A Little Something to Fight the Poison

Friday, September 27, 2002
BLOG ACTIVISM: Ampersand at Alas, a Blog is organizing an anti-unilateral invasion of Iraq and other random Middle East countries Blogburst (at least that's how I'm interpreting it), and everyone's invited.

The Proposal: All bloggers who oppose this proposed invasion of Iraq, write and send an open letter, to your congressfolks or your local daily paper, on Monday, October 7th (the birthday of both Oliver North and Desmond Tutu). Letters to the editor should be very short (under 200 words) and snappy, for the best chance of publication; letters to Congress should be polite and spellchecked, for obvious reasons.

Go to Ampersand's Open Letters page if you're interested.
IT'S NOT THAT OFTEN that I find myself agreeing heartily with a NatPost's editorial, but I heartily support its condemnation of the death sentence that Saudi Arabia has levied on Canadian businessman Bill Sampson. Sampson was tried in secret for alleged terrorism (sound familiar?) and the primary evidence against him was a confession that his lawyers allege was coerced from him through torture.

This is for all of you folks who don't think that I support cross-cultural criticism. I don't support cross-cultural critcism that's founded on hasty assumptions, overgeneralizations, poor or biased information, etc. But I do think that the claims of human rights are universal and can transcend context. It does sometimes require some culturally specific knowledge to figure out exactly what counts as a human rights violations sometimes, since universal human rights must always be instantiated in a specific cultural context, but I don't think that this is an insuperable difficulty.

In this case, (assuming that the NP got its facts right, and I think it did), it's not a tough call: no culture we know of could justify secret trials and torture as compatible with human rights; I doubt that many could justify executions, either.
HOW TO ASK FOR A FISKING: Wow!!! Now here's something that will sure make the day of an arrogant and self-absorbed poli-blogger--my letter to the NatPost's editors fact-checking Mark Steyn baited him into devoting an entire column to it!

He actually gives me credit for nailing him, in his typically self-satisfied manner: "I was pleasantly surprised by Mr. Tam's missive. In the past year, I've been called a hatemonger thousands of times by various correspondents, but this is one of only a handful to accuse me of factual error."

Only "one of a handful," huh? Steyn, baby, you know that as a journalist, your save percentage is supposed to be a lot higher than .950.

And the best part is that he begs to have his rantings fact-checked:

I'm grateful to Mr. Tam. He specifically disputed one fact and he called me a hatemonger. That seems fair enough. Dispute two specific facts and you can take me to the Human Rights Commission. Dispute three specific facts and we'll play your karaoke recording on the National Post Web site:

"Hatemonger, hatemonger,

Mong me some hate..."

I will post more on this column later as I've got to head out this afternoon, but if anyone has a fact-check on any past Steyn column about ethnic groups, especially Muslims, it would be fantastic if you could pass it along to either myself or the NatPost's editors.

Oh, Mark, you want some? Well, you're gonna get some...

P.S.: My first post on the original column is here.
JUST A THOUGHT: Do a Lexis-Nexis search (hey, if you've got it, flaunt it) for "anti-American" and "Schroeder" and you get a beefy 320 hits for the last month alone.

But what I don't understand is why the press is justified in labelling Schroeder's platform anti-American? Let's get something straight: Schroeder didn't run against America or Americans; he ran against invading Iraq.

During the 2000 Presidential campaign, Bush ran against ratifying the Kyoto Convention, against the ICC, against peacekeeping, and against "nation-building."

Does this mean that Bush ran for the U.S. Presidency on an "anti-The-Rest-of-The-Civilized-World" platform?

bar : grad student bar : : kissing : kissing your sister
Thursday, September 26, 2002
MORE GERMY NEWS: Looks like the story Manu verified last week about the U.S. government's sale of biotoxins and other assorted nasties to Iraq in the 1980s and early 1990s is spreading. Eric Alterman linked to a similar article in the Buffalo News; with luck it'll get picked up by bigger sources soon.

To make the point clear: the U.S. sold WMD materials to Saddam when it KNEW that he was a nasty dictator. When Saddam used WMD on Iranian soldiers, the U.S. government didn't object. It even appears as though the U.S. government ran interference for Iraq.

That doesn't mean that the U.S. shouldn't help clean up this mess now or that it shouldn't advocate the forceful insertion of inspectors.

