February 25, 2003

Disco and the Republican Party

"Disco" and the "GOP" are not concepts that usually go together. Until 5 minutes ago, I certainly wouldn't have linked them together.

Let me make this short story a bit longer by letting you in on the rather odd chain of events leading me to the document below. The wife recently got her APO address. For those of you unfamiliar with APO and FPO, it is a US government service offered to American military personel and government employees stationed abroad. They get a US address - you need only pay US postage to send to it - and the Federal Government pays to deliver the package to you out wherever you are.


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April 8, 2003

Greeley, Colorado

If there is a place on earth that I never imagined I would revisit, even rhetorically, it is the city of Greeley, Colorado.

Greeley has recently made the blogs, starting with this post on Eschaton. It was something of a shock to me, because Greeley makes the news basically never, and because Greeley, Colorado was the very first place in the United States where I lived. My family moved there in the fall of 1980 so that my father could pursue a graduate degree at the University of Northern Colorado. We stayed a total of three years, until my mother had completed her Bachelor's degree and obtained a Master's degree, and my father had completed the coursework for his Ph.D.


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February 10, 2004

Is neoconservativism a Trotskyist plot?

This week's The Nation has a book review that is not to be missed: A Tragedy of Errors by Michael Lind, a former editor of The National Interest, reviewing David Frum and Richard Perle's manifesto of neoconservativism An End to Evil. I found it via Early Days of a Better Nation.

Good bits:

Nevertheless, the origins of their ideology on the left are still apparent. The fact that most of the younger neocons were never on the left is irrelevant; they are the intellectual (and, in the case of William Kristol and John Podhoretz, the literal) heirs of older ex-leftists. The idea that the United States and similar societies are dominated by a decadent, postbourgeois "new class" was developed by thinkers in the Trotskyist tradition like James Burnham and Max Schachtman, who influenced an older generation of neocons. The concept of the "global democratic revolution" has its origins in the Trotskyist Fourth International's vision of permanent revolution. The economic determinist idea that liberal democracy is an epiphenomenon of capitalism, promoted by neocons like Michael Novak, is simply Marxism with entrepreneurs substituted for proletarians as the heroic subjects of history.


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February 17, 2004

The clueless leading the stupid

It seems that there is something of a kerfuffle in this American election year over the growth in overseas outsourcing, especially of computer jobs to India.

Having lived with Silicon Valley's many Randroids for far too long, I'm having some difficulty suppressing my sense of Schadenfreude. "I don't want a union, I prefer to stand on my own skills." Indeed.

Via Brad Delong, I see this article over at Wired. It is, as usual, one paradigm behind the times. Yes, in the long run outsourcing may enable people to be better deployed in more productive industries. Yes, people in India are happy to have the jobs.

What really struck me about this text though was this bit:

As I meet programmers and executives, I hear lots of talk about quality and focus and ISO and CMM certifications and getting the details right. But never - not once - does anybody mention innovation, creativity, or changing the world. Again, it reminds me of Japan in the '80s - dedicated to continuous improvement but often at the expense of bolder leaps of possibility.

And therein lies the opportunity for Americans. It's inevitable that certain things - fabrication, maintenance, testing, upgrades, and other routine knowledge work - will be done overseas. But that leaves plenty for us to do. After all, before these Indian programmers have something to fabricate, maintain, test, or upgrade, that something first must be imagined and invented. And these creations must be explained to customers and marketed to suppliers and entered into the swirl of commerce in a fashion that people notice, all of which require aptitudes that are more difficult to outsource - imagination, empathy, and the ability to forge relationships.

This is something of a standard excuse - it's an extension of the old Yankee know-how cliché that proved to be such a joke when Japanese cars started turning up on the US market. But for the most part, it put me in mind of a South Park episode: Chinpokomon, the episode where the kids of South Park fall under the mind control of a Japanese conglomerate. In particular, I thought of a scene in which an adult in South Park - a toy store owner - realises that something is up with these "Chinpokomon" toys and starts asking questions.

Hirohito: You are American?!
Owner: Yes!
Hirohito: Oh! You must have very big penis!
Owner: Excuse me?! I was just asking you what you're up to with these toys!
Hirohito: Nothing! We are very simple people with very small penis! Mr. Hosek's penis is especially small!
Hosek: He he he! So small!
Hirohito: We cannot achieve much with so small penis! But, you Americans! Wow! Penis so big! SO BIG PENIS!
Owner: Well, I-I guess it is a pretty good size.
Hosek: Menasa! Kit`e! Kit`e! (A bunch of Japaneese women enter) This man has a very big penis! (Women applaud while the Toy Store Owner smiles in pride.) Ho, ho! What an enorm-immense penis!
Owner: Well, it certainly was nice meeting you folk! I just wanted to bring that little malfunction to your attention! Bye, bye!
Hirohio: Goodbye! Thank you for stopping by with your gargantuan penis!
Owner: (Still smilling in pride) Hm, Hmmm! (leaves)
That's all Wired is doing here. By evoking some sort of natural American sense of creativity as the reason why there is nothing to worry about, they are doing nothing more substantial than claiming that their bigger penises will save the day.

