Saturday, March 16, 2002

I WAS SADDENED TO DISCOVER that I'm only Matthew #104 on google. I do have to compete with Matthew Sweet and many references to Matthew Shepard and, of course, The Book of Matthew, but having fellow Harvardian Dr. Matthew L.N. Ashby beat me out is simply intolerable.

I mean, who's he? Some kind of boring astrophysicist "working to better understand the sources of infrared emission from galaxies." Worst of all, now I'm linking to him and he'll probably pull even further ahead of me in the standings.

I WOULDN'T RECOMMEND HIS political views to anyone, but The National Review's Byron York knows more than anyone about the politics of judicial nominations, and his rundown of Republican tactical errors in the Pickering case is instructive.

I'd have to say that Republicans are usually a lot savvier than Democrats on tactical issues (Clinton, of course, was a big exception to this), but Democrats are much better at this judge stuff.

Remember the bruising battle of Ruth Bader Ginsburg's confirmation to the Supreme Court? Neither do I.

THIS RULING THAT AMATEUR JOURNALISTS (in this case, a public access cable show host) have the same legal rights as professionals will probably be of enormous importance to the continuing development of the blog world.

Via Dane Carlson.

MICKEY KAUS THINKS (predictably, as he himself notes) that the Reich/Clinton dispute is "about welfare reform." I've no doubt that it is, in part, but I think that international trade is probably the big difference. Reich is a real shill for the protectionist trade unions. Kind of like the current president....

Friday, March 15, 2002

I WAS GOING TO WRITE THAT even Dubya's own Treasury Secretary disagrees with the President's steel policy, but it occured to me that everyone in the White House with a functioning brain (i.e., not the President) must realize what a catastrophic policy this is. Rove et. al. are just being cynical -- there's no question that these people know how wrong they are.
ROBERT RAY VS. ROBERT TORICELLI, the corrupt against the psychotic, the idea of these scumbags facing off against each other gives me nightmares.
BASED ON THE LOOKS OF the AK-47-toting men in the photo that accompanies this article on Palestinian reaction to the Israeli pullout it doesn't look to me like they're going to decide now that they love Israel after all. Indeed, they seem to be reacting the only way one could expect anyone to react to appeasers -- with threats of future violence.
JUST NOTICED OLIVER WILLIS' BritneyBlog. Pretty funny stuff. Check it out.
VERY INTERESTING CHARLES DODGSON post about the evils of Clear Channel radio. I, for one, like bland homogenous Top 40 radio, something that has long cost me the respect of my peers.
SINCE ANDREW SULLIVAN's ALREADY linked to it, I don't think there's much of a chance that I'll be the one bringing Michael Walzer's excellent "Can There Be a Decent Left" to anyone's attention.

I thought I'd take the time to note, though, that Walzer's contributions to the field go far beyond this one essay and that his book Just and Unjust Wars is the best treatment I've seen of the occassional need for war and the always-present need for restraint on the part of the good guy.

Walzer is also right, I think, to pin a good deal of the blame for the far left's bizarre treatment of the war on the influence of Karl Marx rather than some vaguely defined hatred for America. Bad as Marxism is as a set of policy perscriptions, it's even worse as an analytic paradigm, and in this latter form, unfortunately, Marx still has a great deal of influence in academia.

Thursday, March 14, 2002

TNR CHALKS UP THE LATEST round of Israel bashing to "the usual suspects", but they seem to have been joined by the President of the United States. Doesn't that call for a more muscular response from Israel's defenders than this sort of weary lament.
DANE CARLSON HAS many, many interesting posts about google, googlebombing, googlewhacking, and such.
TWO POINTS ABOUT NATASHA Berger's already much debunked piece of crap defending Doris Kearns Goodwin against a phantom blogger conspiracy.

First, I think it's interesting that anti-blog articles always tend to have a certain bloggish link-heavy consistency. At first I thought it was parody, but now I'm leaning toward dementia.

Second, Berger's subhead is "The 'Borking' of Doris Kearns Goodwin." Now the whole big deal about Bork was that he was rejected by the Senate for ideological reasons (he was too conservative) rather than the more common practice of booting someone for cause (as in the nannygate scandals).

Now it seems to me that condemning an author for plagiarism certainly counts as condemnation for cause, but Berger doesn't think Goodwin's done anything so bad, so maybe she thinks anti-Goodwin sentiment is ideologically motivated, but where's the evidence? Is Timothy Noah a fire-brething conservative? I don't think so.

Maybe Berger could use an editor.

MORE THAN ZERO HAS AN INSIGHTFULL post on the obvious but oft-overlooked point that "the best" isn't "perfect," an insight he deploys to critique Mickey Kaus.

