Friday, March 28, 2008

Credit Where Due

Many, including myself, have bemoaned the lack of involvement in the war on terror of America's Arab allies - why aren't they helping in Afghanistan, in Darfur, in Somalia? Well, not only is the UAE putting boots on the ground in Afghanistan, they've been there since 2003. Secretly. The BBC has a great article.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Get Out Your Pencils... POP QUIZ!

With the Democratic campaigns spending a solid month wooing Pennsylvanians, the Keystone State is getting the kind of treatment usually reserved for New Hampshire and South Carolina. So here's a Penn Quiz:

What is the unemployment rate of Pennsylvania? Hint: the national unemployment rate is 4.8%. Michigan has it worst at 7.1% while only 2.7% are jobless in Wyoming.

Post your answer in the comments, and then get the answer here.


What I'm thinking about today:

Tim Keller (audio) on the church and poverty. Hat tip to Rebeccalee.

George F. Will on charitable giving and political philosophy.

Mendoza, Quadrini, & Rios-Rull on the welfare implications of financial globalization without financial deepening.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Free Skies

The sky just got freer: airlines will now be allowed to freely compete on all routes between the U.S. and Europe. That could mean direct flights from places like Rochester, more flights to Heathrow, and cheaper flights to everywhere.

Europe is prospering on the back of international deregulation and the gains from trade - and in cases like this, the U.S. gets a piece of the action, too.

Monday, March 24, 2008


Global Review brings a very important scientific study to the attention of all the single ladies prettier than me (that's all of you):
The best marriages are those where women marry men who are less attractive than themselves, research has found.

Psychologists who studied newlyweds found men who were better-looking than their wives were more likely to be unhappy and have negative feelings about their marriage. In couples where the wife is more attractive, both partners tended to be very content.
Hat tip to BOTWT.

TOTAL RECALL: March 24, 2003

As we mark the 5th anniversary and 4,000th U.S. military death of the Iraq War, Global Review is recalling views published on its predecessor blog, Instant Replay. Here's a post by yours truly, and a response by frequent commenter DJN that were published five years ago today.

50 Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong

My hero in journalism, Thomas Friedman, is reporting from the Western Front. He reports that France, if not Iraq, is shocked and awed. Maybe it's just my love for all things Friedman, but I think his op-ed piece touches a very deep chord in the transatlantic relationship that has made the U.S. and France allies since 1778.

For now, though, Europeans are too stunned by this massive exercise of unilateral U.S. power to think clearly what it's about. I can't quite put my finger on it, but people here seem to feel that a certain contract between America and the world has been broken. Which is why so much is riding, far beyond Iraq, on what the Bush team builds in Iraq.

The idea occurred to me today that this is precisely what Rumsfeld et al intended. It's become clear by now that this geopolitical strategy - preemption, unilateralism - has been a decade in the making, spearheaded by the likes of Perle, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz. This war was intended to have global, not just regional effects. And it is. The world is seeing not only the massive power of the U.S. - which spends just 4% of its GDP to have a military budget bigger than the rest of the world put together!

The shock and awe campaign displays two things prominently. The strength of the U.S. army and, more importantly, our willingness to use it. This may play well with Muammar Qaddafi and Bashar al-Assad. But it is definitely shocking and awing France, Russia, Germany and our other erstwhile allies. They now have ample reason to believe that the U.S. doesn't need them, and they know more than ever that they need us. That is rarely a good situation between allies, especially since the military imbalance is not reflected in economic, social or diplomatic arenas. The U.S. may be set up for a period of isolation and frustration like we have not experienced since before the Spanish-American War.

Unfortunately, it's not entirely clear that the Kim Jong Ils of the world have been unduly impressed. Other state sponsors of terrorism, who are less isolated than Iraq was, may have confidence that they will be able to rally a coalition against the U.S. (not militarily, but perhaps economically) that could thwart U.S. intentions, and put their regime in the good graces of the rest of the world by default. If Saddam had been slightly less odious, this would have been a much harder sell for the Rumsfeld crowd.

Instant Replay calls for a vote of no-confidence in the Rumsfeld Doctrine. Chime in.

Guest Column: DJN

The US entering a "period of isolation"? "Rumsfeld Doctrine"? Eagerness to show off our new weapons? Ah, Chops, what happened to your conservative leanings? We must do something about your Peace Corps indoctrination :)

Before we bemoan our fallen state in international popularity, one might ask first why France, Germany and Russia have gone against the US in its war to topple Saddam.

