February 28, 2003
TOM DELAY MEETS THE WIZARD OF OZ....Ted Barlow relays the latest example of Tom DeLay's thuggish worldview and comments:
That's why I like Ted so much. Too bad he doesn't work on weekends.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 07:13 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
LIBERAL HAWKS....Lee Bockhorn at The Weekly Standard is annoyed at pro-war liberals:
Well, I plan to keep my smugness and condescension right here next to my computer where it's most likely to come in handy, thank you very much.
As I recall, Republicans mostly spent their time muttering conspiratorially during the 1990s whenever Bill Clinton suggested taking a harder line against Iraq, and we all know that Rumsfeld and Cheney were busy buying and selling vast quantities of goods and services to Iraq during that period. Nor were Republicans exactly at the front of the parade when NATO finally took action in Kosovo. So I'm not quite sure how it is that these were the guys who saw the light before all the rest of us on the subject of using American military power for the greater good of humanity.
And just for the record, my complaint with Bush is primarily that he has prosecuted this war so cynically and incompetently. He blatantly timed his Iraq campaign for electioneering purposes, thus destroying any hope of getting a true bipartisan consensus on the matter; his disdainful treatment of Europe destroyed any chance of support from the populations of those countries; his complete indifference toward the Israel-Palestine problem destroyed any hope of getting support from the Arab world; and his unwillingness for six straight months to commit himself to a multilateral post-war rebuilding effort has made the entire world believe that we are intent on building a latter-day Roman empire — a laughable idea that either of our previous two presidents could have put to rest with a single speech.
Even in the best case it would have been hard to organize worldwide support for this war, but Bush's contemptuous tone toward enemies and allies alike and his unwillingness to engage in anything resembling true coalition-building has made it far harder. This war may be something that needs to be done, but we will be paying the price for George Bush's incompetent handling of it for years to come.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 03:22 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
JOHN MCENROE UPDATE....Unfortunately, I missed John McEnroe filling in for David Letterman last night, but Ken Layne has the scoop.
As an aside for anyone who wonders why us tennis fans love McEnroe even though he is, was, and probably always will be an asshole — well, it's all about the tennis. Even that's hard to explain, but he really did do stuff with a racket that no one has ever done before or since. He might not have been the best tennis player ever, but in some cosmic sense he was the most magical. I wish I could do a better job of explaining it.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 03:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
GET OVER YOURSELVES, OK?....Can we all please stop this nonsense of reading something in a big-time pundit's column that sounds vaguely like something we ourselves wrote last week and asking, "Hey, has X been reading little old me!?!" And that goes for all of you, not just the guys I happen to making fun of at the moment.
But hey, speaking of the post I linked to just there, Krauthammer really does sound a lot like Stephen Green, doesn't he? Of course, that speaks badly for both of them, who seem to think (a) Italy and Spain will be our buddies forever even when their respective governments are eventually taken over by more liberal parties, (b) Germany will remain a hated foe even when its government is eventually taken over by a more conservative party, and (c) India — India!— would like to join a military alliance with us (and Italy, Spain, Lithuania, and Israel). Nuclear-armed Pakistan would certainly be excited by such an alliance, wouldn't they?
I'll give Stephen a break since he's been swilling Benadryl for the past few days — although he probably wasn't when he originally wrote that fantasy — but Krauthammer, as usual, has no excuse at all. Well, maybe a small IQ and an inability to see two inches beyond his own nose, but no other excuse....
UPDATE: It turns out that Krauthammer's column is actually devoted primarily to the fact that Guinea is not a very important country:
Does it occur to Krauthammer that America's crusade against Iraq might actually affect people other than Americans and Iraqis?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 02:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
CONSTITUTIONAL SCHOLAR GEORGE WILL SPEAKS....Are filibusters faithful to the spirit of the constitution or not? George Will seems to want it both ways. Atrios has the "then and now" comparison.
In a more serious vein — and I hope this won't sound too childishly naive — why is it that the Senate can't simply agree on rules for judicial confirmations and stick to them? I'm perfectly OK with the idea that nominees ought to get hearings within a certain amount of time and that courtesy procedures like the blue slip process should remain consistent. Neither side seems especially interested in this, and Orrin Hatch's cynical change to the blue slip procedure might well have been the straw that broke the camel's back and got the Democrats mad enough to filibuster Estrada in the first place.
The Senate is supposed to be a famously collegial place. Why is it that they can't agree on the basic procedures for this stuff and then stick to it?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 12:48 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
WAR UPDATE....Let's summarize, shall we?
That's it for this morning. Doesn't sound very hopeful, does it?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:56 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
LYING....South Knox Bubba thinks he can tell when Bush is lying — and no, it's not what you think. He even has his very own armchair pseudo-Freudian explanation for it!
Next up: SKB figures out how to tell when Saddam Hussein is lying.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:39 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
UM, HOW MANY DIMENSIONS WAS THAT?....Today in The Corner, John Derbyshire asks, "How do you fit the Empire State Building into a 1-inch cube?" The answer, although not very practical, goes like this:
If Derb would just stick with math he'd be pretty readable.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:35 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
SORRY, MAX, WE'RE IN A HURRY HERE....Max Sawicky thinks that before we invade Iraq we should actually declare war on them. You know, like the constitution says.
Where do liberals get these wacky ideas?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:25 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
HANS BLIX CAN'T MAKE UP HIS MIND....OR CAN HE?....When I come down and park myself in front of the computer every morning, the first thing I do is a quick check on CNN. You know, to make sure that skyscrapers aren't falling down and space shuttles aren't disintegrating, that kind of thing.
Today I got the following two headlines one right on top of the other:
Well, which is it? It's not like these are competing interpretations from two different newspapers, this is the same site at the exact same time, for God's sake.
But I guess it's not really their fault. The first story, filed at 4:11 am, says:
The second story, filed seven hours later, says:
Iraq says it doesn't know how to destroy the missiles? So how did it destroy all that other stuff they say has been destroyed? These guys aren't any better at lying than George Bush is.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:20 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
February 27, 2003
THAT STATEMENT IS NOW INOPERATIVE....Chad Orzel says:
My kind of rant.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 05:46 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
"NO PERSON SHALL BE....DEPRIVED OF LIFE, LIBERTY, OR PROPERTY, WITHOUT DUE PROCESS OF LAW"....Nathan Newman reports today that the Justice Department has gotten permission to seize websites allegedly set up to sell illegal "drug paraphernalia." That is, they can seize them before a trial takes place. Barry Deutsch agrees with Nathan's outrage over this and adds his own catchy headline that we can all appreciate.
What makes this worse is that it's not really related to either the war on drugs or to John Ashcroft's unfortunate lack of appreciation for civil rights — at least, not directly. Rather, it's simply another case of civil asset forfeiture, which allows police to confiscate the belongings of people who are merely accused of crimes. As this article tells you, even if you're found innocent, you frequently have to sue the government to get your property back.
Congress has "reformed" the civil asset forfeiture laws a couple of times in the past decade, but even a reformed version seems like such a prima facie violation of the Fifth Amendment that I have always been bewildered that the Supreme Court allows it to stand. What possible constitutional principle is there that allows the government to seize property merely on the suspicion of illegal activity?Permalink | Comments (0)
THE DEMOCRATIC HORSE RACE....Dan Drezner says that if you're handicapping the Democratic presidential field, you should pay attention to which candidates get support from the heavyweight foreign policy gurus:
Now this begs the question of whether these folks have a better record of picking winners than other kinds of advisors — not to mention the unspoken assumption that domestic advisors aren't equally interested in cabinet posts — but it's an interesting take on things nonetheless. Click here if you want to see the list of heavyweights he thinks we should keep an eye on.
Personally, I've always had a hard time getting into the whole handicapping thing this early. I'm not activist enough to work on campaigns, a lot can happen in a year, and California has such a late primary that I can't remember the last time my vote actually meant anything. However, for those who do like this kind of thing, it's becoming more interesting all the time as Bush's poll numbers sink lower and lower and lower....Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 02:52 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
TELEMARKETING 101....One of the interesting things about blogging is that sometimes subjects of idle curiosity get answered. Yesterday I asked aloud:
Alan Locklear writes to offer the following explanation:
And Barry Deutsch over at the consistently stimulating Alas, A Blog suggests something similar: TeleZappers are sold disproportionately to the elderly, who are unusually receptive to telemarketing scams.
In other words, telemarketers are even scummier than we thought. All the more reason to call your congressman and urge them to vote in favor of a national "do not call" registry with teeth.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 12:04 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
WATCHING TV BACKWARDS....John Quiggin has an idea for the next level in reality TV.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 11:32 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
ORANGE TINTED GLASSES....Mary Lynn F. Jones writes today at TAP Online about the government's color coded alert system:
Jeez, was that bad timing or what? Too bad there wasn't some kind of editorial screwup that delayed her story for a day....Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
I THOUGHT WE WERE BOYCOTTING GERMANY?....The winner in the competition to rebuild the World Trade Center site is a Berlin-based design studio. That ought to get the warbloggers slathering today.
Good choice, though. I wasn't blown away by any of the submissions, but I thought this was the best of the bunch, and I like the symbolism of the 1,776 foot tower.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:35 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
February 26, 2003
A GRAPHICAL LOOK AT WAR....The Agonist is your go-to site for war graphics:
The entire Agonist Annex is here. Check it out if you like imbibing your information in graphical format.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 08:54 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
SCRABBLE UPDATE....I scored 451 points in Scrabble tonight, my highest score ever. Yippee! Maybe someday I'll break 500.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 08:03 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
THE WONDERS OF THE INTERNET....I was rummaging around some old boxes the other day and found a bunch of the old aluminum thingies (that's a technical term) shown at right. They are inscribed "Utah Sales Tax Token" and, judging from the age of the other stuff in the box, they date from around the 1930s or so.
In days past I would have idly wondered what these were and never worked up the energy to find out, but today all I have to do is Google on "Utah Sales Tax Token" and I instantly come up with this, which tells me that these are indeed tokens for paying sales tax. Starting in 1933 the sales tax rate in Utah was 2% and each token was worth one mill, or a tenth of a cent. Thus, a one mill token was the exact sales tax on a purchase of a nickel. Aluminum was in short supply during World War II, so they were replaced by plastic tokens, and then finally discarded in 1951.
Isn't the internet remarkable?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 07:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
SMACKDOWN IN TEXAS....Out in Texas the tort reform folks have a problem: the anti-abortion crowd is afraid that by lowering potential liability it would increase the number of doctors willing to perform abortions. Isn't that a shame? Charles Kuffner has the details.
And while you're there, read this post about a company that has figured out a way for telemarketers to defeat privacy tools like the TeleZapper. As Charles says, remember this the next time the telemarketing folks solemnly swear that they don't want to call people who don't want to hear from them.
(Sarcasm aside, why do they want to defeat devices like the TeleZapper? Surely anyone willing to spend $40 and expend the effort to install such a thing is pissed off enough about telemarketing calls that they are genuinely unlikely to respond to a call. Why would you want to contact such a person?)Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 05:03 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
TIPS FOR ASPIRING BUSKERS....Via AtlanticBlog comes this very funny article in the Guardian about busking. Apparently Badly Drawn Boy, a British pop star, spent 90 minutes playing his music in front of a tube station and was able to collect only £1.60. The Guardian thought it could do better, so they sent seven of their reporters out to try their hand at it. The bongo player seemed to have the hardest time:
The most lucrative instrument was the harp, which brought in £17.73 for its owner — not bad! The worst off was the singer backed up by the harmonica player at £1.73, though they lost by only a hair to the euphonium player.
If you need a brief respite from all the serious (and mostly bad) news these days, click on over and check it out.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 03:59 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
CRUISE MISSILES AREN'T THE ONLY WAY TO KILL 10,000 PEOPLE A YEAR....Enough of all this war talk. Let's talk about SUVs instead.
And the response of our Republican Congress? Why, to call the head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on the carpet to explain his statement last month that he wouldn't buy his children an SUV that has been determined to be a rollover risk "if it was the last one on Earth":
Way to make him back down, guys. Can't let these safety Nazis get out of hand, can we?
In fairness, after that show of alpha male domination John McCain did go on to admit that automakers have, um, a less than sterling reputation for voluntarily improving the safety of their vehicles:
I eagerly await the Republican party's latest proposal for letting the unfettered free market take care of this.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 03:33 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
WHAT IS MCCARTHYISM?....Jonah Goldberg has a long column in National Review Online today that he obviously means to be provocative, so I guess I'll take the bait. The subject is "McCarthyism":
Goldberg uses about a thousand words to say, basically, "McCarthyism was really not that bad because, after all, there really were a lot of Communists around back then." This is essentially the same argument that Glenn Reynolds has made in the past (though it usually takes him only a sentence or two), and I can't tell if they are being deliberately dishonest or if they really don't get it.
I can't pretend to speak for the entire liberal community, and certainly not for liberals of a generation before me, but I'm not sure anyone really denies that there were indeed communist spies in the United States back in the 50s. The problem with McCarthy — and McCarthyism — wasn't that he uncovered lots of communist spies, but that he didn't uncover many communist spies. While other, more careful investigators had some success, McCarthy himself was extraordinarily unproductive.
What McCarthy did do was accuse everyone under the sun of being a communist. If you had belonged to the communist party as a student in the 30s, you were a communist. If you belonged to the ACLU, you were a communist. If, like Fred Fischer, you belonged to the Lawyer's Guild for a few months after you graduated from law school, you were tarred as a communist on national TV.
It's not McCarthyism to accuse a communist of being a communist. It is McCarthyism to accuse someone of being a communist who has only a vague association with communist friends, groups, or ideas.
Why is this so hard to understand? Goldberg himself says:
No, not "only" innocent people, but that's a pretty low bar, isn't it? Shouldn't we aim a little higher?
What we're afraid of is a repeat of the climate of hysteria McCarthy created, where far more innocent people had their careers ruined than were ever actually convicted of any treasonous behavior, where the old saying was turned on its head and ten innocent people were ruined for every guilty person who was sent to prison. I hope this doesn't happen today, but it's right to be on guard against it. I don't know why Goldberg feels the need to disagree.
UPDATE: Just a quick note. Goldberg's basic case is that he's upset with liberals who denounce everything in sight as "McCarthyism." Now, he could certainly argue that we are nowhere near the level of hysteria McCarthy caused in the 50s, so this kind of talk is over the top. That would be defensible. But why on earth would he also spend over a thousand words actually defending McCarthy himself, a man who accomplished nothing concrete in the fight against communism and whose demagoguery and serial smearing of innocents caused a backlash that, if anything, set back the cause of anti-communism? It's inexplicable that any truly anti-communist conservative would offer even a half-hearted defense of the man.
As Josh points out, there's a big difference — both then and now — between liberal Democrats and extreme lefties. Conservatives frequently try to make it look as if the extreme left is actually a fair representation of mainstream liberalism, and it's an argument we shouldn't let them get away with.
UPDATE 3: Jonah Goldberg responds here.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 11:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
ROUGH AND TUMBLE POLITICS....Hey, Josh, it's kind of hard to keep a secret in these days of instant Google searches....
So are we saying that Dennis Kucinich panders to bigots? I don't know a thing about the guy and couldn't begin to guess, so when you say "more soon" I sure hope you mean sooner than Part 2 of that Pollack interview!Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 11:21 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
THE RETURN OF BILL?....Via South Knox Bubba, here's a report from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review suggesting the Kofi Annan will step down as UN Secretary General this fall and will be replaced by....
Oh, it's a thought to die for. I don't even care if the idea is nonsense, it's just so delicious that I want to savor it for a while. Can't you imagine the reaction down at Rush Limbaugh HQ, sending Rush's blood pressure through the roof and causing him to splutter incoherently into the microphone for an entire show? It's a delightful image, isn't it?
But why Bill? Why not Jimmy Carter? He's got a Nobel Prize, after all! (Just kidding, Megan....)Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:52 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
IT'S ONE OF THOSE ARI MOMENTS....Via BuzzFlash, here's the video of Ari Fleischer's White House briefing yesterday: http://video.c-span.org:8080/ramgen/edrive/iraq022503_whpb.rm
Ari is getting some questions about American vote buying in the Security Council, and at about the 30 minute mark he says:
The whole press corps busts up laughing at that point and keeps laughing as Ari purses his lips and stalks out of the room. I wonder who writes his lines?
You know, we've already gotten to the point where the president himself never holds press conferences, and now the daily briefings are just jokes. I wonder how long before they just close down the press room in the White House entirely and skip the whole thing?
NOTE: The transcript of the briefing is here if you want to read the whole thing. No mention of raucous laughter from the press corps.
UPDATE: Apparently the transcript has been updated to indicate the laughter. Either that or I missed it the first time around.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
February 25, 2003
TURNING FRIENDS INTO ENEMIES....This story in the Washington Post probably should have gotten more attention:
The gist of the piece is that moderate Arabs who have supported the United States in the past are losing faith in us, and at the same time they are losing the ability to restrain the increasing militancy of young Arabs who are convinced that the U.S. plans to have a colonial presence in the Mideast.
The whole story is worth reading.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:11 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
THE BYZANTINE NATURE OF WASHINGTON POLITICS....Brad DeLong says that America is like the Ottoman Empire and the White House is like the Topkapi Palace. Or something.
Actually, I'm not quite sure what he's saying, but he definitely thinks we ought to figure out a way to elect someone other than an unknown governor as president. That's always seemed like a reasonable goal to me, but on the other hand I've also wondered whether we really do any worse than all those parliamentary systems in Europe where the prime minister is necessarily someone with loads of previous central government experience.
I really don't know the answer to that. But for what it's worth, here's one piece of data: the consensus best presidents of the 20th century were probably Theodore Roosevelt, Wilson, FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, and Reagan — and Truman was the only one of the bunch with any real previous Washington experience. The consensus worst are probably Harding, Hoover, Nixon, and Carter, and three out of four of them had considerable Washington experience. So it's a tricky question, isn't it?
UPDATE: Several readers have written to point out that both Roosevelts had Washington experience as assistant secretary of the Navy, and Eisenhower, while he had no political experience, did have lots of international experience (the whole D-Day thing) and was well acquainted with Washington politics from his military experience. I was primarily thinking of direct, high level political experience (mainly Congress or a cabinet position), but these are fair comments. I wasn't trying to pigeonhole people to make a point, so y'all can make up your own minds on the question of what counts as national experience.
As for the rankings of the presidents, they obviously don't reflect my own preferences (Reagan?!), but I think they're a pretty fair summary of consensus opinion. For further discussion of presidential rankings, here's an interesting document that shows various rankings over the years by different groups, and concludes that rankings have been remarkably stable. The least stable, of course, are recent presidents.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 08:17 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
NEOCONSERVATISM EXPLAINED....Reader Josip Dasovic, noticing my confusion about what a neocon is, pointed me toward a discussion site where I found a review of The Rise of Neoconservatism, a 1995 book by John Ehrman. It's a decent potted summary, so for everyone who — like me — has always been a little fuzzy on the subsects of American politics, here's a few paragraphs from the review:
The entire discussion thread is here if you want to read more about neoconservatism. As for me, I'm quite satisfied now and will delve into it no further.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 04:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
CHINA AND NORTH KOREA....Haesook Chae has an interesting op-ed in the LA Times today saying that we're all misreading China's motives when they insist on staying aloof in the North Korean crisis:
Bush would certainly not abandon Taiwan, but Rumsfeld has publicly talked about reducing or removing our troops in South Korea and Powell has resumed food aid to North Korea, which helps to stem the problem of refugees swarming across the border into China. If we're willing to do this much for China, it's not inconceivable that we might work some modest deal on arms sales to Taiwan as well.
JFK ended the Cuban Missile Crisis by secretly agreeing to remove U.S. missiles in Turkey in exchange for the Soviet Union removing its missiles from Cuba. I wonder if the same thing is happening here, and six months after the problem is resolved we'll decide "based on independent review" to remove our troops from South Korea and modify our current arms agreement with Taiwan?
Whatever else is going on behind the scenes, it sure looks like China knows how to drive a hard bargain.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:46 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
WILL IRAQ DESTROY ITS MISSILES?....Dan Rather interviewed Saddam Hussein and asked him about those missiles the UN has told him to destroy:
The Agonist is reading Stratfor, which says just the opposite:
That makes everything clearer, doesn't it?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:34 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
MISSILE DEFENSE SYSTEMS....I meant to blog about this yesterday, but better late than never....
The LA Times reports that the 2004 budget includes some fine print that exempts missile defense systems from "operational testing." These systems, you may recall, are the very ones that barely seem to function at all, let alone operate as planned. Thus, doing away with operational testing is the only way to actually get them deployed on the schedule George Bush would like:
Hmmm, October 2004. That date sounds familiar. Don't we have some big election or something coming up right around then?
Unlike some critics, I'm in favor of developing missile defense systems because, you know, if they worked they'd prevent people from firing nuclear missiles at our cities. But while the Bush administration has shown an airy contempt for scientific evidence in the past whenever it's suited them, isn't this a little cynical even for Bush's conservative supporters? No, they probably won't do any good, but a photo op at Vandenberg in October will look might fine, mighty fine!
If the Bush administration wants more money to speed up development, I'm open to persuasion — although keep in mind that we've been at this for 20 years now with little to show for it. But the only reason to be afraid of testing a system is if you're pretty sure it will fail, so if they're asking me to contribute my tax dollars to a system so bad they're afraid to even put it through public trials, count me out. I've spent way too much time in the software industry to fall for that particular song and dance.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:06 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
FRENCH BASHING GOING OUT OF STYLE?....Patrick Ruffini is persuaded that we should give up all the French-bashing and act like adults:
Good for him.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:46 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
POST-WAR IRAQ....OxBlog has a good post up about post-war Iraq and support for democracy. As David says, the conservatives are in charge right now, so there's no chance for democratic reform unless it's supported by the right. I hope conservative commentators and bloggers will keep up the pressure for genuine reform in Iraq instead of simply accepting a more friendly dictator in Baghdad.
It's your ball, guys, run with it.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 07:04 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
February 24, 2003
TONY BLAIR ON TERRORISM, POVERTY, AND GLOBAL WARMING....Carla Passino of The International Sentinal links today to a speech by Tony Blair that's mostly about global warming. But not entirely:
I have absolutely no idea whether Blair will actually act on these sentiments or if they're just nice words, but I'm so starved for nice words that I'll take what I can get.
Read the whole speech. It's intelligent, it combines an appreciation of both short term and long term actions, and it makes a good case that we can fight global warming without bankrupting ourselves:
That boy is sure a smooth talker, that's for sure.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 05:59 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
A DEFENSE OF UNILATERALISM....Steven den Beste says:
That's an admirably straighforward endorsement of unilateralism, I guess. Of course, it's also the reason that virtually no one in the rest of the world trusts us these days — and a significant number hate our guts — but I guess Steven and his pals think our military might is now so hyper-puissant that this really doesn't matter anymore.
I wonder just how many simultaneous wars Steven thinks we can fight?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 05:49 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
NAME CALLING....I was curious about, um, pro-war memes, so I just checked and found that in the past four weeks InstaPundit has posted 14 times about "Old Europe" and 15 times about the "Axis of Weasels" — eight of the posts specifically about how cool it is that the phrase is spreading.
Sheesh. When these warhawks find a childish piece of invective that tickles their fancy, they just can't let go, can they? Kinda reminds me of a pack of five year olds.
And by the way, Glenn, can you make up your mind whether it's "Axis of Weasels" or "Axis or Weasel"? It would make it a lot easier to search your site. Thanks.
UPDATE: Oops, make that 15 for "Old Europe." It's hard to keep up.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 04:31 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
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1970 WASN'T REALLY THAT LONG AGO, EITHER....This Just In, the Bob Schieffer memoir I'm reading, is pretty good. Nothing spectacular, but it's fun and readable and an interesting personal reminder of some of the events of the recent past.
One of the things he mentions that is indeed hard to believe for someone my age is how open things were up until the 70s or so:
On a similar subject, he talks about how it was that Jack Ruby managed to kill Lee Harvey Oswald in the middle of a police station:
That's a different world, all right.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 03:32 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
DRIVING ON THE LEFT....It's Monday evening in London, so how are things going with the congestion charging experiment now that the school holidays are over and traffic is back up to its usual levels? Quite nicely, it turns out:
Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics has been the go-to site for congestion news, but there are no reports yet from today. Maybe Dan will have some personal commentary for us later.
On the other hand, yesterday he reported that the system is working so well that there's already talk about the next step:
$2.05 a mile in city centers sounds a mite....steep, doesn't it? I wonder if taxis would have to pay it too?
Anyway, now that the technology seems to be working pretty well — to my surprise — the next question is how well the congestion charge will work in the long run. These kinds of things frequently have a short term effect just out of shock value, but then traffic creeps back up and a year later it's back to its old level. Then what? Just keep raising prices, I suppose.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 03:17 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
HAWKS VS. HAWKS....I agree with Tapped: this column by Ronald Brownstein is a pretty good primer on the ideological battle between the neocons and the "tough doves":
For some reason, Brownstein didn't want to use the phrase "liberal internationalists," and I assume he had good reason, but there's got to be a better term than "tough doves." At any rate, since that's the camp I seem to be in, I'd sure like to see a better name for it.
You know, I've read a bunch of columns by Brownstein lately and they've all been pretty good. He seems like a sharp guy.
POSTSCRIPT: Another Matt Yglesias comment. He likes Brownstein's column too but complains that:
I dunno. The best known self-described neocons really are Jewish, aren't they? — so I'm not sure how you get away from this connotation. Does John McCain describe himself as a neocon? I really need to read up on this whole neocon thing and find who they really are and what they really think.
UPDATE: The Daily Review has some thoughts about this too, although in fairness I don't think Matt suggested that the term "neocon" shouldn't be used. He just....well, I'm not sure what he suggested, actually. Maybe he's taking innuendo lessons from InstaPundit!Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 12:57 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
THE WORST ARGUMENT EVER....So I'm noodling around over at Atrios' site and come across this: "The Worst Argument Ever." Sounds juicy, so I click the link and am whisked to the estimable Charles Dodgson's site where he quotes someone saying:
But....that sounds oddly familiar. Yes, hold on, it's coming back to me now: it sounds familiar because I said it.
And it's the worst argument ever! I should be pleased, I suppose. Unfortunately, this weekend I committed the heresy of suggesting that The Bell Curve was racist nonsense but that the concept of intelligence itself was nonetheless an important one — and got clobbered for it. Now this. I'm beginning to fear that I'm in danger of being tossed out of the liberal club.
Which would be a shame, since I sure as hell don't have anywhere else to go. What's more, I'm really, really tired of George Bush, the war, the French, and everything associated with it. But let's see if I can put my fingers to the keyboard for just a bit more about it.
