painpill
3/28/2003

12:13  
Primarily ideas
Gary Hart has a weblog! Doesn't sound like it will be a daily affair, though:
I plan to use this blog for just such a discussion. From time to time, I'll post my thoughts on current policy matters, as well as share some stories about where I'm traveling and the people I'm meeting. I'll also ask some of my friends to share their thoughts as well. I cannot promise to be as skillful at this as many of those who have made the blogger universe such an important part of the internet. However, I'm committed to using the Internet as a vital tool to engage people on critical policy matters and the future of our country.
Targeting young voters via the internet is a major component of the Hart campaign strategy, so this makes sense... but it still came as a surprise to me. We'll see if he can keep it interesting. Check out the comments.

Disclaimer: In some kind of technical sense, I'm a Hart campaign volunteer, even though I haven't done anything besides send them a couple emails. I know I should get off my ass and go beg them to help out, but for a campaign focused on building grassroots support from students, they sure seem disorganized. Maybe the blog will help?


11:58  
Two to tango
Matthew Yglesias reminds us just how important Canadian trade is:

One of the goods the US imports in large quantities from Canada, for example, is car parts. Not parts that go to your local mechanic, but parts that go to car factories where they put them together into cars. No parts, no car factories. Bad news. Similarly, we get a lot of electricity from Quebec’s hydro power system - no electricity is not good for business. All this is by way of saying that while we could crush Canada like a bug (it's utterly dependent on the US export market) if we were so inclined, we’d probably have to give up several of our limbs in the process.
There's more trade between the United States and Canada than between any other two economies in the world. In fact, if Ontario were considered separately, the US and Ontario would have the world's biggest trade relationship... followed by the US and the rest of Canada.



11:48  
15 min
yin suggests the quality of the Survivor shows is declining... although I guess I'm puzzled about how you can even talk about quality in a case like this.

But I sincerely hope the show doesn't get canned, because an old friend of mine, Seth Patinkin, is apparently one of the finalists to be in the next round. Word is he's leveraging his connection with John Nash (Seth's doing a math PhD at Princeton) into a Survivor appearance, but I'm guessing there's more to it than that.


3/27/2003

13:10  
Asian invasion
I'm not sure what to make of this. Obviously the Japanese are justified in building up their military, and perhaps it will afford them a bigger role internationally. But it's also the first step toward a frightening arms race in the Pacific.

Unfortunately, this may be what the Bush people are looking for - I seriously doubt they'd be doing this without the blessing of the US. After all, we wrote their constitution.


13:05  
Commentator-in-chief
Chris Sullenthorpe has a fun article about the cable commentator-generals, but he doesn't even mention the fact that Wesley Clark will probably run for president. In the comments to my earlier post on this, Haggai pointed out that general Clark would make a terrific National Security Advisor, which may be what he's looking for.

But I wasn't ready to rule him out as a serious contender for president, and I don't see this stint as Aaron Brown's backup helping him much. It seems to me we should be measuring him against other candidates for president, not gruff retired generals or (even worse) oily, hand-wringing anchors.

I'm a lot more interested in what he has to say about the politics of the war than the military strategy... and I get the impression he is too. Not surprisingly, his criticism the war has been totally downplayed (actually, not played at all) by CNN.

ALSO: Salon has a profile, but I can't read it all since I won't pay for it. They're really wearing me down over there.


11:58  
Offline
The Register has some more circumspect speculation about what may have happened to Al Jazeera's website, although there doesn't seem to be any doubt that the site has suffered DDoS attacks in the past couple of days. According to this article in the WP, the attacks probably originated in the United States.



11:34  
Too swift on my toes...
The latest:

Snoop Dogg is being sued by a man who left a message on his answering machine which the rapper included on his album. John Doe claims he left a voice mail for the rapper, [whose] real name is Calvin Broadus, last October. Snoop Dogg then used the phone message he left as part of a song to taunt rival, rap-mogul Suge Knight.

John Doe is suing for common law appropriation of voice and intentional infliction of emotional distress, according to court papers filed in Los Angeles Superior Court.

I'm not sure about "intentional infliction of emotional distress", but I've often wondered just what provision in the law allows hiphop artists to appropriate just about anything in their music. Maybe it's considered a quotation, like the one above? Or maybe it's somehow protected as parody?



11:25  
The master plan
Go read Josh Marshall's article on what the neocons are really after.

UPDATE: So I guess this is just part of the plan (thanks, Sean Paul).


