Back to July 2002

To Electrolite's front page

Forward to September 2002

Our Admirable Sponsors
August 29, 2002
To an ordinary mind, this would mean bookshelves Oh yeah. For the next several days, blogging will be intermittent at best, because Teresa and I are in San Jose at the World Science Fiction Convention.

So far, we’ve flown across the country, checked into the Hilton attached to the convention center, discovered that said Hilton has no in-room broadband (lamers), and had a conversation touching on scabrous sexual gossip involving well-known science fiction fans roughly fifty-five years ago. Truly it is said that fandom is a creature with an infinitely short attention span and an infinitely long memory.

Anyway, the 60th World Science Fiction Convention. I started going to these when they were on their 34th. I feel a great need to lie down.

[04:02 AM : 13 comments]

August 26, 2002
Then there was Abu Nidal’s time in the NFFF, but we never talk about that The Guardian catches up with the science-fiction world’s idle speculation about whether the name “Al-Qaeda”—which can be translated as “the base” or “the foundation”—came from Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series, a far-future epic about a small, secret group who manipulate history to save the civilized galaxy.

I first heard this last November in Montreal, from the redoutable China Mieville, citing one of his instructors at the London School of Economics as the source. The Guardian piece cites Mieville and the instructor (one Fred Halliday, author of a book called Two Hours that Shook the World). Others quoted include Minneapolis SF bibliographer Denny Lien and, of course, Ansible, “one of the most popular science-fiction websites.” Of course, it wouldn’t be a Guardian article without a silly and easily-avoided goof—in this case, the assertion that Asimov was “once the world’s most prolific sci-fi novelist.” (Asimov was a prolific writer of nonfiction; his SF represented only a fraction of his lifetime output.) But it’s an interesting summary of the discussion and speculation thus far.

[07:21 PM : 17 comments]

August 23, 2002
Tried to run, tried to hide Andrew Northrup, The Poor Man, is back after a break, and as good as ever:
Last night, lame duck “Nightline” discussed the controversial semi-assigning of a book about Islam by UNC. Taking the nebulous anti-UNC/Islam/vast liberal conspiracy position was none other than David Horowitz, who, as even the most casual observer could tell you, is raving. His Nuttiness was in fine fettle, meandering, like a Zacarias Moussaoui of right-wing punditry, into conspiratorial fairy tales about how (and somebody stop me if I’m misrepresenting the storyhere) liberal crypto-Mohammedian college professors are treating Islam like a regular religion, albeit one currently experiencing an high incidence of lunatic interpretations, as opposed to the 1400-year-old gameplan for the destruction of America it so clearly is. Clearly, that is, if you spent your formative years learning sober political analysis at the feet of H. Rap Brown and Abbie Hoffman. Bemused attempts by Ted Koppel to steer the conversation towards, you know, the subject, and away from David’s cosmic gnosis about tenured thought criminals tearing at the fabric of (for lack of a better word) “liberal” democratic values, met with stuttering and defensive platitudes about how he just wants “the other side” to be heard on college campuses. I can only assume that this was a Doors reference. Break on through, David!
Read his site. Send him money. But for God’s sake, get him to use a different Blogger template. Between him, The Rittenhouse Review, and The Road to Surfdom, we’re going blind trying to make out tiny light-grey-on-white type.

[12:07 AM : 39 comments]

August 21, 2002
And the horse you rode in on And on the other hand, here’s Ann Coulter being interviewed by George Gurley in the New York Observer.
“Is your tape recorder running? Turn it on! I got something to say.”

Then she said: “My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building.”

Media Whores Online had this to say [pointed out by Atrios]:
We wonder again why’s Mickey Kaus would concern himself with MWO’s rhetoric, when someone he has recommended, and whose site he has permanently linked on his weblog at, has expressed disappointment that his fellow journalists working for the New York Times have not been murdered in a terrorist attack.
You know, I said some pretty rough things about Media Whores Online just the other day—but on this, they’re dead right. Kaus tries to play both sides of the street, subjecting MWO and other left-leaners to a forbidding standard of rhetorical punctiliousness, while at the same time displaying an indulgent tolerance of thuggishness on his right. This fails a basic test of entertainment journalism, not because it’s hypocritical (hypocrisy, handled right, can be very entertaining), but because it’s unconvincing.

