Hitch Would Be Proud

Oh sweet God:

Paris Hilton is thrilled to be playing Mother Teresa in an upcoming biopic.
The hotel heiress has been approached by award-winning director T Rajeevnath, who is convinced that she will be a huge success…
Hilton explained, “It’s such an honour. I’m so excited. I really want to learn more about this amazing woman, so that’s what I’m doing in a few months.”
In preparation for the role, Paris is apparently joining the Order of Mother Teresa missionaries, and will travel around Bangalore and Calcutta to care for the sick.

Look, if she’s actually going to do charity work, and not just slack off, get high, and hit on Indian guys, that’s great. I suppose. If I were a poor Calcuttan, I’d prefer not getting medicated than receiving medical help from Paris @!$# Hilton, but that’s just me. But she shouldn’t be allowed to request that people pay $7 to see her pretend to be serious. That’s just cruel. She should either quit now, or else do what George Clooney does when people tell him they saw Batman and Robin in theaters, and paid money to do so: give them a ten.

Whither Inequality?

Since the time of John Dewey and the progressive movement in education, it’s been thought that universal education of one level or another is a panacea for economic inequality. While certainly standardized elementary and secondary education worked wonders for the working class citizens who benefited from it, it didn’t stop the expanding gap between rich and poor, nor has increased access to college education. Paul Krugman explains how (from TAPPED, as I don’t subscribe to Times Select, as I’m too cheap):

A new research paper by Ian Dew-Becker and Robert Gordon of Northwestern University, “Where Did the Productivity Growth Go?,” gives the details. Between 1972 and 2001 the wage and salary income of Americans at the 90th percentile of the income distribution rose only 34 percent, or about 1 percent per year. So being in the top 10 percent of the income distribution, like being a college graduate, wasn’t a ticket to big income gains.
But income at the 99th percentile rose 87 percent; income at the 99.9th percentile rose 181 percent; and income at the 99.99th percentile rose 497 percent. No, that’s not a misprint.
Just to give you a sense of who we’re talking about: the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center estimates that this year the 99th percentile will correspond to an income of $402,306, and the 99.9th percentile to an income of $1,672,726. The center doesn’t give a number for the 99.99th percentile, but it’s probably well over $6 million a year.

He goes on to detail the political causes of this, suggesting that the higher access to government that wealth provides allows an avenue for perpetuating that wealth, by exploiting the political process. This leads to an interesting conclusion: campaign finance reform and lobbying reform aren’t important only in the context of the Jack Abramoff scandal, but in the larger field of economic equality. If the rich are forced to work for the continuation of their wealth, both wealth and poverty will become less permanent, because as the rich lose their share of the pie, the poor will pick it up. The result? Economic equality. Yet another reason to back public financing.

IR Book Blogging

One of the best birthday presents I received was The Twenty Year’s Crisis by E.H. Carr, the 1939 book that created the study of international relations as we know it. I finished it a couple of nights ago, and I was completely blown away. For one thing, the writing style is positively Shakespearean – each sentence, each paragraph, provides the material for as much as a book of IR work. He discusses the difference between hard, soft, and sticky power fifty years before those terms were coined. He explains the reasons for energy independence forty years before Jimmy Carter called for it. He pinpoints the weaknesses of international law more astutely than anyone I’ve read six years before the U.N., and almost sixty years before the I.C.C. His analysis is always thought-provoking, and while certainly not always correct (see his attack on free trade), and sometimes even offensive (his call for organized “regulation” of opinion), his words are ever-more-important. Crisis is easily accessible, dense, and ever-relevant. I’d go as far as to say that it should be required reading for anyone who cares about the future of world politics.

Hadley Undermines Self

In an unusual step, I actually got up early enough this morning to watch the Sunday talk shows. Fox News Sunday was incredibly unimpressive; it lobbed mostly softballs to the Republican guests (homeland security advisor Frances Townsend and Mass. Governor Mitt Romney) and was incredibly bitter in its questioning of Joe Biden, the one Democrat on the show. The toughest questioning of Romney was about his flip-flop on abortion, but Chris Wallace, the host, didn’t even delve very deeply into it. Also, the production values were simply atrocious.
Anyway, I’m watching Face the Nation now, which is much, much better, both in depth and production. But what really struck me was that, in Bob Schieffer and Tom Friedman’s joint interview of Stephen Hadley, Hadley said something incredibly revealing. Schieffer was asking Hadley about a Pentagon report showing that the one Iraqi Army battalion which was capable of operating without American support no longer can do so, and Hadley countered by saying that the Pentagon didn’t use that statistic to measure progress, instead preferring to measure units that can operate with American help. This says two things. First, it shows that the Pentagon isn’t really planning for a withdrawal anytime soon; their focus is on getting the Iraqi Army to jibe with the American forces, which is a sign that, either through a continued occupation or permanent bases, they are planning for a long-term American presence, which is of course discouraging. Second, it showed just how cluelessly self-serving the DoD is in its measurements. If it were honest, and was measuring progress adequately, it would use the measure that Schieffer referenced; instead, it cares only about making itself look more competent than it is, and exaggerating the progress that has been made in Army training. Depressing, but hardly surprising, that.