Pur Autre Vie

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

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Governors Island

A rare awesome Slate piece on plans for Governors Island. It's a remarkable little island, and I think it has potential to be a real asset for the city. Personally I think they should consider putting in a small liberal arts college, and generally they should consider a wider range of options, but whatever happens it should be pretty good.

[UPDATE: corrected misspelling of Governors Island]

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Honored in the Breach

A quick point about the United States these days. One of the values that liberals hold most dear - a vibrant community that brings people together - is perhaps best celebrated by religious people and sports fans, who (I would guess) tend to be conservative. Possibly liberal nostalgia for social cohesion reflects liberals' alienation from the few mainstream institutions that still bring it about. Also, I bet a White Sox game is more integrated than most other parts of Chicago (admittedly, it's not that integrated, presumably because ticket prices are so high).

Sweet Home Chicago

Steve and I watched the Sox shellac the Astros today (the final score doesn't reflect Chicago's dominance, although in fairness our pitching did fall apart toward the end). It was Mark Buehrle's 100th win, which was pretty awesome to see. We also got to see Konerko, Terrero, and Uribe hit homers, as well as some awesome defensive play interrupted by Houston's three errors.

What I love is how very Chicago the game felt. Buehrle is the Platonic ideal of a White Sox pitcher: strong, big, methodical and businesslike. He looks the part, and it doesn't hurt that his name sounds like "burly." Then, brining in Jenks to finish it off was a definite crowd-pleaser.

Ozzie Guillen added to the flavor, sharing the fact that he bought a bottle of champagne in anticipation of Buehrle's 100th win, but lost patience and drank it last week. He had to send out for another bottle today. I have to note that the post-game write-ups have given up even trying to be fair when it comes to Ozzie's grammar:

"It's a nice compliment to have a no-hitter and 100 wins in the same year," Guillen added.

I don't see how that can be considered a compliment, unless it's a compliment paid to the team (or to Ozzie) by Buehrle. A more plausible interpretation is that Guillen said that Buehrle's 100th win was a nice complement to his no-hitter this year.

Anyway, as we walked out of the stadium, the whole crowd yielded to the beer and the sunshine and sang along with voices hoarse from yelling: Baby don't you want to go - back to that same old place - sweet home Chicago.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Ron Paul, Creeping Socialist

Classic libertarianism - start by massively over-stating your case. Then, when confronted with a clear inconsistency, grant the exception without considering its implication for your broader theory. It reminds me of the scene in Life of Brian, when the Jews start out by denying that the Romans have done anything for them.

"I happen to think that the market can deliver any service better than the government can." Defense? No no! Of course not. Did I say any service?

Paul stops there, but it's hard to imagine this is actually his conceptual stopping point. The typical libertarian would continue: I meant any service other than defense... and firefighting. Defense, firefighting, and police. And the courts. Defense, fire-fighting, police, and the courts. And environmental regulation.

Most libertarians I've encountered don't quite see the problem here. After all, they're reasonable people, they don't have a problem admitting all kinds of reasonabl exceptions. The fact that this eviscerates the theory - that in fact there is no theory left - doesn't seem to occur to them.

Monday, June 04, 2007


There's a mind-blowing article in today's (June 4th) WSJ, entitled "Army Takeover in Bangladesh Stalls Key Muslim Democracy." Bangladesh was a corrupt democracy until the military took over in a coup in January. Here are the key paragraphs (I know it's long, but it's important):

Amid the bloodshed, U.S. Ambassador Patricia Butenis and other Western envoys shuttled between the two warring women in a futile attempt to find a compromise [regarding imminent elections]. Ms. Butenis warned Ms. Khaleda and Ms. Hasina [the leaders of two major parties - Ms. Khaleda was the sitting Prime Minister] that the Bangladeshi army could intervene if the situation deteriorated any further, people familiar with these meetings say. Bangladeshi generals, at the same time, were informed in separate meetings that most Western ambassadors would pull out of Dhaka if the controversial election took place, according to a senior member of the Bangladeshi military.

Ms. Khaleda discounted this talk of a putsch, confident of the army's support; Ms. Hasina says she believed an army intervention would be in her favor.

Indeed, until the very last moment, Bangladeshi generals seemed reluctant to strike. Trying to be seen as a benign, enlightened force after democracy was restored, the army has focused on helping the U.N. maintain peace and organize free elections in the world's trouble spots. Nearly 10,000 Bangladeshi soldiers are deployed today under U.N. command in Lebanon, Congo, Ivory Coast and elsewhere, an arrangement that lets them earn more during a year on U.N. payroll than in a lifetime at home.

Following extensive consultations with the U.S. and other Western nations, which by then had denounced the upcoming election as unfair and pulled out observers, the U.N. on Jan. 11 took action. In a formal statement released in Dhaka, the most senior U.N. official in Bangladesh, Renata Lok Dessallien, cautioned that the scheduled election "would not be considered credible or legitimate." Because of this, her statement warned, there may be "implications" for the Bangladesh army's future participation in U.N. peacekeeping should the election be allowed to take place.

Before the day was over, a delegation of Bangladeshi generals led by the chief of staff, Gen. Moeen, walked into the office of the country's president, a supporter of Ms. Khaleda, with the U.N. statement in hand, according to senior officers. They demanded that the Jan. 22 election be canceled and that power be transferred to a new caretaker administration hand-picked by the army. The army by then had disconnected the land line and cellular phones of Ms. Khaleda and her top aides. The president complied.

In a statement released shortly thereafter, the U.S. government noted that it had been urging Ms. Khaleda's and Ms. Hasina's parties "to engage in dialogue to resolve their differences, and to refrain from violence" -- and added that the Bangladeshi authorities "felt compelled to declare a state of emergency." A U.S. official says that, while the U.S. government did not "actively" seek a coup, it felt "relief" that a catastrophe had been averted. Ms. Dessallien of the U.N. has declined to comment on the record about her role in these events.

So as you can see, the US and the UN have set up a mechanism by which coups can be triggered fairly easily. This seems insane to me - do we really want to behave this way? Is this how we want our institutions to function? If I were a civilian leader of a shaky democracy, I would be very reluctant to send troops to the UN, knowing that I was essentially giving the UN kryptonite. All in all, this seems shameful and sordid.

[UPDATE: I forgot to include a great passage quoting Mainul Hussein, the "caretaker minister of law, justice and information."

Mr. Hussein adds that he's particularly "fed up" with Westerners bringing up human-rights abuses in his country. "Bangladesh is going through a huge crisis," he says. "Is this the time to discuss individual cases? Individuals are not important!"