IT'S OUR FIFTH ANNIVERSARY! CLICK HERE TO MAKE A DONATION. Saturday, January 11, 2003 WHY D.C. IS STILL HELL: What do you do with a man who has successfully evaded paying child support to kids from two different relationships? Make him head of D.C.'s child-support enforcement agency! Colbert King has the details. The kicker: D.C. collected payments in 12 percent of its child support cases in 2000. The national average is 42 percent.
QUOTE FOR THE DAY: "This thoughtful, searching tone is in keeping with the journal's aspirations to objectivity. 'The key to the journal is that it's middle of the road," said the editor, Dan Leab, a history professor at Seton Hall University in South Orange, N.J., and a leading member of Historians of American Fascism, the organization sponsoring the journal. "It covers the waterfront but leaves the fringes out.'" - from a jovial New York Times piece on a new journal covering the history of American communism. (Yes, I changed the term to fascism to show the double standards here.) This is a great concept: a "middle-of-the-road" analysis of a monstrous totalitarianism and its sometimes treacherous allies in the United States. Of course, among the "middle-of-the-road" assessments, "an essay on the party's activities in California during the early 1930's that draws on newly opened Comintern archives to show how local Communist leaders often exercised considerable independence from the Soviet Union on tactics and policies" and the usual screed against informers. I knew the academy and the New York Times were soft on Stalinism, but this soft? - 1:23:54 PM RAINES AWARD NOMINEE (for egregious media bias): "Europeans Seek to Rein in American War Machine," - headline from - where else? - Reuters.
EURO-ANTI-SEMITISM WATCH: Regular readers will remember Gretta Duisenberg, the anti-Semitic wife of the European Central Bank chairman, Wim. When asked how many signatures she would like on an anti-Israel petition, she once joked, "Six million?" and laughed. Now she's getting more explicit. "Taking the Holocaust out of consideration, the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories is worse than the Nazi occupation of The Netherlands," she opined this week. "The cruelty of the Israeli knows no bounds. That they, for instance, blow up Palestinian houses is not exceptional. The Nazis never did that during the occupation of the Netherlands." For the record, 250,000 people were killed by the Nazis in Holland from 1940 - 45, 110,000 of whom were Jewish. Maybe she doesn't count those. Her husband is not to be held responsible for her bigotry, but it's surely getting a little difficult for one of the most powerful men in Europe to support his wife 100 percent, when she is clearly a Jew-hater. - 2:08:41 AM
Friday, January 10, 2003 NEW LILEKS LINK: The screed against Chuck Barris can now be found here. Don't miss it.
- 5:26:07 PM SONTAG ON AMERICA: Many thanks for the translations. I found this section to be the most interesting:
VANGUARDIA: At what point of the trip are you right now?
SONTAG: In a reflection about the United States. America has always been the place of dreams, the place all Europeans went to looking for their dream, the place where all was possible. And inside of America, Americans have at the same time their own America: California.
And what is the America of Susan Sontag?
This question ... Oh, it is good! Because... it is Europe! What an idea: My America is called Europe. It is my place of dreams.
Since I was a little girl: I had a solitary youth, in small rural towns in the south of Arizona and the south of California. My magic carpet was the world of books. And they carried me to Europe. I read from the classics…I dreamt of leaping from my childhood to be able to get out of there. I lived my infancy as an obstacle. I didn’t enjoy it. And today I’m sorry for that…but it’s just that my dream was to be a foreigner.
And did you realize your dream?
Yes: I’ve lived a lot in Paris and in various countries of Europe. I’m attracted by its culture, its disposition for debate … Most of the things I like are in Europe.
And what do you dislike about the United States?
That all that primordial fantasy was subjected to consumerism, the ideology of "living to buy." That is the current ideology. It dumbs down the people, makes their main values be those of buying and enjoying themselves.
I have read that because of that you have said that you’re ashamed to be an American.
No, that is an incorrect journalistic headline, and I appreciate your letting me clarify it: what shames me is not to be an American, but that the Northamerican foreign politics are so aggressive! This exercise of political power of the Bush Administration, so bellicose!
