ChuckB's blog

Elissa IPA tasting notes

This isn't going to be one of those "notes of toasted caramel, tobacco, and gardenia" reports--my palate's just not that good.*

The color is a deep amber with a shade of copper. Relatively full-bodied, as one would expect. It is certainly on the hoppy side, but I might prefer even a bit more hops to balance the malt. (Saint Arnold's flagship Amber has the same problem to my taste: not enough hops to hold up the maltiness.) Long grapefruit finish (characteristic of IPAs). I prefer for the hops and the malt to be very distinct counterpoints to one another. That orthogonality between malt and hops seems especially typical for IPAs. It seems to me that Saint Arnolds Elissa IPA is (as with their Amber) headed in the opposite direction, of marrying the hops and malt flavors so that they are less distinct.

I would like to taste this beer on draft. The draft Amber I've had seemed a good deal better than the bottled version. Perhaps the same would hold for the IPA.

Tasty, but I prefer the Avery IPA I had last night.

*FWIW, I do believe that at least some wine and beer experts are that good. Back in the mid-80s I worked as a "wine consultant" at a now defunct Austin wine & liquor store, and there was a rep who worked for one of the big distributors who really did have a phenomenal palate.

New brew for Houston from Saint Arnolds

Good beer is one of life's finer pleasures and, in my view, one of God's good gifts. Houston's own craft brewer, Saint Arnold Brewing, has a new (to me, at least) brew: Elissa IPA. "IPA" of course stands for "India Pale Ale", a medium- to full-bodied style of beer whose strong malt character is more than offset by an even stronger hoppy bitterness. The received lore holds that this style of ale was originally brewed to supply the British colonials in India, and that to withstand the long, hot sea voyage to the subcontinent it was brewed with extra hops, which are believed to act as a preservative.

I especially enjoy well-hopped beers, and IPA is one of my favorite styles. Tonight I've enjoyed a couple of bottles of Avery Brewing Co.'s IPA (Boulder, CO), and it is exemplary for the style. Tasty!

The name of Saint Arnold's IPA comes from the tall ship Elissa docked in Galveston and part of the Texas Seaport Museum. The Elissa is one of the later, iron-hulled tall ships, launched in 1877. As I understand her history, she continued to function as a commercial vessel into the latter half of the 20th century, having been outfitted with engines. According to Saint Arnold Brewing, they are "donating a portion of the proceeds of this beer to the Galveston Historical District for preservation of this ship." I plan to do my bit, both for the sake of the ship and of my tastebuds.

If you are touring the Galveston area, the Elissa is well worth an hour or two of your time. If you like beer, the Saint Arnold Brewery in Houston is also worth a visit--and they have a tasting room as well!

Historian Niall Ferguson at the Literaturhaus in Munich

Rainy Day reports on historian Niall Ferguson's appearance at the Literaturhaus in Munich to speak about his new book Colossus: The Price of America's Empire. While I find his book's thesis somewhat dubious (America is an empire but refuses to acknowledge the fact, and it would be better for it and the world if instead it embraced its imperial role wholeheartedly), I did find Eamonn's account of an exchange during the Q&A rather gratifying:

In the latter role [defender of liberal values] he dealt brilliantly with a question from a young man in the audience who wished to hear if the historian considered America under the rule of George W. Bush "a fascist state". Calmly, Ferguson pointed out that the questioner had no idea of what fascism was, and added that when Al Gore accepted the outcome of the 2000 US presidential election, a democratic transfer of power ensued, quite the opposite of what happens under fascism. He added that the electors were afforded an opportunity to repudiate President Bush and his party in the ensuing mid-term elections, (something they refused to do), and he topped off his clarification of terminology with a handful of explications that left the questioner in no doubt as to the nature of fascism, which, given where we were sitting, was most satisfying.

Thinking about Prof. McCook's Brown v. Board story

First off: I ask all of those who have responded to Kathleen McCook's story on diversity in the library profession as well as all other critics or detractors of PLG/SRRT etc. NOT to respond to this journal entry. I am interested only in the responses of Prof. McCook or of someone sympathetic to to her position, which I am still trying to be sure I understand. I can't prevent you from responding, but if you wish to comment, please do so in your own LISNews journal or blog, and we'll read it there. Thank you.

