Archives for April, 2004

Mars Needs Eunuchs!

Dr Rachel Armstrong, speaking yesterday at a British Interplanetary Society symposium on the Human Future and Space, said the US space agency Nasa was considering how to deal with the natural urges of astronauts travelling on long journeys such as a three-year trip to Mars, where the six-strong crew would be likely to include two women.

Nasa is talking about the chemical sterilisation of astronauts on longer journeys,” Dr Armstrong said, in a talk discussing the problems humanity may face in trying to reach the planets and, eventually, the stars.

I just knew the goverment would screw up what otherwise promises to be the greatest reality TV show ever.

The article includes a great quote from a Russian cosmonaut on how hell is other people in outer space: “when you have two people locked up in a very small environment for months at a time, all the conditions for murder are met.”

Posted on Apr 29, 2004 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

You Gotta Serve Somebody

I’m on the American Spectator online today, with a piece on post-9/11 national service schemes.

Posted on Apr 28, 2004 in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Observation

It has come to my attention, by way of a highly informal, unscientific survey, that WASPs do not get the Sopranos. Sure, some of them like it. But they can take it or leave it. Catholics, on the other hand, even unchurched Catholics-by-birth like myself, tend to get obsessed with it. (Jews too, as we fans of Max Sawicky’s Monday Sopranos blogging know.) Non-WASPs who’ve borrowed my Sopranos DVD collection treat it like visual crack–returning to work bleary-eyed on Monday after watching an entire season over the course of a weekend.

I’m not sure of the reason for this. I think it has something to do with the fact that Catholics and Jews tend to have chaotic and tumultuous extended-family relations, where my picture of WASP family life resembles Diane Keaton’s family in Annie Hall, where the craziness is less out in the open.

Posted on Apr 27, 2004 in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Another Reason to Hate Virginia

Here’s a bill that would appear to ban not only ban gay marriage, but any sort of contractual arrangement by which same-sex couples commit to each other. How on earth is that the state’s business?

Posted on Apr 27, 2004 in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Fighting the GWOT

Which do you prefer, the Henley Plan (“If they hate us because we’re free, they’ll really f**king hate us when I’m done.”) or the Derbyshire Plan (“Smash up their country.”)? I’m for Henley.

Posted on Apr 21, 2004 in Uncategorized | 10 Comments

Politically Homeless, as Always

It’s a news squib of no great moment, but it’s the kind of thing that drives a libertarian to drink:

PATRIOT Act, smoking ban on agenda
Lawrence Journal World – Lawrence,KS,USA
The Lawrence City Commission will take up two hot topics: a resolution condemning the Patriot Act and a proposed ordinance that would end smoking in bars….

Posted on Apr 21, 2004 in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Tear Down That Wall

Matt Yglesias nicely sums up David Brooks’s mea-sorta-culpa in today’s NYT:

David Brooks offers the first of what I think will be many retrospective I was wrong but I was right anyway articles. The implication here is that though Bush may botch everything in Iraq, Brooks was nevertheless correct to have supported the war because he, after all, was not in favor of botching things.

One of the things I found amusing about the piece is Brooks’s try at the Tom-Friedman mixed-metaphor award:

On April 11, 2003, I predicted on “The NewsHour” on PBS that we and the Iraqis would be forced to climb a “wall of quagmires.”

Posted on Apr 17, 2004 in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

The Beginning of Wisdom

John Kerry is dangerously close to making sense on Iraq, at least with regard to what we can realistically expect to achieve there:

Sen. John. F. Kerry on Wednesday stressed that the chief interest of the U.S. should be to build a stable Iraq, but not necessarily a democratic one — a view at odds with President Bush’s vision of the troubled country’s political future.

“I have always said from day one that the goal here … is a stable Iraq, not whether or not that’s a full democracy,” the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee told reporters after conducting a town hall meeting at the City College of New York in Harlem. “I can’t tell you what it’s going to be, but a stable Iraq. And that stability can take several different forms.”

Hell, I don’t know if we can achieve even that–but it’s well past time to start ratcheting down the rhetoric and the expectations.

Posted on Apr 16, 2004 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

“Pro-Life and Pro Drugs”?

A nice piece by Jeremy Lott making the point that just because there were no kids in the Ayn Rand novels, it doesn’t mean (all) libertarians are fine with using dead babies to make hand moisturizer and stuff:

[As] anti-war critic Jim Henley has said about why classical liberals are so prickly at times: “We are all moralists at heart.”

Libertarians make a big deal about government regulation of drugs, and trade, and video games for a number of reasons, I’m sure, some of them no doubt selfish. But the main cause of our outrage, and of our persistence past when many people would’ve called it quits, is that these intrusions offend our moral vision of how the world should work. Provided people don’t harm others – and it had better be demonstrable harm, none of this second-hand smoking stuff – the government should get off of our clouds.

Most Christian critics of libertarianism tut-tutt at its celebration of individualism, but as my colleague Shawn Macomber has argued, it cuts both ways. In order for classical liberal philosophy to place such importance on individual decisions, it has to vest individuals with tremendous importance. It must assign them rights, work out a basis for those rights, and sort out what happens when the claims compete. In fact, at some point, it begins to sound like that “dignity of the human person” that Catholic apologists love to go on about.

I’m a bit of a fellow traveller with the Ls for L myself–but not if it means I can’t clone myself or have designer kids. Here is the website for Libertarians for Life.

