Friday, November 29, 2002

Guardian Unlimited | The Guardian | The Phoenix-like rise of Henry Kissinger

Kissinger hanging around? Dubya is looking more and more like the new Nixon. I'm not yet sure whether I like forward to or fear the new Watergate.
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Monday, November 25, 2002

The Conservative Equivalent of My Dream Job

For a while, I explored the idea of becoming an activist or having some other role with a progressive/liberal cause or organization. I backed away due to some of the problems with the left mentioned in the article linked above. Well, I was also temperamentally unsuited for the role of activist, but I could have handled some of the support roles, such as research.

Most notably, the left is organized on an issue-by-issue basis. I found out that I am not a true believer on any particular issue in the sense that I couldn't find any one cause so important that I wanted to devote my entire mental resources to it. I would find myself comparing and finding similarities and differences between various concerns.

In a way, this mirrored my thoughts on academia. I became most interested in those areas of knowledge which often fell between the academic disciplines. One area I was rather fond of was the overlap between the social science and religion.

It's clear that the Democratic leadership are trying to use duct tape to hold together the New Deal coalition ship. In parliamentary governments, interests form coalitions after the election. In our American form of government, the coalitions are more informal and formed before the elections. The Democrats need to base themselves around a new left-of-center coalition.

This is not entirely easy. The new coalition must have a certain degree of backwards compatibility with the old New Deal coalition, which is still the Democrats best hope in certain places, especially the South.

The Democratic Party have been limping along, moving towards a party casually united around a socially liberal agenda. There is no consensus within the party anymore on economic issues. But this has been an evolutionary change over time, with no clear focus. The principal groups have been feminists, blacks, and Jews. However, blacks really don't fit within a coalition based upon a socially liberal agenda. African-Americans are in fact relatively conservative on social issues and vote Democrat due more to economic reasons.

What the Democrats need is someone with a comprehensive socio-economic platform of issues and someone who is capable to creating a sense of intellectual unity between various issues. From an outsider's perspective, the Democratic party looks like disjointed vote swapping between various parts of a political coalition. Blacks get affirmative action. Feminists get abortion. Homosexuals get gay rights and funding for AIDS research. This isn't necessarily how it is, but this is how it looks to a non-Democrat. Political correction is rightfully laughed at because it has no internal consistancy with a policy of tolerance for opposing views.

What then? The left needs an understanding of how people think. The only non-conservatives who get far are those who stumble into a situation when the opposition is in dire straits (Jimmy Carter in the Watergate era) or those with an innate understanding of human nature (Bill Clinton, the guy who felt your pain). Most liberals suffer from an insufferable sense of superiority. Their sense of morality more often translates as haughtiness than as piety.

Everyone dreams at some point in their childhoold about becoming president. I realized reasonably early enough that I would not be the kind of person whose personal communication skills were conducive to electability. For a while, I thought I could still gain great influence by studying law and eventually becoming a Supreme Court justice, but then I realized that judges are just more politicians.

So what's left? Seeking out knowledge. Finding the bridge between ivory tower academic views of political science and the "political engineering" done by actual candidates out in the real world. If anyone figures out a way to make a career out of this, give me a call.

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Friday, November 22, 2002

There's an undecided Congressional race in Colorado.(

The race undergoing a mandatory recount is in a recently redrawn Congressional district that is half-and-half in major party support. The growing trend has been the creation of safe districts and the reduction of close races to a small number of key contests. In some ways, this trend feels like a bargain to back away from an huge arms race. Just imagine the political climate and the dollars tossed around if almost every Congressional race was a virtual toss-up every two years. And you thought we were living in an uncivil political age.
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Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Can we have some Lysistrata in the Middle East?

Me memory tells me that I once came across an allegation that Israel deported the most prominent Palestianian proponent of non-violence out of fear that protest a la Gandhi might actually work. Unfortunately, I don't have a name and I'm not entirely sure where I heard it. I suspect it may have been a National Press Club thing on C-SPAN featuring Winsto Churchill, the journalist and grandson of the famous prime minister, which I do remember also included Churchill quoting Moshe Dayan (I believe) as saying that Israel was going for a "pastrami" solution to the Palestinian problem, taking slice of land after slice of land like thin pastrami until nothing was left for the Palestinians.

