Saturday, November 09, 2002

We're better than you, so shut up and do what you are told
SCSU Scholars is the blog of the St. Cloud State University chapter of the Minnesota Association of Scholars. It unleashed its full fury on academics who fervently believe that they know better than other people. (Is it a surprise that so many American academics are Democrats? That so many British academics are Liberal Democrats, the snob party?) Oh yeah, while they are being uncontroversial there, they take a nice whack at the reparations crowd.
Not a bad day
I remarked yesterday that there joy in the land, because the Democrats looked to be selecting Nancy Pelosi, and showed no sign of dumping Terry MacAuliffe. I got half. They really have picked Pelosi (unofficially, but a majority of her Democratic colleagues have agreed to support her). Zell Miller, however, has said that MacAuliffe should go. Of course, now that the Georgia senate has gone Republican because of three Democrats switching party (from Instapundit), maybe Miller will finally switch too.
Slapping down Robert Fisk
Reader Jim Hogue from the great state of Texas (where else) sends a far better response to Robert Fisk. He sent these excerpts from the afterward to Stephen Ambrose's Citizen Soldier, a book I have not read, but will now.
In the spring of 1945, around the world, the sight of a twelve-man squad of teenage boys, armed and in uniform, brought terror to people's hearts. Whether it was a Red Army squad in Berlin, Leipzig, or Warsaw, a German squad in Holland, or a Japanese squad in Manila, or Beijing, that squad meant rape, pillage, looting, wanton destruction, senseless killing. But there was an exception: a squad of GIs, a sight that brought the biggest smiles you ever saw to people and joy to their hearts.

Around the world this was true, even in Germany, even -- after September 1945— in Japan. This was because GIs meant cigarettes, C-rations, and freedom. America had sent the best of her young men around the world, not to conquer but to liberate, not to terrorize but to help. This was a great moment in our history.

But slowly, surely, the spirit of those GIs handing out candy and helping bring democracy to their former enemies spread, and today it is the democracies—not the totalitarians—who are on the march. Today, one can again believe in progress, as thing are getting better. This is thanks to the GIs—along with the millions of others who helped liberate Germany and Japan from their evil rulers, then stood up to Stalin and his successors. That generation has done more to spread freedom—and prosperity—around the globe than any previous generation.

Now that Ambrose is dead, maybe Fisk will crawl out from under his rock to try a rebuttal of Ambrose. AtlanticBlog will be watching little Bobby Fisk's rock closely.
I don't want to obsess on the little creep, but I watched a crowd of 700, largely drawn from my colleagues, give him a standing ovation. I am fighting mad.
Slow to learn
In "University Days", James Thurber once described a character by saying that while he wasn't dumber than an ox, he wasn't any smarter. Well, despite the rare attempt by a not stupid leftie (Mark Kleiman comes to mind) to get his fellows to catch on, the left hung on to its suicidal determination to believe that George Bush just couldn't be as smart as them. So they sat, smug as Terry MacAuliffe, and let Bush destroy them, on the elections, on Iraq. So finally they catch on. Fergal Keane works for the Independent and the BBC (a double shot of dense), and he manages finally to catch on that Bush is a lot smarter than the intellectualoids who sneer at him.
Anybody who has ever made a political judgement based on appearances should have learnt a lesson this week. A man written off by the intelligentsia as a bumbling jackass when he came to office, and denigrated ever since, achieved a political feat that has eluded so many American presidents. George Bush is a man in charge of his own house, and the people who once wrote him off as the village idiot of the Beltway have been shocked into silence.
Of course, he sprinkles in the usual warnings that all this is only because Americans are frightened after September 11, and so they will ignore just how evil Bush and Cheney are in their pursuit of safety. Maybe he needs to keep his job at the Independent, so he says the required tripe. But take notice, folks. The slowest learners in the west are starting to catch on.