11:13  
This man is magnificent
Kevin Drum is surprised that Ari Fleischer has his own fan club, but I'm not. There's something magical about the White House press secretaries... ever since Mike McCurry's acrobatic question-dodging during the Lewinsky affair I've had a little bit of an obsession. I was even thinking of sending Ari a gift when I saw that he'd registered at Target - but then I realized I'd probably be investigated, and probably not by the press office!



11:06  
Asian contagion
Canada and Hong Kong have both moved to quarantine SARS sufferers - this a day after China admitted there have been 797 cases of the illness there. If it's true that SARS is related to the common cold, this may end up being as big a story as the war... and it'll start with the bizarre secrecy of the Chinese government.



3/26/2003

17:05  
One man's terrorist
Mark Kleiman has some incisive comments about the DOD's predilection for calling the Saddam Fedayeen and other irregular fighters "terrorists."



16:49  
Short-term strains
Calpundit links to this story about the Bush admin's latest insult to Canada - this time it's a veiled threat to trade (and by the way, they're our biggest trade partnerby far). It would be nice to assume Paul Cellucci was off the reservation, but the comment looks remarkably similar to what Bush himself said to Mexicans - the only difference being that the Mexicans (or at least their relatives in America) can expect to meet with actual violence. You have to wonder what they're saying to Vlad behind the scenes.



16:32  
Nerves of steel
The steel tariffs Bush imposed just after entering office in 2001 were illegal, according to the World Trade Organization. At the time, the tariffs were seen as a potentially dangerous blow to international relations, and were criticized by the right and left. Russian firms were some of the worst victims of the policy, one of the reasons they imposed a ban on American chicken.

Typically, when a country imposes tariffs like these, they're stricken down by the WTO after years of legal battles. But in the meantime, the damage is already done - both in terms of the relevant foreign industries and any retaliatory action. Obviously the Bush administration's policy here is the root problem, but it also underscores the need for an international trade authority with some teeth.

UPDATE: Josh Chafetz takes this as a sign that some international institutions do work. I'll be happy to call this a victory, but three years of illegal tariffs can do a lot of damage. Retaliations like the Russian ban on American chicken (which is itself subject to some WTO investigations, I believe) wouldn't be necessary if we had a faster trade authority with some real power.


16:21  
Escalation watch
The North Koreans are threatening to quit the armistice. This comes after a week of direct threats to the Japanese, apparent preparations to test-launch a long-range ballistic missile, and claims that the US will invade the DPRK as soon as Iraq has been dealt with.

The Bush administration needs to deal with this problem now. If the plan is to ultimately negotiate an agreement whereby the North Koreans accept some kind of aid (a light water reactor, maybe?) for giving up their plutonium and uranium, they need to start talking. If the plan is to allow our allies in the region to do our negotiating for us, they need to find a way to motivate those allies. And if - as seems to be the case - they don't have a plan, well, they damn well better get one.


16:12  
Our home and native land
Matthew Yglesias explains why he's always posting about Canadian politics. I'd actually been wondering what was up with those posts... I've been watching them pretty closely because of some dotted connections I have with the country (various trips to Canada, friends, that Quebecois last name of mine) and it's made me want to get to know the political situation there a little better. Whether I'll start posting about it seriously myself is still up in the air, but I do think there's a lot to be gained from paying our friends to the north a little attention, now and then.

Also, there's this:

Lastly, though, I write about Canada in part just because one of the biggest problem with blogs is that it's hard to offer something different from what a thousand other bloggers are doing. You don't see a lot of Americans writing about Canada, so if that can be a part of my niche, then so much the better.
Not a a bad idea...



15:57  
Countergambit
The latest on the war is that Iraqi military forces (not the Fedeyeen Saddam, who've given us the most trouble up to now) are mounting two large counteroffensives against coalition positions near Baghdad and Basra. In the latter instance, a large force of tanks apparently broke out of Basra and headed due south, presumably toward coalition forces in Kuwait.

To me, this is really ominous news. It seems to mean that Iraqi forces are operating under some kind of central control, probably timing the attack to take advantage of the sandstorms throughout the area at the moment. While it doesn't seem likely these forces pose a serious threat, this news doesn't bode well for the Republican guard surrendering. It's looking more and more like we'll be faced with a bloody urban fight for Baghdad.

UPDATE: It's turning out to be a highly coordinated attack. According to Sean Paul, the Iraqis managed to retake one of the Basra airports, and have some British troops surrounded. Very bad.


