Hassan Rohani May Disappoint Us Yet

My latest for the Atlantic Council discusses whether Hassan Rohani will prove himself a genuine reformer. On that issue, I have my doubts:

The Islamic Republic of Iran has a new president: Hassan Rouhani. There has been a lot of talk about Rouhani’s supposed political moderation and pragmatism, just as in 1982, there was talk that Yuri Andropov’s supposed fondness for jazz indicated a liking for the West in general, and the possibility that there would be a thaw in Soviet-American relations. In Andropov’s case, such thinking proved to be too optimistic. Similarly, there may be no justification for optimism in Rouhani’s case either; both because Rouhani has been a mainstay of the Islamic revolution in Iran, and because the Iranian president has significantly less power than many Western observers seem to think he does.

Read it all. Incidentally, it would appear that the Atlantic Council insists on spelling the new president's name as "Rouhani," when it should be "Rohani"; the first syllable rhymes with "roe" or "no." But as long as they keep publishing me, I will likely refrain from complaining.

In Which Edgar Allan Poe Pays Homage to the Chicago Blackhawks

After the Chicago Blackhawks triumphed over the Boston Bruins, winning the Stanley Cup in a six game series, the ghost of Edgar Allan Poe visited me and demanded that I take down the following poem that he composed in praise of my hometown Blackhawks. I offer it now for your reading and reciting pleasure. Admittedly, Poe is out of practice when it comes to composing poems, given that he has been dead for 164 years, but I think that he still has enough of the old magic left in him to make poetry lovers sit up and take notice.

Anyway, without further ado, I give you Poe, resurrected: 

Once upon an evening dreary, with the Bruins, beat and weary,
With their faces sad and teary and hearts dragging on the floor.
While the Blackhawks celebrated, the Bruins to their foes migrated,
Even though they truly hated what for them was now in store.
"Tap, tap tap," did the Bruins on the Blackhawks' locker door.
"Away," said the Blackhawks. "You saw the score."

"Oh Blackhawks," said the Brui
ns. "You have brought us woe and ruin.
"Brought shame upon our crew and have achieved a higher score.
"But now, we've come to ask you, to charge, request and task you.
"Corey Crawford, put on your mask, you, and let's go and play some more.
"Give us another chance at Stanley, and let's go and play some more."
Quoth the Blackhawks, "NEVERMORE!"

"Blackhawks," said Team Boston. "Your obstinance is costin'
"Us redemption. We know we've lost and we've no right to anything more.
"But upon us take some pity, because our souls now feel quite s****y,
"There's despair within our city, another shot we do implore.
"To take the Stanley Cup another shot we do implore."
Quoth the Blackhawks, "NEVERMORE!"

"Blackhawks," cried Team Beantown. "You know, you're being mean now.
"If only you could have seen how Bostonians are sick and sore.
"We are beaten now in hockey, but Solo said 'don't get cocky,'
"Clubber Lang once gave Rocky a chance to even the score.
"We're admittedly not from Philly, but we want to even the score."
Quoth the Blackhawks, "NEVERMORE!"

"Blackhawks," screamed Massachusetts. "We know that it's quite useless
"To chew your ears off since we're toothless after hockey fights galore.
"Instead, your ears entreat we, your championship conceit we
"Seek to use to cause deceit; we want to play one series more.
"Oh come now, in your hubris, consent to just one series more."
Quoth the Blackhawks, "NEVERMORE!"

And with that, the Bruins scattered, with the Blackhawks not quite flattered
To think that Boston's begging mattered. There wouldn't be one series more.
Lord Stanley's Cup made bolder the great City of Big Shoulders,
Which has the Field of Soldiers where the Bears will Packers gore.
Let's now look to autumn, when the Bears will Packers gore,
And win Chicago championships more.

Germans Love David Hasselhoff . . . and They Kindly Tolerate Pejman Yousefzadeh

President Obama gave a speech to the National Defense University today that outlined his counterterrorism policy in general, and his administration's policy on drones in particular. Deutsche Welle interviewed yours truly on the new policy:

Pejman Yousefzadeh, a Chicago-based lawyer who specializes in public policy, cautiously welcomed Obama's initiative towards greater transparency, but questioned the efficacy of a new policy. "I don't know if a blanket guideline is going to be as useful as bilateral diplomacy with the countries in question," he told DW. "Some countries may privately welcome US intervention against terrorists, but have to condemn the US in public."

Yousefzadeh is also concerned about accountability. "You can't have a US president's war policy that is completely free of congressional oversight," he said.

To that end, Yousefzadeh thinks Obama would do better to establish a "Federal Intelligence Commission," an independent regulatory agency that would review any targets the White House has identified. Though as commander in chief, the president would still be able to overrule such a commission's findings, he would have to tell Congress he is doing so, making the program much more transparent and subject to a legal process.

My thoughts on the establishment and uses of a Federal Intelligence Commission are spelled out in my article on drone policy for the Atlantic Council, which was originally linked to here.

Of Red Lines and Bad Bluffs

My latest for the Atlantic Council discusses the Obama administration’s Syria policy, and why it is causing the administration to lose face:

When it comes to maintaining military credibility in the face of potential national security threats, the Obama administration has gone out of its way to convince friend and foe alike that the president and the administration do not bluff when it comes to their foreign policy and national security goals and commitments. However, the situation in Syria threatens to make a mockery of the administration’s public posture, which would likely have serious and deleterious consequences when it comes to administration commitments on a host of national security issues and challenges.

Read it all.

“To See What Is in Front of One’s Nose …”

I am more than a little amused by Matt Karp’s reference to the “constant sorrows of the twentieth century Anglo-American left” (via 3 Quarks Daily). Query: Could it be that those “sorrows” were so “constant” because the twentieth century Anglo-American left pledged constant fealty to Marxist/communist ideas that never worked and never had or will have a sandcastle’s chance in an earthquake of working?

Equally amusing is the following passage:

The central experience of the twenty-first century, of course, cannot yet be reckoned.  But whatever it is, we can be grateful that all our dreams and arguments about a just, egalitarian future will not be defined — or distracted, or divided, or destroyed — by the fate of a particular Russian dictatorship.

Why shouldn’t “the fate of a particular Russian dictatorship” (and it should be noted by those interested in accurately presenting history that the dictatorship in question encompassed far more than just Russia or Russians) ensure that the “dreams and arguments” of the “Anglo-American left” be “defined — or distracted, or divided, or destroyed”? Does Karp really believe that the Soviet Union was a one-off when it came to implementing Marxist/communist ideas and ideals? Does he somehow think that the rest of Eastern Europe, Cuba, Nicaragua and/or Venezuela have turned out better? Does he think that China was once all that and a bag of chips … until the authoritarians running it decided to just become communist in name?

