kind of a person could seriously turn to a Bishop for advice about how to resolve an actually difficult moral issue?

Cambridge, MA>

BYE BYE PRIVACY as the administration sells out the protected status of medical records to his good friends in the health care provision industry. I, for one, think privacy is overrated as a political concept, but I know this stuff is important to a lot of people, and I don't think it's going to play very well at all.

Thursday, March 21, 2002

DR MANHATTAN HAS A THEORY so crazy it might be true explaining that the administration has a secret plan in the Middle East and isn't just selling Israel out. I don't believe it, but I want to.
THE POPE DOESN'T GET IT according to Reuters, the Pope, in a statement on the sex abuse scandal
The Pope said priests had to overcome human weakness by committing themselves more fully to the search for holiness.
Some might say that priests need to molest fewer children.
DAVID SKINNER MAKES THE IMPORTANT point over at The Weekly Standard that Moulin Rouge sucks.
THERE'S A BUNCH OF GOOD Israel posts on the Grasshoppa Blog. I don't really know what Israel should do, but I'm pretty sure it's not agree to a cease fire. In many ways, I think Israel would be better off if they resisted American pressure and got us (well, the government, not me or Bill Kristol or Marty Peretz) really pissed off at them. So pissed that we cut off our aid. That would make this less a cause for constant "international concern" and comments and so forth and more just a case of Israel and the Arabs duking it out. They could find other allies -- India, Russia, maybe Turkey, who knows.

If warbloggers ran the world, the US would be standing shoulder-to-shoulder right now with Israel calling for the overthrow of the PA, as well as virtually every other Arab government, but that's just not what's happening, and if I were Ariel Sharon I would stop waiting around for Foggy Bottom to see the light.

JEFF JACOBY, IN THE COURSE OF an article defending America's inane self-defeating and incredibly imoral anti-Castro blockade asks the crucial question of whether Castro's inane and incredibly immoral (though seemingly not self-defeating) regime will survive the man himself. There's actually quite a lot of questions to be asked about what the endgame of the US-Cuban conflict will look like. Suppose the regime falls, either through Castro's death or some other turn of events and a democratic government replaces it, but refuses to give the exiles back the property that the revolution nationalized away from them. The logic of our current policy (and, especially, the infamous Helms-Burton Act) is that sanctions shouldn't be lifted unless everything is returned.

I can't possibly imagine this happening, especially considering that the nationalizations in question will be almost fifty years in the past. I certainly don't think that the ex-Communist countries of Eastern Europe did anything even remotely like that.

Now if the exile community in Florida consisted of sensible people, they would just let the issue drop and wish the people of Cuba well, but anyone who recalls the Elian hysteria will recall that these are not sensitive people at all, and their decades-long support for the obviously-failed sanctions regime is all the proof one needs to see that they're more interested in getting their sugar plantations back than helping the Cuban people.

Wednesday, March 20, 2002

SO THE WHITEWATER REPORT IS OUT and Clinton was exonerated, but you'd be hard-pressed to tell from reading the media's coverage. I smell liberal bias....
AMYGDALA HAS THE POST the rest of the blogosphere should have written about the Supreme Court's apparent move to allow random drug testing of all school kids.
ANDREW SULLIVAN IS OBVIOUSLY required reading on the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church and I think his call for liberalization should be heeded for this and for other reasons. Some interesting thoughts, however, from reader D.M. who suggests that this sort of behavior was just tolerated more in a past era -- an era when any sort of sex other than the hetero-marital kind was simply invisible, and therefore went unnoticed and unremarked upon.

Conservatives in the Rod Dreher mode, on this model, are fooling themselves if they think turning back the clock will solve the problem -- they'll just be recreating a world in which shameful secrets stayed secret.

I STRONGLY RECOMMEND Representative Tom Lantos's article "The Durban Debacle," a ringing indictment of UN Commissioner Mary Robinson and the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Lantos' long record of fighting against racism and human rights abuses gives him real credibility on this question in my mind.

Via Matt Welch

GINGER STAMPLEY HAS A BRIEF but revealing post on politics during World War II that should take some of the wind out of the sails of post 9/11 partisan self-righteousness.
THE ANTI-SEMITISM'S NOT FAR FROM THE SURFACE in this Arab News article charmingly entitled "Bombing Iraq to Protect Israel" in which we learn that Bush's Iraq policy is being driven by Joe Lieberman and other "pro-Israeli" Senators whose loyalty "isn't so much with the United States; its [sic] more with Israel, and that's not right."

Speaking of grammatical errors, for an article allegedly penned by an American named James J. David the story doesn't quite sound, well, idiomatic:

If Iraq hit the United States with one or two missles, despite the loss of life, would strategically be nothing more than a pinprick.
I guess when you've got an absolute monarchy you don't really need verbs.
TODAY'S MAUREEN DOWD COLUMN and yesterday's John Tierney remark offhandedly that sexual abuse by priests is so widespread that it's been taken for granted among American Catholic families for years. Is this really true? If it is true, isn't it a bigger deal than these two seem to be making out of it?
MICKEY KAUS HAS A FEW posts on the evils of gerrymandering. I recently wrote a paper arguing that gerrymandering -- not growing income inequality or the influence of "big money" on politics -- is to blame for decreasing voter turnout. Suffice it to say that my professors are quite sure that inequality is to blame and gave me a B- as an anti-grade inflation measure. I'm still right, though.

