Saturday, April 28, 2007

The great Rostropovich, farewell

(See the outstanding review essay by GS Smith in the May 11, 2007 Times Literary Supplement, "Playing With Fire," reviewing Elizabeth Wilson, Mstislav Rostropovich: Cellist, teacher, legend (Faber 2007). Not online anywhere, but should eventually appear in the subscriber only TLS archive.)

Sam Rich's assessment of Jeffrey Sachs' millennium village project, and in support of Wolfowitz

Sam Rich has an assessment of Jeffrey Sachs' Millennium Village Project in the new Wilson Quarterly, although it does not seem to be online - available, anyway, in most college bookstores or libraries. I've read it and found it very sensible - I also recommend highly Tyler Cowen's summary of it at Marginal Revolution, here. I think Cowen somewhat overstates things in his formulation "wonderful but oversold" - the weaknesses in the model are more than just the fact that it is not readily scalable, as Rich's article makes clear.

I have favorably commented on Sachs' general approach to poverty reduction in the past couple of years on this blog. With the process of UN reform in 2005, however, I found myself much more focused on the Millennium Development Goals and what Sachs really means by them, once attached to his own targets and numbers and so on. When all this is translated into real policy, it looks a lot less attractive and a lot more like simply another Potemkin Village-Five Year Plan at which the UN already excels, to no point whatsoever. I am increasingly persuaded that William Easterly, who operates as Sachs' general critic, is right in emphasizing that poverty reduction in the world is essentially a retail, tactical, bit by by effort. Sachs, by contrast, seems to think that it can be solved at the grand strategic global level. The problem, however, seems to be a radical disconnect between plans at the strategic level and the ability to implement them at the tactical level. For his pains - because it runs counter to the command-and-control, left over central planning that the UN continues to love so much in its bureaucratic bones - Easterly is isolated within official circles as a curmudeonly dissenter, while Sachs is lionized. But the cold reality is that Sachs' grand plans have little to show for themselves except as plans - leaving the Millennium quota defenders to fall back inevitably on the claim that failure was due not to the plans being flawed, but by the failure of funders to hand over sufficient money. At bottom, this is Sachs' big claim, and Easterly's big skepticism.

That, and the fundamental question of political stability, the rule of law, property rights, transparency, decreasing corruption, and reducing rent seeking by government officials standing in the way of private direct investment in reducing poverty. Paul Wolfowitz has been smeared by his underlings and by European grandees, abetted by the media, and in particular in this country by the New York Times and Washington Post, whose reporting seems to consist not of actually reading underlying documents, but reproducing the whispering campaign against Wolfowitz.

For quite a while, I was too busy and distracted to do anything other than follow the stories as the NYT and WP issued them, and assumed that Wolfowitz had screwed up and put himself in this position. Then I went back and looked at the actual documentary history - and it suddenly looked really, really, really different. I can't see whereas Wolfowitz has anything to apologize for, and I hope the White House finds a little backbone and holds firm. Wolfowitz is right on the substance of the reforms he is pushing on an arrogant and recalcitrant World Bank, and hasn't done anything that he wasn't essentially told to do by the Bank's own ethics committee. This is a political smear, aided in no small part by media hacks at the Times and Washington Post who, so far as I can tell, can't read.

Ruth Wedgwood has it right, in an op ed originally appearing in the Los Angeles Times, but also running in the Dallas News. And she is especially right to point out how anti-professional-women the whole contrived scandal is - not that you would know it, once again, reading the Times and the Post. Excerpts:

Ruth Wedgwood: A bum rap at the World Bank

Wolfowitz and his partner had been rightly cleared before

Dallas News
09:08 AM CDT on Thursday, April 19, 2007

On taking office, World Bank President Paul D. Wolfowitz set two priorities for the world's premier development institution. He asked for a focus on Africa's persistent poverty, and he targeted corruption that diverts aid dollars from the poor.

African leaders endorsed this vision, but not all bank bureaucrats were thrilled by Mr. Wolfowitz or his policies. Still, any friend of the bank's work should be dismayed by the disruption caused by a manufactured scandal at a time when the bank needs to replenish its coffers. The imbroglio rattling the World Bank during its spring meeting of finance ministers is a rehash of its clumsy attempt to resolve the status of Shaha Ali Riza, a veteran bank professional and Mr. Wolfowitz's longtime romantic partner.

The authors of this acrid affair have nakedly forgotten the standards of fairness and due process owed Ms. Riza, who is a member of the bank staff association and entitled to its fiduciary protections. And the scandalmongers have recklessly ignored a written record of bank documents that serves not to condemn but to exculpate Mr. Wolfowitz.

Moreover, the case reveals the bank's executive board and its ethics committee as organs of haphazard judgment. In 2005, the ethics committee surprisingly denied Mr. Wolfowitz's written request that he be allowed to recuse himself from all decisions touching on Ms. Riza's status because of their relationship. Then it disqualified her from remaining at the bank yet insisted that she be compensated for this disruption to her career. Next, it insisted that Mr. Wolfowitz re-enter the chain of command to execute its advice concerning Ms. Riza. And now, board members apparently have criticized Mr. Wolfowitz for doing exactly what the ethics panel directed.

To be sure, news stories about Ms. Riza have revealed that the pay of World Bank staff far exceed what comparable professionals would earn elsewhere. The public rightly might be dismayed to learn that Ms. Riza and other World Bank "lead" professionals can earn from $132,000 to $232,000.

But this does not excuse a mob mentality that abuses the reputation of a particular female professional, much less a bank president. The internal documents released last week – at Mr. Wolfowitz's request – show that this slow-moving institution had no protocol for figuring out how to accommodate the career of a professional woman when her spouse or partner came to work in the same chain of command. This is becoming a more serious problem in today's workplace.

Ms. Riza was a veteran of the bank, working as a senior communications officer in the Middle East/North African public outreach program before Mr. Wolfowitz was picked as bank president in 2005. With more than 15 years' experience in the field, able to speak Arabic, English and French, she was short-listed for a senior-level job. The bank's ethics committee in July 2005 gave "informal" advice that Ms. Riza had to give up her eligibility for promotion and leave the bank. It acknowledged that this step would disrupt Ms. Riza's career for a substantial period. For a 52-year-old bank employee facing mandatory retirement at age 62, losing a promotion and a long period of service is not trivial. The ethics committee thus reasonably concluded that Ms. Riza should receive some compensation for her forced transfer.

According to the documents on the bank's Web site, it was the ethics committee's own idea to give Ms. Riza a promotion as she was being moved out for four years. She was transferred to the U.S. State Department to work on a grassroots democracy project that has been praised by Secretary Condoleezza Rice. She was given the mid-range salary for her new level.
It was certainly not a corrupt favor to a girlfriend.

All the facts were reviewed for a second time by the World Bank ethics committee last year, and again it found nothing wrong. The chairman of the ethics committee pronounced in a Feb. 28, 2006, letter that "the ethics committee decided that the allegations ... do not appear to pose ethical issues." It is hard to square the record with the entertaining claim that the World Bank's president somehow concocted a do-nothing job for his girlfriend. It's a bum rap, and one that female professionals in dual-career families might worry about.