What they seem to have failed to grasp is that the folks doing that imagining and creating, the research and development, taking meetings, building networks and selling product, are themselves increasingly foreign nationals. As long as capital kept pouring into the US and work visas were easy to get, it wasn't too hard to just hire the best from overseas and keep them in America. With the student visa restrictions of post-9/11 America - not to mention the unlikelihood of any expansion of the H1-B programme - and the drop in capital inflow from recent currency readjustments, how much longer is America going to be able to rely on that sort of intellectual capital?

Of course, people like me tend to be the winners here. Every time an American CEO starts to think about getting into overseas markets, he (it's almost always a he) thinks language and localisation issues are little details that need barely be mentioned. As a result, he pays more and gets lower quality. Harsh. His overseas employees (and their governments) will sooner or later realise how much more of a clue they have about international markets in addition to their advantages in labour costs. In short, I'll be paid to tell his competitors how to beat the crap out of him.

But all that is in the long run. In the short run, it's a few Indian workers getting jobs working indirectly for American firms and Americans losing them. In the old days (pre-2001), Indian profits from this sort of venture would just return to US capital markets instead of building businesses in India. But, with the dollar tanked, that money is going into European capital markets. I win again.


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March 9, 2004

Samuel Huntington is an ignorant twit

Go read Huntington's article in this month's Foreign Policy. I found it via Max Sawicky, with whom I share a common opinion of this airbag.

For Professor Huntington, we here at Pedantry are preparing an old fashioned, downhome fisking, to begin tomorrow. It is truly unfortunate when a historian can't be bothered to do any historical research. Unlike Huntington, I do know a bit about immigration patterns in American history and I know especially about patterns of linguistic assimiliation. If I had brought my copy of Language in the USA with me to Belgium, I could do this tonight, but instead I will have to actually hunt down sources on the web. So, the post I was hoping to get up tomorrow will be delayed.

Stay tuned.


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March 10, 2004

The myth of the Melting Pot chalks up another victim

A fisking, for those who need to know, is a detailed rebuttal, usually on a line-by-line basis or at least with heavy quoting from the original text. It is named in honour of Robert Fisk, who was for a number of years the Middle East correspondent for London's The Independent newspaper and has frequently been subjected to exactly such treatment. Huntington's article is too long to actually dismantle on a clause-by-clause basis, so this will be a brief but vigorous fisking instead of the far more satisfying slow, tortuous, painful fisking which I believe a man of Samuel Huntington's stature deserves. This is, in large part, because I have work to do and other topics to get to.

For that reason, this will be a two-part post. I have Chinese class tonight, which means I can't start on the next part until tomorrow, where I will attempt to undermine Huntington's actual claims about Mexican immigration. Tomorrow, I'm going to primarily consider just two issues: Is Mexican immigration really different from past immigration? Does it pose a unique and novel threat to American national identity? That will take some writing that I haven't got time for today, so first, I intend to fisk Huntington's more basic ideas.

Also, it turns out that I did bring my copy of Language in the USA to Belgium. It is an invaluable resource for someone interested in language policy and ethno-linguistic identity issues in the US, in large part because it was first published in 1981 and has been out for print for some 15 years. Thus, it was written in a context where the civil rights movement was still within the adult memory of nearly all of its contributors and contains a language of empowerment and liberation almost completely absent from more recent language policy debates in the US. Also, it makes quite a bit more reference to the pre-1964 dark ages in American identity politics, and the bibliography is invaluable for the student of poorly conceived linguistic policies. Furthermore, I acquired my edition used, where it is full of very insightful hi-liter marks and notes in the margins.

I had mistakenly thought that Huntington was a historian rather than a political scientist, as Conrad Barwa notes. This may relieve Huntington of one dram of culpability, but that is hardly significant in comparison to the mass of material on the sociolinguistics and anthropology of America that he hasn't bothered to check.

Also, go take a look at Russell Arben Fox's review. If that's a defence, I'd hate to see how Russell responds to folks he doesn't like. I can be induced to agree that there is a real relationship between language and identity. Actually, it doesn't take much inducing, although I don't find it to be as essential as many people make it out to be. My only real difference on that count - isolated from everything else - is that I don't think identity should be essential to citizenship or the physical location of your residence. But, I'm going to talk about language tomorrow.

