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Saturday, October 19, 2002

Fag Bashing From the Left?

Tony Adragna
Well, yeah! Just as not every conservative I know is a homophobe, not every liberal I know is tolerant of homosexuals. Despite the party line, there has always been a tendency to social conservatism among a group of "liberal" Democrats whenever confronted with the "gay" issue. Are people just now discovering this?

That's no to say that I agree with CharlesMurtaugh vis a vis the taunting of Andrew Sullivan. I think it despicable what folks like Michelangelo Signorile have written about Andrew, and I've said so in the past. But, that it's something hateful said of a gay man doesn't make it "homophobia". In fact, in Signorile's writing it definitely isn't homophobia — Signorile is gay.

Pointing to the abuse that Andrew takes and calling it "homophobia" desn't make any sense at all, because most of those who pull the "gay card" in response to Andrew are... ready for it... homosexuals. So, what's it all about?

I said "taunting" above, and that's exactly what it is, but it's not because of Andrew's sexuality. Rather, it's because of Andrew's politics. The stuff that we see Atrios pointing to, or SullyWatch's reference to Andrew as the "Blog Queen", are the radical left's attempt at calling Andrew a hypocrite — analogous to calling Justice Thomas an "Uncle Tom".

I'm certainly not an apologist for Andrew Sullivan — there's much he writes with which I disagree. However, much of what's written about Andrew, as Ted Barlow notes of one particular line of criticism, "slips out of bounds."

But let's not confuse this with homophobia born of an irrational intolerance of homosexuals. The attacks on Andrew Sullivan are something different — a calculated attempt by a cabal of ideologues who share an intense hatred of Andrew Sullivan.

Update: Arthur Silber suggests I'm missing something, but maybe he missed the point of my January post (linked above). He goes on to ask, "why is it 'hypocrisy' for someone to have political views that are different from yours -- or different from the views you believe are 'correct' for a black man, or for a homosexual."

Come on, Arthur — 'tis you who has missed the whole contratemps between the radical gay left and Andrew Sullivan. The whole "bare backing" thing was to show a contradiction between what Sullivan does and what he says. I think the charge is specious, but if it were actually true, then it would be nothing other than hypocrisy. There's also an implication of hypocrisy in the "sell out" charge — how could someone who so benefited from the Stonewall era, and the whole gay rights movement, be so against the the current movement. That charge is spurious — Andrew clearly has a shared interest with the radical gay left, but disagrees with their program in scope and methods.

The main point of what I said above, however, is that the bashing of Sullivan, while it's done in the context of his sexuality, isn't about "homophobia" — it's about a personal dislike, even intense hatred, of Andrew Sullivan...

Update II: Arthur takes another look, and says, basically, it doesn't matter whether they're actually homophobes — what matters is that they use the same hurfull language, it's ignorant, it has nothing to do with substance, and they ought stop doing it [besides, unless you know something of the author's opinion, which you can't get unless you either know the author, or read other writings by the same person, there's no way to distinguish]. I agree! However, I stand by my opinion that what's been cited as "homophobia" in attacks on Sullivan simply isn't...

Update 10/20 : Atrios [scroll down to the 1:12 AM post] says my use of "radical gay left" is wrong. Maybe Atrios ought critique some more Goldstein before he blows off where this is coming from. It is, in fact, Goldstein who contrasts "gayocons" with those who write from "[inside] the tradition of queer humanism", and he tells us where "the real thing" can be found. Read The Real Andrew Sullivan Scandal by Richard Goldstein:
These gayocons stand outside the tradition of queer humanism that runs from Oscar Wilde and E.M. Forster to James Baldwin, Tennessee Williams, and Allen Ginsberg. The moral core of this lineage—its compassion, its critique of power, its respect for the sexual—still informs queer culture. It is gay liberation. But this sensibility is barely visible in the liberal media. (You have to read the radical press to find the real thing.) What has emerged instead reflects the uneasiness that remains about gay coverage, even as genteel acceptance has replaced active abhorrence. No matter how secure we may feel, the fact is that gay people live in a halfway house at best. We are out on parole.

Thursday, October 17, 2002

North Korea Has (Gasp!) Nuclear Weapons!

