"Apartment Glut Forces Owners to Cut Rents in Much of U.S. ... While rents have continued to rise in many big cities on the coasts, including New York and Los Angeles, they are falling in more than 80 percent of metropolitan areas across the country." --NYT, David Leonhardt, November 29, 2003and
"Poor Workers Finding Modest Housing Unaffordable, Study Says... With the rise in housing costs outpacing that of wages, there is no state where a low-income worker can reasonably afford a modest one- or two-bedroom rental unit, according to a study issued today by the National Low Income Housing Coalition .... "When low-income families are paying so much of their income on housing, they are left to skimp on other necessities like food, medicine, clothes and time spent with children," said Sheila Crowley, president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition." --NYT, Lynette Clemetson, September 9, 2003Here's the deal. The housing market isn't "a" market, it's a collection of submarkets, each of which has links of varying strength to its neighbors. The submarkets are defined loosely by cost and location (there are other social/cultural selectors as well, but these two really drive the markets), each of which serves to isolate a submarket somewhat from its neighbors. In my personal case, I can't legally move (under the terms of my Marital Settlement Agreement) from an area roughly one mile on a side - but other people are also connected to a location, by schools, jobs, or family ties. They can't simply pick up and move to another region of a city, much less another a city, because of job issues or social ties. This means that they can't transparently make the economically rational choice to move from, say Los Angeles to Pahrumph Nevada. They do - at increasing rates, as many of the low-housing-cost regions see some measure of population inflows. But the reality is that many low-housing-cost regions are also low-wage regions, so the choice isn't quite so easy to make. And within a geographic area, there are a series of horizontal markets defined largely by price (although obviously the low-cost ones tend to cluster in or within neighborhoods). And it's here that we see the explanation for both articles - apparently contradictory but equally true. At the top of the rental housing market is luxury or near-luxury housing, which competes with for-sale housing for tenants. They have the means and credit to buy a home, should they choose to, and when interest rates are low and the housing markets are strong, they do - sucking much of the demand out of the top of the market. Below that - all the way to the bottom, if we choose - is a series of markets of people who realistically are not going to be confronted with the option of homeownership anytime soon. The pressing issue in those markets is simply affordability (which gets tweaked, as Mickey notes, but only because the rents in the marketplace are so high and costs of new development so expensive that otherwise no landlord would rent to certificate holders and no developer could afford to build new affordable housing - note that I'll question whether they should build new affordable housing, but that's a policy argument for another day). Make sense? So in the submarkets appealing to high-wage workers, they are abandoning rentals for ownership (probably a good thing). In the submarkets available to low-wage workers, they are increasingly crunched between flat incomes and rising rents. Both are true, and there's nothing to bust anyone over, so move right along...
"The chicken had his wish, and was magically transformed into a fox. Then he found he could not digest grain." -- The Magic Monastery by Idries ShahShort and to the point, and reminds me strongly of a Joseph Campbell story about tigers and goats. So, what does the story teach us? If we believed that the chicken was a metaphor for a religious seeker, what would it teach us then? Use the Comments section and share your thoughts.
Welcome! Our goal is to give you one power-packed briefing of insights, news and trends from the global War on Terror that leaves you stimulated, informed, and occasionally amused every Monday & Thursday. In addition, we also have our in-depth Iraq Report. Today's briefings are brought to you by Dan Darling of Regnum Crucis.TOP TOPICS * Abu Musab Zarqawi may have ordered the Istanbul bombings according to the Asia Times and CNN. The CNN story also establishes the first definitive link between al-Tawhid (Zarqawi's own organization, which is in of itself part of the larger al-Qaeda the same way that the Egyptian groups are) and the Turkish Hezbollah, which is not to be confused with the larger Lebanese organization of the same name. * Al-Qaeda military commander Saif al-Adel ordered the Riyadh bombings from Iran and we now know where he and 24 other top al-Qaeda leaders (along with over 500 others, according to the first article) are being harbored by the Qods Force of the IRGC. * Regular readers of this site already know about my analysis of the Weekly Standard memo that have been appearing on a daily basis over the course of the last several weeks. Several hours before the first of these was going to be published, I learned about Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball's Newsweek web exclusive and promised to address the points that it raised. You can find my rebuttal to Isikoff and Hosenball here as well as my conclusion that what they are putting forth is essentially a straw man argument.
Other Topics Today Include:Iraq Briefing; Iran Reports; USA Homeland Security Briefing; al-Qaeda's Algerian bases; Mohammed Hamdi al-Ahdal arrested in Yemen; 5 US soldiers killed in Afghan helicopter crash; Indo-Pakistani truce on Kashmir; reaping the fruits of al-Qaeda's training camps; a Turkish jihadi's interview; progress in the war on terror in East Africa; UN assessing security in Eritrea; JI regrouping; Bashir blames Australia; and more political correctness run amok.
"With your help, on Sunday, December 7th, we'll hold thousands of house parties across the country to screen the new documentary Uncovered: The Whole Truth about the Iraq War. The parties will be brought together through a huge cross-country conference call. At 5:30p PST / 8:30p EST, party attendees will be able to dial in to a call featuring director Robert Greenwald, the MoveOn team, and guests from parties all over the country. You'll also be able to submit questions for Mr. Greenwald and the team online.
This'll be fun, but it's also strategic. Here's a little more about Uncovered: MoveOn.org doesn't usually sponsor documentary films, but this movie is a really important one. It's built around interviews with over 20 intelligence and military experts, many of whom are speaking out for the first time. True to the MoveOn ethic, director Robert Greenwald lets the facts speak for themselves. And the results are pretty shocking. Uncovered combines expert interviews with extensive research to go behind the walls of government. Interviewees include: * Joe Wilson, the former Ambassador to Iraq who exposed that the famous "16 words" in Bush's State of the Union address about uranium in Niger were false. In retaliation, senior White House officials appear to have blown the cover of Wilson's wife, an undercover CIA agent. * John Dean, White House lawyer for President Nixon during the Watergate scandal. * Rand Beers, former Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for combating terrorism. * David Albright, a physicist, nuclear weapons expert, and former weapons inspector with the IAEA Action team. * Rt. Hon. Clare Short, the British Member of Parliament who recently resigned her position as Tony Blair's secretary for international development because Blair did not support a UN coalition to rebuild Iraq." Just to whet your appetite, the film's poster is at: http://action.moveon.org/meet/content/UncoveredArt.pdf So please RSVP by signing up at: http://action.moveon.org/meet/selectmtg.html?event_ids=416"Think I ought to go? Or should I host my own party?
me: TURN IT DOWN!! him: Turn what down? I can't hear you, the music is too loud... me: OK, I'm shutting down the router then. him: NOOOOO! Ok, I'll turn it down......and he did. Order is restored within the household, thanks to internet messaging protocols.
"Bin Laden visited Doha, Qatar (17-19 Jan. 1996), staying at the residence of a member of the Qatari ruling family. He discussed the successful movement of explosives into Saudi Arabia, and operations targeted against U.S. and U.K. interests in Dammam, Dharan, and Khobar, using clandestine al Qaeda cells in Saudi Arabia. Upon his return, bin Laden met with Hijazi and Turabi, among others."At least part of this can be verified with open source material, as ABC News has previously reported that Qatari Interior Minister Abdallah bin Khalid al-Thani is an al-Qaeda supporter, as is fellow royal Abdul Karim al-Thani. These two men have harbored both Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Musab Zarqawi, two of the highest-ranking members of al-Qaeda's leadership council, the Shura Majlis, and continue to fund the organization despite the emirate's status as a "key US ally." Then again, once you take this into account it becomes a lot easier to see just how al-Jazeera manages to get its hands on all of those tapes... In any event, accepting that either member of House Thani have harbored al-Qaeda leaders in the past, the idea that they would also being willing to play host to bin Laden is not truly all that hard to fathom. Facts like these that were disclosed to the general public less than a year ago certainly adds credibility to this piece of data that allegedly comes from as far back as 1996. One further thing to point out is that the Khobar Towers bombing took place on June 25, 1996 and killed 19 Americans, so if bin Laden was in Doha to coordinate the movement of explosives into Saudi Arabia, this is unquestionably what they were being moved there for. Our "Friends" The Saudis bq. "According to sensitive CIA reporting, . . . the Saudi National Guard went on a kingdom-wide state of alert in late Dec 2000 after learning Saddam agreed to assist al Qaeda in attacking U.S./U.K. interests in Saudi Arabia." I'm sorry, I could hardly contain may laughter when I read this entry in the memo. The Saudi National Guard, as I noted in my Riyadh bombings in retrospect analysis, is the Saudi equivalent to the royal guard and is responsible for the protection of House Saud. They have also been thoroughly infiltrated by al-Qaeda and apparently provided the explosives used during the initial Riyadh bombings. Then again, if anybody knows what al-Qaeda is up to, it would be them... The U.S.S. Cole bq. "Investigation into the bombing of the USS Cole in October 2000 by al Qaeda revealed no specific Iraqi connections but according to the CIA, "fragmentary evidence points to possible Iraqi involvement." This is a little ambiguous, but Vincent Cannistraro told the BBC the same thing shortly after the Cole bombing, citing that al-Qaeda had been in contact with the Iraqi military. On the other hand, UPI via ICT quoted a former CIA official in saying that the Cole bombing looked more like the fruits of al-Qaeda's robust ties to Iran and Hezbollah than anything else. Malaysian Connections bq. "According to sensitive reporting, a Malaysia-based Iraqi national (Shakir) facilitated the arrival of one of the Sept 11 hijackers for an operational meeting in Kuala Lumpur (Jan 2000). Sensitive reporting indicates Shakir's travel and contacts link him to a worldwide network of terrorists, including al Qaeda. Shakir worked at the Kuala Lumpur airport--a job he claimed to have obtained through an Iraqi embassy employee." Shakir was present at the al-Qaeda summit in Kuala Lumpur, chaired by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and attended by such notables as Tawfiq Attash Khallad, Hanbali, and two of the 9/11 hijackers. According to this story from USA Today from October 2, 2002, Ahmad Hikmat Shakir was present at the time of the Kuala Lumpur summit in Malaysia and is, among other things, a buddy of WTC bombing mastermind Ramzi Yousef who was able to return to Iraq unmolested in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. No word on whether or not he was getting a pension and a villa from Saddam Hussein like Yousef's other associate, Abdul Rahman Yasin. In short, we can probably say with good probability from just open source documents that Ahmad Hikmat Shakir was where this tidbit of US intelligence states that he was, thereby adding to the accounts' credibility in other regards. Thursday: Part VI - Back to Iraq, & Some Conclusions
There is a tendency to see the situation in Iraq either in terms of inevitable victory or inevitable defeat, or to polarize an assessment on the basis of political attitudes towards the war. In practice, Iraq seems to be a remarkably fluid and dynamic situation field with uncertainties that dominate both the present and the future.