Friday, November 08, 2002

AtlanticBlog beats Goldberg
This is sooo cool. I beat out Jonah Goldberg, who is much funnier than me (he's very funny; I'm not funny at all). In The Corner, Goldberg refers to Paul Krugman's New York Times column as a "DNC flier". This was at 2:30 PM EST. At 10:20 AM, GMT (a whole nine hours earlier), AtlanticBlog said there wasn't much point to reading Krugman because it was easier to read Terry MacAuliffe's press releases directly. Am I just too pleased with myself, to no end at all? Yep.
Robert Fisk, moral degenerate
Robert Fisk denounces the killing of al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen as "murder".
"A clean shot" was The Washington Post's revolting description of the murder of the al-Qa'ida leaders in Yemen by a US "Predator" unmanned aircraft. With grovelling approval, the US press used Israel's own mendacious description of such murders as a "targeted killing" – and shame on the BBC for parroting the same words on Wednesday. How about a little journalistic freedom here? Like asking why this important al-Qa'ida leader could not have been arrested. Or tried before an open court. Or, at the least, taken to Guantanamo Bay for interrogation.
So we have Fisk telling us that the Post grovels. Presumably this means the Post isn't saying what it really thinks, but simply toeing the line given to by the Bush administration or the Israelis. Does Fisk have any evidence for this smear? Big surprise, none is offered. Is Fisk covering it up or is he lying? Does he ask how many troops might get killed trying to arrest the creep (the Al-Qaeda guy, not Fisk)? Nope. They're only Americans, so they don't count.

The story just gets worse, implying that British and American troops are rapists. Fisk cites a Newsweek story that claims a Russian soldier named Kolya shot a Russian Muslim girl, and then raped her as she lay dying. Then he says:

No, I hope we will not commit war crimes in Iraq – there will be plenty of them for us to watch – but I would like to think that the United Nations can restrain George Bush and Vladimir Putin and, I suppose, Tony Blair. But one thing is sure. Kolya will be with them.
So, even though the Russians will almost certainly not be involved in the fighting in Iraq, there will be Kolyas, which is to say, the American and British troops who will do the fighting in Iraq are murderers and rapists.

Welcome to the world of Robert Fisk, human garbage.

Trickle up
In the Guardian, Francis Beckett attacks the idea of "top up fees" for Britain's universities. For years, British kids who went to a university got a hefty subsidy; no charge plus living grants. Now they charge £1100/year, and Blair is proposing that the better schools, such as Oxford and Cambridge, be allowed to charge more. Beckett denies there is any subsidy to the better off, but it isn't clear what he thinks is a subsidy. Subsidized higher education is a subsidy to the wealthier in two ways. First, the users typically come from higher income families. Second, the users end up with higher incomes than the ones who did not go to a university. It has been a while since I have looked at the what the specialists call the Hansen-Weisbrod thesis (they suggested that the University of California was a big subsidy to the upper middle class, as I recall), but I don't think it has been strongly refuted. Steve Karlson at Cold Spring Shops took classes from Hansen (I think), so he may have more to say on this.
A happy morning
The opposition self-destructs: the Washington Post reports that Nancy Pelosi is the leading candidate for House minority leader, and there is no sign that Terry MacAuliffe's job is in trouble.
Hard times in Vermont
The New York Times proves it still has writers. It runs an interesting piece on the troubles Jeffords and Leahy face with Republican control of the Senate. The writer, John Tierney, talked to a lot of different people from both sides of the aisle, and makes it clear where there is consensus on Jefford's problems in particular. It even begins with a great first sentence:
Colleagues on both sides of the aisle have some advice for Senator James M. Jeffords: now is probably not the best time to get money for a new bridge in Vermont.
Let the smears begin
I rarely read Paul Krugman anymore. Why bother, when it is simpler to read Terry McAuliffe's press releases directly. But for some reason, I did today, and Krugman gives us this line:
And anyone who criticizes the administration, even on purely domestic issues, will be accused of lacking patriotism. After all, that strategy worked even against Senator Max Cleland, a genuine war hero who lost three limbs in his country's service.
So who actually questioned Cleland's patriotism? Krugman doesn't say. Cleland's opponent, Saxby Chambliss, didn't. He said that Cleland wasn't up to the job, and that he wasn't providing leadership in the war on terror. Krugman smears, but won't say who. Then Krugman moves to the idiotic:
Republicans also have a huge structural advantage. They can spend far more money getting their message out; when it comes to free publicity, some of the major broadcast media are simply biased in favor of the Republicans, while the rest tend to blur differences between the parties.
I will say it once again: Krugman used to be a fine economist, but he has become an embarrassment to the profession, and even to the New York Times editorial page.

