Friday, April 30, 2004

Right of publicity vs. the First Amendment: Arnold Schwarzenegger is threatening to sue a company that is distributing Arnold Schwarzenegger bobble-heads. Schwarzenegger's claim is not unprecedented, even among political leaders: The Martin Luther King, Jr. estate successfully blocked the distribution of busts of King; I discuss the case in my Freedom of Speech and the Right of Publicity article.

     But as I argue in this article, Schwarzenegger ought to lose, even though under current law he has a good chance of winning. The bobble-heads are hardly incisive political commentary, but they do send a message that Schwarzenegger ought not be taken too seriously. The message is ambiguous and contestable, as it is in much art (consider Andy Warhol's Mao print or his Marilyn Monroes print). But, as with other art, the expression should still be constitutionally protected.

     And, unlike with copyright law, there's very little justification for allowing the subjects of such works a right to block them: There's no reason to think that the right of publicity materially increases people's incentives to become celebrities, much less political leaders. Copyright law restricts expression in order to promote more expression and more creativity; moreover, reading the First Amendment as preempting copyright law would mean that the Bill of Rights largely eviscerates a constitutional provision (the Copyright and Patent Clause) that was passed more or less contemporaneously. Right of publicity law restricts the use of people's likenesses and names without promoting more expression and more creativity, and it lacks this specific constitutional hook.

     This litigation also illustrates, I think, the weakness of the "transformativeness" test that the California Supreme Court set forth in Comedy III Productions v. Saderup (again, discussed in my article). "Transformative" uses, the court held, are protected by the First Amendment, and the court gave Warhol's Mao print as a paradigm example of a transformative use, even though it just depicts Mao: "Through distortion and the careful manipulation of context, Warhol was able to convey a message that went beyond the commercial exploitation of celebrity images and became a form of ironic social comment on the dehumanization of celebrity itself." On the other hand, nontransformative uses, such as Saderup's charcoal drawings of the Three Stooges (in which the California Supreme Court Justices could "discern no significant transformative or creative contribution"), are unprotected by the First Amendment, and may lead to a right of publicity lawsuit.

     But which category does the bobblehead fall into? Is there as much "distortion and careful manipulation of context" in the bobblehead medium as in the Mao print? How do you figure that out in any objective way? Poll art critics?

     I think the answer should be simple (again, see the article for more details): Prints and sculptures (whether in stone or in plastic) should be as constitutionally protected as movies and books, and people -- especially political leaders, but also others -- shouldn't be able to block others from producing such items any more than they can block others from producing parodies, jokes, biographies, or news stories. But, as I mentioned above, Schwarzenegger's claim is hardly unprecedented under current law, and may even be a winner. I don't fault him, but I do fault many courts' willingness to let the right of publicity trump the First Amendment.

     Thanks to Shannon Maders for the pointer.
John Locke vs. law reviews: Clayton Cramer writes:
I was reading through John D. Cushing, ed., The Earliest Printed Laws of North Carolina, 1669-1751, and I found [this item] at 2:146 from John Locke's 1669 Fundamental Constitution of Carolina. . . .
80th. Since multiplicity of comments, as well as of laws, have great inconveniences, and serve on to obscure and perplex: all manner of comments and expositions, on any part of these Fundamental Constitutions, or on any part of the common or statute laws of Carolina are absolutely prohibited.
Alleged mistreatment of prisoners: I'm with Glenn Reynolds on this.
We won't defend you, and neither can you: Knight-Ridder reports:
As the insurgency and violence in Iraq intensify, the Department of Defense has proposed a new rule for most of the estimated 70,000 civilian contractors working in the war-torn region: They can't carry guns.