Marx was right about one thing: “Hegel says somewhere that that great historic facts and personages recur twice. He forgot to add: ‘Once as tragedy, and again as farce.’” Alas, Matt Karp doesn’t seem to remember his Marx nearly as well as he ought to.

Nota Bene: Let’s all stop pretending that Eric Hobsbawm was some great, sainted figure. He wasn’t.

“… Before You Wreck Yourself.”

Following up on this post, and on the confusion between Chechens and Czechs, it occurs to me that perhaps it might be best if we seek to correct other potential misunderstandings about the Boston Marathon bombings in one fell swoop. Herein is contained my effort to do so.

  • If you are playing checkers or chess, and if in chess, you either check or checkmate your opponent’s king, that is not sufficient to make you a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings.
  • Che Guevara had nothing to do with the bombings. Granted, this might legitimately come as something of a surprise, given the fact that in life, Che was attracted to murder as moths are to a flame. But given that Che has been dead since 1967, it is probably safe to say that his interest in cutting short the lives of innocents has probably tapered off a bit.
  • If you drive a Chevy, are from Chevy Chase, Maryland, or are Chevy Chase, that is not enough to connect you to the Boston Marathon bombings.

I hope and trust that this post has been helpful for the exceedingly tiny minority of people it was intended to assist.

Nota Bene: I think after the past week, we could use a laugh and a humor break. I know I can. That’s why I decided to write this post.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is Captured. What Next?

Like everyone else, I was relieved to hear that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was caught. Kudos to the law enforcement officials who worked this case so hard, and who brought about a successful outcome of the manhunt that consumed Boston for most of yesterday. But there are still many questions to answer, and many challenges ahead.

For one thing, I would like to think that despite the anger and outrage evoked by the Boston Marathon bombings, Tsarnaev will still receive due process as the case proceeds against him. At the outset, there is a due process controversy that needs to be dealt with; whether Tsarnaev will receive Miranda warnings.

Everyone who has ever watched a cop show knows what the Miranda warnings are. The defendant has the right to remain silent; if s/he gives up the right to remain silent, anything s/he says can be used against him/her in a court of law; s/he have the right to an attorney; if s/he do not have any attorney, one will be provided for him/her by the court. However, there is also a public safety exception to Miranda. It would appear that in light of the exception, Tsarnaev is not going to be read his Miranda rights. I can buy the fact that there may be a legitimate public safety exception at issue in this case, but as my FBI link makes clear, the exception is a limited one:

The Quarles Court made clear that only those questions necessary for the police “to secure their own safety or the safety of the public” were permitted under the public safety exception.


Voluntariness is the linchpin of the admissibility of any statement obtained as a result of government conduct. Thus, statements obtained by the government under the public safety exception cannot be coerced or obtained through tactics that violate fundamental notions of due process. Here, it is worth mentioning that prior to the Miranda decision, the only test used to determine the admissibility of statements in federal court was whether the statement was voluntarily made within the requirements of the due process clause. This test requires that a court review the “totality of the circumstances” to determine whether the subject’s will was overborne by police conduct. If a court finds that the questioning of a subject, even in the presence of a situation involving public safety, violated due process standards, the statement will be suppressed.

(Footnotes omitted.) The government mustn’t overstep the bounds of the public safety exception. It needs to ensure that it doesn’t destroy its case against Tsarnaev, and it also needs to ensure that it doesn’t erode civil liberties for the rest of the population.

A separate question exists as to whether Tsarnaev can or should be treated as an enemy combatant. On this issue, I am with Benjamin Wittes:

… Could the Justice Department legally question and detain the suspect outside the criminal justice system?

The short answer is no, says Benjamin Wittes, a national security expert for the Brookings Institution and co-founder of Lawfare Blog, a national security blog.

Federal courts have said the president has the authority to detain persons “who were part of, or substantially supported, Taliban or al-Qaida forces or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States,” a power claimed by the Obama administration and codified by Congress.

So unless there’s evidence that Mr. Tsarnaev is linked to any terrorist group at war with America, “military detention is simply not lawfully available,” said Mr. Wittes. And there’s also the fact he’s a U.S. citizen pursued on American soil. That’s not necessarily a legal barrier, but a barrier under Obama administration policy, said Mr. Wittes.

There is a third issue that needs to be addressed as well—one that has nothing whatsoever to do with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev as a person, and everything to do with how we respond to terrorist threats. This involves the closure of Boston for most of yesterday as the search for Tsarnaev went on.

I understand the reasons for the closure; government and law enforcement officials wanted to keep the public safe while they searched for Tsarnaev. At the same time, I don’t see what was gained by the move. Fugitives are tracked all the time within cities without the cities being closed down, and this includes the tracking of serial killers and rapists. Those fugitives could do the very same things to render harm to the public that Tsarnaev might have done yesterday if there were no public closure request in place. If we don’t close cities when we are searching for extremely dangerous serial killers and/or rapists, it’s hard to understand why we would do so in order to search for a lone terrorist. Oh, I suppose that it might have been possible that even after his brother was killed, Tsarnaev might have had others helping him, but that was not the impression that we got from law enforcement officials yesterday. They seemed to indicate quite clearly that in the aftermath of his brother’s death, they believed that Tsarnaev was entirely on his own. And yet, the entire city of Boston was shut down and turned into a ghost town in order to find him—at a cost of upwards of $333 million. We regularly tell ourselves and each other that the best response to a terrorist attack is the resumption of normal life as quickly as possible in order to make it clear to the terrorists that they haven’t won. How is that philosophy to be adhered to with any credibility whatsoever if we turn off all activity within an entire metropolitan area simply because of one person—even a person who was responsible for the Boston Marathon bombings? Just imagine what al Qaeda abroad and terrorist cells in the United States must be thinking; they must salivate at the prospect of causing extreme amounts of disruption if a number of cell members act in concert to perpetrate terrorist attacks within the United States.

Finally, while I am pleased by the sense of unity and togetherness that the nation seems to have adopted, I am aware that all too soon, divisions will appear anew. We’ll disagree on issues and many of those disagreements will be passionate, loud, and very, very boisterous. But whatever our future disputes, let us all be united in the conclusion that there is a very real difference between Chechens on the one hand, and Czechs on the other.

