|View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Wednesday, March 31, 2004
Someone named Bob Faust is going to mount a primary challenge in the 4th District to Marylin Musgrave. Mrs. Musgrave is the moving force behind the proposed Constitutional amendment to prevent the courts from imposing gay marriage on the country. But Faust has a plan:
Huh? If I didn't know better, I'd think he was a Democrat, running to keep Musgrave from campaigning statewide with Schaffer.
I know Ben and Clay are in the tank for Schaffer, but I'll probably be taking my time on this one, while Liniger figures out what he's doing. Salazar may be raising lots of dough, but if Liniger does end up with the nomination, he'll need every penny of it. Remember, the state parties are severely limited in how much money they can give to candidates, since McCain-Feingold.
Nobody, except us political junkies, is paying much attention to this race, and if Liniger runs, and if he and Schaffer can keep it civil, it really might turn out to be a lot of good, free publicity for the Republicans here, at a time when both guys can use it. It's also true that while Schaffer has been vetted by a Congressional campaign before, he's never run statewide, which calls for an additional set of organizational and campaign skills. A primary challenge could help him here, too.
I haven't been out here long enough to have any sense of personal loyalty to any of 'em. I'm still feeling my way along, seeing what comes out, which probably puts me in the same boat as 90% of the state. While it's hard to say that the Democrats had any truly attractive Presidential candidates, we should remember that there are risks as well as rewards for picking a candidate very early in the process.
Tuesday, March 30, 2004
Over the last two days, the illuminati of the US space industry have gathered in Colorado Springs to talk about the future of the US in space - military, civil, commercial, as they say. Five thousand, five hundred of them. They're speaking on Mars, the moon, missile defense, satellite internet, satellite surveillance, mapping, surveying for crying out loud.
They're discussing technologies that will let your car drive itself to the mechanic, and then come pick you up when it's fixed. They're planning colonies on the moon, sending men to mars, blanketing the world with the Internet, keeping you from getting lost. They'll be figuring out how to keep missiles away and how to protect all this cool stuff we're building.
So what does the Denver Post do? Devotes 16 paragraphs of a 19-paragraph story to 12, count 'em, twelve "peace" protestors who are upset that we have nukes and Saddam didn't. They spend precious ink and trees describing some woman who probably was the model for every cranky uber-hip grandmother on an 80s sitcom.
I mean, it's not like there aren't cool stories on the inside. The Post coouldn't have gotten someone inside this thing? Just start with some of the names. They're straight out of central casting from the 1940s pulp machine: the head of the US Space Command is named Lance Lord. Lance Lord! I'll bet you wouldn't have to spend 2 hours paging through old Perry Rhoden back-issues to find that exact name. "The six of us were eyeing the charts nervously, sure that they spelled certain doom for the human race, when in strode General Lance Lord of the US Space Command, confident, sure, ready to take control."
Eugene Jilg, Chief Technology Officer for INMARSAT. "As we entered Dr. Jilg's office, he barely looked up from his calculations to wave us in. 'Over there,' he said brusquely. I started, 'Dr. Jilg, this is very important busi---,' but was cut short by an abrupt gesture."
Mr. J Triplett Mackintosh, who is, what else?, one of Colorado's leading attorneys. How he got here from central Virginia, I'll never know, but they-ah he is.
Look, I love space stuff. I used to work with satellites, and if you know who Perry Rhoden was, you love this stuff, too. I sat through Apollo 13 twice in the theaters and God knows how many times at home, because suddenly I was that 7-year-old kid in 1973 looking through picture books of men in spacesuits knowing, knowing that I was going to the moon someday to visit the colony. When one of the engineers turns to the other, who's just basically made sure that they won't be making a movie about astronaut-cicles, and says, approvingly, "And you are a steely-eye missile-man," that says it all.
And now, we're making our lives here better, and we're getting ready to go back. The Post ought to be reporting on that, rather than on a bunch of aging hippies stuck in a time warp of their own, picking-and-choosing all the wrong parts of the 60s to remember and relive.
One of the places where the Brits found explosive fertilizer was Slough, which puts a whole new spin on this rather sour poem.
Slough is the rail transfer point between Windsor and London. I'll admit it's a fairly ugly industrial town, but still...
The AP report on this morning's British terror-bust in metro London had this to say, in the last paragraph of a 14-paragraph report:
The story is accompanied by a picture of a Bobby outside one of the houses where the arrests were made. Have AP reporters only ears for government spokesmen? How hard would it have been to walk up to a neighbor's home and ask a few questions about those quiet fellows who used to live next door?
The AP also notes that ammonium nitrate can be used to make bombs, but waits until the 9th paragraph to remind us about Oklahoma City. The third paragraph reads:
The IRA has nothing whatsoever to do with this story. But they get the first comparison. It isn't until six paragraphs later that we get an image with which to measure to potential damage these bombs could have caused. And it isn't until the very end of the story that there's any speculation at all about who the culprits might be.
Any reasonable story would have led with the Oklahoma City comparison, and any halfway inquisitive reporter would have asked around, trying to find out who was living there, and followed with that.
Cross-Posted at Oh, That Liberal Media.
Monday, March 29, 2004
...we have your sense of humor.
When Sen. John Kerry decided that the President had gone too far in making fun of himself at a media dinner the other night, the Wall Street Journal decided to solicit the opinions of those who had actually served. After all, Kerry's outrage was based on the idea that the President shouldn't make fun of WMDs since soldiers were dying every day for his lying to the American people. (No, I don't follow it either, but the Ketchup Kid was outraged, so attention must be paid, especially if you want to escape with a clean shirt.)
Well, here are the responses. Read past the first three. Read them all. And then realize how patronizing it is to be outraged on behalf of people who aren't outraged at all.
The Archdiocese of New York has a dinner every year in honor of Al Smith, longtime Democrat and governor of New York back in the 20s. In presidential election years, they invite the two major candidates to come speak, wax political, and crack jokes. In 2000, Bush carved up Al Gore like a Thanksgiving turkey. This year's dinner is on October 21. I can't wait. I can't wait.
So go downtown, and use that free parking to go to a supermarket and buy some grapes to celebrate.
Sunday, March 28, 2004
The Colorado State Senate has voted 18-17 to kill a bill that would have eliminated racial preferences in state hiring and college admissions. This goes to show that having a majority isn't the same thing as having control - Republican Lew Entz from Hooper defected, claiming that his largely Hispanic district would have opposed to the bill. The bill was sponsored by a black man, Ed Jones of Colorado Springs. Maybe the party should give Mr. Entz a taste of what he supports, and find a conservative Hispanic to run against him in the next primary. Reportedly Tom Tancredo enjoys some significant support from the hispanic sections of the state, so maybe Mr. Entz is misreading, or underestimating, his constituency.
Then, there's State Senator Peter Groff:
Mr. Groff, I don't care. There are no segregated theatres, and there haven't been for 40 years. Two generations of Americans have been born and raised and are now voting and they know more about segregation than any other aspect of American history, not because any of them actually had to live through it, but because it's been relentlessly pounded in their heads that it was their original sin. What's that, you say? Jews are always bringing up the Holocaust? Tell you what. I'll make you a deal. I will never bring up the Holocaust again, unless it involves an actual threat to the existence of whole swaths of the Jewish people. You never bring up Selma and separate water fountains and movie theaters, unless someone actually tries to reinstitute segregation, massive resistance, and literacy tests. Deal? No? I didn't think so.
Mr. Tapia, you outdid even your goals of outdoing your father.
This is no longer a rational discussion, this is church. There is no evidence, no data, no attitude, no number of well-attended civil rights marches and memorials, no standard of achievement capable of convincing these people that maybe, just maybe, racial preferences long ago passed the point of diminishing returns, and are now alienating many more people than they're helping.
First of all, I have no idea what increased by 0.7%. Percentage of minority students? Number of minority students? Weren't the race-based policies already in place, so how much of an increase would you expect? Secondly, Mr. Groff, unless he's spent way more times in the dark cloisters of college admissions offices, has absolutely no way of knowing who was qualified and who wasn't. He also has no way of knowing what happened to the people of pallor who didn't get in, in order to make way for someone less qualified.
And it shouldn't matter.
Frequently, on Sunday mornings, I walk the dog down to the local Petsmart to get his nails clipped and, during this season, to get him combed out. Part of our walk back is on Alemeda Ave., along the section known as Religion Row. It features a large gold-domed Greek Orthodox Church, across the street from the JCC and the Allied Jewish Federation building, right next to the very inmposing Augustana Lutheran Church. Everyone seems to get along, although once in a while things have gotten a little testy between Federation and the Greeks during Hannukah, and I still think it was poor timing for the J to put out a sign saying "Pilates is Here" during the recent film controversy. Certainly Luther himself left something to be desired on the Jewish Question, but those in his namesake denomination have been good neighbors. But on the whole, Only in America, as they say.
So this morning, both the dog and I were surprised to see a small, very small, demonstration outside the Church. What could the Lutherans have done? Turns out their pastor did something to tick off the regional anti-Gay Coalition, or whatever they're calling themselves. I suppose gay marriage was the excuse, but they were carrying signs saying things like "Thank God for September 11," and "God Hates America," and some rather graphic stick-figure images of gays doing what gays do. On the whole, a pretty horrible and revolting excuse for political "debate."
I have no idea what sparked this, or why the Lutherans rather than, say, the Episcopalians, were singled out. I know that the people were suitably humorless, returning neither my "good morning" nor the dog's entreaties to be petted. I just didn't want to be bothered, or look like I was confronting them, or anything. Thedog just didn't know any better. Sadly, he had pretty much finished relieving himself for the morning.
I do know that there's not a single member of the RMA who sympathizes with them. I do know that we're so far past the point where The Right needs to defend itself against accusations of association with people like this. I do know that there were about 20 people there, hardly a mass movement. And I do know that the policeman assigned to the group, sitting in his SUV, smiled and waved to me as I walked by, probably relieved to see a normal human being.
Friday, March 26, 2004
Israel's assassination of Shiek Yassin may also be having the effect of taking out the biggest bully available. Ma'ariv is reporting that Arafat and the head of Hezbollah are worried that they may be next. Evidently, Israel isn't making any public commitments to keep them alive, and the US isn't forcing the issue. Arafat has long regarded himself as untouchable, but has been willing to use the fear of his assassination to dredge up support. This may be another move in that game, or he may really be getting nervous. In any case, it seems that both the US and Israel are now willing to engage in a little brinksmanship on the issue.
Thursday, March 25, 2004
$613 million sounds like a lot of money. Certainly would be to me. Then again, I don't have $60 billion in current assets. If I did, $613 would be slightly over 1% of what I could get my hands on with minimal effort. Not really anything to sweat, and the general consensus is that Bill Gates isn't too worried about the fine itself.
What we should be worried about is the attempt to retard innovation in the name of innovation, and that the socialist bureaucrats who rule the roost in Brussels will just figure that every time they need to make good their lost oil-for-food money, or Arafat's latest audit doesn't look so good, they'll just go to the Microsoft ATM.
...to Run for the Senate. The Rocky is reporting that "Entrepreneur Dave Liniger - founder of real estate giant RE/MAX International" is considering a run for the Senate. I know this isn't going to make Clay happy, but it looks as though he may be getting encouragement from the state apparatus, which means from the White House:
This is a formula that's worked before: notably John Corzine from New Jersey. Rutt Bridges was considering the run on the Democratic side. For their part, the Democrats are professing concern about Liniger's deep pockets, but it's always smart to discount whatever the other side says. "No, Br'er Liniger, don't throw me in that briar patch..."
Both Schaffer and Halaby are claiming that a primary race would be good for the party. This is probably one of the most-true/least-believed statements in politics. John Kerry is going to suffer for not having been through a tough race. But you run a primary at the risk of appearing (or becoming) divided and wasting party resources. Tough call to make.
The other problem is that nobody knows anything about him. This, too, has advantages and disadvantages. Liniger seems to have a somewhat compelling story to tell. But the disadvantage of being a blank slate is that your opponent has an equal chance to define you. And lately, it's become fashionable, if risky, to try to influence the other party's selection process (see Grey Davis). Stay tuned. Things could still get interesting.