At the same time, a top Defense Department official this week acknowledged publicly for the first time that the war effort was suffering a "brain drain" of civilian workers who were fleeing Iraq because they didn't feel safe. . . .
Now I realize that contractors' carrying guns can cause hazards as well as benefits:
Supporters of the new rule -- including the biggest contractor in the area, Halliburton's Kellogg Brown and Root -- said there are three big drawbacks in allowing contractors to carry weapons. Armed contractors would be more likely to be shot at or kidnapped. Also, as civilians, they don't follow the same strict rules of force as the military. And by picking up weapons, contractors could lose any death and accident insurance coverage they may have. . . .
But "Nick Sanders, who chairs the contract finance committee for the National Defense Industrial Association, a trade group for traditional defense contractors," has it right, I think, on the bottom line:
The problem with the rule is that it tells contractors that they're responsible for their security, but then says they can't be armed . . . .
So while I may well be mistaken -- the rules for survival in war zones are complex, and inexperienced civilians like me are hardly the best judges of them -- it seems to me the government's proposal is not the right approach. (Thanks to Dan Gifford for the pointer.)
Conservatives and Republicans: Jonah Goldberg makes some good points on this. (Thanks to Dan Gifford for the pointer.)
Witches: Reader Paul Forsyth points out that C.S. Lewis beat me to my witches observation by decades (not surprising -- my point was pretty obvious). Forsyth quotes Mere Christianity, p. 26:
But surely the reason we do not execute witches is that we do not believe there are such things. If we did -- if we really thought that there were people going around who had sold themselves to the devil and received supernatural powers from him in return and were using these powers to kill their neighbors or drive them mad or bring bad weather, surely we would all agree that if anyone deserved the death penalty, then these filthy quislings did.
Europe or Asia? Where's the (necessarily arbitrary) dividing line between Europe and Asia? Setting aside the obvious water boundaries, I understood that Europe included all the USSR west of the Ural Mountains, so the Eastern and Southeastern boundary was the Urals, the Caspian, plus the Soviet-Turkish border. But now it appears that Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan are being treated as Asian (see, for instance, this Slate piece, which suggests that it's odd that Georgia is outside Europe, though I've seen this elsewhere as well).

     Who decides these things? Is there some Official Europe-Asia Boundary Commission? Is it just a consensus of geographers? Or does such a consensus even exist, at least as to the Caucasus? Yes, it might be better to speak just of Eurasia, but the fact is that people do speak about Europe and Asia.
A federal drug agent shot himself in the leg during a gun safety presentation to children and his bosses are investigating. . . .

"The kids screamed and started to cry," said Vivian Farmer, who attended the presentation with her 13-year-old nephew.

"Everyone was pretty shaken up," Farmer said. "But the point of gun safety hit home. . . ." . . .
Caveats and conditionals A reader writes, apropos this post:
"But part, I think, might be the tendency of some people -- at least in some circles -- "

In the spirit of light hearted Friday afternoon banter, I offer the following suggestion:

You might, under some circumstances, evaluate, consider, or at least entertain the possibility of limiting, restricting or cutting back on the use of caveats, conditionals, and stipulations in your personal writing. At least occasionally.
     I appreciate the feedback; and I agree that such conditionals and caveats may make writing less forceful and persuasive. I also suspect that I sometimes use more of them than necessary.

     And yet some of this is necessary, if I am to be accurate, and to be seen as accurate. For instance, the post to which the reader alludes (my first one today about white men who prefer Asian-American women) was based on my personal observations of such relationships, and of the people who criticize them. I'm well aware that my personal experience on such matters is quite limited. I can't speak to what all critics think, or even what most critics think, or even what many critics think in other social groups than mine.

     So to be careful and precise -- and I like to cultivate both the perception and the reality of care and precision -- I decided to include some suitable caveats. They may make my writing less persuasive because they distract and annoy some readers. But they may make it more persuasive, because readers won't be alienated by what they will see as claims that go beyond the evidence. And I'll feel better, because I'll know that I'm not making such claims.
More about Asian-American women: My friend Jim Lindgren, who is a law professor and a demographic researcher, writes:
In the 1972-2002 NORC General Social Surveys of the US public, approximately equal numbers of Asian women (23%) and non-Asian women (24%) think that "Women should take care of running their homes and leave running the country up to men" (FEHOME, n=22,538).

On a related question (FEWORK, n=24,401), 85% of Asian women approve of "a married woman earning money in business or industry if she has a husband capable of supporting her," compared to only 77% of non-Asian women (a statistically significant difference). The answer to this question suggests that Asian women in the US are somewhat less likely to view women's working outside the home as secondary to men's work.

There is an interesting contrast when one moves out of husband/wife relationships to this question of submission to the law (OBEYLAW, n=2,985): "In general, would you say that people should obey the law without exception, or are there exceptional occasions on which people should follow their consciences even if it means breaking the law?" Here Asian women (55%) are not significantly different from non-Asian women (47%) in their submission to the authority of law, but Asian men (76%) express much more submissive views about legal authority than do non-Asian men (37%).
So, as I said below, white men who seek Asian-American women because they think those women are likely to be especially submissive will probably be sorely disappointed. And if the men keep seeking out Asian-American women, then this suggests that they aren't really looking for submissive women after all.
Jews and Immigration: There has undoubtedly been a marked change in American Jewish attitudes toward immigration since 9/11, with a much larger percentage of Jews expressing ambivalence or hostility toward liberal immigration policies. The unease Jews feel about immigration these days, with fears that American cities will become more like Paris or even Toronto or Montreal in terms of how safe Jews feel, has not yet filtered from the grassrooots into the American Jewish organizational hierarchy's agenda. A new, somewhat overwrought, paper by Dr. Steven Steinleight called "High Noon to Midnight: Why Current Immigration Policy Dooms American Jewry," addresses these concerns:
American Jews already live in a state of heightened threat. A visit to New York, home to America's largest Jewish population, provides striking evidence that Jews no longer live in safety. Virtually every high-profile Jewish institution in New York is surrounded by concrete barriers to prevent car bombs exploding too close to the building, while being checked by security guards and passing through metal detectors are now a routine a part of attending religious services. Such vigilance is not confined to New York. Throughout the country, in communities with a substantial Muslim presence, security is a critical part of planning any sort of Jewish political or communal event — especially those intended to demonstrate support for Israel. An address by a representative of Israel or a speaker known as a critic of Islamism ensures an armed police presence.

