Monday, March 31, 2003
WHO ARMED IRAQ? REDUX
Some time back I posted this list itemizing Iraqi military hardware and its nation of origin at the time of the Gulf War, which nicely deflates the overheated fantasies of anti-American conspiracy theorists. Now further confirming the fact that the Iraqi army was not armed by the U.S. is this chart showing weapon imports by Iraq from 1973-1990 over at The Command Post.
As pointed out in the comments section over there, looking at hardware alone does not reveal the complete story, since the U.S. did give advisory aid to Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War and thus cannot be said to have contributed nothing to the Iraqi military. It does, however, totally discredit the facile anti-war talking point that "it's America's fault that Iraq is a threat because we armed Saddam" -- not that the statement being true would have the slightest implication for how we should respond now, of course.
Saturday, March 22, 2003
Like it says... I'll be back in about a week, with posts on Eric Alterman and the future of socialist thought.
Friday, March 14, 2003
PAY TUITION, DONATE TO NADER
I've been vaguely aware of the presence on campus of a chapter of the Public Interest Research Group (PIRG; here it's specifically CalPIRG) and knew the organization is associated with Ralph Nader, but never paid it much attention, assuming it was just some typical Lefty do-gooder group. After reading this article by Radley Balko, however, it's definitely leaped to the center of my radar screen. It appears the group gets much of its funding through mandatory fees concomitant with tuition at various colleges and universities across the country, a charge which is often not apparent to students and can be difficult to get waived even when it is. This setup brings in $10-$20 million dollars a year for PIRG.
While it is typical for college tuition to include several fees of a few dollars supporting campus groups, what stands out in this situation is that these funds are being passed on to state and national activist groups rather than being used at the campuses where they are generated. Thus it is not so much a way of supporting campus activities as a vehicle for funding a nationwide political organization. Perhaps if PIRG had a truly neutral perspective this would be less disturbing, but even a casual perusal of their website suggests a political slant to their viewpoint. Moreover, since PIRG is overseen by Nader, this funding can be seen as indirect support of his political campaigning and the broader activities of the Green party in general. It's therefore not too surprising that PIRG seems to have generated much of the controversy about student fees over the years, at least judging by this Guide to Student Fees by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.
Balko does not specify any University of California schools as having these "hidden" mandatory fees for PIRG, but my campus might very well be part of this scheme too. I plan to find out soon. Stay tuned...
LA TRAHISON DES PROFS
or, Raising the Axis of Weasel
The valiant Dissident Frogman offers us this disturbing passage from a guidebook for teachers in France:
To find out the year this drivel was written and the Frogman's advice in light of it, check out the full article.
Thursday, March 13, 2003
A FUTURE OF "GEOSLAVERY"?
News from the technology of dystopia department: Geographer Jerome Dobson of the University of Kansas is warning of the oppressive potential of Global Positioning System technology. His fear is that as the technology develops and its hardware is ever more miniaturized, GPS may come to be used for nefarious purposes of surveillance and control, creating a situation of "geoslavery":
The basic idea is that such devices could be used by those in power to at least continuously monitor a person's location, and furthermore, should he deviate from an approved path or enter a restricted area, perhaps even administer a physical punishment in response -- thus effectively having complete control over his movement.
I have to wonder if Jerome is perhaps making too much of this -- there are still some technical hurdles here -- but I certainly support any and all attempts to foresee and avoid the potential harm of a new technology before it arrives in full.
MY "POLITICAL STEREOTYPE"
Republican - You believe that the free market will
take care of most things, but that the
government should be there with moderate
taxation to provide for national defense and
enforcing morality. Your historical role model
is Ronald Reagan.
Which political sterotype are you?
brought to you by Quizilla
THE U.N.'S IRAQ (IR)RESOLUTIONS, REDUX
When I posted this pointer to a list of all Iraq-related U.N. Resolutions, I'd forgotten that a few months ago there had been an article on Front Page discussing the history of and response to these Resolutions, but came across it again while helping someone prepare for a debate on the Iraq issue. Anyway, here is the article, and I recommend it as a great complement to Paxety's list.