A visit to Iraq makes it clear that no one is really a current expert on this country. Too much is changing. Even if most prewar statistics had been valid, they would not be valid now. The security situation is evolving by the day. The local and provincial leadership elites are in a state of flux, and the Governing Council is deeply divided and has not yet taken hold in terms of winning popular support. The economic situation may be improving in broad terms, but the day-to-day of ordinary Iraqis varies sharply by area and by individual, and much of the aid program is just beginning to take hold. More broadly, political, economic, social and military forces have been unleashed by the fall of Saddam Hussein that are only beginning to play out and which will take years to have their full effect. No Iraqi can credibly predict the end result, much less an outsider. In fact, trying to understand the uncertainties at work is probably far more important than trying to make assessments and predictions which cannot be based on past knowledge, current facts, or stable trends.and continues:
The US can, however, also lose for internal and political reasons, and these may prove to be as much, or more of a threat. The ways the US could lose are: --A popular perception in the US that the war after the war is pointless, casualties and costs are too high, and nation building cannot succeed. So far, the Administration is preparing for such a defeat by underplaying the risks, issuing provocative and jingoistic speeches, and minimizing real-world costs and risks. The weakness of the Governing Council, a failure to convince the Iraqi’s that the US is committed to a true and early end to occupation, and a failure to communicate the scale and future impact of the US aid effort, currently increase the risks.and:
Grand strategy is the key to victory, and victory or defeat is tied as much to politics as to warfighting. This means the Bush Administration faces some hard choices. It seems very unlikely that the current level of fighting will be over before February at the earliest, and may well continue until June or longer. Some casualties and major incidents seem like to occur through the November 2004 election and may well go on as long as the US is in Iraq. Any effort to “spin” these unpleasant realities out of existence is going to broaden the credibility problem the Administration has developed by underplaying the risks before, during, and immediately after the war. The sooner the Administration prepares the American people and its allies for a long period of low intensity conflict and continuing casualties, the better.That's what I've been trying to say for months, and that's very much what I mean by 'showing determination.' Go read the whole article.
Anyone else find it curious that the Dean blog has... 1) Shut down comments on the Ted Rall post without explanation (I have *never* seen this happen on the Dean blog without it being announced) 2) Substantially changes the meaning of the intro statement, changing the word "explains" to "considers": Ted Rall, in his Universal Press Syndicate column today, considers why so many third party voters are coming to Dean: 3) Deleted a key paragraph from Rall's endorsement: "Maybe it's premature to endorse Gov. Dean. But right now, given the information we have available, he's the preferred candidate of us Anybody But Bushies." 4) Summarily removed Rall's name from the title.The definitive original posts is archived by Prof. Volokh. In addition, here's the Feedster capture of the post: Rall: Howard Dean for President From: Blog for America - hide - show: all images links rss Ted Rall, in his Universal Press Syndicate column today, explains why so many third party voters are coming to Dean: Howard Dean has the best chance to beat Bush.Brilliant, aggressive and moneyed... Dr. Dean has a corner on the single... http://blog.deanforamerica.com/archives/002368.html - 41 words similar posts - cached - translate - published 10 hours, 41 minutes ago
Once the Invisible Hand has taken all the historical inequities and smeared them out into a broad global layer of what a Pakistani brickmaker would consider to be prosperity -- y'know what? There's only four things we do better than anyone else: music, movies, microcode (software), and high-speed pizza delivery.We face an outgoing tide, in which the prosperity which had once been concentrated here, and shared widely between the classes of capital and labor, is going out. Owners of capital can invest abroad, and can, if they are clever and lucky improve their situation. Owners of labor find themselves in increasingly direct competition with lower-cost labor abroad, or with less-skilled labor which can compete because machines and systems make their skills redundant. Start here (note, intrusive registration required, use 'laexaminer'/'laexaminer'), with an article in this morning's L.A. Times about WalMart:
The Wal-Mart Supercenter, a pink stucco box twice as big as a Home Depot, combines a full-scale supermarket with the usual discount mega-store. For the 26-year-old Ferguson, the draw is simple. "You can't beat the prices," said the hotel cashier, who makes $400 a week. "I come here because it's cheap."
Across town, another mother also is familiar with the Supercenter's low prices. Kelly Gray, the chief breadwinner for five children, lost her job as a Raley's grocery clerk last December after Wal-Mart expanded into the supermarket business here. California-based Raley's closed all 18 of its stores in the area, laying off 1,400 workers. Gray earned $14.68 an hour with a pension and family health insurance. Wal-Mart grocery workers typically make less than $9 an hour.Calpundit also links to this story, and last night, had a guest post up from a grocery clerk union leader about the current strike, which concludes (I think these words are Kevin's):
Here’s the key question: Would you rather that these 70,000 middle class jobs become poverty level jobs filled by workers who have to turn to the taxpayer for healthcare and food stamps? That’s what the companies are proposing because that’s what Wal-Mart has. The CEOs of these three companies are just trying to keep up with the Waltons. Their combined operating profits have gone up 91% in the past five years...but Wal-Mart’s have gone up even more. Good lord — when is enough enough? At what price profits???It's not just about grocery clerks. In another LA Times story today, we've got this:
BURLINGTON, Iowa — America used to need this town tucked into a crook of the Mississippi River. The assembly lines in Burlington and other factory towns nearby built the products that kept the nation moving — school buses, car batteries, backhoes, tractor-trailers. Workers put in 60- and 70-hour weeks to meet demand. The backhoes are produced in Mexico now, the batteries in Canada. Men and women who once defined themselves by what they built now support their families with unemployment checks. "There's not a market anymore for a guy who shows up for work and does his job well," said Devan Rhum, 37, a former factory worker. "All of a sudden, we've got our hands out. It's degrading."What's it about? The Times story on Wal Mart says:
"We have split brains," said Robert Reich, U.S. secretary of Labor under President Clinton and now a professor of economic and social policy at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass. "Most of the time, the half of our brain that wants the best deal prevails." The connection may be lost on many, Reich said, but consumers' addiction to low prices is accelerating a shift toward a two-tiered U.S. economy, with a shrinking middle class and a growing pool of low-wage workers. "Wal-Mart's prices may be lower," he said, "but that's small consolation to a lot of people who end up with less money to spend." Others insist there is a net benefit whenever consumers can get more for less. "If you have lower real prices, you're saving money," said Arthur Laffer, a key advisor to President Reagan who is now an economic consultant in San Diego. "The prices' falling, in effect, raises the wages of everyone who buys their products."Yes, but...that works well for the first few companies; the companies make more money, and lowering the price of goods improves the overall standard of living while only impacting a few workers. But there is a tipping point, where suddenly the number of workers who have gone from the middle-class downward begin to impact the overall economy - and we're not better off then. Calpundit says it well when he says:
So which is the better and more sustainable model? Increasing the overall affordability of goods by creating a larger class of people who can afford them? Or increasing the overall affordability of goods by squeezing the blue collar workers who make them and thus lowering prices? Both models work, but one works by building up the working class and the other works by tearing it down. I'll take Door #1.Along those lines, this week's Business Week has a great article (subscribers only) on the decline of economic mobility. Because it's protected, I'll quote pretty extensively. (By the way, Business Week has taken over from Forbes as my favorite iconoclastic business magazine, and I'd encourage people to subscribe.)
