Saturday, June 29, 2002

I LIKE JACOB SOLLUM'S COLUMN on some recent Free Exercize cases including the now-famous Florida woman who thinks she should be allowed to wear a veil in her driver's license photograph. My view on this question (and I'm aware that it's highly unpopular) is that their actually shouldn't be any special right to free exercize of religion at all. The fact that a person wants to do something is a good reason to say that, prima facie, you should be allowed to do it. Why you want to do it (because of religious beliefs, because I convinced you it would be a good idea, because you're just feeling wacky) shouldn't enter into the equasion. Of course, we all know that we can't just go around letting everyone do whatever they want, and if there are good reasons for making people do things (like having photo ID) then sometimes we need to overrule the presumption that people should be allowed to do what they want. In this particular case of the photographs, why should it be that people who want to wear veils for religious reasons should get an exemption but people who have secular motivations for doing the exact same thing shouldn't? How, exactly, are we supposed to know if a given reason is "really" a religious reason?
I RECENTLY LEARNED THAT A SEX EDUCATION program is entitled to federal funding under abstinence-only rules if and only if it meets a list of requirements including that it "teaches that sexual activity outside the context of marriage is likely to have harmful psychological and physical effects." Now say what you want about abstinence education, but should our schools really be lying to kids like this? Harmful physical effects? Like what? They're obviously thinking of some more creative positions than the ones I'm familiar with. And how exactly would marriage remove these "likely" harms? I guess they mean STDs, but marriage doesn't actually prevent the transmission of disease -- condoms do.
OH WHERE OH WHERE has my comments feature gone? Plus I just wrote a hilarious post about the Guardian and condoms and it's vanished.
MY POSTS HAVE BEEN LEANING left this morning, so for the sake of balance I thought I'd go do some Independent-bashing:

Having reoccupied land handed to Palestinians by the Oslo accords, and won over the White House, Israel is taking on its next target, UNRWA, the UN organisation that helps Palestinian refugees. A publicity campaign is being launched in America, source of a third of UNRWA's funding, to undermine it for not weeding out "terrorism" in refugee camps.
Isn't it just maybe possible that Israel is taking on UNRWA because under the guise of "helping" Palestinian refugees they've been sponsoring terrorism? I guess not. Besides, one man's shipment of high explosives is another man's food aid. Yeah.
JEFF COOPER RAISES AN INTERESTING POINT -- the connection between corporate account scandals and Bush administration accounting lies:
The potential is there to make a powerful case that Bush's propensity for mistruth goes beyond the relatively trivial, if tasteless, joke with which he regales GOP audiences and extends to the very heart of his economic plan. We've seen what that kind of dishonesty has done to Enron, Global Crossing, Worldcom, and now Xerox. If we're not careful, it could happen to us all as taxpayers, and not simply as shareholders.
As has been repeated ad nauseum in TNR, the Bush tax cut has been based on a fabric of lies from the beginning.
ORRIN JUDD WRITES: "Mr. West is simply a buffoon, who no self-respecting scholar should appear on a panel with". This really sounds a bit extreme to me. I remember freshman year in college Hilary Putnam -- certainly a distinguished and serious scholar -- not only appeared on a panel with Cornel West, he co-taught a whole class with him. I agreed with the criticism of West that started this whole brouhaha -- that, lately, he'd been devoting too much time to high-profile stunts and too little to his day job as a Harvard professor -- but there's something really unseemly in the way that this whole thing has turned into a full-fledged and not very well-informed assault on a man who is, for better or for worse, one of America's leading public intellectuals. I have a hard time imagining how anyone's scholarship could be so bad that it would be unacceptable to appear with them on a panel discussion, and a really, really, really hard time seeing what Cornel West could possibly have done to deserve that kind of treatment.

That said, the Ariel Sharon of higher education bit was quite appalling.