France sold Iraq its first two reactors around 1980; shortly before completing the transaction, they required the Iraqis scientists to give an explanation for how they planned to use their new reactors. When the Iraqis failed to provide a convincing answer, the French merely doubled the price tag. And when Israeli agents sabotaged of the reactors, at a time when Iraq was weeks away from creating its first nuclear bomb, the Franch condemned the action and quickly set about repairing Saddam's nuclear program.

Germany was similarly responsible for a number of arms shipments to Iraq in the 80s, and is also the primary country responsible for providing Iraq with its chemical and bio weapons facilities. (An American company nearly participated, but smelled a rat and backed away from the sale.)

And, if you check the news from last week, Russian companies have recently been implicated in ongoing arms shipments to the Iraqi government, including anti-tank missiles, night vision goggles and high-tech radar jamming equipment. President Bush has recently charged Putin to stop these shipments... Russia is certainly as interested in Iraq's business (and afraid of losing illicit business) as American companies are interested in Iraq's oil.

So it is questionable whether the dissent voiced by these nations can be taken as legitimate, or whether they actually have ulterior motives. As I think David has mentioned before, this war may mark a shift in international sway away from Europe and the obselete Security Council. Certainly from France (which is no longer the country of importance that it was at the end of WW2). Regardless of what those against war have said, Bush has arguably done his homework on this war. The language in 1441 is clear enough in authorizing action against Iraq, and we have rallied to the cause a coalition of at least 43 other countries. And where WMDs, tyrants and terrorism share a common link in one country, any argument against pre-emption is a weak one after 2001.

China's decision not to support the US may stem more from their desire for autonomy than from anything else; they don't stand to lose much from the regime change. And China is going to be an important country to court in the 21st century, more important than Germany and perhaps even more so than Russia.

If I interpret you correctly though, you're certainly right about this - that how America is perceived from this will have a lot more to do with what happens after the war than during it. And keeping a low profile afterwards woudn't be a bad idea. I thought it was interesting that the army decided not to fly American flags on their tanks going in this time. That sort of attitude will be a good start.
Five years on, who was right? Talk back. (Are you out there, DJN?)

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Apropos of Resurrection

Pau shot an amazing video of a butterfly emerging from its cocoon - with the help of an 'older brother' - at the Smithsonian Butterfly Pavilion. Check it out, and have a joyous Resurrection Day.

Armed Robbery Doesn't Have to Be An Unpleasant Experience

With apologies to Thelma and Louis, this Italian bank-and-grocery robber is quite the talent.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Will Mugabe Depart?

With a week before presidential polls in Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe is polling at just 20.3% - which is most likely overstated. His two opponents could split the vote and still block out Mugabe from the likely run-off (if no candidate receives 50%). Of course, Human Rights Watch expects - and observes - serious manipulation of voters and votes.

Will Mugabe's operation be sufficiently unpopular to fail to manipulate him into the runoff or into victory? His best chance to win is by forcing and faking his way to 50% in the muddled first round: then the opposition will blame each other for splitting the vote.

And if election results come in against him, will he step down? Or will he use the military to seize power? And will Zimbabweans have to endure another war?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

TOTAL RECALL: March 11, 2003

This is a week late, but deserves to be seen again. As we near the 5th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, Global Review recalls the position of its predecessor blog on March 11, 2003.

Instant Replay Invades the Iraqi Question

IR has come under tremendous pressure from U.N. inspectors to take a position on the United States' buildup in the Persian Gulf and the possibility of going to war against Saddam Hussein's corrupt regime in Baghdad.

Having taken a month and a half off from blogging has given me the clarity to address this firmly. I will attempt a linear argument, but I'm a bit pressed for time, so don't hold it against me that I can't make a comprehensive 12,000 page declaration.

Instant Replay believes that Saddam's regime is as corrupt, ungodly, and "evil" as government can be. The Iraqi people I know have no love of Saddam, and most Arabs think he's a little nuts. Saddam Hussein has earned his ouster, and he deserves anything anyone can throw at him. It's not a question of whether Saddam deserves to be keelhauled; it's a question of whether the United States - or anyone - should do it.