As the running commentary of Global Values continues, it's worth noting a little insertion in yesterday's discussion of the structure and origins of international law. Mr. Seawell suggested that he would like it if the US submitted "without reservation to the International Court of Justice in the Hague. That way, someone can take us to court when the US goes to war illegally." Somehow, I don't think he was referring to the Mexican War. No doubt, the source of authority for any war would be the UN, particularly the Security Council.
In order to preserve my chances for an A, I refrained from asking whether or not the Hague would also have the authority to impeach, remove from power, fine, and jail those French, German, and Russian governmental officials who were on the take from the Oil-for-Food program, and based their Security Council positions in part on that light, sweet, crude arrangement.
Yesterday in class, Buie Seawell had a grand ol' time lampooning the Grand Old Party about the deficit. He wanted to show how many Americans no longer believe that they have ownership over the government, and he told a story about his 1990 run for the Senate. He was in a focus group, talking about the federal deficit, and the people in the group seemed to regard the federal debt as the federal government's problem, not their own. He was flabbergasted that people didn't realize that the federal debt was every bit as much theirs as their own credit card balance.
A fair point. So I wonder what he would make of Wayne Angell's column in today's WSJ arguing that it was Robert Rubin's attempt to pay down the federal debt that led to the recession. Mr. Angell is not to be trifled with. He's a former Fed governor, and former chief economist for Bear Stearns.
Essentially, Mr. Angell's analysis boils down to the relationship between debt and growth. In business, as in economics, there's a concept of "sustainable growth." Given a certain amount of debt, how fast can my company grow? Larger debt means a faster growth rate is possible, but it also means a faster growth rate is necessary in order to pay off the current debt and to make interest payments. As the business grows, its total debt will also grow, although not necessarily its debt as a percentage of sales.
For an economy, its debt is not just the federal debt, but also household and business debt. As in a business, for the economy to grow, its debt must grow, if not as a percentage of GDP. So if the federal debt declines, the only way the economy can continue to grow is if business debt and household debt make up the difference. The problem is that is household debt doesn't grow, businesses will have no reason (or ability) to acquire more debt of their own. Total debt as a percentage of the GDP will shrink, and economic growth will slow or reverse.
Mr. Angell's claim, bolstered by a raft of debt statistics, is that essentially this is what happened in 2000-01. He's not particularly concerned about the debt, but is concerned about spending, which will crowd out other, more productive spending. Moreover, the only way we can avoid deflation is by keeping interest rates low, allowing people to borrow at low rates against increasing real estate and stock prices.
I'm sure the Journal will give Mr. Rubin a chance to reply, but for the moment, it's worth acknowledging that Mr. Angell has a point. And next time Buie wants to ask a focus group about debt levels, he should be sure to include all debt, not just the federal debt.
Not too often anymore that you get to write that about a judicial ruling, especially from Boulder. A Boulder judge has decided to allow the Boulder District schools to poison the prairie dogs currently inhabiting runs on school grounds. The Rocky Mountain Animal Defense (Motto: "We R-MAD") had brought suit claiming that the State Constitution specifically forbade the poisoning of the animals, and of the collateral damage that would be caused to other animals in the runs and up the food chain.
Now I don't know about you, but I always figured that people were about as far up the food chain as it got. And the first time some budding Babe Ruth tore up a knee stepping in one of the holes, a legion of angry parents would show up with torches and subpoenas demanding to know what this rodent construction site was doing on school grounds.
More than that, prairie dogs carry a little something called r-a-b-i-e-s. My dog has to have a triennial rabies shot, which should tell you that the disease hasn't yet gone the way of smallpox and polio. The treatments for rabies are extremely painful, although effective, and since there's no human test for the disease, you have to catch and kill the animal involved to determine if it was infected. "Okay, son, settle down. Now can you give us a description of the animal?" Part of the reason we can kill prairie dogs without much second thought is that their genetic variation is, shall we say, somewhat limited. Probably nothing that a sketch artist could go on. Go out to a field, take a look at the cute little vermin, and then ask yourself if you could pick on out of a lineup. (This is different from picking one off from a lineup. That's a time-honored sport out here.) Which means that as soon as the first child, dog, cat, school science project, got bitten, they'd have to pretty much go in and wipe out the tunnel system, anyway.
The next time one of these guys tells you they're doing anything "for the kids," ask them why they didn't think of it sooner. See what happens when judges rule on the law?
Wednesday, March 24, 2004
Every day, hundreds, thousands of things move the market. Economic factors affect individual stocks, sectors, and eventually the market as a whole. Which is why the one-sentence analysis you get on the nightly news, or the radio news at the top of the hour is so facile.
Today, CNN Radio News announced confidently that the market had dropped, about 0.1%, because of the bomb discovered on the French railway tracks. They went on to state that the market recovered somewhat when the bomb was defused.
Do these writers actually spend more than about 10 seconds thinking about, maybe even listening to, what they write? The news is the bomb, not whether it went off. The news is that France, for all of its reversion to Vichy-ist tendencies, still found itself the victim of someone, we don't yet know who, decided to put a bomb on the French railways. That either has long-term implications or it doesn't. It certainly doesn't hinge on whether or not some French railway worker managed to stumble across it without having it kill him and derail a train.
Tuesday, March 23, 2004
The Denver Post this morning ran a wire service piece by Knight-Ridder. It seeks to present the warm, human, populist side of the inspiration to mass murder that was Sheik Yassin.
I'm sorry, come again? In what sense, exactly, is this different from Osama bin Laden? Doesn't bin Laden also call for violence against the West? Doesn't he also seek to establish a universal Islamic state? And for all we know, bin Laden may in fact now be a blind quadriplegic. Not like we've seen much of him lately. In any event, that just goes to show how much even the disabled can accomplish in today's society. (Okay, that's not a dig at the disabled. It's a dig at the politically correct who want to tell me that a disability really isn't, while then playing on my sympathy to get me to like a guy who thinks his religion wants me dead.)
And many did. Naturally, the reporter makes no effort to look up what the laws of war actually say about these things. Look, wartime efforts were made to assassinate Hitler. The US killed Yamamoto during WWII. Political leadership is always a legitimate target during war, if you can count him as political leadership. The Europeans opposed this because it might make the Palestinians mad. They should have issued their communique from Stockholm.
Tell me, what, exactly, about maintaining order has anything, anything at all, to do with elections. The fact that Hamas thinks it's ready to step up from street gang to police force doesn't mean that it's ready to lose an election. In fact, several days ago, Ma'ariv ran a report about PA security and leadership rats in Gaza who were fleeing the sinking ship and signing up with Hamas. This sounds like a declaration born of confidence, rather than conciliation.
Mao also lived in a simple house all his life. The fact that people have their eyes on something other than the material doesn't keep them from being evil, malicious, murdering tyrants. This equation of a monkish vow of poverty with other, spiritual values, is thoroghly misguided.
By the way, take a close look at the author's name.
Monday, March 22, 2004
Apparently, when it comes to the late Sheik Yassin, this means getting the views of both a traditional leftish academic, and a raging maniac from a Middle-East studies department. The Washington Post had two discussions today, one with Henry Siegman of the Council on Foreign Relations (known as the voice of the foreign policy establishment), and the other with Fawaz Gerges, chairman of the Middle-East studies department at Sarah Lawrence College. Apparently, getting a rational, although left-wing Jew, and an Arab who can't see straight when the Palestinians are involved, passes for diversity of opinion in the WaPo discussion room.
Gerges is easy. He alone is a one-man justification for Campus Watch and Martin Kramer. He said, prior to 9/11, that the US "terrorist industry," those thinkers who were concerned with this rising threat, were worrying too much about potential catastrophic scenarios. He also claimed that Iraq would become a symbol of Muslim resistance to invaders, much like Afghanistan under Soviet occupation. With a track record like that, it's obvious where the man's reputation for a seer comes from.
He has this to say about the oblique Hamas threats against the US:
The only way this struggle is "internal" is if Israel is part of the "Palestinian territories."
When one of the questioners suggested that Sharon is trying to precipitate a Palestinian civil war, Gerges says that:
Yes, they've been restrained because there's been an Israeli Army there keeping Palestinians not only from killing Israelis but also from killing each other. Moreover, it's that "restraint" that allowed the murders of "collaborators" by what passes for civil authority in the PA.
This is the closest Gerges comes to condemning suicide bombings. How sad that they've diverted attention from and discredit the Palestinian cause. Saying that suicide bombings don't serve the interests of Israelis is like saying that 9/11 is going to have a negative impact on United Airlines' on-time performance.
Gerges is a revolting spectacle, a man who has no sense of academic responsibility, objectivity, detachment from his subject. He's a man who, instead of placing his politics at a distance, has harnessed his academic position as a tool to advance his own murderous politics.
By comparison, Siegman is the soul of reason. Without going overboard, he merely reiterates that this killing won't make Israel secure, will just recruit more people for Hamas, blah blah blah. But having a run-of-the-mill leftist return to the tropes about the sanctity of a cease-fire line overrun in a later war is just normal.
Next time, the Post might consider actually getting a second point of view.
Last Sunday, the Denver Post reported on attitudes about the occupation in the smallish Colorado town of Trinidad. They included memories of American soldiers from one Linda Barron:
Sadly, thanks to the efforts of people like John Kerry, the Vietnamese had to go through a long perdiod of re-education before they could start their education.
The newscaster referred to the ongoing NCAA basketball tournament as the "NAACP Basketball Tournament." Dr. Freud, paging Dr. Freud.
The State Department consistently tries to distance the US from the more assertive Israeli actions. The notion is two-fold: first, we're the only ones with leverage over Israel, and second, they're trying to buy credibility with the Arab world. This quote from the Foxnews report on the assassination of Sheik Yassin:
That's the flipside of this policy. If Israel does anything, the assumption is that Washington must have approved it. If they don't believe this, then it's an effort to extract some sort of retribution from the Americans against Israel, or even stronger statements from their friend Mr. Boucher.
Sunday, March 21, 2004
Mel Gibson is considering making a movie about the Maccabean Revolt, the historical rebellion behind the holiday of Hannukah. Naturally, Abe Foxman, having not learned much from recent events, is outraged. "The last thing we need is to turn our history into a Western."
Well, why not? Look, I know Gibson's a deeply religious Catholic who sees the Hebrew Bible mostly as the predecessor text to the New Testament. But if he can steer clear of that, well, why not? It's a great story, a great action picture, and if he plays the title role, for once he won't end up with his head on a pike. Exodus was a big hit in part because it showed Jews fighting for themselves, rather than cowering in a 19th-century ghetto.
Foxman seems to forget that biblical epics were once all the rage in Hollywood. Aside from the Ten Commandments, we had Samson and Delilah, David and Bathsheba, and probably a dozen others big-time efforts. And these were only the good ones. Bits of the Book of Jeremiah, Lamentations, and the Book of Daniel made it as an apparently awful film called "Slaves of Babylon," featuring, among others, Julie Newmar in a pre-Catwoman role as an assassin/dancer. I'm hoping for better things from a Mel Gibson movie.
Let Gibson make his film. It's just a shame it wouldn't be ready by this summer's Olympics.
Finally, the Israelis got a clear shot at Sheik Ahmed Yassin, founder and spiritual leader of Hamas, and they took it. Yassin, along with four bodyguards, were clear of their human shields long enough for an Israeli helicopter to fire a missle and kill them today. Naturally, the AP story, in the last paragraph, notes that "Israel blames Yassin for inspiring" the suicide murderers coming from Hamas. Again, it bears repeating that this is akin to Jews blaming Hitler for inspiring the Nazi movement said to be responsible for millions of Jewish deaths.
Yassin was taking time out from his acting career in Lord of the Rings to relax at his home in Gaza City, before taking up new projects:
The strength of Charlie Kaufman's scripts is that they start with a strong setting and overall structure, and insert a peculiar conceipt that he carries to its logical, and unrepeatable, conclusion. Adaptation, Being John Malkovich, and not Eternal Sunshine all set up normal beginnings, warped by a single, surreal fact. In this case, it's the idea that each participant in a love affair gone south chooses to wipe his and her mind clean of the other.
