January 2003, Part 3
Jim Miller on Politics
Alphabetical Order is not always the best way to choose the heads of organizations. As Solly Ezekiel notes here, it puts Iraq in line to head the Disarmament Commission. When the United Nations decided to award this postion by alphabetical order, they guaranteed that results like this would occur. Not that voting would necessarily produce better results, since Libya was voted in as head of the Human Rights Commission, mostly because of its support from black Africa. That support is hard to reconcile with Libya's terrible human rights record, which includes the purchase of black slaves from the Sudan, according to this column from Tommy Calvert of the American Anti-Slavery Group.
- 6:13 AM, 31 January 2003 [link]
Coverage Update: Today I checked some of the same newspapers that had skipped the story on the letter from the eight European leaders backing the United States to see if they had now published anything on it. The Guardian, since they could not avoid saying something about a letter signed by their own Prime Minister, published this grumpy article. Note that the headline writer calls the leaders the "gang of eight". The New York Times buried the news inside this longer piece. Note that the Times is not even accurate since the letter has not just been drafted, but been published in many newspapers. (Ethan Bronner also mentions the letter in an op-ed piece that will confuse many readers of the Times, since the newspaper has told them so little about it.) The Washington Post published this straightforward summary of the political controversy over the letter, though they say little about the letter itself. I could not find a word on the letter in either the Seattle PI or the Seattle Times. Not a word.
Broadcast news is a more important source for many people than newspapers. I did hear the story on NPR yesterday, and the Lehrer show led with it in its news summary. I don't know whether ABC, CBS, and NBC covered the story last night, but will check, and post that information later.
- 5:54 AM, 31 January 2003 [link]
The New Republic catches the New York Times moving the goal posts, or as they say in the editorial, "raising the bar", on action against Iraq. In November, the New York Times explicitly sanctioned war without the approval of the United Nations if Baghdad violates any of the provisions of the United Nations resolution. Now that it is clear that Saddam's regime has violated those provisions, the Times has changed its stance and wants more inspections. And after those? The Times will want still more, no doubt, until Saddam has had time to develop nuclear weapons.
- 4:09 PM, 30 January 2003 [link]
Did South Korea Buy Peace and a Nobel Prize? Maybe, according to this article, which describes some suspicious cash transfers by the outgoing South Korean president.
- 3:52 PM, 30 January 2003 [link]
More Partisan Coverage Choices: After finding the remarkable pattern of leftist newspapers refusing to publish articles about the letter from the eight European leaders, I made a quick check of some more American newspapers, and found the same pattern. The leftist Boston Globe did not have a story on the letter, but the conservative Boston Herald did. The leftist Los Angeles Times buried the story in a brief mention at the end of an article, but had room for this story on opposition to the US across the world, including this long quotation, giving the views of Carmela Compagnone, an Italian office administrator, on President Bush:
The speech just confirms what he is. He is a despot. He doesn't care what the international community has to say. He thinks he is master of the world, and that's the way he behaves. He wanted this war from the beginning, and he will go ahead with it, ignoring any other country.(The Los Angeles Times requires registration and is especially annoying about the process.) With all due respect to Ms. Compagnone, I do not think her views are as newsworthy as those of the heads of eight European governments, representing most of the population of that continent.
The conservative New York Post mentioned it in a story. The leftist San Francisco Chronicle used the Karen DeYoung story from the Washington Post that mentioned the letter, but cut out that part. Both the Seattle PI and the Seattle Times oppose removing Saddam with force; neither carried a story on the letter. The conservative Washington Times, it will surprise no one, had an article on the letter.
Newspapers that did not carry a story on the letter did have room for other important and timely news. Nearly all of them carried a story on the affairs of Wallis Simpson, from the 1930s, for example.
- 11:18 AM, 30 January 2003 [link]
H'm mm: The British government is proposing to legalize sex in public lavatories there, so long as it is in a cubicle with the door closed. Here's the story. That's not what I would call private.
- 7:42 PM, 30 January 2003 [link]
European Support: The leaders of eight European nations, Britain, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Portugal, and Spain, issued a statement in support of the United States and implicitly condemning France and Germany for their stands. Together the eight nations have a population of about 233 million; together Germany and France have a population of about 141 million. Thank you to all our friends and allies in Europe.
