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  • Archive for July, 2006

    The Gift That Keeps on Giving

    Posted by James R. Rummel on 31st July 2006 (All posts by )

    I was just browsing through the news and came across this item, which reports on how the New York Observer was just purchased by the 25 year old scion of a real estate baron.

    The first thing that popped into my mind was the classic movie Citizen Kane. The title character buys an ailing New York daily with his millions because he thinks “…running a newspaper will be fun!” Then he turns the paper into a real powerhouse by ignoring professional ethics and embracing go-for-the-throat yellow journalism.

    It remains to be seen if The Observer will go that route, but all thoughts of classic movies were driven from my mind when I read what the new owner’s father had been up to…

    His father, Charles Kushner, a philanthropist and Democratic fundraiser, was sentenced in March 2005 to two years in prison for assisting in the filing of false tax returns, making false statements to the Federal Election Commission, and retaliating against a witness in the case – his sister.

    He hired a prostitute to seduce his brother-in-law, made a videotape of the encounter and then sent it to his sister, the man’s wife, in retaliation for her cooperation with federal authorities who were looking into his business activities.

    Holy crap! Isn’t that amazing? That prostitute must have been really something!

    Our biggest customers at Police HQ were prostitutes, and none of them were attractive enough to make me want to pay a nickel for their attention. I suppose all of the hot whores move to New Jersey to ply their trade.

    Other than that, I’d have to say that it would have been the perfect gift if Charles had mailed the tape directly to his brother-in-law instead of to his sister. It certainly would have made those vanity license plates he made himself while in prison look like a booger.

    What does this say about the Democrat’s claims that the Republicans wallow in a “culture of corruption”? I note that the elder Kushner might have been wallowing in some corruption of his own, but he wasn’t an elected official. This means that the Republicans commit their own crimes, while the Democrats contract the work out.

    Posted in Humor | 2 Comments »

    Blog Upgrade

    Posted by Jonathan on 30th July 2006 (All posts by )

    Sparing no expense, Chicagoboyz has installed the latest screed technology to improve your reading experience.

    Engineered with rhetorical precision.

    Posted in Humor | 8 Comments »

    Lockdown

    Posted by James R. Rummel on 30th July 2006 (All posts by )

    Crime in the United States was pretty much out of control by the 1970′s.

    There were a variety of reasons for that, but I think the biggest factor is that a new strategy of enforcing the law came in to vogue. The public was encouraged to view criminals not as bad people who need to be punished for their misdeeds, but as lonely forgotten souls who were driven to crime due to bad experiences during their formative years.

    Perps were sick, you see, and they needed healing and compassion more than hatred and marginalization.

    This attitude eventually got turned around, but it took awhile. It took even longer for the damage caused by this touchy-feely crap to get cleaned up, but it finally happened. This is due to the fact that the number of convictions started to climb, and the number of convictions that resulted in jail time also started to increase. This resulted in a larger prison population, but the results are hard to ignore.

    Crimes against property started to fall by 1980, but it wasn’t until 1993 that we saw a reduction of violent crimes.

    Still, once the ball started to roll it just kept on hurtling downhill. Today the people in the United States enjoy an aggregate crime rate that is less than half of what it was during the dark and lawless days.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Law Enforcement | 6 Comments »

    Coverage of the War Against Hezbollah

    Posted by Lexington Green on 28th July 2006 (All posts by )

    I am finding it difficult to figure out what is really going on in Lebanon. So I am keeping my vehement opinions to myself. I find my vehemence is, unfortunately, not much impacted even by a factual vacuum. But when I really, really don’t know what I am talking about, I try not to blog about it. I look for others who do actually know something. For now, the best things I have seen, that seem the most convincing, have been on StrategyPage. Check these out:

    You Can Look It Up

    The UN Takes Sides in Lebanon

    Iran Halts Arms Shipments to Hizbollah

    The fact that Wretchard himself says he does not really know what is going on convinces me that pretty much nobody does. Nonetheless, he offers this interesting speculation, which seems more or less consistent with what StrategyPage is saying.