TALKING POINTS REVEALS THE NEW GOP spin on corporate misconduct -- it's all Bill Clinton's fault because, you see, he had some illicit blowjobs so the message went out to corporate executives everywhere that it would be just swell if they all decided to base their business strategies on fraud. Now, President Clinton obviously needs to share in some of the blame for this whole fiasco since it began under his watch, but for the Republicans to make that kind of criticism they would need to draw the conclusion that the current president ought to do something about it. Since they seem determined to do nothing, however, this is what they're stuck with -- blaming Monica for the lax state of accounting regulations. What ever happened to personal responsibility?
I'M GLAD TO SEE THAT THE BIG CORPORATE SCANDALS seem to have restored Tom Daschle's backbone as he issues the following blistering critique of the Bush administration yesterday:
I think his record on the economy is a disaster. I think his record on fiscal policy is a disaster. I think his position on education has fallen far short of expectations.
The Democrats still, however, have yet to put forth something that would even approximate a compelling vision of foreign policy, which is unfortunate because I think the President could be weaker on these issues than many people realize. As I have complained over and over again on this site, for the past five months or so we've seen much talk but precious little action from the administration on a whole host of international topics.
SALON'S GOT A BIG OL' RAMBLING piece on how Rolling Stone isn't cool any more and hasn't been for a while. As a former Rolling Stone intern who listened to a large quantity of "it used to be cool, but now it sucks"-type stuff during the Summer of 2K, I'd suggest that maybe it was never as cool as some hapless baby boomers out there like to think, it's just that you kids used to do more drugs and thought for some reason that I still have trouble grasping that some kind of deep and intimate connection exists (or maybe just existed) between popular music and intelligent political debate. I think the current RS is kind of neat, if a bit incoherent, and I have high hopes that new National Correspondent Matt Bai (formerly of Newsweek and occassionally of the NYTimes Magazine) will be bringing in an interesting new view. And if you don't like the music, well maybe you're just old.
HEY, YOU KNOW WHAT MIGHT BE A GOOD IDEA? Maybe we ought to make more alliances with corrupt Islamic governments, that kind of thing's served us well in the past and I can't think of any reason why doing more might hurt us in the future. Not even one.

Friday, June 28, 2002

FROM THE ARAB NEWS:
The Israeli Army stormed the Palestinian Authority police headquarters in the West Bank city of Hebron last evening, witnesses said, in an apparent bid to end a standoff with suspected men inside.
So did the men turn out to really be women or what?
I SEE ON THE WIRES that Dubya needs a colonoscopy:
President Bush said he will undergo a colon check Saturday that will require him to be sedated. The powers of the presidency will be briefly transferred to Vice President Dick Cheney, he said.
Speaking personally, the notion that the powers of the presidency will be exercized by Dick Cheney seems more like "dog bites man" than news to me.
OH, GOOD, NOW THE TOTAL COLLAPSE OF AMERICAN business has reached Xerox! Word on the street is that Dubya doesn't want to make a big deal out of all these scandals 'cause he's afraid doing that would set off a panic. Personally, I'm already panicking.
TAPPED FINDS AND DENOUNCES THIS rather shocking Cal Thomas drivel:
On the eve of our great national birthday party and in the aftermath of Sept. 11, when millions of us turned to God and prayed for forgiveness of individual and corporate sins and asked for His protection against future attacks, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco has inflicted on this nation what many will conclude is a greater injury than that caused by the terrorists.
I suppose that it's possible that "many" might conclude that it's worse to need to change the wording of the Pledge of Allegiance (or to say it somewhere besides a public school) than it is to have thousands of innocent people die, but I seriously doubt that that "many" includes any of the victims, their families, or reasonable people anywhere. Most bizarrely, this nonsense comes as the lead graph in a column whose real focus is how the GOP can turn the pledge ruling into political advantage. One good way to start --- muzzle Cal Thomas.
KAUSFILES MENTIONS A BETTER OBJECTION TO school vouchers than the idea that somehow the "wall" separating church from state will tumble down -- the prospect of social balkanization as Americans from different religious and cultural backgrounds may no longer be forced to live and learn together. Stephen Macedo's written a good book called Diversity and Distrust on this kind of theme. I'm not as worried about the prospect of Balkanization as I might be, though, since religious schools are already legal and all vouchers will do is allow a somewhat larger number of people to send their kids there if they're so inclined.