Thursday, November 07, 2002

More on anti-Semitism
The other day I linked to a survey commissioned by the Anti-Defamation League, and I suggested that it spoke ill, to say the least, of Europe. Nick Denton objected, and Meryl Yourish says that Denton has "refuted" me. CalPundit wasn't exactly happy either. So I guess a reply is in order. I agree, as I said in the first place, that I am not persuaded that the questions are all the best. As I read my critics, Denton says maybe the poll describes how people feel about Jews but doesn't mean they hate them, and both Denton and CalPundit point out that the US numbers are similar. On the first point, Denton says:
I think the ADL mistakes criticism for prejudice. One can reasonably consider Jews rude, ambitious, and clannish -- and at the same time gigantic contributors to the modern world, and the prosperity of the countries they live in. Better that tolerance of minorities be built on appreciation of their contribution, rather than the suppression of criticism.
Whether this is relevant depends on the question at hand. If the question is, should there be hate speech laws in Europe (there are, and they are rather selectively enforced), then his retort is a fair one. But the question I was interested in is whether anyone should believe the routine claim in Europe (and yes, guys, I hear it nearly every day I leave the house) that ritual and virulent Fisk-style criticism of the Israelis in Europe has exactly nothing to do with anti-Semitism. Nope, it is just morally righteous objection by a deeply moral Europe to the wicked Israelis (not Jews, no, no, no, why some of my best friends . . .). I think the survey establishes pretty reasonably that the answer is no, don't believe the European line. They are selling, well, lies. It is clear that Europe is using the anti-Israel line to cover up anti-Semitism, just like some American poets.

On the second point, that the US numbers look as bad. That is a fair point. If the US numbers are similar, then the Euro survey doesn't obviously explain why it is in Europe that synagogues are being attacked, not in the US. Maybe the difference is because in America the Jews get to have guns, whereas in Europe only their attackers do. CalPundit adds the comment that America's attackers aren't in Europe, they are elsewhere, so give up the Eurobashing. He is wrong. First, some of the terrorists got radicalized in Europe. Second, if he doesn't think Europeans are trying to undercut and help America's attackers, he should spend more time here. France is the big offender, but they aren't alone.

I didn't start this blog intending to become an adjunct of Israpundit, so I thought I would write a little less about the Middle East. Too late. Now I discover that I am the president of an outfit called Zion Development. Is there no end to it?

