Saturday, December 20, 2003

THIS HAS TO BE A JOKE, DOESN'T IT? I mean the good folks at PETA really wouldn't deliberately try to give flyers like this out to small children attending The Nutcracker, would they? Well, apparently, they would (and boast about it on their webpage). And get a load of the copy that accompanies the flyer:
"Ask your mommy how many animals she killed to make her fur clothes. Then tell her you know she paid men to hurt and kill the animals. Everyone knows. And the sooner she stops wearing fur, the sooner the animals will be safe. Until then, keep your doggie or kitty friends away from mommy-she's an animal killer!"
This is perfectly legitimate because everyone knows that evil fur-wearing women won't stop at mink, they won't rest until every critter in the neighborhood is slaughtered and sewn up into the coat of all coats.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

ARE PROFESSORS OBSOLETE? For my own personal sake, I hope not but I think that change in the way academia is structured is inevitable.

AMERICAN CITIZENS STILL HAVE RIGHTS! So says the Second Circuit Court about the case of Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen detained in military court on terrorism charges. This was, in my estimation, one of the more egregious excesses in the war on terrorism. I am firmly in the camp of those who believe that all American citizens, even those accused of treason and terrorism, are still protected by constitutionally-guaranteed rights. That the court ruled this way is a good sign. That it took so long for the case to be resolved and that it was an issue in the first place is a cause for continued vigilance and caution.

FORGET THE CPI, INTEREST RATES OR EMPLOYMENT FIGURES. The true state of the economy can be found here (Flash Player required).

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Block the entrance to the theater while screaming: "YOU SHALL NOT PASS!"

After the movie, say "Lucas could have done it better."

At some point during the movie, stand up and shout: "I must go! Middle Earth needs me!" and run and try to jump into the screen. After bouncing off, return quietly to your seat.

Ask the nearest ring-nut if he thinks Gandalf went to Hogwarts

Finish off every one of Elrond's lines with "Mr. Anderson."
On second, thought, I don't think I'll follow any of this advice.

DISHONEST REPORTING AWARD. Based, apparently, on coverage of Israel, Palestine, and the conflict between them. And the winner is . . . Reuters.

I don't know if I agree with all of the critiques contained in this piece but I found the following to be quite revealing of the news agency that can't seem to use the word "terrorist":
▪ In violent acts by Israelis, "Israel" was named in 100% of the headlines, and the verb was in the active voice in 100% of the headlines, i.e.:

"Israeli Troops Shoot Dead Palestinian in W. Bank" (July 3)

▪ But in violent acts by Palestinians, the Palestinian perpetrator was named in just 33% of the headlines, and the verb was generally in the passive voice, i.e.:

"Bus Blows Up in Central Jerusalem" (June 11)

That is, in the world of Reuters headlines, when Israel acts, Israel is always perpetrating an active assault and the Palestinian victim is consistently identified. But when Palestinian terrorists act, the event just "happens" and Israeli victims are left faceless.

UPDATE: On the other hand, even Reuters is more subtle than this.

UPDATE II: More media bias at CNN? After a while, evaluations of media bias seem to become little more than ink blot tests. We can all find what we want to find.

“FAILED OCCUPATIONS” The capture of Saddam Hussein has, for the time being, dampened much of the quagmire and failure talk concerning the U.S. in Iraq. But such talk is sure to rise again in the future. I generally welcome criticism of the U.S. occupation of Iraq as an important part of democratic accountability. Much of this criticism is useful and patriotic (though as the much linked to Orson Scott Card essay compellingly argues, all of it may not be). Such criticisms should, however, be coupled with clear and specific suggestions for improvement.