This is helpful, isn't it? Underlying Sontag's thought really is a somewhat tired anti-Americanism, rooted in a leftwing critique of bourgeois culture. But here's one question I'd like someone to ask Sontag. She supported president Clinton's military intervention in the Balkans. He did so without U.N. approval. Yet Bush is acting entirely under U.N. auspices with regard to Iraq. If Bush is an imperialist, why wasn't Clinton? - 1:27:22 PM WHY BUSH IS LIKE MARCOS: Paul Krugman explains his analogy, made to Der Spiegel magazine. He doesn't believe Bush is the "moral equivalent" of Marcos. He just thinks that "the Bush administration's creation of a cult of personality, its obsessive secretiveness, its propensity for mass arrests, and its evident fondness for Big-Brotherish schemes of public surveillance are not the actions of men who have a deep respect for the democratic process." Check it out. It must be hard sometimes being a "lone voice of truth in a sea of corruption." But Krugman is pulling through. - 1:06:13 PM SONTAG AWARD NOMINEE:"Saddam is the worst monster in the world! He is hateful, like Islamic fundamentalism. But the United States is hateful for its imperialistic fundamentalism!" - Susan Sontag (!), quoted in Vanguardia, noticed and translated by the "sexy scourgers of Spanish socialism" at Iberian Notes. If they or anyone else can translate the whole thing and send it here, I'll report back on the rest of the interview.
CHURCHILL ON HANS BLIX: A reader sends in a wonderful 1953 Churchill quote about what would happen if England's patron saint, George, were alive today, and required to go out and slay an actual dragon to save an actual damsel in distress. Here's what Winston remarked:
St. George would arrive in Cappadocia accompanied, not by a horse, but by a secretariat. He would be armed, not by a lance, but by several flexible formulas ... He would propose a conference with the dragon. He would then lend the dragon a lot of money. The maiden’s release would be referred to Geneva or New York, the dragon reserving all rights meanwhile.
Methinks the dragon would also have U.N. inspectors halfway down its throat checking on signs of fire. Nope, Nothing there, guys! Friendly little critter, isn't he?
THE DIVIDENDS DIVIDEND: The New Republic's Ryan Lizza has the best explanation I've yet read of the rationale behind the Bush economic proposal. (While I'm at it, one Reihan Salam's sane round-up of the latest writings on Iraq at TNR.com is also well worth a read.)
A LILEKS CLASSIC: Tell us how you feel about Chuck Barris, James. Tell us how you feel.
BLAIR'S WOBBLE? I don't know what to make of Drudge's Daily Telegraph story claiming that the Brits are urging Bush to postpone war against Iraq till the fall. But I do know that the Blair government has explicitly now denied the charge. I'm not going to panic any time soon at the various signals that the West is now going wobbly on Iraq. In my view, the omissions in the arms declaration are a sufficient U.N. basis for war. And I presume that the only man who really counts in this shares the same view. As Hans Blix says in today's Telegraph,
"We think the declaration failed to answer a great many questions. A more profound reading of the text has now confirmed the impression." He said a list of Iraqi scientists omitted several key names, and he would consider taking officials out of Iraq for questioning. Mr Blix also disclosed that Iraq had imported missile engines and raw material for producing solid missile fuel in violation of UN sanctions.
What more do we need?
WHY GRAHAM'S DOOMED: "I am, and since 1973 have been, a resident of Florida. My job, I am a lobbyist (and consequently a fund raiser), requires that I follow Florida politics closely. I have followed the career of Bob Graham with particular interest. I agree that his candidacy would be good for the country. He strikes me as a strong leader and a good man. That said, he will never get the Democratic nomination. You see, back in 1984, Bob Graham, then running for the Senate, endorsed Ronald Reagan for president. The "endorsement" actually took place during a televised debate between Graham and his opponent. He essentially repudiated the Walter Mondale candidacy, stating that "Ronald Reagan has been good for America." Florida Democrats have a long memory. Those in Hollywood and Manhattan have even longer memories." - more insights on the Letters Page.
