Both PG and BigOldGeek (and probably others) have pointed out that there's an inconsistency between the Bush administration's gun control policy here in the United States and the current seizing of weapons in Iraq. I think this is a somewhat irresponsible line of argument. I don't disagree that we have too many guns here in the United States, and I definitely think there's a lot we could do to control what weapons Americans have access to. But I just don't see what all this has to do with Iraq.

The fact of the matter is, Iraqi civilians must be disarmed if there's to be any peace in Iraq. How can we work to build a new government when bands of armed civilians are looting, stealing, murdering, and otherwise disrupting the peace? Ever since we took "control" of Baghdad, there's been a complete breakdown in the rule of law, and there won't be any peace, any self-determination, any legitimate American withdrawl until the rule of law is back in place. So, the Bush policy of seizing weapons from Iraqi civilians may be the first intelligent move they've made in this extended debacle. I'm not exactly optimistic about the situation, but I'm going to hold out hope that it's the beginning of a more measured and thoughtful approach.

No matter how bad you think crime is in America, there's no breakdown in the rule of law. No, that doesn't mean having an armed American populace is the best way to go - but it it's pretty clear that Iraq presents a completely different set of circumstances.


Food fight
Bush is absolutely right to declaim the EU's ban on genetically modified food:

In a speech that the White House said would put forward what aides called a positive agenda that would show a far softer side to American foreign policy, Mr. Bush insisted that widened use of "high-yield bio-crops" would greatly increase agricultural productivity in some of the poorest nations.

"Yet our partners in Europe are impeding this effort," he said, clearly meaning France and Germany, though he named no countries. "They have blocked all new bio-crops because of unfounded, unscientific fears." The result, he charged, was that African nations that fear being shut out of European markets are not investing in the technology. He appeared to be referring to countries like Uganda and Namibia.

Unfortunately the flip side of this issue is that here in the US we're just as snooty about irradiated food - an attitude that is equally unscientific and which has similar consequences for potential African agricultural production. It's a bit of a standoff, with public opinion firmly entrenched on both sides of the Atlantic.

It's also worth noting that the Bush administration's policy on steel tarrifs might have something to do with the European ban on gm food. It's a pretty obvious case of comparative advantage, where unfair US steel protections have forced Europe to protect its crops.

Wind dummies
FedEx has discovered that hybrids are good business. The company has plans to phase 30,000 hybrid delivery trucks into its fleet:

FedEx says that while the new trucks will be more expensive to purchase, they increase fuel efficiency by 50 percent and will be less costly to maintain. The company hopes to break even over the 10 to 12 years that the trucks are expected to last, Mr. Bronczek said.

One plus, he said, was that the shift to hybrids would reduce the company's sensitivity to fuel prices. "When OPEC's fuel prices swing one way or another, the effects on costs are significant," he said.

Too bad for the rest of us, FedEx trucks are going to be the most attractive hybrids on the road.

The article closes with a quote from Christine Todd Whitman, who resigned today as EPA administrator. I was surprised to learn that she had a contentious relationship with the Bush administration's abysmal environmental record - sorry to see her go, since her replacement will surely be less of a friend to the environment.


Self improvement
Went to see the new Neil Labute effort today, called The Shape of Things. It didn't really live up to my hopes - the dialogue was kind of unweildy (written for the stage?) and the vicious interpersonal dramas weren't nearly as vivid or believable as what we saw in Your Friends and Neighbors. Instead, the film was built on a central conceit, sort of like In the Company of Men, and I think the characterization suffered as a result. Of course, the setup itself worked pretty well, apart from the seriously belabored ending.

I think there was also a bit of self-consciousness in this film that I didn't get from the others - here Labute dealt much more directly here with artistic manipulation and all the moral questions the artist-as-manipulator has to face... not really surprising when you consider the reviews he got for Your Friends and Neighbors. In that sense it reminded me of the second half of Tom Solondz's Storytelling, except that Labute looks his detractors right in the face and gives them two middle fingers, where Solondz can only retreat into sarcasm.

All those other bastards were only practice
I've never been a golf fan, and I probably never will be, but I'm totally impressed that Annika Sorentsam is taking on the PGA men this Thursday... at the Colonial, no less! I hope she takes them apart... it would really do wonders for the world of pro sports.

More room for guns & ammo
BigOldGeek directs me to this article from the New York Times on how WalMart is changing the rules of them game in publishing and other media. Their market share is apparently so big they can sink an author or artist by refusing to carry her... or at least, it's close to that - Eminem seems to be doing pretty well on his own, thank you very much.

I guess I have a lot of hope that this won't matter in the long run. As information gets easier and easier to disseminate, it gets harder and harder to control with the kinds of economic levers a WalMart can manipulate. I'm not sure what this means for artists in the future, but I don't see the problems inherent in easier data manipulation going away.

I'm generally surprised at how little amateur creative work is available via the internet. I guess there will have to be a major shift away from thinking of creative content as a product before people will really be free to just post it on the internet. Then again, today I came across these photos by my old friend Alex Mogens Galt... and there's always the argument (one I'm not very sympathetic to at the moment) that all this blogging is creative. Hmmm.


It's better by far to get paid
I've been having a hard time motivating myself to write lately... the news is all depressing, terrorist attacks all over the map, and the Bush people looking less and less earnest every day on Iraq. Plus I'm a little burnt out I think - yes the opera experience was terrifically energizing, but by comparison blogging about current events is almost a chore. I'm having the same difficulty with schoolwork. Regression analysis? Who needs it! Instead I've been listening to Liz Phair, trying to tune out the quibbling on my latest group project, and basically in denial about the fact that my summer plans fell through while I was distracted.

As far as this blog goes, I don't intend to turn it into some kind of melancholy journal, but I think I do want to try and widen the focus a little bit. When I started doing this, I was thinking in terms of a tight political/economic focus... after all, here I was studying policy, drinking down everything I could find about world events in the leadup to the war... the blogosphere seemed, well, pleasantly atmospheric. Not so now, at least for me. The political discussion is all stale, so factionalized and emphatic. Debating postwar Iraq policy feels pointless in the current political atmosphere, and discussing the Democratic primary is a tragic waste of breath.

Anyway... I don't guess this rant is particularly helpful or interesting to anybody so I'll desist for the moment. I'll try be back soon with a post on the abortive/unrealized Hart campaign, and maybe something about the Matrices?

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