An added bonus
Two bits of really nice trivia I picked up about some of the losers. In South Dakota, the loser in the race for governor was Democrat Jim Abbott. He is on leave as president of the University of South Dakota. In South Carolina, the loser in the race for senate was Democrat Alex Sanders, the former president of the College of Charleston. In one day, two college presidents get beat. That is surely an occasion for celebration in the life of any academic.
The Independent caves
The Independent, of all places, caves on the election. Rupert Cornwell writes:
Blame the outcome – and inveterate Bush-haters will – on the fact that the Republicans had far more money, on the spinelessness of the Democratic leadership or on the relentless and cynical exploitation of Iraq and the war on terrorism by the White House in order to squelch discussion of other issues. There is more than a grain of truth in all these excuses. But the unalloyed, incontrovertible truth is that this was a colossal personal triumph for the President.
The election means a lot to the world as a whole:
Washington's ruthless realpolitikers, the Cheney-Rumsfeld-Rice lobby with which Bush has aligned himself, will see Tuesday as another vindication of their approach to the world. Many a European leader will grimace at the prospect of a yet more swaggering and unilateralist America, more impatient than ever of treaties and international agreements that it sees as trammelling its power.
This is a bad thing?
Second mensiversary
I started this blog two months ago today, and I am having fun. (If the celebration of a year is an anniversary, then the celebration of a month should be a mensiversary.) A little over 11,000 visits in that time, not Instapundit, not even the smaller Drezner, but it's nice to be noticed. More importantly, I've had a chance to talk to some interesting people, trade ideas, and get told why I'm wrong, not merely that I am (a big improvement over Europe's trendy intellectuals). As long as it stays fun, I expect to keep doing. So thanks to Instapundit and the Volokh Conspiracy for getting me inspired, and showing that academics could do commentary on current affairs without making jackasses of themselves. I have since encountered more academic blogs, from Cold Spring Shops to the St. Cloud State U. bloggers to Drezner to Kleiman to DeLong to Craig Newmark. It's good for keeping the mind alive.
The Guardian is now a college paper
Remember the priggish leftie in college, modestly bright but nowhere near as bright as he thought he was. He wrote sarcastic editorials for the college paper, not very clever or funny, but hey, the college paper would publish whatever it got. Well, the Guardian is becoming that kind of paper. The Guardian has always had good arts coverage, and usually required their writers to be able to write, if not think. But they have let Al Kennedy go all juvenile. Sorry guys, but referring to the queen as Lizzie isn't funny, it just sounds like a comment from a self-important, priggish 16 year old. Passing off this sort of thing as an idea would embarrass Paul Krugman:
We intervene in foreign conflicts, support foreign dictatorships, spy on allies and enemies alike, and have a history of treating the residents of former colonies like something dubious we've picked up on our shoes. In short, we make the Axis of Evil look like the Teletubbies.
The "we" here is Tony Blair's government, not George Bush.

There was a story during the 1997 campaign, when Blair came into office, that during a big campaign rally, there was a heckler screaming that Blair was nothing but a Tory in disguise. Blair wouldn't let his staff remove the guy because he thought the heckler was worth thousands of votes. He was separating himself very neatly from the Al Kennedy Brigade. A wise move.

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

An important election loser
An unnoticed election loser is the Iowa election market. Look at the November prices. At closing on November 4th, you could buy a Republican controlled Senate for 30 cents, compared to 67.3 cents for a Democratic controlled Senate. This is not a good forecast. Clearly, the market responded correctly to new information as election results poured in. At closing on the November 5th, a Republican controlled Senate cost 90.3 ents, compared to 10.9 cents for a Democratic controlled Senate. But the market did a poor job of forecasting only hours before voting began. It did the same in 2000, when Bush winning the popular vote cost 70 cents (versus about 30 cents for Gore), up until the election results started coming in, then it adjusetd rapidly. In an earlier post, I tried to explain why the Iowa market works well, and unsurprisingly future Nobel winner Hal Varian did a better job. Political scientists as well as economists have confidence in the Iowa market, even with different ideological hues. Left-wing partisan Mark Kleiman links it on his blog, and libertarian Daniel Drezner called it the forecast to beat. Kleiman points out that the prospectus required the Republicans to have 51 seats, which they don't need to control the Senate. Still, the Iowa market nows believes that likely, so it doesn't explain what went wrong.
At the moment, I have no good idea of what happened. Maybe Varian will come through with an explanation.
The Election
AtlanticBlog is not displeased.