But, as an opener, let me direct you to something completely different:


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March 17, 2004

Mexican immigration - not new, not unique, not unprecedented

This is part two of my fisking of Samuel Huntington's recent Foreign Policy article. Part 1 is here.

This still isn't complete. Hell, it isn't really edited - it's barely been spellchecked. I really need to write these things in advance and then edit them down, instead of putting it all on the page and then just posting it. This fisking is going to become a three-parter from the look of it. The good bit is next, because there I talk about America's long history of multilingualism and multiculturalism, and offer what I think is a novel theory to explain some recent phenomena in American identity politics.

There will probably be some fixes later.

Anyway, my sources for this section are primarily the 2002 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics, James Crawford's website, and this document that I found via the American Embassy in Berlin's website.

Time is not my friend lately. The next bit ought to go up by the weekend, but I'm just doing a crappy job of sticking to my self-imposed deadlines.

Huntington's article in this month's Foreign Affairs, reveals a truly anachronistic streak - the trace of a vision of American history constructed in the service of an ideology thought to be all but dead among the educated classes. We've all been exposed to this skewed perspective at one time or another. In some schools, it's explicitly a part of the curriculum, but for the most part, it's an accepted element of the American narrative, something absorbed quite unconsciously from political speeches, news programmes and Fourth of July celebrations.

This vision begins with the statement that America is a land of immigration. This is not untrue, as far as it goes, but from there it turns into entirely different territory. It is a bit like the person who tells you that they aren't racist, but...

America is a land of immigration, or so goes the tale, a land of the free and the home of the brave. A shining light unto the world. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free. From the beginning, America was an open country. It is a nation built by refugees from the perpetual conflicts that rage across less free lands, who came in search of peace, tolerance and freedom. Those who landed on its shores quickly abandoned the customs and prejudices of their old countries, adopting the ways of their free and tolerant neighbours. They worked hard to raise themselves up from the poverty they carried with them and, because America rewards hard work, quickly became prosperous. Now, America is a nation where their very roots have been lost, where religious and ethnic tolerance has reached heights unequalled in the world, where there is no entrenched class or hereditary privilege. Where anyone who wants to be truly American is held to be equal in the esteem of their fellow Americans.

The modern raconteur of this tale might make some mention of slavery and racial intolerance and how deeply regrettable it was, but they will assure you that that America is working to overcome those barriers. They might also recognise that there were - in the far past - a few incidents of ethnic conflict and that there have always been a few enclaves of the ignorant and bigoted, but not enough to really undermine the truth of their tale.

But - and this is almost always the next part - but now things are different. Now, there are people who come to America who don't want to be Americans.

It might be because their native cultures are too different, or it might be because America has grown soft, coddles immigrants, and tells them that it's okay if they don't find jobs, or learn English, or if they keep the values they came with. Or maybe it's because we let so many more of them into the country than in the old days, or maybe because the frontier is closed, so we can't just send them out west to build new farms. America is a post-industrial society now, and we have to compete with those immigrants for jobs.

Where it goes from there depends entirely on the political dispositions of the speaker. It might lead to the conclusion that America shouldn't let so many immigrants in, or that it should just let immigrants from certain places in, or that it ought to impose tough prerequisites on immigrants. Or, it might become a diatribe against welfare, liberals, identity politics, or some other scapegoat. And - and this more frequently true in intellectual circles on the right and the left alike than you would think - people might voice the quiet fear that those immigrants are really better educated, harder working and possibly inherently superior to us.

What I want people to understand is that the entire story - from its uplifting, life-affirming roots to its pessimistic, isolationist end - is complete poppycock.


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March 19, 2004

It not the Mexicans, it's Tim Berners-Lee's fault

This is part three - my last word on Samuel Huntington's article for Foreign Policy. You can also read part one and part two. Also, let me recommend a related review of some of Pat Buchanan's work over at The Shamrockshire Eagle. It's worth it.

Huntington's fears about Mexican immigration are couched in a language which does more to make his point than anything he actually says. At every turn, Mexican immigration to the US is described in the terms of an invasion or a military advance. This sometimes leads him into contradictions. He believes that concentrations of Mexicans in the Southwest are a part of what is unprecedented about Mexican immigration, and yet the growing numbers of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans relocating to other territories are described as a "beachhead."

None of this is really new. It's all happened before with German, Irish and Italian immigration. No one speaks of the establishment of a "Jewish beachhead" in southern California in the 30's.

There is so much to criticise about Huntington's analysis that I am forced to limit myself to the most interesting problems.

