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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

:: Friday, May 16, 2003 ::

Something...D-O-O economics?
Another Ferris Bueller reference to go with the one a few posts down. What I'm wondering about is an eventuality of Bush's plan for tax cuts every single year from now until the end of his presidency. Without getting into the particulars of whether this or that tax cut is a good or bad idea, is there an endpoint for the basically unanimous enthusiasm for constant tax cuts among Republican politicians? Do you keep cutting taxes until the government brings in almost zero revenue? Are there any criteria at all for determining a point when it would be better to stop cutting taxes than to continue doing it? Obviously tax rates won't be anywhere close to zero even if Bush stays in office until 2008 and cuts taxes every year. But, just like the absurdly dishonest "sunset" provision gimmick by which the administration is pretending that their tax cuts will vanish after a few years so as not to exceed a certain price tag, there's also no "sunset" provision on GOP support for tax cuts after Bush's presidency. Theoretically, if they remain in the White House forever, they'll keep cutting taxes forever, unless there's some strain of current mainstream Republican thought that I'm unaware of.
5:39 PM
:: Thursday, May 15, 2003 ::
I sort of messed up that post somehow. Anyway, what a performance by San Antonio. Their execution on offense and on defense in the fourth quarter was some of the best basketball I've seen in years.
10:50 PM
Spurs 110, Lakers 82!
10:49 PM
A common refrain
Israel Harel is making an oft-repeated claim about the perils of Palestinian statehood in Ha'aretz:
Even after a full withdrawal from Judea, Samaria and Gaza, [Israel] will continue to control 80 percent of the land the Palestinians view as their homeland. Then, with the status of a state in the full sense of international law, they will renew their bloody war. That is the outcome we may expect from the American president's vision.
Harel thinks that Egypt and Jordan should be convinced to donate some of their land to any potential Palestinian state (keep dreaming). But the point about the Palestinian state being just a stage in a long-term plan for Israel's destruction is what I'm wondering about. If that's really been the plan all along, then why didn't Arafat accept Barak's offer at Camp David as part of it? Statehood on all of Gaza and more than 90% of the West Bank, plus part of East Jerusalem, with scores of settlements evacuated--ok, shake hands with Barak and Clinton, say all the rights things in English, while keeping the Palestinians aware in Arabic that a further struggle awaits them down the line. Then, after the IDF withdraws, many of the settlements are dismantled, and the Palestinian state comes into being, renew the armed conflict from a stronger position, with a state in hand on almost all of the territories. If the Palestinians can be counted on to do that in the future, why didn't Arafat do it when he had the chance just three years ago?
4:03 PM
Not as new as it looks
William Safire is confident that the "Old Europe/New Europe" split will eventually cause the craven Franco/German axis to see the light and join forces with America. And here's the evidence that everyone else in Europe has already made the right decision:
Britain, Spain, Italy and other Western Europeans are unimpressed with the chimera of the U.S. as big-bully cowboy. They found common political cause with the nations of Eastern Europe, who well remember who freed them from Communist domination — and who do not like Jacques Chirac's derogation of them as "not well brought up."
Hmmm...so Spain is unimpressed with the idea that the US is a big bully. That would be news to more than 80% of the people in Spain, who opposed the Iraq war. President Aznar was enthusiastic in his support, and although I don't know anything about Spanish politics, what about the fact that he's already decided not to run for a third term as President in their general elections next year? (Here's a story from March that confirms that fact and the poll numbers, which have been widely reported anyway) Clearly he supported the war on principle, seeing as how it was so unpopular in Spain, but wouldn't it have been a lot harder for him to do that if he were facing re-election? In his rush to put Spain in "new Europe," Safire seems to have forgotten that it's a democracy.

And what other major international issues will further this Rumsfeldian "old/new" Europe narrative? Are there serious internal European divisions on...let's see...terrorism, Iran, North Korea, Arab/Israeli conflict...no, no, no, and no. Any specific issue that anyone can think of where the "new/old" split will rise again? Anyone? Bueller?

