Too many chiefs
The more I think about the decapitation strike that started this war, the more disturbed I become. Is it really legitimate to target a foreign leader? The DoD has variously said that a) we're fighting a war against the leadership of Iraq, not the people; b) strikes in the first hours of the war were designed to destroy the Iraqi leadership; and c) Saddam is a legitimate military target because he's the supreme commander of the Iraqi military.
The problem with this is that George Bush is the supreme commander of the American military. Do we really consider him a legitimate target? I think Americans (and certainly the DoD) would be outraged if an Iraqi strike against Washington killed or incapacitated our leader.
People will respond that George Bush is an elected leader in a representative government, so that somehow makes differentiates him from the Iraqi leader. But this raises an even bigger and more disturbing prospect: that the American people, with their representative governemnt, somehow bear the final responsibility for their government's decisions. Wouldn't that make the American public a legitimate military target, by the same logic?
I need to research this a little more, but my sense is that our rules of war - along with our moral outrage over needless civilian deaths - come from a time when wars and governments looked a little different than they do today. But either way, I think this policy of decapitation strikes against foreign leaders has some disturbing and possibly unexpected implications.
Thanks to The Invisible Adjunct, Seth Michaels, Kynn at Shock & Awe, Charles Kuffner, and De Spectaculis for the links. I'm planning to reorganize my unruly list of links to the right very soon...
Kynn has all the background on Nizar al-Khazraji, a former Iraqi general who vanished from his exile home in Debmark three days before the war began.
Your humble narrator
For the record, my name is Paul Goyette. At the moment, I'm studying public policy at the University of Chicago, with hopes of finishing in mid 2004. I've lived in the Chicago area for a couple years, mostly working for the Social Security Administration and writing a children's opera entitled The Trio of Minuet with my good friend David Sasso.
Before moving here, I was an undergrad at Indiana University. Officially, I studied comparative literature and Russian, but I spent just as much time publishing literary magazines and writing for the Indiana Daily Student. I also had the good fortune to spend long periods in Ecuador and Russia. Fond memories, all.
Returns to scale
Ezra Klein on the blogopshere as political tool:
As for the feasibility of using blogs as a campaign tool (a question Mr. Kuffner punts to Jim Cappozzola for further exploration), it would certainly depend on the campaign. If used correctly, a campaign like Hart's could powerfully benefit from the blogging "constituency". However, blogs could have a much stronger effect on smaller level campaigns, particularly House and Statewide contests.I don't see why this should be the case. There are still few enough blogs out there that you won't find many in any particular locality - nor do people really look to the internet for local news/info (obviously there are exceptions, especially on/near college campuses). It seems to me one of the main upsides of the blogpshere is the unprecedented national and even international connectivity it affords. I'm not suggesting that makes it an effective tool for a national campaign, but it's hard to see how a local campaign could make better use of it.
Mightier than the sword?
I haven't posted about the war in a few days, mainly because the news drip seems to have slowed down significantly - especialy when it comes to news with real political implications. All the colorfully arrayed military operations, after capturing my attention in the first few days, have really started to blend together. And with this latest, breathtaking sweep toward Baghdad, there's the choice between saying a) we're in the home stretch, or b) this sounds ominous. Neither really merits a post!
I think I've come to the conclusion that war is bad for blogging. Sure, it's been great for some people (this means you, Sean Paul), and inasmuch as it's raised their profiles, I think it will be good for the medium. But as so many people have pointed out, blogging is better suited to discussion and debate than it is to reporting. And unfortunately, a deployed M-1 tank tends to limit discussion and debate.
These things called changes
Well, Left in the West has closed up shop, and just after I added him to my blogroll. That's a disappointment, for sure. Maybe he'll pop back up sometime in the future? The door seems open.
On a happier note, Matt Yglesias announced yesterday that he's taken a job with The American Prospect. Hopefully this doesn't mean he'll abandon his own site, which permits him to display a lot more personality than TAPPED would. I'm guessing he's prolific enough to handle both...
Jazzy, impromptu riffs
Hart Seely at Slate went and added line breaks to some of Rumsfeld's knottier press briefing circumlocutions, and it really does make stunning poetry.
On affirmative action
I've been somewhat hesitant to weigh in on the issue of affirmative action because I have mixed feelings about it. But I've been really disturbed by the talk from Kevin Drum and Ezra Klein about making affirmative action class-based.
I've supported the race-based variety in the past, but I feel very strongly that, from the point of view of the individual actor, it's highly problematic. That is, if we try to game which individual has an advantage or disadvantage in terms of opportunity, we quickly run into trouble. We can see that individuals are infinitely diverse - each of us has different talents and weaknesses, even before we take into account external things like race and income. The state is not in the business of trying to eliminate that basic diversity, nor should it be. And while it's possible in the agregate to correct for the external factors (race, income, parenting, education, health care, cultural exposure), to some extent that basic diversity of individuals will be rendered meaningless/impotent. For an issue like income inequality, this seems like an awfully extreme solution.
