Saturday, July 06, 2002

I JUST TOOK ANOTHER ONE OF THOSE IDEOLOGY QUIZZES which said, fairly accurately, that I'm an egalitarian on economics and a libertarian and social topics and that I'm further from the center on social issues than I am on economic ones. I think, though, that these kinds of tests miss an important distinction --- whether you hold a particular view for empirical or principled reasons. I, for instance, question some of the regulatory agenda of the Democratic Party (the so-called Patients' Bill of Rights, for example) not out of a respect for the right to property, but rather because I think it will have a deleterious effect on the really pressing health care issue in this country --- the number of uninsured. This is very different from a proper conservative who would take the view that it's wrong to regulate health insurance companies just because its wrong to regulate companies in general.

Similarly, on the social axis. I think gay sex should be legal because I think that if people feel like having sex with people of the same gender, they should go do it. Many conservatives would disagree, but most conservatives (I think) recognize that it would be ridiculously counterproductive to try and actively enforce a ban on sodomy.

DEN BESTE GETS THE LESSONS of LAX half-right:
Let's get a grip, OK? If someone has a gun and is determined to go on a shooting spree and doesn't care if he dies while doing so, there isn't any way to stop him. If you've got security at the airport, he'll go shoot up a synagogue. If there are guards there, he'll find something else. You can't guard everything unless you convert the US into a police state, where no-one is permitted to go anywhere without permission and without being searched first.
That's all perfectly true, but you could have some kind of a system in place designed to make it hard to get guns. You know, like one of them "gun control" type of things we liberals are always arguing for. After all, if someone has a hydrogen bomb and is determined to go on a city-destroying spree and doesn't care if he dies while doing so, there isn't any way to stop him either, and that's why you can't just walk into a Wal-Mart and buy a hydrogen bomb.

Incidentally, if the Second Amendment guarantees every American a right to bear arms, then why is that limited to firearms? I want a Stinger Missile and by God its my right as an American to have one!

REASON WHICH I ALWAYS LOVE ON ISSUES that I agree with libertarians about has an excellent condemnation of the whole horrible mandatory drug testing in schools thing. In passing, though, the article has some praise for vouchers. I think I've asked this before, but why do libertarians like vouchers? Shouldn't they be objecting to the very idea of government funding for education? Why is this different from any other redistributive program? Because it targets kids? Then wouldn't it be legitimate for the government to fund programs to ensure that kids have decent health care? Housing? Food? Start slipping down that slope and soon enough you'll wind up just like me.

UPDATE: What's the libertarian position on orphanages and foster homes?

ROBERT MUSIL BLASTS THE IDEA OF international law on the grounds that it doesn't recognize that only government based on consent is legitimate. I agree that one troubling aspect of the UN and other multinational bodies is that they reflect the views of their member governments and that some of their member governments tend to be, say, China or Syria or some such thing. Nevertheless, refusing to join international organizations or abide by widely-shared rules of international law wouldn't make these illegitimate regimes go away, we would still need to deal with them some how. We could, of course, simply deal with them as though they were illegitimate --- i.e. refuse to enter into any sort of discussions or negotiations with them --- but that would create a de facto state of war between the US and every dictatorial government on earth. I tend to be hawkish, and it's clear that America has a great deal of military capability, but it would be nothing short of insane to just go make enemies out of every bad government on the planet.

This is not to say that we should just bend to the every whim of an "international community" in which the opinion of the Burmese military junta gets equal weight with that of the elected representatives of the people of New Zealand (and, indeed, people would be well-advised to remember that when they're proposing that we seek a UN mandate for something what they're really proposing is that we give the Chinese Communist Party a veto over our actions), but we have to work with --- and within --- the world as it actually exists.