In her Brown v. Board of Education story, Kathleen McCook writes:

In librarianship the profession's efforts to reflect the people we serve among our own numbers have been recently analyzed in the LJ study,"The Diversity Mandate" by Denice Adkins & Isabel Espinal(4/15/2004) ...

So the profession is making an effort to reflect the diversity of the population they serve. "Diversity" here seems to be understood to mean that the demographic makeup of the library profession reflects the demographic makeup of the population. I think even those who disagree in some way with this definition, or with some of the means by which the effort is made, will still agree that the goal of having a profession that is (in some meaningful sense) diverse is laudable.

However, I also note that Rory Litwin seems to hold that there is at least one respect in which is not necessary that the library profession reflect the diversity of the people it serves:

It seems to me that Blake might
naively assume that the political center within the library profession should be the same as the political center in American society at large,
and if it is not, that there is an adjustment to be made, and that he is the guy to do it by providing a new vehicle for these "underrepresented" conservative librarians to voice their profound opinions.

("LISNews Veers Right", Library Juice 7:10)

I think one of two things must be the case: either Prof. McCook and Mr. Litwin agree that it is not necessary (and indeed not desirable) that the library profession reflect the diversity of political opinion of the people they serve (however much other kinds of diversity are to be pursued), or Prof. McCook and Mr. Litwin disagree on this point. Based on what little I know of this matter, the former seems more likely. Would it be fair to say that you don't believe that the library profession should reflect the diversity of political opinion of the population served?

As I thought through the above, some further questions occurred to me. The first set: how is it that we determine in exactly what ways the profession should reflect the diversity people it serves, and in what ways it shouldn't? How do we conclude, e.g., that the profession should reflect the ethnic makeup, or the racial makeup, or the linguistic makeup, or the gender makeup, or the sexual preference makeup, of the general population, but not e.g. the political makeup? Should political views be considered at all when recruiting for the profession? Should white conservatives be discouraged from joining the profession, or should they simply be encouraged less strenuously than minorities and women? Should political views be considered when the prospective recruits are people of color?

Was socio-economic status considered as a factor in the LJ study? Do you consider it important that the profession reflect the socio-economic makeup of the general population as a facet of the necessary diversity?

What about educational level? Should the profession mirror the people it serves with respect to education? I suspect that socio-economic status and level of education are two of the best indicators of advantage and disadvantage. I suppose that if a profession has minimum educational requirements it can't very well mirror the population as to education, but should it not do so as to socio-economic status?

Ostensibly the library profession is less diverse than the general population because proportionately more whites than people of color chose to pursue LIS careers, and proportionately more people of color than whites chose to pursue something other than LIS. There could be many kinds of reasons why people choose the way they do: personal interest, income prospects, a sense that a profession is more hostile or more inviting in some way to persons of the sort one is (whether demographically or otherwise), ethical concerns, values imbibed from family, values imbibed from cultural context, etc. When you analyze the reasons for the problem of lack of diversity in the profession, are there any types of reason you exclude from consideration systematically (leaving aside something really wacko like alleged gender- or race-based differences in intelligence)? What are your starting assumptions about how and why people choose as they do?

It took me long enough to write this entry that I certainly can't very well expect anyone to answer all of it. Any responses from those in the know would be welcome.

Dalrymple on multi-culturalism and violence in France

mdoneil's and Fang-Face's comments on a story I submitted on French hate-speech laws were the occasion for me to post a link to and a paragraph from an essay by Theodore Dalrymple that deals with the culture of violence among unassimilated and disaffected immigrants in France as well as the enabling of this culture in part by the French state's multicultural policies. Here are the paragraph I posted and the two following it. I warn you that there is some offensive stuff in there.

The French state is torn between two approaches: Courbet, Fauré, nos ancêtres, les gaullois, on the one hand, and the shibboleths of multiculturalism on the other. By compulsion of the ministry of education, the historiography that the schools purvey is that of the triumph of the unifying, rational, and benevolent French state through the ages, from Colbert onward, and Muslim girls are not allowed to wear headscarves in schools. After graduation, people who dress in “ethnic� fashion will not find jobs with major employers. But at the same time, official France also pays a cowering lip service to multiculturalism—for example, to the “culture� of the cités. Thus, French rap music is the subject of admiring articles in Libération and Le Monde, as well as of pusillanimous expressions of approval from the last two ministers of culture.