Remarkably, coverage of this important statement in the British newspapers seemed determined by their partisan ties. I looked at six important newspapers there. Three conservative papers, the Telegraph, the Times and the tabloid Sun, made it a lead story. If the statement was even in three leftist papers, the Guardian, the Independent, and the tabloid Mirror, it was buried so deeply that I could not find it.
Three American newspapers I checked follow the British pattern of ideology determining coverage. The left wing and bitterly partisan New York Times did not cover the statement. The moderate left Washington Post mentioned it briefly at the bottom of another story. The conservative Wall Street Journal's editorial pages ran it as an op-ed.
- 7:30 AM, 30 January 2003
Correction: The Washington Post does have this Reuters story on their site, though it is not in their "Print Edition". I should add that, though generally on the moderate left, the Post is not an unthinking opponent of a war to remove Saddam.
-10:47 AM, 30 January 2003
Addition: Two emailers wrote me to remind me that today's Wall Street Journal has an article on the letter, as well as an op-ed. At lunch time, I picked up a copy of the newspaper and they are right to call attention to the article. It is the best treatment of the letter that I have seen, explaining both how the Journal initiated the letter, and how the letter is part of a pattern of growing support for Bush. (The article is not available on line without a subscription, unfortunately.)
- 1:31 PM, 30 January 2003 [link]
Worth Reading: Anne Applebaum's column on the new Europe. One reason Rumsfeld's comment about the "old" Europe caused such pain is that the balance is shifting against France and Germany within Europe. Mary Ann Smothers Bruni's column on how the Kurds in Iraq are waiting for "Cowboy" Bush to remove Saddam. Military historian John Keegan's argument that the appeasement of Iraq is worse than the pre World War II appeasement of Hitler. As he says, like Saddam now, "Hitler was once a weak little man". Robert Samuelson's column suggesting a compromise on a tax plan. Samuelson thinks we should keep the accelerated cuts, add some aid to the states, and for now skip the plan to eliminate the double taxation of dividends. Eve Tushnet's thoughtful column on home schooling and the ways age segregation hurts children. I would add that it is often damaging to adults as well, though in different ways.
- 2:02 PM, 29 January 2003 [link]
Chuckle: Which senator is now the least influential? That's right, independent Jim Jeffords. So, which senator did the main French news agency choose to lead their story on the state of the union speech. The same Jim Jeffords. He got the first two paragraphs, his reaction being more important, I suppose, than Bush's speech. If, like me, you take a certain perverse pleasure in finding errors in these press reports, you'll be pleased to see that they also got Senator McCain's party wrong, making him a Democrat. Think how little some one must know about American politics to make that particular mistake.
- 2:02 PM, 29 January 2003 [link]
Kiss Me, I'm A Terrorist: That was a button being sold at Canada's NDP convention. It is not surprising that terrorism would find support from members of Canada's farthest left major party, but it is surprising to see them so cheerful about the people who killed Canadians, as well as Americans, in the World Trade Center. Here's the story, along with some more foolish buttons. (By way of Damian Penny)
- 8:01 AM, 29 January 2003 [link]
Routine Anti-Americanism, Example 3: While I am on the subject of cartoons, here is the editorial cartoon from today's Guardian, which depicts George Bush as a gun toting chimpanzee, with Hans Blix and Tony Blair coming out of his ass. (I think Bell is trying to draw Bush as a chimpanzee, which judging by a quick glance through some of his cartoons, seems to be his standard practice. By way of comparison, he draws Saddam Hussein, respectfully, as—Saddam Hussein. Think about that comparison for a moment. For this cartoonist in an influential British newspaper, Bush is a chimpanzee, but Saddam is an ordinary person.) I don't know just what point Bell is trying to make in this vulgar and disgusting cartoon, but his hatred for Bush and his anti-Americanism come through clearly enough. Yesterday, in his final column for the Guardian, Ian Buruma explained why this cartoon, and others like it, please so many readers of the paper:
Two things, in my experience as a Guardian columnist, are guaranteed to cause maximum annoyance; or perhaps just one thing: any argument in defence of Israel or the United States.In other words, routine anti-Americanism is what many Guardian readers seek from the newspaper, and any attempt to make them think annoys them.