There are three arguments for disarming Iraq by force. One is humanitarian: war now will save lives in the long run. One is political: Iraq may be linked to al-Qaeda and is undoubtedly linked to Palestinian insurgents, on whom the U.S. and Israel are waging a war. The last is legal: Saddam has disregarded a long series of UN resolutions and has developed WMDs.

So Saddam deserves to be ousted, and there exist a few good reasons to oust him. IR believes that if the UN Security Council can agree to a course of action, that course should be followed. That may involve another six months of inspections, during the heat of the Iraqi summer. It also may involve another six years of circus, like the last six years. Either way, Saddam has put himself on the international agenda, and the world community has a responsibility to deal with him.

IR believes that the United States has tenuous legal grounds at best for entering the war. The U.S. does have moral footing of some sort, though. However, most importantly, the U.S. should not preempt the UN for political reasons.

The disastrous consequences of unilateral action will include a sharp split from our important allies - Europe, Russia, China, others - in the war on terror, increased terror against the U.S., and a loss of flexibility in dealing with the very real threat of North Korea.

By disregarding not only the UNSC but - more importantly - our allies, we are sacrificing post 9/11 favor for worldwide resentment. It's not that the Russians will become suicide bombers, it's that they won't tell us before some Uzbek does. In the post-Cold War world, we need allies more than we need victories. I don't know that Bush's people - all of whom are Cold Warriors who cut their teeth on Nixon and Reagan battles - understand that. Bush needs to listen to his Daddy, who was the #2 architect of the New World Order (Gorby was #1, imho), and ignore Samuel Huntington, author of "Clash of Civilizations."

The gains from conquering Iraq would be modest and mainly deterrent. However, I believe that the costs could be much higher. The U.S. will give ammunition to every Islamist pedagogue, their versions of Samuel Huntington, and the "Clash of Civilizations" will be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Some of Bush's strongest hawks point to Israel as a country who really knows how to deal with terror: by cracking down hard. Has anyone noticed that Israel is the most fear-ridden, terror-stricken country in the developed world?? Following longstanding Israeli tactics of preemption and punitive aggression will only lead to an Israelization of America.

This argument brings us back to the starting point: the war on terror. While IR won't commit to this position, it would like to raise the question of the wisdom of waging such a war. Since one successful terrorist can win the entire "war" by slipping through and blowing something really important up, isn't this a war we can't win? Seizing assets and arresting militants by cooperating with other countries is great. But intervening militarily and punishing those who host terrorists - the same way we punished villages hiding Viet Cong guerrillas - may be "right", but it doesn't augur success.
For a full month of war-related posts, see the March, 2003 archive.

It's the Eponymy, Stupid

Representing Washington, D.C., before the Supreme Court in its lawsuit to retain an absolute ban on pistols is the deliciously named Walter Derringer. Oops, I mean, Dellinger.

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Benefit of the Doubt

Political correctness is destroying a national conversation. Instead of being able to loudly and freely debate the merits of two presidential candidates, Americans - Democrats in particular - find their ability to analyze and criticize stifled by speech conventions bordering on silly.

Like sitcom characters twisting every utterance into sexual innuendo, party flaks are able to contort every criticism of Obama and Clinton into racism or sexism. The Red Phone ad is about a black man "lurking in the bushes" to prey on white and Hispanic children? Huh? Obama's rise is America's expression of latent gender bias? Huh?

Presidential campaigns have never been clean or amiable, and sometimes sharp debates about policy degenerate into personal sniping. But we are seeing something even worse: the personal sniping is degenerating into identity group bashing. The good news is, it's all fake. Bill Clinton doesn't despise black people. Obama is not a misogynist. Nor are most of the various supporters who have been repudiated, rejected, denounced, anathematized, shunned, banned, and burned at the stake.

