I think that we can all agree that the fundamental appeal of reality TV, at least as purveyed by the major networks, lies in watching other people make complete asses of themselves.
TLC (a favorite channel of geeks everywhere) is a nice exception to that general trend. In particular, I just discovered their show Faking It. The premise seems to be that someone attempts to pass as something not in keeping with their character. Tonight's episode is especially charming - they've got a smart, bookish woman who graduated from Harvard (very much my type, I might add) trying to pass as an Atlanta Falcons cheerleader (also my type - I'm not that picky). So she lives with a couple members of the squad and trains with them for three weeks. Everyone seems to be having fun and the root of the show isn't trying to make anyone look stupid.
Not that I have any great objection to making people look stupid. Its just nice to get a little variety.
As near as I can tell, here are the (highly condensed) relevant facts:
Lots of neocons are Jewish.
Neocons are rabidly pro-Israel.
It is reasonable to infer that they are pro-Israel largely because they are Jewish.
They have a strong influence in the current administration.
Lots of people have a strong distaste for the whole neocon agenda of remaking the Middle East in America's image.
I don't really have a place to take all this, I guess, but I'm wondering about the best way to clearly distinguish legitimate criticism of neocons from mere anti-semitism.
In addition to Gary Farber's point that there are lots of other relevant facts and Judith Weiss's highlighting (also via Amygdala) of the use of the word "rabidly," there is one simple point to be made: the statement, "it is reasonable to infer that they are pro-Israel largely because they are Jewish," is false. Given the number of Jews who oppose neo-conservative foreign policy (picture via Jonah Goldberg), what is reasonable to say is that Jewishness is not a predictor of one's foreign policy. In fact, this taking of a racial/ethnic/cultural identification as a proxy for other characteristics or characteristic beliefs is the essence of prejudiced stereotyping. I don't know Kevin, but he seems like a good guy, and I think he asks the question in good faith, but there's a nasty stereotype in those "relevant facts."
UPDATE: Kevin Drum has received several answers to his question and has posted a very reasonable response. I think he's quite right that we should first assume that people's intentions are honorable when they ask questions of this sort. It was good of him to ask and good of him to post everyone's response.
"researchers collected samples from the underarms of men who refrained from using deodorant for four weeks. The extracts were then blended and applied to the upper lips of 18 women"
Can't we just get back to abusing monkeys?
I believe that it is Godwin's (Goodwin's?) law that states that as an Internet discussion increases in length, the probability of Hitler being invoked approaches 1. I would suggest a modification of that law to reflect more recent history. In particular, I think we should be cognizant that the Taliban can be invoked in any comparison as a new all-purpose force for evil in the world. For evidence of this proposition, see this ridiculously overblown post.
I'm always glad, if a bit chary, of statements about Israeli-Palestinian peace. But today, President Bush said "As progress is made toward peace, settlement activity in the occupied territories must end." Isn't that a step backward for the Palestinians? Previously, talk was of dismantling settlements as a move commensurate with the ending of violence by the Palestinians. But now even a cessation of settlement construction (if that's what "settlement activity" means) is dependant on the Palestinians making the first move.
This is shameful.
And Tony Judt explains why. Read the whole thing.
American vilification of the French—openly encouraged in the US Congress, where tasteless anti-French jokes were publicly exchanged with Colin Powell during a recent appearance there—degrades us, not them. I hold no brief for the Élysée, which has a long history of cynical dealing with dictators, from Jean-Bedel Bokassa to Robert Mugabe, including Saddam Hussein along the way. And the Vichy years will be a stain on France until the end of time. But talk of French "surrender monkeys" comes a touch too glibly to American pundits, marinated in self-congratulatory war movies from John Wayne to Mel Gibson.
In World War I, which the French fought from start to finish, France lost three times as many fighting men as America has lost in all its wars combined. In World War II, the French armies holding off the Germans in May–June 1940 suffered 124,000 dead and 200,000 wounded in six weeks, more than America did in Korea and Vietnam combined. Until Hitler brought the US into the war against him in December 1941, Washington maintained correct diplomatic relations with the Nazi regime. Meanwhile the Einsatzgruppen had been at work for six months slaughtering Jews on the Eastern Front, and the Resistance was active in occupied France.
Fortunately we shall never know how middle America would have responded if instructed by an occupying power to persecute racial minorities in its midst. But even in the absence of such mitigating circumstances the precedents are not comforting—remember the Tulsa pogrom of May 1921, when at least 350 blacks were killed by whites. Perhaps, too, Americans should hesitate before passing overhasty judgments about "age-old" French anti-Semitism : by the end of the nineteenth century France's elite École Normale Supérieure was admitting (by open competition) brilliant young Jews—Léon Blum, Émile Durkheim, Henri Bergson, Daniel Halévy, and dozens of others—who would never have been allowed near some of America's Ivy League colleges, then and for decades to come.
