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  • Archive for September, 2003

    An Old, Old Problem …

    Posted by Lexington Green on 12th September 2003 (All posts by )

    Sylvain, in this post quotes British Foreign Minister Jack Straw as saying that a significant part of the way in which the French political diplomatic class defines itself is against America, and this has been a continuing neurosis amongst the French political class for many decades. This is pretty much right. Straw is just off in his timing by an order of magnitude. In fact, French and Continental intellectuals have been defining themselves against America for over two centuries. There is an excellent and enlightening article at the Public Interest website, entitled A Genealogy of Anti-Americanism by James W. Ceasar. (This article is a short version of Ceasars book Reconstructing America: The Symbol of America in Modern Thought, which I bought but havent read yet.)

    Ceasar tells us that European Anti-Americanism is not about the America which concretely exists, but is directed against an idea, even a mirage:

    It is tempting to call anti-Americanism a stereotype or a prejudice, but it is much more than that. A prejudice, at least an ordinary one, is a shortcut usually having some basis in experience that people use to try to grasp reality’s complexities. Although often highly erroneous, prejudices have the merit that those holding them will generally revisit and revise their views when confronted with contrary facts. Anti-Americanism, while having some elements of prejudice, has been mostly a creation of “high” thought and philosophy. Some of the greatest European minds of the past two centuries have contributed to its making. The concept of America was built in such a way as to make it almost impervious to refutation by mere facts. The interest of these thinkers was not always with a real country or people, but more often with general ideas of modernity, for which “America” became the name or symbol. Indeed, many who played a chief part in discovering this symbolic America never visited the United States or showed much interest in its actual social and political conditions.

    Ceasar traces the history of Anti-Americanism in European thought, and argues at the end that the Europeans, freed from the fear of the Soviet Union, now are free to indulge in this prejudice in safety. He also suggests that there is a real “Clash of Civilizations” going on between the United States and Europe, in large part because many in Europe see America as a symbol of all they despise. He concludes that Americans cannot use this reality as a way to ignore or avoid legitimate criticism, but that “[a] genuine dialogue between America and Europe will become possible only when Europeans start the long and arduous process of freeing themselves from the grip of anti-Americanism – a process, fortunately, that several courageous European intellectuals have already launched. ” Bring on the courageous European intellectuals. We need more of them.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 17 Comments »

    Rat Hunt II: Regime Change for Arafat

    Posted by Lexington Green on 12th September 2003 (All posts by )

    David Warren very plausibly argues that the Israelis are serious this time, and are going to “remove” Arafat. Regime change is becoming a regular practice, it seems. Which probably means they will kill him. One can hope. After all, how in Hell could they hope to get him out of there alive, surrounded as he is by his supporters, without a bloody fight? This is a move which is long, long overdue. “The Arab Street” will be upset. Fine. Let it break its own windows. Or its angry young fellows who want to kill Jews and Americans can all join Al Qaeda, if they can find the recruiting office. We should open one at Guantanamo, cut out the middle man. Whatever. The hurdy gurdy has been cranked for the last time. Arafat is responsible for the program of suicide bombings, so Arafat has to go. As to the Palestinians, they can never get past square one with this leadership. Once Arafat is dead someone rational can come to the fore, eventually, though probably not soon. The suicide bombing policy has to be shown to be a failure, with consequences. As to world opinion, the basic attitude is utterly hostile to Israel anyway. This will only make the shouting louder, but not change the substance.

    So, go get the sumbitch. Do it in a harsh, brutal way, in broad daylight with live TV coverage. Send a loud message that violence will be met unwaveringly with massively greater violence, over and over again, as often and for as long as necessary. That message may penetrate the thick craniums on the Arab street. It is a language they understand.