Before the entire country descends into a politically corrected quagmire, let's set some sensible, generous-minded ground rules for debate.
  1. Before crying "race" or "gender", ask yourself, "What would the Swift Boaters do?". If the apparent insult is not worse than what John Kerry endured, assume it's not racism/sexism.
  2. Before leveling a criticism at a candidate, ask yourself, "Would this criticism make sense if Ted Kennedy or John Edwards were the nominee?"
  3. Before blaming a candidate's loss in a particular state on the race/gender of the voters, look for other explanations. Use identity only if the other explanations don't make sense.
  4. Before castigating an opponent's surrogate for being "racist" or "sexist", ask yourself whether you want the support of that person and his followers in the general election. Most people will admit to being occasionally impolite or overzealous; but is the average political operative going to forget being smeared as racist or sexist by members of his own party?
  5. Before pushing your candidate as the only choice for voters who look or pee like him, ask yourself whether you're willing to alienate those who look or pee differently. If a candidate pitches himself as the representative of a race or gender, America will probably reject him: we want a president of all Americans.
Most of these ground rules carry over to the general election. And for left-leaning analysts, there's a very important logical principle to remember when reporting poll results. If you blame Obama or Clinton's loss to McCain on race or gender, it's Democrats you're calling racist or sexist. As a conservative, I'm going to vote for McCain no matter what color and chromosome of leftist the Dems put on the ticket. But if the Democratic candidate ends up losing, it will be because a significant number of Democrats and independents switched sides. So be careful about painting America racist/sexist: those are your own people (plus swing voters) you're smearing, and chances are they'll vote for McCain for a lot of the same reasons they voted for Reagan, Bill Clinton, and two Bushes, none of whom faced a "minority" opponent.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Snowed In

According to the NOAA, this year was the wettest winter ever recorded for New York state.

Rochester has higher-than-usual snowfall, and trails Syracuse 108.2-101.2 for the Golden Snowball Award, which it last won in 2000 while perennial champ Syracuse was in a 2-year snow drought.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Landed Oligarchy

Some habits die hard. In the Middle Ages, the landed aristocracy used their ownership of one of the principal factors of production to control prices, rob the poor, manipulate politics, and enrich themselves. The 2008 farm subsidy bill would extend this lofty tradition of avarice for another half-decade.

The Wall Street Journal profiles some of the bill's egregious measures:
The House and Senate are now ironing out differences between their bills, and it's all but certain that farmers will get about $26 billion over the next five years in subsidies. Soybean and wheat farmers are slated to receive higher price supports, though bean prices hit a 34-year high last year and wheat prices have soared to a new record...

There's also a new $5.1 billion emergency "trust fund" for farmers, with almost all the money directed to Georgia, Minnesota, North Dakota and Texas. New Hampshire Senator Judd Gregg predicts that "if a large wind comes up and blows a mailbox over in North Dakota, it's going to be declared an emergency because somebody's going to want to get their hands on that billion dollars." Credit for that one goes to self-styled "deficit hawk" Kent Conrad, the free-spending North Dakota Democrat...

Congress has also spurned the Bush Administration's sensible proposal to establish a $200,000 income ceiling in order to receive subsidies. Instead, full-time farmers will be able to earn up to $1 million per farm ($2 million for a married couple) and still be eligible for a USDA handout.
Can the Democratic Congress follow Bush's lead and end welfare for some of the very rich? Will Republican legislators realize how great a betrayal of their stated principles this is?

This is an issue on which all taxpayers - Republicans, Democrats, and others - can write our representatives demanding they oppose this flagrant giveaway of public money.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Jim Ogonowski for Senate

Jim Ogonowski is running for U.S. Senator from Massachusetts after a nearly-successful run for representative last year. His commercial below needles the Senatorial life of privilege, but remains upbeat and funny - and feachahs a wickid oarsum nawthabahstin aksen.

Hat tip to Hub Politics, which also has more background on Ogonowski.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Name of the Year

It's that time! The Name of the Year Tournament has already begun. They've improved the process this year, with round-by-round votes to determine the victors. Click on over and vote for Destiny Frankenstein, Fonda Dicks, and Spaceman Africa!

Global Review readers already missed the first round, which saw 1500 people cast ballots in just one of the races, and a great down-to-the-wire matchup: 5th-seeded Firm Dinkins v. 12th-seeded Dom Perignon Champagne. Dinkins won in overtime, 314-313. We missed the chance to vote for Bridget Midgett, Ebony Haliburton, and Wacey Rabbit, among others.

Note: two of the second-round regions are already posted; two more will go up as the week progresses.

Introducing David Paterson

Who is David Paterson? New York's governor, very soon. At a party last night, all we could come up with was that Paterson is black, blind, and from Harlem.

His website bio goes a bit further: he's the son of the powerful Basil Paterson, who dominated the "Harlem Clubhouse" political machine for decades. David was New York State Senate minority leader, and he addressed the Democratic National Convention in 2004. The bio is depressingly devoted to identity politics:
David Paterson has demanded and achieved change at every level, not simply by what he stands for but by who he is...

