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Monday, January 5, 2009

05 Jan 2009 09:11 pm

The Reality Of War


The legs of the body of one of three Palestinian siblings from the Al-samoni family, killed by an Israeli tank shell, are seen in the mortuary of Al-Shifa hospital, on January 5, 2009 in Gaza City. Seven members from the Al-samoni family were killed including the mother, three children and a baby, when an Israeli shell struck their house south of Gaza city. By Abid Katib/Getty.

05 Jan 2009 08:32 pm

Proportionality And Terror, Ctd

A reader writes:

The problem with the doctrine of Just War, I would submit, is that it can only be applied in retrospect. In prospect, it is at once too restrictive and overly permissive. It requires an unachievable degree of certainty. But when leaders or their population nevertheless convince themselves that a conflict meets its standards, even though it cannot, it tends to grant them a sense of moral absolution that leads to callous indifference to the loss of human life.

No, the Israeli assault on Gaza cannot be said to be Just. Declaring it to be so is a manifestation of moral cowardice, of an unwillingness to face up to its awful price. It is merely a war: a messy, dirty conflict that injures all who are involved. It will exact a terrible toll on soldiers, militants and civilians, and there is no possible set of justifications which should blind us to that fact.

But that does not necessarily mean it merits moral condemnation. It does not mean that Israel was necessarily wrong to launch it, nor wrong to finish it. Those judgments tend to become clear only with the virtue of hindsight.

Continue reading "Proportionality And Terror, Ctd" »

05 Jan 2009 08:25 pm

Yglesias Award Nominee

"I always liked Panetta. He served in the Army and is openly proud of it. He seems to be a good lawyer (oxymoronic though it may seem). He's a good manager. And he's going to watch Obama's back at a place that's full of stilettos and a track record for attempted presidential assassination second to none. But Italians know all about political assassination; you may remember Julius Caesar. Or Aldo Moro. The self-proclaimed cognoscenti will deride his lack of "spycraft," and he's never worked in the intel bureaucracy or, for that matter, in foreign policy or national security. But he's been chief of staff, which involved all that stuff. I think it's a smart move," - Michael Ledeen, NRO.

Joe Klein comments here. Others, like Goldberg and York, peddle the line that no one who has operated in the "real world" of intelligence could agree with Obama's attempt to move the US past the torture era. No: a huge majority of intelligence professionals agree with Obama on effective interrogation. But after eight years of a CIA tainted with torture and presidentially-sanctioned lawlessness, drawing a bright line under the recent past is critical.

That's why the Panetta pick is inspired. The more I think about it, the more that seems true. This is change we can believe in. And in this necessarily secret area, public trust is vital. For the first time in a long dark patch, we will regain it.

05 Jan 2009 07:15 pm

Another Take On Proportionality

I hope to respond to Noah tomorrow. Meanwhile:

Israel’s just playing by Chicago rules:  “They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue.  That’s the Chicago way!”

05 Jan 2009 07:13 pm

The Gaza Crisis

In discussing this with a colleague, and thinking how reasonable it is for Israel to expect that its own citizens should have exactly the same freedom from fear and terror as those in other Western countries, I could not help but recall the great Onion headline from their classic book, "Our Dumb Century." It's from 1948:

War-weary Jews establish homeland between Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt

'In Israel, our people will finally have safety and peace,' says Ben-Gurion. Jordan welcomes new neighbors with celebratory gunfire, rock throwing.

05 Jan 2009 06:37 pm

Face Of The Day


Christian Califano of France rests during the third motorcycle stage of the 2009 Dakar Rally between Puerto Madryn and Jacobacci, in Argentina, on January 5, 2009. Marc Coma of Spain won the stage and keeps the lead of the race. By Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty.

05 Jan 2009 06:14 pm

The Price Of Unvictory

Marc Lynch's take on Gaza:

However this round of violence ends -- and it's hard to see any scenario in which it produces remotely positive results for anyone involved -- the outcome at the regional level will likely be to further exacerbate these conflicts and to undermine the chances for the incoming Obama administration to make early progress.

