A Little Something to Fight the Poison

Friday, January 24, 2003

What on Earth are they planning to do to my Alias after the Super Bowl?!?!

Erg! Sounds bad. Dammit, someone's gonna have to deal with some serious Poli Sci PhD wrath if they screw this up for me and Sydney...

(via The Kitchen Cabinet's Lily Malcolm)
And Chretien's biographer on the state of the liberal media...
The lab thing has cut into my posting recently...I have my annual departmental seminar this Monday, so it's time to make like I've actually been productive all year. use Eric's last post as a segue, I'll link to this article detailing the not-so-stellar state of women's rights in post-Taliban Afghanistan. Progressive nation-building, indeed.
Thursday, January 23, 2003
WOMEN'S RIGHTS AND WRONGS: Not that I relish piling on to The Kitchen Cabinet's Lily Malcolm (we've got that Alias bond, after all, and I feel bad picking on her at the end of her exams--congrats, by the way!), but along with Jeanne d'Arc and Ampersand, I wasn't so impressed with her link to Kay Hymowitz's screed on Western feminism's inability to effectively criticize the mistreatment of women in fundamentalist Islamic regimes.

In agreement with the article, Lily indignantly asks: "Why has feminism been silent about the horrors inflicted on women under fundamentalist Islamic regimes?"

In response, I would simply ask: "Why has American conservatism been silent about the continuing horrors inflicted on women by the warlords who took over from the Taliban in Afghanistan? Or the horrors that occur in countless other regimes that receive military and political support from the United States?"

Things may be better for women in Afghanistan than they were under the Taliban, but that's a bit like saying that Jim Crow was an improvement over slavery--literally "painfully true." So where are the conservatives--so concerned about the plight of women in foreign lands--who should be skewering the Bush Admin for its refusal to facilitate the expansion of the ISAF beyond Kabul, which would lead to the liberation of the women suffering factional and religious persecution under the unruly and brutal warlords who control the rest of the country? And where are the conservatives who should be slamming, for example, the trafficking of girls and women that's going on in our new War on Terror ally Uzbekistan?

Here are the feminists. See Jeanne's and Ampersand's posts for more. Can Hymowitz or Lily show me many righties who are doing a better job advancing women's rights in third-world countries?

And I don't understand exactly how Hymowitz thinks conservatives are doing a better job promoting women's rights in foreign countries. The standard conservative position on this seems to be: we'll liberate oppressed women throughout the world by taking a tough line on the oppressive fundamentalist Islamic regimes and other illegitimate dictatorships in which women are persecuted. I believe this to be true--at least as long as undermining fundamentalist Islamic regimes is also seen to be helpful to American strategic security interests. But if it becomes strategically useful to deal with these guys, do you really believe, Lily, that the boys in the White House and Pentagon won't trade away women's rights for the sake of diplomatic convenience in a Washington second? Or am I missing something about the American relationship with states like Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan, and Pakistan? In the 2000 elections, conservatives weren't reticent about declaring that they didn't believe in using the U.S. military to promote any internationalist, human rights, women's rights, nation-building mumbo jumbo. We didn't hear a damned thing about marching on Riyadh from the right back then. The U.S. military, as Bush put it, should only be used to fight and win war. And the wars that guys like Bush want to fight are only contingently in the interests of oppressed foreign women.

If Lily is would like to get a more charitable view of feminism's most credible exponents (I'm referring here to the "internationalist utopia liberal" variety that Hymowitz attacks on rather thin grounds), then I would suggest that she consider taking at least a short break from anti-feminists like Hymowitz and checking out the visionary but also intelligently level-headed feminists who are right here at Yale, like the very influential Seyla Benhabib (who deals with the appropriate feminist response to sharia and other brutally patriarchal strands of foreign cultures in her recent The Claims of Culture--and nary a word about female golfers) and the YLS' young but very talented Anne Alstott.

P.S.: How do you know when someone just might be trying to spin you? When an article quotes stats from partisan operative Kellyanne Conway but describes her simply as a "pollster."
INTERMISSION II: OK, so that post on AA is still in the pipeline. There was a bit of excitement on that last post on race that I had to spend time to deal with. So I'm just going to post a few smaller things for now to get me warmed up.