But it should make you understand why so many people in the world can't help but mutter "cough, cough...bullsh-...cough, cough" under their breaths whenever they hear Bush and especially Cheney pounding the lectern about Saddam's evil in using WMD on his own people. The reason the rest of the world doesn't want the U.S. going into Iraq unilaterally, at least without trying harder to see if we can the inspectors back in, is because we frankly don't trust its reasons for doing so. The U.S. obviously didn't care about Saddam being a bloodthirsty dictator who possessed and used WMD so long as he was their bloodthirsty dictator, so now we're wondering why it's banging on this drum now. The bottom line is that the U.S.'s past behaviour gives the rest of the world very good reasons to be suspicious of its motives.

After all, you know that old saying: fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice...uh, nevermind...
Tuesday, September 24, 2002
MR. JUST WAR LAYS IT DOWN: Philosopher Michael Walzer comes out guns blazin' (as it were) in The New Republic. Everyone gets a piece from Mikey--the Bush administration, the Europeans, the Russians, Saddam (duh)...even TNR! What a normative badass.

And yay for predictions--having read Just and Unjust Wars not too long ago, I made a few guesses as to how Walzer would think his theory would apply to our current quandary, and I can say oh-so-humbly that I did pretty well. Although, not surprisingly, I didn't guess a lot of the additional really smart stuff he would say. Walzer thinks that Israel's attack on the Iraqi nuclear reactor in '81 was just, but doesn't think that the same situation applies now (at the moment), at least not for the U.S., and so he thinks that it would unjust to attack Iraq right now. Actually, my predictions aren't so impressive, as his reasons are exactly in line with the theory he proposed in his very good book.

His swipe at the other TNR guys for getting it wrong is classic. And a lot of Americans won't at all mind his shots at the Europeans...anyway, just one quote and I'll let you go and read it yourself:

The real and only argument for war is not that war is the right choice, or the best available choice, but that there is no international commitment to actions short of war that require the threat of war. I think it is fair to say that many influential Europeans, from both the political class and the intelligentsia, would prefer a unilateral American war to a European readiness to fight--even if, to misquote Shakespeare, "the readiness is all," and war itself could be avoided.
CLASSIC HA'ARETZ: Doron Rosenblum on the dramatic life of the Israeli bulldozer.
I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT HE COULD BE TALKING ABOUT, NONE WHATSOEVER: Uber-talented parodist and now supahstah blogger Neil Pollack gets Dawn Olson'd in an interview for her site. Neil + Dawn = everything you'd expect and more. But the money shot, at least for me:

Dawn: So you think bloggers are fodder for your sarcasm and cruelty?

Neal Pollack: Political bloggers are, especially.

Dawn: Why so? And who is the funniest - in a pathetic way?

Neal Pollack: Well, there's been this arrogant explosion of political opinion on the Internet. It's like a prison full of lunatics shouting to see the warden. And the self-involvement of these people, even the ones who I agree with politically, is extraordinary.

Arrogant and self-involved?!? Who, us?!?
What could EVER have given him that opinion?!?
SMALL AND RETROACTIVE VICTORY: Credit one for the home team. Back in August, I took a few whacks at Mark Steyn with the ol' fact-checking stick, and I just found out that The National Post ended up printing one of my letters to the editor explaining why Steyn is such a tool.

Sadly, they never emailed me back to let me know, and now it's not available on their site anymore = Eric's reason to despise the Nat Post #443643755484865567

But I guess I should take it as a good sign that they printed my letter in the first place. Are they starting to see the light when it comes to printed blatantly untrue stuff? Probably not--but there's more where that came from, Steyn!

Anyway, I only found out about it when I stumbled on my own letter at Amir Butler's site, where he has reprinted it in its entirety--thanks Amir! Always nice to be rewarded when you go a' e-googling...
MULTI/UNI/THAT KINDA STUFF: My response to Porphyrogenitus' (of Ranting Screeds) challenge to explain why unilateralism is not a good thing when it comes to invading other countries (except in the context of a defensive war) sort of just sat around, and I was disappointed...until I found out that it somehow got lost in the cyberether, but now he has it. Woo hoo! We have a little debate on our hands.

OK, so if you're still interested, you can go read my response and then his response to mine. I very busy right now, but I think I'll post a re-response in a couple days. It should be worth it...his views certainly require answering...
Sunday, September 22, 2002
TRUE MORALITY IS generosity even in the face of fatal and hate-filled injustice. Ha'aretz reports on a fateful and ironic result of last week's suicide bombings.