My usual daily intake of news consists of the New York Times on the web (when I have enough time to get to it during the day) and then the Wall Street Journal on dead tree in the evening. Both are excellent sources of news and far superior to, say, the Chicago Tribune, or these horrible "Red" papers that the Trib and the Sun-Times have started. However, neither the NYT nor the WSJ have comics. This is a source of bummitude (it's a word) for me, since I've always liked comics.
Here are a couple of current favorites that I'm forced to find on the web:
The latest interesting development in our rush to war is that some (most?) so-called liberal hawks have decided that they can no longer support the war in light of the Bush Administration's behavior in attempting (and failing) to garner international support for its planned invasion. See this cogent piece as an example.
The compelling version of this argument is that the Bush Administration's actions have been so harmful to our existing collective security arrangements that the benefits to be gained from the war no longer outweigh the costs. However, here's a question that I think needs answering. Knowing what we know about the behavior of the German, French and Russian governments and the European public (I assume that there's really no one else worth worrying about) over these last several months, how could things have been handled differently? My sense is that no matter what the Bush Administration could have done differently (started the process earlier, been more convincing in its arguments, told Rummy to point the artillery piece away from our collective feet), we'd still be in the same boat we're in now.
Its interesting to hear that Richard Perle decided to bring his libel suit in Great Britain. This strikes me as an interesting effect of globalization. Forum shopping (familiar in the United States given our separate set of state and federal courts) is now possible on a global scale. Possible because firms (and people, to a lesser extent) now have assets located throughout the world which are available to satisfy judgments against them. Whereas in earlier times, while you may have been able to sue someone wherever you liked, you would likely not have been able to collect (given that it can very difficult to enforce a judgment of one country's courts in the courts of another (this is especially the case with enforcing foreign libel judgments in U.S. courts)).
I'm sure that Perle's lawsuit is mostly for PR purposes, but since he'll be suing Conde Nast (which I believe has assets in the UK), he stands a chance of recovering a substantial sum should he win.
As you probably know, Seymour Hersh (dean of intrepid investigative reporters) recently wrote a story which raises questions of conflict of interest regarding Richard Perle's involvment with certain Saudi businessmen. Perle, when asked about the story, said "Sy Hersh is the closest thing American journalism has to a terrorist, frankly." (I love the "frankly.") And then filed a libel suit against Hersh, but only in Great Britain, where libel laws favor plaintiffs. Hersh has responded to Perle's comment by saying "Forty years ago, he would have called me a communist, and 70 years ago, he would have called me a Jew. It's the same thing with these people." What you may not know is that Gary Farber has redeemed bloggers everywhere with some very compelling speculation that Perle was set up by the Saudis, to whom he has been hostile. Go read it and take notes on what incisive blogging is about.
The blogs did have me down today, but this story did make me feel pretty good. I wonder what happened over these last several months?
So I go to the Bulls game on Saturday and they get pounded by the lowly Clippers. I then go to the Bulls game last night and they absolutely stomp all over the Lakers. And then tonight, they get crushed by the Grizzlies. What the bleep is going on? Still, there's a lot of good young talent on that team. A couple of years, they might be able to win on a consistent basis.
I must admit, I was kind of down on the whole blog-world today. I was travelling over the last couple of days, so I couldn't blog. Plus, I was in the middle of the Pollack book (still got about 100 pages to go), which I want to finish before I turn back to my completely half-assed defense of complete disengagement from the Middle East. But then I got back to town, I had gotten far enough into the Pollack book to refine my thoughts about our current dilemna in Iraq and I even didn't have all that much work to do. So I was ready and willing to find all sorts of interesting things to blog about.
But all I could find were insults and cheap shots. Maybe I was just reading the wrong sites, but it mighty depressing to read all the same arguments over and over again, with the bile just ratcheted up one more notch. So long story short, I got nothing right now. Hopefully, I'll be more full of life (or something) tomorrow.
If you haven't heard about the leaked NSA memo calling for increased spying on members of the UN Security Council, that's because almost no one has covered it. Originally, many people, including me, thought the memo was a fake. It wasn't. Now someone has been arrested in Britain on suspicion of having leaked it. Still no word from the major papers or the networks. For a good analysis of the state of the press as illustrated by this issue, check out this article (via Altercation). Even if reporters here couldn't confirm the authenticity of the memo to their own satisfaction, the extensive coverage it received around the world and the effects of that coverage on the deliberations of the Security Council merit coverage here. Is it any wonder that other countries seem to us to be acting irrationally when we don't know the facts to which their populace is responding?
