The Nudnik File

Nudnik - n. U.S. colloq. Esp. in Jewish usage: a pestering, nagging, or irritating person

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

There has been a lot of talk during this presidential campaign about the issue of outsourcing of jobs to other countries. Kerry and the Democrats have railed against this as an evil that needs to be stopped, and have, in effect, accused CEOs of companies who outsource jobs of treason ("Benedict Arnold CEOs"). Logically, one can see that this is nonsense. The US has always outsourced jobs throughout its history and in a variety of industries. In the 18th and 19th century (and even the beginning of the 20th) a large proportion of Americans were employed in agriculture; today it is around 2%. In the 19th century the US employed a large proportion of people in the textile industry; now that industry barely exists in the US. In the 20th century the proportion of the US population involved in manufacturing declined steadily. In all of these examples, many of the jobs were outsourced overseas because it was much cheaper to do those things elsewhere (obviously there was also some movement between industries). Yet our unemployment rate is near historical lows.

This study of the IT industry, released today, shows that "[u]sing offshore resources lowers costs and boosts productivity. As a result, inflation is lower, interest rates are lower, and economic activity is higher. The increased economic activity creates a wide range of new jobs, both in IT and other industries."
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              Apocalypse by technology
A funny (and a little crazy) story in Wired Magazine about one man's vision of how to bring the Messiah.
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The Jerusalem Post is reporting this morning that the US and Israel have agreed on disengagment terms. The terms are exactly the ones demanded by Netanyahu as condition for supporting the plan.

* All of the points of entry to the Gaza Strip - by land, air, and sea - must remain in Israeli hands. This condition was earlier by the Defense Ministry as well.

* A public and detailed US rejection of the Palestinian demand for the right of refugees to return to Israel. The US's rejection of the 'right of return' was strongly implied in comments by presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

* Completion of the security fence before withdrawal from Gaza begins, including building the fence around the Ariel, Gush Etzion, and Ma'aleh Adumim settlement blocs, as well as around Route 443 from Modi'in to Jerusalem. This will be the most difficult commitment to secure, since the US has objected to the route of the fence dipping deep into the West Bank.

|| Nudnik 8:56 AM || Permalink || (0) comments

Monday, March 29, 2004

              Please Stay!!
It seems that after all Gerhard Schroeder's anti-Americanism, especially in his election, Germany is now panicking that the US is considering leaving. Mark Steyn's article on the matter:

In the old days, the headline "Germans Go On Offensive" would have caused palpitations among Czechs, Poles, Belgians, etc. But, in the case of this weekend's AP headline, Germans going on the offensive refers not to sending German troops to foreign countries, but keeping foreign troops in Germany. And it's the Germans having the palpitations, after press reports that the Pentagon plans to pull out half its troops.

Right now, Germany plays host to 175,000 Americans - military personnel plus their families - and reducing that number to 80-90,000 would leave a big hole in an economy that's already looking like a Swiss cheese. See the recent story in Bild: "Can't We Do Anything Any More in Germany?" Also the cover of Der Spiegel: "Germany: A Joke."

The joke keeps getting better. Karl Peter Bruch, a state official in Rhineland-Palatinate who's lobbying the Americans to change their minds, put it this way: "We realised that our installations are in grave danger. And then came the question, what can we do to make us more attractive?"

"Our" installations? As Daffy Duck famously remarked after losing yet another verbal duel with Bugs Bunny and getting his bill shot off: "Hmm. Pronoun trouble." As to what Germany can do to make itself more attractive to the Yanks, how about this? Spend less time running around playing Mini-Me to Jacques Chirac's Doctor Evil. Just a thought. And it seems to have occurred, somewhat belatedly, to Gerhard Schröder.

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              Benny Morris's conversion continues
As one of Israel's "New Historians" Benny Morris sought to de-mythify Israel's founding, and in the process provided much material to Israel-haters and others who wish to delegitemize Israel's existence. There was much in his most influential books, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem and Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881-1999 that was disputed, and oftentimes proven to be false; Efraim Karsh pointed out in a Commentary article many of the problems of Morris's version of history.

