Pur Autre Vie

I'm not wrong, I'm just an asshole

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Not In Our Stars

So Gregg Easterbrook, whose brother is teaching me advanced securities regulation, has a piece in Slate on NASA's funding priorities. He argues that NASA wastes billions on manned missions and esoteric science at the expense of valuable earth-oriented projects like climate monitoring. By and large I agree with him, although some of his priorities are a bit arbitrary (he doesn't want to spend money investigating the Big Bang but likes the Terrestrial Planet Finder project, which locates earth-like planets in the Milky Way).

As a quick side note, I hadn't heard about the Webb telescope, which he discusses briefly. The Webb telescope is apparently the "successor" to the Hubble telescope. To see the humor in this, you have to know that Webb Hubbel was a Clinton friend and associate attorney general before being jailed and then caught up in the Whitewater investigation. His daughter was in one of my classes in grade school, I seem to remember. Vince Foster's widow taught me algebra, too. Small world.

Anyway, to me this illustrates several of the shortcomings of big government projects that have the potential to do a lot of good. First, the public just doesn't pay attention to the way NASA spends its money. The public only tunes in for the dramatic landings or disasters. This means that not only can NASA pursue its own agenda without much accountability, it has an active incentive to privilege the dramatic and photogenic over the useful and prudent.

Second, NASA has long-term relationships with private aerospace contractors. Easterbrook believes that this has led to something like "regulatory capture," in which regulators end up serving the interests of the regulated industry. Similarly, many of NASA's projects seem to accomplish little other than entertaining the public and providing lots of money for contractors.

Finally, NASA seems to be short-sighted or insufficiently sensitive to small risks of catastrophe. This is part of Judge Posner's theory, elaborated in his book Catastrophe, that government agents have poor incentives to deal with high-cost, low-probability events. In this case, the risk of an impact from an asteroid might be disturbingly high, and it's hard to imagine that we benefit more from manned flights than we would from billions more spent detecting and learning to destroy incoming asteroids.

And yet... And yet only the government can marshal the resources necessary for massive projects like our space program. Long-term relationships with contractors are simply inevitable, and the public's attention is inherently scarce and mercurial. To the extent that NASA's problems are inevitable for a government agency, they are probably acceptable given the good things NASA has accomplished. Ideally we could set better priorities and avoid lots of the costs, and hopefully people will pay attention to Easterbrook (as they should have when he presciently criticized the shuttle program). A lot is at stake.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Good Morning, I'm Ba'al Bedwards

In Little Rock we listened to NPR on the way to school every day. I don't have the best hearing, and I thought Bob Edwards was Ba'al (as in the pagan god) Bedwards. Eventually I realized my mistake, but not before a severe crisis of faith.

Anyway, I miss NPR. The voices and the music are comforting. The journalism is also simply the best that I know of. The problem is that NPR was always a car activity for me, except that sometimes we would turn on Car Talk on Sunday evenings while making dinner. Now that I don't have a car, I don't really have much opportunity to listen to NPR. I suppose I could just set aside a certain time every day to listen, but it's not easy because you can't do anything that occupies your mind while listening.

Ideally I would be able to listen to NPR on the subway ride to work this summer, but I suspect radio reception isn't very good in the tunnels. It's strange that it would be easier to listen to NPR in Little Rock than it is in Chicago or than it will be in New York.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Hollywood: Not That Evil

So my last post attacked the message of "The Constant Gardener." Tarun, who has been combative lately, argued with me for a bit. I guess he has a point: few movies have much of an impact on the world, so it's not particularly immoral to disregard the truth for the sake of a good story.

I'm not entirely convinced, though. "The Constant Gardener" is different from "Ghostbusters" or something. It takes a very serious tone, and surely many viewers leave the theater feeling that the movie has engaged issues of social justice in an intelligent way. Further, while few people will explicitly make decisions based on the ideas in the movie, it feeds into a set of attitudes that are very destructive in the developing world. It's an interesting question which matter more, the ideas carefully articulated in academia or the memes casually penetrating our daily thoughts. Which has had more effect on attitudes about Appalachia, the census or "Deliverance"? I don't know, but I don't think we can dismiss the influence of movies on popular perceptions.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

The Counterproductive Gardener

So I watched "The Constant Gardener" last night. It's entertaining I suppose, but I think its message is grossly immoral and likely to undermine efforts to fight disease in the poorest places in the world.