IN DEFENSE OF LOMBORG: The Economist gets it exactly right: "The panel's ruling — objectively speaking — is incompetent and shameful." - 1:15:14 AM
Wednesday, January 08, 2003 THE ECONOMIC PLANS: To be perfectly honest, I have no idea what benefits an end to the tax on dividends might (or might not) bring to the economy. I guess if you think that what the economy needs is more immediate consumer demand, then the Democrats' plan makes marginally more sense. But if you think we need more short and longterm investment, then the president may have the better argument. I'm not really qualified to judge economically. But politically, it seems to me that Bush has again completely outwitted his opponents. What matters is the size and boldness of his plan, its appeal to his political base, and the insipid nature of the alternative. In all three respects, Bush wins. His boldness signals to then public that he's not his dad. And it also signals that he's taken control. But the most stunning sign of how deeply the president has changed the political landscape is what the Democrats are saying. They want tax cuts too! The question is simply: how much and in what form? And my favorite piece of Bush smarts is that he has effectively trumped the Dems on the class issue. Take two paragraphs in Tuesday's New York Times. Here's our old friend Krugman, telling us what he'd do:
Right now a sensible plan would rush help to the long-term unemployed, whose benefits — in an act of incredible callousness — were allowed to lapse last month. It would provide immediate, large-scale aid to beleaguered state governments, which have been burdened with expensive homeland security mandates even as their revenues have plunged. Given our long-run budget problems, any tax relief would be temporary, and go largely to low- and middle-income families.
Well, the president just extended jobless benefits. There is some aid to the states as well, although not as much as the Dems propose (but who's counting?), and then there's this factoid, also from the New York Times:
What Democrats are less likely to emphasize is that Mr. Bush's plan would provide bigger tax cuts for many people at middle-income and lower-income levels than theirs' would.
How's that for running rings around them? And the big ticket item - the dividend tax abolition - also has some bipartisan good government type support. Again, I'm not saying that this is the best plan anyone could come up with. I'm not really qualified to say (although in general, I prefer any plan that has the most tax cuts in it). But I am saying that it is politically very, very shrewd.
THE LOMBORG SMEAR: It seems to me that one mark of a self-confident political mind is its willingness to take opposing arguments seriously. Debate is a terrific opportunity to persuade people of the rightness of your worldview - and if you lose the debate, it's a terrific opportunity to change your own mind. And one of the truly awful aspects of today's liberal academic establishment (and some extremists on the right) is the preference for the personal destruction of opponents rather than engagement. This doesn't move debate forward. It is designed to end debate. This is what is being done to Bjorn Lomborg, the iconoclastic ex-green who has dared to criticize some of the hysterical predictions of the official environment lobby. Nick Shulz provides a good overview of what has been done. No factual errors have been found in Lomborg's book; no unethical scholarship; only provocative arguments designed to get people to think again about their assumptions about how best to protect and preserve our natural inheritance. But in leftist Europe, criticizing the Green Orthodoxy today is a little like criticizing the Curia in sixteenth century Italy. Lomborg has effectively been called to the Office of the Inquisition; and his reputation has been vilely smeared. I hope he's holding up. Dissidence is never easy. And the left is simply brutal in the enforcement of its own doctrines. Hang in there, Bjorn. Most decent people see a vilification campaign for what it is.
'BLOG' ENTERS THE DICTIONARY: Great news from the American Dialect Society. The word "blog" was the group's second favorite coinage of 2002, beaten only by "weapons of mass destruction." "Blog" was also voted "most likely to succeed." I'll say. (Via Don Luskin.) - 11:04:11 PM
Tuesday, January 07, 2003 BLAIR'S DIRECTNESS: Another superb speech from the British leader. He's right to worry about U.S. isolation - although it's not clear exactly how it can be overcome quickly. He's right to emphasize that our vital action in Iraq must be followed by real engagement in the Israeli-Palestinian torment. Above all he's right about the irresponsibility of some anti-war hustlers:
I would never commit British troops to a war I thought was wrong or unnecessary. But the price of influence is that we do not leave the US to face the tricky issues alone. By tricky, I mean the ones which people wish weren't there, don't want to deal with and, if I can put it a little perjoratively, know the US should confront, but want the luxury of criticising them for it.