Honest, though, just a bit. Here's my problem: my sense from reading the anti-war left is that they don't really take the danger of terrorism and unstable states seriously. I do, however, and I think the evidence indicates that humanitarian policies alone won't solve the problem. In the case of Iraq, the history of the past decade pretty clearly shows that the world doesn't have the stomach to keep up containment for long — an option that strikes me as vaguely immoral anyway — so if we back off now Saddam will be back in business within a couple of years. My guess is that this could be pretty dangerous.
On the other hand, my sense from reading the pro-war right is that they have a fantasy that all our problems can be solved via military force. In fact, the very idea of investigating root causes is tantamount to an indictment of terminal naiveté from the likes of Andrew Sullivan or Glenn Reynolds. Overall, it's pretty obvious that the majority of the hawks have no serious interest in the long, tortuous, and multilateral job of promoting democracy and tolerance in the Middle East, and it's not clear that the American public does either.
So what to do? There seem to be damn few people in the middle ground, who agree that Saddam needs to be taken care of but are also in favor of sticking around and truly working in a humanitarian way to improve life in the Middle East.
As for me, I just don't know anymore. I'm hardly in favor of the horrible and incompetent war that George Bush seems to have in mind, but, frankly, I think that simply pulling out would also be disastrous. Basically, the whole mess is terminally depressing and my Prozac prescription seems to have run out, so I think maybe I'll take the afternoon off and go see a movie. Perhaps The Quiet American would be appropriate.
UPDATE: Thanks, Matt. As he says, there's at least one other argument for war that's worse than mine.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 11:47 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
ALAN GREENSPAN'S SLOW DEATH....According to a story in the Chicago Tribune, George Bush is peeved that Alan Greenspan actually testified truthfully to Congress a couple of weeks ago:
Greenspan's term is up in June 2004, and the Tribune quotes several analysts who suggest that Bush won't reappoint him. Given W's penchant for demanding absolute loyalty, I'd say that's a good bet.
But then the Tribune goes on to say:
I just love that. Every single Fed chairman for, oh, at least the last 50 years has taken over from someone who was regarded in Washington as a god. And every single time, the new guy becomes a god within a few years and everyone starts worrying that the economy will collapse when he retires because there's no one in the entire country who can take his place. This goes back all the way to the legendary William McChesney Martin, and the only exception was G. William Miller, who was Fed chairman for about a year and didn't quite have time to fully assume the financial divinity these guys usually get.
So I have no fears that the country will be left rudderless if Greenspan steps down. In fact, the Tribune quotes one guy who thinks that Bush will ask Greenspan to stay on through the election and then name a replacement. I hope he does, because after all, Bush might lose and then a Democrat could replace him. Anyone up for Paul Krugman as Fed chairman?
UPDATE: Brad DeLong has more.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:36 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
FRENCH-BASHING....Former CIA director James Woolsey has a good column in the Wall Street Journal today about French-bashing:
Quite so. It is one thing to disagree on policy, it is quite another to whip ourselves into a frenzy that turns them into the enemy of the day. Save that for Saddam and al-Qaeda.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:04 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
February 23, 2003
TIME TO TALK, GEORGE....Australia, which has been nearly as strongly in our corner as Britain when it comes to Iraq, says we need to start talking to North Korea:
Is there anyone left in the entire world who doesn't think we should be talking to North Korea? Three weeks ago even Richard Armitage admitted that direct talks were inevitable, but for some reason George "Weeks Not Months" Bush doesn't think there's any rush.
Sometimes he seems like a kid who insists on doing the opposite of what everyone wants him to do just because....everyone wants him to do it. That may be a decent strategy for a 3-year-old trying to outwit his mother, but in the president of the United States it's just scary.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 06:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
PAPAL FALLIBILITY....Andrew Stuttaford says in The Corner:
It's funny, I'll bet he wasn't saying that back in the days when a Polish cardinal was elected pope and became one of the leading supporters of the Solidarity trade union movement and one of the leading critics of communism.
Of course, that was back when the pope was saying something he agreed with....Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 02:26 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
JIMMY CARTER FOR PRESIDENT!....OF IRAQ!....Matt Yglesias is worried that the post-war reconstruction of Iraq will go badly — even with the best of intentions — because:
Matt thinks Bush should have appointed a bipartisan commission on post-war reconstruction in order to gain the trust of at least the hawkish segment of the Democratic party.
I'll go further: Bush's plan is to have military control of Iraq for a certain (undefined) period, followed by a civilian administrator. I think he should try to convince Jimmy Carter to be that civilian leader.
Sure, conservatives hate him, but consider: he was president of the United States for four years and knows a bit about running a country. He's a prominent dove and would be trusted by lots of people who otherwise wouldn't give Bush the time of day. He's rather famously sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, which means he'd be trusted by the Arabs. And he's a humanitarian, which means he'd be genuinely motivated to help Iraq and the Iraqi people.
This is a fantasy, of course, since Bush has shown over and over that he simply doesn't care about trying to persuade his opponents of anything, but he ought to do it anyway for purely selfish reasons. It would allow him to get on with other tasks without having to constantly respond to criticisms of his Iraq policy and it would lend tremendous credibility to the U.S. reconstruction efforts.
But I wonder: suppose (in some alternate universe) that Bush did this. Would Carter accept? I'm sure he'd hate to lend his credibility to Bush's war, but on the other hand he's pretty famous for his ego in matters like this. I'll bet it would be quite an interior struggle for him to decide what to do.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 02:14 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
On a more serious note, the section of the article about arrogance describes a genuine problem for us introverts. I can't tell you the number of times people have assumed I was aloof or arrogant when, in fact, I just didn't have anything to say or was feeling a bit overwhelmed by the number of people around. So the next time you decide that someone is arrogant not because of something they said, but because of something they didn't, give 'em a break, OK?
Interesting addendum: many years ago I figured out the exact number of people that constitutes a "crowd" for me: six. I'm usually OK with five, but start to shut down with six. On the other hand, I love public speaking.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:45 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
February 22, 2003
MUSIC BLOGGING....Jim Capozzola tried to go to a concert tonight. Unfortunately, blogging got in the way.
Still, he does at least answer all your questions about oboes.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:43 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
IT'S ALL BILL CLINTON'S FAULT....Ex-Clinton deputy chief of staff Steve Ricchetti has a good op-ed in the Washington Post today taking apart a typically whiny and dishonest Charles Krauthammer piece that — surprise! — blames all the world's woes on Bill Clinton.
You know, one of these days Republicans are going to have to start taking responsibility for things instead of just irritably carping about how everything is the fault of either Bill Clinton or the French. They are the party of responsibility, aren't they? It's time to start acting like it.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 03:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
IT'S GONE BY SO FAST....IT SEEMS LIKE IT'S ONLY BEEN FIVE MONTHS....I've been blogging for six months today. Here's part of the second post I ever wrote:
That stands up pretty well, don't you think? Blair hasn't exactly brought Labor around, but so far he's prevented a full-scale revolt anyway, which means that I was closer to the mark than John Derbyshire.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 03:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
Hey, these kids could teach John Lott a thing or two about surveys!
Anyway, Maddy is pro-war, pro-France, and broke her arm a few days ago by slipping on some Cheetos during PE. Go pay Maddy and her sister a visit and give 'em some well deserved traffic.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 01:52 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
IS TIME RUNNING OUT?....Colin Powell is in Asia and says we need to be patient with North Korea:
But back home in the UN time is of the essence:
So which is it? Is time a weapon or not?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:02 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
February 21, 2003
BLACK BOX VOTING....If you're interested in the whole subject of computerized vote counting, apparently there's a book and a whole website devoted to the subject: www.blackboxvoting.com. Check it out.
For what it's worth, I'm skeptical of the conspiracy theories regarding these machines, but I also don't like them much. Even if it's not deliberate, software goes bad all the time and it seems like a bad idea not to have a backup. My favorite system (although I'm open to argument on the issue) is mark sense balloting, which has been in use for a long time and is generally quite accurate. I'm not quite sure why it's necessary to reinvent the wheel here.
UPDATE: On the other hand, Randy Paul reports that Brazil has been using electronic voting for years without problem. Of course, the doubters would ask how you'd ever know if there were problems....Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 06:14 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
NEOCON HAWKS AND POST-WAR IRAQ....Several people have emailed to tell me that it's not neocon hawks who are ignoring the democratic rebuilding of a post-war Iraq, as I have implied once or twice recently. In fact, it's the neocons who are most strongly in favor of democracy building, as you can see in this article by Ian Buruma in the Guardian last month.
I stand corrected. And since I wrote about the Bush administration's seeming unwillingness to produce a decent plan for post-war Iraq a couple of days ago, I also want to point to this article in the Washington Post today. It summarizes a U.S. blueprint that — while not ideal — is not too bad. At any rate, it's better than the rumors buzzing around Washington lead me to believe.
There will probably be a lot of discussion of this article over the next few days, but here are a couple of quick thoughts:
That's all for now, but I'll probably comment further about this as more details trickle out.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 05:17 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
INTELLIGENCE....Liberals rightly castigate conservatives for denying the mounting evidence in favor of global warming. The problem, of course, is that conservatives are unhappy with the idea of reducing emissions of greenhouse gases, so for ideological reasons they are forced to deny the science itself. They are like tobacco company executives denying that smoking causes cancer.
But conservatives are not the only ones who fight passionately against science they find distasteful. As Charles Murtaugh pointed out yesterday, among liberals it's almost impossible to discuss the question of human intelligence — a reasonable area of scientific study — without being accused fairly quickly of racism. As Charlie points out, there is good reason for this: studies of intelligence invariably conclude that it is partly a result of genetic factors, and there's an unfortunately large and unsavory group of people who have dedicated their lives to insisting that this means that blacks, who score lower than whites on IQ tests, are genetically less intelligent than whites. This case has been made most recently in a long and execrable book called The Bell Curve, a collection of pages that probably set back research into intelligence by a decade.
But we shouldn't let these people drive the discussion — or drive us away from it. Instead, we should talk about the science, we should talk about the results, and then we should talk about where it leads us. So let's do that.
Liberal disgust with racist misuse of research into intelligence is understandable — especially given its long and miserable history
— but in fighting it we have a tendency to throw the baby out with the
bathwater. In particular, liberals are forced to make the following
Well, is intelligence real? After all, there's no specific point in the brain we can point to and say, "That's where intelligence lies."
But, like athletic ability, intelligence is a useful, everyday umbrella term that has genuine meaning. It is, roughly, the ability to deal with analytic complexity, and let's face it: we all know it when we see it. When we say "she's a smart cookie" we generally agree that this mean she catches on quickly, she predicts the consequences of actions well, she can juggle a lot of balls at once, she can put two and two together, and so forth.
Technical discussions of intelligence often revolve around whether there is a mental trait called "g" (for "general intelligence") that underlies all the factors that make up intelligence. The current consensus is that g does exist, but for our purposes it doesn't really matter. What does matter is that from a practical perspective, whether g exists or not, the term "intelligence" has a useful meaning and describes something that's important. In fact, the main reason that intelligence is such a hot button is that it so obviously is important. In a complex society, high intelligence is an extremely valuable commodity, and this makes the politics of intelligence both contentious and ideological.
Still, "I know it when I see it" isn't good enough for scientific study: we need to measure intelligence, and the preferred method is via an IQ test. This forms the second line of liberal defense: IQ tests are no good. But once again, the evidence says otherwise. Most professionals in the field agree that IQ (and related) tests do exhibit some level of group bias, but the bias is quite modest on modern instruments. If you score low on an IQ test, the odds are very high that you are, in fact, not very intelligent.
The same is true of heritability. Evidence that intelligence is party heritable has been accumulating for years, and today it is a veritable mountain. There's still plenty to argue about, but the consensus opinion is that intelligence is approximately 50% heritable and 50% learned. In other words, about half of the variation in human intelligence is based on your genes.
There's really no reason that what I've said so far should be very controversial. But it is, and primarily for one reason: race. A regrettably large group of intelligence researchers have extended the results above to argue that blacks are genetically less intelligent than whites.
The best and most well-known recent example of this kind of tendentious reasoning can be found in The Bell Curve, a 500-page tome that is basically broken into three parts. In the first part the authors argue that intelligence is real, g exists, and that both are partly heritable. There are things to argue with, but it's a reasonable synopsis of current thinking.
Part 2 uses lengthy statistical analysis to argue that intelligence is correlated with lots of positive social values. Smart people make more money, commit fewer crimes, have fewer out of wedlock children, etc. There's more to argue with here since the authors overstate their statistical conclusions, but there's still nothing all that objectionable. After all, detailed statistics aside, I think we'd all be surprised if this weren't true. Our society values intelligence highly, and it's only reasonable that intelligent people do better in a society that values them.
Then there's Part 3, in which the authors argue that the 15-point IQ difference between blacks and whites is primarily caused by genetic differences. And suddenly the quality of their arguments falls off a cliff. They report tentative results as positive, they ignore most of the contrary evidence, and, like so many likeminded researchers, they vastly underestimate the power of environmental factors. Sure, intelligence is 50% hereditary, but that means it's also 50% environmental. And that 50% is more than enough to account for a 15-point difference — but only if you take seriously the wretched conditions that blacks at all socioeconomic levels face in this country.
The problem is that human beings are not like stalks of corn planted in poor soil. You can replant seed corn in good soil and the resulting plants will be beautiful. But humans are cultural animals, and the effects of poor environment don't disappear overnight. It takes generations, and in our case it's been barely one generation — or maybe none — since we have started to treat blacks fairly.
None of this might matter too much if it weren't for the fact that ignoring the value of intelligence hurts one of liberalism's most cherished goals: equality of the races. But in our efforts to discredit the scientific racists, that's exactly what we've done.
Although the origins and effects of racism are long and complex, there's little question that lower average intelligence is one of the big reasons that blacks do poorly in American society. The fact is that the black-white gap does exist, and it's not merely a cultural artifact or the result of bias on standardized tests. It's a very real thing and it needs to be attacked head on.
This is the reason that I feel so strongly about primary education: it's our best hope for erasing the test score difference and truly bringing an end to racism. It's also the reason that I believe these efforts should be primarily aimed at blacks, not at poor people in general: while better education helps everyone, that 15-point gap indicates that it's blacks as a group who suffer the most and need the most help.
Intelligence is not a synonym for social worth, nor is it the only mental trait that's important. But denying that global warming exists or that smoking causes cancer does not make those problems any less real, and the same is true of research on intelligence. In an increasingly complex world, intelligence is increasingly important and increasingly valuable, and denying this does no one any good.
Nor does it do any good to scratch our heads and cast about for another line of defense: intelligence may be real, but race isn't and therefore it makes no sense to talk about racial differences in intelligence. In the real world, however, race, like intelligence, is a fuzzy but still useful concept, and this argument becomes little more than yet another transparent excuse to avoid distasteful truths.
What should be important to liberals is not the results of intelligence research themselves, but what we do with them. If we face the truth squarely, we are in a better position to argue for social programs that have a realistic chance of accomplishing what we want. That's what we should focus on, not on the remote — and dwindling — hope that the scientific community is wrong. It's a bad bet.
UPDATE: If you want to read more (much more!) about this, Christopher Jencks and Meredith Phillips wrote a 1998 book on the subject called The Black-White Test Score Gap. It is available online from the Brookings Institution here. They summarized their argument in The American Prospect in this article, and responses were published here.
UPDATE II: More comments from:
DeLong in particular is useful because he reprints this Thomas Sowell column (indirectly linked in my original post) that — although more sympathetic to The Bell Curve than I am — very clearly makes the point that intelligence is mutable and can be significantly changed via education and other environmental factors.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 04:38 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
CORPORATE RESPONSIBILITY....Ford decided yesterday to settle a lawsuit related to a van rollover after a judge warned that their behavior "borders on criminal." Goodness. All they did was deny that their van had ever rolled over in tests, when in fact it turned out that one of their test drivers had done just that. Or had he?
This, of course, came after the judge had already promised to sanction Ford for its prior attempts to hide data on the stability of its vans.
And in related news of corporate responsiblity, Disney has lost an appeal in a long running case involving the rights to market Winnie the Pooh merchandise. After it was revealed that they had destroyed dozens of boxes of evidence, they claimed it didn't really matter because the documents were all irrelevant: "They were tossed during a housecleaning after the executive's death, the company said."
For some reason the appellate court didn't agree.
It's certainly good to see corporate America showing such respect for our legal system, don't you think? Why, if only those rapacious trial lawyers could be brought to heel, life would be such smooth sailing for them — and luckily, George Bush and the Republican party seem to agree. I'll bet that Michael Eisner is a big fan of tort reform right about now.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 02:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
WILL IRAQ DESTROY ITS MISSILES?....UN inspectors have decided to demand that Iraq destroy missiles that exceed allowed limits:
We are getting very close to the end here. It seems unlikely that Iraq will agree to destroy the missiles, but this refusal would surely be enough to convince even the Security Council holdouts that inspections are not working.
Or so it seems. It's getting harder every day to penetrate the boxes within boxes of diplomatic maneuvering that's going on at the UN. More to come, I'm sure.
UPDATE: John Quiggin has a different view, and he may be right. The problem is that Saddam is caught in a trap: if he's convinced the U.S. will attack anyway, why would he give up his missiles? But if he doesn't give up the missiles, then we'll attack. It's a serious dilemma for him.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 12:50 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
WE'LL BE HAVING A TEST NEXT FRIDAY....Sometimes you have to go to the Drudge Report to find links to the news that's truly, um, stimulating:
But there's bad news for American teenagers: this is a British program. Better luck next time, kids.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 12:41 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
OUR UNWRITTEN CONSTITUTION....Josh Chafetz at OxBlog is studying the British constitution and remarked a few days ago that he gets tired of the predictable jokes about his chosen field. The Brits, you see, have a constitution, but it isn't written down. Ho ho ho.
I believe that I myself might have made just such a snarky comment at one point or another, and I hereby apologize. What brings this to mind is that Glenn Reynolds is blogging from the Marbury vs. Madison symposium today, which reminds me that people in glass houses should be careful about their pre-emptive strikes.
Marbury vs. Madison is an 1803 Supreme Court case in which the Supreme Court ruled that the Supreme Court is allowed to toss out laws that the Supreme Court thinks are unconstitutional. Got that? And in case you think this is a gross oversimplification, it's not, really. Basically, the Supreme Court gets to decide on the constitutionality of laws because it says it can — and no one ever really challenged them on it.
Judicial review is one of the cornerstones of the American constitutional system, but it's not written down anywhere. You won't find it in the text of the constitution and you won't find any congressional act that authorizes it. But, like that unwritten British constitution, it's nonetheless as real and as important as any piece of parchment.
The constitution is a marvelous document, but it's not really the basis of American government. After all, the old Soviet constitution sounded pretty good on paper too. Rather, the real basis is the collective acceptance of the constitution's principles by the American people — even when the chips are down — and our willingness to constantly reinterpret it to fit our needs. That's what makes it worth the paper it's printed on.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
CHECK IT OUT....Ted Barlow is good today....Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:45 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
GOING TO THE MOVIES....Charles Kuffner reports today that the Loews Cineplex theater chain is being sued for showing too many ads before the movies start. Let me just say that while this suit is probably completely groundless, and a prima facie case for tort reform, etc. etc., I heartily approve anyway. If this is a signal of the impending end of Western Civilization, well, so be it. All I can say is that we're not the ones who fired the first shot.
By the way, Charles notes that European theater listings print two times: when the ads start and when the movie starts. Not only do American theaters not do this, but my local chain (Regal Cinema) actually seems to have a policy of choosing random times to begin the movie. Most of the time the movie doesn't start until about 20 minutes after the listed time, but sometimes it starts 10 minutes after and on rare occasions it starts right on time. So you have to show up on time or you risk missing part of the movie.
Bastards. And they wonder why movies increasingly don't appeal to people over 25.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
WAR WITH IRAQ....Josh Marshall finally has Part 2 of his interview with Ken Pollack posted, and it's a good read. Like Josh, I think that Pollack's comments do a good job of capturing "the mix of resolution, ambivalence and anger I feel about the situation we're currently in with Iraq." As much as I'm unhappy about how the Bush administration has mishandled everything, backing out now could have disastrous consequences. And so we liberal hawks hold our noses and hope for the best.
It's a good interview — although I wish there had been time for the obvious follow-up to the question about what things the administration has handled well. Go read it.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:04 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
February 20, 2003
ATHLETIC ABILITY....Here's a question for you: what are the
various factors that combine to create the thing that we call "athletic
ability"? Here are a few:
You can probably think of others, but these will do for now. My next question is: does the term "athletic ability" have any meaning? Or should we discard it and force ourselves to talk only about these other factors that underlie it?
That would be clumsy, wouldn't it? "Athletic ability" may be a bit fuzzy, but it's still a pretty useful concept and we'd hate to have to give it up.
With me so far? Good. Final question: do you think these underlying factors have any genetic component, or are they solely the result of coaching and training? And as a corollary, does that mean that the overall trait called "athletic ability" is also partly determined by genetics?
There will be a test on this later. In the meantime, go read this post by Charles Murtaugh.
More tomorrow.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:48 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
AIRPORT SECURITY....I don't know what this is all about, but apparently two out of four entrances to our local airport have been "closed indefinitely because of increased security measures." We're now being advised to allow 2 1/2 hours for parking, check-in, etc.
WTF? Is this happening anywhere else?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
NEW LOOK....Well whaddayaknow, I come home and CalPundit is magically ad-free! It turns out this kindness is the work of Jim Capozzola of Rittenhouse Review, who contributed a year's worth of ad-free-ness in my name to the good folks at Blogger. As the folks at Blogger put it, my site is now "ad-neutered." Thanks Jim!
To show your appreciation, go read this post of Jim's and do what he tells you. And don't worry, I'm sure his definition of "civic organization" is broad enough to encompass just about any good deed you have in mind. Just do it, OK?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
AT LEAST THEY DIDN'T MAKE HIM DRINK IT....Look, I know "better safe than sorry" is good advice when it comes to security, but isn't this story from Reuters a little much?
If you read the whole thing it doesn't get any better. In fact, it gets worse.
You know, stuff like this would just seem silly if it weren't for the fact that we're spending billions of dollars to fund this kind of hypersensitivity while virtually ignoring enormous security holes in other areas. I wish we could get our priorities straight on this stuff.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 03:24 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
IN PRAISE OF BLOGGING....I'm reading Bob Schieffer's book This Just In right now, and for some reason a paragraph in the first chapter got me thinking. He's talking about the TV coverage of JFK's assassination and says:
I've also read a lot of old small-town newspapers over the past year as part of my genealogy hobby, and one of the things you immediately notice about them is how raw and unedited they were. It was basically just the editor — who was also publisher, circulation manager, and typesetter — talking to his audience. Television news in 1963 was probably pretty similar: just a camera and a reporter talking about what they saw.
And it occurs to me that this explains some of the popularity of blogs too: the very fact that they aren't professional attracts us. Television, of course, passed the ultra-professional-highly-filtered-snazzy-graphics threshold years ago, and for that reason probably leaves many of us unsatisfied. Not because we think they're deliberately lying to us, but because we instinctively know that their very professionalism gets in the way of just telling us what's happening. When every story consists of a fancy graphic and a 45-second spot edited to within an inch of its life, you know that what you're seeing bears the same resemblance to real life that a Playboy centerfold does to the girl next door.
Blogs, of course, don't provide much in the way of original reporting, but they do provide us what those old small-town newspapers did before they grew up: a quick and conversational combination of news, opinion, gossip, and weird personal idiosyncrasies. It may not be pretty, but at least it's real.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 02:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
FRANCE....After I wrote yesterday's post about getting rid of all my Franco-Germanic possessions, I got a couple of emails from people assuming I was serious. I quickly added a note making it clear that I was joking.
Now, I take full blame for not being Neal Pollack-ish enough to pull off this kind of satire, but it's disturbing that we live in an environment where it's reasonable to think I might actually do something like this. As one of my readers put it, "At least one good thing has come of this: I am largely cured of my Europhobia. The anti-European screeds have so deeply offended my sense of fairness and good taste I doubt I'll ever lapse."
I agree. I think there's a lot to criticize in French foreign policy, but instead we get shrill outbursts like this from InstaPundit:
So now the French are responsible for "many of the disasters of the 20th century" too? Before long Glenn is going to start blaming them for flouridating our water supply. How can anyone take this kind of stuff seriously?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 12:11 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
AN "ALIEN-SNAKE HYBRID"?....C'MON, KEN, TELL US WHAT YOU REALLY THINK....Ken Layne pretty much sums up my opinion of the campaign to recall Gray Davis — and much more entertainingly than I could. I guess I don't dislike 'ol Gray quite as much as Ken does, but he gets bonus points for both poetic license and for paying more attention to California politics than I do.
Plus he gets credit for coming up with the right answer even though he loathes the guy. If we weren't celebrating my sister's birthday on Saturday I might even go to that blog event in LA he's hyping and try to meet the guy. Maybe next time.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:43 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
February 19, 2003
OURS NOT TO REASON WHY....It's possible that the justification for this holds water in some theoretical way, but the timing sure sucks:
Kevin and Jeanne are right: this is an indefensible way to save a lousy $125 million while troops are being sent overseas. Bush's treatment of both veterans and active duty soldiers has been appalling since his first day in office and I'm surprised the Democrats haven't made a bigger issue of it. Someone should, that's for sure.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:54 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
FOREIGN REACTION TO 9/11....Yesterday I wrote a short post about a French radio host who claimed that most of his callers after 9/11 thought that the terrorist attacks "served us right." I got a few responses and thought I would share them:
No conclusions, I just wanted to share some other thoughts on the matter. Make of it what you will.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 08:56 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
AN OP-ED WHERE?...."Rightwing commentator" Glenn Reynolds has an op-ed in the The Guardian about the blog phenomenon. It's pretty good.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 08:22 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
AFTER THE WAR....The news on the war front is not good. I suspect that many reluctant hawks like me have held their noses and supported the war because of the possibility that, aside from ridding the world of a dangerous and unstable dictator, we might also make Iraq — and eventually the rest of the Middle East — into a better place.
But the downsides seem to be piling up. Transatlantic relations are strained almost to breaking, and Donald Rumsfeld has already declared his eagerness to punish allies who don't support us. We're in the process of paying out a $32 billion (or so) bribe to the Turks. We seem to be abandoning the Kurds. The planned "Shock and Awe" bombing of Baghdad sounds dangerously close to being a war crime. Some factions in the Bush administration talk about appropriating Iraqi oil funds as "spoils of war," and the latest word from Washington and London is that we aren't planning to help fund any reconstruction efforts in Iraq and probably aren't going to promote democratic institutions there either. It might upset Saudi Arabia, after all.