- 7:51 AM, 29 January 2003 [link]
The Independent, or Der Sturmer? A British newspaper, the Independent, has published this cartoon, which could easily have run in the Nazi newspaper, Der Sturmer, which specialized in gross anti-Semitism. Art students will recognize the inspiration for this cartoon in Goya's painting, "Saturn Eating His Children". So, yes, the cartoonist, David Brown, is accusing Ariel Sharon of eating Palestinian children. That a cartoonist at a major British paper could draw this, and his editors approve it, shows how far some journalists have slipped, going from bigotry against Israel to open, classic anti-Semitism. Americans will also notice that Brown is deliberately drawing American helicopters in the background to make a point against us, as well. You can write a protest email to the Independent at this address: firstname.lastname@example.org. In mine, I urged them to fire both the cartoonist and the editor(s) who approved the cartoon. Britain also has a press council where one can register protests. Here is their web site. (By way of Charles Johnson's site, Little Green Footballs)
- 6:45 AM, 29 January 2003 [link]
Who Is Gary Locke? Washington state's second term governor is a strange choice to give the Democratic reply to President Bush's state of the union speech tonight. Locke is a pleasant man with an interesting family history, and no significant accomplishments. He comes from a poor Chinese family that was on welfare for six years while he was growing up. He went to Yale as a beneficiary of affirmative action, he claims, and then earned a law degree from Boston University. (His claim to be a beneficiary of affirmative action seems implausible to me, at least by current definitions. The studies I have seen show that Ivy League schools tend to discriminate against Asian-Americans, not in favor of them.)
He followed the usual political career path, serving as a prosecutor and then in the state legislature. In 1993, he was elected executive of King County, which includes Seattle and most of its suburbs. As executive, he supported a "growth management" plan, which, like most such plans, has been both popular and destructive. Professor of geography Richard Morrill, a man of the left by his own description, describes the result:
Although we know very well from endless studies that most families with kids want to live in houses with some private space, they're told by the new ruling class, who know what's best for everyone, that this is a selfish, obsolete desire; they'll have to make do with dense apartments and unsafe public space, since it is far more important to save open space for the elite than to let the market create housing. After visiting their relatives in Minneapolis, Atlanta or Detroit, with housing half the cost of Seattle, can we understand why people are upset?In 1996, Locke was elected governor, benefitting from a weak Republican opponent. (There are some Republicans who believe that their candidate, Ellen Craswell, got her narrow margin in a crowded field from Democratic crossover votes. I haven't seen any evidence for this theory, but can understand why people believe it, since she was certainly the weakest of the Republicans that year. Either legislator Dale Foreman or prosecutor Norm Maleng, who ran second and third, respectively, would have been stronger opponents for Locke.) In 2000, running against talk show host John Carlson, he was re-elected with an even larger margin.
(One important scandal in the 1996 election was never explained to my satisfaction. Locke received $5,000 from a Buddhist temple in Redmond, returned it and then received replacement checks totalling $10,000. He also received campaign contributions from such dubious characters as John Huang and Pauline Kanchanalak's mother-in-law.)
As governor, Locke has done little to solve Washington state's problems. Traffic in the Seattle metropolitan area is terrible, since the state built few roads during the last two decades, even as population in this area soared. Traffic was one reason Boeing moved its headquarters from Seattle, and may move other facilities. Early in his first term, Locke had an excellent chance to act. Several moderate Republican legislators went out on the limb and called for an increase in the gas tax to pay for road improvements. This gave Locke a chance to both do something about a real problem and divide the Republican party. To my amazement, he let the legislators sit on the limb until the anti-tax faction of the Republican party sawed it off. There have been a series of attempts by others to alleviate the traffic problems here; in these Locke has usually played little part, though he did campaign for a losing initiative last fall. One reason Locke has done little on traffic problems is that many in the Democratic party oppose any efforts to improve roads, feeling that people, or at least other people, should ride public transit.
For similar reasons, Locke has done little to improve public schools here. The powerful state teachers union, the Washington Education Association, has blocked most of the important reforms, like charter schools. They are too important to the Democratic party for him to take on, at least until this recent budget crisis.
Nor has he done much to improve the business climate here. Among the 50 states, Washington has ranked first or second in its unemployment rate for some time.