Continue reading "The Price Of Unvictory" »

05 Jan 2009 05:25 pm

An Occasional Primate

Ross catches up on Christmas blogging.

05 Jan 2009 05:20 pm

Kaplan On Gaza

A reader writes:

Very interesting piece – but the core argument, that this is somehow about neutralizing Iran, really is a stretch.  As the Israelis know better than anyone, there is no way they can cleanly or decisively dismantle Hamas with this invasion.  The foreseeable results are: (1) inconclusive withdrawal without fundamentally damaging Hamas; (2) permanent re-occupation; or (3) the elimination of Hamas with such horrific loss of civilian life that they lose even the Sunni regimes’ tacit support (and garner world condemnation).

It’s tempting to tie this to a wider geopolitical strategy (just as it was to tie the proposed Iraq invasion to a resolution of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict), but I don’t think the Israelis are as delusional as our own neocons.  I still think it has more to do with domestic Israeli politics than anything else.

05 Jan 2009 05:19 pm

What are the Isaelis Thinking?, Ctd

Yaacov Lozowick tries to answer the question:

What's the end game? It could be weeks of sifting through the city of Gaza until Hamas has effectively been disarmed. I expect, however, that it's more likely that Israel itself will now speed up the diplomatic process, starting with the visit this evening of Sarkozy: You want a cease fire, all you folks out there? You want to avert weeks of slow house-by-house searches as the populace suffers? So do we. So let's all agree on the mechanisms that will ensure that Hamas never regains its military capacities, and you, the international community, will help ensure the mechanisms stay in place; once that's been arranged we'll leave Gaza and hope never to return again. Sometime in the next 12 months elections need to take place, and perhaps the Palestinian voters will choose peace over strife this time. Ironically, all this violence is making it likely the next Israeli government will be eager to cooperate with the Obama administration on seeking ways towards a just peace.

A mite over-optimistic, if you ask me. But who can say?

05 Jan 2009 04:56 pm

Proportionality And Terror, Ctd

A reader writes:

I have found your posts on the conflict in Gaza fascinating, in particular the most recent one on whether Israel's actions meet the criteria of a just war.  But I have a concern.

With hindsight, I imagine that most people would agree that it would have been better for everyone and therefore morally preferable if Britain had been able to take military action against Nazi Germany sooner than they did - either in response to the annexation of the Sudetenland or to the remilitarisation of the Rhein-Ruhr.  If Germany had been checked at that early stage, Hitler might have been deposed before he had a chance to launch total war in Europe and the Holocaust.

I also imagine that most people would now agree that it would have been better for everyone and therefore morally preferable if the first President Bush had deposed Saddam Hussein after the first Gulf War, or if Bill Clinton had taken bolder military action against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. But I cannot see how any of those actions would have passed your criteria for a just war, because at the relevant points the damage inflicted on Britain/the West was not 'lasting, grave and certain' and 'all other means of ending Hitler/Saddam/Al-Qaeda's aggression' had not been shown to be 'impractical or ineffective'.  A moral theory which cannot provide a basis for the essential strategy of 'nipping bad things in the bud' is fundamentally flawed, surely?

Continue reading "Proportionality And Terror, Ctd" »

05 Jan 2009 04:20 pm

Mental Health Break

A mashup of Billboard's top 25 songs from 2008:

05 Jan 2009 04:07 pm

In Search Of Pragmatism

Petra Marquardt-Bigman notes what the term means for Jihadists:

Of course we often hear that there are also more pragmatic leaders in Hamas -- but being more pragmatic than Rayyan doesn't necessarily mean much. Currently, the more pragmatic Hamas leaders make sure that they stay out of harm's way, but it is also clear from their conduct over the past one-and-a-half years since Hamas took control of Gaza that pragmatism for Hamas means first and foremost trying to tighten their hold on power over the coastal strip and its 1.5 million residents -- irrespective of the consequences for the welfare of the people of Gaza.

