Friday, February 28, 2003

Here's New York Times Metro section reporter Clyde Haberman defending New York City's reluctance to commit wholeheartedly to the anti-French holy war:

...give us a little credit. This isn't Beaufort, N.C., where a restaurant called Cubbie's replaced French fries with "freedom fries." It seems not to have dawned on the people of Beaufort that the very name of their town is French.

One last thing about Andrew Sullivan's Al Sharpton article: Sullivan says of Sharpton, "He has amazing oratorical skills among blacks." Just what the hell is that supposed to mean? That Sharpton appeals to the half-savage sable hordes with their mysterious jungle music and their unbridled dancing? I'm putting words in Sullivan's mouth, but I don't how how else to interpret a statement like that.

Whatever you think of him, Sharpton's a good speaker, period. He preaches when he makes a speech, and why not? He's been preaching since he was a kid. The techniques of black church oratory are pretty damn useful for getting a point across. Sharpton's not as good as Jesse Jackson in front a large crowd, but -- at least to my white, Northeastern ears -- he's a lot better than Jackson in, say, a small TV studio (Jackson in an intimate setting really sounds country). Sharpton can do irony and sarcasm. His one-liners can be quite barbed. He's no dummy, and you feel it when he talks. I wonder if Sullivan's ever heard the man speak at any greater length than an eight-second soundbite.
Why did Andrew Sullivan send this article on Al Sharpton to London's Sunday Times? Was it because he knew no responsible U.S. periodical would publish it intact?

SullyWatch correctly points out that Sharpton was not found criminally guilty of defaming Steven Pagones (he was found liable in a civil suit); SullyWatch also chides Sullivan for misstating Sharpton's role in the outcome of the last New York mayoral race. There's more to say on this subject, however: Mark Green probably lost the race not because of what Sharpton did but because of what Green did vis-à-vis Sharpton. Jesse Jackson and the black conservative pundit Armstrong Williams agree on this, and they don't agree on much. Jackson:

[Green's] campaign took off the gloves, releasing negative ads against Ferrer. And white voters reported getting election eve calls urging them to vote for Green because Al Sharpton, the African American leader, "cannot be given the keys to City Hall." Flyers were distributed painting Ferrer as a pawn of Sharpton. Dennis Rivera, president of the health and hospital workers' union and a nationally respected political leader, accused Green of "using code words" to divide the city. The runoff vote split on racial lines: Green got 84% of the white vote; Ferrer 84% of the Latino vote and 71% of the black vote.


On the other side was Mark Green, who attacked Ferrer for his association with Reverend Al Sharpton. In what seems a shameless attempt to court the white vote, some upper-class neighborhoods received cartoons depicting Ferrer smooching Sharpton's bloated rear end. The day of the runoff, Green henchmen cruised through predominantly white neighborhoods shouting through their Radio Shack megaphones, "Do you want Sharpton running City Hall?"

Mike Bloomberg also, of course, benefited from a bit of unpleasantness in New York on September 11, 2001; Rudolph Giuliani, a 9/11 hero even to many who'd loathed him, endorsed Bloomberg, while Green made the ill-advised declaration that anyone could have handled the situation as well as Giuliani.

Sullivan also blames Sharpton for the fact that there has been "a decade of Republican mayors and governors in one of the most liberal states in the country." Sharpton does have influence on mayor's races in New York City, but no observer of the New York political scene credits or blames Sharpton in any way for the three elections of George Pataki as governor of New York.

Sullivan says that Sharpton's "gutter style of racial politics has won him a devoted following and considerable clout in New York City Democratic politics." Does Sullivan consider the peaceful, effective protests that arose in the wake of the torture of Abner Louima and the shootings of Amadou Diallo and Patrick Dorismond -- protests in which Sharpton was joined by, among others, Ed Koch, his longtime antagonist -- to be "gutter politics"? How about Sharpton's efforts to find justice in the Howard Beach murder of Michael Griffith in 1986?

The maddening thing about Al Sharpton is that he deserves just about as much criticism as he gets -- and an awful lot of praise as well. He's done terrible things and noble things. He's a mountebank and a very good leader. I don't blame anyone who rejects him for the Tawana Brawley incident or the Freddy's incident or any number of other terrible judgments. But it's ignorant -- or dishonest -- to say that his appeal stems exclusively, or primarily, from his worst acts.

Y'know that site the government set up to help you survive a terrorist attack?

Well, some people who've seen it just show no respect for the fine work of's illustrators. (And they use naughty language, too.)

I laughed at this disrespectful nonsense. I guess I'm a bad person.

(Thanks to Phil F. for the link.)
I’m mightily impressed that David Skinner of the right-wing Weekly Standard can shoot fish in a barrel. Too bad about the collateral damage he does to his own foot in the process.

In a column called "Stardumb” -- gosh, I guess that’s a pun on “stardom,” isn’t it? -- Skinner critiques celebrities (left-leaners only) for having the temerity to express opinions despite the fact that they’re not Oxford-level debaters or Nobel-level intellects. Skinner chides Limp Bizkit’s Fred Durst (whom he calls, ever so wittily, “Fred Dunce”) because Durst said at the Grammy Awards, “I hope we all are in agreeance that this war should go away as soon as possible." Muffy! He said “agreeance”! Yet how good is Skinner’s command of the language? He writes:

The music awards remained relatively free of war-posing even after reports that the plug wouldn't be pulled on anyone for mouthing off. But, somehow, the dye was already set.

First of all, David, that should be “die,” not “dye.” And the expression isn’t “the die is set” -- it’s “the die is cast.” Alia iacta est, as we used to say in Latin class. Scroll to the second entry here if you don’t know what a die is.

By the way, I wonder if Skinner has any plans to parse the bon mots of Ted Nugent or Charlie Daniels.

(Thanks to TAPPED for the Skinner link.)
Here's a picture of Russia's foreign minister and China's president shaking hands. Yesterday Russia and China issued a joint resolution opposing America's plan for an Iraq war, and Russia has now said it may veto a war resolution in the U.N.

The Sino-Soviet split has been ended -- by Bush.

And the North Koreans, not content with restarting that nuclear reactor, are apparently going to test a ballistic missile and start reprocessing plutonium.

1964 Goldwater voters must be freaking.
Let's see if I'm following Bush administration logic here:

Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction. Saddam has the ability and also the desire to transport these weapons outside his own borders if doing so will advance his megalomaniacal goals. And Saddam supports Palestinian terrorists, a point the president reiterated in his speech on Wednesday night. The second Palestinian intifada began in September 2000 -- on the evil Bill Clinton's watch, and two years after U.N. weapons inspectors first left Iraq.

So if all that's true, why didn't the evil Saddam give nukes or chemical weapons or biological weapons to Palestinian militants between the start of the second intifada and the day Sheriff Bush pulled on his cowboy boots?

Why didn't he give these weapons to Palestinian militants even after September 11, 2001? Why isn't he handing the weapons over even now? After all, isn't the Bush administration's argument that inspections alone, even with 200,000 troops on Iraq's borders, don't deter Saddam's weapons program at all, that weapons development continues apace even as inspectors inspect?

Just asking.

Thursday, February 27, 2003

More know-nothingism from MSNBC's newest hire, Michael Savage.

And did I ever link this sampling of his hate-spew?

Yes, by all means join GLAAD's e-mail campaign.

While I'm talking about Savage again, I want to comment on this passage from his book, quoted in the first link above:

You can have sex in public.

You can masturbate in public.

You can cross-dress in public. You can rub against a sheep in public.

But you can't pray in public.

This is utter bullshit. Look, I live and work in Manhattan. Ever see the guy who paces the streets just south of Columbus Circle, chanting "Je - sus! Je -sus! Love God! Love God! Hallelujah!"? It's cold now, so he's moved to the subway -- but nobody stops him. For decades nobody's stopped the preachers waving their Bibles and shouting the praises of the Lord in Times Square -- preachers who are still there, even though the peep shows and grindhouses have all been moved out of the Square and off the Deuce.

You can pray on a public street. You just can't pray under the public's aegis, with government sponsorship. (Of course, you actually can -- the ACLU just might try to stop you, and a judge who understands the Constitution might agree.)

The cops actually would stop you in Manhattan if you were having sex or masturbating, or rubbing up against a farm animal.

Savage is right about one thing, though -- They'll let cross-dressing slide.
Dolly the sheep is dead, but the political controversy she engendered lives in the House of Representatives, where lawmakers are expected on Thursday to pass a bill making human cloning a crime.

