July 30, 2003

Verse Interlude

Some have taken to writing bad poetry about the mythical version of late "peace" activist Rachel Corrie. (Hat tip to Dave Weigel, who got it from Tim Blair.) I thought I'd write a more reality-based version. With apologies to Edwin Arlington Robinson:

Rachel Corrie

Whenever Rachel Corrie went down town,
We people on the pavement cried, "whoa, dag!":
She was lily white from sole to crown,
But she sure could burn a flag.

She was angry-faced and fire-eyed,
As amonst the refugees she walked,
And fluttered pulses when she cried,
"Die, Zion!" as children gawked.

She'd come to do the activist-tour thing;
And though she wore her headscarf with such grace,
When Israel-hating propagandists sing
Her praise they use her smiling yearbook face.

But in Rafah they smuggled weapons for their fight,
And cursed the Jews, and worked to make them dead;
And Rachel Corrie, on a springtime day's twilight,
Lay down and let a bulldozer crush her head.

Posted by John Tabin at 01:13 AM | Comments (2)

July 29, 2003

Dark Arts

Alfonso Cuaron, director of the entertaining and pornographic Y Tu Mama Tambien, is taking on Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. The drivel for which Andrew Sullivan gave Cuaron a Sontag Award Nomination yesterday is not the only disturbing passage in the Newsweek profile:

Cuaron also reimagined the role of Professor Dumbledore after Richard Harris’s death. British actor Michael Gambon now plays the Hogwarts headmaster as an elegant old hippie.

Nooooo!

Posted by John Tabin at 02:42 AM | Comments (1)

July 26, 2003

23

Happy Birthday to Me.

Posted by John Tabin at 02:53 AM | Comments (4)

July 24, 2003

Cultural Harmony

BAATHIST BROADCASTING CORPORATION: Here's how they headlined yesterday's news about the killing of Saddam's sons: "US celebrates 'good' Iraq news." Yes, that "good" again. The Beebers must be truly sad to see two mass murderers brought to justice. One BBC journalist even pronounced that the deaths might cause an intensification of anti-American violence. Wishful thinking... Abolish [the BBC], I say.
-Andrew Sullivan
And I would like to add that Jazeera is the worst ever. They should be banned under Mullah Bremer's Fatwa banning all pro-saddam/pro-ba'ath propaganda. That political analyst they have, something al-ani, is a fucking saddamite.
-Salam Pax
Posted by John Tabin at 12:53 PM | Comments (1)

July 23, 2003

Better Than They Deserved, But It'll Do

Salam Pax writes:

just to tell you that i would be really dissapointed if Uday and Qusay were really killed in Mosul. this is just the easy way out for them. they should have been humiliated in public, images of them handcuffed and being pushed around.

Another Iraqi goes even further:

But at least one man voiced disappointment that Uday, who ran much of Iraq's media and sport with a heavy hand, had been killed. "I don't want him dead. I want to torture him first," said Alaa Hamed, who was a producer at Uday's television station. He said Uday beat him with electrical cables when he made mistakes.

I can certainly understand the sentiment; it's too bad that they couldn't be taken alive (though as just as it might be, I can't think of defensible way that revenge torture might be incorporated into official policy). But between Uday and Qusay on the loose and Uday and Qusay dead, I'll take dead.

Posted by John Tabin at 11:56 PM | Comments (0)

July 17, 2003

Remedial Econometrics for Journalists

This Reuters graph has been making the rounds:

You'll notice that the graph measure the deficit in nominal dollar amounts. But for the purposes of comparing budget deficits from different years, these numbers are basically meaningless. Here's what an honest version of the graph would look like, measuring deficits as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product:

Less dramatic, to be sure, but if Reuters was just trying to make the administration look bad, the second graph would suffice; though the comparison to the early-nineties deficits is less damning, the trend is still toward more red ink. Perhaps Reuters spun its story for drama-- the hugest mega-deficit in history is a more compelling storyline than just a fairly large deficit. If so, shame on Reuters for its dishonesty.

