Sago Boulevard

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Who's Pro-American?

In today's Washington Post, Anne Applebaum makes some very interesting observations about international anti-Americanism. A recent poll shows, unsurprisingly, that "most Frenchmen have a highly unfavorable view of the United States; that the Spanish prefer China to America; and that Canadian opinion of the United States has sunk dramatically." Yet, Applebaum points out:
Even the most damning polls always show that some percentage of even the most anti-American countries remains pro-American. According to the new poll, some 43 percent of the French, 41 percent of Germans, 42 percent of Chinese and 42 percent of Lebanese say they like us. Maybe it's time to ask: Who are they?

That's a good question. I mean, really, it just struck me as a very useful approach to the data. If 85% of a given country admit to harboring ill-feelings toward Americans, I want to know who those 15% are and why they still like us.

In Poland, for example, people between 30 and 44 are more likely to be pro-American than their compatriots. Applebaum notes that "this is the group whose lives would have been most directly affected by the experience of the Solidarity movement and martial law -- events that occurred when they were in their teens and twenties -- and who have the clearest memories of American support for the Polish underground." In Canada, Great Britian, Italy, and Australia, people over 60 are more pro-American than their children and grandchildren. This is the generation who remembers the "positive experiences of U.S. cooperation or occupation during World War II."

Despite all the problems of American foreign policy, it's important to keep things in proper perspective. There is still a significant minority of pro-American voters in countries like France and Germany. Applebaum concludes:
They are worth cultivating, with presidential speeches or diplomatic visits, because their numbers may even grow... Before Americans brush off the opinion of the "foreigners" as unworthy of attention, they should remember that whole chunks of the world have a natural affinity for them and, if they are diligent, always will.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Supremes Rule on Ten Commandments Displays

I'm very confused about how the Court ruled on the Ten Commandments displays. I have to think about it some more before giving my take on it. In the meantime, here are a few good discussions on it.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Russian Antisemitism

Russia probing whether Jewish law constitutes incitement:
The Moscow district prosecutor has ordered an examination into the Shulhan Arukh - a code of Jewish halakhic law compiled in the 16th century - to ascertain whether it constitutes racist incitement and anti-Russian material. The prosecutor ordered the probe against a Jewish umbrella organization in Russia for distributing a Russian translation of an abbreviation of the Shulhan Arukh.

I don't get a good sense from the article how seriously this is being taken in Russia but it's still pretty scary. Has anybody seen any articles about this in the American press?

(via Seth Chalmer)

Life Update

I've been in my apartment for about three weeks now. I don't really have set schedule at this point, but I've somehow still managed to be busy. Mornings - Mon., Tues., Wed. - I sit in on R. Sacks' shiur (lecture). It just started last week and continues into July so the timing was perfect for me. This morning, I think I began understanding a little bit so I'm optimistic. (I even took notes! That's very rare for me). My Kaplan LSAT course starts next week, Tues. and Thurs. evenings at Fordham and my roommate is supposedly moving in within the next few days. That should keep me fairly busy, especially if I take the LSAT course seriously. Over the weekend, I started reading Ronald Dworkin's Law's Empire. I'll probably post some thoughts on it as I read more.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Blaming the Victim, Revisited

Last week, I jumped into a blogosphere debate about rape prevention:
While it's true that a victim of rape does nothing to deserve what happend, there may be something she does that makes a tragedy more likely. This seems to be quite a simple distinction and it surprises me how many fail to see it.

In reading comments posted in a handful of feminist blogs (too many to list), it became clear to me that the distinction that I considered "simple" is in fact a bit more complicated. Let's say that Joe gets in a car accident and Sally, his passanger, is killed. If I were to say to Joe, "If it wasn't for you, Sally would still be alive," my statement, in one sense, would be entirely correct. As a simple matter of fact, if Joe were not to get in the car that morning, then he would not have gotten into the accident that killed Sally. Yet, Joe would almost certainly not take it that way. It sounds like I would be blaming him.