    On the other hand, Ralph Peters is being pessimistic. I like Peters’ harsh and bloody way of talking. It stirs my dark and brooding soul. But if I had to bet a dollar, I’d say that StrategyPage is more likely to be correct – that Israel is determined to impose a crushing defeat on Hezbollah, than Peters’ conclusion that the Israelis are going to pull out allowing Hezbollah to declare victory. I sure hope not.

    But I really don’t know. And I have no way to know. Or even to guess.

    UPDATE: The EU Referendum blog has this interesting piece, noting the large number of vehicles depicted in media reports which are used by Israeli combat engineers. This suggests that the current Israeli effort is in large part about clearing a path for further troops to be committed. Wretchard meanwhile analyzes some reports and finds the situation to be clear as mud. Much like the situation during the march on Baghdad, we will not have much idea of what was going on until it is over. If then.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments »

    Precious Dirt

    Posted by Shannon Love on 28th July 2006 (All posts by )

    I confess that my thinking on the Israeli-Arab conflict has gone through a major revolution in the last 24 hours. In the past, I felt great moral revulsion at the use by Arabs of tactics that clearly qualify as war crimes. I thought that no one had an excuse to intentionally target civilians for no other purpose than killing them. I thought that the very purest instance of a war crime. However, after reading many blogs and comments I learned something that completely altered my thinking. I understand that my thinking lacked sophistication and nuance. Now I understand what the Israelis did to the Arabs that was so incredibly unjust that it justifies any response no matter how horrible it might appear to unsophisticated eyes.

    Here it is: It seems that, sixty-odd years ago, The Israelis, in connivance with the rest of the free world, stole some land from the Arabs!

    I know! Shocking, isn’t it? Don’t you feel like an idiot for supporting Israel all these years? I know I do.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Uncategorized | 32 Comments »

    Humility & the UN

    Posted by Ginny on 28th July 2006 (All posts by )

    Shannon said it succinctly: “I can think of few things more vile than advocating for the deaths of innocents for what amounts to a very large and expensive piece of performance art.” But Joshua Brook’s “Human Rights Advocates Embarrass Themselves” lays out a similar common sense argument.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in United Nations | Comments Off

    Castro Answers Questions

    Posted by Jonathan on 26th July 2006 (All posts by )

    The great comandante shows his respect for human rights and free speech, after a journalist asks him about a Cuban dissident who has dared to express openly her wish to visit relatives outside of Cuba:

    Video

    It’s in Spanish but the relevant parts are pretty much self-explanatory.

    (Via TheRealCuba.com, via 26th Parallel.)

    Posted in Cuba | 2 Comments »

    Double, Double Toil and Trouble

    Posted by John Jay on 25th July 2006 (All posts by )

    “Such indeed is the respect paid to science, that the most absurd opinions may become current, provided they are expressed in language, the sound of which recalls some well-known scientific phrase. If society is thus prepared to receive all kinds of scientific doctrines, it is our part to provide for the diffusion and cultivation, not only of true scientific principles, but of a spirit of sound criticism, founded on an examination of the evidences on which statements apparently scientific depend.”

    James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879)

    Emphasis mine. Living the life scientific means applying that philosophy to all areas of your life, and admitting when you do not have enough information to make a judgment, something a lot of scientists have a problem with. But this is not a rant about the failings of scientists, this is a rant mostly about this part of the quote:

    the most absurd opinions may become current, provided they are expressed in language, the sound of which recalls some well-known scientific phrase.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Science | 24 Comments »

    Proportional Art

    Posted by Shannon Love on 25th July 2006 (All posts by )

    Captain Ed observes, about the proportionality canard:

    To use a crude analogy, if someone is stupid enought to bring a knife to a gunfight, it doesn’t mean that those holding the guns have a moral obligation to fight with knives instead. Proportionality demands exactly that, and it leads to nothing but longer and more destructive wars.

    As I argued before, those who argue for a “proportional” response argue for an ineffective and essentially symbolic response that changes nothing. I find such arguments morally suspect. Given that any military operation will result in some civilian deaths, we should only launch such an operation when we honestly think that doing so will result in a significant positive change.

    I can think of few things more vile than advocating for the deaths of innocents for what amounts to a very large and expensive piece of performance art.

    [Note: The Captain's Quarters blog suddenly became unreachable while I was writing this post. The above links may not work.]

