Haggai's Place

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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
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:: Saturday, March 08, 2003 ::

More bias about bias
Andrew Sullivan is really outdoing himself in trying to prove that the NY Times is unfairly biased against going to war in Iraq, i.e. that they're skewing their news coverage to advance that political position. He links to a Times of London article about the latest Blix report's burial of new information about a long-range Iraqi pilotless aircraft that could possibly deploy WMD, and he wonders "why is this news not in the New York Times?" He also slams the NYT for calling France and Germany our allies.

Then Sullivan links to another article about Saddam potentially working with terrorists in Iraq during a US invasion, and he points out that this and the pilotless plane thing both strengthen the case for war. The source for this article? The same as the Soviet ambassador's source for an American plan to build a "doomsday device" in the movie "Dr. Strangelove": the New York Times. Sullivan says nothing whatsoever about how this relates to the paper's insidious anti-war-mongering agenda, which is supposed to be self-evident from their omission of the drone story. He touts one thing as evidence for his claim while ignoring another thing that counteracts his claim. The word for that is "bias."
10:36 PM
Whew
Kentucky closed out the regular season with a nailbiter, winning 69-67 at Florida. UK was brilliant for much of the game, leading by as much as 15 at one point in the second half. But thanks to a strong Florida comeback and some serious Wildcat bungling on offense, the game was in doubt until Florida missed the potential winning shot at the buzzer.

The Cats finished a mind-blowing conference season undefeated, 16-0. The only other Southeastern Conference team to pull that off in the last several decades was Kentucky in '96, which was one of the best teams in college basketball history. My fingers are crossed for the post-season as I hope for the same finish as '96, winning the national championship. It would be very surprising--somewhat shocking, actually--if this team didn't make the Final Four. But even if they don't get there, or make it there but fall short of the title, this has been one of the most gratifying seasons I could ever imagine. They reached the peak of their potential, with every player contributing just about the maximum he could to the team's success.
5:32 PM
:: Friday, March 07, 2003 ::
A zinger from Blix?
I just saw a bit of his report to the Security Council. At one point he said something like, "We don't really need to double the number of inspectors, but it would be very helpful to double the amount of information we have about sites to inspect." That seemed like a bit of an insult to the French foreign minister, who had lauded the possibility of doubling (or even--gasp--tripling!) the number of inspectors as a way to disarm Iraq. I doubt the French will even notice that they were being put down.

UPDATE: From the transcript, here's what Blix said:
I should add that, both for the monitoring of ground transportation and for the inspection of underground facilities, we would need to increase our staff in Iraq. I'm not talking about a doubling of the staff. I would rather have twice the amount of high-quality information about sites to inspect than twice the number of expert inspectors to send.

12:03 PM
:: Wednesday, March 05, 2003 ::
Demented snack food
Someone just found a mutant Cheeto:
It's believed to be the largest Chee-to in the world. The cheesy glob of fried cornmeal that Navy Petty Officer Mike Evans found last week in a bag of the snacks is about the size of a small lemon and weighs in at about half an ounce.


It reminds me of this mathematically oriented joke story from The Onion:
2-D Doritos Sales Lagging
DALLAS—In the wake of the launch of "Doritos 3-Ds," Frito-Lay is experiencing a sharp decrease in sales of its original two-dimensional Doritos. "The public has gone wild for our revolutionary three-dimensional chips, which, in addition to the usual length and width, also possess depth," Frito-Lay spokesman Isaac Toomer said. "So wild, in fact, they have lost interest in traditional monoplanar snack chips." Toomer said Frito-Lay is now developing a highly theoretical "Funyuns 4-D." "One day, people everywhere will enjoy crispy, extratemporal Funyuns that intersect with an infinite number of parallel universes," Toomer said. "It will be a whole new world of non-Euclidean snacking."

1:52 PM
Keep dreaming, jackass
In an article in the Egyptian Al-Ahram Weekly, Salman Abu-Sitta puts forth a long list of wild accusations about a sinister Zionist plot, hatched by David Ben-Gurion, to poison Arab water supplies in 1947 and '48. On top of this re-incarnation of the medieval Christian anti-Semitic libel of well poisoning, Abu-Sitta can barely conceal his eagerness for the following (completely unrealistic) scenario:
The Mayor of Nes Ziona, located a mere 10 kilometres away from Tel Aviv centre, complained that the proximity of [the Israel Institute of Biological Research] to his city poses a great danger to the population, in case of accident. He is right. The Science Committee in the Knesset reported 22 casualties including three fatal cases in the last 15 years. But these were mild cases.