Now, let's take it as given that one result of the war will be a
relatively swift regime change in Iraq, with Saddam Hussein and his top
lieutenants either captured or killed. As nice as that might be,
however, I think there's a bipartisan consensus that there are several
other outcomes we would also like to see. For example:
And then there are the possible disasters that a war might bring:
So I have this question: if you're in favor of war, is anything more than regime change needed for you to consider it a success? And would any of the disasters on the bottom list convince you that it was, in the end, a failure?
For anti-war partisans, the question is the opposite. How many of the items on the top list would have to happen to convince you that the war, in fact, turned out to be a positive development?
To put it more simply, what are the criteria for success? Does moral clarity begin and end with forcibly removing Saddam Hussein from power, or is there more to it?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 08:02 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
NORTH KOREA AND THE UN....What happens if the UN refuses to approve military action against Iraq and we invade anyway? Does that prove irrevocably that the UN is indeed irrelevant, as George Bush keeps saying?
And if it does, what happens in North Korea? Iraq, for some reason, is a matter of "weeks, not months," while North Korea is a matter of slow and careful consultation with allies and the seeking of UN resolutions and sanctions. But if the UN eventually proves itself to be officially irrelevant, what happens next?
Will we continue to work with them on North Korea? Or not?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 04:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
DINI UPDATE....Mark at Minute Particulars updates us on the Michael Dini evolution controversy. Dini's old website said this:
Mark thinks Dini is still missing the point, but I disagree. My guess is that Dini is specifically interested in flushing out creationists, and asking about the origins of humans as a species is critical to that. What's more, I think he's quite right — and quite justified — in doing this.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 02:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
A CLEAN BREAK....It was a difficult choice, but after
considerable prayer and soul searching Marian and I finally decided
last night that we could no longer continue living a lie. So we're
making a clean break and disposing of all Franco-German products in our
house. Here's the complete inventory:
I think that's it. It's going to be hard, and we'll need to watch our shopping in the future, but I think we'll be the better for it.
But I sure hope the Chinese and Japanese don't go wobbly on us.
UPDATE: Y'all do realize I'm joking, don't you? After all, you can't seriously think I'd consider driving a Corvette?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 12:13 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
I WAS AFRAID THIS MIGHT HAPPEN....Uh oh, looks like D² is going native (scroll to "Coffee-break length Steven den Beste"). We might need an intervention here, folks.
And a note to Blogspot users: check the permalink for your most recent post if you have any hopes of other people linking to it. If it doesn't work — an all too frequent occurrence — wait a few minutes, then write a blank post above it, publish it, then delete it and republish. This usually works, though no guarantees.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 12:11 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
WAR AND INTELLIGENCE....Have you noticed how the war with Iraq has a magical effect on IQ and leadership abilities? Tony Blair, who is somewhere to the left of Bill Clinton and a bit shifty besides, is suddenly hailed as a hero and rock solid ally by conservatives who would have derided him as a weak, pitiful, grasping lefty just a couple of years ago. The transformation has been magical.
And those Hollywood actors — well, it's sad to see gruff, smart Lou Grant morph into dimwitted patsy Ed Asner, isn't it?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:58 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
WOW! YOU'VE WRITTEN FOR THE WASHINGTON TIMES?!?....Ampersand's cartoon is good today. But I wasn't the inspiration, although I wish I could take credit for it.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:39 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
OH, AND WE DIDN'T REALLY INTERN ALL THAT MANY JAPANESE DURING WORLD WAR II, EITHER....Ted Barlow puts this weekend's anti-war marches into perspective.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:34 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
WHERE ARE THOSE GROWNUPS WE KEEP HEARING ABOUT?....Daniel Drezner quoting Fareed Zakaria about Donald Rumsfeld:
When is the Bush administration going to learn this? They are statesmen, not bloggers, and cute quips aren't going to get the job done. They need to learn that patience, tact, diplomacy, and consultation are all good things in the long run.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:23 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
February 18, 2003
THE CASE FOR CALM....Since there was much talk in the blogosphere today about anger and its proper expression, tonight's bedtime story is about rage and redemption. If you don't like stories, of course, feel free to skip it.
They are looking for me. I can't see them yet, but they are around here somewhere, with their flashlights and two-way radios and heavy black shoes, talking to each other, and they are closing in. One of them is close to me now. I can feel his mind and his intent is written all over it: he is determined to hunt me down like an animal and kill me.
It is dark and cold in this alley and the young one is around the corner, his heavy black shoes moving slowly, very slowly, toward me. A moment later he turns the corner and works his flashlight across the alley, but finds nothing except old trash, fat brown rats, and puddles of urine.
Then, just as he steps past a garbage bin, he sees me, and at once he understands. He is quicker than I expect, however, for just as I am about to put him into a deep sleep he pulls out his gun and points it at me.
He has left me no time for subtleties. I scream pain and terror into his mind and in an instant he is unconscious. I recoil at the pain I have caused, but he will recover soon and I know that I had no choice. I know this as surely as I know he would have killed me had I given him the slightest chance.
Quickly I strip him of his clothes and put them on. I have done this before and I know just what to do. His radio is a common model and I work the controls easily. There is no one here, I say, I am coming back in. The tinny quality of the radio masks the awkward throatiness of my voice.
Unhurriedly I step out of the alley and into the street. The other policemen are on the other side. I wave to them and continue on my way. Five minutes later I am ten blocks away, safe once again. I have gained two hundred dollars and made a clean escape this evening. I have also nearly killed a man. It has not been a good night.
I have been in this city too long. It is my home town and I have allowed that to keep me here, even though I know better. In the last three weeks I have been caught twice, and both times, through my own carelessness, I have nearly killed a policeman. This is a frightening sign — perhaps I am losing control? — and also a source of danger. There are a great many policemen and they pose a very real threat to me when they act together.
So I will stay one more night and then leave. Perhaps I will find a smaller town this time, one more peaceful and less painful. The large cities, with their millions of minds, all loud and selfish and undisciplined, put me on edge, make me nervous. But at the same time they are more satisfying: there are more of them around, the people who want to kill me. It is difficult for me to leave them behind.
The next day I sleep through most of the daylight hours and wake only when darkness has fully come. The streetlights on the corner I have chosen are all either dim or burnt out completely and it is easy to hide. Several people walk by, but none of them is right. None is the right game.
The prey I am hunting is them: the vicious young thugs who inhabit all cities, the muggers of old ladies, extortionists of small shopkeepers, murderers of the innocent, the ones who have never in their miserable lives given a moment's thought to anything beyond their own pitiful needs. It is ironic that the police hunt me down, unaware that we have the same goal: protecting the world from them. The only difference lies in our methods of accomplishing it.
When I find one of them, I don't arrest him and I don't kill him. Instead I change him — permanently. I show him what he has done to his victims, the ones who are afraid to open their doors to strangers or buy food unattended or take a simple subway trip. I show him, quite simply, the hard, unyielding face of fear.
I am in a poor section of town and it is mostly old people who walk by, in a hurry to get home and scared to be out this late at night. I have no quarrel with them and I leave them alone. Their minds are mostly closed to me anyway and I catch only fleeting glimpses of them, just enough to make me feel sorry for them.
Soon, however, a familiar sensation crosses my mind and I reach out. It is there. One of them. I look around; he is across the street, so I start walking behind him. I am studying him as I walk, touching his mind. I reach more and more deeply until...
Not just a pale imitation like the others I have hunted, but one of the ones who was there, at the scene, all those years ago.
I quicken my pace and cross the street. Naturally I do not recognize him by sight: I was only eight when I last saw him, and unclearly even then. But I recognize his mind, swaggering down the street with the confidence of a small-time hood who owns the local police force.
My body shudders as I close in on him. I want to stop; reason tells me to follow him, find out where he is going, but suddenly reason is no longer in control of me. Within seconds I am there, and in a blind fury my mind leaps out, tearing at the man, twisting his brain into senselessness, searing his mind with thoughts of revenge.
He does not know who I am and that is unacceptable to me, so I tell him. He recoils in fear — he thought me dead — and with the pent up wrath of ten years I burrow into him, concentrating on making him feel the blind, helpless terror he once instilled in me. I am assaulting him savagely now, and I know that if I don't stop I will kill him. I have become one of the animals I hate, but I cannot stop myself.
Suddenly, there is someone behind me. I whirl around but it is too late: I feel a sharp crack on the back of my head. As I fall to the ground I see the person who has hit me. It is a policeman, an old one, old enough that his mind was able to creep up behind mine undetected while I was busy killing my enemy. As I crumble to the ground I extend my consciousness and find that I have one solace: I have killed him.
I am awake now. They have put me in a small cell, by myself. I don't know what it is, but I know what it is not. It is not a jail. It does not have bars across one side, only a rather ordinary door. It is not cold, and barren, and concrete. In fact, it is rather comfortable. I open my eyes further: there is a camera in one corner. Someone is watching me.
I have not moved yet and I close my eyes again. Two people are approaching the door and they are talking about me. I cannot hear what they say, but their meaning is clear.
There is something strange about him, one of them says. No, the other replies, he is just mentally disturbed. They are using psychiatric terms, of course, ones I could not understand if I could hear them.
I can, however, feel what they are saying and this is much more useful to me. They both agree that I am dangerous, and one of them, the one in charge, has medication of some sort, a tranquilizer. They have already given it to me once, but it is wearing off.
Since I have kept my eyes closed I do not notice it when they open the door. I only notice that their minds are coming much closer. I wait for the one-in-charge to pull out his hypodermic needle and lean over me. My mind is very sensitive now, and just when he is about to thrust it into my veins I tap his mind gently and he is asleep.
I knock out the second one quickly, relieve him of his key, and walk out into the corridor. Of course, there is a camera there too. I hope whoever is on the other end has chosen this moment to be asleep; I do not wish to deal with him too.
I walk quickly down the long, tiled corridor before I come to another locked door. Through the window I see a single guard. After trying several keys I come across the proper one, open the door, and leave him lying on the floor. They are such easy targets here.
As I reach the front door an alarm goes off. Someone has finally looked on the TV monitor and seen the two doctors lying in a heap in the middle of my cell. It is of no matter, however. I am far more experienced at evading guards than they are at catching inmates, and within ten minutes, despite a splitting headache and a lot of huffing and puffing, I am more than two miles away. Once again I am free.
Until the night my family was murdered I had no peculiar powers of mind. I was awakened that night by the shouting in the living room. I heard my mother's muffled, dying scream, and I was able to hide under my bed before the murderers came into my room, searching for anyone else in the house who might be a witness to their crime. They found both my seven-year-old brother and my five-year-old sister and slit their throats.
I was paralyzed with fear the whole time, unable to move a muscle even if there had been anything I could have done. When they quit the room they left the door open and I could see them dimly: three young, shabbily dressed, well built men with ignorant, bigoted hatred written on their faces.
One of them said something then. I didn't hear it, but I saw him turn around and come back toward my bedroom. Did he know there was someone else in there or was he just coming back to make sure his friends had done their job properly?
It didn't matter, for I was convinced he was coming back for me. Blind, horrible terror filled my heart and in a paroxysm of fear I lashed out.
At first it was utterly in self-defense that I did it. But when my mind made contact with his, the emotion turned to rage, both at him and at myself for thinking that there was anything this mindless scum could do to hurt me. I discovered in that instant that no matter what his physical attributes, he was no match for me.
It was all over in a second. Fear once again washed over me and I pushed myself out from under the bed and ran for the window. Moments later I was fleeing down the street. It was my first of many flights from them, and the only time — until now — I killed a man. If such a brute can be called a man.
It was not for some time that I discovered that I had lost the use of my hearing. At first this alarmed me, but soon I found that I could hear with my mind better than I ever had with my ears. With your ears you can hear only what people say; with your mind you can hear what they mean.
At first I could hear only dimly, sensing no more than the surface emotions that make up the ragged edges of people's thoughts. Even this quickly became too intense for me to bear, however, and I made up my mind that I could never again join the company of men.
It was simple, even then, to remain hidden. I knew which places were empty of people and chose those places to hide. I could sense when people were approaching and it was easy to escape. And, when I was taken by surprise, I could disable my pursuer with a flick of my mind.
It was easy to harness this rudimentary power, for it uses as fuel nothing but raw, primitive fear. As time passed, however, my powers developed further. I found that I could sense more than just a person's presence. Increasingly, I could discover what he was thinking, not just what he was feeling. I could sense images in his brain and I could anticipate what he would do next.
I can do that now. And my senses extend much further than they first did. It is this that will allow me to find the men who killed my family. Back on the dimly lit corner last night I found an image in the mind of the man I killed, an image of my parents buried deeply within him.
It is my image now, and I hold onto it tightly and jealously. I am going to use it as a beacon, to search out the other one who is still alive. His mind will have the same image buried within it, and all I have to do is look for it. I know I will find it, too, because the dead man told me so. He is still there, he said, waiting for you.
His wait will soon be over.
It is dusk now, time to begin. The street corner is as dim and cold as it was last night, but there is a difference: two policemen are there, rubbing their hands against the chill and cursing their luck at having drawn this assignment.
Obviously someone thinks I am stupid enough to show myself there again. Carefully I step into a sidestreet and make my way around one of the shabby, broken down buildings that make up this section of the city. I reappear a block farther down; the policemen are still on their corner, shuffling around, looking bored, waiting for their shift to end.
I am ready to start. All I need to do is go from building to building, looking for the image of my dead mother. It is around here somewhere; I can feel it.
I move in and out of buildings quickly. Nobody bothers me: this is not the sort of area where people inquire about your actions. They have business of their own and they go about it with their eyes on the ground, avoiding contact, wishing only to be left alone.
For two hours I search for the image. The man did not live far from here, but there are hundreds of buildings within half a mile of the street corner. Unfortunately, I did not start my search with a plan, so I find myself coming back to the same buildings once more, the same small, filthy lobbies with their identical rows of battered metal mailboxes.
I curse myself for my stupidity. I start again, but this time I search methodically. Up one street, down another, up, down, up, down. In a few minutes I have covered an entire block and go on to the next. In half an hour I am five blocks away and I have searched every building within two hundred yards of the street.
Another half hour and it is time to cross the street and make my way back. Up, down, up, down....
I can feel the ugly, repulsive mind, just as I did last night. I step into the lobby and look around. There is no one there except a small boy, who scurries up the stairs when he sees me.
I look at the mailboxes, running my finger over their rough surfaces, feeling for something. My eyes light on one of them: there are two occupants there, both sharing the same last name.
Of course! They are brothers. Suddenly, memories come flooding back and everything becomes clear: two of the three men who murdered by family were brothers. Last night I killed one of them and the other one is here, his brother's name still on the mailbox.
I fly up the stairs without another thought, holding in my mind only the idea of his death. The stench of his mind is everywhere now, overwhelming me, sending me into a killing frenzy. Savagely I kick at the flimsy door and it splinters open. Inside is the man I am seeking.
He looks startled and gets up slowly from the kitchen chair he is sitting in. There is a woman in there also, feeding a small baby no more than a year old.
He moves toward me, yelling something that I can't hear but can certainly understand. They are both radiating panic, but the woman does not have the sense to run across the hall for help.
I unleash a blast from my mind and he drops in his tracks. I am bringing up from his memory the image of my parents as he last saw them, letting him feel the fear and pleading they felt before he cut their throats. He writhes on the ground, trying to say something. But, as with all the others, nothing comes out.
I poke around in his mind savagely, looking for agony of any sort. When I find it I set it loose, but with far more intensity than it ever had the first time around. He is utterly under my control now, and I am surrounding him from all sides with pain and the memory of pain.
His past is an endless well of brutality. His father beat him when he was a small child, his teachers despised him for his dullness, his friends avoided him for his short temper. Unskilled and unfit, he has never been more than a step away from the unemployment line. He cannot support his wife, he cannot afford his only child, and he knows there is no hope that he ever will.
All at once: this is why he murdered my parents. His mind screams at me: people like you have taken away my livelihood, my money, my self respect. He hates me and everyone like me with a hatred nurtured from childhood.
I let up for a moment and he gasps for breath. Instantly I bore in once again, this time filling him with my own pain, a thousand times sharper than anything he has felt himself: the panic-stricken fear of a child watching his parents die, the crushing feelings of helplessness and guilt that come from being unable to stop it, the loneliness of being isolated from human companionship in a way no ordinary man can comprehend.
For a moment I hesitate, but I cannot wait. A shriek of fury looses itself from my mind and tears into his. His body jerks upright, nearly snapping his neck, and he falls.
Then, just as I am about to administer the final killing blow, something stops me — something behind me. I turn toward the woman, but she has made no motion save a protective squeeze to bring her baby closer to her breast. I sense that she feels no fear of me, and this surprises me. I feel compelled to find out why, so I reach out and touch the outer fabric of her mind.
She has given up completely. She has tried for years to forge a decent life with him, to make him give up his bitterness, but it did not work. Bad luck was followed by worse and now he is about to die, killed by a force incomprehensible to her.
She feels pity for me and love for her child. It washes over me and makes me feel limp. I have felt nothing like this since my parents died.
But why does she pity me? Somehow....she knows who I am, why I am here. I reach deeper into her mind.
She knows her husband's past — she knows that he was weaned on violence and hate. And she has known for years that someday he would get into trouble that he could not get out of — and that it has finally happened. She knows what motivates me. She can feel the razor-sharp force of revenge burning within me. And she knows, in some primal way, that I am alone in the world and her husband is to blame for that.
I look at her. She has a gentle face and understanding eyes. She understands, she knows. I feel her mind reach out to mine. I reel at the sensation but slowly come back. The press of her thoughts is warm and comforting.
I can feel revenge fading from my mind, but it is kicking and clawing desperately as it goes until, finally, I am near collapse. I slump heavily to the floor and stare at her. After a few moments she gets up and comes toward me. She holds out her child to me and I look at it dimly, finally taking it into my arms.
She sits on the floor next to me and holds me. Our minds meet. It is like a dream: she has gained the same control over her mind that I acquired all those years ago.
It was rage and hatred that sparked my mind out of its stupor then, but those are not the only emotions that can unlock the powers within us. Now, sitting on a cheap tiled floor with my mother's murderer ten feet from me, I remember what I forgot so violently on that dark night ten years ago.
There is still love in the world.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 11:53 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
WHAT'S NEXT FOR LIBERALS?....Two days ago Matt Yglesias asked:
I think Matt has answered his own question. Liberals have mostly been too busy protesting the war itself to spend any time pressuring the administration about post-war Iraq, and while this is understandable it also leaves a clear field for the neocon hawks in the administration to set any post-war policy they like.
But if there's a post-war agenda for liberals, promotion of democracy and human rights ought to be it. George Bush has repeatedly shown himself unwilling to take electoral risks — this is the big difference between him and Tony Blair — so it's up to the Democrats to make this issue their own. It's the right thing to do both morally and practically, and we should be willing to fight for it.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 04:52 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
YEAH, A RECALL CAMPAIGN SOUNDS LIKE A GOOD IDEA. LET'S DO IT!....The California Republican party, in an apparent effort to make Britain's Conservatives look like like a lean, mean, disciplined machine, has decided to launch a recall campaign against Gray Davis 15 weeks after he was re-elected. But they admit there could be problems:
And what, exactly, is the alternative vision they have for their campaign? That it's an altruistic bipartisan effort?
Are these guys complete idiots or what? Or is the party secretly run by Democrats who are giggling hilariously as they instigate one hopeless fight after another while they cruise through every election essentially unopposed?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 03:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
SLIPPERY EDITING AT THE LOS ANGELES TIMES.... CenterLine is a proposed light rail system for Orange County that's been in the planning stages pretty much forever. Here is today's headline about the project in the print edition of the LA Times:
Imagine my surprise. This could be a permanent headline for this project.
I checked all the other headlines from the front page of the Orange County section of the paper and there were virtually no changes at all. The changes that were there were obviously due to column width restrictions in the print edition and had no effect on the meaning of the headline. Only this one was completely rewritten.
And even stranger is this: the CenterLine story was the top story of the day in the local Orange County section. But on the LA Times website it's nowhere to be found, either in the Orange County section or the generic California section. Every other front page story is prominently displayed. I had to do a keyword search to find it.
This is the second time I've noticed some slippery editing regarding CenterLine at the Times. What the heck is going on?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 03:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
ANTI-AMERICANISM....I've been a strong proponent of the view that anti-Americanism in Europe is not as pronounced as American conservatives make it out to be, so in the spirit of not ignoring evidence I don't like, here's a passage from the Los Angeles Times today:
I don't know anything about Hondelatte or the show he hosts, and there's no way of knowing for sure if he's characterizing his callers correctly, but even so this is pretty depressing news.
UPDATE: More here.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 01:46 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
BUSH VS. GREENSPAN....Irwin Stelzer has an interesting article in the Weekly Standard today about Bush, Greenspan, and free trade:
And on a related note, is it just my imagination or is the Standard really a more interesting, more unpredictable, and basically more honest conservative magazine than National Review? It seems that way to me.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 12:33 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
BRITAIN'S ANSWER TO A.N.S.W.E.R....David Adesnik of OxBlog posts today on catfights between the socialists and the anarchists over responsibility for Saturday's anti-war protest in London. That sounds like a pretty good fight to me. I hope they both lose.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 11:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
It's always a little hard to know what to make of stories like this, which are sourced solely by people on one side of an issue who have a very large axe to grind, but it's pretty disturbing nonetheless. As the Goblin Queen says, if it's a choice between war and democracy, apparently war is the winner. It certainly hurts the credibility of all the hawks who claimed that one of the reasons to invade Iraq was that this time we were going to do it right and clean up all those messes we'd made in the past.
Meet your new foreign policy, same as the old foreign policy.
UPDATE: Nathan Newman has more. Apparently Tony Blair is doing the same flip-flop.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:22 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
February 17, 2003
DAREDEVIL....I saw Daredevil this evening, and it turned out to be fairly decent. It gets a B+ grade — assuming, of course, that this kind of thing appeals to you in the first place.
Comic book movies are pretty hit-and-miss affairs, so most of the time you go in with no idea at all of whether it will be terrific or pure dreck. In addition, this one had an added level of mystery for me: as a long-time (but mostly former) comic book guy, I usually go into these shows curious about how the movie folks will treat the sacred comic book canon. But I've never read the Daredevil comic book and know almost nothing about him, so it was pretty much just a pure movie to me. I have no idea how faithful it was to the original source material.
Anyway, it was one of the better ones. Maybe not as good as the first Batman movie, but in the same league. Worth a look if you like this kind of thing.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
CIVIL DEBATE....I already wrote once about this subject, and figured I would let it go at that, but Mark Kleiman has a post up today with some more details about the "Jane Galt goon squad," and it's worth reading.
I don't have much more to add except that I agree entirely with Mark: we all have a responsibility for what we say in public and what effect it might have, and several hundred pieces of hate mail is several hundred too many. I hope that none of my readers sent any of them, but if you did you should be ashamed of yourselves.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:56 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
A PHILOSOPHICAL QUESTION....Brian Weatherson and Matt Yglesias have read the Hall and Paul preemption paper and have some comments. So do I. Specifically, I have a question about the third sentence of the paper:
My question is this: is it safe to say that there is a clean, precise, and widely agreed upon belief that there is no subject in the philosophical world on which there is a clean, precise, and widely agreed upon belief? Or not?
And how, exactly, do Hall and Paul define "clean," "precise," and "widely agreed upon"? Until I get answers to these questions, I'm afraid I won't be able to read any further in the paper.Permalink | Comments (0)
LONDON CONGESTION CHARGES....Well, what do you know? It looks like London's congestion charge experiment has gotten off to a smooth start:
Today is a school holiday, so traffic was lighter than usual anyway, but even so the whole thing is apparently working pretty well. People know how to pay, the call center is up and running, and the first £80 fines for nonpayment are scheduled to go out tomorrow.
If it continues to go smoothly, I guess the next question is what they're going to do with the estimated £130 million per year that they get from the charge. If Livingstone is able to genuinely improve public transport with it, the whole thing might become fairly popular. If not, well....Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 04:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
MEMORY....I found out this morning that Elizabeth Loftus, one of the leading experts in memory and the tricks it can play on us, is now at UC Irvine. She presented her latest research on Sunday at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, including the following:
We all are convinced that our memories are perfect, but the evidence is sadly against us and this is one reason why eyewitness testimony in court cases — even from witnesses who are absolutely positive about what they saw — should be taken with a grain of salt. It's also why questioning of witnesses and suspects should always be captured on videotape. If this ever becomes common practice, I think we will all be shocked at the difference between what witnesses say on the stand and what they said when they were first interviewed. It's not a pretty sight.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 12:41 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
LOCAL TV NEWS....A few weeks ago Matt Yglesias commented that his local TV news was really, really bad, and suggested that it must be even worse in small markets where news budgets are correspondingly smaller. This prompted a bit of discussion, but no resolution.
Well, today resolution comes. The Project for Excellence in Journalism has spent the past five years studying local TV news, grading 172 stations according to criteria set by a panel of journalists, and recently decided to break down their rankings by market size. Their conclusion is that smaller stations actually produce higher quality news than bigger ones. Unfortunately, they don't know why:
Rankings for all the newscasts they studied are here, including these assessments of news broadcasts in Los Angeles:
Sheesh. But surprising news for Matt: despite your complaining, the best quality news in the entire country is in....Boston. And be sure not to move to Albuquerque after you graduate or else you'll find out what bad local news is really like.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 12:26 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
CONSUMPTION TAXES....Just a quick note about the idea of a "consumption tax" replacing our current income tax.
There are lots of different kinds of consumption taxes. The most obvious one is a sales tax, and 20 years ago there were some conservative fans of consumption taxes who promoted this idea. As it turns out, however, it's a crank idea on the same level as returning to the gold standard and it never got much real support. Ideology aside, the biggest knock against it is that it just wouldn't work. A national sales tax would have to be in the range of 20-30% (or higher) to replace the income tax, and all sorts of previous experience has shown that sales taxes above 10% just don't work. There's too much incentive to cheat and the system eventually breaks down completely.
A different type of consumption tax is a Value Added Tax, which resolves the cheating problem by giving both the buyer and seller in each transaction an incentive to make sure the other is paying their taxes. It works OK on a practical level, but it's always been a little "too European" to get any traction in America.
That brings us to the third type: an income tax that doesn't tax savings, investments, or corporate profits. For all practical purposes, the income that's left over is all the money that's spent buying goods and services, so this amounts to a sales tax.
Why bring this all up? Just to make the point that consumption taxes can indeed be progressive. In fact, the third type of consumption tax, which is the direction the Bush administration seems to be heading, can be made progressive the same way as an income tax: by having higher rates for higher incomes. Since rich people don't spend all their income, it would be less progressive than the current system unless the marginal rates at the high end were increased, but in principle it could be made pretty progressive.
There are plenty of other good reasons to oppose the elimination of taxes on savings and investments, but I'm not sure the progressivity argument is a very good one. I have a feeling it doesn't really hold up under much scrutiny.