All these troubles have finally caught up with Locke. Recent polls show low support for him. A tough former Democratic state legislator and Washington Supreme Court Justice, Phil Talmadge, has already announced his campaign for 2004, making it clear that he will run in the Democratic primary against Locke, if necessary.
All this would lead any outside observer to ask the obvious question: Why would the Democratic party choose a governor, unpopular in his own state and with no significant accomplishments, to be their national spokesman? Why would they choose a man who still advocates racial preferences, even after they were defeated by the voters in his own state (in Initiative 200)? Why would they choose a man who has such a poor record on unemployment when that issue is so salient for voters? Not having been at the meetings where this was decided, I can only guess, but I think he may have been Nancy Pelosi's choice. You may recall this post, in which I argued that she was best understood as a machine politician, like her father, the long time mayor of Baltimore. Machine politicians are famous for seeking ethnic balance, and infamous for parochialism. Gary Locke is the first Chinese-American to be elected governor. For Nancy Pelosi, with a Congressional district that was 28 per cent Asian in 1990 and probably a much higher percentage now, that outweighs his dismal performance in office. It also fits with her recent choice of Robert Matsui to head the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, who fills the Japanese-American slot. (Mickey Kaus argued here that Matsui was a strange choice for that job, given his responsibility for losing the Democratic majority in 1994. Matsui shares something else with Locke, by the way. He introduced Al Gore at the infamous Buddhist temple fund raiser.) Pelosi is right, in my opinion, to be worried about the Asian vote. Even in California, Bush almost broke even among Asian-Americans in 2000, and would, I think, do much better now.
One last thought. Whatever the reason Locke was chosen, he most likely would have been better off not accepting. Right now, with all the troubles he and the state have, Locke would do better to stay home and work with the legislature. He should have learned from the old story of the man who was tarred and feathered. As the man was being ridden out of his town on a rail, he said, "If it weren't for the honor, I would rather walk". Like that man, Locke would have been better off without the honor.
- 2:48 AM, 28 January 2003 [link]
Better Health Through Pronouns? The third finding in this brief article is the most intriguing.
In an unusual example of your tax dollars at work, psychologists have determined that the frequent use of different pronouns is a powerful predictor of better health.Now, if this is true, what the greater variety of pronoun use measures is probably how healthy a person's social network is, something long known to be associated with good health.
- 7:30 AM, 28 January 2003 [link]
Old, or Adolescent? Defense Secretary Rumsfeld's comment that France and Germany were part of the old Europe is, I think, backwards. Literally, it is true that France and Germany, because of their low birth rates, are aging nations. It is also true that France has a very long national history, though Germany does not. But, if you observe how the nations behave under Chancellor Schröder and President Chirac, you don't see the steady behavior one expects from the old. Instead, we see pouting, whining, name calling, reverses in policy, and a general lack of a stable adult behavior. We hear endless complaints that we don't consult them enough, that we don't care about their feelings. We see them break, as Secretary of State Powell can tell you, promises they have made to our diplomats. We see an intense desire for respect by their peers, regardless of consequences. We have, in short, nations behaving like teenagers, not like old people. Schröder, who sued to stop a magazine from running a story on his hair dye, is behaving in a way that will be familiar to parents of most teenagers. Chirac's desire for power and glory is not as funny, but is equally adolescent.
This adolescent behavior has several causes, I think, but most important is the protection that the United States provided them during the Cold War. For the many years that we guaranteed their security, they did not need to have an adult foreign policy. It is time, I think, for them to grow up. We can help them through their adolescence by ignoring much of the whining and by encouraging them to behave more responsibly. We should also, in effect, cut down their allowance by cutting back our commitment to NATO. There is no reason that we should pay for Europe's defense when the nations there have ample means to do it themselves.
- 6:35 AM, 28 January 2003 [link]
What Do Iraqi Women Want? Six representatives of different ethnic communities made it clear in a Paris press conference that they "supported the ouster of the Iraqi dictator by almost any means". Merde in France, who tipped me to this story, observes that "there was not a word in the French press" about this story. Not a word!
- 6:18 AM, 28 January 2003 [link]
Common Sense on the UN: Steven Chapman clears away some muddled thinking on the United Nations in this post. As he notes, many seem to think that deposing Saddam is good if approved by the United Nations, but bad otherwise. Read the post to see why that view makes no sense. I would add just one thought. Those who think this way seem to put their faith in an ideal United Nations, one that has never existed. Outrages like the way the United Nations ignored and even covered up the genocide in Rwanda never appear in their picture of the organization.