It also is helpful from time to time to step back and take a look at the big picture. A recent presentation by Dr. Ronald Spector on “Failed Occupations” of the destroyed Japanese Empire after WWII raises some interesting points for comparison. Note the following:
--Soviet troops that occupied Manchuria went on a rampage of looting and raping that caused many Chinese women to cut their hair, wear men’s clothing and even disfigure their faces in order to avoid rape (paradoxically, the same Russian soldiers were also said to have been kind to children and almost never harassed a woman who had a child with her).
--The Soviets also systematically de-industrialized Manchuria taking literally everything that wasn’t nailed down (and a lot that was) back to the Soviet Union. Six months after the Soviet occupation only 20 out of 972 factories were still operationally intact.
--Hundreds of thousands of Japanese soldiers and civilians disappeared in the Soviet occupation of Manchuria and remain unaccounted for to this day. (Or as John Dower put it in his excellent Embracing Defeat, “Suddenly, more than three hundred thousand Japanese were unaccounted for” (52)).

The American occupation of Iraq, for all its shortcomings (of which there are surely many), doesn’t hold a candle to this type of behavior.

But before the Americans get too complacent, they might also take a look at the U.S. occupation of the southern part of Korea (divided by an entirely arbitrary 38th parallel) in which the Americans, ignorant of conditions on the ground, used former colonial officials and collaborators to create and prop up a regime that was reliably anti-communist but at times brutal to its own people. The U.S. needs to exercise extreme caution in working with members of the former regime in Iraq, a necessity perhaps but one that should be avoided if at all possible.

Americans sent to China following the war were less effective and did little to stem the rising Red tide as Chiang Kai-shek and the Nationalists squandered what advantages they had enjoyed in 1945. One interesting aside: American soldiers who encountered members of the CCP armies found them to be pleasant company, “that is,” recalled one soldier, “until we met them again in Korea.”

The British/Indian occupation of Southeast Asia and Indonesia was aimed at restoring the old colonial order but delays in arriving gave nationalist and anti-colonial movements to gather momentum. Japanese troops in the region often joined both sides of the fray.

Much of what happened in the late 40’s, 50’s and 60’s in Asia probably couldn’t have been avoided. I’m not one of those of the “we lost China” school. However, it is always useful to consider ways in which we might do better the next time around.

Monday, December 15, 2003

The Associated Press (Christopher Marquis, "IN REVERSAL, US MAY SEND ADDITIONAL FOOD AID TO NORTH KOREA," Washington, 12/12/03) reported that the US is considering releasing roughly 66,000 tons in additional food aid to the DPRK this year as that country faces a winter famine, administration officials said Thursday. Administration officials had withheld the aid to protest the DPRK's failure to comply with international monitors seeking to ensure that the provisions go to the people who need it. But given predictions of an imminent humanitarian crisis and a plea for more donations from the United Nations agency that distributes food aid, the officials said they were rethinking their stance. "We are still considering whether to provide additional food aid to North Korea through the World Food Program under the 2003 appeal," a State Department official said.
It is a difficult dilemma (see here for some speculation concerning humanitarian aid and the DPRK) but at the end of the day, it is hard for me to justify denying food to starving people even when it is clear that not all the food may end up in the bellies of those who need it most.

In what seems to be the latest political gamble to save his troubled leadership, President Roh Moo-hyun yesterday vowed to quit the presidency if his election camp is found to have received illegal campaign funds that total more than one tenth what the majority party took to help fund last year's presidential election.

"I would step down as president and quit politics if the illegal funds spent by my camp exceed a tenth of those of the Grand National Party," Roh was quoted as saying by GNP Chairman Choe Byung-yul.
Savvy political move (the Marmot thinks Roh might be right in concluding that the GNP's illegal funds outnumbered Roh's by more than 10 to 1), merely the latest in a string of bumbling reactions to the latest problem of the day, or sign that Roh really doesn't like his job? You be the judge.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

MORE LATER? I've got to go shovel sludge off of my driveway.

SADDAM HUSSEIN CAPTURED. Instapundit, as ususal, rounds up various reactions.

The administration's fundamental problem is that it is not very good at dealing with people it can't stand. The men and women in this White House are exceptionally forthright. When they come across someone they regard as insufferable, their instinct is to be blunt. They seek to be honest rather than insincere, to not sugar things up but to let these people know how they really feel.

Sometimes you've got to be slippery to accomplish real good. The Bush administration is thus facing an insincerity crisis. It has become addicted to candor and forthrightness. It needs an immediate back-stabbing infusion.

Perhaps Al Gore could be brought in to offer advice.


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