Obviously, linkers don’t inherit responsibility for everything said by the linkee. I link to a bunch of weblogs; many of them contain statements I think are dumb. (For that matter, this weblog frequently contains statements I’ve later come to think were dumb. Obligatory Kaus imitation: Not that there’s anything wrong with that!) But you know, if this weblog featured a permanent flattering recommendation for someone who repeatedly talked about how much they’d like to kill Glenn Reynolds, or arrest all the libertarians, or convert conservatives at gunpoint, I think some folks in the blog world would get just a little bit creeped out. Particularly if I did so while getting all self-righteous every time a right-of-center blogger tossed out a stupid insult or made a foolish remark.

By all the personal accounts I’ve heard, Kaus is a splendid human being. Then again, some of the people who work at the New York Times building are surely also splendid human beings. My mother and father, pretty much liberals the last time I looked, are splendid human beings too. Ann Coulter says she wishes the folks in the Times building had been killed. She said “We need to execute people like John Walker in order to physically intimidate liberals, by making them realize that they can be killed too.” You know, that’s my mother and father she’s talking about. For some reason, I don’t find this kind of thing entertainingly outrageous. Publicly winking at it doesn’t make you look smart, or broadminded, or brilliantly devil-may-care. It just makes you look cruel and stupid.

[06:27 PM : 44 comments]

A request If you recently linked to John M. Ford’s poem “110 Stories”, it would be a kindness if you would change your link so that it points here. The original site is getting hammered fairly hard, and has more bandwidth to spare.

[08:51 AM : 0 comments]

August 20, 2002
I make distinctions; you’re a bigot Journalist and one-time Arizona Congressman Sam Coppersmith, in his weblog LiberalDesert, has an observation about the uses of religion in modern American politics:
This summer gubernatorial candidate Matt Salmon appeared on Christian television to say he wanted to “reclaim government in the name of G-d” In interviews, he attacks “liberal judges” he claims want to expel religion from civic life: “[T]here has been an effort underfoot for many years to try to take G-d off our money and out of our national motto,” Salmon said.

Shortly afterward, anonymous “Vote Mormon” posters appeared next to Salmon’s campaign signs. Salmon, and [the East Valley Tribune], denounced the signs as “a cowardly, underhanded act of bigotry” aimed at anti-Mormon prejudice.

[…] Apparently, candidates may discuss their religious faith generally, or list church membership in campaign mailers, or “target” religious voters — but any specific discussion of a candidate’s actual religion by anybody else is unconscionable bigotry. “Politicians of faith” urge people to vote for them because of religious beliefs, but it’s offensive for anybody to oppose them based on those same beliefs. Religion is relevant, even essential, to politics — but only on the candidate’s own terms.

[…] Religion is a ratchet, shamelessly available to help a candidate, but never to oppose — just like politicians who use their families brazenly while campaigning, then demand “privacy” when that better suits their needs.

[05:13 PM : 18 comments]

August 19, 2002
Poetry Monday John M. Ford wrote a poem last fall. It’s online now.
What was I thinking of? What did I say?
You’re safe? The TV’s off. What do you mean?
I’m going now, but not going away.
I couldn’t touch the answering machine.
I nearly was, but caught a later bus.
I would have been, but had this awful cold.
I spoke with her, she’s headed home, don’t fuss.
Pick up those tools. The subway job’s on hold.
Somebody’s got to pay, no matter what.
I love you. Just I love you. Just I love —
It’s called “110 Stories.” There’s more.

[UPDATE: Link changed, as per this later post.]

[08:21 PM : 0 comments]

August 18, 2002
And it’s a big “Jai guru deva” shoutout for the California GOP Atrios links to this unofficial site promoting doomed anti-choice right-winger Bill Simon for Governor of California.

Understand, personally, if I had to choose between Simon and incumbent Democrat Gray Davis, a death-penalty-extolling money machine with all the warm humanity of a hammerhead shark, I’d probably have a seizure in the voting booth and need to be carried away by burly EMTs.

But that’s not what struck me most forcefully about this site addressed to “you, the conservative pro-life California voter.” Granted, I shouldn’t be surprised, but it still startles me to see, at the bottom of this red-white-and-blue exercise in invoking the California GOP’s memories of Reaganish glory, a note from the web designer that concludes “Thank you for your kind understanding and compliance. May Karma continue to return your best intentions.”