05 Jan 2009 04:00 pm

Panetta At CIA

Way, way better than Brennan, and, significantly, detached from the torture regime and its apparatus in a way that anyone involved in the CIA in the last eight years would not be. As my colleague Marc Ambinder just said, the man who has had every job in Washington now has the most thankless task in Washington. But this appointment and Johnsen's are extremely encouraging for the restoration of Constitutional order after the Bush-Cheney protectorate. Then this:

How did we transform from champions of human dignity and individual rights into a nation of armchair torturers? One word: fear. Fear is blinding, hateful, and vengeful. It makes the end justify the means. And why not? If torture can stop the next terrorist attack, the next suicide bomber, then what's wrong with a little waterboarding or electric shock? The simple answer is the rule of law. Our Constitution defines the rules that guide our nation.

Continue reading "Panetta At CIA" »

05 Jan 2009 03:49 pm

Quote For The Day

"Here is a partial answer to my own question of how should we behave, directed especially to the next president and members of his or her administration but also to all of use who will be relieved by the change: We must avoid any temptation simply to move on. We must instead be honest with ourselves and the world as we condemn our nation's past transgressions and reject Bush's corruption of our American ideals. Our constitutional democracy cannot survive with a government shrouded in secrecy, nor can our nation's honor be restored without full disclosure," - Dawn Johnsen, the new head of OLC.

05 Jan 2009 03:20 pm

When A Frozen Bubble Breaks

It looks as cool as this.

05 Jan 2009 03:07 pm

Blogosphere PSA

Dan Drezner, Marc Lynch, Tom Ricks, David Rothkopf, and Stephen Walt have fancy new digs at Foreign Policy.

05 Jan 2009 02:45 pm

America - Personified


More fat cars by artist Erwin Wurm here.

05 Jan 2009 02:38 pm

Ending The Torture Regime

A promising start at Obama's OLC. Imagine: a presidency concerned to uphold the rule of law. Only a couple of weeks left of the protectorate.

05 Jan 2009 02:25 pm

The Friend Of My Friend Is My Enemy

Marc Lynch analyzes Maliki's trip to Iran:

Maliki's friendly trip to Tehran and chat with Khamenei are important signals. But I'm not highlighting it in order to fan any kind of hysteria or outrage. In fact, I think it's a potential positive if managed well. The idea that this Iraq could be free of Iranian influence has always been an odd fantasy, and Iran has always cultivated a wide portfolio of Iraqi allies and partners far beyond the Sadrists upon which American attention tends to focus (their closest ally, of course, has always been ISCI, the Islamic Supreme Council in Iraq -- something else they share with the U.S.). As the incoming Obama administration contemplates direct engagement with Iran -- and Iraq prepares for a series of elections and transitions, while Iran prepares for its own Presidential election -- a constructive relationship between Baghdad and Tehran is hardly the worst development imaginable. Depending on how it's managed, that is...

05 Jan 2009 02:22 pm

Israel Has Begun Its War With Iran

Bob Kaplan is unillusioned about the huge risks involved but says we have no choice but to go along and hope for total destruction of Hamas as leverage for future negotiations with Iran. I have to say that the logic of his broader argument strikes me as a good one for containment, not aggression. But there are many factors in play - elections in Israel, Iraq and Iran soon - that will doubtless force all of us to keep re-thinking.

05 Jan 2009 02:11 pm

The Wiki Core

Kudos to Jimmy Wales for raising a cool $6 million to keep Wikipedia ad-free (what ads? - ed.) This made me chuckle:

Wikipedia bills itself as the free online encyclopedia anyone can edit. And while indeed that is true, do you ever wonder who does the bulk of the work?  ... Wales decided to run a simple study to find out: he counted who made the most edits to the site. "I expected to find something like an 80-20 rule: 80% of the work being done by 20% of the users, just because that seems to come up a lot. But it's actually much, much tighter than that: it turns out over 50% of all the edits are done by just .7% of the users … 524 people. … And in fact the most active 2%, which is 1400 people, have done 73.4% of all the edits."

