Saturday, April 20, 2002

Cambridge, MA>

EVAN DAY ARGUES AGAINST Ward Connerly's latest scheme -- a ban on the use of racial-identity data by the government. Day points out that you don't need to be a lover of affirmative action to understand that this would make enforcement of still-needed civil rights laws all-but-impossible.

Much better than Connerly's proposal is something that my former professor Anthony Appiah has suggested -- adding a "no comment" option to the census forms that government uses for these purposes. That way, we could just phase out the use of race as an official criterion for government policy.

Of course, making this work would probably also require a dismantling of the system of racial preferences, but that should probably be done anyway.

Cambridge, MA>

FOLLOW THE BOUNCING BALL! Jonathan Chait writes that John McCain should run for president as a Democrat, prompting MSNBC to respond with a waterfall full of cold water explaining that McCain has a lengthy voting record that would render him anathema to left-of-center interests groups.

Next, Josh Marshall accuses MSNBC and other skeptics of missing the point writing that

McCain's serious leftward tilt pretty much all comes from during and after his 2000 presidential run. Before that, campaign finance reform was still pretty much his only break from mainstream conservative Republican orthodoxy.
Thus, statements or votes prior to that date simply beg the question of where McCain is politically today.
The point here being not only to perpetuate the all-too-common misuse of the term "to beg the question" but also to point out that today's McCain could be way left of pre-2000 McCain.

Indeed, there's plenty of evidence to support that proposition -- McCain teams up with Kennedy on HMOs, with Feingold on campaign finance, with Schumer on generic drugs, with Lieberman on gun control, with Kerry on fuel efficiency, etc. The question then becomes: How much do you trust a guy who pulls a mid-career ideological 180 without so much as an explanation?

I'm basically liberal on domestic policy and hawkish on foreign policy and, like everyone else, I admire McCain's personal story, so I'd like to believe that he's going to come to the rescue and save the country.

On the other hand, the idea that he just went and became a liberal in a fit of pique about Dubya's attacks on him in South Carolina doesn't really instill a great deal of confidence in me, despite my basic approval of his current policy positions. A man who has that kind of a drastic change in his feelings about ideology really owes it to people to explain tell us what the hell is going on. Especially if he wants to run for President.

Also, for what its worth I happen to know one and only one Democratic party ward boss and he was positively scandalized by the idea of supporting McCain for President. Then again, this is Cambridge, Massachusetts, not exactly one of the great bellweather cities of American politics.

Cambridge, MA>

ON APRIL 10, MAUREEN DOWD alleged that men don't want to date succesfull women. Bruce Feirstein's amusing rebuttal is highly recommended.

Lurking amidst the irony, however, is a serious issue. It used to be that men really did marry down -- bosses would marry their secretaries, etc. This had a certain income leveling effect, that's now been lost. Pace Dowd, the statistics show a distinct trend toward "assortive dating" or rich people marrying other rich people.

This assortive dating is responsible for a significant chunk of the rising family income inequality.

Even if you're not concerned by fiscal inequality, per se, blogger extaordinaire Mickey Kaus points out in his book that this is a potentially troubling trend from the standpoint of social equality. It makes a great deal of sense to say that a person who's not very good at making money doesn't deserve to have a lot of money, but when you get to the point where (financially) succesfull people will only date other financial succesfull people, we're getting a lot closer to saying that a person who's not very good at making money just isn't a very good person.

Cambridge, MA>

EXCELLENT POINT FROM BRINK LINDSEY: the current round of anti-globo protests marks the end of the emerging alliance between really stupid kids and self-interested trade unionists as the dumb students have become objective bin Laden allies as well as the enemies of the third world poor.

Cambridge, MA>

BRILLIANT CATHOLIC-BASHING HUMOR from Mike Lynch in Reason as he says of the limits to "obscenity" as an exception to the First Amendment:

Utah's porn czar can't fulfill citizen requests to banish In Style and Cosmopolitan from supermarkets: Despite their revealing covers, these magazines offer literary, scientific, and other non-prurient value. Meanwhile, the Roman Catholic Church doesn't get to publish an illustrated guide to life as an altar boy--not if it wants to use real boys.
Bam! Plus the article's analysis of its actual subject (the recent supreme court decision on virtual kiddie porn) is really good.

The Catholic-bashing question du jour, however, is Where are the Protestant fundamentalists? Wouldn't this be a good time to poach some church-goers who don't like the abortion, but who don't like the child abuse either? It's not really Jerry Falwell's style to decline to capitalize on other peoples' tragedy. Let's get moving guys.