Posted on Apr 15, 2004 in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Good News in Iraq

Badguy of the month Baby Sadr’s backing down, apparently. Apropos of nothing, I find that al Sadr’s name has a hypnotic mellifluousness about it, like some sort of meditative mantra. Try it: Moqtada al Sadr, Moqtada al Sadr, Moqtada al Sadr, Moqtada al Sadr…. (The name Fra. Fillipo Lippi has the same effect on me.)

Posted on Apr 15, 2004 in Uncategorized | Comments Off

What Color Was His Tie on Your Television?

Tim writes the post I had percolating, subject: when it comes to watching Bush’s press conference, does ideology dictate evaluation? Andrew Sullivan called last night’s “Bush at his best”; Virginia Postrel says “In the Q&A, Bush was much more expansive, articulate, and comfortable than he’s often been in the past” and Indeedstapundit says “I think Bush handled that [Vietnam question] pretty well, and he looked confident and quick on his feet (for Bush).” Granted, VP and IPs’ comments are qualified by the low bar they set–comparing Bush to Bush.

But I don’t see how anyone can deny the evidence of the senses here. The president, presumably, has a lot of smart people working for him, whose job it is, in such situations, to think of questions reporters might ask him, and help the president through possible responses. Every single one of those questions was predictable. So why didn’t the president have a better answer to the Vietnam question than “I think the analogy is false.”? For no particular reason, apparently.

Lord knows, I agree with the idea that the smartest presidents are rarely the best (look at the mess Professor Wilson made of the world) and glib articulateness can be overvalued. But there’s a limit. You could corall one of those schmucks waiting in line outside the Today show for a glimpse of Katie Couric, spirit them off to an undisclosed location, give them a briefing book, some talking points, and a quick moot court, and they’d have done better.

Posted on Apr 14, 2004 in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Like a Bad Dream

I find listening to GWB viscerally discomforting to a point that borders on physical pain. And it’s not because I hate the guy. It’s because, despite it all, I find him sympathetic. And I can’t stand to watch sympathetic people in painfully embarassing situations. Why don’t they just put him in a tutu and have him respond to reporters’ questions in the form of an interpretive dance? It wouldn’t be any more awkward and he wouldn’t be any more out of his element.

I’m watching the press conference right now, and one of the reporters just asked why Bush and Cheney are appearing together before the 9/11 Commission. Isn’t this entire press conference in itself an answer to that question?

The president, among his other duties, is sort of the national talk-show host. If our national talk-show host has to be an uber-hawk with delusions of competence, why can’t it be Donald Rumsfeld, who at least is a master of the format?

Posted on Apr 13, 2004 in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Historical Analogies We’re Condemned to Repeat

Shorter Iraq War Debate:

Doves: Vietnam.

Hawks: No, Munich.

Doves: Vietnam!

Hawks: MUNICH!!

Longer Iraq War Debate:

Some interesting historical examples of “successful” counterinsurgencies from Tacitus, the thinking man’s hawk. Scare quotes are mine, not his, for reasons you can probably figure out for yourself.

Posted on Apr 13, 2004 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Gasp!

The Vietnam analogy makes it onto the webpage of the American Spectator:

Close your eyes and you’re back in Saigon in 1966 listening to Robert McNamara rhapsodize about the future of Vietnam. All that’s missing is the body counts.

The piece makes some rather loopy assertions and slaloms in and out of running-off-the-rails stream-of-consciousness, but it’s still more interesting and insightful than any war coverage you’re likely to read on NRO these days. I can’t wait to see the letters this generates.

Posted on Apr 12, 2004 in Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Talk about Alternate Reality

I don’t find the Rice-Clarke debate about pre-war intelligence all that interesting, and I don’t blame the president for not heading off 9/11. But this Gregg Easterbrook defense of the president is about as dumb as his comments about Harvey Weinstein, “the Jews” and Quentin Tarantino.

AN ALTERNATIVE HISTORY: washington, april 9, 2004. A hush fell over the city as George W. Bush today became the first president of the United States ever to be removed from office by impeachment. Meeting late into the night, the Senate unanimously voted to convict Bush following a trial on his bill of impeachment from the House.

In Easterbrook’s alternative history, Bush invades Afghanistan prior to 9/11 based on the vague warnings we heard about all last week. Shocked, the House impeaches him, and the Senate removes him.

A president impeached for making war without authorization? I wish. But Congress hasn’t cared about that sort of thing for quite some time.

Even when Congress had Richard Nixon by the short and curlies, it decided not to include an article of impeachment against him for the secret bombing of Cambodia. That article, drafted by Rep. John Conyers, didn’t make it into the final articles of impeachment. As Congressman William Hungate later put it: “It’s kind of hard to live with yourself when you impeach a guy for tapping telephones and not for making war without authorization.”

More recently, Bill Clinton twice launched military attacks for no better reason than a desire to distract the media from his inability to keep his pants up. The 1998 Sudan/Afghanistan bombings were two days after the media flop of Clinton’s televised nonapology for the Lewinsky affair and on the eve of Monica’s return to the Starr grand jury. The Iraq bombings later that year were on the very eve of impeachment. Nobody amended the articles of impeachment to include a rather more serious charge than perjury about blowjobs.

Finally, in 1999 Clinton went to war over Kosovo despite the fact that the House voted on authorization for the war–and rejected it. Did he get impeached again? Did anybody deliver Madeline Albright or Sandy Berger over to the Hague for a war crimes trial?

And Easterbrook thinks Bush would have been removed from office–unanimously–for waging war on the Taliban prior to 9/11? What a crock.

Posted on Apr 12, 2004 in Uncategorized | 3 Comments