April 30, 2005
News About News
According to Singer, the leading lights of the right-leaning blogosphere are setting up some sort of professional news service. And believe you me, Matt's not the only one anxiously awaiting dispatches from the Iraq correspondent stationed in Toledo, Ohio. More exciting yet will be the Social Security expert who spends half the year on Chile's website and the political columnist reporting directly from Peggy Noonan's hypothalamus. That sound you hear? That's the AP's knees knocking...
We Don't Not Torture
You should really read Henry Farrell's post on our unpleasant, barely-even-denied practice of shipping prisoners off to Uzbekistan, land of boiling body parts and forcibly removed toenails. Our actions are a travesty and our government's unwillingness, indeed, straight dishonesty, when confronted with hard evidence of its actions simply underscores the total contempt the Bush administration holds its subjects -- and I use the word advisedly -- in.
Stepping Back for Bernie
David Sirota's wholly right. Now that Bernie Sanders has scared Vt. Gov. Jim Douglas from the race and proven himself able to raise funds, there's no comprehensible reason for Democrats not to unite behind him. I recognize that he's an independent, but he's our independent, and as a lone wolf is able to tackle progressive issues and Republican misdeeds that our party, for reasons of legitimacy and comity, can't. That makes him a huge asset for Democrats who occasionally need a uber-progressive attack dog but don't have anyone willing to do it themselves.
If the party is concerned about the precedent of supporting an independent, they can simply pull out because he's "too strong to beat" and it's not worth wasting money trying to stop Bernie's juggernaut. That'll not only give them an exit strategy, but it'll also make Sanders look unstoppable, and help ensure no serious Republican dares waste his political capital on the seat.
Culture of Life Indeed
In one of the sicker incarnations of the Christian Right's myopia, they're gearing up to oppose a new vaccine that could protect women from HPV, the virus that causes most instances of cervical cancer. HPV, of course, is often spread through sex, so the God Squad is worried that giving children a vaccination will, years later, be interpreted as a divine "alrighty-then" to lead a life packed with penises. This appears to be what Christ's legacy has come to: the prioritization of abstinence over life.
That's what should be taken away from these comments. Bush likes to conceal his stance on abortion through the inegnious "culture of life" formulation. But these people don't really want a culture of life. Their overriding objective is not protecting women from AIDS and HPV and cervical cancer and potentially deadly childbirth (as in partial-birth abortions) and other potential killers, it's stopping them for having premarital sex. And if a few -- hell, if a lot! -- have to die to make that future manifest, then so be it. So next time you hear someone spout off about the "culture of life", don't be fooled -- this is a culture of puritanism and subjugation, nothing more, nothing less. A culture of life, you can tell them, doesn't kill.
Speaking of Coupling, which I did in the post below, I'm a bit confused. Now that I've watched most of the second season, what the hell happened to the cliffhanger from the first? You know, the one where Susan breaks up with Steve and then appears in his room demanding he propose? The second season acts like it never happened. Or am I missing something?
The Folly of Alphabetizing...
I'll never understand folks who alphabetize their books. It's not that I don't appreciate the idea of imposing some order on the ever-encroaching floor-monster that is my library, but the method seems so very off. I acquire books at an enormously alarming rate. You think I'm joking, I'm not -- the government has retained a team of highly trained specialists to monitor, study, and reach conclusions based solely on my rate of literary acquisition. One of them had a nervous breakdown, the other two got divorces. It's really quite scary.
Because of my Amazon addiction and my dorm room's lack of bookshelves, my storage system is a bit off. My dorm overflows with tomes. I've taken over all the bookshelves in the main room, filled a closet, littered the floor, stacked my dresser, and generally replaced my roommates with paperbacks. The trunk of my car -- a hatchback, no less -- is layered three deep with books, a bit of unfinished business left over from when I moved out of Santa Cruz last June. My room at home also sports towering stacks of books, in addition to a few unpacked boxes where the lesser-known and seldomly viewed titles live.
The point is that I get a lot of new books. And I'm quite excited, when I have a non-dorm living space next year, to lovingly place each and every one onto the rows of bookshelves that'll turn my flat -- can I call it that if I'm not British? What if I was just watching Coupling? -- into some sort of urban, literate, labyrinth garden. And yes, I hope to have some sort of classification system. Maybe broad categories or something. But alphabetical? It'd never work. Assuming that every shelf save the last will be full of books, I'd never be able to buy anything that didn't begin with Z. Otherwise, I'd have to shift the last book in each shelf down to the next, all the way through to the end of my collection. To be clear, what happens if I buy an M? The M shelf is already full, so I have to move a book out of that shelf. But the next shelf is full too, so I have to place the just-moved book at the front (alphabetical order, after all), and then move that shelf's ending book down a level, and so on. It just wouldn't work, it can't.
April 29, 2005
Spencer Ackerman, in an article laying out Rumsfeld's renewed focus on military transformation, writes:
But what the arrival of the new senior leadership at the Pentagon indicates is that the Pentagon's first-term focus on winning ideological and bureaucratic battles about control over foreign policy is largely over. This time around, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is turning his attention to the priority that brought him back to the Pentagon in 2001--military transformation--and the new team at DOD is designed to help him do it.