The result has been an erosion of one of America's most cherished values: giving its people the ability to move up the economic ladder over their lifetimes. Historically, most Americans, even low-skilled ones, were able to find poorly paid janitorial or factory jobs, then gradually climb into the middle class as they gained experience and moved up the wage curve. But the number of workers progressing upward began to slip in the 1970s, when the post-World War II productivity boom ran out of steam. Upward mobility diminished even more in the 1980s as globalization and technology slammed blue-collar wages. MANY EXPERTS expected the trend to reverse as productivity rebounded during the heated economy of the 1990s. Certainly, there were plenty of gains. The long decline in pay rates turned around as supertight labor markets raised the wages of almost everyone. College enrollment boomed, too, and home ownership shot up, extending the American dream to more families. Low interest rates and higher wages allowed even those on the bottom to benefit. There was even a slight decline in the ranks of the very poorest families, as measured by asset wealth -- those with a net worth of less than $5,000 -- according to a study by New York University economics professor Edward N. Wolff. But new research suggests that, surprisingly, the best economy in 30 years did little to get America's vaunted upward mobility back on track. The new studies, which follow individuals and families over many years, paint a paradoxical picture: Even as the U.S. economy was bursting with wealth in the 1990s, minting dot-com millionaires by the thousands, conventional companies were cutting the middle out of career ladders, leaving fewer people able to better their economic position over the decade. During the 1990s, relative mobility -- that is, the share of Americans changing income quintiles in any direction, up or down -- slipped by two percentage points, to 62%, according to an analysis of decade-long income trends through 2001 by Jonathan D. Fisher and David S. Johnson, two economists at the Bureau of Labor Statistics. While two points may not sound like much, it's bad news given how much progress might have been made amid explosive growth. Essentially, says University of Chicago economics professor and Nobel laureate James J. Heckman, "the big finding in recent years is that the notion of America being a highly mobile society isn't as true as it used to be." In fact, according to a study by two Federal Reserve Bank of Boston economists that analyzed families' incomes over three decades, the number of people who stayed stuck in the same income bracket -- be it at the bottom or at the top -- over the course of a decade actually increased in the 1990s. So, though the boom lifted pay rates for janitors and clerks by as much as 5% to 10% in the late 1990s, more of them remained janitors or clerks; fewer worked their way into better-paying positions. Imelda Roman, for one, makes about $30,000 a year as a counselor at a Milwaukee nonprofit -- barely more than the $27,000 or so, after inflation adjustments, that the 33-year-old single mom earned as a school-bus driver more than 10 years ago. Says Roman, who hopes to return to college to improve her prospects: "It's hard to find a job with a career ladder these days, and a B.A. would be an edge." What Roman faces is an economy that is slowly stratifying along class lines. Today, upward mobility is determined increasingly by a college degree that's attainable mostly by those whose parents already have money or education. "It's clear that unless you go to college, you can't achieve a high trajectory in life. Education is the key to success in America today," says Aramark Corp. CEO Joseph Neubauer. He gives scholarship money to hundreds of disadvantaged kids every year through the Horatio Alger Assn., a group of successful Americans who try to help others make it, too. ... In turn, the lack of mobility for those who don't or can't get a degree is putting a lid on the intergenerational progress that has long been a mainstay of the American experience. Last year, Wichita State University sociology professor David W. Wright and two colleagues updated a classic 1978 study that looked at how sons fared according to the social and economic class of their fathers. Defining class by a mix of education, income, and occupation, they found that sons from the bottom three-quarters of the socioeconomic scale were less likely to move up in the 1990s than in the 1960s. Just 10% of sons whose fathers were in the bottom quarter had made it to the top quarter by 1998, the authors found. By contrast, 23% of lower-class sons had done so by 1973, according to the earlier study. Similarly, only 51% of sons whose fathers belonged to the second-highest quarter equaled or surpassed the economic standing of their parents in the 1990s. In the 1960s, 63% did. That's the pattern Michael A. McLimans and his family follows. Now 33, with two young children, the New Holland (Pa.) resident has spent the past decade working at pizza chains such as Domino's and Pizza Hut (YUM ). He made it to assistant manager but found that he could earn more, $9 to $12 an hour with tips, as a delivery driver. He and his wife, a hotel receptionist, pull down about $40,000 a year -- far from the $60,000 Michael's father, David I. McLimans, earns as a veteran steelworker. "I save every dime I can so my kids can go to college, which neither of us can afford to do," says Michael.This matters a lot. Social and economic mobility is the key to American success, politically, economically, and socially. I cited this post in the Bellona Times a long time ago:
Midway through my much-aided private college education, the Reagan administration started making Academe a gated community. The results were apparent by the time I graduated, but I always figured, well, at least the state university systems are available. Talking to younger folks, though, I've hit plenty of anecdotal evidence that even state universities are now available only to those lower-class compeers who are willing to assume crippling -- I mean, legs-chainsawed-off crippling -- debt while simultaneously working like a dog and trying to study full-time. And reports like "Losing Ground" and "Unequal Opportunity" provide the stats: college has become an impossible choice for many Americans, no matter how many sacrifices they're willing to make.In response, I said:
Social mobility. It is the magic glue that holds us together; it is the sense of possibility that each of us holds in our hearts, if not for ourselves, than for our children. And one of the consequences of SkyBox Liberalism is not only the ossification of class...you in your courtside chair, Mr. Nicholson, and then the neat hierarchy of wealth and fame leading upward to the corporate SkyBoxes that make this all possible, and above them, the proles in the nosebleed seats, kept in their place by the minimum-wage guards who keep everyone in their appropriate section...but the obvious "flaunt it, baby" statement of your gracious wave to the fans sitting in the rafters.Why should you care? You should care for a lot of reasons. First, because the dynamic of Creative Destruction that keeps our economy strong is dying, replaced by Adam Bellow's genteel world of nepotism and privilege. That's not a good thing. Our economy is stronger than that of Europe and Japan because outsiders with energy and ideas can still build companies; that's harder to do in an economically and socially stratified environment. But most importantly, because it erodes the connections that tie us together as Americans.
The other [justification for managing the increasing concentration of wealth and power] is very practical and cold-hearted, and is something I hope to convince you to take seriously; to have the kind of political organization we have...where we grant legitimacy to an abstract body of laws and procedure...there needs to be a rough equality of power. There will never be a true equality of power; every effort to make it so has collapsed into madness (The Terror, Pol Pot). But one unique feature of the American system - and one of the keys to it's greatness is the ability of the small to stand up to the strong. This is important for many reasons; one of the most important is that it ties the small and powerless to the system with ties of legitimacy.When I try and bring up these issues. I'm sometimes accused of trying to post-facto, justify the New Deal and Great Society and all of the baggage that came with them. I think that those who make those accusations operate from the mistaken assumption that the generalized prosperity and unity that we enjoyed from the 50's to the 70's was somehow a norm, and that we should take that as a baseline. It wasn't, and we shouldn't. The New Deal was (rightly or not) conceived as a way to ameliorate conditions for the poor enough to stave off a possible socialist revolution (or a national socialist one...), and the Great Society was developed in response to Harrington's "Other America" of malnourished kids. We face new challenges today, and we need to try and imagine and build responses to them; some of those may look like large government programs and some may not. But we have to somehow face these challenges, or we'll all wind up living in Neil Stephenson's book. JK Udate: This is funny - the next logical step in offshore outsourcing?
Shibli was a pupil of the famous theosophist Junayd of Baghdad. On his conversion, he came to Junayd, saying: "They tell me that you possess the pearl of divine knowledge: either give it me or sell it." Junayd answered: "I cannot sell it, for you have not the price thereof; and if I give it you, you will have gained it cheaply. You do not know its value. Cast yourself headlong, like me, into this ocean, in order that you may win the pearl by waiting patiently."
ANALOGIES....Just a note to my conservative brethren: any chance we can stop working our way through the microfilm archives of 1946 newspapers? If the analogy of Iraq to Vietnam is strained, the analogy to World War II is simply rubbish. There is literally nothing in common between the two. OK?Actually, Kevin, I've gotta disagree here. There is a core lesson that we can take from the WWII papers, that the kinds of things we need to accomplish in Iraq take time. Even in the far more Western and 'organized' environment of post-war Germany and France, things looked challenging for the first year or so. Even in the highly hierarchical society of Japan, there was violence and chaos for a period of time. Those are important lessons, and we're right to be confronted with what the news and commentary of the time were saying to help us put our current situation into perspective. While I do think that Bush's team booted the postwar planning (simply by not having the resources, propaganda, and staffing prepared), I also think that the anti-war crowd, once they didn't get their way, have been far over the top in claiming 'failure' prematurely. And history exists exactly to help us make those kinds of judgments.
"According to the indictment, bin Laden and al Qaeda forged alliances with the National Islamic Front in Sudan and with representatives of the Government of Iran and its associated terrorist group Hezballah with the goal of working together against their common enemies in the West, particularly the United States. "In addition, al Qaeda reached an understanding with the Government of Iraq that al Qaeda would not work against that government and that on particular projects, specifically including weapons development, al Qaeda would work cooperatively with the Government of Iraq," the indictment said."What can be discerned from all of this? The first is that claims of a connection between Iraq and al-Qaeda are by no means limited to the run-up to war with Iraq. Indeed, all of this occurred during the Clinton administration. Monday: The Sudan Years
Step one: individuals in a democratic society bear responsibility for the actions (or failures to act) of their governments. This, as you may recall, is Osama bin Laden's justification for killing American civilians. It's asserted without argument. If it strikes you as plausible on face, notice that this is not the weaker claim that citizens are obligated to make a good faith effort to participate in the democratic process, vote for the best people given the information available to them, and so on. This is—and has to be for the purposes of this argument—a "strict liability" theory that looks at consequences. Bad policy enacted by the guy you voted against? Your fault. Some covert-op that only folks at the NSA knew about turns into a massive cock-up? You take your share of the blame as well.Lyman:
Consider: Americans enjoy a democratic government which is, to a greater or lesser degree, responsive to our will. We are the authors of our government's actions. If I vote for someone whose platform is opening up the prisons, I am partly to blame for the victimization of innocents which results when all those murderers and rapists get turned loose. If I vote for a politician whose platform is unilateral disarmament, I am partly to blame for whatever military catastrophe results. If Americans are killed by terrorists that my government failed to hunt down and kill, I am partly to blame.Notice a few differences? Julian's positions are two: either you buy into tribal blood-connection a la Bin Laden, or you have a procedural authorship that comes from your 'good faith effort to participate.' Rob isn't making that point at all. he's making the same point Schaar and I make, that we take on obligations by living in a society; some of the obligations are not of our choosing or making, but we bear them nonetheless. Next he attempts to drive Rob's argument off a cliff. Sanchez:
Step three: Therefore (and I use the term loosely) each of us has a responsibility to be especially concerned with the welfare of our fellow Americans, rather than with people in general. This is my favorite. If you tilt your head and put your ear to the screen, you can almost hear these lines hollering: "Hi! I'm the fallacy of composition! You may remember me from such arguments as John Stuart Mill's justification for utilitarianism, and Gladys the Groovy Mule." If you're bored and have some free time, see how many invalid arguments you can construct using this obviously incorrect form of inference. I'll get you started: Corporations have a fiduciary obligation to their shareholders to be profit-maximizing. Therefore, shareholders must each act as profit maximizers in their own lives.Gosh, Julian, I'm just not sure where to begin patching the holes in your argument. There's a whole literature on obligation and citizenship; Waltzer and Schaar would be good places to start. And if theoretical arguments based on history and literature make one squirmy and uncomfortable, I'll suggest a brief detour into emergent computation once he gets past the Introduction to Logic class. I've got three problems with Julien's post. First, he carelessly misreads and misrepresents what Rob actually said. Second, he ignorantly misapplies elementary logical propositions to a complex system, and ignores a whole raft of readily accessible literature both within the areas of logical analysis of complex systems, the limits of formal logic in modelling complex systems, and human history and politics - which was, after all, what we were talking about. I don't know Sanchez' writing well, so I can't tell if he's being willfully obtuse or just ignorant about the notions of obligation and citizenship, from a political theory perspective (note that I'll make a careful distinction here between political philosophy and political theory. For a good primer, take a look at my post on it or at Chris Bertram's, Russell Fox's, or Matthew Yglesias.) I have other philosophical issues with the ahistorical, atomistic individuality that his post infers, but I really don't have enough data to know that's where he's coming from, so I'll look around a bit before going there. And finally, his dismissive and superior tone - particularly when combined with the intellectual failures set out above - set him up for the only appropriate response I can come to - which is to ask just exactly whose argument was it that is busted? I don't care whether you're on the right or the left, Stalinist or Libertarian. There is no excuse for not treating your intellectual or political opponents with some modicum of decency and courtesy. When people don't, I'll certainly make it a point to nail them for it, as I'm nailing Julian (the fact that his arguments were such a wonderful example of pseudointellectual arrogance was a perk), and I hope that other people will as well.