    Then put Arafat’s dead face on TV, like the Hussein boys.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

    Johnny Cash, musician, 1932-2003

    Posted by Lexington Green on 12th September 2003 (All posts by )

    One more link is now broken with an older, freer, wilder, harder America, a place of strong emotions, with little or no irony, deep loves, abiding hatreds, strong friendships, hard punches, hard knocks, hard work, too much liquor, loyalty and sacrifice, sadness and betrayal, forgiveness and a new start — dirt roads and train whistles in the night and sunrise on the open road. And it’s all still there, that lost world, in the music. And we saw that lost America too in the work ethic of a man who never retired and never became an oldies act, but kept on reinventing himself and kept pushing himself and his fans, old and new, until his body simply disintegrated. Lucky for us. But we’ll miss the Man in Black, and what he might have given us next. God rest his soul.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

    Admiral Poindexter Explains — Or Does He?

    Posted by Jonathan on 10th September 2003 (All posts by )

    Don Luskin links to what he calls a fascinating op-ed by Admiral Poindexter.

    It is indeed a fascinating piece, partly because of what Poindexter doesn’t say. He discusses DARPA’s data-mining proposal mainly in terms of intentions rather than nuts and bolts. And he attempts to deflect criticism of the scheme’s intrusiveness by asserting that it was designed to use non-U.S. databases.

    My main objections to the scheme are not that it’s ill-intended but that it will generate huge numbers of false positives and be an invitation to abuse in the future. (See this post and this post for related comments.) Admiral Poindexter says that the overseas databases that are to be used for the project do not contain information about U.S. citizens. However, there is reason to be cautious in accepting such assurances, as initial rumors had the scheme searching through precisely the kinds of U.S. financial records that Poindexter now insists are not involved, and DARPA’s description of the program has changed in response to public and Congressional opposition. Even if you take Poindexter at his word, it’s reasonable to be nervous about such a program, because it’s impossible to know who will be running it in the future and whether the system’s anti-snooping safeguards, which require us to trust the good will of whoever is administering it, will be followed.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

    Osama’s Friggin’ Dead

    Posted by Lexington Green on 10th September 2003 (All posts by )

    I don’t have a TV, so I didn’t see the Osama video until tonight, when my wife insisted we find it on the Net. We did.

    So, nu? That’s it? Osama walking on some rocks, with a voice over? Riiiiight.

    This convinces me Osama’s friggin’ dead, or so beat to sh*t that they don’t want to put him on TV. It would have been nothing to just have him look at the camera and say “Paul Bremer will drown in fire and his own blood” or some such Islamo-flavored threatening bull pucky. That would absolutely prove he’s alive, now, today. But nooooo.

    This is the best they can do? Ha. Dude. We’re winning.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments »

    Calling All Farmers

    Posted by Andy B on 9th September 2003 (All posts by )

    Thanks to Ralf for calling my attention to this running commentary. The topic hits close to home, and I have forwarded on to my colleagues in the agricultural and trading industries. I hold out the possibility that Howard is a former Carter Administration trade official, but I doubt it.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

    Ralph Peters Proposes an “Atlantic Strategic Network”

    Posted by Lexington Green on 8th September 2003 (All posts by )

    The Autumn issue of Parameters is up, and has several good things in it. It has an article by Ralph Peters, who is always worth reading, for the force of his rhetoric as well as the merits of his ideas, some of which are offbeat, but never less than interesting. Peters makes a bunch of points, in his inimitable fashion, though a little more haphazardly than usual. But, lets go ahead and hang onto his stirrup-strap as he charges ahead. You can either read my many quotes and pithy commentary below, or just go read the article.

    First, Peters tells us, policy-makers give up too easily on Africa and South America, because they are too Eurocentric, even racist, and set in their ways. He then proposes a new Atlantic entity, whose outlines remain blurry even on repeated re-reading:

    Nor is this about forging a neo-classical American empire. Rather, its about creating strategic partnerships to supercede our waning relations with continental Europe and about structuring alternatives to an over reliance on the states, populations, and markets of East Asia. Although the United States, where all the relevant cultures converge, would be the most powerful member of an Afro-Latin-Anglo-American web of alliances, this would be a new kind of informal, democratic network, based on shared interests, aligning values, cultural fusion, and mutual advantage.