In 2004 in Boston, he became the first visually impaired person to address a Democratic National Convention. And 2006 saw Mr. Paterson make history again by being elected New York’s first African-American lieutenant governor...

...[he served] as the primary champion for minority- and women-owned [sic] businesses in New York
I'm glad I live in a state where a blind black man can become governor. However, I hope that as governor he sees all New Yorkers as his constituents, not merely the handicapped, black, and his father's political dynasty. Doling out special government contracts to minority- and woman-owned businesses is a fancy form of patronage and reverse racism/sexism [full disclosure: I was employed under one such contract in D.C.]; it does no favors to making fair and transparent government.

Campus During Spring Break

Monday, March 10, 2008

Chavez y FARC

In OpJo today, Mary Anastasia O'Grady has a chilling summary of the recent exposure of official ties between Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and the terrorist organization FARC.
Colombia's precision air strike 10 days ago, on a guerrilla camp across the border in Ecuador, killed rebel leader Raúl Reyes. That was big. But the capture of his computer may turn out to be a far more important development in Colombia's struggle to preserve its democracy... Mr. Chávez is said to have been visibly distressed when told of the death of Reyes, a man he clearly admired. He also may have realized that he played a role in his hero's death, since it was later reported that the Colombian military had located the camp by intercepting a phone call to Reyes from the Venezuelan president...

When Viktor Bout, allegedly one of the world's most notorious arms traffickers, was arrested in Thailand on Thursday, the Spanish-language press reported that he was located thanks to the Reyes computer files.
It's good to see Mr. Reyes dead, and even better to see Mr. Chávez shamed publicly. Perhaps this will temper the 'revolutionary spirit' for overthrowing Latin American democracies.


Congrats to Stevo and the Brandeis men's basketball team; they've reached the NCAA Div. III "Sweet Sixteen". They'll play Plattsburgh State in Plattsburgh, NY, and if they win that, they'll probably face Amherst in the same place the next day.

Also in the Sweet Sixteen is U of R; Centre College just got knocked out by Ohio Wesleyan.

Monday, March 3, 2008

The Gravity Strategy

Since pulling out of Gaza in 2005, Israel has faced the troublesome issue of how to respond to daily Qassam rockets hitting the poor town of Sderot. While the rockets have killed just 13 - fewer than many single suicide bombings - the town has become a ghetto of those too poor to move. This weekend, Hamas forced the issue by acquiring some longer-range missiles, and hitting the city of Ashkelon. Israel's response, true to form, has been passive/aggressive: the latest round of back-and-forth has left 100 Palestinians and 3 Israelis dead.

Israel's all-or-nothing responses are not unjustified, but they are more deadly and less effective than they could be. By going after Palestinian leadership and dubiously identified military targets, they remove the punishment from the crime.

Instead, Gazans should learn that what goes up comes down. It should be child's play for the IDF to install rocket sites near Sderot that basically mirror Palestinian Qassam attacks - and go after the launch site, even if it's a house in a neighborhood. They can use low-impact rockets; maybe initially something like tear gas, just to prove to the neighborhood that Israel has the capability to hit right back. If the attacks persist, Gazans will learn the Gravity Principle: what goes up must come down. They'll learn that if Hamas militants fire rockets up from their street, a missile comes back down on the street 45 seconds later.

By being predictable, Israel can offer Palestinian civilians clear incentives: neighborhoods that purge militants will not be at risk of attacks. This allows Israel to appear fair and proportional without allowing deadly attacks against her citizens.

Myths of the Fairer Sex

Writing somewhat solipsistically in the Washington Post, authoress Charlotte Allen pens an article addressing some of the differences in intelligence between men and women. I agree that men and women have different strengths, and that men are drawn from a wider distribution (more high school dropouts; more Nobel prizewinners), though I would not conclude as Allen does that women are 'dim'. She does, however, present some strong evidence for her case. In a single paragraph, she brilliantly proves that women are both bad drivers and weak in mathematics:
Depressing as it is, several of the supposed misogynist myths about female inferiority have been proven true. Women really are worse drivers than men, for example. A study published in 1998 by the Johns Hopkins schools of medicine and public health revealed that women clocked 5.7 auto accidents per million miles driven, in contrast to men's 5.1, even though men drive about 74 percent more miles a year than women.