The impact of Mexican immigration on the United States becomes evident when one imagines what would happen if Mexican immigration abruptly stopped. [...] Debates over the use of Spanish and whether English should be made the official language of state and national governments would subside. Bilingual education and the controversies it spawns would virtually disappear, as would controversies over welfare and other benefits for immigrants. [...] The inflow of immigrants would again become highly diverse, creating increased incentives for all immigrants to learn English and absorb U.S. culture. And most important of all, the possibility of a de facto split between a predominantly Spanish-speaking United States and an English-speaking United States would disappear, and with it, a major potential threat to the country's cultural and political integrity.

Official bilingualism is an issue driven almost exclusively by three communities: Hispanic-Americans whose roots predate 1960 and whose claims are drawn from the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo, Miami Cubans who control south Florida politics, and Puerto Ricans who think they are as American as everybody else. Mexican immigration is secondary to all those casuses. Bilingual education started out as an educational reform movement designed to improve English knowledge and school outcomes for immigrant children. It became legally established in a landmark court case in 1974 - Lau v. Nichols - in which the San Francisco public school district was held to have violated the 1964 Civil Rights Act by failing to offer a Chinese monolingual child ESL classes.


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April 4, 2004

Why does David Brooks hate America?

Brooks latest in the Times really deserves a full-bore trashing. Brooks has a way of indulging the notion of Zeitgeist in a way that - on rare occasion - actually leads to some insight. It's hard for somone from my class to read Bobos in Paradise without some sense of self-recognition. But most of the time, this willingness to eulogise whole classes of people as if they could be treated as a single person is the sort of nonsense that gives those of us trying to develop more coherent conceptions of social identity a bad name.

I have not had a lot of time to blog lately. The next chapter from Grandpa Martens has been half finished for two weeks. I don't have time to do for Brooks what he deserves. But, I will point to some particularly problematic bits:

Nor do the standard critiques of suburbia really solve the mystery of motivation -- the inability of many Americans to sit still, even when they sincerely want to simplify their lives. Americans are the hardest-working people on earth. The average American works 350 hours a year -- nearly 10 weeks -- more than the average Western European. Americans switch jobs more frequently than people from other nations. The average job tenure in the U.S. is 6.8 years, compared with more than a decade in France, Germany and Japan. What propels Americans to live so feverishly, even against their own self-interest? What energy source accounts for all this?


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May 10, 2004

White Flight reaches new heights

How else should I interpret people complaining not that black people in their neighbourhoods lower property values, but that just naming a street after a black man will do it?


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June 10, 2004

Proof positive that being black is no barrier to being a nitwit

Via Silentio, the Republican candidate for Congress in the North Carolina 5th congressional district has come to my attention. Vernon Robinson is, rather unusually for a Republican in general and a southern Republican Congressional candidate in particular, black. Setting aside the deeply troubling notion of a black southerner who is "honored [...] to be compared to Jesse Helms", setting aside his actual stances on issues - Neanderthal would be my choice of adjective - the real proof of nitwithood in my book is in this extract from his anti-immigration ad:

"The aliens are here, but they didn't come in a spaceship," an announcer says over the theme to "The Twilight Zone." "They've filled our criminal courtrooms and clogged our schools ... They sponge off the American taxpayer ... they've even taken over the DMV. These aliens commit heinous crimes ... You walk into a McDonald's restaurant to order a Big Mac, and find to your horror that the employees don't speak English."

Oh the horror! Fast food staff who can't speak English! Why right now, there are Americans going through drive-thrus, receiving medium sized orders when they asked for super-size! My God, the Republic must be saved!

One of my in-laws likes to complain that she can't understand black people when they speak. Now, when she says that, she doesn't mean that she doesn't always understand what people are saying when she goes to some inner city neighbourhood. I don't always understand conversations in the more remote American dialects, and I remember being in Detroit once as a teenager and having a very hard time understanding the colloquial language of the inner city. That would be a totally understandable admission. No, what she means is that she can't understand Will Smith in old Fresh Prince reruns. I wonder what she would make of Mr Robinson's English?

(BTW - I saw a Fresh Prince rerun in German a few weeks ago. There is something incredibly amusing about seeing German come out of Will Smith's mouth. I'm not sure I can explain it.)

McDonald's business practices are designed to minimise ambiguity in customer/employee communications. Menus are numbered. At every counter there is a menu in photo form, so that you need merely point at what you want. Braille menus are avaiable on request. The choices are few and most Americans have them memorised by age 6. Furthermore, it's not like the vocabulary of ordering at McDonald's is terribly complicated. "A Big Mac and a Coke, please." "You want fries with that?" "*grunt*" "That'll be five fifty."