DIDIOCY: Speaking of anti-war posturing, here's my response to Joan Didion's recent musings in the New York Review of Books.
LETTERS: They're back (Reihan has been sick). And thanks to your money, Reihan has a small raise and guarantees at least three letters a day. So check out the Letters Page regularly, for reader backlash, wit and wisdom.
WHO'S YOUR DADDY?: I found James Q. Wilson's paean to the family to be very persuasive. I was particularly glad he saw how family structure can change over time in ways that are good and inclusive - especially with regard to the status of women. Fatherhood is indeed vital, as this touching piece about Eminem also shows (Stanley Kurtz alerted me to it). I might add one thing: fatherhood is especially important for gay kids. So many, when they come to realize their sexual orientation, withdraw from their father out of fear of his rejection; and some fathers withdraw after discovering or somehow sensing their child's difference. This is terribly destructive to both, may take decades to heal properly, and is, I think, a key reason for some of the psychological problems gay men and women deal with. Notice here how being pro-family and being gay-friendly are not exclusive categories. Far from it. Gay people are an intrinsic part of families, even very traditional ones; and one of the goals of the fight for equal marriage rights is to find a way to bring gay people more fully and deeply into the bonds of family life. How sad that some conservatives don't seem to see this, and in fact compound the psychological damage done to families with gay members by perpetuating fear and panic about homosexuals. Compassionate conservatism must find a way to bring the virtues of family life to everyone. Yes, leave no child behind. But that includes the gay ones.
NORTH KOREA AGAIN: Fred Kaplan has a pretty sensible piece in Slate about why we are going into Iraq but not North Korea. He gets the most simple case (made here and elsewhere):
Of course, the argument could be made that North Korea shows what could happen if Saddam is not toppled and proceeds to build these weapons himself. We are essentially being deterred by Kim Jong-Il. Do we want to sit around for a few years so Saddam Hussein can also deter us and use his own arsenal as a protective cover for aggression? One reason Bush can't make this argument is that the rationale for going to war, at least under the terms of the U.N. resolution, is the false statements and omissions that Saddam Hussein has made about his nuclear-, biological-, and chemical-weapons programs—in other words, the possibility that he has such weapons. You can say we're going to war because Saddam has weapons of mass destruction. You can say we're going to war to keep him from developing weapons of mass destruction. You can't really say both at the same time.
Well, you can if you make a distinction between chemical/biological weapons, which Saddam almost certainly has, and nukes, which he doesn't (yet). He's got the dangerous but not blackmailable stuff (which is our technical reason for war) but he could get the big one (which is one of our major actual reasons for war). As to North Korea, I take the point that I'm being Didionesque in not proposing a solution. I just don't think there is one. Some mixture of firmness from the U.S. and incentives from North Korea's neighbors might work. But I have an awful feeling we're stuck with this nightmare for a very long time. Let me clarify: I think the 1994 Carter-Clinton deal was dumb because of the trust it vested in Pyongyang. But I acknowledge we were in a difficult situation then, one not easily remedied by the use of military force. But its failure as a policy should surely guard us against trying yet another love-in with Kim Jong-Il. The deeper problem, I should also say, is neither Clintonian appeasement nor Bushie toughnesss. It's the hideous regime in North Korea, one of the most evil on the planet.
WHY INTELLECTUALS LOVE THE LEFT: It's long puzzled me. A reader points out that Robert Nozick had a pretty good explanation:
It is not surprising that those successful by the norms of a school system should resent a society, adhering to different norms, which does not grant them the same success. Nor, when those are the very ones who go on to shape a society's self-image, its evaluation of itself, is it surprising when the society's verbally responsive portion turns against it.
The piece is a little verbose, but makes some interesting points.
