Friday, November 23, 2007
An extra special reason for New Yorkers to give thanks
New York City is on track to have fewer than 500 homicides this year, by far the lowest number in a 12-month period since reliable Police Department statistics became available in 1963.That last fact is too bad -- I was looking forward to the day when the combined number of homicides on Law & Order, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and Law & Order: Criminal Intent exceeded the actual number of homicides in the five boroughs.
Hmmm.... come to think of it, most of these shows are set in Manhattan. I wonder if we hae reached the point when the annual number of homicides in that borough are less than the number of homicides that would be portrayed on television. Not just the L&O franchise, but also CSI: NY and the half-dozen other crime shows I'n sure are set in the city.
Readers, go and check this out!
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
A global thanksgiving
The editors of Foreign Policy provide a list of reasons to be thankful this year. Among the reasons:
1) Improvements in air safetyHappy Thanksgiving!
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Defending Angelina Jolie and other debatable issues
This blog has a long and distinguished tradition of defending celebrities. This tradition continues in my latest installment of bloggingheads.tv with Henry Farrell. I had to defend Angelina Jolie. It wasn't easy, but somehow I mustered the necessary willpower.
We also bit the hand that feeds bloggingheads by debating the New York Times op-ed page, as well as one of November's Books of the Month.
Go check it out!
Most awesome simulation ever
Robert Farley details a "mini-simulaton" at the Patterson School, "informed by repeated viewings of Independence Day."
And suddenly, millions of men who spend their weekends watching FX prick up their ears.
My favorite bit:
We worked out that the Vice President and the Cabinet (with the exception of the Secretary of Defense) have all, perhaps with a straggler or two, been killed. Congress fares much better, as we figured that most Senators and Representatives wouldn't be in DC during the attack. We're guessing about 85% of Congress survives.No cabinet, little civil service, but a functional Congress? I predict the new capital would be in Bozeman, Montana -- which, as anyone who's been to Bozeman knows, it not an entirely bad outcome.
Good news on stem cell research
Two teams of scientists are reporting today that they turned human skin cells into what appear to be embryonic stem cells without having to make or destroy an embryo — a feat that could quell the ethical debate troubling the field.
Meanwhile, in Iraq....
The New York Times' Damien Cave and Alissa Rubin have the story that will occupy the blogosphere for today -- Baghdad is safer:
The security improvements in most neighborhoods are real. Days now pass without a car bomb, after a high of 44 in the city in February. The number of bodies appearing on Baghdad’s streets has plummeted to about 5 a day, from as many as 35 eight months ago, and suicide bombings across Iraq fell to 16 in October, half the number of last summer and down sharply from a recent peak of 59 in March, the American military says.This report, combined with reports on monthly deaths from sectarian violence, suggest that the effects of the surge are clear -- we've managed to get Baghdad back to the place it was prior to the February 2006 bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra. I believe this is also a period in which even members of the Bush administration admitted that their Iraq policy was "adrift."
Well, there are some other changes... ike in the rest of Iraq. The Christian Science Monitor's Sam Dagher has a story on this:
Ammar al-Hakim is presiding over an Iraqi Shiite building boom. His austere Shaheed al-Mihrab Foundation has raised 400 mosques in Iraq since 2003. It's building the largest seminary here in the holy city of Najaf and opening a chain of schools. And it now has 95 offices throughout the country.Is this a good thing? The International Crisis Group is skeptical:
As long as the U.S. remains in Iraq, its alliance with ISCI will help entrench the party in the country’s governing, security and intelligence institutions, in Baghdad as well as most southern governorates. Its only true challenger remains the Mahdi army, which despite its ruffian credentials and bloody role in sectarian reprisals enjoys broad support among Shiite masses. Their rivalry now takes the form of a class struggle between the Shiite merchant elite of Baghdad and the holy cities, represented by ISCI (as well, religiously, by Sistani), and the Shiite urban underclass.Question to readers: is there cause to be optimistic about the future of Iraq?
[The] optimism is totally unwarranted. Not because things aren't improving in Iraq—it seems they are, at least for the moment—but because the collateral damage inflicted by the war on America's relationships with the rest of the world is a lot deeper and broader than most Americans have yet realized. It isn't just that the Iraq war invigorated the anti-Americanism that has always been latent pretty much everywhere. Far worse is the fact that—however it all comes out in the end, however successful Iraqi democracy becomes a decade from now—our conduct of the war in Iraq has disillusioned our natural friends and supporters and thrown a lasting shadow over our military and political competence. However it all comes out, the price we've paid is too high.
Monday, November 19, 2007
And I thought I was disorganized
In the spring, I'm going to be running a conference at the Fletcher School on the future of policy planning. This means I'm going to have to flex my administrative muscles, which are about as well-developed as my pectorals. Which is to say, I'm a bit disorganized.
Of course, if the Washington Post's Glenn Kessler is correct, I can always console myself that my conference can't possibly be as badly planned as the upcoming Annapolis meeting on the Middle East:
A few days after Thanksgiving, President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice plan to open a meeting in Annapolis to launch the first round of substantive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks during Bush's presidency.Question to readers -- if you're going to go through the trouble of assembling such a large collection of officials in Annapolis, isn't it worthwhile to have them stay for more than a day? Or is this a case where more discussion would not necessarily equal more fruitful discussion?
UPDATE: The AP now reports that invitations will be sent out seven days in advance:
As the U.S. finalizes preparations, the State Department will start sending out invitations overnight for the event, U.S. officials said Monday. The conference will be held in Annapolis on Nov. 27 in between meetings in Washington. The main guests are the Israelis and the Palestinians, and the Bush administration also is inviting Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Syria and key international players in the peace process, the officials said.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Could Hugo Chavez threaten Venezuela baseball?
Maria Burns Ortiz has a story at ESPN.com that indicates Hugo Chavez's nationalization policies are starting to foreign direct investment -- in baseball:
With that kind of talent emerging from Venezuela in recent seasons, one would assume that big league clubs would be flocking to the South American nation in search of the next superstar. However, the cultural and political scene in Venezuela is undergoing rapid and radical transformation, and instead of flocking to the country, teams are fleeing over concerns about safety and political uncertainty. They aren't leaving in droves just yet, but the stream has been steady enough to raise a red flag about the future....