    Posted in Israel | 10 Comments »

    The Ronettes

    Posted by Lexington Green on 24th July 2006 (All posts by )

    I had a Japanese import of the Ronettes Greatest Hits on vinyl. I got it on one of my record-and-book shopping forays into Boston, perhaps the happiest moments of my teen years. The record was a beautiful thing. The sleeve was made out of that flimsy Japanese cardboard some of you will remember, and it had this cover art, but with different lettering. I suppose I still have it in the basement. I got it during the apex of my punk rock phase, circa 1980 (senior year in high school), but I loved 60s pop and garage rock just as much. The Ronettes were about the only challengers to Rocket to Russia and the Ramones Leave Home as go-to records — not the ones you think you should like, but the ones you actually play for yourself because you want to. Of course, this was back when punk was really pop, anyway, before it turned horrible, i.e. hardcore. And the Ronettes were of course among the all-time queens of girl-pop — OK, the greatest, so sayeth Lex — so it is not so much of a stretch.

    I used to listen to that Ronettes album with earphones on at blaring volume when I was supposed to be sleeping, and be half-asleep, hallucinatorily half-dreaming, in the dark, engulfed by the “wall of sound”, floating in an auditory ocean of Spectorian grandeur and romanticism.

    I suppose it was a drug-equivalent for a teenager who did not use drugs.

    Here are the girls back in the day.

    The kids in the crowd do not yet know they can stand up and get groovy, since it is only 1964 and it is still the last trailing end of the Beaver Cleaver era. So they just remain seated and head-jam and clap. After them, the deluge.

    Ronnie looks like she is having such a blast just being on stage. In 2006, I smile just seeing her smile, even though this show happened 42 years ago.

    I can understand perfectly well why Brian Wilson fell in love with Ronnie Spector, wrote “Don’t Worry Baby” (his greatest song) for her, worshipped her from afar, then had a nervous breakdown.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 10 Comments »

    More on Prediction Market Problems

    Posted by Jonathan on 23rd July 2006 (All posts by )

    I have added a significant update to my post about the TradeSports prediction market.

    Posted in Markets and Trading | Comments Off

    Short Tour of Humor Friends

    Posted by Ginny on 22nd July 2006 (All posts by )

    Harry Hutton links to a music video (via Sullivan). Probably a general rule of thumb might be that the male singer should have less cleavage than the female. (By the way, this doesn’t look or sound American to me – does anyone know where it’s from?)

    Back to the midwest, which I (if not others) always find a pleasant alternative. Iowahawk is, well, the man. Anyway, the winner of Iowahawk’s Iowahawk Hoosegow Honey is Jesika – who is, indeed, quite attractive. Those that find that contest in bad taste may be entertained by his “Hungry Like Naomi Wolf” retro. Of course, rarified sensibilities might be offended by his treatment of butt-cracks & the victims of feminist voyeurs.

    Reading Hutton’s complaint about the Yanks and Colombia: “They’ve been having a quagmire ever since they got independence from Spain, and I resent the way these Americans try to claim the credit for everything.” I laughed out loud. This would probably not seem quite as funny to someone who had not just subjected themselves to about half of a Booktv session with Morris Berman. Those guys (and I suspect he’s about my age) figure since they are in decline & since most of us are beginning to suspect the seventies didn’t work, the only conclusion must be that America is heading toward the dark ages. One of the problems with my generation is a lack of humility.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Humor | 8 Comments »

    Prediction Market Problems

    Posted by Jonathan on 22nd July 2006 (All posts by )

    Chris Masse provides a lengthy analysis of an ongoing controversy about how the Tradesports prediction exchange handled its contract on North Korean missile launches.

    The short description of what happened is that Tradesports defined its NK-missile-launch contract as requiring US Defense Department confirmation of “a test missile that leaves North Korean air space on/before 31st July 2006.” Thus a confirmed launch on or before July 31 would settle the contract at 100, while no confirmation by the end of July 31 would mean the contract would expire at zero. The NK government on July 4 launched missiles that left NK air space and should have resulted in the contract settling at 100. However, because the US DOD did not provide what Tradesports considers to be official confirmation that the missiles left NK air space, Tradesports has not settled the contract and many traders who were betting on the launch are upset.

