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The Zimbabwe Disaster

[ 0 ] October 2, 2007 |

It gets worse and worse:

Zimbabwe’s bakeries have shut and supermarkets have warned there will be no bread for the foreseeable future as the government admitted that wheat production had collapsed following the seizure of white-owned farms.

The agricultural ministry announcement that the wheat harvest is only about a third of what is required, and that imports are held up by lack of hard currency, came as a deadline passed today for the last white farmers to leave their land or face prosecution for trespass.

[...]

The agriculture minister, Rugare Gumbo, has blamed the food shortages on black farmers who have taken over formerly white-owned land.

“I am painfully aware of the widespread theft of stock, farm produce, irrigation equipment and the general vandalism of infrastructure by our new farmers,” he said.

“I am disappointed that our new farmers have proved to be failures since the start of the land reform programme in 2000. In spite of all the support government has been pouring into the agricultural sector, productivity and under-utilisation of land remain issues of concern.”

The ministry of agriculture has also blamed electricity shortages for the wheat shortfall, saying that power cuts have affected irrigation and halved crop yields per acre.

I trust beyond the obvious (“wage and price controls don’t work!” “Having no rule of law is bad for economic development!”) that the lesson in the need to temper claims of abstract justice with wisdom here is clear. Even if every farmer whose land was expropriated owed their property ownership quite directly to colonialism and apartheid, and some state policy to broaden ownership was desirable, you also have to ask what a particular policy will accomplish. Having productive land turned over to cronies of the state with no ability or willingness to farm had predictably catastrophic results.

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Rockies

[ 0 ] October 1, 2007 |

Wow. Condolences to TBogg — and congratulations to Jeebus. I was pulling for the Padres, but that was an amazing game. With the Phils and now Colorado having closed out the regular season with improbable runs to the playoffs, I can’t think of another pennant race quite like it. It genuinely makes me wish I paid more attention to the National League.

…UPDATE [By SL]: I thought TBogg was out arranging a contract on Tim McClelland? It seemed to me that they also blew the call on the possible homer that would have made it 7-5 (God knows the soporific TBS broadcast — Gad, this is going to be painful — couldn’t seem to be bothered to even find out the relevant ground rule, so it’s tough to be sure), so it evens out. Anyway, Jesus, did Trevor Hoffman choke it up this year.

But what a great game. When was the last time a play-in went to extra innings? Is it unprecedented?

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When Did Hitchens Become a China Hawk?

[ 0 ] October 1, 2007 |

…or, “Is there anything that Bill Kristol says that won’t eventually find its way into Christopher Hitchens Mouth?

China also maintains territorial claims against India and Vietnam (and, of course, Taiwan) and is building a vast army, as well as a huge oceangoing navy, to back up these ambitions. It seems an eon ago, because it was before Sept. 11, 2001, but we should not forget what happened when an American aircraft was involved in a midair collision over Hainan island in the early days of this administration. The Chinese acted as if the accident was deliberate, impounded the plane and the crew for several days, and mounted mass demonstrations of hysterical chauvinism. Events in the Middle East have since obscured this menacing picture, but actually it is in that region that China’s cynical statecraft is most obviously on display. If Beijing had had its way, Saddam Hussein would still be in power. Iran is being supplied with Chinese Silkworm missiles. Most horribly of all, China buys most of the oil of Sudan and in return provides the weaponry—and the diplomatic cover at the United Nations—for the cleansing of Darfur.

To take these one at a time….

  • China does not have meaningful territorial claims against India. China won the Sino-Indian War, then drew back to the territory it claimed as its own. India has (perhaps justifiably, perhaps not) been calling for revision of the current territorial arrangement.
  • Hitchens claim seems to be that the Hainan Island incident reveals China to be an aggressive revisionist state. Given that the incident happened over six years ago, it would seem that some, well, any other evidence would have emerged regarding China’s aggressive intent since that time. As Hitch is referring to that incident rather than one more recent, I can only that either no relevant recent incident exists, or that the Hainan Incident happened the last time Hitch was sober. Given that the last is implausible on its face (does anyone believe that Hitch has had a moment of sobriety in the last 20 years?), I’m going to have to go with the former.
  • Hitchens claim that China has a huge army and a huge navy are best interpreted as “dude read it on the back of a cereal box, or maybe in the Weekly Standard”. China’s navy is, almost all analysts agree, smaller and weaker than that of Japan. It is trivial compared to the USN. China’s army is very large, but only capable of action in select circumstances.
  • It’s very hard for me to understand how one person can both a) be a supporter of the Bush administration, and b)have a problem with displays of hysterical chauvinism.
  • If Canada had its way, Saddam Hussein would still be in power. The same could be said of France, Germany, Russia, Al Gore, and myself. Hitch probably can’t tell the difference, but Western democracies resisted the invasion of Iraq much more mightily than China did. I don’t recall anybody in the Weekly Standard complaining that the Chinese were going to veto the force authorization resolution back in 2003.
  • “The United States buys much of the oil of Saudi Arabia and in return provides the weaponry- and international diplomatic legitimacy- for the maintenance of the brutally repressive Saud dynasty.”