Midway through the process, Joel decides he doesn't want to go through with it, and tries, unconscious, to protect his memories of Clementine. So much of the film takes place inside Joel's mind as the process regressively erases Clem from his memory. The movie graphically captures the associative, rather than linear, quality of memory. And as we wander through Joel's memory, we also see the way that we project ourselves-as-we-are-now back onto our memories of who we once were.
The name of the film comes from Alexander Pope's poem Eloisa to Abelard. The theme of the poem, like that of the movie, is the unattainable desire to forget. Unlike, "The Way We Were," we can't simply choose to forget. Even the external erasing process, the movie implies, is imperfect. I saw the movie in a multiplex, indicating a wide release targeting a more general audience. Much of the audience will be drawn in by the star power of Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet. Will they know the difference between Alexander Pope and "Pope, Alexander?"
If I have one complaint, it would be the language. I'm not so much of a prude that I can't handle the worst of cursing, but I'd like for it to have a point. I found that I already cared enough about the characters, already sympathized with the intensity of their emotions, and the f--- and s--- words didn't make me any more empathetic. In fact, it detracted from my sympathy by giving the characters less class.
From the Indispensible MEMRI, a report on the official Palestinian sermon, broadcast over PA television. One suspects that they don't do this for educational value. The historical framework for the speech is the destruction of the Jews of Medinah by Muhammed.
There's no logic here. There's only blind religious hatred. Does anyone with eyes think that much remains of the body of a suicide murderer?
As long as this sort of thing gets broadcast, it's important to report it. One hopes that, eventually, it has an effect. One also wonders where the EU Commission on Hate Speech, or whatever they call the tongue troopers over there, has its head.
Friday, March 19, 2004
Unless Goliath is the EU, I guess. The EU has decided to punish Microsoft for packaging its Media Player with Windows. Initially, they tried to reach a settlement with Microsoft, which would have required Microsoft to unbundle the Media Player in Windows shipped worldwide. Apparently, not having learned from Belgium's little experiment in extraterritoriality (whoops, the EU is in Belgium!), the learned commissioners thought they'd try it themselves. Microsoft demurred, preferring to pay the fine, and ship two versions of Windows in Europe, one with, and one without.
To understand why, you need to understand that bundling different content readers into Windows is part of a larger plan. Open a Windows Explorer. (Not Internet Explorer, Windows Explorer, the program you use to look at your files and your folders.) Paste in this URL at the top: http://viewfromaheight.blogspot.com/archives/2004_03_14_viewfromaheight_archive.html#107974386121777377.
Hello! Welcome back! That's right: your Windows Explorer acts as a browser. You can also open Word, Excel, Powerpoint documents in IE. IR loads up a runtime version of Word and shows the document. Microsoft's eventual idea is to integrate all these applications into one desktop, which will call up the right one when needed, and let the programs exchange information at will. You could include sound files in you Word doc or even in your Excel spreadsheet. You could include bits of an Excel in a Word doc or a Powerpoint. Data exchange becomes easy, and business becomes that much more efficient. Extend that to your PDA, your MP3 player, whatever else runs Windows or Windows CE.
Programmers from other companies, who are clever enough, could write their own apps which make use of Word, or which Windows could import into Word docs. This includes databases, statistical packages, text editors, programs that show the night sky, or do your business accounting. Image editors, games, testing software all working together.
But the EU doesn't like that idea. The EU thinks that's monopolistic behavior. The EU has neither imagination nor innovation. The EU wants to stifle those who do.
It's been a very bad week for John Kerry. I'm not sure what Terry McAuliffe had in mind, but I'm sure this wasn't it.
Kerry's foreign policy position goes from bad to worse. When we wanted to know which foreign leaders (or, more leaders) had endorsed him, we got to find out it was an appeasement-minded Spanish prime minister-elect, and a former Malaysian PM who thinks that the only reason Bush takes the positions he does is because of the Jewish lobby. Tape of his Face the Nation appearance has John Kerry calling John Kerry "irresponsible." And he tries to defend his "irresponsible" vote by saying that "I did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it."
The American Thinker had a piece about 6 weeks ago describing Bush in business school. They mentioned that he was a very successful poker player, and that one of his most successful strategies was to get opponents to bet heavily on losing hands. John Kerry, by shifting the debate to foreign policy, is betting heavily on a losing hand.
Then, today, Kerry went out snowboarding, fell down, or was run into by a Secret Service agent protecting his life.Some reporters asked him what happened, and he called the guy an SOB. Morey Engle, longtime Denver Post photographer, recalled the time that he met Thomas Dewey on a campaign stop here in Denver. Some kids had composed a letter to Dewey, and
Remind you of anyone?
Wednesday, March 17, 2004
Hugh Hewitt spent the first part of his program today playing excerpts from Dick Cheney's substantive, intelligent, spirited defense of the War on Terror, and the administration's foreign policy. It's a good thing, too, because you'd never get it from Karen Crummy's Denver Post story. As a candidate for the Vice-Presidency, you use forums like this as New Haven to the Reagan Institute's Broadway. As a candidate for the Best of the Web's "It's the Eponymy, Stupid" feature, Ms. Crummy is unsurpassed.
The first 20 paragraphs aren't about Cheney's speech, but about Kerry's "foreign leaders" comment. She states flatly that he never said it, then takes the next 18 paragraphs dcoumenting that he, in fact, may have said it. If you're going to make a flat statement of fact, make sure it's a fact. Her sole indication that he didn't say it is the Boston Globe now claiming that its audio tape actually said "more," not "foreign." But the tape isn't available, and probably couldn't be heard anyway over the beeping sound coming from the paper when it backs up that fast. Kerry never denied that he said it, in fact, every quote since then assumes it was accurate, yet she again insists, without any firsthand knowledge, that he "never said it."
She makes it appear that the most important thing is that the Vice President attacked Kerry for something he didn't say, when in fact, he attacked Senator Kerry for opinions he manifestly does hold.
She does manage one clever line:
Nice, but it means that we have a substantive disagreement on foreign policy and the War on Terror that deserves better than a spat over a noisy tape recorder and a reporter's hearing aid. Instead of reporting the Vice President's speech, which actually addressed that disagreement, she spends time on an argument that she admits doesn't matter.
The first thing we actually learn about Dick Cheney comes in Paragraph 21, when the paranoid Vice President left Denver, "surrounded by Secret Service agents," no doubt going back to his secret, undisclosed location. The President, and at this point Sen. Kerry, are always surrounded by Secret Service agents. The rest of article then focuses on the Senate seat. And the last two sentences:
Ms. Crummy spends 31 paragraphs of a report ostensibly devoted to a foreign policy address by the Vice President discussing his opponent and a state Senate race. When she finally gets around to writing about foreign policy, it's pap. She misses a chance to report substantive comments on the most important issue facing this generation of Americans, and instead, spends over two-thirds of her article adding exactly nothing to our understanding of that issue.
The Post ought to be ashamed. Trees are too precious to be wasted this way.
Cross-Posted at Oh, That Liberal Media.
While I certainly agree with Ben and Clay that Schaffer will make a tough candidate, probably better than people realize, I'm not as quick as Ben to count out Gale Norton. Cheney was in town last night for a fundraiser for Bob Beauprez, and didn't mention Schaffer by name. This could have been him staying out of internal state politics publicly, or it could have been that the White House is still pressuring Norton to run. Schaffer was reportedly unhappy with the administration's handling of the No Child Left Behind Act, essentially turning it over to Ted Kennedy and courting the unwinnable teachers' unions. Or they may really believe that Norton will be a better candidate or a more reliable senator. Or there may be no significance at all to all this tea-leaf reading.
Personally, I'm not so sure Norton would be a stronger candidate. Being a woman isn't going to get her the endorsement of the Diane Carmens of the world, no matter how much they fume that only men were being considered. Also, in Colorado, the environment is probably the only issue where being liberal helps, and Norton is associated with a Republican administration. No matter the administration's merits, no matter their insistence on actual science to make rules, no matter what they do to immunize themselves on that issue, the enviro lobby has the ears of many voters out here, and will oppose a Republican Interior Secretary.
It was mentioned a few days ago (and Meryl got there first) that the Chairman of Britain's Labour Party, in discussing Britain's own looming entitlement crisis, chose to describe the Conservative Economic spokesman as a "21-Century Fagin." That spokesman, Oliver Letwin, is Jewish. According to the Telegraph (registration required),
Now, Mr. Moody is an actor. The character belongs to Dickens, not to Mr. Moody, and the version of the character that Mr. Moody has famously played is much more sympathetic than Dickens wrote him. Dickens claimed he was just trying to round out the chracter by making him less generic, and apparently later made Riah in Our Mutual Friend radiate purity and light to try to make up for it.
Of course, the more important reaction is that of other Labourites. Yes, those are crickets chirping that you hear. Stephen Pollard, also in the Telegraph:
Now, this little slur hasn't gone entirely unnoticed in the leftist British press. See this piece from the Guardian, reproduced here in its entirety:
Get that? Comparing a real-live Jew to a vicious stereotype is the same thing as comparing a real-live vicious regime to a satire.
Also, a search of the WaPo, the AP, and Reuters turns up exactly zero matches on the word Fagin in the last 30 days.
Hugh Hewitt spent a fair amoutn of airtime yesterday replaying John Kerry's bizarre and bullying attack on a questioner at a speech the other day. For those of you who don't know, the man, a West Point grad, as it turns out, so maybe there was some inter-service rivalry on Kerry's part, asked Kerry to name some of the "foreign leaders" who preferred him to Bush. Kerry did his usual Mark Breland bob-and-weave, and the man pressed him on it a little. At this point, Kerry pointed to the man, hectoring him about his party registration and for whom he voted last time.
The foolishness of this sort of reply is obvious. In the first place, it's exactly the kind of thing that caused people to have second thoughts about Howard Dean. Secondly, the question itself is relevant, regardless of the party affiliation of the questioner. He wasn't heckling, wasn't rude, and wasn't trying to shout Kerry down, he was asking a question and wasn't happy with the answer. (Get used to it John; there's going to be a lot of that until you start giving straight answers.)
But the best line, the tail line, that didn't get played, was Kerry gloating that "Democracy works both ways." Talk about haughty and French-looking. Democracy in fact does not work both ways. That former soldier was not asking for money, for votes, was not running for President, trying to persuade an audience that he was fit to hold the highest office in the country. John Kerry was doing that, and chose to respond by belittling someone he wants to represent on the world stage. In front of "foreign leaders" who do actually exist.
If that citizen thought that Kerry was making it up, was trying to claim stature he doesn't have, he had a responsibility to ask that question. Only that responsibility doesn't devolve to Kerry, but to himself and his fellow citizens. So in that sense, Kerry was right.
Tuesday, March 16, 2004
Previously, I mentioned the Executive's Compass, required reading for my "Values in a Global Marketplace" course next quarter. One of the quotes in there, on the section about equality, rang a false note:
Now, I wish I could report that those ellipses hid some ringing endorsement of great estates and vast empires of wealth. The fact is, O'Toole pretty much has captured the spirit of the quote. It appears in a 1783 letter to Robert Morris. But the context of that letter is something quite specific. It's not a political letter. It's not a letter endorsing a specific tax policy, or some controversial construct in the Articles of Confederation. It's not from The Federalist.
No, it's a letter from Paris, where Franklin was Ambassador and head of the European US diplomatic corps, back to the US, bemoaning the fact the Franklin doesn't have the money to pay or reimburse his diplomats. He starts off complaining about the lack of funds, goes on to criticize tax dodgers who are apparently ungrateful to a government that just won their freedom for them, and then goes off the rails claiming that any private property in excess of minimal needs is a societal construct that society can appropriate as it sees fit. When you read the letter, you can see Franklin working himself up, getting red in the face, saying something he may or may not have meant, and them calming down and getting back on point.