I'M NOW UP TO NUMBER FOUR in the great google "Matthew" sweepstakes coming in ahead not only of the Book of Matthew but also Matthew Shephard. Hooray! Keep those links coming folks. For perspective, the Drudge Report comes in as the number four result for "Matt".
THERE'S A FASCINATING AND RANCOROUS DEBATE in MaxSpeak's comments section between sensible liberals who would like to help the poor and the downtrodden on the one hand, and dirty evil stinking deluded Nader supporters. If you ask me, anyone who voted Green in the last election has forfeited his right to complain about the Bush administration, and those who adopt a "no enemies to the left" point-of-view on this issue need to see that the Greens are like a cancer growing on the left-of-center body politic that will destroy us all if they don't come to their senses soon.
AFGHAN VICE-PRESIDENT HAJI ABDUL QADIR, brother of the already-slaim Abdul Haq, has been murdered thus setting the stage for more inept Western reporting on Afghanistan.
The assassination illustrates the problems facing President Hamid Karzai just weeks after a Loya Jirga, or Grand Assembly, of Afghan leaders approved a new cabinet to lead the country out of 23 years of war and prepare for elections in 18 months time.
The assembly faced the tough task of finding a government acceptable to the Pashtun majority, the Northern Alliance which had a strong hand on the ground, and the various warlords who dominate swathes of the country.
How does it illustrate that? Except in the sense that newspaper reporters invariably insist that ethnic conflict in Afghanistan is about to ruin everything, it doesn't. They don't even have any idea who killed this guy or why. Haji Qadir was a perfect example of exactly the sort of reconciliation the media are always telling Karzai he needs to engage in. Qadir was a Pashtun, but he also had close ties to the Northern Alliance. The fact is that the greatest challenge facing Karzai is the same as the challenge that's been facing Afghanistan for the past decade --- out-of-control Islamic fundamentalism.
THE PROFESSOR IS BACK but his house is a littleworse for the wear. Welch, where are you!

Friday, July 05, 2002

WELL, KIDS UNEMPLOYMENT'S ON THE RISE but never fear, I'm sure Ari Fleischer will find a way to blame Bill Clinton. On the other hand, the President is finally sorry we blew up that wedding and it only took him five days too!
HEH HEH HEH via More Than Zero I discovered this great news: "New Poll Shows Correlation is Causation":
Others are excited because this new, important result actually gives insight into why the result occurred in the first place. "If you look at the numbers over the past two decades, you can see that Americans have been placing less and less faith in the old maxim 'Correlation is not Causation' as time progresses." explained pollster and pop media icon Sarah Purcell. "Now, with the results of the latest poll, we are able to
determine that people's lack of belief in correlation not being causal has caused correlation to now become causal. It is a real advance in the field of meta-epistemology."
Now that's what I call journalism.
THE BAD DUDE HAS THE LOW-DOWN on left-of-center bloggage. I'm not sure if all these new kids will really let me in their leftwing club because in addition to being soft on vouchers (see below) those of you who read this site back during the May "jihad" brou-ha-ha will know that though I think this country needs more spending on health care, less guns, fewer SUVs, and way way way way way fewer idiot presidents I also moonlight as a bloodthirsty bigoted racist McCarthyite, but I like the new guys and welcome the increased diversity out here in the blogosphere.
ERIC MCERLAINE PUTS FORWARD SOME forcefull criticisms of my earlier thoughts on vouchers. Unfortunately, he seems to be under the impression that I'm some kind of vouchers opponent, which I'm not. I'm something of a vouchers skeptic in that I'm not really convinced they'll work, but I am convinced that what we've been trying with inner-city schools systems isn't working, so I'm more than happy to see a few cities give it a shot. What I am very concerned about, however, is that conservative politicians who no more have the best interests of poor students at heart than do teachers unions are going to play some kind of bait-and-switch here where they say they're going to be making money available for poor kids to have other educational options while really all they're doing is providing a subsidy for rich families whose kids are already in private schools. So far in Cleveland, though, that hasn't been the case, so more power to them.

I think McErlaine makes a mistake, though, when he follows many voucher proponents in analogizing vouchers for private elementary and secondary schooling to federal aid for people to go to college. When kids pick colleges that's really a choice they make, when kids pick an elementary school, though, that's a choice their parents make for them. I can't really object to the idea of people choosing for themselves to receive a religious education --- that's their right, even if I don't agree --- but a child is more than simply an extension of his parents' will and I don't like the idea of some kid being taught, say, that evolution is false because of a choice his parents made. At the end of the day, if vouchers work work then that would be a lesser evil than having kids go to schools where they don't learn anything at all, so I'll be eager to wait a few years and try and see the results.