    Chris thinks that this dispute will discourage trader participation in, and may damage the credibility of, prediction markets. He may be right but I suspect the long-run costs will not be as big as he fears. There have been many similar instances of badly handled contracts in traditional equities and derivatives markets, and I think what generally happens is that traders note what transpired and try to avoid getting caught in similar situations in the future. At the same time exchange officials tend to quietly learn from their mistakes, as do the people who run competing exchanges.

    For example, in the past few years on electronic futures exchanges there have been several well-known occasions in which traders made fat-finger mistakes where they entered buy or sell orders for, say, ten thousand contracts when they had meant to type “1″. (And where their employers or brokers had neglected to set contract-size limits in their trading software, but that is another issue.) What happens then is a huge and instantaneous price spike, followed by gradual recovery to prior levels as participants sort out what happened. Such screwups create big losers and winners, and the exchange has to decide whether to let the trades stand, or to invalidate all trades for the period defined as the mistake or to make some kind of compromise. Sometimes, particularly at exchanges that are dominated by big institutions and where the mistake is made by an institutional trader, the at-fault institution is let off the hook. Such outcomes are very aggravating, and often costly, for other traders, but trading continues.

    It will be interesting to see what ultimately happens in the case of Tradesports and the NK missile contract.

    UPDATE (07/23): I may have been too optimistic. Chris Masse posts critical comments from a trader in response to what I wrote. (Click on the link and scroll down.)

    He also posts several comments from other traders on the general topic of TradeSports and how it defines its contracts. These comments are reasonable but do not agree on whether the contract’s terms for a missile launch have been satisfied, suggesting that TradeSports is doing something wrong in a big way. There should be no uncertainty about such a fundamental issue.

    The comments also remind me of a point that I should have mentioned earlier. By handling the NK contract so confusingly, TradeSports has transformed it, for the remainder of its life, into a contract on the TradeSports decisionmaking process — albeit with a knockout provision in the event of DOD confirmation of the July 4 launch or another launch before the end of July 31. That’s not progress.

    UPDATE 2: Bo Cowgill comments.

    UPDATE 3: Chris Masse reminds me that Bo Cowgill is the guy at Google who is experimenting with internal prediction markets.

    UPDATE 4 (07/25): Tradesports, apparently in response to complaints, introduced improved procedures for dealing with settlement controversies like the one surrounding the NK missile-test contract.

    (Disclosure: This blog is a Tradesports affiliate.)

    Posted in Markets and Trading | 4 Comments »

    An Interview

    Posted by Ginny on 22nd July 2006 (All posts by )

    A portrait of a marriage as much as an interview – the Friedmans discuss history & economics.

    Actually, I’ve got a sweet anecdote about the romantic nature of economics. One of my husband’s friends got a Ph.D. in Eco (I think Savings chaired it) and then, later, went to law school. He was working for the state regulatory board when he wrote the regulations for the telephone company (I think). By then his first marriage had dissolved. A woman economist was given his work to study. She said she read it closely, going again and again over it, fastening post-its, marking passages. Then she was introduced to him and found him as lucid as his prose. She had fallen in love with him for his regulatory philosophy and the beauty of his writing. They’ve been married for a dozen years or more; their smiles are caught in one of the more charming pictures from my daughter’s wedding last month. I tell this story every semester to my freshman writing students, but I’m not sure if they believe me. It is, however, true.

    Posted in Economics & Finance | 1 Comment »

    Reynolds — An Army of Davids

    Posted by James McCormick on 21st July 2006 (All posts by )

    [cross-posted on Albion's Seedlings]

    Reynolds, Glenn, An Army of Davids: How Markets and technology empower ordinary people to beat big media, Big Government, and other Goliaths, Nelson Current, 2006, 289 pp.

    Glenn Reynolds (the Instapundit) has carved out a unique niche in the blogosphere for the last five years with an amazing stream of interesting links (often with brief commentary), an eclectic set of hobbies and intellectual enthusiasms, and a law professor’s expertise in sorting through the legislative and legal whims of American society. Mostly libertarian, with a proactive attitude on personal and national safety, he remains as one of the few prominent “one-man band” bloggers to remain active through the years since 9/11. His energy and productivity are legendary and his influence, I believe, is substantial and growing.

