Friday, October 13, 2006


So far, all that's been proven is that Foley is gay and he sent lurid emails to a kid. Somehow, this seems to be enough to warrant abstaining from voting for the members of the entire republican party. ... Torture, Constitutional challenges, the Iraq War, and the 9/11 commission report are all issues that have gone on for years...and somehow Foley is the biggest news to come out.

Often neither party benefits from discussing relevant policy issues because their positions are too unpopular with the public, and changing positions would threaten the support of their financiers. So they appeal to voters through non-policy considerations like "character" or "values" -- whether you actually earned your war medals, and so on. It seems a lot of energy goes into this by the mutual consent of both parties, as a way of concealing what they actually stand for: They're more comfortable playing a game of character assassination with each other than talking about their policies in public. Unless people organize around issues that concern them and force their representatives to respond, this kind of thing seems to be the status quo of political campaigns.

Just as an example, initiatives that enjoy the overwhelming support of the public -- like universal healthcare -- will never gain any traction in either party unless politicians feel they can afford to support it -- meaning the public is so mobilized on the issue they constitute a sufficient counterweight to the political influence and financial backing of the HMO's, insurance industry, pharmaceuticals and other private interests that directly profit from the current healthcare mess.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

To the Financial Times:

Jacob Weisberg's defense of Bush administration policy leading up to the current Arab-Israeli crisis seems ill-timed ("One bout for which Bush is not to blame," July 20). Whether the US could have done something differently to prevent the conflict seems far less important than what it might do now to stop it: for example, supporting a ceasefire instead of obstructing it. Pressuring Israel to end its campaign in southern Lebanon might save hundreds of innocent lives; by the FT's own numbers ("Lebanon has worst day as 58 die in raids", July 20) this remains true regardless of how Hizbollah responds. In defense of the most vulnerable, all sides must be called upon to stop; but this will not realistically happen while the US and Israel stand in the way.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Evangelicals in San Francisco

The evangelicals message is not a loving, accepting one (dripping with irony that they do it in Jesus' name), but have you seen some of the signs that the gay counter-protesters had or heard any of their chants?

This story seems typical of the "culture clash" variety, where the fact that people with different views enter into conflict and "do the darndest things" is hyped as if some sort of real transgression occurred, or evidence that one side (i.e., the one you already disagree with) was somehow out of bounds. Yes, people behave badly, say mean things, and are perhaps not as tolerant of each other as they should be; but since none of these things are illegal or unconstitutional, there isn't much of a story here other than the fact that gays don't mix with evangelicals. Go figure.
The American Iraq Debate

Iraqis favor a greater UN role in resolving the situation as it stands, and I think probably just about everyone else in the world does too, including most Americans -- or at least they would if it were presented to them as an option. The problem is that it hasn't: American intellectuals have done a masterful job framing the Iraq question as a debate between themselves, with plenty of soul-searching on and heated exchanges over what to do now, as though their near-total failure thusfar has only earned them greater authority on the future of the nation. But the question shouldn't be left to the Americans to decide, at least not exclusively, as Iraq is not their country.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Clemency for the CCP

Unlike the Soviet Union, the Chinese Communist Party has brokered deals with the West permitting access to markets and resources still under heavy regulation by the central government. This has generated large revenues for the negotiating parties -- the CCP, Chinese industrialists, and foreign investors -- but has left questions about democracy and human rights for the population-at-large unanswered.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

The Iraq/Wife-beating Analogy

With regard to [the] wife-beating analogy, it's funny because I've also thought this in the same terms, though I would frame it differently as I think it can be broken down into much simpler issues:

If someone is beating their wife, should the already-established community norms for dealing with this sort of thing--i.e., calling the police--be used; or should the most heavily-armed neighbor (who coincidentally believes he has the best ideas about how to run a household) independently decide to take the law into his own hands and "liberate" the woman from her husband by force because, in his opinion, the police aren't effective?

After all, who is going to say the neighborhood isn't better off without the wife-beater?

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Cultivating the "Business-friendly" Environment

Guy de Jonquières in today's Financial Times
Business-friendly autocrats promise several things that managers and investors prize highly -- above all, stability. A western investment banker bent on expanding in China told me recently that his greatest worry about the country was not its shaky financial system, rampant corruption or risk of an economic downturn: it was the uncertainty that would ensue if the Communist party lost power.

In Indonesia, one of businesses' biggest complaints after the overthrow of the Suharto dictatorship in 1998 was that ... they were no longer sure who to bribe or how much to pay.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

More Republifun: On Hamas

The more likely long term result of an Hamas government is the utter destruction of the Palestinian people. Israel has the means to prevent its own destruction and will severely punish an enemy that so flagrantly boasts about destroying Israel.