Tuesday, November 05, 2002

Bishops and deterrence
Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Wales, discourses on foreign policy and assures us that, although it was a good idea to take on Hitler, it is a bad idea to take on Saddam. It's all about Mutual Assured Destruction, you know. Sigh. Fortunately, RAND has now made available online all the RAND publications of THE premier strategist, Albert Wohlstetter, who actually knew something about deterrence, including his 1958 classic, "The Delicate Balance of Terror". Sadly, his best popular writing, notably, "Bishops, statesmen, and other strategists on the bombing if innocents" is not online, although it published all over the place.
Democrats and Republicans agree
The New York Times has an interesting piece about polling and the difficulties it faces. Specifically, caller ID and call screen on answering machines makes it harder for pollsters to get through on the telephone. The non-response rate has risen from about 10% to 30% in "recent years" (I don't know what recent means. It probably depends on how old the reporter is.) They talked to Republican pollsters, Democratic pollsters, and pollsters at the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. All agreed that polling was getting harder because their calls were being blocked. See, the Times can still write a good story.
Guardian praises Bush
In a long bitch about American politics, not too inaccurate but not exactly original ("The federal system, while inhibiting electing dictatorship, makes inaction the norm and turf wars endemic"; the extraordinary lack of turnover in the House), Matthew Engel of the Guardian remarks
Bush has been able to use executive authority to operate the most rightwing government since the 1920s.
Forget Reagan, skip Eisenhower, Dubya is the most right-wing president since Coolidge. Cool. Sitting across the ocean, I didn't know that.
Am not, am not!
George Monbiot, one of the sillier writers for the Guardian (quite an accomplishment, that), stomps his foot and says that Tony Blair is the real appeaser, because he is appeasing Bush and committing political suicide in the process. Why? Ah ha, it is really about oil. (Can't these left-wing poodles of totalitarians come up with something less obviously stupid?)
Blair may have calculated that sticking to Bush is the only way in which our unsustainable economy can meet its need for energy. . . . [P]artly because of corporate lobbying, partly because of his unhealthy fear of "Mondeo man" or "Worcester woman", or whatever the floating voter of Middle England has now become, Tony Blair has also flatly rejected both an effective energy reduction policy and a massive investment in alternative power. The only remaining way of meeting future energy demand is to import ever greater quantities of oil and gas.
The whine goes on. America is going to take over Iraq because only Iraq can expand oil production. (The nitwit has apparently never heard of Saudi Arabia.) America uses oil rapaciously, and Tony Blair wants to pick up the crumbs. Where is Greenpeace bitching that this guy kills trees?
Arundhati Roy is a sofa-bed
I am not being weirdly metaphorical here. A typically boring puff-piece on Roy in the Independent quotes her saying
Roy flinches when she's called a writer-activist (she says it makes her feel like a sofa-bed).
She brings to mind George Stigler's definition of an activist: someone whose mouth is more active than his brain. And no, that is not an argument, just an insult. I have neither the time nor the inclination any longer to talk with the Roys and Chomskys. An open mind can eventually turn into a sewer pipe.
Fisk is psychic
Robert Fisk could have a new career ahead of him as a TV psychic. In his current bit of tripe for the Independent, he informs us that
President George Bush, riding the Iraqi war cry in his mid-term election campaign yesterday, will not have spent more than a few seconds – if that – reflecting on the meaning of Turkey's election results.
Years ago, I read a Peanuts strip where Lucy was explaining some little known facts of nature to Linus. These included showing him a little elm tree that would grow up into a great oak, and explaining that clouds make the wind blow. Charlie Brown walks along, and asks Lucy how it is, if they are so little known, that Lucy knows them. She whispers into his ear "I make them up". So now I understand how Robert Fisk reports "facts". He just makes them up.