    In Army of Davids (AoD), he summarizes his personal experiences with the changes wrought by technology in the last decade, especially those which allow ordinary people to create goods and services which were once the province of large organizations. And he investigates topics that have long held his interest: beer-making, music, the Internet and broadcast media, games, nanotechnology, politics, space exploration, and life extension.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anglosphere, Book Notes | 6 Comments »

    What Does It Take to Win?

    Posted by demimasque on 21st July 2006 (All posts by )

    I’ve stated before that I’m not adverse to use of massive force:

    I think reasonable people can disagree as to whether the Israeli response is “disproportionate”. I myself have no qualms about destroying an enemy’s infrastructure if civilian deaths can be kept to a minimum and the payoff in psychological damage to the enemy is great enough (think about General William T. Sherman’s March to the Sea).

    I went a little deeper into this in response recently to a comment from someone:

    I don’t want to sound like a “make love not war” type of guy, but come on, dropping bombs with that might … is a bit of an “over kill” literally …. It’s like a little kid goes to a football player (Defense) and kicks him in the knee, which makes the football player rip him apart

    My response:

    Without supporting or protesting any specific Israeli tactics, I would pose the following question: What does it take to win? In your analogy, the stakes aren’t very high; probably a bruised ego at best. But in the actual war between Israel and Hezbollah, the stakes are the very survival of Israel. Sure, Hezbollah does not currently have the wherewithal to wipe Israel off the map, as long as there’s a little more than token resistance on the part of Israel. But asking Israel to do no more than that is essentially to say to Israel to grab her ankles.

    Personally I’m in favor of General Sherman’s idea of total war: Destroy the infrastructure. I grant that General Sherman’s methods may not entirely apply here, because unlike the Union occupation of the South after the American Civil War, Israel’s not likely to occupy even just southern Lebanon after the conflict, with an eye toward annexation.

    So, back to the question: What does it take to win? Israel has nuclear weapons. If all it wanted was to be rid of Hezbollah, why not just nuke the frontier areas? Goodbye south Lebanon, goodbye Gaza. But the international relations repercussions of such an activity, to say nothing of the moral repercussions, argue against such a tactic.

    Thus I think I have established that merely putting up token resistance, or nuking Hezbollah, are extreme solutions that are non-starters. What does it take to win?

    The kind of power politics we’re used to seeing, which has developed over the Cold War era, is that the international system does not want any party to a conflict to win outright. While it’s easy for remote adversaries to come to a ceasefire agreement (North Korea/United States), or even to declare a winner (United States > North Vietnam, United Kingdom > Argentina, etc.), it is far more difficult for neighbors to live with the sense that one side or another has “won” (Iraq v. Iran, Iraq v. Kuwait, Somalia v. Somalia, Ethiopia v. Eritrea), much less a convincing victory (Israel > Egypt + Jordan + Iraq + Syria + Saudi Arabia). More times than often, one neighbor complete absorbs the other (North Vietnam > South Vietnam). In fact, outside of the Americas and most of Europe, neighbors often exist alongside each other with some unease (North Korea v. South Korea, Japan v. North Korea + South Korea + China, Vietnam v. China, China v. India, Cambodia v. Vietnam, Indonesia v. East Timor, India v. Pakistan, Iran v. Iraq, Serbia v. Croatia, to list just a few outside the Middle East).

    In fact, the international system as it currently exists tends to support the underdog blindly. In some case, this may be good, if the underdog was attacked (Bosnia, Kuwait, and Egypt in 1956); in others, it’s probably not good, if the underdog is the aggressor (the occasional incursions by Pakistan). The only exception to this rule is that when Israel is the underdog but not the aggressor, it is not supported (1967, 1973).

    A system which applies pressure for war to cease before a workable peace is possible merely buys time for the side that was about to lose. This is not to say whether that’s good or bad, but at least in the case of post-1967 Israel, we’re not talking any longer about states rubbing up against each other, jostling for land and/or resources. No, we’re talking now about an enemy that intends for the complete and irrevocable eradication, not only of the Jewish state, but of any Jewish blood in the Middle East. Against that backdrop, a system that does not allow one side or the other to win is actually a way to lengthen the conflict, not to ameliorate it.