Welcome! Our goal is to give you one power-packed briefing of insights, news and trends from the global War on Terror that leaves you stimulated, informed, and occasionally amused every Monday & Thursday. In addition, we also have our in-depth Iraq Report. Today's briefings are brought to you by Dan Darling of Regnum Crucis.
Other Topics Today Include: Iran Reports; USA Homeland Security Briefing; Taliban forming committees; new tape by Mullah Omar; letter from Afghanistan; possible al-Qaeda threat in the UK; Saudi conspiracy theories; Zarqawi's Italian associates' assets frozen; new Algerian attack on the GSPC; grim UN report on al-Qaeda; JI training in Mindanao; Filippino communists deny recruiting for JI; new JI supremo in Southeast Asia; Yemen releases 92 al-Qaeda members; Saudi cleric renounces violence; Arafat's slush fund; and computers can't recognize a Southern drawl.
USA HOMELAND SECURITY BRIEFING
THE WIDER WAR
"Under these circumstances, there will be no harm if the interests of Muslims converge with the interests of the socialists in the fight against the crusaders, despite our belief in the infidelity of socialists. The jurisdiction of the socialists and those rulers has fallen a long time ago. Socialists are infidels wherever they are, whether they are in Baghdad or Aden. The fighting, which is waging and which will be waged these days, is very much like the fighting of Muslims against the Byzantine in the past. And the convergence of interests is not detrimental. The Muslims' fighting against the Byzantine converged with the interests of the Persians. And this was not detrimental to the Companions of The Prophet."Al-Qaeda training chief Abu Mohammed al-Ablaj to Saudi magazineal-Majallah, May 25, 2003:
"Allah has turned to him [Saddam Hussein] with forgiveness. He declared jihad and did not recognize Israel. There is nothing to bar cooperation with a Muslim who has made jihad his course and way for liberating the holy lands."By now, I expect that just about everyone in blogosphere has heard from one source or another about the memo leaked to the conservative Weekly Standard that provided a considerable listing of evidence regarding a connection between Iraq and al-Qaeda. What I'm now going to do is to examine the memo excerpts that were provided by The Weekly Standard re: Iraq & al-Qaeda, and endeavor to see whether or not the raw data is consistent with what we already know or can reasonably deduce from reported stories in the press. This is a far from ideal method of verifying the excerpts in the Standard's piece, but short of full declassification of all US intelligence in relation to al-Qaeda (something that might happen around 2025 or so), it's probably the best that we're going to get here in the blogosphere. Because of the length and detail, this will be a 6-part series. Part 1 deals with The Pentagon Memo, and begins to look at the relationship between Iraq and al-Qaeda, in particular Zawhiri's Egyptian Islamic Jihad.
Jones retreated to Guyana in 1978, taking about 1,000 followers with him. Later that year, Rep. Leo Ryan led a delegation of journalists and relatives of temple members to Jonestown. Some members chose to leave with him and the party was ambushed at the airstrip; Ryan and four others were killed. Back at the compound, Jones ordered his followers to die, starting with the infants. Most victims were poisoned, some forcibly. Some were shot by security guards. Jones was found with a bullet wound in the head. It is not known who fired the shot.With one monstrous swoop, Jim Jones succeeded in giving fringe religious groups everywhere a bad name, and made "Don't drink the Kool-Aid" a saying synonymous with "Don't trust your leaders." My sympathies to the families and friends of each of the victims of the Jonestown massacre. Apologetics Index has a page on Cult and Ex-cult Counseling Resources, and the entire site contains a wealth of information on various cult groups. They even maintain a blog.
There were some important things we did not know about the future that night. We did not recognize that this was a watershed event... that the military services would begin a great period of renewal that continues to this day. We did not know that we were at the start of an unprecedented movement to jointness in every aspect of our military culture, structure and operations - a movement that must continue. We also did not realize that we were in one of the opening engagements of this country's long struggle against terrorism... a struggle that would reach our homeland and become known as the Global War on Terror. Today, our nation is at war, and we are a critical part of the joint team - an Army at war. This is not a new war. Our enemies have been waging it for some time, and it will continue for the foreseeable future. As the President has stated, "This is a different kind of war against a different kind of enemy. It is a war we must win, a war for our very way of life."Go read the rest.
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraq will have a new transitional government with full sovereign powers by the end of June 2004, the Iraqi Governing Council said Saturday, and will have a constitution and a permanent, democratically elected government by the end of 2005.My first reaction: sha-WHAT? On reconsideration: shaaaa-WHAT? OK, time to calm myself down. There really isn't enough information there for me to start testing Dean banners on the site yet. But the first sniff certaily does sound like a big departure from "we're done when we're done," which I've argued is the right approach. If so, it's a diplomatic disaster unparallelled during my lifetime. If we didn't have the bottom to do this, we should have stayed home. We'll know more next week. But it sure could make my decision about who I'll vote for in '04 much, much simpler.
"Once there was a young man who travelled through many distant countries in search of a master craftsman from whom he could learn a trade. After a while he returned home and announced to his family that he had become an expert designer of chandeliers. "I have become so talented in my new-found trade," he explained, "that my work far surpasses even the greatest masterpieces of my teacher." Then, realizing that the family was a bit dubious about the measure of his success, he asked his father to invite the leading chandelier craftsmen in the city to view a sample of his own creation. The craftsmen came and carefully examined the young man's work. They all agreed that they had never before laid eyes on such a monstrosity...."Read the rest!
"During the civil wars in feudal Japan, an invading army would quickly sweep into a town and take control. In one particular village, everyone fled just before the army arrived - everyone except the Zen master. Curious about this old fellow, the general went to the temple to see for himself what kind of man this master was. When he wasn't treated with the deference and submissiveness to which he was accustomed, the general burst into anger. "You fool," he shouted as he reached for his sword, "don't you realize you are standing before a man who could run you through without blinking an eye!" "And do you realize," the master replied calmly, "that you are standing before a man who can be run through without blinking an eye?"Points to any readers who can use the Comments section to explain some of the layers of meaning in this story, from the cultural level of effective response to the deeper zen meaning of the Master's statement.
First, we're not going anywhere in Afghanistan or Iraq until we're done. Afghanistan will not turn into Vermont any time soon, but we will make sure that the power of the warlords is checked, and that it doesn't collapse again. Iraq could be the leader of the Middle east, and we intend to help build it into that; My comments from this post.
