Monday, April 29, 2002

# Posted 10:25 AM by Dan  

BUSH THE SQUEEZER. When I looked at the headline for a New York Times article about college loans entitled "Bush Seeking to Squeeze School Loan Program," Bernard Goldberg's book "Bias" immediately came to mind. Then I read the article. I hate sounding like a liberal hack. But....Mitch Daniels' spokeman admitted that the proposal ended a program which has allowed college and university students to consolidate their student loans at a fixed rate with up to 30 years to pay them back. Instead, consolidated loans would only be offered at variable rates. Okay, I understand the logic here, the government was losing money on the program. Then the kicker--the proposal was part of the administration's request to Congress for a $27 billion SUPPLEMENTAL spending bill, mostly for counterterrorism programs. $1.3 billion is a drop in the bucket compared to the $27 billion. Oh, and if Bush had slowed down or eased up on the tax cut, the program would probably still exist. I guess I'm a liberal hack.
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# Posted 9:32 AM by Dan  

JOSH, I AGREE THAT CONSERVATIVES ARE STIGMATIZED. A far higher percentage of people in his Rhodes class who are "liberal" would be willing to admit their political leanings than those who are "conservative." Why is this? Are conservatives embarrassed about their positions? Is it "cool" to be liberal in college but "uncool" to be conservative? How many of the 32 first year American Rhodies are conservative? I still think the number is low--somewhere around 6. Sure, young conservatives are creeping their way into the academy, but for each example you give, there are plenty of lefties who pack the lecture halls. Plus, most of the names you have named are foreign policy experts to whom we looked following the confusion of 9/11. One more question: are you saying that diversity in the academy is mere tokenism? The fact that colleges and universities are now filled with great non-white male Professors is good for students and society. You make it seem so zero-sum: more diversity means lower quality academia. We both know this is not true.
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Sunday, April 28, 2002

# Posted 11:51 AM by Dan  

TOM FRIEDMAN, MAN WITHOUT A PLAN? As Josh mentions below, Friedman states, "America has to chart the way with a big idea." But what idea is that? Dennis Ross was more specific about three options for the future in his Washington Post column. I agree with Josh only partially about the goals of the second intifada--yes, elements within the Palestinian leadership and masses call for the elimination of Israel, and Arafat himself would probably like to drive the Jews into the Mediterranean. But I also feel that the intifada is a way for Arafat to deflect criticism and project it onto Israel. Marwan had argued that Palestinian attacks should be limited to areas in which Israel occupied Palestinian land (i.e. the West Bank and Gaza, not Israel proper). Ross' third option, unilateral separation and the uprooting of isolated settlements, will spare Israeli lives. It will also give Israel far more justification in its responses to attacks inside of its sovereign boders.
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# Posted 6:19 AM by Anand  

THERE IS A LAND where at least several hundred, but more likely a few thousand, Muslims were recently butchered. Most were burned alive – even parents in front of their children. The killing, while performed by mobs, was not exactly a private operation: the state police looked the other way as anti-Muslim bigots tore their way through the streets, and might even have assisted the mobs in pinpointing Muslim targets. The statesman in charge is known to have circulated a memo assessing the political gains to be derived from the carnage. And 130,000 refugees, most of them Muslims, were forced into refugee camps in the midst of their own war-torn city, many of them lacking basic amenities like water, sanitation and food.

This land is a birthplace of ancient civilization, split between feuding faiths. Not Israel: India.

It is hard to say which is more puzzling – the silence from the Arab world or from the United States. On the face of it, you would think this is just the kind of thing the Arabs have been complaining about for ages – a systematic, state-sponsored, almost genocidal campaign against Muslims, all in the name of religion. But it hasn’t seemed the draw the level of outrage that Israel’s activities always spark. Then again, what’s the fun in mourning a few hundred seared Muslims when there are no Jews to blame?

Perhaps more galling is the American response – which, to be precise, is the absence of a response. A State Department spokesman bravely ventured that India is “a multiethnic secular nation, accepting of all religions,” and that the U.S. favored (drum roll, please) a “peaceful resolution to their differences.”

It’s a bit late for that. The peace was shattered long ago. What remains to be seen is whether anyone takes a principled stand against the massacre. It is especially important that America take a stand. The U.S. calls itself a friend of Muslims everywhere; it has no reason not to be. Indeed, its last 4 wars – in the Gulf, Bosnia, Kosovo, and Afghanistan – have been waged in defense of Muslims. But there remains a perception problem in the Islamic world, which we now know all too well. When one is wrapping up a war against one Muslim nation (Afghanistan), formulating plans to invade another (Iraq), and standing steadfastly behind the archnemesis of the pan-Islamic world (Israel) – even if, as in all the above cases, for the right reasons – one should exploit any opportunity to prove that American foreign policy is not directed exclusively toward sabotaging Allah.