I have ordered at McDonalds in Asia where I could neither speak nor read the language and where the employees spoke no English whatsoever. Tourists come to America who speak no English at all, and yet manage to place and receive orders at McDonald's all the time.

McDonald's has been designed based on the assumption that all the employees, the customers and the managers are complete idiots. In order to be unable to place an order at McDonald's you have to be simultaneously blind, deaf, dumb and ignorant of Arabic numerals. And yet, Mr Robinson has difficulty getting a quarter pounder in North Carolina and then blames immigrants. What does that tell us about Mr Robinson?

Update: Corrected a truly heinous typo and added a sentence cuz I realised I started making a point in the fourth paragraph and then never made it.


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Mourning in America

Please, dear God, tell me that it isn't true that some network actually called their coverage of the Reagan funeral Mourning in America.


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August 18, 2004

Why shop teachers are the answer

Henry Farrell over at Crooked Timber has an interesting piece up commenting on Drezner commenting on a Wall Street Journal piece that neither Henry nor I has read through lack of having coughed up the money to see it.

Less frustrated now, let me make a few points.

The deficit in skilled machinists has been a problem since the 80s. One of my Dad's coworkers - a university professor - quit his job to work as a machinist in a custom interior design shop. Why? Turns out skilled machinists in the 80s in Jersey could pull down $40 an hour, and the state university system couldn't compete. A prof's salary at the time could easily be under $30,000. Before the '89 recession, some outfits that Dad sent his students to for interships were importing machinists from the Philippines. His teacher-ed students often quit the programme to go work in better paid machinist jobs.

Actually, machinist work isn't quite as specialised as all that. It is skilled work, but moving from one set of machinery to another is not quite the intensive retraining that a shift from office work to industrial work would be. It does require some investment, and because the machines themselves may be quite expensive and rare, this training is traditionally an employer-born expense, as Henry points out. However, before an employer will hire you and train you at considerable cost, they often would like to know that you have some aptitude for the work and some basic knowledge of the trade. This entry-level knowledge was traditionally acquired at a trade school, a vocational school, or a high school shop class.

I know all this because my father was a high school shop teacher.


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November 5, 2004

Why can't more Republicans be like Alan Keyes?

This man should run the RNC. I only wish he was setting the trend for the party. We need more resentful, sore loser Republican candidates willing to loose elections on moral issues.

From AP:

Keyes Blames Media, GOP for Loss

CHICAGO ? Alan Keyes blamed the media and fellow Republicans on Thursday for his lopsided loss to Democrat Barack Obama in the U.S. Senate race in Illinois.

Keyes also said he did not congratulate Obama after the race was called, a tradition among politicians, because doing so would have been a "false gesture" because he believed Obama's views on issues such as abortion were wicked.

"I'm supposed to make a call that represents the congratulations toward the triumph of that which I believe ultimately stands for and will stand for a culture evil enough to destroy the very soul and heart of my country," Keyes said. "I can't do this, and I will not make a false gesture."

The former diplomat and two-time presidential candidate, who lost to Obama by 43 percentage points Tuesday, gave his first post-election interview Thursday to a Christian talk-show host.

Keyes said that despite the loss, he thought he did a good job spreading his message of moral values.

He said he was disappointed in what he called the number of "Republicans in name only" in Illinois. An Associated Press exit poll showed that four in 10 Republicans voted for Obama.

Keyes said a major difficulty in his campaign was overcoming the "stranglehold" the media had on trying to define the issues of importance in political campaigns.

"I refused to accept their authority, and I still do," he said.


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November 10, 2004

Post-election headlines

Does the anyone else think the headline Bottom-Dwelling Marine Life Found in Georgia should have the subtitle Announces Republican House campaign?


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January 10, 2005

Abstract Impressionism and the CIA

I'm trying really hard not to laugh at this:

Enduring Art

Do you find modern art baffling and depressing? Have you ever wondered if it's all a ridiculous hoax? Don't worry. It's meant to be baffling and depressing, and it is a ridiculous hoax. According to American leftist James Petras's review of Who Paid the Piper: The CIA and the Cultural Cold War by Frances Stonor Saunders,

[the]CIA and its allies in the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) poured vast sums of money into promoting Abstract Expressionist (AE) painting and painters as an antidote to art with a social content. In promoting AE, the CIA fought off the right-wing in Congress. What the CIA saw in AE was an "anti-Communist ideology, the ideology of freedom, of free enterprise[...]

So the whole hegemony of boring decadent rubbish art that has been inflicted on us for fifty years, from Jackson bloody Pollock to Damien fucking Hirst, has all along been a CIA plot.[...]