Franklin had signed a document seven years earlier pledging his "life, fortune, and sacred honor" to the success of the Revolution. He had famously said that "we must all hang together, or we shall all hang separately." He had spent the last seven years representing the country, defending, indeed inventing its reputation. As a businessman, he understood how critical it was to pay debts on time. And here, some welchers, some tax dodgers who weren't willing to pony up when things were a little tough, were risking grave damage to that reputation. One senses a little more than a little righteous indignation that his own countrymen would be so dishonorable and so reckless.
Moreover, it's clear that he's talking about the willingness of the citizenry to contribute to the institutions of society as a whole. These would certainly include basic governmental responsibilities such as defense, a diplomatic corps, a judiciary, and an effective administration. That they would include radical redistribution of wealth is extremely doubtful.
Franklin was a tremendous advocate, a great diplomat, very persuasive. He was a sharp politician, a clever scientist, and inventive inventor. But he wasn't much of a political philosopher. He was back in Philadelphia by the time of the Constitutional Convention, but didn't contribute to the Federalist. This even though he wrote a nice little piece comparing the anti-Federalists to the Israelites who wanted to turn back to Egypt when they realized they had forgotten their Columbian coffee. It would seem to be somewhat in character to occasionally let his writing get ahead of his head. So before we turn him into some proto-Leninist, arguing "from each...to each," let's make sure we see the full context.
No, this isn't likely to happen any time soon, but reader Barry Rab brought this rather odd polling result to my attention.
What on earth could possibly induce Israelis to want to join the EU? After all, with European anti-Semitism on the rise, that would seem to be tanamount to committing suicide. Literally and figuratively.
First of all, a couple of caveats. The poll was conducted by the Dahaf Institute, and commissioned by the EU's delegation to Israel. Dahaf doesn't have a website of its own, but some of their results in the past have tended to reflect the interests of the customer: a poll by the Third Temple Foundation claiming that 53% of Israeli Jews want to see the Third Temple built. In a country that's religious but not Orthodox, I find it hard to believe that a majority of Israeli Jews are secreting away cordite and shovels for The Day.
Secondly, the Maariv report doesn't mention the actual wording of the questions, their order, or any demographic information about the respondants, even the size of the sample. So a helping of Dead Sea salt may just be in order here.
Still, it's an interesting question: why? The idea actually isn't all that illogical. Western Europe has long since ceased to be Christian in any meaningful sense. The EU is a union of democracies, even as it fails spectacularly to live up to those standards itself. There was, I remember seeing a couple of years ago, a small, fringe political party in the European Parliament, part of whose platform was the admission of Israel to the EU. This was (no kidding) for Israel's own good, and they didn't mean it like Chris Patten might. They sincerely wanted Israel, as a democracy, to join a democratic union for its protection.
Of course, European politics are weird and fragmented, just like Israel's so there's a natural affinity there, too. There's no tradition of compromise, no two-party system where each party takes stands on a broad range of issues. Here, if your coalition falls apart, you get until the next election cycle to reassure your voters that everything's all right. There, you get new elections and every shuffles the chairs. It's a system when many parties each occupy a narrow wedge. No surprise that one wedge somewhere around the circle might not be anti-Semitic.
You can see, though, where Israelis would want entry to the European markets. Being an EU member would probably preclude Germany from embargoing replacement parts for tanks, although you can always imagine special exceptions being made. Israelis may also feel that being "in the club" would confer legitimacy in European eyes that they think they need. The see the EU as a rising power, and one much closer to the neighborhood than the US is. (This bit about the EU being a rising power is a little disturbing. Given their birth rates, they're likely to get all the mechanisms in place just in time to turn them over to the Islamists.)
Interestingly, there was one question where the response made sense: two-thirds of Israelis think that the EU really is anti-Semitic, and that their "principles" were an excuse to indulge this longstanding pastime. The answer is completely in synch with the 74% who believe the EU to be biased in favor of the Palestinians (gee, ya think?), and completely at odds with the result that "almost half of the respondents said that the EU should be involved in the peace process and can also serve as an example for successful conflict settlement.
Let's get one thing straight - the EU isn't a model for any kind of conflict resolution. They resolved their conflicts west of the Elbe because the US was there making sure of it. They resolved their conflicts east of the Elbe because the Sovs were doing the same thing much more brutally over there, incidentally, making it a little easier sell for the Americans. The Westerners had learned how to resolve their own conflict well enough that they had the perfect little debating society, completely unable to keep Serbs, Croats, Muslims, and Albanians from butchering themselves in a region of the world generally acknowledged to be European. In doing so, they found a war even Wesley Clark could win.
In fact, the real story of European "conflict resolution" has been Scandanavian - Danish Hamlet in the Balkans, and Stockholm Syndrome when it comes to the Islamists. In foreign policy, at least, Europe looks less like a place for conflict resolution, and more like a family in desperate need of Bob Newhart. The only possible diplomatic benefit would be that, as member of the Euopean Bloc, they'd be freed from the bloc-system freeze-out that keeps them off the Security Council and is systematically removing them from the other UN bodies. The trade-off is likely to be Jerusalem. It's one of the hzards of trying to maintain your national identity by joining a post-nationalist organization.
No, the draw has to be economics. Israel is, despite the recent efforts of Bibi Netanyahu, still a socialist country. The EU's governing bureaucracy is socialist, too, so it's not entirely clear that New Europe will be able to hold onto its more wide-open economic ideas. It's an organization that, as far as that goes, Israelis can feel comfortable with. Most Israelis probably look at Brussels and think of it as a slightly more efficient Tel Aviv, which is kind of scary when you think about it. Europeans actually make things that Israelis want to buy, unlike most Arab imports which have to be smuggled in under a trenchcoat and have a notoriously short shelf-life. So it's not completely unnatural for Israelis to look West and want to join that neighborhood, given the one they're living in.
Fortunately, it looks like it's going to be hard to find a sponsor.
Maariv reports that the Knesset Speaker has called for some extreme Jewish MKs to tone down their criticism of Arab MKs, fearing that their strident rhetoric might legitimize violence against them.
Apparently, the Haifa underground, mentioned before here, planned to kill a number of leading Arab MKs, including Ahmed Tibi, a close advisor to Arafat. Yes, that's right, an Arab MK is also an advisor to Arafat. The members of the underground have been arrested, and are staring at a long time staring at cinderblock walls.
Well, Mr. Barakeh, I beg to differ. You yourself are a member of the Knesset. You may debate there either in Hebrew or in the other official language, known colloquially as, "Arabic." The members of this little cabal are under lock and key, and, unlike murderers abroad on the other side of the fence, not likely to see the light of day for a long time. The Speaker of the Knesset just asked for greater leniency on the part of his fellow Jews in judging your admittedly not always so friendly comments on the floor of the Knesset. Far from becoming a "racial state," it's quite clear that the Israeli government, with the support of the overwhelming majority of Israeli Jews, is taking steps to keep the violent racists among them under wraps.
Would that the Palestinians on the West Bank and Gaza, who routinely call for a Judenfrei state, were even able to imagine acting so decisively. Be grateful for the side of the Green Line you were born on, Mr. Barakeh. There's a real racial state being born just across the way, and you're free to go there any time you like.
Monday, March 15, 2004
It occurs to me that if Ben Campbell had been Frank Lautenberg, he would have run for re-election, then resigned and let Gov. Owens pick his successor.
By focusing on selected time periods, and by completely ignoring the effects of the business cycle, he's able to deny such a connection. Republicans, unlike some Democrats, have never claimed to be able to repeal the business cycle. He ignores the fact that tax policy is usually implemented in response to existing or developing conditions, not in a vacuum. So the Reagan tax cuts didn't cause the 1981-82 recession - they were implemented in response to stagflation. Bush's tax cuts aren't irrelevant to unemployment; he was able to implement them just as the economy was slipping into recession - political timing that almost never happens. And so on.
In effect, the scope of his report is both too narrow and too broad: it expects the entire US economy to turn like a PT boat on the basis of one macroeconomic input. Tax policy a blunt, but effective, instrument, but it's only one of a number at the government's disposal: spending, interest rates. tariffs, regulation. The effects of tax cuts on a smaller scale are well-documented: states with lower tax rates do attract more business. (This is also true at a national level; thus the efforts of the EU to use the WTO to dictate our tax policy to us. Thus the EU's efforts at "tax harmonization" within its borders.) Excise taxes on items do reduce consumption. Those effects can take root quickly.
The problem with his report isn't so much that it's false, as that it's meaningless, but leaves a false impression.
Weisman states that:
In fact, the evidence for it dates back much further than that, all the way to the Great Depression. The Fed and the Federal Government didn't cause the initial recession and bank difficulties. They did respond in a way that our worst enemies couldn't have better designed. They raised tariffs (a tax on trade), interest rates (a tax on borrowing, when done artificially), and both cut spending and raised other taxes to close a budget deficit. The results are well-known.
According the the household survey, many of those jobs have materialized. I know from personally scanning Internet job boards and mailling lists that the activity in the tech sector has picked up considerably, here in a market that got hit hard by the dot bomb.
Weinstein gives Gary Burtless of the Brookings Institute both the first and last words, and never identifies the Institute as "liberal," although he's careful to label those on the other side both "Republican" and "conservative." This is standard enough fare that it's probably taught at journalism schools at this point, but it's always worth pointing out.
Cross-Posted at Oh, That Liberal Media!
On the spur of the moment, I decided to go shooting again today. Fortunately for my conservative instincts, the name of the range is the "Firing Line." Once I actually remembered Charles Bronson's advice in The Magnificent Seven to "squeeze the trigger, squeeze the trigger," I was able to hit a paper plate reliably from 25'. Just for kicks, with 11 bullets left, I sent it out to 35'. 11-for-11. I had to count twice to make sure.
Boy, this is fun.
Next quarter, I'll be taking something called "Values in a Global Marketplace," a little philosophy, a lot of politics. The course is taught by a one-time Democratic Senate candidate here in the Centennial State. Malcolm "Buie" Seawell. Given that the reading list pre-supposes a great deal, I'm sure this course will feature prominently in this space over the coming 10 weeks.
One of the texts for the course, a small book named The Executive Compass by James "Don't Call Me Peter" O'Toole. It's a way of breaking down ethical decisions into four competing values, placed at the four cardinal points of a compass: liberty, community, efficiency, and equality. The book, and the ideas in it, are based on the Executive Seminar at Mortimer Adler's Aspen Institute, so they rely heavily on classical philosophy.
All very interesting as far as it goes. What's noticeably missing is any reference, any reference at all, to religious thought about these subjects. One could argue that the extensive Jewish legal corpus on business and economic ethics never directly affected the larger Western civilization around it. It's next to impossible to make the same claims about other medieval Christian thinkers, who took up early contract, futures, and currency exchange laws. All of their thinking was based, to some extent or another, on moral and ethical thinking, even if it wasn't as systematic, or articulated in the same language, as Mr. Adler's material.
The same was true of the introductory ethics and law course. For many business students, even at the graduate level, these course represent their introduction to philosophical thought. To deliberately deprive them of at least a discussion of the rich, sophisticated thought of religious thinkers, merely because the grundnorm of their thought came from Jerusalem rather than Athens (or purely from Athens), is an unforgiveable impoverishment of their educations. It is, today, too much to expect an argument from Aquinas to prevail on its own. Still, such arguments embody ideals that need to be taken seriously.
One suspects that Adler himself might have agreed. Towards the end of his life, he became, to all accounts, quite a devout Catholic.
Saturday, March 13, 2004
I have been invited to join a group blog, run by Stefan Sharkansky out of Seattle, known as Oh, That Liberal Media!, dedicated to documenting liberal media bias. Stefan gets frequent mentions on Instapundit, and the list of contributors includes the Northern Alliance's Captain Ed, of the Captain's Quarters. This isn't my first contact with the Alliance, but it appears to be the first formal cross-alliance endeavor between the Rockies and the Flatlanders.
Friday, March 12, 2004
In an article about the Democrats' 527 machine, and its ability to fill in the gap for Kerry between now and the convention, we find this:
Dick Polman, who writes for the Philadelphia Inquirer, misses the point. First of all, the Republicans consider Rush to be balance for the networks, sloppy local news reporting, and newspapers like his own. If the Democrats are unappreciative on this score, that doesn't mean they're right.