What would be the situation if a big accident happens on a windy day, causing explosion of tons of toxics and its evaporation in the sky, in a congested neighbourhood, where three million people live in an area of barely 1000sqkms, that is 35X35 km? Ben Gurion, while cooking his evil plans to "exterminate" the Arabs, did not envisage this scenario in his wildest dreams.
I'm sure this guy would claim to be just another anti-Zionist. No anti-Semitism there--none at all. Move along.
12:59 AM
:: Tuesday, March 04, 2003 ::
But it's not a crisis, right?
More administration bungling over N. Korea in recent days:
The urgency of the threat has sharpened a behind-the-scenes struggle within the administration over how to deal with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Il. A parade of current and former officials — including Gen. Brent Scowcroft, the national security adviser in the first Bush administration, and former Defense Secretary William J. Perry, who was special envoy for the Clinton administration on North Korea — have warned in recent weeks that the current White House approach is failing, and that time is not on Mr. Bush's side.

Several of these officials have approached top Bush administration aides, including Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, to warn that the administration will ultimately have to negotiate directly with the North — a step Mr. Bush has refused to take, unless North Korea begins first to disarm.

[Deputy Secretary of State Richard] Armitage, who has long experience with North Korea, used his testimony in Congress to try to expand that strategy, and his efforts left Mr. Bush "off-the-wall angry," said a senior administration official, whose account was corroborated by several White House officials.

Mr. Armitage praised President Bill Clinton's 1994 deal with North Korea for preventing earlier bomb-making by the North, and he endorsed "a bilateral discussion" with the country under "a multilateral umbrella, of any sort."

Mr. Armitage's testimony led to a meeting at the White House at which Mr. Bush directed Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and other officials to ban all public discussion of one-on-one talks with the North. North Korea has so far refused to sit down with any broad group of nations.

The result is that while North Korea is accelerating its nuclear programs, there is virtually no conversation under way. "We're at the point," said one official involved in the internal debate, "where nothing is happening — and no one knows how we will respond when the bomb-making starts."
Way to go, guys. This is "moral clarity," right?

Ok, wise guy, what do you do about this problem? There are plenty of suggestions in an article from the current issue of Foreign Affairs:
The North seems unwilling to lose face by giving up this trump card without a security guarantee, and Washington is unwilling to take any action that appears to reward Pyongyang before it has fully dismantled its nuclear programs...

The way to cut the Gordian knot of who goes first is through a two-stage approach. The first stage would provide the North with the security it craves while also ensuring that Pyongyang is not rewarded for its bad behavior. To achieve this end, the four outside interested powers (the United States, Japan, China, and Russia -- each of which has supported one side or the other in the past) would jointly and officially guarantee the security and stability of the entire Korean Peninsula. Washington may not be able or willing to convene a meeting of the four powers to this end. If not, back channels or unofficial initiatives should be used to encourage Moscow or Beijing to take the lead. Both Russia and China have sought to increase their influence on the Korean Peninsula in recent years. This plan would solidify their places at the table.

Once the security of the peninsula has been guaranteed by the outside powers, it will be time for stage two: a comprehensive accord, again broken into two parts. The North must completely give up its HEU and plutonium programs and allow immediate, intrusive, and continuous inspections by the IAEA; end its development, production, and testing of long-range missiles in exchange for some financial compensation; draw down its conventional troops along the DMZ (although there will be no reduction of U.S. troops at this time, and only a very limited reduction of U.S. troops in five years, should the situation permit); and, finally, continue to implement economic and market reforms.