Cambridge, MA>

I THOUGHT TODAY'S TIMES op-ed on rising anti-semitism was going pretty well until it came to this startling conclusions

when you read of hooded men shouting "Death to Jews" attacking a Jewish soccer team in suburban Paris, as happened recently, it should prompt some profound soul-searching about whether the past has come calling.
Soul-searching? When you realize that sometimes words can hurt too, that's time for soul-searching, when an angry mob is out to slaughter Jews, that's time for decisive action. I don't really have any specific recommendations to European governments about how to curb the violence, but I would suggest that it might begin with arresting the perpetrators, not soul searching.
Cambridge, MA>

NATALIE PORTMAN AND VIRTUAL KIDDIE PORN-related traffic is finally slowing somewhat, but some wacky search engine user seems to have gotten here by looking for "Jewish Northern Ireland building regulations" -- I hope I had something useful on the subject.

Friday, April 19, 2002

Cambridge, MA>

IN SOME WAYS, THE NEWS that the Milan plane crash was a regular suicide rather than a suicide attack is very disturbing. I bet there's more depressed people in the world than there are committed Islamic fundamentalists and, unlike with terrorism, I'm pretty sure that there is no military solution to suicide. If this is really going to be the new trend -- "you can always take one with you" -- then I think we've really got something to worry about.

Of course, we could just give everyone some virtual kiddie porn and then they'd be happy. Or at least my traffic will increase (see below). Then I'll be happy.

Cambridge, MA>

THE MASSIVE QUANTITIES OF PEOPLE reaching this site after googling for "virtual kiddie porn" are now being joined by seekers for "natalie hershlag," "natalie hershlag porn," and "virtual natalie hershlag."

It's good to see that the world is really interested in my thoughts on politics and war....

Cambridge, MA>

I, GLENN KINEN, ALEX RUBALCAVA, and Mikhaela Reid have now been joined by a fourth Harvard undergrad blogger, Evan Day. This is the definitive proof, I think, that a blog is now a de rigeur possession for the overly-ambitious and hence no longer cool or really worth having. I'll keep plugging away here, of course, but if you want to see a Harvard kid with a really worthwhile website, please visit Peter Yang's collection of fantastic flash animations and other highly amusing diversions.

Oh yes, and good luck to Evan who's off to a good start with worthy thoughts on some of our more pressing campus issues.

Thursday, April 18, 2002

Cambridge, MA>

CRIMSON-WEST FLIP-FLOP EXTRAVAGANZA! On April 4, the mainstream media treated us to an editorial calling Cornel West "a respected scholar" and a "deep-thinking and perspicacious author." Who respects him? What has he given deep thought to? Is that even what perspicacious means? Hard to say. At any rate, the editors wound up begging him to stay.

By this morning, however, the Plympton street crew had come to its senses, now offering this editorial arguing, essentially, "good riddance" in light of Cornel's bizarre post-departure attacks on Larry Summers.

Perhaps there's hope for Harvard yet.

Cambridge, MA>

I'VE BEEN REALLY DOWN on Andrew Cuomo's chances at beating George Pataki and becoming governor of New York, but this is the sort of unfair, mean-spirited criticism that one so rarely hears coming from Democrats. I like it. Will it work? Probably not. But if it does, then I'm certainly looking forward to young Andrew's unfair, mean-spirited presidential run.

Cambridge, MA>

I'M RESULT NUMBER 43 on google for virtual kiddie porn and that fact has gotten me several dozen visits in the past day or so. Since I've always wanted to have a large pervert following (I remember when searches for "croatian tits" used to come my way regularly), I consider this a great achievement, but I'm just going to keep using and re-using the phrase in hopes of moving up. Repeat after me kids -- virtual kiddie porn is legal, virtual kiddie porn is legal, virtual kiddie porn is legal, virtual kiddie porn is legal....

Cambridge, MA>

THE NEW HARVARD INDEPENDENT is out and it contains not one, but two, stories by yours truly. First, my weekly "Backspace" column takes on blogging and people who don't think I'm funny (the horror, the horror...) and second I have a review of a forthcoming book called Take My Advice that, to be brief, sucks.

Reflecting on what it all means, it seems to me that people who don't think I'm funny probably grow up to edit sucky books like Take My Advice. It's a frightening thought.

Wednesday, April 17, 2002

Cambridge, MA>

CRUCIAL CELEBRITY COMMENTATING as Natalie "Hershlag" '03 weighs in on a tired "zionism is racism" op-ed from the Crimson last week.

Cambridge, MA>

I WAS HOPING THAT AFTER they gave Tom Friedman another pulitzer he might stop pushing the absurd notion of a NATO occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Does anyone think that's a good idea? Anyone in Israel? Anyone in the West Bank? Anyone in Washington? Anyone in Brussels? Would the Israelis trust a European force? Would the Palestinians trust an American one? If the force failed to stop attacks who would be held responsible?

What Israel and Palestine need is a border -- any border, fair or not -- that's relatively short and defensible. Anyone crazy enough to try and police the Palestinian side of that border is welcome to as far as I'm concerned, but I'd really hate to think of, say, me being drafted to do the job.

