Friday, October 17, 2003
Enthymematic Arguments and the Enthymematic Arguers Who Argue ThemOver at Tapped, Matthew Yglesias has more goods on the botulinum B bacteria vial reported in David Kay's assessment of Iraq's WMD programs. According to the LAT:
The single vial of botulinum B had been stored in an Iraqi scientist's kitchen refrigerator since 1993. It appears to have been produced by a nonprofit Virginia biological resource center, the American Type Culture Collection, which legally exported botulinum and other biological material to Iraq under a Commerce Department license in the late 1980s.That's not what's important about the Kay report. What should be noted is what was not found: Botulinum A toxin, the stuff that cannot be found in dirt and honey.
Textbook example of the Bush administration's favored method for discourse, enthymematic argumentation. By telling Americans—the vast majority of whom can't spell botulinum, much less identify its properties—that weapons inspectors found a vial of botulinum, the administration is urging Americans to make the sloppy heuristic hop from "some-name-I-can't-pronounce, found" to "weapons for which weapons inspectors were inspecting, found." On this path from point A to point C, crucial point B—that botulinum toxin was never coaxed from botulinum bacteria—is excluded. As someone put it in a comment board, it's screaming for fire-trucks and hoses and firemen without telling the public that there actually isn't a fire. It's called enthymematic argumenation, and for this administration it's a potent way to lie to citizens to get what they want.
I blame Latin.
posted by kriston at 2:15 PM........
The Once and Future Security Council ResolutionPlainly, the UN Security Council resolution is toothless, and the US will see neither a smurf* nor a cent because of it. No doubt Bush will point to this resolution as an example of his multilateral support; at the very least, he can say that he answered the liberal complaint. What this what we liberals were clamoring for...?
The WaPo sees a silver lining to the situation, noting that "[t]he resolution does provide a U.N. imprimatur to the American enterprise, both to the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council and U.S.-led occupation forces," which of course doesn't matter a flip if the UN will be doing nada to help the US broker a peace in the region. That peace becomes more distant as nations decline to provide troops (except, of course, for the one nation from which we should absolutely not accept troops: Turkey) and Bush's approval ratings dwindle at home.
Still, I see another (thinner) silver lining, or at least a point: The UN may be able to arbitrate the troubling prospects of reconstruction loans given to Iraq. I found myself reading an article by Joseph Stiglitz in the current Atlantic Monthly just yesterday (before the long BOS/NY nightmare) about the way that national debts incurred by totalitarian regimes are restructured or forgiven. Usually, they're not, and the US gets its money, but the UN and other international bodies have made efforts to delineate between truly odious debts (weapons loans) and not-too-terribly odious debts (health and education loans). If the Senate is going to insist that Iraq pay us back for reconstruction, I only hope that the UN can point out that it is not the most moral avenue for the US to loan Iraq the money to pay the US to build efficient oil infrastructure, in order for Iraq to pay us back, etc.
UPDATE: Kevin Drum is with me on this.
*Anyone else see the movie, No Man's Land? That's what Serbs and Kosovars were calling UN peacekeepers, because of their blue and white uniforms.
posted by kriston at 10:07 AM........
HousecleaningNew additions to the roll call, unwieldy as it is: Seth, Mark Kleiman, The Tough Democrat, Metajournalism (group), Sebastian Holsclaw, &c. (The New Republic), The Corner (National Review), the DNC's Kicking Ass, and a link to The Weekly Standard.
This is a picture of a monkey.
A sock monkey, even.
posted by kriston at 9:05 AM........
Wednesday, October 15, 2003
50 Rounds Free for Each Report Card "A"!The WSJ opinion pages have repented for their endorsement of a Democrat and are back to the issues that matter: Masturbating to fantasies of the end of diversity and heavy machine guns! That first article, in which William McGowan basically plugs his book in which he examines the disasterous impact diversity has had on the media, is written just sweetly enough to not sound like typical WSJ-opinion fare. The thin veil of impartiality is finally abandoned outright when he quotes an anonymous New York Times employee as saying, "We're gutless careerists. What can I say? The treatment your book got dramatizes the power that liberals have to dominate the discourse and to shut down--or try to shut down--dissidents or those who have alternative points of view." On Bizarro Earth, the white majority, known there as "dissidents," have it rough.
And what's a week at a right-wing press without a ten-year-old girl firing an automatic weapon?
