Showing posts from September, 2007

phony soldiers: a timeline

August 19th , op-ed in the New York Times by seven soldiers of the U.S. Army 82nd Airborne serving in Iraq: In the end, we need to recognize that our presence may have released Iraqis from the grip of a tyrant, but that it has also robbed them of their self-respect. They will soon realize that the best way to regain dignity is to call us what we are -- an army of occupation -- and force our withdrawal. Until that happens, it would be prudent for us to increasingly let Iraqis take center stage in all matters, to come up with a nuanced policy in which we assist them from the margins but let them resolve their differences as they see fit. This suggestion is not meant to be defeatist, but rather to highlight our pursuit of incompatible policies to absurd ends without recognizing the incongruities. We need not talk about our morale. As committed soldiers, we will see this mission through. September 12th : NYT reports that two of those soldiers have made the ultimate sacrifice for their na

Little Rock

Today is the 50th anniversary of Little Rock. Above is the famous photo by Will Counts (above), the caption to which reads: Elizabeth Eckford, followed and taunted by an angry crowd after she was denied entrance to Little Rock Central High School, September 4, 1957. The girl in the light dress behind her is Hazel Bryan. Will Counts/Arkansas History Commission. Vanity Fair has an indepth article on the lives of those two women , which makes for a fascinating tale of racism and redemption in its own right. And yet, the story doesn't quite have a happy ending: Central High School looks as imposing as ever, but over the past 50 years, its innards have changed unimaginably: the school is now more than half black. It's all misleading, of course, because Central is really two different schools, separate and unequal, under one roof. The blacks go to different classes, sit on separate sides of the cafeteria, have different, and far lower, levels of performance and expectations. There

Jena 6: persecution, not prosecution

I knew nothing - absolutely nothing - about this story until I listened to this report on NPR . So a bunch of black ruffians beat a white kid nearly to death? No, actually the victim had superficial injuries and went to a party later that evening. The black students were unprovoked and this was out of the blue? No, actually it was the culmination of a year of racial tension that began when white students hung nooses on a tree to intimdate black students. HUNG. NOOSES. FROM. TREES. And loony lefty liberals are making a false analogy to the days of Jim Crow? No, The first to go to court was Mychal Bell, the team's star running and defensive back. Bell's court-appointed lawyer refused to mount any defense at all, instead resting his case immediately after two days of government presentation. An all-white jury found Bell guilty. A talented athlete, Bell had a real shot at a Division I football scholarship. He now faces up to 22 years in prison. The other five black students await t

An economist reviews the Surge

Steven Levitt of Freakonomics fame discusses this economic analysis of the Surge in Iraq by Michael Greenstone , an economist at MIT, calling it "thorough and thoughtful." Overall the analysis is neither uniformly negative nor positive, instead apolitical and dispassionate. One particularly interesting part is a discussion of the financial bond markets, which Levitt summarizes: The most interesting part of Greenstone’s paper is his analysis of the pricing of Iraqi government debt. The Iraq government has issued bonds in the past. These entitle the owner of the bond to a stream of payments over a set period of time, but only if the government does not default on the loan. If Iraq completely implodes, it is highly unlikely that these bonds will be paid off. How much someone would pay for the rights to that stream of payments depends on their estimate of the probability that Iraq will implode. The bond data, unlike the other sources he examines, tell a clear story: the financia

Mr. Editor, Tear This Pay Wall Down

The grand experiment that was TimesSelect has ended; tonight the reign of terror ends and tomorrow we the citizens will storm the Bastille, liberating the punditry therein. The New York Times will stop charging for access to parts of its Web site, effective at midnight Tuesday night. [...] In addition to opening the entire site to all readers, The Times will also make available its archives from 1987 to the present without charge, as well as those from 1851 to 1922, which are in the public domain. There will be charges for some material from the period 1923 to 1986, and some will be free. It is particularly gratifying to see that the archives are open from 1987 onwards. That will be a tremendous asset to the public, bloggers especially. The usual assumption would be that TimesSelect was a drag on revenue, but it actually seems to have been a financial success. The real reason for tearing down the pay wall was because open access provided an opportunity for more growth, an acknowledgeme