Tuesday, March 19, 2002

THE HAPLESS JANE SWIFT will be dropping out of the Massachusetts gubernatorial race to make room for businessman and quasi-Massachusettsian Mitt Romney. Why so many people are vying to get a job that everyone seems to quit is a bit beyond me.

Monday, March 18, 2002

THE LATEST FULL-LENGTH Kausfiles column manages to both prophesy the return of Bill Clinton (as a McCain-Feingold loophole) and skewer the ridiculous Robert Kuttner. It sounds to me like Kaus' Clinton scheme would work -- the only question is whether he'd have the balls to go for it. I'd love to help if anyone would be interested in hiring someone in, say, June of 2003....
THE NEW YORK TIMES IS REPORTING in typically journalistic hushed tones that the White House is pushing full-tilt on the 2002 elections. The subtext of the articles seems to be that this is a huge problem for the democrats. That's a possibility, but even though everyone in the media's forgotten about it, there are very good reasons to doubt whether the Bush political team is really all that good.

These are the guys, after all, who managed to win the election, but only after allowing the other guy to get more votes. If it hadn't been for the butterfly ballot, wouldn't the line on Karl Rove be that he was the moron who had his candidate blow weeks of campaigning and tens of millions of dollars on a comically inept attempt to win California?

Keep in mind, too, that since then the Republicans have lost governor's races in both Democratic-leaning New Jersey and Republican-leaning Virginia. In New Jersey, in particular, the totally inept decision to summon Brett Schundler to the White House immediately after his primary victory, thus reminding voters that Schundler, like Bush, is out-of-step with New Jersey on social issues may well have ruined any chances he had.

The administration's cynical attempt to get liberal Republican Dick Riordan to win the GOP primary in California doesn't seem to have worked out any better. These are the same people, moreover, who managed to drive Jim Jeffords out of their party and who came perilously close at one point to doing the same to Linc Chaffee.

Now obviously Bush is very popular right now, but I would venture to suggest that that has more to do with his conduct of substantive policy -- viz. the anti-Taliban campaign -- rather than anything that Rove, and Fleischer, and Hughes (Oh My!) cooked up. They might do well to just lay off and try and let Don, Condi, Colin, et. al. do their jobs.

Sunday, March 17, 2002

INTERESTED IN SOME PETTY AND VEHEMENT academic politics? I didn't think so. Nevertheless, Harvard Professor Richard Heck's attack on Brian Leiter's Philosophical Gourmet Report combined with Leiter's spirited defense of himself highly entertaining, at least to those of us who are currently studying philosophy.

As a student in Professor Heck's department, I'll refrain from further comment on the controversy: We report, you decide!

HIS POLITICS ARE A BIT LEFT of where I'd put myself, but that's okay, because SurfaceCity has a wealth of information about Boston and environs that will shock and astound casual inhabitants of the city in question.

For the record, I'm too ignorant to respond to his critique of the recently praised (by me) Comeback Cities. I shall have to read more. Currently, though, I'm stuck with the appalling Napoleon III and the Rebuilding of Paris as an assignment for a course.

THE BLOGOSPHERE IS DOUBTLESS already familiar with refutations of the "cycle of violence" theory of the Arab-Israeli conflict, but this Marcus Gee piece in The Globe and Mail is a good statement of the position.
THE SENATE REPUBLICANS' PLAN to hold up Senate business in retaliation for the failure of the Pickering nomination is just about the worst idea I've heard since they tried to hold up Senate business in June unless they got a guarantee that Bush judicial nominees wouldn't be blocked.

It's a terrible tactic for the same reason now as it was then: The Republicans control the White House, they control the House, and they're only one vote down in a Senate containing blue dogs like Zell Miller and John Breaux. There's nothing the Democrats can do to stop the Bush agenda or advance their own, the most they can hope for is to prevent Bush from accomplishing too much and hope that they do well in 2002.

In other words, there's nothing the Democrats would like better than for the Senate to grind to a halt. But Daschle can't make a move like that unilaterally -- he'd be killed in the press. A nasty bipartisan snarl, though, suits him just fine.

THOM FOLEY AND NEWT GINGRICH'S proposal to let House members designate interim successors so as to ensure that a massive attack on the Congress wouldn't leave America without a quorum as we wait for months for special elections to take place sounds like a good idea to me. Then again, if the House was gone, I doubt anyone would miss it....
THE NY TIMES EDITORIAL BOARD, not very surprisingly, has come out against "intelligent design" quacks in Ohio. Conservative bloggers should recall that while liberals such as myself have various anti-trade, anti-war loons lurking somewhere to our left, that the American right has some dubious characters in it as well. Plus, America being a pretty conservative country, the threat from, say, anti-evolution fanatics is significantly more real than that posed by assorted left-wing academics who are increasingly becoming jokes on their own campuses.