Okay, so we have to take our cognitive dissonance where we can find it. Nothing to see here. Move along.

[UPDATE: Jeanne D’Arc gently points out that the site in question is obviously satirical. Er um.]

[11:37 PM : 9 comments]

Not really all that complicated Mac Thomason has been refining on the concise and punchy blogging style: - Bush calls for deficit reduction - August 17, 2002

Well, gosh, Trifecta-Boy, we didn’t have a deficit until you were elected. Here’s a simple chart to help:

Last 13.5 Years

Presidents Named “George Bush”: Deficits
Presidents Not Named “George Bush”: Surpluses

Any questions?

[06:50 PM : 3 comments]

Your name here I keep hearing how cheap it would be to save the two and a half million children worldwide who die every year from dehydration caused by diarrhea from waterborne illnesses. Figures like “eighty cents a year per American.”

Fritz Schranck quotes some interesting (and serious) remarks by P.J. O’Rourke on the subject, and makes a couple of practical suggestions.

The world has a lot of problems, but this one could be solved for the kind of money corporate America accidentally leaves in the couch cushions. Even in a recession. Coke and Pepsi, notably, could reap a tremendous marketing boon from helping manufacture and distribute the simple glucose-and-salt solutions required.

This is all so simple, obvious, and cheap that it barely matters if half the money gets skimmed off on the way. To happen, all it needs is for someone to decide that this is what they’re going to do with their life.

[06:19 PM : 4 comments]

August 17, 2002
You know how those people are Jeanne D’Arc has a sharp observation about the dustup over Jeb Bush’s pro-child-beating nominee to head Florida’s child welfare agency:
Asked if Governer Bush was aware of his appointee’s eccentric writings on the topic of families and children, an aide responded that he was not, but quickly brushed aside the question with a strange comment, “Many of our nation’s finest public servants past and present have been men and women of faith.”

Buried in the response is an enormous insult hurled at people of faith. What did the aide mean? Yes, his ideas are nuts but he’s religious — you know how religious people are?

The people of faith I know (and that includes some fairly conservative Christians) don’t believe in beating up children and recognize women as human beings equal to men. But they get mad when people equate stupidity, meanness, weak male egos, and temper control problems with religion — a notion shared by some atheists and most politicians trolling for votes on the fringes of the Christian right.

[09:31 AM : 17 comments]

August 16, 2002
Head for the hills, or maybe not Richard Cohen’s Washington Post evisceration of dancing bear Ann Coulter makes for cheerful reading, and is full of good lines:
If, as Coulter says, liberals control the media and much of the animal and plant kingdoms, then how is it that the president du jour and others of recent times—Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Bush the Elder—happen to be conservatives? I must be missing something here. […]

For some reason, Coulter has a need to question the manliness of liberals; against all evidence, she even refers to Bill Clinton as “IMPOTUS.”

It’s too bad Cohen starts his column with the hair-raising assertion that Coulter’s Slander “is now the No. 1 bestseller in the nation.” Alarming, attention-getting, and dead wrong. Yes, Electrolite readers, we’ve been here before. All together now: The weekly New York Times bestseller list, used by booksellers as the gold standard, in fact comprises seven lists: hardcover fiction, hardcover nonfiction, hardcover advice, children’s books, paperback fiction, paperback nonfiction, and paperback advice. Coulter’s confection is currently on top of one of the seven: hardcover nonfiction. To get some perspective, take a look at USA Today’s weekly bestseller list, which surveys more stores and combines all books, all genres, and all bindings into a single list of 150 books. On this week’s list, our Ann is #24, behind (among others) a Tom Clancy novel, a Harry Potter book, Webster’s New World Dictionary, Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution, Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, a Star Wars novel, Tolkien’s The Two Towers, another Harry Potter book, and Richard Russo’s Pulitzer-winning novel Empire Falls. Still probably too high up, but not quite the moral and cultural crisis you might think from taking Cohen literally.

As I’ve remarked before, this isn’t hidden information. But it’s probably too much to expect a little paper like the Washington Post to actually have, you know, editors who know about this sophisticated big-city stuff.

[05:44 PM : 10 comments]

Next, “Biblical molestation” isn’t really molestation, either Political aptitude test! You are Jeb Bush, governor of a state whose child welfare agency has recently driven into the ditch. Children in the state foster care system have died of mistreatment and neglect—or vanished entirely. The Bush reputation for hard-nosed competence is at risk! What do you do?