Ruth Wedgwood is professor of international law and diplomacy at Johns Hopkins University's School for Advanced International Studies.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Armide, a baroque opera at University of Maryland

Jean-Marie and I went out on Sunday with another couple, Skip and Kate, to see the Baroque opera Armide, by Christoph Gluck, which premiered in Paris in 1777 and which, despite his German origin, is in French. Skip is a music professor of the harpsichord, very learned, and in our couple of conversations, I've learned a great deal about various aspects of baroque music, about which I am a passionate amateur. I am not a great fan of opera, however, and I figured that I would mostly appreciate this opera as an academic performance, a chance to hear music on original instruments.

I turned out to be quite mistaken. The performance, by students mostly at the University of Maryland, with a local orchestra on original instruments, was terrific - but I found myself quite engaged by the theatre and story, and actually focused on the opera as story telling, not as music and certainly not merely as an academic exercise.

Much of this interest had to do, my wife insists I point out, with the fact that this particular opera is saturated with sex, and the lead soprano was both a marvelous singer and quite a looker. Particularly as she spent much of the opera in some state of undress, with her costume apparently supplied by Victoria Secret. It added considerably to the academic allure of the experience.

What can I say? I'm shallow.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Simon Winder's The Man Who Saved Britain - my late night reading

For the past week, my late night reading has been Simon Winder, The Man Who Saved Britain: A Personal Journey into the Disturbing World of James Bond (FSG 2006). It is wonderfully entertaining - thesis is that Ian Fleming's novels provided an essential palliative to 50s and early 60s Britain as it faced one humiliation after another following its heroic victory in the Second World War. It is more a cultural history of Britain through a certain period - the period, from my own standpoint, of most of my British friends, who are old enough to have been growing up as children in exactly this period - than a book about Bond, the Bond movies, or even Bond as cultural icon. It is using Bond as a lens on the period rather than Bond as Bond or even Bond as cultural artifact. Winder says a lot about Bond and the Bond books and early movies, and his readings are wonderfully quirky. But it is his take on Britain itself during this period that actually engages me. I understand my British friends who were children during that period a little better for it - I think, anway.

For one thing, I guess I knew - reading, for example, Tony Judt's wonderful Postwar - that postwar 50s Britain was really, really poor. Poor, and not rebuilt with the vigor and speed of Germany. The contrast Winder makes with the United States is striking. Say what one does about the 50s in America - I was born in 1956 and wasn't conscious of any of this - it was a time of tremendous optimism and growth, people having babies everywhere because they had a confidence about the future, the growth of the suburbs, all that. That was apparently not the state of Britain at all - grimy, decayed, destroyed, poor, straitened, Winder has a nearly limitless set of adjectives to describe this world of hopelessness and the irony of victory.

The curious part is that Winder does not have an original political thought in his head - the main point is that Britain was both doomed to this unhappiness and deserved it as the price for its wicked centuries of empire. The vultures come home to roost. Britain's pain is the price - far too cheap, according to Winder - of having been the self-confident Victorian imperialist. His thesis is entirely a conventional whine - or whinge? - about the wickedness of British imperialism and how Bond is supposed to make the British feel better about being on the receiving end of humiliation as things fall apart after the War. I'm not British, I am not especially anglophile, but there is something entirely goofy, if politically correct, about Winder's sense of historic and cosmic justice. The world which got the East India Company going is not the world of Indian independence, and it doesn't help in the present very much at all - not from the standpoint of social justice today or thinking through present problems - to adopt a sort of transhistorical sense of judgment about how things came to be from centuries ago. It just multiplies the problems of historical injustice to the point of complete paralysis, because everyone got fucked by someone in the past, and trying to fix it all guarantees either permanent war or permanent paralysis. This is not to say one doesn't try to address injustice in the present - along with economic growth for the living, political stability, and a lot of other things - but Winder is smitten in the most conventional PC way with ancient wrongs and rights.

Still, it must be said that for an utterly conventional political thinker of the whining, guilty, self-abasing, apologizing variety, put in the service of everyone else's resentments which are finally Winder's own - well, he manages to put this in prose and expression at a level so far above the common academic herd that it is, for all the vacuity of the political ideas, genuinely a pleasure to read. He manages to make one laugh aloud with pointless political correctness, anti-imperialism, anti-god-knows-what - rather than at it, which is much the normal formulation. He's a terrific writer even devoid of political ideas; he is rescued by the acuity of his cultural observations and his highly original readings of Bond. I never thought I would find myself laughing aloud in a book of this sort, which, in academic hands, ordinarily runs to ressentiment.

Or to put all this another way. I'm not sure I've ever read a book that is quite so cheerily and wittily self-loathing. Self-loathing about oneself, one's country, one's political culture, one's fellow citizens. There is a lot of self-loathing about, of course, but almost never does it come so cheerfully dressed. So much so that it almost - almost, but finally not quite - makes me wonder if Winder actually believes it.

(ps., May 10, 2007. Winder's book has inspired me to pick up an ancient - dating back the 1960s - paperback copy of On Her Majesty's Secret Service. I have no idea where it came from - I hope we didn't pay to have it moved from NY to DC ten years ago. I don't recall if Winder mentions it - I'm sure he does - but I can't remember the last time, outside of old-fashioned children's books, where I saw quite so many exclamation points! Every other sentence on some pages seems to have an exclamation point! It seems peculiar because the suave, competent, quiet Bond does not seem like the kind of person to think in sentences ending in exclamation points! But he does!)

(pps, May 10. Once, a couple of years ago, I took my daughter with me on a speaking trip to the LSE - we did tea at the Ritz, the Tower, all the good stuff. At the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, the band struck up the themes to James Bond. I think of this today because Gerard Baker, writing about the Queen's visit to the US this week, noted that along with Rule Brittania, the band at the embassy party struck up the Bond theme as well. The man who saved Britain, indeed?)

Update, August 9, 2007. Here, by the way, is what Mark Steyn had to say about this book in the WSJ:

Contemplating the cover of The Man Who Saved Britain – Sean Connery, wearing a tuxedo and a sadistic smile, caressing his cheek with his Walther PPK, as a nubile underclad Sixties dolly bird somewhere down at crotch height nuzzles against his upper thigh…

Where was I? Oh, yes. Bond, James Bond. Contemplating the cover of The Man Who Saved Britain, you’re struck by the apparent ingenuity of Simon Winder’s concept: it is weird, when you think about it, that the great enduring iconic figure of the Cold War, the very embodiment of the espionage profession, should be a Brit. The country was, after all, pretty peripheral in the vanquishing of Communism, and indeed at the height of the Soviet threat was lapsing into a grim Brezhnevite decay of its own. And even the dolly birds were more honored in the breach: if Kim Philby and co are anything to go by, Her Majesty’s Secret Service inclined more toward Plenty O’Toole than Pussy Galore.