In my previous post I, in effect, assumed that Joe would be misunderstanding my statement as blame when in fact it was a mere statement of fact. But this ignores the emotionally-charged connotations of statements like "If it wasn't for you..." To say that a victim of rape could have taken steps to prevent her assault does in effect amount to blame, even if the logical meaning of the words does not.

Making Fun of the French

As usual, Tom Friedman puts it well in making the case for CAFTA:
Ah, those French. How silly can they be? The European Union wants to consolidate its integration and France, trying to protect its own 35-hour workweek and other welfare benefits, rejects the E.U. constitution. What a bunch of antiglobalist Gaullist Luddites! Yo, Jacques, what world do you think you're livin' in, pal? Get with the program! It's called Anglo-American capitalism, mon ami. Lordy, it is fun poking fun at France.

Friedman's The World is Flat lays out in more detail how protectionism hinders economic development. It's a must-read for anyone interested in international economics. "Things just get better with fewer walls."

Friday, June 17, 2005

Torture?

Dean's World has a great post about the claims being made about treatment of prisoners in Gitmo:
There's something that's really beginning to worry me that relates to this: our national tendency to inflate everything to irrationally huge proportions. It's almost as if, when the news isn't very big, we feel the need to inflate what is in the news to make it seem bigger. This makes me worry that someday the government might try actual, real torture just under the assumption that no matter what they do, they'll get the same level of excoriation in the press anyway. If you cause hysteria for very small things, how can the hysteria get bigger over the real thing?

Point well taken.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Who's Fault is Rape?

Steve Gilliard seemed to have pissed off more than a few feminist bloggers (Echidne of the Snakes, Feministe) by writing yesterday about the media's and pop-culture's attitudes about rape, in context of Natalee Holloway, the girl who disappeared in Aruba following her senior-class trip. I think that in the case of any tragedy, there's something wrong about looking to blame the victim. This is true for a heavy smoker who's dying from lung cancer, a prostitue with AIDS, and a reckless driver injured in a car accident. Even if it is their fault, I find blaming them publically to be distasteful. Of course, it may not be their fault. There are smokers who live long lives, a prostitute may get AIDS from a blood transfusion, and a reckless driver may be rear-ended while stopped at a red light.

Rape is different, though - which is why Gilliard's article is so controversial. It's hard to imagine rape actually being the victim's fault. While the smoker, prostitue, and bad driver all flirt with danger, a rape victim (yes, even a girl who drinks at a party and goes home with a guy she's never met before) is in a quite a different category. But so far, nothing in Gilliard's article contradicts this. In fact he says, "I don't think it's not so much that 'she got what she deserve[s]', but a media refusal to look at their conduct and say these girls were placed in a less than optimal situation." He's not blaming the victim. He's criticizing the lack of precautions taken.

While it's true that a victim of rape does nothing to deserve what happend, there may be something she does that makes a tragedy more likely. This seems to be quite a simple distinction and it surprises me how many fail to see it. Walking alone in Central Park at 3 AM does not make me deserving of assault but it's a pretty bad idea. Getting drunk at a party and going home with guys you barely know is a similarly bad idea. It's not that she deserves to get into trouble but that it's more likely when you're not careful. I think that was Gilliard's point.

New Yankee Stadium

Bronx Is Up as Yankees Unveil Stadium Plan

I must say I have mixed feelings. True, Yankee Stadium - "the cathedral of baseball" - can't last forever. But it'll be tough to see the Yankees play somewhere else - even if it is just across the street. I like the idea, though, of paying tribute to the Yankee Stadium of old:
The new stadium will be reminiscent of Yankee Stadium circa 1923, with its limestone-based exterior, arches and grand entrance... The classic rooftop frieze that endured from 1923 until it was destroyed by the 1974-75 renovation will return but will be made of a translucent material, not copper, and a restaurant will be built above a recreated Monument Park behind the batter's eye in the outfield. The field dimensions will remain as they are now, concourses will be wide, and the field will be visible from any snack bar or concession stand.