One rap group, the Ministère amer (Bitter Ministry), won special official praise. Its best-known lyric: “Another woman takes her beating./ This time she’s called Brigitte./ She’s the wife of a cop./ The novices of vice piss on the police./ It’s not just a firework, scratch the clitoris./ Brigitte the cop’s wife likes niggers./ She’s hot, hot in her pants.� This vile rubbish receives accolades for its supposed authenticity: for in the multiculturalist’s mental world, in which the savages are forever noble, there is no criterion by which to distinguish high art from low trash. And if intellectuals, highly trained in the Western tradition, are prepared to praise such degraded and brutal pornography, it is hardly surprising that those who are not so trained come to the conclusion that there cannot be anything of value in that tradition. Cowardly multiculturalism thus makes itself the handmaiden of anti-Western extremism.

Whether or not rap lyrics are the authentic voice of the cités, they are certainly its authentic ear: you can observe many young men in the cités sitting around in their cars aimlessly, listening to it for hours on end, so loud that the pavement vibrates to it 100 yards away. The imprimatur of the intellectuals and of the French cultural bureaucracy no doubt encourages them to believe that they are doing something worthwhile. But when life begins to imitate art, and terrible gang-rapes occur with increasing frequency, the same official France becomes puzzled and alarmed. What should it make of the 18 young men and two young women currently being tried in Pontoise for allegedly abducting a girl of 15 and for four months raping her repeatedly in basements, stairwells, and squats? Many of the group seem not merely unrepentant or unashamed but proud. [emphasis mine--ChuckB]

What I know about the situation in France comes only from reports and essays like this one. I am assuming that they are accurate as to the concrete details. Assuming that they are, I find Dalrymple's reading of the situation altogether compelling.

Are there limits to what we must tolerate or affirm under the banner of multiculturalism? If so, what are they? How may we know where to draw the lines? Must we affirm and approve of other cultures and world-views, or are we obligated only to tolerate them and to live alongside them peacefully?

More fundamentally: what authority propounds to us the criteria and obligations that inform multiculturalism? Whom may we trust to instruct us in these matters?

[slightly revised 2004/05/17 14:10]

Universal state-provided healthcare

Noam Chomsky has reluctantly come out in favor of John "Bush-lite" Kerry over the non-lite version for president. Apparently, one of the worst things about the Bush administration in Chomsky's view is its health policies. Chomsky favors universal state-provided healthcare.

While discussing Chomsky's endorsement, shonk of selling waves makes the following observations on the logic of state-provided healthcare:

What Chomsky (again, remember, he calls himself an “anarchist�) wants is “universal�, state-provided healthcare on a level even Hillary Clinton wouldn’t dream of. Of course the irony of it all is that Chomsky is deliberately ignoring the number 1 lesson to be learned from the last century’s politics: big, invasive, controlling states are bad. This is a classic Chomsky moment of intellectual dishonesty.

Now, you may be saying to yourself “Wait a minute, state-provided healthcare may mean bigger government, but it doesn’t necessarily mean more invasive or more controlling government. Why, with the proper guidelines, privacy policies, …� NO! You’ve got it all wrong. When my health care is state-provided, my health becomes a direct interest to the state and the people who pay for it, the general public. And when my health is a direct interest to the state and the general public, my lifestyle decisions become public policy. My decision to eat a third slice of pizza, drink a beer after dinner, smoke a cigarette, eat the mushrooms or write a weblog post instead of going for a jog is no longer my decision. That decision lies in the realm of public debate, public interest and state involvement. Don’t believe it? Well consider this: if I make the “wrong� decision, what is the end result when health care is exclusively state-provided? The end result is that I have wasted taxpayer money, that the hard-working citizens, already overburdened by taxes, are forced to subsidize my unhealthy, self-destructive and possibly downright reckless or dangerous behavior. If you don’t think the bureaucrats and the taxpayers will have an interest in that, you haven’t been paying attention. And trust me, when my lifestyle choices become a matter of public policy, the state will have every justification for forcing me to make the “right� choices. And this is exactly what Chomsky, the “anarchist�, would like to see.
[emphasis mine--ChuckB]

I think shonk's logic is resistless. The ultimately totalitarian[1] implications of this scenario would not manifest themselves immediately. Nor would they likely ever be realized absolutely. However, it would not take long for the bureaucrats to figure out that they could save money by regulating the lives of their charges in more and more ways. Taxpayers with better genes and healthier lifestyles would understand that they were subsidizing those with congenital predispositions to heart disease, or those who supersize themselves. Why shouldn't these bureacrats and taxpayers take an interest in the behavior and genetic makeup of others, since these things now directly concern them in a way it previously didn't?

