Friday, February 25, 2005

Matthew Yglesias: Kinds of Rightwingery

Pay close attention to Matt's on-going thoughts on the two kinds of conservative (anti-state and anti-left), here and here. He's on to something very important here and I look forward to seeing how this discussion evolves. A key point which he addresses in the second post is the critisism like "I'm no de-prioritizing small government because I've simply decided to hate on liberals, I supported Bush because the Democrats aren't serious about national security." Matt's answer is that this is "wrong", but I don't think that fully covers it. Also it is nowhere near as elegant as the emerging "two kinds of conservatives" thesis. I look forward to a more powerful response.

UPDATE: Thinking about this some more, it seems clear to me that there's another element to conservative motivation beyong anti-state and anti-left. I'm not quite sure what it is but it has something to do with the fact that 9/11 was such as shock to most Americans and the strong appeal of the "let's kick some butt" type of response. There are lots of (mostly) white Americans in the heartland who have never even been to New York who wholeheartedly support Bush and think Democrats are unserious about national security. People who were much closer to the attacks (such as my wife who was in NYC on 9/11) think many of Bush's initiatives have been counter-productive and Kerry & Co. would have probably done a better job. Something is going on here, and that something is a major rightwing political force in this country today which rivals the anti-state and anti-left currents.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Sales Tax

For once, I think I've come across an issue where I'd like to respectfully disagree with Matt Yglesias. Commenting on a national sales tax report from Knight Ridder Matt says such a tax "would be a disaster virtually without precedent in modern history", because "the incentives to evade the tax through cash payments would be enormous".

I think he is wrong, and I'd like to cite my beloved Norway as an example. As it happens Norwegians already pay 23% VAT on everything except food (and a few other types of merchandise I think). And as far as I know tax evasion is not a big problem. My gut feeling (there may be some data on this somewhere) is that income tax evasion is a bigger problem. Income taxes are about as high as they are in the US, perhaps a bit higher.

As a non-practicing econ major I actually think sales taxes have a lot going for them - they encourage savings, are simpler to collect and would virtually eliminate the need for personal tax returns and income tax planning (and related consultants).

Of course sales taxes are also strongly regressive and would have to be accompanied by huge corresponding distribution of wealth from rich to poor. I don't see how this would ever be politically possible in America; even in Europe they have to resort to indirect measures such as collective bargaining and strict employment laws to achieve it. Thus, like Matt and most other American liberals I am also officially against the national sales tax. But not because I think people will cheat.

UPDATE: Jesse Taylor over at Pandangon seems to think I messed up by citing a "successful" VAT tax as an argument in the debate about the national sales tax. He probably has a point, perhaps it is easier to evade a straight point-of-sale tax than a value-added tax. I'm certainly no expert on taxation but I suspect that's why the Europeans went with VATs in the first place.

If Matt thinks replacing the income tax with a a national sales tax is a terrible idea while replacing the income tax with a VAT is a far better one then I take back my previous assertion. If not then I still disagree with him.

And as for Republican intentions; yes they're clearly hell-bent on a strategy of deception to advance their narrow self interests. But that doesn't mean we should react to every Republican proposal with knee-jerk opposition. In fact I took Jonathan Chait's argument to heart the other day as a model for what liberalism is or ought to be:
liberals are agnostic about the size of government, and therefore more evidence-based in their approach to public policy, and therefore better able to make policies that create a better life for most Americans
As liberals we owe it to ourselves to examine the merits of all proposals, good or bad.

Now back to my usual habit of heaping praise on everything Matt has to say: This post on Israel/Palestine is just awesome! It elegantly says what I clumsily tried to say earlier with this question:
Imagine for a moment that Sweden and Norway are mortal enemies at war. Then ask yourself this question: Would it be in America's best interest to have me and my fellow Norwegian-Americans direct US policies in Scandinavia?