05 Jan 2009 02:07 pm

Six By Twelve

A strategy to make all of New England a marriage-equality zone by 2012.

05 Jan 2009 01:50 pm

"A Volunteer Coastguard"

In defense of Somalia's pirates.

05 Jan 2009 01:38 pm

Gas Tax Now!

SUV and truck sales surge. Rapier sighs:

If people are going to flock back to gas guzzlers instead of using their extra pocket money to pay down their debt, then I would rather gas prices go ahead and recover. Based on the trends in vehicle sales, I am sure I will see that wish fulfilled before too long.

05 Jan 2009 01:33 pm

Quote For The Day

"Some people are p-ssed off at [Americans for Tax Reform President] Grover [Norquist]. Some people are p-ssed off at the Conservative Steering Committee. Some people are p-ssed off at [current RNC chair] Mike Duncan. Some people are p-ssed off at social conservatives. The social conservatives are p-ssed at leaders in Congress. Everyone is basically p-ssed," - a Republican consultant who has worked with the RNC on the leadership contest.

05 Jan 2009 01:23 pm

Signs Of The Times

From the front page of the Boston Globe:

The Globe is no longer publishing a stand-alone classified advertising section Monday through Thursday.  A classified section will appear in the paper on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, and local classifieds may also be found in the Thursday regional sections.

And a display ad on the NYT front page.

05 Jan 2009 01:22 pm

The Downturn Diet

Appleyard reports on the recession's silver lining:

The strange thing is that people get healthier in a recession, according to Chris Ruhm, an economics professor at the University of North Carolina. Some years ago he decided to test the conventional wisdom that hard times make people sick. He found the opposite.

Continue reading "The Downturn Diet" »

05 Jan 2009 01:02 pm

Is The Gaza Attack A Just War?

My preliminary take from this morning is here.

05 Jan 2009 12:58 pm

Correction of The Day

"Dominic Holden, news reporter at The Stranger, regrets that in an attempt to spell out the word “brassiere” in a Slog post, he mistakenly spelled it “brazier,” which actually means “barbecue.” He further regrets that upon trying to amend his error, he spelled it “brassier,” which, if anything, means “more brassy.” Holden recognizes that, as a homosexual, he should avoid subjects related to women’s undergarments." - The Stranger.

05 Jan 2009 12:37 pm

"One Extremely Serious Seizure A Week"

That was what Jett Travolta was dealing with, unmedicated, according to the Travolta lawyers. One anti-seizure drug had been used in the past but was stopped because of ineffectiveness and side-effects. No other treatments are cited.

05 Jan 2009 12:28 pm

The View From Your Window


Portland, Oregon, 3.06 pm.

05 Jan 2009 12:14 pm

The Institution Of Marriage

Larison makes his case against marriage equality:

When endorsing a change, particularly one this radical, a conservative would need to show not only that it does not do harm to the institution in question but also that it actually reinforces and reinvigorates the institution. Whether or not “gay marriage” harms the institution of marriage, it certainly does not strengthen it. It is therefore undesirable because it is unnecessary to the preservation of the relevant institution, and so the appropriate conservative view is to leave well enough alone.

"My Big Fat Straight Wedding" argues the opposite. I think allowing gay couples to marry does strengthen the institution, because it ensures that everyone in a family has access to the same civil rites and rights, and so the heterosexual marriages are as affirmed as effectively as the gay ones. (It is not my experience that the straight siblings and families of gay people feel their marriages affirmed by excluding some of their own.) By removing the incentive for gay people to enter into false straight marriages, which often end in divorce or collapse, wrecked childhoods and betrayed spouses, heterosexual marriage is also strengthened. And the practical alternative to marriage equality - civil unions for straights and gays - presents a marriage-lite option for everyone that clearly does threaten traditional marriage in a way that gay marriage never could.