Tony Adragna
I always thought we were working under the assumption that despite best efforts at "non-proliferating" the DPRK, sooner than later they'd get themselves some nukes. If that wasn't the assumption, then somebody's awfully naive.

I've an alternate theory on what's taken the adminstration abaft — Dear Leader's announcement is what's known to diplomats as a démarche. What move is being countered? Why, the "Axis of Evil" rhetoric, of course!

North Korea just raised the stakes, and how did we respond? We folded and left Japan & the ROK to pay off our gambling debt...

'Course, what else are we supposed to do — invade North Korea? Get real...

Update 9:52 PM Tacitus says our response to Dear Leader is predicated on the lack of "resources" — men & material. Well, that's the response he points to "from the eponymous unnamed Administration source", and he builds from there. I'm pretty sure that's not the reason we've decided not to tackle the DPRK in the same manner we're going after Iraq.

Certainly, there's no question that we haven't the resources to handle multiple large scale conflicts at the same time, but this is a moot point when considering a response to North Korea. Even if we had the resources, we still wouldn't launch an offensive, and that's because of Dear Leader's allies on the other side of his northern border.

I've no doubt that we could take on the DPRK and win if China decided to stay out of the fight — you think Mr. Bush has the cajones to bet that China would fold? If we won, the payout would be great, but the odds are too long to make it a good bet.

As much as I've disagreed with Mr. Bush, I've never even intimated that he's stupid...

I also disagree with the argument that admitting we can't handle multiple conflicts is "policy failure in itself" — those folks can access the DoD's website just as easily as any other person, and they already knew what was just admitted. The failure can be found in the same place as the other items I've faulted the Adminstration on — the rhetorical stance. Truth is that we've had no plans on treating alike each member of the "Axis of Evil", North Korea just tested the depth of that rhetoric, and the rhetoric was proven wanting.

Targeting Our Response...

Tony Adragna
I once was amazed at how ordinary citizens grasp what's beyond the ken of public officials and the media. It's been a few years since anything I've read in the "Letters to the Editor" has given me an "Aha" moment, and today is unexceptional.

Turn to WaPo's letters and read submissions on "Getting On With Life While Catching a Killer", then read the first item:
One must question the policy of canceling outdoor events, especially at schools, and other responses to the serial sniper that broadcast fear.

Such cowardly responses submit to the needs of the sniper and exaggerate the threat. Whether or not the sniper is part of an organized effort, all terrorists are learning from the Washington area that they could cause great disruption and instill terror with similar strikes...
And the last item:
[...]I wish the paper would stop running that chart with pictures documenting each attack.[...] Whoever is responsible for these crimes is getting enough satisfaction from all the media attention without us keeping score for him, too.
The first letter undersores why some of our responses to terrorism are worse than non-productive — they're actually counter-productive. If what's going on in the DC metro area is in fact al Qaeda sponsored terrorism, then it's definitely something different from what al Qaeda has done before, but only in methodology. The immediate objective, however, is the same, and our response indicates a successful terrorist operation.

Success? Yes, because the "immediate objective" is to cause us to change the way we live. The terrorist's hope is that with each act comes more change in response, 'til we reach the point where life becomes intolerable and we give in to terrorism. I don't see that as a long term result in the U.S., because we recover fairly quickly once the immediate threat disappears [even when we know that danger still lurks in the umbra], so there tends not to be a cumulative effect on our psyche.

Changes in the way our government works may be cumulative, but civil libertarians — despite the pooh poohing and mau mauing directed at them — won't ever let us be taken down that slippery slope [best efforts of Mr. Ashcroft notwithstanding].

But I do have some concerns about countries like Indonesia. Alongside al Qaeda's strategic goal of discrediting western governments — making this a The West versus Islam fight — is the goal of weakening governments in majority Muslim nations, then offering a welcome alternative: That's what happened in Afghanistan. I feel comfortable in allowing my concern to be mitigated by a sense that the majority of Indonesians prefer the current balance they've achieved, but my opinion could be proven terribly wrong if the worst excesses of a previous regime are resumed.