In short, the message is that evil Western corporations and the government officials they have in their pockets collude to kill poor Africans in pursuit of higher profits. The movie happens to be wildly implausible. The corporation is testing drugs on Africans, and it hides the resulting deaths so that it can get approval for use in Western countries. This is cheaper than re-formulating the drug. In real life, of course, this side-effect would soon come to light in the West and bankrupt the company.

Anyway, despite being implausible, the movie capitalizes on the bad reputation of the pharmaceutical industry and legitimizes ridiculous conspiracy theories. Does this have consequences?

Well, to the extent that anyone takes the movie seriously (or becomes more prone to accept anti-corporate conspiracy theories), yes. As this New York Times article on the drive to eliminate polio makes clear, some people refuse polio vaccine because they believe it contains HIV, or that it is an attempt to sterilize their women, or that it causes more disease than it prevents. Admittedly, these impoverished Africans and Indians probably haven't seen the movie, but these ideas tend to propagate. In the case of polio, Edward Hooper's book The River pushed the idea that HIV was introduced to humans through polio vaccines. This theory was twisted (the book itself doesn't claim that vaccines still contain HIV) and used as an attack on the polio eradication campaign. Similar Western theories led South Africa to adopt policies based on the idea that HIV doesn't cause AIDS.

I don't need to spell out the horrible consequences these ideas have had for poor people in Africa and South Asia. I would like to point out, however, that sloppy liberalism has just as much potential to do harm as selfish or religious conservatism. Some liberals loved "The Constant Gardener" because it beat up on pharmaceutical companies and reinforced the liberal view that the problems of the developing world are caused by greedy Western corporations. Similar ideological commitments led Westerners like this asshole to provide the intellectual underpinnings for South Africa's disastrous AIDS policies.

All of this in the name of "having a conscience." Hollywood is almost unique in its ability to turn well-meaning sentimentalism into a force for misery and death. Abandoning our critical faculties whenever it suits our desire for moral superiority is just as irresponsible and destructive as Bush's religious opposition to condoms and HPV vaccines. If you don't like Bush, you should think hard about whether you like "The Constant Gardener."

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Acid: Not Worth It

I've always been something of a rebel. In grade school there was a poster that said, "Why do you think they call it dope?" I wanted to write beneath it, "Why do you think they call it ecstacy?"

I've stayed away from most drugs, though, even though the first hit is usually free. This morning I woke up and had some yogurt while Alan drank green tea. Here's the crazy part: the yogurt actually tasted a bit like green tea. Even though I could only have been smelling the green tea, it seemed as though I was tasting it. This is known as sensory crossover, and it sometimes happens to people who are on acid. They can "feel" sounds or "see" tastes.

Anyway, having experienced it, I can't say it was that great. Sure, it was tasty yogurt, but not much tastier than regular old Breyers fruit on the bottom. My advice: stay away from LSD. If you really want to experience sensory crossover, get some green tea ice cream and pretend you ordered vanilla.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Second City

New York kicks a little ass, but I don't think it will be surpassing Chicago anytime soon. First, the air here in New York is pretty bad. Most of this isn't New York's fault, it's the industrialized parts of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Ohio. Still, it's filthy, and my poor lungs do not need this kind of abuse. Chicago has dirty air too (thanks Gary), but not this dirty.

It's also expensive here. I saw an apartment yesterday that in Chicago would have cost around $600. Here it costs $1700. Even the Chipotle is more expensive in New York. By the way, I just used the FAQ on Chipotle.com. I asked, "Are burritos healthy?" The response was "Negative." "Will the ETA really give up violence?" "Duh." The one exception to Chicago's price advantage is transportation, which is excellent and cheap in New York.

New York seems more racially integrated, which is nice, but in Chicago you're represented by Senator Obama, which is pretty awesome. New York sports teams are annoying, and when's the last time a New York team won the World Series? Chicago is a prettier city, and anyway most of New York's architecture is derivative (the skyscraper was invented in Chicago).

The crucial distinction, of course, is that New York law firms have worse better judgment in their hiring decisions, so this is where I'll be for a while.