Republicans aren't upset about think tanks, not because they dominate in that area, but because there are already plenty of Democratic think tanks. We aren't upset about their Talk Radio project because we're convinced they don't get it, don't understand what makes a market-driven medium work.
The reason that Republicans are upset about the Democratic 527s, as Mr. Polman gets to in the 10th paragraph, is that they're advocacy for a specific party, against a law that the Democrats voted heavily in favor of. A law they supported having already figured out a way around it.
Hypocrisy is a very weak charge to make, but it is worth pointing out, which Mr. Polman doesn't, that the Democrats have also been front-and-center in condemning the corrupting influence of a small number of large-money donors to political causes. He fails to note the diffculty, and political danger, in trying to prove coordination between campaign and 527.
In short, the article works to make the Republicans out to be whining children, when in fact they just made the mistake of assuming that Democrats would play by rules they dictated.
Stopped by Jared's office on campus yesterday after one final and having picked up some of next quarter's books. Happy to report that he's every bit as nice in person as he is on his blog. Still, there's that little matter of the photo of Bill Clinton on his office wall. Probably listens to Mark Larson over the Net, too.
Wednesday night, I had the pleasure of hearing Yossi Klein Halevi speak at Temple Emmanuel here in Denver. For those of you who don't know, Halevi is, as Bill Eigles puts it, a "partially reconstructed leftist," who once supported Oslo but has come to recognize the folly of that path. Halevi writes for the New Republic, the Jerusalem Post, and has his column syndicated in the L. A. Times, as well. He writes clear-headedly about the past and the present, and even about the immediate future, but still betrays some of that self-admitted self-delusion when discussing anything beyond that.
Halevi was in Colorado Springs to conduct a 3 1/2-week seminar at, of all places, Colorado College, on Israeli society, culture, and politics. Colorado College, some of you will recall, was the scene of some controversy in which yours truly was tangentially involved. The College had invited Hanan "May Her Name Be Blotted Out Forever" Ashrawi to speak. We got Daniel Pipes to address a demonstration on the college campus, protesting her appearance there as offensive and insulting to Americans and Israelis alike. Halevi credits that demonstration with sensitizing the College to the problem, and, as he kindly put it, "allowing them to feel more comfortable with discussing the Mid-East on campus."
Halevi made the point that over the course of that seven years of Oslo, he noticed that many Israelis had made an effort to put themselves in the Palestinians' shoes, and to understand that they had a case. The first Intifada had forced them to do that. But he had yet to come across a Palestinian who had effectively done they same. The Hebrew term for self-examination, "Cheshbon HaNefesh," or literally and "Accounting of the Soul," had only happened on one side. Most Israelis had come to understand that the Palestinians had a case. Almost no Palestinians had come to the same conclusion, but it was precisely this faulty assumption of symmety on which Oslo was premised.
It was also only belatedly that Halevi came to understand that Arafat never intended for Oslo to work - that he intended this war from the beginning, as the endgame of the struggle. It is well-known now that Arafat, along with much of the Arab leadership, speaks with forked tongues in different tongues. But in September of 1993, according to Halevi, the very night of the signing, Arafat flew to Amman, and gave a speech saying that he didn't understand all the criticism: he was just implementing the two-stage solution. Halevi now admits to having allowed his own hopes, and his dim opinion of the conservative Jerusalem Post, the only new outlet to report the story, to interfere with his judgment, both journalistic and otherwise.
If the Left was right about the corrupting effects of occupation, the Right was right about trying to negotiate with terrorists. So if you can't occupy, and you can't negotiate, you're left with separation. A couple of notes about the mechanics of the Fence. First, it is a fence. For about four or five miles, it's a wall, where Palestinians were taking up sniper positions overlooking highways. While the general route is a political matter, the tactical route has been dictated by military concerns. Roughly 85% of Israeli Jews, who couldn't agree on the color of the sky, support this fence. Moreover, the murderous Intifada has essentially taken the Green Line off the table. It has, at this point, no legitimacy or authority, and the fence will, he hopes, make produce facts on the ground to support that change. In reality, it was just the 1948 cease-fire. There's no particular reason why it should have held more authority than the post-1967 borders.
The effect of the Fence will be to finally force partition, and give the Palestinians a chance to build a state. While they could have had 80% of the land in 1937, under the Peel Commission Report, or 45% in 1947, or even 20% in 2000, they have now lost any chance at any part of Jerusalem. The question for them isn't viability, it's whether a state born in this way, with this leadership, can have any moral integrity.
Halevi believes that it might have been possible to reach a modus vivendi with the post 1967 Palestinians, since for them it was a border dispute, rather than an existential question. His hope for the fence is that it can, after a period of violent Palestinian upheaval, transform the question back into one about borders rather than existence. He hopes this even as he acknowledges that the fence is not a Chinese Great Wall, and that conflict will continue.
Halevi did have good things to say about the Iraq War, saying that its effects on Arab society were only beginning to be felt. The obvious benefits of a potentially democratic Iraq were supplemented by the development of an anti-Baathist movement in Syria, a human rights movement in Saudi Arabia, and other internal developments in other Arab countries. That this hasn't happened to the Palestinians, because the Europeans and the other Arabs have been too busy enabling their transition from adolescence to pathology.
In the end, I think he is perhaps once again being overly optimistic. It is certainly possible that the Palestinians, deprived for the most part of Israel as a target for their anger, will turn on their leadership and demand something better. He regards the fence as a chance for "if not peace, then at least stability." But one of the lessons of the Middle East is that stability requires freedom. Left to their own devices, the Palestinians are at least as likely to come up with another Saddam or bin Laden as they are to come up with Sadat or King Hussein. Such a leader would be no more successful in alleiving his people's suffering, but might provide enough order to mask his failings with another war.
Moreover, Halevi notes that each side represents the other's worst nightmare. For the Arabs, the Israelis represent Western colonialism and the Crusaders, and have made some mistakes which add to that impression, such as allying with Britain and France in 1956. (Whom Israel should have picked as allies in a war that even Halevi describes as "necessary" he can't or won't answer.) And the Arabs have come to symbolize the truly eternal Jew-hater, Hitler and the Tsar and Torquemada, and have done much to justify that image in the Jewish mind. But even as he says this, even as he says that the Arabs haven't really tried to come to terms with Israel's existence, even as he must know that Israel has tried mightily to undo this impression, the Arabs have done everything prove their fitness as a nightmare.
It's a shame that someone who so thoroughly understands his mistakes of the past seems unable to keep from repeating them.
Seeing the Democratic and Republican parties in the state scramble for nominees is a lesson in the political reality. The primary process was supposed to open up the nomination, to make sure that the "smoke-filled rooms," illegal now in many cities, didn't dictate candidates to the populace. And now, what do we have? Both the Democrats and Republicans are trying desperately to avoid a primary battle. Both parties have decided that unity is more important than freedom of choice.
There's nothing the matter with this, and it's almost certainly connected to the rise of partisanship and hardening of party lines. Winning has always been important to the party faithful, but now that faithful includes a higher percentage of the public at large, whether or not they're willing to admit it.
Right now, with Schaffer the only announced candidate, eyes are turning to former RNC Chairman Jim Nicholson, and Lt. Gov. Jane Norton. Both, I think, may have image problems. Nicholson's a good guy, and comparing him to someone like Terry McAuliffe is like comparing, oh, Steve Spurrier to Joe Gibbs. But he's also seen as more of a political operative than a public servant.
And nobody knows anything about Jane Norton. Oh, suppose if you ran an exhaustive search, you might be able to come up with some old position papers or something, but she's done a complete Hubert Humphrey since the last election. She might well be capable, and would have months to make the case, but if this is such an important Senate seat, be sure the national Democrats will be in there defining her for us.
There is one other factor at work here. Colorado is not a large state. It's physically big, but the battleground areas are well-defined, and the population only rates 7 House seats. It's possible, even necessary, to campaign at the retail level here. It doesn't make television irrelevant, but it does mean that candidates aren't so beholden to it. That helps narrow the gap considerably between whoever the Republicans choose and Salazar.
Thursday, March 11, 2004
In yet more evidence that the Labour Party is more anti-semitic than the Conservative Party has been in 25 years, Labour Party chairman Ian McCartney referred to the Tories' economic spokesman, Oliver Letwin, as "a 21st-century Fagin." Sadly, Britain has actual legal recourse for these sorts of things, and the Scots are investigating.
Is there any doubt he's right about the last? "Fagin" in England has roughly the same resonance as "Uncle Tom" in the South. You can try to squirm out of the reference all you want, but everyone listening knows exactly what you mean.
Benyamin Netanyahu has announced a Reaganesque tax-cut plan, hoping to spur economic growth. The article doesn't give many details, such as the scheduling for cabinet and Knesset approval. Netanyahu is also once again pushing for privatization of the ports, but how he intends to overcome the opposition from Histadrut (the major public labor union) us unclear.
Ma'ariv isn't the most highbrow, or the most conservative of the Israeli dailies. It's probably something like the Denver Post; the articles are shorter, the coverage a little more cursory, but not so ideological. There are now three Israeli papers (Ma'ariv, Ha'aretz, and the Jerusalem Post), publishing daily websites in English, and they're all worth looking into.
The Jerusalem Post reports that Israel is preparing to send a forensic team to help identify the dead in Madrid:
In addition, the Mayor of Jerusalem has offered to send help as well, citing extensive local experience in this area.
Spain has been an erstwhile supporter of the US, but its diplomats, editorialists, and political cartoonists have been, er, less than supportive of Israel in its battle with terrorists. I can think of about 500 products that Israel would rather be able to export to Spain. But it sent these guys, anyway, with question, without hesitation, as was proper. When someone there starts to ask, "why are you here?" they'll stop themselves in the middle of the question. And the next time they see an attack in Israel, and there will be a next time, they'll think about what those guys they met are doing then.
None of this is in any way to suggest that Spain, or the innocents murdered in today's attack deserved what they got. Of course, they didn't. Spain has been an anchor of sanity in the European sea of short-sightedness and unenlightened self-interest. It's only to point out how Israel treats even countries that don't particularly like it - as people.
For those of you in the Denver area, Spain has a trade consul here:
I have no doubt that he would greatly appreciate any expressions of sympathy to this close ally in the War on Terror.
ETA is denying it had anything to do with this morning's very deadly attack at a Madrid subway station. Whether previous ETA denials have been worth anything, I don't know, but there's some contradictory evidence here. First, this isn't ETA's general modus operandi, according to the Post, but it does look a lot like the al-Queda-type Chechens. To much fanfare several years ago, a new mosque opened in Granada, the first in over 500 years. Secondly, ETA has been hurting badly the last few years, issuing calls for negotiations which the Spanish government has rightly ignored. The attack could either be beyond their means or a desperate attempt to make themselves the center of a national conversation that's moved on to other topics, just before a national election.
UPDATE: Al Qaeda is now claiming credit for the Spanish bombing this morning. ETA is denying having anything to do with it. So it's starting to look like Islamofascists may be responsible, although we still don't really know for sure. The comment about the mosque wasn't idle. I have no idea what kind of imam is running the joint, and mosques serve a social purpose as well as a ritual function. After all, a number of mosques in London have been identified as centers of radical activity. Just because all mosques, or even most mosques aren't a problem, doesn't mean they're not a logical place to start.
Wednesday, March 10, 2004
Even better, since this one's in the Washington Post's reporting rather than on the editorial page:
Dan Balz evidently isn't buying the spin, and now the Kerry campaign has been reduced to trying to defend the comment on its non-existent merits.
I'm off to hear Yossi Klein Halevi speak at one of the local synagogues. Full report later.
Well, at least we know who the Democratic candidate will be. Salazar scared off Rep. Udall, who's back to running for re-election to his House seat. Rutt Bridges, probably the most interesting candidate, a center-leftist who founded the Bighorn Center, and his millions, also dropped out. Bridges had been persuaded to run by Salazar himself, which isn't exactly Al Gore endorsing Howard Dean over Joe Lieberman but still must sting a little. This saves Salazar a primary battle, which puts more pressure on the Republicans to unite behind a candidate, if only for the sake of statewide party finances.