The essence of war is a violent struggle between two hostile, independent, and irreconcilable wills, each trying to impose itself on the other. War is fundamentally an interactive social process. Clausewitz called it a Zweikampf (literally a "twostruggle") and suggested the image of a pair of wrestlers locked in a hold, each exerting force and counterforce to try to throw the other. War is thus a process of continuous mutual adaptation, of give and take, move and countermove. It is critical to keep in mind that the enemy is not an inanimate object to be acted upon but an independent and animate force with its own objectives and plans. While we try to impose our will on the enemy, he resists us and seeks to impose his own will on us. Appreciating this dynamic interplay between opposing human wills is essential to understanding the fundamental nature of war. USMC Warfighting Manual MCDP-1 (.pdf)In any negotiation, there are two ideal positions: 1) "I don't care," in which you challenge the other side to get you to engage in a negotiation at all; and 2) "No matter what it takes," in which you make it clear that no matter what the other side does, you have the will and means to escalate further and prevail. Looking at the war with Islamism that's taking place primarily in Afghanistan and Iraq, it's clear that option 1) isn't available to us (it really hasn't been since 9/11). Our objective needs to be to break the effective will to fight of the opposition. This isn't about the will of the hundred thousand or so fanatics who will fight the West to the death; it's about the more-rational millions who are on the verge of tipping over toward that position, and who are inclined to do so because they think they will win. We brought 9/11 on, in part, by showing irresolution in the face of earlier attacks. (We also brought it on with a hamhanded and shortsighted foreign policy as relates to the Middle East and Arab world, but that's a subject for another, longer blog post). Osama Bin Laden genuinely believed that the U.S. would withdraw - as we did from Lebanon and Somalia - if we were bloodied. Their perception is based on two simple facts; most of us don't like to kill other people, and most of us really, really don't like it when ours get killed. Our goal, I believe, is as much to correct those misapprehensions as to physically disrupt the infrastructure that supports the Islamist movement. This presents some significant dangers. As long as I've been quoting Schaar in support of my views, let me quote him challenging them (from his essay 'The American Amnesia'):
Action taken for psychological objectives (e.g. credibility) inherently contains an element of theatricality, and can easily slide into pure theater. Policymakers come to think of action - even military action - in theatrical terms and lose sight of the real costs. Policymakers' and spectators' sense of reality become attenuated. Even death becomes unreal. Image and substance become independent of each other. Public policy becomes public relations. A war fought for symbolic ends is very difficult to explain and justify to the citizenry. Officials easily employ concealment and evasion, and retreat into isolation. Government and the public get out of touch with each other. Furthermore, when the symbolic end sought is an image of national toughness or determination, then any domestic opposition or criticism threatens that image, thereby threatening - in the eyes of the government - the national defense. Under these conditions, opponents at home seem more dangerous than the enemy abroad. Feeling beleaguered on all fronts, seeing enemies everywhere, officials fear loss of authority and strive for more and more power, even at the expense of constitutional processes. The government becomes enclosed in a private reality, and wrapped in a mood of paranoia and impotence. That was exactly the mentality of the Nixon Administration. And that mentality drove it to the near destruction of the Indochinese peninsula and the American constitutional order.Schaar sums up what it is that I fear about this war; that it will become a war of theater rather than substance, and that - because our leaders are too weak or afraid to demand our commitment in it - that we will create a 'shell' of a war, using theater and image to replace substance. He also sums up the core position of many of the opponents of the war, as well. The problem, of course, is that if you read the theorists (well summed up in the USMC manual), a substantial part of war is theater; it involves both the physical destruction of the enemy and their assets through violence, and the degradation of their ability to use them - through a number of means, including violence, misdirection, reduction in morale, etc. And I do believe there is a key difference between the war in Vietnam and this war: In Vietnam we were fighting our enemy (the Soviet/Chinese alliance) indirectly, through the Vietnamese. The war was as such purely theatrical, in that the resources at risk and expended far outweighed the possible gain (this isn't a complete explanation of my position, but it'll do as a placeholder). Suffice it to say we were fighting the shadow of our real enemy, not the enemy itself. In fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, we are directly confronting two of the many faces of the Islamist movement. Arab Nationalism - one of the roots of the 'Baath movement, and the reason why Iraq, Egypt, and Lybia briefly entertained the notion of uniting - was a secular attempt to restore Arab greatness and create a secular Caliphate. It is another face on the core desire that is expressed in terms of fundamentalist Islam by Qutb and Bin Laden. And, simply, I'd rather convince an enemy not to fight than actually kill them (because I do in large measure subscribe to the facts about our Western society set out above). Now in a real wrestling match, one isn't going to win - impose one's will on the opponent - simply by sitting on them. They will continue to fight, or simply wait until you get bored and get up, and then continue to fight. Particularly if you're having a loud dialog about whether it's worth it or not to fight with them in the first place; they will simply be more confident that in the face of resistance, or simple patience, you will give up and get up. Sadly, that path leads only to more fighting - because they aren't defeated, they are simply at what they perceive to be a momentary disadvantage. So you will get tired of the game, get up, and then they will attack again. You will sit on them again, and the whole process restarts. Much like our response to the escalation of Islamist rhetoric and action through the 80's and 90's. The way to win is simply to sit on them and make it clear that you will sit on them until they have really and truly given up - until their will is broken to yours. John McCain said it simply and well in his Nov. 5 speech to the CFR:
"Let there be no doubt: victory can be our only exit strategy. We are winning in Iraq - but we sow the seeds of our own failure by contemplating a premature military drawdown and tempering our ambitions to democratize Iraqi politics. Winning will take time. But as in other great strategic and moral struggles of our age, Americans have demonstrated the will to prevail when they understand what is at stake, for them and for the world." [emphasis added]Let me repeat it: "victory can be our only exit strategy." By taking this position, by making it clear that we will stay as long at it takes, spend the treasure and blood required to break the wave of Islamist rage, in my view we will reduce the amount of actual violence we will ultimately have to impose. We have broken the bad governments of Afghanistan and Iraq. We are there, on the ground, and there we will stay until we have accomplished some basic goals. What are these goals? Here is a rough first try: First, until the overall level of violent Islamist rhetoric and action will have abated. Second, until Iraq will have attained some level of stable civil society (note that I think Bush misspoke when he set democracy as the threshold; I've discussed it before, and I believe that simply establishing civil society - the primacy of law - is the necessary precondition to democracy, and that alone will be difficult). Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, I doubt that we'll break the isolated, violent tribal culture. I do think that we can restrain it, and prevent it from being used as a base and recruiting ground for Islamists, and provide some skeletal level of civil society while reining in the tribal warlords who truly rule the country. These goals will require a certain level of commitment - of resources, cost, and most of all of lives disrupted, damaged, or lost. I will leave it to people who more than I do about the levels of forces required, but I will say that I seriously doubt that we have them today. Making sure we have those forces - through alliances or through a commitment to expand our own military - is the necessary first step down this road. When Bush does that, I'll have more confidence that he means what he says.
As far as Saddam's cruelty goes, it is greatly exaggerated. By world standards, particularly in the Middle East, he wasn't that bad. As long as you didn't oppose him politically you could pretty much carry on your regular life. I'm not defending him, mind you. I'm saying that he is no worse than your average dictator, and I don't see the hawks clamoring to topple, say, the president of Uzbekistan, who boils his political opponents live. Saddam quashed a rebellion and killed a bunch of people in the process. As I said before, standard practice for a head of state. Try taking up arms against the government with a few thousand people and see if you don't get killed and dumped in a mass grave.
To R.C. Dean: did you not see my other post on this "300,000" number? Saddam killed these people in an uprising that was egged on by our own President. So it seems a little strange to me to use that as evidence of Saddam's cruelty. And are Iraqis more free today than they were under Saddam? I don't know, let's see. Saddam let them have weapons, Bremer won't. Saddam didn't send soldiers for sweeps through people's houses to see if they had guns. In fact, if you didn't challenge Saddam politically he pretty much left you alone. Citizens of other countries have worse deals. Oh, and you forgot to mention all the U.S. soldiers who died in this war, since we're playing the "whose policy saves more lives" game.Now I certainly don't hold the Democratic nominees or progressives in general responsible for this fella. But since he and his buds are the ones Mr. and Mrs. America will see in the letters to the editor section, they tend to be the ones who public opinion coalesces around. And public opinion is not going to be kind. As a counterpoint to both Mike and Tom T., I'll offer a link to an article from back in the days when salon was inconoclastic and interesting. The money quote?
I wish I still believed, as I used to, that the United Nations was always the world's best chance to avert bloodshed. I wish I could join, as I once would have, the placard-waving peace protesters outside the U.S. Consulate here in Sydney. I wish I'd never seen the piece of ear nailed to the wall.[corected doofus mistake in poster's name.] JK UPDATE: Fellow biker Mike Hendrix throws in an even more egregious quote from Democratic Underground (shooting fish in a barrel, that is), then adds a very interesting example of Republican Presidential nominee Dewey remaining close-mouthed about a major intelligence failure while running against FDR.
...I think they opposed the war because they believe they can have the benefits of modern liberal society without getting their hands dirty. They value moral purity and self-satisfaction above everything else - with the possible exception of creature comfort.Two people recently wrote things that - to me - perfectly expressed this issue.
On the 85th Armistice day, I remember with honour the memory of: * Military casualties of the First World War * Military casualties of the Second World War * Casualties of conscripted labour in the Second World War (such as the “Bevin Boys” conscripted to work in coal mines in the UK, who had a casualty rate higher than most active service units) * Casualties of the Second World War among the fire service, ARP, ambulance service and similar, many of whom were conscientious objectors to the war itself * Military casualties of the Falklands War In their own ways, all of these people gave their lives in protecting the lives and liberty of Britons, for which we owe them the most profound thanks. I also remember with the deepest sympathy and pity the men and women of our armed forces who gave their lives in the other military operations which the United Kingdom has carried out in the last century. They died for the most part in the service of dishonourable missions which were forced on them by governments which we elected, so we bear them an equally heavy debt, though much less glorious and more shameful. This is the nearest I can come to a pacifist’s response to this day; I long since gave up wearing a white poppy in remembrance of the conscientious objectors in my own family, simply because it caused so much offence. I wholeheartedly apologise for any offence caused by this statement, without withdrawing any of it.And then a comment on Rob Lyman's great post here on "Tribal Patriotism", poster 'Anonymous Coward 8' wrote this:
... This prompts a question: If I vote against someone who wins, am I blameless? I voted against Clinton and I voted against Bush, and I think the war in Iraq weakens us with respect to terrorists (more cause for terrorists to attack the US, while wasting our strength disarming the disarmed). This administration seems uninterested in my opinion, or in the opinions of anyone outside of a very small circle, excluding the CIA, state department, hawkish bloggers, and conservative members of the military, legislative, judicial, and executive branches of government. If they want me to accept blame or responsibility for their actions, they'll have to sell it a lot harder than as 'patriotism'. Attacking Iraq seems like an act for the sake of action, or a diversion from the retribution against Al Qaida. It isn't enough to be gifting freedom to the unfree while bartering away our bill of rights in the name of homeland security. If you want me to share blame, you'll have to share the planning and answer criticism. If not, it is your responsibility.I think these two quotes perfectly embody one of the defects I see in liberalism today; the notion that one can, personally, have clean hands despite the acts of one's people. You get to that position, I think, because you have a fundamentally cosmopolitan viewpoint - you are an individual whose connections are equally to all other individuals, and the connection you have to other Americans (or Britons) is really no stronger or less strong. The connection to the nation is therefore arbitrary and most of all, chosen, rather than accepted. Schaar explicitly rejected this notion when he talked about patriotism:
"To be a patriot is to have a patrimony; or, perhaps more accurately, the patriot is one who is grateful for a legacy and recognizes that the legacy makes him a debtor. There is a whole way of being in the world, captured best by the word reverence, which defines life by its debts; one is what one owes, what one acknowledges as a rightful debt or obligation. The patriot moves within that mentality."And I do too. I wrote a long time ago that
Part of political adulthood is the maturity to realize that we are none of us innocents. The clothes we wear, money we have, jobs we go to are a result of a long, bloody and messy history. I see my job as a liberal as making the future less bloody than the past. But I accept the blood on my hands. I can't enjoy the freedom and wealth of this society and somehow claim to be innocent. I don't get to lecture people from a position of moral purity. No one spending U.S. dollars, or speaking with the freedom protected by U.S. laws gets to.Both Davies and AC8 seem to think that they can. They can't. You don't get to enjoy the material and political benefits without bearing the costs, and so somehow claim that one can be born into privilege and enjoy it without taking on its obligations is offensive. And they shouldn't if they want progressivism to succeed. It is exactly that position of obnoxious (and demonstrably false) moral superiority that violates Schaar's (and my) prescription for an effective progressive movement. Remember?