15:46  
Hate crime?
Jeff Cooper links to this frightening incident in Indianpolis Monday. Still no indication about what the motive was - but Indianapolis isn't exactly known for its organized crime...



15:43  
On the rolls
I've added several new sites to the blogroll and rearranged things a little. I'll probably spend some time in the next week or so categorizing things, since it's all a little jumbled at the moment.



3/24/2003

19:15  
Command and control
Another interesting thing about these accusations is that they seem to be directed at the Iraqi regime, when US officials have said repeatedly that Saddam is losing control of his forces - that they haven't seen any organized resitance. If Saddam has lost control of his forces, it hardly makes sense to blame all this "perfidy" on the Iraqi regime.



19:14  
Flagrant foul
I'm listening to US officials condemning the tactics of enemy forces in southern Iraq and I'm wondering if they really expected these guys to stand up for a "fair" fight. All day they've been throwing around the Rules of War (along with some pretty creative interpretations of the Geneva Conventions) as if this war were some kind of basketball game. Torie Clarke even compared the Iraqi resistance to terrorism.

Obviously these kinds of tactics - dressing as civilians, or pretending to surrender - have awful consequences for future encounters, and will probably cost Iraqi civilian lives in teh long run. But terrorism? I can't really imagine Iraqi soldiers fighting a pitched battle against American forces - but maybe that's what US officials mean by a fair fight? Sounds more like a slaughter to me.

By the way, let's not forget who started this war. How do you suppose Americans would react to an attack on the US homeland? I'm guessing we'd find the bastards responsible, lock them up at an offshore military installation, and feel totally justified in taking away their civil rights.


19:11  
Extortion
WFYI - that's Indianapolis Public Radio - has chosen to go ahead with their spring pledge drive this week. They'll be back to their quality programming, just as soon as they've reached their goals...

MORE: Jeff Cooper agrees.


3/23/2003

23:53  
Call me unconventional
Rumsfeld and his generals are making a lot of noise about the Geneva Conventions for US POWs. The specific complaint - that the Iraqis were humiliating them by asking them questions and showing them on television - seems a little thin. But the question I have is how this squares with our treatment of Taliban POWs, who as I recall were blindfolded in outdoor pens at Guantanamo, and against the Geneva Convention.

Doubtless someone will condemn the analogy, since the captured afghans were "terrorists" - and ultimately I think that's how the US escaped its responsbilities, by labelling them "illegal combatants." But I think what makes something like this a convention in the first place is that it's applied uniformly - and the US failure to toe the line with the Taliban (regardless of the particularities) renders the declarations today a little flat.


23:43  
Half flip
Just saw Anecita Hudson on CNN... kind of exploitative if you ask me, but it confirmed my suspicion that Joseph Hudson is half Filipino. This won't make much difference to most people, but I am also half Filipino, and I felt an additional layer of connection with him because of that. There haven't been too many half Filipino public figures, with the unfortunate exception of Andrew Cunanan (!), so I feel compelled to point out that Mr Hudson comported himself with dignified defiance. I sure hope he makes it home.



23:36  
No fly zone
In Chicago.



23:35  
Assymetrical information
Haven't been posting in a couple days, mainly because I've been in St. Louis, but also because since the war started I've had much less to say. I don't know why I expected the reverse to be true - I guess I underestimated the speed with which the war would develop, the speed with which my eyes would glaze over. For some reason I've read less and watched more; and I get the sense that others are doing the same.

Mickey Kaus had a post Friday (sorry, can't figure out the permalink) about the role of blogging in wartime where he sounded a lot like I did last week:

During war, for example, there's a tendency to buy the government's line for a few days - in part out of patriotism, in part in order to not offend sources, in part to not offend viewers and readers. Blogs can be a source of skeptical analysis - see item below - especially when the "facts" come so fast and furious they simply can't be analyzed fast enough (even without a pro-government bias) except by harnessing the distributed analytic power of the blogosphere! ... Bloggers can also speculate about information that reporters are constrained from disclosing for security reasons. (Since they're only bloggers, no enemy would believe them!) ... And there are some bloggers - "Salam Pax" being the most obvious example - who are simply in a position to know things others have a hard time finding out.
I think this is partly right - some bloggers have been able to provide some interesting analysis of the war, and others have done a terrific job of synthesizing the vast amount of information floating around out there (just how has The Agonist has become my most trusted news source?). But for the most part, all these reports are a conflicting mess, and that makes it hard to respond on any but the most basic factual level - probably the weakest level for bloggers, who like me tend to be sitting at their computers, chattering about events thousands of miles away.






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