Tuesday, June 03, 2003
# Posted 10:37 PM by Patrick Belton
Sosa was ejected from the game.
UPDATES: Lots, lots more email about this than about Sophocles. AJ points out that this will situate Sosa within the immortal pantheon of legendary baseball cheaters. Patrick W. writes in with his thought that the margin of most of Sosa's homers was probably ironically greater than the 20 to 30 additional feet conferred by a corked bat.
(On the other hand, my father-in-law liked my Sophocles post when he read about it...on Volokh, that is!)
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# Posted 5:51 PM by Patrick Belton
The three of us each have somewhat close ties to this remarkable woman, as her late husband, Michael Aris, was an Oxford academic at St Antony's College. Suu Kyi, herself a graduate of Oxford, returned from the life of a homemaker and donnish spouse to assume her father's mantle when she returned to Burma in August 1988, in the aftermath of a brutally repressed pro-democratic uprising months earlier. Her father, General Aung San, had been a democratizing leader pivotal to securing the end of colonial rule in Burma. With her fortunate combination of parentage, comparative youth, and the preexistence of a strong if frustrated democratic movement, she shot quickly to the worldwide stature shared only by such figures as Nelson Mandela; her political party, the National League for Deomcracy, received 82 percent in national elections in 1990; she had by that point already been under house arrest for a year.
She is, as she should be, very much in all of our thoughts at her erstwhile university.
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Monday, June 02, 2003
# Posted 2:42 PM by Patrick Belton
The titular Philoctetes, once the greatest of Greek archers and second to none in nobility of character, has for ten years been abandoned by his countrymen Achaians after his accidental trespass and subsequent snakebiting in a religious sanctuary on the island of Chryse. In consequence of this mishap he is banished and becomes an instantly recognizable as a sort - in Seamus Heaney's gloss, "the wounded one whose identity has become dependent upon the wound." We meet him rag-dressed after a decade's exile, inaugurated when Odysseus abandoned him sleeping on the shores of the desolate island Lemnos. After the snakebiting, his wounds had brought Philoctetes such pain that due to his "savage and ill-omened" cries, his companions could not pour libations or conduct sacrifices in peace. And so he is abandoned through trickery; and so, with the Chorus, we come upon him ten years after his abandonment,
of illustrious race,The play's main tension begins nearby, where the wily general Odysseus (registering an early anti-Odyssean tradition in which the Homeric hero's deceptiveness receives much less sympathetic treatment than that to which we are accustomed) is conferring with young Neoptolemus, the late Achilles's noble, battle-untried son. We meet them as Odysseus is justifying to his charge why the young man must convince Philoctetes, through lies and ruse, to return with the Greeks to the battlefields of Troy. This deed is necessary because the seer Helenus, son of Priam, had prophesised Troy would be secure until Philoctetes arrived on the scene; hearing this, the joint commanders of the Greek armies, Agamemnon and Menelaus, dispatched Odysseus and his soldiers to retrieve Philoctetes and his bow - and thereby setting our plot in motion.
Odysseus realized that the archer whom for the common good he betrayed would murder him on sight given the chance, and so dispatches young Neoptolemus to by ruse disarm the afflicted archer so the Greeks could compel him to accompany them to Troy. In justifying his actions to his junior officer, Odysseus presents several arguments to Neoptolemus. His first is premised on state morality (duty) and the chain of command (compliance) - "Reflect that 'tis thy duty to comply." His second is the broader compulsion of the state, justified by the security imperatives it faces:
Say what thou wilt, I shall forgive,His final appeal, though, is not ultimately to patriotic duty, but to vanity and pride:
I know thy noble natureConcluding, Odysseus stresses the aberrant, temporary nature of the deceitfulness that the state is compelling upon Neoptolemus:
However, the noble nature of Achilles, living in his son, rebels against deceipt, and cries out for an honest contest among equals -
What open arms can doThe pivotal interchange in the dispute which ensues is Neoptolemus's question, "And thinkst thou 'tis not base / To tell a lie then?"; to which Odysseus's response is, as it must be, "Not if on that lie / Depends our safety."
Before proceding to the unplaying of the covert action itself, we might pause to consider what has taken place. First, we see the state giving, in order to preserve itself, to one of its citizens the right to violate its laws and its decent standards of conduct. The wilyness and deceptiveness of Odysseus, now forced by command and conjolance upon his charge, is from the perspective of Athens a black art forgiveable when the survival of the state is in question, but out of place at home in the peacetime councils and life of the democracy. Second, this dispensation here has become a command - conveyed and made attractive with appeals to patriotism, personal glory, and compulsion (familiar components in the recruitrment of agents even in today's clandestine tradecraft) - but at the same time, a military command given from a senior officer to a junior, who with his soldierly status has accepted the impositions on his individual capacities for moral choice of the military chain of command. Third, when the individual threatens the communal good, that of the state, the Greek polity selects its own self-preservation- whether by deceitfully banishing the unlucky hero far from Greek civilization ("Alas, poor soul," says the Chorus, "that never in ten years' length / enjoyed a drink of wine"), or then by deceitfully compelling his disarmament and forcible return. Sophoclean morality condemns, after all, hubris above all - thus the unseemly pride of Creon in Antigone, or perhaps that of Oedipus in Oedipus Rex - because through it, the individual threatens the good of all Athens.