- 11:38:54 PM CLINTON TO HEAD OXFORD??: Yep, it's perfectly possible that the former president could run for election as Chancellor of Oxford University. The Times is hyping the possibility and the job is available after Roy Jenkins snuffed it. It's a titular post, if you'll pardon the expression, so perfect for a major blowhard with major fund-raising potential. I wonder if Oxford would accept a huge donation from Marc Rich. - 3:00:41 PM DRIVING MR LOTT: Let's just hope the driver is white.
GORE AND RACE: Richard Cohen deserves much praise for pointing out Al Gore's disgraceful acquiescence in race-baiting in the last campaign. It was one reason I went from feeling queasy about Gore to being outright hostile. This card works both ways, but rarely as crudely as in 2000 by the Dems. - 1:04:26 PM
Monday, January 06, 2003 NORTH KOREA: I haven't written much about the most recent events because I don't have anything new to say. The current crisis - and it clearly is one - is, in my view, a consequence of the Carter-Clinton appeasement deal in 1994. I don't envy the Bush administration for having to deal with it, especially now. But the dumbest argument, parlayed throughout the media, especially abroad, is that the North Korean crisis somehow displays an inconsistency in the Bush foreign policy. Shouldn't we be threatening North Korea with war rather than Iraq, they ask? Er, no. The reason we're about to go to war with Saddam is precisely to avoid the possibility of Saddam becoming Kim Jong Il. Once Saddam gets a nuke for sure, we're completely screwed. We'd have to allow him to bask in the glory of being the only Arab leader with this capacity, using his impregnable territory to foment terrorism, more weapons of mass destruction, and the like. When he uses this power to set off chemical or biological weapons in America, we will have to initiate a nuclear war to defend ourselves. This, of course, is exactly the scenario the so-called peace agenda will make inevitable. Which is why it isn't in any meaningful sense about peace. As to North Korea, I don't believe negotiating in good faith with murderous thugs is an option. We have to contain, credibly threaten consequences if Pyongyang does anything to further destabilize the region, and try to achieve regime change slowly. This won't be easy, and it's full of risks. Watching the gruesome situation unfold makes me more anxious to see the demise of Saddam's regime. We've already waited too long - and thugs like Kim jong Il and Yasser Arafat have taken advantage of the lull. We cannot afford to wait much longer.
RAINES VERSUS BLOGS?: No surprise that Howell Raines might despise the blogosphere. It's done more to expose his trashing of the Times' reputation for accuracy, honesty and balance than many others. But is he planning a hit-job on the blog world's Pied Piper, Glenn Reynolds? This posting suggests the Times might be sniffing around for dirt.
THE TAO OF WOY: A charming reminiscence by Robert Harris of Roy Jenkins, the British politician and man of letters (author of the most recent biography of Churchill), who died a few days ago. Check it out.
WHY NOT GRAHAM? Florida's Bob Graham is taking the Kennedy tack against Nixon: he's accusing Bush of being too soft on international terror and Iraq. He's from a pivotal state and, more than any other Dem apart from Joe Lieberman, has foreign policy credibility. So why is he being ignored? The New Republic's indispensable Michael Crowley provides a useful curtain-raiser. I say: let Graham run. It'll be good for the Dems and good for the country.
BEGALA AWARD NOMINEE: "So now the U.S. senate is going to be led by the cat world's answer to Dr. Mengele! A man who can do that is capable of any infamy. Can't you just picture this oily Tennessean cooing and clucking over the tabbies and tortoiseshells at the shelter, solemnly wagging his head as the shelter staff counseled him on proper cat procedures, then dragging the poor creatures into his lab and torturing them to death?" - Alexander Cockburn on Bill Frist, at workingforchange.com.