Serious conservatives understand that these are the three practical options on modern America: including everyone in civil marriage; creating a two-tiered system of civil marriage and then lesser civil unions for straights and gays; or simply resisting any change and using the government and law to perpetuate the stigmatization of homosexuality. If those three are the choices, my view is that the first is easily the most authentically conservative. I suspect that the impact on those states that now allow such inclusion will prove it in due course.

05 Jan 2009 11:58 am

Despite Herself

Sometimes, K-Lo gives good political advice. (Hat tip: TS.)

05 Jan 2009 11:56 am

Dissent Of The Day

A reader writes:

Israel's rationale is not that hard to figure out. Check out Rosner over here. Here's the summary paragraph:

So - the IDF and Israel's leaders have three goals in launching this ground war: First, they want to make Hamas pay a price that will force it into a renewed ceasefire. Second, they must prove to the Arab world that Lebanon 2006 did not turn Israel into a country afraid of war. And third, they must engender renewed Israeli confidence in the country's armed forces.

Continue reading "Dissent Of The Day" »

05 Jan 2009 11:44 am


Krauthammer proposes a gas tax, balanced by a payroll tax reduction. Joe Klein applauds:

Krauthammer is, not surprisingly, more sympathetic to the national security arguments for higher gasoline prices than the environmental ones--Krauthammer remains unconvinced that global warming is man-made. But it is fascinating to see this proposal on the cover of Bill Kristol's magazine. (And yes, one might argue ulterior motives--let a Democrat self-immolate by imposing a gas wonders where Krauthammer was on this issue the past eight years?)

Still, the simplicity of the thing is beautiful--especially when you compare to the mind-numbing complexity and scam-ability of a cap-and-trade program to limit carbon emissions.

Kinsley also made the case recently. I've long been on board.

05 Jan 2009 11:25 am

Some Data Points

This is instructive:

In 2002, at the height of the second intifada, more than 1,000 Palestinians were killed, compared with about 400 Israelis. In the past eight days of war, more than 460 Palestinians were killed, and four Israelis died by rocket fire.

From 2-1 to 100-1 in six years is a big gain in killing efficiency. Just so long as the Israelis never expect any actual relationship with any actual Gazans, it works after a fashion. But does it deny Hamas a psychological victory?

05 Jan 2009 11:16 am

And There Was No YouTube Then

Andy Warhol really was ahead of his time, wasn't he?

Boing Boing asks the necessary:

Also: coke or weed? Discuss. (my money's on coke.)

05 Jan 2009 10:51 am

Filling The Vacuum

Yglesias worries about "catastrophic success in Gaza":

...something you need to look at here is the risk that weakening Hamas will only lead to the rise of more extreme groups. The high level of power that Hamas had achieved as of last week was, after all, precisely the result of a deliberate Israeli campaign to weaken Fatah. The hope was that this would bring some more accommodationist Palestinians to the fore, but instead the reverse happened. And now that Israel is going about trying the same thing with Hamas, one needs to worry that Hamas will be displaced by Salafist groups who think Hamas is too weak-kneed.

05 Jan 2009 10:25 am


Conor goes out on a limb and makes one:

Hamas is a despicable organization. That it triumphed in an election speaks very poorly of the Palestinian polity. But that is different from saying that everyone voted for Hamas because they want to blow themselves up in an Israeli discoteque. The very fact that Hamas performs lots of social service functions implies either that they are by nature philanthropists or that doing so helps them to bolster their popularity.