The point is that just as we shouldn't send signals that result in overreaction on the domestic front, we also oughtn't send diplomatic signals that might be seen as urging Indonesia to reprise the worst of Suharto's era. I'm not saying we ought get off Indonesia's back — they've clearly got a problem that's gone unaddressed far too long, and the nature of the problem means we've an interest in urging action. I'm just saying, let's be careful that we don't push Indonesia down a slippery slope...

The second letter writer says what needs to be said much more elegantly than I can, so I'll leave it alone...

Wednesday, October 16, 2002

What Did Mr. Nobel Want?

Tony Adragna
The Norwegian Nobel Committee's recent award to Jimmy Carter has been accompanied by a debate that would not be unfamiliar to Alfred Nobel. In fact, Nobel surely was intimate with the logic of both sides to the dispute.

On the one hand, Nobel believed that his inventions could be put to a good use (and I don't think he was merely rationalizing his position in the industry). Indeed, Nobel once supposedly quipped that his dynamite factories would do more to end warfare — through the production of weapons that would make war too horrific to contemplate — than could all the peace congresses of his day. Peace could be achieved by deterrence, Nobel would say, and it's a belief not diametrically opposed to current argument that the best way to secure peace is by approaching threats from a position of military strength.

On the other hand, it's indisputable that Nobel had an interest in what we would today call "alternative methods of conflict resolution" — alternative to "war", that is. Nobel appears to have evolved into an anti-war pacifist sometime during his life, even while he was producing war material. There's no inconsistency, however, because deterrence is a "good use".

But, an inconsistency does develop when Nobel buys a newspaper and begins advocating against armaments — that can be restated, he began arguing for disarmament. He doesn't bother to even attempt reconciling the conflict, but simply refuses any responsibility for the manner in which his work was put to use. That he is ultimately opposed not just to warfare, but also to the existence of armaments, and armies, is demonstrated in that portion of his will where is spelled out the criteria for awarding the Peace Prize
"to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the aboliton or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses."
So, you see, it's not just about awarding whoever does best to secure "peace" by whatever methods. Rather, it's whoever does best at advancing that agenda Alfred Nobel put forth in 1895.

Of course, arguments that "George H.W. Bush or his son, George W. Bush" have done more to bring the world peace and security, and they are therefore more deserving of a Peace Prize, are perfectly sensible arguments. But, those arguments miss a substantial aspect of what Nobel meant to advance. We can certainly attain peace through Mr. Bush's approach, but does that approach also get to "fraternity between nations" and disarmament?

I won't dispute that Mr. Carter's approach doesn't seem to have worked any better on a world stage where, despite his best efforts, thuggery persists. It's for that reason I advocate military action against the likes of Hussein — talking nice, as Mr. Carter would prefer, doesn't always work. As another U.S. president once advised, it's best to "talk softly and carry a big stick" — he, too, was a Nobel Laureate.

There is, though, something shared between Mr. Roosevelt and Mr. Carter, beside the fact that they were both presidents and Nobel Laureates — they both are recognized for their efforts at conflict resolution through diplomacy. You can argue that one was right & the other wrong, and that neither should advise diplomacy with a thug. But, if you want a Nobel Peace Prize, it's all about conflict resolution through diplomacy, notwithstanding whether Alfred Nobel's agenda is of any relevance.

That's why Carter got a Nobel Peace Prize, while neither of the Bushes is likely to ever be considered.


Will Vehrs
If it's not one thing, it's another.

Between exhaustion, computer woes, and the stressful atmosphere surrounding Virginia Governor Warner's budget cuts, it hasn't been possible to submit my humble offerings to QP.

Tony, belated birthday greetings! I have a feeling this coming year will be an annis pleasantis for you.

It appears that my job has escaped the first round of cuts, but my office is reeling at news that our entire small business staff will be laid off. My agency took a 15% cut, the maximum the governor was authorized to impose.

I am now off to a conference in WVA until Friday. I'll pass through the heart of the sniper killer's territory before I get to the NCTC, a monument to Senator Robert Byrd's pork power. The conference will be fairly low key, so hopefully I'll get rested before I return to my weekend duty at King's Dominion Fearfest. That will start the cycle all over ....