In Memoriam: Margaret Thatcher

Margaret Thatcher’s death provides a conundrum for your humble blogger: How does one write cogently about the life and career of a colossus?

I am not sure that I will do the subject of Thatcher’s life and times the justice it deserves. But I’ll try nevertheless. Thatcher deserves encomiums for her achievements, and whatever my poor powers of eloquence, I’ll try to provide one.

Back when I was much younger, I watched a television show about clever foreign commercials. I think that it may have been hosted by Dick Clark and Ed McMahon. I only remember one commercial from the show. It may not have been the cleverest in Clark’s and McMahon’s eyes, but it certainly was in mine:

Of course, I’ve always been fascinated with politics and current events, which doubtless was responsible for the fact that the commercial made an impact on me. But in the aftermath of Margaret Thatcher’s death, the commercial comes to mind once again. It comes to mind not just because it was—and is—funny, but also because of the incomplete nature of its message.

The joke in the commercial is straightforward: Margaret Thatcher was such a polarizing figure that when she was little, even her own mother blanched at the idea of Thatcher possessing political power. But of course, the commercial fails to point out that it takes two sides to contribute to political polarization. Certainly, Margaret Thatcher did not evoke neutral feelings on the part of observers. People either loved or hated her. She possessed a fierce intelligence which she often turned on lesser people, she was absolutely convinced that she was in the right when it came to policy and political philosophy, and she had no patience whatsoever for those who would have continued to allow Britain to remain “the sick man of Europe,” which Britain undoubtedly was before Thatcher came to power. Either this approach was one’s cup of tea, or it wasn’t, and if it wasn’t, the hatred that would result would last a lifetime.

But when one looks at the condition Britain was in prior to Thatcher taking up residence at 10 Downing Street, one sees rather quickly—or should, anyway—that Thatcher was entirely right not to have had any patience for those who were willing to continue the policies that brought Britain to its knees. I disagree with almost everything Andrew Sullivan says, does or writes these days, but Sullivan has decided to take a break from trying to convince is that Barack Obama is a secret conservative in order to show us why Thatcher—a genuine conservative if ever there was one—was so desperately needed in Britain:

… Yes: the British left would prefer to keep everyone poorer if it meant preventing a few getting richer. And the massively powerful trade union movement worked every day to ensure that mediocrity was protected, individual achievement erased, and that all decisions were made collectively, i.e. with their veto. And so – to take the archetypal example – Britain’s coal-workers fought to make sure they could work unprofitable mines for years of literally lung-destroying existence and to pass it on to their sons for yet another generation of black lung. This “right to work” was actually paid for by anyone able to make a living in a country where socialism had effectively choked off all viable avenues for prosperity. And if you suggested that the coal industry needed to be shut down in large part or reshaped into something commercial, you were called, of course, a class warrior, a snob, a Tory fascist, etc. So hard-working Brits trying to make a middle class living were taxed dry to keep the life-spans of powerful mine-workers short.

To put it bluntly: The Britain I grew up in was insane. The government owned almost all major manufacturing, from coal to steel to automobiles. Owned. It employed almost every doctor and owned almost every hospital. Almost every university and elementary and high school was government-run. And in the 1970s, you could not help but realize as a young Brit, that you were living in a decaying museum – some horrifying mixture of Eastern European grimness surrounded by the sculptured bric-a-brac of statues and buildings and edifices that spoke of an empire on which the sun had once never set. Now, in contrast, we lived on the dark side of the moon and it was made up of damp, slowly degrading concrete.

As Sullivan points out, Thatcher decisively changed Britain for the better:

Thatcher’s economic liberalization came to culturally transform Britain. Women were empowered by new opportunities; immigrants, especially from South Asia, became engineers of growth; millions owned homes for the first time; the media broke free from union chains and fractured and multiplied in subversive and dynamic ways. Her very draconian posture provoked a punk radicalism in the popular culture that changed a generation. The seeds of today’s multicultural, global London – epitomized by that Olympic ceremony – were sown by Thatcher’s will-power.

Making these changes wasn’t easy. Thatcher had to break the power of government to control the most basic aspects of the lives of British people. She had to crush—yes, crush—the authority of unions, which repeatedly took Britain hostage by starting up crippling strikes … until Thatcher smashed them once and for all. She had to combat the nuclear freeze movement and convince the British people (and other people in the free world) that the best way to convince the Soviets that conflict and confrontation would get them nowhere was to show strength in the face of their provocations. She had to convince a country that was used to statist economic policies that the economic liberalization urged by the likes of Friedrich von Hayek and Milton Friedman was infinitely preferable. She had to stand up for Britain’s interests in the Falkland Islands against an authoritarian and militaristic Argentine junta. She had to remake Britain entirely. All of this made her look like a divisive and polarizing figure in the eyes of many Britons.

But that doesn’t disguise the fact that she succeeded in meeting her policy objectives. In spite of fearsome opposition, in spite of hateful rhetoric, in spite of an IRA attempt to bomb her into oblivion, in spite of Argentine intransigence which threatened her leadership, she succeeded where so many other British politicians had failed. Her singular intellectual gifts, her moral courage, her resolute and steadfast convictions and her sheer patriotism helped bring Britain back from the brink, and helped make her—along with Churchill—the greatest and most consequential British prime minister of the 20th century. And one of the greatest ever.

Obituaries about Thatcher’s life and career cannot help but capture the epic nature of her life and career. Her personality and courage shine through in the New York Times’s coverage, for example, even though the Times also airs the views of Thatcher’s critics. No surprise; the critics shrank before Thatcher while she was alive. They now shrink before her memory as well.

So many hated her so much and for so long that her death is a cause for celebration for a number of Thatcher’s enemies. I suppose that one could get angry and outraged about this, but why bother? Consider that when Thatcher-haters die, no one will much care. They failed to defeat Thatcher at the polls, after all. Thrice. The Lady herself put it best:

I always cheer up immensely if an attack is particularly wounding because I think, well, if they attack one personally, it means they have not a single political argument left.

Of course, it wasn’t Thatcher’s enemies on the left, but rather, her own Conservative colleagues who ultimately forced her from power. But even in the act of leaving, she stood taller than did her detractors. In the aftermath of her ouster, a no-confidence motion was put forth in the House of Commons. Its passage would have meant the dissolution of the government, and new elections. Thatcher might have had to personally surrender power, but she would not put up with the notion of letting the Tory majority in the House dissipate. Speaking out against the motion, she put on perhaps her greatest oratorical performance:

At the end, one can hear an MP provide the ultimate comment on Thatcher’s utter mastery of the House: “You can wipe the floor with these people!” Which of course is exactly what she did with her opponents for the vast majority of her time in politics, making Britain better off in the process.