And yet, if one were to say the words “secret agent” to almost anyone within range of western popular culture this last half-century, he or she would conjure a suave Englishman (mostly played by Scotsmen, Welshmen, Irishmen and Australians) ordering martinis and shagging his way around the world on behalf of a nation all but shagged out. President Bush implicitly endorsed this curious pre-eminence in his notorious 16 words from the 2003 State of the Union:
The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.

Well, of course. And how would they learn that? The CIA, with the unlimited resources of the hyperpower, sent in Joseph C Wilson IV to sip mint tea in Niger with retired bureaucrats for a few days: Double-oh-IV, licensed to kill time. London no doubt dispatched Bond to break into the presidential palace and run around the basement laboratory shooting huge numbers of extras in aluminum-foil catsuits, while still finding ten minutes for a vigorous encounter with some appealingly dusky West African totty (007 was always an equal-opportunity sex fiend; long before it was fashionable, he was usually game for a little affirmative action…

Where was I? Oh, yes. Bond, James Bond. Simon Winder’s thesis is that 007 is both a reflection of and an escape from imperial decline: “I want to convey, perhaps in an overdrawn form, some of the ways in which Britain has changed – and by following James Bond show some of a vanished world which he in various ways pulled together.”

Sounds fun, and Winder would seem the ideal chap to do it. A few years back, he compiled a lovely anthology called My Name’s Bond… rounding up Ian Fleming’s best soundbites from the 007 novels. There are an awful lot of them, not least from Casino Royale:

‘A dry Martini,’ he said. ‘One. In a deep champagne goblet.’
'Oui, monsieur.’
‘Just a moment. Three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it’s ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon-peel. Got it?’
‘Certainly, monsieur.’ The barman seemed pleased with the idea.

Unlike Bond's critics, who get ever more irked with his rituals. My Name’s Bond… is one of those small perfect books I love to take on long flights. Winder is a Fleming fan and he has an eye for those moments of pure stylistic pleasure the novels offer. It’s in attempting to advance from annotated arcana to an argument that Winder’s new book comes a cropper. He begins in the dark at the dawn of the Roger Moore imperium: “I am ten years old, sitting in a suburban English cinema. On the screen a man with a large chin and black roll-neck sweater pushes through jungle foliage… A white woman has been tied to a post and a black man dressed in animal skins is laughing crazily and wielding a massive poisonous snake… The man with the large chin starts shooting the black people…”

The fan of My Name’s Bond… suddenly seems a lot more sheepish about the whole business. He can’t even get through a list of the movies without collapsing in embarrassment: “The Man With The Golden Gun (1974), The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), Moonraker (1979)… I’m sorry. I just can’t go on it’s all so terrible. They’re roughly the same, come out at irregular intervals and tend to have the word Die in the title.”

Oh, dear. And this is before Mr Winder has even got stuck into his big picture: the violence and racism and ugliness of the British Empire. Though he refers to “a sort of paroxysm of national self-loathing”, he would appear to be the principal evidence of it. And even then you vaguely suspect that he’s faking it. There are, broadly speaking, three reactions to Bond: those who dislike him; those who love him; and those who love him but feel obliged to deplore all the frightful imperialism, racism, alcoholism, chain smoking, snobbery, profoundly unsafe sex, etc.

Winder elects to join this last category, which makes the book a glummer read than it ought to be, a kind of Doctor No But... British audiences have never had any difficulty reconciling 007’s luster with their more general eclipse: The opening of The Spy Who Loved Me, when Bond skis off a cliff and opens his Union Jack parachute, is offered and understood as a kind of semi-parodic flag-waving. In the Roger Moore era, the film-makers took to ending the movie with a scene in which the Queen or Mrs Thatcher or some such would be waiting to congratulate Bond via satellite link only to be confronted by the old legover maestro doing the horizontal mambo with Holly Goodhead as an excuse for a final double-entendre. “What’s Bond doing?” “I think,” explains Q, looking at the radar rather than at Roger, “he’s attempting re-entry, sir.” Or: “Just keeping the British end up, sir.” Or a dozen others, as Roger Moore rogered more.

With the best will in the world, one can’t divine a lot of imperial self-doubt in this oeuvre. And Winder, demonstrating the peculiar snobberies of the minor public schoolboy (if you’ll forgive a touch more snobbery), allows his obsessions to lead him astray – as in his assertion that these tales of Brit derring-do were viewed in America as “comedies of self-delusion”. Oh, really? So it’s not the babes and the gadgets and the car chases? Just the huge market for post-imperial “comedies of self-delusion”. Who knew?

Poor old Winder. A genial gentleman publisher of the patrician left, he seems to have missed the central feature of Bond’s character: his cool. Winder is not cool; he is over-heated to the point of rhetorical meltdown: his nation’s history is “despicable”, “repulsive”, “revolting and mad”, “sickening”, “nauseating”, “nauseating and absurd”… One feels that, instead of this shrill overkill, he might have taken a lesson from Blofeld et al and expressed his loathing with an amused contempt – “I’m afraid you’re beginning to bore me, Mr Bond” – before lowering him into the piranha tank. There are some useful insights here – the observation that Ken Adam’s Bond sets are so good that real location scenes such as the Vegas hotels of Diamonds Are Forever look wan by comparison. But otherwise, generalizing ever more wildly and hysterically, Winder manages to miss all his targets – Fleming, Bond and the British Empire. He seems an amiable self-deprecating cove, but so’s Hugh Grant, and I wouldn’t fancy his chances trying to beat up Daniel Craig.

The Wall Street Journal, November 24th 2006

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Eric Posner in WSJ on future of the international human rights movement

Eric Posner, law professor at the University of Chicago, has an important essay in today's Wall Street Journal, Weekend Journal, Saturday-Sunday, April 21, 2007, "What the Cold War Taught Us," behind the subscriber wall, here. UPDATE - open link here at the WSJ. It is not likely to make him any more popular - any less unpopular? - with the human rights movement, among the activists or in academia.

My own view of the human rights movement is simultaneously sympathetic but skeptical - my skepticism is that of an idealist, however, not Eric's fundamentally realist position. (I discuss this in an academic review of Jack Goldsmith and Eric Posner, The Limits of International Law, here, at SSRN.)

The substance of international human rights depends, and has always depended, upon the support of democratic sovereign states acting in favor of their values, not upon international law regimes. The greatest risk to the substance of international human rights lies in weakening democratic sovereignty in favor of a liberal internationalism that says, over and over and over and over again, all the right things about human rights but then suffers entirely predictable defections in its defective collective action scheme when push comes to shove - over and over and over and over again.

The international human rights movement, however, has an atavistic attachment to the "international" for its own sake, because its ideology and politics and class biases lead it to confuse the "international" with the "universal." (I discuss this idea in an article with David Rieff expressing skepticism about global civil society, at SSRN, here.) It therefore leans procedurally toward ineffectual liberal internationalism, whereas the substantive victories of international human rights - in history as well as today - largely lie in the realm of democratic sovereigns enforcing values that are found among their electorates, or at least their governing elites, from the anti-slavery movements to today's anti-human trafficking campaigns.