Free Advice for Big Ten Alums

So Chicago is full of alums from Big Ten schools. They seem to have considerable school spirit, although I did see a Notre Dame alum hitting on some attractive Michigan alums, so I guess it only goes so deep. Anyway, here's an idea that I hope to see put into action.

Say you're an alum from a Big Ten school, Michigan for example. You and your fellow alumni buy a bunch of sweaters, hats, coats, etc. bearing the logo of a rival school (Ohio State). Then you distribute the clothing to all the homeless people you can find.

When the cold weather comes, the homeless people will break out the gear, and suddenly it will appear that just about every homeless person in Chicago attended Ohio State. The implication is obvious: Ohio State grads don't exactly have the best job prospects. Many of them do drugs and don't have great personal hygeine. Potential applicants will have second thoughts, and employers will wonder if they should hire Ohio State grads, given how badly many of them turn out.

As a result, a lot of Ohio State alumni really will be unable to get a job, and the ranks of the homeless will swell with genuine Buckeyes. It's kind of sad, but that's what you get when you fuck with the Wolverines.

[UPDATE: Steve points out that Notre Dame isn't a Big Ten school. I knew that, sort of, but anyway the same analysis applies to any midwestern school with a big football program.]

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Making the Grade

So I was just reading the Wall Street Journal and I saw a poll on Bush's performance on Iraq. The exact question was, "How do you grade Bush's leadership of the Iraq war so far this year?" The options were A, B, C, D, or F. What would you guess his average grade is so far?

Well, 57% of voters have given Bush an F (6,249 people have voted so far). 13% gave him a D. I draw a few conclusions from this:

  • The WSJ readership can't be nearly as conservative (or delusional) as the WSJ editorial page. This makes sense, since outside the editorial page the Journal is actually a very good newspaper.

  • Still, if there's one nonpartisan publication whose readers ought to be sympathetic to Bush, the Journal is it. I take this as fairly conclusive proof that Krugmanesque Bush-skepticism has gone mainstream.

  • This will make for a very interesting dynamic as Republican presidential hopefuls position themselves relative to Bush.

Of course, the poll is far from scientific, and I imagine there's some selection bias in favor of people who feel strongly about Bush and/or Iraq. Still, it's pretty impressive.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Slate Makes You Unhappy

So, you read a fairly crappy piece about a study on the relative happiness of feminist women, and you kind of groan. Then you see Slate feature it as the main story, with the new headline "Feminism Makes You Unhappy," and you realize that the death penalty is worth keeping around on the off chance that a Slate editor will commit a capital crime.

The basic idea is that a study has just been published in which women with feminist views seem to be less happy than women with more traditional views. I'll add a few thoughts, but I don't mean to imply that a much more thorough debunking isn't in order.

So to start, this sort of study is inherently unreliable. First, it was just released, so it hasn't been subjected to much critical review. Second, the results haven't been reproduced, obviously. Third, this sort of thing is likely to be very sensitive to the phrasing of the questions and the overall design of the study. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the study depends on self-reported happiness. Something as simple as feminists having higher expectations could produce the reported results.

More importantly, as the piece itself recognizes, you can't draw any serious conclusions about feminism on the basis of the study. All women in America, regardless of their attitudes, are living in a society shaped by feminism. Their legal rights, the social expectations they face, and their options in life have been improved by the feminist movement. The labor force participation of women has been one of the factors driving American prosperity. I could go on, but the point should be sufficiently obvious. The culture of style over substance, of sensationalism over responsibility, thrives at Slate.

As a final note, my mother is a surgeon. My aunt works while my uncle mostly stays at home with my cousins. These are not options that people had for most of history, and my family has benefited from our ability to live this way. Feminism as a social movement hasn't come anywhere close to making us unhappy on balance. On a personal level, I would loathe a world in which there weren't smart, assertive women freely pursuing their ambitions on equal footing with men.

Chicago is Awesome

Sometimes you have to walk around Hyde Park on a beautiful spring morning to feel good about life. While strolling, something occurred to me.

Eventually the south side/north side distinction will matter far less than the east side/west side split. As the south side improves, it will become more and more like the north side (except it will hopefully not turn into another Lincoln Park, and of course its baseball team will remain superior). The south loop is booming, and it's only a matter of time before the prosperity spreads down and meets Hyde Park. Meanwhile, the east side has the lakefront, along with Soldier Field, the Field Museum, the Museum of Science and Industry, Shedd Aquarium, the Art Institute, Grant and Millennium Park, downtown Chicago, the Magnificent Mile, and both top tier universities (Northwestern has several of its schools in Chicago). The affluent will live in the east side, and the poor will live on the west side or in the inner suburbs. Just a prediction!