Oliver Willis links to this story about the realization by some on the left that the tactics and slogans of the anti-war movement generally have not been successful. It's about time, no doubt, but here's a part of the new marching orders.
Speak American...Strip down to the simple, metaphoric Anglo Saxon. Leave out long words, complex explanations, historical analysis or arguments supported by lots of reasons, facts, statistics.
This could be the most important reason for Tony Blair to wait for UN authorization for an invasion of Iraq. Having skimmed some of the provisions of the ICC's charter, I can see why the US would be very reluctant to participate: some of the wording is quite broad and vague. An international criminal court may be a very good idea, and there are many cases it which it will be as a gift of justice to people abused, but more needs to be done to guard against illegitimate charges and particularly to recognize that changes in the nature of threats necessitate changes in the definition of legitimate self-defense (an argument the Bushies have botched).
Loyal reader Magik Johnson sent me this piece by Thomas Barnett of the Naval War College about the emerging shape of global relations, but I think the same points are made more succinctly and elegantly by Richard Haass of the State Department in this article, which is excellent reading in its own right.
One belief everyone in the foreign policy establishment in the US seems to share is that exerting control is good. Barnett writes of "integration" and Haass speaks of the "limits of sovereignty," (of other nations) but they're both talking about how the US (or the West, in the case of multi-lateralists) can best position itself to influence events. But what about the costs of that positioning? It's entirely possible that putting ourselves in a position to influence events results in unintended consequences where the net effect is deleterious to our interests. There's plenty to say about this, both in psychological terms, where the discussion would center around the need for control, and philosophical terms, where we could trace this kind of policy to the basic technological/instrumental orientation of the West. But I'd just be happy to have someone acknowledge that there is more than one way to conduct foreign policy.
I've often wished I were less attached just so I could try Speed Dating. First impressions and a bit seem like plenty to know whether a real date might be succesful. Of course, a strange taboo still lingers around trying to meet people, although everyone knows how difficult it is. Anyone tried speed dating? How was it?
Is this a big secret? A tabbed interface, mouse gestures and lots of other features all in Internet Explorer? For free? I came across MyIE last night and I love it. It doesn't fool with your existing IE installation, as MyIE is just a wrapper, but it lets you do all the things you can do in Opera and Mozilla, without their quirky rendering and lack of support for some content. And so far, no crashes or other bugs, even though I'm using the latest beta. Give it a try.
UPDATE: Apparently, I'm a newbie to the world of modified IE. Check out the Avant Browser as well. At first glance, it looks good, but a little limited compared to MyIE.
Maybe it's not so obvious that the media is liberal. There are several conservative outlets and they have disproportionate influence since conservatives still define themselves in contradistinction to liberalism and thus have all the energy of the aggrieved. But anyone who knows journalists knows, that on the whole, they are a liberal bunch. The confusion arises when, for example, these presumed liberals attack Bill Clinton, whose views they share, but give George Bush a pass on his lies, even when they hate his policies (and him). But this is perfectly in keeping with liberalism as it's practiced today. Being a liberal means, more than anything, being empathic and tolerant of views differing from one's own. That's why the only things sure to draw the outrage of the liberal media are intolerance (cf. the Trent Lott affair) and the foibles of other liberals (since no one will accuse the accusers of being partisan if they attack their own). Liberals are just proving how very liberal they are when they strain not to say that George Bush is an inarticulate, incurious, stubborn man-child who bears a striking resemblance to a chimpanzee, even what that is precisely what they think. But they are only doubling their own grief by keeping quiet. Their bias will still show up in their stories, and they'll be slammed for their liberal slant, but they will also let conservatives off easy, and be slammed for their spinelessness. Editors like to say that when both sides are offended, the media must be doing something right, but in this case, that's exactly wrong. The media isn't following a judicious middle road; it's going wrong in both directions. So, a note to the liberal media: there are worse things than being called a partisan, and you're never going to get anything exactly right; if you think it's a lie, do your job and call it a lie.
In an attempt to reduce my ignorance, I have started reading this book and plan on returning to the subject of Iraq (including my fairly lame attempts to articulate another set of policy choices for the U.S.) once I'm done with the book. I'm about 200 pages into it right now - its mighty interesting so far.
In other news, I went to the Bulls game tonight. Unfortunately, they still kinda suck. However, they're definitely better than they have been over the last couple of years. I did get to sit in a skybox for the game, though. I recommend that you insist on such arrangements the next time you go to a professional sporting event.