I would add, however, that the choice between universal human rights values and democracy (which, as Eric points out, carries with it the possibility that voters will choose all sorts of illiberal things) has long since been made by the human rights movement. It has always had a distinct hostility toward popular democracy. This is partly because of the problem Eric raises - that democratic majorities frequently want illiberal things. But it is also because democracy and democratic sovereignty challenge the hegemony of human rights elites and their writ to determine the content and canon of what Eric aptly calls the "expanding franchise" of "international human rights."

One of the ironies of the Iraq war and the collapse of the American neoconservative democracy project is that the elite form of human rights universalism appears at least for the moment, in a certain way, to be the last man standing, considered as the idealist universalist position for liberals. By that I mean that the democracy project has been dealt a possibly fatal ideological blow by the problems of the Iraq war - even it were somehow still to be won, as I hope remains the case, it is nonetheless long since past the point of doing so on the basis of the universal appeal of democracy-post-tyrant. (I discuss this and most of the points below at greater length in a new essay titled, Goodbye to All That: A Requiem for Neoconservatism, at SSRN, here.) If that turns out to be the case, then the universalist alternative, the liberal Enlightenment alternative writ large for the planet, would no longer be liberal democracy as universal ideal. But Eric is in any case right to note that this democracy ideal exists in no small tension with elitist globalist conceptions of human rights as given by, most notably, Human Rights Watch (which, it must be said, operates within the human rights movement as something of a combination of the Vatican and MI6).

Rather, as a worldwide project, democracy appears to be for many people, many places, today an illiberal project, mostly an illiberal Islamist one, but also illiberal in other ways, other places, such as Chavez's Venezuela or Putin's Russia. The extreme remains the Algerian Islamist slogan of "one person, one vote - one time," but the underlying sentiment is echoed in slightly less stringent, but no less illiberal, terms many other places around the globe. It is not necessarily to undermine liberal democracy where it has long existed - still, the global, universal project of liberal democracy has been severely undermined by Iraq. It is scarcely surprising that the international human rights community would see itself, if not precisely the winner, then at least the last man standing in the competition to be the source and arbiter of universal values. Ostensibly its argument is against illiberal populism expressed as democracy; in fact its aim is far more sweeping, against democratic sovereignty as such.

But the arguments against illiberal democracy are one thing; the more sweeping indictment of democratic sovereignty quite another, and this far more sweeping indictment requires a much more convincing argument. And that is to leave aside the endlessly irritating elitism and condescension of the human rights movement toward that which, as remarked above, actually provides the enforcement of human rights such as it is - democratic sovereign states. It alternates between the stentorian tones of God Addressing Eternity and the frantic, hysterical appeals for money (although, of course, most movements of moral reform do something similar).

But there is an even more fundamental and certainly more recent problem - more fundamental, even, than the ill-conceived attack on democratic sovereignty. It is a problem derived from the profoundly mistaken conclusions that the human rights movement drew from 9-11. The human rights movement itself seems gradually to being moving away from human rights as a liberal ideal. It is shifting instead, seemingly, toward the radically different ideal and sensibility of human rights as a discourse for the claims of multiculturalism or, more precisely, the "one-way" multiculturalism that characterizes the West's dealings with Muslims today - the discourse of rights in a fashion that provides endless special privileges and rights to Muslims in Western countries upon demand, as it were, but with no liberal, neutral, secular, rule of law content, and no reciprocal acceptance of the duties of a liberal, neutral, secular or even pluralistic state. This is a very, very bad idea.

Consider, for example, how HRW characterizes pretty much any clash between Muslims in Western countries and the state or others in the society. Even when it involves violence against, for example, gay men walking hand in hand in Amsterdam, beat up by Muslim youth in what, on any neutral reading of the law, is a hate crime (this incident from a couple of years back), HRW feels multiculturally obliged to begin with a stern lecture on how such incidents can only be understood against the backdrop of discrimination against Muslims in Europe. This same pattern is repeated in its dealing with the Muhammad cartoons - and so much so with, so far as I can tell, any similar issue that it appears to be a template drafted for all occasions. The result, however, is an illiberal, one-way multicultural ratchet that effectively lets Muslims off the hook for illiberal behavior. The opening context for all such behavior, including serious violence, is always the multiculturalist setting - excuse, really - of discrimination, putting the burden for such violence back onto larger society, and always beginning with what amounts to an apology and not a condemnation.

In that sense, the discourse of human rights seems to be shifting from being a liberal discourse - with all the contradictions that implies - to being a multicultural, essentially illiberal one. It spills beyond the human rights canon, in fact, so that what is today still called, somewhat misleadingly, liberal internationalism, might better be called "multicultural internationalism." This is a profoundly disturbing trend, because while it appropriates the language of rights, it does so in a profoundly illiberal manner. This is one of the dangerous consequences of allowing the supposedly universalist language of human rights to be defined fundamentally by global elites. It is, indeed, not simply that the doctrines of multiculturalism are wrong - they are - but that by being expressed in the language of rights, by appropriating the historical language of bourgeois liberal rights to historically and conceptually quite unrelated ends, they crowd out and undermine the ability to use rights discourse in a liberal way. (I discuss this problem, with respect to a conception closely related to and intertwined with illiberal multiculturalism, the discourse of therapy, in a long review essay back in 1995, "A New Class of Lawyers: The Therapeutic as Rights Talk," at SSRN, here.)

The end of the adventure is not precisely the end of rights talk - far from it - but the end of the ability to use rights talk in its historical function as the language of liberalism - the language of liberty, freedom, pluralism, tolerance, etc. The human rights movement, in its shift to multiculturalism, heedlessly - heroically, of course, in its mind - saws off the liberal branch upon which it and we are seated, hollows out a discourse that was centuries in developing as a language of human liberation and freedom and, with the insouciance of those who mistakenly believe that a language they are privileged to use is a language they own, injects it with content alien to it, and tells the rest of the world that it now means this. It doesn't.

(But this critique is very different from Eric's. Note also, however, Eric's strong conclusion, which shifts to an argument about the preservation of larger universal values through an unapologetic realism - this is the lesson he draws out of the Cold War.)

Here's a taste of the article:

The international human rights regime has fallen on hard times. Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, wrote recently that "since the U.S. can't provide credible leadership on human rights, European countries must pick up the slack." But the Europeans, Mr. Roth notes, are no more enthusiastic about pressuring foreign countries than is the U.S.


So if Americans, Europeans, and the U.N. will not lead on human rights, who will? Nobody, and maybe that is not such a bad thing.

Human rights were supposed to be special. Unlike most international law, which governs the relations of states with each other, international human rights law regulates the internal workings of states -- the relationship between a government and its citizens. This gives human rights law a rigidity that is absent from most international law.


The theory is that human rights are universal, and so states have no excuse for committing human rights abuses. The practice, however, has been different. States must worry about their security even when an existential threat is not imminent. If they do not, they lose the support of their citizens or subjects, and thus they risk their own political stability. And states must cater to local religious and cultural values at odds with Western human rights. Accordingly, most states have paid no more than lip service to their human rights commitments. During the Cold War, the U.S. used human rights as a cudgel against the Soviet Union and its satellites, but gave a free pass to friendly dictators.