But there's a more likely, and perhaps more troubling, explanation. Reuters isn't being dishonest at all; instead, the wire service has reporters covering fiscal policy who simply don't know how to correctly compare deficits. And that's truly shameful.

UPDATE: In my chart-making excitement, I forgot to link to my sources. This .pdf from the OMB was the main one; the relevant data is on page 24. For the 2003 updated figure, I relied on news reports like this one from the AP-- which, typically enough, buries the 4.2% figure in the final paragraph.

Posted by John Tabin at 10:14 PM | Comments (0)

July 15, 2003

I Hate Radiohead

For details, see my latest review at American Enterprise Online.

UPDATE: TAEmag.com has undergone a redesign; my review is now located here.

Posted by John Tabin at 10:30 PM | Comments (31)

July 14, 2003

Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis

I just wanted to one-up Jim Bennett (or rather the UPI headline writers). I'm not sure I've succeeded, though; his headline is actually topical.

As always, Bennett's Anglosphere column is worth a read, whether or not you have a fascination with long words.

Posted by John Tabin at 01:21 PM | Comments (0)

July 12, 2003

Remedial First Amendment Studies

The other night I flipped to C-SPAN2, where Barbara Boxer was telling a radio exec that, because his country stations had stopped playing the Dixie Chicks for a month, she wanted to use the powers of government to intervene in his business-- and she was accusing him of totalitarian tendancies.

Most of the subcommittee, chaired by John McCain, seemed to be confused about the meaning of free speech. Jacob Sullum tries to explain.

Posted by John Tabin at 07:47 AM | Comments (0)

July 11, 2003

Remember Iran

I've been remiss in not mentioning the goings-on in Iran lately. This is one of the most important stories going on right now, but since I only have a limited amout of time to blog, I try not to focus on things that are being covered elsewhere when I don't have much to add. Sometimes I forget that I have some readers who actually don't check Instapundit several times a day. Lord knows, the major media is not much help; reporters seem to think the important Iranian story centers on conjoined twins, not coming revolution. (Some have even suggested that the Iranian government sponsored the conjoined twin operation to distract from domestic discord that was expected for July 9.)

Jeff Jarvis writes on the meaning of July 9-- a nationwide protest that was partially subdued by threats from the regime of a massacre. If you need to catch up, scroll down for more-- Jarvis has been all over this issue-- and pay attention to his links to Iranian bloggers. Notes of an Iranian girl is one of my favorites.

Posted by John Tabin at 02:27 PM | Comments (1)

July 09, 2003

Shrink the Gap

I haven't blogged on the Liberia issue yet, mainly because I hadn't made up my mind. I now tentatively support intervention, with a caveat which I'll get to in a minute.

James S. Robbins makes a convincing argument for intervention on strategic grounds. Robbins invokes Thomas Barnett's framework: the world is roughly divided between a "Functioning Core," those countries that are interconnected and pacified by globalization, and a "Non-Integrating Gap," the other countries: the seamier side of Latin America, most of Africa and the Middle East, and part of South-East Asia. As security threats are likely to come from within the Gap, our strategic goals, according to Barnett, should focus on expanding and protecting the Core, and shrinking the Gap.

This strikes me as a fundamentally sound framework. The strategic benefits that Robbins outlines weigh heavily on the side of potential benefits of an intervention.

What about potential costs? Nation-building isn't an easy thing. But Bill Buckley seems to imply that "Lebanon, Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq" have all yielded equally awful results. Does he really believe that? Tell it to the Kosovars and the Afghans. The chance of a failure can't be ruled out, but the Liberian Americophilia that Robbins discusses makes it less likely.

The Wall Street Journal suggests that the US facilitate a Frence intervention. Though they may be right that we can't afford a troop commitment for a merely humanitarian intervention, Robbins makes a good argument that the US has a strategic interest-- and that leaving the region, as it is, "mostly up to France... is hardly an acceptable part of our risk calculus."