I THINK CHUCK KUFFNER and Charles Murtaugh have it about right about what a big deal this Harken situation could be for the Bush administration. Anyone for invading Iraq in, say, October 2004?
NOW THAT WE'VE LEARNED THAT THE AIRPORT SHOOTER was a Egyptian immigrant named Hesham Mohamed Hadayet, the question I asked early about whether "isolated incident" is really the opposite of "terrorism" becomes quite apropos. Given the wide availability of guns in this country (and yes, I'll concede out the outset that more stringent gun control rules might not change that) we are very, very, very vulnerable to would-be spree killers who aren't in need of much in the way of logistical support. Nor does an individual need to be a member of a major terrorist organization for him to be hearing the message that terrorism aimed at the destruction of Israel might be a good idea --- he could get it on the web from our friends the Saudis or any number of other places --- and as Tim McVeigh showed even a lone wolf can cause a great deal of damage. I wonder how useful a counterterrorism strategy that doesn't even acknowledge that lone wolves are a potential source of terrorism could possibly be.
DAVID IGNATIUS WRITES THAT HAM-FISTED ATTEMPTS to remake the Arab world in our image could do more harm than good. This is a perfectly reasonable worry. The populations of Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq, etc. aren't just going to become good believers in liberal democracy at gunpoint. On the other hand, this line of criticism seems to fail to appreciate just how far current US policy is from working to democratize the Middle East. During the Coldwar, for example, it was quite clear that for pragmatic reasons resulting from fear of total destruction of the world in full-scale nuclear war that we weren't going to launch an invasion of Poland to bring about regime change. At the same time, it was the stated view of the United States that it would be better if neither Poland nor Hungary nor Bulgaria nor the Soviet Union itself were ruled by the Communist Party. That gave opponents of those regimes reason to think that we were good guys and that we wanted to help them. That created a situation where when it was possible for us to help in a constructive way that help was appreciated.

The problem with our current Mid-East policy isn't that we're not pursuing a policy of democratization and liberalization forcefully enough, it's that we're not pursuing such a policy at all. Our stated view of the awful Saudi monarchy is that it's A Good Thing and that the Egyptian military dictatorship is likewise A Good Thing. The dictatorships in Iraq and Syria are said to be Bad Things, but given our policy toward Saudi Arabia and Egypt it's clear that our opposition to the Ba'athist regimes isn't a principled opposition to dictatorships, but rather pique that they're not more compliant to our wishes. Given that dynamic, it's no wonder that ordinary people in the Arab world aren't exactly welcoming more US intervention in the region.

Working out the exact details of policy is, of course, extremely complicated and I don't really think an armchair pundit like myself is qualified to figure out precisely how we should proceed. It doesn't take an expert, however, to look at the situation in Saudi Arabia and see that the Saudi population (and the Jordanian, Egyptian, Syrian, Lebanese, Iraqi, etc. populations) deserve something better. If the President of the United States were to stand up and say what everyone knows --- that absolute monarchy is bad, that secret police forces are bad, that democracies are good, that women deserve equal rights --- that the Arab people deserve better than what they're getting, that would be a start.