[1] Note that I'm not saying that state-sponsored health care would by itself lead to a totalitarian state. I am saying that that it would tend strongly to lead to a state interest in regulating the totality of an individual's decisions concerning their health.

Librarian militiamen

I am a librarian militiaman, at least until my next birthday. So are Blake, AshtabulaGuy, Daniel, and Rory, unless they are not U.S. citizens or I miss my guess about their ages. I'm pretty sure Walt is no longer a member.

This militia has no "wing" (as in "left" or "right"). It is the unorganized class of the U.S. Militia:

Sec. 311. - Militia: composition and classes

(a)
The militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and, except as provided in section 313 of title 32, under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States and of female citizens of the United States who are members of the National Guard.

(b)

The classes of the militia are -

(1)

the organized militia, which consists of the National Guard and the Naval Militia; and

(2)

the unorganized militia, which consists of the members of the militia who are not members of the National Guard or the Naval Militia

Title 10, Subtitle A, Part I, Chapter 13, Sec. 311. of the U.S. Code.

I hadn't heard of this law until some time within the past year. I find it fitting that we ourselves ultimately bear some responsibility for the physical defense of our nation, even though this law would likely come into play only in the most extreme circumstances.

The rising cost of a toke?

This shocker via Scott Burgess's Daily Ablution:

A Nepalese woman who hid cannabis with a street value of £800,000 in the heels of her shoes was arrested as she attempted to shuffle past customs officers at Hong Kong's international airport.

Somebody help me out here: has the price of pot skyrocketed in the last 20 years (circa when I stopped smoking it)? Are there any heels one could actually walk around in that could contain £800,000 worth of any THC-bearing recreational smokable?

The Rory Story

Taking a quick break at work I just checked on the latest LISNews headlines and found the notice of Rory Litwin's comments. I can't post in that thread because I moderated. I don't mind saying that I moderated Rochelle's post +1 Insightful, and I would have used another mod point on it if the slashcode permitted that. I have also decisively (as decisively as one can do with a mouse-click) marked her 'Friend' as well.

I must also say that I am terribly pained to think that Blake feels that his opinions aren't wanted on LISNews. I would feel ashamed of myself if it turned out I had said anything that contributed to that sense on his part.

I'll post more on this subject later, but for now I will close with these thoughts: some folks may think that I post strongly-worded replies and journal entries. What I seek to do is post strongly-argued entries and responses. I try not to attack my interlocutors' motives, or to psychologize them, or to attack them personally, or simply to bash liberals. I want my words to stand or fall on their merits. I hope to get the best-argued responses from opposing perspectives, because I can learn from such responses and from the people who write them. I can't learn from clever, hit-and-run anonymous trolls (and frankly I am starting to think of pseudonymous user commonsense as the same kind of animal). I'm not under the illusion that I will convince raftloads of librarians to adopt my politics and religion, and frankly that's not the main reason I'm here. I'm here in large part because I want to learn. If Rory or Blake or Walt or Rochelle or someone mounts a well-argued leftish response to something I write, I can learn from it. I may learn about a weakness in my position. I may learn about a weakness in one of their positions. I may learn of a fact I overlooked. If we can talk about the assumptions underlying our positions, we can both learn whether our disagreement is really over the matter under discussion, or whether the crux of the biscuit is instead an apostrophe at a more fundamental level of our thinking. I'm grateful to Daniel for taking issue with my journal postings, because he is someone I can learn from. According to Proverbs 27:17, "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." I trust that even atheists can see the wisdom of that saying. Will we sharpen each other's minds, or each other's tongues?

"Iraqi abuse known to world long before U.S. public" ...

... reads the headline for remarks by Leila Sadat, law professor at Washington University, who first learned of the problem in February, while training Iraqi lawyers and judges in Dubai. She suggests no reason why the U.S. public didn't learn of the charges, but one possible (plausible, even) subtext is that the media kept quiet about it as part of their role in the manufacture of consent.