The Iron Lady is no more, but her legacy remains. As she promised, she never turned. Her nation is, and will always be grateful.

Requiescat in pace.

What Happens when Truth is Spoken to Power in Cuba?


The editor of a publishing house in Cuba who wrote a critical article in The New York Times opinion section about persistent racial inequality on the island, something revolutionaries proudly say has lessened, has been removed from his post, associates said on Friday.

The author, Roberto Zurbano, in an article published March 23, described a long history of racial discrimination against blacks on the island and said “racial exclusion continued after Cuba became independent in 1902, and a half century of revolution since 1959 has been unable to overcome it.”

On Friday, The Havana Times blog reported that Mr. Zurbano had told a gathering of Afro-Cuban advocates that he had been dismissed from his post at the publishing house of the Casa de las Americas cultural center, leaving the implication that the dismissal was connected to the article. Other associates said Mr. Zurbano told them he had been removed but would continue working there.

Reached by telephone in Havana, Mr. Zurbano would not comment on his employment. “What is The New York Times going to do about it?” he asked. He angrily condemned the editors of the opinion section for a change in the headline that he felt had distorted his theme.

The article’s headline, which was translated from Spanish, was “For Blacks in Cuba, the Revolution Hasn’t Begun,” but Mr. Zurbano said that in his version it had been “Not Yet Finished.”

“They changed the headline without consulting me,” he said. “It was a huge failure of ethics and of professionalism.”

Eileen Murphy, a spokeswoman for The Times, said the editor stood by the article’s preparation.

I am left with little doubt that Zurbano was dismissed because he had the temerity to point out that racial equality had not been achieved by a long shot in Cuba, and that the promises of the Cuban revolution—ephemeral though they have been for anyone not named “Castro” or not allied with the Castro brothers—have certainly not been fulfilled for Afro-Cubans. But the issue of whether the article should have been titled “For Blacks in Cuba, the Revolution Hasn’t Begun,” or whether it should have been titled “Not Yet Finished” is also an interesting one. Let’s consider it by consulting the article in question:

CHANGE is the latest news to come out of Cuba, though for Afro-Cubans like myself, this is more dream than reality. Over the last decade, scores of ridiculous prohibitions for Cubans living on the island have been eliminated, among them sleeping at a hotel, buying a cellphone, selling a house or car and traveling abroad. These gestures have been celebrated as signs of openness and reform, though they are really nothing more than efforts to make life more normal. And the reality is that in Cuba, your experience of these changes depends on your skin color.

The private sector in Cuba now enjoys a certain degree of economic liberation, but blacks are not well positioned to take advantage of it. We inherited more than three centuries of slavery during the Spanish colonial era. Racial exclusion continued after Cuba became independent in 1902, and a half century of revolution since 1959 has been unable to overcome it.

In the early 1990s, after the cold war ended, Fidel Castro embarked on economic reforms that his brother and successor, Raúl, continues to pursue. Cuba had lost its greatest benefactor, the Soviet Union, and plunged into a deep recession that came to be known as the “Special Period.” There were frequent blackouts. Public transportation hardly functioned. Food was scarce. To stem unrest, the government ordered the economy split into two sectors: one for private businesses and foreign-oriented enterprises, which were essentially permitted to trade in United States dollars, and the other, the continuation of the old socialist order, built on government jobs that pay an average of $20 a month.

It’s true that Cubans still have a strong safety net: most do not pay rent, and education and health care are free. But the economic divergence created two contrasting realities that persist today. The first is that of white Cubans, who have leveraged their resources to enter the new market-driven economy and reap the benefits of a supposedly more open socialism. The other reality is that of the black plurality, which witnessed the demise of the socialist utopia from the island’s least comfortable quarters.

Putting aside the ridiculous notion that there is anything about the quality of life in Cuba that is worth celebrating in any significant way—dissidents have pointed out that when it comes to claims about “free health care” in Cuba, those claims are overblown and even if they aren’t, they are not worth the tyranny and oppression that Cubans experience at the hands of the Castro regime—this passage certainly reads more like the revolution for Afro-Cubans has not begun, not that it has not yet finished, a conclusion reinforced by reading the following passage:

Racism in Cuba has been concealed and reinforced in part because it isn’t talked about. The government hasn’t allowed racial prejudice to be debated or confronted politically or culturally, often pretending instead as though it didn’t exist. Before 1990, black Cubans suffered a paralysis of economic mobility while, paradoxically, the government decreed the end of racism in speeches and publications. To question the extent of racial progress was tantamount to a counterrevolutionary act. This made it almost impossible to point out the obvious: racism is alive and well.

So, good call by the Times on the headline. The fact of the matter is that there is a massive amount of racism alive and well in Cuba, the government has done nothing whatsoever to combat it, and Roberto Zurbano was likely sacked for having pointed it out. I am pretty sure that the headline of the piece did not drive him from his post; rather, the content did. But to the extent that headlines matter, the Times chose the right one. I am glad to see that I agree with them on some things.

And yes, before anyone says anything, I think that the embargo against Cuba has proven to be stupid and pointless. We trade with the Chinese—who are still technically communists—and everyone trades with the Cubans, so I see no reason why we shouldn’t trade with the Cubans as well; it will give American industries access to markets, put more Cubans in touch with more Americans, and possibly engender changes in Cuban society and politics. I am all for dropping the embargo. But I am also for calling things by their proper names, and when it comes to Cuba’s treatment of its Afro-Cuban population, I am all for calling that treatment “racism.”

Nota Bene: Incidentally, is it just me or do others find it weird that the same people who demand that we boycott, divest from and sanction Israel for its relations with the Palestinians simultaneously seem to have little problem with dropping the boycott against Cuba, despite the persistence of racism when it comes to dealings with the Afro-Cuban population? I am willing to drop the embargo because I don’t think that it serves American interests to continue it, but at least I am willing to acknowledge the presence of racism in Cuba, which is more than the Boycott/Divestment/Sanctions-from/on Israel crowd is willing to do.

I’ve Never Scared Myself While Writing an Article Before

But I guess there is a first time for everything:

Thomas Frieden, director of the US Centers for Disease Control, warns “nightmare bacteria” with a “fatality rate as high as 50 percent” and a high resistance to antibiotics could soon become a public health crisis. A coordinated international effort to prevent that outcome is imperative.