Considering the way abstract art has been the target of right-wing attacks since before I was born - and the way abstract sculpture in particular has been a corporate favourite for decorating lobbies and head offices - I'm trying really hard not to laugh out loud at my computer. All of a sudden the whole thing makes sense. It neatly encapsulates the divide between social and business conservatives. Inoffensive and arguably meaningless, abstract art has been the perfect expression of the commercially commissioned art. It really is the art of free enterprise. The social right, on the other hand, loves realism in the model of Norman Rockwell: the socialist realism of anti-socialism. This guy is probably making a killing.


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The Rectification of Names

The Poor Man (via Eschaton), citing Confucius on the unity of theory and practice, uncovers a lexicographic shortcoming in American English. I can only agree, having adopted the term in question for a number of years now.

There is, in fact, some historical justification for the quasi-Whorfian complaint that without being able to name things, we are ill-suited to fighting them. Massively labeling the Republicans as wankers certainly won't help them, especially since the kinds of folks it most applies to are unlikely to watch enough PBS to understand what it means.


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May 5, 2005

The England Mistrial

So, I'm watching coverage of this declaration of a mistrial in the court-martial of Private England in the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal, and I have to wonder about this declaration. It sounds a lot like the judge was looking for a reason to do this - I mean, this can hardly be the first time in the history of military courts that someone has told one story in their guilty plea and another at sentencing time.

I'm more willing to see mercy towards low ranking troops who behave terribly than towards their officers, who are responsible for them both in practice and in the law. Unless I've missed something, not a single American officer has been charged.

One has to wonder if there was some pressure to throw the book at enlisted suspects in order to keep the scandal from growing. Or maybe I'm just feeling conspiratorial.


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May 13, 2005

Is Newt changing sides?

From the NY Times:

Mr. Gingrich, the former House speaker, has been working alongside the former first lady on a number of issues, and even appeared with her at a press conference on Wednesday to promote - of all things - health-care legislation.

But more puzzling than that, Mr. Gingrich has been talking up Mrs. Clinton's presidential prospects in 2008, to the chagrin of conservative loyalists who once regarded him as a heroic figure. Last month, he even suggested she might capture the presidency, saying "any Republican who thinks she's going to be easy to beat has a total amnesia about the history of the Clintons."

What gives?[...]

The Clinton-Gingrich connection comes as Mrs. Clinton has increasingly staked out moderate positions in several areas. She has recently promoted a more gradual approach to guaranteeing health care for more Americans, a departure from her efforts in the 1990's, when Republican critics like Mr. Gingrich accused her of advocating a big-government takeover of the health care system.

Her recent views on the subject struck a chord with Mr. Gingrich, she recalled.

"Newt Gingrich called and said, 'You're absolutely right,' " Mrs. Clinton said.

As it turns out, Mr. Gingrich and Mrs. Clinton have a lot more in common now that they have left behind the politics of the 1990's, when she was a symbol of the liberal excesses of the Clinton White House and he was a fiery spokesman for a resurgent conservative movement in Washington.

Beyond the issue of health care, Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Gingrich have forged a relatively close relationship working on a panel the Pentagon created to come up with ways to improve the nation's military readiness, according to people close to them.

Mr. Gingrich says he has been struck by how pro-defense Mrs. Clinton has turned out to be at a time when other Democrats have criticized President Bush's decision to go to war against Iraq. He chalked that up to her experience in the White House, where her husband, as commander in chief, had to deal with grave national security matters.

"Unlike most members of the legislature, she has been in the White House," he said. "She's been consistently solid on the need to do the right thing on national defense." [...]

On Thursday, he reiterated his belief that she will be a formidable challenger if she decides to run for the presidency in 2008. "Any Republican who thinks she's going to be easy to beat in 2008 really misunderstands the Clintons."

Exactly why Mr. Gingrich has been so effusive about Mrs. Clinton is an open question. He says he has been impressed by the job she has done since becoming a senator.

But others say that he gains as much politically as she does by sharing a stage with her, at a time when he is said to be mulling over the possibility of running for the presidency in 2008

"It's mutually beneficial," said Hank Sheinkopf, a Democratic strategist. "He gets to appear to be a mainstream figure and she gets to appear as someone who is willing to work with everyone, no matter their ideology."

But Mr. Gingrich may end up paying a price politically for engaging in what many conservatives regard as heresy. "He is trying to change his image into a softer and more gentle Newt," said Michael Long, the chairman of the New York State Conservative Party. "That is a major mistake on his part."

Between this and the sudden vote of no confidence in John Bolotn as UN ambassador, is it possible that there are elements in the Republican party running scared from their own success?