Like I said last week, he’s barely even trying anymore. Having gone down the dark path, it’s too much work to turn back, and the Weekly Standard will always have a new position for him to ape. Next week he’ll probably write a column advocating school vouchers and states’ rights.

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Take That Record Labels

[ 0 ] October 1, 2007 |

Radiohead has a new album coming out on 10/10. It’s their first non-big studio album in quite some time. They’ve produced it and are marketing it themselves. But even without the cut to the record label, it’ll be the smallest profit they’ve made from a record in years. Or maybe it won’t be.

The confusion arises because Radiohead is selling the record only through its website…and is letting people who download it pay what they want. Seriously.

The idea (brilliant, I might add) is reminiscent of Berlin’s weinerei restaurants, about which I (or guest bloggers) have written before, at which you are served delicious food (3 courses) for an indeterminate price. At the end of the meal, you pay what you want, slipping the money into a jar by the bar. Seriously.

One would think that this would be an unsustainable business model, but the weinereis are thriving in Berlin (you need a reservation). They must be doing well because people like me feel so good about the place and the food that we overpay. Wonder if the same will happen with Radiohead’s album…or if people will take the music and run. And anyway, what is the fair price for the genius of Thom Yorke et al?

(via brother of bean)

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Congratulations are in Order…

[ 0 ] October 1, 2007 |

To thearistokatz, manager of the Lonesome Tadahitos, and winner of the 2007 LGM Baseball Challenge. As soon as I’m favored with an e-mail address, thearistokatz will receive a much-coveted LGM Certificate of Championship-ness.

Final Standings:

1 Lonesome Tadahitos, thearistokatz 8411
2 12-6 Shooters, FoxBarnes 8100
3 Albuquerque Turquoise, eloomis121 7522
4 Shangri-La Coelacanths, jackdawbl2 7249
5 titleixbaby, titleixbaby 7246
6 Bolts from the Blue, rapayn01 7229
7 Axis of Evel Knievel, davidnoon 6993
8 E.Robertson, UKEvan 6899
9 Metsies, metsies, metsies, bpetti32 6863
10 kodos423, kodos423 6820
11 The 14th Century, The 14th Century 6661
12 Wowee Zowee, voodoodoodoo 6562
13 Incertus, Incertus 6438
14 Lexington Bearded Ducks, farls0 6348
15 Theibault Moor Orioles, john theibault 6289
16 The Old 300, patrickmcleod 6248
17 Brian DePalma Again!, klhoughton 5540

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A Victory for the Secular State

[ 0 ] October 1, 2007 |

The Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal seeking to nullify a New York law, upheld by state courts, that requires Catholic Charities to provide contraception to women as part of health coverage requirements. I think this point is especially important, and often distorted when debates on the subject come up (the question of whether Catholic hospitals should provide EC to rape victims being another example):

The New York law contains an exemption for churches, seminaries and other institutions with a mainly religious mission that primarily serve followers of that religion. Catholic Charities and the other groups sought the exemption, but they hire and serve people of different faiths.

New York’s highest court ruled last year that the groups had to comply with the law. The 6-0 decision by the state Court of Appeals hinged on the determination that the groups are essentially social service agencies, not churches.

This distinction gets things exactly right. It is appropriate to exempt churches qua churches from some neutral laws and civil rights protections. Nominally religious organizations that hire people of different faiths, serve people of different faiths, and perform secular services with taxpayer subsidies and/or tax breaks should comply with generally applicable statutes except in rare cases when they are specifically targeted at religious groups.