Reality is dawning on many American Jews that something is amiss, although it seems lost on some of the country's most venerable Jewish organizations. There's a sad, if comic irony associated with the fact that employees at organizations like ADL, the American Jewish Committee, and the Presidents' Conference must pass through a gauntlet of concrete barriers, armed guards, metal detectors, and double bulletproof anterooms as they come to work each morning to protect them from radical Islamic terrorists, in order to spend their days studying and disseminating reports on the "threat" posed by Evangelical Christians. Meanwhile, the legislative affairs staffs of these organizations are directed to lobby against immigration reforms that could minimize the danger.

After 9/11, Jewish organizations began devoting more attention to the activities of Islamic radicals in the United States. Their web sites document the ties many of these groups have to terrorists. Amazingly, however, these watchdogs fail to employ the most basic logic and ask the most obvious question: How did they get here? Not one has been willing to examine the impact of mass immigration, including mass Muslim and Islamist immigration, on American Jewry, much less take a position calling for changes in U.S. immigration policy.
I'm a bit too busy right now to analyze this paper in detail. Suffice to say that I don't agree with all of it (for example, Jewish organizations have had guards for years to deal with homegrown anti-Semites, and in a curious but almost certainly intentional omisssion, the author fails to note that most American Moslems are African Americans or from the Indian subcontinent), but I think the paper raises issues that many American Jews, raised to think that immigration is a good thing, sympathetic to liberal multiculturalism, and fearful of being seen as racist or intolerant, are too abashed to raise publicly.

As a related aside, to me, the most interesting "Jewish" statistic in the next election will not be what percentage of Jews vote for Bush over Kerry, but what percentage of "Jewish Jews,"--the ones who attend synagogue regularly, go to programs at Jewish Community Centers, foresee their great-grandchildren living as Jews, basically the kind of people who are being regularly exposed to having to go through unprecedented various levels of security at Jewish institutions nationwide, and are inevitably concerned about what this means for the future of American Jews--will vote for Bush over Kerry, in sympathy with the War on Terror.
Joseph Wilson says: Niger official thinks Hussein's Information Minister was trying to arrange uranium purchase. From the Washington Post:
It was Saddam Hussein's information minister, Mohammed Saeed Sahhaf, often referred to in the Western press as "Baghdad Bob," who approached an official of the African nation of Niger in 1999 to discuss trade -- an overture the official saw as a possible effort to buy uranium.

That's according to a new book Joseph C. Wilson IV . . . . Wilson wrote that he did not learn the identity of the Iraqi official until this January, when he talked again with his Niger source.

That knowledge has not altered Wilson's much-expressed view that the Bush administration distorted intelligence on Iraq's weapons capabilities to help make the case for going to war. . . .

Sahhaf's role casts more light on an aspect of Wilson's report to the CIA that was publicly disclosed last summer. . . . [CIA Director George J. Tenet's statement in 2003] noted that Wilson had reported back to the CIA that a former Niger official told him that "in June 1999 a businessman approached him and insisted that the former official meet with an Iraqi delegation to discuss 'expanding commercial relations' between Iraq and Niger. The former official interpreted the overture as an attempt to discuss uranium sales."

In his book, Wilson recounts his encounter with the unnamed Niger official in 2002, saying, he "hesitated and looked up to the sky as if plumbing the depths of his memory, then offered that perhaps the Iraqi might have wanted to talk about uranium." Wilson did not get the Iraqi's name in 2002, but he writes that he talked to his source again four months ago, and that the former official said he saw Sahhaf on television before the start of the war and recognized him as the person he talked to in 1999. . . .
Thanks to Nikita Demosthenes for the pointer.
More about Communists: A reader writes:
I just wanted to write in and take you to task for the quote, "While I wouldn't have excluded Communists, past Communists, or Communist sympathizers from all federal jobs (not because I like them, but because of the First Amendment), I surely think it's perfectly constitutional and proper to exclude them from secret nuclear weapons research."