Cambridge MA>

NO WONDER THE EUROPEANS don't have the balls to stand up to Saddam. They're being overrun by two dueling ant supercolonies!

Via Glenn Kinen

Cambridge, MA>

SULLIVAN ON MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION:

I simply, honestly, cannot respect anyone who believes alcohol should be legal but marijuana shouldn't. Here's a challenge: will one reader provide a short (less than 300 words) defense of that position? I will gladly publish it in the Dish, if it has a modicum of sense. And, please, no circular arguments about gateway drugs and the like. It's only a gateway to shady, illegal characters if it's illegal in the first place. Besides, if presidents and CEOs and House speakers and mayors of major cities enjoyed pot in the past, how on earth is this gateway to anything but success and responsibility?
Admittedly, I'm 20 and most of the people are I know are college students, but I don't know a single person who thinks our current drug laws are a good idea nor have I ever read an article that even attempted to justify them.

I remember when Barry McCaffrey came to Harvard last spring he gave a long speech about how treatment was really the only way to deal with the drug problem, then defended criminalization with a lame reference to the gateway thing.

When Traffic came out it was taken as common knowledge that the drug war was a complete and total failure and that something had to be done, but then nothing happened.

Supposedly, support for decriminalization is a huge political loser, but I don't really buy it. If there really are huge pro-status quo majorities out there then that can only be because they've never heard the issue debated. Someone really out to give it a try on a large stafe, it would be an interesting way, for example, for a Democratic presidential candidate to make himself stand out from the pack.

Cambridge, MA>

SO THE POPE WANTS AMERICA'S Cardinals to come up with guidelines for priests to help avoid more sexual abuse scandals. How about -- "don't sexual abuse people"? Considering that they're not supposed to be having sex, abusive or not, with anyone, underage or not, that seems like a pretty reasonably guideline to me. I'm guessing, though, that what'll really be taking place is a getting of the ducks in order so that the Church can start putting up a uniform front of denials once again.

Cambridge, MA>

MICKEY KAUS'S BLOG AND BOOK have more-or-less converted me into a welfare reformer, but I really, really, really can't see what the point of Dubya's marriage-promotion scheme is supposed to be unless its just a way of providing government subsidies to the sort of right wing ideologues who believe that abstinence education is really the best way to reduce pregnancy.

Long story short, I recommend Mikhaela Reid's post on the subject, even if I don't agree with her about the work requirements.

Millions for public works but not a penny for abstinence, that's my slogan. I wonder what Mickey thinks....

Tuesday, April 16, 2002

Cambridge, MA>

THE WEEKLY STANDARD's CAIR memorial poll is a neat gimmick, but what's really needed is a "should Yasser Arafat be tried for war crimes?" question.

Cambridge, MA>

THE VERDICT IS IN: you can go out and buy as much virtual kiddie porn as you like. In the words of roommate extraordinaire Jeff Theodore:

Clarence Thomas voted against scalia for what seems like the first time today-- and the vote was to strike down a ban on child pornography... perhaps the only principle he can make sense of on his own.
All joking aside, however, Clarence got this one right. Damn him.
Cambridge, MA>

CALL ME CRAZY, BUT THE VATICAN'S planned meeting of US Cardinals to discuss the Catholic Church's priest abuse and bishop mendacity scandal (quick synopsis: it's the crime and the coverup) sounds more like an effort to impose some message discipline and try to stem the ongoing PR catastrophe than a serious attempt to clean house.

After all, how many learned men do you need to gather together in Rome to discern that this was not a record keeping error?

Andrew Sullivan has gone from predicting a "schism" to now thinking that the whole thing will be wrapped-up in a low key way.

I propose a third way -- the current American church is dominated by Irish and Italians, but that clearly needs to change in the wake of massive Latin American emigration. The necessary ethnic switch in the composition of the clergy was always bound to provoke a lot of consternation among white Catholics and the scandals will be subsumed in that process, with whites leaving the church with their (now discredited) leaders and an essentially de novo Latino Church rising in its place.

UPDATE: Sean Michael Winters gets some more Cardinal Law denouncing in at TNR and also points the crucial fact that "the Pope is very ill." The advances in modern medicine that can allow quite sick and almost-totally incapacitated old people live for years and years are going to be a real problem for an organization that relies exclusively on very old men to provide its supreme leadership.

I THOUGHT I'D TAKE A GLANCE at Arab News's coverage of yesterday's pro-Israel rally in Washington. Predictably, there was a lot of focus on the alleged Wolfowitz-booing incident, but the story is largely free from the sort of vicious anti-semitic vitriol we're used to seeing from our Saudi friends.

Said friends, on the other hand, seem to me to be a long way from recognizing the danger posed to them by the "American street."