I know that this will be the equivalent of Muzak to a lot of Americans, but I and some other expats were fascinated by this summary of the U.S.-Canada relationship in The Guardian. I don't agree with all of it, although he's got the general tone right. Highlights:
Every country in the world is screwed up about its relationship with the US. But in Canada it is a national obsession, even a neurosis. Imagine, if you will, a homely kind of girl - well-liked but usually ignored - who lives next door to the town hunk. He is the centre of all her thoughts. She peers through the net curtains as he swaggers out for a night on the town. She reads major significance into every gesture: every time he ignores her on the street; every time he gives her an affectionate pat. She despises his unruly ways but, deep down, desperately wants to believe this is true love. He barely even gives her a thought. In romantic fiction you end up with a white wedding and happy-ever-aftering. In international diplomacy you get the US-Canada relationship....

In the business community they are certain of the priorities. Stephen Clarkson, of the University of Toronto and author of Uncle Sam And Us, was one of the writers who picked up the anti-American vibes on the promotion trail. On the other hand, he also recently attended a charity dinner in Toronto with Rudy Giuliani as guest of honour. "This audience was totally Americanised," he said. "They hailed Giuliani as 'our hero'. They sang the Star-Spangled Banner before O Canada. They would have saluted if Bush had walked into the room. This is the business elite and basically they want to be American."

Viscerally, most Canadians seem to disagree. Canadian patriotism is notoriously hard to pin down, because it rests on a negative: not being the US. "Canadians are proud of the fact that, unlike the Americans, they have the CBC [the equivalent of the BBC], health care, ice hockey, and a peace-keeping military," says Chris Sands. "Unfortunately, none of these is as good as it was."

In practice Canadians recognise the reality. For many everyday purposes, North America is one country: on the morning of September 11, the Canadian deputy commander was in charge at the joint air-defence headquarters at Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado. When the border was closed over the next few days and the trucks began queuing, all Canadians were obliged to consider what real severance from the Americans would mean....

On a street corner in Toronto Bill Lawrence was selling flags. He says that, since the initial burst of sentiment towards September 11, he has hardly sold a single Stars and Stripes. "It'll change if they invade Iraq, I expect. Half will want to fly 'em. The other half'll burn 'em."

Wednesday, January 22, 2003
INTERMISSION: Before I continue on and drop my second long meditation on race (it's gonna be on a certain policy concept that begins with an "A" and ends with "-ffirmative Action) in my post-MLK Day commemoration, I thought I'd lighten things up by linking to this priceless Will Burton post on the Revenge of Clinton's, you know...
Tuesday, January 21, 2003
A DAY LATE: Continuing on with a theme that seems to have permeated my life this year, I’m going to post a couple of items on race in a slightly belated commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. I hope everyone had a reflective holiday yesterday, by the way.

First, I was almost going to let slide this astonishingly ignorant and arrogant post on the Japanese internments during World War II by Robin Goodfellow (disappointingly linked to with a degree of approving smugness by Glenn Reynolds):
It's interesting how the American internment of Japanese for 4 years during WWII is constantly used as an example of America's unique evil and racism. When revisiting the subject rarely, if ever, is the Canadian example brought up. At least in America the internee families were kept together, in Canada (which also rounded up Japanese Canadian citizens) the men and women were separated from each other and the men were sent into forced labor. And we all know, I hope, how Italy, Spain, France, Germany, Japan, Russia, Denmark, Norway, The Netherlands, Belgium, and Austria scored on the racial sensitivity scale during WWII. I find the ability of Europe especially to "misremember" facts so as to paint themselves as lilly-white angels and the US as brutish and uncivilized thugs to be quite remarkable.
I'll start with my rational, fact-based rebuttal. The link that RG provides is entirely accurate on the facts concerning Canada's internment of its Japanese. Canada indeed dealt with its Japanese citizens with a paranoid and callous disdain, breaking up families and stripping citizens of their property, only offering reparations decades later (in 1988).

But it's completely tendentious to say that educated Canadians--especially of the progressive variety--deny or are unaware of this history. I don't know any Canadian progressive who would dare characterize the United States' Japanese internment as an "example of America's unique evil and racism." I don't know much about what they teach in U.S. history classes, but I do know that the Japanese internment is a standard topic of the 20th-Century history curriculum in Canada. I remember first learning about the internment in grade 10, and then revisiting it in a powerful manner as an undergrad through Joy Kagawa's award-winning book Obasan, which, by the way, is an ubiquitous CanLit staple at both the secondary and postsecondary levels. The internment is now a continually revisited part of Canadian history; the Canadian Broadcasting Company and the National Film Board have sponsored multiple major productions on it and there are scads of books; you can find a partial list here.