Of course the former Soviet bloc countries bring an important new addition to the EU, which was largely Rumsfeld's point anyway. No doubt about that. But this "old/new" concept doesn't go very far before it becomes meaningless. Public opinion on Iraq was barely different in Spain and Italy than it was in France and Germany, so trying to explain those governments' different stances on the war with grandiose paradigms while ignoring specific political circumstances is laughable. And if the new/old split really means something, then surely it'll pop up again on other major diplomatic issues. No one has a crystal ball, but it seems like a terrible prediction to me.
11:31 AM
:: Wednesday, May 14, 2003 ::
Did that really happen?
I had a surreal feeling after watching the Spurs beat the Lakers 96-94 last night. Since my favorite team--anyone who's playing the Lakers--is just one game away from winning the series now, I should be very pleased. I guess I am, but it also feels like the Spurs lost. They choked away a huge lead, as they did in Games 1 and 4 of this series (they won the first one but lost the second time), which is not that surprising--it's clear that they're pretty lousy in the clutch, while the Lakers have been the best clutch team in the league for the past four years. But this one felt different--San Antonio had really dominated the first three quarters, and they were still up 16 with less than 7:30 to go in the game. Then the collapse came, and LA didn't even need the referees' help to get back in it, as they weren't getting many calls in the fourth quarter. And what a weird finish--Robert Horry wide open for a game-winning three in the last five seconds, he's hit as many game-winning shots in the playoffs in the last 10 years as anyone not named Jordan (or Bryant, I guess), and somehow it bounces out after almost going in. Stranger stuff can still happen, and maybe it will. LA will probably win Game 6 at home, and then the Spurs will have to win Game 7 at home, in what will almost certainly be another close game. Can the decidedly not-clutch team really win 3 out of 4 close games against a great clutch team? They've already won 2 out of 3, which is very surprising. Who knows...it'll certainly be interesting.
11:05 AM
:: Tuesday, May 13, 2003 ::
It's not going away
For some time now, Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institute has been arguing for a new approach for dealing with North Korea. He makes his case again today, in anticipation of the upcoming White House visit by the new South Korean President:
Negotiate without preconditions and without excessive concern about who else participates. But negotiate from a position of strength and resolve, Reagan-style. We should offer North Korea substantial incentives, well beyond what has been provided or discussed to date, to end dangerous weapons programs and begin to reform its economy and way of governance. But we should also insist that any increase in outside aid will require compliance with a much broader set of demands than we have made so far.

In other words, Washington and Seoul should propose a "grand bargain" that the United States and its regional security partners should pursue with North Korea. Although accords could be negotiated and implemented step by step, they would be guided by a clearly articulated and broad vision. That vision should help grab the attention and focus the imagination of North Korean leaders, who would be presented with a clear alternative to their present dangerous and self-destructive path...

Recent ideas for dealing with the North Korean problem, such as accepting its nuclear program but then trying to block any plutonium exports, are unpromising. We need to end North Korea's nuclear program, not talk around it. But focusing directly on it allows Pyongyang to set the agenda and also seems unlikely to work. We need a much bigger idea, and we need it now.
The press conference after the two Presidents meet will probably be pretty amiable. And they won't be discussing anything this ambitious.
5:43 PM
:: Monday, May 12, 2003 ::
Mr. Rumsfeld, we must not allow a mine-shaft gap!
Fred Kaplan of Slate writes today about the policies of Keith Payne, whom Kaplan describes as "essentially, the Pentagon's top civilian official assigned to the development, procurement, planning, and possible use of nuclear weapons." All I can say is...animals would be bred and slaughtered! Seriously, this is some nutty stuff:
For 20 years before he came to the Pentagon at the start of the George W. Bush administration, Payne was at the forefront of a small group of think-tank mavens—outspoken but, at the time, marginal—who argued not only that nuclear weapons were usable, but that nuclear war was, in a meaningful sense, winnable. He first made his mark with an article in the summer 1980 issue of Foreign Policy (written with fellow hawk Colin Gray) called "Victory Is Possible." Among its pronouncements: "an intelligent United States offensive [nuclear] strategy, wedded to homeland defenses, should reduce U.S. casualties to approximately 20 million … a level compatible with national survival and recovery." (As Gen. Buck Turgidson, the George C. Scott character in Dr. Strangelove, put it, "I'm not saying we won't get our hair mussed up, but 10-20 million tops, depending on the breaks.")

8:16 PM
:: Sunday, May 11, 2003 ::
Say what?
In his latest JPost article, Yossi Klein Halevi expresses his "reluctant support" for an eventual Israeli withdrawal from most of the territories. Then he blames the left for supporting this anyway:
One of the great mistakes of the Israeli Left has been to minimize Israel's claim to Judea and Samaria. The impulse was understandable: The Left downplayed the historic and emotional attachments to the land to resist the annexationist appeal. Yet it confused the need for physical withdrawal with an unnecessary emotional withdrawal.

The Left's denial of our historic claim - and its downplaying of the price we will pay for uprooting - has allowed the international community to see an Israeli withdrawal not as a concession at all but as the self-evident restoration of occupied land, the thief returning his booty.
I can sympathize with his argument in the first paragraph, but the second one is absurd. Let's say that nobody in Israel had ever criticized the settlements. Would the international community have changed its tune, as Halevi apparently thinks? Forget it. The simple political fact is that all Israeli governments, right and left, have tried to justify the settlements to the international community ever since '67, and that practically no governments outside of Israel have ever bought any of those arguments. That's not because the Israeli spokespeople mis-stated those arguments, or because their English was bad, or because they were being undermined by leftists back at home. It's because almost nobody outside of Israel agreed with what they were saying. And none of those skeptics required the support of the Israeli left to come to that conclusion.
12:44 PM

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