The end of the Cold War was supposed to change all this. Under American leadership, countries would finally live up to their human rights commitments and international human rights would continue to advance. Several forces have conspired to ruin this pretty picture.

First, genuine disagreement exists about the proper moral ordering of society. Where once it could be thought that totalitarian regimes suppressed people's natural instinct in favor of human rights, it has become clear as electoral democracies have replaced authoritarian regimes, that this is simply not true. People also care about tribal, ethnic, and religious ties; they care about order and security. An Islamic democracy will not necessarily endorse religious pluralism or women's rights; a country with a long history of tribal dispute resolution practices will reject Western-style law enforcement.

The tension between promoting democracy and promoting human rights, when newly enfranchised peoples turn out not to subscribe to the ideals of the Enlightenment, is the dirty secret of the human rights movement. As the expanding franchise continues to expose the fissure between the two ideals, human rights advocates are finally going to have to choose between them.

Second, the idea that the U.S., with or without European support, could impose its conception of human rights on other countries has taken a beating in recent years, and this beating will only become worse over the next few decades. As regional powers like China, Russia, India, South Africa and Brazil continue to rise and assert themselves, whatever leverage the West has had for pressuring human rights violators will continue to decline. The new powers will offer alternative cultural, religious, or ideological standards that are more attractive than Western human rights to subsets of nations, and they will offer trade and securities ties if the West tries to withdraw them. Already we observe China snapping up oil leases in Sudan and Russia exploiting its economic ties with Iran.

Third, the ideology of human rights advancement relies on a false picture of human motivation and global politics. Human rights advocates seem to think that closing Guantanamo Bay would improve the behavior of governments in other countries. But foreign governments have no reason to think that they should do whatever the U.S. does. Indeed, if the U.S. closed Guantanamo Bay, and some of the freed detainees returned to Afghanistan (as some reportedly have) and killed American troops, the lesson learned by the world is not one that would advance the cause of human rights.

Today, the future of the international human rights legal regime is bleak. And yet if what matters is not conformity with the rules of the human rights treaties, but the well-being of the world's population, things have never been better. Mortality rates are down, per capita income is up, literacy has spread, democracy is flourishing. Economic growth in China and India, which together account for a third of the world's population, largely accounts for improvement in overall well-being, but there is also good news in Latin America, South Africa, Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia.

How can this be? As technology and trade have advanced and spread, so has wealth and education, and with wealth and education has come political reform, and the expansion of civil and political rights. This is part of a long-term trend that goes back centuries.

There is no guarantee that it will continue, but one central fact needs to be recognized: The role of legalized international human rights in this process has been minimal or nil. Much more important in the 20th century were the determined efforts of liberal democracies to oppose powerful, dangerous, expansionist states that rejected markets and democracy, and imposed their views on small countries. These efforts required pragmatic accommodation of unsavory allies, and even compromising of Western values, for the sake of the greater goal of keeping dangerous forces in check. For the conflict with radical Islam, this history holds important lessons.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Meeting Ethan Zuckerman of Global Voices

A great pleasure at the board meetings in New York this past week was the opportunity to meet many people from many places, all involved in matters of media support globally, open access and information, etc. One enormously impressive person at these meetings was Ethan Zuckerman, who is at the Berkman Center at Harvard Law School and is a well known blogger at Global Voices. Likewise Anthony So, at Duke University. Gwynneth Henderson of the BBC, too. And many others.

I've been away ...

From blogging, but also from Washington DC. I was up in New York City for nearly a week, attending board meetings of the Open Society Institute's information program and media program, and the Media Development Loan Fund. Many corporate governance issues as well as substantive and programmatic issues. As anyone who has been involved with any large nonprofit knows, corporate governance issues at nonprofit institutions are at least as difficult and challenging as they are at for profit institutions, and perhaps - precisely because they lack the clean, clear incentives of a profit motivation - even more so.

But I got back in time to teach my last class of the term in my just war ethics course, and now I am trying to catch up on everything - which means, first and foremost, completing my UN reform book for the Hoover Institution. In addition, I have some long lost reviews for the TLS, one on immigration and the other on microfinance and development finance generally. I have a small essay to revise - remarks, really, even though I had to miss the conference and didn't get a chance to deliver them - from a conference on counterterrorism at Fordham Law School last fall. And finally - and I can't tell you how much pleasure this gives me - the Revista de Libros of Madrid, which is kind of the TLS/NYRB of Spain, is translating and publishing my TLS essay on Fukuyama and neoconservatism in its June issue. So I am going over the really marvelously elegant translation the editor sent me.

I am setting up two small Hoover discussion lunches in May - one the launch of Lee Feinstein's new Council on Foreign Relations report on responsibility to protect in Darfur and beyond, and a second on the idea of a national security or counterterrorism court.

I know there are professors out there who do many more speaking engagements than I, but during this spring term I've done a lot for me - three or four events at my own law school (WCL),the Stanley Foundation, OSI, UVA, NYU, NCS, the Hoover Institution, Bard College, and Wayne State. I've enjoyed it, in fact - people at all these institutions have been wonderfully hospitable. But now I need to do some more writing.

As long as I'm catching up on various things, I wanted to thank Matthew Waxman for taking time out of his busy schedule as Principal Deputy Director of Policy Planning at the State Department - I think he is perhaps now the Acting Director - to talk with my daughter Renee about realism, idealism, and the evolution of Secretary Rice's thinking in foreign policy for a paper Renee is doing at NCS. I must say that Matt has been through hell these past few years, fighting from inside the administration against Cheney's people - his was one of the first and strongest voices in favor of the Common Article Three standard for detainees, among numerous other reforms he sought. He fought hard to reform the entire detainee legal structure, eventually concluding that he couldn't stay in his Pentagon post after clashes with David Addington et al. for his pains. The irony, of course, is that Matt's views were those largely adopted in Hamdan, while those of the Cheney faction largely lost - a result that a moderately competent lawyer without the ideological blinders of Addington et al. and their reading of executive power would have realized from the get-go. The Addington faction will likely respond in the most petty way possible - by refusing, I would guess, to move Matt from principal deputy to director at Policy Planning although, especially at this stage of the presidential term, it is both deserved and obvious. Maybe I'll be wrong about that, but I doubt it.

And likewise thanks to Kori Schake for taking time to talk with Renee - Kori is a foreign and defense policy specialist formerly with the Pentagon and the NSC, now a Hoover fellow finishing a book and a professor at West Point. Anyway, I feel a little embarrassed reaching to the big guns to talk with an eighth grader about foreign policy, but Renee learned a lot more from her discussions with them than she ever did talking with me ...

Other than expressing my sorrow and condolences, I don't really have anything wise or intelligent to add to the discussion of the Virginia Tech shootings.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Amanda Frost on state secrets and executive power

Amanda Frost, a colleague of mine at Washington College of Law, American University, has a terrific new piece out in the Fordham Law Review on the state secrets privilege and executive power. SSRN here. "The State Secrets Privilege and Separation of Powers," Fordham Law Review, Vol. 75, p. 1931 (2007).