Wretchard of the Belmont Club has a different reading of the matter. After quoting the CENTCOM press release dated January 16, 2004, announcing (apparently to the public) the investigation of abuses against detainees held at an unnamed facility in Iraq (which we now know to be Abu Ghraib), he writes:

What was new about the May coverage was that the press had pictures of the Abu Ghraib abuses and was in a position to project, not a new set of facts, but a new set of powerful emotions upon the public.

A picture is said to be worth a thousand words, which can make things a lot easier for the writers. Perhaps the recent availability of pictures of the abuse helps explain the increased media attention to the investigation in recent days.

The context of Wretchard's observation is his comment on Andrew Sullivan's suggestion that American media show the pictures and videos of Daniel Pearl's and Nick Berg's beheadings in order to balance the publication of the Abu Ghraib photos. We all believe in balance, right? But Wretchard has some further, more sober thoughts on the matter:

The Belmont Club predicted that "the sad balance of probability is that Abu Ghraib will be displaced from the front pages by the next terrorist outrage, the next Bali, the next Madrid, the next 9/11 until we find ourselves wondering why it upset us at all" -- and the process has already begun. People who only yesterday were beating their breasts at infamy of the 800th MP brigade will be calling for a MOAB to dropped on Fallujah tomorrow. And to the inherent madness of war we will add another lunacy: strategy by manic-depression. 'Are we feeling generous today toward the enemy? Or do we want to get some aggression off our chests? Hmm?'

This is what comes of asserting the right to unleash emotions disconnected from rational perspective as "patriotic". This is what comes of not sticking to facts and they are these. The enemy has attacked America on its own soil and therefore must be defeated utterly. Members of the US military have committed a court-martial offense and therefore they must be punished severely. Any withdrawal from Iraq will not bring safety from enemy action inasmuch as they attacked Manhattan and Washington DC nearly two years before OIF. Any withdrawal from Iraq without first setting up a stable and responsible government there would result in a bloodbath beside which the massacre of the Shi'ites and the gassing of the Kurds by Saddam would be a pale moonlit shadow. Therefore we must persist until victory. [emphasis mine--ChuckB]

I think Wretchard is pretty much right on all counts, but it is difficult to remain clear-headed and (in the right sense) cold-blooded in this matter. kmhess will refresh my memory, but I think Col. Jessep said "You want the truth? You can't handle the truth!". Can we handle the truth?

Rush Limbaugh/Moral Limbo

Thanks to Daniel for the link to the Media Matters bit on Limbaugh's comments on the abuse of Iraqi prisoners. There's even an MP3 snippet from one of his broadcasts. Here's a sample:

LIMBAUGH: Exactly. Exactly my point! This is no different than what happens at the Skull and Bones initiation and we're going to ruin people's lives over it and we're going to hamper our military effort, and then we are going to really hammer them because they had a good time.

Except that Skull-and-Bones initiates submit voluntarily to the hazing, and they have the expectation of benefit from joining the club, and they have some idea when the ordeal will be over, and they aren't under the protection afforded prisoners of war (the same protection we rightfully demand for our military personnel). Otherwise, it's exactly the same.

Anyone who "has a good time" treating others this way has succumbed to perversity, whether temporarily or chronicically as an aspect of one's personality. For Limbaugh to approve of this behavior as a way of blowing off steam makes him a pervert as well in my view.

Note that I do not advocate treating the Iraqi POWs softly, or not applying psychological pressure in interrogating them. In fact, I think the intelligence people are ethically obliged to put pressure on the prisoners if there is a reasonable expectation that they will gain truthful information that will save lives and advance the war effort. I am persuaded that sexual humiliation is neither a morally acceptable means to this end nor an effective one. And if you wanted to lay a dynamite charge at the foundations of public support for the war, the only better way of doing it would be systematic rape and child abuse by our forces. This whole thing was unnecessary and stupid.

For what I take to be a Christian perspective on the prisoner abuse, see these comments by Mark Early, President of Prison Fellowship.

Frankly, I don't see how a person can claim to be a disciple of Jesus, affirming e.g. the Sermon on the Mount (all of it, not just the Beatitudes!), on the one hand, and consider Limbaugh to be anything more than a useful idiot for conservatism on the other (except when he's not useful, in which case he's just ... well, you do the math).