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May 17, 2005

Galloway tells Senate to fuck off

I'm not a fan of George Galloway, but it's hard not to cheer this:

Galloway defends himself at US Senate

[...] "I know that standards have slipped over the last few years in Washington, but for a lawyer you are remarkably cavalier with any idea of justice," he told Senator Norm Coleman, the Republican subcommittee chairman.

"I am here today - but last week you already found me guilty. You traduced my name around the world without ever having asked me a single question, without ever having contacted me, without ever having written to me or telephoned me, without any contact with me whatsoever - and you call that justice." [...]

"Senator, in everything I said about Iraq I turned out to be right and you turned out to be wrong - and 100,000 have paid with their lives, 1,600 of them American soldiers sent to their deaths on a pack of lies," Mr Galloway told Sen Coleman. [...]

Galloway's furious defence

[...] "As a matter of fact I have met Saddam Hussein exactly the same number of times as Donald Rumsfeld met him. The difference is that Donald Rumsfeld met him to sell him guns and to give him maps the better to target those guns, I met him to try and bring an end to sanctions, suffering and war." [...]

I'd kinda like to see the full transcript. All the coverage has been brief, I gotta wonder what doesn't fit into a soundbite.

Update: You can download the video from here. Go Gorgeous George, go!


Posted by Scott Martens at 10:28 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 18, 2005

On the quality of popular writing by conservative academics

I'm still on hiatus, but this article by John McWhorter, which I found via Arts & Letters Daily, enrages me:

White do-gooders did for black America

As it quickly became clear that there was a certain demographic skew among the people stranded in New Orleans, journalists began intoning that Hurricane Katrina had stripped bare the continuing racial inequity in America. [...] The civics lesson, we are to think, is that the civil rights revolution left a job undone in an America still hostile to black advancement.

In fact, white America does remain morally culpable — but because white leftists in the late 1960s, in the name of enlightenment and benevolence, encouraged the worst in human nature among blacks and even fostered it in legislation. The hordes of poor blacks stuck in the Superdome last week wound up there not because the White Man barred them from doing better, but because certain tragically influential White Men destroyed the fragile but lasting survival skills poor black communities had maintained since the end of slavery. [...]

In 1966, however, a group of white academics in New York developed a plan to bring as many people onto the welfare rolls as possible. Across the country, poor blacks especially were taught to apply for living on the dole even when they had been working for a living, and by 1970 there were 169% more people on welfare nationwide than in 1960.

This was the first time that whites or blacks had taught black people not to work as a form of civil rights. Politicians and bureaucrats jumped on the new opportunity for political patronage and votes, and welfare quickly became a programme that essentially paid young women to have children. [...]

You would think that an allegation of this type might name a single person, just one influential white academic who went around telling black people they ought to sign up for welfare. Hell, even a footnote! Instead, we are subjected to the same vague, unsourced, unnamed allegations that so thoroughly characterise conservative American discourse. White liberal academics did this, white liberals academics did that... The Elitist Left Wing conspiracy strikes again!

I know for a fact that McWhorter is capable of documenting his claims, I read his book. If I alleged that a group of radical black nationalists had the level of influence he's claiming white liberal academics have, I'd either be labeled a racist or a fool.


Posted by Scott Martens at 11:07 AM | TrackBack

January 6, 2006

Finally agreeing with Bush on something

From today's NY Times:

Bush Proposes Broader Language Training

WASHINGTON, Jan. 5 - The Bush administration on Thursday proposed spending $114 million on educational programs to expand the teaching of Arabic, Chinese, Farsi and other languages typically not taught in public schools.

Speaking to more than 100 college and university presidents attending a two-day conference at the State Department, President Bush said the effort would play a critical role in national security and lead to American students' gaining a better understanding of foreign cultures.

"In order to convince people we care about them, we've got to understand their culture and show them we care about their culture," Mr. Bush said. "You know, when somebody comes to me and speaks Texan, I know they appreciate the Texas culture. When somebody takes time to figure out how to speak Arabic, it means they're interested in somebody else's culture." [...]

"We need intelligence officers who, when somebody says something in Arabic or Farsi or Urdu, know what they're talking about," he said.

Robert Birgeneau, chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley, said he was among presidents in Washington last year discussing similar issues with the Central Intelligence Agency. He said he left that meeting with the understanding that "their needs are desperate."

Mr. Birgeneau said that he appreciated the administration's efforts but that, for university presidents, language training for the government is "not our central focus." [...]

The administration's language proposal, known as the National Security Language Initiative, would create several new programs and build on others, including a Pentagon effort begun three years ago to increase the number of military personnel fluent in languages and familiar with customs in developing nations.