Now, the caveat: If this seems too much like charity, and too little like the cultivation of an ally in a region that will become important in the war on terror, public support will not withstand much bloodshed; a nasty incident or two will trigger political pressure for a premature withdrawal. That could leave Liberia, like Somalia, no better than it was when we found it. If the President decides to intervene, I'll be paying close attention to his salesmanship. If it doesn't emphasize American interest enough, that's a bad sign.

Posted by John Tabin at 05:23 PM | Comments (0)

July 07, 2003

Conspiracists Gone Wild

Markos Moulitsas Z˙niga, better known as Kos, who's on Howard Dean's payroll, and raises enough for the DNC to warrant a chat with Terry McAuliffe, dismisses Matt Drudge's gossip about discord between Dean and McAuliffe. "Consider the source," he admonishes.

Kos's theory, that Republican operatives would for some reason try to sabotage an unelectable Democrat with a serious shot at the nomination, is also floated by noted conspiracy theorist Josh Marshall, who observes, "Either people in the Dean campaign are incredible morons or this is a bogus quote."

Jay Caruso's marginally more plausible conspiracy theory notwithstanding, I think it may be time to apply Occam's razor: People in the Dean campaign are incredible morons.

(Alternative simple explanations: Drudge got some gossip that was mangled in transit, or the quoted moron isn't as close to the Dean campaign as he pretends to be. Drudge only claims 80% accuracy, after all. But please, lay off Oliver Stone's stash, people.)

Posted by John Tabin at 11:52 PM | Comments (0)

July 04, 2003

Happy Fourth

Why not read it again?

Posted by John Tabin at 01:45 PM | Comments (1)

July 02, 2003

Proclivity vs. Orientation

Like Jeffrey Rosen, I think Justice O'Connor's concurring opinion in Lawrence vs. Texas is far more defensible that Justice Kennedy's majority opinion; the latter is rooted in a rather dubious tradition of privacy jurisprudence, begining with the "emanations and penumbras" of Griswold vs. Connecticut. (Rosen has previously written that another case in this tradition, Roe vs. Wade, gave the anti-abortion side a political advantage of never having to test their most extreme positions.) O'Connor's argument, which would have left in place the previous sodomy decision in Bowers vs. Hardwick, was based in the Fourteenth Amendment's equal protection guarantee rather than its Due Process clause; it would have left intact sodomy laws that, unlike the law in Texas, applied equally to both homosexual and heterosexual sodomy.

Justice Scalia's dissent responds to O'Connor's equal protection case:

Finally, I turn to petitioners' equal-protection challenge, which no Member of the Court save JUSTICE O'CONNOR, ante, at 1 (opinion concurring in judgment),embraces: On its face [the Texas law] applies equally to all persons. Men and women, heterosexuals and homosexuals, are all subject to its prohibition of deviate sexual intercourse with someone of the same sex. To be sure, [the law] does distinguish between the sexes insofar as concerns the partner with whom the sexual acts are performed: men can violate the law only with other men,and women only with other women. But this cannot itself be a denial of equal protection...

JUSTICE O'CONNOR argues that the discrimination in this law which must be justified is... its discrimination with regard to the sexual proclivity of the principal actor.

"While it is true that the law applies only to conduct, the conduct targeted by this law is conduct that is closely correlated with being homosexual. Under such circumstances, Texas' sodomy law is targeted at more than conduct. It is instead directed toward gay persons as a class." Ante, at 5.

Of course the same could be said of any law. A law against public nudity targets "the conduct that is closely
correlated with being a nudist" and hence "is targeted at more than conduct"; it is "directed toward nudists as a class."

I'm skipping some things in Scalia's dissent regarding strict scrutiny vs. rational-basis scrutiny that I don't feel qualified to comment on. I'd like to focus, though, on the phrase "sexual proclivity."