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Achievement

[ 0 ] October 1, 2007 |

I’ll leave a fuller discussion of Jeffrey Goldberg’s rant against Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer to someone else, but this point in particular deserves some attention:

The Judeocentric understanding of America’s foreign policy is now the special province of two ostensibly reputable scholars, John J. Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen M. Walt of Harvard University. The two men gained their fame–which is wildly disproportionate to their achievement–last spring, after the publication of an article in the London Review of Books that condemned the activities of Jewish-American supporters of Israel and argued that those activities are responsible for an astounding number of world-historical developments.

Umm…. no.

I don’t quite understand why critics of Walt and Mearsheimer want to insist that the two were virtual unknowns who wandered in unheralded from the wilderness to start attacking Jews for no good reason. Perhaps the point is to discredit them as fame-seeking publicity hounds, and their work as nothing more than an effort at bomb throwing. I’m not really sure. In any case, the argument is simply indefensible. John Mearsheimer would by almost any account have been named one of the five best known international relations specialists in the discipline, even before the London Review of Books article. For my part I don’t think that his book, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics, is all that great, but it certainly was an important scholarly and popular account when it came out, meriting attention in Foreign Affairs and other non-academic publications. Stephen Walt is less well known outside the discipline, although I daresay that it would be nearly impossible for someone to pass a field exam in international relations without being familiar with Walt’s work.

I know it’s asking too much, but it would be nice if TNR found someone at least halfway familiar with the histories of the two authors to review their book. Failing that, the reviewer might concentrate less on attacks on their background and more on the substance; there is ample room for complaint, although I’m not sure that arguing (as Goldberg more or less does) that Walt and Mearsheimer are more anti-semitic than Osama Bin Laden will win any awards for journalistic accuracy.

yoav suggests that Goldberg’s line is a throwaway, and notes that Walt and Mearsheimer have no expertise in domestic political analysis. That’s fair enough, and no one should make the mistake of taking the analysis of a pair of realists as authority on the internal dynamics of foreign policy making. But this brings up another point; if in the course of reviewing someone’s work I were to make a dispositional accusation- claiming, for example, that the author is anti-semitic- I would certainly make some effort to investigate the author’s past work to see if the accusation was justified. Even the most cursory google search for either Walt or Mearsheimer would have revealed to Goldberg a large body of work and a large set of reviews of that work that would have belied the implication that they lacked achievement. Moreover, I’d have to say that anyone who purports to be a critic or analyst of American foreign policy should have at least a passing acquaintance with the work of John Mearsheimer; as noted above, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics is a very well-known book.

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Useful Idiots of the Day

[ 0 ] October 1, 2007 |

Maureen Dowd and Frank Rich. Nice to see that we’re in for more than a year of vapid and sometimes sexist attacks on Clinton from ostensible liberals on an ostensibly liberal op-ed page…

Greg Sargent has more.

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Andy Hearts Mahmoud

[ 0 ] October 1, 2007 |

Hilarious.

Update: The Youtube video (below) has better sound.

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That Seems Like Nothing So Much as a Colossal Waste of Time…

[ 0 ] October 1, 2007 |

Kentucky; land of bourbon, horses, and grass. Not bluegrass, mind you:

Deep in the Appalachian woods near the Knox-Bell County line, Kentucky State Police Trooper Dewayne Holden’s Humvee belched smoke and roared as it struggled up what once was an old logging trail. As his three-truck convoy stopped at a clearing atop a 3,000-foot ridge, Holden grabbed a machete and joined eight other armed troopers and National Guard members, hiking toward a hill under some power lines.

Keeping an eye out for nail pits, pipe bombs and poison-snake booby traps, they found fresh ATV tracks. The pot growers had beaten them to the prize: Gone were the 40 to 50 marijuana plants worth as much as $100,000 that Holden spotted from a helicopter more than a week earlier. Only six spindly plants were left.

Success?

According to officials at the Office of National Drug Policy’s Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Program (HIDTA), Kentucky produces more marijuana than any other state except California, making it home to one of the nation’s more intensive eradication efforts — a yearly game of harvest-time cat and mouse in national forests, abandoned farms, shady hollows, backyards and mountainsides….

Authorities say their efforts keep drugs off the streets and illicit profits out of criminal hands. But critics call it a waste of time and money that has failed to curb availability or demand. “Trying to eradicate marijuana is like taking a teaspoon and saying you’re going to empty the Atlantic Ocean,” says Gary Potter, an Eastern Kentucky University professor of criminal justice who has researched the issue for decades.

The efforts are very popular with the locals….