    We go to great lengths to say that we want the war to stop because innocents are getting killed. But what we end up doing is forcing the parties to refight the same war every few years. When you add it up, the civilian casualties turn out greater than if we were to let the parties have a free-for-all, last man standing.

    If you don’t mind keeping the conflict simmering, then Israel is “overreacting”. But keep in mind that essentially what you’re supporting in this conflict by limiting Israeli options is the continued existence of Hezbollah.

    If you want a real end, let Israel do what it must, and punish it later for its excesses.

    I’m sure some of the dates can be cleaned up, but overall I think this is a pretty good representation of the current international system, which is in fact a rather “reactionary” one, a truly “conservative” system.

    [Cross-posted at Between Worlds]

    Posted in War and Peace | 5 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 21st July 2006 (All posts by )

    Among many activists, regulators and legislators, there is a pervasive myth that a little overregulation never hurt anyone. But a “little” here and a “little” there add up. The reality is that regulation exacts societal costs whose magnitude is almost unimaginable.

    According to the Competitive Enterprise Institute, U.S. regulatory costs in 2005 were $1.13 trillion, equal to almost half of all of the government’s discretionary, entitlement and interest spending, and much larger than the sum of all corporate pretax profits — $874 billion. Much of the expenditure on regulation is ill-spent on the most expensive cures that do the least good.

    -Henry I. Miller, Investor’s Business Daily op-ed page, July 11

    Posted in Economics & Finance | 2 Comments »

    Posted by Jonathan on 21st July 2006 (All posts by )

    Chicagoboyz love animals!

    Posted in Humor | 10 Comments »

    Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Religious Conservatives — and Governing Coalitions

    Posted by Jonathan on 20th July 2006 (All posts by )

    Here’s the text of an email conversation that Lex and I had recently:

    Me: Link

    This argument isn’t new but I think it’s essentially valid, and it’s presented well in this article.

    Lex: Any successful party is a coalition. If it is successful long enough the members of the coalition start to grumble that they are not getting enough of what they want. I think there is a decent chance that the elements of the GOP coalition can fragment. The wishes of libertarians for a more libertarian approach will be dashed. The hopes of the Christian Right, which is actually what I am when you get down to it, for a more culturally conservative approach, will also be dashed. Neither group has enough numbers to get any of what it wants without being part of a coalition. The Religious Right is also generally for small government, so they are less likely to see anything at all to like about the Democrats. The libertarians may like the fact that the Democrats are for gay marriage, pornography and abortion and also drug legalization. Glenn Reynolds is very clear that he is against the GOP mainstream on these issues, for example, as one would expect of a professional academic. However, the core libertarian view has always been smaller government, and a key element of that has been gun rights. The Democrats have absolutely nothing to offer on these issues. However, libertarian voters are fickle and perfectionistic. So, they may vote for socialism to get pornography, for at least one election. I have never been a libertarian. Still, I am just not worried about the GOP coalition breaking up when (1) the Democrats seem not to have much to offer to anyone outside their current core constituencies, and (2) national security is a major issue and the Democrats are incoherent. The idea that the current Democrat leadership has the wit to “reach out” to libertarians is almost funny. Libertarian wishful thinking. If they do very badly in 2006 they may wake up and get their shit together in time for 2008. We’ll see what happens.

    Me: A successful coalition has the largest amount of both members and dissatisfaction.

    I agree with you mostly. The Dems are in a bind, because they can’t offer the libertarians or religious conservatives much of value without giving up their core socialism and control-freakiness.

    There are lots of different value mixes among libertarians. I am pretty libertarian but I’m also opposed to gay marriage and favor substantial restrictions on abortion. The deal-killers for me with the Democrats are guns and, even more, the Democrats’ class envy and hostility to small business. I suspect that the issue that best encapsulates the ideological divide here is the death tax.

    Posted in Politics | 11 Comments »

    Realism from the Anglosphere

    Posted by Helen on 20th July 2006 (All posts by )

    My colleague on EUReferendum is an expert on what I blithely refer to as “toys”. The subject is of great importance to all those interested in the Anglosphere and his recent piece bears reading and discussing. Alas, the conclusions he comes to with regard to Britain are very depressing.