For the Arabs and Americans alike, it’s a problem of foggy lenses, of seeing only what one wants to see. Arabs cannot fathom Muslim victims without Jewish perpetrators. And Americans these days cannot fathom Muslim victims period.
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Friday, April 26, 2002

# Posted 9:39 AM by Anand  

FOR A TIME AFTER September 11, a rugged patriotism seemed poised to strangle American materialism. President Bush suggested we had abandoned our “soft” ways. The terrorists “thought we were weak and materialistic,” he said. “Instead, they have found a patient, determined, compassionate nation that stands in the way of their efforts to spread evil.” Americans had discovered higher purpose. As if to signal the triumph of mind over matter, retailers emblazoned products with pledges to channel proceeds to charity. Keds launched AmeriKeds shoes to support the Red Cross; Steve Madden spun out the Bravest – a $50 sneaker bearing an American flag made of imitation rhinestones – to raise money for the families of firefighters slain in the attacks; Sony released its best-selling tribute album, whose cover pledged a donation to the Twin Towers Fund. But reports of the death of profiteering have been greatly exaggerated. Many charities went months without earning a dime from their retail tie-ins, and several corporations, like Sony, did not even bother to consult the charities whose names they applied to merchandise. Steve Madden racked up a whopping $515,783 profit from the Bravest, while the other Bravest – those 343 departed firefighters – remained untouched by his bounty. But some vendors do not even feign charity: for them patriotism is not a calling above the clamor of the mall; it’s an excuse to shop. Guess jeans is selling American flag hinge bracelets and sport tank-tops, dog-tag necklaces and star-studded earring sets in patriotic tricolor. Topps, the baseball-card maker, has launched Enduring Freedom: a 90-card pack that, in addition to the president and vice president, includes cards for such childhood heroes as Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta. New York Cargo markets its $70 flag-adorned bomber jacket as an “absolute must in this time of crisis for our country. The USA Flag jacket is all you need to promote the fact that the USA is truely (sic!) the greatest country on earth.” But the award for slickest post-9/11 sales pitch must go to Jeff Tritel, a California sculptor and the mind behind American Brass Balls – which are, basically, replicas of male genitalia cast in silver, brass, vermeil and gold. Brass balls, Tritel explains, tell the world: “We’ve Got What It Takes.” Hawked for their “lifelike realism,” they come in many forms – including, for ladies, the 14K testicular pendant, at $295.95, or brass testicular earrings, only $49.95. Another “unique and wacky gift” is Bumper Balls, to mount on the back of a truck. Once you rummage past the vulgarity of Tritel’s project, you almost feel there is something refreshingly honest about it. No pretension to transcend consumption, no false pledge to forsake profit for September’s victims: softness is still in.
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Thursday, April 25, 2002

# Posted 8:32 PM by Dan  

DENNIS ROSS writes about the Middle East as credibly as anyone else. He was, after all, Director of Policy Planning for Daddy Bush and Special Envoy under Clinton. He wrote a great piece in the Washington Post today. While pessimistic, Ross is pretty realistic when it comes to options in the Middle East. First, Secretary of State Powell's trip did almost nothing. Ross correctly points out that Israel's military incursions have destroyed terrorist infatructure in the West Bank, but that solution is only temporary. We are left with three options: bypass Arafat, develop a timeline of mutual obligations, or unilateral separation. Support has been growing for this option, which does not solve the conflict, but creates a coherent defense line. My main objection to option number is three is strategic, not moral--I feel that settlements are morally and physically unsustainable. However, like Ross, I worry about the symbolic effect of withdrawing in light of the violence against Israeli citizens in the form of murder-suicide bombings (or, homicide bombings). Unilateral withdrawal could send a message that continued violence may produce additional territorial concessions. However, Israel will be far more justified in responding to attacks when they come from an area which they do not currently occupy. In that sense, option three involving the creation of a wall might be the best one for now.
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Wednesday, April 24, 2002

# Posted 1:47 PM by Dan  

THOMAS FRIEDMAN is best when he writes about the Middle East, as illustrated by his NYT column today. Friedman differs from other NYT colmnists by distributing blame to all of those who deserve it, instead of sending it one way (i.e. Krugman or Safire). Friedman's column essentially attacks the Israeli, Palestinian, and Saudi leadership. According to him, most Israelis want "a practical, non-ideological solution, one that says, "Let's pull back to this line, abandon these settlements and engage the Palestinians with this proposal, because that is what will preserve our Jewish democracy, and forget about the other stuff." So Tom supports unilateral withdrawal. He did not mention whether or not he supports the building of a fence, as many Israelis (including former PM Ehud Barak) now advocate. My favorite line: "Someone should tell the European fools who now rush to protect Mr. Arafat that when this intifada started it was directed partly at his corrupt leadership, but he redirected it all onto Israel — with Mr. Sharon's help — decimating both the Palestinian economy and the very Israeli peace camp that is the only force that can deliver Palestinians a state." Arafat does not want to compromise because his demands are far beyond what even the most left-leaning and peace loving Israeli is willing to offer. My opinion: no peace, no Palestinian state, and a continued stalemate as long as Arafat remains leader. A few months ago he was a "Dead Man Walking" but as long as he keeps eating yogurt and taking naps, the cycle of violence will continue.
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