He was referring to carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, commonly referred to as CREs, which are normally found in human intestines. As discussed by this primer issued by the CDC, these bacteria have been known to spread outside the intestines and cause infections—something that usually happens in nursing homes intensive care units, and rehabilitation centers, and usually affects elderly patients and/or those with compromised immune systems. Many of these patients are receiving care that includes having their skin breached with IVs, ports and catheters, which help in the spread of CREs.

CRE infections can be life-threatening, and as indicated by their name, cannot be treated even with carbapenem, which is a class of antibiotics that is used only when other antibiotics have failed, and which must be administered in hospitals, oftentimes intravenously. Even worse, Frieden points out, there is a way for CREs to spread their resistance to antibiotics to other bacteria, which may mean that a host of infections once considered easily curable might require hospitalization and intensive treatments to avoid patient deaths.

Frieden and the CDC tell us that we have “a limited window of opportunity” to do something about CREs. While CREs are currently confined to hospital and other care settings in the United States, the worry is that they may spread to the general population. If that happens, we will be in trouble, as CREs can be very hard to detect. Additionally, as the Wired story I linked to in this paragraph points out, we have to worry not just about CREs, but also other carbapenem-resistant bacteria that are not Enterobacteriaceae. The story references this finding on carbapenem-resistant Acinetobacter baumannii, which over the past fourteen years has become eight times less susceptible to carbapenem treatments. These superbugs, along with CREs, can pose a severe risk to the general population.

Read it all … if you are feeling brave, that is.

Pathbreaking Scholarship by Cass Sunstein

While I have a host of policy disagreements with Cass Sunstein (who currently is a law professor at Harvard and formerly was chosen by President Obama to head up the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs), the fact of the matter is that Sunstein is a superb scholar. I once even urged President Obama to nominate him for the Supreme Court, and in similar circumstances, I would have no hesitation in making the same recommendation.

With that as my prelude, I am going to urge people to read Sunstein's latest article, courtesy of Larry Solum. Yes, I know that this is legal geekery, but it is very good legal geekery. Be sure to read it--and be especially sure to take the time to read it today.

The Coming Health Care Policy Quagmire?

I might be open to the belief that Barack Obama’s presidency heralded and heralds “a liberal moment” similar to the “conservative moment” that led to and was reinforced by the presidency of Ronald Reagan. But that doesn’t mean the Obama coalition is not vulnerable and cannot be broken up early in its lifetime. I mean, after all, imagine what might happen to the coalition if Shikha Dalmia turns out to be right:

Not even the most ardent defenders of Obamacare — aka the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — claim anymore that the law will lower health coverage costs for Americans. How, then, will it achieve universal coverage, its central goal?

The short answer is, it won’t.

Last week, major insurers warned of double-digit premium hikes for small businesses and individuals when Obamacare goes into effect next year. Likewise, the nonpartisan Society of Actuaries this week estimated that costs to insurers that provide coverage to individuals will rise 32 percent on average within the first three years of the law, with premium increases sure to follow.

Similar analyses last year had already forced MIT’s Jonathan Gruber to admit that his projections that the law would lower premiums for young and old alike were wrong — even though his projections were instrumental in securing Obamacare’s passage. Gruber’s revised estimates now show that even the least affected states, such as Colorado, will experience premium hikes of nearly 20 percent by 2016.

Clearly, the word “affordable” should be scratched from the law for the sake of truth in advertising. But what about the “protection” part — namely, universal coverage?

That too is a lie.

Read the whole thing. I am, of course, rooting for Shikha Dalmia to be wrong; if she is right, the lives and health care of millions of Americans could and will be compromised. But we cannot afford to ignore the significant structural flaws inherent in Obamacare, or the massively deleterious consequences of implementing those flaws.

And as I never tire of stating/asking, wouldn’t it have been nice if we learned about those flaws by finding out about the contents of the Patient Protection (Ha!) and Affordable (Ha!) Care (Ha!) Act? You know, like we do with other pieces of legislation?

Alas, as we all too easily recall, some people had other ideas about how best to master the substance of the bill:

Better than E-mail

For some time now, I have been working with my friend Francis Cianfrocca to build a communcation and networking alternative to e-mail. E-mail has its uses and advantages, but there are things that it simply does not do well, like maintaining user security for instance. We have been working on a project called Symposium, which we are hoping will serve as a supplement—or even a replacement—for e-mail in corporate settings, and which may serve as a one-stop shop where you can catch up on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ messages as well as messages from e-mail.

Our statement of purpose can be found here, and the code is here. We welcome eyeballs, tweaks and comments from the open source community. We are very excited about this project, and we believe that it can go a long way towards filling a void in the area of online communications.

This Can’t Be Said Too Often

In politics, if you want to win elections, it helps not to say dumb things:

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus on Friday said the party played into a “caricature” of itself in the 2012 election cycle, citing “idiotic statements” and “biologically stupid things” said by Mitt Romney and other GOP candidates.

Priebus didn’t specifically criticize Romney, but he cited the 2012 GOP presidential candidate’s comment that illegal immigrants should self-deport in saying Republicans needed to be more careful in what they said if they hope to defeat Democrats in elections.
“It’s not necessarily what you say but how you say it,” Priebus told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “If you go around and you say a lot of biologically stupid things and you poison the well and you create a caricature or you allow a caricature to become reality, you’re not going to win an election.”
Priebus also said GOP outreach efforts haven’t been sufficient enough to overcome the “unscripted” moments of a campaign.
“You come into a presidential election with a massive turnout, a lot of idiotic things said, and you’ve got a party that hasn’t been deep enough in the communities on a permanent basis,” he continued. “So you can’t really play the game of defense when something is said, because if your relationships aren’t authentic enough in those communities you can’t control the damage of an unscripted moment like self-deportation, or something like that.”

Revolutionary thoughts, I know, but I think that we ought to pay attention to them.

Speaking of Priebus, and speaking specifically of the Republican National Committee report that informed anyone not living in a cave that the GOP has an image problem, this story tells us that there are social conservatives who worry that the RNC’s findings and recommendations augur less of a role for them in the GOP. There are indeed conservatives who worry about this possibility, but once you get past the headline, you find that there also are conservatives who welcome the RNC report and aren’t the least bit threatened by it:

“My first response on reading the report was, ‘It’s about time,’ ” said Richard Land, longtime president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission within the Southern Baptist Convention. He said the greater risk to the party would be a refusal to embrace a comprehensive immigration overhaul and to continue to lose support among Hispanics.