Does being a communist guarantee that state secrets will be passed on?

How about we change your statement to,

"While I wouldn't have excluded CHRISTIANS, past CHRISTIANS, or CHRISTIANS sympathizers from all federal jobs (not because I like them, but because of the First Amendment), I surely think it's perfectly constitutional and proper to exclude them from secret nuclear weapons research."

Because, well, they might pass state secrets on to the Vatican, or say a pastor in Korea. Just because one is "X" and a repressive regime claims to be "X", doesn't mean I will give secrets because we share "X" in common.
Someone else e-mailed me a similar question, pointing to Jews rather than to Christians.

     I think this analogy is misguided. First, in fact we were not in a Cold War against an evil regime whose main ideology, as opposed to ours, was Christian or Jewish. Nor does Christian or Jewish ideology these days generally call for the destruction by revolution of non-Christian or non-Jewish states (back when it did, the matter might well have been different). Standard Communist ideology in the 1930s through the 1950s did indeed call for that. Not everyone who was a Communist might have adhered to that ideology, but that was the official view, and many did adhere to it.

     Second, I don't think that the test for secret nuclear weapons research jobs should be "[Is it] guarantee[d] that state secrets will be passed on?" When the danger of secrets being passed on is so great, the government should be able to eliminate even modest risks. That someone has only recently belonged to a group whose official ideology calls for the triumph of our enemies and the destruction -- likely violent destruction -- of our system is pretty substantial evidence that he is not entirely trustworthy. The government may exclude him from such very dangerous, top secret jobs even without a "guarantee" that he will betray us.

     In 1942, the government need not have hired in military intelligence or weapons research former Nazi party members, or even people who joined groups that appeared to have strong Nazi sympathies. In 1950, it need not have hired former Communist party members. Today, it need not hire people who had been members of radical Muslim groups whose official ideologies called for the destruction of America, or even people who had expressed such sympathies. If thirty years from now, there was a militant Christian denomination against which we were fighting, I'd say the same about members of those groups. And there'd be no need, I think, to wait for evidence that "guarantee[s] that state secrets will be passed on" before those members are excluded from such jobs.
Witches: A reader writes:
I wonder if you really meant this:
If there were witches, in the standard sense of people who could use black magic to harm the rest of us, then of course we ought to hunt them.
The reason I ask is that you're suggesting hunting witches because they could harm us, not because they are or are planning to. This doesn't seem to me to be a defensible position. Replace black magic with guns and I think you'll see my point.
As I understand it, the conventional understanding of witches was that they got their powers through an alliance with satanic forces, and that they acquired those powers partly to use them against innocent people (or else why did they need the powers?). Punishing them is thus no different from punishing someone who got some very nasty weapons by dealing with the Mafia, or someone who has -- but has not yet used, and as to whom there is no firm evidence that he is about to use -- a radiological bomb that he got from a terrorist organization with which we are at war.

     What to do about magicians, who have powers that they acquired without the help of demons, and who can use those powers for good as well as for ill, is a tough call. Likewise with people who have superpowers that they've always had, and that they can't shed.

     Imagine we discovered that there were telepaths living among us, people who could undetectably read our minds, in a way that we couldn't block. Or imagine that there were people who could undetectably control into our minds, in a way that we couldn't block. Would we be justified in locking them up, or even killing them? A hard question that I don't think we can answer firmly using our current morality, which evolved based on certain assumptions about the physical world, and which might have to change if those assumptions proved false. Fortunately, we live (or appear to live!) in a world where we don't have to make such tough decisions.

     In any case, though, witches -- as conventionally seen by those who went on witch hunts -- are an easier case: They not only have dangerous tools, but they acquired them by conspiring with the Dark Side, and this acquisition shows evidence of malign intentions on their part, as well as a concrete act of dealing in dangerous munitions with the enemy. I have little trouble with punishing them for that.
White men who like Asian women: At The Right Coast, Thomas Smith is criticizing New York Times ethicist Randy Cohen for, among other things, "[advising] a man who finds himself exclusively attracted to Asian women [that] he get help for his racism." I haven't read that Cohen item, but if Smith is characterizing it correctly, Cohen's advice is indeed bunk. There's nothing racist -- expressing hostility, hatred, or dislike or even (shifting subtly away from racism) expressing stereotypical generalization based on race -- about being physically or erotically attracted to women who have a particular look. It is racially discriminatory, but choice of spouse or sexual partner is one place where we rightly don't condemn race discrimination (or for that matter sex discrimination).

     But this brings up one point that I've observed: Whenever the topic of white men who prefer Asian women comes up, someone nearly always theorizes that this is because the men have a stereotype of Asian women as submissive and deferential. The man isn't so much being faulted for racism as for a desire to be the boss in the relationship. I've heard people say this time and again.