And you wonder why I have an Augustinian view of human nature.

The Cuban Beat

From Freedom House via Oxblog:

The beating by Cuban officials of a member of a nongovernmental organization at the United Nations in Geneva should be considered a criminal act for which the Cuban government must be censured, Freedom House said today.

After the United Nations Commission on Human Rights narrowly passed a resolution today critical of Cuba, members of Cuba's governmental delegation attacked Frank Calzon, executive director of the Washington-based Center for a Free Cuba.

The attack took place inside the United Nations building in Geneva.

Witnesses said a Cuban delegate punched Mr. Calzon, knocking him unconscious. UN guards reportedly protected him from further assault by additional members of the Cuban delegation. The attack occurred shortly after the Commission passed a resolution critical of Cuba's human rights record.

That wacky 23-5

"In the formula, a small n represents the sample size for which the mean is being computed."

What if ...

... George W. had taken the PDB as the occasion to deal with the threat of Al Qaida at its source? That's the subject of the April 9 entry in Gregg Easterbrook's TNR blog. Here is the story in outline form:

WASHINGTON, APRIL 9, 2004. A hush fell over the city as George W. Bush today became the first president of the United States ever to be removed from office by impeachment. Meeting late into the night, the Senate unanimously voted to convict Bush following a trial on his bill of impeachment from the House. ...

On August 7, 2001, Bush had ordered the United States military to stage an all-out attack on alleged terrorist camps in Afghanistan. Thousands of U.S. special forces units parachuted into this neutral country, while air strikes targeted the Afghan government and its supporting military. Pentagon units seized abandoned Soviet air bases throughout Afghanistan, while establishing support bases in nearby nations such as Uzbekistan. Simultaneously, FBI agents throughout the United States staged raids in which dozens of men accused of terrorism were taken prisoner. ...

Speaking before a special commission created by Congress to investigate Bush's anti-terrorism actions, former national security adviser Rice shocked and horrified listeners when she admitted, "We had no actionable warnings of any specific threat, just good reason to believe something really bad was about to happen." ...

Speaking briefly to reporters on the South Lawn of the White House before a helicopter carried him out of Washington as the first-ever president removed by impeachment, Bush seemed bitter. "I was given bad advice," he insisted. "My advisers told me that unless we took decisive action, thousands of innocent Americans might die. Obviously I should not have listened."

A Game of Twenty Questions

DISCLAIMER: my postings on the Clarke and Rice testimonies are not intended to show that Clarke is a wholesale liar, or that Rice was entirely candid, or that the Bush administration made no mistakes leading up to 9/11. It is entirely fair to pose difficult questions to Rice, and I don't believe that Clarke's testimony should simply be discounted as partisan. The whole matter is quite complex, and partisanship is but one facet (albeit a real one) of that complexity. The general thrust of my "blogging" on this subject is to suggest that much of the traction of the Clarke testimony comes from the supposed contrast between the Clinton and Bush administrations' approaches to the war on terror. I'm not so sure that whatever contrast there is between the two administrations is particularly great, or that the contrast redounds especially to glory of the Clinton administration.

While commenting on the NYTimes's coverage of Condoleeza Rice's testimony before the 9/11 commission, and in particular on fifteen questions posed to Rice from the Times's op-ed pages, Gregory Djerejian of the Belgravia Dispatch poses twenty questions of his own for Mr. Clarke. Here is question #2 as a sample:

2) On page 84, you say that the October 1993 Battle of Mogadishu may have involved an "al Qaeda role in an attack on Americans."

Later, President Clinton is quoted as saying to you: "I want us running this, not the State Department or the Pentagon. No more U.S. troops get killed, none. Do what you have to do, whatever you have to do."

Given that al Qaeda had been sending advisers to Somali warlord Aideed and may have been involved in the shootdown of U.S. helicopters, and given Clinton's casualty-averse posture regarding Somalia, do you believe that Clinton signalled U.S. weakness to al-Qaeda?

I don't know how Mr. Clarke would answer this question, but for me the answer is an almost self-evident "yes". Consider the terrorists' recently increased demands against Spain (they now demand the withdrawal of Spanish troops from Afghanistan as well as from Iraq). While the Spanish voters doubtless did not wish to signal weakness in voting in the Socialists, Al Qaida and affiliates would be irrational to read the vote any other way.