A little nervous at first, she pulled the trigger with trepidation, squeezing off a round or two. But Emily quickly discovered why the MP5 is loved by the FBI, Delta Force and others. It's a full-blown submachine gun, but with the kick of a cap gun. With renewed confidence, she quickly expended the rest of her clip and walked off the line with a big grin.Cute! Oh, pipe down, I don't really care about kids playing with guns so long as it's supervised. But I have to put my down firmly about letting yer li'l rascals play with the Neo-Nazis:
But not before watching 10-year-old Emily fire the Heckler & Koch MP5, the preferred weapon of counterterrorist units the world over. This is a good point to note that although I appeared friendly in my NRA ball cap and eager grin, folks here were naturally skeptical of a reporter. They'd been burned too often by TV reporters who come to these shows once a decade and find the tiny percentage of attendees wearing Nazi uniforms or spewing some hokum about the Trilateral Commission.Can your child spot a transnational progressivist? Tell them to shoot first and ask questions later!
In all honesty, I'm kind of Michael Moore-ish on the subject of guns. I think people should be allowed to own them, just not Americans, who are all nuts. I only wanted to reassert that back on regular Earth, the WSJ opinion page is back to bizarre-normal.
I promise, you'll never hear me gripe about John Lott's false gun/crime statistics, the single most terminably boring subject du jour in blogosphere history.
posted by kriston at 11:04 AM........
Don't Go Gently—Golightly!Go see Holly Golightly on Thursday night at the Black Cat. You can't complain about $8. And the beer is cheap. And the music's gonna be good. Find me at the bar and I'll buy you a brew, so long as there's not a mob of you.
BEGGING HERE: I also have to ask my mob of readers for help—if anyone can help me track down to tickets to Interpol and/or Belle and Sebastian here in DC, I'll give you I-don't-know-what. You can guest blog. Man, if you track down tickets for both, you can have my blog.
What with my mob of readers, you never know. All six of you could show up... from Austin.
posted by kriston at 9:54 AM........
In For a Penny, In For a PoundThe Senate easily overcame a Democratic suggestion that lacked good sense:
The Senate easily defeated a Democratic effort yesterday to shift $5 billion in proposed Iraqi reconstruction aid to popular domestic programs, then crushed the first legislative attempt to convert President Bush's $20.3 billion Iraq rebuilding request into a loan.Considering the loan crises already overshadowing IraqIraq—whether or not the United States will repudiate loans given to Ba'athist regime by Russia and France—and the fact that Iraqi oil fields have not been the fountains o' funds we were told, the mostly Democratic suggestion of loaning the post-war operation costs to Iraq (the people?) was ludicrous. I would almost say that the Republican Party was showing signs of fiscal responsibility, if its economic policy via tax cuts wasn't derailing the dollar. Maybe were our federal budget deficit, trade deficit, and economic ratings (a la Damocles) not sinkholes, or maybe if the Iraqi reconstruction outcome not still so questionable, we could reasonably debate about taking loans to defray the costs.
On the subject of credibility, or just plain balls, John Edwards is showing what he's made of:
One senator -- John Edwards (D-N.C.), a presidential candidate -- announced yesterday that he will oppose the $87 billion request. He called the administration's Iraq policy a failure and said Bush will change course only if someone "stands up to him and says 'no.' "I like the unequivocal answer, as opposed to Kerry's reasonable but toothless suggestion that "he said he would oppose the $87 billion request unless Bush accepted an equivalent reduction in his tax cuts." That's of course what needs to happen, but I like Edwards's answer exactly because it doesn't spell it out in a way that sounds like a commercial. Bush spent the surplus, and now Bush needs to find a way to do this without flushing the economy down the drain. The answer is simple. And the best way for the Democrats to convey that message is to simply say, "No."
I'm really coming around to Edwards. I think that I'd very much like to see a Clark-Edwards ticket, and in my heart-of-hearts I believe it ought to be an Edwards-Clark ticket. I think Dean's star is cresting, and I'm curious to see if Edwards can find some way to rise above the Kerry-Gephardt-Dean fracas.
Or if Clark can keep floating, for that matter.
posted by kriston at 9:48 AM........
Cubbies FolliesSo last night a Cubs fan screwed the team by reaching for a foul ball and interfering with a catch, eh? Better run, kid:
Moments after the play, the Wrigley crowd began ridiculing the fan. According to a Chicago Tribune report, Cubs security escorted the fan away from the stands after the eighth inning. Officials said he had asked to stay at the stadium until it cleared before he made his way home. A man who was with him was taken out of Wrigley and hastily put into a taxi.Nice time to relocate, maybe to NYC?