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Non-Hawks Saving Face

Matthew Yglesias provides those of us who (by now) think the war (as it was fought) was a mistake with a nice justification for wanting Iraq to succed:
He [Julian Sanches] makes the point that, quite rightly, even if things turn out well from here on out in Iraq that would hardly constitute a justification for having launched the war. I -- or he -- could no doubt produce a long argument to that regard, but the simple argument is just that there's a reason Bush didn't say, 'I want to invade a country that poses no threat to the United States, spend hundreds of billions of dollas and get thousands of people killed, in order to build a nice Shiite democracy.' On the one hand, this argument is a needed debunking of much hawk propaganda. On the other hand, keeping the argument in mind will help non-hawks avoid any hint of subconscious desire for things to go poorly in Iraq. We can -- and should -- hope things turn out for the best, without believing that things turning out well in any way undermines our point.

Liberals and Democracy-Promotion

Matthew Yglesias is right on, as usual:
The second, and larger part, of the argument goes like this. Liberal rhetoric about democracy-promotion and idealism is more likely to be effective at promoting democracy but liberals are sensitive to the reality of past American wrongdoing and hypocrisy. This is stuff the people we're trying to help are aware of, and they don't take the US government seriously unless we acknowledge all that and can credibly maintain to be doing things differently in the future.

The trouble is that rather than bolstering each other, as Beinart thinks, these points are in tension. The sort of liberal rhetoric that is effective as part of a democracy-promotion strategy is harmful as an electoral strategy. That's exactly the kind of stuff that pisses most Americans outside of a smallish cosmopolitan sector off. A big part of what's appealing about Bush's idealistic rhetoric is that it plays into America's very flattering self-conception. The more honest take on this beloved of liberal intellectuals is likely to work better, since it's more credible, but at best it will confuse the electorate ('nuance' and all that) and more likely it will enrage them. People don't want to hear that America, though often good, has also been bad and needs to reform its ways to meet the challenges of the 21st century. There's a genuine difficulty here, and it needs to be acknowledged and addressed. The 'pundit's fallacy' of assuming that whatever you happen to think the best policy would be is also the best political approach is a serious danger.
To paraphrase: Actually promoting democracy abroad (as opposed to just talking about it or going to war) is a complex task which requires America to acknowledge past and present foreign policy realities. But selling this to Joe American is difficult because a) he is attracted to simplistic solutions, and b) he will usually reject any notions that do not conform to his rosy picture of America.

Of course, reading between the lines, what we're really saying here is that voters are simplistic idiots. Which is not very comforting to idealistic "liberals" like myself.

I'm becoming more and more convinced that America's Democrats are engaged in a battle they can't win. Sure they may win some elections every now and then if the Republicans become too corrupt or screw up things too badly. But Americans have this crazy ability to ignore unpleasant facts. As long as Republicans are shrewd and speak of their policies (failures or not) in terms that appeal to voters' desires for simplicity and self-promotion (i.e. "patriotism") they will prevail in the long run.

So what's the solution? I think Democrats need to completely break with the system. Stop taking money from interest groups altogether. Introduce full transparency (publish all accounting records on the internet, for instance). Start engaging in public debates - if Republicans won't participate then mock them. Stop trying to say what the public wants to hear. Answer questions truthfully and completely on TV. Kick out (or stop supporting) elected Democrats who are self-interested crooks. Stop partisan redistricting in all blue states (like Arnold suggested). And so on and so forth.

American voters may stop being idiots if they're given the opportunity to see politicians with integrity and character.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Thursday, February 10, 2005

The Euro-Americans Are Coming To Get You

Via Yglesias, this piece in The Weekly Standardis hilarious:
Given their contempt for much of the country, it is not surprising that Euro-Americans seek inspiration from abroad. For many, European cities, with three times the density of their American counterparts, are to be hailed as role models. New urbanists like Roberta Brandes Gratz look across the Atlantic and see our urban future. Americans, she concludes, "want what Czechs have," that is, highly concentrated, expensive cities of apartment-renters like picturesque Prague.
Euro-American politics do not work in aspirational cities. Where and when such policies do become influential, companies, entrepreneurs, and individuals will seek their future elsewhere, in places where they don't have to subsidize fancy nightclubs, art galleries, gay bars, and yuppie lofts, or pay the freight for inefficient public-sector bureaucracies. If the contagion takes over Phoenix, these restless Americans will move further out, into the unregulated exurbs or deeper into the hinterland, to Boise, the Salt Lake Valley, or beyond.
My take: I wish it were true! Imagine if we could combine the style, culture and beauty of Paris with the job opportunities in Boston and New York! I would move in a flash!