Hopefully a tax guy like Max will weigh in on this at some point.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 11:37 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
LET'S MAKE A DEAL....Sam Heldman shows why he'll never be a politician. No, not because he was infuriated by Bill Clinton's compromising over judiciary nominations, but because he apparently thinks Bush might be willing to do the same thing.
Sam, Sam, Sam....Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:27 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
LIBERAL TALK RADIO....A group of wealthy Democratic donors wants to create a slate of liberal talk radio shows that would be syndicated across the country and compete with Rush Limbaugh. Hesiod doesn't like the idea:
I couldn't disagree more. The media may not be as liberal as conservatives like to paint it, but, truly, getting access to basic news is not a big problem. Rather, the problem is popularizing our ideas. As radio executive Kraig Kitchin said:
Simplifying things doesn't necessarily mean adopting the belligerent demagoguery of Limbaugh, Michael Savage, and the rest of the conservative mafia, but it does mean, well, simplifying. If humor can help get our points across, and if guys like Al Franken can help us do it, I'm all in favor of giving it a try.
UPDATE: Rush Limbaugh's reaction: "I didn't know there was such a thing as rich Democrats."Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:12 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
February 16, 2003
CONGESTION CHARGES IN LONDON....Starting Monday morning, you'll have to £5 if you want to drive into London. Mayor Ken Livingstone predicts a "very bad two or three days."
Oh yeah. Aside from the peculiar spectacle of a former communist known as "Red Ken" introducing a measure that would be applauded by Milton Friedman, I gather that the technology for the whole thing is just a bit dodgy. The kind of thing that happens when marketing guys decided to ship some software before the engineering guys say it's ready.
I can't wait to hear how it goes.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:52 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
WHAT THE WORLD THINKS OF WAR....So what does the rest of the world think of our little war? Thankfully, there's no need to guess any longer because eRiposte — in its typical chart-happy style — has laid it all out for us: opinion polls about the war from France to Albania to India and beyond.
The most hawkish country, of course, is the United States, but the second most supportive of unilateral action by the U.S. is, oddly, Uganda. And the most dovish country is....
Nah, I don't want to give everything away. Click the link if you want to find out more.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:33 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
RICE VS. RUMSFELD....On Meet the Press this morning, Condoleezza Rice had this to say:
But according to The Observer Donald Rumsfeld feels rather differently:
So which is it? And when are those famous grownups we've heard so much about going to be put in charge?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:22 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
PHILOSOPHICAL....Kieran Healy is a funny guy. I predict either (a) a long, happy, and stimulating marriage or (b) a swift, certain, and untimely demise. There is no excluded middle.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:04 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
QUIP OF THE DAY....Via Punditwatch, here is Al Hunt on Miguel Estrada's refusal to respond to questioning by the Senate Judiciary Committee:
Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 05:04 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
"PEACE IN OUR TIME"....Here's something I'm curious about. This Reuters picture has been posted a bunch of places in the blogosphere, always with the implication that the kids holding this poster must be really stupid. Don't they know that "Peace in our time" has been considered the ultimate expression of appeasement in the face of evil ever since World War II? It's hardly a slogan likely to make their point that we should leave Saddam alone.
What I'm curious about is this. It doesn't seem likely that the
slogan is an accident: "Peace in our time" is a peculiar grammatical
construction and it's unlikely that some protester just accidentally
stumbled across it. On the other hand, given that the placard-writer did know where the quote came from, why paint it on the sign? Overall, I can think of four possibilities:
Any other ideas?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 04:03 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
NEWS FROM SPAIN....Jose of News from Spain — a really terrific looking blog that I, unfortunately, can't read a word of — writes to comment on the crowd count from Madrid and Barcelona:
Crowd counting is notoriously subjective, but even so I thought this was an interesting comment. And considering that the population of Spain is around 40 million, this means that about 10% of the country turned out to protest the war.
Now that's impressive.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 11:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
The thing I'm curious about is whether Google will set up a genuine premium service. Speaking for myself, I find the Blogger interface to be adequate, so it's only the unreliability and frequent outages that bother me (in fact, Blogger is up and down like a yo-yo as I'm typing this). Most bloggers who get serious about blogging eventually solve this problem by switching to Movable Type and signing up for their own domain, but so far I've been too lazy to do that.
On the other hand, if Pyra offered a service that was genuinely fast and reliable, I'd sign up just because it would be easy. A few more built-in features in the interface would be nice too, but I'd sign up even without them.
Of course, this might turn out to make no sense from a business model point of view, the sad fate of so many things that "seem like a good idea." Maybe there just aren't many people like me who would pay for such a service, and the serious folks are all going to switch to Movable Type anyway. But it seems like it would be worth a try, and since Pyra knows exactly which bloggers have been blogging for a while, how often they post, and what kind of traffic they get — well, they know the target market for this service perfectly. Seems like it would be worth a try.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 11:21 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
U.S. UNILATERALISM....As a followup to the previous post, Matt Yglesias remarks today on just one of the potential problems of U.S. unilateralism. Responding to Condoleezza Rice's assertion that other countries should be helping out more with North Korea, he says:
This is a good point. When we repeatedly tell the UN that it is irrelevant unless it rubber stamps our goals, we send a clear message that advice and help from the rest of the world is unneeded and unwanted. But unfortunately, that's not a message we can turn on and off at will.
The difference between Iraq and North Korea is pretty obvious: we can handle Iraq on our own but we can't do the same with North Korea. So the lesson to our allies is this: if it's an easy problem you should all step aside and let us handle it however we want. But if it's a hard problem, we should all join together and figure out what to do.
Nice work if you can get it. But I suspect that Bush's hawks will eventually learn that in the real world even the United States needs willing allies, not merely sullen layabouts who are occasionally bribed to support us or bullied into standing aside. The only question is, how long will it take them?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:54 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
ANTI-WAR DEMONSTRATIONS....All mockery and sarcasm and horn-tooting from both camps aside, yesterday's anti-war demonstrations were really impressive. Jeanne d'Arc has a great roundup of the crowd count around the world, but the count from the big cities alone gives you a taste for just how big this was:
I think what's most impressive about this is that these people are protesting a war against Iraq. Vietnam-era protests were driven at least partly by the draft and partly by sympathy for the communist cause represented by North Vietnam, but neither of these dynamics is at work this time: there's no draft this time around and no one has a kind word for Saddam Hussein. Yet still they came.
Nick Denton has a smart comment about why things have come to this:
I'd go further: not only does Bush make no effort to persuade the folks on the fence, he actually goes out of his way — whether deliberately or not I don't know — to alienate them. A lot of protesters, both in the U.S. and abroad, are reacting more to Bush himself than they are to deposing Saddam Hussein.
I don't think any of this will cause America's security alliances to suddenly disappear in a puff of smoke, but there are surely going to be some long term consequences. And despite what the neocon hawks surrounding Bush think, this isn't a good thing for the United States. Or the world.
UPDATE: Madrid apparently had a huge turnout too. See above.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
February 15, 2003
SHORTER STEVEN DEN BESTE....WEST COAST EDITION....Apparently D² insists on taking weekends off — lazy sod — so can I take a crack at one?
Hey, that was fun! And note that I included a permalink so you can figure which one of SdB's posts I'm referring to.
Hint, hint.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 05:26 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
MORE ON THE ANTI-WAR PROTESTS....And speaking of conservo-libertarian-warhawkish responses to the anti-war protests, here is Megan McArdle with a different view:
Good for her. Megan was responding to the grief she's gotten for a comment she made a couple of days ago regarding violent anti-war protesters and New Yorkers with two-by-fours, which she explains thusly:
Now, Megan's comment was slightly intemperate, although in fairness she did make it clear that she was referring to violent protesters. But even so I'm glad to see that she has confirmed that she is not "advocating that they be torn apart by a mob of angry New Yorkers," and I trust that we can all remain friends now that this has been cleared up.
And just a general note on this subject: on both the right and the left there's a tendency to jump all over people who make joking or sarcastic references wishing harm toward other people. I agree that this kind of thing is inappropriate, but on the other hand we are talking about blogs here, not the op-ed page of the New York Times. We should probably try to keep the outrage dialed down just a bit.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 04:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
ANTI-WAR PROTESTS....The warhawks are in full-court mockery mode over the anti-war protests. As Tom Spencer puts it:
And Kieran Healy suggests that conservatives ought to be a little more trusting of all those people who, under other circumstances, make the free market tick:
Atrios has this report from Philly:
And I for one would like to thank the protesters. Even though I support the forcible removal of Saddam Hussein, this kind of thing should never be done without plenty of protest. It will probably still happen, but before it does the Bush administration should know that they've been in a dogfight with the UN, NATO, "old Europe," the voters of the United States, and anyone else who loves democracy but nonetheless has a bone to pick with our foreign policy.
Maybe we need to do it, but it shouldn't be easy.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 04:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
THOSE EURO-LOVING BUSHIES....I've been meaning to congratulate Windy City bloggers Jacob Levy and Dan Drezner for landing monthly columns at The New Republic Online, so let me take the opportunity right now. It's good to see smart bloggers get recognized, although I hope this doesn't mean that we will be losing Dan to the insidious clutches of the Volokh Conspiracy anytime soon.
Of course, it also doesn't mean they should expect to be treated with, you know, any more respect than in the past. Take Dan's inaugural column, for example. He has taken on the contrarian task of trying to show that the Bush administration is really a pretty friendly, multilateral group. They've just gotten a bum rap.
Sure, they trashed Kyoto, and they bad-mouthed the International Criminal Court even after the Europeans made Herculean efforts to accomodate our concerns, and of course there was the whole deal with unilaterally pulling out of the ABM treaty. Oh, and they never bother consulting with our allies either. "What more evidence does the world need of the administration's disregard for it?" Dan asks.
But maybe things look better if we show all the good stuff the Bush administration has done. Like invading Afghanistan — but without complaint from anyone else! And setting up steel and agricultural tariffs — but only as a crass political maneuver so we could do all sorts of good stuff, um, later. And writing documents that say we love our allies. And ignoring areas like the Balkans that we don't care about and letting the Europeans take the lead there. And, as Dan himself puts it, "threatening to act in a unilateral manner if it doesn't get most of what it wants through multilateral institutions."
Sorry, what was that argument again?
Call me unconvinced. It's true that we haven't abrogated every single treaty we're part of, but the fact that an alcoholic drives drunk only a few times a years and drives sober the rest of the time doesn't make him any less a drunk driver — or one to be feared. At the risk of stating the obvious, acting multilaterally when it works in our favor and refusing to when it doesn't — well, that doesn't really count as multilateral, does it?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 03:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
Most of the criticism of Hart has centered on whether his last phrase is a cryptic reference to Jews who put Israel's wellbeing above America's, but that's not really what Matt and Jacob object to. As Jacob puts it:
But isn't that exactly what Hart said? He didn't single out only "homeland loyalties," he also mentioned ideologues, militarists, and think-tank theorists. He obviously had a fairly broad range of special interests in mind when he said this. (Although I note that Jacob apparently thinks that "think-tankers, ideologues, and militarists" is also code for Jews....)
So here's my question for Matt and Jacob: both of you clearly state your opinion that Hart's concern is a legitimate one and that it isn't necessarily a sign of anti-semitism. So what's your real beef? That he didn't delve into it even further and in more detail?
Or is it just the way he said it? If Hart really was referring to Jews who are loyal to Israel, and if it really is a legitimate concern, how should he have talked about it?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 11:25 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
February 14, 2003
ARE WE FEELING A LITTLE RUSHED THESE DAYS?....Josh Marshall says:
In other words, the 2004 budget contained nothing for Afghanistan.
In other words, past budgets have contained money for Afghanistan. Both Joshes are right!
So what does Glenn Reynolds say? This:
Glenn, do you even read these posts before you link to them?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:31 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
FAITH-BASED INITIATIVES....You ever wonder what those "faith-based initiatives" that George Bush keeps praising are like? You ever wonder if, just maybe, there's a risk that they could end up mixing government money with religious proselytizing?
Well, wonder no more. One of the most popular of these faith-based programs is Chuck Colson's Prison Fellowship Ministries, which runs InnerChange, a program designed to "create and maintain a prison environment that fosters respect for God's law." In fact, according to the InnerChange website it's one of George Bush's personal favorites:
Now, Colson seems to do genuinely good work, but today Brian Montopoli points to a Washington Post story reporting that InnerChange is the subject of a pair of lawsuits in Iowa:
Of course, that's just what the suit says. Maybe they're exaggerating?
Nope. Eugene Volokh got this confirmation from Chip Lupu, a "leading religion-and-the-law scholar at George Washington University who's probably best described as mildly-liberal-to-moderate":
So, the bottom line is this: the Iowa program gives prisoners special privileges as long as they agree to become Christians.
And that's not a violation of the First Amendment? That's not using coerceive government power to promote one religion over another?
And if it isn't, what is?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 05:59 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
THE BLIX REPORT....The UN news was pretty anticlimactic. Hans Blix said this:
And then Colin Powell, who's been so hawkish recently, replied this way:
Isn't that odd? Since Blix's team definitively concluded that the missiles are proscribed, you'd think that Powell would at least ask the Security Council to call on Iraq to destroy them. I wonder why he didn't?
Wheels within wheels....Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 05:23 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
REPUBLICAN MONEY....DEMOCRATIC MONEY....Daily KOS reports the grim news that Republicans are expected to raise 5x more in "hard money" funds than the Democrats for the 2004 race. On the other hand, he also thinks things might not be quite as bad as they seem on the surface. I hope he's right.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 02:41 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
GENETIC TAILORING REDUX....Both Ampersand and Very Very Happy have responded to my post about genetic tailoring yesterday. Ampersand also has a lively discussion going on in the comments section, so check it out.
This is a big subject and there's a lot to talk about, but I think a large part of the reason I have a relaxed attitude toward the concept of genetic tailoring is that I don't really think there's a big distinction between natural genes and artificial ones. Artificial genes will still get passed down the same way as natural ones, recombining with other genes to produce random results, and environmental factors will continue to play a huge role in how those genes are expressed.
I think there's also an unfortunate tendency on the left to shy away from the subject because of its past. The eugenics movement of the early part of the 20th century is scary stuff, and conservative attempts to portray blacks as genetically inferior have made liberals suspicious of any talk about genetic components of personality characteristics.
This reaction is understandable, but I think it's misplaced. Rather than opposing the technology — along with its potential benefits — it simply means we need to be careful how it's used. In its early stages, when gene therapy will be expensive, its use will probably be too limited to have widespread societal effects. Later, when it's cheaper, I imagine it will be available to a large enough segment of the population that it might well act to break down barriers of class and race, not strengthen them. And keep in mind that if we oppose things simply because they are not initially available to the poor, then we might as well oppose pretty much all new inventions.
One more thing: I'd be careful about drawing conclusions about which personality characteristics have genetic components and which ones don't. The evidence isn't all in yet, and there's no question that environmental cues will always play a big role, but I think we're going to be surprised at just how many subtle personality traits end up having some genetic component. It's probably best not to be too dogmatic about the subject at the moment.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 01:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
THE REAL GEORGE W. BUSH....I just saw Bush's speech to a group of FBI agents on CNN and it highlights the personal aversion that I have to the man. Just as he did in the State of the Union speech, he made smirking references to the fact that thousands of al-Qaeda members "would no longer bother us" — taking a sort of sophomoric pleasure in the fact. He acts like a ten-year-old who thinks he's cleverly gotten away with saying something rude at the dinner table.
In fact, that was the only point in the speech where he seemed to really get animated. He practically started giggling in a wink-wink-nudge-nudge kind of way when he said this, and that kind of thing just sets my teeth on edge. In war people get killed, but it's not something to take pleasure in. I wish he'd show a little more respect and seriousness when he talks about killing thousands of people, even if some of them are terrorists.
I can only imagine how non-Americans react to this kind of juvenile spectacle.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 11:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
YET MORE V-DAY LEVITY....Single guy Matt Yglesias says:
Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:42 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
THAT DROLL BRITISH SENSE OF HUMOR....Jack Straw, Great Britain's foreign secretary, just opened his speech at the UN like this:
Even in times like this, a little levity is a good thing. Thanks, Jack.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:08 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
WHAT'S A "LIKUDNIK"?....From InstaPundit today:
This appears to be a slap at Hart, but apparently that's just the result of some hasty wording. Hart is never mentioned in the Post article, which, after a long lead-in, quotes a "senior government official" saying that "The Likudniks are really in charge now." The speaker is referring to Elliot Abrams and mentions that Abrams' hawkish views are shared by Cheney, Rice, and Rumsfeld.
Using "Likudnik" as slightly acerbic shorthand for "someone who is hawkish on Israel and strongly supports Ariel Sharon" — the head of the Likud party — seems pretty reasonable, perhaps the rough equivalent of saying "the Bushies are in charge" referring to Tony Blair's government. I'm not really sure why Glenn would even bring this up, but perhaps he'll explain what he meant sometime later today.
UPDATE: For what it's worth, a couple of readers have written to say that the "nik" suffix is commonly used in Israel and is roughly equivalent to "ite" in English. So calling someone a Likudnik would be about as anti-semitic as calling someone a Clintonite would be anti-Democrat.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 08:52 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
MORE V-DAY GREETINGS....Archpundit points us to a report in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch admitting that while "true romance is rare in these cynical times," it's not entirely dead. In fact, Mary Rosh seems to have found her soulmate....Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 08:37 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
February 13, 2003
HAPPY V-DAY!....Kieran Healy, blogging from the future again, wishes all bloggers a happy Valentine's Day. Hey, we love you too, man.
And now, having successfully avoided blogging about the war for a full day, I'm off to bed. Good night.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 11:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
JUST SAY NO....I'd like to join Atrios in applauding the imminent passage of a bill to implement a national do-not-call registry. Put your name on the registry and telemarketers are no longer allowed to call you. Charities, surveyers, and, of course, political organizations, are exempt.
This is one of those things where I don't even care what moral principles are involved. I just want the calls to stop.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 11:14 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
You can make license plates from all 50 states plus Washington DC and the various Canadian provinces, and you can make a current plate or pick a classic model. For California, you have a choice of 1915, 1939, 1945, 1956, 1963, 1969, 1984, 1987, 1993, and 1998.
As Jim says, insomnia can do weird things to people. Indeed it can, and insomnia is one malady for which the internet seems tailor made.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:44 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
TALKLEFT TALKS TO HART....Hey, this business of bloggers doing interviews with people seems to be spreading. Jeralyn Merritt talked to Gary Hart for half an hour today and confirms that there was nothing anti-semitic in his much-blogged speech about foreign policy a couple of days ago. Check it out.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 05:38 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
BUSH AND HIS DEFICITS....I'm trying hard not to blog about the war today — not an easy task with CNN's "all war all the time" broadcasts going on in the background — but I'm going to keep at it because, well, I'm just tired and depressed about the whole thing. Besides, tomorrow looks to be a big war news day, so I'm going to hold off until then.
In the meantime, let's take a look at a perennial favorite: the laughable lengths that conservatives will go to in order to prove that Bill Clinton was a horrible president. Jerry Bowyer argues today in NRO that, hey, the Bush deficit for 2004 isn't so bad. In fact, it's not even as bad as Clinton's deficits.
This seems....what? Dubious, perhaps? But Bowyer has a table chock full of figures to prove it, and figures don't lie, do they? Why, if you take a look at the table below you'll see that Bush's deficit ranks only 12th in the pantheon of American deficits, and a miniscule 21st as a percent of GDP! The guy's a miser! So, Bowyer asks, "From whence has arisen the myth of Clinton the deficit hawk and Bush the king of red ink?"
Whence indeed? The real question, however, is, can't these guys even be bothered to pretend to tell the truth anymore? Look what Bowyer had to do to get his figures:
That's enough, really, to show that Bowyer simply
doesn't care about making things up if that's what it takes to make his
point, but, incredibly, there's more:
And don't you like the fact that he goes all the way back to 1940 so that he can include all those nice World War II deficits? If you take those off the list, and correctly ascribe the 1993 budget to GHW Bush, you find that every single deficit on his greatest hits list is from a Republican president.
And who is Jerry Bowyer? He's the "chairman of Bowyer Media, a company specializing in radio and television production, print and internet publishing and economic analysis." I guess they couldn't dig up a single actual economist — even a conservative one — to put his name to this shameless piece of deceit. I'm not surprised.
UPDATE: TBOGG takes a closer look at Bowyer and sees the heavy hand of Richard Mellon Scaife behind him. What a surprise.
Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 04:43 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
OUR GENETIC FUTURE....In the Los Angeles Times today, Caroline S. Wagner writes about genetic tailoring:
Hmmm, that doesn't sound too horrifying, does it? But there's more:
Don't get me wrong: I'm all in favor of moving deliberately and carefully on this kind of thing. Dangers abound, and we should be cautious and honest in dealing with them.
But when we get past the technical hurdles and move on to the fundamental moral and societal issues, I just don't understand the objections. We are "all created equal"? Nature has already seen to it that this isn't true even today. Gene therapy will be initially available "only to the wealthy"? Maybe, but if the next Einstein or Shakespeare is born to wealthy parents, that's OK with me — we'll all benefit. It might be abused by some future Saddam Hussein to create an army of people who are "especially aggressive and warlike"? Sure, and airplanes can be flown into buildings.
There are dangers involved in genetic tailoring, and the technology is still decades away, but it strikes me that the potential for good vastly outweighs the potential for misuse. After all, what's the real objection to giving birth to children who are smarter, more compassionate, or better problem solvers? Since most of human progress has come from exactly those kinds of people, I'd think the more the better.
And from a practical point of view, if the technology really can be used for vile ends, shouldn't we be moving full steam ahead with research? After all, given that someone is bound to do it, wouldn't you feel better if the United States were the world leader in this technology, not Osama bin Laden?
UPDATE: Very Very Happy disagrees, suggesting that genetic tailoring will create a permanent group of genetic haves and have nots. I don't think this is necessarily the case, but it's certainly a valid concern.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 02:27 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
CELL PHONE UPDATE....Hey, New York City has banned cell phone use at "public performances, including plays, movies and concerts, and in galleries and museums." Is this sort of trivial? Is it unenforcable? Maybe even a little silly?
Sure, but good for them anyway. Even if it's just a PR effort, it's about time someone stood up and officially told these all-too-numerous yo-yos that in the adult world there's a time and a place for everything. Movie theaters and cell phones just don't mix.
And in other cell phone news, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak is moving out of his house because his cell phone doesn't work there. Really.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 02:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
IT'S FILIBUSTER TIME!....Jay Caruso thinks that "Democrats are going to shoot themselves in the foot by filibustering the nomination of Miguel Estrada."
I think not, Jay. The Democrats have finally learned that compromising with George W. Bush gets them nothing. Bush plays an unusually mean game of hardball, and even if you work with him, even if you refrain from harsh criticism of him, even if you vote for his programs — even then, he is a partisan animal who does everything in his power to screw you and backs down only in the face of overwhelming force. The 2002 elections removed any lingering doubts on that score.
But hey, that's OK! Just don't go complaining when the Dems finally figure it out and decide to play hardball back. Estrada himself is probably not all that important, but the fact that the Senate Democrats have finally developed some backbone is.
So sit back and enjoy the ride. But fasten your seat belt, because it might start to get a little bumpy.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 11:51 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
ADVISE AND CONSENT....Matt Yglesias points to a document from Pat Leahy's office that lays out the raw number of judicial confirmations by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Here's a good excerpt, simple enough even for Rush Limbaugh to understand:
Yep, those Democrats sure were obstructionist, weren't they?
And of course, let's not forget all that principled conservative fiddling around with the blue slip process, either....Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 11:42 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
C.P. SNOW LIVES!....Ah, memories.....
Jeanne d'Arc links today to a Los Angeles Times feature story about the dreaded humanities requirement at Caltech, ground zero for geekdom here in sunny Southern California. As you can see from the fine sample of student journalism reproduced at the right, the Humanities Division (no "colleges" at Caltech!) has long occupied a sort of no man's land at Caltech, striving for respect but, as I wrote 26 years ago, always in fear that it will be reduced to "that most dreaded of entities: the service department."
Now, I never minded the humanities requirement myself, for reasons that should be obvious to anyone who reads the copious output of this blog, but even back in 1977, when the male-female ratio was more like 10:1 (the Times says it's now about 2:1, which is actually pretty impressive progress) I don't recall that it was the subject of all that much complaining. That "20%" number the Times mentions amounts to a requirement that you take one humanities class per term, which most of us thought was not really all that onerous.
As Jeanne notes, her interest in this subject was piqued by a "dumb post insulting engineers" from last September. It wasn't dumb, in fact, but it was the post that first got me reading her blog and I wrote her an email agreeing that "An awful lot of engineers think that the hyper-rationality that works in science can also solve problems outside of science."
However, I then immediately took her to task for one-sidedness, and I stand by that. Grumble though they might, most Caltech students recognize the value of humanities classes, but the same cannot be said for their opposite numbers. In fact, I'd venture to say that most English Lit majors, for example, take the bare minimum number of math and science classes mandated by their university's breadth requirements — usually not more than two or three "physics for poets" style classes — and never set foot in a technically oriented class again. In an increasingly technical world, I think this is every bit as myopic and misguided as a belief that iambic pentameter is "useless" and therefore not worth studying.
Of course, we're not exactly breaking new ground with this discussion. After all, 1959 was 44 years ago, and how many of you reading this can describe the Second Law of Thermodynamics? Better get cracking!
POSTSCRIPT: And for those interested in geek terminology, a quick lesson:
UPDATE: On the other hand, Chad Orzel reminds us that there's also "Poetry for Physicists"....Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 11:26 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
TV RECOMMENDATIONS....Don't forget, the first episode of Survivor Amazon is on tonight! They're promising a battle royal of the sexes this time around.
You are all going to be watching, aren't you?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
February 12, 2003
FRIDAY SHOULD BE INTERESTING....Hans Blix's folks have confirmed that missiles currently in Iraq's arsenal exceed UN limits (they have a range of 114 miles instead of the allowed 90 miles). In the great scheme of things this probably wouldn't matter much except for this:
A small material breach is one thing, and probably wouldn't change anyone's opinions. But if Saddam refuses to turn them over, then what? It hardly seems likely that even the French could defend the inspections regime at that point.
UPDATE: Kevin Batcho asks the equally interesting but opposite question: what if the Iraqis agree to destroy the missiles? After all, they did declare them voluntarily. Can Bush and Blair still justify an attack?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
GENEALOGY UPDATE....One of the great services that the Mormon church provides to the world is its enormous collection of genealogical information. They have been collecting and microfilming anything they can get their hands on for over a century, and they are a tremendous resource for researchers.
That's where I was this afternoon: at my local LDS Family History Center looking through old English parish records with my mother. Mostly it was a bust, and we turned up virtually nothing new. But not completely a bust: we did find the original marriage record for my great-great-great-great-grandparents, Joseph Membry and Mary Ann Lavinder, in Bath Abbey on September 11, 1814. Pretty exciting, eh?
But jeez, they sure did pick a bad day to get married on, didn't they? It reminds me of a guy I read about who was born on September 11 — as about 1 million Americans are — who complained that he would never again be able to celebrate his birthday on its real day. Some people just have no foresight, do they?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
THE RIGHT WING....Patrick Ruffini thinks there ought to be a conservative version of The West Wing and has posted a bunch of episode summaries at his site. It's pretty amusing, but this episode caught my eye:
Huh? No private individual would ever run a rat-infested slum? You, uh, don't get out much, do you Patrick?
But I admit that this one is pretty funny, in an inside-bloggerish kind of way:
Newly engaged as you are, though, you are planning to hold on to your day job, aren't you....?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:43 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
ET TU, COLIN?....Mark Kleiman notes that we now know Colin Powell was, um, stretching the truth when he claimed that Osama bin Laden said he was "in partnership with Iraq" in his taped message. His comment:
That's a very pithy way of putting it. And I'd like to say that, quite aside from endorsing Mark's enchanting use of the past tense here, I completely agree with his post. Like him, I'm also having a very hard time staying on board given the Bush administration's escalating (!) fondness for (a) lying and (b) striving with almost lunatic intensity to destroy every international alliance we have.
As Mark said, it's getting really, really, hard.
UPDATE: On a similar note, Josh Marshall has a very good post up today that says this about Bush's attempts at working with the rest of the world:
Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 06:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
STEPHEN GREEN HATES GERMANY TOO....ARE THERE ANY EUROPEANS LEFT THAT HE DOES LIKE?....Stephen Green says:
Let me translate: I really liked Germany when they did everything we wanted them to, but now that they don't, "There is something sick and wrong and not-so-buried at the heart of the German culture." At least we're clear about what it takes to be considered a proper country.
And on another subject: how many people believe that Stephen really "wept tears of pure joy" when Germany was reunited?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 05:44 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
WARTIME LOYALTIES....Chris Bertram has a terrific post today about wartime loyalties. The bottom line? During the Falklands War America's support was tepid at best, while in many ways "Mitterrand and the French were our greatest allies."
Our petulant demands that everyone support our wars wholeheartedly would be a little more credible if we were willing to do the same for our allies. But we aren't, are we?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 05:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
NORTH KOREA UPDATE....Here's an interesting pair of articles. First, the director of the CIA testified today that, yes, North Korea has missiles that could reach the U.S. This was the reaction from the White House:
Yes, indeed, let's downplay this. Then there's this story that seems to have been ignored by just about everyone except the Los Angeles Times:
Redeployment of U.S. troops is something that's been on the table for years, and it seems odd that the Bush administration would pick now of all times to start talking about it publicly. Of course, everyone's immediate thought was that this is some kind of punishment for Germany's opposition to the Iraq war, so the proposal to reduce our troop presence in South Korea slid by with barely a mention.
Somehow this doesn't strike me as just a coincidence. Rather, someone decided that the current NATO spat was a great cover for a decision to reduce troop presence in South Korea without looking like we were appeasing the North Koreans. If you do it real smooth, they figured, no one will even notice.
And apparently no one has. But I'll bet there's more to this than meets the eye.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 04:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
TIA IS DEAD....OR AT LEAST SERIOUSLY ILL....Patrick Nielsen Hayden reports the welcome news that Congress is on the verge of killing the "Total Information Awareness" program — or at least severely restricting it. And a big part of the reason is that they don't trust the head of the project, Iran-Contra liar-in-chief John Poindexter.
Good for them. About time Congress started showing a little backbone.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:58 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
A LOOK AT THE BIG BANG....This is cool: the first comprehensive map of the early universe from MAP, the Microwave Anisotropy Probe.
It pins down the age of the universe as 13.7 billion years old and
confirms that ordinary matter makes up only 4% of the mass of universe.
We've known for a long time that the value of Omega is pretty close to 1, and for that reason I've always suspected that the universe must be flat. It seemed an unlikely coincidence that out of all the possible values of Omega, it should be so close to 1 unless it really was 1 — for fundamental reasons of some kind.
And so it is. MAP confirms that the universe is flat and is full of some kind of mysterious "dark energy" that acts as a sort of anti-gravity, pushing the universe apart. The universe is expanding, and it's expanding at an ever increasing rate.
In other words, much like President Bush's deficit....Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:47 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
POST-WAR IRAQ....Yesterday I complained about the Bush administration's inability (or unwillingness) to articulate their goals for a post-Saddam Iraq. Since suspicion of our motives is a big reason for European resistance, this silence seemed to be yet another example of the contempt for allies and world opinion that's characterized Bush's administration since its first day.
Well, it turns out that the administration has finally laid out what they want to do in Iraq, and by coincidence they did it just a few hours before I wrote my post. And the picture that was laid out by Douglas Feith, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, was mighty pretty. As Tim Dunlop says:
Feith testified that "war for oil" is a "false and malign" slogan and we will administer Iraq's oil wealth "transparently and honestly." We will not "leave a mess behind for the Iraqi people to clean up without a helping hand," but at the same time we have a "commitment to leave as soon as possible, for Iraq belongs to the Iraqi people."
There's more. The United States "aspires to liberate, not occupy or control them or their economic resources." We will "safeguard the territorial unity of Iraq." And we love multilateralism: "U.S. post-war responsibilities will not be easy to fulfill and the United States by no means wishes to tackle them alone. We shall encourage contributions and participation from coalition partners, non-governmental organizations, the UN and other international organizations and others."
I join Tim in hoping that this indeed all comes to pass. But I have a few questions:
The difference between congressional testimony from an undersecretary of defense and a major speech by the president of the United States is incalculable. The New York Times and Washington Post covered Feith's testimony — barely — and the Los Angeles Times ignored it, but neither they nor the European press would ignore a major speech by Bush himself along these lines.
Even at this late date a speech from Bush himself could have a significant impact on world opinion. So why won't he do it? Even if the Bushies are as contemptuous of world opinion as they seem to be, you'd think they would want allied support as a purely practical matter. So why not take the high road and do your best to earn the support and sympathy of the world?
It's all very peculiar.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 08:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
February 11, 2003
RON ZIEGLER....The Luckenbachs eulogize Nixon press secretary Ron Ziegler:
Yep, Ron was the prototype, all right.
Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 08:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
WAR AND SACRIFICE....And speaking of the Bush administration's delicate tap dance about the war, Paul Krugman notes today that Bush is apparently afraid that public opinion would collapse if he so much as breathed a word about sacrifice in the cause of war. For evidence of this, look no further than budget director Mitch Daniels on CNN last week:
Sacrifice, hell, they're afraid even to mention that a war might cost some money. Let's hear it for moral clarity.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 06:57 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
ISN'T IT TIME FOR GEORGE BUSH TO SHOW SOME LEADERSHIP?....It's
not clear — especially at this point — whether anything would budge
European opinion about invading Iraq, but surely a number of their
objections could be dealt with fairly easily:
Unfortunately, Europeans have every reason to be suspicious of Bush's intentions given his continuing silence on these three points. I figure that the reason he hasn't spoken about them is either (a) the Europeans are right or (b) he's afraid that speaking honestly about a post-war program would damage public opinion in the U.S. and hurt him politically.
Assuming (charitably, perhaps) that the answer is (b), it highlights the enormous difference between Bush and Tony Blair. Blair believes in this cause strongly enough that he's willing to take an enormous political risk to make it happen, literally betting his prime ministership on the outcome. George Bush, on the other hand, isn't even willing to put the cost of the war into his 2004 budget. Isn't it about time that he put his money — and his political credibility — on the line at least as much as his junior partner is willing to?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 06:23 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
CATCHING CROOKS VIA MINDREADING....TalkLeft has a story today about a guy who has a technique for peering into someone's thoughts to find out if they've committed a crime:
As it turns out, it's unlikely his invention actually works, but what if it did? Would it be a good idea?
Here's a thought experiment: suppose this guy actually had a
foolproof, nonintrusive way of determining if a suspect in a crime were
telling the truth:
The reason these questions are interesting is that it wouldn't surprise me if such a technique — genuinely reliable and easy to use — were developed sometime in the next few decades. If it is, should we use it?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 05:33 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
URL UPDATE....Jeff Cooper has a new address and a new look:
Adjust your bookmarks.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 05:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
SUMMER BLOCKBUSTERS....This is ridiculous. Apparently there's going to be a movie out this summer called Pirates of the Caribbean and another one called Haunted Mansion.
Are they just going to go through the whole list of rides at Disneyland? What's next, Autopia: The Movie?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 04:33 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
OSAMA BIN LADEN STILL ALIVE?....According to an AP dispatch, Osama bin Laden is alive and talking:
(The story is developing, so the excerpt above will probably be replaced by other text as the day goes on.)
Only time will tell if this message is genuine, but if it is — well, it's a powerful weapon in the campaign to truly galvanize American opinion to invade Iraq. Thanks, Osama.
UPDATE: Here's a BBC translation of the entire message.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 12:04 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
BUSH AND EUROPE....Turkey has asked NATO to provide help in case it is attacked in a war with Iraq. France, Belgium and Germany have vetoed the request. George Bush is incredulous:
Those perfidious French, preventing poor little Turkey from defending itself against the depradations of Saddam Hussein. How could they?
This is absurd. Why would NATO agree to assist in planning for a war it hasn't agreed to wage? George Bush now appears willing to bust up an alliance that's of tremendous benefit to the U.S. over a war that he seems to think has been ordained by God.
Well, it hasn't been. I'm personally persuaded that the only way Saddam Hussein will ever be reined in is by use of force. But the UN isn't persuaded yet, NATO isn't persuaded yet, the American public doesn't seem to be truly persuaded yet, and the unsettling fact is that the fault for this lies directly with George W. Bush. If he had half the diplomatic skill and common sense of his father, he wouldn't be in this mess.
There's nothing wrong with Bush pushing hard for an agenda he believes in, but in the end, if he fails to persuade our friends, our allies, and the world, he should back off. I don't mind making an enemy of Saddam Hussein, but I do care about making an enemy of half the world. George Bush should care too.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 11:18 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
ALAN GREENSPAN DISAPPOINTS THE REPUBLICANS....Paul Krugman wondered aloud last week if Alan Greenspan would keep a bit of dignity when he testified before congress today, or whether he would simply confirm that he's nothing but a shill for the Republican party. Apparently, he decided he's had enough and rubbished the Bushies' claim that economic growth would wipe out the deficit all on its own:
Let's summarize his testimony in normal English, shall we?
In other words, virtually every single thing the Republicans are doing is bad for the economy. Not bad! The old guy still has a little bit of spine left in him.
Unfortunately, there was this too: "He also said he was not overly concerned with the risk of a decline in the price of housing...." So even after the stock market bubble of the 90s, Greenspan still doesn't seem to be concerned about asset inflation, this time in the form of a housing bubble. Will he never learn?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:39 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
EYE OF THE BEHOLDER AND ALL THAT....Jesse thinks the Republicans have had a bad week. I dunno, seemed pretty normal to me....Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:33 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
V-DAY....I always knew an MBA had to be good for something. Thanks Megan!Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:08 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
HEALTH INSURANCE AND GENETIC SCREENING....I've mentioned before my belief that universal single-payer healthcare — like it or not — is inevitable due to advances in genetic screening. Basically, the argument is that if people are screened for risk and the results are kept secret from insurance companies, then only the highest risk people will buy insurance and the insurance companies will go out of business. Conversely, if the information is shared, a large number of people will be completely shut out of the insurance market.
Today, Daniel Davies tells us that it might actually be worse: due to some intricacies in the way insurance companies work, even healthy people might not be able to get insurance.
I'm surprised this issue doesn't get more attention in the U.S. The issues are pretty well known and, honestly, I don't think it can be more than 10 or 20 years before genetic screening gets to the point that it essentially causes the collapse of the private health insurance market. As usual, I suppose, we'll do nothing about it until it becomes a crisis.
Oh well, as long as you're over at D-squared you can check up on the latest Den Beste mockery too. Scroll down to February 8th and you'll see that he's really feeling the pressure, yes he is.....
UPDATE: Nicholas Kristof has a column in the New York Times today on this subject. Check it out.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 08:54 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
ERIC ALTERMAN AND WHAT LIBERAL MEDIA?....I guess it's interview month at CalPundit. The interview with Josh Marshall last week was fun, so after I finished reading Eric Alterman's What Liberal Media? I emailed to ask him if he'd do an interview too. He agreed — probably as compensation for doing some gratis proofreading of his book — and we spent half an hour on the phone Sunday evening.
Alterman has been a media critic for over a decade, writing a regular media column for The Nation and a 1992 book, Sound & Fury, about the rise of the Washington "punditocracy" and its corrosive effect on political discourse in America. What Liberal Media? goes a step further and talks about day-to-day coverage of political issues and Alterman's belief that not only is the media not friendly to liberals, it's downright hostile.
Alterman doesn't hold out much hope that conservatives will change their tune — the charge of media bias is too important a part of their broad strategy — but he's optimistic that his book might put some backbone into reporters who have been cowed by relentless charges of bias for the past three decades: "I’m hoping there’s this strata of the media, people like Peter Jennings or Tom Rosenstiel, who will read my book and see that the evidence is really compelling on the other side." I hope so too.
My review of What Liberal Media? is here.
Eric Alterman's daily blog on MSNBC is here.
A Nation cover story adapted from the book is here.
And now the interview:
Your book seems to imply that, say, 30 years ago, conservatives had a legitimate point about liberal media bias. Do you think they did?
Yeah, I think that’s probably true. It depends on how you define liberal, but I think Barry Goldwater had a problem, that’s true.
You have to go that far back?
I think in 1964, 1968, 1972, yes. I’d say the turning point was probably 1978, midway through the Carter administration. That’s when conservatives got the upper hand in both politics and media.
What caused that? Why 1978?
A couple of things caused it. One is that the conservatives invested an enormous amount of money in an infrastructure of ideas beginning in 1964, when Richard Mellon Scaife figured out that they couldn’t win just by putting up a candidate. I think that investment in the intellectual superstructure started to pay off 14 years later.
I also think the world became more conservative. Vietnam was a catastrophe and it was a liberal catastrophe, and the war on poverty was a catastrophe, and that was a liberal catastrophe, and even though it’s kind of unfair to blame liberals in both cases, everybody did.
And then the Soviets got much more adventurous around that time, and the whole civil rights movement, the whole “We Shall Overcome” period in American history became transformed into the black power moment of history, and that black power moment of history didn’t really work for anyone, particularly liberals. So liberalism was kind of exhausted by that period, it didn’t have any answers, and the conservatives were ascendant and self confident, and journalism just picked up on it.
You spent a hundred pages or so at the beginning of the book talking about opinion leaders – the “punditocracy” – in the press and TV, and yet I’ve always thought that what conservatives were really complaining about was ordinary newsroom reporters and their biases....
You know, I just did this really unbelievably stupid show on MSNBC today and I got in a big fight with them. They had three conservatives on plus me, and they wouldn’t shut up about Dan Rather. For some reason they have an almost sexual obsession with Dan Rather.
So no, I don’t think it’s about everyday reporters. I think they have this idea that these elite reporters look down on them, and Rather’s a symbol of that. It’s all these guys who live in New York and Washington, make a lot of money, and have contempt for the values of everyday people, the elite of the elite.
I mean, on this stupid show, this guy Joe Scarborough would say, “Oh I love you elites, you’re so....amusing.” I mean, I’m just some guy there, but I’m the elite and that makes me the enemy.
Well, when I say newsroom reporters, I’m thinking of reporters from the New York Times, the Washington Post, and so forth, and in your chapter on social bias you as much as said that, yeah, they are biased....
Look, the truth is, I don’t know anybody except Christopher Hitchens, maybe George Stephanopoulos, who’s anti-abortion. I don’t know a single person in my life who’s anti-gay rights. In the media world in which I live, everybody has basically the same views on social issues, everybody supports gay marriage, everybody supports abortion rights, everybody I know supports gun control.
So I think they’re right that in the liberal elites everybody basically has these views on social issues. But I think that because they’ve been beating up the liberal elites for so long, the media have grown particularly cowardly on these issues and have bent over backwards to try and give the conservatives what they want, so that it no longer matters that much that they happen to be right about journalists’ views on these social issues. I think that the journalists’ views aren’t very important in terms of how the news is reported.
Do you think there are any social issues where there’s a conservative bias?
No, although I do think there are examples of journalists who are liberal on social issues bending over backwards to be sympathetic to conservatives. There’s this whole indulgence of Pat Robertson, who is insane, he’s crazy, but he’s treated as a serious commentator.
You know, Pat Robertson is right next to Jerry Falwell agreeing with him when he said that God was punishing America and that’s why we had 9/11. And yet, when George Bush announced that ridiculous Middle East policy of his, the very first commentator that CNN went to was Pat Robertson, who knows nothing about the Middle East except that it’s supposed to cause Armageddon and the coming of the Messiah, or something like that. So there’s an indulgence of people like Falwell and Robertson, who have no expertise on anything except their own particular niches in American politics, and they’re treated respectfully when they say the most ridiculous things.
Why do you think that is? People like Falwell, Robertson, and Ann Coulter aren’t even taken very seriously by conservatives, and yet they end up on TV. How does that happen?
Well, I spent a lot of time in the book on Coulter. I used to work with her and I don’t like her. We were both hired to be pundits on MSNBC when it first began. We were both there the very first day it was on the air, and the stuff that was coming out of her mouth, I couldn’t believe my ears.
But MSNBC kept her back then, simply because she was good looking, and she was a woman, and she was conservative, and they loved the idea that a woman was conservative, just like they love the idea that they had all these black conservatives. I used to joke back then that I’d heard that Quincy Jones had married Peggy Lipton, you know, from Mod Squad, and I said if they had a daughter who was conservative she’d get a lifetime contract on MSNBC because she’d be a black blonde conservative.
Do ordinary reporters still believe all this stuff? You say they’re cowed by charges of liberal bias, but do they still believe it, do they react to it, or do you think they’re catching on?
Do they believe it? Yeah, they believe it because they don’t think about it. The conservatives have invested so much money in this notion of liberal bias in the media that they buy into it even though there’s very little evidence to support it.
They keep waving that one goddamn study from 1992, which turns out to disintegrate when you look at it carefully. But most journalists believe it. If you read the stories about that study, you’ll find people like Howie Kurtz, even Tom Rosenstiel, who I respect, all buying into it. Peter Jennings.
They all buy into this notion, even though the evidence just doesn’t support it. But I’m hoping there’s this strata of the media, people like Peter Jennings or Tom Rosenstiel, who will read my book and see that the evidence is really compelling on the other side. I don’t see how you can read the chapters that I wrote on Florida, or the Gore campaign, and say that the Democrats had an advantage with the media. I just don’t see it.
Some people think that we should just give up on the whole idea of an objective media, go to the European model....
Yeah, I said that in Sound & Fury. I still believe that.
I don’t even really believe in the idea of facts or opinions. I believe
in context. I believe there are certain things you need to know to
understand the story, and they’re not necessarily factual and they’re
not necessarily opinion, but they could be either one.
Who do you think are the best liberals out there writing or talking on TV today?
Well, the problem is that most of them are my friends. One who is not my friend, who I don’t know at all, but I think does a great job, is Paul Krugman, who’s amazing because he’s just not playing the game. He’s doing what he thinks is right and doesn’t begin from any of the premises that the official Washington punditocracy discourse begins from. So I’m very impressed by that. Plus he knows economics, that’s his armor, that’s how he protects himself from conventional wisdom.
I very much admire the prose styles of both Frank Rich and Rick Hertzberg. I think E.J. Dionne and Richard Cohen are both very effective columnists, they’re both really good at the form, and they’re both unpredictable, which is a good thing in a columnist.
How about on TV?
There’s only two people I can really stand to watch on TV at all. One is Bill Moyers and the other is Ted Koppel.
Well, I can’t think of anyone else. I hate television journalism. I can stand to watch Rather, Jennings, and Brokaw, they don’t personally anger me, but the news is so dumbed down on television that it ends up being false, and it infuriates me. Everything is so simplified, it’s written for people who know nothing, and it ends up being so overly simplified that it becomes false.
Begala does a very good job defending the liberal side on Crossfire. I never watch it, but I sometimes see transcripts on Media Whores and I like his energy, he’s very quick on his feet. But I do think that it’s really hard to be a liberal on television, I just think the liberal case is too complicated.
Why is it so hard to get good combative liberals on TV?
I think that if you’re going to be a liberal today, it’s a really complicated case to make, and you have to respect that complexity. And TV just has no use for complexity. There’s just no way to do it.
I mean, here I was on Crossfire the other night and
Tucker Carlson quoted something I said about myself on Altercation, and
he asked, do you really think it’s a conspiracy against you? I mean,
fucking Tucker, I have a PhD in American history, I know how
complicated it is, I was just making a point that one person, Ann
Coulter, had written a totally useless, dishonest book, whereas I’ve
written a serious book that has 40 or 50 pages of footnotes, and one of
us gets booked on television, on the Today show, and one of us
doesn’t. I’m not saying it’s a conspiracy, but I’m raising the issue:
is this about journalistic self flagellation or is it about the fact
that she’s blond and has good legs? But I’m not drawing any conclusions
based on my own example.
Do you think the internet is any different?
OK, how about weblogs?
I feel a little bad about the fact that the Lott story broke immediately after I closed the book, because the book does end up shortshrifting the influence of weblogs. They have shown they can have an influence.
But – if you take a look at that case as your paradigm, you have to say there’s basically two people who drove that case, and that’s Josh and whoever Atrios is. Josh is a journalist, he’s got a journalist’s reputation. Before I was ever involved in the internet, before I even understood what a weblog was, I would check up on Josh, I would check up on Mickey, I would check up on Andy, because of their journalistic reputation. And so, these are journalists with weblogs and that’s kind of a different case than the blogging phenomenon, right?
Now, Atrios would be the counterexample, because he really did play a big role in the Lott controversy, and we’ll see how that plays out, we’ll see if that happens more and more. I will say that the fact that I was #33 on Amazon last Friday is entirely due to weblogs, so I’m enormously grateful for that, and I do think that they can have an impact, but we don’t really know what it’s going to be yet.
Josh seemed to feel that blogdom as a whole could help drive stories and drive opinions. Do you think that’s true?
I think that’s true, yeah. Blogdom can drive a story because a lot of journalists read blogs. But very few blogs can do independent research, and without independent research you’re just a chorus, and that can have its value, but it’s by definition limited.
You talked in the book about funding of think tanks and how important that’s become for conservatives. Is there any hope at all for getting that on the liberal side? Why aren’t there any rich liberal cranks like Scaife willing to fund liberal think tanks?
There are some good liberal funders, but it’s a very complicated question. The genius of what Scaife and Coors and those people did is, they just threw manure onto a field and decided to see what grew. What Scaife did is, he just gave everybody money, he said, fine, let’s see what grows, whereas liberals are much more focused on programmatic money. They don’t fund things that might turn into something useful that you can’t predict.
You have to able to fund things where you can’t predict how they’re going to work, and liberals don’t do that. They want control, they want reports; they don’t fund basic research, they don’t fund operating expenses. All of the liberal organizations are always begging to keep going, they don’t pay their people very well, and so they’re never going to let a thousand flowers bloom and see which of them is the prettiest.
That’s admirable that the money is going to programs as opposed to propaganda, but do you think that realistically....
No, I don’t think it is honorable. I think it’s about control, and I think liberal funders have to be willing to give up control.
I also think liberal funders have to admit they’re liberals. Most of
the large foundations, like Ford and Rockefeller and MacArthur, they
won’t say that they’re liberal, and they fund conservative stuff.
They’re not engaged in the same kind of practice that the right wing is.
February 10, 2003
COMPARING THE NEWS....It's interesting to see how different newspapers treat the same news. Here's how the Washington Post reported yesterday's negotiations between Iraq and the UN team:
And the differences are even more pronounced if you read the full text of each article. It's kind of hard to believe that both papers are actually reporting the same meeting.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 05:43 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
Heh heh. Of course, this is coming from a media guy who interviews other media guys about the media — and then writes a book about it, so....
And speaking of Alterman, I did a phone interview with him last night about this new book of his (you've heard about it, right? What Liberal Media?). I'll post it tomorrow.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 01:48 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
WAR ON DRUGS....Sam Heldman tells the story of an 18-year-old high school student who has been sentenced to 26 years in prison for selling four ounces of marijuana out of his house.
Surely even drug war hawks can agree that this is simply ridiculous?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
FRANCE, FRANCE, FRANCE....Not surprisingly, I got lots of mail about France and the war today. However, it's only coincidence that I had several posts about France this weekend, and while I find their latest plan unworkable I certainly respect their right to oppose a war they don't like. In fact, I think Matt Yglesias has a pretty good analogy:
This is a worthwhile point. In the end, the United States did do the right thing in World War II, but it took an attack on our own soil to convince us. Saddam Hussein's actions have obviously been way less offensive than Hitler's circa 1940, so it's perhaps not surprising that France is at least as ambivalent toward him as we were toward Hitler before Pearl Harbor.
Of course, the other point of view is that the world should have learned something from our reluctance to get involved in WWII. Maybe if we'd joined the Allies earlier the war would have been shorter and less bloody.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 08:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
February 09, 2003
SADDAM HUSSEIN....Up until recently, Saddam Hussein was always referred to in the press as "Saddam." And Ken Pollack's book says this is correct: his full name means "Saddam, son of Hussein."
But just recently I've noticed that most of the press reports have started referring to him as "Hussein." What's up with that?
UPDATE: Michael Davies passes along this article from Canada's CTV that explains it all. The short answer, apparently, is "it depends."Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
GUN CONTROL, MEDIA BIAS, AND ANTI-MISSILE DEFENSE....Glenn Reynolds posted this approximately two minutes after 60 Minutes aired this evening:
Here on the Pacific coast I just got finished watching the 60 Minutes segment he's talking about, and it just goes to show that bias is in the eye of the beholder. I'd already read Glenn's post when the segment came on, so I was on the watch for bias, but you know, I didn't really see any. They quoted the NRA at length, they showed that the system could be defeated, they reported that a New York database had failed to help solve a single crime so far, they talked about difficulties scaling a system to the national level, and they mentioned California's experience with ballistic fingerprinting.
Of course, they did interview a number of people on the other side of the issue too, and it's true that they didn't mention the report Glenn points to. But since the report said "current technological obstacles will be overcome before long" and urged the federal government to "make more research into ballistic identification systems a top priority," I'm not quite sure how that would have helped Glenn's side anyway.
And now you're probably wondering just how this relates to anti-missile defense. Well, as I was watching it occurred to me that opponents of ballistic fingerprinting were insisting that the technology wasn't perfect and it was just stupid to spend another dime on it. And yet, that's what foes of anti-missile defense have been saying for the past two decades. I wonder how many opponents of ballistic fingerprinting think it's just fine to keep pouring money into anti-missile defense?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 07:53 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
WAR WITH IRAQ....I've gotten a lot of email critical of my post on Thursday suggesting that Colin Powell had indeed made a strong case in his UN speech. This administration has lied about everything, they ask, so how can you be so credulous as to believe their latest dog and pony show?
I'd like to explain myself, but I'm afraid this is going to be a bit long and rambling, which, I admit, is not exactly a crowd pleaser — and in any case if you wanted long, rambling posts you could just click over to Steven den Beste's site and get two or three of them a day. But this is really intended more as therapy for myself than anything else, so with that in mind, either read on or — perhaps the better alternative — turn off the computer and go spend the rest of your weekend doing something more productive instead.
First, a little background. I grew up in the 70s, and like many children of that decade I never took the threat of the Soviet Union very seriously. Oh, sure, it was a nasty dictatorship, but it was also a big, established country ruled by conservative old men who were mostly interested in stability and control. They were unlikely to ever risk a repeat of the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Small rogue states, on the other hand, did seem like a threat. The development of nuclear and biological weapons was bound to become easier over time, and in the hands of a reckless dictator willing to take chances it seemed entirely likely that we could eventually find ourselves on the receiving end of a major attack. Not immediately, certainly not in 1980, or maybe even in 1990, but someday.
That day has obviously come. Both North Korea and Pakistan have nuclear weapons, and both are unstable enough that there's a chance they might use them. Effective biological weapons are still difficult to develop, but it's getting easier all the time, and the widespread proliferation of legitimate "dual-use" technology makes it almost impossible to control.
I take WMDs in the hands of small, unstable states seriously, and I have my doubts that these countries can be deterred from using them the way big, established countries can — even horrible dictatorships like China. If you don't buy this, then the rest of this essay won't make any sense. But if you do, then read on.
There are lots of nasty dictators. Why focus obsessively on Saddam Hussein?
It's a fair question, but the fact is that there are some good answers. Partly it's because even among nasty dictators, Saddam is in a class by himself: a ruthless, brutal thug who routinely employs the kinds of torture that simply make you ill to read about. Partly it's because unlike even an unstable neurotic like Kim Jong-il, he's started two unprovoked wars against his neighbors in the past 20 years. Partly it's because there is strong evidence that he has spent the past ten years building — or trying to build — WMDs of all sorts. (In a sense, Powell's UN speech was meaningless since, as Ken Pollack says, "In truth, all council members already know that Iraq retains weapons of mass destruction and is deceiving the inspectors.") And finally, yes, partly it's because we have strong economic interests in the Middle East and we don't want Saddam in a position where he can threaten or control the Persian Gulf oil supply.
But there's another reason. To a large extent, Kim Jong-il is an aberration. He's undoubtedly dangerous, but the Far East as a whole is relatively stable. North Korea is the only serious trouble spot there.
Ditto for Pakistan and India. Both of them have the potential to pose serious dangers to each other, but the region as a whole is not a powderkeg.
I don't minimize the danger these countries pose, but there's simply no comparison, I think, between that danger and the danger posed by the Middle East. Democracy in India, for example, is fragile, but in the Middle East it is simply nonexistent. The entire area is under the control of medieval theocracies, and what's worse is that they don't seem to be getting any better as time passes.
In fact, if anything, they seem to be getting worse. Their populations are rising and their oil income is dropping, unemployment is rampant, and both the churches and the schools blame their problems on Israel, the United States, and the decadent West in general. They are virtual factories for producing the kinds of young men who become terrorists, and the danger they pose is real and growing.
But what to do? Certainly the United States (and other countries) have done nothing to improve the situation. Our one-sided support of Israel has inflamed the Arab world, and our support for one bloody dicator after another — as long as they were useful to us for a few moments — has bred contempt and cynicism for our role in the world. All that is true.
But still, what to do?
We may not be innocent bystanders, but neither does our past mean that we now have to stand aside and simply hang our heads in shame. It's vitally important, I think, given the powderkeg nature of the Arab world and the increasing worldwide availability of horrifying weapons, that we do something to clean up a mess that we ourselves have had a hand in creating.
To do this requires both long term and short term actions. In the long term, we need to genuinely promote the values of tolerance, human rights, and democratic self-government that the United States is quite rightly proud of.
Unfortunately, we also have to do something about the immediate threat. And it's also likely that simply "promoting" tolerance and human rights probably won't get the job done. The sad fact is that in addition to promoting these things, we also need to show that we're willing to back up our words with force. And while I realize how much of a cliche it is to say that "force is the only language they understand," there's a kernel of truth in it too.
For a variety of reasons, Saddam Hussein is the best target for that force. An invasion of Iraq will surely kill thousands of Iraqis — and the proposed "shock and awe" carpet bombing of Baghdad is horrifying — but I suspect that in the long run it will save more lives than it takes. And that's why I support the war.
There are, of course, lots of good reasons to oppose a war with Iraq, and prime among them must be the question of those "long term" actions I mentioned above. There is obviously no chance of simply transplanting American-style democracy to Iraq, but for this war to mean anything we have to genuinely try to make things at least incrementally better there instead of simply installing a friendlier dictator once Saddam is gone.
What else do we have to do?
Will we do these things? I am sympathetic to the idea that George Bush has shown himself to be so hamhanded in foreign affairs that there's little likelihood of success as long as he's in power. And yet, what's the alternative? We need to try, and I'm inclined — barely — to give him a chance. Something has to kick start the Middle East into the 21st century, and I don't see anyone else willing or able to do it.
I realize, of course, that this is exactly the kind of talk that anti-war opponents, especially in Europe, find most disturbing. Will a successful war bring on a succession of such wars, turning America into an imperial, colonizing power? The question is legitimate, but to believe this is to judge all past U.S. actions in the worst possible light, something that's just as indefensible as the superpatriots' constant invocation of anti-Americanism anytime American policy is questioned.
Consider: in Saddam Hussein the Bush administration has a genuinely hideous tyrant; it has a decade of defiance to UN mandates; and it has the steadfast support of Great Britain, a country most Americans respect and admire. But even so public opinion is only barely in favor of military action. Even if the war goes well, it defies belief to think that the American public would put up with a long succession of such wars, and in a democracy that's the final control. If Bush goes too far, he will be voted out of office.
So that's it. I have tremendous misgivings about this war — especially under the aegis of this administration — and I respect the views of those who oppose it. But rogue states and terrorists are a genuine threat, the Middle East is the world's biggest breeding ground for both, and gentle prodding seems unlikely to change either of these things.
Does this mean that we are practicing cultural imperialism? Perhaps, and if this amounts to nothing more than creating some docile new client states we will have failed. But at the same time there are some aspects of western culture are worth exporting: religious tolerance, democratic institutions, civil liberties, and respect for women among them.
It is right to criticize the U.S. for its shortcomings, but it's also right to remember that on the big issues of the past century — World War I, World War II, the rebuilding of Japan and Germany, the fight against Communism — America has largely been on the right side. Our record isn't perfect, but neither is it contemptible, and for all that's gone wrong, I imagine that life in Kosovo and Afghanistan is at least a little bit better than it was before our involvement there.
In a sense, I envy the people on both sides of this debate who have strong and unwavering opinions. And yet I can't help but think that anyone who enters this debate with no doubts in their mind is simply not taking the whole thing seriously. Committed doves, I suspect, aren't facing up to the very real dangers of rogue states with WMDs, while committed hawks refuse to acknowledge the dangers of a doctrine of pre-emptive war.
That said, and with misgivings, I find myself on the side of war. Yes, there are enormous risks in this approach, and it could all go horribly wrong. I hope it doesn't.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 04:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
FRANCE AND THE WAR....The latest French-German idea for avoiding war with Iraq is to send in lots of UN troops:
This just gets weirder and weirder. Isn't this basically a military occupation that's completely open ended? And didn't we try this in Yugoslavia for several years with an utter lack of success?
This is why I think the French are acting strangely. Opposition to war is understandable, but this hardly seems like a practical alternative. I mean, thousands of UN troops permanently stationed in Iraq and thousands more U.S. troops stationed permanently on their border? All the while knowing that Saddam will be doing his best to evade inspections? I just can't make any sense out of this.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 02:31 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
IS THE MEDIA LIBERAL?....OR JUST CONFUSED?....Newspaper stories about poll results are always great fodder for people looking for media bias. After all, every poll has dozens of questions, but the headline usually has room to highlight only one. So which will it be?
Well, the Los Angeles Times conducted a follow-up poll last week after Colin Powell's UN speech, calling the same people from a previous poll to see if opinion had shifted regarding war with Iraq. Here's the headline:
I have to say that I found this choice odd. The whole point of the poll was to find out if opinion had changed, and as the Times states in the body of the story, they found "a slight increase in support for unilateral military action."
What's more, the story goes on to say, "But there remains a deep desire to avoid war," while later admitting that 55% of respondents "support a military action with some allied backing, but without U.N. concurrence." Since this is, in fact, the current situation, it's a little hard to figure out where they managed to come up with this "deep desire to avoid war."
And on another front, compare these two questions:
Aren't these pretty much the same question (no UN approval = no military action)? Considering the rather small difference in wording, doesn't a 20% gap in the responses seem a bit odd?Permalink | Comments (0)
FREEDOM OF SPEECH IN NEW YORK....This editorial in the New York Sun has already gotten a lot of attention, but you know what? It can't get too much. The Sun apparently thinks thinks that free speech should stop where anti-war sentiment begins:
The demonstrators "probably" have a claim to free speech? Protesting the war is "treason"? And all wrapped up with a sneering reference to "precious constitutional freedom"?
This is roughly the kind of editorial I would have expected from a Hearst dishrag in the 1950s or Pravda circa 1980, not from a supposedly respectable American newspaper in 2003. I hope the Sun is equally happy with this kind of banana republic patriotism after the Patriot IV act is passed and the police commissioner decides they're the ones who need a little light harrassment — you know, just to remind them of what's respectable in New York, and what's not.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:52 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
THE VALUE OF INTELLIGENCE....Was Colin Powell's testimony before the UN last Wednesday believable? Or was he just waving around bogus — but unverifiable — data in an attempt to stampede the UN into action? William Arkin writes in the LA Times today that he thinks Powell was being truthful:
But there's a lot more to the story than just this, and the lessons are valuable for both sides in the war debate. Click the link to read the whole thing.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:32 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
WHAT LIBERAL MEDIA?....Eric Alterman's latest book, as if you didn't know already, is called What Liberal Media?, but I have a feeling a better title might have been Enough Already, OK? His basic case, it seems, is that sure, maybe conservatives had a point when they first started complaining about liberal media bias 30 years ago, but they won that war a long time ago and should now declare victory and just shut the hell up about it. But they won't do it because it's become an indispensable part of their media toolkit:
What Liberal Media? is basically broken into two parts. The first part is very specifically about bias in the media, and Alterman methodically works his way through television, print, radio, and think tanks. The second part, which is actually the more entertaining of the two, is a series of case studies: the Clinton administration, the 2000 election, the Florida recount debacle, etc.
In the first few chapters Alterman makes a pretty convincing case that liberal bias doesn't exist among the "punditocracy" — either on TV or in print, and definitely not on radio or among the think tanks. Op-ed pages are full of right wing voices, most of them dedicated movement conservatives, and the same is true of TV, where, like Noah's ark, liberals are allowed to appear only when paired up with conservatives, never on their own. Talk radio, of course, is an open and shut case for conservative hegemony, and thanks to a larger funding base, conservative think tanks — the intellectual backbone of the punditry — have grown like weeds over the past two decades.
Now, this is important stuff, but there's another side too, and it's the one — in my experience, anyway — that forms the real core of the conservative complaint: the biases of ordinary beat reporters on hot button social issues such as gun control, abortion, gay rights, and so forth. Here, Alterman confesses, "Though the evidence is sketchy, I tend to believe that on many social issues, conservatives have a case."
Alterman then goes on to admit that when it comes to reporting on religion, conservatives have a "strong case." In the case of abortion, bias is arguably "pervasive" — but has gotten better since 1990. In the case of the death penalty and gun control, "a fair minded observer might point to a pervasive liberal bias." What's more, he says, "I concur that the overall flavor of the elite media reporting favors gun control, campaign finance reform, gay rights, and the environmental movement...."
I'm not quite sure why Alterman takes this tack, but on this issue — arguably the most important one — the best he can do is to suggest that while liberal bias on social issues might exist, it's not quite as bad as conservatives make it out to be:
This is hardly a ringing defense of the media's coverage of social issues, and I found it a little disappointing that he didn't choose to make a stronger case. It is unlikely that a similar book by a conservative author would have cut so much slack for an opposing point of view.
When it comes to political reporting, however, things are quite different, and here Alterman makes a pretty good case that reporters' biases don't affect their actual coverage very much. The media savaged Clinton over the Monica Lewinsky scandal, hated Al Gore with a passion, and has generally treated George W. Bush very leniently, even before 9/11. The reason, he says, is twofold: reporters react more strongly to scandal and the chance of a fat byline than they do to anything else, and in any case they have been so cowed by accusations of liberal bias that much of the time they bend over backwards to avoid it.
What Liberal Media? is a well documented — and entertainingly written — book, well worth a read for anyone interested in liberal causes. Although Alterman inexplicably writes a chapter on social issues that could appear almost intact in National Review, the rest of the book provides plenty of evidence that conservative charges of pervasive media bias are mostly myths. Conservatives control think tanks and talk radio and have at least equal access to newspaper op-ed pages and television talk shows. On economic issues most reporters favor conservative positions, and time and again they have shown themselves willing to savage liberal politicians either out of personal pique or simply because it will advance their careers. And even on social issues, what bias there is tends to be pretty spotty.
Overall, conservatives no longer have much of substance to complain about when they make charges of liberal bias, and this book gives you the ammunition to tell them so. And if it manages to embarrass a few principled conservatives into toning down their rhetoric, and puts a bit of backbone into a few national reporters, it will have done its job.
The website for What Liberal Media? is here. The first chapter of the book in PDF format is here. For those of you without PDF viewers, the folks at Cursor have posted the first chapter in ordinary HTML format here.
Eric Alterman's daily blog on MSNBC is here.
A Nation cover story adapted from the book is here.Permalink | Comments (0)
February 08, 2003
URL UPDATE....Kieran Healy has a new address:
Adjust your bookmarks.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 07:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
JOHN LOTT UPDATE....Mary Rosh has just become a TV star! On Capitol Gang tonight, Al Hunt's "Outrage of the Week" was John Lott's use of his Mary Rosh sock puppet to defend himself on the internet.
This story has now been in the Washington Times, Washington Post, US News & World Report, and Capitol Gang,
and there's just gotta be some hungry young investigative reporter out
there who can pick this up and start some serious digging into the 1997
survey business. As a public service, just in case any enterprising
reporters are reading this, here's a recap:
So does the 1997 survey exist or not? It's time for someone out there to do what the press is supposed to do: hold people accountable. A serious investigation into John Lott would be a good place to start.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 05:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
HUMANS IN SPACE....The New York Times editorializes today (tomorrow, actually) that although focusing on space stations in low earth orbit is misguided, we should keep the manned space program anyway:
I'm still not sure I buy this — at least for now — but at least it's an honest reason. The problem is that even in 1970, with the moon landing fresh in our memories, no one was able to get the country interested in a mission to Mars, and nothing has changed in 30 years. It may be an honest argument, but I doubt that it's a persuasive one.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 03:31 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
INDIA VS. FRANCE....Thomas Friedman thinks India should replace France as a permanent member of the Security Council:
There's some truth to this, and while I dislike the French-bashing temper tantrums that are regular features of the warhawk community, Friedman is right that it's becoming increasingly hard to view France's actions as motivated by rational thought — or even enlightened self-interest.
A little later in the column Friedman makes a good point about the post-Cold War world too:
UPDATE: Zack Ajmal writes to say that India actually has the world's third largest Muslim population, not the second, behind both Indonesia and Pakistan. Others have emailed to take me (or, rather, Friedman) to task for proposing that India should get a permanent seat on the Security Council, suggesting that their human rights record and violation of nuclear arms agreements make them unfit for a permanent seat. Since I don't know squat about India I will remain agnostic on this question, especially since I think Friedman's bigger point was that France doesn't deserve a permanent seat given its current status in the world, its increasingly erratic foreign policy, and the fact that Europe is overrepresented in the current setup.
I'm not altogether convinced by this, but I do think that France's current behavior is peculiar. My preferred solution would be to expand the permanent seats on the Security Council considerably but to remove the veto power. This, of course, will happen when pigs land on Mars.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 03:22 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
INTERNET PATENTS....Part 2 of the LA Times story about patents is up today. The subject is the internet, specifically Lawrence Lockwood, who claims a patent that applies to essentially all e-commerce.
One of the problems with the whole internet patent mess is that patent holders have a habit of attacking small companies who don't have the money to fight back. Then, after they've bagged a few dozen settlements, they can start in on the big companies — backed up by a bunch of newspaper clippings that make them look like they're for real. Or, they can just send letters to small companies forever, collecting settlements from people who can't afford to go to court and never realize that they are part of a larger group that could fight back if they banded together. As Lockwood says:
In Lockwood's case, one of the little guys did decide fight back and managed to locate a bunch of other little guys to join him. It's an interesting story.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:20 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
February 07, 2003
CIVIL LIBERTIES ALERT....Via Atrios, the Center for Public Integrity reports on sweeping new "Patriot II" legislation that is currently being drafted by the Department of Justice. It's just chock full of new restrictions on civil liberties, but my favorite is this:
So if you belong to an organization — maybe A.N.S.W.E.R.? — that John Ashcroft decides is a terrorist group, you can be stripped of your citizenship and (presumably) deported somewhere. Lovely.
DOJ, of course, says they're just brainstorming things, and we shouldn't be worried. Uh huh.
I'm sure we'll be hearing a lot more about this.
UPDATE: TalkLeft has more.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 04:49 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
TERROR ALERT....Here's the latest from CNN: a permanent little bug in the bottom right of the screen reminding everyone that our current terror alert level is now ORANGE (or HIGH). Yecch.
But what to do? The talking head on Crossfire is saying, well, we should be careful, but on the other hand, if we actually do anything then the terrorists have won. So which is it? And what's the point of all this nonsense if we're not actually supposed to react in any way?
Plus: Moneyline wants to know which you think is more important: the increased terror level or the possibility of rain this weekend? Be sure to vote!Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 04:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
CHESS FINALE....Man vs. machine is over: Garry Kasparov offered a draw after the 28th move and it was accepted by the Deep Junior team. The final match score is 3-3.
The ESPN2 commentators were surprised, even shocked and "dissatisfied," suggesting that Kasparov's position was promising and he might have been able to eke out a win if he'd played it out. Their conclusion is that he was "spooked" by the computer and was just happy to get out alive.
There have been three world-class man vs. machine matches since 1997 and there have now been two ties and one win for the computer. What's worse is that Deep Junior used no special hardware: it was a standard piece of software running on an Intel box, and it will only get better over time. At this point, no grandmaster has beaten the top-ranked computer program in the past six years, and my guess is that even a draw will become a thing of the past very soon.
POSTSCRIPT: Kasparov is being interviewed now and has basically admitted that the pressure of the previous five games was on his mind, as well as memories of his infamous meltdown in 1997 against Deep Blue. It was "more important not to lose" than it was to win, he said, and he has declared himself satisfied with the conclusion of the match.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 03:39 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
SOME MINOR KVETCHING....Can I just take a moment to complain about something trivial? Thanks.
I'm about two-thirds of the way through What Liberal Media? and I've already counted an even dozen proofreading errors — and that's generous since I'm counting repeatedly misspelled names as only a single mistake. I might be wrong about this, but I could swear that 20 years ago I rarely found proofreading errors in books, while today it's a common occurrence. Is this because (a) people are sloppier today than before, (b) publishers' budgets have gone down and proofreading has suffered, or (c) I just notice it more than I used to?
UPDATE: Patrick Nielsen Hayden, who should know, writes to say, "I've been working in book publishing for two decades, and hanging around writers and editors even longer, and for as long as I can remember, everyone has claimed that books didn't used to have lots of typos the way they do now. And yet, when I go back and look at routine trade hardcovers from thirty or forty years ago, what I find are: typos." And reader Diana Waggoner agrees: "The answers to your question today about proofreading are (a), (b), AND (probably) (c)." So there you go.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 03:03 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
ANOTHER HOLLYWOOD BLACKLIST....TBOGG has a list of all the Hollywood celebrities that are currently being boycotted by the good folks at FreeRepublic.com. They just added Dustin Hoffman and the list now includes 89 celebrities.
No, that's not a misprint. 89.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 02:54 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
CHESS UPDATE....LIVE!....Heh. ESPN2 is televising the sixth and final game of the Garry Kasparov vs. Deep Junior chess match. Right now the announcers are comparing Kasparov to Michael Jordan....Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 01:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
BUSH AND HOMELAND SECURITY....One of the things that Democrats could do a better job of is criticizing President Bush's lame efforts to increase domestic security. Today Alex Gourevitch, writing in The American Prospect, tries to make that point:
Unfortunately, the entire article focuses on immigration problems, an issue that's already a Democratic hobbyhorse and, I think, is unlikely to persuade people that the Bush administration is acting clumsily.
Unfortunately, this is the problem with so much writing on the left: it's just too damn mushy and unpersuasive. If this were a conservative issue, a dozen think tanks would already have written detailed position papers, carefully poll tested and wordsmithed, and sent them off to hundreds of newspapers and congress members. Index cards with talking points would be distributed by the thousands. Op-eds would be flying out of their word processors.
We just don't have this kind of organization, and we need it desperately. There are loads of areas where Bush can be attacked on his homeland security policies, but to do a good job requires a lot of dedicated research and a well-funded organization that can get it out to the world.
How come there aren't any ultra-rich liberal cranks willing to bankroll this kind of thing?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 12:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
SELLING OUT THE KURDS?....American foreign policy has a long history of creating long term problems in return for short term gains. Exhibits A and B (this year, anyway) are the aid that we gave to both Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein in the 1980s. To some extent these tradeoffs are inevitable in an imperfect world, of course, but you'd still like to think we could learn from our mistakes.
But probably not. Nathan Newman points to a New York Times article today indicating that in order to get Turkish support for the war with Iraq we are getting ready to sell out the Kurds. Of course, this has always been the price of Turkish support, but it's still sad to see us playing this horrible game.
The warbloggers keep telling us that we don't need any allies to win this war. If that's the case, why are we making deals concerning the Kurds in order to get basing rights in Turkey?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 11:44 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
COOKING THE BOOKS....The Bush budget is so bad that I literally haven't had the heart to dig into it and blog about it. It's just a nightmare, and one that's difficult to explain even with the most cynical possible view of both human nature and the Bush administration in general.
The worst part of the budget, of course, is the enormous long-term deficits that it envisions. But the most cynical part of the budget is this:
Read that paragraph closely: Bush's $670 billion tax-cut plan was announced with great fanfare, but it makes near-term deficits look awfully bad. So in order to make them look less frightening the savings plan surreptitiously increases taxes over the next few years, at the cost of creating huge tax windfalls in the out years, beyond the five-year window of the budget projection.
Since I've already used the word "cynical" twice in this post, I'm casting around for another word to adequately describe what they're up to, but I'm having trouble. I guess "contemptuous" is the best I can come up with. The administration is simply hellbent on making the short term look rosy — plenty of tax breaks, plenty of spending, but a deficit that's not too big — while showing utter disdain for what happens after that. November 2004 is the only date they care about.
I have a feeling this might be the reason that O'Neill and Lindsey were fired last year. Karl Rove demanded a deeply gimmicky but ultimately destructive budget for 2004 and both men balked at the lengths he wanted to go to. But we probably won't know until it's too late.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 11:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
HARD-CORE CREATIONISM....Chris Mooney points to a post today by Brian Montopoli about the Michael Dini evolution case (no permalinks, scroll to "Dini does it"). Brian reports, not surprisingly, that the whole thing is a put-up job and Micah Spradling is little more than a pawn in a bigger game:
A big part of the discussion surrounding this case has revolved around what Dini really meant when he said he would give recommendations only to students who can "truthfully and forthrightly affirm a scientific answer" to the question of human origins. My guess all along has been that his only real concern is hard-core creationism masquerading as science, not any special concern about religious views in general. Spradling's statements seem to support this.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:51 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
CAN YOU PATENT A RESTROOM QUEUE?....The LA Times has a genuinely interesting long feature story today about the Patent Office and its problems. Their hook is a fight between two makers of crustless peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. The problem, says the Times, is that the standards for approving patents have gotten so relaxed over the years that practically anything qualifies:
The article discusses the whole issue of patenting "business processes," and tomorrow, in part 2, they'll take on the internet. It's good reading.
(As a personal aside, when I was in the document imaging industry some of the biggest users of our software were the patent offices in various countries. Their efforts to "go paperless" were always enormous and virtually always went really, really badly. I'm not sure what that means, but there you have it.)Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:44 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
BLOGGING AND JOURNALISM....What's the difference between a blogger and a journalist? Well, bloggers are typically hobbyists who specialize in comment and opinion, while journalists are professionals in print and on TV who do original reporting, have big audiences, and the ability to influence public debate. Of the few who occupy both worlds comfortably, one of the best known is Joshua Micah Marshall, a D.C. area reporter since 1997 who is also the author of Talking Points Memo, a respected and widely read blog that attracts upwards of 12,000 visitors daily. In fact, you all read him every day already, don't you?
Marshall has been writing TPM since shortly after the Florida election fiasco began, making him not just a popular blogger but one of the longest established as well. Writing from a moderate left perspective, he devotes his blog almost entirely to politics and foreign affairs, and last December was one of the first to break the Trent Lott story, following it up with a blizzard of original reporting and sharp commentary until Lott finally called it quits just before Christmas.
At the same time, his print career has also blossomed. He is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly, appearing there most recently with a devastating critique of Dick Cheney's competence, and two weeks ago began a stint as columnist for The Hill, a weekly newspaper dedicated to the inner workings of Congress.
So what's it like being both a blogger and a mainstream journalist? Do most mainstream journalists even know the blogosphere exists?
I decided to ask, and Marshall says there's good news for bloggers everywhere: more and more mainstream journalists are paying attention to what we write: "Those folks read blogs. And they'd also like to imitate them. There's a lot of crossover." The entire interview is below.
CALPUNDIT: You're a professional journalist: you write pieces for a lot of different outlets and they pay you for them. Conversely, blogging pays nothing. So what was the initial motivation to start blogging?
JOSHUA MICAH MARSHALL: I think I had several initial motivations for starting my site, but none of them were all that thought out, or directed to any particular end. When I was in graduate school in the 1990s I had done work in web design. So I had some knowledge of how to run a website and just an interest in having one. I was also a fan of Mickey Kaus's site. And to a great extent, when I created my site I was imitating him.
The other motivation was a bit more complicated. At the time, I was working for a magazine. And I felt very constrained — not really free to write what I actually thought, largely constrained along ideological lines. So part of what I was doing was finding an outlet where I could speak my mind. So where I was working at the time had something to do with it.
But to be fair, when you're writing for a magazine you never have complete carte blanche to say whatever you want. So, wherever I'd been working, the prospect of untrammeled freedom to air my thoughts probably would have been attractive. At that magazine, though, I was rather trammeled.
So I launched into it at the beginning of the 2000 election recount and it caught on rather quickly and I found I really enjoyed doing it.
Now, not long after I started the site I quit my job and started freelancing. And it immediately occurred to me, or rather I worried, that TPM was going to cannibalize my freelance writing. Obviously, you only have so many ideas and so many words in you a week. And how was I going to support myself if I was writing a lot of them on my site and not getting paid for it?
The truth was that I found that I really enjoyed doing TPM, even though it was very hard to justify in financial terms, and at least difficult at first to justify in professional terms. So the rationale followed the fact that I liked doing the site and probably wasn't going to stop, not vice versa.
What I decided was that TPM was a loss-leader for my professional writing career. I wouldn't make any money off it directly, but it would allow me to improve and expand my skills as a writer, attract attention to my writing, and eventually get seen by editors and other folks who would offer me paying gigs. That was the rationale that I came up with to justify to myself why I was doing this, and why I was sinking so much time into it. And to a great degree it turned out to be true.
So in the end, has TPM helped your career — acting as a "loss leader" — or have you found that it cannibalizes stuff that you might otherwise sell to paying markets? Take the Trent Lott affair, for example: did it attract editors who wanted you to write about it for them, or did it turn them off since all your best stuff was already on the Web for free?
It's sometimes difficult, often impossible, to tell just what prompts an editor's or someone else's interest in your work. On balance, however, I think there's no question TPM has functioned as a loss leader for my journalism career. To some degree it does cannibalize my work. Often, once I have written a lot about a given topic on TPM, editors aren't as interested in my writing up the same ideas or points for them. Understandably so, I suppose, and increasingly so as TPM's audience has grown.
Back in the days when the readership was really small this wasn't a problem since so few people read. (That really varies from editor to editor. And it has a lot to do with the sort of publication it is, audience overlap and so forth.) In the case of Lott I did write at least one paid piece on the subject (I think that's all — a column in the Financial Times.)
But it's not that direct usually. TPM has increased my name recognition as a writer. And over time that leads to more work. To the best of my knowledge, the editors I'm now doing the most work for both first became familiar with my writing from reading TPM.
Does the blog ever help you directly? That is, do readers ever see something on your blog and then send you material that turns into something you can use in your outside work?
I certainly get a lot of ideas and tips from readers. Some of them extremely valuable. One of the stories I "broke" about the Trent Lott situation came directly from a tip from a reader, which I then confirmed through traditional reporting means.
I'm not sure though that there's ever been something I've turned around and used in a non-blog piece. Certainly, there may have been. I just don't specifically remember. To a great degree, looking back, the two things are very difficult for me to disentangle, since my blog and non-blog work tend to be combined in my mind.
How plugged in to the rest of the blogosphere are you? Do you read a lot of other blogs? Which ones?
Probably not nearly so much as I should be. I know about and visit the most-trafficked ones: andrewsullivan.com, kausfiles.com, instapundit.com, atrios, altercation — calpundit, of course. And I stop by pretty frequently. And I've visited and read many others. But I have a pretty hard time keeping up. I'm probably less well-blog-read than a lot of folks who have blogs or just read blogs.
And unlike most blogs, you have almost no permanent links to other sites — only three in fact. And you rarely link to other blogs in your text. Any particular reason for that?
Well, there's two questions I guess. There's a very short list of blogs I have links to. There used to be one more, The Bull Moose, run by Marshall Wittman, who had to shut his site down to become John McCain's Communications Director.
Basically that very short link section just started for links to publications I write for frequently, almost as a tongue-in-cheek sort of thing, and then for a couple blogs of folks who were good friends and/or had been generous with advice in my career. So basically there's no real rhyme or reason to why that list is so short. It started short and basically stayed short.
As to linking to other blogs, it's not a matter of any conscious choice. The links are just driven by the posts, i.e., what seems to make sense to link to in a given case. A lot of the posts that I do are either based on my own reporting or work from stories that are coming out in the daily newspaper press. So my links tend to be to big national newspapers like the Times and the Post and other similar outlets, and then the websites of the cable news nets. I suppose the difference is that there are some blogs that do a lot of inter-blog debates. And I tend not to do that much of that. And thus, I guess, fewer links.
The other day, out of the blue, I got a call from a Washington Post reporter, asking about something he had seen on my site. Do you get the sense that more mainstream reporters are starting to pay attention to blogs, if only to keep up with what people are chattering about?
Absolutely. I think there's no question. It's been building slowly for more than a year. But I think that in the last four or five months it's really gained momentum. There are a lot of journalists who've read a number of the DC-based sites for some time. But there was always a big generational tilt to who read. Now I think it's broader. The whole Lott debacle got the blogging community a lot of attention.
But in a lot of ways I think it just brought into the open what was already happening, that blogs had become a real part of the larger news and commentary ecosystem. And that they can drive debate. I think it's a bit like talk radio was a dozen years ago. It evolved as a significant force for some time before it was finally recognized as such.
A lot of reporters have for a long time read blogs — often ones run by their friends — as a sort of guilty pleasure. But I think just recently there's a new sense that news is being made there; opinions are being formed; stories are being broken that you don't hear about in other places. And so even your more buttoned-down reporters have started to take notice.
Talk radio has an audience in the tens of millions; Rush Limbaugh claims 20 million all by himself. What's your sense of how big blogging could get? What's been the growth rate of traffic at TPM over the past couple of years?
How big it could get I really don't know. The rate of growth for my site in recent months has been pretty rapid. But in absolute terms it's still quite small compared to any of the even somewhat popular talk radio shows.
You know a lot of journalists and reporters in the DC area. Do you think more of them will follow the lead of people like you and Sullivan and start their own blogs? And if they do, how do you think their employers will react? Would the New York Times, for example, even allow one of their reporters to operate a political blog?
Good question. And like most good questions, I don't have a good answer. Clearly, a number of journos are starting weblogs. Sometimes they're not updated that frequently and thus lack the critical mass or critical frequency that makes a weblog a weblog. What I do see happening is this: many bloggers imagine a very binary or oppositional relationship between themselves and the "big media." Not true. Those folks read blogs. And they'd also like to imitate them. There's a lot of crossover.
What I think will happen is that you'll see a lot of newspapers and news networks incorporating blog-like things into their sites. So for instance I could certainly imagine the Times setting up one of their political correspondents with a blog. I know another big paper has considered bringing a blogger onto their website. I imagine that would be something like the set up Alterman has with MSNBC.
A blog operating under the aegis of a media company would have to operate a bit differently. Corporations need copy-editors to go over copy, editors to sign off on posts, lawyers to vet things. So my question is how much these "blogs" will be like the blogs we think of now. I think we're most likely to see the form — blogs — evolving in a number of different directions. Independent blogs, blogs run by media companies, blogs that are really vehicles for advertising a particular product or company, etc.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 12:03 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
February 06, 2003
ALAN GREENSPAN'S PLACE IN HISTORY....Paul Krugman wonders what Alan Greenspan is going to say about the 2004 budget when he testifies before Congress next week:
Greenspan's policy U-turns have indeed damaged his reputation. I wonder if in the end history will simply judge him as the person lucky enough to be the Fed chief during the boom of the 90s, not as a person who had anything to do with it.
And while this is controversial, I have long thought that he was wrong back in 1996-97 not to try to prick the stock market bubble. The Fed is supposed to control inflation, and in my view asset inflation is every bit as nasty as the normal kind. His "irrational exuberance" comments showed that he was well aware that stock prices were artificially inflated, but he did nothing about it. We are all paying the price now.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:57 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
BLAIR AND BUSH....Atrios points to this transcript of a TV appearance by Tony Blair, where he's questioned unmercifully by a BBC interviewer named Jeremy Paxman.
Whether Blair made his case or not I couldn't say. But there he is on a TV news show facing a hostile, well-prepared interviewer, and taking questions from the crowd. Can you even imagine George Bush doing this? I mean, he doesn't even give press conferences, let alone allow himself to be interviewed on live TV.
Bush has gone a step beyond the Imperial Presidency and is now conducting something like a Papal Presidency: he does nothing in public except make speeches ex cathedra and then wait for his friends in the press to fawn over his commanding presence. Doubts had been swirling around, but when Bush finally spoke, all those doubts were erased. It was a riveting performance.
It would be nice to live once again in a real democracy, one where our leaders did not feel like they had to hide from their own constituents.
UPDATE: Kieran Healy, who has much more intimate experience with British politics, is amused at my amazement. As well he should be....Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:17 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
PLAGIARISTS FOR LIBERATION....Apparently the British dossier that Colin Powell waved around at the UN yesterday was actually cribbed (without attribution) from three public sources, including an article written by a grad student. This accusation first floated around the ether yesterday, and today Channel 4 confirmed it.
This doesn't really matter in any substantive way, but it does make you shake your head (Brad DeLong bangs his head against a wall, I just shake mine). What the hell are these guys thinking?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 03:47 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
MORE GUN CONTROL NUMBERS....Question: What do 75% and 98% have in common?
Answer: Both are disputed numbers in recent gun control debates.
Assuming I've been able to keep the whole thing straight, here's the nickel version of what's going on. Dave Kopel originally argued that 75% of all BATF gun prosecutions were constitutionally improper, citing a 1982 congressional report. Tapped questioned the validity of the number. Kopel basically responded that, well, it was in a congressional report. Tapped said sure, we knew that, but what's behind the number? Kopel then wrote a piece for NRO saying, well, it was in a congressional report. Tapped responds today with a post suggesting that aside from the sheer majesty of appearing in a congressional report, there's not much substance to the 75% number. After reading the whole exchange, it seems like Tapped has the better of the argument, at least on this point.
What's ironic is that the whole thing was started by an article in Washington Monthly claiming that regulation of gun stores was really lax and something should be done about it. Whether "something" should be done by BATF or some other agency, I don't know, but, honestly, isn't it a little hard to argue that we shouldn't be vigorously enforcing the laws we currently have on the books? Especially since pro-gun advocates keep claiming that's what we should be doing?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 03:11 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
IRAQ AND ITS WEAPONRY....Ignore everything Colin Powell said yesterday about mobile weapons labs, al-Qaeda connections, and satellite photos. Instead, consider only the following intercepted telephone call between two commanders in Iraq's 2nd Republican Guard Corps:
Here's the problem: we don't live in a James Bond novel, and this intercept seems to indicate as clearly as any real-world intelligence could that the Iraqis are hiding biological weapons from the UN inspectors. And yet apparently it's not good enough: Eric Alterman, for example, doesn't believe it. In fact, he says, "the men and women who run this administration are not honest and therefore not to be trusted on this most crucial of questions." In other words, nothing they say could convince him.
I am sympathetic to the notion that administrations lie a lot on the subject of war, and I'm certainly sympathetic to the idea that this particular administration routinely lies about anything they think they can get away with. And yet....that leaves us with a problem, doesn't it? If, a priori, nothing the administration says is believable, then opposition to war simply becomes a religious doctrine. After all, no one else is going to try and make the case.
But I think Alterman is wrong. Unlike, say, during the Tonkin Gulf incident, this administration is under intense scrutiny. There's enormous distrust of what they say, and they know it. They won't get the free pass that LBJ did.
What's more, they know that everything they say is easily verifiable once the war starts. No one ever pressed LBJ for proof of what happened in the Tonkin Gulf, but there will be dozens of countries and dozens more NGOs who will be looking very closely at what we find in Iraq after ground forces move in. It will hardly be possible to fake vast numbers of mobile weapons labs, swimming pools of anthrax, ballistic missiles, and the like, and if those things aren't found in substantial and convincing quantities George Bush will be lucky to escape impeachment, let alone win reelection.
If your opposition to war is based on the idea that Saddam does indeed possess illegal weapons but it's best to leave him alone anyway, well and good. But if it's based on the idea that the administration is lying and none of this stuff exists, you should tread carefully. I think it's pretty likely you will be proven wrong shortly.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:02 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
LANGUAGE POLICE....National Review Online has apparently decided to act more like a liberal publication and sponsor occasional "debates" on some of the most common liberal-conservative tropes. This week it's Alterman and Bozell squaring off on whether the media is liberal.
No, sorry, that's whether the media are liberal. I think NRO is bucking for this year's New Yorker award for quaint adherence to outdated usage of the English language. Buckley's influence must still run deep.
(By the way, Alterman, I think wisely, takes a light attitude toward the debate:
Bozell doesn't take the bait, responding with a typically tendentious argument. Despite this, Alterman comes back for more and once again tries humor in today's installment, but to no avail. Bozell just isn't biting.
But you shouldn't waste your time with the debate anyway. Just go buy the book already.)Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:03 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
PLACE YOUR BETS....The OxBlog guys are running a pool on when the bombing starts in Iraq, but I have a more interesting bet: how long will Daniel Davies keep up his intention to mock and summarize every post that Steven Den Beste writes? Keep in mind that he has to actually read them in order to do this.
I give him a couple of weeks. I believe he has seriously overestimated his own stamina and underestimated Den Beste's. But it should be fun while it lasts.
UPDATE: Apparently Den Beste is now linking back to DD's mocking commentaries. I can't quite tell if this indicates a hitherto obscured sense of humor, or a desire to get his entire fan base to flood DD with ranting emails. There will be more to this, I'm sure.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 08:24 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
February 05, 2003
Now, I don't know why Matt likes it, but my main interest is finding out what's going to happen to Kim Bauer each week.
See, here's the deal: Jack Bauer, a counterterrorism agent, is the star of the show, and his daughter Kim is basically the absolute center of the universe for enormous shitstorms of bad luck. She has been kidnapped by terrorists, lost her memory, been beaten up, shot at, imprisoned, and watched her mother get murdered, all the while demonstrating mind-bogglingly bad judgment in practically every situation she's ever found herself in. Dad's tough good sense definitely does not run in the family.
So what happened this week? Well, see, she got arrested after a police car pulled her over and the officer found a dead body in the trunk of her car (don't ask), and last week she was being driven back to central booking in Los Angeles, which is bad because terrorists are planning to set off a nuke there in a few hours.
So anyway, she and her boyfriend started a fire in the police car (again, don't ask) and Kim made her getaway when the police officer panicked and drove his car off the road. This is good, except — there's a mountain lion in the hills! And it looks hungry!
But wait! There's more. As Kim is running away from the lion, she steps into a snare and gets stuck! And it's wire cable too, so she can't just twist it off. But that lion is obviously eyeing her.....
What's next? A flock of flying monkeys, perhaps? Or maybe her little section of California will fall into the sea.
You see why I like this show?
UPDATE: Also typically, I suppose, we learn this fact about Matt's TV-watching habits in the middle of some mind bendingly complex philosophical argument about the nature of disagreement vs. subjectivity, or some such thing. Crikey, analytical philosophers are a pain.
UPDATE II: A couple of readers have pointed out that I wasn't paying very close attention last season: Kim Bauer didn't lose her memory, her mother did, nor did she see her mother murdered, she saw her get raped. On the other hand, she did get caught in a drug bust and then waded into a prison fight.
This correction, by the way, comes from a reader who says "Personally, we were yelling encouragement to the cougar." Tough crowd....Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:24 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
THE 2004 BUDGET....The Los Angeles Times gets it pretty much right in its lead editorial today about President Bush's 2004 budget:
There have been a long succession of "boy genius" political advisors to presidents, and most of them don't last more than two or three years. I think Karl Rove has finally overreached, and this budget may be his Waterloo. Let's hope so, anyway.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 08:59 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
BARBECUE....Every few months I get a craving for my favorite barbecue, so I hop in the car and drive up to the Farmers Market in
Los Angeles and order a pork sandwich at Bryan's Pit Barbecue. I've
been going there for as long as I can remember, and my parents and
grandparents have been going there since before I was born.
But it's worth it. Although the Farmers Market has been around since the 30s, the owners recently added on a big, open-air mall at one end with a Nordstroms, a big movie theater, a Barne & Noble, etc. etc. To their credit, they haven't touched the original Farmers Market itself, and they claim it will "always be around," but I'm not so sure. I always drive up there in fear that Bryan's, at least, will have finally bitten the dust and last month's pork sandwich will have been my last.
But not this time. It's still there and going strong. Pay them a visit the next time you're in LA. And if you're still around at dinnertime, head over to Beverly and Rampart and have a chili burger at Tommy's. By the end of the day, you'll be about ready to convert to vegetarianism.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 08:51 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
TRUE CONFESSIONS....I think the picture I have up now will be the final one, if for no other reason than the fact that I'm tired of taking pictures of myself.
However, just so I don't get caught in a John Lott/Mary Rosh type of embarrassment in the future, I'll fess up now to an artificial digital enhancement: my weight swings up and down over the years, and right now is at its high end. But that was no problem: I just used Photoshop to squeeze the entire image a bit so that my face looks a little less puffy than it really is.
Digital photography is truly a marvelous medium....Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 06:36 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
CHESS UPDATE....The fifth game of the match between Garry Kasparov and Deep Junior ended in a draw. Kasparov was playing white but couldn't pull out a win.
The match score is now tied 2.5-2.5 and Deep Junior will be playing white in the final game. The last time this happened (against Deep Blue in 1997), Kasparov melted down and lost the match in spectacular fashion. It's not likely he'll repeat that performance, but it's also unlikely he'll win. Best bet: the match ends up tied 3-3, with a small likelihood (30%?) that Kasparov caves in under pressure and allows Deep Junior to pull out a victory.
Game 6 is on Friday.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 06:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
D-SQUARED IS BACK....I'd gotten a little tired of clicking over to D-squared Digest for the past month wondering if anything new would ever appear, but yesterday Daniel finally promised "More soon," so today I checked back.
I don't want to say the wait was worth it, since that might provoke him to take long hiatuses (hiati?) again, but, well, it was worth it. He's got three (!) posts up today, including perhaps the final word on the Michael Dini evolution controversy and a bit about the war.
But the best news is this:
So what's he going to do about Mr. Den Beste? Click here and find out.
As near as I can tell, Daniel's opinion of Den Beste is eerily identical to mine, but he is not restrained by any sense of politeness from expressing it in public. Thank God for people like him.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 02:54 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
MIGUEL ESTRADA....STEALTH CANDIDATE?....Kathryn Jean Lopez writes in The Corner:
Were they assuming that just because the administration has something new to say about the war that Senate Democrats should let Estrada slide through without a fight?
Of course, the main attraction of the war to the Bush administration does seem to be as a distraction from a domestic agenda that is either (a) nonexistent or (b) pretty unpopular once people figure out what it's really about, so that probably was what Nick was thinking.
And speaking of a domestic agenda, does anyone else think that a
successful Democratic candidate for, say, the presidency, could
basically pin his entire campaign on two things:
I know it's not like us liberals to pound on simplistic hobbyhorses for months on end, but it's probably time to start. Bush is pretty vulnerable on both these fronts, and I think they're proven vote getters.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 02:36 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
INVADING IRAQ....The latest Gallup poll shows that Americans trust Colin Powell over George Bush by more than 2 to 1 when it comes to Iraq. What a surprise.
In a different poll, Gallup found that over 90% of Americans believe Iraq is probably obstructing UN inspectors, has biological and chemical weapons, has facilities to manufacture WMDs, and has ties to al-Qaeda, and 79% think Iraq probably has nuclear weapons. Despite this, 38% are opposed to invading Iraq and two-thirds oppose invasion unless the UN approves. It's obvious that the American public is still deeply conflicted about the entire question.
UPDATE: The second paragraph has been completely changed. I read the poll numbers wrong the first time around. Thanks to Adam Sandler (no, not that one) for pointing it out.
UPDATE II: David Adesnik at OxBlog thinks the poll numbers show a more consistent public view of Iraq than I give them credit for.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 11:51 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
MORE LOTT....Brian Linse is finally back from some sort of non-blogging nonsense in England and has a post up about John Lott. He thinks we shouldn't let the Mary Rosh/1997 survey business distract us from the bigger question of whether Lott's main point is valid.
Well, sure, but the Mary Rosh stuff is a lot more fun. And I have to say that the question of whether Lott is willing to flat out lie (as opposed to spin statistics) is a pretty important one. If he lied about the survey, it throws all his research into serious doubt since there's no telling whether he's made up any other stuff.
Michelle Malkin, who might normally be thought sympathetic to Lott, seems to agree.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
POWELL AT THE UN....Colin Powell's presentation to the UN seems to have been pretty impressive. The French ambassador then followed Powell with a pre-written speech that probably doesn't mean much, but listening to it sure taught me one thing: those UN translators are really good. Wow.
My guess is that the French and Russians will posture a little bit more and then throw in their lot with the U.S. Whether that's for political reasons or because the new evidence truly convinces them, I don't know, but I don't think they'll hold out too much longer.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
IDIOTS....Yesterday a deputy secretary of state, under pressure from a Senate panel, admitted the obvious about North Korea:
So all of Bush's posturing and bluffing has come down to this. By denying the obvious, he's now forced to weakly cave in instead of simply opening talks in the first place. He's also wasted at least two months, during which the crisis has gotten worse.
These guys are incompetent. Why are we stuck with them?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:38 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
February 04, 2003
THE 2004 BUDGET....Brad DeLong has the last word on the 2004 budget, along with a truly eye popping chart. Go read it.
I'm with Brad on this. I simply can't comprehend why any administration would want to do this or why anyone would let them get away with it. It's criminal negligence on an epic scale.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:44 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
YET MORE PHOTO FUN....Matt Yglesias has decided to follow my lead and post a picture of himself on his site. Hurry over before he takes it down.
I have a new picture too, and as soon as my idiot ISP manages to get my personal web space back on the air, I'll post it. It's a bright and smiley Kevin Drum, just like the old picture except that it's not ten years old and I don't look quite so much like a charter member of the local Young Republicans club.
UPDATE: It's up now. Hopefully my ISP can keep it there.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 08:14 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
LIBERAL SHMIBERAL....Suppose the American media were absolutely neutral, favoring neither left nor right. Every single article and every single op-ed split the difference perfectly. What would happen?
Well, liberals would think the media was conservative and conservatives would think it was liberal. And, um....that's actually about what happens in the real world, isn't it? Does that mean — nah, couldn't be. A neutral media? Too boring.
But I suppose I'll find out. I just went out and bought Eric Alterman's new book, What Liberal Media?, which Atrios says I don't even need to read now that I have it in the house. Apparently, buying it is actually just a (rather inefficient) way of contributing some money to Eric Alterman while also promoting the cause of liberal books — possibly to soften up the market for a future book by Atrios himself? Maybe....
But I'll read it anyway and report back when I'm done. No point in wasting 25 bucks, after all.
(And a note to Eric: I dropped by my local Barnes & Noble to find a copy — you know, big chain, carries every book in the galaxy? They didn't have it. So I drove over to the big Barnes & Noble, and after 10 minutes of searching the clerk finally found a copy, one of three in the store. So not only is your promo tour going badly, but your publisher doesn't even seem able to get the book stocked. This doesn't bode well. Maybe you should shave your legs and start wearing miniskirts?)
(Oh, and another note: how come Glenn Reynolds gets an advance copy but not Atrios? What's up with that?)
(And one more: could I really have gotten a free review copy just because I'm an important blogger? Would that be cool or what?)Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 07:36 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
FISH TO ACADEMY: DROP DEAD....Stanley Fish thinks that university professors should quit jawboning about political issues and stick to their academic knitting:
Now, ever since Aristotle leveraged his position as head of the Lyceum to become an unofficial advisor to Alexander the Great, academics have placed themselves squarely in the middle of the issues of the day. So this is not exactly a new problem.
But never mind that. What I'm curious about is the reaction of Eugene Volokh and Glenn Reynolds: they both think Fish is onto something, Eugene going so far as to say "I almost entirely agree" with Fish's article. (Glenn, needless to say, merely links in a vaguely approving manner without actually coming right out and saying he approves.)
I don't get it. Both of them have dedicated considerable amounts of their professional lives to speaking out on public affairs — much of it on university time and taking advantage of their authority as university professors. Hell, they both run popular blogs in which they mouth off on subjects far and wide on a daily basis, just like the rest of us. So why would they claim that professors should limit themselves to the merely pedagogical?
Am I missing something here?
UPDATE: Mark Kleiman writes to say that he thinks Fish is speaking strictly about classroom advocacy. After reading the article again, he might be right, although there are a number of passages that seem to indicate otherwise. If that really is what Fish meant, then it's a pretty muddled piece. He should have made his point a lot clearer.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 07:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
ANTI-CANADIANISM?....Jane Finch at the Daily Rant reports that an anti-gang organization in Chicago has decided not to allow Canadian children to participate in its poster contest. Why?
Attaboy, George, that's the way to win friends and influence people. It's always good to see my fellow Americans treating our neighbors and friends like deadly enemies whenever they disagree with us.
The full story in the National Post is here.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 05:33 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
A GENERAL'S LOOK AT BUSH, RUMSFELD, AND THE WORLD....Sean-Paul Kelley of The Agonist has a family friend who's a general in the Air Force, and he persuaded him to do a short (anonymous) interview for his blog. Here's what he has to say about the Bush administration's treatment of the military:
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REFLECTIONS ON SPACE FLIGHT....Not surprisingly, I've been getting a lot of flack for my skeptical attitude toward manned space flight. I've been thinking some more about it, mostly while I was driving up and back from Los Angeles this afternoon, and I've got a few miscellaneous ideas about the whole thing.
One common thread from the space enthusiasts is that if we want to get better at manned space flight someday, we've got to keep at it. As Stephen Green put it, in a sharp attack on Paul Krugman's latest column:
But that's not necessarily right. When Charles Babbage invented his difference engine, he was laughed at. But there was good reason: there was no future in mechanical computers, and further research wouldn't have helped. It wasn't until the vacuum tube and the transistor were invented that true computers became feasible. We may be in the same position today: space colonization just isn't feasible with the current (or foreseeable) state of the art, and maybe we just need to wait until some quantum leap in technology comes along before we start sending people to Mars to start the terraforming projects.