I still think, though, that these Cleveland vouchers are far too stingy at less than $3,000 -- at that price you're guaranteed that the only schools voucher recipients will be able to afford are being heavily subsidized by some religious (or maybe ideological) group, presumably for the purposes of recruitment. That's not the worst thing in the world, but I'd much rather see peopel being able to afford secular private schools too and that could require almost $20,000 worth of voucher per kid.

Thursday, June 27, 2002

I LIKE REASON'S ARTICLE ON SCHOOL CHOICE but shouldn't libertarians be against the federal government providing money for schools under all circumstances? Don't these programs need to be funded by slavery-like income taxation? I mean, it all starts with teaching little Johnny to read even if his parents are poor and soon we're on a slippery slope toward making sure little Johnny doesn't get sick and die or starve to death or freeze in the winter. The horror, the horror.
OF COURSE, PERHAPS THE BEST REASON TO get out of the public school system is that government operated education facilities will now be requiring drug tests of everyone who participates in extracurricular activities. Don't know much about the law here, but this is an absurd policy. Maybe if they spent more time teaching in the schools and less time testing people for stuff kids would learn or something.
THE PLEDGE AND THE DECLARATION: many people out there are comparing the Ninth Circuit's decision on the pledge to a judicial mandate to alter the Declaration of Independence which employs the term "creator" at a key point. I think that this is an extremely inapt comparison. For starters, the Declaration is a historical document and that's the main reason it would be absurd to change it. We could, Soviety-style, just try to re-write history, but that would be more comparable to a judicial ruling that we had to pretend from this moment forward that the pledge never contained the words "under God" rather than a ruling that from this day forward they shouldn't include them.
THE REAL MEDIA BIAS: via Brian Linse I come to this WaPo roundup of newspapers bashing the pledge decision. Not only do I strongly disagree with those editorials, but I think that the more liberal among them (I'm thinking of the Times and the Post, primarily) are engaged in a particularly silly political game. The fear, I take it, is that popular outrage at the pledge decision will fuel a wave of antidisestablishmentarian across the country and so they're trying to claim that this is not the logical consequence of the liberal position on church-state relations, which it very clearly is.
AND ANOTHER! Don't public funds go to support religion all the time? If a church is on fire, doesn't the fire department put it out? And don't people drive to church on, you know, publicly funded roads? The potential problems regarding religion and public funds don't relate to the possibility that religious groups might benefit from the disbursment of public money, rather we need to worry if public money is being handed out in a discriminatory manner or if the government is refusing to allow non-religious alternatives to benefit from public expenditures.

All that said, I'm not really so sure that vouchers are good public policy. Their main virtue seems to be that they're opposed by teachers' unions, but it seems to me that a campaign of straightforward union busting in the public schools might be a better idea.

ANOTHER THINGS ABOUT THE VOUCHERS: If allowing the use of vouchers to pay for education in religious schools violates the establishment clause then what religion does it establish? In the pledge of allegiance case while we didn't have a specific sect, it was pretty clear that insofar as the words "under God" constituted an establishment of religion they were establishing the family of religions -- Judaism and Christianity -- that believe that one and only god exists and that said entity should be refered to as "God." There's nothing analogous to that in the vouchers question -- I've just read through the dissents and nowhere that I can tell are they able to state which religion they think is being established.
ON THE VOUCHERS QUESTION I THINK I tentatively agree with Megan McArdle's post on the subject:
Well, from my recent post we all know how I feel about the establishment clause; it was designed to protect religion, not surgically remove it from the public square. Even beyond this, I find it hard indeed to see why parents executing private choices to pick religious schools for their children is an unconscionable "establishment" of religion, and I heartily disapprove of the people going to court to try to argue that the way in which other people choose to educate their children somehow violates their freedom of religion.
I could forsee ways in which kids going to religious schools would be objectionable, but the possibility that some schools are not schools that children should be going to is really an entirely separate issue from the question of government funding. Given that children are required to go to school we need some kind of rules about which institutions qualify as schools (one could imagine someone starting up a sweatshop and claiming it was vocational training or a madrassa where they taught nothing but an extremist interpretation of the Koran), but once that's done I can't think of any good reasons to restrict the freedom of people to attend non-state schools to the wealthy.