As I work through Kaus's book I'm learning that he's really not the just-left-of-center moderate democrat I'd thought he was. He has, rather, a quite radical and interesting agenda that amounts more or less to an attempt to bring the ideas behind Michael Walzer's Spheres of Justice down to earth.

I don't really think he's right, but I haven't finished the book, and I'm certainly not sure.

THE RETURN OF AL GORE? Josh Benson writing in the Observer thinks he's seen it. I, personally, would rather see another nominee, but I'd prefer Gore cruising to the nomination rather than watching dozens of Democratic Senators tearing each other apart.

Wednesday, March 13, 2002

THERE'S A WEALTH OF GOOD TED BARLOW posts up now, I like this one (sort of) defending Michael Moore against charges of wealthiness the best. I'm going to bed. Just pretend I came up with Ted's stuff. Or go read the Indy, god knows I've read the whole thing three times already.
NEW ISSUE OF THE HARVARD INDEPENDENT is now online, with gobs of interesting war stories. Blogger Glenn Kinen makes the case for invading Iraq, while weenie leftist Timothy McCarthy denounces the war so far.

Michael Ignatieff, Director of the Carr Center for Human Rights and a liberal interventionist in the me mold (okay, I'm probably in his mold) explains his notion of "virtual war" and its promises and dangers, while Euro-American scholar extraordinaire sounds a more skeptical note while still avoiding hysteria.

There's some other stuff too, but it's probably not as interesting to the outside world. I don't expect anyone will agree with everything we've got, but that's not really the idea.

BACK TO NORMAL: The return of Jacob Weisberg's Bushisms collection is just the sign of normalcy I've been waiting for.
TOM TOMORROW'S NADERISM IS, frankly, an unforgiveable sin, but this post is genius:
After six months, the Office of Homeland Security has made a substantive step toward ensuring our safety--with a system of color-coded threat assessments!

You can just imagine Tom Ridge staying up late, pouring over tapes of old Star Trek episodes. "Okay--red alert is more serious than yellow alert, right?"

At least now, the next time there's a threat they don't tell us about, it will have a corresponding color which we probably won't know about either.

I think bloggers of all political stripes can agree that Tom Ridge is just about the sorriest thing to be found in our hallowed halls of government.
INTERESTED IN A HOPELESSLY NAIVE analysis of the trouble with judicial vacancies penned by two men who should know better? Look no further than Lloyd Cutler and Mickey Edwards' op-ed in today's Washington Post.

Look, the "hot button" issues that cause these judicial stalemates -- civil rights, abortion rights, environmental rules, labor regulations -- are important even if high-minded good-government types and warbloggers alike don't care about them much. Politicians of both parties -- Presidents and Senators alike -- have not only a right, but a responsibility, to fight for their beliefs on these topics.

Tuesday, March 12, 2002

GOOD POST FROM "CHARLES DODGSON" on dishonest, publicity-hungry, midget gubernatorial candidate Robert Reich.

In addition to lying about having Bill Clinton's support, Mr. Reich has also been known to lie about whether or not he's an economist, to write books that falsely attribute quotations to people, to claim credit for the success of initiatives he opposed, and to have minions try and cheat on his behalf at local caucuses.

THE AMERICAN LUNG ASSOCIATION of Sacramento-Emigrant Trails has started a new campaign
to convince Hollywood to include warnings about tobacco use in its film ratings.
What the fuck? I quit smoking recently, and it's hard, and smoking is bad for you, and that's bad, but it's not that hard to quit. If people want to smoke to look cool, then why not let them. They can come to their senses and stop any time. Movie ratings are a stupid enough idea already, but this is absurd.

Monday, March 11, 2002

HERR KINEN'S MANAGED TO SEND me an awful lot of referrals based on my earlier praise of books, so I thought I'd offer a recommendation myself:

Comeback Cities by Paul Grogan and Tony Proscio is an excellent, pragmatic blend of (mostly) conservative means and (mostly) liberal ends inspired by the conviction that America's cities can come back and that America's poor can live in dignity -- not by no longer being poor, but by living in safe, clean neighborhoods with decent schools.

WHEW! THOSE LAST TWO POSTS WERE pretty gloomy. I just get depressed when Mickey Kaus doesn't update his site. Kidding.

His book, The End of Equality did, however, just arrive in my mailbox and I should go get it.

One of the problems with blogging is that it's just so fun to read and write these little quips that it's easy to forget that it's important to read actual books if you want to be exposed to actual ideas that might change the way you think. If September 11 had happened 30 months ago rather than 6 I might be talking about how The Guardian is the only newspaper worth reading.

Blogs, fun as they are, didn't change my mind and probably won't change anyone's minds. Now, a lot of people out there just won't have their minds changed by anything. Some of those people are going to have to be killed.