Also, as a side note, Edwardo's delivered a stuffed spinach pizza to my apartment on Sunday, so they've been removed from my shit list.

You Are Interested in What I am Saying

A few interesting articles in the New York Times today.

This piece, about an Englishman who wants an heir for his estate, is charming. His concern for genetic continuity seems misguided, but it would make for a great TV show if properly done.

This piece, about American efforts to weed sectarian "partisans" from the Iraqi police, provides some perspective on the difficulties of rebuilding in an environment like Iraq's. I can remember triumphant posts from Andrew Sullivan about the brave men who were risking death to sign up with the police forces. They were heroes, in his account. It's now clear, as it should have been clear all along, that many of those men were willing to risk death because of the opportunity to control the mechanism of state violence. "Matthew Sherman, a former Interior Ministry adviser, said Shiite parties were especially keen to seize control of those forces [mechanized paramilitary forces] because they can operate anywhere in the country and have great autonomy." What heroes! "Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the top American commander in Iraq, said Friday that police officers had allowed militiamen through checkpoints in eastern Baghdad, where much of the violence occurred." More heroes! "The Interior Ministry is accused of sponsoring death squads in police or paramilitary uniforms." Bravo!

Well, enough salt in that wound, I suppose. I'll leave it to you to speculate about why Sullivan and company got it so wrong. I will note, though, that this administration has finally embraced the logic of affirmative action:

"Americans officials have pushed the Interior Ministry to diversify the forces.... The Americans ensured that the last three classes enrolled greater numbers of Sunni Arabs..."
(in fairness, the US military has thoroughly embraced affirmative action in its own ranks)

I'll also note that this administration has somewhat contradictory interesting views on the role of religion in public life. "Colonel Davis said his advisers had no qualms about removing Iraqi commanders if it became evident they have sectarian loyalties." Granted, Iraq and the United States are very different places, but if that's so then conservatives should qualify their position on religion's effect on society. In the meantime, Bush might want to think about the extent to which sectarians in America have infiltrated our schools, our regulatory agencies, and our President's Council on Bioethics.

[UPDATE: fixed links]

Liberals and Criminal Justice

So I like to think of myself as a sort of sporadic liberal. I'm reading a bunch of criminal procedure cases, and I thought I'd share a dilemma that I think liberals have to face.

Crime, particularly violent crime, disproportionately harms the poor and helpless (I'm making this up, but I bet statistics would bear me out). I bet poor people are more likely to be injured, killed, raped, abused, or robbed. There are also secondary considerations. One of the things that drives affluent people out of bad neighborhoods is their desire for safety (if safety weren't a concern, I wouldn't mind living just about anywhere with reasonably clean air). This exacerbates the educational inequality that results from our property tax based funding system. The same thing undermines businesses in high-crime areas, reducing available employment.

And yet, liberals tend to support rights for defendants that seem extravagant. You can quibble about the number of criminals who go free, but certainly that's a tradeoff that we face. Why do liberals make the tradeoff they do (more crime, more rights)? I think there are three reasons.

1. Liberals are aware that we have a two-tier (or maybe three-tier) criminal justice system in which rich people hire lawyers who invoke their rights effectively, while poor people don't know their rights and can't exercise them. If anything, though, this should cut the other way. Given elaborate rights, we might want to extend them to poor people. If we get to choose whether to have those rights in the first place, though, and we expect them to benefit rich people disproportionately (at both ends - the incidence of crime and the ability to invoke rights), this should at least make us think about curtailing rights.

2. Liberals are suspicious of police action, both in the abstract and as a result of bitter experience. In this, liberals have quite a bit in common with the founders of this country. They know that vulnerable minorities and dissenters are hounded out, harassed, and abused by the police. Since the middle class doesn't experience this very often, there isn't much political control of police behavior. Only vigilant courts will do the job.

3. Liberals tend to have an expansive view of personal rights. While this is admirable in many circumstances, I'm not sure liberals pay enough attention to the costs those rights impose on people who aren't as visible to the courts.