- 6:35 PM, 27 January 2003 [link]
Eagles in Seattle: Bald eagles are now flourishing in Seattle with 43 spotted in the city during the most recent Audubon Christmas bird count. (And in the suburbs. I often see them flying in this area and sometimes see one perched on a ship's mast in the downtown Kirkland harbor.) There are so many that some biologists now think that they are close to maximum that the environment here can support. Here's the Seattle Times story of this environmental success, marred, as usual, by the bogus claims on the harm done eagles by DDT. (For the facts on DDT, see this useful summary of research findings. You'll note that the eagle population declined before DDT was in use and began recovering before it was banned.)
- 2:23 PM, 27 January 2003 [link]
Is Saddam as Bad as Stalin? In proportion to Iraq's population, nearly so, concludes New York Times reporter John F. Burns in this article summarizing Saddam's crimes against his own people. The current estimate is that he has killed roughly a million Iraqis, which is about 5 per cent of the entire population. Another 10 per cent, according to estimates I have seen, have fled into exile. He has also destroyed marshes, inhabited for centuries by the marsh Arabs, in what the United Nations describes as "one of the world's greatest environmental disasters". So far as I know, this destruction has drawn no significant protests from those who like to pose as defenders of the environment. Certainly I have heard nothing from the candidate of the Green party, Ralph Nader, who is, himself of Arab descent.
- 6:35 AM, 27 January 2003 [link]
Bill Mauldin, RIP: Cartoonist Bill Mauldin was the best spokesman the American infantry of World War II had, during the war and afterwards. His book, Up Front, first published during the war, will give you a feeling for what the guys in the foxholes had to endure. It has many of his most famous cartoons, like the former cavalryman sadly executing his broken jeep, along with Mauldin's text explaining the background for them.
- 8:20 AM, 27 January 2003 [link]
Israel 101: The endless Arab propaganda against Israel has had an undeserved success. The repetition of false claims, again and again, has led many people to believe charges against Israel that are easily disproved. Solly Ezekiel, in a dialog with an Arab, provides this concise summary of the basic facts. The one-sided nature of the conflict reminds me of the Cold War, which could have been ended whenever the Communist regimes had wanted it to end. So, too, it is with the Arabs and Israel; the conflict can end whenever Arabs choose to end it.
- 8:01 AM, 27 January 2003 [link]
Routine Failure in Urban Schools: Joshua Kaplowitz's story of how he was sued for $20 million after he joined Teach for America got much deserved attention. To understand the general problem, you will also want to read an interview with "Teacher X", a former coporate executive, who worked in a failing school. The routine failures he describes are more important than the spectacular ones because they happen in thousands of classrooms rather than a few. You can find find the two part interview, done by Friedrich of 2 Blowhards, here and here. (By the way, the 2 Blowhards site is consistently interesting, especially on art and architecture.)
- 6:35 AM, 27 January 2003 [link]
A Social Service for Terrorists: That's how Harriet Sergeant describes the British asylum system in this Telegraph column. The terrorists work with ordinary criminals and commit many criminal acts themselves, as they exploit the weaknesses in the asylum system. They are so far ahead of the authorities that the very concept of asylum has been "shot to pieces", with this result:
The interests of the outsider are paramount: the security of the ordinary citizen, surely the first duty of any government, is all but forgotten.
- 5:50 AM, 27 January 2003 [link]
And a Small Defeat: Checking visitors from countries that have produced terrorists is one of the more sensible steps we have taken in the war on terrorism. Ted Kennedy does not agree, and managed to amend a Senate Appropriations bill to eliminate the program, even though it has already led to the apprehension of 330 known criminals and 3 known terrorists. Thanks, Ted.
- 7:01 AM, 26 January 2003 [link]
And a Small Victory: Here's a story with more details on the Afghan women drivers. (And if you are in a dust storm, don't forget to pull over.)