I attended a religious school (the Grace Church School in New York) run by the Episcopal Church for ten years despite not being Episcopalian and no harm was done.

LEGAL ISSUES SURROUNDING FREEDOM OF RELIGION are in abundance today, but while most of the world is concerned about non-establishment cases (vouchers and the pledge of allegiance) there's also a story about free exercize in the news, namely the case of a Muslim Floridian who thinks her rights are being violated by the requirement that she take off her veil on her drivers' liscence photograph. Now, in a certain geographical region controled by the House of Saud, this particular dilemma is resolved by not letting women drive at all, but I guess that won't be an acceptable solution here. Her lawyer asks:
Are we suggesting that it's O.K. for any police officer to stop her and require her to remove her veil just so she can be identified?
Thus exhibiting one of the most common rhetorical abuses known to man -- inserting the word "just" into a statement in lieu of making an actual argument. The sole purpose of the photos on ID cards is to allow the authorities to identify the holder of the cards, so of course the authorities are allowed to do things "just" so that people can be identified.

I have little doubt that the relevant precedents (notably Smith v. Oregon) are on the side of the state here, which is a good thing, but I think we'll see that religious diversity is going to put a lot of strain on the free exercize concept.

Wednesday, June 26, 2002

JIM HOAGALAND MAKES AN OUTLANDISHLY GOOD point near the end of his Washington Post op-ed -- what's so special about Palestine?
Democracy in the Arab world and security for Israel will not come simply by shoving aside the shape-shifting Arafat and by showering money on downtrodden Palestinians as a reward for accepting new leadership. Why should democracy and American largess be confined to one small group of Arabs? Because they have become proficient at blowing up Jews? That is one implication that will be drawn by some in the region.

...

The speech that Bush should have given on Monday would have addressed much more fully the ways in which the Arab world as a whole must adapt to modern political and economic democracy -- and what the United States will do to help. That would have required discussion of Bush's plans for dealing with Iraq's Saddam Hussein and other regional tyrants who rule by terror and support its use against Israel and Americans. Such plans have to be the starting point for the next presidential address on the future of the Middle East.

Quite so. There really is no such thing as an Israel-Palestinian conflict that was provoked by the 1967 occupation of the West Bank -- we're witnessing yet another chapter in the longstanding Israel-Arab conflict, a conflict that includes the PLO as an important actor and the discontents of the Palestinian people as a significant issue along with many other things. The fact that Israel remains technically at war with the bulk of the Arab world is often brushed under the table, but it has some very important consequences.

I don't see how any peace could possibly be arranged between Israel and the Palestinians as long as the various other Arab states refuse to even say that any deal the Palestinians choose to make will be acceptable to them as well. One hears constantly that the US should push Israel toward a settlement and that our "friends" in the Arab world will do the same for the Palestinians, but not only have the Arab states historically failed to do that, they've done just the reverse. Rather than encouraging Palestinians to think about their own self-interests and cut some kind of a deal, they've consistently inflamed the conflict surrounding the symbolic question of letting refugees "return" to Israel propoer. They can't do that, of course, because as soon as Arab populations started hearing about the radical notion that governments should be pursuing the interests of their citizens rather than making grand utopian gestures, the people of Saudi Arabia might start wondering why their government is blowing its petrodollars trying to spread the gospel of militant Islam all 'round the world instead of on economic development; the people of Iraq might wonder if all the time and effort that have gone into building chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons might not have been better spent on, say, roads.