"Finally, if political education is to effective it must grow from a spirit of humility on the part of the teachers, and they must overcome the tendencies toward self-righteousness and self-pity which set the tone of youth and student politics in the 1960's. The teachers must acknowledge common origins and common burdens with the taught, stressing connection and membership, rather than distance and superiority. Only from these roots can trust and hopeful common action grow."Listen to those words, folks, because we on the left haven't shown those things, and we're getting our heads handed to us as a consequence.
First, we're not going anywhere in Afghanistan or Iraq until we're done. Afghanistan will not turn into Vermont any time soon, but we will make sure that the power of the warlords is checked, and that it doesn't collapse again. Iraq could be the leader of the Middle east, and we intend to help build it into that;
Second, we're too dependent on ME oil. We're going to do something about it, both by pushing conservation, expanding alternative energy, and expanding exploration. We're going to build the damn windmills off of Cape Cod; Third, we're going to stop Israel from building new settlements and push them to dismantle existing illegal ones; Fourth, we're going to work to expand the ground-fighting capabilities of our military by adding at least one division to the Army, and looking carefully at the allocation of all our assets to make sure that we have the resources to deal with the kind of wars that we are going to realistically face; Fifth, we're going to sit with the Arab countries we are supporting and make it clear that they cannot buy internal stability by fomenting hate against Jews and the West and still expect our financial and military support. We will also talk about what kinds of support would be forthcoming if they did stop; Sixth, we're going to develop security mechanisms based on the theory that fine-grained systems that bring information and communications to the existing public safety community, as well as the public at large are better than huge, centralized bureaucratic solutions;He suggested - and I completely agree - that we add "internationalism" to the list. So I'll add a seventh position as soon as I can come up with one. I've been thinking about this issue for about a month and I just keep getting a headache; I'm trying to contain two beliefs that appear contradictory. First, that we really do need help on a number of levels - intelligence and law enforcement data needs to be pooled; we need explicit cooperation in monitoring the international traffic in weapons and cash; and, bluntly, we don't have and won't soon have the manpower to deal with all the issues that we're facing. Second, our traditional allies don't necessarily have parallel interests with us in this (or, more accurately, they don't perceive that they have parallel interests). This means it won't be easy to both do the things which we believe we need to do and to get help from other countries in doing it. So then here's the question - how do we re-align our interests? In part, I think we don't, and that some of our alliances forged in the Cold War are dead letters today, and that we simply need to politely acknowledge that and then make new alliances to replace them. And in part, I think that we have to work very damn hard to get what support we can in this arena. I do think that what I hear from the mainstream Democratic candidates on this is largely piffle and wishful thinking (and yes, I know I need to explain this). The ShrinkLits version is this: To hand Iraqi reconstruction and the conduct of the war over to NATO, or god-forbid, the U.N. is going to be a disaster. The leading NATO countries didn't want to go, and they certainly won't want to stay long enough to effect the kind of change we're discussing. The U.N. ... well, just forget the U.N. for now. I'm working on a post about it in my odd moments. So on one hand, we need help, and on the other, we're unlikely to get it. Like I said, I keep getting a headache. But now that I'm publicly committed to taking some kind of position, I'll just get a big bottle of Excedrin and some tea, sit down, and think it through. And meanwhile, I'll get something up tomorrow on Point One above.
Arthur Silber is a Los Angeles-area blogger who is hitting some hard times because of the transit strike. While I don't see eye-to-eye with him on many things, I know that I've had hard times in my life, and people have stepped up and helped me through. I can't do less.
He says he needs a thousand or so (more like two, from reading it) to get his car running again, so along with a number of other bloggers, I'm running his PayPal button, and asking my regular readers to click through and donate a few bucks (or more). A number of L.A. based bloggers and I may also use this as an excuse to get together and in so doing raise some more funds for him, if they're needed.
...and to thank the veterans alive and dead for protecting me and mine. And worried that what I wrote kept coming out sounding either too qualified or would be interpreted as being too nationalistic. And I realized something about my own thinking, a basic principle I'll set out as a guiding point for the Democrats and the Left in general as they try and figure out the next act in this drama we are in. First, you have to love America. This isn't a perfect country. I think it's the best county; I've debated this with commenters before, and I'll point out that while people worldwide tend to vote with their feet, there may be other (economic) attractions that pull them. But there are virtues here which far outweigh any sins. And I'll start with the virtue of hope. The hope of the immigrants, abandoning their farms and security for a new place here. The hope of the settlers, walking across Death Valley, burying their dead as they went. The hope of the 'folks' who moved to California after the war. The hope of the two Latino kids doing their Computer Science homework at Starbucks. I love this country, my country, my people. And those who attack her...from guerilla cells, boardrooms, or their comfy chairs in expensive restaurants... better watch out. I don't get a clear sense that my fellow liberals feel the same way. And if so, why should 'the folks' follow them? Why are we worthy of the support of a nation that we don't support? So let me suggest an axiom for the New Model Democrats: America is a great goddamn country, and we're going to both defend it from those who attack it and fight to make it better.
And for everyone who is going to comment and remind me that 'all liberals already do that' ... no they don't. Not when the chancellor has to intervene at U.C. Berkeley to get 'permission' for American flags to be flown and red-white-and-blue ribbons to be worn. Not when the strongest voices in liberalism give only lip service to responding to an attack on our own soil. Loving this country isn't the same thing as jingoism; it isn't the same thing as imperialism; it isn't the same thing as blind support of the worst traits of our government or our people. It starts with recognizing the best traits, and there are a hell of a lot of them. They were worth defending in my father's time, and they are worth defending today. So thanks, veterans. Thanks soldiers and sailors and marines and airmen. Thanks for doing your jobs and I hope you all come home hale and whole, every one of you.It's been a year since I wrote that, and a lot has happened, close to me and far away. We've gone to war, and are facing a difficult, bloody, and uncertain time, brought even closer to me by the fact that my oldest son has committed to join the military. Many of my liberal friends took me to task for writing the piece above, feeling that I had ignored their real and deeply felt patriotism. I think in many cases it's true, but I also think that in the cosmopolitanism at the core of contemporary liberal thought is the germ of something that finds patriotism atavistic, that sees it as of a piece with extreme nationalism, and that hopes that it can gently be put out to pasture. I've talked a bit about what patriotism isn't:
I'll define patriotism as "love of country". Both the parents above (all three of them, actually) claim to "love" their children. But to blindly smile and clean up when your child smashes plates on the floor is not an act of love. And blindly smiling and waving flags when your country does something wrong is not an act of patriotism. But...there is a point where criticism, even offered in the guise of love, moves past the point of correction and to the point of destruction. It's a subtle line, but it exists. And my friend (who is less of a friend because I can't begin to deal with her fundamentally abusive parenting) is destroying her child. And there are liberals who have adopted an uncritically critical view of America. Who believe it to have been founded in genocide and theft, made wealthy on slave labor and mercantilist expropriation, to be a destroyer of minorities, women, the environment and ultimately they argue, itself. I'm sorry but their profession of love for America is as hollow to me as that mother's profession of love for her son. Are those things true? As facts, they are an incomplete account of this country's history. As a worldview, they are destructive and self-consuming.I believe that a clear rediscovery of liberal patriotism - the reconnection between progressive politics and a love of the American ideal - is the key to rebuilding a liberalism that can both serve American interests and compete effectively with corporate conservatism. I've referenced my old professor John Schaar's great essay 'The Case for Patriotism' before. It's available (excerpted) here, and I want to use it to talk a bit about what I mean by patriotism. When I knew him, Schaar was a true New Leftie; he stood far to my left on a number of issues. But he was also a true patriot, and he had a unique and useful vision of American patriotism that I want to talk about here:
"Patriotism is unwelcome in many quarters of the land today, and unknown in many others. There is virtually no thoughtful discussion of the subject, for the word has settled, in most people's minds, deep into a brackish pond of sentiment where thought cannot reach. Politicians and members of patriotic associations praise it, of course, but official and professional patriotism too often sounds like nationalism, patriotism's bloody brother. On the other hand, patriotism has a bad name among many thoughtful people, who see it as a horror at worst, a vestigial passion largely confined to the thoughtless at best: as enlightenment advances, patriotism recedes. The intellectuals are virtually required to repudiate it as a condition of class membership. The radical and dropout young loathe it. Most troublesome of all, for one who would make the argument I intend to make, is the face that both the groups that hate and those that glorify patriotism largely agree that it and nationalism are the same thing. I hope to show that they are different things--related, but separable. Opponents of patriotism might agree that if the two could be separated then patriotism would look fairly attractive. But the opinion is widespread, almost atmospheric, that the separation is impossible, that with the triumph of the nation-state nation. Nationalism has indelibly stained patriotism: the two are warp and woof. The argument against patriotism goes on to say that, psychologically considered, patriot and nationalist are the same: both are characterized by exaggerated love for one's own collectivity combined with more or less contempt and hostility toward outsiders. In addition, advanced political opinion holds that positive, new ideas and forces--e.g., internationalism, universalism; humanism, economic interdependence, socialist solidarity--are healthier bonds of unity, and more to be encouraged than the ties of patriotism. These are genuine objections, and they are held by many thoughtful people."I think that Schaar exactly targets the weaknesses of patriotism that I criticize above; on one hand, those who embrace it would use it as a basis for blind love of one's collectivity combined with equally blind contempt for others'. On the other, having 'moved past' patriotism is almost a core requirement for inclusion in the modern, NPR-driven thinking class here in the U.S. as well as abroad. The EU, for instance, is explicitly trying to break down old patriotisms into a new, unified, one. Why is patriotism important? Is it because a love of place matters? Schaar talks about love of one's home or one's city as the two forms of traditional patriotism, and he also talks about why patriotism matters to me:
"To be a patriot is to have a patrimony; or, perhaps more accurately, the patriot is one who is grateful for a legacy and recognizes that the legacy makes him a debtor. There is a whole way of being in the world, captured best by the word reverence, which defines life by its debts; one is what one owes, what one acknowledges as a rightful debt or obligation. The patriot moves within that mentality. The gift of land, people, language, gods memories, and customs, which is the patrimony of the patriot, defines what he or she is. Patrimony is mixed with person; the two are barely separable. The very tone and rhythm of a life, the shapes of perception, the texture of its homes and fears come from membership in a territorially rooted group. The conscious patriot is one who feels deeply indebted for these gifts, grateful to the people and places through which they come, and determined to defend the legacy against enemies and pass it unspoiled to those who will come after. But such primary experiences are nearly inaccessible to us. We are not taught to define our lives by our debts and legacies, but by our rights and opportunities. Robert Frost's stark line, "This land was ours, before we were the land's." condenses the whole story of American patriotism. We do not and cannot love the land the way the Greek and Navaho loved theirs. The graves of some of our ancestors are here, to be sure, but most of us would be hard pressed to find them: name and locate the graves of your great-grandparents."Despite our disconnection from our ancestry and ancestral places, Schaar and I believe that we can be 'reverent' as Americans. How? He tells us:
"But if instinctive patriotism and the patriotism of the city cannot be ours, what can be? Is there a type of patriotism peculiarly American: if so, is it anything more than patriotism's violent relative nationalism? Abraham Lincoln, the supreme authority on this subject, thought there was a patriotism unique to America. Americans, a motley gathering of various races and cultures, were bonded together not by blood or religion, not by tradition or territory, not by the calls and traditions of a city, but by a political idea. We are a nation formed by a covenant, by dedication to a set of principles, and by an exchange of promises to uphold and advance certain commitments among ourselves and throughout the world. Those principles and commitments are the core of American identity, the soul of the body politic. They make the American nation unique, and uniquely valuable among and to the other nations. But the other side of this conception contains a warning very like the warnings spoken by the prophets to Israel: if we fail in our promises to each other, and lose the principles of the covenant, then we lose everything, for they are we." [emphasis added]We are American patriots because we have consciously decided to share the principles that make America - the principles most essentially set out in our founding documents, and over time spread within America to those who had been excluded at the founding. It is our devotion to liberty and our self-conception as citizens that makes us Americans, not an accident of birth or race. My neighbors to the south are a couple born in Iran. My neighbors to the north were born in Mexico. And each of them is absolutely and completely American. Our patriotism is an inclusive one, which does not define us as a 'people' by where we live or the ancestral symbols that we worship (that's part of why I can be tolerant of those who fly the Confederate Flag), but by the principles to which we adhere. Our patriotism is hopeful, because it is tied to the future - but it must also be reverent in tying us to our past. That is a patriotism we can define, and defend. Schaar talks about what Lincoln once said:
"One more statement, this time from the young Lincoln. Again the occasion is significant. Lincoln had just been elected to the Illinois legislature, and he accepted an invitation to address the Young Men's Lyceum of Springfield: an occasion of beginning, then, like the speech in Independence Hall. Lincoln chose as his theme, "the perpetuation of our political institutions." He opened the discourse by reminding his listeners that the men of the Revolution had fought to found a polity dedicated to liberty and self-government. Those principles were safe while the founders lived for they knew the price that had been paid for them. The scenes and memories of the struggle were visible to their eyes and lively to their memories. Many individuals and families treasured and retold the stories of sacrifice and danger. But now these scenes are distant. We who came after the struggle and had no part in it cannot see it in the scars on our bodies, cannot even relive it through the eyes and voices of the actors. Being distant, we easily forget why those others fought and died, and we cannot justly value the gift they gave to us. Our forgetting opens the path to talented persons of great ambition who, if they cannot gain fame by preserving the principles of the founding, will gain fame by wrecking them. Only if the founding principles are kept alive and pure in the minds and hearts of the citizenry shall we be safe from perverted ambition--or, indeed, safe from ourselves. We must, then, see as the chief task of political life the task of political education: inculcate respect or valid laws as a "political religion"; retell on every possible occasion the story of the struggle; teach tirelessly the principles of the founding. The only guardian of the compact is an informed citizenry, and the first task of leadership is the formation of such a citizenry. This is a conception of patriotic devotion that fits a nation large and heterogeneous as our own. It sets a mission and provides a standard of judgment. It tells us when we are acting just- and it does not confuse martial fervor with dedication to country. Lincoln also reminded us that the covenant is not a static legacy, a gift outright, but a burden and a promise. The nation consists only in repeated acts of remembrance and renewal of the covenant through changing circumstances. Patriotism here is more than a frame of mind. It is also activity guided by and directed toward the mission established in the founding covenant. This conception of political membership also decisively transcends the parochial and primitive fraternities of blood and race, for it calls kin all who accept the authority of the covenant. And finally, this covenanted patriotism assigns America a teaching mission among the nations, rather than a superiority over a hostility toward them. This patriotism is compatible with the most generous humanism."Defined. Defended. As it should be. We don't need to battle the forces of the Islamists because they are Muslim, or because they are foreign. We need to battle them because they explicitly intend to attack the foundation of what makes us Americans, and because they mean to take the things which others in the world want to learn from America - liberty, justice, equality - and smash them. We need to battle them in the arena of politics and ideas most of all. But the space for that battle must be created on the ground, through a contest of will and weapons. Which brings me back to Veteran's Day this Tuesday, and my appreciation for the men and women who have, are, and will defend our covenant, our American ideal. I said it last year, and I'll say it every year from now on: So thanks, veterans. Thanks soldiers and sailors and marines and airmen. Thanks for doing your jobs and I hope you all come home hale and whole, every one of you. --- UPDATES --- * Guest blogger Rob Lyman follows up with The Moral Duty of Tribal Patriotism, exploring the meaning and scope of the duty we have as citizens to ensure each other's safety and security. * Armed Liberal's Selectve Service post picks up on one of the responses to Rob's essay, and on a blog post on Crooked Timber. He sees them as excellent examples of an 'opt-out' mentality that seeks the benefits of modern liberal society without getting its hands dirty, and values moral purity and self-satisfaction above all.
As police struggled to calm a growing firestorm over their drug raid at Stratford High School, state investigators Friday began probing why officers charged into a crowded hallway with guns drawn while students cowered in fear. After watching a surveillance videotape of the Wednesday raid, Solicitor Ralph Hoisington asked the State Law Enforcement Division to look into possible police misconduct in the operation. He called for the probe after consulting with Berkeley County Sheriff Wayne DeWitt. "I don't think there's anything wrong at all with law enforcement addressing a problem in a high school, but I have serious concerns about the need for restraining students and drawing weapons," Hoisington said. "I don't want to send my child to a school and find out guns are drawn on them. I certainly don't want them hog-tied as part of a sweeping investigation."Of course, some don't see the problem:
Others, however, say the community needs to trust the police to take whatever action is necessary to address a drug problem that clearly exists in the schools. "I'm sure students were frightened, but the harm they're in with drug dealers is far greater than the police coming in," said Goose Creek resident Judy Watkins. "I trust them to do what's right. I appreciate what they did."Hope she waves at the Stasi as they drive by. Personally, I hope someone sues. I'll even try and stir up some folks in the tactical shooting community to testify as expert witnesses on their behalf. And maybe we can do something about the insane proliferation of aggressive overuse by police of tactics appropriate in confronting an armed or dangerous suspect when they are pulling over a family in a station wagon. [Update: Instapundit has a good roundup on this as well.]
To make a long story short, the president is trying to cover his right flank with tough talk (i.e., the National Endowment for Democracy speech) while, in fact, withdrawing US troops from Iraq. Meanwhile, Democrats who do not agree with this strategy are being unfairly castigated as cut-and-runners.Now this is my personal nightmare - one of the ones where you're in the room, invisible and unhearable as something horrible goes down. Instapundit shares my concern:
Look, for me it's simple. I'm willing to overlook a lot of what I don't like about the Bush Administration because I believe that he's the only candidate whom I believe (today) is resolute about this whole war thing. The second it looks like he's planning to 'declare victory and leave,' I can promise you that Atrios will look like Karl Rove in comparison to me. That's because I'm convinced that decision leads almost certainly to nukes in the U.S. and then the real possibility of a genocidal war abroad.[Megan McArdle] But there are actually rumors that the White House is contemplating accelerating our departure, which seems lunatic to even discuss when the country doesn't appear to have a functioning anything.[Instapundit] I hope those rumors are false. Because if the White House -- by which, in this case, I mean George W. Bush -- decides to drop the ball on this, I'll probably vote Democratic, even if Kucinich is the nominee. A half-hearted war is the very, very worst kind. I think that Bush understands that. He'd better.
"Mr. Simonyi will discuss his personal experiences with rock music and the impact that it made in Communist-ruled Hungary and other Soviet Bloc countries. The free flow of American and British rock music – and the revolutionary ideas it represents – over the airwaves in Central and Eastern Europe was instrumental in loosening the Communists' grip on power and contributed to the eventual downfall of dictatorships in that area of the world. Ambassador Simonyi’s speech is entitled “Rocking for the Free World: How Rock Music Helped Bring Down the Iron Curtain.” The Ambassador, an accomplished blues guitarist himself and formerly the member of several Hungarian rock groups, will be introduced by Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, former lead guitarist with the Doobie Brothers and Steely Dan.
"Many a mile to freedom, many a smile to tell Ask my bluebird to sing you, from the heart of a wishing well Call all my reindeer to graze here, call all my grain to grow Then together we flow like the river Then together we melt like the snow... ...A few more miles to go Miles to freedom." - Stevie Winwood, "Many a Mile to Freedom"
My question is for Governor Dean. I recently read a comment that you made where you said that you wanted to be the candidate for guys with Confederate flags on their pickup trucks. When I read that comment, I was extremely offended. Could you explain to me how you plan on being sensitive to needs and issues regarding slavery and African-Americans, after making a comment of that nature? (APPLAUSE)...and doesn't.
