Commentary on news and culture from a left wing perspective.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

David Brooks thunders about the "horrendous burden" the elderly are placing on young people. I know everyone makes jokes at their expense, but the elderly seem like a poor target to be demagogic about. After all, most of us hope to be among the elderly some day. Presuming I get there, I want an easy ride, including all the medication I need. As Brooks makes clear later in his column, no one is actually paying for the "horrendous burden" these days. And the young don't ever need to do so. So long as we tax the rich. That's the answer. Get the money out from under rich people's mattresses. There's more than enough to go around in the US.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

CNN executive Eason Jordan says too much at the World Economic Forum:
Eason Jordan... appeared to suggest that United States troops had deliberately aimed at journalists, killing some. Though no transcript of Mr. Jordan's remarks at Davos on Jan. 27 has been released, the panel's moderator, David Gergen, editor at large of U.S. News & World Report, said in an interview last night that Mr. Jordan had initially spoken of soldiers, "on both sides," who he believed had been "targeting" some of the more than four dozen journalists killed in Iraq
and is forced to resigned. Although the Times makes not the slightest effort to investigate the claim, there is plenty of evidence for Jordan's claim, not only in Iraq but also Afghanistan. Al Quaeda offices, for example, have been bombed after the news channel has given the US army their coordinates.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

China goes green.
In the first instance of its kind, top Chinese leaders appear to be throwing their clout behind laws requiring environmental-impact statements for large energy-related projects.

Even if the projects, which total more than $14 billion and span 13 provinces, soon go back online, Beijing's public support of the State Environmental Protection Agency (news - web sites) (SEPA), long considered a mere showpiece, seems an official nod to growing numbers of Chinese who support tougher policies to protect nature.

North Korea goes nuclear. Remember when some people warned all the axis of evil rhetoric and the invasion of Iraq would hasten nuclear proliferation?

Meanwhile the US trade deficit balloons:

the trade deficit now accounts for more than 5 percent of the American economy, a level some economists and lawmakers said was unsustainable. The deficit also adds pressure to push down the value of the dollar and increases the amount of debt held overseas.
Between underwhelming budget deficit reduction and now this, I'm really wondering how this is going to play with the Japanese and Chinese who hold so many t-bonds.

I liked the DVD 'Don't Think of an Elephant', but this 'framing' business has gotten completely out of hand. Once again, there is the unmistakable sense of progressives completely underestimating the right. Rather than fully grasping the varied terrains on which the right has won (in terms of vision, in terms of social organization, and, yes, in terms of rhetoric) there is a fixation on framing as the be all and end all. Ultimately we need a vision, like Gar Alperovitz's pluralist commonwealth, that can get us beyond the box progressives are stuck in. Get wealth under democratic control. Shorten the work week so we can participate in democracy. Reorganize our towns and cities so they are environmentally sustainable and facilitate democratic participation. Think long term.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

The New York Times boycotts left opinion. It virtually never prints it, nor does it accurately summarize left views. But this does not mean that it ignores it. Far from it. Consider this. Michael Wines compares the coverage of the Iraqi election to the New York Times coverage of an election in Vietnam in 1967:
Ponder the first sentences of one dispatch from this newspaper's archives: "United States officials were surprised and heartened today at the size of turnout in South Vietnam's presidential election," it reads, "despite a Vietcong terrorist campaign to disrupt the voting. According to reports from Saigon, 83 per cent of the 5.85 million registered voters cast their ballots yesterday. Many of them risked reprisals threatened by the Vietcong." That appeared in September 1967.
Now, people who read blogs will immediately recognize this angle. I saw it posted on Tom Tomorrow's blog on February 1st, and he was by no means the first. It's thoroughly unethical for a NewYork Times writer to steal this story without acknowledging a source (and make no mistake--New York Times reporters don't actually dig through archives to find embarassing reports that might undermine their uncritical coverage of the elections in Iraq). But that is the least of the piece's problems. Wines goes on to argue that this example notwithstanding (he makes no effort to look at what happened after that particular election in a place called ... hhmmm... Vietnam), elections are usually a good thing. He even brings up the Salvadoran elections in 1982:
where representative government weathered a major-party boycott not totally unlike last week's Sunni boycott of the Iraqi vote.
Amazing. No mention that the boycott took place because political opponents of the regime were being slaughtered at a rate of about thirty per day. No mention that the civil war dragged on for another nine years, with about eighty thousand more dead. It is rather like reading that Auschwitz holds lessons for how to deal with ethnic minorities. And these people think Ward Churchill is depraved.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Omsbudman, police thyself: Daniel Okrent rambles on for an entire column about whether Judith Miller should have claimed on Hardball! that Ahmed Chalabi has been offered a job by the Bush administration in the new government in Iraq (exactly whose government is that, anyway? Weren't the elections supposed to have put power in the hands of Iraqis?). He somehow fails to mention that Miller's relationship with Chalabi was at the center of the Times weapons-of-mass-destruction fiasco, as Okrent well knows. Although Okrent is just worried about the Times reputation (naturally...--wait a minute--isn't Okrent supposed to be the public's advocate? Why is his column sounding like part of an in-house debate on how the Times should appear on TV, complete with concern that some Times reporters may have left the public with the impression of 'bias' during appearances while the presidential campaign was on), it sounds to me like Miller is back to flacking for Chalabi. Keep talking up Chalabi and his new status will become a reality. It didn't quite work with the weapons of mass destruction (which never appeared, no matter how much Miller talked them up), but you never know...

Thursday, February 03, 2005

A New York Times editorial on Jan 31 claimed “even in some predominantly Sunni areas, turnout was higher than expected”. I wrote a letter to them suggesting they should print a correction of this falsehood, which they ignored. Here is their news version of the event, written by Dexter Filkins:

As poll workers tally the ballots from Sunday's election, Iraqi and Western officials say, it is increasingly clear that the country's once powerful Sunni minority largely boycotted the voting, confirming the group's political isolation.
Of course, the boycott could be interpreted in other ways—looks like it was pretty successful for the Sunnis. And that “once powerful” minority is at the center of an insurgency that continues to produce US casualties. But the striking thing is the disparity between the news report and the editorial, which reports the wishes of the editorial’s authors, rather than facts.

This is not a minor point. The reality undercuts the entire thrust of the editorial:

(the voting) is a message that all but the most nihilistic of the armed insurgents will have to accept. Many fierce political struggles lie ahead. Yet all who claim to be fighting in the name of the Iraqi people should now recognize that - in an open expression of popular will - Iraqis have expressed their clear preference that these battles be fought exclusively in the peaceful, constitutional arena.
To the extent that Iraq is divided into three groups (Shiites, Sunnis, Kurds), one of them (Sunnis) never claimed to accept the legitimacy of the election, and, since practically all members of that group in fact boycotted the vote, it can be assumed that that sentiment was widespread among the populace, rather than just among self-identified leaders or insurgents. The election clearly illustrated that no consensus exists about Iraqis future; and the group that felt left out clearly is capable of considerable military activity. It remains the case that the Sunnis will either need to be militarilly defeated (something the US appears incapable of doing) or a settlement acceptable to them will have to be arrived at.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Good news, everyone! The Iraqi elections have gone off without a hitch (er, at least the Shia voted--the Sunni, not so much). Those efforts to drive expectations down so low they were practically underground were unnecessary after all. So now they'll be peace and goodwill toward the US and Israel in this land, right? We'll see...

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?