Jason van Steenwyk on poverty

Jason blogs at Iraq Now!. In the middle of responding to Barbara Ehrenreich's to his response to Ehrenreich's column in the Progressive on the economic hardships of our service personnel, he makes a point my fellow conservatives and libertarians would do well to ponder:

But what conservatives constantly forget--and it makes me want to tear my hair out, sometimes--is that the bottom rung of the socioeconomic ladder is very sticky. Upward mobility relies on the efficient use of income over and above the subsistance level. And because of a variety of factors--poor financial services in poor areas, no access to cheap grocery stores, lack of available public transportation, and predatory credit practices at rent-to-own shops and check cashing stores (more on those guys in a coming post), it is far, far more difficult to move from the first rung to the second than it is to move upward from there.

Bob Kerrey: Richard Clarke is wrong about Iraq

From today's (April 8) WSJ online:

Mr. Clarke's most startling statement was that there have been more terrorist attacks against the United States in the 30 months since 9/11 than in the 30 months prior to the attack. You could almost hear a clap of thunder when he went on to say that this happened because we substantially reduced our efforts in Afghanistan and went to war in Iraq, causing a loss of momentum in the war against al Qaeda.

That's his argument. I think he's wrong, but I don't think he is being duplicitous. He is wrong because most if not all of the terrorism since 9/11 has occurred because al Qaeda and other radical Islamists have an even dimmer view of a free and independent Iraq than they do a free and independent United States. A democracy in Iraq that embraces modernism, pluralism, tolerance and the plebiscite is a greater sacrilege than anything we are doing here at home....

It is my view that a political victory for terrorism in Iraq is a much greater danger to us than whether or not we succeed in capturing Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan. Victory in Iraq will embolden radical Islamists as much as our failure to recognize the original danger of their declaration of war against us.

I could possibly be persuaded to vote for Bob (not John) Kerrey (not Kerry) for President.

Alan Wolfe Helps Us Understand Contemporary Politics

Wolfe is a professor of political science at Boston College. In this essay, he writes about the political philosopher Carl Schmitt and the supposed
permeation of contemporary conservative thought and politics by Schmitt's ideas. susanna of Cut on the Bias heaps
much deserved scorn
on Wolfe's piece.

When I first started reading Wolfe's essay for myself after susanna's account of it, I thought she was overreacting. The first six paragraphs
were interesting to me, since I had never heard of Schmitt. The mention of Mill in the fifth paragraph tempted me to think that Wolfe sees
himself as a liberal in the older sense of the word: more of a small-government libertarian than a socialist or social democrat. Perhaps susanna overlooked this possibility. The succeeding paragraphs disabused me of that notion.

Wolfe's fundamental notion is that contemporary conservatives have imbibed (indirectly, it seems, as Wolfe doesn't seem to be arguing for Schmitt's direct influence) Schmitt's dictum that politics posits the potential need to annihilate one's opponents. He cites Ann Coulter as the poster child for the conservative rhetoric of destruction. And yet, I think even her fans would concede that she is deliberately over-the-top, consciously outrageous. I haven't read any of her books, but from my (conservative) point of view she is a caricature, and none of her quotes that I've read have I found edifying. And by the way, I suspect that this sort of rhetoric is even more commonplace among a subset of libertarians and is directed as much at Ashcroft as at Clinton.

He writes:

Interestingly enough, Schmitt had an explanation for why conservative talk-show hosts like Bill O'Reilly fight for their ideas
with much more aggressive self-certainty than, say, a hopeless liberal like Alan Wolfe.

This is silly. Years ago, I was not only a regular reader of The Nation but also a paying subscriber. There was nothing tentative
about the writing of Alexander Cockburn or Christopher Hitchens or Gore Vidal or Noam Chomsky. Michael Moore, Tedward Kennedy and Al Sharpton are exemplars of aggressive, demagogic rhetoric, and they didn't come by their tone after being bullied by Karl Rove.

Wolfe alleges that conservatives politicize everything, while for liberals, politics "stops at the water's edge". Yet it wasn't conservatives who originated the all-encompassing speech standards associated with political correctness.
Consider the hard drive controversy in L.A. County, Ca.

susanna works over many of his other observations. You should really read the whole thing yourself. I'll leave you with one of the more bizarre things he wrote:

Liberals instinctively want to dampen passions; conservatives are bent on inflaming them.