THOSE IMPARTIAL ECONOMISTS: Weird that the Washington Post should make the views of two economists about president Bush's economic plan a big headline story. Especially when one of the economists, Andrew Brimmer, is an actual donor to the DNC. Wouldn't it have been a fairer story if the reader knew the partisanship of the economists involved? - 11:08:10 PM CONSERVATIVES AND COMPLEXITY: Peggy Noonan has a great column this morning. She has one flash of brilliance - that president Bush's heavy drinking as a father may have made him actually slightly afraid of his children - and one important point:
I have a theory that liberals and leftists prefer their leaders complicated, and conservatives prefer their leaders uncomplicated. I think the left expects a good leader to have an exotic or intricate personality or character. (A whole generation of liberal journalists grew up reading Jack Newfield and Pete Hamill on Bobby Kennedy's sense of tragedy, Murray Kempton on the bizarreness that was LBJ, and a host of books with names like "Nixon Agonistes" and "RFK at Forty," and went into journalism waiting for the complicated politicians of their era to emerge. They are, that is, pro-complication because their ambition to do great work like the great journalists of the 1960s seems to demand the presence of complicated political figures.) Liberals like their leaders interesting. I always think this may be because some of them have not been able to fully engage the idea of a God, and tend to fill that hole in themselves with politics and its concerns. If the world of government and politics becomes your god, and yields a supergod called a president, you want that god to be interesting.
Amen, if you'll pardon the expression. I prefer the alternative locution: I'm a conservative in politics so I might be a radical in every other human activity. The point is: what is appropriate for presiding over a republic of laws? Modesty, simplicity, prudence. Anything more "interesting" can screw things up badly. And yes, that's why my favorite presidents are Eisenhower, Truman and Bush. (Every now and again, of course, the times demand much more. If we're lucky we get a Reagan. If we're not, we get a Carter. But even in those circumstances, better for the leader to be uncomplicated and unconflicted.) - 12:42:23 PM THE DUTY OF EMPIRE: The one important and thoroughly welcome part of Michael Ignatieff's essay in yesterday's New York Times Magazine is its realism. Sure, I think he's being excessive in describing American global influence as an "empire." Empires, as I understand them, actually control territory, exploit it, and exercize sovereignty over it. The United States, with a few tiny exceptions, doesn't do that. It protects its allies; it trades; it polices the seas and skies. It's far more like the eighteenth century British Empire than the nineteenth, and even then, without actual colonies of any substance. But Ignatieff is surely right to frame the real question as: do we actually have a choice any more? American trade alone makes some sort of international police work essential. The rise of weapons of mass destruction together with lethal terrorism and porous international borders all turn isolationism into a non-starter. The military abdication of most of the other Western countries also makes the United States the enforcer of last resort (remember Bosnia and Kosovo?). Allowing a genocidal nutcase access to nuclear weapons in the most oil-rich part of the globe is simply not something any responsible hegemon can allow - not only for its own security, but for that of the entire world. The question then becomes one between an Empire Lite or an Empire Heavy. I'm more skeptical than some neoconservatives about the feasibility of having troops and civil servants all over the globe, ushering in a new era of democracy. But I'm even more skeptical of the left conservatives and reactionary leftists who believe inaction and retreat is a viable option. We have to find a way between both temptations - case by case, region by region, year by year. This is where the real debate should be: not in hysterical leftwing cries of imperial dictatorship or in paleocon nostalgia for withdrawal, but in the hard, day by day assessment of risks and benefits of specific actions.
EURO-ANTI-SEMITISM WATCH: "Hitler's Nazi regime occupied Europe for four years only. Palestine and the West Bank have been occupied for 40 years." Thus a minor Labour Party official in Wales. This stuff is getting more and more poisonous.
THE NUNS AS WELL: Forty percent of women religious have experienced some kind of sexual abuse - many at the hands of the Church? Now how will the hierarchy manage to blame this on the homosexuals? No doubt they'll give it their best shot.
DERBYSHIRE AND RACE: Many of you have taken me to task for being disconcerted by John Derbyshire's recent comment on National Review that the New Year's babies born to a lesbian couple in DC and a single black mother in New York should prompt one to "despair." Let's leave aside the assumption that a child born into a loving, middle class same-sex couple home is a matter for despair. Derbyshire's aversion to gay people, freely confessed, celebrated and condoned in National Review, and other venues, is a matter of public record. Was his despair at the black single mother a genuine worry about the state of the black family rather than a simple expression of disdain? I can't know what's in Derb's heart. But I do know that he is extremely frank about what he believes about race. Here's a recent post-Lott statement of his in National Review:
All American politicians are liars and hypocrites about race, from Democrats like Hillary Clinton posing as champions of the downtrodden black masses while buying a house in the whitest town they can find, to Republicans pretending not to know that (a) many millions of nonblack Americans seriously dislike black people, (b) well-nigh every one of those people votes Republican, and (c) without those votes no Republican would ever win any election above the county level. (Am I being beeped out yet?)
