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.