September 2004

2004 09 30
Cheney


Cheney is such a rotten bastard that there is simply no need to be making stuff up about him. Factcheck.org has a nice rebuttal of some nonsense about Cheney that has been getting on my nerves lately. You should read the whole thing, but here’s a sample:

A Kerry ad implies Cheney has a financial interest in Halliburton and is profiting from the company’s contracts in Iraq. The fact is, Cheney doesn’t gain a penny from Halliburton’s contracts, and almost certainly won’t lose even if Halliburton goes bankrupt.

The ad claims Cheney got $2 million from Halliburton “as vice president,” which is false. Actually, nearly $1.6 million of that was paid before Cheney took office. More importantly, all of it was earned before he was a candidate, when he was the company’s chief executive.

I do think that there are deeper issues here than simply a straight up conflict of interest, and it would be nice if we could discuss them. But alledging a straight up conflict of interest isn’t discussing them. It’s just lying.


Comments Off

2004 09 29
Torture


Posted by in: Political issues, Torture

The Kleimeister wants to know which side you’re on.

Well, which is it?


Comments Off

2004 09 29
Very, very, very good news


Posted by in: Movies

It seems that Mel Brooks is planning a sequel to Spaceballs.


A single voice crying in the wilderness (1)

2004 09 29
Extraordinary Rendition


Please read this post on extraordinary rendition by Katherine at Obsidian Wings. If possible, please link to it.


Comments Off

2004 09 29
Sentenced to be raped


Posted by in: Political issues

Makes me want to scream . . . or vomit.


Comments Off

2004 09 29
Anatol Lieven is shrill


Posted by in: U.S. foreign policy

Wow! As I mentioned in several recent posts, I just finished a book by Anatol Lieven. I found him sensible and prodigiously well-informed. But now it turns out he’s shrill.

Via the eminently shrill Monsieur DeLong


Comments Off

2004 09 29
Bush-Kerry debate


Here’s the latest from the Borowitz Report:

DEBATE TRANSCRIPT RELEASED ONE DAY EARLY

Face-off Overly Choreographed, Critics Charge

A full transcript of Thursday�s presidential debate between President George W. Bush and Democratic nominee John Kerry was released today, sparking criticism that the debate has been overly choreographed by the committee representing the two major parties.

The transcript, full of pre-planned quips and sound bites from both candidates, is a verbatim reflection of what the actual debate will be on Thursday night, a committee member confirmed.

�We have shared the written transcript with both President Bush and Senator Kerry and warned them to stick to the script,� said Davis Loudon of the Presidential Debate Steering Committee. �If they stray one iota, we�re threatening to turn the heat in the room up to 71 degrees.�


Comments Off

2004 09 27
Theroux


Posted by in: Political issues

Well, Brad DeLong is certainly right about Paul Theroux: The guy is a complete asshole.


Howls of outrage (3)

2004 09 27
Hitchens on an October Surprise


Call me gullible, but I don’t actually believe that the Bush administration is holding bin Laden in some cave with the intention of releasing him just in time for the election. But I can’t take anyone seriously who gets all the way to end of a column about this subject without mentioning a bit of recent history. The relevant history is this: There appears to be good reason to think that Kissinger deliberately got in the way of a peace settlement between North and South Vietnam in 1968, in order to benefit Nixon. On this topic, see Hitchens, Christopher. And there is also this: There appears to be good reason to think that Republicans persuaded Iran to delay the release of hostages in advance of the 1980 election. That there are good reasons to believe both these things makes a bit of paranoia in advance of an election rational. For the same team appears to have twice engaged in very dirty tricks for electoral gain in very close elections, and in a way that seriously damaged the larger interests of the country.

So what I say is, if you want me to take you seriously on this topic, you have to at least mention these two bits of recent history, since without them the anxiety about a late stage-managed capture of bin Laden is completely incomprehensible. Christopher Hitchens flunks this fairly straightforward test in his column today for Slate.

The omission is so glaring that I don’t see how anyone can honestly claim Christopher Hitchens is serious. Christopher Hitchens – the man who wrote a book in which a main accusation is that a Republican operative scuttled a major U.S. foreign policy breakthrough to win an election – is no longer even trying. Christopher Hitchens is simply not serious.