Answer: Appoint a new agency director who’s the author of an essay, “The Christian World View of the Family,” which explains that “Biblical spanking” that causes bruises or welts isn’t child abuse.

Says the Miami Herald:

The essay also said Christians should not marry non-Christians, that divorce is acceptable only when there is adultery or desertion and that wives should view working outside the home as “bondage.” The “radical feminist movement,” the essay adds, “has damaged the morale of many women and convinced men to relinquish their biblical authority in the home.”
Via Max Sawicky, who got it from Atrios. As Max asks: “Is Florida ready for self-government?”

[12:25 PM : 12 comments]

And after Baghdad, Delaware! This morning’s New York Times fronts a story headlined “Top Republicans Break With Bush on Iraq Strategy.” As we’ve begun to hear over the last few days, antient GOP figures as substantial as Henry Kissinger, Lawrence Eagleburger, and Brent Scowcroft are now joining current-day elected Republicans like Dick Armey and Chuck Hagel in a swelling chorus of Hey, Wait A Minute.

What I found striking, though, was this response from Richard Perle, intellectual leader of the Iraq hawks:

“I think Brent just got it wrong,” he said by telephone from France. “The failure to take on Saddam after what the president said would produce such a collapse of confidence in the president that it would set back the war on terrorism.”
In other words, we’re no longer arguing the merits of a “pre-emptive” strike against Iraq. Rather, we’re arguing that we have to do it because our credibility depends on it. My own carefully-considered, weighing-both-sides opinion: Uh oh.

Senator Hagel, the piece says, shares Kissinger’s concern that a new American doctrine of “never mind the evidence, we get to conquer you if we feel nervous” would have regrettable effects on, say, the ongoing India-Pakistan conflict. But I was particularly struck by the Senator’s response to Richard Perle.

He added, “Maybe Mr. Perle would like to be in the first wave of those who go into Baghdad.”

[08:53 AM : 8 comments]

August 15, 2002
Poor old horse A lot of my friends like the lefty attack website Media Whores Online. I don’t. Spinsanity explains why.
MWO uses the worst tactics of its opponents: crude ad hominem attacks on the media, all-encompassing good guy/bad guy ideological dichotomies and inflammatory rhetorical attacks linking conservatives to dictatorship, Nazis, radical Islam and al Qaeda terrorists. This is simply not acceptable and the site’s high-profile backers are wrong to indulge it; if MWO continues to gain strength, it will pull us further into the abyss of abusive and irrational rhetoric. […]

In short, MWO does not have “a wonderful joie de vivre” as Alterman has written. It is not true that, “however nutty the person/people might be, they have a certain flinty integrity” (Alterman on his Altercation weblog in June). They are not endearingly “scrappy” or “pesky activists” (Gene Lyons, Arkansas Democrat Gazette, 5/1/02 and 2/27/02). And they are not “great” (Begala).

MWO’s tactics simply pollute the public discourse.

A lot of MWO’s defenders see themselves as travelling alongside the ideas promulgated in this recent Michael Tomasky article about how liberals and Democrats need to stop getting rolled by rhetorically-confident right-wingers. I’m down with that. I’m less convinced that the best way to fight fire is to douse yourself with gasoline and strike a match.

[UPDATE: Eric Alterman feels Spinsanity quoted him out of context, and makes a reasonable case for the proposition.]

[02:54 PM : 45 comments]

What doesn’t work and what does If you read just one article this month about “security” post-9/11, read this profile of cryptologist and security expert Bruce Schneier in the Atlantic Monthly. Bruce is one of the smartest human beings I know, and if I had my way he’d be delivering his views to a joint session of Congress. He’d convince them, too.

“The most critical aspect of a security measure is not how well it works but how well it fails.” This central insight, the e=mc2 of a coherent model of what security is and isn’t, has enormous implications for the various costly and dangerous follies we’re now embarked upon. I wish every blogger interested in contemporary “national security” issues, not just crypto gearheads, would read this piece.

[09:25 AM : 17 comments]

August 14, 2002
My very important Bruce Springsteen opinion Jim Henley is right: “Mary’s Place” is the killer song on The Rising.