Thursday, July 04, 2002

THE IRONY, MY GOD THE IRONY! I accidentally clicked on the link for the Little Green Footballs September archives and what do I see in the very first entry:
I don't like to write about the Middle East. I don't even like to think about it. It's a dismaying quagmire of blind religious hatred and irrational Dark Ages thinking on all sides, impervious to logic or reason, perhaps the greatest imponderable stupidity in humankind's history. I give a slight moral advantage to the Israelis because at least they aren't exporting terrorism and the slaughter of innocents, as many of the Islamic countries in the area routinely do.
I felt pretty much exactly as Charles did back then and now I feel more-or-less the way he does now, and I'd guess that we've changed our minds for the same reasons.
THE 2002 CONGRESSIONAL ELECTIONS advantage: Democrats. I tend to agree, but if I may understate a bit, the world's gotten a bit unstable lately and there's no telling what could happen. Also, while I fervently hope the Dems will expand upon their Senate majority so we can stop Bush's judges and not be so vulnerable to defections from Breaux and Miller I sort of think that Democratic control of the House will injure efforts to recapture the White House in 2004 since Americans like divided government. It's my feeling, moreover, that the less we see or hear from Dick Gephardt the better.
I'M NOTING THAT THE DISPUTE BETWEEN THE US and Israeli governments about whether or not they think this LAX shooting was a terrorist attack seems largely to be a dispute about what counts as terrorism rather than about what happened. To the FBI, "terrorist attack" is the reverse of "isolated incident" so that if it turns out that this was just some lone nut with a gun who doesn't like Israel then it's not terrorism. To the Israelis this counts as terrorism as long as it was motivated by politics rather than being, say, a robbery (which it obviously wasn't) or some kind of personal problem with the people behind the ticket counter. The Israeli approach seems more reasonable to me since by the FBI/LAPD logic the Oklahoma City bombing would just be an isolated incident (albeit a big one) and not a terrorist attack. On the other hand, I do suppose that it's a good thing that for once government officials are trying to avoid setting off mass panic rather than using fear to try and boost their own popularity.
HOLY SHIT: this isn't good.
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- A gunman opened fire Thursday at the ticket counter of Israel's El Al airlines at Los Angeles International Airport, killing one person before being shot dead, police said.
No real understanding yet of who did this or why, but frankly given the fact that it was an El Al ticket counter I'm not exactly holding my breath.

Wednesday, July 03, 2002

GUESS WHAT -- WHEN PALESTINIANS DRAW MAPS of Palestine, somehow Israel gets left out of the picture.

Via Little Green Footballs.

AFTER ALL THAT NATIONAL REVIEW bashing, what was a young boy to do but head over to The Nation and see what inane crap they were peddling today? Lo and behold "Cartooning Terror" an article defending Ted Rall's infamous decision to mock the 9/11 widows in his cartoon.
In light of the struggle for hard-hitting political commentary, Rall's removal from the New York Times website seems to be another example of the mainstream media's post-9/11 penchant for censorship. It's hard not to be sympathetic to those widows who wrote to the Times in their own defense. Their grief cannot be comprehended by most of us, including Rall. But one also cannot stand behind the editors of the Times. Whisking away controversial material is no answer.
Let's try this once again folks. When the government tells you what you're allowed to read or write, that's called "censorship," when the editors of a newspaper make decisions about what material they're going to print, that's called "editing." No one has a right to have their work published in The New York Times nor does anyone have the right to have their favorite cartoons published in The New York Times.
ERIC SCHLECHT ARGUES THAT SINCE the Founding Fathers didn't want an income tax we shouldn't want one either. Well guess what, Eric, the founders also didn't want women to vote or blacks to be, you know, free so maybe we shouldn't just take their word for it on this one either.

Note: See, pace Jarvis it's not too hot to be clever you've just gotta pump up the AC.

DINESH D'SOUZA ARGUES THAT THE UNITED STATES has yet to counter Islamism's strongest critique of America --- that our much-vaunted freedom is often misused (by, for example, reading Dinesh D'Souza articles).
The Islamic critique as exemplified by Qutb is quite similar to the critique that the classical philosophers, including Plato and Aristotle, made of freedom. The classical thinkers would have agreed with Qutb that virtue, not freedom, is the ultimate goal of a good society. And in saying this they would be quite right. How, then, can the Islamic argument against America be answered on its own terms?
For my money, the only thing worse than the classical philosophers, including Plato and Aristotle, are conservative writers who abandon all the reasonably good commonsense empirical reasons to be a conservative and choose instead to dwell in the dark cesspool that is nostalgia for war-plagued Golden Age Athens and its slave economy. But don't take my word for it, go read Alasdair McIntyre's After Virtue and see the D'Souza viewpoint put forward by someone who's not a moron and you'll realize that it still doesn't make any damn sense. On the other hand, I do agree with the line of thought in contemporary "Aristotelian" thinking that attacks the sterile proceduralism of much of contemporary liberal philosophizing. My recommendation -- Joseph Raz's The Morality of Freedom which argues that freedom (well, autonomy, really) is virtue, letting us have our cake and eat it too. Good times except that it's written in the Raz/Dummett/Parfit "I teach at Oxford so I can write like shit" style. Oh well....
KURT HEMR HAS AN INTERESTING PROPOSAL to try and resolve some of the problems with vouchers I was worrying about below. Basically his proposal would be to ban mixing voucher money with other funds to pay for education so that, say, a program of $5,000 vouchers wouldn't just wind up being a $5,000 subsidy to rich families who are already paying $15,000 for fancy private schools. Obviously conservative/libertarian-minded folks won't like these kind of ideas, but I think that this is exactly the sort of issue that liberals need to be focusing on lest rightwing rhetoric about using vouchers to aid the poor obscure an agenda that's really about ending the redistributive nature of public education.
ONE VERY BAD LINE OF ARGUMENT against so-called "relativism" and "postmodernism" is to just go find something really, really, really disturbing and then insist that there are objective values after all. To wit, from Sully
I don't know where to begin with this story, about a Pakistani girl gang-raped as punishment for her brother's flirtation with a girl not from his social class. But we might begin by reaffirming that Stanley Fish is wrong. There can be universal reasonable standards that say some things are wrong, period. This is one of them.
But no. Fish never claimed that people didn't sometimes think that things were really really bad or even deny that he himself had those opinions. I think what this tribal court did was terrible, as does Sullivan, and as does everyone else who reads this blog, but the fact that we all agree doesn't make our opinion any more objective.