A lot of foolish Eurocolumnists and especially naive youth activist types, however, could be convinced, but snappy commentary on the day's news won't do it. Even nice articles about Afghanistan or steel or Israel or whatever won't do it. What needs to be changed are more deeply-rooted ideas about the meaning of equality, the nature of the free market, the value of freedom, etc.

That takes books.

IT SEEMS THAT CHARLES KUFFNER collaborating with War Liberal has discovered -- gasp -- something stupid on libertarian "genocide bad, ethnic cleansing good" samizdata. I'm shocked...shocked.
YOU KNOW THINGS AREN'T going well (see below) when you start thinking that Nirvana lyrics are really speaking to you, but I can't stop listening to swap meet. Oh well, I'm only twenty, I think I may still be entitled to a little teen angst now and again.
SIX MONTHS LATER: I knew that today was March 11, of course, and I was even aware that that was six months after September 11, because tThe Harvard Independent (like many other publications, I suspect) will be publishing a retrospective this Thursday. I didn't really realize, though, until I checked out Jeff Jarvis's site which caused me to burst into tears.

I'm not too proud to admit that I've had a number of occassions to cry recently, but this is the first time since at least October when the 11th got to me like that. In retrospect, though, I think it's been with me all this time -- it's been a shitty six months for lots of reasons that have nothing to do with Osama bin Laden, but seeing him strung up is still more important to me than I'd realized.

Let's roll.

MEGAN MCARDLE WRITES OF THE steel issue that she doesn't
think that many of the Democrats ranting about the tariffs would be saying a word if Gore had done it.
I can't promise you what I would have done, but I think the point here is that Gore wouldn't have done it. Clinton could have done this last fall and it probably would've won Gore West Virginia (and with it, the election). Gore could've promised to do it, same effect. But they didn't do it.

She also makes a lot of good points, though, including some details on Mickey Kantor and the delicious-if-true statistic that it would have been cheaper to just give $300,000 to every steelworker.

IF YOU LIKE YOUR MAGAZINE articles long (and I do), Bill Keller's essay on military reform will suit you just right.

I, for one, found it fascinating, though I'll understand if you tell me that your patience for hearing the technical details of military procurement is limited. What struck me, though, was how unimportant the big questions of technology and bureaucratic organization are compared with something Keller sticks in parenthesis

(The governing principle of American warfare since Vietnam, reinforced by the ''Black Hawk Down'' episode in Somalia, is to minimize casualties, on the questionable basis that Americans have no appetite for putting Americans in danger.)
It's great that we've had as few casualties as we have as Afghanistan, but going to Iraq or North Korea in a serious way would mean more American deaths. Worse, some bright young fundamentalists may come up with the idea that America can win in the desert but gets beat in the jungle. I don't think that fundamentalist would be right, but I also don't see our boys coming out of the Indonesian rain forest unscathed.
SPINSANITY HAS SOME GOOD stuff in passing about the pointlessness of hypocrisy charges, one of my pet peeves.

Sunday, March 10, 2002

I'M STILL KEEPING THE FAITH on the steel issue, but Nick Denton's posts on the issue are much more well-informed. As to the arguments of Reynolda and Layne that they shouldn't be criticized for not covering a story that they're not interested in, the point complainers like Denton and I are making is that they should be interested. It only sounds boring.
Hey -- if you don't like the immigration laws (and I don't) criticize them. But the fact that they're being enforced isn't an example of civil liberties in decay.
This makes a lot of sense, but it's only half true. Prosecutorial and police discretion are a significant (albeit informal) part of the freedoms we hold dear.
PRETTY GOOD DAVID BRODER column on the steel thing, but I actually wonder if Bush's election math adds up.
TOM TOMORROW WRITES (in reference to Jerry Seinfeld):
Is it fair for one man to have so many Porsches--when there are so many people in the world who don't even have a single Porsche?

I believe Karl Marx addressed this, in his later writings.

Now, obviously he's kidding, but people who are interested in economic equality should be aware that Marx isn't one of them.

Contemporary social democrats basically concede that pure capitalism would be more efficient, but insist that there's a moral imperitive toward equality. Marx, however, maintained that socialism would be so much more efficient than capitalism that there would be so much stuff lying around that no one would ever need to worry about having as much as he wanted -- thus the distribution problem would disappear.

Fun fact for the day: Here at Harvard I've been assigned an average of 1.5 books by Mr. Marx per semester for the past six semesters. Love that Ivy League!

I'M SURE IT WON'T BE FROM ME that you discover that the situation in Israel has completely gone to hell. The Sharon approach to this conflict is looking pretty discredited to me. Not that he deserves the blame for the situation (that goes to the terrorists) but for the sheer scale of his failure to deliver any sort of security to Israel.

If, as some have suggested there's a secret plan to hand the West Bank back to Jordan, they'd better get cracking on it.