[11:48 PM : 0 comments]

August 13, 2002
Struggling to awaken I’m going to have to look at Martin Amis’s Koba the Dread, since it keeps inspiring rather interesting reviews. Somewhat late in life, Amis has discovered that Joseph Stalin (the “Koba” of the title) was a tyrant and a butcher, and that many people on the Left were wilfully blind about it.

Among the oddities of Amis’s book is that parts of it are addressed directly to his old friend Christopher Hitchens, who is called to account for his own Trotskyist past. (Yes, I’m confused about that too.) In a long and measured response in the form of a review in the Atlantic, Hitchens makes some points about history you probably won’t hear from those on the Right for whom the entire history of the Left is awash in the blood of Stalin’s twenty million. (Analogous, of course, to left-wing rhetoricians for whom every small-town Republican businessman is the moral equivalent of Francisco Franco.) Here’s a sample:

[H]as he made up his mind about the moral equivalence between Stalin and Hitler? Or has he reserved the right to use the cudgel according to need? When he speaks of Ivan the Terrible and Joseph Stalin, does he mean to say that there was something comparable in their “Great Russian” ancestry? When he dilates upon torture and forced confessions, or upon the practice of eliminating even the families of opponents, is he suggesting that such terror was unknown to humanity before 1917? He states at one point, “Until I read Man Is Wolf to Man: Surviving Stalin’s Gulag I had never heard of a prisoner, en route, lying crushed and ground on a section of rough wood and receiving a succession of monstrous splinters up and down his back.” One would not need to refer him to the Nazi transports from Salonika or Vichy. An allusion to the Middle Passage, or to the hell ships that populated Australia’s “Fatal Shore,” would be enough. Moral equivalence is not intended here. But moral uniqueness requires a bit more justification.

I do not mean these to sound like commissar questions, or wife-beating questions either. On the first and perhaps most important one posed by Amis, for example, I find that I never quite know what I think myself about this moral equivalence. Nor did I quite know when I was still a member of a Marxist/post-Trotskyist group, when such matters were debated from dawn until dusk, often with furious or thuggish Communists. However, I do know from that experience, which was both liberating and confining, that the crucial questions about the gulag were being asked by left oppositionists, from Boris Souvarine to Victor Serge to C.L.R. James, in real time and at great peril. Those courageous and prescient heretics have been somewhat written out of history (they expected far worse than that, and often received it), but I can’t bring myself to write as if they never existed, or to forgive anyone who slights them. If they seem too Marxist in tendency, one might also mention the more heterodox work of John Dewey, Sidney Hook, David Rousset, or Max Shachtman in exposing “Koba’s” hideous visage. The “Nobody” at the beginning of Amis’s sentences above is an insult, pure and simple, and an insult to history, too. […]

Koestler exposed the ghastliness of Stalinism by means of a sophisticated deployment of historical irony, whereas Amis—and again I startle myself by saying this—has decided to dispense with irony altogether. (He mentions, with all the gravity of one returning from a voyage of discovery, that the sailors of Kronstadt fought against the Bolsheviks under red flags and with revolutionary slogans. He even italicizes the word “revolutionaries,” as if this point were at the expense of the left opposition. As Daniel Bell pointed out decades ago, the only real argument among members of the old left was about the point at which their own personal “Kronstadt” had occurred. Bell was proud to say that Kronstadt itself had been his “Kronstadt.”)

Says Hitchens: “History is more of a tragedy than it is a morality tale.” Which shouldn’t be taken as a charter for ceasing to try to draw long-range conclusions about the human prospect. We’re probably hard-wired to keep trying. But it definitely suggests the need—odd though the call may seem coming from a figure as self-lionizing as Christopher Hitchens—for an old copybook virtue: humility.

[05:54 PM : 11 comments]

August 09, 2002
Holding pattern If I haven’t responded to your email, it’s not because I hate you. The last several weeks have divided into (1) being swamped at work and (2) being intermittently sick.

Yeah, I know, in the time it took me to respond to the several dozen messages in the comment thread just below, I could have answered three or four emails. Worse yet, now I’m going to bed.

