My Predictions

It’s Halloween, I’m sick of the little children asking for candy, I just finished writing a huge article on Turkey’s relationship with the EU, and I want to do something thoughtless and pointless. How about an election prediction post! I really don’t know much about the House races, but given that Rothenberg and Cook have low-end figures that are over the ever-so-important 15 seat mark, I’ll predict a Democratic takeover. The only real question is how big it will be. As for the Senate, I think Maryland and Minnesota are safe keeps, and Pennsylvania, Ohio, Rhode Island and Montana are all safe gains for the Democrats. That leaves a 51-49 Republican Senate. I think Bob Menendez will win an easier victory than expected – thepolls are with him, and Republican turnout isn’t going to be great in this political climate. Fournewpolls show Webb considerably ahead in Virginia, so I’ll swing that one over, and after a long period of deadlock McCaskill has eked ahead in Missouri, so I think they’ll pull out tiny victories. Ford’s well behind now, and suffers from the race problem. So I predict a 51-49 Democratic Senate.

Just Plain Not True

The Bush administration may be malevolent, but it is not dumb. It avoids easily recognizable lies when it can, preferring sneakier, less easily exposed methods. But tough times call for tough measures, and so bald-faced lying it is. At least with the “stay the course” denial there was the necessity to use Google to expose the lie; now they’re not even trying.

The Rights Revolution Chugs On

New Jersey’s Supreme Court just ruled that the New Jersey legislature has half a year to legalize either civil unions or marriage. I’ve always thought Jon Corzine to be a good guy, but this will be a good test of his integrity. If he goes the Plessy route and pushes for mere civil unions, I’ll think substantially less of him. On the other hand, he could have a spine and push for full equality, in which case his reputation as one of the better governors in the country will be secured.

Wars I Supported

Kevin asks:

So: which wars did you support? Any of them? None of them? Some of them? Does it make sense to support a politician who appears to have the same judgment about these things that you do? It’s obviously not the only thing you should look at, but it seems like it ought to be one of the things.

In order:

  • American Revolution: Support – it’s really hard to think of a world without it.
  • 1812: No, but maybe that’s just my Anglophilia for you.
  • Various Indian Wars: No. I also dislike the Holocaust. True story.
  • Mexican: No, but it’s nice to have California.
  • Civil: Yes – by which I mean I would have liked the North to start it sooner. And win.
  • Spanish-American: No. Seriously, does anyone actually believe the Spanish sunk the Maine anymore? And is there anyone who thinks that a war launched from such a dishonest premise is at all justifiable?
  • WWI: I just watched La Grand Illusion, so no.
  • Spanish Civil War: Yes (it seems reasonable to point out instances in which my desire for intervention wasn’t fulfilled).
  • WWII: Yes. Again, about disliking the Holocaust.
  • Korea: Yes, but MacArthur was a nutjob and we should have stopped at the DMZ to begin with.
  • Vietnam: What do you think?
  • Grenada: Yes. Maurice Bishop wasn’t too great a guy, and it was easy enough.
  • Panama: Same as Grenada. Any time we can take out a dictator without totally destabilizing the country he was ruling is much appreciated.
  • Gulf War: Yes. It was important in warming relations between the US and the soon-to-be Russian Federation. Also, allowing Hussein to attack Gulf States with impunity would have set a very bad precedent. For that matter, intervening in 1988 after Halabja wouldn’t have been a bad idea, providing we provided adequate support to the Shi’ites to support a rebellion and got out in a timely manner. It would have been right after the Iran-Iraq war ended, so we could have exploited Hussein’s drop in popularity.
  • Rwanda: Yes – we should have bombed the radio stations broadcasting murder orders and provided air support for the RPF.
  • Bosnia: Yes – earlier and more aggressively.
  • Kosovo: Hells yes.
  • Afghanistan: Preferably not, but it seemed unavoidable.
  • Iraq: Hells no.
  • In Defense of Obama

    Judis writes:

    John Kennedy was a two term senator, but he spent much of his two terms campaigning for president, and when he became president, made two very serious errors in foreign policy in his first year–sanctioning the Bay of Pigs invasion and appearing weak to Khrushchev in Vienna. Lyndon Johnson knew how to get domestic policy passed, but had little experience in foreign affairs, and it showed immediately in his decision to escalate the war in Vietnam. Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush made initial missteps in foreign and domestic policy.
    The presidents who didn’t screw up immediately–however their presidencies turned out–were Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George H. W. Bush. Eisenhower, Nixon, and Bush Sr. had extensive foreign policy experience, and Reagan was a two-term governor of the country’s most important state, and had been involved in national politics for decades.
    Obama, if elected, would possess neither the foreign policy experience of Eisenhower, nor Nixon, nor the administrative experience of Reagan–and he would inherit a fractious world and a deeply divided Washington.