Yet in a March 25th interview in Atlantic Monthly, Morris continues his conversion from post-Zionist historian that began in a 2001 lecture in Berkeley, and continued in an interview in Ha'aretz that produced quite a stir. It seems that the Oslo War has even managed to convince him that the Palestinians are not interested in a two-state solution. Now if only someone could convince Peres and Beilin.
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              Latest Poll
The latest CNN/Gallup/USA Today poll came out today. The poll was taken from March 26 through March 28, the height of the 9/11 commission hearings and Richard Clarke attacks, and shows that Bush was not affected by these events. Bush leads Kerry 51% to 47% in a two way race, and 49% to 45% if Nader is included. Everyone had been saying how bad of a week it was for Bush; the Democrats and Clarke attacking him for not preventing 9/11, and the press constantly telling us how bad this was for Bush and how it would take away his strongest issue. If this bad of a week for Bush could not help Kerry, what will? Bush's approval ratings seemed to have bottomed and are now heading up; and Kerry's are going down as more Americans learn about who he actually is.
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              Is Arafat's time coming?
The Washington Times carries a report today that Israeli intelligence is saying that Arafat is harboring terrorist fugitives in his compound. This information has been around for a while and is not new. The question is then why is it being talked about now. Last week Ma'ariv reported that the US was no longer guaranteeing Arafat's safety. Combining these two reports, its possible that these are very pointed warnings to Arafat that he could be next and justification for getting rid of him. Another conclusion could be that Israel plans to storm the Muqata to get these fugitives, and if Arafat is hurt in the operation then again there is prior justification for it.
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Sunday, March 28, 2004

              War as Altruism
In the April 5th issue of the Weekly Standard, there is an interesting article by David Gelernter called The Holocaust Shrug. Gelertner makes the argument that the Iraq war was necessary not just on a political level, but also on a moral one.

On the political level, this war was a necessity and was fought not because of the supposed presence WMDs, as many of the war’s detractors continue to insist. Many try to make the case that the war was one of choice, and not of necessity. While on the surface this is true, Iraq itself did not threaten the US and was a fairly minor threat to US interests in the region, in reality it was a war of necessity.

On September 11th the US was attacked by an Islamist group; a group that grew out of the corruption and backwardness of the Arab Middle East (as well as of our overlooking those things). The Bush administration, understanding the culture of honor and revenge of the Middle East much better than the previous administration or most governments in Europe, realized that the US had to hit back.

Afghanistan was first simply because they were directly involved in 9/11. But Afghanistan was not enough. At first, the nay Sayers and doom mongers told us that it was too much, that we would get bogged down like the British in the 19th century and the Soviet Union in the 20th. Of course all of these nay Sayers did not take into account that the way the US would fight - bearded special forces operators on horseback with laptops, directing precision guided bombs to their assigned targets – was completely different from the way the British and Soviets fought – the traditional full on assault of infantry and armor (or cavalry), the way wars had been fought for centuries. But once the Taliban had been removed, the same people who said that it was going to be impossible to win this war were now saying that of course the US won, the Taliban barely had an army.

The Arab world had to be convinced that the US was serious about its new War on Terror. Iraq, with its long history of violations of UN resolutions, as well as breaking the cease-fire agreement it had signed with the US after the Gulf war made itself the next target of the US. This was a country that was acknowledged by Arabs to be a military power in the region, and what better way to convince the Arab world of US seriousness than to destroy a regime that billed itself as the leader of the Arab world and historically had been one of the centers of Arab culture. By taking down both the Taliban and Saddam, the US would no longer be seen by the Arab world as, in the words of bin Laden, “the weak horse”.

The second political reason for the Iraq war was the Bush Doctrine, the realization that the main problem of the Arab world - the thing that allowed anti-Americanism (and anti-Semitism) to fester - was the political systems of virtually every Arab nation, and the determination to change these systems to some form of consensual government. Democracies rarely fight each other, and if people are concerned about their own governments, and feel that they can meaningfully participate in the political process, they will be much more concerned about themselves, and will be much less likely to blame us for their problems. It is in our interest to have a freer and more democratic Arab world. The Bush doctrine is, perhaps, one of the most progressive foreign policy initiatives that the US has undertaken since the Marshall Plan. It is amazing that the Left, the self-proclaimed progressives, are fighting so hard against this.

As such, the Bush Doctrine contains a large moral component – the US will actively try to liberate people from their oppressors, i.e. their own leaders. But even with this moral component, the Bush Doctrine is one of self-interest, not an “act of selfless national goodness”. It is hard to think of a war waged by the US (or any other major power) for purely altruistic reasons. Even the US intervention in the Balkans, the reasons for which were ostensibly to stop ethnic cleansing was in reality a war to preserve the stability of Europe. And even then, it came too late and was largely ineffective in stopping Milosevic in his ethnic cleansing campaign. In addition, it should not have even been undertaken by the US, but by the Europeans in whose direct interest it was to stop a war on their borders. As Nudnikette suggested, European powerlessness to intervene in a conflict so close to them was an indication of one of the main new cultural issues of Europe: while still being Christian, Europe has also become Muslim by virtue of the massive immigration, and therefore had trouble taking either the Christian side or the Muslim side for fear of upsetting each respective group.