On the plus side, the Pakistani government seems to be cracking down, so the scope of the pathology is more limited than one might have feared at first.

Tuesday, July 02, 2002

JAKE WEISBERG'S LATEST BUSHISM isn't the funniest thing I've ever heard
Over 75 percent of white Americans own their home, and less than 50 percent of Hispanos and African Americans don't own their home. And that's a gap, that's a homeownership gap. And we've got to do something about it.
but it occured to me while reading it that I thought Bush was (trying) to express a worthy sentiment here and also the kind of thing that conservatives would jump all over if a Democrat said it (the term "racial preferences" might come up, along with endless protestations that hip and cool conservatives are so color blind that they don't even notice when their token black congressman decides to quit) and the fact that they don't is probably the best evidence of all that the whole "compassionate conservatism" act is a total sham -- if Bush actually planned to do anything about the situation he's noting, the right would be letting us know about it.
JASON RYLANDER IS ONE OF MANY warning that vouchers may be bad for private schools since government money tends to come with government strings.
That means that the government won't be handing over Johnny's D.C. public school tuition to Sidwell Friends without making sure Sidwell is doing things right -- i.e. pursuant to government mandates. If I were a private school headmaster, I'd be doing my darndest right now to figure out how to insulate my institution from federal mandates, even if it means denying admittance to all voucher kids.
I think that this is a real possibility, but I seriously doubt that private schools will have any serious problems with simply turning voucher folks away. Non-Catholic private schools like Sidwell Friends and the places where I went to school cost way more money than any voucher proposal I've ever heard of and they rely, in addition, on significant contributions of money from well-off parents, so the chances of vouchers infiltrating such places seem rather slim. Another things that vouchers are technically supposed to let you do is use your voucher to pay an out-of-town suburban school to let you go there, but when they tried this is Cleveland none of the suburban districts would participate. Schools just don't really seem all that hungry for government vouchers, and they're certainly not hungry for more government oversight, so I think they'll probably just say "no."
SOMETIMES CONSERVATIVES LIKE TO POSTURE AS THE new populists, deriding an out-of-touch culture, legal, academic, and political elite. Other times the truth comes out -- the think the corporate CEOs currently robbing America blind are great and the rest of us are stupid and lazy. In fairness, it's a funny column Jonah's got himself there and Mr. Goldberg's appearance on Late Edition last Sunday really brightened up my weekend.
WOW! THE LAST GRAPH OF NICK KRISTOFF'S column really contains the kicker:
Have you examined whether Mr. Z has connections to the biggest anthrax outbreak among humans ever recorded, the one that sickened more than 10,000 black farmers in Zimbabwe in 1978-80? There is evidence that the anthrax was released by the white Rhodesian Army fighting against black guerrillas, and Mr. Z has claimed that he participated in the white army's much-feared Selous Scouts. Could rogue elements of the American military have backed the Rhodesian Army in anthrax and cholera attacks against blacks? Mr. Z's résumé also claims involvement in the former South African Defense Force; all else aside, who knew that the U.S. Defense Department would pick an American who had served in the armed forces of two white-racist regimes to work in the American biodefense program with some of the world's deadliest germs?
Now I obviously don't know whether or not this Mr. Z is the man we're looking for, but he doesn't sound like a good candidatet to be a biodefense specialist, or even a resident of the United States of America to me. Especially given the signs the white supremacist groups and Islamic militants are showing willingness to ally (they share so much!) someone really ought to be looking into exactly how many veterans of the wrong side of Southern Africa's campaign against white supremacy are bouncing around our part of the world and how many of them are currently holding, shall we say "sensitive" positions with the US government.