Whom will that be? (Aside: AP writers use words for a living. Will somebody please send a memo around pointing out where in the style guide it says "none" is plural? "None" is singular.) Right now it looks like it'll come from the House or the ex-House. Tancredo, Beauprez, McInnis, or Schaffer. Too mean, too new, too tired, too old. Now, not necessarily, although I'll have to defer on Schaffer until I see more of him. It reminds me of what they said about Al Oerter. Too young, then too sick, then too hurt, then too old. He won four consecutive discus golds, so anything's possible.
Tom Tancredo is not a mean man. But he comes across that way, and his tough immigration stand makes it easy to paint him that way. He doesn't really understand compromise, and frankly, I don't think he'd be that effective as a Senator. Bob Beauprez is a sharp farmer and businessman, but he's still getting his political sea legs. Plus the party wants an incumbent in a 121-vote-margin district. They'll owe him, and if he wants Allard's seat in four years, maybe he gets that. McInnis. I just don't see how a guy can say he's tired of Washington, and then turn around and get jazzed up by a shot to move up the greasy pole. How do you answer the question, "why do you want to be Senator?" without sounding like a rank opportunist? Schaffer looks the part, was popular among his colleagues. Right now, my money's on him for the nomination, if he wants it, but I have no idea how he'd do in a statewide race. Ben?
UPDATE: At the Halevi speech, I ran into Dan Kopelman, who really knows Republican politics in the state. He insists that the state party is powerless to stop Beauprez if he wants to run, and that Tancredo can hold Salazar to a draw in the parts of the state Salazar has to win big in order to carry the day, especially Pueblo. Dan seems to think that the established hispanics in the south of the state resent the illegals as much as the Anglos do. But Salazar is hispanic himself, which carries a fair amount of weight. I'm not convinced, but it's only March, and the primary is in August. Time will tell.
This is shaping up to be the most interesting Senate race I've seen up close in 10 years - since the 1994 four-way free-for-all in Virginia, where Ollie North challenged incumbent Democrat Chuck Robb. Enough Democrats were disenchanted with Robb to induce former Democratic Governor Douglas Wilder to run. Enough Republicans were unhappy with North that Marshall Coleman, Virginia politics' own version of the Buffalo Bills, made it a foursome. Robb ended up winning re-election, but was defeated 6 years later by George "The Future is Now" Allen. Well, his son, anyway.
Ben over at Mt. Virtus has been all over this, as has Clay Calhoun. Sorry Clay, but with Salazar in the race, Bob Schaffer looks like the best Republican candidate. Scott McInnis wouldn't be credible, retiring from his House seat with Washington Fatigue. Beauprez is a fine guy, but Schaffer had been around for a while, he's got more strength within the party, and is better-known statewide. If Tancredo runs, he's got no chance, but he can make Schaffer look better by comparison.
The big winner in all this seems to be Salazar. Udall is probably too liberal to win statewide office, but Salazar has been a pretty effective Attorney General, his gallingly weak, albeit successfull, attack on the redistricting plan notwithstanding. Udall also can't run for both House and Senate, so if he loses, he disappears for at least two years. If Salazar wins, he goes to Washington, and probably stays there for the rest of his political life. (Unlike Virginia, the state capital here is seen as a step lower than Washington.) If he loses, he stays in office and runs for governor in '06, with a higher statewide profile than Coffman, who's not going anywhere.
One other note: everyone keeps citing that 51-48 number as though the only other Senate seat up for grabs was in Alaska. Control of the Senate does not hang on this seat. Even if we lose it, Republicans are likely to pick up three seats in the South, and have a good shot at two or three others. Barring electoral catastrophe, the Senate is not going Democratic. However, the Republicans believe that they need to net four or five seats to Leahy-proof the judicial nominations process. Losing Colorado would make that all but impossible.
I was brought up to understand that professors were meant to profess a certain point of view. Not only do I have no problem with that, I actually think that, given sufficient intellectual diversity, it serves an obvious purpose of getting the students to think. But this also calls for the professor to play fair. Last night, the professor didn't play fair.
The class professor is a Shiite Muslim from Iran, but not exactly the kind of guy who'd be caught drinking tea with the Mullahs. He came to the US from Shiraz, that Muslim city being the originator of that type of wine. Eventually, he stayed, married a Christian woman who did not convert, and is raising his son as a Christian. I should also add that on all discretionary portions of my grade thus far, I have done extremely well, and there is no, zero, none, nada evidence that my being Jewish has in any way affected my grade one way or the other.
At the end of the class, as one student team finished presenting its country report on Israel, the counterattack came. Now, the students were doing a report on Israel. Not mentioning terrorism would have been like not mentioning the elephant in the sealed room. They were scrupulous about keeping their discussion to the effects on daily life and the effects on business. They assigned no blame, provided no "solutions to the problem," and mentioned politics only to note that bringing it up could be bad for business.
Suddenly, "apres moi, le deluge," or, "after we're done, it's time for the editorial." The professor let loose with about four minutes of uninterrupted polemicizing, among the points he made were:
Now, the main point here isn't that he wrong. He's obviously wrong. There neither is nor ever was any Jewish equivalent of Hamas. The Irgun blew up British Military Headquarters, after telephoning repeatedly to warn people to get out of the building. Two years ago, some chimpanzee who had been trained to pass an employment exam disguised himself as a waiter and blew up 50 people sitting down to a seder. Yigal Amir is in prison and isn't getting out in some prisoner exchange for all those Labour MPs who are out of jobs because they were willing to give away half of Jerusalem. The fence hasn't killed anyone.
I have no idea who Rabbi Hertzberg is. If he's Israeli, it's not news that Israeli rabbis can be as pragmatic about this stuff as anyone. If he's American, he's not relevant, since American Jews no more make foreign policy for Israel than this professor decides how deep the bunkers have to be for the Iranian nuclear program. In any case, there's never been any shortage of Jews willing to settle for a two-state solution.
No, none of this is the point, although it all needs to be answered, again and again, as many times as it gets raised. No the point is that this was a business class, not a political science or international relations class. It was being held in the Daniels College of Business, not over in Ben Cherington hall as part of ISIME. It was pure polemic, distilled editorializing, placed at the end of class to prevent the second half a discussion that was out of place, anyway.
Israelis get presented as victims of terrorism, affecting the business climate and their lifestyles, because they are the victims, and businesses do care about the security situation in countries they might enter. Until the Palestinians figure out a way to make calculus as anti-Semitic as subtracting dead Jews from live ones, nobody's going to put money into a research park in Ramallah because the students will stop learning math about the time they learn how to strap on a bomb belt. But if you're Intel, and you're putting a plant in Kiryat Gat, it matters to you what the attrition rate is on the morning commute. And if you're an employee being rotated over on assignment, you'd like to know how best to ensure your repatriation comes in one piece and on schedule.
What makes this doubly alarming is how acculturated the guy is. He's what we all want our immigrants to be, and isn't even particularly religious. His co-author, with whom he's written two books, is Jewish. But when push came to shove, in a situation that offered only an oblique opening, he went charging through like a bulldozer over St. Rachel. To me, this once again raises the ugly specter of a democratized Arab world, wtih religion and national identity still potent influence, still hostile to Israel. Still, my suspicion is that once the Mullahs are gone, most Iranians would be perfectly happy accepting a foreign policy that accepts Israel. But it's by no means guaranteed.
The Washington Post's reporters may not understand, but the editorial page writers seem to, mostly. Today's lead editorial criticizes both the European leadership and the Democrats for reflexively supporting Arab dictators in their resistance to democratization. It also chastises the Bush Administration for not being bold enough.
Tuesday, March 09, 2004
...Littwin makes sense. Oh, he talks about swastikas and movies, but doesn't draw any conclusions. And he reports a surprise twist on the major stories of the last two weeks here.
A man was killed during a Masonic ceremony when a gun, supposed to be loaded with blanks, wasn't. As if we needed this. People are going to see this and it's just going to start all the Skull-and-Bones type stuff we heard about until it turned out that John Kerry was a member.
I'm a Freemason. So is my dad. So was my grandfather. So is my uncle. I can state with complete authority that the ceremony involved doesn't call for any pistols being fired. It doesn't call for anything remotely like what was being described. No Masonic ceremonies I went through involve gunplay, real or pretend. I have no idea what these guys were doing, and I have no idea why someone, even a 76-year-old, would carry a loaded gun in the same pocket as an unloaded gun.
What a revoltin' development this is. Governor Bill Owens won't be running for Senate. Kestrel, in a comment, suggested that there may be some skeletons. Owens claims that he has more work to do here in Colorado, and there will be endless speculation about what was really behind the announcment. Since this was his best shot at national office before a rumored Presidential run, we have to give an edge back to Powerline's Gov. Pawlenty in '08.
As for the remaining possibilities, there's really nobody with Owens's stature here in the state. But it's going to be a real interesting year.
The lead sniper in 2002's DC-area killing spree was sentenced to death today by the judge, who noted that, "these offenses are so vile that they were almost beyond comprehension." I wonder if Mike Farrell thinks they got the wrong guy.
Gil Asakawa has a brief paean to the wrieless revolution in last Friday's Denver Post. Personally, I love where this is going. Right now, the main restriction is the fact that there's no service-sharing. Starbuck's has T-Mobile, but the airport is on AT&T, and I don't care all that much for Starbuck's coffee to begin with. I like Panera, and their access is free, but because of that I can't get to my old SMTP server to send mail out.
Still, these are details, soon to be worked out. There's no reason this can't be dealt with the same way as phone service. Now, if they can just do something about battery life so I don't have to be tethered to a wall the whole time...
Slumming over at NPR on the way in this morning, I heard the capsule report of yesterday's Senate hearings on the Administration's choice to head the FDA, "the agency which oversees Medicare and Medicaid," never mind making sure that what we put into our mouths and nurses put into our veins won't kill us.
Aside from letting us know what NPR's priorities are, the report emphasized the depressing news that the Administration has chosen to fight drug re-importation on a safety rather than an economic basis. When Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty was on Hugh Hewitt's show during the Minnesota State Fair, he defended this idea by claiming reliance of the free market, therefore on free trade. This is perhaps one of the most intellectually dishonest claims I've heard made on this issue, since Canada tightly controls its drug prices, and hardly constitutes a free market.
Canada is already concerned that we'll buy up all their prescription drugs at their bargain rates. But the net effect wil be to drive down prices here to reflect Canada's socialist pricing policies. Drugs won't be more available, they'll be less available. And our own research and development will also begin to resemble that of Canada. Who right now, has to import drugs from us.
There's really no way out of this scenario. Drug reimportation tries to create a unified market with disparate regulation. Companies won't seek to answer the resulting shortages with greatly increased production, since their profit margins will have shriveled. Canada might try to keep drugs from leaving the country, in effect defeating our re-importation, creating a black market, and re-creating the situation we have today. Consumers here, having tasted lower prices for a while, may begin to agitate for price controls here, making shortages permanent.
Hindrocket is no doubt feeling the effects of the long Minnesota winter, now nearing its midpoint. I took a somewhat closer look at the Post's current poll, and it looks like they're doing a Star-Tribune on the party registration balance. Correcting for this isn't enough to put Bush ahead, but it's certainly enough to close the gap by at least the stated margin of error.
Using Excel's Solver, I was able to tease out the reported party registration of the respondents: and it stands at Democrats 37%, Republicans 30.6%, Independents 32.4%. Because of rounding error, I had to run the solver for each response, and then average the results. It's obvious to even the most casual observer that these results make no sense. Giving equal weight to all three, which still probably slightly understates Republican strength, boosts Bush by about 1.5%, and cuts Kerry's support down by that much. It also puts the President's approval rating back up to 52%.