Too bad I keep missing the games because of serious overtime. Anyway, guys, it's time to throw down. Predictions for the Series. While I want to see the Cubs and Sox do this, I'm calling Cubbies vs Yankees. And I feel like I'd need to see another couple of games to say for sure, but on a limb, I'm giving it all to the Cubs—after a loooong seven games.
Red Sox making it to game seven in the ALCS could persuade me otherwise...
posted by kriston at 9:05 AM........
Tuesday, October 14, 2003
Bizarro Street JournalSue and Not U posts about Harold Bloom today and the general drudgery that is reading his lit. crit., but she missed the biggest story: Harold Bloom endorsed Wesley Clark on the Wall Street Journal editorial pages. They actually let a literary critic say, in his totally stiff voice and all, of Wesley Clark, a Democrat running for President, that "realism and hope intricately fuse in his character." Seriously, they let him say:
As a lifelong Democrat speaking to other Democrats, I urge his nomination. To Republicans and independents, I put the question: Weigh Gen. Clark's qualifications against President Bush's performance, and who seems likelier to lead us effectively in the years of trouble ahead of us?Wes Clark is going to lead one rag-tag bunch of supporters to the White House....
Man, someone at the WSJ dropped the ball today. Expect some serious supply-side next week.
posted by kriston at 12:25 PM........
Rally Round the GroperThe Weekly Standard can't seem to decide if Arnold Schwarzenegger's gubernatorial chair is good news or bad news for Republicans hoping (beyond hope, really) to take California away from Democrats. I'm inclined to say that it's bad news, since Arnold is preparing to repeal the car tax, digging the state's deficit hole a good 50% deeper to $12 billion (by WS estimates), has refused to add to the state's education budget rather than cut it (a good thing), and will not raise taxes. If the WS is right, and Arnold's economic policy basically amounts to waiting for a boom economy to trick down into the Valley, then I'd bet we see Arnold recant his promise to terminate taxes.
Even if he somehow finds a way to keep Cali afloat, Arnold is still not a Bush Republican. He's pro-choice, pro-union, and pretty decidedly anti-Family Values, like the rest of us godless Democrats. Enjoy your victory jigs while they last, GOP, but Cali's not going anywhere.
Except, you know, down a sinkhole of deficits.
posted by kriston at 11:58 AM........
To My Peeps Who RepresentCourtesy of DIY Media and Microsoft Outlook, I learn about the petition being circulated in Congress to stop a Republican-led effort to veto the roll-back of FCC rules changes. The MoveOn PAC folks put it much more clearly in their email to me:
Now the campaign to block the FCC's disastrous loosening of media ownership rules has reached a make-or-break moment in Congress. Speaker Dennis Hastert and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay have indicated that they will not allow a final vote on the rule change. They won't allow it because they know they and their contributors in he nation's biggest media corporations could lose. But if they don't allow a vote on this soon, we could lose our chance to roll back the rule change this year. We need your help.It's touching that the took the time to write to DC residents, what with all the power our "US House Representative" has and all, but I'll make the call. For those of you out there with actual representation, you definitely ought to call for the signature.
UPDATE: MoveOn called again and says that "Representative" Horton has signed the petition. I'm sure that they took it as seriously as they did her position on school vouchers.
While we're at it, why not call Tom DeLay and tell him to sit on something: (202) 225-4000.
posted by kriston at 11:32 AM........
The Quagmire Just Gets More Quagmire-yIn retrospect one absolute miracle of the active war period in Iraq was that the United States was able to keep Turkey squarely on the sidelines, so it's all the more nonplussing that the US now wants to march 10,000 Turkish troops through the Kurdistan region to be stationed in Iraq. (It's Salon, so you gotta watch a commercial to read the article.) In an overtly politicized stab at mopping up the mud we called post-war planning, the Bush administration wants to either replace American reservists or reinforce them in the Sunni triangle with Turkish force:
"Calling in Turkish troops for sheer political expediency with an election looming is nothing short of a betrayal of the Kurds," says Ralph Peters, a retired Army intelligence officer and author of the new book "Beyond Baghdad: Postmodern War and Peace." Peters is an Iraq hawk and a fierce critic of those who see only failure and quagmire there, but now he says, "We're making a mockery of many of our promises to the Iraqi people by shoving the Turks down their throats. It's shameful and outrageous and unworthy of our country."This is an appalling move, and not only because of the risk of volatile tension it introduces into Iraq. Marching a legion of Turkish troops through a Kurdistan corridor seems like a malevolent design by grudge-bearing Kurds. This is an open invitation for the PKK, the Turkish Kurd guerilla force numbering in the thousands in the region the Turkish troops would be plodding through. The enormous political pressure put on Turkey in the instance of Kurdish violence directed against its troops might threaten the tenuous position Turkey holds, between the rock of its furious citizens and the hard place of US interests.