     And yet every man I know who is like this (I've known four fairly well) has ended up dating Asian women who are far from submissive or deferential. Likewise, the men I know who are married to Asian women (I put them in a separate category because I have no idea whether they generally prefer Asian women or just happened to marry an Asian woman) do not seem to be married to submissive or deferential women.

     Now perhaps this is just an artifact of my circle -- the men are mostly Los Angeles lawyers; I hardly have an unbiased sample. In fact, this is why I'm not relying on the fact that most of the Asian women I know aren't submissive or deferential; the women I know are an especially biased subsample. And I realize that in former generations, or especially in situations where American men married Asian women they met overseas, the matter might be quite different.

     Still, today, it seems to me that either (1) the men I know who prefer Asian women are repeatedly disappointed, since they seek submissive women but don't get them, and yet keep repeating their error, or (2) the men actually prefer Asian women for very different reasons -- chiefly their looks, since American Asian women (and especially those who are assimilated enough that they're willing to date white men) have very similar personalities to white women. As you might gather, I think item 2 is much more likely, at least for men of my circle, which is to say educated big-city men (though it might quite well apply to men of other circles; I just don't know enough to tell).

     Now I realize that preference for looks is itself complex, since looks can yield both a visceral physical response and what I call an "erotic" response rather than a physical -- a response that's triggered by psychological connections, such as a sense that this woman is exotic and different from most other women, something that some men may find attractive. Still, the preference seems to be for a woman's looks, and not for the woman's willingness to be dominated.

     If I'm right, then what's the reason for the "they just want submissive women" theory? Part of it might be that this was indeed once the preference for some men, for instance those bringing home war brides or mail-order brides -- I'm just purely hypothesizing here, since I have no reason to think that this is so, but at least I can't rule it out.

     But part, I think, might be the tendency of some people -- at least in some circles -- to like theories that place men, and especially white men, in a negative light, the "men are pigs" / "white men are oppressors" theories. Many people who like those theories don't actually hate white men (some might be white men, and some might sleep with white men). Rather, they adopt the theories because in certain circles those theories have a certain fashionable cachet, as signs of deep and power-structure-subversive understanding. And this is so even when the theory seems to have no empirical foundation.

     Or am I mistaken? Is there any real evidence that most white men, or even a substantial number of white men, today who prefer Asian women do so because they think that Asian women are more likely to be submissive?

     (Before people start speculating, no, I'm not saying this just to defend my own preference for Asian women. I've been involved with one Asian woman in the past, and naturally found her attractive, but I've been involved with considerably more non-Asian women, and found them attractive, too.)

UPDATE: Several readers e-mailed to agree with my perception here, based on their own experiences -- some men who marry Asian women they meet overseas are looking for the stereotypical submissive woman (and might be getting her), but it's a mistake to generalize from this to men who prefer Asian-American woman, who don't fit the stereotype, and who aren't sought because of this stereotype. And I should stress that I've heard the "white men who like Asian women must just be looking for submissive women" line about the latter category, as to which the line seems to be quite mistaken.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

More on whether Oppenheimer was a Communist? In response to my "Was Oppenheimer Indeed a Communist?" post, historian Jerome Sternstein passed along the following:
I noticed you called attention to the piece in the SF Chronicle about Oppenheimer. You might want your readers to see this link where they can parse the new, fascinating documents uncovered by Gregg Herken and mentioned in the Chronicle article and now being debated. They could thus make up their own minds about the evidence of whether Oppenheimer was a member of the CPUSA. After reading them and other things, I've concluded he was.
I thought I'd pass it along, for those who are interested.

     A bit more on the broader point: I don't know much about who was a Communist and who wasn't, and I'm not terribly interested in the details. As best I can tell, the McCarthy era was filled with lots of abuses, including lies about who was a Communist, and restrictions that did indeed violate the First Amendment. It's good that we use that era as a cautionary tale, and the reminder of how even originally narrow restrictions end up spreading over time, from out-and-out Communist conspirators to Communist sympathizers to fellow travelers and on.

     At the same time, I balk at casual condemnations of McCarthyism as a "witch hunt." Witch hunts are unambiguously bad because we know there are no witches. If there were witches, in the standard sense of people who could use black magic to harm the rest of us, then of course we ought to hunt them.

     And in the McCarthy era, there were indeed Reds, not under every bed but in some important places. Consider, among others, Klaus Fuchs, a Communist physicist who worked on the Manhattan Project, and he passed some of the A-bomb secrets to the Soviets; in the words of the Encyclopedia Britannica, "His espionage is credited with saving the Soviets at least one year's work in their own program to develop the atomic bomb." He was arrested in 1950; he confessed, and served 9 years in prison.