All of that said, among the determinants of crime, I would imagine Constitutional safeguards aren't anywhere near the top of the list. Still, even if the tradeoff isn't so dire, it's one that I think thoughtful liberals can disagree about.

[UPDATE: I think similar analysis is relevant in the case of school discipline. Public schools are very careful about disciplining students, and this puts serious costs on teachers and good students. At my Catholic high school, discipline was swift and (relatively) severe, and there were very few fights or other disruptions.]

Monday, March 06, 2006

My Whitewashed Memories

So Tarun has a theory about how memories are formed. Instead of using data storage the way a computer does, our brains use the activation pattern of their neurons. Imagine billions (?) of neurons, each firing at its own activity level. If you imagine each neuron's activation level as a point on a number line, you can have a huge conceptual space defined along billions of dimensions. At any moment, the point defined by all these parameters reflects our memories. Exactly how this happens isn't clear, but it must involve "feedback" in which inputs (our senses) propagate into the brain, cycling back around in a sort of loop. This sounds implausible until you remember just how big a billion-dimensional space can be.

However it works, my memory has a tendency to take on a sort of sentimental coloration. It's not that I forget the bad parts (I think - how would I know?), it's that the bad parts take on a kind of bittersweetness that makes them much more tolerable in retrospect. In reality I wasn't all that happy in Little Rock, but I can remember the look of the trees outside my room as if they had some poetic significance. I can remember the sunrises and the church music and the Backyard Burgers lemonade.

Right now I can remember sitting in our basement in Peoria, surfing the internet and listening to Wilco (which is what brought the memories back no doubt). The reason I was listening to Wilco, of course, is that I was miserable. And yet... I listen to the music now and it gives me this wonderful feeling of familiarity and comfort, and I look back with fondness on those hours in the basement.

Tarun's going to hate this next part, engaging as it does in the worst kind of pop folk psychology. Regardless, I sometimes think that my friendly relationship with the past (in stark contrast to my feelings about the future) stems from all the reading I did as a child. I'm at my most comfortable when I have no control whatsoever, but am an observer. I can accept my past as a sort of flawed narrative, the flaws in many cases adding considerable beauty and grace. The bubbles in champagne started as a flaw, as I like to remind myself. The future obviously requires quite a bit more of me.

Functionally Stupid

So I was talking to Tarun the other day, and I pointed out that I'm functionally stupid. He argued for a bit, and in fact won the argument. This only goes to show how stupid I am, and thus bad at arguing.

Clearly I have (or had) the potential to be smart. I've squandered it, though, and effectively I'm pretty damn stupid. For instance, our country has occupied Afghanistan for years, and I don't know the capital. If I had to guess, I'd say Kabul, but I wouldn't put any money on it. If you ask me the capital of Kazakhstan, I'll say Almaty, even though I know it's not the capital. That's how stupid I am.

I'm determined not to continue this charade. I'm going to put some effort into becoming smart. My first move is to drink a lot of beer. Beer makes you smarter, if you're of legal drinking age. After that I'll wear shirts with collars and watch lots of David Mamet movies. I'm also going to add the phrase per se to a lot of the things I say.

If none of that works, I'll resign myself to being stupid and join the Republican party.

Which reminds me, here's a stupid joke. Rawlsians should have voted for Bush in the election. Why? Because he is the ideal president, as he exists behind a veil of ignorance.

Shut up, James.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Freedom of and from Religion

So I asked an impassioned and rather foolish question to Cardinal George when he was here. I stated it poorly, but my point was that people have little confidence that the Church will refrain from enacting laws that burden those of us who aren't Catholic (or Christian, or religious at all). I'll state my case and then explore the question in future posts.

The Church would love to ban abortion in the United States. It has gone so far as to suggest to Catholics that they must vote for pro-life candidates (jeopardizing the Church's nonprofit status, I imagine). I actually don't mind this much. I myself am tepidly pro-life, but it doesn't really matter. The Church should be able to speak out (in a general way) on issues of such importance. I think about the slavery debate, and the role of certain churches in the abolition movement, and I'm glad that churches take moral stands now and then.