That said, I believe there's a much stronger argument for race-based affirmative action, and it has nothing to do with equalizing individual circumstances. The fact is, certain groups have been repeatedly abused by our society, and have in the process come to believe that they can't succeed within the same institutional structures that have oppressed them. (Obviously this has been true for African Americans in the past; whether it's still the case is what the Supreme Court is debating now.) But by pushing some individuals through the system, success stories are created, and the perception of these historically oppressed groups can change. It's only this much broader end - recasting the attitudes of a whole subculture - that can justify the gross inequalities affirmative action creates for individuals.
Yes, class and income inequality are serious problems, but there's no dearth of success stories for the working poor in America, and it's much harder to talk about a pattern of historical oppression. Besides, aren't there much more precise policies for dealing with the problems of poverity? In the realm of college admittance, for instance, we already have a huge superstructure of student loan programs, tax credits, and education subsidies. Certainly these policies could be improved, but affirmative action's significant drawbacks make it inappropriate.
By the way, it's very possible that in other countries - I'm thinking India, or even Britain, where class plays a much bigger role than it does for Americans - class-based affirmative action might make some sense.
CalmelsCohen is auctioning at least some (?) of their Andre Breton collection. I'm wondering whether this is the same exhibit I saw two years ago on the third floor of the Centre Pompidou... if so, it's not clear to me why they would be selling it. That stuff was along the lines of a French national treasure - everything that man owned was a part of his literary production. (Link via Metafilter.)
UPDATE:It turns out Breton's whole collection is for sale - except for a wall of items at the Centre Pompidou. There's lots of protest, but the French government apparently has some preemptive purchasing rights, so some of the items may stay in public hands.
Better than catblogging
Ezra Klein has started noting what he's listening to as he blogs - the idea is that "you can tell a lot about someone by their music." Meanwhile, Matthew Yglesias, by his own admission, has bad taste in music. Who knew?
NP: Joyce, Nome de Guerra, from the Hard Bossa album.
Haggai responds to Andrew Sullivan:
[W]hat's up with the liberal "elites"? Liberals, inasmuch as people who accept that label share similar political views, don't look at issues like Iraq too differently whether they're in the "elite" or not. Why does no one ever talk about the "conservative elites," a label which certainly describes Sullivan?Unlike Haggai, I've really stopped reading Sullvian in the past couple months, but it seems to me this has been part of his discourse ever since 9/11 - one of his main problems with liberalism is that liberal academics (Susan Sontag, Stanley Fish) have lost touch with reality. So he's weidling the word as a nasty pejorative...
Blast from the past
Noticed today that another one of my former columnists at the Indiana Daily Student has a political blog... Scott Tibbs was my controversial conservative every Monday morning. There are others - Laura Taflinger is here and Tony Manifold/Caroselli used to have a blog - but they don't seem to deal with political issues.
I find it interesting that it's the conservative columnists who are still actively writing opinions - it's not at all what I would have expected at the time. It's hard to know whether this is part of some broader trend. I can tell you that before I started blogging, I was convinvced that there were more conservatives and libertarians blogging than liberals... but now I feel completely unable to make that kind of assessment. Anybody have a sense? I guess the talking dog has made some effort to classify people, but that list may not be extensive enough.
Obviously Blogger hasn't been working properly, but things have been made even more difficult by the keyboard on my Dell laptop, which suddenly doesn't work at all. Fortunately, I've managed to obtain a desktop keyboard to plug into it, but I have a feeling it'll be a real pain in the ass to get it fixed...
A pure and simple land grab
It looks like the preemption strategy is starting to catch on: Mayor Daley ordered an invasion of Meigs Field late last night.
Out of the loop
Josh Marshall is exactly right:
The White House is in such a state of pandemonium and implosion that they are discarding the policy - indeed, they are positively undermining it - in the hopes of insulating the president from the immense fall-out that they can see barreling down the track. Consider also that, saying the president was "out of the loop" - seemingly a family failing - on the central policy of his administration is a devastating admission of incompetence on its own.Also, De Spectaculis steps back from all the bickering over the apparently flawed military strategy to remind us that it was a flawed diplomatic strategy that got us into this mess to begin with.
Performances like this
Digby responds to Rush's rant about everybody's favorite Commentator-General.
Instead, a musical illusion:
I guess it's doubtful this will apply to anyone who's reading this... but just in case you'll be in Indianapolis on May 10 or 11, you should come see The Trio of Minuet at Clowes Hall. It's a children's opera in two acts - I wrote the libretto, and my friend David Sasso wrote the music. We've been working on it for maybe a year and a half, and it's kind of incredible that things are finally coming together. (I'll probably do a much longer post on this a little later, as the performance gets closer.)
If you'd like to come, tickets are available now from ticketmaster. There's also more information about the opera at the ICC website (they're doing the production), including sketches of costumes and set designs, and photos of some rehearsals.
If you're interested but can't make it, let me know, and I can probably get you a videotape. WFYI is supposed to do a professional recording, which will be broadcast in the Indianapolis area and perhaps beyond (?).