...southerners have to quit basing their votes on "race, guns, God and gays."Then, today, he apologizes for the Dixie Flag remark:
One day after his Democratic presidential rivals demanded that he apologize for his remarks, which they called offensive to blacks and southern whites, Dean for the first time expressed remorse. "I regret the pain that I may have caused either to African American or southern white voters," he said in New York. What he had hoped to do, Dean said, was provoke a "painful" dialogue about race among all voters, including those displaying Confederate flags. But, he said, "I started this discussion in a clumsy way."Now, personally, as noted in a comment, I'm no fan of the Confederate Battle Flag. As I noted, "Now personally, I detest the Stars and Bars as a symbol of the most treasonous act in our nation's history." (note that Clayton Cramer has a longer post on the Stars and Bars). And here I have to split my argument and try and touch on two not completely unrelated points. The first one is about the practice of electioneering, and the way that and natural human impulses seem to get smoothed out - by handlers, staff, and reporters, I'd imagine. Dean said something controversial - but arguably not untrue - was publicly pounded by his opponents, doubtless counseled by his horrified pollsters and staff - and backed away from his statement like a teenager from a sink full of dirty dishes. Now what that says about him - that he's sadly no more 'genuine' than the balance of the machined products of the electoral process, and that his vaunted backbone is, in fact quite flexible when key interest groups are involved - is of moderate interest in deciding who one might support in the election. And what it says about our electoral process - that we boil the flavor and individuality - and backbone out of our candidates, and then wonder why they're made of mush - is probably the most serious issue. Much like movie sequels, where the energy and imagination of the creators is slowly leached out by the legions of 'supporters,' we get a vapid echo of the strong person the candidate once must have been. The second one is about the social balance of the Democratic Party specifically. I've felt for a while that the Democrats have lost the pickup-driving blue- and pink-collar workers in their pursuit of the Skybox crowd, organized (typically public) labor, and identity politicians. Max Sawicky has a insanely great post (as in really smart until he insanely steps up for Kucinich):
As public policy, we can criticize hanging the Stars and Bars on the Courthouse without futile attempts to marginalize individuals for their own choices in this vein. What's at stake is whether we are going to have class politics in the U.S. Cultural conservatism, which in the South can include some type of sentimentality for the Lost Cause, or resentment of what is perceived as excess in the name of civil rights, should not be treated as an enemy ideology. I am not talking about adherence to segregation in public accommodations, denial of the right to vote, or other obvious breaches of democracy that nobody in good faith could endorse. Coalitions are about reaching understandings through dialogue and/or compromise with people of different views. The Democratic Party needs to be a coalition of working people. It needs to ease up on cultural and social liberalism. I mean fetishes about gun control and tobacco. It needs to stop pretending that Southern whites are more racist than other people. It needs to welcome the "seamless web" Catholics who oppose both abortion and the death penalty. It needs to stop overselling rehabilitation and underselling punishment. It needs to find ways of establishing reasonable environmental regulation other than on the backs of workers. What it endorses as a party is ideally the outcome of a rational debate and compromise on these issues. For some, one or another such compromise could be a 'deal-breaker.' So be it. That's the process we need. The constant and lodestar should be an unwavering commitment to the living standards of working people, and opposition to the corporativist, war-mongering ways of the Republican Party. Without class politics, the Democratic Party becomes cats-paw of the big donors, a party of well-to-do white liberals lording it over second-class minorities organized by race and ethnicity. The economic policy of such a party boils is neo-liberalism (balanced budgets, free trade, smaller government, and Federal Reserve supremacy in monetary policy), with tokenism and crumbs for the minorities.I'm not sure I'm buying his exact prescription, but I do think he has the disease diagnosed exactly correctly.
"I know it wasn't your car, I know that you have no record, I know they don't have much on you. This case would be either a directed verdict of not guilty, or at least an 80% chance of a not guilty with a jury if it went to trial. But, if you're found guilty because the judge has a different view of the law that I do, and the jury (12 people walking around right now that we don't know) just doesn't like the way you look, it's 15 years. Now the DA has offered to break this down if you plead guilty to the lesser offense, you'll do two years in the county jail instead of state prison, you'll be eligible for parole after one year. It's your choice."The problem is that the aforementioned prosecutorial and police discretion is often exercised in a way that is biased. I once saw a judge berate police officers who had charged white suburban youths who had a couple of ounces (yes, that is a lot [JK: that's 60+ grams]) with the least serious marijuana possession offense "when every day I see poor city kids being charged with [mandatory minimum offenses] for five little dime bags." Judges and juries operate in public, in open court. Police and prosecutorial discretion operates in offices, by phone calls. Mandatory minimums generate injustice. Trust me, if someone deserves a long sentence, they will get it with or without the minimums. The second thing you may not know about the criminal justice system is the extent to which people use it to mediate their family or romantic disputes. The misuse and manipulation of domestic violence restraining orders and the laws against domestic violence are something which anyone involved in the courts knows well. Ask any court bailiff in a criminal or divorce court: they will have stories to tell. The usual scenario involves the eternal triangle, or the unwanted break-up. Others include the non-compliant spouse, the deadbeat dad and the prodigal son. On a subway platform, I once overheard one woman telling another "If you want to get him back, put a restraining order on him." Fortunately juries can see through most of these cases, but you'll never read about it in the paper, or see it in an episode of Law & Order.
"Although any conjecture about such advanced civilizations is a matter of sheer speculation, one can still use the laws of physics to place upper and lower limits on these civilizations. In particular, now that the laws of quantum field theory, general relativity, thermodynamics, etc. are fairly well-established, physics can impose broad physical bounds which constrain the parameters of these civilizations. This question is no longer a matter of idle speculation...."Especially when new telescopes may be able to start finding other solar systems that could theoretically support life. Michio talks about different levels of advanced civilization (it's a function of their energy usage level), why SETI may not find any messages even if they're out there, how a really advanced civilization would explore the galaxy, and more. Fascinating read.
Kevin Drum's got himself embroiled in a quagmire-like debate with hawkish liberals or ex-liberal hawks or whatever you want to call them. In response, some things to consider doing before you defect from the Democratic Party:Well, first of all, I don't have any plans to defect from the Democratic Party. I may or may not vote the party line; personally, I'll take each campaign as I see them. But I've been critical of the Democratic Party because I think it's headed off a cliff into electoral oblivion, and I intend to publicly kick it's ass as hard as I can to do what I can to get it steered in a more successful and productive direction.
Take a deep breath. Look in the mirror. Take another deep breath. Look at some photos of your liberal friends and family. Ask yourself: Do you really believe that they opposed the Iraq War because they wanted Saddam Hussein to stay in power; do you really think they don't care if your hometown gets destroyed by terrorists?No, I think they opposed the war because they believe they can have the benefits of modern liberal society without getting their hands dirty. They value moral purity and self-satisfaction above everything else - with the possible exception of creature comfort.
Try reading some actual policy statements put out by Democratic foreign-policy hands, members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and members of the Armed Services Committee. Ask yourself: Do the views expressed therein really sound like the characterizations of them you've read on NRO and the hawk blogs?Actually, I do read the policy statements and talk to people who work within the political and defense establishment. I don't base my opinions on Instapundit, NRO and Fox News And, believe it or not, I'm actually unhappy with much of what I hear. I'm trying to engage in a broader dialog about what makes me unhappy, in the hopes that I and others like me can have some impact on what the Democratic Party thinks and does.
Look again in the mirror, focusing this time on your hairline and that little space next to your eyes that gets wrinkly when you squint. There's no easy way to say this, but . . . you're getting old. I am too. It's scary, it happens to us all. Ask yourself: Has the left really changed, or am I just that cliched guy who stopped really caring about the poor as I aged?Tell you what, Matt - you look in the mirror and ask yourself if you're just another jejune 20-something year old who thinks he knows everything; it's a painfully familiar condition to me - I used to be one too. Back when I worked in politics and wrote laws and policy. But philosophically, I was uncomfortable with the idea that I could be a part of the political class, and make a damn comfortable upper-middle class living as a policy wonk, staff to an elected, or commentator - all without ever getting my hands dirty in the real world.
Take a look at the transcript of the latest White House press conference. Find some other examples where the president had to respond on-the-fly to questions. Ask yourself: Given the perilous international situation, am I really comfortable with the fact that a total moron is president of the United States.Gosh, Matt, I just love the schoolyard names. Here's a clue: Bush isn't a moron. I doubt that he's even particularly stupid; I've met and had business with a fair number of elected officials, and the stupidest one I know (Barbara Boxer - most of the ones I've met are Democrats, so there may be a Republican who'se worse) is probably as smart as any of the bloggers I have met to date. One doesn't get to high elected office in this land by being stupid, stories of Chauncey Gardner aside.
Read this post again. Consider the condescending tone, the cheap psychoanalysis, the refusal to confront your actual arguments. Ask yourself: Isn't this exactly what I've been doing all this time? Just an exercise.Matt, here's a proposal. Go through all my stuff on Armed Liberal and Winds of Change. Find me five posts with condescending tone. Find five posts where I psychoanalyze you or any of the liberal Democrats (or even wacky leftists) with whom I disagree. Email me the cites. If we disagree, I'll let Kevin or Brian Linse act as a referee. Find five, I'll send you a nice crisp $100.00 bill. I'll bet I can easily find ten quotes like that from you. I'll even give you 2-1 odds; I'll only ask for $50.00 if I do. Are you in?
"Finally, if political education is to effective it must grow from a spirit of humility on the part of the teachers, and they must overcome the tendencies toward self-righteousness and self-pity which set the tone of youth and student politics in the 1960's. The teachers must acknowledge common origins and common burdens with the taught, stressing connection and membership, rather than distance and superiority. Only from these roots can trust and hopeful common action grow."...it's something that Matthew hasn't learned yet, which is a personal problem for him. But it's something the left in this country hasn't learned yet, which is a political problem for me and the rest of us.