The Republican-backed measure would outlaw cloning experiments — or, more precisely, the scientific procedure known as somatic cell nuclear transfer — either for baby making or medical research. Scientists who cloned human embryos would face up to 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine. The bill would also prohibit the importing of medical therapies derived from cloning research.

--New York Times

Read that last sentence again. If these guys get their way, it won't merely be illegal to do research of this kind in the U.S. It will be illegal in America to buy or sell drugs that were developed this way elsewhere. The world will have access to these drugs, but Americans will have to go overseas to get them, and importing them will be a crime.

Surely this bill is too extreme to become law. Yet

The bill is nearly identical to legislation that passed the House in the last Congress by more than 100 votes in July 2001, and it has the strong support of President Bush....

The Senate voted once, in 1998, to reject a broad cloning ban, and last year, the Democratic-controlled Senate would not take up the bill passed by the House. That will change now that Republicans are in charge.

We're not a theocracy yet, not by a long shot. But it's not for lack of trying.
It's being reported (here and here, for instance) that in some schools the children of military personnel are being harassed by anti-war teachers.

I am more than willing to denounce any harassment of service members or their kids. This kind of thing was wrong and stupid in the Vietnam era, and I'd like to think most anti-war people know better now. The men and women in the military have no control over bad decisions being made in Washington. They're the workers. They want to do what's right. It's particularly wrong to take it out on their children.

Having said that, I'd like to point out that this situation is roughly analogous to what happens to atheists and Jews and Buddhists and Muslims and non-Evangelical Christians in some classrooms when they're ostracized or marginalized for being unwilling to participate in sectarian prayers openly or sneakily sanctioned by public-school officials. Any conservative who's outraged at harassment of soldiers' kids ought to learn from that harassment some sympathy for people whose religious beliefs, or lack thereof, don't conform to those of the majority in certain towns.

I don't think you should harass a kid for a Jesus T-shirt or a Satan T-shirt. I think war advocacy, war opposition, and everything in the middle should be respected. Conservatives will denounce harassment of soldiers' kids, rightly -- but I want to see them denounce harassment of people they strenuously disagree with as well.
It is naive, however, to think that if Saddam had fallen [at the end of the Gulf War in 1991], he would necessarily have been replaced by a Jeffersonian in some sort of desert democracy where people read The Federalist Papers along with the Koran. Quite possibly, we would have wound up with a Saddam by another name.

--Colin Powell, My American Journey, 1995

Wednesday, February 26, 2003


No, really, I mean it. The fine folks at Americans United for Separation of Church and State, to whom you should definitely give money, discovered this in Reverend Sun Myung Moon's newspaper late last year:

Moon continues to convene conferences in the “spirit world” during which famous historical figures renounce their former faith and beliefs and swear fealty to Moon. The Washington Times on Dec. 28 ran an advertisement from the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification featuring three of these testimonies – from St. Anselm, Thomas Paine and President Rutherford B. Hayes.

The Unification Church claims that during “spirit world” conferences last year, Jesus Christ, Confucius, Muhammad, St. Paul, Martin Luther, St. Augustine, the Buddha, several Hindu leaders and others pledged allegiance to Moon and offered personal testimonies.

The new round of testimonies featured more of the same. Paine, for example, asserted, “If Americans do not want to become eternal wanderers they must follow the teachings of Rev. Sun Myung Moon, who is on earth. He possesses a fundamental philosophy to save not only America but also all humanity.”

Paine, best known as the author of the pamphlet “Common Sense,” which helped spur revolutionary fervor, noted that there is “freedom of the press in this place but I am sad that the limitation of time prevents me from fully expressing my excitement.”

Hayes, the 19th president of the United States, called out, “People of earth! People of America! I cannot record here everything that I have experienced. I can only say that the Unification Principle is a great truth and that it is unmistakable that the Rev. Sun Myung Moon holds all the keys to human salvation and peace.”

The mind reels.

(Americans United also reports that President Charles Taylor of Liberia -- a business partner and pal of Pat Robertson -- may well have harbored al-Qaeda terrorists in the months before the September 11 attacks. God, presumably, told him to do this.)

"We believe the vast majority of Iraqi officials are not part of Saddam Hussein's clique, and they've just been trying to do their jobs. We expect they'd be able to continue to do their jobs when Saddam and his cronies are gone," said [Ari] Fleischer.


"We share a belief that the reformed Iraqi army should continue to have an important role in a free Iraq," [U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad] said.

--AP story on the conference of opposition leaders that opened in northern Iraq today

Meet the new Iraq -- same as the old Iraq?

Hey, folks, I have shopping lists for you:

French stuff.

German stuff.

These aren't really shopping lists, of course. They're boycott lists. They come from the thoughtful grown-ups at

Here are some humorous photos from the FS/GS site. Included is, of course, a mock photo of a 9/11-style attack on the Eiffel Tower -- as we know from Ann Coulter ("My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building"), nothing makes right-wingers laugh harder than the thought of terrorists doing irreparable harm to their enemies.

The FS/GS folks also have an event planned: On March 4, at midnight, they're going to flush Brie down the toilet. All at once, mind you. Not just Brie, of course -- whatever they can find that comes from filthy appeasenik countries. (Hey, maybe someone will try to flush an entire Mercedes!)

And what better way to get in the mood for l'amour -- whoops! I meant luuuuve! -- than...

...a France Stinks thong?

One million, four hundred thousand French soldiers were killed during World War I. As a result, there weren't many Frenchmen left to fight in World War II. Nevertheless, 100,000 French soldiers lost their lives trying to stop Adolf Hitler.

...They were out-manned, out-gunned, out-generaled and, above all, out-tanked. They got slaughtered, but they stood and they fought. Ha-ha, how funny.

--Molly Ivins

You may have seen the show already, or read the transcript (Cursor wisely links it), but if not, here's Bill Moyers on Michael Savage, #1 bestselling author, radio host, and (soon) TV star, from the February 21 broadcast of Moyers's show NOW:

A footnote to this conversation on how media use the public's airwaves.

NBC is owned by General Electric; G.E. and Microsoft own the cable news network MSNBC; and MSNBC has just hired Michael Savage to do a new television program.

Mr. Savage is the host of an ABC radio show called SAVAGE NATION. MSNBC says Michael Savage will provide "compelling opinion and analysis with edge." Now, what does that mean?

Well, let's look at the record: Michael Savage is known to speak on the air of non-white countries as — you may want to cover your children's eyes — as "turd world nations."

Open your door to immigrants, he has said, and "the next thing you know they are defecating on your country and breeding out of control." He has said that while Latinos, in particular, "breed like rabbits" and whites don't, homosexuals "are part of the grand plan to cut down on the white race."

When student volunteers distributed food to San Francisco's homeless, Mr. Savage said "the girls can go in and maybe get raped because they seem to like the excitement of it. There's always the thrill and possibility they'll be raped in a dumpster while giving out a turkey sandwich."

When the Million Mom March called for gun control, Mr. Savage said children killed by guns "are not kids, they're ghetto slime."

Never mind. Apparently such ideas strengthen the arsenal of democracy. For Michael Savage says: "We need racist stereotypes right now of our enemy in order to encourage our warriors to kill the enemy."

So a SAVAGE NATION is now safely nestled in the bosom of big media, courtesy of G.E. and Microsoft.

I don't want this guy supressed, but what the hell is wrong with us as a society that we can't ignore him like a barroom drunk?

Ask your conservative friends if they listen to Savage and like him. That will tell you a lot about them. And ask your Chistian friends if it bothers them that a leading publisher of Bibles and other Christian works is (through a subsidiary) publishing Savage's book.
Will George Bush's actions in the Middle East alienate pro-U.S. moderates in the region? They already have:

For Hamad Abdel-Aziz Kawari, a former Qatari ambassador to the United States, the disillusionment itself is enough.

Sitting in his seaside office in Doha underneath two pictures of former president George Bush, he boasted that his three children were graduates of George Washington University. He straddles two worlds, he said, having served eight years in the United States. But the American ideals he respects, he said, are overshadowed by the foreign policy he sees.

"You want to be friends. And to be friends you have to be convinced your friend is doing something good," he said.

"Believe me and write this," he added. "Nobody hates America. America used to be a great example, it was not a colonial power in the region. Our sons and brothers work with American businesses. I am very sorry that American policy is threatening the human relations between the nations. The Americans are antagonizing their friends."

That's from a Washington Post article titled "Old Arab Friends Turn Away From U.S.: Policies Toward Iraq and Palestinians Alienate Pro-American Generation."

And this is before we've dropped a single "massive ordnance air burst" bomb on Iraq ("The MOAB's massive explosive punch, sources say, is similar to a small nuclear weapon").