This much, at least, from Odysseus's perspective. Yet thankfully Sophocles also permits us to see things from the perspective of Neoptolemus: here we come across a talented junior officer for whom the concept of deceiving others - that is, acting under a cover, hiding the true state of affairs (hence our covert, the old French past participle of cuvrir, to cover) - reaches beyond the unaesthetic to the unethical. Neoptolemus's unease with deceipt in the service of a state's survival is not impossible to understand - his code, after all, is heroic, not conniving; it privileges means, not ends; it is ultimately Kantian, not utilitarian. But while gentlemen who, with Secretary Stimson, do not relish the thought of opening the mail of other gentlemen may perhaps nonetheless be forgiven for opening that of tyrants and murderers, the noble character of Neoptolemus, son of Achilles, does not even allow us that much: for noble Achilles's son would seek to struggle honestly and win nobly, or nobly be defeated. The tension between the general of covert artistry and the noble lowly officer is left pending rather than resolved by Neoptolemus's brief acquiescence, and Odysseus departs from the scene, calling both on Hermes, god of trickery, and on Athena, goddess of Athens.
Thus, shortly after, Neoptolemus presents himself under cover to Philoctetes and genuinely pities and befriends the lonely accursed archer, and begins to shake loose his cover when he directs the Spy (a largely gratuitous character who briefly appears) to speak openly to them both, commanding him: "Hide nothing then." And after only a short period further - feeling pity for the abandoned cripple as well as the pull between the heroic code and the shadowy efficacy of Odysseus - he chooses to honor the code of Athenian heroism and tells all, hoping to continue following the chain of command and compel Philoctetes's forcible transportation to the fields of Troy, but now to do so openly and without deception in his application of coercion:
I can no longer hide
Unfortunately, Neoptolemus's moment of moral clarity then disintegrates somewhat into the muddled inclarity of a therapy-session. We anticipate, even, catharsis by group hug:
Alas!At which point, the session is disrupted by the arrival of Odysseus - who now justifies his actions of compulsion, now no longer covert, by reference to gods' compulsion rather than merely that of the state and men:
Know, great Zeus himselfThe gods thus demand it - but, this far, only in Odysseus's mouth, although we have no reason to believe that he and his own commanders are acting in bad faith in keeping with their information at hand and their special responsibility for the Greeks' security. But now Neoptolemus makes his existential choice worthy of the Sartrean French wartime student, and disobeying his general, returns to the crippled archer the bow which was, on his deserted island, his livelihood:
Yet he keeps Philoctetes from slaying Odysseus and permits the latter to escape, for the moment striking out as an independent actor, capable of rendering himself on one side or the other as compelled by the dictates of moral choice. Whereupon Neoptolemus then seeks, though vainly, through speech to make common cause with both the archer and his commanders, and compel Philoctetes to Troy by force of arguments rather than violence; in other words, he becomes a diplomat:
PHILOCTETES An idle taleHaving foresworn force or the arts of deception to impose the Greeks' will on Philoctetes, however, Neoptolemus finds that relying on argument he is powerless to compel the crippled archer to Troy. And so, noble Neoptolemus is ultimately rendered in a position of incontrovertible tension between moral commitments.
The resolution of the tension is ultimately by deus ex machina - quite literally, as Heracles then appears, and directs Philoctetes and Neoptolemus to Troy where the two will slay Paris and where Philoctetes will be healed - and this because Sophocles could not in the end answer the question which he himself had posed: how one might reconcile irreconcilably conflicting duties to the state, to the gods, and to human pity and benevolence. The appeal to divine intervention brought Aristotles's scorn upon this play, and subsequent critics have tended to follow his impulse here. Well enough, we might ask, that the gods appear to the agonizing noble pair, resolving their tormenting pulls between human benevolence and the needs of the state - but where are those of us left to whom Heracles does not deign to appear?
The gods themselves must intervene to solve this dilemma. But perhaps - perhaps - Sophocles's play contains a meaning missed by Aristotle and academics following in his path; perhaps this can be read differently, to say that only divine intervention can justify the commission of intrinsically unethical acts to serve a public good. This may not be my answer - I believe, for instance, with John Lewis Gaddis that espionage serves an important good of stability, assuring antagonists of one another's peaceable intentions when, as during the Cold War, their talk in each others' ears is cheap. But I do believe, however, that this is ultimately the answer which is Sophocles's. And as to my knowledge no more compelling treatment in literature, whether classical or modern, of the ethical dilemmas inherent in covert acts of state than this play from the Athenian golden age, we who might argue for more expansive notions of raison d'etat, if only toward murderers and terrorists rather than gentlemen, would do well to measure and tune our arguments against Sophocles's tragedy.