I have a little less hope for Palestinian society than I do for Iraq in the foreseeable future. But I assume there is some distinction between a Hamas mafia boss and the average Gazan. Of course, that distinction has largely been erased - for the time being - by Israel's aggression. And the blockade and destitution within Gaza - and its emergence as an isolated, battered terrorist-run township - may also have elided the distinction further. But I don't believe the distinction has never existed or cannot exist. Larison, meanwhile, contrasts the Georgia and Gaza conflicts:

Continue reading "Distinctions" »

05 Jan 2009 09:36 am

Proportionality And Terror

Noah Pollak asked me to provide some framework for a discussion of proportionality and just war theory with respect to the Israeli attack on Gaza. In re-reading my Catechism and brushing up on just war theory, I am struck first of all by how alien the context seems for the current war. The asymmetric nature of the threat and the emergence of failed states run by mafioso religious fanatics makes everything more complicated. You could argue that this makes just war theory more important, rather than less, since we are in danger of having the rules of war dictated by barbarians. Or you could argue, along with the neocons, that Jihadist barbarism demands a response in kind. I favor the first view. And it is nonetheless fair to say, I think, that Israel's actions in Gaza fail every traditional just war justification.

In the history of the West, the laws of war are clear enough. You do not launch a just war if it leads to greater evils than the status quo Sderotdavidsilvermangetty ante. There must be a reasonable proportion between means and ends. Both sides should be able to acknowledge common human values, even as they fight over territory or ideology. And yet Hamas has never done this; has no capacity for abiding by even minimal moral norms, believes it has a moral responsibility to eradicate the Jewish state, and certainly finds the universalist and liberal moral law embedded in Western and largely Christian culture meaningless outside Islamic hegemony. Israel, for its part, is on a different moral plane than Hamas. Its internal critics write op-eds; they are not taken out and shot. But, in the face of what is, essentially, a 60 year war against enemies on all sides and within, it has long since disappeared down the self-reflecting mirrors of survivalist logic and existential panic. It looks to me like a society in danger of losing its sense of restraint to the logic of violence. It is lashing out because it feels it can do no other and senses its long-term survival at stake. Even if violence does not solve the problem and may make it worse, war can seem a better option now than disappearing passively in the next couple of decades. The stunning near-unanimity of Israelis behind the Gaza attack is proof of this. In Israel, it seems, it is always America in 2002.

But the point of just war theory is to give us a vantage point outside any particular contingency. Even though I may provoke a Jewish-Catholic fight here, the Catholic Catechism has as useful and concise a statement of the right of self-defense as anyone:

At one and the same time:

  • the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;
  • all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;
  • there must be serious prospects of success;
  • the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.

Let's take each condition separately.

Is the damage Hamas has inflicted on Israel "lasting, grave and certain"?

Taking the vantage point of the conflict from May 2007 on, Hamas has fired several thousand Qassam Gaza2abidkatibgetty rockets with such imprecision that no distinction between civilian and military targets is meaningful (which is to say they were all war crimes). Until the recent conflict, Israel suffered 11 military deaths, 131 wounded, 8 civilian deaths and 83 wounded, with more than a hundred treated for shock. In a country of several million, these deaths and injuries were sustained within a relatively small and limited geographical area. (Gazans, in the same conflict, with a much smaller population and far more geographically concentrated, suffered 409 military deaths, 436 injured, and 92 civilian deaths - before the current outbreak even started.) The idea that the indefensible damage Hamas has inflicted on Israel makes an "all-out war" on all of Hamas and Gaza morally necessary in Charles Krauthammer's typically nuanced view, is obviously a non-starter. But one recalls that Krauthammer also believes in the moral imperative of torture.

Have all other means of ending Hamas's aggression been shown to be impractical or ineffective?

At some level, this is meaningless with Hamas. It exists in order to wage total war on Israel. But it is also unclear if the brutal economic embargo on Gaza - imposed by Egypt, Israel and the West for more than a year - was not actually already weakening Hamas from within, and rendering it less popular. It's certainly a plausible reading of recent history. And under just war theory, any possibility that the goal of restraining Hamas or undermining it could be achieved by non-military means renders the current Israeli counter-attack illicit.