I have a feeling there may be a generational thing at work here as well. People who came of age in the 50s, 60s, and 70s dreamed of colonies in the sky, mining the asteroids, and putting men on Mars. But while this generation has clung to its old dream even as space flight has become increasingly prosaic, a younger generation has invented its own dreams, and space is not high on their list. Putting two guys in a bucket and spending a couple of years going to Mars so that they can plant a flag and then come home just doesn't quicken their pulse.
But perhaps other things do. How about microchips implanted in your brain? That's also science fiction, but the thought of it sure quickens my pulse. It would be way cool, far more so than a straggling band of astronauts living on the Moon and accomplishing little of interest.
There are reasons to send humans into space. As one of my readers pointed out, it was astronauts who fixed the Hubble telescope. But there's not much reason to do it frequently, and there's not much reason to dream of government sponsored space stations or moon colonies either.
We need new dreams, not the tired dreams of our parents' generation. Let's let the kids figure out what to do next.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 04:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
HUMANS IN SPACE....You know, I really really, really, like the idea of manned space flight. Exploring the cosmos. Colonizing planets. Taming the void. And yesterday I was hoping that somewhere I would read something that convinced me we should be doing this. So I scanned all the Columbia-related opinion pieces I could find, and did the same today.
Nada. Typical was this piece by Rand Simberg in NRO:
That's it? Mining the asteroids? The long-promised pharmaceutical revolution in zero-g? Sex in space?
But the worst part is the final sentence, which I've seen repeated over and over: we need to colonize Mars (or whatever) so that humanity will live on in case we blow ourselves to smithereens here on Earth.
There's really no polite way to put this, but the notion is simply nonsensical. Do space enthusiasts keep writing this stuff because their neurons stop firing before they put finger to keyboard, or is it just that they've been saying it for so long that it's become a habit? Do they have any idea how dumb the proposition really is?
I'd love to be convinced that a manned mission to Mars is a good idea. But a combination of mundane commercial exploitation, shaking our fist at the cosmos, and weary science fiction tropes isn't going to get the job done. If you want to spend $50 billion of my money, at least do me the courtesy of advancing ideas that aren't laughable on their face.
POSTSCRIPT: There seems to be an odd kind of left-right divide here too. Back in the 60s many liberals did indeed argue that the NASA budget would be better spent on earthbound problems, but that's not an argument I've read recently. Rather, conservatives seem to be arguing that we need a huge NASA budget because space flight is, you know, really cool, while liberals are arguing that we should evaluate the actual benefits before committing big buckets of taxpayer dollars. What's wrong with this picture?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 03:52 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
AMTRAK BUDGET CUTS....Reuters reports that Bush's budget plan proposes cutting some of Amtrak's long-haul passenger routes, and I hope this is one program cut they can make stick. Subsidizing money losing trains from Los Angeles to Orlando is just nuts. Unfortunately, there's this:
The total number of jobs that Amtrak's long haul routes provides just has to be microscopic in the great scheme of things. Are congress critters really so slavishly devoted to pork that they can't even give up this miniscule make-work program?
This is just a rhetorical question, of course. I already know the answer.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 03:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
GUNS AND MORE GUNS....Is it really true that 75% of all BATF gun prosecutions are constitutionally improper? Dave Kopel says so, Tapped says he's wrong, and now Kopel responds.
But, as Tapped notes, Kopel is pretty obviously avoiding the substance of their question. Just another example of why you can't trust anyone on either side of the gun debate. Is there a single person anywhere who studies gun policy who isn't just a shill for one side or the other?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:47 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
February 03, 2003
YOU CAN ALL GO TO HELL, OK?....Is Christopher Hitchens bitter or what? The interview is here.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 11:14 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
MEDICAL MARIJUANA....Great story over at TalkLeft tonight. Ed Rosenthal was convicted of marijuana cultivation charges last week, but today the jurors say they wish they could do it over:
I'm sure John Ashcroft is proud of this stunning victory. I know I feel safer. Don't you?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:48 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
HOW ABOUT AN INTERNATIONAL DNA DATABASE?....Via Rachel Lucas comes a story in the Independent about James Watson's proposal that a massive DNA database be set up that could identify every man, woman, and child in America and Europe.
The weird thing is that despite my fairly paranoid attitude toward this kind of thing, I'm not entirely sure it would be a bad idea. As Watson says:
To be sure, that "strict and judicious control" is the potential deal breaker, but suppose that it could be implemented to our satisfaction. Then what?
It's likely that biometrics will become rather common in the future as a way of identifying people, which means that identifying characteristics will be in databases all over the place anyway. In a way, I'd be a lot happier with a centralized database with strict controls than the chaos of commercial databases with this kind of information available to anyone willing to pay for it. And Watson is right: it would help prevent the criminal justice system from harrassing or imprisoning a lot of innocent people.
Still, I dunno. My gut tells me it's a bad idea.
There is, of course, some irony in this proposal too. Watson and his partner Francis Crick deduced the structure of DNA in 1953 partly by filching X-ray diffraction photographs from Rosalind Franklin, something they could hardly have gotten away with if their DNA had been stored in some massive British database at the time. Beware what you wish for.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
MORE PHOTO FUN....Yes, yet another new picture is now up, this time with one of my cats. I'm just having so much fun with my camera that I can't stop.
Jeralyn thinks I should try again and smile for the birdie. Already done, Jeralyn! I'll post it sometime tomorrow.
I do amuse myself sometimes, yes I do.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 07:26 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
BUSH AND BLAIR....The Los Angeles Times ran a story today with this headline:
I keep reading stories likes these implying that the 6-week deadline is some kind of strategic compromise forged by George and Tony. But I've also been reading for the past couple of weeks that the military deployment won't be ready until mid-March. That's six weeks.
So why do the media play along with this game, when it's clear where the 6-week number is really coming from? What's the deal?
Meanwhile, Ronald Brownstein reports from elsewhere on the transatlantic front that Blair is getting diddly from his pal George despite being by far his most committed and unwavering partner:
Many moderate Democrats learned last year that voting for Bush's programs earned them nothing except contempt and an all-out effort to unseat them in November. Blair is learning that even being "Bush's poodle" isn't enough to win any loyalty from him. A couple of months ago Bush casually rubbished Blair's desire to restart the Israel-Palestine peace negotiations, and now there's this.
Tony Blair's sincere belief that Saddam Hussein is a menace is palpable. But considering the way Bush has treated him, I wonder how long he'll put up with this shabby, small-minded treatment once the war is over? Probably not very long.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 06:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
EVOLUTION AND THE ESTABLISHMENT....One of my frustrations with the whole Michael Dini evolution dust-up is that I've discovered that even people who are sympathetic to the cause often don't seem to realize just how strong the case for evolution is. Hey, sometimes the scientific establishment really is hostile to new ideas. Maybe this is one of those times. Perhaps creationism — or its modern incarnation as Intelligent Design — ought to be given a hearing.
I would like to persuade you that history doesn't back up this view. Yes, the scientific establishment can sometimes be hostile to new ideas, as they should be if someone is proposing to overturn a well established and highly successful theory. Meticulous evidence ought to be required.
But the real story isn't that the scientific establishment sometimes
rejects good ideas, it's just the opposite: what's really remarkable is
the speed with which even the most harebrained idea can become widely
Virtually every crank with a peculiar idea invokes the romantic image of the lonely outsider shunned by a scientific establishment unwilling to listen to unconventional new ideas. But it's mostly a myth. Genuinely good ideas spread through the scientific establishment amazingly quickly. After all, for a truly revolutionary discovery 20 or 30 years is not really all that long.
Creationism, of course, has been around essentially forever. It is evolution that was the bright new idea in 1859, and like most bright new ideas it received wide acceptance among the professional establishment fairly quickly — within a few decades. Intelligent Design, which is simply creationism with a new mask, is not a brilliant outsider fighting an ossified establishment, it's an old, old idea that has been universally rejected because it's been replaced by a much better one.
To a large extent, this is what the Dini controversy is about. Creationists play for sympathy by claiming that evolution is a shaky theory protected by a jealous scientific elite. But nothing could be further from the truth. The scientific establishment is constantly adding new members, and if there was even a shred of evidence for creationism there would be legions of bright young grad students latching onto it, hoping to make a name for themselves.
No such thing has happened. Not in 10 years, not in 50 years, not for over a century. The closest we've come has been Lysenkoism, which set back Russian biology by decades.
Why? Because there's nothing there. There is plenty of activity in the field of evolution and bits and pieces of it will no doubt continue changing for a long time. But creationism? It's like suggesting that geologists ought to pay serious attention to people who claim the earth is flat.
Creationism is as demonstrably false as it's possible for a theory to be. For Dini to recommend a student who believes it is to countenance someone who may someday make claims for creationism — perhaps in a classroom, perhaps on a congressional panel — that are credible partly by virtue of the authority that Dini bestowed. The result might be anything from ignorant students to public policy based on superstition. Is it any wonder that Dini wants no part of this?
UPDATE: Chris Mooney has a good column about the Dini affair over at CSICOP.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 02:53 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
SNEAKY PREVIEWING....Apparently some of the stars of Chicago are upset over Miramax's marketing of the movie. The dust-up, which involves "sneak previews" of the movie, seems to be just another example of the tedious financial chicanery common in Hollywood, but this sentence in the LA Times caught my eye:
It hardly seems like a "sneak preview" if the movie has already opened, does it now? Perhaps we need a whole new word for this kind of thing.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 02:39 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
CHESS UPDATE....The fourth game of the Kasparov-Deep Junior match ended in a draw Sunday. The match score is now 2-2 and game five looks to be the key game of the match: Kasparov will be playing white, and it's probably his last chance for a win. If he plays agressively and wins the game, the final match score will probably end up 3.5-2.5. But if he's just trying to avoid a loss, he'll play carefully and end up with a couple of draws, for a final match score of 3-3.
The mental gymnastics of playing a computer were evident in this game. Kasparov's 8th move was an odd one, and after the match he admitted, "Okay it's a lousy move but it got the computer out of book." In other words, instead of simply playing straight-up chess, he's trying to figure out how to outwit the programming. I have a feeling that the twin stresses of playing a world class machine and trying to second guess the programming just makes the whole match even more of an emotional stretch than it would be otherwise.
Game five is on Wednesday.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 02:26 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
THE DREAM OF SPACE....William Burrows has an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times today in which he talks about our destiny in space:
But turn that around and see how this sounds instead:
Domed colonies on the floor of the sea were a science fiction staple of Jules Verne's time, but today it sounds quaint and old fashioned. Why would we bother?
That's the problem with manned space flight. I'm not opposed to it because it's dangerous, or because the government shouldn't be in the business of basic research, or because we should be spending the money fighting poverty instead. I'm opposed because some dreams just don't pan out as well as others. Manned space flight today is like the domed sea colonies of 1900: cool sounding, but ultimately not very interesting.
Unmanned probes are a great use of government money. Aspects of biotech, nanotech, AI, and other frontiers of science that are too risky or far out for the private sector might be too. But manned space flight is ultimately a dream about human progress, and in the past 50 years it's been superseded by newer, shinier miracles. Frankly, space is no longer the final frontier. We should move on.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:43 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
FRANCE VS. THE WORLD....Francophobe Jonah Goldberg writes in the Corner today:
All right, I'll buy that. It's a start.
Thrashing the French for hypocrisy, or because you disagree with their substantive position, is fine. But, as Goldberg says, always keep in mind that "They're not enemies and they're not evil."Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
Glenn Reynolds said the same thing on a segment of PBS' Media Matters dedicated to blogging a few weeks ago. It puzzled me then and it still puzzles me.
Blogging has a number of virtues, but confessing "immediately and openly to mistakes" sure doesn't seem to be one of them. On the contrary, with the exception of fairly mundane factual errors ("Megan McArdle reminds me that Keynes died in 1946, not 1945....") I'd venture to say that bloggers are about as likely to admit error as a 6-beer drunk in a barroom argument.
Am I missing something here?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 08:32 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
GARY HART AT OXFORD....Gary Hart spoke at Oxford on Friday and Josh Chafetz was there. Conclusion: he's pretty knowlegable, has a good sense of humor, but overall is a disappointment. Politicians usually use speeches like this to express their general principles, not provide white paper level detail, so I suspect Josh was hoping for a little too much from Hart, who made some arguments Josh doesn't like and didn't defend them adequately. Still, it's an interesting firsthand look.
Josh puts the odds at a bit over 50% that Hart will run for president.
UPDATE: Jeralyn over at TalkLeft heard Hart's speech too, and her opinion was quite a bit more positive.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 08:18 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
February 02, 2003
PHOTO FUN....Reaction to my new photo has been, as they say in diplomatic circles, frank and candid. I'll leave it up for a bit so everyone can giggle about it, and then put up a new one Monday night. And I'll keep putting up new ones until I find one everybody likes.
I finally figured out how to use the self-timer on my camera on Saturday, and by God, I'm going to get my money's worth from it....Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:56 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
MATT YGLESIAS HAS YOUR MARCHING ORDERS FOR YOU....Is it ANWR or is it the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge? Apparently it depends on whether you're a liberal or a conservative.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
SPACE FLIGHT AND BALLET....I just saw NASA administrator Sean O'Keefe on 60 Minutes tonight, and I have to give him a mixed review. At first he compared manned space flight to the early days of commercial aviation:
(That's an approximate quote. I was eating dinner, not taking notes.)
And he almost had me going. Yeah, it's like the early days of aviation. Yeah!
Unfortunately, we've been flying humans into space for 40 years now, and space flight is nowhere near where commercial aviation was 40 years after the Wright brothers. Then, to make it worse, O'Keefe started talking about symphonies and ballets:
(Again very approximate quote.)
Unfortunately, most Americans just don't have much interest in government funding of symphonies and ballets. For good or ill, this is not a great way to sell the American public on the idea of manned space flight.
I love the idea of manned space flight myself. If my income tax form had a box that allowed me to contribute an extra $100 to a government program to colonize space, I'd probably check it off. Unfortunately, though, I suspect the "symphonies and ballets" analogy is a pretty good one. And like the civic arts, manned space flight probably ought to be consigned primarily to the private sector, where it will be funded by enthusiasts and rich philanthropists. Maybe Bill Gates would contribute a couple billion dollars.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 08:03 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
POETIC JUSTICE....Dwight Meredith thinks that Texas Tech biology professor Michael Dini should write recommendations for all his good students, even if they do believe in creationism. And since Dwight is a lawyer, he's even drafted an appropriate letter for him....Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 05:39 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
MANNED SPACE FLIGHT....Josh Marshall points to a couple of good articles by Gregg Easterbrook about the space shuttle today: this one written in 1980 and this one written for Time today. In the Time article Easterbrook says:
This may seem like a cheap shot, but
unfortunately it isn't. As much as I dearly love the dream of manned
space flight and the colonization of other planets, the sad truth is
that there's simply no compelling reason to send humans into space on a
Yes, manned space flight is romantic, and yes, man is the measure of all things. But the reality is that NASA holds onto manned space flight primarily for PR reasons: they're afraid that without it the public would lose interest in supporting their scientific mission.
Aside from Cold War "space race" considerations, the original Apollo missions had at least one grand purpose: to see if we could do it. But no one other than a hobbyist would bother flying a small prop plane across the Atlantic today, and likewise there's not much point in trucking humans back and forth into low earth orbit now that we know we can do that too.
The Columbia disaster is not a good reason to shelve human exploration of space, but there are plenty of others and they have been depressingly obvious for a long time. There are many new, far more interesting frontiers we could be exploring with the money that NASA seemingly spends simply out of habit. It's time to start exploring them.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 05:13 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
FARM TRADE....Farm subsidies are the Achilles heel of rich country protectionism. Who's worse, the EU or America? Probably the EU, but it's sort of like arguing about whether Hitler was worse than Stalin. It's hard to find anything good on either side.
Still, at least there's irony and humor to be had. Here is what the Economist says about the U.S. position on reducing farm tariffs:
Heh. Wasn't that exactly the deal breaker when it came to Kyoto? Except then it was the U.S. insisting on equal reductions from everyone, while the EU demanded that the U.S. accept higher reductions because our output of greenhouse gases was far higher than theirs.
For Euro-bashers, the story also contains some good fodder:
The odds of winning agreement for any kind of serious agricultural trade liberalization are probably nil, so Europhobes will have a nice juicy quote to throw back in Europe's face when the inevitable failure occurs.
I should add that, as usual, it is France blocking progress in this area, and this is one of the reasons that American impatience with France is actually sort of amusing. The other EU countries have to deal with French intransigence at least a hundred time more often than we do, but somehow they manage to make do. If they can keep from exploding, so can we.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 02:38 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
SADDAM'S SECRET WEAPONS....Via Instapundit comes this story in Australia's Herald Sun, which says that Saddam Hussein's chief bodyguard has fled to Israel and is providing information about the whereabouts of Saddam's weapons facilities, including:
The source for this story is embittered former weapons inspector William Tierney, so I'm taking it with a grain of salt. The Herald Sun says:
This kind of bragadoccio doesn't exactly fill me with confidence. What's more, aside from the fact that Tierney is unreliable and the Herald Sun is not really my idea of a serious source, this simply doesn't make sense. Why would Saddam's bodyguard flee to Israel, of all places? And why would the Israelis leak this information? And why would Tierney then repeat it before inspectors had a chance to visit these sites? It does nothing except give the Iraqis plenty of warning that they'd better move all this stuff posthaste.
This strikes me as bogus, but you never know. Maybe tomorrow morning Hans Blix's men will conduct a lightning raid on the Jadray Peninsula and discover a swimming pool full of anthrax. We'll see.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 02:16 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
THE UNITED STATES AND THE WORLD....A lot of bloggers — and mainstream columnists — take pleasure in mocking the rest of the world for the sin of being insufficiently enthusiastic supporters of U.S. policy. Each new uproarious jibe is an occasion for much back slapping and high fiving, accompanied in more sober moments by a claim that, in any case, the rest of the world doesn't matter anyway. We are the world's sole superpower, they intone, we don't need anyone's help anymore.
Glenn Reynolds is a prime exponent of this kind of snide and dismissive attitude toward any country that doesn't support our war with Iraq, but yesterday was not a good day for his write-first-then-think brand of foreigner-bashing. First he wrote that a Canadian television interviewer "has blamed 'American Arrogance' for the crash," but today the interviewee wrote to say that the TV anchor was obviously flustered and "didn't mean to be offensive."
Then it was the French: their TV stations weren't giving the Columbia disaster enough coverage. "That's representative," he sniffed, but minutes later was forced to report that "LCI TV (owned by TF1)....has covered this non-stop since the story broke."
(And of course the Columbia tragedy was also good for some cheap shots at liberals: "lately 'left-wing' seems to have become a synonym, in some quarters, for 'opposing everything.'")
Why do I care about this? Aside from the poor taste in using yesterday's tragedy as an excuse to engage in petulant name calling, we are the world's sole superpower. What use do we have for the rest of the world?
But disasters like yesterday's should make us think twice about this. The space shuttle is our primary vehicle for boosting both civilian and military payloads into orbit. Suppose — just suppose — that sometime in the future we find ourselves temporarily unable to launch a surveillance satellite that's an important part of our campaign against terrorism. And suppose again that the only realistic alternative is the European Arianne launcher. Wouldn't it be nice to be on their good side?
Or how about this from today's Los Angeles Times:
What if they decide to stop coming altogether?
There's more: the United States runs an annual trade deficit of $400 billion — that's 4% of GDP. If sentiment in the rest of the world turns against us, and foreign consumers spurn American goods, it could send the U.S. economy into a long and deep recession.
The U.S. dollar is also the reserve currency of the world. It is, for example, the primary currency for all oil transactions in the Middle East. But there is no law that says it has to stay that way, and if the dollar were to lose its position in world markets, the U.S. would lose a considerable amount of influence over the world economy.
Isolationism is no longer a feasible foreign policy, and the United States, powerful as it is, is not big enough to run the world without help. Even a cursory look at the globe should be enough to convince the Europhobes of this.
We can acccomplish our goals a lot more easily within a web of friendships than we can if the world is arrayed against us because it fears U.S. military hegemony. Yes, building and maintaining those friendships takes more time and a greater level of maturity, but in the end it's the only way for us to win the security we seek. It is time to put away our childish things and engage the world as friends and equals once again.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 11:51 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
JOHN LOTT UPDATE....The Washington Post wrote a story about the John Lott/Mary Rosh fiasco yesterday:
As it turns out, the Post went pretty easy on Lott, accepting without comment his claim that the "Mary Rosh" review of his book on Amazon was actually written by his 13-year-old son. The article also failed to excerpt some of Mary Rosh's most embarrassing quotes, but blog readers who want the straight dope can find a complete list here.
Unfortunately, all this attention means that my own chances of interviewing Lott have apparently been seriously compromised. Lott wrote to me last night:
Well, he's definitely wrong about that last sentence, but it doesn't look like I'll ever get the chance to prove it. Hopefully somebody with more clout than me will manage to pin him down on the mysteriously vanished 1997 survey some day.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:26 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
SECURITY COUNCIL PREVIEW....Bruce also points out this interesting story in Newsweek previewing the evidence from NSA intercepts of Iraqi conversations that Colin Powell has promised to present to the Security Council on Wednesday:
The story claims that NSA intercepts are so sensitive that it's "stunning" that the administration would decide to use them publicly, even in a case like this. But apparently one argument for disclosing them is that compromising sources "may not matter if the U.S. military is about to invade anyway."
That makes sense.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
NORTH KOREA'S NUCLEAR PROGRAM....Well, it looks like Josh Marshall was right: Bush has known about North Korea's uranium enrichment program for more than a year. Bruce Moomaw emails to point out this story in yesterday's Washington Post:
The Bushies no doubt have some good reasons for treating North Korea differently than Iraq, but this is one they'd probably rather keep quiet about. After all, how can you demand immediate action on the peninsula when this is a problem you've known about for a year and done nothing about?
This also puts the lie to is the administration's continual insistence that they can handle multiple things at once. Don't worry, we can invade Iraq and keep fighting al-Qaeda full tilt at the same time. We're big boys.
Getting rid of Saddam Hussein may be the right thing to do, but it's not without costs. Paying too little attention to problems elsewhere in the world may be one of them.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:02 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
February 01, 2003
WHERE WERE YOU?....When Richard Nixon resigned in 1974, I heard about it in Provo, Utah, where I was attending a conference for high school newspaper editors.
When Reagan was shot in 1981, I heard about it in the newsroom of the Los Angeles Times, where I was working as an intern for a semester.
When Challenger exploded in 1986, I heard about it at work, where I was a technical writer. The only TV we had was over in the marketing department, so that's where we all went.
When the OJ verdict was announced in 1995, I was again at work, this time as VP of marketing. The nearest TV was in our training room, and about half the company crowded in, waiting breathlessly for the jury's decision.
When terrorists destroyed the World Trade Center in 2001, I was at home in bed. My sister-in-law called and told me to turn on the TV.
Today, when Columbia disintegrated on landing, I first heard about it from Matt Yglesias' blog. After a double take, I realized what he meant and turned on CNN.
Somehow it doesn't seem right that it's mostly bad news and disasters that stick so vividly in our memories. Where was I when I heard the Berlin Wall had fallen? Or the hostages had been released from Tehran? Or Princess Di got married? I don't remember. I know where I was when Neal Armstrong set foot on the moon (at the dinner table, in a rare relaxation of the rule against TV during dinner), but that's about it.
It doesn't seem right, but for better or worse, this is the way we humans seem to operate, retaining a vivid memory of disasters while turning the good times into a homogeneous fog. It's a pity that we're built that way.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:50 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
IMPERIAL AMERICA?....Pat Buchanan says:
What is he talking about? Vietnam did not attack us. Chile did not attack us. Grenada did not attack us. And neither did Nicaragua, Panama, or Kosovo.
Japan and Afghanistan are the only countries in the past century to have attacked us on our soil. The rest of them either attacked people we were friendly with or simply had the wrong ideology for our taste.
The United States has a long history of fighting people who pose only a distant threat or who simply annoy us. On the other hand, we also have a long history of sticking around for a few years and then pulling out, hardly the mark of an empire builder.
So, first imperial war? Hardly. It's neither the first nor, probably, imperial. On the other hand, it is inarguably a war. I guess one out of three isn't bad if you're Pat Buchanan....Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 05:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
SHUTTLE NEWS....FoxNews has a nice set of bios of the Columbia crew.
Seth Johnson has good ongoing coverage of the tragedy. But watch the timestamps if you want to read them in order. Basically, morning coverage is here and afternoon coverage is in a separate post that's currently at the top of the page.
Space.com has a lot of good coverage, including photos.
The official NASA site for the Columbia flight is here.
The Christian Science Monitor has an article on the international implications of the disaster: "When the Challenger was destroyed in 1986, the US operated its space program on its own. But over the past decade, nations that had been interested in running their own space programs - Canada, Japan, and several European nations - had decided to abandon their own efforts and join with the US's manned space flight efforts. The question that will be faced in the coming weeks is how this tragedy will effect the global manned space program."
Time has some speculation on what caused the disaster. Most likely is "an aerodynamic structural breakup of the shuttle caused by it rolling at the wrong angle." An Italian astronaut, Umberto Guidoni, who has been on two previous shuttle missions, apparently agrees: "The angle of penetration should be at 40 degrees to the horizon....The margin of error is at most three or four degrees. Beyond that range the shuttle becomes uncontrollable."Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 12:26 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
RESPECT....I'd like to second Kieran Healy's comment today about Glenn Reynolds: is everything now an excuse for more sermonizing about America after 9/11, a bit of casual French bashing, and some complaints about Canadian television? Is nothing worth a few moments of simple, quiet respect anymore?
Please, Glenn, give it a rest just for a few hours.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 11:08 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
DEATH AND RECOVERY....The space shuttle is an enormously
complex and — in many ways — fragile vehicle. And over the years there
have been a number of people who have claimed not only that the entire
shuttle concept was flawed from the start, but that since then it's
been underfunded, mismanaged, and oversold.
The complexity of space vehicles makes them inherently dangerous, and the evidence suggests that, given the state of the art in engineering, we have to accept the likelihood of one failure every 50 flights or so. But as with the Challenger disaster, while there will no doubt be a sustained effort to find not just the cause of this latest accident, but someone to blame for it, the real story is probably simpler: the shuttle is built and run by human beings, and human beings are not perfect.
We learn from our mistakes, but we should never allow fear of failure to keep us from pushing the boundaries of what we can accomplish. Death — and recovery from death — are a fundamental part of the human condition, a lesson that we are re-learning rather more often than we'd like in the first few years of the 21st century.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:22 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
TRAGEDY....The space shuttle Columbia broke up over Texas on its way to a landing in Florida today. The seven crew members were Rick Husband, William McCool, Michael Anderson, David Brown, Kalpana Chawla, Laurel Clark, and Ilan Ramon.
This is just horrible news.
Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 08:17 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
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