Barry Lowenkron, the assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor, said a few of the programs might include a commitment to work for the government or the military. "But it's not like a draft," [...]

He said that only 44 percent of American high school students were studying any foreign language and that 70 percent of those were learning Spanish. Ms. Powell said that by comparison, the nation had only 2,000 Chinese language grade-school teachers.

Margaret Spellings, the education secretary, said in an interview that efforts to teach such languages as Chinese and Arabic to children as young as 5 were brand new. "We don't know how to do it. This whole notion is in its infancy. But our hope is this is a start, and we can build on it."

Alas, as with all other Bush initiatives, I see this one boldly going nowhere. "Somebody comes up to me and speaks Texan..." - isn't it great that America has a bilingual president? While I think there are loftier goals in second language education than fixing the CIA and the Pentagon's hiring problems, I can't really disagree with the main thrust of it. More Americans in the upper echelons of military and political planning who actually have a clue about the rest of the world can only be a good thing.

But, as the Iraq war shows all too well, the advice of existing experts is already ignored, and having more experts won't make that problem go away. I think it's a fine thing that at least some Americans have discovered that cultural autism comes at a steep price, but I don't think anyone in the Bush administration really intends to address that issue. They've simply discovered that they're short on translators.

Furthermore, when this Barry Lowenkron character says "But it's not like a draft..." you know that it means that it is like a draft. Whet I expect to see is the government offering something like the ROTC program: Get a Bachelor's in area studies on the government and you can join the army as an officer. This will probably fail because now, as in the Vietnam era, people are reluctant to join the army if they think they are likely to actually have to fight.

But the worst bit comes from the education secretary, Margaret Spellings, a woman who has, from what I can tell, never taught a class in her life. "We don't know how to do it. This whole notion is in its infancy." - no, it's been going on for thousands of years and virtually every other country in the world has already confronted the issue of raising second language knowledge in its population. Geez, the one thing that George W. Bush got right in his entire career as governor of Texas was establishing bilingual schools with a mixture of Mexican and Anglo kids, so you'd think the idea might be within the memory of one of his favourite hacks and flak-catchers. Set up bilingual magnet schools in areas with developing world immigrant populations, pay parents to send their kids to them if you have to. Hire teachers from overseas to offer classes in both languages.

The things that have to be done to make this work are substantial. Provide funds for second language education in public schools, yes, but also provide outside reinforcement. Make second language studies a requirement for university admissions (as it was two generations ago). Provide subtitled foreign media - something that has clearly made an enormous difference in Belgium - by making it a license requirement for broadcasters.

But none of this is going to happen.


Posted by Scott Martens at 9:54 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

June 19, 2006

Coulter with Carlin on Leno

I get Leno, usually five days or so behind the States, on CNBC Europe.

Good lord! What kind of scheduling had Ann Coulter and George Carlin on together, and with her talking about her book Godless. Leno softballs her, and Carlin must have been biting his lip. How on earth was it possible to have both of those people on together, and see nothing happen? Nothing!

Carlin must have been under some kind of curse, or blackmail. (I can't imagine what you could blackmail him with.)

Ye Gods, that was awful. I feel dirty just from watching that.


Posted by Scott Martens at 10:53 PM

June 27, 2006

US denies ever saying Tariq Ramadan supports terrorism

From today's US district court decision (PDF) regarding First Amendment issues in the denial of Tariq Ramadan's H1-B visa application:

The Government's position in this litigation directly contradicts DHS's August 2004 explanation for the revocation of Ramadan's H1-B visa, which was that "because of a section that applies to aliens who have used a 'position of prominence within any country to endorse or espouse terrorist activity.'" [...] Mr Knocke, the DHS spokesperson who made the August 2004 statement, is still an employee of DHS, and available to the Government, yet he has neither submitted an affidavit on the Government's behalf nor disavowed the statement attributed to him. Similarly, DHS has never renounced nor retracted it - except through this litigation.

Rather than explaining the DHS's statement or reconciling it with the Government's position in this litigation, the Government attempts to render this statement inoperative by explaining:

Plaintiffs allege that the July 2004 revocation was based on 8 USC 1182(a)(3)(b)(i)(VII) [the section of law restricting admission to the US for supporting terrorism] ... That allegation is incorrect. Mr Ramadan has never has never had a visa revoked, a visa application denied, or any other adverse action taken against him pursuant to that provision [...] Accordingly, any statement to the contrary that may have appeared in the media or may have been made by any Government spokesperson was erroneous.

That's in evidence given in court - where you get jail time for lying. So, the Department of Homeland Security officially denies ever saying anything negative about Ramadan.

[from Crooked Timber]


Posted by Scott Martens at 7:35 PM