[12:59 AM : 0 comments]

August 07, 2002
Speed seduction Brad de Long on the “four stages of becoming a Rhinoceros… excuse me, a neoconservative”:
The first stage is to hold that the flaws—the mighty flaws—of the center-left in American politics are important enough to more-or-less balance the flaws of the right. The second stage is to start making desperate and implausible excuses for Republican politicians and functionaries. The third stage is to lose contact with the substance of public policy issues, and focus instead on intellectual and rhetorical “errors” made by those left of center. And the fourth stage is to start acclaiming right-wing political hacks as noble thinkers, and right-wing office holders as bold and far-sighted leaders with a plan to guide us to utopia.

[11:56 PM : 45 comments]

For those of us who came in late I don’t usually link to stuff in my own comment sections, but Doc Searls has just posted a remarkably concise summary of being what’s done to Internet radio, and why it’s a travesty. Despite what you may have heard, this isn’t just a bunch of Information Wants To Be Free idealists complaining that The Man is making them pay like everyone else does. To the contrary, the financial burden that the Librarian of Congress is imposing on Internet radio is far greater than that imposed on broadcast radio.

Searls explains all of this very clearly, down in the comment section for this post from August 1. Take a look, even if you usually give comment sections a miss.

[09:56 PM : 0 comments]

Topic A Lots about Iraq lately. Here’s Electrolite’s unscientific selection.

Bruce Baugh challenges the idea that “humiliating” militant Islam will get us what we want:

Possibly I’m just projecting from my own personal experience of the world, but I’ve never found that humiliating others helps me get anywhere in the long run, nor have I found that being humiliated made me inclined to admit defeat or accept the agenda my humiliator wanted to foist on me.
Nick Denton disagrees:
The Arab world has long felt humiliated, it’s already dangerous. If you are going to defeat your enemy, do so conclusively, as the US and UK defeated Germany in the Second World War.
Joshua Micah Marshall asks:
Is it possible that regime change by force is the right thing to do, but that this administration is inclined to do it in such a reckless, ill-conceived and possibly disastrous manner that, under these circumstances, it is better not to do it at all? …This is a question I’ve recently been asking myself. And I don’t find it easy to answer.
Marshall’s biggest concern is with this Administration’s willingness to handle the difficulties that would immediately ensue after a military victory:
What you’re talking about is really an army of occupation and reconstruction — more on the order of post-war Germany or Japan, than Bosnia or Kosovo. Ideally a substantial number of these troops would come from NATO and other well-situated Muslim countries. […] Unfortunately, it is very difficult to suppose that the Bush administration has the stomach for an operation of such scope or duration.
Chris Bertram, who supported the invasion of Afghanistan, wants the Iraq hawks to directly answer a couple of questions:
[D]o they believe (unlike me) that the traditional conditions for just war are met for Iraq (conditions including just cause, last resort and reasonable prospect of success) or do they reject those conditions? And if they do reject those conditions which criteria would they adopt instead?
Eric Alterman provides a historical reminder that will make committed hawks roll their eyes and claw the ground. Read it anyway.

And Jim Henley has several posts on the subject, all of them worth your time. Was someone comparing Iraq to World War II Germany and Japan?

The sheer vainglory of the Iraq/Germany-Japan comparison is one of the enduring follies of the Iraq hawks. As UO has noted before, quite apart from the cultural issues, both Germany and Japan were staring down the barrel of a far worse fate than US occupation - conquest by the Soviet Union. There was something worse out there to worry them. Here in Monopolarworld, there is no comparable threat.
On the surreal news (quickly brushed off by US government spokesthings) that the Defense Policy Board entertained a presentation from a consultant arguing that Saudi Arabia is our real enemy:
Naturally, the notion that the Saudis are really our enemies is supposed to be a reason to conquer Iraq. The concept that, if the Saudis are really our enemies, one can just deal directly with them was apparently considered too complicated for the DPB.
Henley gets the last word for now:
The strongest argument for attacking Saddam is one that the government dare not make, but a commenter on [someone’s] site did. Unqualified Offerings is finding itself utterly unable to find the damn thing. So here’s a paraphrase:
Saddam was a rational actor, but defeat in the Gulf War, the sanctions regime and the use of UNSCOM personnel to foster covert ops aimed at his removal have been the geopolitical equivalent of teasing a dog with a stick - actually it’s been the equivalent of teasing a dog with a stick while saying, “I’m going to kill you soon.” The US has made a mad dog, yes, but now there’s no alternative but to shoot it, while resolving to do better next time.
There is no better argument Unqualified Offerings has seen for taking on the expense of blood and treasure necessary to conquer Iraq and try to remake it into something sustainable. But even this argument ignores something crucial: This is the middle east we’re talking about. Making up after determinedly trying to kill each other is Chapter 3 in the “How to Be a Regional Despot” book. Syria fought (half-heartedly) with the Coalition in Gulf War I. The latest word is that Syria is covertly supplying Iraq with military hardware. Saddam may or may not have intended the conquest of Saudi Arabia in 1990 when he conquered Kuwait. Saudi-Iraqi relations are as warm as they’ve been in years. Iran and Iraq are “ancient enemies.” Iran just turned down a secret Iraqi request to buy weapons, according to the London Times, but what’s significant is that Iraq even thought it worth asking. Jordan’s King Hussein vocally supported Iraq during the Gulf War, and made no protest when Iraq fired token missiles through his airspace at Israel. Within four years he had signed a formal peace treaty with Israel.

