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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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:: Friday, December 12, 2003 ::

Any other idiotic ideas in need of resurrection?
Good reporting from the Washington Post in their main article about the latest Iraq stupidity from the administration. Having rejected some proposals to keep France and Germany from doing business in Iraq earlier this year, Bush and his advisors appear to have gotten stupider as time went on:
The White House vigorously opposed a similar policy when lawmakers tried to add it to legislation earlier this year, according to congressional officials. In April, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice personally lobbied Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) to drop from a Pentagon spending bill a proposal to block France and Germany from Iraq contracts.

Part of the reason for the White House objection was to speed the spending bill through Congress. But senior Republican Senate aides said the administration also objected to the policy itself, both in April and again this fall when GOP senators sought to add similar provisions to Bush's request for $87 billion in new spending, mostly for Iraq.

"They didn't like it. They thought it was reactionary," one aide said.
Now that things in Iraq are going so much better than they were in April, it's time to lay down the law against the appeasers! Seriously, this might be the most baffling thing about this already incomprehensibly moronic decision. They opposed this very idea when their own party colleagues in Congress brought it up earlier this year, and now they're going with it.
1:38 AM
:: Wednesday, December 10, 2003 ::
The cult of personality
I appreciate Bill Kristol's willingness to criticize his own side of the political aisle on some major issues, but this bit from his latest article is becoming part of a pattern:
But what about September 11? Surely Bush's response to the attacks, and his overall leadership in the war on terrorism, remain compelling reasons to keep him in office. They do for me. But while Bush is committed to victory in that war, his secretary of State seems committed to diplomatic compromise, and his secretary of Defense to an odd kind of muscle-flexing-disengagement. And when Bush's chief of staff, Andrew H. Card Jr., said on Sunday with regard to Iraq, "We're going to get out of there as quickly as we can, but not before we finish the mission at hand," one wonders: Wouldn't Howard Dean agree with that formulation? Indeed, doesn't the first half of that sentence suggest that even the most senior of Bush's subordinates haven't really internalized the president's view of the fundamental character of this war?
Uh, what? So Bush himself is committed to victory against terrorism, even though his most senior advisors aren't. Kristol obviously thinks highly of Bush, but his argument essentially implies two possibilities, neither of them very flattering:

(1) Bush is incapable of recognizing that his own senior advisors, the people he consults with and formulates policy with more than anyone else, are not fully committed to the war on terror. Not a very flattering view of his competence to run a successful administration.

(2) Bush realizes that his advisors aren't fully committed to winning, and yet he refuses to do anything about it. Not a very flattering view of his character as a leader.

So which is it? Is he incompetent, or a weak-kneed servant of his misguided advisors? Kristol has painted himself into a pretty tough corner. Of course, the third option is to actually hold Bush accountable for the policies of the administration that he happens to be the head of. I don't think Kristol is just a partisan hack, but I have my doubts that he would be so quick to shift all the blame to the advisors if we were talking about a Democratic president.
2:57 PM
:: Monday, December 08, 2003 ::
More ignorant WWII references
John Dower, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his book on post-WWII occupied Japan, has an op-ed about the continuing use of shoddy historical analogies to that time period:
In a recent speech in London, President Bush declared that not only were we making "substantial progress" in Iraq but that "much of it has proceeded faster than similar efforts in Germany and Japan after World War II."

What are we to make of this murky use of history? The truth is that what is happening in Iraq presents a stunning and fundamental contrast to what took place in occupied Japan and Germany over half a century ago — and not a positive one.

Six months after our occupation of Iraq began, more than 180 GIs have been killed and well over 2,000 wounded. Iraqi casualties are even higher. No one seems to be in charge, and there is still little agreement about who should be.

Now consider Japan. Here was a populace socialized to think in terms of death before dishonor — an adversary whose greatest wartime innovation (after the preemptive strike on Pearl Harbor) was the terrifying kamikaze suicide attack. Yet in the wake of defeat, and in the midst of widespread misery, not a single serious incident of violence against the occupying forces was reported.
Lots of worthwhile stuff in this piece.
10:56 PM
:: Sunday, December 07, 2003 ::
The Jewish vote
A Washington Post article from today basically makes the case that because of terrorism-related issues, American Jews are drifting more to the Republicans, while Arab-Americans are now more likely to support Democrats. About 5-6 months ago, the National Jewish Democratic Council cited polls that sharply disputed that conclusion about Jewish political leanings. The NJDC also has historical numbers for the Jewish vote in national elections over the past 20-30 years.

The striking thing about the predictions of Republican gains among Jewish voters is how little data there is to support anything resembling such a conclusion. Apparently the only number anyone had from the 2002 Congressional elections was that 35% of Jewish votes went to the Republicans, which would have been a 10-15 percentage point increase from the past decade or so, but that number is highly disputed, due to some crappy data. In the Wash. Post article from today, the evidence of a Jewish shift to the right comes down to this one paragraph:
In 2002, the American Jewish Committee estimated that Jews are 2.1 percent of the U.S. population and 3.9 percent of Florida, also a swing state. A poll by Steven Cohen of Hebrew University found that almost half the Jews who chose Gore over Bush are uncertain they would vote the same way today. Perhaps even more crucial, prominent Democratic donors have crossed party lines. Jack Rosen, president of the American Jewish Congress and a supporter of Democrats, wrote a $100,000 check last year to the Republican National Committee. "It would be a mistake for the Jewish community not to show our appreciation to the president," Rosen said.
That vaguely described poll doesn't seem to mean a whole lot compared to one cited in the NJDC release that I linked to above:
Seventy-one percent of American Jews would definitely vote or consider voting for someone other than President Bush, compared to 51 percent of the population as a whole that would do so, according to new independent polling data released today [in late June 2003]. The findings show that while 46 percent of all Americans would definitely vote for Bush, only 25 percent of American Jews would do so. These results, aggregated from data collected by the non-partisan Ipsos/Cook Political Report Poll between January of 2002 and March of 2003, are likely to disappoint the White House as they come at a time of overwhelming popularity for the President across the population as a whole – and at a time when the Republican President has been aggressively courting the Jewish vote.
And while $100,000 to the GOP from the president of the American Jewish Congress is obviously a significant donation, it doesn't necessarily mean that lots of Jewish money that was going to the Dems before is suddenly going to switch to the Republicans. The Post story cites no other evidence of that. Rosen is still described as "a supporter of Democrats," and lots of major donors give money to both parties.

In the short-term, the main question is whether Bush will do better than the 20% of the Jewish vote he got in 2000. I doubt he'll crack 25% in 2004. Even if he gets to 30%, which would be a clear improvement for him over 2000, the Democratic candidate would still be getting more than 2/3 of the Jewish vote. That would hardly be grounds for believing that there's some major shift indicating that most Jews are becoming Republicans.
7:19 PM

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