In exchange for the above, Japan would normalize its relations with the North within 18 months of the agreement's coming into effect. This normalization would include the payment of war reparations in the form of aid, delivered on a timetable extending five to seven years. Both halves of the peninsula would also enter a Korean federation within two years of the agreement's coming into effect. And as soon as the IAEA had verified that the North has dismantled its nuclear weapons programs, Washington would sign a nonaggression pact with Pyongyang. This pact, which by prior agreement would automatically be nullified by subsequent signs that the North was not cooperating or was initiating a new nuclear program, would include the gradual lifting of economic sanctions over three years.
Lots more details in the article. It's an ambitious plan that could very well fail, since it relies on the co-operation of other countries in the region. But there just aren't any better options out there. Waiting will not make the problem go away, and it could easily get a lot worse as N. Korea builds more nukes.

I have no optimism that the administration will pursue this sort of plan. It's not that they're "isolationist," as the upcoming invasion of Iraq is not something that any isolationist wants to do. Nor is it even "unilateralism," as Iraq again demonstrates otherwise, what with the heavy lifting at the UN and the decent sized coalition already in place. It's a matter of having the will power to deal with problems that don't present any guaranteed successes. In Iraq, our military power pretty much guarantees that we'll achieve our goal of removing the threat of a WMD-armed Saddam. The administration also likes to brag about their deal with Russia on the withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. Perhaps, but they were going to withdraw from the treaty and build a missile defense anyway--they didn't need any agreement or Russian co-operation to achieve that goal. On issues like N. Korea and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, where the chances of success are questionable at best, they prefer sitting on the sidelines (and occasionally blaming Bill Clinton) to making any serious effort. Not a good strategy, certainly not on N. Korea, which (unlike Israel and the Palestinians) is an obvious threat to US national security.
11:49 AM
:: Monday, March 03, 2003 ::
The train keeps a' rollin'
Another win for Kentucky, 74-66 at Georgia, with defense and rebounding leading the way. The Cats are 14-0 in conference play with two games left before the post-season. Nobody--I mean that almost literally, not a single person--would have predicted such a successful run when conference play started two months ago. It's great being a UK fan!
2:06 PM
"NY Times Bias" Bias Watch

Andrew Sullivan:
Is there any sane person on the planet who thinks that Saddam's partial dismantling of a declared missile system is actually a genuine change of heart by the Baghdad regime? Only [NYT editorial page chief] Gail Collins could pull that one off.
The NYT editorial in question:
The missile destruction is important, though not proof that Iraq has changed course. Destruction was the only action possible if Iraq wanted to head off a Security Council resolution supporting invasion. Iraq has about 100 of the missiles, and it has so far destroyed only a few.

We are not under any illusion that Mr. Hussein is disabling his missiles simply because he likes the idea. Iraq would never be making even these grudging concessions if American troops were not massed near Iraq's border. The U.N. must realize that whatever success it has achieved of late in getting Iraq to abide by its directives has come only because of American military might.

12:52 PM
PR slip-ups and paranoia
I find it interesting when advocates for Israel or the Palestinians make exactly the same complaints about their own side's PR effort. I've read or heard people on both sides moaning about how their spokespeople are amateurs who can't even speak English properly, while the other side has an incredibly professional and effective media presence. It's not even something like "media bias," which both sides complain about, since that often depends on the perception of the side you're coming from. A public representative's proficiency in speaking English is surely something that everyone can approach objectively, and yet people on both sides still complain about it.

One mistake that Israel supporters have often made in the past couple of years is in referring to the Camp David proposals as a "generous" offer. While I certainly think it was a generous offer, insisting on that has the unintended effect of clouding the real issue. The Palestinians' rejection of the entire peace process with a return to "armed struggle" was, and is, the real problem. The generosity of the offer was irrelevant. Had the offer been mediocre, stingy, or even insulting, the Palestinians' legitimate recourse was further diplomacy, not a crusade of violence and mass murder.

But insisting that the offer was generous made that generosity a major issue. As the Palestinians claimed that it wasn't generous, the implication was "if Israel will make an offer that we find sufficient, we'll accept it and make peace." For anyone not too invested in either side of the conflict, that made the potential remedy seem apparent, no matter what they thought about the initial offer: there should be a return to negotiations, which means that Israel should make another offer. It clouded the fact that the Palestinian leadership had no intention of ending the conflict, and had every intention of continuing it with any violent means available. Israel has certainly been making that point as well for the past two and a half years, but undercut itself somewhat by emphasizing the "generosity" of the offer that was made and rejected.
1:09 AM

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