- 6:44 AM, 26 January 2003 [link]
Big Victory in War on Terrorism: A raid last month in Paris has led to the break up of a large terrorist organization, operating in Britain, France, Italy, and Spain. Here's the story from the Times of London. And here's a map showing the locations of the police raids in the four countries. Most of our victories in the war on terrorism will come from this kind of police work, rather than more dramatic military operations. The international cooperation seen in these raids will be essential to our success. Congratulations to the police in all four nations, but especially in France, where they found the initial lead. There's more work ahead for them, as you can see from this Telegraph article. Thanks to the military victory in Afghanistan the British police now have the names and addresses of almost 1200 British Muslims who trained with al Qaeda.
- 6:35 AM, 26 January 2003 [link]
Who Is With Us, Who Is Not: This article from the Guardian gives a partial list of the European countries that will support a multilateral effort to remove Saddam, should that become necessary, and those that will not. The Guardian doesn't list all the European countries, or even all the European NATO countries, but it looks like we will have some support from a majority of the countries there.
- 6:58 AM, 24 January 2003 [link]
Here's a Question That Deserves an ANSWER: Who funds ANSWER, the principal sponsor of last week end's "peace" demonstrations? The organization is a front for the Communist World Workers Party, which has no significant legitimate sources of income, as Steven Schwartz points out in this article. Who pays for their trips, their publications, and all their activities? Here's Schwartz's guess:
Any normal citizen should wonder whether this "peace" movement is not, in fact, directly funded and controlled by Saddam and Kim. Unfortunately, most Americans have forgotten that, before 1941, Hitler, Mussolini, and the Japanese militarists bankrolled similar "peace movements" in the U.S., and that the Soviet Communist Party paid for such propaganda for years and years.Let me add that the Chinese Communists supported some of the black radical groups in the United States not all that long ago. This kind of subversion was even more important overseas. In their book, L'argent de Moscou (The Money From Moscow), Victor Loupan and Pierre Lorran showed how Soviet money subsidized and controlled the French Communist party, even while it was winning as much as 20 per cent of the vote in French elections.
- 6:35 AM, 24 January 2003 [link]
Now There's a Campaign Promise! This article on a new political party in Israel, Shinui, mentions a remarkable campaign promise. Shinui is opposed to the religious parties in Israel and is promising a more secular state. Their opponents appear to be offering a better deal, however.
Shas, the main ultra-Orthodox party favoured by Israelis from Morocco, is promising a guardian angel for every one who casts a ballot for it.
- 7:16 AM, 24 January 2003 [link]
No Pay for a Year: Every once in a while, I see one of those stories from China that remind me how little I know about that country. Some migrant workers there have not received any pay for a year. There have been dramatic protests, including some threats of suicide. Where is the AFL-CIO when you need them?
- 5:12 AM, 24 January 2003 [link]
Saddam Versus Inspections, Round 1: Inside this impassioned Christopher Hitchens column urging the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, are some sensational charges about the first round of inspections:
I can add some further detail, which is somewhat better than anecdotal. A very senior former inspector, who is a highly-regarded international civil servant, told me that he had been offered his own personal Swiss bank account by a top official in Saddam's government, on condition that he produced a favourable report.Offers of bribes and attempts at poisoning. Not quite the actions one would expect from an innocent man, are they? The rest of the column is well worth your time, too.
- 4:43 PM, 23 January 2003 [link]
Religion of Peace, Yet Another Example: There are so many examples of Muslims preaching violence against non-Muslims that I get tired of mentioning them. This one has a disgusting detail that makes it stand out. Abdullah El-Faisal, a British convert to Islam from Jamaica, "suggested fuelling power stations with the bodies of slaughtered Hindus". I am sure that this must disgust many British Muslims, but there is no mention of their opposition to him in the article. El-Faisal came to Britain "after graduating in 1991 in islamic studies at a university in Riyadh", Saudi Arabia.
- 5:52 AM, 23 January 2003 [link]
Our Man at the Guardian: Only one thing can explain the appearance of still another awful anti-American poem in the Guardian. A secret agent at the Guardian is a sabotaging the newspaper by choosing poems he (or she) knows intelligent people will find hilarious. It must be an agent, because there is no reason why a talented poet can't write a decent poem against war, or even against the United States. This series of awful poems must be deliberate. After seeing more than one Bond movie, I am sure this must be the work of those clever people in the British secret services. Well done, I say to agent Pentameter, or whatever your code name is. And that use of the Monkees theme song, pointed out here, by Tim Blair's correspondent, Loretta Serrano, is simply brilliant.