Monday, July 01, 2002

AN ANONYMOUS MEMBER OF THE VAST left-wing conspiracy seeking to save the Massachusetts Democratic Party from Robert Reich has pointed out to me that Secretary Reich's wife, Clare Dalton, seems to have gone and donated $10 to Green Party gubernatorial candidate Jill Stein which is strange because the lying midget is running for governor himself. Sadly there's no direct link to the results of the contribution search but you can go here, type in the relevant names, and see for yourself.

Given that Reich and Stein are competing for essentially the same electorate it's pretty hard to see the logic here.

JOHN COLE IS TAKING SOME OF THE AIR OUT of the widely rumored Jewish realignment toward the Republicans. As John says, it's quite meanspirited to imply that Republicans are supporting Israel because they're hunting for Jewish votes rather than because they think it's the right thing to do. It would also be an extraordinarily foolish thing for Republicans to do since there are actually very few Jews in the United States and they're heavily concentrated in New York and California which aren't going to go over to the Republicans anyway. Plus, the Middle East is a sufficiently high-profile issue that it's not like a narrow ethnic lobby could really take over US policy in the area without America's overwhelming non-Jewish majority noticing that something fishy was going on.

I'd also note that there's a whiff of antisemitism in the notion that Jewish Americans are somehow nothing more than pro-Israel mercenaries ready to shift our votes whichever way Ariel Sharon tells us to. Plus, the whole idea of a realignment seems to be premised on the notion that there's been some outbreak of anti-Israel sentiment from within the Democratic Party, but if that's going on, I certainly haven't seen it.

EX-BLOGGER GLENN KINEN POINTS me to some poor logic in this AP account of the judge who ruled the death penalty unconstitutional:
"The premises he used were false, therefore his conclusions were false," said Dudley Sharp of Justice For All. "It is astounding that he would make judgments based on those studies ... which have so many errors and inaccuracies in them."
This is totally wrong -- while, of course, the falsity of one or more of the premises of an argument doesn't speak particularly well of the conclusion, it's perfectly possible for an argument with a false premise to have a true conclusion. For any p, one can infer that p or q so from the (false) premise 2+2=5, one can validly infer that 2+2=5 or Matt is hungry which, as it happens, is also false, but one can infer from that that Matt is hungry or 2+2=5 or Matt is not hungry which is perfectly true.

Bringing the discussion back down to earth, it should be obvious that it doesn't follow from the (purported) inaccuracies in the studies that the death penalty is not cruel and unusual punishment, though if they are inaccurate then one shouldn't attempt to use them in an argument for that conclusion.

