Politics: September 2002 Archives
September 24, 2002
Okay, Captain Euro Goes to Sunnydale is brilliant. Mac captures the voices of the characters absolutely perfectly (and incidentally, the political commentary is pretty decent too):
XANDER: So this is what you do, huh? You roll into town in your tights and insult people with your nose-up-in-the-air attitude? I need any insulting done, I can get it at home, I don't need your contribution.
SPIKE: And I'll insult him.
XANDER: Right, Spike can insult me. Lord knows, that's the only way he ever gets to hurt anyone anymore.
SPIKE: Mate, don't push your luck.
XANDER: Or what, you'll have a headache at me? Bring it on, blondie.
Every once in a while someone in a position of authority will stand up and say something that needs saying, and say it openly (none of this "a source at…" crap). The sad thing about this is that it's rare enough to be noteworthy.
Harvard President Lawrence Summers stood up and said some things that needed saying about anti-Semitism in the Western world, and I respect him for that. Often University presidents, like other heads of state, refrain from saying the things that need saying because of other concerns (political or not). His adamant denial that Harvard would divest itself of Israeli monetary concerns was worthy of applause, however shameful the need for it.
Someone else from Harvard has added their own voice to the mix, again in an open manner which invites debate and confrontation. Alan Dershowitz has written an opinion piece challenging Paul Hanson, a House Master at Harvard who signed the divestment petition. Dershowitz makes several important points regarding Israel's history of democracy and respect for human rights, among them praise for Israel's independent judiciary, its protections for freedom of speech, its refusal to use torture to extract information from suspects, and its multiple offers of statehood for the areas it has conquered. In a final masterstroke, he challenges Hanson to an open debate on the topic—a challenge Hanson has refused once already, citing "more important priorities". (Though what priorities could be more pressing to a Harvard professor than openly defending their ideological stance, a stance many people find objectionable and would doubtless like clarified, is hard to imagine. or perhaps not, given how defensible Hanson's stance is…)
When one side of an argument issues public invitations to openly debate the positions and the merits, and the other side has better things to do, I think it reflects rather important clues as to which side is both more intellectually honest, and more morally correct. Of course, Dershowitz says it better:
A House master who peremptorily signs a petition and then hides behind "other priorities" does not serve the interests of dialogue and education. I hope that Hanson will accept my challenge, and that if he does not, that I will be invited by his students to help fill the educational gap left by the cowardice of those who have signed this petition and refuse to defend their actions in public debate.
September 23, 2002
How you can tell when a government has jumped the shark: they start issuing "five year plans", each of which have "similar goals" — thus indicating no real progress from one to the next.
With 15,484 meetings held and 5,879 reports issued — each in six languages — during the latest two-year budget cycle, UN officials say their workload has become so heavy that it has left them little time to carry out their required tasks, let alone reflect on what their organization is doing and how well it is performing.
Of course, the report says nothing about addressing the inherent contradictions and blindnesses present in many of their programs. On the contrary:
September 11, 2002
The world is a complicated place. It was a complicated place on 9/10/2001, and it's an equally complicated place today. I have no doubt that it will still be a complicated place on 9/11/2003 as well. 9/11 didn't simplify things, nor complicate them; on a macro scale, I don't even think it actually changed much.
This post was actually written on 9/12, but I have backdated it to the night before so that it will show up if anyone goes looking for that date on my blog.
September 9, 2002
Den Beste says:
Of all the odd statements in here, easily the most strange one is this:
The authority of the state derives from its goals.
That goes totally contrary to my political belief, which is that the authority of a state derives from a mandate granted by those who are part of it. This statement turns out to be the key to understanding Treanor's fundamental politics: he doesn't see states as being permanent entities, nor as being ones associated with physical locations.
Actually, surprisingly enough this didn't originate with Treanor. In fact, it was (or at least, is very similar to) one of the major influences in the French Revolution -- which was heavily informed by political philosophy of the early to mid 1700's, much like our own American Revolution. In that Revolution, the government was considered to receive its mandate from "the will of the people" -- but not in any way most Americans would interpret that phrase. The *goals* of the state served as pure justification for any action the French government -- whose every act, by definition, was the righteous execution of the "will of the people" -- might take, including terror, purges, executions, and torture. I believe that the state was also defined similarly to Treanor's ravings -- as the pure expression of a set of political goals, rather than any physical location or constituency. One can verify this by scanning the original French Constitution's language.
For more on the topic (and I know I've plugged this before) check out a book called Sister Revolutions: French Lightning, American Light, which is a comparative history of the French and American revolutions and their ideological underpinnings (as well as a dissection of why the American Revolution was so much more successful, at least from a classical liberal point of view). Anyone who shares Den Beste's political beliefs (or who finds the anarcho-fascist viewpoint utterly incomprehensible) might find the book instructive.
One final note: it's not entirely bankrupt to consider a state a non-permanent, non-physically located entity. One can easily speak of states that no longer exist, or a state "in exile" (much as Taiwan has considered itself China "in exile"). Depending on one's sympathy for them, one might even consider the existence of a Palestinian "state", despite the fact that it has no borders and exists almost purely at Israel's sufferance. The definition of state is fairly nebulous; we can't demarcate by ideology (else the US itself would not be a state) nor by race/ethnicity (ditto). We could define a state as a population or area governed by a common system and instance of government, but that runs the risk of identifying the local union or Rotary Club a state, which doesn't seem right either. Also, one might consider the smallest state possible. Can one man be a state? What if he's a head of government (a King, perhaps) in exile? What if he's a billionaire who buys an old oil platform in international waters, raises a flag over it, and lives there alone? (I don't believe Treanor's "Europe" is a valid state, but it's difficult to articulate a precise definition of "state" that correlates with my "common sense" of whether something is a state or not.)