RG's statement that "when revisiting the subject [of the internment], rarely, if ever, is the Canadian example brought up" may or may not be accurate with regard to some Americans or Europeans; I'm not sure. But as far as it's true, it's only true as a result of the general ignorance that many Americans and Europeans may have of Canadian history. Canadians are certainly aware of the internments, and for Prof. Reynolds to call the Canadian attitude on this "sanctimonious" is a grievous distortion; in plainer language, it's total bullshit, and someone of a less charitable disposition might view it as a weak attempt to deflect attention from disturbing currents of racial insensitivity that have occurred in the U.S. since Sept. 11 by playing holier-than-thou.

On a more personal level, let me explain why I was so angry: I am an Asian Canadian, so that post had bite for me from multiple perspectives. Does Canada have an ugly history of anti-Asian prejudice? Damn straight it does. My mother's family was broken up because of the exclusionary Chinese quotas and head tax that it placed to control immigration. The government liked having access to cheap Chinese labour for working on its railroads and other thankless projects, but it didn't want to be flooded with a bunch of godless Asians and their families, so it heavily restricted the immigration of these labourers' family members. As a result of these racist policies (common throughout different jurisdictions in North America--the U.S. had its own Chinese Exclusion Act), neither her nor my grandmother ever met my great-grandfather, because the Canadian government's Chinese immigration restrictions kept them from emigrating from Hong Kong and joining him in Canada for decades. My great-grandmother was allowed to came over and they started a restaurant in Thunder Bay, Ontario (which burned down under suspicious circumstances), but my grandmother had to wait until she was a full grown adult (my mom was 15 by then) before she and her own family were allowed to immigrate. My great-grandfather died six months before they finally made their trip to join him.

Does anti-Asian racism still exist in Canada? I'm going to try to be honest about this. Based on my exposure to the media, I'm pretty sure that it does, although I have to say that I had a very fortunate upbringing. I grew up under middle-class, fluently bilingual parents in Toronto, possibly the world's most multicultural city (I think recent numbers indicated that it's already majority non-white), so racism was not a common feature of my personal life. I do remember it happening very occasionally, but when your school environment surrounds you with other Asian children, as well as racially sensitive Jewish children (it's easy to be progressive when you go on multiple trips to the JCC's holocaust museum at an early age).

Canada's policy officially funding multiculturalism and anti-racism programs, as well as its fairly liberal immigration regime since around the same time, have meant that the trend since these policies began in the Trudeau era has generally been positive. But Canada is certainly not perfect by any means. We still have a good deal of work to do.

So as an Asian Canadian, I have personal reasons to be concerned about Canada's history of racism against Asians and about the Japanese internment. But I'm curious as to why RG decided to mention this dark blot on Canadian history at this time? Is it because RG was concerned that Canadians haven't worked hard enough to destroy racist attitudes toward its Asian citizens? This may be true, although it seems doubtful that it was RG's intent, given that RG doesn't seem to know a whole lot about Canada. Is RG trying to raise Canadians' consciousness toward a shamefully papered-over part of their past? Probably not, considering that we do a pretty decent job of reminding ourselves about it these days.

A more likely explanation is that RG was, in the most cynical way, trying to use the past suffering of Japanese-Canadians to excuse the present sins that America may be committing against its Middle Eastern citizens and landed immigrants out of a misguided notion of national security. If this intuition is correct, then I have an unequivocal message for RG:


AND ANOTHER THING: Anyone of Danish descent, or living in Denmark, may also want to let RG know what they think about his remark that Denmark scored poorly on the "racial sensitivity scale during WWII." This can't even be called bullshit; the story of Denmark saving over 99% of its Jews through determined resistance to the Nazis even though it was completely occupied is so well known that RG's insinuation can only be called slander. RG, can you really tell me that you're so clueless that you've never heard the story of King Christian's legendary pledge that he and his entire Royal family would be the first to wear the yellow star if it were instituted, you moronic, libelous fuckhole?

FINALLY: Norway was certainly not free of responsibility for the death of half of its Jews during WWII. But check out this interesting story about the Norwegian government's condemnation of a report issued by one of it's own commissions because they believe that the report downplays Norway's moral responsibility for the deportation of its Jews. We can usefully contrast this behaviour with how much most Canadians and Americans know about the shameful conduct of their governments in dealing with the Jewish refugees of the St. Louis.