Monday, March 10, 2003
MORE IRAQIS FOR WAR
Adding to the chorus of Iraqis calling for an American attack, Stephen F. Hayes of The Weekly Standard interviews Iraqis living in Michigan. Here's an example of what they have to say:
The article also discusses the disasterous results of our "hands-off" response to the Iraqi rebellion at the end of the Gulf War, which cost the lives of perhaps 30,000 Iraqis and led to the deadly farce of the last 12 years. The U.N. and international opinion be damned, let's do it right this time!
SOON-TO-BE BLOGGER REFUGEE?
It looks like my smooth sailing with Blogger has come to an end. I'm now unable to update my template -- every attempt to Publish any changes fails. Has anyone else had this problem?
This has me contemplating joining the exodus from Blog*Spot to other Internet digs. Now I just have to figure out how to do it for free! Any suggestions?
Thursday, March 06, 2003
MARXISM WATCH: BRAZIL
Since we last checked in with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, things have generally been going well for his administration. His primary focus has of course been on Brazil's ailing economy, which is burdened by high debt, skyrocketing interest rates, and limited growth. As one tool for aiding economic recovery, da Silva  has created an advisory council of 82 business, labor, and social leaders to formulate reform proposals. The council has its critics, with some saying it is an attempt to bypass the Brazilian Congress, and others that it will be merely an irrelevant "talking shop." Continuing his emphasis on economics, the President also called for the Congress to swiftly pass tax and pension reforms, stating that the economy must be stabilized via measures such as these before progress can be made on new social programs.
This continuing talk of social programs and economic inequalities is what has made Brazilian conservatives worry that da Silva has not shed his Marxist past, but recent developments have helped to allay those fears. The President has backed pro-market actions such as raising interest rates to combat inflation and slashing government budgets to reduce national debt. Despite the condemnation this earned him from his Workers Party's radical fringe, da Silva appears to be holding firmly to this course. Perhaps encouraged by this, the centrist Democratic Party agreed to support the previously mentioned tax and pension reforms and held out the possibility of forming a coalition with the Workers Party. With Brazil having a parliamentary system of government, the ruling party must have a clear majority to be effective, which the Workers Party currently does not by itself.
Praise from Abroad
Another positive development for da Silva has been increasing praise from foreign sources. President of the World Bank James Wolfensohn warned that Brazilians' "honeymoon" with da Silva will end when they begin to feel the immediate costs of his economic reforms, but added that he has the ability to implement them regardless and generally sounded a positive note. More exuberant in their praise have been William McDonough of the Federal Reserve and the International Monetary Fund, both stating that Brazil is doing a great job in handling its economic troubles. The growing consensus is that da Silva truly meant it when he promised to implement a progressive social program combined with a conservative economic policy. Offering a more detailed and insightful but cautious analysis is this piece by Berkeley professor of economics J. Bradford DeLong, who says that while da Silva has done a good job of pulling off this balancing act so far, his long-term success is uncertain.
The Iraq Issue & Anti-Americanism
One area in which da Silva's Leftism has been much more apparent is the Iraq issue. Brazil has been making anti-war statements from the beginning, with thinly veiled criticism of the U.S. showing in many of da Silva's statements, such as
this one where he says it would be better to spend money on food than bombs. More substantially, da Silva has tried to rally other South American countries to oppose U.S. action against Iraq and has voiced support for the Axis of Weasel.
None of this will be a surprise to Marxism Watch: Brazil's official voice of caution, Olavo de Carvalho. Carvalho writes that Brazil is saturated with a thoroughgoing anti-American hostility, stating:
This situation, combined with the growing alliance among like-minded Leftist Latin American states that he terms the "Little Axis of Evil," has Carvalho desperately pleading for Americans to pay more attention to developments in the region. Let us hope that the recent good news from Brazil does not make us neglect to consider such warnings.
 There seems to be no consensus yet on which single name to use for the Brazilian President, although Lula appears to be the most popular, with Silva being second. Until there is a clear preference, I have decided to refer to him as da Silva.