In last week’s New York Times Magazine, David Rieff asks, Were Sanctions Right? It’s a thoughtful article that examines the real effects of the sanctions that followed the first Gulf War, not just on the Iraqi people, but on the nature of the regime, and on the people imposing the sanctions. It’s pretty clear now (as it was to many people before the war) that the sanctions actually strengthened the hold of Saddam Hussein’s regime over his people, and had the side benefit of enriching a lot of scumbags in Iraq and their trading partners outside. Indeed, the perverse cruelty of the sanctions regime was the main reason why I could never say that I was against war in Iraq. Simply letting Saddam Hussein do as he wished did not seem reasonable to me, and both war and sanctions struck me as unbelievably cruel. That said, the sanctions were not getting rid of Saddam, were enabling him to kill thousands of his own people through targetted and planned deprivation, and were hurting the United States as well by exposing our cruelty to the world. In retrospect, it would have been better to finish off the regime 10 years ago.
Eric Meyer (whose position as standards evangelist at Netscape was elimiated) is starting his own consulting firm. There are about a billion sites out there that could use his advice. Here’s hoping some of them contact him.
Sam Williams at Salon: Prowling the ruins of ancient software
Josh Marshall is looking for an intern to spruce up his Talking Points Memo web site. If you’re a clueful person (woh preferably knows Movable Type) and this sort of thing intrigues you, please sign up for this. TPM really needs an RSS feed and general modernization (things like actual pages with each entry for better inbound linking would be great). Marshall seems like he’d be a great candidate for TypePad as well. The person who takes this gig will be performing a service for their country.
Update: a couple of readers have pointed out that there’s a scraped RSS feed for TPM here.
I was all excited today because President Bush finally came out and said that the things he said his State of the Union Address were, in fact, his own responsibility. However, as observed by the New Republic weblog, in his press conference, he blames the economic uncertainty brought about by the threat of war with Iraq on the media:
Remember on our TV screens — I’m not suggesting which network did this — but it said, “March to War,” every day from last summer until the spring — “March to War, March to War.” That’s not a very conducive environment for people to take risk, when they hear, “March to War” all the time.
That’s a level of audacity that I would not have expected.
Phil Carter, who I lauded yesterday, uncorked a great post on how the government is abusing the unlawful combatant designation to coerce defendants into pleading guilty rather than actually taking their cases to trial. This sort of outright abuse of the justice system is absurd and depressing. It seems every day I read about abuses like this — threatening to kidnap the wives and children of guerillas in Iraq, handing over people we detain to foreign governments so that they can be tortured, and generally turning our backs on the things that, in my opinion, make our country different from so many others.
I love finding a classed up version of a favorite movie line. “The world is made for people who aren’t cursed with self-awareness,” is a gem I’ve never forgotten from Bull Durham. Unsurprisingly, Gustave Flaubert says it better:
To be stupid, selfish, and have good health are three requirements for happiness, though if stupidity is lacking, all is lost.
There’s nothing to win you over to the side of a candidate like hearing them say something you already think. In an interview with Howard Dean, Chris Suellentrop learned Dean’s theory on building economies in the developing world:
Dean’s theory in a nutshell: The structure of wealth in the United States before labor unions resembled that in Third World countries today, so in order to create middle classes in the developing world, we need to bring labor unions to them.
I have been saying this literally for years. My further thought on this, though, is that once you teach people that they can assert their rights in relation to their employers, it’s a short leap to realizing that they can assert their rights in relation to their government. Needless to say, plenty of developing countries don’t want their people to figure that out, and so are not really big on labor rights. That said, I think the best thing US labor unions can do right now is send liaisons to other countries and give them primers on organizing. Not only will it improve the labor standards and quality of life in those countries, but raising their wages will enable them to afford more things that are produced in America. This has always seemed so obvious to me but I rarely hear people talk about it.
Python 2.3 is out, for all you Python hackers (or wannabes like myself).
Mozilla Firebird 0.6.1 seems to have fixed whatever problem broke bookmarklets in 0.6. I had gotten pretty darned tired of coping with not having my bookmarklet for adding new entries to this site.