UPDATE: RG responds. I give him high marks for maintaining a degree of civility (at least until the end) that I did not in my post, although that might have been because I thought his original post was meant to be taken seriously, whereas it seems as though he did not. Needless to say, I give it low marks on its argumentative validity. Straw man? That's an odd way to characterize an argument that directly addressed two points that RG was making: (1) People (for me, namely, Canadians) are in general hypocritical becuase they cite the American detention of the Japanese as an example of the Americans' "unique evil" [My response: Canadians in general don't do that; only freakish extremists--which inhabit every country--do] (2) Certain countries in Europe, (one of which was Denmark), were guilty of shameful conduct in WWII that was comparable to that of the American internment of Japanese, and its nationals are therefore hypocritical when they employ this example without acknowledging their own conduct [My response: This is utter bullshit with regard to Denmark in particular, and it's shameful that RG doesn't own up to it. Denmark was overrun with Nazis and resisted them to save a people who weren't terribly popular at the time. The U.S. and Canada were not occupied by anyone and threw a minority they didn't like into camps out of suspicion.]. I'll let you judge for yourselves as to the adequacy of RG's response.
Monday, January 20, 2003
DIPLOMACY FOR DUMMIES: Hey, everyone who thought after last year's State of the Union address that we would all have forgotten about Bush's little "Axis of Evil" bon mot by now: YOU WERE WRONG. We all still remember it, America's friends still cringe about it, and America's enemies are still cooking up ways to exploit it. Some deliciously understated commentary gathered by the NYT's White House correspondant:
James R. Lilley, a former United States ambassador to South Korea who supports the administration's foreign policy, said that while "the president spoke the truth," he personally did not like the focus on the phrase, particularly after it was followed by Mr. Bush's statement that he loathed Kim Jong Il, the North Korean leader.

"If you want to get something done in North Korea, that's really not the way to approach it," Mr. Lilley said. Reprising the axis of evil in this year's State of the Union speech, Mr. Lilley added, "would probably be counterproductive."
You don't say--needlessly taunting and personalizing your conflict with the potentially nutbar dictator of a very isolated and heavily armed regime might not be such a good idea, huh? Wonder how many years you have to attend the Kennedy School to learn that?

BONUS: The above column also had this gem from the luminous David Frum's new butt-kissing book on Bush:
Not quite a year after leaving the White House, Mr. Frum now has a book out, The Right Man: The Surprise Presidency of George W. Bush, which includes an extensive account of the birth of the axis of evil as well as a look at the president's speech-editing style. "One of my first efforts for him included the phrase, 'I've seen with my own eyes,'" Mr. Frum writes. "The words 'with my own eyes' were circled and a sarcastic 'DUH' scrawled beside them."
Is there any more desperate and extreme way to demonstrate your utter sycophancy than trying to score brownie points by bragging that George W. Bush has personally mocked your intellectual and stylistic shortcomings?

If any poetic justice exists in our world, then Frum's epitaph will read simply
--George W. Bush
(via the always fantabulous Sisyphus Shrugged)
A NORTHERN LIGHT UNTO THE WORLD? Reporters Without Borders just issued the first ever Press Freedom Index (2002). The top 5 spots went to Finland, Iceland, Norway, The Netherlands, and...Canada. Yay for our civil liberties!

This ranking actually surprised me a bit because of the high degree of media concentration in Canada. More than half of the dailies of any significance (and the only 3 with national circulation) are owned by only 5 companies, among whom are also the owners of 2 of Canada's 3 national TV broadcasters (and the third is the publicly run CBC--excellent and quite autonomous, but its budget still depends on the government's goodwill).

But I guess things are worse elsewhere: the index measures "the whole range of press freedom violations...such as murders or arrests of journalists, censorship, pressure, state monopolies in various fields, punishment of press law offences and regulation of the media," and I suppose it's true that Canada does quite well in not filling up these categories. Except for the CBC, the major Canadian media conglomerates are run by private corporations, not by the state.

The U.S. is at 17, below Costa Rica and only 1 rank higher than Hong Kong (although better than the UK [21], Japan and Austria [tied for 26], and Italy [40]), as a result of arresting and jailing reporters for withholding sources and crossing security lines. Hong Kong in the top 20? Really? Things might look a bit different once the government passes its new sedition law...

India [80] did pretty crappily, although not as badly as Pakistan [119], and I suppose, from a certain perspective, that's what counts.