The raw data itself also has some anomalies. For instance, it has Kerry winning the South by 15 points, 55-40, his largest margin outside of the East, at 55-39. Now I can believe the East number, even in the Fall. But 15 points in the South? Can anyone think of a southern state Kerry is actually likely to win? What, did they poll Castro, project his opinions onto the entire island of Cuba, and then include Cuba? Even with the poll's stated error of +/- 3 points, the best you get is 52-43, which is still indefensible under the Laws of Common Sense.
The next step is to do the same for previous polls. Stay tuned.
Monday, March 08, 2004
Last week it was liberals. This week, technocrats. First of all, please understand that I'm not a candidate to be calling in for Medved's "Conspiracy Day" show. I don't think there's a massive conspiracy of business school professors, or even economists, to corral us all into a one-world government run by black helicopters and blue helmets. But I do think some of them are comfortable with the idea.
Take, for instance, my professor for multinational finance. A very large portion of multinational finance involves guarding against currency fluctuations and worse. These play havoc with just about everything a multinational corporation does, from accounting to operations to finance. For a while, gold was the international standard. After WWII, the dollar, pegged to gold became the world's benchmark. This worked as long as half the world's economy ran through Wall Street. But in the 70s, this exchange rate mechanism broke down, and the world went to a variety of floating mechanisms.
The net result of this has been, quite apart from currency collapses and panics like the Asian Flu of 1997-98, increased uncertainty, and billions of dollars spent every year hedging against this uncertainty. Since each country has its own central bank, and since each central bank (or treasury, in some cases) controls how much national currency there is out in the world, the rates are constantly fluctuating. Companies can take some measures to insulate themselves against these changes in the short-to-mid term. But even the best hedging mechanisms can't save some currencies from cratering, taking national economies and whole overseas sectors with them into the abyss, at least for a while.
The only, repeat, the only way to avoid this problem at this point, would be to have one worldwide currency. Run by one central bank. No doubt, under the control of one central government. There are professors for whom this poses no philosophical problems at all, preferring as they do to dodge the notions of nations as expressions of culture and values. And of course, the inconvenient possibility that there's no guarantee that our values and our protections of liberty would survive such a melding process, no matter how long it took. To them, the harmony of a single currency is worth the price. To me, the defense of our freedoms imposes a much more bearable cost.
The point here is that business is not socially conservative, liberal, or libertarian. It is not even necessarily politically liberal or conservative. It runs by its own goals - efficiency, in this case. They can be goals that do not respect national interests, or social values. While I thoroughly agree that call centers in India can lower my prices and shorten my on-hold wait-times, I don't cavalierly dismiss the fact that the destructive part of creative destruction can hurt. Some professors dismiss the short-term with a wave of the hand, noting that in the long-term it's all for the best. Voltaire aside, they forget that for some people, the short-term is all they have left to worry about.
If business school students are being taught to think either like technocrats or like creeping statists (a nice plant for the backyard, the Creeping Statist), there's little room left for them to think like classic liberals.
Jared has quite a post on The Passon over at his site. It's hard not to be impressed by the emotional and religious intensity of his experience.
To paraphrase Hillel Goldberg in this week's Intermountain Jewish News, it's a remarkably good sign that so many Christians can watch this film and come away not generalizing about Jews from the specific. The more I read, the more I'm convinced that the movie is what you make of it. People like Jared make something good out of it. Muslims who read that God "outschemed the schemers" are likely to make something quite different from it.
Business school students read the WSJ and Investors Business Daily with some regularity. IBD had a very good point last Friday about the jobs situation. The number of hours worked had been falling for two years, it's now up for the last two quarters, that last quarter up 1.4%. This, combined with slowing increases (still increasing, though) in worker productivity, indicate that there's less output to be gained from existing workers. That points to a slow tightening of the job market.
Now for the original thought. You've heard of the M1, the money supply. Dollars in circulation. There's also M2, often called the velocity of money. If M2 is a leading indicator of economic activity. When money starts moving faster, it means people and businesses are spending more of what cash they have. As long as that's not a result of inflation, that's a good thing.
I'd like to propose that there's a similar notion of the velocity of jobs. The unemployment rate is low, we're probably pretty close to full employment, but how easy is it for someone to find a new job? When the "velocity of jobs" picks up, when it's easier for people to find new work, then they start to feel more secure, and more optimistic. Full employment without options isn't satisfying. An unemployment rate of 6% but with lots of new openings provides hope. It's the possibility, or threat, of finding new work, that can allow workers to better their situations in the short term.
I can think offhand of a few ways of measuring the ease of finding work, but most of them are qualitative. A new survey of the number of people switching jobs. Some survey that measures the mean-time-to-success for job searches. The ratio of help wanted advertising to the size of the local job market. So far, I haven't actually been able to find accepted metrics, but it would surprise me if this hadn't been looked at.
Right now, we're still taking up the slack from an unsustainably low unemployment rate. People got used to an unsustainably high ease of finding new work. Psychologically, people's opinions about the job situation won't change until enough slack is gone that they can again find new work, to improve their situations, easily.
With the unemployment rate, it's a very high bar, I'm afraid.
The Rocky this morning leads its vandalism-cleanup story by noting a Muslim who showed up to express outrage of the swastikas. Obviously, I hadn't seen him there, but should have known that the press would find him. Kudos to him, and hopes that he never has to clean spraypaint off of his mosque. None of which exonerates the local imams from their deafening silence regarding the matter.
Interestingly, the Rocky, unlike the Post and the AP, refused to speculate on any connection between The Movie and the vandalism. Instead, it focused more on the presence of non-Jews at the cleanup. At shul Sunday morning, I overheard one man saying that the smart thing to do would be to wash off the stuff as quickly and quietly as possible, to deny the vandals the satisfaction of seeing their handiwork in the news. Certainly making a public show was a gamble, but it paid off. This is the kind of publicity that's more likely to deflate than satisfy the perps.
Sunday, March 07, 2004
For the first time in 10 years, according to the little record I keep in a spiral notebook, I took the Taurus out to the range and rendered some paper plates unfit for use. I had forgotten how much fun it was. If you read through the whole Book of Esther, Purim is actually a fairly appropriate day for an Orthodox Jew to go surprise the people at the gun range.
It's the not the first time I've fired a weapon in 10 years. Last year, on a Passover trip we took a jeep trip into the Sonoran Desert north of Phoenix, where we got to fire a .22 at some tin cans. I promise you that the .38 has a little more kick to it.
Since I'm cheap, I just picked up some paper plates for targets. The guy in lane #2 next to me was a little more current, plugging away at a picture of Osama. Seemed to do pretty well, too. Maybe it was a motivator.
As for me, I was pretty consistent at 15 ft. and 20 ft., but started to miss some at 25 ft., so I need a little more practice there. Still, 20 ft. is probably most of the length of the hallway in the house, so please ring the doorbell and wait for someone to answer.
Head of UCLA Cadaver Program Is Arrested - Headline, AP News.
This morning, at 10:00, about 200-300 people gathered to hear speeches (what, you forgot this was at a shul?) and see the beginning of the grafitti scrubbing. While the crowd was mostly Jewish, there were a fair number of women wearing crosses (and what one presumes to be their husbands or boyfriends) there, too. Rabbi Cohen had his own statement, and read a letter of support from Bethany Baptist Church. The general feeling was that the support of the Christians was extremely welcome, all the more so because nobody was going to blame them, anyway, for something like this.
I should also note that, despite the fact that the cleanup was initially posted to the ISIME mailing list, no doubt reaching a number of prominent local Muslims, none showed up. It's also worth noting that while the ADL is usually first in line to comment when somebody looked cross-eyed at a mosque, none of the local Muslim leaders seems to have been contacted by the local media, nor sought it out to condemn the spraypaint. Maybe they were out celebrating Purim.
Democratic State Sen. Ken Gordon spoke as well, plugging hate crimes legislation:
He compared scrawling "Elvis Lives" on a shul with writing "Hitler Lives," and drew the obvious conclusion. I've never been a big fan of hate crimes legislation. I'm still not. Intent to do something matters, so intent to intimidate matters. Unless you're planning to intimidate me with peanut-butter-and-banana sandwiches, bad jumpsuits, and swiveling hips, I would tend to agree there's a difference between the two. Treating them differently still doesn't require creating a class of thought crime.
Naturally, the Denver Post this morning, gets it wrong. The whole focus of their article is on some supposed connection between "The Movie" and the swastikas. For this, they provide exactly zero evidence, although they're pretty generous with the conjecture. All of the "Related Links" in the column to the right are about the movie - its box office, the controversy, the sign.
Drawing a connection between "The Passion" and this is like connecting global warming to rising Slurpee sales - really good politics, and maybe something Al Gore should have thought of, but not necessarily good science. There's no doubt that this was a propitious time for something like this, and it probably comes more from the controversy around the film, and the assumption that it spurs anti-Semitism (for which Mona Charen and Charles Krauthammer have provided excellent commentary). The Nazis were pagans, after all.
It's tempting to draw these straight lines, both for simple-minded newspapers and for mono-focused organizations like the ADL (although they seem to have time to promote gay marriage on the side, too). There's no doubt that 1800 years of blaming the Jews prepared the ground for the Holocaust. There's no doubt in my mind, although the Caltholic Church denies it, that the Holocaust was the reason for Vatican II's "clarification." The two phenomena are connected, and one is the horrible, logical final outcome of the other. But people have been drawing swastiaks on buildings as long as I can remember.
We may actually find out the connection here, if there is any. The Denver Police seem inclined to investigate. The Boulder Police would probably still be figuring out if it's a hate crime. Swastikas on the sidewalk and on a sukkah didn't seem to qualify for them, about 18 months ago.
Saturday, March 06, 2004
It turns out that Friday night, one or several of Denver's less-intelligent residents got the bright idea of painting swastikas on the large synagogue across the street from where I live. No pix, since reader Julia White alerted me to this after Shabbat, of course, when it was already dark.
This is a completely different issue from the church sign. There are no theological implications here for Christianity, nothing to be (mis)interpreted, and nothing for the Christian community as a whole to defend itself against. Even if only Jews show up to the 10:00 cleaning & show of solidatiry, nobody is going to think this reflects on anyone other than the morons with access to spray paint. The initial e-mailing came from a Middle-East study center at DU, so it'll be interesting to see how many Muslims don't show up.
I'm sure the gorillas didn't know this, but this is a particuarly appropriate week for something like this to happen. This Shabbat is known as Shabbat Zachor, or Shabbat of Remembrance. It coincides annually with Purim, the holiday celebrating the failure of a plot during the Persian exile to exterminate the Jews of that polity. You've heard the phrase, "Hang him high as Haman". Haman's the bad guy here, the Prime Minister to whom Mordecai won't bow down, so he takes it out on the whole Jewish population. It's not quite William Tell, although the Austrians would later reprise the role of Gessler/Haman. The Megillah, the Book of Esther, written about 2500 years ago, actually has Haman as a fairly convincing proto-anti-Semite. In any case, the plot fails, Haman and his sons end up of the wrong end of the gallows, and we get to celebrate.
During the Shabbat service each year, a section of the story of Amalek is read. Amalek was the nation who attacked the Jews on the way out of Egypt, attacking in the rear so as to target women, children, the old, the sick. God helps the Israelites defeat him in battle, and we are commanded to "never forget what he did, and to blot out his memory." In popular and Rabbinic memory, Amalek has become the symbolic representative of everyone who every plotted to destroy us, and Haman is reputed to be one of his descendents.
How appropriate, then, that we should be devoting tomorrow morning to literally blotting out swastikas, while remembering what happened when we didn't.
Friday, March 05, 2004
It's pretty common now for online newspapers to take context-sensitive advertising. Read a story about politics, and you get ads at the bottom of the story for the websites of currently-prominent presidential campaigns, and so on. Also, the ad titles are frequently truncated for space. Sometimes, the combination can be hilarious. Here, from the Wall Street Journal, are three ad headlines and their links:
And the article that summoned them up:
And they thought Deep Blue was a threat to human predominance.
Suggested titles for our group project on India:
And I don't want to hear from anyone who's offended by this. India's a rising, confident country, who ought to be able to take a joke.