    This proposal sounds pretty similar to Jim Bennett’s notion of a “Network Commonwealth”(discussed here):

    Far from a centralizing federation, the best form of association is what I call a “network commonwealth”: a linked series of cooperative institutions, evolved from existing structures like trade agreements, defense alliances, and cooperative programs. Rather than despising the variable geometry principle, it would embrace it, forming coalitions of the willing to respond to emerging situations.

    That’s Bennett. Notice how he is more concrete, focusing on existing institutions and building on those to create an articulated Anglosphere. Peters’ posited unifying elements for his proposed “community” are a lot more diffuse, maybe even imaginary. Institution-building for such a community is not even started, probably not even contemplated. Not yet, anyway. So Peters’ proposal is all very much a chalkboard exercise at this point.

    Anyway, Peters goes on to invoke Americas frontier spirit to buttress his proposed “Southern” policy approach:

    America always has done best on frontiers, from our own West through technological frontiers to our pioneering of the society of the future, in which gender, racial, and religious equality increasingly prevail (to the horror of our enemies, foreign and domestic). And the great human frontiers of the 21st century lie to our south.

    I find that a bit of a stretch, actually.

    Peters goes on to tell us that Old Europe is at odds with America in all kinds of ways, which is manifestly so, and that the Arab/Muslim world is going to be a hopeless basket case effectively forever, so we shouldnt get our hopes up about anything good happening there:
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments »

    Artist in Baghdad

    Posted by Lexington Green on 6th September 2003 (All posts by )

    Night Patrol

    “Night Patrol”

    This column entitled “Baghdad Journal,” by an artist named Steve Mumford, is remarkable. In this entry, Mumford is going around in Baghdad drawing pictures. I got a kick out of this:

    During my first trip, I spent a couple of weeks with the 3rd Infantry Division in Baghdad, specifically Task Force 2-7, commanded by Lt. Col. Scott Rutter. Rutter was very helpful; I showed up one morning at his headquarters and explained that I wanted to accompany his soldiers and make drawings. He was perched atop his command Bradley, engines roaring. Make art? Terrific! That’s great, just great! Jump on! Hoo-ah!

    So much for the purported philistinism of soldiers. His descriptions of his day-to-day dealings with Iraqis in Baghdad demonstrate that not everyone in Iraq is seething with rage at the Americans:

    Drawing here takes a little getting used to. The Iraqis are intensely interested in most things western, so the presence of an American sitting on a stoop or at a cafe making a drawing always elicits an avid audience. Every brushstroke is watched, and people have many questions. The Iraqi sense of personal space is very different from a westerner’s; here people crowd in so close they’re touching me, and men feel free to stab at the paper to point out someone I’ve drawn whom they know. If an onlooker blocks the view, however, he’ll be shouted at to get out of the way. Sometimes a passage is greeted with a round of “tsk, tsk, tsk,” which in Iraq doesn’t necessarily connote disapproval as much as interest (I think).

    In this most recent journal entry Mumford visits some National Guard troops based at a former Iraqi officers’ club. Mumford notes that:

    … the guard defines itself less in terms of fighting wars than in taking control in disasters and helping to improve the situation. Since they normally train on weekends, the men all have regular jobs, which generally makes them more understanding when dealing with civilians and brings a large pool of experience from the civilian sector to the force. One of their first acts was to rehabilitate the soccer stadium, which had been used for dug-in fortifications by the Republican Guard (the inaugural game was played between the guard and a local team; the guard was trounced).

    Mumford describes the daily activities of the guard soldiers in Baghdad, who are clearly make a very big contribution to getting the place back on its feet:

    In general, Baghdad seems to me to be better than it was two months ago, despite the rise in bombings. Many of the huge mounds of trash are cleaned up, the curbs repainted, less gunfire at night. The endless gas station lines are much shorter, the traffic snarls less intense and there’s more electricity at night, although still far from enough. Most importantly, the Iraqis of Al Wasiria seem to like these Americans, often calling out to them by name as they’re on patrol.