A "proclivity" is an inclination or tendency; I don't think in connotes something so immutable as "sexual orientation," at least as I understand it. In most cases, certainly for men, heterosexuality (or homosexuality) is every bit as congenital as gender or race. It's absurd to suggest that nudism is comparable.

Once you accept the premise that sexual orientation is a congenital characteristic (and not, like nudism, an acquired preference), O'Connor's equal protection argument looks very strong, and well rooted in the Constitution's text. What a shame that five of our Justices prefer to wallow in the penumbras.

Posted by John Tabin at 08:21 PM | Comments (0)

Will the Country be Pulled Left?

Ramesh Ponnuru is concerned:

Conservative and Republican interests converge quite frequently, but not entirely. The resurgence of the Democratic Left is one of the places where they don't. It is something that would indeed help the Republican party, but not the conservative cause.

One of the reasons that parties benefit when the other party becomes extreme is that it allows it to hug the center. But if Republicans are moving to the center and Democrats to the left, that means both parties are moving leftward-that the center of gravity of American politics is moving leftward. Isn't that, too, part of the story of 1972?

One reader of Ponnuru's piece responds that the model might not be '72 but '64 (and could thus yield a reverse Great Society); the same reader also speculates that Dean may be able to move closer to the center in the general election. That may be partially true, but he's dug in rather deep on taxes and foreign policy.

In any case, Dean's success may be a misleading indicator of the Democrats' movement, as I discussed yesterday. And Dean hasn't won anything yet; there are plenty in the Democratic establishment, worried about marginal races elsewhere on the ballot, who don't want Dean to be the nominee. Expect an attack from the gun lobby, for starters, for his mild challenge to their orthodoxy.

Posted by John Tabin at 06:03 PM | Comments (0)

Oliver Willis is an Idiot

I could add substantive arguments to my name-calling, but he'd ignore them anyway. (Don't miss the comments, in which Dave Weigel apparently dies of Hepatitis A or E.)

Posted by John Tabin at 02:38 PM | Comments (2)

Contrarian Corner

"We had enough troops to win the war in Iraq, but not enough to win the peace," goes one of the fashionable critiques. Greg Buete makes the opposite argument: sending even more conventional forces to fight what is now an unconventional war would be crazy.

Posted by John Tabin at 02:23 PM | Comments (0)

Silvio Burlusconi has a strange sense of humor...

...which doesn't go over well with the Eurocrats in Brussels, who have no sense of humor at all.

Posted by John Tabin at 01:34 PM | Comments (0)

July 01, 2003

Is Dean's Cash Overrated?

Not without reason, there's been much crowing over Howard Dean's fundraising prowess in the second quarter. There's no question that Dean has used the Internet effectively to mobilize a volunteer base and bring in money, and that this speaks well of his campaign's effectiveness. But before he's annointed the presumptive nominee, lets look at the predicted totals for Q2, according to the Washington Post's sources:

Dean - "more than $7 million"
Kerry - "about $5 million"
Edwards - "about $5 million"
Gephardt - "working to approach the $5 million mark"
Lieberman - won't say yet
Graham- "$2 million to $3 million"
Kucinich - "in seven figures"
Sharpton - declined to comment
Moseley Braun - wouldn't return phone calls

It looks like Dean is doing pretty well. But which donors is he attracting? Excluding the fringe candidates (James Taranto calls them Sharptonkucinichmoseleybraun), the fundraising base breaks down approximately like this:

Liberals: $7 million to Dean, a few million to the waffling Kerry, perhaps some to Graham (who nimbly changes his rhetoric to match the audience)

Moderates: $5 million to Edwards, almost $5 million to Gephardt, another few million (presumably) to Lieberman, a few million to Graham, and probably a few million to Kerry

Some are saying that Dean's momentum is a sign of the Democrats lurching to the left. But what if it's just a sign of too many candidates chasing the same money? For the left wing of the party, Dean is the obvious first choice; for the center-left, there is no obvious first choice. No wonder Dean's out-pacing the competition.

Posted by John Tabin at 02:25 AM | Comments (0)