Besides the fact that the move represents another rank betrayal of our only allies within the state of Iraq, destabilization of our relationship with Turkey, or Turkey's relationship with its citizens, or the Kurds' relationship with the Iraqi Governing Council, or with the Iraq's relationship to its Turkoman minority is like setting up the dominoes for Iranian or Syrian action. What in the world is possibly worth risking further destabilization in the region?
As the Kurds say, their only friends are the mountains.
posted by kriston at 11:10 AM........
Strayhorn vs PerryA friend who works in the Texas Comptroller's office told me a while back that Carole Keeton Strayhorn is basically a Republican in name only. Or, moreover, she's a "classical" Republican, from the hands-off, budget hawk school of the party. Strayhorn is also exceedingly connected in Texas, so when she takes a fight public (as she's kin to do), it's not so easy for the dominant Republican leadership to brush her aside. She stood up to bullying from Lt. Gov. Dewhurst and House Speaker Craddick the minute they abandones any pretense of bipartisan spirt, so if she's taking on Gov. Perry and cohorts again, more power to her:
The Carole Keeton Strayhorn versus Rick Perry political feud went from a simmer to a boil Monday when the comptroller took a verbal switch to the governor's backside a day after a Perry-supported bill stripped Strayhorn of two of her most cherished programs.To twist Lyle Lovett's lyric, "Oh no / You're not a Democrat / But Democrats want you anyway."
I haven't forgotten about Texas, especially given my lack of any representation here.
posted by kriston at 10:40 AM........
The New American PatriotismIt occurs to me that Clark is exactly in the right zone if he's announcing a "Civilian Reserve" as part of his New American Patriotism vision. I think we've seen that America over the last decade, led by both the Clinton and Bush administrations, is dedicated to nation-building projects. I think it's also clear that the American government abhors nation-building on its face even as it becomes entrenched in the outlying lands of the empire.
I don't know the details of Clark's proposal, but I'm reminded of what Stephen Kotchkin writes at the Prospect about Dana Priest's book, The Mission: Waging War and Keeping the Peace with America's Military:
The past decade has seen a dramatic shift in American impulses. The Clinton syndrome of being terrified of using military force yet eventually opting for humanitarian intervention yielded to a Bush syndrome of idolizing military action while abhorring nation building. With Iraq, Bush radicals are being confronted by the unwanted consequences of their muscularity, and Clinton alumni are again being shown the limits of do-goodism. Remarkably, however, even as the right deeply divides (remake the world versus cautiously select engagements), many lefties and righties have found common imperialist cause save for method (act with the rest of the world or without it).Despite Dennis Kucinich's best efforts, the United States is basically committed to foreign actions, and is unprepared and understaffed for the kinds of activities (reconstruction, peace-keeping) in which we're engaged. Our lack of MP presence in Iraq contributed to the unabated streaks of violence that persist now, along with the absence of a humanitarian corps.
If that's what Wesley Clark is tossing around in his head—a civilian corps for reconstruction, with specialized and adaptable agencies developed in the mold of our modern pursuits, a corps of liberal arts majors instead of military personnel, a reserve that is to reconstruction what the Red Cross is to disaster relief—then I think that is the face of the New American Patriotism.
In conjunction with his cabinet-level international development department (what was it called?) I'm seeing an admirable foreign policy platform sprouting.
posted by kriston at 9:25 AM........
Damocles's SwordI've read a few articles about the Lehman Brothers' mathematical model known as Damocles, and how when America is run through the machine our scores match the 1996 Indonesia team or the 2000 Argentina squad. Paul Krugman describes how America's lenders lend to us more on faith than substantial credit, and were it not for the dollar's status as world trade currency, that might not be the case:
But at a certain point we'll have a Wile E. Coyote moment. For those not familiar with the Road Runner cartoons, Mr. Coyote had a habit of running off cliffs and taking several steps on thin air before noticing that there was nothing underneath his feet. Only then would he plunge.That's awfully shrill, don't you think? To assume that there's a reader out there who doesn't know Wile E. Coyote?
Where does the NYT find these guys?
posted by kriston at 8:22 AM........
