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Your humble narrator is...
...a research analyst at a think tank in the Washington DC area. Born in Israel, raised in Kentucky, movie fanatic and sports nut.
My first-hand account of the Palestinian divestment conference at the U. of Michigan

:: Saturday, February 08, 2003 ::

It's not just Hollywood
Yes, I'm a self-proclaimed movies and sports nut, and man, am I glad those people aren't running the world. NBA star Steve Nash is the latest public personality to declare that everyone who supports a final reckoning with Saddam is misinformed, because it's really all about...well, you know what:
NBA All-Star Game media days are usually filled with pithy quotes and clichés, but Dallas Mavericks guard Steve Nash veered wildly off the standard course Friday by using the occasion to speak out against war in Iraq.

Wearing a T-shirt that said "No war -- Shoot for peace," the Canadian celebrated his 29th birthday by making his position perfectly clear.

"I believe that us going to war would be a mistake," he said. "Being a humanitarian, I think that war is wrong in 99.9 percent of all cases. I think it has much more to do with oil or some sort of distraction, because I don't feel as though we should be worrying about Iraq."

Nash said he felt that U.N. weapons inspectors should be allowed to complete their mission before any further action is taken, and that the United States in particular had provided insufficient evidence to warrant an attack.

"I think that Saddam Hussein is a crazy dictator and in some ways a scary person, but I don't think he's threatening us at this point in time," he said. "We haven't found any nuclear weapons -- no matter what anyone says -- and that process is still under way. Until that's finished and decided I don't think that war is acceptable."

He also blamed the media for beating the war drum. "I think a lot of what we hear in the news is misleading and flat-out false, so I think it's important for us to think deeper and find out what is really going on."

Nash did allow that he's still learning more about the situation in Iraq, and he encouraged others to do the same. "I'm still trying to educate myself ... and I think people should should just go out and try to educate themselves and learn so they can make an informed decision."

He then reiterated his position that "unfortunately, this is more about oil than it is about nuclear weapons."
Saddam is "in some ways a scary person"? Nash is in all ways an excellent basketball player, but on this issue, he is in most ways an idiot.
4:38 PM
:: Friday, February 07, 2003 ::
Why the inaction?
The LA Times has an interesting story about one aspect of Powell's UN presentation:
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell spent a significant part of his presentation to the United Nations this week describing a terrorist camp in northern Iraq where Al Qaeda affiliates are said to be training to carry out attacks with explosives and poisons.

But neither Powell nor other administration officials answered the question: What is the United States doing about it?

Lawmakers who have attended classified briefings on the camp say that they have been stymied for months in their efforts to get an explanation for why the United States has not launched a military strike on the compound near the village of Khurmal. Powell cited its ongoing operation as one of the key reasons for suspecting ties between Baghdad and the Al Qaeda terror network.

The lawmakers put new pressure on the Bush administration to explain its decision to leave the facility, which it has known about for months, unharmed.

"Why have we not taken it out?" Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) asked Powell during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing Thursday. "Why have we let it sit there if it's such a dangerous plant producing these toxins?"

Powell declined to answer, saying he could not discuss the matter in open session.

"I can assure you that it is a place that has been very much in our minds. And we have been tracing individuals who have gone in there and come out of there," Powell said.

Absent an explanation from the White House, some officials suggested that the administration has refrained from striking the compound in part to preserve a key piece of its case against Iraq.

"This is it, this is their compelling evidence for use of force," said one intelligence official, who asked not to be identified. "If you take it out, you can't use it as justification for war."
I seriously doubt that the administration would intentionally leave an extremely dangerous terrorist camp untouched just to preserve a potential causus belli. My guess is they can't prove the camp is as dangerous as they say it is, but since they've jabbered a lot about pre-emption and Saddam/al-Qaeda links, they wanted to play up the threat to sway some of the doubters at home.
1:30 PM
A doomsday scenario that doesn't add up
David Ignatius of the Washington Post talked to Jordanian foreign minister Marwan Muasher, who has some positive things to say about where the Arab world might be headed after 9/11:
Muasher's optimism is based partly on a belief that Sept. 11, 2001, marked the high point for Islamic terrorism rather than the beginning of a new wave. "September 11 made Arabs rethink where the Arab world is going," he said. "Do we allow this militant minority to speak in the name of Islam, and suffer the consequences? Do we allow the U.S. or any other country to impose its vision of democracy on us? Or do we take the initiative ourselves and start this process?