Many of the small towns of Eastern Kentucky, steeped in a tradition of bootlegging moonshine, also have high rates of unemployment and poverty and in some cases, public corruption, according to federal drug officials. People can make as much as $2,000 from a single plant, an often irresistible draw when good-paying jobs are scarce. Much of what is harvested is carried in car trunks to such cities as Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Detroit, authorities say.

Over time, growing pot has become an “accepted and even encouraged” part of the culture in Appalachia, according to a 2006 report from the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Still, authorities complain that in some counties it is difficult to get a jury to indict, much less convict, a marijuana grower.

Read further to see how eradication efforts have led to… a 1000% increase in domestic marijuana production over the last quarter century. When you’re reading, remember that we’re trying to do the same thing with opium in Afghanistan, and that Kentucky, at least, is blessed by the lack of a brutal insurgency capitalizing on such efforts.

Via Redbeard.

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Pundit Rule #1: Blame Must Always Be Equally Apportioned Among the Parties Irrespective of the Facts

[ 0 ] October 1, 2007 |

Shorter David Ignatius: The fact that the Bush administration reneged on a deal brokered between the director of national intelligence and Democrats in Congress proves that Democrats are unwilling to compromise and putting political interests above national security. Democrats are also to blame for assuming that a general acting as an apologist for a catastrophic Republican policy did not represent an impartial conception of the national interest. [via publius]

Indeed.

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Worst American Birthdays, vol. 26

[ 1 ] October 1, 2007 |

William Hubbs Rehnquist was flushed into the world 83 years ago today.

During his ascent toward the Supreme Court, where he would eventually serve nearly 20 years as Chief Justice, Rehnquist established himself as a vigorous defender of 19th century racial custom. While serving as a clerk for Associate Justice Robert Jackson in 1952, a youthful Rehnquist drafted an infamous, spritely memo in which he insisted that Plessy — the 1896 case validating the constitutionality of segregation laws — was “right and should be reaffirmed.” As he explained to Jackson,

in the long run it is the majority who will determine what the constitutional rights of the minority are. One hundred and fifty years of attempts on the part of this Court to protect minority rights of any kind — whether those of business, slaveholders, or Jehovah’s Witnesses — have been sloughed off, and crept silently to rest. If the present Court is unable to profit by this example it must be prepared to see its work fade in time, too, as embodying only the sentiments of a transient majority of nine men.

Rehnquist elaborated on this point in another memo the next year, when he informed the justice that “white people of the south don’t like the colored people,” and that the Court could only do so much to alleviate the burdens placed upon minority rights. (These observations, it should be recalled, came less than a decade after World War II had seemingly demonstrated the perils of racial majoritarianism. Then again, Rehnquist’s wartime duty was limited to stateside meteorology, and so his sensitivity to the war’s broader ideological meanings may not have been terribly well sharpened.)

Although Jackson and the eight other justices failed to accept his deference toward herrenvolk democracy, Rehnquist continued to fight the good fight as a private attorney in Phoenix. While the national civil rights movement pursued federal legislation with greater urgency, Rehnquist donated his time to “Operation Eagle Eye,” a voter-suppression effort organized by the state’s Republican Party. For several years, he and other GOP lawyers assembled themselves into flying squads that harassed south Phoenix voters — most of whom were African American and Latino — and challenged their credentials as they waited in line. Rehnquist’s goonery eventually helped earn him a position in the Nixon Justice Department and, before long, on the highest court in the land. Somewhat perversely, William Rehnquist was confirmed to the seat last occupied by John Harlan II, the grandson of Plessy’s lone dissenter and an important advocate for racial equality in his own tenure on the court.

In his 34 years on the bench, Rehnquist helped drag the court rightward, to such a degree that traditional judicial conservatives like John Paul Stevens eventually appeared liberal by comparison. He continued to take a dim view of individual (and especially minority) rights, interpreting the Equal Protection Clause in the sort of narrow terms that would have made his 19th century forebears proud. And in the Chief Justice’s waning years, the Rehnquist Court bequeathed to the nation the singular error known as the Bush Presidency, which — among its other constitutional sins — has presided over (arguably) the worst decline in civil rights since the second Cleveland administration.

All that said, we would be amiss in overlooking Rehnquist’s gift for music. At the annual 4th Circuit Judicial Conference, the Chief Justice used to lead friends and colleagues in rousing choruses of old-time American songs, including an enlightened ditty known as “Dixie.”

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