     While I wouldn't have excluded Communists, past Communists, or Communist sympathizers from all federal jobs (not because I like them, but because of the First Amendment), I surely think it's perfectly constitutional and proper to exclude them from secret nuclear weapons research. If Oppenheimer, who is often painted as having been unfairly victimized by McCarthyism's excesses, had indeed been a Communist, then the Communist hunters may well have been quite right to have gone after him, even if they may have been quite wrong as to many others. And this is so even if he was quite loyal by 1950; in this field, the government is entitled to err on the side of caution.
You're No Psychic: From Jim Holt's review of Debunked! by Georges Charpak and Henri Broch (Johns Hopkins Univ. Press) in today's Wall Street Journal:
Have you ever had a premonition? Did you once have, say, a passing thought about an uncle, only to receive a phone call five minutes later informing you that the beloved relative has dropped dead? If so, this probably struck you as eerie. You might have vaguely believed it was ESP.

Was it? Let's see. Suppose you know of 10 people who die each year. Furthermore, suppose you think of each of them once annually. There are 105,120 five-minute intervals in a year. A simple probability calculation shows that there is a 10 in 105,120 likelihood that you will, as a matter of chance, have a thought about one of these people in the five minutes before you hear of their death. Multiply this likelihood by the population of the U.S. (about a quarter of a billion people) and you find that roughly 25,000 people each year -- about 70 a day -- will have a "psychic" experience of this sort. In fact, it's pure coincidence.
One can quibble with Holt's back-of-the-envelope calculation, but the underlying point is a good one.
"The Wrong Venue for Partisanship": That's what James Taranto (Best of the Web) says, and it seems to me he's right:
"Former US first lady Hillary Clinton said the "stubborn" policies of President George W. Bush's administration were endangering stability in the Middle East," Agence France-Presse reports:
The New York Democrat senator told the London-based Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat that the Bush administration had not been "frank" with the American people concerning the human and financial costs in Iraq.

Clinton said the Bush administration did not have a plan for Iraq and did not have a full understanding of the situation there.

She said the United States was in trouble because it could not abandon Iraq, nor provide enough manpower to run the country, nor gather world allies willing to provide the necessary assistance for the gigantic task.

She described the Bush administration as "stubborn and arrogant" for refusing to admit its mistakes which were endangering US soldiers, Iraqis and stability in the Middle East.
Mrs. Clinton obviously has a perfect right to say whatever she wishes about the Bush administration, but is it really wise to advertise in the Arabic press her belief that the U.S. is in trouble?
     I realize that anything one says in any newspaper may get into the Arabic press. But when the readers in the Arab world, likely including Iraq, know the statement has been made to an Arab newspaper, it seems to me that the perceived force of the statement would be magnified: "The American opposition wants us to know that even they think that the U.S. is in trouble." (The interview was with a British Arabic language newspaper, but naturally the material would be reprinted in other publications in the Arab and Muslim world -- the quote in the Best of the Web story is from Brunei Online, with an Agence France Press dateline of Beirut -- and the readers will likely perceive the statement as having been made to the Arab community.)

     Seems to me that the very likely effect of statements such as this is to magnify the resolve of those who are trying to defeat us, to kill our soldiers, and to take over Iraq (despite the line about "could not abandon Iraq," which many Iraqis would assume could change if America's "trouble" only got big enough). It is especially likely to magnify their resolve to keep fighting until the election, rather than to surrender and be seen as giving Bush a victory. And the standard (and often quite persuasive) justification for such criticism even during wartime, which is that Americans need to hear all the arguments to decide whom to vote for, is at its least forceful with a statement such as this one.

UPDATE: Reader Steve Waldman suggests that Bill Clinton has done better on this score than Hillary, quoting a Jan. 2004 New York Post column by Ralph Peters:
Asked by an eager-to-Bush-bash delegate [at a conference in Qatar] if he, Bill Clinton, would have behaved differently after 9/11, our former president said he would have followed an identical course, pursuing our enemies into Afghanistan and beyond. Queried about his position on Iraq, he stated that any disagreements he might have would be most appropriately expressed at home in the U.S., not before a foreign audience. . . .
(I couldn't find the entire text of the original column, but I've seen it quoted in enough places that I think the quote is likely correct.)
No sex, please, we're astronauts:
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. . . .

Douglas Powell, a psychology professor at Harvard University who was recruited in 1999 by Nasa to investigate the behavioural needs of long-term space trips, said: "Like anywhere, these are normal healthy people in their prime and they are sexually active so they are going to get involved with each other. So what's going to happen in space? It's a serious question and it needs to be confronted."