    Mumford does not downplay the dangers, but it is obvious that the situation in Iraq is much better than the mainstream media would have you believe.

    Also, his pictures are good.

    (Via Arts & Letters Daily)

    Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments »

    Bad Old Days

    Posted by Jonathan on 4th September 2003 (All posts by )

    A dream about being in a coal mine prompted some googling. The historical reality isn’t pretty:

    UK Mine Disasters — “Between 1880 and 1910, over 1000 fatalities occurred every year in British coal mines.”

    Account of 1814 Visit to English Mine

    List of Welsh Mining Disasters

    U.S. Dept. of Labor Mining Disasters Exhibit

    List of U.S. Mining Disasters

    List of Major Coal Mine Fires and Explosions in Pennsylvania

    Interesting site devoted to the conflict in Coal Creek, Tennessee over use of convicts as slave labor to mine coal. Note the obvious RKBA implications.

    Here’s a book about the 1958 Springhill, Nova Scotia disaster. I looked this one up because I remember from childhood a dreary folk song about the same event. The reality seems to have been more interesting than the song.

    Happily, things are better now. But note that even in 2002 there were 27 coal mining deaths in the U.S., and an average of 40 deaths annually in 2000 and 2001. Keep these numbers in mind the next time someone asserts that nuclear power generation is dangerous.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments »

    Photo

    Posted by Jonathan on 4th September 2003 (All posts by )

    run!

    While searching the giant’s lair Rex the Komodo dragon encounters a wheel.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

    Promising Blog

    Posted by Jonathan on 4th September 2003 (All posts by )

    Our friend Jeff Lin, who is a fount of stock-trading ideas, has started a blog.

    Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Promising Blog

    9/11 Anniversary and the Media

    Posted by Jonathan on 4th September 2003 (All posts by )

    From a letter to the editor of the WSJ by J. Stroble that appeared in today’s online edition:

    As much as the mainstream media would like us to, those of us in fly-over country haven’t forgotten Sept. 11. I’m guessing they think that if we forget 9/11, we’ll turn against the war on terror, and if we turn against the war, we’ll turn against the president. Nobody at CNN, CBS, ABC, et. al., would like to see the president’s poll numbers get the jump they got last year around this time. I hear they’re sweeping 9/11 under the rug this coming anniversary; they don’t want to bring back “the hurt.” Gee, how nice. If only they’d show the same consideration in reporting the grisly details of American deaths in Iraq.

    Posted in War and Peace | 2 Comments »

    Lex Blogs up a Storm

    Posted by Lexington Green on 1st September 2003 (All posts by )

    The other ChicagoBoyz seem to have been out doing something fun this Labor Day weekend, leaving me at the helm. Woo hoo. I have littered the place up with a bunch of rocknroll stuff, and empty beer bottles, as well as a few things having to do with war and politics, but no graphs or charts. (I should resolve to have more econ in my posts. Talk about business models, and use expressions like “risk premium”. So I’d fit in better around here.) Lest you become exhausted scrolling down looking for something worth reading, heres a handy, time-saving list:

    1. Kim Shattuck sings White Rabbit, Lex swoons.
    2. Walter Russell Mead (Mr. Jacksonian) interview.
    3. Election? What election?(There is something screwy about this post. You may have to scroll down.)
    4. I still say Hillary is running.
    5. Kaplan and War Nerd on the Costs and Techniques of Empire.
    6. Lex has a snit about some Catholic bashing.
    7. Groovy 1977 Punk Rock Nostalgia.