Abstract: Since September 11, 2001, the Bush administration has repeatedly invoked the state secrets privilege in cases challenging executive conduct in the war on terror, arguing that the "very subject matter" of these cases must be kept secret to protect national security. The executive's recent assertion of the privilege is unusual, in that it is seeking dismissal, pre-discovery, of all challenges to the legality of specific executive branch programs, rather than asking for limits on discovery in individual cases. This essay contends that the executive's assertion of the privilege is therefore akin to a claim that the courts lack jurisdiction to hear and decide such cases. The executive's recent invocation of the privilege raises a concern that has been largely overlooked thus far – the impact of the privilege on legislative power to assign jurisdiction to the federal courts. The U.S. Constitution grants to Congress, and not the President, near-plenary authority to craft federal jurisdiction. Furthermore, when Congress assigns federal courts to hear cases challenging the legality of executive action, it is enlisting the judiciary as its partner in policing executive conduct. The executive's recent use of the privilege disrupts that constitutional collaboration, leaving the executive potentially unchecked by any branch of government. The Essay then discusses how courts should incorporate the concern for legislative power and executive oversight into its analysis of the state secrets privilege. It concludes by suggesting that courts refuse to dismiss these cases until Congress has indicated a willingness to take back the task of executive oversight that it had delegated to the courts through the original jurisdictional grant.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Independent media meetings in New York

My primary - and by far largest - pro bono service activity as a law professor is serving as the board chair of the Media Development Loan Fund, a nonprofit venture fund that provides financing and support to independent media organizations around the world. It's a great organization, and I'm very proud to be associated with it - and to have been associated with it from its beginnings a decade ago. I'm in New York for the next four days as we are having some joint meetings with other nonprofit organizations on independent media issues worldwide - such questions as how you assist independent media in closed societies, etc., and how independent media in the developing world links up with the internet and all the new web media. Very important questions.

One curiousity, however, is that our organization does a huge amount of work financing independent newspapers in many places in the developing world. It requires very skillful managerial and financial work to assist these newspapers to become or maintain their profitability, and learn the business skills to stay ahead in the game - a core premise of our organization being that independent media has to be profitable media, otherwise it eventually loses its independence. But my assessment, comparing the situation of newspapers in these developing world locations and newspapers in the post-literacy post-industrialized world, is that coming up with a successful strategy for print newspapers in places like the US is much, much more difficult. What do you do if you are the New York Times, the Boston Globe, or the Los Angeles Times? Try to find a hobbyist billionare to take you under wing? The fundamental business model - which still works in, say, many places in Africa despite the poverty and illiteracy - of print media doesn't appear to be working so well anymore, and I don't know that anyone really has a solution.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Internet in the classroom

Georgetown Law Center professor David Cole has a piece in the Washington Post, Saturday, April 7, 2007, here, explaining why he banned laptops from the classroom. It has provoked a lively debate among professors (HT Instapundit). My own view is that the issue is not laptops - Professor Cole argues that laptops switch people in stenographic mode, but I myself take verbatim notes, and always have in every serious situation, and find that they are more useful than other notes because they supply the useful logical connectors that otherwise elude me, at least. In any case, I am sure many students are in the position I am of no longer being capable of handwriting for an hour - my hand would seize up, and I couldn't read my notes in any case.

No, the issue for me is the internet in the classroom. My school was an early, enthusiastic adopter of classroom internet even long before wireless. In my experience, the early hope that it would lead to whole styles of learning and so on have been entirely outweighed by the fact that, as the internet has become an entertainment medium, we have effectively furnished students with a full scale entertainment center at every seat. I rate as a strong, popular professor at my school - and my classes are very focused on what I say and what I ask, rather than on the reading per se - yet my students are all in what someone, in an earlier iteration of this debate a couple of years ago, described as "permanent partial attention."

The truth is that I am entirely susceptible to this as well when in the student seat. I will be sitting through some board meetings later this month - I guarantee that I will be multitasking like crazy if the room has wireless access. It happens when I am chairing board meetings for various organizations - you find that your board members, making decisions involving tens of millions of nonprofit dollars, are simultaneously catching up on their email. I know it is ubiquitous across the business world with blackberry, etc., but I doubt it improves decisionmaking.

But I think the worst argument for having universal internet access in the classroom is that a good teacher will overcome the entertainment medium of the internet and hold student attention. It's like the Bikini Calculus video - two dancing girls in bikinis giving a calculus lesson - I'm sure some people can overcome the odds and learn something, but I can't and I bet neither can you. Having the internet on fullblast in class is like have a line of naked dancing boys and girls behind me as I discuss the ins and outs of international contracting. Permanent partial attention, indeed!

Monday, April 09, 2007

US government offers opinio juris responding to ICRC customary law study

One criticism I made of the US government when I discussed the ICRC customary law study and its methodology back in 2005, here, was that the US never seemed to be able to pull itself together administratively or bureaucratically to be able to respond in the sense of formal opinio juris to such offerings as the ICRC study - even though anyone knowledgeable in the area would know that the US would of course have strong objections to at least some of the substantive conclusions and important parts of the general methdology. I am happy to see that the US has moved to offer formal opinio juris on the ICRC study, in the form of a joint letter from the State Department Legal Advisor, John Bellinger, and the Department of Defense General Counsel, Jim Haynes, formally stating the US view of the study.

Here is a link to an American Forces Press Service article summarizing. The 27 page letter can be found in pdf here.

(PS. I've now had a chance to read the US government letter closely. I think it is outstanding - clear in its statement of what the US agrees and disagrees with, measured and reasoned in tone, and very well researched. My congratulations to all the US government lawyers and staff who worked on this letter. My congratulations to John Bellinger and Jim Haynes for persevering on a project that on the one hand is very important but might never seem to have immediate necessity to be high on the "today" list. I have actually read the entire customary law study - I mean I have read the entire thing, because I (still) have plans to write a review essay one day and I think a reviewer has to be able to say that he or she read the entire dang thing, word for word, whether a short book or a long book. It took me a very, very long time, and I don't gamble on my retention - it is, after all, a reference work, although reading the study in its entirety has given me, I think, a pretty good idea of the work's underlying methodology. When I say I think the US government has written a good response, I mean it and know pretty well exactly what I mean.)

(PPS. One thing I don't understand is the date of the letter. The letter is dated November 3, 2006. I am not inside anyone's special loops on these things, and I only became aware of it when I noticed the Defense Department news article from March 2007. Maybe the letter was only released publicly in March 2007? I don't know. Maybe everyone else knew about this letter back in November 2006 and I'm just very, very slow.)

Update, May 9, 2007. A friend tells me that the letter was held from public release for a few months as a courtesy to give the ICRC a chance to consider it privately. Also, here is an excellent post on the same from Duncan Hollis over at Opinio Juris - see the comments as well. And i blogged earlier about this new article by Leah Nicholls on the ICRC study, here.)