None of this is going to change by focusing on the minute-by-minute details of the situation in the West Bank. The real movers and shakers in the region live in Cairo, Riyadh, Damascus, and Baghdad, not Ramallah, and that's where the focus should be.

THE NINTH CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS HAS RULED that the inclusion of the words "under God" in the pledge of allegiance violates the establishment clause of the constitution. I'm sure this is gonna make conservatives furious, but it seems like the right decision to me. Next we need to take on the hideous "in God we trust" slogan that besmirches so much otherwise excellent current. Note that the godless euro is catching up on us fast!
I THINK THE REASON INSTAPUNDIT seems to remember Bush having given his non-existant "trifecta" speech is that I'm pretty sure Bush actually did say repeatedly that he wouldn't spend the Social Security surplus except in time of war, recession, or national emergency. Those things sound similar, but while using the Social Security surplus to cover on-budget deficits does have certain problems, it's billions of dollars away from the profligacy in which we now find ourselves.
JEFF JARVIS ON THE STRANGE DEATH OF AMERICAN CAPITALISM:
I hate to give all you libertarians the heebie-jeebies but... It is time for some GOVERNMENT INTERVENTION. We need regulation; the last few months are the proof that a completely unfettered marketplace will be up to no good. We need government reassurances that they will clean up business; we cannot rely on business to police itself. We need help.

Thanks to Osama bin Laden and a bunch of crooked CEOs, the American economy is sinking into the sewer.

I'm not sure Osama really even had anything to do with it -- these wounds may be purely self-inflicted. I recently came into some birthday money (thanks grandpa!) that I'd like to invest, but I just don't see how that's possible given what's going on. If the books are all cooked then what sort of criteria are investors supposed to use? Any company I buy might turn out to be just another paper tiger. Unless someone does something drastic to convince me that a real break's been made with the past my sad little savings are just gonna stay with me under the mattress and the markets will never recover.

Tuesday, June 25, 2002

I'M NOT SURE I REALLY UNDERSTAND why the Supreme Court's decision in the Ring v. Arizona case is being interpreted as part of an anti-death penalty trend (the Atkins decision was clearly anti-death penalty, that's what would have made it a trend) on the part of the high court. To be sure, it grants a repreive to a bunch of current Death Row inmates, but in the long term is their any reason to think that using juries as the sole finders of fact for sentencing purposes is going to lead to fewer executions rather than more? I would think the reverse -- a seasoned trial judge, after all, is less likely to be shocked by any particular murder than a juror who probably doesn't here about crimes in graphic detail on a daily basis.
DANIEL PIPES HAS AN INTERESTING AND STRIDENT critique of the Bush speech taking the line that it rewards terrorism. More important than this, however, is a point he makes near the end:
Overemphasizing terrorism: "There is simply no way to achieve [Palestinian-Israeli] peace until all parties fight terror." Palestinian terrorism has caused terribly tragedies but it is not the heart of the problem. Terrorism, after all, is but a tactic in the service of a war aim. That war aim -- the destruction of Israel -- is the heart of the problem. For example, it is perfectly possible to imagine a future Palestinian state that does renounce terrorism and instead builds up a conventional force of planes, tanks and ships with which to attack and destroy Israel. Along these lines, it is noteworthy that Bush did not call on the PA to reduce the size of its armed forces.
I do think that terrorism has become something of a red herring in the understanding of the global situation. Genocidal war aimed at the destruction of Israel would not be any more allright were it to be waged by men in uniform with very large guns. Similarly, the Taliban wasn't okay when it was "just" a bunch of guys marching in formation across Afghanistan establishing totalitarian rule wherever they went. As Lou Dobbs has admirably been arguing here, the enemy is a kind of ideology, not a kind of tactic. Terrorist extremists in Northern Ireland are odious, but they're not the enemy here, and Islamic fundamentalists like the House of Saud are part of the enemy even if the bulk of the violence they commit is exercized against their own subjects.
LINKS UPDATED: Glenn Kinen's now defunct site has been replaced by my old buddy from high school Dan Berkman's excellence blog. Check it out.
ZION BLOG QUITE RIGHTLY POINTS OUT THAT even though Yasser Arafat did indeed win an election at one point, he has stayed in office well beyond his term without ever haviing been reelected and, hence, there's something quite tendentious about describing him as "the elected leader of the Palestinians." It also grates, of course, to listen to despots like Mubarak and Prince Abdullah lecture the world on the need to deal with elected leaders. On the other hand, I can't help but feel that there's something disengenuous in the Sharon/Bush line that Palestine needs democracy before negotiations can begin since, after all, Arafat made himself de facto president for life with a great deal of US and Israeli connivance. On the third hand, I do agree that democracy is essential. What I don't think is that it's possible to address any of the outstanding issues -- terrorism, refugees, Jerusalem, Democracy -- all of the governments and, indeed, perhaps the borders of the Middle East could use some serious reorganizing.
SO WHAT WAS THE POINT IN MAKING A peace proposal that the Palestinians reject out of hand. I think the president's analysis of the situation was largely correct, but that only takes you so far. Does he plan to someone force the parties to accept his view? Obviously the Palestinians aren't going to bite at this plan and neither are the other Arab states, so the question arises once again -- what is the Middle East policy of the United States?
JASON STEORTS ASKS IS LARRY SUMMERS A CONSERVATIVE" but doesn't come up with any real reason to think that he is.
It would of course be a gross oversimplification to identify Summers with conservative politics. He is a self-identified Democrat and a former Cabinet official in the Clinton administration. And while patriotism finds fluent expression in Summers's public statements, he has made little effort to reverse entrenched university policies that seem at odds with his personal sentiments. Summers has not, for example, pressed the faculty to restore university recognition and funding to the ROTC.