The article in question claims that women's marches in Palestine get little news coverage. More of the "if it bleeds, it leads" school of journalism, I suppose. I wouldn't chalk it up to any pro-Israel bias.

The article raises a few interesting avenues for research. For example, what percentage of the Knesset is female? While Golda Meir may remain in the memory, there is the allegation of a "macho" national identity--"the predominant construction of masculinity is that of a sabra (native-born) strong Jewish man, born out of the ashes of the Holocaust, and raised with the intertwined narratives of Arab anti-Semitism and anti-Arab Zionism." Is this bourne out in decreasing political participation of women in Israel? Is there a gender gap in Israeli voting?

Well, I went for the easy part and looked up how many women are in the Knesset, admittedly outdated info. There are currently 17 out of 120. They break down as 6 from Labor-Meimad, 3 from Likud, 4 from Meretz, 1 each from Hadash, Shinui, Yisrael Be'aliyah, and the Center Party. Labor-Meimad is a moderate coalition, Likud staunchly conservative, Meretz and Shinui are liberal, the Center Party obviously centrist, and Hadash communist, while Yisrael Be'aliyah represents the Russian minority. There appear to be 7 Arab Knesset members, all of whom are male. If we were go to by percentages, the Meretz delegation is the most feminine, with 40% of it women.

If the Palestinians want to win a global PR battle, I would advise them to win over the West by finding a telegenic woman to be one of their leading spokespersons. But that probably would entail giving her actual power....

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Saturday, November 16, 2002

I recently spent some time with an environmental activist who railed against various corporate behaviors as dangerous. All this while one of his friends was puffing a cigarette.

Irony or an object lesson in how people's minds work? If a similarly-minded person ignores risks that are more proven and accepted, how can one expect less-educated, less-informed people to accept premises that are less universally accepted, such as global warming.

Or perhaps they do understand but think that the instant gratification is worth the long-term risks, just as a smoker is fully cognizant of the health implications but finds the short-term pleasure worth the risk. I expect drivers to give up sport utility vehicles wholesale as soon as smokers give up cigarettes in a similar fashion.

I'm not confident in the environmental movement's ability to be more than an occasional gadfly on any issue unless it can point to actual dead bodies buried in the ground. But then, I claim to have some understanding of mass public opinion.

There's a reason I'm not a populist.

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Friday, November 15, 2002

Conservative Christians losing power, interest in political arena

Woe unto you, all you would-be populists. The Christian Coalition has been the major populist force of the past several decades. Its energy and influence is waning, as all populist movements eventually do.

The lesson is this: populism is not a sound basis for building a lasting political coalition. While it is useful as a tool to revitalize or jumpstart an organization, populist zeal will not last forever.

The left seems to feel that the hoi polloi have been hoodwinked by the right and that a lifting of the veil of obscurity will somehow allow the common man to easily see what the liberal knows by heart.

It's time for this attitude to end. The left must accept an elitist point of view. Populism is but a tool to be used, not the main vehicle for change. The desired outcomes should not change, but tactics should be wider. Use grass roots, but don't get high on them.

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Wednesday, November 06, 2002

I feel the need to write as I sit in Vientiane, Laos. I was explaining to a traveling companion some of the foreign policy of the current U.S. administration as pertains to the United Nations.

The UN is not the seed crystal for the formation of a world government. Organizations such as NAFTA or the EU form a better basis if that is what you want. No, the experience of both world wars taught the globe to fear the actions of superpowers. The UN's main purpose is not humanitarian, not economic, though it is often used in such secondary realms. Ignoring the rhetoric of peace, the UN is meant primarily to check superpowers. During the Cold War, the UN was useful to the United States as a tool to be used against the Soviet Union.

Now, the U.S. rules the roost as the world's only superpower. The UN is a weapon which has only one target. This makes some American strategists increasingly uncomfortable with the UN. The plan of the Bush administration is to do anything it can to weaken this check on American power.

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