I'm encouraged that you recognize the fundamental power deficit enjoyed by the Palestinian people vis-a-vis the Israeli state. You object to the Hamas program because, in your view, it advocates the destruction of Israel. Whether or not this is an accurate summary of their position, I certainly agree with you that it is wrong. However, even if it were true--again, your central concern here--you acknowledge that the chances of this happening are unlikely. Again, I agree. Much more likely, as you point out, is the continued destruction of the Palestinian people at the hands of their much more powerful occupiers, who, in fact, are already in the position of managing their destruction. Surely you agree that actual crimes take precedent over hypothetical ones which have little to no chance of success, as you have said. Then it follows that a moral response is to turn one's attention to those being destroyed, rather than monitoring their reactions for impolite rhetoric which you can then hold up as further justification for their destruction.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

NeoCons Admit Being Wrong on Iraq, But Who Needs Convincing?

Andrew Sullivan in 2003.

Andrew Sullivan now.

(Andrew has learned a "tough lesson," though "tougher for those tens of thousands of dead, innocent Iraqis and several thousand killed and injured American soldiers." Too bad he didn't think of that earlier: it doesn't exactly take a fortune-teller to predict that modern warfare in urban areas will produce thousands of innocent casualties of precisely the sort of folk he claimed to be "liberating"; though perhaps not being there, nor being Iraqi, old man Sullivan felt comfortable he was making the correct decision for them. Thanks, Andy, for being such a trusty friend to your newfound corpsely companions.)

More melancholy musings at The Independent (via The Angry Arab News Service).

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Thursday, March 02, 2006

It Would Be Neat If You Were Smart

It kills me that in much American analysis of Iraq, no matter how critical, the neo-con objective of spreading goodness throughout the world is somehow taken at face value. Criticism invariably turns to how "freedom," etc., can most effectively be doled out, particularly in terms of dollar costs (though American lives are important too); or can goodness can be spread to others at all: How many columns has Tom Friedman written pleading with Iraqis that they might stand up and make our occupation successful? (I don't know myself: I don't consider paying the New York Times money for what was previously free an especially attractive deal for "younger people" such as myself, though I have heard NYT staff make the pitch.) Now that we've destroyed their infrastructure and invited destabilization into the society, Tom Friedman wants to know why the Iraqis haven't taken their lack of water and electricity and run with it.

There is nothing "neo-" about being baldly interventionist, nor is there anything "neo-" about casting it in humanistic terms; these must be among the most ubiquitous conventions in all of human history--right up there with sex and pooping. Yet anyone who argues that their motivation for copulation is "Wilsonian idealism," or that the "meal of freedom will produce no waste" when one's buttocks are deployed over Baghdad, will be rightly deemed suspect without very compelling evidence, or at least a doctor's note--two things American commentators seem content to do without.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Chomsky's Vacation

Noam Chomsky has often commented that he is "waiting for the world to go away" before he can [insert carefree recreational activity here]. I have interpreted this to mean "death will be a welcome reprieve from having to debate people like Bill Bennett and Alan Dershowitz," though I could be wrong. It may simply underscore that Christopher Hitchens is a jackass, as everything that Chomsky says implicitly does.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Ports and other Foreign Ownership

from Nouriel Roubini's Blog
The current political saga and debate about the purchase by a Dubai-based company of the management of six US ports misses the most crucial point: with a US current account deficit running towards $900b this year and probably above one trillion $ next year, in a matter of a few years foreigners may end up owning most of the U.S. capital stocks: ports, factories, corporations, land, real estate and even our national parks. This is basic accounting: if you run a current account deficit (import more than export, spend more than your income, save less than you invest) you need to borrow from the rest of the world to finance such excess of spending (on private and public consumption and investment) over your national income.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Saturday, February 18, 2006

White House on Abu Ghraib: "We took kinky gay sex to the enemy, so it wouldn't happen here."

Also in the headlines:

Bay-area BDSM enthusiasts "scared straight."

Blowback: Brokeback Mountain; "How could it happen here?"

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Freedom of the Press Secretaries

Scott McClellan on torture at Abu Ghraib

That's the difference between the United States and some countries in the world that systematically engage in torture. When we find abuses or atrocities like that, we show the world that people are held to account; we show the world that we take these matters seriously, and we take steps to prevent that from happening ever again.

McClellan later explained that because Al Qaeda are "trained to provide false information," he feared the outsourcing of the press secretary position to terrorists.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Guess who's back?

Monday, February 13, 2006


It seems to me that when somebody demonstrates a consistent inability to handle firearms responsibly, you take their guns away.