[S]cientists such as Professor Powell are concerned that the emotional fallout from having a crew where some are happier than others, or where relationships are made and then fall apart, could be disastrous. He noted the comments of one Russian cosmonaut about time spent cooped up in the Mir space station that "when you have two people locked up in a very small environment for months at a time, all the conditions for murder are met." Mix in sex, and you almost have the script of Othello in space. . . .
NASA seems to deny this, however:
Nasa was nonplussed by the suggestion yesterday. "I haven't heard anything about that," said a spokesman at Nasa's Johnson Space Centre, where the long-range trips announced by President George Bush in January are being planned. . . .
Thanks to Dan Gifford for the pointer.
Haitian history in one short sentence: "Haiti doesn't really have the choice of missing this new last chance."

That's from James Foley, U.S. Ambassador to Haiti. Here is the New York Times article. As an aside, I am struck by how words such as "really" and "essentially" alter or reflect the true meaning of sentences. They are almost words of negation. In fact Foley probably does fear that Haiti will choose the wrong path, as it has done in the past.
The Beltway at War: David Brooks has a column in Tuesday's New York Times expressing a feeling I have been having for some time. Here is the gist of it:

These are the crucial months in Iraq. The events in Najaf and Falluja will largely determine whether Iraq will move toward normalcy or slide into chaos.

So how is Washington responding during this pivotal time? Well, for about three weeks the political class was obsessed by Richard Clarke and the hearings of the 9/11 commission, and, therefore, events that occurred between 1992 and 2001. Najaf was exploding, and Condoleezza Rice had to spend the week preparing for testimony about what may or may not have taken place during the presidential transition.

And for the past 10 days, all of Washington has been kibitzing over the contents of Bob Woodward's latest opus, which largely concerns events that happened between 2001 and 2003. Did President Bush eye somebody else's dinner mint at a meeting? Was Colin Powell in the loop on Iraq? When did Bush ask the Pentagon to draw up war plans?

This is crazy. This is like pausing during the second day of Gettysburg to debate the wisdom of the Missouri Compromise. We're in the midst of the pivotal battle of the Iraq war and le tout Washington decides not to let itself get distracted by the ephemera of current events. . . .

What's going on is obvious. The first duty of proper Washingtonians is to demonstrate that they are smarter than whomever they happen to be talking about. It's quite easy to fulfill this mission when you are talking about the past. It's child's play for a salad-course solon who spent the entire 1990's ignoring foreign affairs to condemn the administration piously for not focusing like a laser beam on Al Qaeda on Aug. 6, 2001.

It's harder to be a smart aleck about the future, especially in regards to Najaf and Falluja, where none of the choices are good ones. Do the Baathists win a victory every day they hold off our siege? Or if we take them out now, do we undermine Sistani? We Klieg Light Kierkegaards will give you the right answer — three years from now, after whatever option the president takes has been judged and found wanting. . . .

Over the next weeks, U.S. forces are going to jump from the fires of unilateralism to the frying pan of multilateralism. What's going to happen when our generals want to take on some insurgents but Brahimi and the sovereign Iraqi appointees say no? We here in Washington will have a considered opinion. Our opinion will be that Joseph Wilson really nailed Karl Rove in his forthcoming book.
And while you are at it, you might be interested in this piece on Bob Kerrey's appearance on Comedy Central's The Daily Show. I must admit I fast forwarded through his interview before deleting the show from my Tivo.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Unethical: I've tried not to keep beating the Randy "Ethicist" Cohen horse; I've had my say, and he's still a famous syndicated and NTYM columnist and I'm not, so I guess the market has spoken. I try to exercise the willpower not to check up on him, sometimes lapse, and am sometimes annoyed and sometimes bored.

But I do want to direct your attention to a really lovely review, from the new issue of Reason Papers, of Cohen's silly book, The Good, The Bad, and the Difference, by philosopher Steven Sanders.
Chinese demographics and sex ratios: The ever-insightful Randall Parker has much to say about these issues. First, by 2040 China will have a higher proportion of elderly than will the United States. This will create fiscal problems, but on the bright side such a China is unlikely to be militarily aggressive. Yet there will be other problems:
"In 1993 and 1994, more than 121 boys were born in China for every 100 baby girls. (The normal ratio at birth is around 105; for reasons debated among biologists, humans seem naturally to churn out slightly more boys than girls.) In India during the period 1996 to 1998, the birth ratio was 111 to 100; in Taiwan in 2000, it was 109.5. In 1990 a town near New Delhi reported a sex ratio at birth of 156.

Valerie Hudson argues that the shortage of females is not going to self-correct because the females and their parents can not leverage the scarcity of the females for self-benefit and so there is no market incentive to have more female children. If certain free-market Ph.D. economists of my acquaintance (and the rest of you as well) have read this far do you have any comments to offer on this point?"