Leah Nicholls on the ICRC customary international humanitarian law study

Leah M. Nicholls, a law student at Duke Law School, has a new and very interesting article out - "The Humanitarian Monarchy Legislates: The International Committee of the Red Cross and Its 161 Rules of Customary International Humanitarian Law," 17 Duke Journal of Comparative and International Law 223. It doesn't seem to be up on SSRN, but here is the full text at the journal's website.

It's a provocative piece - one I am generally in sympathy with, although not a position likely to be popular among international law professors. (Ms. Nicholls thanks Duke Law professor Madeline Morris, one of the most consistently provocative, contrarian, insightful, and intelligent - and therefore naturally a good friend of mine - international criminal law professors around, who is currently running a defense clinic for Guantanamo detainees and acting as a special counsel to the JAG defender office.)

I was particularly interested to see - well, flattered more exactly - to see that a post from this blog was cited in the article, via a discussion in Opinio Juris by Chris Borgen (lovely to see Chris even briefly in person at the ASIL meetings last week!). I have been meaning to write a review essay on the ICRC study and in particular its methodology and form of presentation and what that is likely to mean in the context of ATS litigation in US district courts. I wrote a little bit about it here on this blog a long time ago - here, in 2005. It is interesting to see how blog posts are gradually making their way into legal scholarship.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

John Marchese on modern luthiers in the NYT

The New York Times of Saturday, April 7, 2007, has a piece on the op-ed page by John Marchese, author of the newly appearing The Violin Maker: Finding a Centuries Old Tradition in a Brooklyn Workshop, all about comparing Strads to modern violins. I am not in a position to judge, well, anything about whether a Strad violin or cello can be heard to differ from a modern instrument. I just wouldn't have the ear or expertise.

I can say, though, based on the experience of shopping a couple of times through instruments out of my price range in cellos, that if I wanted to radically improve my cello playing, the easiest way to do it would be to ... purchase a much more expensive instrument. It seems very likely to me that at the top range of instruments, the quality is as good as the ancient workshops of Cremona. But the difference between what I sound like on my $10,000 high school student cello (Cremona 1988) and a $100,000 instrument, old or new, is pretty striking. I can hear it when I play and when I hear it played back recorded. Ooh. Cello lust and envy.

There is, by the way, a great little book - a lovely belles-lettres essay - The Countess of Stanlein Restored, by Nicholas Delbanco, describing the restoration of a Strad cello by a modern luthier.

I have not been playing my cello very much at all these days - I've been on the road so much, it's been difficult. I want to get back to it, and will as soon as I get back from the last road trip for a while, Thursday to Monday this upcoming week for a board meeting of MDLF in New York City. I'm distressed though that I will miss my daughter Renee playing in her conservatory recital next weekend - she doesn't get a chance to play very often in recital, although the conservatory has them monthly, on account of her homework schedule - she will be playing the prelude from the second Bach cello suite. She is getting a very lovely, sure tone out of it - not too fast, and getting a sense of the cadence. And without me saying a word - we're way past the point where Daddy is allowed to play cello coach.

Robert Wright's Easter Sermon in the NYT

Robert Wright, writing in the Saturday, April 7, 2007 New York Times, on the op ed page but behind the Wall, offers an account of how the teachings of Jesus can be understood to be strategically good for dealing with terrorism - "Jesus as a counterterrorism strategist," in the words of the headline. Wright is a writer who is often too clever for his own good, and this column is no exception.

I leave aside the incentive problem - see, in the post below about my reading list, the If you give a mouse a cookie entry about the incentive problem in turning the other cheek. The real issue in Christian ethics concerning the use of force is one that is not in the least unique to Christian ethical theory, but has a prominent place in it because of the history of a religion that began as a despised mystery cult of the lower orders that eventually became the religion of all society, including the Roman Empire's rulers. That is the question of trusteeship.

When you act for yourself - negotiate for yourself, for example, make deals for yourself - you can afford to take risks that are, so to speak, yours to take because you can decide for yourself. But the nature of diplomacy and international politics, the negotiations over war and peace, are never so easy, because the inherent nature of negotiations is that negotiators and diplomats and poltiicans and presidents and even, one might hope, Speakers of the House speak on behalf of a political community, with whose safety and security they have been entrusted. When you speak and negotiate for others, for their safety, the ability to take risks with the safety is necessarily curtailed by the nature of the fiduciary role you play. It is a common error of international relations modeling games - to assume that the same level of risk and safety that a non-fiduciary can negotiate is the same as that of a fiduciary. What you might risk for yourself - to turn the other cheek, to engage in the highly personal, individual, person to person ethical stance of Jesus' teachings - is not something a fiduciary can afford to do. Christian rulers have understood this - and so have Christian theologians, in elaborating a theory of just war under natural law that comprehends that war can be an aspect of Christian love for others in protecting them.

It might be possible to do what Wright recommends, and might be a good idea as a matter of strategy. But that's not because it is Christian or comes from the sayings of Jesus of Nazareth. A ruler, including one who takes the obligations of Christian ethics seriously, must consider the safety of others than himself. In a pluralistic society, this is actually an even greater ethical obligation. A committed Christian community might commit itself, including its children and infants, to martydom in the arena, although today we would no longer countenance it; the leader of a pluralistic community cannot make such a commitment on behalf of others. But the ethical consequence of being a fiduciary means that it constrains even actions that the political actor, acting for himself or herself alone, might be willing to risk. Not completely, of course, because prudence and safety can also counsel compromise, but the range of action of a fiduciary is significantly constrained.

What I'm reading, a highly irregular series of posts

(Bleg note: can someone more expert in Blogger than I explain why, when I use bullets or insert a picture, the text gets all squinched up and how to stop/fix it? Thanks.)

Here is what is on my reading list, including my work desk and my night table:

  • The Physics of the Buffyverse, by Jennifer Ouellete. Popular science in pop culture. I got this from the Lindbergs as part of extraordinarily thoughtful birthday package that included very good dark chocolate and cello music by Grieg. I thought it might be suitable as a way of introducing my daughter to basic concepts in things like physics - but reading it, you more or less have to have had basic science already in order to understand it. But I find it an amusing review of things I once studied and have more or less forgotten - entropic states, photons, etc.

  • Belligerent Reprisals, by Frits Kalshoven. The classic work on this specialized topic of the laws of war from the early 1970s. I read it once long ago, have consulted it many times since, but decided that it would be helpful to my work on proportionality in the law of war to reread it whole. It appears from Amazon that it has been rereleased, although at the usual dismaying price. Highly recommended! as the great Larry Solum would say.

  • Jack Reacher novels, by the thriller writer Lee Child. Pure escape. Very late night.