But even if Summers is content to leave vestiges of Harvard's leftist legacy intact, campus conservatives can take heart in his opposition to the institutionalization of new bad ideas. Take, for example, his lack of sympathy for the left's perennial grudge against Israel. When asked at a student gathering what he thought of the petition — signed by several prominent Harvard and MIT professors — calling on Harvard to divest itself of holdings in companies that do business in Israel, Summers said, "the suggestion that [Israel's] defense against terrorist attacks is inherently immoral seems to me to be an unsupportable one. It would be one I would be acutely uncomfortable with." Shortly thereafter, his office released a statement saying that Harvard would not divest.

Right. Larry Summers is a Democrat. Do you know of any national figures in the Democratic Party who support divestment from Israel? Who publicly scorn patriotism? I don't. I agree with a great deal of what conservatives have to say about the atmosphere on college campuses and the deeply unfortunate attitude of large segments of the faculty, but the constant attempt by the rightwing to identify this left-wing campus fringe with "liberals" or opposition to it with "conservatives" is really incredibly dishonest.

Monday, June 24, 2002

INSTAPUNDIT SAYS BUSH isn't so wobbly now in the wake of the big speech. Frankly, I'm not so sure. Bush has given a lot of good speeches in the past month and if he were, say, an editorial writer, I'd say he has a pretty good line on the war, but the fact is that he's the President and lately it seems to me that he's been all talk and no action. He's got to do something not just talk about what should be done.
ERIC ALTERMAN IS RIGHT, AN INDEPENDENT commission into 9/11 is a bad idea and no, the fact that that's what the families want shouldn't make a difference. People may not like it when politicians preen for the cameras and hunt for publicity but it's just the public-policy equivalent of capitalism -- under a democracy good results flow from politicians pursuing self-interest within the bounds of the law. The only problem with not having an independent commission is that as I understand it the most likely alternative is a series of closed-door hearings of the Intelligence Committees which are notorious toadies for the CIA/FBI/NSA establishment. This whole situation desperately needs the light of day and, yes, some partisan bickering.
DEMOSTHENES'S LATEST ON HIS CONCEPT OF the blogosphere as echo-chamber is interesting, but I do think he tends to overstate the homogeneity of "right-wing" blogging and the sharpness of the dichotomy between this right consensus and the emerging left opposition.
A LETTER IN TODAY'S DAILY NEWS says:
I agree that slavery was an atrocity, and that the United States should atone for it. If any slaves were alive today, no amount of money could make up for what they had to endure. Descendants of slaves already receive reparations. It's called affirmative action.
You hear this sort of thing all the time, but it's simply not the case that affirmative action is reparations for slavery (let's note at this point that I'm very opposed to reparations and have mixed feelings about affirmative action). For one thing, it goes to lots and lots of people who aren't the descendents of slaves at all, to wit: Latinos and women of all races.
NOT SINCE ROBERT FISK'S INFAMOUS "please beat me up" column has such strange self-flagellation stalked the proud pages of The Independent.