9/11, the salience of mortality, and the future of American democracy

1. PLEASE BRIEFLY DESCRIBE THE EMOTIONS THAT THE THOUGHT OF YOUR OWN DEATH AROUSES IN YOU. 2. JOT DOWN, AS SPECIFICALLY AS YOU CAN, WHAT YOU THINK WILL HAPPEN TO YOU AS YOU PHYSICALLY DIE AND ONCE YOU ARE PHYSICALLY DEAD. These two questions are part of one kind of psychological experiment * designed to measure the difference in subsequent behavior between people confronted with thinking about their own death, and those not so confronted. Using methods like these, psychology researchers are zeroing in on a truth that is still not well enough, or widely enough, understood about events like 9/11: they really do change everything -- that is, they really do change the way people, in the aggregate, think about everything. Mortality salience In " Death Grip: How political psychology explains Bush's ghastly success, " John Judis of The New Republic provides an overview of this research, called variously "mortality salience theory" or "terror management theory.&qu

Allow me to introduce myself

Hi, I'm Thomas Nephew. Earlier this summer, Aziz was kind enough to invite me to join this blog as an occasional contributor. It's an honor; I've admired Aziz's writing at "unmedia," "City of Brass" and here for a long time; I find my own first mention of him back in September, 2002 at my blog, "newsrack," with many more thereafter. Not that we necessarily agree on everything. For one thing, I favor impeachment of Bush and Cheney on a number of grounds, including principally the fraudulent case for the Iraq war (which I reluctantly came to support once upon a time), torture, and the warrantless electronic surveillance. I also favor a rapid timetable for withdrawal from Iraq -- I think our presence is doing Iraqis no good, and harms our soldiers , our society, and our interests. I make no claims to particular wisdom ("that's obvious enough," many will snort) or deep political consistency over the years. I'm a lifelo

Ryugyong Hotel

Tim Johnson has a great detailed photo of the fabled Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang. Probably the best shot I've seen yet, better than the one on the Wikipedia page for certain.


It's six years since 9-11. Everyone has their own stories about what they were doing that day when time stopped and a nation turned to CNN. It was a day that truly changed the world, like a catalyst. It is time now to accept the new world we have and stop worrying about why it is so. That also means letting go of 9-11 to some extent. What about 9-12? What world do we want to create? From the beginning, 9-11 has been politicized by the Bush Administration and the Republican Party. It's become a substitute for debate, a massive black hole on the horizon of our political discourse. Contrast this with the soaring rhetoric by President Bush to a joint session of Congress just days after the attacks: "Some speak of an age of terror...But this country will define our times...As long as the United States of America is determined and strong, this will not be an age of terror; this will be an age of liberty, here and across the world." But what is the actual legacy of 9-11 thin

illegal immigration is not a crime

So says Rudy Giuliani , on the Glenn Beck radio show: GIULIANI: Glenn, it's not a crime. I know that's very hard for people to understand, but it's not a federal crime. GLENN: It's a misdemeanor but if you've been nailed, it is a crime. If you've been nailed, ship back and come back, it is a crime. GIULIANI: Glenn, being an illegal immigrant, the 400,000 were not prosecuted for crimes by the federal government, nor could they be. I was U.S. attorney in the southern district of New York. So believe me, I know this. In fact, when you throw an immigrant out of the country, it's not a criminal proceeding. It's a civil proceeding. GLENN: Is it -- GIULIANI: One of the things that congress wanted to do a year ago is to make it a crime, which indicates that it isn't. GLENN: Should it be? GIULIANI: Should it be? No, it shouldn't be because the government wouldn't be able to prosecute it. We couldn't prosecute 12 million

North Korea is Camazotz

Watch this astounding video of the Arirang Mass Games in North Korea, which Tim Johnson calls " magnificent and chilling at the same time ." It's a visual example of the "mass mind" atmosphere within the DPRK. I am reminded of the fictional world of Camazotz, from Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time . The Jong Il dynasty is the disembodied brain IT, which enthralls the population into a synchronized hive, existing only for the purpose of being slaves, but slavery for its own sake (unlike the more modern, purpose-driven slavery).

juche do it

Tim Johnson, who writes for the China Rises blog at McClatchy, is blogging while on a visit to North Korea . It promises to be a surreal experience, and valuable as a peek behind the concrete curtain. For example, the airline infrastructure is something out of a 50's novel: On landing in Pyongyang, I was amazed at the vehicle that brought the stairs to the plane. You can see it in the photo. Obviously, it was some contraption made in the Soviet era as well, and passed on to the fraternal North Koreans. It looks like a stretch El Camino mixed with some sort of old Cadillac. Anyway, it was those touches that made me think I had entered into some other-worldly theme park that ought to have a huge admission price. He also notes that DPRK is environmentally pristine, which is unsurprising given that North Korea is utterly dark from space . Johnson wonders if maybe DPRK will become the "Bhutan of East Asia." This strikes me as wildly optimistic.