TIM NOAH HAS A FASCINATING piece on the strange tale of a man fired for being a member of the Socialist Worker's Party. Apparently this is completely legal. I sort of sympathize with the company's desire in this case not to be associated with what really are some nutty views, but if an employer is really allowed to fire people on the basis of their political views, it seems to me that that leaves the system open to all kinds of abuse. A boss couldn't, I suppose, require all his employees to vote for a particular political party (let's not kid outselves -- for the Republican Party) -- but he could forbid people from doing any work for the Democrats. It would appear that as an empirical matter companies aren't interested in trying to play this particular game, but just because they don't now doesn't mean they never will and it seems to me that they really, really, really ought to be stopped before they give it a shot.
THE BULL MOOSE WRITES:
In the wake of the ludicrous court ruling on the pledge of allegiance, there has an outpouring of patriotic sentiment by Members of Congress.
This conflation of "patriotic sentiment" and the proposition that we are "one nation, under God" illustrates precisely why the 9th Circuit made the correct decision. Most Americans, of course, is patriotic and our government, including our schools, should certainly take a patriotic attitude. Asking students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance is a sign of that patriotism. The courts have long ago (and rightly) concluded that if a student does not wish to participate in the performance of the pledge they cannot be coerced into it. That's perfectly appropriate -- America would not be a country worth being patriotic about if it forced its citizens to declare their patriotism. The question is -- what does any of this have to do with God? The pledge as currently written insinuates that one cannot be a patriotic American if one is an atheist, agnostic, Hindu, Buddhist, or what have you. Of course, such people can take advantage of the opportunity to not recite the pledge at all if we wish, but failure to pledge is seen as indicating a lack of patriotism. Students who do not believe that we are "one nation, under God" are forced to choose between maintaining that we are or being excluded from an important civic ritual. The problem here is not with the harm that is done to the student, but rather with the harm that is done to the country when it excludes would-be patriots because of their religious beliefs.
I DIDN'T KNOW THIS GUY, but it sounds like he was a good kid and I think I'm still young enough to get freaked out when one of my contemporaries die. One thing I am sure of, though, is that he deserved a better obituary than this from The Crimson. I think maybe I should type one up for myself and leave it posted online or something so if something goes wrong I don't get screwed.
SPEAKING OF THE PLEDGE, MATTHEW HOFFMAN nicely summarizes all the reasons the court was right to strike "under God." I actually have some hope that the Supreme Court might affirm the decision since as a matter of precedent it's so clearly correct and because Justice O'Connor seems to have a predilection for aggrandizing the power of the Court (and, by extension, of its swing voter) so anything's possible.
TAPPED IS STILL GOING ON ABOUT THE outlandish Cal Thomas column in which the numbskull chose not so much to compare the 9th Circuit's Pledge decision to the September 11 attacks, but to actually maintain that the ruling was worse than the deaths of thousands of innocent people. And rightly so. Ever since September 11, rightwing journalists, politicos, and bloggers have been engaged in a concerted attempt to conflate mainstream liberalism with the marginal academic radicalism of Chomsky et. al. Those people said (and continue to say) some pretty awful things, but they have no influence whatsoever with anyone who matters and long ago decided to abandon even the most liberal democrats in favor of Ralph Nader and other such nonsense. People like Cal Thomas and Pat Robertson, on the other hand, though certainly marginal figures in their own way, at the same time continue to have strong ties to the mainstream right -- so strong, in fact, that conservative elected officials and publications never seem to see fit to condemn them. This sort of smarmy behavior is understandable in elected officials all of whom, of whatever ideological stripes, need to pander etc. in various unseemly ways all the time, but writers (and especially the amateur writers of the blogosphere ought to be able to show a bit of even-handedness toward stupidity.
KATHRYN LOPEZ REPORTS, WITH HORROR that "mandatory abortion training arrives in NYC hospitals." Can you imagine -- a city requiring doctors to be trained in how to perform a legal and potentially life-saving surgical technique? Quel horreur! Seriously, folks, things like these consciencious opt-out rules often sound innocuous, but are every bit as much attempts to do covertly what the electorate would never stand for overtly as all these bogus American Muslim groups who talk moderation while funding terrorism.

Obvious outraged question -- are you saying pro-lifers are as bad as HAMAS and al Qaeda? No -- just similarly disingenuous. And pro-choicers are never duplicitous? No -- it's just that we're right. Weren't you supposed to be stealing The Professor's schtick, not Kaus's? Indeed.

JEFF COOPER SAYS THAT IF I WANT to fill InstaPundit's shoes (only while he's on vacation, of course) I need to take more cheap shots at liberals so here goes -- the treasonous scum at the Washington Post think America's seniors deserve isn't a total scam but everyone knows that if left wing fanatics weren't always trying to take our guns away no one would even need prescription drugs since we could just shoot the bacteria before it got a chance to infect us.
THE ARAB NEWS ALSO HAS A NICE PROFILE on renowned scholar Mustafa Al-Sibaie who, as we all know, is, like "the overwhelming majority of Muslims," a man of good sense and moderate views. For example:
Three of his books speak about Islamic revival. One of these shows the practicality of Islam and the other two are on the Muslim Brotherhood: One explains their role in defending Palestine and the other explains the need for the movement and its approach.
So the founder of a brutal theocratic terrorist organization is an admired scholar. As Ms. Craig says -- those are the Saudis, our partners in peace; I'm not outraged, I'm barely even surprised.
A CERTAIN SAUDI PUBLICATION IS running a satire piece "Arafat says US needs new leadership -- calls for fair elections" that would be a hell of a lot funny if it weren't coming from the mouth of an absolute monarchy. All hail Prince Abdullah.
HOW DO I KNOW WHAT THE ADMINISTRATION's up to on any given day? I read the newspaper, of course. And how do the papers know what's going on? They watch Ari Fleischer's daily press briefing. And how does the President learn the details of his own plans and initiatives -- by watching the press briefing, of course. Hehe. Back during the election I actually said I agreed with those conservative commentators who said it didn't matter whether or not the President was an idiot. I thought there were other reasons besides the intelligence one to vote for Gore, but now that the world seems to have moved into permanent-crisis mode, I can say that I was totally wrong and it really freaks me out that the man with the fate of the world in his hands has no idea what he's doing.
WITH THE PROFESSOR on vacation, if I promise to post as frequently as he does will you all promise to give me 50,000 hits a day?

Sunday, June 30, 2002

JEFF GOLDSTEIN HAS A GOOD post on problems and non-problems with postmodernism. I tend to feel that the best in postmodernist thought is every bit as valuable as high-quality philosophical work done in other traditions and that the large amount of very slipshod work done in the name of postmodernism oughtn't be used as a reason for issuing blanket condemnations, especially when those condemnations tend to come from rightwing columnists who don't have any idea what they're talking about.
CONDI RICE WAS THE ADMINISTRATION'S point person on the Sunday shows today, and the word is that of all the various foreign policy types in the White House she's the one who most has the President's ear, so I thought it might be interesting to check out her official White House biography which states:
At Stanford, she has been a member of the Center for International Security and Arms Control, a Senior Fellow of the Institute for International Studies, and a Fellow (by courtesy) of the Hoover Institution. Her books include Germany Unified and Europe Transformed (1995) with Philip Zelikow, The Gorbachev Era (1986) with Alexander Dallin, and Uncertain Allegiance: The Soviet Union and the Czechoslovak Army (1984). She also has written numerous articles on Soviet and East European foreign and defense policy, and has addressed audiences in settings ranging from the U.S. Ambassador’s Residence in Moscow to the Commonwealth Club to the 1992 and 2000 Republican National Conventions.

From 1989 through March 1991, the period of German reunification and the final days of the Soviet Union, she served in the Bush Administration as Director, and then Senior Director, of Soviet and East European Affairs in the National Security Council, and a Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs. In 1986, while an international affairs fellow of the Council on Foreign Relations, she served as Special Assistant to the Director of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In 1997, she served on the Federal Advisory Committee on Gender -- Integrated Training in the Military."

She is, in other words, an expert on Soviet, Russian, and Eastern European affairs and, as such, made a very good choice to be an important advisor in the Reagan and Bush administrations when the main foreign policy problems facing the United States involved the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. It's pretty clear, however, that we're now mostly dealing with problems relating to the Middle East and Central Asia and, frankly, having a Russia expert be the President's chief foreign policy advisors currently makes about as much sense as hiring an expert on the Islamic world to direct the Cold War would have.
MAX SAWICKY UNVEILS THE "top ten punishments proposed by the Right to deal with malfeasance among corporate executives". This is a real serious crackdown he's talking about -- must read the complete works of Peggy Noonan is on the list and it's only number ten. Corporate crooks had better be running scared.
MEET THE PRESS HAD SOME PALESTINIAN representative to the UN on and he in the midst of trying to make himself sound reasonable noted that the PA is no longer demanding "absolute justice" and now only wants "relative justice" on territory that is "less than one fourth of historical Palestine." Hm, I wonder why Israel might be reluctant to trust offers coming from these people. Do you think, maybe, just maybe that even if Israel ended the population that some folks might still be around looking for absolute justice?