“I see no sign that anyone is trying to read social conservatives and tea partiers out of the party,” he said.

For my part, I certainly think that it’s healthier for social conservatives to realize that reforming the GOP is far better than allowing it—and the conservative movement, which (like it or not) is closely tied to the GOP—to be marginalized out of the mainstream of the American political debate.

“For Our Next Trick, We’ll Give Every Child a Little Red Book”

Via Brian Faughnan (who sent it to me in an e-mail), we have this. Charming, no?

The statement from Charles Grassley’s office is entirely on point; I guess that the only really surprising thing about it is that it actually had to be issued. I continue to hope that someday, people like Mao, Che Guevara, Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin will be seen to have been as despicable as Adolf Hitler was, but I increasingly wonder whether the masses will have that epiphany during my lifetime. If the Department of Education were actually on the job, it might have read this before publishing the Mao quote:

Can you name the greatest mass murderer of the 20th century? No, it wasn’t Hitler or Stalin. It was Mao Zedong.

According to the authoritative “Black Book of Communism,” an estimated 65 million Chinese died as a result of Mao’s repeated, merciless attempts to create a new “socialist” China. Anyone who got in his way was done away with — by execution, imprisonment or forced famine.

For Mao, the No. 1 enemy was the intellectual. The so-called Great Helmsman reveled in his blood-letting, boasting, “What’s so unusual about Emperor Shih Huang of the China Dynasty? He had buried alive 460 scholars only, but we have buried alive 46,000 scholars.” Mao was referring to a major “accomplishment” of the Great Cultural Revolution, which from 1966-1976 transformed China into a great House of Fear.

The most inhumane example of Mao’s contempt for human life came when he ordered the collectivization of China’s agriculture under the ironic slogan, the “Great Leap Forward.” A deadly combination of lies about grain production, disastrous farming methods (profitable tea plantations, for example, were turned into rice fields), and misdistribution of food produced the worse famine in human history.

Deaths from hunger reached more than 50 percent in some Chinese villages. The total number of dead from 1959 to 1961 was between 30 million and 40 million — the population of California.

Or this:

Mao, like Stalin, indisputably murdered more people than Hitler. He tyrannized the world’s most populous nation for more than a quarter century; and while by most counts his victims were somewhat less numerous than Stalin’s, the range of error makes it quite possible that Mao Zedong was the greatest mass murderer of the century. Mao was both the Lenin and the Stalin of Chinese Communism: not only did he found the system, but he raised it to lethal maturity. While Mao waited a few years to antagonize the peasants with forced collectivization, the killing began immediately. As Laszlo Ladany observes in his The Communist Party of China and Marxism: 1921-1985:

There are few parallels in history for what the [Chinese] Communists did [when they first came to power]. The French Revolution had many victims, but it did not institute a lasting political system. The October Revolution in the Soviet Union was not a peaceful affair, but the mass killings did not come till years later, during Stalin’s collectivisation… In China, the terror - what else can one call it? - was widespread and saw the beginning of a lasting system.

After Stalin’s death, Khrushchev and his successors eliminated some of the most horrific aspects of his regime. Mao denounced these reforms as “revisionism,” studiously repeating each of Stalin’s horrors. Unlike Stalin, Mao never fully succeeded in utterly crushing internal opposition within the Chinese Communist Party, which is probably why Mao’s policies were not even more deadly than they were.

They could have read Leszek Kolakowski as well, and I encourage everyone to do so. As I mention in my review of Kolakowski’s epic work. “among other things, Mao told his followers that they must take care to not read too many books, not even Marxist/communist books. The mind reels.”

More commentary:

The “Kids’ Zone,” of course, was channeling Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book (or more likely one of the thousands of “quotable quotes” websites on the Internet that mistakenly render insatiable as satiable. We’re not, by the way, suggesting that the Department of Education has been infiltrated by Maoists. Rather, one of its websites seems to be in the hands of historically illiterate hacks.

Needless to say, the prominent featuring of Mao’s quote attracted more than the usual quota of attention to the “Kids’ Zone,” and the snippet was quickly removed. Here is what it was replaced with: “Sorry there is no quote of the of the today.”

The Mao quote eventually got replaced with a quote from Abraham Lincoln. One cannot help but wonder whether the removal occurred for the right reasons, however. For all we know, it may have just been a strategic retreat.

At Last, We Get Some Fight out of David Brooks

David Brooks is a nice guy, and that is a nice thing to be. What frustrates me about him is the fact that his nice guy nature seems to compel him to refrain from arguing forcefully for his position when it comes to political/policy debates. I don’t imagine that the New York Times actually wants its conservative columnist to be a compelling debater for the starboard side of the political divide, but unless Brooks’s job at the Paper of Record requires him to be a milquetoast fellow, I don’t see why he should assume the role. One can be a nice guy while also being an able and formidable advocate, and while Brooks has mastered being a nice guy, formidable advocacy is not something that comes easily to him.

It’s not that Brooks isn’t smart—he is. It’s not that he doesn’t know the arguments—he does. It’s not that he’s not well-informed in general—he clearly is. But he perpetually seems to be in search of some kind of Grand Compromise even while his debating opponents are busy kicking him in the teeth. Try listening to NPR’s All Things Considered on Friday afternoons, when Brooks appears alongside E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post. To his credit, Dionne is a very good debater who also gives the impression of being a nice guy (I am sure he is a gentleman—I’ve certainly heard nothing about Dionne being a terror to puppies and/or kittens, or anything like that), but being a nice guy doesn’t keep Dionne from making his case. Anytime he is able to advance liberal arguments and Democratic talking points (but I repeat myself), he does so, and he does so very competently. Brooks, meanwhile, acts as though he expects the debates to be The Grand Moment Of Both Sides Coming Together And Singing In Harmony, and fails to push conservative arguments with the same passion that Dionne displays in putting forth liberal arguments. At the end of the segment, Dionne regularly pwns Brooks, who usually tries to laugh the whole thing off—frustrating anyone and everyone (like me) who hopes that Brooks will do a number on Dionne just one time.

So, these are my complaints about David Brooks’s argument style. I am sure that I shall have occasion to repeat them sometime, but credit where it is due—in his latest column, Brooks shows that he’s eaten his spinach:

There is a statue outside the Federal Trade Commission of a powerful, rambunctious horse being reined in by an extremely muscular man. This used to be a metaphor for liberalism. The horse was capitalism. The man was government, which was needed sometimes to restrain capitalism’s excesses.

