Blog or Not?

A statistically improbable polymath's views on politics and culture.

Tuesday, April 29, 2003
This is in response to a comment thread on Matthew on "Shooting Protesters". I will reprint it here because I feel it holds up well enough on its own:

Unfortunately, other than giving each recruit going into boot camp a crash course in the atrocities of military history, I have no radical solution for this kind of thing (e.g. military atrocities). I do, however, have a proposal for fostering cultural understanding among our troops:

There is a group of professionals whose focus is the study of the culture of other countries and the relaying of this information to persons completely ignorant of these cultures. They are remarkably successful at this.

Who are they? They're not professors or anthropologists. They're travel guide writers.

Consider every Frommer's or Lonely Planet guide you've ever picked up about a non-American destination. Consider the hundreds of books telling businesspeople how to conduct business without offending people in countries from Argentina to Zimbabwe. Consider the number of books which purport to tell the reader how they can avoid being spotted as an American in Paris. And consider that all of this information is given in handy, easy-to-read, easy-to-carry book format.

In short: Uncle Sam wants YOU, Arthur Frommer!

Monday, April 28, 2003
In response to Yglesias's "The Forgotten Issue"

I have a dream.

I have a dream of a day when a Democratic presidential candidate stands up in front of a big ballroom full of reporters, retorters, and campaign supporters and says:

"Let us all admit that the phrase 'local control' is to school inequity as 'states rights' is to segregation: Under the guise of protecting the federalist system of government, those who advocate these measures are in reality trying to perpetuate inequality in perpetua.

Let us tear down this structure of spending, this allocation of monies according to the wealth of the community, which has forced our great universities who wish to correct historical injustices by a system that has fostered resentment and suspicion of those whom the system was designed to help.

Let us realize that the streets of Washington Park in Chicago, South Central Los Angeles, and the South Bronx shall be filled with bloodshed and violence born of despair until the despair is lifted by the hope of education.

Private organizations; charities and universities, have tried to alleviate this despair, but they cannot go it alone. It is up to all of us to share their burden.

And what of the small, poor towns of the mountains and the prairies, where the local industries are dying? The money municipalities, states, and the federal government spend every year to keep corporations in certain locations could make the American education system the finest in the world. Our attempts to resist the displacement of factories to countries with cheaper labor is futile; the laws of history and economics are against us. So why do we squander our capital on this?

Because we--as individuals and as a nation--are guilty of a lack of foresight. It has been said that America has a short sense of history; in part, this is a good thing. It has cooled the turmoils of ethnic and intra-national conflict faster than in all of Europe. Yet we are still creatures of history, and to forget this is a grave peril.

I have a dream.

I have a dream that one day my (number of children/nieces/nephews) will be able to move anywhere in this great nation of ours and not have to worry that the school system won't teach their children to read.

I have a dream that Mississippi, that bastion of ignorance, will someday become an oasis of knowledge.

So let the clean, pure light of knowledge into every valley, crown every mountain, and sweep every prairie of this great land. Let it burn away ignorance, and hatred, and despair, and let it give hope and love to all those who receive it. And we will speed up the day when all of our children, black and white, rich and poor, will cross the stage of a high school auditorium, and receive a diploma that actually reflects a quality education."

But will this happen in my lifetime? Here's hoping.

Sunday, April 13, 2003
More quotes:

"We will kill them all........most of them."
--Hey, at least Ari Fleischer knows Bush's policy.

"On this occasion, I am not going to mention the number of the infidels who were killed and the number of destroyed vehicles. The operation continues"
--Probably because you killed, oh, about three infidels and destroyed a Jeep. Woohoo.

"We're giving them a real lesson today. Heavy doesn't accurately describe the level of casualties we have inflicted."
--You're right, it doesn't. (Nice instance of what looks to be a Freudian slip: perhaps he meant adequately instead of actually?)

A few comments that came to mind while looking at quotes from Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, Iraqi Minister of Information:

"They are superpower of villains. They are superpower of Al Capone."
--Finally, the Iraqis recognize the POWER of Chicago. Second City, my ass.

"We are not afraid of the Americans. Allah has condemned them. They are stupid. They are stupid" (dramatic pause) "and they are condemned."
--Okay, we're stupid and condemned, got that. And stupid. And condemned. (Maybe it loses something in translation.)

"I speak better English than this villain Bush"
--Can't argue with that.

This is funny. But Quizie needs picture capabilities:

I scored a 44% on the "How U of C are you?" Quizie! What about you?

Monday, April 07, 2003
Okay, after a long hiatus, I'm back, inspired by Matthew Yglesias's challenge for someone at Chicago to give him the dish on Paul Wolfowitz's doctoral dissertation. Thus, here is a (very, very) short summary of "Nuclear Proliferation in the Middle East: The Politics and Economics of Proposals for Nuclear Disarming", which earned Wolfowitz a Ph.D. in Political Science in 1972:

Wolfowitz first notes that "for today, the possibility of desalting vast quantities of sea water, by harnessing the terrible power of the atom, appears to offer promise that the deserts can be made to bloom" (Wolfowitz 1) and refers readers to the Straude-Eisenhower Plan for Middle East Nuclear Desalting (MEND). However, his thesis attacks this optimistic premise: "[T]he benefits from nuclear desalting have been vastly exaggerated while tis costs have been underestimated and the potential harm it could do largely ignored." (5)

Some other striking points, culled from the text:
--Wolfowitz claims that using "conventional fossil fuels" (6) to power desalination plants in the Middle East would be more economical than nuclear reactors and uses the "coals to Newcastle" analogy. Later, he uses about 300 pages of cost-benefit analysis to list the costs of nuclear reactors. I skipped all of the pages when going through the microfilm, but if someone really wants to look...
--Attacks the perception that the wars between Arab states and Israel were partially/primarily based upon water rights by showing that there exist alternative water supplies in the Middle East (further explained in Chapter 7)
--Notes that Arab countries didn't allow Palestinian settlement, and Palestinian refugees after the 1967 war refused permanent-looking housing in U.N. refugee camps.
--Claims that if Israel had nuclear weapons, it would "weaken Israel's conventional military position by cutting her off from friendly countries in the West" (33) and could result in the USSR and China arming the Arabs or providing them military aid in the case of a war.

Wolfowitz's conclusion: Bringing fissile material to the Middle East is risky, and the whole thing wouldn't be economically worth it anyways.

There's an interesting observation in Appendix A, where Wolfowitz predicts (correctly) that Israel will probably reach a peace agreement with Egypt and Jordan before it does with Syria, noting the situation with the Golan Heights and Syrian opposition to the November 1967 Security Council resolution on the Arab-Israeli war.

So there you all have it. I know, you're all chomping at the bit for more, but I have a feeling someone else'll come up with a copy shortly and actually have time to devote careful study to it. Please remember I'm an undergraduate at the University of Chicago and therefore have no (well, little) free time.

Tuesday, April 01, 2003
Please surf on to for some of the finest collegiate reporting in the country. But do go before Friday, or you'll miss out on the exquisite features of this issue.