Are there serious prospects for success?

We will see. Perhaps the "don't fuck with the Jews" message will finally be heard and a profound shift will occur in the hearts and minds of Gazans. But the Middle East's history of the past two decades (and its culture of eternal revenge) is not exactly encouraging in this regard.

Continue reading "Proportionality And Terror" »

05 Jan 2009 09:26 am


The reason Steve Jobs says he's been losing weight.

05 Jan 2009 09:25 am

Resist The Executive!

On cue as a Democrat becomes president, John Bolton and war criminal John Yoo rediscover their conservatism.

05 Jan 2009 09:02 am

Someone Else's Problem?

Juan Cole has a long historical post on the origins of the Gaza conflict:

I was on the radio recently with John Bolton, former US ambassador to the UN, and he expressed the hope that Egypt would take back Gaza and Jordan what is left of the West Bank. You may as well dream of pink unicorns on Venus. It isn't going to happen. The Palestinians are Israel's problem.

Continue reading "Someone Else's Problem?" »

05 Jan 2009 08:26 am

The Essence Of Cheneyism

Michael Goldfarb channels John Yoo:

To be clear, he’s not saying that it’s sometimes okay to kill a bad guy’s innocent children as part of a military operation directed against the guy. He’s saying it’s better to kill his children than it would be to avoid killing them.

Goldfarb favors a near-dictatorial presidency with the power to detain and torture. John Yoo was even prepared to countenance crushing the testicles of the children of terror suspects as inherent in the constitutional powers of the American executive. Yoo is a fellow at AEI, and Goldfarb was spokesman for McCain. This is neoconservatism, guys.

05 Jan 2009 08:24 am

Eye Of The Storm

Over the break, Noah Millman had a long, insidery post on ratings agencies and the financial downturn. It's worth a read.

05 Jan 2009 08:08 am

Israel's Democracy - And Ours'

A reflection on what total war does to civilized people:

It is doubtful whether Hamas will be cut down to size as a result of this wretched war. Yet, the face of the state has been cut down to size, as have civilian elites who are apathetic and scared. The "peace camp," if it ever existed, has been cut down to size. Attorney General Menachem Mazuz authorized the Ghayan killing, regardless of the cost. Haim Oron, the leader of the "new left-wing movement," supported the launch of this foolish war.
Nobody is coming to the rescue - of Gaza or even of the remnants of humanity and Israeli democracy. The statesmen, the jurists, the poets, the authors, academe, and the news media - pitch black over the abyss. When the time comes for reckoning, we will need to remember the damage this war did to Israel: The blood pipeline it laid has been completed.

05 Jan 2009 07:19 am

Conflicts Of Interest

Manzi explains the danger of government funded pharmaceutical research:

Ezra Klein has an interesting post up in which he correctly points out the conflict of interest inherent in having pharmaceutical companies that develop new drugs execute the clinical trials that test for their safety and efficacy... Klein recommends a paper that presents a simple solution: the government should fund contract research directly. 

But the obvious point that this misses is that a government bureaucracy has its own conflicts of interest. Most directly, bureaucrats and politicians tend to have enormous career risk from an unsafe drug introduction, but almost none from a rejected drug that would have been effective had it been introduced. Publication and study design bias can be pointed in both directions.

05 Jan 2009 12:41 am

More Annoying Than Al Gore


Sunday, January 4, 2009

04 Jan 2009 10:04 pm

Another Suicide Bombing

Today's atrocity claimed at least 40 lives, mainly Shiite pilgrims. Over 24 tribal leaders were massacred by one of their own in a suicide bomb attack Friday. On December 27, a car bomb killed 24. So in the last week or so, close to a hundred people have been murdered by terrorists in Iraq, with hundreds more wounded. This is occurring even with 130,000 US troops still in the country. And this, remember, is "victory."

People keep asking me for predictions for 2009. Here's one: we will either leave Iraq in a bloodbath or we will never leave Iraq.

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