Monday, October 13, 2003
Tacitus and TotoIf you're not reading him, Tacitus is travelling through Africa on some sort of AIDS relief-related mission, and his post about the impact of HIV/AIDS on South Africa is revealing. I know that Tacitus is a pretty devoted Catholic, so I wonder how his experiences will reflect on the Vatican's open war on condoms.
Speaking of perplexing, remember that song "Africa" by Toto? What was he saying, "I bless the rains down in Africa"? What does that mean?
Seriously, who writes those lyrics?
posted by kriston at 4:59 PM........
No Means No Justice?In looking at Gregg Easterbrook's column about the difficulty in getting to the bottom of rape accusations, I thought about how it's unfortunate that so much time is spent parsing the woman's language in said situation. While that final word gives ultimate sexual authority to women—a good thing—it also appears to mean that if they don't exercise the final word in a fixed way, then they can't make any claims as to the way a man interprets it.
Whether or not no can categorically mean no is a complicated subject, but frankly I think that the man's understanding of a sexual situation is much clearer than the language of sex betrays. I know for certain if I'm having sex that's hott (a consensual score), regrettable (for any reason other than the terms of consent), or rape (non-consensual). The language involved in hott sex could possibly sound like rape, I guess, but there would be no mistaking the two. How do I know what rape is like, if (I assure you!) I've never done it? I guess it's an innate understanding along the lines of the other series of innate understandings that get you in a bedroom situation in the first place. If the lines I'm describing sound fuzzy, it's because they are—and so long as the court must focus on his-word-against-hers judgments, it's just as valid in my mind to try to prove a man's willful interpretation or denial of a state of affairs as it is to focus on how the woman expressed the state of affairs.
I guess there's no getting down to a solution, but Easterbrook's throw-away suggestion that there ought to be some ultimate no, a stop-word which can't be mistaken, is naive. It wouldn't take long for that word to take on kinky danger connotations just like "no" has now, and even if the word worked there would never be a case in which a man admitted to hearing it.
Rape allegations/convictions sound a lot fuzzier as a theoretical topic than they probably are in most cases brought to court, I'd imagine. I'd be curious to hear if in most court decisions, the man and woman had any pre-existing relationship at all; I have a friend who works with a relevant NGO, so maybe I'll ask her and follow up here tomorrow. It seems that there are an awfully vocal group of men out there who strongly believe that women are quick to charge rape, but I bet it's the same hysteria that brought us the welfare queen and bureaucracy-for-every-Indian myths. Strangely it's a hotly contested topic, so contested that I imagine, for instance, that whatever verdict is handed down to Kobe Bryant there will be such outrage that it will absolutely seem that no justice has been done.
Don't mind me, just talking out loud.
posted by kriston at 4:25 PM........
Grammar.police vs Southern Appeal; Liberals vs JewsApologies if you stopped by earlier looking for a regular dose of G.p and found yourself instead at Southern Appeal. Once quite a while ago when Blogger's wires got crossed this spot was mixed with some nineteen-year-old's weblog and the resulting chimera, a hybrid of my bleeding heart and her adoration for Freddie Prinze Jr, was not a pretty site.
It got me thinking: Were I Feddie (a la Southern Appeal) or any other soldier of the right, I'd certainly mention Gregg Easterbrook's less-than-rosy review of Kill Bill, and not because he's unfair to Tarantino:
Set aside what it says about Hollywood that today even Disney thinks what the public needs is ever-more-graphic depictions of killing the innocent as cool amusement. Disney's CEO, Michael Eisner, is Jewish; the chief of Miramax, Harvey Weinstein, is Jewish. Yes, there are plenty of Christian and other Hollywood executives who worship money above all else, promoting for profit the adulation of violence. Does that make it right for Jewish executives to worship money above all else, by promoting for profit the adulation of violence? Recent European history alone ought to cause Jewish executives to experience second thoughts about glorifying the killing of the helpless as a fun lifestyle choice. But history is hardly the only concern. Films made in Hollywood are now shown all over the world, to audiences that may not understand the dialogue or even look at the subtitles, but can't possibly miss the message--now Disney's message--that hearing the screams of the innocent is a really fun way to express yourself.But since I'm Kriston, soldier of the left, I'm going to have acknowledge with sincere confusion the rebuke that Easterbrook deserves. What was The New Republic thinking with this? Easterbrook's no insane extremist or anti-Semite, and even his views on edgy topics like rape prosecution are well-formed and sensitively put, so where does he get off telling Jews to apologize for Hitler?
Link courtesy of Matthew Yglesias.
Internet craziness courtesy of Blogger.
posted by kriston at 2:23 PM........