Say this for your Arab tyrants. They try not to take stuff personally.

[04:12 PM : 7 comments]

Market discipline is for other people Nick Denton, possibly blogdom’s most eloquent advocate of free trade, notes:
As Paul O’Neill lectures Argentina and Brazil on government spending, some contrition would be in order. A Brazilian rancher’s production costs are a third to half those of his American counterpart, according to Beef Magazine. So why aren’t Brazil and Argentina exporting their way out of financial difficulty? Because the US government, while teaching the world about free markets and spending discipline, is busy increasing subsidies to domestic beef farmers.

[03:26 PM : 1 comments]

Capitalism, torchbearer of liberty Yahoo has signed the Chinese government’s “Public Pledge on Self-Discipline for the China Internet Industry,” and as a result the Chinese-language version of Yahoo will no longer contain information that might “jeopardize state security and disrupt social stability, contravene laws and regulations and spread superstition and obscenity.”

Note that Yahoo is a U.S.-based company, and that tens of millions of Chinese-speaking people live outside mainland China. Tough noogies for them; if they want their Yahoo in Chinese, a Beijing-censored version will be all that’s available.

Right-leaning blogger John Weidner thinks a boycott of Yahoo is in order. Left-leaning blogger Jeff Cooper is inclined to agree. Good for both of them. The dirty business of Western corporations helping to enforce censorship and tyranny—often avidly competing for the contracts to do so—is a subject on which “right-wing” and “left-wing” people ought to be able to make a lot of common cause.

Of course, thinking along these lines, one is inescapably reminded of the endless ritual invocations of freedom and democracy from the chatterboxes of Fox News, a company run by a wizened gargoyle whose willingness to accommodate Beijing’s every desire approaches levels normally seen only among professional submissives. But remember, it’s liberals who are the enemies of freedom. Of course.

[02:30 PM : 2 comments]

The stories we tell ourselves Tom Friedman is clinically precise in this morning’s Times:
The Palestinians have convinced themselves, with the help of many Arabs and Europeans, that their grievance is so special, so enormous that it isn’t bound by any limits of civilized behavior, and therefore they are entitled to do whatever they want to Israelis. And Israelis have convinced themselves that they are entitled to do virtually anything to stop it.

[12:36 PM : 1 comments]

August 02, 2002
Film at eleven I have become cranky in the comments section of Charles Kuffner’s fine Off the Kuff. Not at Charles, but at certain attitudes on display in some “liberal” or “left” weblogs.

In another stunning newsbreak, the sun set in the west this evening.

[11:14 PM : 11 comments]

All tomorrow’s paracletes Peter Steinfels knows how to sell to the marketplace of ideas:
Those who study, articulate or propound the beliefs and practices by which most of humanity tries to place itself in relationship with the transcendent should […] simply drop that old-fashioned word “religion.” What they are about, they should announce, is “postsecularism.”

Doesn’t distinguished professor of religion sound more than a little musty, while distinguished professor of postsecularism has the zing of the new?

The university that now balks at having a department of religious studies would probably rush to establish a department of postsecular studies. In addition, the foundations that are notoriously shy about supporting things religious would probably rush to finance research in postsecularism. […]

Religious art, sacred music, even Christian rock all carry the aroma of piety. They are tastes for the proper and the conventional. Postsecular art, on the other hand, or postsecular music—now one is talking downtown galleries, the Guggenheim and the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

[09:47 PM : 2 comments]

August 01, 2002
Words fail me From the AP:
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Katherine Harris resigned Thursday as Florida secretary of state and made the move retroactive to July 15, saying she had misunderstood the rules about when she had to quit to run for Congress.