- 5:38 AM, 23 January 2003 [link]
Some Thoughts on European Anti-Americanism: In this characteristically thoughtful post, Chris Bertram responds to Kevin Drum's claim that the current version of European anti-Americanism "is often more anti-Bushism than anti-Americanism". Bertram makes three arguments, which I will use to structure my own comments. First, he points out that Europe is a continent, not a nation, and that it is odd to blame, for example, a British citizen for the views of an Albanian peasant. In this he is quite right; in fact, I would say he does not go nearly far enough. The political diversity in Europe is much greater than that in the United States, and even that in all of North America. In particular, extremists have had much less influence in the United States, and even North America, than they have had in Europe. There has been no American or even North American equivalent to the Nazis, and only little Cuba has been ruled by Communists for any length of time. Given this range of political views in Europe, it is only natural that Europeans have an equally wide range of reasons for disliking—and liking Americans.
In his second point, Bertram argues that "much of the 'anti-Americanism' in European countries is a matter of passing fashion". Here, I think he goes too far, for just the reasons of ideological diversity that I mentioned above. The former Nazis and neo-Nazis in Europe are anti-American, not for reasons of fashion, but because the United States helped Britain and the Soviet Union defeat Hitler in World War II. The Communists and their heirs in Europe are anti-American because the United States is the largest capitalist country and because we helped win the Cold War against the Soviet Union, not for reasons of fashion. Conservative parties, too, have had reasons to be anti-American. There are still Tories who have not forgiven the United States for our part in the break-up of the British empire. Similarly, De Gaulle pursued anti-American policies because he wanted to have more influence for France, not out of a desire to be fashionable. The chattering classes in Europe may now be more anti-American for reasons of fashion, but most others have more substantial reasons for their attitudes toward the United States.
Third, he argues that Europeans know few Americans and that they get their ideas about Americans from Hollywood. In this, he is mostly correct, I am sure. He may be chagrined to learn that he is echoing Newt Gingrich, who made that very argument, with supporting data, in this Los Angeles Times column. (Registration required for reading.)
Where I would differ from Bertram is that he does not mention the influence of European journalists, especially British journalists, who are nearly all on the left. Hostile to conservatives in general, they are unlikely to give their audiences in Europe a balanced account of American politics, especially the conservative side. (I have filled this site with examples of their errors and bias without much effort. Just scroll and click around if you need examples.) Americans can test our own journalists' stories against our experience, or listen to the critics on talk radio, or read sites on the net, like this one, for balance. Europeans are much less likely to hear about George Bush's achievements in education in Texas, our legitimate objections to the Kyoto agreement, or the reasons most Americans support capital punishment. (Many Europeans, even majorities in some countries, also support capital punishment, but they have little voice among European elites.) To take a prominent example, if Matthew Engel of the Guardian can't look at the innocuous Bush Christmas card without boiling over in anger, why should anyone trust him to be fair in his coverage of more weighty matters concerning Bush?
Finally, let me come back to Drum's original argument that the problem is more anti-Bushism than anti-Americanism. This will be true for the people on the left Drum is likely to have met. It will be true for some who have gained their picture of Bush through the distorted lens of the British press. For some others, whom Drum is unlikely to meet, Bush's presidency will make them less likely to be anti-American. Those who hold traditional and moral religious views, for example, are likely to find Bush more palatable than Clinton, for the obvious reasons. For many others, Bush will make little difference. I imagine that the former Nazis and neo-Nazis in Europe were just as anti-American before he became president as they are now. Anti-Americanism was centuries old before President Bush was born; to attribute it to him is to ignore history.
- 4:19 PM, 22 January 2003
Update: Kevin Drum writes me to tell me that he made some of the same points as I did in this follow up post. I agree with him, of course, that people like Harold Pinter are as unlikely to be representative of European ideas as Noam Chomsky is of American ideas. But, there is considerable evidence that anti-American ideas are acceptable to large numbers of Europeans, not just academic and cultural elites. There was a poll just months ago in Europe which found that large numbers of Europeans saw the United States (and Israel) as the biggest threats of war. In the recent French elections Le Pen and the Trotskyites, both hostile to the United States, toegether drew about one third of the first round vote.