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Transcript of the Bush-Saddam debate.
TEHRAN, Iran, Feb. 25 —  The head of Iraq’s largest opposition group warned the United States on Tuesday that its military presence in post-war Iraq would not be welcome, and that any attempt to install a Pentagon general in Baghdad could be met with a “religious war.” Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim told in an interview that Muslim fury over a long-term American occupation of Iraq would destabilize the Middle East.

Hakim's warning will come as no surprise to the Pentagon, which has kept its plans for post-war Iraq under wraps for fear of increasing tensions in the region ahead of a showdown with Saddam Hussein.


A "religious war"? So are these guys, even though they're the enemies of our enemies, the "evildoers" of the future?

Which Bush do you think is going to start the war against them? President Jeb? President George P.? President Jenna?

But you can't really blame them, can you? After all, the man was French.

UPDATE: More conservative folks who think suicide is a laugh riot.
Iraq? It seems to me it's basically a hostage situation. Spare me the Hitler analogies -- Saddam doesn't even control half his own country, for chrissakes. A better comparison for Saddam is David Koresh, or Al Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon.

Saddam is surrounded, but he can kill a lot of innocent people if we go in with guns blazing; he really might want to die gloriously and take a lot of people with him. How different is he from an armed bank robber holding a few dozen people at gunpoint, or a self-styled messiah in a compound with a group of followers, a small arsenal of weapons, and a messiah complex?

In such a situation, nobody criticizes a police hostage team for failing to launch a huge frontal attack; if a hostage team continues to talk and negotiate with a bank robber, nobody says the team is willfully blind to the fact of the bank robber's guilt. And nobody expects negotiations to stop because a holder of hostages is playing cat-and-mouse games with the negotiators -- in such a situation, cat-and-mouse games are recognized as a given.

Maybe what U.S. war planners have in mind really will minimize civilian casualties, both the ones caused by our weapons and the ones caused by Saddam’s. Maybe the planners really do have reason to believe that innocent civilians will suffer less as the result of a war than they would if we were to continue a containment/sanctions policy. But it’s immoral to support war right now and ignore the risk that Iraq might be on the verge of a Dresden from our weapons and a chem/bio Waco from Saddam’s.
From a fine Nicholas Kristof column in today's New York Times:

Eisenhower, who led the European Allies to victory in World War II and was president from 1953 to 1961, faced a crisis in Egypt similar to today's and effectively chose containment rather than invasion. Likewise, even when faced with the threat of weapons of mass destruction, President John F. Kennedy chose to contain Cuba rather than invade it, and President Ronald Reagan chose to contain Libya rather than invade it. I hope we have the courage and discipline to emulate such restraint by Eisenhower, Kennedy and Reagan today and choose containment over war for Iraq.

Yes -- and Eisenhower also chose to avoid war in 1954 when China threatened Taiwan and then invaded Qemoy and Matsu, as surprise war opponent John McLaughlin has pointed out.

It's nice to be reminded that a prudent decision to back away from war wasn't considered un-American in America's salad days after World War II.

Monday, February 24, 2003

This Washington Post profile of Jeb Bush might not have pleased Jeb's fans, but it does take seriously the notion that Jeb could be elected president in 2008, and it certainly leaves the impression that he is a serious, smart, driven, thoughtful man -- so those of us who aren't fans of Jeb should be afraid ... very afraid. Maybe now is a good time to read this article from last week's Village Voice about a Florida land deal that netted the wife of New York's GOP governor, George Pataki, a pretty penny, quite possibly as the result of Jeb's intervention:

The Florida bonanza has all the earmarks of a politically wired transaction, orchestrated by land preservation officials in Jeb Bush's administration. A week after both Bush and Pataki were re-elected in November, the South Florida Water Management District, a state corporation whose members are appointed by the governor, voted to approve paying $15 million for the Pataki parcel, which Libby and her partners had acquired in 2000 for $4.4 million. The price was three times what the state offered in 1999 and $360 more per acre than it simultaneously paid for pristine wetlands next door, even though the adjacent parcel contained what government documents described as "the bulk of the environmentally sensitive portion of the tract."

The financing was supposed to come primarily from the state's Department of Environmental Protection, but on December 12, the water district decided it could complete the deal quicker if it used its own money. "This is the most fast-tracked environmental land purchase we've ever had," crowed Michael DiTerlizzi, the top official in Martin County, which also participated in the acquisition....

Will anyone ever care about this deal?

Would anyone care if Jeb's last name were, say, Clinton?
So how successful is the endlessly self-congratulatory Fox News Channel? Not as successful as it wants you to believe, according to an article in today's New York Times business section:

But Mr. Walton has argued that CNN is in a different business, one that is heavier in news compared with its rivals at Fox and even the third-place MSNBC. Fox News Channel may draw larger ratings than CNN, but not higher ad rates, the theory goes. CNN is estimated to draw 15 to 40 percent higher rates than Fox News, though both sides agree that the gap is closing fast.

"The important thing for CNN is to understand who it is, and how it defines winning," Mr. Walton said. "It's not just about chasing the higher number. Quality matters."

Back in the 1980s, a department-store mogul was asked why he didn't advertise in Rupert Murdoch's New York Post. He is said to have replied, "But, Rupert, your readers are my shoplifters." Maybe TV advertisers feel a bit that way about Fox News.

(Incidentally, the linked article strongly suggests that the conventional wisdom at CNN is that Walter Isaacson's tenure there was a diaster, and that the saving grace is that CNN never quite succumbed completely to the tabloid tendencies Isaacson embraced. It's nice to see a well-deserved thrashing doled out to the guy who tried to hire Limbaugh and who approached GOP legislators on his knees, begging them to like him, even if the article doesn't mention those embarrassing moments.)
Seen the government's terrorism-preparedness site, Well, it's already being mocked. Rather deftly, I might add.
Philly Cops Say Snowball Led to Shooting

PHILADELPHIA -- A man whose daughter was hit with a snowball by a group of girls returned to the scene and opened fire with a gun, critically wounding a 10-year-old youngster, police said.

Joseph Best, 32, was arrested Monday and jailed on charges including attempted murder.

The victim was in critical condition with a head wound....

"An armed society is a polite society," the gun-lovers always say. What would they say in this case? That if the 10-year-old girl had also been packing heat, this wouldn't have happened?
I could get upset about this, which is in response to something I posted this morning, but the thing just speaks for itself, doesn't it? Life's too short to argue with a grown man who still uses words like "fucktard," and whose most brilliant retort is "Your mom's a whore."
Saddam Challenges Bush To Debate

In an exclusive interview with CBS News Anchor Dan Rather, Saddam Hussein has challenged President George W. Bush to a live, international television and radio debate about the looming war.

Saddam envisions it as being along the lines of U.S. presidential campaign debates....

I am so, so sorry that this will never happen. Talk about your Theater of the Absurd....

And maybe if it happened we could just lock the two idiots in the auditorium, the way Dabney Coleman is locked in the closet in 9 to 5, and take advantage of their absence to sort out the various messes the two of them have made. "Hey, what should we do with these nerve-gas canisters?" "Just put 'em in the burn bag on top of the paperwork for Bush's 2003 budget."
I’m on the left, but I have no patience with academic leftism. I don’t really consider academic leftism to be progressive at all. Leftists and liberals concern themselves with actual abuses of power; academic leftists worry about menaces to society such as the general acclaim for Shakespeare -- excuse me, the “privileging” of Shakespeare’s “texts” -- or the very existence of the scientific method. And academic leftists sometimes seem to be working to undo what real leftists and liberals are trying to accomplish. The real left pursues DNA testing to free wrongly convicted inmates; the academy claims there’s no such thing as objective scientific truth. The real left defends the notion that homosexuality is innate and fights fundamentalist quacks who claim they can reverse it; the academy insists that all sexuality is “socially constructed.”

This is a long way of saying that I’m very, very skeptical of “ethnomathematics,” an academic-lefty concept discussed in this weekend’s New York Times Magazine. Ethnomathematics is not merely the study of overlooked mathematical practices in other cultures -- which certainly seems like a good idea -- but is an attempt to alter the teaching of math by making the math curriculum detour through those non-Western mathematical practices. This is somehow supposed to help minorities and women overcome math difficulties.

The Times quotes the father of ethnomathematics, a Brazilian mathematician named Ubiratan D'Ambrosio, on why math teaching should go ethnic:

“Mathematics is absolutely integrated with Western civilization, which conquered and dominated the entire world. The only possibility of building up a planetary civilization depends on restoring the dignity of the losers.”

It sounds so much cooler and more mellifluous when a non-American says it, but what D’Ambrosio is talking about is teaching self-esteem. I hate the overemphasis on self-esteem in education almost as much as right-wing blowhards do; the right-wing blowhards, I think, are actually right when they rant about this. Let’s not teach a man to fish; let’s not even give him a fish; let’s just tell him he has dignity in spite of the fact that he doesn’t have a fish -- or perhaps because he doesn’t have a fish -- and leave him to figure out from himself how fish are obtained.

Obviously I’m oversimplifying things. Ethnomathematicians apparently do believe that balkanizing math is a good way of getting math principles across. It’s not clear though, whether they believe that members of each ethnic group learn math best when exposed to practices from the continent of their ancestors or whether they feel that any reference to the Third World in the classroom just makes nonwhite youths feel mathematically empowered: Here’s a professor in Manitoba who points out that “the three fastest growing languages in Canada according to the census were: Chinese, Spanish, and Punjabi--reflecting immigration from Hong Kong, Latin America, Pakistan, and India” and that “in Winnipeg, the most prominent non-official languages were German, Ukranian, and Tagalog.” So through which culture does this professor teach math? Why, Aztec culture, naturally. That ought to make those Tagalog-speaking Filipinos feel much better about algebra than stinky old Western math does.

The Times quotes a critic of ethnomathematics, a math professor named David Klein, “a self-described liberal who insists on separating his academic critique from any connection to a conservative political agenda.”

''The practical effect,'' Klein says, ''has been watered-down math books that overemphasize inductive reasoning (like continuing visual patterns), because this is supposed to be good for women and minorities, and de-emphasizing deductive reasoning and mathematical proofs, which is the heart of mathematics, because that supposedly favors white males.

''But mathematics is a worldwide monoculture. Look at the chalkboards in math departments at universities all around the world -- in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America. You will see the same symbols everywhere you go on this planet, except perhaps in colleges of education where fads reign supreme.'' Klein says he does spend some class time discussing the math of Mayans, Egyptians and other early civilizations. ''But ancient techniques and early discoveries in math will not take students very far who want to do something in the modern world with mathematics,'' he says.

My kind of guy.

It seems to me that ethnomathematicians are romanticizing the “primitive,” embracing the grooviness of nonwhites from distant lands and ancient cultures much the way New Agers embrace Native American or Asian practices in diluted form. And it also seems that ethnomath proceeds from some of the same principles as The Bell Curve and other eugenicist twaddle: that nonwhites require remedial education for reasons of race, and that only nonwhites and poor people ever struggle in school (I’d like to introduce some ethnomathematicians to the many literate, overeducated white people I know who hated math in school and still get the shakes at the prospect of balancing a checkbook). In addition, the idea that, generation after generation, descendants of non-Western cultures remain essentially the same as their ancestors is disturbingly similar to the arguments advanced by anti-immigration racists.

Bash the First World for what it does wrong. Don’t bash it for math. And don’t feed nonwhite kids murky noble-savage idealizations of the Other while failing to see to it that the pipes are fixed when their classrooms have leaks.

(Editor’s note: Many links in this post came from this site. The site’s address appeared in the print version of the Times article, but not in the online version. I guess the Times is still having trouble figuring out how this World Wide Whozywhatsy works.)
To rap-metal semi-star Kid Rock, the solution is obvious.

"We got to kill that mother-[bleeper] Saddam," he says. "Slit his throat. Kill him and the guy in North Korea."

Oh, is that all we have to do? And all this time I thought these were complicated geopolitical crises in which every course of action had potentially nightmarish consequences. Silly me. Just kill two guys! It's that simple.
In an interview published in yesterday's Guardian, Richard Perle said, "These five countries, the permanent members of the Security Council, are not a judicial body. They're not expected to make moral or legal judgments, but to advance the respective interests of their countries.

"So if the French ambassador gets up and expresses the position of the government of France, what you are hearing is the moral authority of Jacques Chirac, whatever that may mean.

"What you're hearing is what the French President perceives to be in the interests of France."

Well, the U.S. is also one of the five permanent members of the Security Council. Isn't Perle saying that it's foolish to expect the U.S. to be making moral or legal judgments in the current situation? Isn't he implicitly saying that the U.S., too, is merely acting in its own interest?

If so, then all this talk about ridding the world of terrible weapons and freeing enslaved people and advancing democracy and freedom is a crock. And Richard Perle said so.
Here's a right-winger who looks back fondly to the time his sainted dad bound him to a chair at the dinner table with masking tape for the unforgivable offense of hooking his arm over the chair's back. Wait, it gets better: Not only does our right-wing friend think his dad did a fine thing, he thinks this explains why we need to invade Iraq.

You can't make this stuff up.
In his proposed budget for 2004, President Bush pledged $2 billion for global AIDS, including $450 million in new money for the initiative he announced last month in his State of the Union address. But advocates, who met Friday in Washington, say Mr. Bush is inflating his total by including $260 million for AIDS research and money for tuberculosis and malaria.

--from yesterday's New York Times

The conservatism seems less and less compassionate every time you look at it.

Sunday, February 23, 2003

Last week, when he was asked about anti-war protestors, President Bush said of their arguments, "I respectfully disagree."

But that statement is completely untrue, isn't it? Isn't this Bush's problem -- that he never respectfully disagrees with anyone, whether it's Jacques Chirac or James Jeffords?
Ms. Gratz argues that her life would probably be better had she been admitted.... After her rejection, she said, she lost so much confidence in herself that she gave up her intention to become a doctor, even before she had enrolled as a college freshman.

"To me, this was a failure," said Ms. Gratz....

Damn liberal culture -- why can't people take responsibility for their own lives? And this one is suing! It's the liberal lawsuit culture! If something goes wrong in your life, you take somebody to court!

...Whoops! Sorry -- Ms. Gratz is complaining about the University of Michigan's affirmative action policy. So I guess filing a lawsuit and blaming the university for the course of her entire life is OK.

Saturday, February 22, 2003

Jonathan Alter writes about what might happen to GIs subjected to chem/bio attacks in Iraq:

...a huge batch of gas masks turned out to be defective. After that got fixed, the Pentagon admitted that 250,000 defective [nuclear/biological/chemical] suits were unaccounted for somewhere in the system. These aren’t the first suits sent into combat but the replacements. The problem is that under a biological or chemical attack, each suit only lasts a couple of days. Which means that four or five days into a war, it’s time to play Russian roulette with the NBC suits....

The GAO found in 1996 that the United States was luckier than we knew during the first gulf war. Not only were far fewer killed and wounded than expected, but the system wasn’t prepared to handle significant casualties....

But that was then. They’ve fixed the problem, right? Lots of drills and exercises? Well, not really. A 2001 GAO report found that “no realistic field exercise of medical support for a CB [chemical-biological] attack has been concluded.” An October 2002 report found that the Pentagon was slow to respond to the lessons of the gulf war and had made few improvements since the 1996 reports, which also found medical training for treating biological and chemical attacks to be insufficient. More recently, the Pentagon simply failed to provide the GAO enough information to prove its assertions of progress in these areas....

Let me remind you that the Bush administration has been thinking seriously about going after Iraq since September 2001. That's seventeen months in which the Bushies could have seen to it that our troops are ready for whatever Saddam might unleash when we invade.

Friday, February 21, 2003

This is ominous:

Turkey is seeking to impose a blackout on reporting events in northern Iraq by banning journalists from crossing the border between the two states, Turkish journalists charged Friday....

Western analysts said the Turkish ban sought to achieve two goals. One was to deny the Iraqi Kurds favorable reporting in the world media....

The other reason, the analysts say, is to prevent the media from observing whatever actions the Turkish military may take in the region....


Is our bribe money going toward the protection of Turkey? Or is going to pay for whatever the Turks do to the Kurds?

Turkey is looking to send thousands of its own soldiers into northern Iraq if there is a war. Turkish officials say this will guarantee stability. Iraqi Kurds fear that the Turks are looking to crack down on Kurdish nationalism that is strong in the autonomous Kurdish areas of northern Iraq.

Turks are also insisting that Iraqi Kurdish groups in northern Iraq are disarmed after a war under Turkish supervision, the daily Hurriyet reported.

--The Guardian
The Staten Island explosdion wasn't terrorism, apparently.
There's a fire at an oil refinery in Staten Island. I'm telling you this not because I have any idea what's going on -- I'm telling you this just to give you a snapshot of one guy's brain at this moment in history: My first thought was terrorism; my second thought was an attempt to fake terrorism in order to get us pumped up for a war. Or maybe it was the other way around. That's a horribly irresponsible statement for me to make, but there you go.