Parker suggests that too many unmarried young men end up making trouble. Of course this could happen before 2040. So what is the deal, will families see reason to favor having daughters rather than sons? Will dowries kick in and restore the sex ratio to greater balance? Immigration, of course, only transfers the problem to another country. In any case adjustments will take time and clearly voluntary forces are not creating a balanced sex ratio today. If you are looking for a classic externalities problem to teach your class, I will nominate this as a prime example.

The game theory problem, of course, is tricky. If you think that no one else will prefer daughters, you will prefer to have a daughter to get a high dowry. If you think that everyone will opt for daughters, you prefer sons. One way of getting more daughters is for everyone to think that the others prefer sons. Of course this fails some definitions of rationality. One suspects that a "mixed strategy" obtains, in which case families prefer daughters with some probability.
Another Bushism, this one from the Financial Times, debunked, by my former student, Raffi Melkonian:
My favorite newspaper, the Financial Times, enjoys its forays into the land of Bush-isms . . . . Here's today's entirely misguided effort in the admittedly lighthearted "Observer" column:
Where's the beef?

George W. Bush is proud of his "No Child Left Behind Act". But one problem with the policy is it provides no help for children left behind years ago -- like Bush himself.

In Minnesota on Monday, Bush did his best to show off his knowledge of geography and science: "I shared a story the other day during a press conference where I talked about a dinner I had with Prime Minister Koizumi of Japan. And we're eating Kobe beef."

So far, so good . . . until: "I don't know whether it's grown here in Minnesota or not, but it's real good."

Hold on Mr President, Kobe beef grown in Minnesota? It's a good thing those Japanese cows can't vote.
Of course, if the "Observer" had stopped revelling in his or her own intellectual superiority for more than a second, he or she would have noticed that Kobe beef may not be produced in Minnesota, but it definitely is in Idaho, Nebraska, Oregon, and a whole host of other states throughout the country. Yes, of course -- true Wagyu Kobe is from Japan. But that's neither what the President said or meant . . . .
     Good point; but what's more, if you look at the transcript, it seems clear that the very reason Bush mentioned Kobe beef is that he knew that it's originally a Japanese dish. The line is an aside in a speech that has nothing to do with beef. It's obviously a little joke (not very funny, I realize) of the tie-the-story-to-this-occasion variety; there's just no other possible explanation. Given this, why would Bush mention that he doesn't know whether the beef is from Minnesota? Either it's also a gag (these days, you can have Kobe beef from Minnesota just like you can have Chryslers assembled in some foreign country), or it's another attempt to tie the story to the location. It's certainly not confusion about whether Kobe beef is or is not originally Japanese.

     So another failure of the "Bushism" genre -- a genre that's prone more to showing errors on its authors' part than on Bush's part.

UPDATE: Two readers pointed out that the italicized "grown," and the reference to "knowledge of . . . science" suggest that the Financial Times is making another point besides Kobe beef being Japanese -- that beef isn't grown but rather (presumably) raised. On reflection, I agree that the article must be making that point; but I missed it because it's such a stretch. My New Shorter Oxford defines "grow" as, among other things, "produce (plants, fruit, wool, etc.) by cultivation," which clearly covers animal products, and beef presumably as much as wool. The American Heritage defines "to raise" as one definition of "to grow." A LEXIS search found a bunch of examples of "grow beef" (in Bush's sense of raising cows, not just in the narrower sense of making cows bigger). There's just nothing wrong with Bush's statement.

FURTHER UPDATE: Reader Bruce Holder wisely suggests a google search for "beef growers," which finds references to the the Natural Beef Grower's Network, the Southern Beef Growers Cooperative, a headline in Iowa Farmer Today (it's attached to an AP story, but I believe the headlines are typically written by the newspaper, not the wire service), and more.
Michael Kinsley will head L.A. Times opinion and editorial section: So says Editor & Publisher. I think Kinsley did a very good job as founding editor of Slate -- and, in particular, welcomed a wide mix of political perspectives, including the unorthodox -- so I'm quite pleased by this move.
Vieth v. Jubelirer: In one of two decisions issued this morning, the Supreme Court come's within a hair's breadth of overturning Davis v. Bandemer. Four Justices -- Scalia, Thomas, Rehnquist and O'Connor -- were ready to hold all claims of partisan gerrymandering to be nonjusticiable. Justice Kennedy, while rejecting the challenge to Pennsylvania's gerrymandered Congressional districts, refused to go along for that part of Justice Scalia's opinion. SCOTUSBlog has a post here; AP story is here. More after reading and digesting the opinion.