Perhaps one of the main reasons that there has never been an altruistic war is that war as altruism is a very new idea. Prior to the idea of waging a war for human rights, wars were Clausewitzian in nature, i.e. the extension of policy by other means. The goal of war then was not to liberate anyone for the sake of liberating them, but to force the other side to conform to your wishes. Another possible reason for the lack of purely altruistic wars even now is that it is difficult, if not impossible, to convince one’s own people that a war for others as opposed to for one’s own interest is one where it is worth sacrificing blood and treasure.

In the case of Iraq, the freeing of people from an oppressive and cruel dictator was not a “step towards the act of selfless national goodness” even if it were the only reason for the war, since the freedom of people in Iraq and the entire Arab Middle East is entirely in our interest.
|| Nudnik 11:10 AM || Permalink || (0) comments

Saturday, March 27, 2004

              Help is on the way
The French proving their usefullness once again. "French Lawyer Says He Will Defend Saddam"
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              Surprise, Surprise, Surprise
It seems that even though European diplomats on their return from Iran assured us that they had brought "peace in our time", and that Iran would voluntarily give up its nuclear bomb program, they were somewhat mistaken. The LA Times tells us today that Iran continues its program and is doing everything possible to cover it up. This development should have been obvious to anyone, except it seems the Europeans. It's highly unlikely that those British, French, and German diplomats didn't understand that Iran will continue its program, the question then is why do they continue down this path? They have a lot more to fear from an Iranian bomb than the US does - Iranian missiles will not be able to reach the US for a long time, yet can already reach parts of Europe.
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Friday, March 26, 2004

              Mini UAVs
Haaretz is reporting that the IDF is equipping its forces with miniature UAVs. The drones are as small as 9 ounces, and can fit in a soldier's backpack.
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              The Side of Freedom
Victor Hanson once again reminds us what this war is about:

"Across the globe we watch the terrible drama play out. Car and suicide bombings in Baghdad are aimed at American aid givers, U.S. peacekeepers, Iraqi civilians, and provisional government workers. Spanish civilians are indiscriminately murdered — as are Turks, Moroccans, Saudis, and Afghans.

President Musharraf is targeted by assassins. Synagogues are blown apart. Suicide murderers try to reach a chemical dump in Ashdod in hopes of gassing Jews to the pleasure of much of the Arab world and the indifference of Europe. Indeed, Palestinian murderers apologize for gunning down an Arab jogger in Jerusalem — for the colossal mistake of thinking that he was Jewish. The world yawns, but is then outraged because Israelis take out a mass-murderer during a time of war. We are witnessing a grand struggle between those who create things and those who can only destroy them, between those who are confident and build civilizations and those who have failed and turned vicious.

Daniel Pearl is executed on television. The U.N. is singled out as a target for mass murder in Iraq, as are synagogues in Istanbul. Again, we in the West are supposed to tremble at the devilishness of the jihadists or turn on each other in fear. 'We worship death, you cling to life,' they warn us. Al Qaeda's message to Europe — which they hate even more than the United States, because it is not only wealthy but soft and weak as well — is that of every mythical monster who promises his trembling prey that with proper flattery he can be gobbled down last.

We should remember that this war of barbarism against civilization is global and connected. Poor Mr. Villepin may ignore that his country's appeasement and profit-making in Iraq were helpful to Saddam Hussein's state-sponsored terrorism and he may believe that things are worse in Baghdad now. But he will learn that past French double-dealing, flamboyant anti-Americanism, and obsequiousness to Iranian theocrats will win him no reprieve from these purveyors of a new Dark Age. The extremists will be just as likely to murder French children over banning headscarves as they would have had three Gallic divisions fought in Iraq."

|| Nudnik 9:36 AM || Permalink || (0) comments
              No More Immunity?
Maariv is reporting this morning that the US is refusing to guarantee Arafat's safety. After the assassination of Yassin, Arafat apparently asked the CIA as well as other "avenues of assistance" in the US to guarantee that Arafat would not become a target. Apparently the US refused to give a commitment to Arafat that he would not be eliminated. If true, this would be a major change in US policy, which up till now has told Israel that Arafat is untouchable.
|| Nudnik 9:11 AM || Permalink || (0) comments

Thursday, March 25, 2004

              Kiss of Death
Howard Dean just endorsed Kerry for President, not that this is a big surprise. Now all Kerry needs is Al Gore's endorsement, and he can return to his job: doing nothing in the Senate.
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Wednesday, March 24, 2004

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