Monday, November 04, 2002

Shock headline: Amnesty International hates Israel
The Jerusalem Post reports that Amnesty International is now denouncing the Jenin incursion as a war crime (links to executive summary and the full report). Are you one of those skeptics who think AI has an agenda, and that it isn't justice? Well, AI has put you in your place. They say "Israel has the right to take measures to prevent unlawful violence, but in doing so they must not violate international law." See, Israel can do anything it likes in self-defense, so long as it doesn't actually hurt anyone.
Down on democracy
In the Chicago Tribune, Stephen Chapman suggests that America has too much democracy.
Americans love democracy, but do we need so much of it? A woman with two cats is an animal lover. A woman with 50 cats is touched in the head. When it comes to self-government, likewise, there's a difference between a healthy impulse and an uncontrolled mania.
Maybe he is on to something.
Dumping on T.J. Hooker
Instapundit knocks T.J. Hooker as a "lame and stupid relic of the 1970s". Okay, so really he was talking about the Red Brigade, but he then says "Hell, next it'll be 'T.J. Hooker: The Movie.' " Excuse me, Glenn, but did not T.J. Hooker give us Heather Locklear? Isn't that enough to make up for its lack of any other redeeming features? Of course it is.
Why the British aren't totally stupid
The Guardian runs a fawning interview with Michael Foot, who led the Labour Party to disaster against Margaret Thatcher in 1983. He still raves as much as ever.
In the end, he says, it comes down to the crucial issue of his and Jill's lifetime - the bomb. The crazy thing is, he says, we are worrying about Saddam's non-existent nuclear arsenal, while ignoring more imminent threats. "There are other places where they've been doing it, and they're not even on America's list for doing anything about it at all. Number one of those is Israel. Quite illicitly they've gone ahead and produced their own nuclear weapons. And then there is India and Pakistan." If Bush believes he has the right to make a pre-emptive strike, why not any of these countries, he says.
It is worth remembering that this nutcase was considered a centrist back then.
David Irving watch
Because Israpundit didn't link to the ADL survey (big hint, guys), I used Google. Typing in "anti-defamation league" gets the ADL as the first hit. The second hit is David Irving's website, specifically his page on the ADL. Leave aside his usual ravings. There is some wonderful comedy on the page. The ADL offers software for parents who don't want their kids running across his kind of stuff while surfing the web, which Irving denounces as an attack on the First Amendment. This is the same David Irving who sued Deborah Lipstadt for criticizing him.
The Anti-Defamation League is being too soft on anti-Semitism
Israpundit mentions a survey sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League, which the ADL says shows the resilience of anti-Semitism in Europe. Links, guys, links (although Israpundit does lead off with an awful picture of a descrecrated Jewish cemetary in Strasbourg). The press release is here and the full report (pdf format) is here. The current survey covers Austria, Italy, The Netherlands, Spain, and Switzerland. There was an earlier survey, in June, that covered Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, but the current survey has some comparisons to the earlier survey.

It pays to look at the whole survey, because I think the press release is, at best, unhelpful. The ADL constructed an anti-Semitism index, based on the extent of agreement with eleven statements, and defines "most anti-Semitic" as agreement with at least six of them. The eleven statements are
1) Jews don't care what happens to anyone but their own kind.
2) Jews are more willing than others to use shady practices to get what they want.
3) Jews are more loyal to Israel than to this country.
4) Jews have too much power in the business world.
5) Jews have lots of irritating faults.
6) Jews stick together more than other [country of survey]
7) Jews always like to be at the head of things.
8) Jews have too much power in international financial markets.
9) Jews have too much power in our country today.
10) Jewish business people are so shrewd that others do not have a fair chance to compete.
11) Jews are just as honest as other business people. [Considered prejudiced if answered "probably false"]
There is much that is depressing in this survey. To statement 2, which essentially asks whether you agree that Jews are cheats, they get agreement from 33% in Spain, 28% in Austria, 27% in Italy, and 27% in Italy. 63% in Spain agreed with statement 4. Read it and smack the next European who tells you that Europe isn't anti-Semitic, it is just anti-Israel.

I do, however, have a bone to pick with the ADL's index. Eleven different statements are aggregated with equal weighting. Statements 2 and 11, and possibly 10, are different versions of the question "Are Jews cheats?". Why does the ADL need agreement with four more statements to categorize these people as anti-Semites? They have already condemned themselves. Statement 6 ("Jews stick together more . . .), on the other hand, could be ominous or innocuous. Agreement could mean the person thinks Jews are some sort of international cabal, or it could mean the person thinks Jews make up a tight-knit, supportive community, and so I wouldn't know how to interpret except in the context of how the person answered the other questions. There is plenty of ugly stuff here without the index. Worse, the people who apologize for anti-Semitism by pretending it is merely anti-Israeli can dismiss the press release by saying an anti-Semitism index is just an anti-Israel index. Shove the 63% of Spaniards who say Jews have too much power in the business world in their faces, and see how they excuse that one. I wasn't being serious in my heading, only provocative; the index the ADL is using lets the anti-Semites get away too easily.