Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Iris Chang just took her own life. She is best known as the author of a book on the Rape of Nanking, but I know her just as much for "Thread of the Silkworm", a book on the truly strange life of a Chinese-American rocket scientist who was kicked out of the United States by McCarthyists, and went on to design the Silkworm missile for China. (With a brief sidelight on a Crowleyite cult group which included some of the founders of JPL at Caltech and, of all people, L. Ron Hubbard).

I don't know what demons were chasing her, but whatever they were, may she rest in peace.

"Globalization" has a lot of critics these days. People who say that it's a problem that third-world factories have poor safety standards. People who say that they often subject their workers to physical abuse. People who say that poor countries are being forced to open their markets by exploitative first-world countries that keep their own markets closed.

To this, proponents of globalization have one common answer: all these critics, whatever they claim their motives are, are opponents of "trade". Critics may say that they want to keep American multinationals working through proxies from herding desperate workers into firetrap factories, but the globalizer knows that what they really want to do is reduce the size of particular aggregate international money flows.

In earlier times, Britain fought a war to get the Chinese to accept free trade in opium, which the Chinese emperors had restricted because for some strange reason -- and who among us truly understands the ways of the mysterious East? -- they didn't want their subjects turning into drug-crazed zombies. I'm sure the pro-globalizers of the time were around to say that critics of this particular British policy weren't so much anti-addiction, as anti-trade.

Well, here's an interesting test case. Teresa Nielsen Hayden has discovered that traditional bespoke tailors in India are selling their wares to Americans on Ebay. This is something that a genuinely anti-trade person would oppose, but that I expect most "anti-trade" people are sure to endorse. As, I expect, would the globalizers, unless they're absolutely desperate to expose themselves as pro-firetrap.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

On Fallujah, here are some photographs. If, like me, you're hopelessly stressed out and need something to take your mind off it all, here's what used to be a scandal:

Jeff Skilling and Ken Lay are asking to be tried far, far away from Houston, pointing out that Houstonians refer to them in man-on-the-street interviews as pigs, snakes and terrorists, and that a local rapper has recorded a number advocating "street justice" for them, to a backbeat of gunshots. Kurt Eichenwald's point-counterpoint on their arguments:

The filing cites a poll conducted by Mr. Skilling's expert saying that 32.9 percent of Houstonians personally know someone who was affected by the Enron collapse.

While that number is huge compared with other cities, it also appears to point out one weakness in the economic impact argument: that 67.1 percent of the people in Houston do not personally know anyone affected by the collapse.

[... and as to pigs, snakes, and terrorists] All told, the filing says, 31.8 percent used negative comments to describe Mr. Skilling. Again, of course, this means that 68 percent did not.

Can't we trust Southern gentlemen to put their prejudices aside?

A few other quick hits:

Chinese banks are worried about both informal lending, and their own portfolios of bad debt. Let's hope they don't start counting U.S. T-bills as bad debt.

And on the lighter side, I always had the impression that New York sports fans always took the "curse" talk more seriously than Bostonians. Here's the proof. (More: here's a Yankee fan complaining about the Red Sox winning a championship with high-priced mercenaries, and then getting sanctimonious about it).

I may be posting less the rest of the week, due to pressing commitments...

Monday, November 08, 2004

Suppose you were in charge of our assault on Falluja. And suppose you were determined, for some perverse reason, to validate the worst possible view of our conduct of the war. What might you do?

To begin with, we say we're in Iraq to help the Iraqis, and to be their friends. You want to negate this view -- to show that we view Iraqis as the enemy. You could start by saying that Falluja won't be safe for civilians:

U.S. troops urged civilians to flee Falluja on Friday and launched air strikes on the rebel city ahead of an assault seen as critical to attempts to pacify Iraq before January elections.

... and then make clear that any Iraqi male fleeing the imminent bloodbath, no matter what the circumstances, will not be treated as a civilian:

U.S. forces sealed all roads to the city and used loudspeakers and leaflets in Arabic to tell residents they would detain any man under 45 trying to enter or leave the city.

After that, of course, these guys won't see leaving the city as an option -- after Abu Ghraib, there's no question what follows detention by the Americans, and Iraqi culture is serious about putting death before dishonor. And just to reemphasize that Iraqi males who stay in Falluja because we won't let them leave are all "the enemy", you could have one of your generals say something like this to his troops:

No matter what you think about the Iraqi war or the Iraqi Government, this fight is 100 per cent about terrorists, terrorists who want to come to your home and kill you.

Of course, by motivating the real enemy troops in Falluja, by denying them a way out and putting their backs up against the wall, this guarantees a long and bloody fight -- which, if you're trying to embarrass the United States, would have to count as a bonus.

So, that would be a good first move. But more specific charges have been made against us as well. We've been accused, for instance, of targeting ambulances and medical facilities, in blatant violation of the Geneva conventions. How could you most directly validate this accusation? Perhaps you could begin your assault by seizing one hospital, and razing another to the ground, making it plain beyond the possibility of any denial that we view medical facilities as military targets.

This, at any rate, is what Dubya's crew has come up with so far. I can hardly wait to see what they think up next.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Surveying the wreckage after the election, Mary Kay Kare writes:

[D]o not speak to me of Hope. I will have no truck with her; she is a vicious, lying bitch who exists only to betray you and break your heart. Every. Single. Time.

This, for 86 years, has been the creed of the Red Sox fan. And after a few crushing disapointments, Red Sox Nation has been ruefully wondering if a Red Sox victory would presage only some larger apocalypse.

Flip forward to today, as I'm watching the ten o'clock news on the local Fox affiliate, and even they are comparing our upcoming assault on Falluja to Vietnam.

I'd like to give the Red Sox credit for psychologically preparing the fans for this kind of news, but the fact is they didn't. You'd think Red Sox Nation would have learned to endure failure, but last year, when the manager's brain-lock cost them game seven in a playoff series against the Yankees, was as painful as anything that had gone before. And now that they've won, it's the same thing, only this time, after all the endless decades of heartache involving nothing more than grown men hitting balls with sticks, it actually matters.

Which leaves me singing along with Depeche Mode: I don't want to start any blasphemous rumors, but I think that God's got a sick sense of humor, and when I die I expect to see him laughing...