No injuries are reported so far, and the fire isn't expected to spread to residential areas of Staten Island.

I do think this is precisely the sort of target terrorists might attack. And forty years ago, at least, allegedly rational men who worked in the U.S. government actually contemplated phony attacks on the U.S. that could be blamed on an enemy (in that case Cuba).

But, of course, refinery fires happen all the time. Malicious intent is not a prerequisite.

Sorry if I'm going over the top with conspiratorial thinking. I don't like it. I think virtually everything the Bush adminisration has done in the run-up to this war has been in bad faith, but I think even the Bushies have limits. As for terrorists, I certainly wouldn't put this past them (though I'll be deeply suspicious if Saddam gets the blame). And, of course, accidents happen.

Surely it doesn't surprise you that the U.S. "plans to take complete, unilateral control of a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq," according to a story in today's Washington Post -- only an impossibly naive GOP cultist could have imagined otherwise. But here's my favorite part of the Post story:

In the early days of military action, U.S. forces following behind those in combat would distribute food and other relief items and begin needed reconstruction. The goal, officials said, would be to make sure the Iraqi people "immediately" consider themselves better off than they were the day before war, and attribute their improved circumstances directly to the United States.

So we're going to elbow aside established relief organizations that actually know how to distribute aid in order to make our boys appear to be angels of mercy for a few days in Ashleigh Banfield's MSNBC stories. Think about this: Postwar Iraq is going to be a humanitarian nightmare, and these guys are worried about controlling the news cycle. This is incredibly cynical; I think Karl Rove's fingerprints are all over this plan. And it's naive -- the Bush administration apparently assumes that the world's attention span is as short as the attention span of Americans. It apparently hasn't occurred to the Bushies that the world -- certainly the Arab/Muslim world -- will continue to follow this story tenanciously, unlike Americans, who will begin to lose interest the next time Michael Jackson does something stupid. Or maybe the Bushies just don't care, as long as Bush gets the spike in the polls he needs going into the presidential election cycle.

Paul Krugman's column today is also about what the U.S. will do in a postwar Iraq; understandably, Krugman assumes the effort will be the cynical and halfhearted. Krugman's column and the Post complement each other nicely. (Andrew Sullivan thinks the two pieces contradict each other, a conclusion that baffles me. Krugman predicts, "Saddam Hussein and a few top officials will be replaced, but the rest will stay." The Post says, "A large number of current officials would be retained." Where's the contradiction?)

Thursday, February 20, 2003

A short war with Iraq could cost the world one percent of its economic output over the next few years and more than $1 trillion by 2010, Australian researchers said in a report Thursday.

The compounding effects of rising oil prices, extra budget spending and economic uncertainty could cut $173 billion from the world economy in 2003 alone, said the researchers, Reserve Bank of Australia board member Warwick McKibbin and Center for International Economics executive director Andrew Stoeckel....

..."Altogether, there could be a drop of investment in the United States of over eight percent below baseline in 2003 and 2004. The fall is less for Japan and Europe, given the assumptions for their contribution to a war and rebuilding."


I've got an idea: Let's give Saddam half a tril to just vamoose. We'll throw in a few (exiled-)presidential palaces, plus he can keep his personal painter. Sounds to me as if that would be a bargain.
Last week it appeared that the government was withholding information that could help weapons inspectors find weapons.

Well, it looks as if they're not withholding information anymore. It looks as if they're passing on plenty of information now -- utterly erroneous information:

Inspectors Call U.S. Tips 'Garbage'

While diplomatic maneuvering continues over Turkish bases and a new United Nations resolution, inside Iraq, U.N. arms inspectors are privately complaining about the quality of U.S. intelligence and accusing the United States of sending them on wild-goose chases.

...the U.S. claim that Iraq is developing missiles that could hit its neighbors – or U.S. troops in the region, or even Israel – is just one of the claims coming from Washington that inspectors here are finding increasingly unbelievable. The inspectors have become so frustrated trying to chase down unspecific or ambiguous U.S. leads that they've begun to express that anger privately in no uncertain terms....

So frustrated have the inspectors become that one source has referred to the U.S. intelligence they've been getting as "garbage after garbage after garbage."...The inspectors find themselves caught between the Iraqis, who are masters at the weapons-hiding shell game, and the United States, whose intelligence they've found to be circumstantial, outdated or just plain wrong....

Gee, do you think nonsense like this might possibly be part of the reason why people from other countries hesitate before deferring to the vastly superior judgment of their betters in the U.S.?

And right-wingers have the nerve to accuse peace protestors of being impediments to the disarmament process.

("Garbage" link via Atrios.)
Sometimes it's just too easy.

This week's Ann Coulter column is about plans for a liberal radio network. She writes:

It's difficult to imagine a world in which people voluntarily choose to listen to liberals. There is no evidence that it has ever happened.

Ever heard of this guy, Ann?
So the right-wingers are now pissed off at us appeaser peacenik scum for, as they see it, encouraging the Butcher of Baghdad to dig in his heels. But wait a minute -- I thought the pro-war crowd wanted the inspections to fail. I thought they wanted Saddam to demonstrate intransigence, because that would be a casus belli. Does this mean they actually believe in the inspections process now and would like Saddam to be disarmed without war? If so, I'm delighted to take the credit for their sudden change of heart, on behalf of the millions who demonstrated last weekend.
Bulgarian-language media reports this week said that the US Embassy in Sofia, as well as trade attaches, have been instructed to co-operate in increasing Bulgarian wines' market share in the US.

"France and Germany are losing credibility by the day, and they are losing, I think, status in the world," House of Representatives Republican Majority Leader Tom DeLay said, quoted by the Post.

--The Sofia Echo, Sofia, Bulgaria

Childish, spiteful, vindictive, and contrary to the free-market principles these hypocrites claim to worship.

...the idea that America now wears the badge of Mars (the willingness to use military force, to assert itself with manly vigor and bear loss of life like other great powers in the past)—in contrast to the feminine loss of will in Europe—strikes Europeans as an astonishing case of memory loss and saturation in fantasy. Is this the same country that has a collective fainting fit at the sight of one body bag? That has been careful to fight its recent wars from 50,000 feet up? Whose tourists have so little sense of fortitude that mass cancellations follow after even the slightest hint of danger?

--Will Hutton, former editor in chief of the London Observer, in the New York Observer
Iraq has that guy who does all the paintings of Saddam. America has Howard Fineman of Newsweek. This Fineman column may be the most sycophantic tribute to a sitting head of state ever produced in a country that does not regularly practice torture of journalists.

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

The best critique of the Bush tax plan ever, disguised as a critique of the even more irresponsible tax cut announced by the fictional Republicans on tonight's West Wing:

PRESIDENT BARTLET: Will it stimulate the economy, Josh?

JOSH LYMAN: It'll stimulate the Swiss economy.


For what it's worth, I do not support a war with Iraq unless we all — defined as a clear majority of the American people, plus New Europe and good "Old Europe," as feckless and posturing as they are — ultimately agree that it is the only way to make the world safer. If we can't agree, I say: contain Saddam Hussein with all means at our disposal. Indeed, contain him with extreme prejudice.

--from a New York Times op-ed piece by Christopher Buckley, 2/19/03
The return of "duck and cover," courtesy of the fine folks at the Department of Homeland Security.

Here's the same set of advice in picture format. Note that you can just take a leisurely stroll away from a nuclear blast site, according to the graphics.

Here's the main site.

Here's USA Today's story on the site and the accompanying media campaign.

And remember...

... if you're trapped under debris, avoid unnecessary movement so that you don't kick up dust.
Bush approval rating drops to 52% in latest Harris poll.

That's the first time it's been below 60% in the Harris poll since before 9/11/01.

Nation after nation from all parts of the globe demanded weapons inspectors have a chance to disarm Iraq peacefully, defying intentions by the United States and Britain to seek a resolution authorizing war.

Only Australia, Japan, Argentina and Peru, in varying degrees, supported the tough U.S.-British position during 27 presentations on Tuesday by U.N. members who do not have seats on the 15-nation Security Council. Another 29 ambassadors address the council on Wednesday.

But most speakers, many from developing nations in Asia, Africa and Latin America as well as Iraq's neighbors in the Middle East, spoke out against war and backed France's position to let arms inspectors have more time to account for Baghdad's weapons of mass destruction programs.

So did Greece, New Zealand, Ukraine and Belarus.

South Africa's U.N. ambassador, Dumisani Kumalo, head of the 115-member Non-Aligned movement, which called for the meeting, said that "Resorting to war without fully exhausting all other options represents an admission of failure by the Security Council in carrying out its mandate."

Iran's ambassador, Javad Zarif, whose country was invaded by neighboring Iraq in 1980, said "the prospect of another destabilizing war in our immediate vicinity is a nightmare scenario of death and destruction."...

Great -- now Colin Powell thinks international diplomacy is third-grade recess. Don't agree with him? You're a fraidy-cat:

PARIS - Secretary of State Colin Powell on Wednesday said countries like France that oppose swift military action against Iraq are afraid of upholding their responsibility to disarm Baghdad by force.

Powell's comments, in an interview broadcast on France-Inter radio and translated into French, were clearly directed at French President Jacques Chirac, who believes that U.N. weapons inspectors should be given more time and muscle to complete their job.

"It is not a satisfactory solution to continue inspections indefinitely because certain countries are afraid of upholding their responsibility to impose the will of the international community," Powell said....

Screw it -- let's just fire Kofi Annan, make Vince McMahon the UN secretary-general, and let these overgrown boys trash-talk to their hearts' content. Meanwhile, let's find some grown-ups to actually run the world.
I am not altogether convinced that conquering Iraq will stop Islamic terrorism against the U.S., but I think it will help. Serious terrorism — the kind with access to weapons of mass destruction — cannot exist without state sponsorship.

--Bruce Bartlett at National Review Online

Gosh -- all this time I thought September 11 qualified as "serious terrorism." But the hijackers didn't have weapons of mass destruction, so I guess 9/11 wasn't serious after all.

Yup -- folks like Michael Kelly:

These people [the people of Iraq] could be liberated from this horror -- relatively easily and quickly. There is every reason to think that a U.S. invasion would swiftly vanquish the few elite units that can be counted on to defend the detested Saddam Hussein; and that the victory would come at the cost of few -- likely hundreds, not thousands -- Iraqi and American lives. There is risk; and if things go terribly wrong it is a risk that could result in terrible suffering. But that is an equation that is present in any just war, and in this case any rational expectation has to consider the probable cost to humanity to be low....

A scorched-earth chem/bio campaign from Saddam? Devastation of Iraqi population centers by U.S. bombing? A widening of the war to involve Israel? Is that what you're worried about? Don't be such a gloomy Gus! It'll be a piece of cake!

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

Many bloggers (CalPundit, Thomas Spencer, the Goblin Queen) are linking this story from the U.K.'s Independent:

Kurdish leaders enraged by 'undemocratic' American plan to occupy Iraq

The US is abandoning plans to introduce democracy in Iraq after a war to overthrow Saddam Hussein, according to Kurdish leaders who recently met American officials.

The Kurds say the decision resulted from pressure from US allies in the Middle East who fear a war will lead to radical political change in the region.

The Kurdish leaders are enraged by an American plan to occupy Iraq but largely retain the government in Baghdad. The only changes would be the replacement of President Saddam and his lieutenants with senior US military officers....

The US appears to be returning to the policy it pursued at the end of the Gulf War in 1991. It did seek to get rid of President Saddam but wanted to avoid a radical change in Iraq. The US did not support the uprisings of Shia Muslims and Kurds because it feared a transformation in Iraqi politics that might have destabilised its allies in the Middle East or benefited Iran....

If you're pro-war, remember that you can't just support the war you hope the Bushies will fight. You don't have a choice in what they'll do, so you have to either support their war or oppose war altogether in this case.

What they do during and after the war will almost certainly be a cynical exercise that will appall dewy-eyed pro-war naifs.

The (subscription-only) newsletter PublishersLunch announces this book deal today:

Former Emory professor Michael Bellesiles' ARMING AMERICA: The Origins of a National Gun Culture, withdrawn from its original publication by Knopf, now including "several clarifications concerning research" from Bellesiles, a new introduction, and a new version of one of the most-questioned data tables (Bellesiles says, "I challenge anyone to show how the revised paragraphs addressing probate materials undermine in any way the thesis or logical structure of this book"), to Richard Nash at Soft Skull Press for republication in October 2003.

I had a feeling Soft Skull would do this.


Like many Americans and all Turks, I am in despair right now over the Germans, the French, and the Belgians and their NATO machinations. Here are the Turks, facing Saddam Hussein across the border with his terrifying weapons. And, through no fault of their own, the Turks, members in good standing of NATO, might well end up under the most ghastly of attacks. NATO ought to be rushing to Turkey's defense, right? What can those Europeans be thinking in refusing to do any such thing?

--Paul Berman in Slate last Friday


The Turkish parliament had been expected to vote Tuesday on whether to allow tens of thousands of U.S. combat troops in Turkey, which would be necessary for a northern front in any war against Iraq.

Instead, officials gave U.S. Ambassador Robert Pearson a new proposal late Monday for a beefed-up economic aid package that would provide compensation for any losses in an Iraq war.

Top politician Recep Tayyip Erdogan said authorization for U.S. combat troops to be deployed in Turkey depended on Washington meeting Turkish demands.

"The other side must meet our demands, and if they do, we shall see. After this is finalized, the authorization will come to parliament," Erdogan was quoted as saying by the Anatolia news agency.

--AP story today
Oh well -- now Jacques Chirac's trash-talking.

I guess he has more in common with Americans than we realize.

Monday, February 17, 2003

Party of Spain's prime minister now trails Socialists, for the first time in three years.

Tony Blair's approval rating drops to 35%, a 14% drop in a month.

Australian prime minister's approval rating plummets.

It looks as if Bush's war might result in a lot of "regime change."
"Our hopes betrayed: How a US blueprint for post-Saddam government quashed the hopes of democratic Iraqis" by Kanan Makiya

A blistering critique of America's plans for Saddam's future, by the man who told us a few months ago that we had to invade if there was a 5% or 10% chance that democracy would result.

"[The U.S. plan's] driving force is appeasement of the existing bankrupt Arab order, and ultimately the retention under a different guise of the repressive institutions of the Baath and the army. Hence its point of departure is, and has got to be, use of direct military rule to deny Iraqis their legitimate right to self-determine their future," Makiya writes now.

It’s hard to imagine President Bush rejecting war in Iraq for any reason now -- possibly, I guess, if the head of every male in the Hussein clan were personally presented to him mounted on a pike. Nevertheless, many pundits have felt the need to ask whether Bush could back down now without losing face. Virtually all of them insist he couldn’t.

John McLaughlin disagrees.

Yes, that John McLaughlin. If you haven’t watched his talk show recently, you may be surprised to learn that the braying conservative is, in the case of Iraq, a surprise peacenik. Over the weekend, he found parallels to the Iraq crisis in some Cold War history. Here are excerpts and a summary of what McLaughlin said; the transcript is mine:

American policy towards Communist China under Mao Zedong was regime change. To keep pressure on Mao’s rogue regime, the U.S. backed exile Nationalists under Chiang Kai-shek on the island of Taiwan, then known as Formosa, with guns, money, and political support.

Late in 1954, China threatened to invade Taiwan, then invaded the nearby islands of Qemoy and Matsu. President Eisenhower sent the 7th Fleet to rescue Nationalist soldiers on Taiwan.

Eisenhower then went to Congress for a resolution preapproving the use of military force against China at a time and place of his choosing. Within a month, he got the resolution.

Next he dispatched Secretary of State John Foster Dulles to Europe’s capitals to rally NATO support. Eisenhower told British prime minister Winston Churchill that he knew Europeans considered America “reckless, impulsive, and immature,” but he wanted NATO backing in the event of a U.S. war with China.

NATO said no. Churchill said no. Churchill dismissed Zhou [Enlai]’s inflammatory rhetoric as “just talk.”

In mid-March, Eisenhower told reporters he would consider using nuclear weapons in a war with China. Pentagon officials said the U.S. would “destroy Red China’s military potential” and promised a war within weeks. However,

Eisenhower changed his mind. He called his top advisors into the Oval Office on the first of April and told them he wanted a diplomatic resolution. Secretary of State Dulles balked, citing psychological effects -- U.S. credibility. Eisenhower persevered.

When Zhou Enlai gave a conciliatory speech three weeks later, Eisenhower seized the opportunity to stand down from war and start negotiations. He did so, and he preserved credibility with our allies in Taiwan and Japan, and he preserved NATO unity -- and no war.

Eisenhower biographer Stephen Ambrose, in his classic book
Eisenhower the President, called this “one of the great triumphs of his long career,” adding that one of the keys to Eisenhower’s success was flexibility, keeping his options open at every stage. “Eisenhower wanted options within options,” wrote Ambrose.

