Saturday, May 28, 2005

This certainly is a step forward for Amnesty International.

A question:

Gov. Mitt Romney vetoed a bill Friday to expand stem cell experiments in Massachusetts...because extracting the stem cells destroys embryos.

Is there any conceivable non-religious justification for Romney's position? Is there any way at all to justify it besides arguing that human life is sacred for sectarian religious reasons (i.e. something along the lines of "because man was made in the image of God")?

Friday, May 20, 2005

Henry Hyde is at it again. Hyde is pushing a bill through the House that would withhold US dues from the UN unless the UN reforms.

I consider this to be absolutely outrageous. The UN is a multinational organization that does not, and cannot, answer to one nation. UN reform is important, but it is equally important that such reform be accomplished through consensus between nations that make up the UN. It is apalling for one nation to dictate the outcome of the process.

If the bill is passed and US money is indeed withheld, I hope the UN will take away the US general assembly seat, as it threatened to do the last time Hyde pulled the same shenanigans during the Clinton years.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Build-it-yourself Sexism:

Are Ikea brochures sexist? Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik thinks so and is not afraid to voice his opinion. Loudly. This week, he criticized the Swedish home furnishings mega-store of sexism, insisting its how-to brochures show only cartoon men assembling the store's trademark build-it-yourself furniture. Stunned, the company -- which works so hard at being politically correct that it even boasts that its catalogues are "printed on totally chlorine-free paper and contain at least 10-15 percent post-consumer waste -- immediately defended itself, saying cartoon women do appear and quickly produced an example. It must have been tough to find. The Norwegian newspaper Verdens Gang did its own research on more than 2,000 "follow me" building instructions and failed to find a single female figure.

Ikea quickly responded with a politically-correct, albeit dubious, answer, insisting that some nations view women building cupboards and beds as offensive. "We have branches all over the world and have to be sensitive to cultural differences," Ikea told the paper. "In Muslim countries, displaying women on building instruction manuals is problematic."

The excuses far from satisfied Prime Minister Bondevik, who fired off his own quick response, saying "It is important -- not least in Islamic countries -- to push for sexual equality. I see no justification for this." While, personally, Bondevik admits he has "great problems screwing such furniture together," he recognizes the company's wide appeal (300 million people a year shop at Ikea) and insists that the company take more responsibility for the implicit political messages its brochures communicate. Always quick to quell a controversy, Ikea has promised to review its instructions leaflets and "get more of a balance between men and women."

Sunday, May 15, 2005

No comment neccessary:

The people of Uzbekistan want to see a more representative and democratic government. But that should come through peaceful means, not through violence.

--Scott McClellan, White House Press Secretary.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

All the disagreements I seem to be having with conservatives these days are, essentially, disagreements over whether this essay is on the mark: Patriotism and Cosmpolitanism, by Martha Nussbaum.

Dong-A Pharmaceuticals is my new favorite company.

Down with he-men.

A German politician has been forced to resign after pouring wine over the head of a homeless man.

Peter Gloystein, Economy Minister in the state of Bremen, doused a stunned Udo Oelschlaeger during the launch of German wine week last Wednesday.

"Here's something for you to drink," he said as he poured the wine. "Who are you? Why are you doing this?," a tearful Mr Oelschlaeger retorted.

Mr Gloystein said he had met Mr Oelschlaeger later and apologised.

Friday, May 13, 2005

I love the Huffington Post. Blogs should strive to be more like newspapers, i.e. regular producers of high quality content. The way to achieve this is to have a huge number of commentators who will collectively create a large number of posts per day.

Some of the posts, though, are mildly disconcerting. Kevin Hassett, "director of economic policy studies" at the AEI writes the following on the why the exit polls went for Kerry:

....while there are many patterns in the data that suggest something other than fraud, for me, the most interesting finding is that exit poll completion rates were strikingly low for polls taken by college and graduate students. When college kids did the interviewing, a higher percentage of interviewees refused to cooperate.