Below: US-Iraq relations, 2003-present.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Freedom of Provocation

It's not hard to understand the anger felt by many Muslims these days. If somebody published a series of cartoons depicting myself as being independently wealthy, socially magnanimous and great in the sack, you can well be sure a firebomb or two would be lobbed from the ex-girlfriend camp.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

A Friend in War

from The New York Times
The president did not use the National Guard speech to defend the surveillance program undertaken by the National Security Agency since he took office. But he did defend his general anti-terrorist policies in several ways.

He said, for example, that his "aggressive strategy of bringing the war to the terrorists" had not cost the United States international support but, rather, had enhanced America's standing. A shining example is Pakistan, he said.

"A little over four years ago, Pakistan was only one of three countries in the world that recognized the Taliban regime in Afghanistan," Mr. Bush said. "Today, Pakistan forces are risking their lives in the hunt for Al Qaeda."

...Mr. Bush praised President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan for remaining a United States ally despite threats on his life.

Here President Musharraf is shown with some of the decorations bestowed on him by President Bush for risking his life in the hunt for Al Qaeda.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

A Second Treatise on Public Transport

I would like to relate now the case of J.R. Boyd v. The Chickenheads* On His Bus Every Damnable Morning and Afternoon During His Commute While He Is Trying Read the Newspaper. This case is still pending, as the act of exasperation which brings it to trial has yet to be acted out.

*see definition 8; all other definitions would be an ironic twist of fate

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Film Review | Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room

Total sausage party, dude. Women have a long way to go in the workplace if they can't even score a few high-profile indictments in corporate bankruptcies of this scale. Unfortunately, the only gals making it to executive offices at this company were outsourced from the local gentlemen's club. Have to give the filmmakers credit in this regard: Although they could not find actual strippers from that era, they do give ample time to actresses aspiring to portray strippers in several dramatic reenactments. While I still can't completely explain what transpired at the company, my impression is that it involved an awful lot of "making shit up"--or, "hypothetical value projections," as they refer to the cutting-edge accounting system of their design, which somehow (read: deregulation) earned SEC approval. "Slanted" and full of commentary from people whose two cents may well suffer the same inflationary pox as Enron's former stock (the participants are not identified often or in any particular detail), the basic narrative of the company is nevertheless compelling and worthwhile -- not to mention timely, as former execs Lay and Skilling finally go to trial.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Celebrity Role Models

They say celebrity marriages don't last, but Woody Allen and his adopted daughter have been going strong for very close to a decade now.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Great Expectations

If death is anything like sleeping more than 11 hours without back pain, I should be very grateful for it.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Sunscreen for the Soul

I have never been a skin-cancer enthusiast, but I also do not appreciate fluorescent lighting, nor the spectrum of employed persons who seem to thrive under them. For this reason I much prefer working out of doors, so long as those doors do not belong to a recalcitrant Arab population, and "working out" does not entail breaking them down as a means of introduction.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Some Elementary Remarks on Public Transportation

Public transportation is a fine, fine thing. It is cheaper than driving, though money means little when one subsequently expires from the bird flu. This brings us to the primary drawback of public transportation: the public. Their propensity to serve as a vector of transmission has few rivals, though abstinence-only education can't be helping, nor several people I dated in the late 90's. Of course, it has been said that an American flu pandemic is a long way off, with at least a layover or two inbetween. In the meantime, antibacterial soaps are helping us prepare for the worst by helping the worst be prepared, so that we might end it all a lot sooner than our student loans had hoped. Still, there is saliency in the presidential observation that we are "addicted" to oil, particularly when it comes from someone so well-versed on the topic.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Does torture count as an "evil" we should "never surrender to"?

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

State of the Union: Impeachment 2006?

Wiretapping without a warrant is something we can all get excited about. For the White House, it's exciting because it helps to wage the war on terra. For Americans, it's exciting because it helps to reclaim a sense of indignation about what is wrong with America without having to look oneself in the mirror, particularly after getting the whole Iraq invasion/WMD thing wrong. For myself, it's exciting because that's just the sort of combination that impeachments are made of! After all, when's the last time you heard of anyone getting impeached for launching an illegal war of aggression? What we really needed was an executive branch that snubs its nose at sharing authority with others and affronts our theoretical conceptions of constitutional power! Maybe Bush's greatest crime will be what has always been his greatest asset: his natural lack of pretense.

Monday, January 30, 2006

On Humility

It is never easy to admit one is wrong, particularly when the opposite is manifestly the case. What, then, is the president's excuse?

Sunday, January 29, 2006

"Modern Alienation" on a Budget

Most Americans have ensared themselves in a web of alienation by default, through a heightened emphasis on material goods and embrace of a rampant commercial culture. For my part, I've found not speaking to people accomplishes the same thing, and at a fraction of the cost.