    First, Judis gets some basic facts wrong. Nixon served in the House for two years and the Senate for four before becoming Vice President in 1952. His legislative experience gave him roughly the same amount of foreign policy experience as Obama has, and given that the VP’s role in most cabinets in mostly ceremonial – Nixon is no exception – it’s not clear that that helped Nixon under foreign policy more than he did in 1952. Further, Nixon had been removed from politics altogether for eight years by 1968, allowing him to get rusty in a way Obama wouldn’t. And I wouldn’t say Nixon didn’t screw up initially on FP – what do you call Vietnamization? Eisenhower, similarly, didn’t have much foreign policy experience per se. He commanded an army, but he didn’t manage relations with other countries except in the limited military realm, and he didn’t help manage the Marshall Plan. Indeed, he had substantially less FP experience than Wes Clark had in 2004. And, as with Nixon, his experience was dated. 1952 was quite a few years off from 1945. Also, the “initial missteps” made by JFK and Clinton were not theirs at all. The Bay of Pigs was Dulles’ baby, and Somalia Bush’s. Indeed, Somalia can’t even conceivably be lain at the feet of Clinton – he inherited the problem, and didn’t even consciously sanction it as Kennedy did BoP.
    Second, Judis distinguishes arbitrarily between inital missteps and further missteps. Reagan may have had “managerial experience” (what ME he had that Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton didn’t is a mystery), but he screwed up royally in pushing SDI and presiding over Iran-Contra. Nixon may have had marginally more FP experience than Obama, but he also bombed Laos and Cambodia. Similarly, Judis doesn’t give credit to presidents – Clinton and JFK, for example – who made excellent FP decisions – Bosnia/Kosovo and the Cuba blockade – later in their tenures.
    Finally, while Obama may not have a lot of foreign policy experience, he knows what he’s talking about. The guy specialized in international relations at Columbia, and it shows. Read some of the transcripts of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s meetings. Obama’s no lightweight on FP.

    Anne Applebaum Is Full of It

    Evidence:

    Still, freedom to practice religion in the West shouldn’t imply freedom to hold jobs that impinge on that practice. An Orthodox Jew should not have an absolute right to work in a restaurant that is open only on Saturdays. A Quaker cannot join the Army and then state that his religion prohibits him from fighting. By the same token, a Muslim woman who wants to cover her face has no absolute right to work in a school or an office where face-to-face conversations are part of the job. It isn’t religious discrimination or anti-Muslim bias to tell her that she must be polite to the natives, respect the local customs, try to speak some of the local patois—and uncover her face.

    First off, Applebaum has obviously never heard of conscientious objection, because if she had she would have known that many a pacifist Quaker has served in the US Army, just in non-combat roles. This includes Quakers who enlisted, and were not conscripted.
    Second, there’s a difference between not being able to serve in the military/work on Saturdays and not being able to communicate with someone without a veil. The former requirements are major impediments to one’s ability to work in very specific field; they are easily managed. But veils not only do not harm the wearer’s ability to do just about any job, but they apply during all occupations. So allowing Muslims to be discriminated against on the basis of veil-wearing would, in theory, ban female Muslims from workplaces for doing something that does not impede their ability to work. Not only that, but they could be banned for no good reason from just about any workplace, unlike Orthodox Jews or Quakers. That’s not fair, and Applebaum’s smart enough to know it.

    Porn As An Outlet

    Greg Mankiw quotes a study by a Clemon economist:

    The arrival of the internet caused a large decline in both the pecuniary and non-pecuniary costs of accessing pornography. Using state-level panel data from 1998-2003, I find that the arrival of the internet was associated with a reduction in rape incidence. However, growth in internet usage had no apparent effect on other crimes. Moreover, when I disaggregate the rape data by offender age, I find that the effect of the internet on rape is concentrated among those for whom the internet-induced fall in the non-pecuniary price of pornography was the largest – men ages 15-19, who typically live with their parents.

    At first I was skeptical; the study focused on the correlation between internet access and rape rates. It seemed like a stretch to assume that pornography usage and internet usage are one and the same. But now that I notice that rape was the only statistic affected, and that the drop was mainly focused on the most heavily pornified segment of the population, I find the conclusion much more plausible. The study poses a potent challenge to the old-school feminist notion that rape is about power, not sex; that the same urges that lead to rape can be channeled through porn seems to suggest that rape is, in fact, a sexual act. On the other hand, if these potential rapists were looking at violent porn, which isn’t that unlikely, the rape-power connection stands. More research needs to be done, of course, but at the very least Catharine MacKinnon should be making some apologies.

    Positive Rumblings in Israel

    While I deplore Avigdor Lieberman’s undoubtedly racist ethnic cleansing policies, I still have to say that, from a policy viewpoint, Israel Beiteinu’s addition to the Israeli governing coalition is a very good thing. Here’s why:

    In recent weeks, Mr. Lieberman has pushed a proposal that would change Israel’s government from a parliamentary system to a strong presidential system, similar to that of the United States. Under his plan, the presidency, which is now a mostly ceremonial position chosen by the Parliament, would be a directly elected by voters and would have wide-ranging powers.
    Mr. Lieberman’s proposal was narrowly approved by Israel’s cabinet on Sunday, but is expected to face an uphill battle if it is introduced in the Parliament.

    Let’s hope that the full Knesset agrees to it. As great as proportional representation seems in theory, it wreaks spectacular havoc in countries where there are volatile foreign policy situations, like Israel. Whereas winner-take-all systems have a bias toward centrist parties that reflect the opinions of the median voter, proportional rep systems put disproportionate power in the hands of small extremist parties – like Lieberman’s, incidentally – that major parties need to garner the support of in order to organize a governing coalition. In the case of Israel, this means that the National Union and various religious parties get more policy sway than their vote totals would indicate; as these parties are decidedly rightist in their views on the Palestinian issue, this makes negotiating a final peace settlement difficult, to say the least. So while a presidential system won’t tear down all barriers to a peace settlement, it will put more power in centrist forces, which is a step in the right direction.