Overly Broad Categorizations

OK, ignore that last post (via Yglesias). This Sebastian guy is so wise and balanced there is no way he can be called a 'conservative'. Take this discussion on overly broad terms:
Hilzoy's example is 'The Left'. Depending on context, 'the left' can refer to hard-core Communists or people more likely to vote Democrat than Republican. Either reference can be useful and understandable in context. The problem arises when someone uses it for one meaning while sounding like he is using it for another. This can be unintentional--if I speak of 'The Left' on the Social Security debate and you interpret it more as 'The Left' in the anti-communist battles, we aren't going to be talking about the same thing at all. It can also be intentional, as when someone tries to tar the 'more likely to vote Democrat than Republican' left with something said by the 'stridently anti-capitalist perhaps communist' left. This can also happen when somone mistakes the part for the whole--as in equating all Republicans with the most extreme members of the Christian Right. Even among the Christian Right there are differing extremes. I'm quite confident that most of you who dislike Pat Robertson would get along well with my parents who also dislike Pat Robertson. But my parents are firmly a part of the Christian Right, and the Republican Party, nonetheless.
So am I committing the sin he speaks of by stating that a 'conservative' can't be honest, balanced, reflective, moderate, wise and decent? Yes perhaps. In the pre-W era I would definitely say that was true. And it is still true that there are lots of decent, wise and upstanding Republicans out there (McCain, Baker, Bush Sr. and (sometimes) Senators Hagel and Luger come to mind).

However, the Bush-inspired turn to the right seems to have silenced most of these decent Republicans, leaving near-crooks or idiots like Frist, DeLay, Santorum, Hastert and just about every other member of Congress as the GOP mouthpiece. As I see it, these people are re-defining the meaning of the word 'conservative'.

Incidentally, I suspect something similar happened to the word 'liberal' in the sixties and seventies. I wasn't around then (and if I was I didn't pay attention to US politics) but from the deeply ingrained attitudes of many modern-day conservatives (some of whom are respected friends) I can only infer that 'liberals' really pissed them off back in the day with tax increases, wasteful welfare programs and the like.

So maybe in 20 years we'll have a hard-left president who takes the country near bankruptcy, world wars and kleptocracy, and I'll be defending his ass vigorously just because Bush & Co. pissed me off so badly in the 2000-ties.

A Republican Against Torture

Via Yglesias, a rare treat:
The Republican Party has spent so many years in the minority that sometimes I think we have not adjusted to the fact that we are in power. We are in power now. We control both Houses of Congress and we have our people throughout the administration. We don't need to wait for the Democrats to raise this issue. We can't hide behind the worry that exploring our practices is going to get a President elected who is going to retreat from Iraq. We are the party which leads the most powerful country in the world. And lead it we must. President Bush must be shown that the Republican Party is not willing to stand for the perversion of our moral standards.
A Republican with perspective, honesty and human decency. Not even a trace of a knee-jerk Bush defense. It brought a tear or two to my eyes...

UPDATE: I take back my compliments because Sebastian Holsclaw can't be a Republican!

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Bush at 57%

His approval rating received a major boost after Iraq elections.

I feel a bit like Jon Stewart did:
I’ve watched this thing unfold from the start and here’s the great fear that I have: What if Bush, the president, ours, has been right about this all along? I feel like my world view will not sustain itself and I may, and again I don’t know if I can physically do this, implode.