This isn’t about sides, or Hitchens’ support for the war. Hitchens could have supported the war and argued for it as vigorously as he did, and even more persuasively, without damaging his integrity. No. This is about Hitchens’ fundamental dishonesty, and his complete lack of interest in offering real arguments for his own position. Hitchens is mediocre in a way that ought to be apparent to you regardless of which side of the issue you’re on.

I think it’s time for me to do the same thing with Hitchens that I did a few months ago with William Safire: simply stop reading him.


Comments Off

2004 09 26
Step right up


Posted by in: Music

The invaluable 6ize reminds me that Step Right Up (MP3) is one of Tom Waits’ funniest songs.

Go have a listen.


Comments Off

2004 09 26
Brad DeLong is not a (good) Philosopher


Posted by in: Left Blogistan, Philosophy

This mammoth post attempts to cover a lot of philosophical ground, and I don�t have the time to discuss all of it now. But I want to address some issues in Brad DeLong�s philosophy of mind and the moral conclusions he reaches through reliance on it.

DeLong first cites Matt Yglesias�s attempt to distinguish between �causes� and �reasons� by relying on some ideas from the philosophy of mind. The rough idea is that we can distinguish between causal explanations of why, for example, a person has belief B and reasons explanations for a person�s beliefs. To use extreme cases, we can say that a causal explanation is the most proper sort of explanation for a belief that is acquired through brainwashing or�to be more extreme�intricate physical manipulation of one�s brain tissue. A case where reasons explanations seem to be most apt is when one wants an answer to, say, a question about current events and then proceeds to seek out reliable sources, consults their perhaps inconsistent accounts, and goes on to make an inference to what best explains their commonalities and inconsistencies. Perhaps a conclusion is arrived at; perhaps not. But in cases like this we hope that we�ve done a good job at weighing various items of evidence and have applied general epistemic principles to arrive at a responsible belief. Here we find it hard to believe that the cause for our belief is merely the fact that we�ve been put in causal contact with certain stimuli.
Continue Reading »


A single voice crying in the wilderness (1)

2004 09 26
Maybe Vladimir Putin *is* our ally


Posted by in: Political issues, Russia

From the Observer:

The man arrested last week for allegedly trying to kill President Vladimir Putin with a car bomb was interrogated by 150 police officers before he died.

Police said he died of a heart attack. The Observer can reveal that the body of Alexander Pumane, 38, from St Petersburg, was so badly beaten that his relatives were unable to identify him.


Comments Off

2004 09 26
Cobban on Kaplan


Helena Cobban has some harsh words for Robert Kaplan today. One point I would like to make – again, cause you know this blog is all about repetition – is that Kaplan says X, Y, and Z about American foreign policy, where X, Y, and Z would be rejected as preposterous slanders if they came from, oh, say, Noam Chomsky. (Read Cobban’s post to see what I mean.) Now, lots of people might disagree with Kaplan about X, Y, and Z. But I don’t imagine that when many of these same people encounter X, Y, and Z on the editorial page of Wall Street Journal they find the propositions preposterous or slanderous or worthy of unconditional rejection.

This is not to say that Chomsky or Kaplan is right about any particular aspect of American foreign policy. Just that when Noam gets on his soapbox, a lot of people plug up their ears and run screaming at the first hint of propositions they would give a polite hearing to in a different context. I would love to know just exactly what the mix is here of deliberate deception and self-deception.


Comments Off

2004 09 25
Singh and Musharaff . . .


. . . sittin’ in a tree. . .

OK, not quite, but it is very encouraging to hear that the leaders of two hostile nuclear powers have managed to stage (in some sense of the word) a friendly meeting. Now, a sensible Kofi Annan, a sensible European Union, a sensible U.S. president, etc. etc. etc. would seize this moment and try to build on it. As far as I can tell, the Kashmir dispute is a) very dangerous to have festering; b) difficult for the parties to solve without outside help; c) possible to solve with outside help, since there is a genuine willingness on both sides to resolve the issue, in spite of all the obstacles.

Pakistan is a very troubled society, and the Kashmir dispute is an important part of the story. Sorry to keep going on about this, but it really is in everyone’s interests to make some progress on this issue . . .


Comments Off

2004 09 25
China and the G7


Posted by in: China, Political issues, Sudan

This is exactly right. China’s meeting with the G7 next week is a perfect opportunity to pressure it on Sudan. China and Russia are the two most important outside players in all this mess, and along with the U.S. they probably have the greatest leverage with Sudan. Let’s see if anyone makes an issue of this. . .


Comments Off