Tuesday, October 15, 2002

Chemical & Biological Weapons v.
An Argument that Misses The Point

Tony Adragna
Gary Farber has written, andreiterated, his concerns over arguments that want to make chemical and biological weapons irrelevant in discussions of "Weapons of Mass Destruction". In fact, they argue, as Timothy Noah quotes:The term "weapons of mass destruction" (WMD), used to encompass nuclear (NW), biological (BW), and chemical weapons (CW), is misleading, politically dangerous, and cannot be justified on grounds of military efficiency. …Whereas protection with various degrees of efficiency is possible against chemical and biological weapons, however inconvenient it might be for military forces on the battlefield and for civilians at home, it is not feasible at all against nuclear weapons. Noah then goes on to quote Panofsky on the "comparative lethality of nuclear versus chemical and biological weapons."

The "military efficiency" argument makes perfect sense, on certain conditions. The modern warrior is equipped with protective gear that is orders of magnitude better than the World War I vintage gas mask. Also, military chemical and biological warfare programs have devoted just as much research to the development of prophylaxis as to the agents themselves. But, the effectiveness of protection depends upon not just availability, but actual use, and use in time — a shield not raised is nothing but decoration.

Why "in time" instead of "all the time"? Ask anybody who has ever worn an NBC suite — as I have — and they'll confirm my answer: It's impossible to wear the damned things 24/7. 'Course, you don't really need to wear the suits 24/7 to be protected — you just need to wear them while chemical & biological weapons are raining down on your position. Since you can't be sure what types of munitions are falling as they're falling, you opt for donning your gear until detectors tell you it's safe to dress down.

The modern warrior has some nasty challenges with which to cope, but sufficient tools & training to offset the dangers.

But, what of those for whom protective gear and prophylaxis aren't available? That chemical & biological weapons are of limited effectiveness against modern armies doesn't mean that these weapons have suddenly lost the ability to cause massive casualties, and death. Directed at unprotected civilian populations, or even unprotected ill-equppped armies, these weapons certainly are properly considered "weapons of mass destruction". To distinguish on "orders of magnitude", or immediacy of effect, is truly quibbling — thousands, or tens of thousand dead is not destruction on the same scale as hundreds of thousands, or millions dead, but, as Gary says of the lower numbers [he goes as low as "hundreds'], "That's 'mass' enough for me."

The experts respond that the threat to civilian populations — especially from terrorism — is overstated. Hussein apparently used such weapons against civilians quite effectively, and there's nothing stopping other leaders using similar weapons against similarly situated populations. And citing the haphazard attempts of Aum Shinrikyo, or last year's anthrax mailer, as examples of how the threat is overstated misses the critical distinction between, well, those haphazard attempts and the systematic use of weaponized agents.

After having read both Harigel and Panofsky I'm only convinced that they're correct in insisting that more attention be paid to nuclear disarmament. I just don't agree that we need reasses what "weapons of mass destruction" means in order to get at the desired result — indeed, I think the risks posed by deemphasizing the dangers of chemical & biological weapons far outweighs the potential for nuclear conflict.

Monday, October 14, 2002

A Year in the Life of a Quasi-Pundit

Tony Adragna
On Sunday I sat and did as I do every year on my birthday — I reviewed. The last year has been my own "annis horribilis". The horrific act of barbarism on September 11, 2001 far surpasses any other single event in the disconcertment of our national psyche. But, alack, great tragedy seldom comes unaccompanied by lesser, though just as unwelcome, events.

And so it seems that events conspire against us, and we oft have heard history contexted just so. I, however, have always hated that phrase, for it too conveniently is within reach whenever a failure is in need of explaining. I prefer to lay the blame where it belongs: Malefactors — like megalomaniacs and corporate crooks — who deliberately work to do us harm, and those we trust to put forth their best effort in counfounding the former.

Each is, of course, assessed a different kind of blame — the malefactors are guilty of doing a wrong, where their mirror image is guilty of, at worst, not doing enough right. But both are responsible for that over which each has control — their own actions.

Mindful of those things which I've done, or haven't done, over the past year — the two most significant things [and the only items not contributing to the "horribilis"] being the foundation of QuasiPundit (and the partnership with Will) and leaving Deloitte & Touche (and taking a 50% cut in pay) — I can't but admit that my own "annis horribilis" is wholey owned by me.

There are some other people who I wish would be so honest about their own failings...