The Cole-Goldberg Fight Continues

Unfortunatly, it is starting to get boring. Cole serves up this nugget though:
An argument that judgment matters but knowledge does not is profoundly anti-intellectual. It implies that we do not need ever to learn anything in order make mature decisions. We can just proceed off some simple ideological template and apply it to everything. This sort of thinking is part of what is wrong with this country. We wouldn't call a man in to fix our plumbing who knew nothing about plumbing, but we call pundits to address millions of people on subjects about which they know nothing of substance.
Amen. Although I must admit that like Goldberg I haven't read very many books on Iraq either. But unlike him I tend to defer to people (like Cole) who have. That counts for something, no? Cole goes on:
Goldberg is hoping to Kerryize me because my position on the war can't be reduced to a sound bite. I don't really care. I'm not running for office and I'm not making any money to speak of from this punditry gig. If people can't imagine that you can hate Saddam and also think a unilateral war and long-term occupation of an Arab country are bad ideas, that is their problem.
If only there were more people like Cole out there. But no, instead we get people like Jonah Goldberg:
Cranky rich people hire sharp-tongued and relatively uninformed young people all the time and put them on the mass media to badmouth the poor, spread bigotry, exalt mindless militarism, promote anti-intellectualism, and ensure generally that rightwing views come to predominate even among people who are harmed by such policies.
UPDATE: One more round. It took me a second or two to understand Cole's outrage at Goldberg's last proposal, but then I got it.

Serious critics of the Iraqi war (I'd like to think I'm one of them) don't think that getting rid of Saddam was a bad thing or that Iraqis are now destined for civil war. I for one just think a wiser, slower and more multilateral approach would have produced a better outcome with less suffering on the part of Iraqis and the families of US soldiers. That will be true even if Iraq turns out to be a model of democracy and tolerance in 10 years.

Heritage on Rice in Europe

If you ignore the usual Euro-bashing opening remarks, this commentary by Peter Brookes is actually a rational and useful summary of the topics being discussed during Rice's visit to Europe. Perhaps this signals a "coming together" of American wingnuts and Euro-American liberals.

I definitely agree that it is time to drop the divisions over Iraq. Regardless of what one thinks of the war (and the manner in which it was initiated and conducted) it seems clear to most that everybody should help as much as they can. International engagement will be absolutely required in order to keep the new Iraqi Gov't from embracing anti-liberal and totalitarian traits. Europe can and should do a lot here.

Monday, February 07, 2005

GOP Ethics Watch

United Front by Sam Rosenfeld, commenting on this WaPo piece.

I think stories like these should inspire Democrats to pursue a strategy for becoming the "clean" party. This would pay off in the long run as Republicans in power everywhere are bound to become more and more corrupt. It would be a tough job though -- Dems will need very strict internal rules, a "policing" authority of some sort, and full transparancy (publish both the rules and the workings of the policing efforts). I'll have more on this in the near future (I hope).

Sunday, February 06, 2005


Got a link to this clip from a buddy a while ago. It's a bit raunchy. Not recommended in most workplaces. You've been warned.


Atrios wonders:
I really wonder how the residents of Wingnuttia and their media mouthpieces sleep at night. I hate when I make a mistake. I hate when I get things wrong - it makes me feel like a fool and I feel responsible for making others who might not see the correction look like fools too if they pass it on. But, for some reason these people never get tired of being wrong. They must really get off on it.
I have the same impression. I'd like to do some more research into this.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Kofi, Kofi

It seems the UN oil-for-food scandal is worse than I thought. Yet it remains to be seen if Kofi himself was involved. I personally don't think so but I must admit that's more of a gut-feeling than anything else.

If he's proven guilty I guess I owe the US right-wing perpetrators of the "witch hunt" an apology (not that they care, but I do). But if Kofi himself is cleared then I'll continue to be critical. As I see it, Republican members of Congress have been overly eager to exaggurate the magnitude of the scandal. For instance, this article suggests their $21.2bn figure includes $14.7bn's worth of smuggled oil which "occurred wholly outside the scope of the UN programme".

Not a good day though.

UPDATE: The UN has (finally) put up a site with facts about oil-for-food:
The public discourse on this issue has been dominated by wide-ranging accusations and unsubstantiated claims, making it a challenge to separate fact from fiction.
We need and welcome your help. Please visit often to get the latest facts and information. Let us know if you find false charges to which we should respond.