Nor do I think we can dismiss the long term influence of academic and cultural elites on the views of the public, especially on matters where the public does not have direct knowledge. The delegitimization of Israel, now nearly complete in Europe, began with those same elites and only gradually spread to ordinary citizens. There are many in those European elites who would like to see the same happen to the United States.
- 7:40 AM, 24 January 2003 [link]
Routine Anti-Americanism, Example 2: The Guardian's Matthew Engel looks at Washington, D. C. and gets it mostly wrong. He begins by claiming that it could be the "most racially segregated city in the world", when it is probably not even the most racially segregated city in the United States. What he misses is that the very real segregation in Washington is as much class segregation as race segregation. It is poor blacks, not just blacks, who live in most of Washington, D. C. More affluent blacks live, along with whites, in the northwest quadrant of the city and in neighboring Prince George county, which has the highest income of any majority black county in the nation.
He next claims that Washington is "the least democratic city in any allegedly free country". (I rather like the sneaky "allegedly" there.) Actually, Washington has been more or less self governing since 1961, and has significantly more autonomy than, for example, London. One would think Engel would be aware of this point since Margaret Thatcher took away London's elected mayor rather recently. (The right to elect mayors was returned under Blair and the ungrateful London electorate rewarded him by choosing "Red" Ken Livingstone, an opponent of Blair.) His point about race and voting rights is backwards, historically. The city did not have voting rights when it had a majority white population, and gained the rights as it was changing to majority black.
His claim that "the city is now quite well-run" would come as a surprise to Washington residents like Post columnist Colbert King. Throwing Barry out was an improvement, but the city has far to go. His claim that DC voters have been "losing rights" is also false. The attempt by Democrats in the House of Representatives to save their majority by counting votes in committee from non-voting members like the DC representative was obviously unconstitutional. They did not have the rights to lose.
His discussion of Washington's reputation as "reputed murder capital" of the world also errs in several ways. Its murder rate is much lower than that in, for example, Johannesburg, a city Engel claims to have visited, and is lower than that in New Orleans, last I looked. One reason that Washington has such a high murder rate is that its police are notably incompetent at solving murders, as has been documented extensively by the Washington Post and other news organizations. Their clearance rate is one of the lowest of any American cities, and is one of the strongest pieces of evidence that Washington is not "well-run".
Finally, after this error-filled piece, Engel comes to his main point, a non sequitur: He argues that, since Washington, D. C. has problems, it would be wrong to do anything about Iraq. Just between you and me, I think that he would oppose any attempt to remove the fascist leader of Iraq, even if Washington had no problems. This kind of argument is a clever appeal to emotion, but illogical, as Engel almost certainly knows.
- 10:55 AM, 22 January 2003 [link]
Women Drivers are not a novelty in the civilized world, but they are in Afghanistan, where thirty women are about to get their driver's licenses. They are the first in ten years. Bet this annoys the Saudis.
- 5:21 AM, 22 January 2003 [link]
Libya Tries to Bribe the Labour Party: Political practices common in one nation will often leak into its dealings with other nations. One of the persistent dangers in dealing with corrupt governments is that they will try to corrupt your own officials. Fortunately, Britain's Labour party is not quite multicultural enough to accept bribes from Libya, as you can see in this article. What, I wonder, did the Libyans want in return for their bribes?
- 5:13 AM, 22 January 2003 [link]
Sympathy for the Devil: Abu Hamza may be a lying thug who took over the Finsbury Park mosque by force and threats of force. He may then have used the mosque to preach hate and inspire terrorists all over the world, but Rod Liddle of the Guardian still likes him, as you can see in this column. Liddle admires his authenticity, calling him "consistent and unwavering". But this quality is found in most great villains; as Yeats said in The Second Coming, "the worst are full of passionate intensity". The world would be a better place if an evil man like Hamza were less consistent, if he wavered, from time to time, in his desire to destroy us.
Liddle also sees Hamza as proof of his own tolerance. Keeping Hamza in Britain allows Liddle and those who share his ideas to pass "the true test of multiculturalism". In other words, a man who leads a center for terrorism should be protected because it allows Liddle to preen over his tolerance. Of course, to come to this conclusion, Liddle has to evade thinking about the considerable evidence of Hamza's criminal activities, but that's an easy evasion for most Guardian writers.
- 4:57 AM, 22 January 2003 [link]