McLaughlin’s panelists were, to put it mildly, skeptical about whether this was an appropriate analogy; none of them thought Bush could pull back from war without losing face. However, Gerard Baker of the Financial Times noted, correctly, that

Eisenhower decided, against the wishes of many people in his administration over time, that the right policy was containment and deterrence

whereas the Bushies

are siding with those in the -- the same people, same kind of people who were saying fifty years ago that what you need to do is regime change, preemptive action. Preemptive action is what Eisenhower is being asked to do and he decided not to do it.

McLaughlin asked, “What was the professional background of Mr. Eisenhower?” He used the word “chickenhawks” in his next sentence. But, regrettably, what’s important about the Eisenhower example -- that war is hell, that the wiser course may be to refrain from unleashing hell even if restraint means that an enemy remains in place, and that those who have fought in wars often understand this far better than those who haven’t -- was generally lost on McLaughlin’s panel.

(Thanks to Jim for bringing this to my attention.)
Conservative pundit Rod Dreher talks about the anti-war demonstrations in The Washington Times:

"I also saw a woman carrying a poster that had an image of President Bush with a Hitler mustache drawn on.

"I nearly lost it over that. What kind of decent person would have anything to do with a movement that likened the president of the United States to a genocidal mass murderer?..."

I don't know, Rod ... maybe Jackie Mason can explain it to you.

Or some of these people.

And don't forget these folks.

(Thanks to the good Roger Ailes for the link.)

(UPDATE: Why do I bother? Atrios beat me to the punch -- and he has even more examples.)
Is the Bush administration’s policy on overseas AIDS prevention good or bad for pro-choice groups that provide AIDS services? It’s no surprise if you can’t tell -- even The New York Times doesn’t seem able to make up its mind: On the Times Web site there’s a Times-originated story with the headline “Bush to Allow AIDS Money to Supporters of Abortion” and an AP story headlined “Bush May Deny Some Overseas AIDS Money.”

It’s clear that groups that provide abortions must separate their reproductive services from their AIDS services if they want to receive funding from the Bush administration -- which, if it means that pro-choice organizations can under some circumstances receive some funding, may be a slight improvement over the outright ban on funding that was imposed on these organizations in the early days of the Bush administration.

However, please note the reactions of pro- and anti-choice groups: As the AP story notes, the National Right to Life Committee is pleased by the plan, while Planned Parenthood considers it unworkable.

Surely these people know how the rules will work in practice. If they both agree that this isn’t a victory for the pro-choice side, I think that settles the matter.

That’s why I’m deeply suspicious of the internal State Department that oh-so-conveniently found its way into the AP story -- the one that says moderate and liberal members of Congress will be pleased by the compromise and “Hill conservatives” will be dismayed. Undoubtedly this was spoon-fed to the AP reporter in order to spin the story. I simply don’t buy it.
Condoleezza Rice appeared on two talk shows yesterday. On Meet the Press, her criticism of anti-war nations was sharp but, in time-honored fashion, carefully worded:

The French are carrying out their views. I think that we are in discussions with them. We’re in conversations with them. We don’t need to allow this to become a street fight between the United States and France and the United States and Germany. But we do need to remind everybody that tyrants don’t respond to any kind of appeasement.

On Fox News Sunday, she was similarly circumspect, and never once used the "a" word.

Yet the headline in The Washington Post was "Rice Calls Security Council's Actions 'Appeasement.'"

That's inaccurate. But the belief that the Bushies are verbal bullies is now so deeply ingrained that they are accused of trash talk even when they take some pains to avoid giving offense.

This is a problem this administration would work to correct -- if grown-ups were running it.
...Ultimately, opposition to war seems to have been ineffectual, to the intense frustration of many who share it.

...In the modern context, says Alan Brinkley, a history professor at Columbia, a political opposition can be truly effective only in specific circumstances: When the opposition reflects a large popular movement (anti-war sentiment in the late 1960s and early '70s); when it controls levers of power (the Republican Congress in the Clinton years); when it has a clear and compelling message with which to answer its opponents (presidential candidate Ronald Reagan in 1980, Rep. Newt Gingrich in 1994); or when the leadership discredits itself and is ripe for the picking (Winston Churchill becoming Britain's prime minister in 1939 after the failure of his appeasing Tory colleagues).

"At the moment," said Brinkley, "... Bush opponents ... have none of those things."

--Robert G. Kaiser, "There's a Reason Why There Hasn't Been Much of a Fight," Washington Post, February 16, 2003

The fracturing of the Western alliance over Iraq and the huge antiwar demonstrations around the world this weekend are reminders that there may still be two superpowers on the planet: the United States and world public opinion.

In his campaign to disarm Iraq, by war if necessary, President Bush appears to be eyeball to eyeball with a tenacious new adversary: millions of people who flooded the streets of New York and dozens of other world cities to say they are against war based on the evidence at hand.

...The fresh outpouring of antiwar sentiment may not be enough to dissuade Mr. Bush or his advisers from their resolute preparations for war. But the sheer number of protesters offers a potent message that any rush to war may have political consequences for nations that support Mr. Bush's march into the Tigris and Euphrates valleys.

--Patrick E. Tyler, "A New Power in the Streets," New York Times, February 17, 2003

Sunday, February 16, 2003

At the risk of repeating something I wrote here Friday, I'd like to post an e-mail I just sent to Glenn Reynolds, Herr Dr. Dr. InstaPundit, in response to this post in his blog.

"I'd like to see the 'peace' movement take some responsibility for the likely consequences of its views, and the deaths that may come from doing nothing."

And I'd like to see the war movement take some responsibility for the likely consequences of *its* views, and the deaths that may come from its own testosterone overload:

"New York, February 13, 2003--A US-led military intervention in Iraq will trigger the collapse of Iraq's public health and food distribution system, leading to a humanitarian crisis that far exceeds the capacity of the United Nations and relief agencies, according to a report released at the U.N. by the New York-based Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR). At the same time of the release, Secretary-General Kofi Annan will address a closed session of the Security Council on the potential humanitarian consequences of war in Iraq.

"CESR will also release a set of confidential U.N. planning documents that warn of a "humanitarian emergency of exceptional scale and magnitude" based on the expected collapse of Iraq's civilian infrastructure following attacks on Iraq's electricity and transportation systems. One document estimates that 'in the event of a crisis, 30 percent of children under five would be at risk of death from malnutrition.' ..."

Is that what you rightists prefer? It certainly seems that way. I'll admit that it's certainly efficient to kill much of the Iraqi population all at once -- and I know the right greatly admires efficiency.

Steve M.

No More Mister Nice Blog
Jacques Chirac, a grown-up, unfortunately feels the need to defend himself against verbal spitballs from overgrown schoolboys in the U.S. government and media.

Do I even need to excerpt the interview? Chirac says what any rational adult would about Iraq:

I simply don't analyze the situation as [Bush and Blair] do. Among the negative fallout [from a war] would be inevitably a strong reaction from Arab and Islamic public opinion. It may not be justified, and it may be, but it's a fact. A war of this kind cannot help giving a big lift to terrorism. It would create a large number of little bin Ladens. Muslims and Christians have a lot to say to one another, but war isn't going to facilitate that dialogue. I'm against the clash of civilizations; that plays into the hands of extremists. There is a problem—the probable possession of weapons of mass destruction by an uncontrollable country, Iraq. The international community is right to be disturbed by this situation, and it's right in having decided Iraq should be disarmed. The inspections began, and naturally it is a long and difficult job. We have to give the inspectors time to do it. And probably—and this is France's view—we have to reinforce their capacities, especially those of aerial surveillance. For the moment, nothing allows us to say inspections don't work.

...Are there other weapons of mass destruction? That's probable. We have to find and destroy them. In its current situation, does Iraq—controlled and inspected as it is—pose a clear and present danger to the region? I don't believe so. Given that, I prefer to continue along the path laid out by the Security Council. Then we'll see.

Chirac says he likes the U.S., too:

I've known the U.S. for a long time. I visit often, I've studied there, worked as a forklift operator for Anheuser-Busch in St. Louis and as a soda jerk at Howard Johnson's.

The obvious point is that he's more familiar with the U.S. than George W. is with Europe. The less obvious point is that he's worked at crummy jobs in America -- and I wonder how many of his antagonists who actually live here can say the same.


Opposition to President Bush's campaign against Iraq has been ineffectual for a reason. The U.S. public supports Bush. Bush is willing to wield his presidential power. And the anti-war movement has lacked the key element of all great political opponents -- a clear "communications strategy."

--paragraph still posted front and center on The Washington Post's "Confronting Iraq" page a day after the anti-war movement's "clear strategy" of staging hundreds of simultaneous demonstrations brought out four million protestors worldwide

This is amazing. How did we get to this point?

Rattled by an outpouring of anti-war sentiment, the United States and Britain began reworking a draft resolution Saturday to authorize force against Saddam Hussein.

Diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the final product may be a softer text that does not explicitly call for war.

Before Friday's dramatic Security Council meeting, where weapons inspectors gave a relatively favorable accounting of Iraq's recent cooperation, U.S. and British diplomats said they had been preparing a toughly worded resolution that would give them U.N. backing for military action....

But the measured reports by inspectors, in addition to massive global opposition to war — expressed both in the council and in the streets — came as a blow to their plans.

The two English-speaking allies had hoped to push through a new resolution quickly, and there had even been talk of a Saturday council meeting to introduce it. But their plans were put on hold Friday after staunch opposition — led by France, Russia and China — drew rare applause inside the council chamber....


The Washington Post now asks: Should we blame Rummy? In an article provocatively titled "Did Rumsfeld Impede Iraq Coalition?," the Post recalls some of Rumsfeld's most boorish statements and draws the obvious conclusion that his professional-wrestling-style trash talk may have actually impeded Bush's war drive.

Of course, it's not clear why the blame should all fall on Rumsfeld when Richard Perle is running around loose, calling France "our erstwhile ally" and insisting that Jacques Chirac believes "deep in his soul that Saddam Hussein is preferable to any likely successor." And the problem is hardly limirted to intemperate talk. Here's the administration's latest tantrum, as reported in today's London Observer:

US to punish German 'treachery'
America is to punish Germany for leading international opposition to a war against Iraq. The US will withdraw all its troops and bases from there and end military and industrial co-operation between the two countries - moves that could cost the Germans billions of euros.

The plan - discussed by Pentagon officials and military chiefs last week on the orders of Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld - is designed 'to harm' the German economy to make an example of the country for what US hawks see as Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's 'treachery'....

'We are doing this for one reason only: to harm the German economy,' one source told The Observer last week....


Of course Dominique de Villepin was applauded in the UN Security Council last week -- he was saying, in effect, that people who disagree with the Bush administration are sick of having take this kind of guff.

Declare the U.N. irrelevant, go to war, then set up a parallel organization of, you know, legitimate governments. Will Bush have the balls?

It's riskier
not to, isn't it?

--mature, highly respected professor/blogger InstaPundit, nearly giddy at the prospect of global chaos

Saturday, February 15, 2003

Four million anti-war demonstrators worldwide.

One embarrassing placard.

One, two, three right-wing bloggers already ready to hang that sign around all four million of our necks.

Gee, and it's a three-day weekend. These guys are probably going to spend the next 48 hours looking for more naive signs they can use to condemn us all. I wonder if they'll even bother to get up once in a while to eat or take a shower.
I attended the anti-war demo in New York, briefly. It wasn’t a march, as you probably know; the city insisted that a procession past the UN was unacceptable. I’m somewhat baffled by that, and sorry that a judge agreed. The result was that some demonstrators were penned into blocks of First Avenue, unable to see the speakers, and able to hear them only if someone nearby had a radio tuned to a live broadcast; meanwhile, other demonstrators made slow (or no) progress down Second and Third Avenues because they couldn’t find the cross streets kept open by the police that provided access to First, and yet others wandered cross streets or the avenues west of Third because they’d given up trying to get to First. All this meant that instead of being in one orderly line, we were spread across a fairly large expanse of the city -- surely we couldn’t have been less of a burden for the cops that way. This also meant that when you hear the crowd estimates, you’re not getting a true sense of how many people wanted to be part of the main demo.

In the wake of the last major anti-war demonstration, much was written about the moral responsibility of demonstrators to have subjected the organizers of the demo to a complete background check. I argued at the time that demonstrations are about what demonstrators think they’re about; people show up to make their own case and not to sign on to the oddnesses and quirks of organizers’ agendas. Stuck on a First Avenue block in at 66th Street, nearly a mile from the stage, and barely able to hear the speakers as their words were broadcast on a radio nearby, I realized that this demo belonged to the demonstrators even more than others I’ve attended -- it was just us there; our presence said, We’re here and we’re against this war and there are a lot of us. That’s pretty much all we can say in large numbers; we can write letters and maintain Weblogs and do many other things on our own or in small groups, but when we make a show of our raw numbers, the message inevitably becomes a simple, basic one: Turn on CNN. See all those people on First Avenue photographed from the helicopter? All those people oppose the war. That’s it. What else do you want to know? Read books and magazines and blogs if you want more details -- and remember that our individual lines of reason won’t agree in all particulars.
Another good New York Observer column from the centrist Terry Golway.

He favors containment, but he respects thoughtful people who think an invasion is necessary. He criticizes the Euro-bashers and others who seem to savor the prospect of war. I'm further to the left than he is on most issues, and I'd probably need more convincing than he would of the necessity of this war, but I can't find much to disagree with in the column.
"The plan is a disaster."

Guess who said that about the U.S. plan to put a military governor in charge of Iraq after the war, in an interview broadcast on NPR's Morning Edition yesterday? Kanan Makiya -- the Iraqi opposition leader whose call for a war against Saddam, quoted at the end of a New York Times Magazine article, was meant to cause twinges of guilt at a million liberal brunch tables. Go here and scroll to "Iraqi Opposition Groups" -- quite a few anti-Saddam Iraqis are quite dissatisfied with the U.S. plans. The New York Times also reported on this dissatisfaction yesterday; the Times quotes Makiya, who concerned that the U.S. is trying to prevent opposition groups from holding a conference in Iraq this month, as saying, "The enemies of a democratic Iraq lie within the C.I.A. and the State Department."

Friday, February 14, 2003

You may know about the boycott of, the French cheese site, but now the Euro-bashing has spread to the economic heart of America ... New Trier Township, Illinois!

Responding to France and Germany’s opposition to the U.S. position on Iraq, the Women’s Republican Club of New Trier Township is taking action.

The 70-year-old club passed a unanimous resolution Monday to boycott all goods manufactured in France, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg. They are also urging people to boycott travel to those nations....

Yeah, that ought to break those baguette-eating bastards' will.
From the subscription-only newsletter PublishersLunch:

This Sunday's NYTBR [New York Times Book Review] carries a letter from Susan McDougal regarding the controversial (and rather bizarre) review of her book THE WOMAN WHO WOULDN'T TALK by Beverly Lowry. McDougal's letter corrects one small error, asserting that Bill Clinton was governor of Arkansas at the time of the investment in Whitewater; questions the oddly worded statement by Lowry that "Irrefutably they [the Clintons] and the McDougals trampled on some rights and bent some rules along the way"; and notes an error of omission in which Lowry recalled "our national confusion, as we tried to figure out whether or not we could trust a word she said" when McDougal was charged with embezzling money from one-time employers Nancy and Zubin Mehta, without noting that McDougal was exonerated by a jury that then expressed their displeasure that the case had been tried at all. The Mehta trial outcome is covered in the second-to-last portion of the book, though the review erroneously referred to an earlier topic as consuming "the final sections of the book."

Ironically enough, McDougal's letter was fact-checked by the newspaper before it ran. But many in the publishing community remain troubled at how a review like this ran in the first place, and why the newspaper hasn't been more forthcoming in its own voice in correcting the record.

Book Review editor Chip McGrath told us that the paper "Deliberately used her [McDougal's] letter (as opposed to several other, shorter ones)" to help rectify the situation, on top of the single correction that ran earlier. McGrath said, "As for the errors that did appear, yes, they were sloppy and should have been caught in the editing process; as soon as we became aware that we had erred--and it didn't take long for that to happen--we took steps to set the record straight."

As further explanation, McGrath noted, "The Book Review has a particular problem in that we use so many freelancers, not all of whom are trained journalists, and this puts an additional burden on our over-worked staff. I do think we've learned from this one." He also says, "Not that it excuses the mistakes, I would point out that this was a review sympathetic to McDougal and her book, not an attack."

The book, which currently appears on the NYT bestseller list, now has 55,000 copies in print after six printings.

(For some background on this story, go here and here.)

I don't know what the reviewer was doing, or the fact-checkers, but I don't think there was any malicious intent on the part of the Book Review's editors. I think the problem here is worse: The notion that the Clintons are simply depraved, as is anyone who hasn't denounced them, is simply so pervasive in our culture that statements utterly at odds with the facts are believed by well-educated, well-informed people so long as those statements cast the Clintons and those who have befriended them in a bad light.