Harris, a Republican who as the state’s chief election official was thrust into the international spotlight during the 2000 White House recount, said she had intended to quit later this month to focus on the congressional race.

But the state’s resign-to-run law required her to file a letter on the day she qualified to run for Congress stating her intent to resign. Otherwise, the law says, the candidate must resign immediately.

“I made a mistake in not filing the letter,” Harris said.

Harris said she thought the law did not apply to her office.

“They belong to a club. You’re not a member of it and you never will be.” —Teresa Nielsen Hayden

[10:12 PM : 7 comments]

God made idiots for practice, then… From the Boston Globe, via the Pew Forum (the original Globe story having migrated into their pay section):
To 7-year-old Laura M. Greska, it made perfect sense to bring a book about Jesus Christ to her second-grade holiday show-and-tell. But her teacher barred her from reading aloud from “The First Christmas,” saying its religious content made it inappropriate.

Now, Greska’s parents have sued the Leominster school system in a federal lawsuit that cites the religious rights of students. The lawsuit, filed yesterday in US District Court in Worcester, claims that school officials violated Greska’s constitutional right to freedom of speech and religion. “This is a troubling example of a school district that is clearly exhibiting hostility toward religion,” said Vincent McCarthy, the Greskas’ lawyer and senior counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, a Virginia Beach-based law and education group founded in 1991 by Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson.

School officials are often unsure when religious material can enter the classroom, civil libertarians and religious rights groups agree, underscoring the lack of clear guidelines and knowledge of law that hampers some educators.

What, exactly, is so hard to understand here? (1) Don’t compel religious observances or practices from children in the public schools. (2) Children in the public schools have as much right to observe, and talk about, their religions as adults do.

The inability of some so-called “educators” to grasp this doesn’t tell us there’s a “lack of clear guidelines.” It tells is that a lot of “educators” have the brains of potted plants.

(Spotted by “Jeanne D’Arc” of the excellent blog Body and Soul, recommended today by Ted Barlow. Read “Jeanne” for a much more sympathetic take on the challenges faced by educators. I grant that I’m impatient and that more genuinely nuanced problems probably arise around the question of religion in the schools. I also think a lot of “educators” are badly in need of a swift kick in the rear to remind them that children have actual rights, just as if they were, you know, people.)

[01:26 PM : 45 comments]

Work like you were living in the early days of a better nation Doc Searls:
I’ve spent much of the last three days working on a story about the murder of a new industry by an old one that successfully engineered — and is continuing to engineer — one of most aggressive expansions of law and regulatory power in the history of the republic. It’s a story that should offend every journalist on the Web who cares about free enterprise, free speech, and the free Internet.

Imagine for a moment if every weblog were suddenly subject to an expensive license, obligated maintain extensive records of every post made every day, and forced to pay a federally empowered industrial intermediary for every name mentioned and every link made starting in 1998 — because the publishing industry had successfully lobbied Congress to extend copyright law in a way that uniquely punished journalism on the Web, while leaving traditional forms of journalism free to continue as before.

That is exactly what is happening to Internet radio, right now, because the entertainment industry successfully lobbied through the Digital Millennium Copyright Act in 1998, and the RIAA successfully steered the copyright arbitration process that followed. The result is a regulatory environment so punitive and toxic that the entire industry it was intended to govern is being eliminated. Completely — at least in the U.S.

And it’s happening right now.

Here’s Searls’s story. Read it now. And get to work.

[12:31 PM : 23 comments]

Sinister minister Brian Linse is putting together a directory of left-leaning blogs. This is the kind of project that will lead to a wave of arguing about categories—I can spot a couple of people on Brian’s list who probably don’t consider themselves “left” in any meaningful way—but I suspect it’s a good idea nonetheless. Understand, my political views are subtle, complex, galactic in scope, and transcend such petty categories as “left” and “right,” and in this I am utterly different from all the other hidebound, lockstep, and ideologically doctrinaire voices in blogdom. Also, I am Marie of Rumania.

[07:56 AM : 8 comments]