This is amply borne out in the AlterNet postings that have recently been reposted on LISNews. For what it's worth, several in the comments section think it's a sly attempt to push the "Bush == Hitler" meme.

Critiquing a linguist's writing style

Oliver Kamm is one of the smarter bloggers I've read. He seems to be a pro-war English "New Labour" supporter in the free-trade-cum-nanny-state mold of Tony Blair (n.b.: it's not necessarily his views on these matters that make him smart in my mind).

In an April 2 posting, he ventures to criticize the writing style of one of this century's most eminent linguists:

I am constantly surprised that an MIT Professor of Linguistics should produce such consistently execrable English prose. Redundant phrases, clichés and solecisms pile up, one damn thing on top of another. Witness the embarrassing attempt at dramatic elision with the single-word sentence. Embarrassing. So is the construction of sentences without verbs. Most extraordinary is his complaint about a ‘truism’ that is ‘systematically ignored’. Chomsky is plainly unaware that a truism by definition ought to be ignored: rather than being a posh synonym for ‘truth’, it in fact denotes something that is trivially true - not an axiom, but a banality. (Those whose reading matter is indiscriminate in quality will be unsurprised periodically to stumble across the same clueless and pretentious use of 'truism' in the writings of Chomsky's disciple John Pilger.)

Somewhere I recall reading a letter or essay by Christopher Hitchens in which he wrote that Chomsky's prose had declined from its earlier halcyon days into a rather mechanical, formulaic grinding out of phrases. Unfortunately I can't find that piece now. Of course, there's the Chomskybot, a toy which emits linguistic (not political) pronouncements with computational aplomb. It will serve as a placeholder until I can dig up the Hitchens piece.

It's worth reproducing Hitchens's list of questions on Iraq deemed by Chomsky to be "completely irrelevant" [bulleting for emphasis mine--ChuckB]:

I debate with the opponents of the Iraq intervention almost every day. I always have the same questions for them, which never seem to get answered.

  • Do you believe that a confrontation with Saddam Hussein's regime was inevitable or not?
  • Do you believe that a confrontation with an Uday/Qusay regime would have been better?
  • Do you know that Saddam's envoys were trying to buy a weapons production line off the shelf from North Korea (vide the Kay report) as late as last March?
  • Why do you think Saddam offered "succor" (Mr. [Richard] Clarke's word) to the man most wanted in the 1993 bombings in New York?
  • Would you have been in favor of lifting the "no fly zones" over northern and southern Iraq; a 10-year prolongation of the original "Gulf War"?
  • Were you content to have Kurdish and Shiite resistance fighters do all the fighting for us?
  • Do you think that the timing of a confrontation should have been left, as it was in the past, for Baghdad to choose?

ALA out of (or into?) Cuba!

Ian Hamnet blogging on Matthew Hoy blogging on a counter-anti-war protest organized by Lt. Smash:

[Hoy] We exited their little circle of hate and stood just outside their ring of banners. The rally/protest then started with a call for a chant. When none was forthcoming from the anti-war left, we started up our own "U.S.A." chant repeatedly.

This did not go over well. Instead the speaker offered: "U.S. out of Iraq," "U.S. out of Afghanistan," "U.S. out of Cuba," and finally "U.S. out of North America."

[Hamnet] Leaving aside the first two, I rather had the impression that the U.S. isn't in Cuba, excepting the Guantanamo Bay military base. I mean, we've got them embargoed, there is no way to travel directly from the U.S. to Cuba legally, Cuban cigars are illegal . . . am I missing something here? We don't pollute their minds with our evil capitalist crass commercial culture, and they have universal health care, gun control, and free education, and this is why people escape to Cuba from the tyranny of the U.S. by the boatload every week, right?

Or not.

Not.

Later in the post, Hamnet comments on the role of blogs in our discourse:

Blogs are becoming the center of intellectual life for many people, filling the role of the Lyceum in ancient Greece and late 19th Century America, of the coffeehouse in 17th and 18th Century Europe. Ideas are debated in a lively free-for-all, and everyone makes up his own mind.

Um, Blake, I'll have a double-shot latté please!

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