UPDATE II: The Guardian is optimistic. Mark Malloch thinks the crisis will help them improve accountability. Let's hope he's right.

Glenn Reynolds and "The West"

If you are a conservative and you're reading this (not likely, I know) then I have two questions for you:
  • Do you think Instapundit (a.k.a Glenn Reynolds) has the guts to answer Matt Yglesias' eloquent charge that:
    Reynoldsism -- the doctrine that "the left" (whatever it is) has been captured by an irrational and pathological hatred for western values -- is a dishonest, absurd, and manipulative piece of propaganda
  • Given that Glenn probably won't answer (he hasn't so far), how would you answer it? (I'll publish any decent answer.)
UPDATE: It seems my questions were a bit unclear (this is not uncommon since I'm not a very good writer). Here's my attempt at a clarification to a reader:

The point Yglesias was trying to make (I think) is narrowly confined to the notion of "western values". Yglesias argues that the world view of just about the entire "West" except America and Israel is different from that of American conservatives. He is essentially saying: "Look, you can ridicule and argue against anti-war people, pro-choice people, anti-capital punishment people, even pro-social benefits people, but you can not say that these people are "anti-western" because vast majorities in all countries that could reasonably be considered western (or western-inspired -- he lists a bunch of them) agree with American liberals more than they agree with conservatives."

Conservative pundits seem to automatically assume that all of heartland America's values are by definition "western". Of course one could debate what western values are, but at the very least such a debate should take into account what people in other western countries think.

Some might say it doesn't matter what people think, what matters is what has happened (i.e. "western tradition"). But even then the conservative argument doesn't hold water. For instance, I agree that pro-market policies are in line with western tradition. But so is the right to form trade unions. Bush supporters may think those who object to their anti-union policies (concerning Dept of Homeland Security and other initiatives) are "wrong", they may even call them "socialists", but I don't see how they can call them "anti-western".

E-mail Of The Day

From a reader (a good friend):
I've been enjoying your blog for a while now, and I thought I'd write and tell you so before registering my disagreement with part of today's post. I often want to comment on this or that, but 1, I typically don't have a lot of time to do so, and 2, I typically don't feel so strongly about it in the first place. This is not to say that I don't have strong feelings about politics or things in general. On the contrary. What I mean is that I'm usually happy to learn from you or from those to whom you link, and leave it at that. In short, I would be merely picking nits. I feel that your posts are fair, well thought out, and insightful, so thanks for that.

Sometimes I read your blog and have the thought, "Okay, well, I'm not so sure about that." It gets me thinking, but you're very far removed from those I regard as creepy, dogmatic goofballs, so it's a good thing. Half the time, that's what you're actually saying. "Hmm, I'm not so sure about this." I like that.

I can understand why this story of a "woman touched by Sullivan" is inspiring, and I have to agree with you, but I really disagree with you that "rigid leftists are as dangerous as right-wing nutjobs." What does this point have to do with this woman learning to think for herself?
Well, my comment was probably a bit flippant. After all, what are the precise definitions of "rigid leftists" and RWNJ's? The point I am trying to make is that rigid views are by definition contrary to rational thought. You may have seen my recent posts professing my belief in enlightenment liberalism: "In contrast to systems of thought where the sacred had dominated and where questioning was discouraged, Enlightenment thinkers viewed human reason as dominant."

I think this applies to left-wingers as well. Granted, they (usually) don't let "the sacred" dominate their thought, but they often let outside influences, inertia and ideology dominate their world view. We're all prone to this, and the stronger we identify with a particular group (or school of thought) the more careful we should be. Like our female friend wrote:
I changed from being oblivious about politics to being a serious left-wing, anti-war, Republican-hating straight party-line Democrat. I believed every word that Noam Chomsky wrote. It was all so simple: Republicans wore black hats; Democrats wore white hats. All of my friends believed unquestioningly that peace, love, agnosticism, secularism, enlarged federal programs, and reduced military budgets would save the world form the evil American empire.
My reader goes on:
I'm not sure, but I think I might, by some, reasonably be described as a rigid leftist, as there are very few things on which I am personally willing to bend. I don't want to oversimplify too much here, but I feel that a general disregard for the well-being of large portions of people, be it the American populace or some unfortunate group abroad, has shown to be far more destructive than pretty much anything a rigid leftist ever does these days. This is a right-wing hallmark, and it's usually perpetuated in the name of some overly idealistic, twisted, nut-jobbish concept of "equality of opportunity". I'm all for open-minded, independent though, but if Sullivan or anyone else, even the razor sharp, wants to claim that the vast majority of conservatives in this country are truly interested in equality of opportunity, then I have a bridge to sell him.
I certainly think your views are "strong", but I'm not sure that makes you "rigid". As to what conservatives want domestically I largely agree. Matt put it well on TAPPED:
It's a mistake to caricature conservatives as thinking that people should get sick, die, and spend their years poor, miserable, ignorant, and choked by pollution. But it's not a caricature to say that American conservatism has always been defined by a belief that preventing this stuff isn't the responsibility of the federal government. The states, or individual intiative, or private charity, or technological growth, or anything else under the sun -- anything but the federal government -- are supposed to accomplish these goals.
But what I meant (and possibly failed) to comment on was the source of one's views rather than their relative position on the left-right scale. If a person reaches (and can defend) the conclusion that the state should take over all means of production that's fine with me. Ditto for a person who wants to abolish Government altogether. But when people start following either person without thinking for themselves then we're in trouble.

The other point here is that the center of gravity of political thought in America today is fairly right-wing (at least in the context of historical Western thought). So I agree that right-wingers are more dangerous in that sense - they simply have a lot more power. Where we might disagree is on the historical merits of left-wing thought. Most of it has been well-intended but there are numerous examples of policies that have been wasteful and downright counter-productive. A good topic for a follow-up discussion perhaps.
Whoa, I really got going there! Sorry. Independent thought is wonderful, but sometimes I think people go too far in order to stress their penchant for fairness and open mindedness. If you condemn rigidity in any form, you come across as being very flexible and fair, but there is a point at which this flexibility can serve to distort actual facts and actual values. I feel that this is the real problem with contemporary journalism, by the way. The dedication to truth has been greatly overshadowed by an ersatz dedication to fairness. Everything is this side's opinion vs. that's side's opinion, and giving both equal time and consideration is passed off as open mindedness. Both sides are granted magical equal footing. Which side's opinion seems to fit the truth, given the evidence we have? That question is no longer regularly investigated. This is why people find themselves behind the war in Iraq, despite the facts, and this is why we face a second term of George W. Similarly, creationists have used this shortcoming of ours to get their foot in the door for an "evolution debate". They say they're scientists, they say that scientists are supposed to have open minds, and they question the fairness of anyone who attempts to dismiss them on logical grounds. And it's working.
No disagreement there.
I feel that a rigid leftist is nowhere near as likely to cause harm (and thus be a "danger") in this world than a rigid right-wing nutjob. I stand by this, and I'd be willing to bet, based on the stuff you write, that you'd say the same thing, upon reflection. The fact that being overly rigid can be a bad thing does not mean that the ideologies are equally dangerous. Am I wrong?
Well, again, it depends on the definitions of Left and Right. In post WW2 Europe I would argue left-wingers posed more of a threat than right-wingers (even counting McCarthyism). But in today's America the risk of a socialist/communist takeover is extremely low.

Certainly the US could tolerate a strong left-turn in domestic policy and still be the most capitalistic and individualistic country in the world. But in foreign policy a takeover by the Kucinich Left could have destabilizing consequences for the balance of power in the world. Like it or not the current world order is principally assured by American power. If this power went away it is far from clear what would happen. Like with the Roman Empire, civilization might collapse.

Anyway, thanks for the e-mail, hope you don't mind me posting it, please write again!

Thursday, February 03, 2005

A Woman Touched By Sullivan

She describes how Andrew Sullivan's writing helped her gain a new perspective on the world:
One by one, my tired old beliefs began to crumble and then to collapse. I began to understand the danger of fundamental Islamic terrorism. I learned to believe more in the what conservatives call equality of opportunity, not equality of outcomes. I began to understand the problem of long-term government entitlements. Your testimony of faith allowed me to revisit my decision to dismiss religion as simple superstition. I managed to remain something of a liberal on social issues, while moving to the right on issues like fighting terrorism and reigning in domestic government programs.
This may come as a surprise to some of my readers, but I find her story truly inspiring. This is liberalism at its finest; a mind's journey from static dogma to educated, real and rational thought. Make no mistake about it: Rigid Leftists are as dangerous as right-wing nutjobs.

I am going to miss Andrew Sullivan's daily rants - I didn't agree with many of them but at least the man has an independent (and razor-sharp) mind.

Laziness Impatience Hubris

Via my friend Steve, final confirmation that we are both excellent programmers.


Funny from Kevin:
The whole foreign policy part of the speech has been pretty good so far. I could almost learn to like Bush if my only contact with him came from listening to his speeches about freedom and democracy.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Ranking Countries on Aid

Got this link via Dan a while back. I had to dig it up again because of a discussion with my evangelical Christian second cousin in the Mid-West (one of the two relatives in America I know of - the other is apparently Wiccan or Budhist or something, so I guess that balances it out). My cousin repeated the myth that "American of all political sides have always individually [given] ... more than almost all countries to charitable efforts - both in the country and outside".

This is not true, of course. As Dan points out, America ranks 19th out of 21 rich countries in 2004, even factoring in private giving. Sometimes it's good to know where you can find the facts (especially when arguing with evangelicals).

Ward Churchill Update

This update contains Colorado Gov. Bill Owens' letter (essentially calling Ward "indecent" and asking him to resign from U. Col.) and a statement from Ward Churchill himself. Excerpts:
* I am not a "defender"of the September 11 attacks, but simply pointing out that if U.S. foreign policy results in massive death and destruction abroad, we cannot feign innocence when some of that destruction is returned. I have never said that people "should" engage in armed attacks on the United States, but that such attacks are a natural and unavoidable consequence of unlawful U.S. policy. As Martin Luther King, quoting Robert F. Kennedy, said, "Those who make peaceful change impossible make violent change inevitable."

* This is not to say that I advocate violence; as a U.S. soldier in Vietnam I witnessed and participated in more violence than I ever wish to see. What I am saying is that if we want an end to violence, especially that perpetrated against civilians, we must take the responsibility for halting the slaughter perpetrated by the United States around the world. My feelings are reflected in Dr. King's April 1967 Riverside speech, where, when asked about the wave of urban rebellions in U.S. cities, he said, "I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed . . . without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government."
A personal note here: Probably the biggest fight I've ever had with my wife (then girlfriend) was right after 9/11/01. She was in New York (midtown, luckily) and I was in Norway working at a TV station. I made a comment along the lines of "maybe this tragic event will make America change its foreign policy". This didn't go down so well with her. In retrospect I admit that my timing was bad. But I stand by my comment (she's ok with it by now).

Perhaps this is why this whole Ward business frustrates me so much. The Colorado Governor writes: "The thousands of innocent people - and innocent they were - who were murdered on September 11 were murdered by evil cowards." I agree, they were both "evil" and "cowards", but that doesn't help us very much, does it? This country has to move beyond name-calling in order to really understand what happened and why. You can't fix a problem until you understand it, as any good psychologist will tell you.

I can sort of see what Ward means when he says that the victims were "guilty". After all, if US citizens aren't responsible for US policy then who is? Were Germans "guilty" of allowing Adolf Hitler to kill 6 million Jews? Most would say they were.

But this is a theoretical "guilt" that doesn't really mean much in practice. Personally I don't see much point in this line of argument. If I were him I would consider admitting the comment about "guilty" was pointless and not very constructive. But the rest of his analysis seems sound and sensible and he is a good man for standing by it.