    This scratches the surface of what I would like to write about. Other stuff includes a post about the incredible prescience and timeliness of the writings of James Burnham, or one about the excellent military history books of Bruce Gudmundsson, or one about some recent books on the American military I’ve been reading, or a piece about the Duke of Wellington’s remarkable essay about why Napoleon lost in Russia, or a bunch of stuff about the California recall race. That’s all just off the seat of my pants, and not knowing what is going to happen tomorrow. But life has its demands. Blogging is much like a drug habit, which we fight to keep under control. We do what we can.

    Best wishes to all parents and students and teachers who are starting a new school year on September 2, 2003, or soon thereafter.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments »

    White Rabbit

    Posted by Lexington Green on 1st September 2003 (All posts by )

    Go to the White Flag website here and click on “video” for a super-cool version of the great, trippy, rockin’ psychedelic hit “White Rabbit” — with Ronnie from the Muffs playing bass and Kim Shattuck from the Muffs singing. A most excellent, solid, respectful version. Kim has the pipes to pull it off, though Grace Slick’s faux epic style is nothing like her usual approach to a song. Ms. Shattuck looks a little uncomfortable not having a guitar to hide behind, but she has a commanding stage presence, guitar or no guitar. (The thought inevitably occurs that the Muffs could do a shatteringly good version of “Somebody to Love” — and Kim is capable of outdoing Jorma Kaukonen’s blistering guitarwork. I’d sure like to hear that. But, alas, I suppose this is all too much to hope for.)

    Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

    Walter Russell Mead interview

    Posted by Lexington Green on 1st September 2003 (All posts by )

    Pretty good, located here. It is a good synopsis of his book Special Providence: American Foreign Policy and How it Changed the World. Of course, Mead introduced the term Jacksonian, which gets slung around a lot in blogspace these days, in that book. It is like Cliff Notes, if you arent going to get to the book — though you really should read the book.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

    Oh yeah, uh, no one cares, dude.

    Posted by Lexington Green on 1st September 2003 (All posts by )

    Sometimes a news story has a way of bringing you back down to earth. This timely poll helps us political junkies keep our perspective: Two-thirds of voters including two-thirds of Democrats were unable to name any of the Democratic candidates for president. (Via Drudge.)

    Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Oh yeah, uh, no one cares, dude.

    Hillary?

    Posted by Jonathan on 1st September 2003 (All posts by )

    First there was this, saying, hey, shes getting in. Then she denied it. Then we saw stuff like this saying she is being urged by the Donk leadership to run. Or this talking about the fact that she is raising buckets of money. Mark Steyn lays out the reasons she ought to run. The key paragraph:

    The way to look at it is like this: What does she have to gain by waiting four years? If Bush wins a second term, the Clinton aura will be very faded by 2008. And, if by some weird chance Bush loses to a Howard Dean, she’s going to have to hang around till 2012. Logic dictates that, if Hillary wants to be president, it’s this year or none. In her reflexive attacks on Bush over the war and the blackout and everything else, she already sounds like a candidate. The press will lapse into its familiar poodle mode (”Do you think you’ve been attacked so harshly because our society still has difficulty accepting a strong, intelligent woman?” etc.). And, more to the point, when the party’s busting to hand you the nomination, you only get one opportunity to refuse.

    You got that right. Especially the line about the party wanting her to do it. My bellwether is my Democrat wife. She wants Bill back, but shell gladly take Hillary. Hillary would get the nomination in a walk. Bill struck in 92 when it was supposedly impossible. Thats the Clinton way, brass balls. If Hillary changed her mind after all her vociferous denials? That would be no less than weve come to expect from the Clintons, either: say one thing, do another, i.e. lie. Just like the good old days. Watch, shes going to listen to America the way she did to New York, and she is going to hear America calling her to the presidency.

    Nothing has happened yet to make me waver (much) in my prediction made last December that Hillary will run, get the nomination, and that Wesley Clark will be her running mate.

    (Unfortunately, with Labor Day upon us, my prediction that the Donnas would be huge this Summer is already disproven. My wife suggests that we may be so out of it that they were and we didnt notice. Naaaah.)

    Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments »