Saturday, July 13, 2002
Pashtuns account for nearly half the Afghan population and have traditionally ruled the ethnically diverse country, while minority Tajiks, Hazaras, Uzbeks and other smaller groups have been largely limited to regional power roles.According to the CIA World Factbook, however, Pashtuns account for 38% of the Afghan population which makes this claim about equivalent to saying George McGovern got nearly half of the vote in 1972. Uzbeks and Tajiks (the groups the Pashtuns claim have too much power) combine for 31% of the population which isn't a significantly smaller number. Based on this, it strikes me as eminently fair for the Pashtuns to control the Presidency and the Interior Ministry while Defense, Foreign, and some minor ministries remain in Tajik/Uzbek hands. Why Post reporters can't look up this ethnographic info in the factbook before repeating bogus claims by self-interested political leaders is a bit beyond me (Afghanistan is the first country in the damn thing after all). The article also continues the Western media's unfortunate habit of referring to local political leaders with followings of armed men "warlords" if they're Tajik or Uzbek and "tribal leaders" if they're Pashtuns.
Also keep in mind that the Tajik and Uzbek "warlords" were fighting the Taliban long before the US woke up to their unique brand of evil whereas these much-vaunted Pashtun leaders stayed on the sidelines until after US bombing and Northern Alliance ground forces had broken the back of the (largely Pashtun) Taliban.
UPDATE: Win Fitzpatrick writes:
I'm positive that the WH spin will be: Of course, he knew nothing. The Sgt. Schulz defense. This, of course, raises the question: If the guy was so oblivious that he couldn't ferret out corporate fraud when he was the chairman of the company's audit committe, how in the hell is he going to be able to ferret it out when he's on the outside looking in, probably through a stone wall?He's right, and this is the exact same problem with Bush's know-nothing defense to the Harken charges (which is probably true; now that I think about it if I had a super-cool secret plan to defraud people I wouldn't tell a moron like George W. Bush about it). We were told that this administration was filled with seasoned and highly competant businessmen who were going to bring the "can-do" ethic of private sector efficiency to the federal government. Instead it turns out that they were either crooks or patsies.
Advantage: Democrats. Plus, the parties weren't equally complicit which is also good for the Democrats.
Friday, July 12, 2002
UPDATE: As you can tell from the fact that you're reading this, the problem seems to be solved.
El ex general Leopoldo Fortunato Galtieri, presidente de Argentina entre 1981 y 1982, permanece desde ayer en prisión preventiva bajo la acusación de secuestro, tortura, asesinato y desaparición de militantes Montoneros.I think many parallels can be drawn between America's deeply misguided Latin America policy of the 1980s and our equally misguided coddling of brutal regimes in the Gulf today.
ATTEMPT AT TRANSLATION:Ex-General Leopoldo Fortunato Galtieri, President of Argentina from 1981 to 1982, will be imprisoned permanently under accusations of kidnapping, torturing, killing, and "disappearing" Montoneros militants.
When I talk about libertarians I'm referring to people who, like my former teacher Robert Nozick hold that a strict right to property is a fundamental moral principle. Basically the position here is that people have an absolute right to what they own and that for someone to take their property from them is theft, no matter what the purpose for which the property was taken. Under this view there should either be no taxation or else perhaps some kind of a flat fee to pay only for a police force to protect the right to property. Given the non-ideal circumstances of the actual world it would also be permissible on this view to pay for a military establishment and maybe some other accutrements of foreign policy to defend lives and property against foreign attack. There are some theoretical problems with this view stemming on the one hand from the question of why children shouldn't be slaves (for which see Susan Okin's Justice, Gender, and the Family) and from whether it even makes sense to take property as primitive (for which see Thomas Nagel's The Myth of Ownership) but the strongest objection comes from what I think of as the repugnant conclusions named above, namely that poor children should simply be abandoned to get sick and die or stay totally uneducated if their parents can't pay for their educations. I doubt that many people would be willing to accept these conclusions and my purpose in bringing them up is to suggest that if you don't want to accept them then you have to not use the premise of an absolute right to property in arguments against taxation in general.
Other people call themselves libertarians even though they don't accept this libertarian premise. They just think that avoiding government regulation is, in general, a good thing. This is an empirical claim that needs to be defended (and attacked) on a case-by-case basis, but the thing to keep in mind here is that if you are a libertarian for empirical reasons then you can't just appeal to a right to property in arguing against liberal proposals to tax and spend, you need to actually show that they're a bad idea. I happen to think that libertarians are right that in many cases liberal proposals aimed at helping people will not, as a matter of fact, be helpful, but I hardly think this is plausible as an across-the-board proposition.
I'm not proposing, of course, that Bush release detailed (or even vague) war plans, but he should say whether he's thinking of an invasion or some kind of airstrikes/special forces/proxy army campaign and what the broad outlines of his vision for a post-Saddam Iraq are. After all, unless we're one of those (like Sullivan) who just has blind faith in President Bush I'm not really sure how we're supposed to support his Iraq policy when we don't even know what that policy is.
UPDATE: Jason Rylander has more good thoughts on this point.
Thursday, July 11, 2002
When I reflect on this conclusion, I must admit that it sounds a bit like a reductio ad absurdum of liberal egalitarianism, but when I look around all the other political theories seem to have worse problems (libertarianism, I take it, would say that poor kids just shouldn't get any education at all and conservatives seem to think that the role of schools is to brainwash kids into being religious) so I'm gonna just throw my repugnant conclusion out there.
On the contrary, young Saudis seeking employment argue that the recruitment practices of private sector employers have added to the existing constraints faced by them, while hunting for jobs in private companies. These employers have naturally tended toward the recruitment of foreign workers, whose qualifications, training, operating flexibility and wage demands more closely matched their own requirements and profitability, they said.Crazy private sector employers, trying to choose workers based on their "qualifications," "training," "flexibility," and "wage demands" — what are they thinking?
Excellent, because if you ask me the one thing that could really make the United States a much better place would be for us to have social policies that were more like Saudi Arabia's. Take, for example, being stuck in traffic. Doesn't that suck? Wouldn't you be so much more happier if there were fewer cars on the road? Like only half as many? I think it's time to consider the Saudi approach and not let women drive at all! Also amusing is this:
On the Islamic side, the students benefit from Dr. Salah Alsawy, an Islamic scholar. Under his supervision, a fatwa line has been opened that enables Muslims to seek a fatwa by phone or e-mail.I'm really, really, hoping that that's not the kind of fatwa where they come and kill you.
The president's calculation seems to be that as long as he has a plan, any plan, the public won't be able to tell the difference between real reform and sham reform. After all, it's worked for him before.The good news is that you can't trick people into thinking the economy's performing well. You've either got a job or you don't. Your 401 (k) either is worth something or it's not. The problem is that many people may need to suffer a great deal to make the truth come out.
I actually think a similar problem — too much focus on getting important people to act better and too little on building systems in which it doesn't matter whether or not bad people exist in the world — is underlying the administration's increasingly troubled foreign policy, but I'm having trouble expressing myself at this point.
Nevertheless, I do tend to worry that as we seek ways to cope with the immediate threat of Islamic extremism we may wind up taking our collective eyes off the ball with regard to the much more serious long-term problem of containing Chinese power unless and until a less murderous regime is running things in Beijing. After all, no matter what Saddam may be cooking up in his weapons labs we always could win a war against Iraq fairly easily while a US-China confrontation would be a horrific bloodbath.
Wednesday, July 10, 2002
We can understand why the White House is trying to allay the general impression that the Administration is in a rudderless, reactive, and defensive posture on a wide range of foreign and domestic policy issues. But a case-by-case review of the legislation the President complained about in his press conference shows he should look at his own party -- and in some cases, just look in the mirror -- for the real obstructionists in Washington.The nice thing about being out of power is that it lets all sorts of us left-of-Bush folk come together and agree that this is one hell of a bad president we've got ourselves.
The problem with the French is that they don't have a word for entrepreneurSomehow I don't think Europeans are going to stop looking on Americans as arrogant and ill-informed any time soon. Can you imagine Jacques Chirac explaining that the problem with America is that we don't have a word for le hot-dog? I can't.
Now there's a case to be made that the whole anti-patronage, anti-machine, reformist crusade was a bad idea and that the machines and the patronage system were a powerful method of integrating people into our common political culture, but there's also a case to be made that running the government essentially on the principle of large-scale corruption would be a bad idea. At the end of the day, this debate about the basic structure of our political system is a lot more important than worrying what the most efficient way to organize the Homeland Security Department is.
On a related point, Joe Biden isn't my favorite Senator, but he's absolutely right to be scheduling hearings on Iraq policy. I know folks in the blogosphere enjoy speculating about what we may or may not be doing but, frankly, the American people have a right to know what our Iraq policy is at least in the broad outlines.
In the long run, there's no capitalism without conscience. There is no wealth without character.This is absolutely absurd. The whole merit of the capitalist system (and of good social systems in general) is that they work without requiring the population to consist entirely or even largely of good people. If one could count on people to have lots and lots of character and conscience, we could just go adopt some kind of anarcho-socialist system with no laws defending the right to life, property, or anything else. People would take what they needed and contribute what they could. The real world, of course, is nothing like this, so we've constructed a system of laws whose purpose is supposed to be to ensure that various individuals each pursuing their own self-interest wind up generating lots of good results for people as a whole. If it turns out that self-interested people are doing socially destructive things (killing each other, defrauding investors, whatever) what that goes to show is that we need to alter the rules of the game.
There's nothing wrong with CEOs being greedy. Indeed, if CEO weren't greedy its hard to see how free-market economics could work at all. If greedy CEOs knew, however, that trying to perpetrate massive fraud would wind up landing them in jail and losing all their money, then greedy CEOs wouldn't perpetrate massive frauds. Thinking that we can solve social problems by asking people to just become more moral is the absolute worst kind of self-deception, and if that's really going to be our policy then this country's going to be in a lot of trouble.
Tuesday, July 09, 2002
Monday, July 08, 2002
Link via Atrios.
Indeed, Bush, Cheney, and White are all part of a culture of "crony capitalism" whose resurgence has been quietly accepted in Washington, a culture in which a stint in the private sector is valued mostly as a ticket-punching exercise that allows one to get rich, ride out the time between government jobs, and demonstrate that one really isn't a creature of Washington. To dump White would risk raising questions about this entire way of life.Greed can be a good thing, but only when a system of laws exists to channel greed in socially productive ways. When the ethic of greed takes over the lawmaking and law-enforcing sectors of society, then disaster results.
Sunday, July 07, 2002
Bob Novak: This debate has not moved an inch in three years, and the problem is that all this whining by senior citizens because they want to go out to Wendy's and they want to go out to the dog track, and if they saved their money and bought some drugs, most of them can afford it.Wouldn't it be nice if actual rightwing politicians would come out and say what their pundit-stand-ins do --- that conservatives don't think senior citizens should be helped to afford prescription drugs? Then we could have an honest debate about the proper role of government in providing for the citizenry. A debate that the left would win, hands down. Instead the Republicans will just go on pushing their scam plan and try to confuse people into thinking that everyone agrees on this issue.
Kate O’Bierne: Two thirds of the elderly, of course, do have prescription drug coverage. And the typical senior citizen spends $800 a year. A small minority have trouble paying for drugs, and now if they have to choose between buying drugs and food, it'd be a lot cheaper to provide food for them, and then we won't run the risk of introducing price controls on pharmaceuticals and cripple the miracle industry that is the American drug industry.
Protestant hard-liners battled riot police Sunday after being barred from parading through the main Catholic section of Portadown, an annual confrontation that often triggers sectarian violence across Northern Ireland.
We all know that many, many, many more people want to come to the United States in any given year than we're prepared to let in, so why don't we put some effort into making sure that the people we do wind up letting in are people who don't have virulently anti-American views?