UPDATE: Instapundit has joined in the witch-hunt of course. He doesn't like the way Ward looks. He also links to this interview where we learn this:
A Creek and enrolled Keetoowah Band Cherokee, Churchill is a longtime Native rights activist. He has been heavily involved in the American Indian Movement and the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee. He is Professor of Ethnic Studies at the University of Colorado and has served as a delegate to the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations.

One of Churchill’s areas of expertise is the history of the U.S. government’s genocide of Native Americans—the chronic violation of treaties and systematic extermination of North American indigenous populations. His many books include A Little Matter of Genocide: Holocaust and Denial in the Americas: 1492 to Present (1998)
It seems to me that Ward Churchill is essentially a Native American activist who has a bone to pick with the US Government. That probably explains his "they had it coming" statements about 9/11. University professors have irrational human feelings just like everybody else.

Like bloggers, for instance. Instapundit's Glenn Reynolds has his own hangups from the past. Look at how he describes Ward:
A man whose look, like his rhetoric, is frozen in the amber of 1969.

The same kind of guys, looking the same way, were saying the same kinds of things when I was younger than my daughter is now. When will the Left catch up with the times?
Note to Greg: Many of the people you disagree with (me, for example) weren't even born in 1969, and we never supported Marx, the Soviet Union, or even striking trade unionists. Yet you contemptuously call us "the Left" and falsely assume we hold all sorts of opinions because of events 40 years past.

America's Waning Power

Via Daniel W. Drezner, "Dream On America":
The U.S. Model: For years, much of the world did aspire to the American way of life. But today countries are finding more appealing systems in their own backyards.
The gulf between how Americans view themselves and how the world views them was summed up in a poll last week by the BBC. Fully 71 percent of Americans see the United States as a source of good in the world. More than half view Bush's election as positive for global security. Other studies report that 70 percent have faith in their domestic institutions and nearly 80 percent believe "American ideas and customs" should spread globally.

Foreigners take an entirely different view: 58 percent in the BBC poll see Bush's re-election as a threat to world peace. Among America's traditional allies, the figure is strikingly higher: 77 percent in Germany, 64 percent in Britain and 82 percent in Turkey. Among the 1.3 billion members of the Islamic world, public support for the United States is measured in single digits. Only Poland, the Philippines and India viewed Bush's second Inaugural positively.
Dan thinks thinks Moravcsik is "overstating his thesis a bit". He might be right but the downward trend is clear. Can Dr. Rice stop it?

Illness triggers half of bankruptcies

Chicago Sun-Times: Illness triggers half of bankruptcies

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

A Personal Story on how America is Changing

From diachronic agency - a great blog I plan to read on a regular basis:
As a proud American, I can't help feeling betrayed by those whose confusions about security leave us now no more secure but a lot less true to our ideals.

Right-Wingers and Dissent

This angry post by Greg Djerejian makes me wonder if all right-wingers harbor a fascist streak. I've been reading B.D. for a while and I will continue to do so because of Greg's excellent analysis. But I really don't understand why he continues to beat up on Ward Churchill (calling him a "deeply disingenuous scoundrel" among other things).

Why is it when it comes to "un-patriotic left-wingers" conservatives just can't say they disagree and then leave it at that? I guess that's why they're conservatives. If they said "I strongly disagree that America has itself to blame for 9/11 but I welcome their additions to the debate" then I guess they would be liberals.

UPDATE: Just to be clear; I don't think Greg Djerejian qualifies for the label "fascist", I just think the tone of this particular post does. His attitude towards Ward Churchill is more one of condemnation ("Who is this man?" he asks) than debate. I've seen a similar attitude in some of Andrew Sullivan's writing. And I am disturbed because Greg and Andrew are both among my favorite writers.

As Tim H./diachronic agency says:
I join Churchill's detractors in regarding that statement as false and inflammatory. But, alas, it may well be majority opinion across the globe.

Shouldn't college students, and indeed all of us, be exposed to what most people in the world think of us? We're in a sorry state if we believe that stopping up our ears -- and our children's ears -- is the best way to argue back.
True liberals (of the "enlightenment", not "socialist" tradition) will always resist "stopping up our ears".