  • If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, by Laura Joffe Numeroff and illustrated by Felicia Bond. The classic regulatory treatise on incentives. First came to scholarly attention in the Harrison Ford film Air Force One, the scene in which the President, being held hostage, explains to his daughter why giving into to terrorist demands is a fool's game - "If you give a mouse a cookie," he says, and she knows the rest. I have mentioned this book in a couple of talks on counterterrorism, when the question of being nice to the rest of the world so they won't hate us and will like us and stop trying to kill us inevitably comes up - I suggest that if you tell people in the wide world that you really, really, really want them to like us and won't you please just tell us what we can do so you'll like us, it is pretty near certain the bar will get set higher and higher on the likeability front and what you have to do to get there. American students of a certain age have often heard of the book, non-Americans not. However, one perceptive student at my talk at the NYU law school human rights colloquium last month said, on hearing my description, "Why, that's a near perfect fable for neoconservatism!" Quite.

  • The Economics of Microfinance, by Beatriz Armendariz de Aghuion and Jonathan Morduch. This is quite simply the best book on microfinance I have read in a long time - and I read a lot of them, most recently in preparation for a TLS essay on the subject. Coupled with that I recommend The New Law and Economic Development: A Critical Appraisal, edited by David Trubek and Alvaro Santos - I do not agree with its fundamental policy framework, but I am very sympathetic to the idea that you have to take in sophisticated critiques that come from outside your own - in my case, essentially neoliberal - frame. This is an intellectually extraordinarily well done instance of that. I have repeatedly reread the all the essays - by my old and dear friend Scott Newton (I last saw him, I think, in Almaty in the mid 1990s when he came banging on my door out of the blue while I was returning from Tajikistan, perhaps, and he told me about a solo backpacking expedition across Death Valley in the dead of winter), my old friends and teachers Duncan Kennedy and David Kennedy. I take very seriously Frank Fukuyama's complaint that the center right has not developed a serious position on international economic development, and I don't think you can develop one without really understanding this kind of critique and the history from which it comes.

  • United Nations stuff - lots of it that I am working my way through for purposes of finishing up and revising my UN book manuscripts.

  • Infrastructure: The Book of Everything for the Industrial Landscape, by Brian Hayes. Actually, I just finished this - and what a great book! I learned more about everything, well, infrastructural, than you can imagine. Well written, informative, great photos. Great book. It's kind of a guy-book - not really, but that was certainly my wife and daughter's reaction - and since I don't follow sports and was indifferent to March Madness, this was my Manly Alternative.

  • Strength Training Anatomy and Women's Strength Training Anatomy, by Frederic Delavier. Fifty one year old middle age guy trying to get back in shape ... hmm. These books help a lot to understand exercises and weight machines and all that in the gym. They have the most amazingly detailed drawings of the muscles to show what is worked by what exercise. The women's is helpful even for men because it is essentially a much more detailed book on lower body exercises.

Happy Easter

... to those celebrating it today. We (Jean-Marie, Renee, Uncle Jack, and I) went to the afternoon service at Annunciation Catholic Church in upper northwest, DC. It was cold, and that might have deterred some of the parishoners, particularly the elderly. I'm not Catholic - I'm a long, highly lapsed Mormon - but I do try to attend Catholic services with my wife and daughter. In that I have always thought back to wise advice that Mary Ann Glendon gave me a long, long time ago, sometime around the time I got married - she told me that her husband, a Jewish non-Catholic, had always faithfully attended and sat through the Mass with her and the family. Mary Ann - I don't think she'd mind me saying this - told me how much that had meant to her over the years.

I haven't managed 100% by any means, but I've always tried to follow that - and to be certain that everyone in the family understands that we attend church together, and it's not just an obligation of those of a particular faith. However, I must admit that being raised in a non-liturgical calendar religious tradition - Mormons, like many Protestant groups, don't have a yearly liturgical calendar revolving around Easter, Christmas, etc., but simply treat the fundamental obligation of that of the weekly Sabbath - I don't really get all the Lenten rituals. However, I was careful to serve fish on Fridays - a couple of those adventures with salmon, catfish, tilapia, and tuna were quite impressive, thank you!

(I realize that to many of my Western European friends and colleagues, this tendency to attend church on Sunday is something between anachronistic and ominous - attending church is another symptom of America's right wing, religiously fanatic, , fundamentalist, etc., etc. I don't think very many of them are aware of how many of my law school colleagues, pretty much left wing or progressive to the core, also attend church or synagogue, especially if they have kids. Progressives in America are more secular than conservatives, of course - but not that much more so - people sort themselves to some degree into religious places where they feel most comfortable on all the social issues like abortion, etc. - so that my progressive friends - or, for instance, my mother in law - wind up at the Unitarian Church or more progressive Episcopal congregations or wherever, but especially if you have children, attending church in America is far from a strictly red-blue divide.

I myself am quite sympathetic to the tradition of European anti-clericalism - I used to walk down the Calle de la Inquisicion in Sevilla when we lived there, and I realized that if I had been European, I would have been a secularist not merely by "lapsing" from the religion of my upbringing in the American sense - not an inherently political position - but secularist by reason of afffirmatively rejecting the temporal rule asserted by the priests, which is inherently political. Liberal religious pluralism in America is genuinely the product of pluralism whereas, for profound reasons of history, liberal religious pluralism in Europe is necessarily much more bound up with the necessarily politically more aggressive history of anti-clericalism in places like France.

It's for this reason that I am simultaneously sympathetic to religious observance, and have an enormous respect for Catholicism, while quite undistressed by, say, Christopher Hitchens' anti-Catholic screed Missionary Position (although it also seems to me the author of Missionary Position is not exactly in a strong position to argue that the late Oriana Fallaci's writings are a model, as Hitch says, of how not to write about Muslims).

All this is made much more complicated, of course, by the entry of Muslims in sizable numbers into Europe, and Europe's post-religious inability either to comprehend such religiosity, or to assert - in the precise dualism of both offering and demanding - genuinely liberal religious pluralism of its new Muslim immigrants. Multiculturalist Europe is no longer a liberal Europe, and while it seems to me that many in Europe are coming to regret that, they appear to see no way back. I discuss some of this anti-multiculturalism stuff here.)

We're having Easter dinner at Tod and Tina Lindberg's tonight - they being spectacular cooks - so I count myself very lucky indeed. The Easter bunny did arrive at our house - we've been trying to scale back the chocolate and candy, and have compensated with books and DVDs instead. Buffy the Vampire slayer DVDs, to be precise, and trashy thriller novels.

Thanks to Wayne State University Law School

... and to Professors Greg Fox and Brad Roth for organizing, and inviting me to participate in, a very interesting discussion of counterterrorism and international criminal law issues - I'm late posting this, I'm afraid - now two weeks ago. Madeline Morris of Duke Law School, Steven Ratner from Michigan, myself, along with Greg and Brad, had an excellent discussion of counterterrorism issues in Detroit. It was an excellent opportunity for me to try out some of the ideas I've been trying to develop about "counterterrorism after the war on terror," or "counterterrorism in a new administration," or "approaches to counterterrorism that include not just war and law enforcement but lots of other things besides, and what should be the legal regulation of those other things?" on a very smart and knowledgeable group of people. The faculty and dean and staff at Wayne State were great - what wonderful hospitality! My thanks to all of them.

Here's a link to a school newspaper article that covered the event on Monday, March 26, here.