"We also felt some responsibility that we allowed this [Sept. 11] to happen," the Jordanian continued. "We acquiesced in the face of a militant ideology that was developing among us, without taking action." In the aftermath, he argued, the Arab majority began to express itself more clearly -- and to demand change.
Whether he's right or wrong about this, he repeats a frequent warning about settlements that makes little or no sense:
"If you don't deal with settlements quickly, we are approaching the time when a viable Palestinian state isn't possible," Muasher warned.
At this point, a viable Palestinian state is already impossible without the evacuation of a lot of settlements. The more settlements that get built, the more that will have to be removed in a final status agreement, but there's no justification for claiming that we're on the verge of some tipping point where there's no turning back from them.
12:25 PM
:: Thursday, February 06, 2003 ::
Life imitating the movies?
I wonder if the oily super-lawyer character in "Chicago," Billy Flynn, might continue his record of never having lost a case if he had to represent Saddam Hussein instead of Roxie Hart. His song about how the world is nothing but an extension of show business, Razzle Dazzle, might start this way (profuse apologies to Kander & Ebb):

Give 'em the old razzle dazzle,
Razzle Dazzle 'em.

Let the inspectors travel where they might,
While you keep the weapons out of sight.

Give 'em the old hocus pocus,
Daze and dizzy 'em.

When will they say there's no choice left but war?

Never when Uncle Sam's your foil,
'Cause then it must be "blood for oil!"

Razzle dazzle 'em,
And they'll never catch wise!

9:55 AM
:: Wednesday, February 05, 2003 ::
Thanks, Haloscan
The last dozen or so comments posted on this site got deleted, for some reason. Oh well.

Update: Now they're back, but the ones posted since then are gone. Whatever!
3:34 PM
:: Tuesday, February 04, 2003 ::
Running out of superlatives
Facing the #1 ranked Florida Gators at home, Kentucky turned in one of their most dominant performances of the season, winning 70-55 after being ahead 60-31 at one point. Florida was awful, but I can't say enough about how well the Cats played. Their record now is 17-3, 7-0 in conference play. This is turning out to be a surprisingly great year, considering their uneven play in December.
11:41 PM
The West Bank is not a used car
I just noticed this comment on The View From Here a few days ago:
I see no reason for Sharon to unveil any of his painfull concessions now. There are supposed to be negotiations some day, remember? Perhaps the Israeli habit of disclosing their positions before the start of bargaining should be for once dropped.
I don’t think this viewpoint holds up to close scrutiny. The Israeli/Palestinian conflict, and its potential resolution through negotiations, is altogether too bizarre to be compared to ordinary conflicts. Your average negotiating process is based on both sides having something to gain from reaching a deal. If I’m buying a car from someone and we’re negotiating the price, it makes sense for me to offer less than what I’m willing to pay, with the hope that the seller will meet me somewhere in between. For the same reason, the seller will initially demand more than what he’s willing to accept. We both have something to gain: I want his car, he wants my money. Neither of us is going to reveal our final bid up front because each of us believes that the other side is willing to compromise in the interest of reaching a deal.

None of this applies to Israel and the Palestinians. When people say that Israel shouldn’t revel its concessions up front, they’re assuming, of course, that there will someday be negotiations with a reliable Palestinian partner, and that any concessions up front will damage Israel’s bargaining position. But even if the Palestinians performed a miracle and produced a leadership that dismantled every terrorist group, stopped all incitement, and did all the other things that Israel is justifiably demanding as prerequisites for peace talks (ok, that would constitute several miracles), the usual negotiating model wouldn’t apply. The Palestinians will never approach negotiations with Israel as a way of gaining something. They think of accepting Israel’s right to exist as surrendering 78% of the land that rightfully belongs to them. The remaining 22% is already theirs—Israel is not conceding some of its own land, but giving back some of the land that the Palestinians already own.