Today, liberalism seems to have changed. Today, many progressives seem to believe that government is the horse, the source of growth, job creation and prosperity. Capitalism is just a feeding trough that government can use to fuel its expansion.

For an example of this new worldview, look at the budget produced by the Congressional Progressive Caucus last week. These Democrats try to boost economic growth with a gigantic $2.1 trillion increase in government spending — including a $450 billion public works initiative, a similar-size infrastructure program and $179 billion so states, too, can hire more government workers.

Now, of course, liberals have always believed in Keynesian countercyclical deficit spending. But that was borrowing to brake against a downturn when certain conditions prevail: when the economy is shrinking; when debt levels are low; when there are plenty of shovel-ready projects waiting to be enacted; when there is a large and growing gap between the economy’s current output and what it is capable of producing.

Today, House progressives are calling for a huge increase in government taxing and spending when none of those conditions apply. Today, progressives are calling on government to be the growth engine in all circumstances. In this phase of the recovery, just as the economy is finally beginning to take off, these Democrats want to take an astounding $4.2 trillion out of the private sector and put it into government where they believe it can be used more efficiently.

How do the House Democrats want to get this money? The top tax rate would shoot up to 49 percent. There’d be new taxes on investment, inheritance, corporate income, financial transactions, banking activity and on and on.

Now, of course, there have been times, like, say, the Eisenhower administration, when top tax rates were very high. But the total tax burden was lower since so few people paid the top rate and there were so many ways to avoid it. Government was smaller.

Today, especially after the recent tax increases, the total tax burden is already at historic highs. If you combine federal, state, sales and other taxes, rich people in places like California and New York are seeing the government take 60 cents or more out of their last dollar earned.

Read the whole thing, and kudos to Brooks for punching back on this issue. Incidentally, isn’t it interesting that modern day Keynesians think that temporary government spending on public works is just the thing that the doctor ordered when it comes to revving up a sluggish economy, but public spending on tax cuts is somehow a bad thing? And isn’t it equally interesting that modern day Keynesians think that if we scale back public works spending, there will be terrible economic consequences, but if we engage in nuclear class warfare via the tax code, nothing bad will happen to the economy?

Convenient Conversions

Following her husband down the road to Damascus, Hillary Clinton announced that she is ready to support same sex marriage:

“Like so many others, my personal views have been shaped over time by people I have known and loved, by my experience representing our nation on the world stage, my devotion to law and human rights and the guiding principles of my faith,” Clinton says. “Marriage, after all, is a fundamental building block of our society. A great joy, and yes, a great responsibility.”

“A few years ago, Bill and I celebrated as our own daughter married the love of her life,” Clinton continued. “I wish every parent that same joy. To deny the opportunity to our own daughters and sons solely on the basis of who they are and who they love is to deny them the chance to live up to their own God-given potential.”

Hmm. So … people close to Hillary Clinton, people she has “known and loved,” helped change her views on same sex marriage. In addition, the experience of her own child aided in the transformation as well, according to the former secretary of state.

Gosh, this sounds so very much like Rob Portman’s rationale for changing his views on same sex marriage. And as we recall, Portman got attacked by port-siders for a supposedly late conversion, and for changing his views only because someone close to him (his son, who came out) caused him to reconsider his stance on the issue. Any chance that the same port-siders might attack Hillary Clinton for taking longer than Portman did (and for that matter, taking much longer than Dick Cheney, John Bolton, and a host of Republicans did) to announce in favor of same sex marriage, and for employing pretty much the same reasons that Portman employed in explaining her change of heart? Has the thoroughly un-serious Matthew Yglesias denounced Clinton’s announcement as “the politics of narcissism” yet? Does he plan to?

Somehow, I doubt it. As I wrote in my post on Portman’s reversal, the people who attacked Portman from the left “are less interested in the issues of the day and more interested in attacking Republicans for any reason whatsoever, no matter how small the reason is in context.” It follows that however hypocritical their silence may be—and we all know that it is tremendously hypocritical indeed—they won’t attack Hillary Clinton for employing very Portmanesque rationales for changing her stance on the issue of same sex marriage. Heck, Hillary Clinton will get a free pass from these port-siders even though—and let’s not pretend that the following is not a consideration—her conversion on this issue (and that of her husband’s) is likely prompted by her desire to run for president in 2016. After all, Democratic primary and caucus voters won’t look kindly on a Democratic presidential candidate who doesn’t support same sex marriage. By contrast, Portman showed genuine political courage in adopting a stance that likely wasn’t prompted by any desire to run for president, and that will have lots of social conservatives angry at him regardless of whether he seeks the Republican nomination for the presidency, or if he just decides to run for re-election to the Senate. Portman deserves far more praise from supporters of same sex marriage for his display of political courage. In a just world, he would get it.

On DOMA and Same Sex Marriage

So, a little over a week ago, Bill Clinton wrote an editorial for the Washington Post in which he came out in favor of same sex marriage. As one who has supported same sex marriage publicly since 2003, I welcome him to the cause, but I have to wonder at the following passage:

In 1996, I signed the Defense of Marriage Act. Although that was only 17 years ago, it was a very different time. In no state in the union was same-sex marriage recognized, much less available as a legal right, but some were moving in that direction. Washington, as a result, was swirling with all manner of possible responses, some quite draconian. As a bipartisan group of former senators stated in their March 1 amicus brief to the Supreme Court, many supporters of the bill known as DOMA believed that its passage “would defuse a movement to enact a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, which would have ended the debate for a generation or more.” It was under these circumstances that DOMA came to my desk, opposed by only 81 of the 535 members of Congress.

On March 27, DOMA will come before the Supreme Court, and the justices must decide whether it is consistent with the principles of a nation that honors freedom, equality and justice above all, and is therefore constitutional. As the president who signed the act into law, I have come to believe that DOMA is contrary to those principles and, in fact, incompatible with our Constitution.

(Emphasis mine.) Let’s be clear about something: Although 1996 was “a very different time,” there have been no changes whatsoever in the Constitution to support the excuse that the existence of “a very different time” justified the signing of DOMA. The constitutional regime of 1996 is the same as the constitutional regime of the present day, which means that if Clinton thought back in 1996 that DOMA was constitutional, he should think the same thing today as well. To be sure, people change their minds on the great issues of the day, and it would be acceptable if Clinton wrote that after having re-examined the issue, he had come to the conclusion that what he did in 1996 was wrong. But Clinton doesn’t write that. Instead, he writes that because 1996 was “a very different time,” he and others have the luxury of thinking differently. Clinton argues that the change in time alone justifies the change in opinion.