Thursday, March 04, 2004
I can't remember the first time I saw The Dot and the Line, only that it's stayed with me for over 25 years. No wonder. I looked it up on IMDB, and it turns out that Chuck Jones directed it, Norton Juster (The Phantom Tollbooth) wrote it, Robert Morley narrated it, and it won an Oscar. At the time, the advertisement for the value of math impressed me more, but now, the more subtle, anti-hippie message (even though it was made in 1965), matters more.
The story is pretty simple. As the story opens, a dot (the girl) is dating a squiggle.
The line is jealous, jilted, spurned, and straight as a pin. When he learns to do this
And eventually this:
he wins the heart of the dot. One of the points was the beauty of geometry, but another was the need for structure and discipline to achieve anything. The squiggle had pretty much fulfilled his potential with his ball-of-twine impersonation. He wasn't really free, since he lacked imagination and structre. But the line is like a spirograph with Barry Bonds' connections.
This last quarter, I've felt more or less like the squiggle. Playing from behind a lot, and not focused enough to move forward very far. Blogging, didn't plan properly for the quarter, trying to bill enough hours. Next quarter, it's going to have to be the line.
Maybe. We'll know in 10-14 days. I think Governor Owens will be getting a lot of pressure from the national party to run. Rutt Bridges seems to be an attractive candidate, who's already established himself in the headlines as a "moderate." The Bighorn Institute is left-leaning, but not radical. His business experience makes him credible on fiscal issues, while his liberal social policy makes him appealing to the Democratic base. I don't believe these are reconcileable in the long run. That is, I believe that liberal social policy is more expensive to government. But I don't think it's an inconsistency that most people notice.
Owens was on Hugh Hewitt's show today, and when Hugh asked him what issues most Coloradoans cared about, he sounded for all the world like a candidate, focusing on foreign policy and shying away from environmental issues. Stay tuned.
For those of you who think of business school as the last bastion of conservatism on campus, unsullied by the Ideological Imperative of the Left's Long March through the departmental org chart, think again. While it's hard to stand up and claim that a high inventory ratio is a good thing, the softer classes are ripe for the sort of intellectual gerrymandering that leads to calls for and Academic Bill of Rights. Our Global Business class has had a substitute professor twice, and twice he's managed to assert, virtually without contradiction, the kind of gobbledygook that has turned the social science departments into ongoing ad campaigns for the Green party.
In the course of a case study discussion about multinationals doing business with unsavory governments, we learned that the best hope for determining and enforcing international norms for governmental behavior was for the UN to grow fangs, er, teeth. In a discussion during class breaks, I learned that many people would say that we have too much influence in the UN, which is really a democratic institution. Please see Powerline, Little Green Footballs, Instapundit, and Hugh Hewitt for commentary on this once-respectable point of view.
Tonight, our case study involved the appointment of host-country nationals (Americans) to expatriate posts. We were informed, in the course of two hours that:
Let's take these one at a time, shall we? I was under the impression that most American companies appointed American CFOs because they wanted someone on the scene representing their interests. That, and the fact that positions involving a high level of trust are usually filled on the basis of relationships as much as on known technical competence. That, and the fact that many third-world countries have had, until yesterday, third-world standards of accounting and financial analysis. Of course, he offered no evidence that American companies were any more willing to trust Germans than they were to trust Japanese, two pick two countries with similar industrial and financial histories, but with different predominating skin colors and facial features.
I raised the point that a Wall Street Journal article dealing with the curious phenomenon of the Husband-as-Trailing-Spouse hadn't even hinted at discrimination as a reason for the minority of women expats. He actually had a hard copy of the article in his file, and didn't argue, especially when I pointed out (from memory) that the article had been written by a woman. Maybe women are less likely to have house-husbands. Maybe women are more likely to be anticipating families, so are less likely to be wedded to their careers. Shoot, I don't know. I do know that his fall-back position was to suggest that "more studies are needed." Dennis Prager, take note.
I don't even know what #3 means. Especially the "white" part. We're talking about dual-career families, the very notion of which is almost exclusively American and European. John Derbyshire has written a number of times about the backflips that companies do to avoid being labeled "racist" or "sexist." Now, companies, much more than governments, are pushing same-sex-partner benefits. Corporations are not inherently socially conservatives, and it's foolish to expect them to be so. Social conservatives need to get over their disappointments, and social liberals need to stop the stereotyping.
Business schools need to have a variety of views, too. But it's important that 1) people understand the nature of the beast, and 2) those views be adequately defended and debated, not shoved down the throats of evening students too tired to care, or day students too callow to know how to argue.
The American Kestrel has been doing yeoman work on the Venezuela situation. Chavez, as we all expected, is digging in his heels and preparing for a fight. How much of this couple had been avoided if Sen. Chris Dodd had allowed a vote on Otto Reich to State's top Latin American post is open to question. But letting the "go along to get along" careerists run the show certainly hasn't helped in an area where we need vigah in our diplomacy.
Via the Kestrel. A Jewish man in the Haifa region has apparently been off on a bombing campaign against local Arabs and their cars. The fact that he's been fairly inept doesn't make him any less a criminal or his bombs any less dangerous.
Note that Mr. Golan was arrested by the Israeli Police, an organization said to have ties to the Israeli government. Among the other anomalies: while Mr. Golan's father professed ignorance of his son's alleged crimes, he did not appear on television to tearfully tell the world how proud he was of his son's achievements. There are no plans to release him back into the community before a trial. Haifa has not seen street demonstrations in favor of Mr. Golan, nor are there any plans to rename schools, streets, or major harbor locations after him.
Most striking, "Northern region Police Chief Commander Yaacov Borovsky told reporters in Haifa on Thursday that it appears that motive behind the attacks was 'hatred of Arabs'." No excuses were offered, nor were we told that Mr. Golan's actions were a regrettable but understandable consequence of occupation. Or even of Arab murders of his friends and neighbors.
Wednesday, March 03, 2004
The Denver Post has a number of reactions to Sen. Campbell's announcement. Most of them, even from Democrats who ran against Campbell for one office or another, or were planning to run this fall, are measured, tempered, the sort of civilized stuff you like to see from elected officials. Rutt Bridges, who wanted Campbell's job when he thought he'd be running against Campbell, had this to say:
Makes you like the guy, even you suspect you'll disagree with him about everything from gay marriage to where the sun sets in the evening. Rep. Mark Udall, who also thought about running for the Senate said:
Again, civil, decent, even human. Then there's this, from the State Party Chairman, Chris Gates:
Gee, thanks Chris for those heartfelt sentiments. You can hardly see Terry McAwful's lips move. This is exactly the kind of poison, the inability to think of anything outside of partisan political terms, then seeps down from above, when people like McAuliffe and the Clintons run the national party. I never intended to vote Democrat, and the state almost certainly isn't competitive at the presidential level. But now I've got a campaign to work on during August, before the Fall quarter starts.
Senator Ben "Nighthorse" Campbell, citing health concerns, has decided not to run for re-election after all. The state Democratic party chairman had been speculating along these lines for months, and Campbell's fundraising activity (and success) had been down, the campaign and the senator's office had continued to deny the rumors. Given that the state Republican party chairman had been silent, and the Republicans are now left without an obvious candidate for the office, one wonders if staff members from the Democrat-turned-Republican's office had been coordinating more closely with their old party than with their new one.
The immediate concern is with the effect on the Senate, as a presumably safe seat for the Republicans now turns into real race. The Democrats have been at it for a while, but the leaders seem to be a school board member from Colorado Springs and a University regent from CU. Although the latter may have some, er, credibility issues at this point. Certainly Gary Hart, if he was ever serious about trying for a comeback, has to be having third or fourth thoughts now. He would do well to look at what happened to Walter Mondale two years back. It's probably too late for a figure with any stature, like a Wellington Webb, to get into the race.
I have no idea whom the Republicans can turn to. This might be Bill Owens's chance to move up. Speculation had been that he would run for President in '08, but the separation from his wife was seen as a liability there. Given the tactful, dignified way the couple has handled the situation, Colorado voters may be more forgiving than a national audience would be. We've had a chance to get to know the Governor apart from his marital problems. The Lieutenant Governor doesn't seem to have any real gubernatorial ambitions, so leaving a state with a recovering economy in her hands might benefit State Treasurer Mike Coffman in '06. And it would give the governor eight years of national office, for a run in '12. Since he'd be up for re-election in '10, the timing looks auspicious.
Other than control of the Senate, there are probably no Presidential implications in this. Owens ran 13 points ahead of Allard in '02, and if President Bush really has to worry about Colorado come November, it's President Kerry, anyway. It's unlikely that coattails will help whomever the Republicans come up with, and it's inconceivable that the Democratic candidate is going to put Kerry over the top here.
Monday, March 01, 2004
Historically, the Church, and even large segments of say, Southern Baptist protestantism, haven't taken the now-more-common, nuanced view of the situation. Regardless of the fact that "deicide" is a problematic concept to begin with, from the 300s until about 1965, it wasn't uncommon for Jews to be the target of verbal abuse and physical violence for being "Christ-killers," and that whole original blood libel ("let his blood be upon us an on our children") sort of perpetuated that idea.
Recently, much of Christianity has come round to the idea that, in Jared's words, "blaming the Jews makes as much sense as blaming the Sioux." But it's only been about 40 years, and while great changes can happen in a generation or two, people are still skittish.
Overly so, in my view. America is not Europe. Europe's anti-Semitism was undoubtedly Christian in origin, even as it now is secular. America never had these problems, certainly not to the same extent. When people talk about Jews "being oppressed" in the South, I want to retch. Discriminated against, yes. Treated like a side-dish that hadn't been ordered, but it's almost time for the play and we really do need to get going, so let's not send it back this time, sure.
But "oppressed?" Oppressed brings to mind ghettos where the gates closed at nightfall. Tsarist Russia rampaging through the streets, or conscripting boys into the army to divest them of their lives or their religion or both. Being tossed out of countries wholesale (retail being heavily regulated), that sort of thing. Blacks were oppressed. Jews had a choice when they got off the boat in Baltimore to stop, turn right, or turn left. A lot of them turned left and made nice livings.
Let me now caveat all of what I just said. 1) Abe Foxman & the boys over at the Wiesenthal Center made a terrible blunder in terms of intellectual honesty by criticizing a film they hadn't seen, 2) I'm not about to make the same mistake, so I can't really criticize the film until I see it, 3) which I intend to do, in the company of a Jewish convert from Christianity who can translate for me, 4) there are enough reviews out now by Jews or non-believers that you can see what they might have found problematic, 5) it's only a movie, for crying out loud.
That said, movies are powerful. One of the networks (probably ABC now, since they pretty much own all pre-1970 content created in the world) still runs "Ten Commandments" every Passover. Ben-Hur also shows up every Easter. There are probably kids who are crestfallen to find out that Charlton Heston isn't Jewish. The Palestinians only wish they could come up with a movie as compelling as "Exodus," or even "Fiddler." (I know an Indian from East Africa with a family tradition of watching "Fiddler" every New Year's; they think it's their story, too.) And these movies don't have to be re-run on network television every year to be powerful. There's a small film called "Relentless," about the Israeli suffering at the hands of suicide bombers and terrorists, that's been shown in synagogues and almost nowhere else for the last few years on Tisha B'Av. It's very powerful, very moving, and is almost completely underground.
And if, 30 years from now, the movie is popular with church leaders, there's nothing inherent in it that keeps them from saying, "see what the Jewish mob did to Him? See how they rejected him? See why they and their descendents are worthy of our contempt and scorn?" It's not that people are going to fly out of the theaters looking for Jews to run over in the parking lot on the way to go burn down a shul. It's that, in the wrong hands, even a fine piece of film-making can be made to serve bad purposes.
My sense is that Christianity, especially in America, is not only well past that point, but moving further away. The most vocal Christians, the ones that are going to be around 40 years from now, are coming at it from Jared's point of view. (Although it's anyone's guess how the large Catholic influx from Mexico affects things.) I can't tell Christians what to think. But I can tell them that if they want their view of the world to prevail, they'll have to be responsible for the future of their churches, and the messages they teach.