Now what does he really mean by this? I think he means that he agrees with the NAACP and others that the Republican Party is at root a party based on racial hatred. But he doesn't seem to have a problem with it! His only problem is with those who deny this, and he hints in the piece that his own views about race are too explosive for polite company. Then there's this odd detail. In National Review again, Derbyshire recently described looking for a place to live in the New York suburbs:
One time we got off the train in a town that was pretty solidly black. It took us about five minutes to figure this out. Then we went back to the railroad station and sat half an hour waiting for the next train.
He justifies this by citing a range of statistics about why black neighborhoods tend to be worse off than others. "Are we racists?" he asks of himself and his wife. "Depends what you mean," he answers. Then there are the weirdnesses that creep into his writing about race. What does one make of the following statement, for example, also published in National Review:
You understand, I am sure, that when I talk about race, I am talking about blacks and nonblacks, the two races that inhabit the United States.
Huh? Even if you agree with Derb (as I do) that race is not entirely socially constructed, why this obsession with blacks and "non-blacks"? Don't Asians qualify? Hispanics? Native Americans? All this is simply to say that when you have a record like John Derbyshire's on race and you voice "despair" at a new-born black child in New York City, there comes a point at which a reasonable reader may eventually cease to give you the benefit of the doubt.
KRUGMAN WINS AGAIN!: The website, "Lying in Ponds," does an annual survey of who, among the major newspaper columnists, is the most reflexively, viscerally partisan. Paul Krugman's columns - "a lonely voice of truth in a sea of corruption" - win first prize for the second year in a row. Here's the summary:
After evaluating all 2,129 columns written by our 37 pundits in 2002, it's time to draw some conclusions. I've stressed all along that Lying in Ponds is attempting to make a distinction between ordinary party preference (there's nothing wrong with being opinionated or having a political ideology) and excessive partisanship ("blind, prejudiced, and unreasoning allegiance"). While it's obviously difficult to draw a definitive line, the top three pundits in the rankings clearly revealed excessive partisanship by the remarkable consistency of their extremely one-sided commentary throughout the year. The New York Times' Paul Krugman took the partisanship lead early and lapped the field. In a year in which Mr. Krugman generated lots of buzz and won an award, his 18:1 ratio of negative to positive Republican references and 99 columns without a single substantive deviation from the party line were unmatched in the Lying in Ponds portion of the punditocracy.
The details are fascinating as well. Among the most relentlessly partisan: Mike Kinsley. The most one-sided columns in a newspaper: the Wall Street Journal. The most diverse: the Washington Post. - 12:03:54 AM
Sunday, January 05, 2003 THE PERILS OF ANTI-RACISM: Jonah nails it again in his new review of "The Two Towers," where he saves us from any more lugubrious commentary in favor of making fun of others, especially those who see, say, Orcs as a disturbingly racist fantasy:
One is tempted to ask who is the real racist here? On the one hand we have people — like me — who see horrific, flesh-eating, dull-witted creatures with jagged feral teeth, venomous mouths, pointed devilish ears, and reptilian skin, and say, "Cool, Orcs!" On the other hand we have people, like Mr. Yatt, who see the same repugnant creatures and righteously exclaim "black people!"
I must say whenever I think of Jonah in future, the phrase, "Cool, Orcs!", will hover genially in my frontal lobe. Read the whole piece. - 2:05:22 PM SONTAG AWARD NOMINEE: "[T]he South African archbishop added that, while al-Qaeda was a terrorist organisation, many of its followers were 'not lunatic fringe, many of them are quite intelligent', and that leaders had to ask why such people 'should be willing to pilot a plane and go to their deaths'." - Archbishop Desmond Tutu, quoted in today's Guardian. - 1:53:32 PM