So while Bill Clinton has come to the proper policy conclusion and now supports getting rid of DOMA, he has done so for the wrong reasons, without so much as an “I’m sorry for having signed DOMA into law in the first place” to be found in his editorial. The best Clinton does is to re-examine a statement he released along with the signing of DOMA in which he wrote that “enactment of this legislation should not, despite the fierce and at times divisive rhetoric surrounding it, be understood to provide an excuse for discrimination.” Clinton now believes that “even worse than providing an excuse for discrimination, the law is itself discriminatory.” It’s nice that he has finally come to this conclusion, but again, the constitutional structure has not been altered in any way whatsoever since the signing of DOMA. The only thing that has happened is that time has passed, the public’s views on same sex marriage have changed dramatically, and Clinton doesn’t want to be perceived as being out of step with those views—especially given the possibility that his wife might run for president again in 2016. This isn’t exactly what one would call a profile in courage.

Contrast Clinton’s act of political expediency with the behavior of Senator Rob Portman, who is in my book one of the shining lights of the Republican party. After finding out that his son is gay, Portman examined his views, and came to the conclusion that he could no longer oppose same sex marriage in good conscience. His editorial on the subject is worth reading. An excerpt:

Two years ago, my son Will, then a college freshman, told my wife, Jane, and me that he is gay. He said he’d known for some time, and that his sexual orientation wasn’t something he chose; it was simply a part of who he is. Jane and I were proud of him for his honesty and courage. We were surprised to learn he is gay but knew he was still the same person he’d always been. The only difference was that now we had a more complete picture of the son we love.

At the time, my position on marriage for same-sex couples was rooted in my faith tradition that marriage is a sacred bond between a man and a woman. Knowing that my son is gay prompted me to consider the issue from another perspective: that of a dad who wants all three of his kids to lead happy, meaningful lives with the people they love, a blessing Jane and I have shared for 26 years.

I wrestled with how to reconcile my Christian faith with my desire for Will to have the same opportunities to pursue happiness and fulfillment as his brother and sister. Ultimately, it came down to the Bible’s overarching themes of love and compassion and my belief that we are all children of God.

Well-intentioned people can disagree on the question of marriage for gay couples, and maintaining religious freedom is as important as pursuing civil marriage rights. For example, I believe that no law should force religious institutions to perform weddings or recognize marriages they don’t approve of.

British Prime Minister David Cameron has said he supports allowing gay couples to marry because he is a conservative, not in spite of it. I feel the same way. We conservatives believe in personal liberty and minimal government interference in people’s lives. We also consider the family unit to be the fundamental building block of society. We should encourage people to make long-term commitments to each other and build families, so as to foster strong, stable communities and promote personal responsibility.

Portman has taken a genuine risk in staking out this new position on the issue of same sex marriage. Many liberals who support same sex marriage decided that it would be better to attack and ridicule Portman for a late conversion instead of welcoming a potentially powerful ally to their cause—proving that those liberals are less interested in the issues of the day and more interested in attacking Republicans for any reason whatsoever, no matter how small the reason is in context. The perpetually comical Matthew Yglesias calls Portman’s switch “the politics of narcissism,” because apparently, it’s wrong for Portman and other Republicans to base policy stances on personal experience. Yglesias further suggests that Portman should now re-examine his stance on a host of other issues, since apparently, a change of mind on one issue means a change of mind on all. (I wonder if the same rule applies for Bill Maher.) Meanwhile, a host of conservatives have decided that there needs to be a primary challenge against Senator Portman when he comes up for re-election—proving anew that a large segment of the conservative movement is more interested in preventing the existence of a coalition large enough to win elections than it is in actually building a coalition large enough to win elections. And people wonder why Mitt Romney lost last year. I guess this is the part of the blog post where I point out that if the Republican party can’t afford to make room for the likes of Rob Portman, it can’t afford to make room for the likes of me either. Oh, and the GOP should be aware that if it loses enough of us, it will die as a political force.

There are those who will continue to fight against same sex marriage out of principle. I guess that there is nothing I can do about that, but I agree with Nick Gillespie, who states that Portman’s switch is a signal that the fight over same sex marriage is all over but the shouting. I also agree that Portman’s switch was far more courageous—and potentially far more consequential—than the switches of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama:

Portman’s conversion on the issue comes after high-profile flips by Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, whose announcements carried at least a whiff of politicial [sic] opportunism to them (Obama’s came during a presidential campaign when he needed to shore up LGBT support among Democrats and Clinton’s came a decade-plus after he signed the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act). Even with those caveats, they were still powerful indicators that the wheel has turned definitively in one direction. When a Christian conservative Republican signs on to the same basic policy shift, it’s a fait accompli.

I would be remiss if I didn’t reference this amicus brief submitted on behalf of a host of Republicans from varying spots on the political spectrum arguing that same sex marriage should be found constitutional. My biggest problem with the brief is that I didn’t have the chance to put my name on it.

Internet Access in North Korea

As with anything involving the Hermit Kingdom, there is a great deal of craziness attached to this issue. Prepare to be smacked by gob as a consequence of reading the following:

  • As the article’s title indicates, at the most, a grand total of 1,000 people would be affected by a cyber blackout in North Korea. And perhaps the number of people in the country with “unrestricted access” numbers only “a few dozen families — most directly related to Kim Jong-un himself.”
  • North Korea’s mobile Internet service does not cover people who actually live in North Korea.
  • North Korea’s intranet prevents the country’s citizens from getting anything resembling an honest glimpse of the World Wide Web—and of the larger world, to boot. Additionally, if you are a journalist and there is but a small typo in your article, you can be sent to a “revolutionisation” camp. I’m pretty sure the experience is less lovely than it sounds, and the experience doesn’t sound all that lovely to begin with.

Other than the foregoing, of course, we can bet our bottom dollars that everything is fine in North Korea, and everyone living there thanks his/her lucky stars on an hourly basis for the good fortune that placed them on the septentrional side of the 38th parallel. I mean, who would want to live with those pesky South Koreans and their significantly larger number of political liberties, their wealth, their much higher standard of living, and their plentiful food options—options which don’t involve eating grass and/or cannibalism?