There seems to be a persistent myth in both the Middle East and Europe that Bush and Sharon are some kind of extremists on this issue and that they might get replaced by more accommodating figures. Sharon's main rival, however, is Netanyahu not Peres (note that Peres is in Sharon's coalition and Netanyahu is not).

As for the American situation, well, it's a bit easier to understand the foreigners' mistake here. Out in punditland, the further to the left you are, the less pro-Israeli you'll be. This, however, is largely a function of the media's need to present clear-cut point-counterpoint style debates featuring sharp left/right divides on all issues. There's no clear liberal commitment (to abortion rights? to higher taxes? to environmental regulations?) that commits liberals to a pro-Arab policy, nor is there a clear conservative commitment to a pro-Israeli one.

In fact, Israel's base of electoral support in the US is conveniently split between Christian right types who overwhelmingly support Republicans, and Jews who overwhelmingly support Democrats.

Indeed, the best place to look for Arab sympathies in the American political world would probably be a Republican administration that's loath to publicly associate itself with the face of Christian fundamentalism and that has close ties to the oil industry. In other words -- the administration of George W. Bush.

If Arab world doesn't become more sensitive to the concerns of the American street, who knows, the moderate Bush regime may fall and God knows what would happen then....

Monday, April 15, 2002

Cambridge, MA>

SO IF CORNEL WEST THINKS Larry Summers is the "Ariel Sharon of American higher education", does that make West Yasser Arafat?

Joke stolen from classmate David Montes.
UPDATE: Suppose Larry Summers was mad at Cornel West and decided to call him "the Robert Mugabe of American higher education." Don't you think people would have gotten a little upset?

Cambridge, MA>

HERE'S A QUESTION: IF BUSH is really employing a rope-a-dope strategy in the Middle East then won't all these columns from administration supporters just undermine his efforts? Thus the denunciations by me (and much more importantant people) people are exactly what the administration wants to provoke. But, of course, if we figure that out, then we're compromised. What to do? A problem worthy of Godel.

Cambridge, MA>

DANIEL PIPES IS PUSHING ONWARD with his scheme to sue Saudi Arabia to recover damages for the 9/11 attacks. He's got some interesting evidence of Saudi sponsorship of terrorism in general, but I'm not really seeing what there is in his column that would establish liability. Not that I'd be sorry to see a bunch of those princes lose their fortunes, I just don't think it's going to happen this way.

Cambridge, MA>

YOU CAN TELL THAT AN INTERESTING innovative trend is totally lame and played once the field becomes overrun with Harvard students. At any rate, Mikhaela Reid who does a Tom Tomorrow-esque text-heavy left-wing weekly political cartoon for the hated Crimson. Bloggers -- go check her out; Mikhaela -- if the Crimson editors keep giving you shit you may want to consider heading for greener pastures at the Harvard Independent, winner of the Northeast Regional Society of Professional Journalists award for Best Editorial Cartoon! Woo hoo!

Sunday, April 14, 2002

Cambridge, MA>

BACKGROUND SOURCES HAVE INTIMATED to me the possibility that Hugo Chavez's coup and countercoup may have all been a set up designed to flush out and discredit Chavez's opponents.

Obviously, I have no direct way of knowing if this is true, but it makes a certain amount of sense to me. Supposedly Saddam employs a somewhat similar technique of fake coups followed by executions of people who express a willingness to join in as a means of ensuring the loyalty of his personal bodyguards.

On the larger subject of the Chavez regime, however, I have to say that though I concur with the general blogosphere view that the world (and the "Bolivarian Republic" of Venezuela) would be better off without him, I'm not really comfortable with the speed with which the administration was ready to embrace a coup. As a matter of pure pragmatism, I don't think it's very politic of us to go around dredging up memories of the old heavy-handed American involvement in Latin American domestic politics.

Considering the fact that the states of Latin America (unlike, say, those of Europe or the Middle East) seem to be reasonably well-disposed to our anti-terrorism efforts, I think it would behoove Bush to put an emphasis on being nice, especially since sooner or later he's going to have to kick some real ass in the rest of the world.

Cambridge, MA>

OH, NOW I SEE, THE REASON the Pope hasn't spoken out more about the growing sex-and-coverups scandal in the Catholic Church is that he thinks it's a problem for American Catholics to resolve by themselves. The Pope is a big believer is local control, doesn't think that the Vatican should control every little thing about churchgoers lives like whether or not their children get raped this isn't something like, say, birth control or what kind of sex you have that's more productively settled by a bunch of elderly Italian virgins.

Makes sense to me....

Cambridge, MA>

CNN HITS A NEW LOW: I just saw a teaser asking "what does Israel's Generation X think about the conflict in the Middle East?" I mean, come on, isn't there something vaguely worth reporting on relating to this war. Also: Generation X is old -- I know, I'm the generation after them and I'm going to have to get a job soon -- too old to really care about; they're just people.