SO UNDER INTENSE PRESSURE TO FINALLY CRACK DOWN on terrorism, Yasser Arafat manages to come up with putting the leader of HAMAS under house arrest. Not real arrest, mind you, house arrest. After all, it's not like he's responsible for the murders of scores of people over the years or anything. Disarming HAMAS and arresting those among its leaders who have proudly claimed responsibility for massacres should be the absolute minimum that Arafat is expected to do before anyone negotiates with him. HAMAS has never pretended that its actions are part of a struggle to end the occupation, so even if one wants to leave aside the question of terrorism, it's absolutely absurd to regard Arafat as committed to anything less than the total destruction of Israel if he permits armed groups dedicated to that goal launch attacks from territory he controls.
I AGREE WITRH MERYL YOURISH'S post on the latest developments out of SFSU (go here for details). The ideas of free speech and censorship are rightly only applied to questions of whether or not the state is prohibiting the expression of certain ideas. If a university wants to regulate what can be published on its server, one can call that many things and it sounds like a bad idea to me, but it's not censorship.
BOY, "CHICKEN HAWK" IS A FUNNY TITLE FOR AN ARTICLE but if you read Reihan Salam's piece on John Kerry's Sunday talk show appearances it's not really clear what he's done to deserve it. Salam rightly just gave him a mixed review, not the strident condemnation the title suggests.
THE AMERICAN PROSPECT'S ARTICLE THROWING SOME COLD WATER on the feasibility of an Iraqi invasion raises a number of good points. From my reading around this issue, it seems to me that in order to pull this off in an effective way we're going to need to devise some reasonable settlement to the Kurdish problem, one that somehow lets us square the circle of getting support from both Turkey (bases, logistics) and the Kurds (canon fodder, popular approval) for an anti-Saddam campaign. Speaking broadly, it seems to me that the creation of a Kurdish state would be very much in our interests, if for no other reason than that states run by non-Arab Muslims are much more likely to be supportive of America's general position in the world. On the other hand, pissing off our good friends the Turks would not be advisable at all. I wonder if there isn't something we could offer Turkey that could persuade them to let their Kurds and Iraq's Kurds team up and form a separate state?
SULLY ENDORSES THIS WASHINGTON POST EDITORIAL calling on the government to educate people about how to respond to terrorist attacks. As with improving homeland security, I think this is actually a bad idea. Terrorism is a tactic that people use because they think it will work. When we do things like beef up security or begin telling people what to do in case of an attack, what we're essentially doing is issuing a challenge to would-be terrorists -- overcome our well-laid plans and kill enough of us and then we'll surrender. The response to this will be for people to try and come up with better plans to circumvent our defenses. We need to send a clear message to the world that no number of casualties from terrorist atrocities will cause us to give in to our Islamist foes. If people know that even the "best" terror attack -- the total simultaneous destruction of New York and Washington by nuclear bombs, say -- won't cause us to give in then people will have no reason to launch smaller ones.

Working in combination with aggressive war against those who have already attacked us and, perhaps, preemptive strikes against those that mean us ill, the best defense against terrorist attacks may well be a studied, defiant, refusal to defend against them.