Almost everyone who supports Israel understands that the Palestinians think this way. Now, what basis is there for thinking that Israel would be mistaken in stating, up front, the price that it’s willing to pay for peace upon the emergence of a reliable partner? If you think that would hurt Israel’s bargaining position, you might be thinking that the Palestinians will produce, at some point in the future, a credible peace-seeking leadership that would be willing to accept less than the vast majority of the West Bank and Gaza. This is a fantasy. If the Palestinians clean up their act and come to the negotiating table, none of the other parties outside the conflict will insist that they accept less than 90 some percent of the territories—from the Palestinian point of view, they know that no one will insist that they concede more than 5-10% of the 22% of the land that they haven’t already surrendered to Israel. This includes the Americans, no matter how much anyone wants to dream about the potential effects of a Christian-right and/or neo-conservative push to legitimize all the settlements. And if the Palestinians see any widespread external support for rejecting a deal and continuing the conflict, they’ll do it, as we’ve seen time and again.

Others say, ok, something like what Barak and Clinton offered will have to be on the table, but if you offer it before you have a peace partner, that’ll only encourage the Palestinians to hold out for more. That doesn’t make sense to me either. The Palestinians are not “holding out for more” in the sense of using terror to extract better terms in an end-of-the-conflict deal—they approach negotiations with Israel as surrendering land, not gaining it. They’re using terror with the goal of eventually destroying Israel. If they renounce terror and accept Israel—with credible actions, not just empty promises—then what does it matter how much land they get? Some say, well, they’ll only demand more in the next round. What “next round”? If you think there’s going to be a next round of conflict with the Palestinians, why would you negotiate with them in the first place? That's one criticism of Mitzna's platform that I agree with, thinking that negotiations might work even without a reliable partner. But I don't agree that it's wrong to make a prior commitment to withdrawal (just a commitment, not implementation) before having a partner.
6:33 PM
:: Monday, February 03, 2003 ::
Gotta take the good with the bad
The soundtrack for "Chicago" shows all sides of Queen Latifah. She was great in the movie, and her solo number on the soundtrack, "When You're Good to Mama," is excellent. But then there's her rap remix of another song from the movie, "Cell Block Tango," which sucks (the remix, not the song, which is great). Maybe I'm not the fairest judge because I'm generally not a fan of hip-hop, but I'm sure there aren't many rappers who can sing as well as she does, so it's kind of disappointing to have this lame rap thrown in at the end of the soundtrack. Having made her name as a rapper, she'll almost certainly keep doing that in the future. But considering her other talents, I almost wish she would quit her day job.
4:21 PM
Interesting trivia question--but what's the answer?
Former Senator Pat Moynihan makes the following claim in a Washington Post op-ed:
There were then [in 1962], as now, just seven nations in the world that had both existed at the outset of the 20th century and had not had their form of government changed by violence since. We were one.
I wonder who the other ones are. I did a quick Google search or two to see if Moynihan had identified them in some other article or speech but didn't find a source for that. Great Britan is obviously another one of the seven. Related to Britain, there's Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, but did they all exist as separate countries 100 years ago? I'm not sure when they became full-fledged independent nations as opposed to just parts of the Commonwealth under British sovereignty, although I think they were already generally recognized as separate nations 100 years ago. In Europe, of course, almost everyone was conquered at one point or another in WWII or afterwards. Two of the seven are surely Sweden and Switzerland, who were neutral in that war. Spain was officially neutral in WWII, but of course it isn't one of the seven because of the Civil War in the 1930s. Portugal was also neutral and never underwent foreign conquest, but it was a military dictatorship for many years so I guess it's not one of the seven. Iceland has the oldest Parliament in the world, but one source I found said it wasn't totally independent from Danish rule until after WWI. So, tentatively, I think the seven nations Moynihan refers to--those who existed as nations at the start of the 20th century and haven't had their governments violently overthrown since then--are USA, Britain, Sweden, Switzerland, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia.
1:27 AM

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