He references the Edison/Mitofsky report for this claim. Below I've reproduced the relevant table from the report (page 45):

Interviewer Education Completion Rate Refusal Rate Miss Rate
High School or Less 0.52 0.36 0.11
One to Three Years of College 0.53 0.37 0.11
Four Year College Degree 0.55 0.34 0.11
Some Graduate Credits 0.57 0.34 0.10
Advanced Graduate Degreee such as M.A., M.B.A, or Ph.D. 0.60 0.32 0.08

The dude is on crack.

( Now, to be fair, Hassett could have actually made similar claims that would be supported by the data - for example, he could have cited correlation not between completion rates and interviewer education, but between within-precint-error and interviewer education. If this is indeed what Hasset meant, I would make the following remarks: a. Hardly surprising as a misunderstanding of the basic variables in question is exactly what I would expect from an AEI scholar. b. The pro-Kerry bias is present in varying strenghts for every education level and every age. If you accept the idea that members of each party are more likely to talk to some demographics and not others, then finding a pro-Kerry bias for whatever demographic you think is most Republican should be deeply disturbing for you. )

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Why do conservatives dislike the United Nations? As far as I can tell, two reasons. The first is that most evangelicals tend to interpret the book of Revelation to the effect that there will be one world government under the reign of the Antichrist, which makes them paranoid about the UN; second, most nations disagree with the perspective of US conservatives on most issues (i.e. war, Israel, international aid, testing of nuclear weapons,etc) so the UN is quite often the bearer of an agenda the conservatives dislike.

However, as neither of these two is much of an argument against the UN per se, conservatives often tend to get incoherent when discussing the UN. A favorite trick: set a high standard for the U.N. it was never meant to fulfill, and attack it for failing to fulfill it. Watch Joe Scarborough do it:

A million Rwandan citizens were hacked to death in the mid-1990's.

But the United Nations did nothing.

A few years later, genocide struck the African continent again in Sudan.

That's right. The same Sudan that is once again in the grip of a brutally efficient killing machine.

The situation got so bad by 1997 that I worked together with human rights groups and former New York Times editor Abe Rosenthal to get the word out across America that millions were being persecuted.

Once again, the United Nations did nothing.

Reports out of Sudan eight years ago told of children as young as eight years old being crucified for their parents' beliefs. Other young boys and girls were sold into slavery for as little as $15.

Things became so bleak that the United Nations and the Clinton Administration did, well, nothing.

In fact, when I tried to pass a resolution through Congress calling for sanctions against the murderous regime, Clinton's State Department fought it with all their might...

Fast forward eight years and you find that little has changed.

President Bush has called the crisis in Sudan genocide, but he has done little to stop it.

The United Nations has muttered about how the Sudan situation is unfortunate, but once again Kofi Annan has refused to do anything that will end the suffering on his home continent.
This would make sense if the UN, you know, had an army it could send. Indeed, if it were within Kofi Annan's power to instantaneously stop the genocide in Darfur, it would be shocking if he didn't. But the United Nations depends on the member states to volunteer armies, and when none do, it is powerless. During the Rwandan genocide, for example, the UN tried to get troop commitments from the member states to be able to stop the genocide; but none agreed.

This is not a flaw in the design; it is the design. The UN is not a global police force, and it does not try to be. It is a forum and a structure through which member states can coordinate actions related to peacekeeping, international law, and aid.

This is a blindingly obvious point, and yet somehow it has managed to escape Scarborough.

P.S. Incidentally, the part about Clinton doing nothing is a lie.

Friday, May 06, 2005


(admittedely some of the entries are off-mark)

Thursday, May 05, 2005

This dispatch from Iran is midly amusing:
Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahrudi criticised police interrogators for extracting confessions.

"Sometimes they do some things like put a bag over the head, which resembles what the Americans do to terrorists in Abu Ghraib," he said.

He said such mistreatment was against the constitution, Islam and international legal principles.
Who knew America's abuses would lead human rights proponents to tap into anti-American feelings?

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Thank God Jon Stewart is around to do some real journalism.