    Posted in Anglosphere | 2 Comments »

    The Democracy Presumption

    Posted by Shannon Love on 19th July 2006 (All posts by )

    Why do most westerners believe in liberal democracy? Why do the vast majority of us believe that the best form of government requires competitive open elections, divided powers, independent judiciaries, a free press and all the other common attributes of modern democracy? Most of us would assert that we do so because we believe that liberal democracies systematically make more wise and humane decisions than do other types of government.

    If most of us think this way, however, why does a significant segment of the Left in the West always argue that in any conflict between a liberal democracy and some form of autocracy the liberal democracy deserves most of the blame?
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Leftism | 24 Comments »

    Iran’s Shadow Falls on Both Fronts

    Posted by Ginny on 19th July 2006 (All posts by )

    Iraq & Lebanon: Iraq the Model notes the hand of Iran (WSJ). Conventional wisdom, perhaps, but Mohammed Fadhil moves to the importance of reactions taking such links into consideration:

    it is time to be decisive for one important reason; those who direct the conflict in the region do not seek a solution and even if America looks geographically far right now, one should not forget that technology will not allow her to remain so in the future. . .

    The hesitation of the international community can be so dangerous and the intentions of the axis of terror are so clear. That’s why firm and resolute measures have to be undertaken against Syria and Iran. . .

    On Fox, those arguing for negotiation & diplomacy are asked, with whom? This question seems to lie just beneath the surface on other networks. But neither implicitly nor explicitly is an answer given. And, if we are talking illegality, exactly what is the UN’s stand on the un-disarmed terrorists?

    Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

    Tom Smith’s Defense of Israel

    Posted by Jonathan on 18th July 2006 (All posts by )

    This is very well done:

    . . . The people fighting Israel now say, shamelessly, that their goal is the destruction of Israel, and you know, in their cups, they would avow they would love to see every last Jew dead. That is who they are. And wanting some place with a wall around it and plenty of guns to protect yourself from such people is a mistake?

    If I ever would have thought it was, the smoking hole in Manhattan filled with human ashes convinced me otherwise. Israel was and is a collective act of self-defense by the Jewish people , perhaps the most well justified act of self-defense in the history of the planet, which Europe, in an untoward moment of decency, somehow let slip by. But if it was a mistake, it was of the best kind, and Europe and the Arabs should now have to live with it. If the existence of Israel bothers the Arab nations so much, they can distract themselves by trying to build even one country that is not a pit of tyranny and medieval barbarism. But of course, now the idea seems to be that the whole rest of the world should be brought down to that level, one planeful full of innocents at a time. Richard Cohen and the rest of us need to face it — we are all Israelis now.

    Worth reading in full.

    Posted in Israel | 5 Comments »

    BonaVista Lounge

    Posted by demimasque on 17th July 2006 (All posts by )

    Los Angeles is not famous for its skyline, even though it is recognizable, at least to locals. The nightlife downtown also leaves a little to be desired. Still, there are a couple of cool places, including the BonaVista Lounge, a rotating lounge on the 34th floor of the Westin Bonaventure, hemmed in by 4th Street on the north, Flower Street on the east, 5th Street on the south, and Figueroa Street on the west. The Lounge has a meager offering of cocktails, unfortunately, but you really can’t beat the view:

    Both pictures were taken with a time exposure of 10 seconds to take in the night light. The first was taken with the camera resting along a part of the floor that was not revolving. The second was taken with the camera resting on our table, which moved along with us and the floor.

    [Cross-posted at Between Worlds]

    Posted in Photos | 2 Comments »

    Disproportionate Dishonesty

    Posted by Shannon Love on 16th July 2006 (All posts by )

    The key word for those criticizing Israel’s war against Hezbollah and Hamas is “disproportionate.” No one, not even Israel’s strongest critics, can claim that Israel or any other country does not have the right to respond in kind for cross-border military attacks, so instead they claim to criticize only because they believe Israel’s response “disproportionate” to the offense.

    However, in this context, using the term “disproportionate” merely serves to create the appearance of saying something reasoned and honest while in actuality saying nothing practical beyond connoting disapproval.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Uncategorized | 34 Comments »