Israel [92] (I suppose shooting and killing reporters, whether accidentally or not, will hurt your score) did worse than the Palestinian Authority [82], although RWB has a sensible enough explanation for this: Sharon has delivered such a beating to the PA over the past year that its security people can't go out and actively intimidate reporters like they used to. I'm still a touch skeptical that Israel is ranked below Indonesia [57], Bahrain [67], and Sierra Leone [72], though...

(via Aron Trauring)

UPDATE: Just added a link to the index. Don't know how I forgot to do that! Thanks, David W.
MON DIEU, MAUDIT, 'STIE, C'EST UN CLONE DE TOMMY DOUGLAS!!! Latest sign of the apocalypse: run this report by La Presse through Babel Fish and you'll be happy to learn that the Raelians (Yes, the crazy cloning people! Yes, the crazy cloning people! etc.) in Quebec have offered to donate the province's small Partie democrate du Quebec a million dollars to run 60 Raelians as candidates in the next provincial election.

The leader of the party, Olivier Chalifoux, confirmed that his party is in the midst of negotiations with the Raelians and (if I've translated the following correctly) said that he is familiar with the movement:
"I've known the movement for awhile," he said, "and they've known me for awhile, ever since I dated a Raelian 15 years ago. That was at the beginning, before Rael took himself to be the Pope..."

And I thought the Ontario NDP were desperate, but nothing says "we're no longer a real political party" like entering into a joint partnership with a weird cult. Except maybe choosing Stockwell Day as your leader.

CORRECTION: Damn, got confused in the translation--the party to which the Raelians offered money is NOT the Quebec NDP, but rather a small party called the Parti democrate du Quebec. It is led by Olivier Chalifoux, who ran as an NDP candidate in the last federal election, but does not otherwise have a formal connection to the NDP. Sorry about that...
MORAL EQUIVALENCE, PART 21351255685: A lot of warbloggers are slamming those anti-war protests that took place this weekend because some of the key organizers were ANSWER people, which is a front for the quite extreme Workers World Party, a communist organization that stupidly says nice things about North Korea and Castro (although with regard to Castro, the U.S.'s stubborness regarding Cuba has been so obnoxious that I've occasionally been tempted to say nice things about him out of spite). Jay Caruso of The Daily Rant accuses lefties of hypocrisy because they go after righties for their affiliation with racist wingnuts but are relatively tolerant of communist wingnuts.

Here's my argument on why the communist freaks of the left should be treated with less moral repugnance than the racist and fascist freaks of the right:

Communism, as an idea, is not prima facie evil. You may think that it is a really dumb idea that would in practice condemn many people to misery, and you may also think that its institutional application would require restrictions of basic liberties unacceptable to you (its proponents would disagree). But it is not a fundamentally evil idea, because it at least in principle respects the idea of equal basic human dignity, which must be the basis of almost any acceptable contemporary political theory (liberalism [both the progressive and classical varities], libertarianism, moderate conservatism, socialism, etc.).

For a concrete illustration that communism is not inherently evil, see the good Marxist (and frequently zionist) Jews who live in kibbutzim in Israel. They seem to get along with their neighbouring Jewish brethren (and, quite often, their Arab neighbours as well) just fine. As a political idea, communism is no more illegitimate an organizing principle than, say, anarcho-capitalism/libertarianism, which I personally think is a really dumb idea, but at least not an inherently evil one. I could at least have a conversation with a libertarian without feeling a constant desire to run away or kick his ass (depending on the numbers).

The same cannot be said for racism or fascism. As ideals, they are EVIL. Not just bad in practice, as communism often is, but simply EVIL. If you are a racist or a fascist, then I have an a priori desire to kick your ass. In short, our freaks tend to be stupid whereas your freaks tend to be evil. End of story.

(This was originally posted in The Daily Rant's comments. As fun as that site is, I think I've done more than enough content-provision for them for awhile and not nearly enough for Antidotal...more posts here soon, I promise...)

ADDENDUM: I am willing to aver that totalitarianism is evil, but I don't think that many Western socialists/communists actively support the totalitarian implementation of their ideals. I would change my views on the protests if you could show me that the ANSWER people support totalitarianism to a degree that is significantly greater than, say, the support U.S. administrations have given right-wing authoritarian regimes in Latin America or Islamic authoritarian regimes in the Middle East like the Saudis (i.e.: because they dislike the opposition even more).