Sunday, June 23, 2002

THE INSTAMAN USED TO COMPLAIN that Salon's Sex section didn't contain enough sex. I think this bit might make him happy:
Onstage, penises and breasts bounced around wantonly. There was dancing, there was singing, everybody was loaded on some sort of mind-altering substance, and unbridled sexual outrageousness spilled out into an audience that could be described as enthusiastic only if you're into extreme understatement.
Mmm....wanton breasts....
ACCORDING TO THE GUARDIAN, THE WEST isn't doing enough in Afghanistan. I agree that it's too bad we haven't sent more peacekeepers, more food, more aid money, more police, and basically more everything over there, but I find it hard to take this sort of criticism seriously from the sorts of people who back in September and October were urging that we do nothing. Also note that nowhere in the column is it noted that things, though not as good as the should be, are much, much, much better than there were only a short time ago thanks largely to the force of arms.
ATRIOS ASKS THE IMPORTANT QUESTIONS:
Does Laura Bush exercize 30 minutes per day?

Jenna? Barbara?

I had the misfortune to witness a live taping of Crossfire on which the "issue" of the President's new workout initiative was debated and for the first time in my life I found myself agreeing with Robert Novak who took an anti-health line. I recently took up working out and I'd say that, on the whole, it's been a positive experience, and if someone asked my opinion I'd tell them they should probably start too, but it's really, really, really not the role of the government to use even informal pressure to try and get people to live healthier lives.

Plus, doesn't the government have anything more important to worry about. Like terrorism? Or the slow-motion collapse of the stock market?

THERE'S SOME DELIGHTFUL NYC MOMEMENTS on Nick Denton's blog including his experiences with a mostly-black movie audience (I love him) and to NYC movie segregation in general. Two Brooklyn bits are here and here.

I was born and raised in NYC and I've gotta say that it's the nutty incidents like this that make me love it. That and the fact that stuff's open all the time. Finding a soda proved shockingly difficult at 7AM on a Saturday in Downtown Washington DC -- I eventually had to shell out 2 bucks and a hotel bar due to lack of convenience stores, or, as we call them in NYC, "delis." Incidentally why do we call them that?

CRIME IS ON THE RISE AFTER YEARS of decline, according to the Washington Post:
Homicides increased sharply in many U.S. cities last year, including a jump of 67 percent in Boston and double-digit percentage spikes in Houston, Atlanta, St. Louis and Phoenix, to name a few. Murders also increased at smaller rates in Chicago and Los Angeles but continued to decline in New York when those slain in the World Trade Center attack are not included.
I think that this is very disturbing. At the end of the day, as horrifying as terrorist attacks are, I know that al Qaeda is not going to destroy the American way of life -- out of control crime really can destroy whole neighborhoods, cities, regions, and lives.
MATT WELCH THINKS THAT THIS LATimes column lifted material from InstaPundit, writing:
Unless, of course, sportswriter Diane Pucin really has been listening to a lot of Spanish-language soccer broadcasters and fans. Here’s Pucin, from today:
The U.S. team has become a common denominator in our multicultural landscape. Spanish-language broadcasters and fans have taken to calling the U.S. "el equipo de todos nosotros." The team of all of us.
On June 17, Glenn Reynolds published an e-mail from Instapundit reader Jorge Schmidt in Miami, saying (in part):
TV and radio commentators, and callers to radio shows, call the American team "el equipo de todos nosotros" (the team of all of us).
On June 19, as Glenn noted, Schmidt’s observation was reprinted on the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal. According to a search of the Dow Jones Interactive Library, that’s the only other incidence of that phrase … until Pucin’s. Even our local Spanish-language daily, La Opinion, has not used it.
Now this does sound to me like the Times was just recycling the InstaPundit letter without attribution, but given the fact that the phrase apparently hasn't actually appeared anyplace else, I can't help but wonder if the anecdote is true. After all, if that's really what's being said on radio and TV programs shouldn't more people have notived it?