The problem is, I suspect the Church would also love to ban all sorts of things. Divorce, contraception, any nonmarital or nonvaginal sex, and masturbation come to mind. Now, in practice most American Catholics wouldn't vote to ban these things, but in principle the Church would want them to. Furthermore, while I don't doubt the fervor of the Church's anti-abortion stance, I'm not sure anyone can draw a meaningful line between things that are REALLY bad and things that are just a little bad (Cardinal George attempted to do so when I talked to him). If you disagree, consider gay marriage. The Church doesn't want gays to enjoy the legal rights associated with civil marriage, and it has shown a willingness to use its political power to this end. I happen to be in favor of gay marriage, but once again it doesn't matter. The Church simply shouldn't intervene politically when the moral issue is so minor.

And that, of course, is the tricky part. The moral dimensions of these issues seem small to me, but perhaps not to people who honestly think it's a horrible sin to give your spouse oral sex. Catholics can put forward serious-sounding arguments about how society will crumble if gays are allowed to marry. I'm sure they can advance serious-sounding arguments about how masturbation is a cancer on our country. In the absence of a limiting principle, all I can say is that abortion really is a profound moral issue and masturbation is not. If you disagree, I can point to nothing to prove you wong.

Of course, the Church should be able to teach whatever it wants, within certain boundaries. It can teach its adherents that masturbation is wrong. Within the limits of the tax rules for nonprofits, it can advocate the criminalization of masturbation. There are other limits besides the legal one, though, and I see it as a violation, not of the law, but of basic civil society for the Church to stick its nose into such matters. Furthermore, citizens should be protected by a constitution from serious intrusions on their liberty. The Church shouldn't be allowed to put into place all the laws it wants, however big a majority it commands. Unfortunately, this is just an ideal, and not one that I know how to implement.

I think there is a better and more complete answer, but it's a very tricky one, and it's one that will no doubt be unacceptable to lots of religious people. I'll start exploring it in the next post.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Israel and Palestine

So I saw a debate between Hillel Halkin and Christopher Hitchens on the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. Of course it really turned into a debate about Palestinian statehood. Here's a quick summary, if I remember correctly:

Hitchens: Of course there should be 2 states, it's the only fair way to satisfy the claims of both the Israelis and the Palestinians. Too bad religions have messed everything up.

Halkin: 2 states? You can barely fit one state! It's the size of New Jersey. The Palestinians should just move to Jordan, which is basically the same anyway.

Hitchens: It's unfortunate that the Palestinians have been dominated by extremist Muslims who don't actually represent their best interests.

Halkin: I have ridiculous beliefs about the rights of Jews to take things that don't belong to them.

Hitchens: Man, I really really hate religion.

I should admit that I know less about the region than I should, so feel free to correct any errors. That said, here are my thoughts.

1. It seems to me that Halkin's New Jersey point is oversimplified. States can exist in small areas, so long as they have the resources to do so. Three things complicate this. First, the Palestinians don't have those resources. They would need urban infrastructure to deal with high population density, for instance. Some of these resources could be provided by the US, but others would require time and large cultural shifts. The second problem is that to prosper the Palestinians would need access to the world market. This will be difficult if, say, Israel insists on controlling airtports, seaports, etc. for security reasons. Finally, Israel's security needs are real, precisely because some Palestinians won't accept such a compromise and will remain committed to killing Israelis.

2. I don't know what it takes for a tolerant, pluralistic society to emerge. Whatever it is, though, Israel has it and most other countries in the region don't. As both speakers pointed out, we should be careful not to sacrifice the rights of Palestinian women, gays, religious dissenters, et al. in our pursuit of a just solution. This doesn't give Israel a superior claim to the land in question, but it should give us pause before we accept a solution that primarily benefits straight Muslim men at the expense of everyone else.

3. All discussions of this topic are prone to what I'll call the Halkin problem. A participant might seem reasonable, and his ideas might be accepted, before it becomes clear that he is nuts. This is just to say that the stated reasons for a course of action are rarely the real reasons, and a lot of tacit agendas are built into any discussion of the subject. Only when he was pushed did Halkin reveal that he thinks the settlements were a good experiment that sadly failed.

4. Americans like to think that they are agents for good in the world, so they are vulnerable to simplistic arguments by disingenuous people (see point 3). If Americans want to be agents for good in the world, they will have to educate themselves and cut through a lot of the rhetoric. People who dislike Kelo shouldn't be easily convinced that Israel shares their values, and so on. I'm not holding my breath, though.