Or was it turned for him? Rumsfeld's catastrophic first term didn't result in dismissal, but it seems to have ended in a sort of castration. Even though he easily overtook Powell's State Department, it looks like the Pentagon's time as the primary force behind Bush's vision has ended, and Rice's State Department is now where the action's at.
That's reflected in the personnel changes in both departments. The 2004 staff shuffle has not only ripped some of Rumsfeld's most crucial incompetents (Feith, Wolfowitz) away from him, but State took on both Rice and Bush's long-time grand vizier, Karen Hughes, while dropping the ever distrusted Powell. That's certainly a net gain for the diplomats. And beyond that, the high profile statements and big moves have been coming, lately, from Rice, not Rumsfeld.
So maybe we should be glad that Rummy's turning back to his original mission of fiddling with the military. The Joint Chiefs are more than powerful enough to keep him from doing any serious damage, and the more time he spends trying to upend that bureaucracy, the less time the Bush administration spends planning for new overseas adventures. This is, after all, what we've long hoped for -- Bush's democracy promotion coming by diplomatic plane rather than paratrooper.
Clarification: I'm not actually against Rumsfeld's proposed military transformations. Some of them are quite necessary. At the same time, a fair number seem ill-suited for the job Bush seems to have foisted on us: that of nation-builders and peacekeepers. In any case, I assume some will succeed and the worst will fail, the point of the post is that Rumsfeld's attention is now inward, on the military, rather than outward, on unsuspecting nations.
The new issue of Foreign Policy has a blurb on the increasing anti-Americanism of South Korea's textbooks. To demonstrate, they offered up this question from a teacher's packet on the 1991 Gulf War:
"Which of the following descriptions of Iraq after the Gulf War is incorrect?
1) Infant mortality increased by 150%, and in some areas, 70% of newborns had leukemia due to sanctions.
2) The United States and Britain conducted a bombing campaign against Iraq for 11 years after the war, causing terror among the Iraqi people.
3) Cancer among Iraqi children increased by 700% because of depleted uranium left from the bombing.
4) The infant mortality rate of Iraqi children in 1999 was 300% higher than it was a decade earlier.
5) Not one Iraqi starved to death after the war because of the extensive food relief program."
In case you were wondering, the correct choice -- meaning it's false and the others are true -- is 5. This is what's making it into the textbooks of our allies. I really can't imagine what our enemies are reading about us.
We Need Some Captions
China and Us
The Oil Drum gets it right:
Simplistically there are two approaches a government can take to a crisis. They can do something about it, or they can do nothing. Back in the days of President Carter the nation tried the first approach when faced with an energy crisis, this time we are trying the second.
For a detailed analysis of why that is, check Michael O'Hare's analysis of Bush's energy proposals. The basic problem is that Bush is abandoning energy reform to the free market, which really isn't going to do the trick. The idea that we can simply drill our way to safety is flat insane, and here's why: No expert believes ANWR, or anywhere else in America, will provide the sort of superwell capacity that'd free us from foreign oil. It just won't happen. That means we've got to discover more foreign oil, even though discoveries are falling, the size of the discovered wells are falling, and many of the sites we currently rely on are slowing their production.
But let's bracket all that for a minute. New oil discoveries don't just need to sustain our mostly flat consumption -- they need to feed the growth of China and India. China, for their part, is using 850,000 more barrels per day. That means, every morning, China's need for oil is 850,000 barrels higher than it was the day before. So while we're trying to supply ourselves with petroleum in a world where discoveries are drying up and production is dropping, China is demanding an absolutely staggering, and ever-growing, amount of crude.
And this isn't just an energy issue, China's needs have serious, and seriously problematic, geopolitical consequences. Because they have to get more fuel, and because most suppliers are tied up meeting our demand, China's having to cozy up to providers who we've left alone, which means countries we've tried to economically isolate. So Iran is now a major trading partner and a key source of China's oil and natural gas. That means Iran now has a non-EU customer that allows them to blunt the economic pressure Europe and America can apply, making our efforts to kill their nuclear program essentially hopeless. Not only that, but China's got a security council veto, which has not only found itself working in Tehran's favor, but also in Sudan's, another important source of China's fuel imports.
Bush's efforts don't move us off oil, they just pretend we can find more. We can't. And even if we did, it wouldn't be enough. There's too much demand emerging for a resource whose supplies are falling -- the economics don't work out. So what we're doing, in the final summation, is essentially nothing. We're hoping things change, or that the market does the work on its own. But the market can't go drop because China and India ensure demand is going to continue skyrocketing. The only sane option is to try and reduce our oil usage, thus freeing up more stable providers for China; and to try creating technologies that can help both us and developing nations exit the oil era. Simply doing nothing, alternatively, is a very, very, bad strategy.
Update: By the way, want to know the easiest test around for judging the seriousness of an energy plan? Watch for whether or not it mentions an increase CAFE standards. If it doesn't, you have another "let the market do its magic" piece of politician pabulum. Bush's didn't.