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# Posted 1:52 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
From where I stand, the fundamental problem with mainstream coverage of the occupation is that its tone depends not on the situation on the ground in Iraq, but rather on the rhetoric that is coming out of Washington. In short, even though the occupation is going better than expected, Donald Rumsfeld's passive aggression toward nation-building has led the media to give as much attention as possible to any evidence that Rumsfeld's lackluster attitude has brought the reconstruction effort to the brink of failure.
It's important to recognize, of course, that this pattern of behavior on the media's part is nothing new. One point that almost all academic studies of the media agree on is that journalists attempt to protect their (self-endowed?) reputation for objectivity by avoiding all independent judgment of what is happening on the ground.
In practice, this preference leads journalists to measure reality against the standards set out by leading officials in Washington. Because Rumsfeld & Co. have demonstrated a disturbing lack of concern about progress in Baghdad, everything that goes wrong in Iraq becomes front-page news.
This pattern of interaction rapidly becomes a vicious cycle. Since journalists themselves place tremendous faith in the media, the constant repeititon of similar headlines persuades correspondents on the ground that the headlines reflect some sort of objective reality. Right now, a raft of negative reports from Baghdad have been mistaken for a decisive assessment of the occupation as an unmitigated failure.
Fortunately, some critics of the administration recognize that this sort of judgment is premature. Yet as the ever-critical Kevin Drum warns, center-right critics of media pessimism can't afford to mistake the media's premature criticism of the Administration for an indication that the President, Vice-President and Secretary of Defence actually understand how hard it is to rebuild a nation.
The occupation certainly isn't going so well that we can start to praise the Administration for its well-laid plans. As Fareed Zakaria points out, the Administration's respective attitudes toward Afghanistan and Iraq demonstrate precious little cognizance of the most important lesson we have learned from the failed and semi-successful nation-building efforts of the past decade: go in with overwhelming force and accept nothing short of success.
Does that lesson sound familiar? Of course it does. As Tom Friedman reminds us, it's known as the Powell Doctrine. Except now the US needs to apply it to waging peace instead of waging war. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:55 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
The WaPo seems to be just as confused as I am. While its masthead editoral asks some good questions about the current debate, it provides no answers whatsoever.
On the con side, Ted Turner is arguing that he never could've started CNN if not for the current rules, which ensure that risk-taking entrepreneurs have a supply of television stations available for purchase. But that was 20 years ago. My guess is that today's innovators would use the internet or other media to launch their new enterprises.
All in all, I think I'm inclined to discount apocalyptic prophecies of media conformism and agree with Calpundit, who argues that there is a pretty resilient marketplace for ideas and that the revisions voted on today aren't nearly significant enough to have much effect at all.
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Sunday, June 01, 2003
# Posted 9:30 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 8:51 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
On the bright side, the shortcomings of my first apology led RR to send in this fascinating account of the development of computing technology in the late 20th century. RR's comments come in response to my statment that
"It's not as if Bill Gates was responsible for taking computers that once filled entire rooms and transforming them into desktops."After re-reading what I wrote, I can see why it came off as a sarcastic dismissal of Gates' critics. But actually, I wanted to show that I am aware of the fact that the history of computers is not the history of Microsoft. Fortunately, RR has made with in greater depth than I ever could. He writes that:
Bill Gates contributed _nothing_ to the development of desktop computers. The microprocessor was developed by Intel, Motorola, Texas Instruments, et al. So was semiconductor memory. Computers were already shrinking:a PDP-11, the standard 'minicomputer' of the '70s, was the size of a small refrigerator, and then a small suitcase.That's capitalism for you, eh? (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:23 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 6:59 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Regardless, it is terribly, terribly clever. The rest of the article is not. It provides biographical data but no real information about who Kerry is or what he stands for. Then again, the Post's evasiveness may be both terribly intentional and terribly clever.
In the coming days, the WaPo will publish profiles of the other eight Democratic candidates for president. If those profiles are more substantive, we'll know that the Post was having its way with the Senator from Massachusetts. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Saturday, May 31, 2003
# Posted 12:06 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 11:21 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 10:26 AM by Patrick Belton
Friday, May 30, 2003
# Posted 7:50 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Btw, the above article on women's achievement also contains a statistic which says quite a lot about the nature of income inequality in our post-industrial economy:
Better-educated men are also, on average, a much happier lot. They are more likely to marry, stick by their children, and pay more in taxes. From the ages of 18 to 65, the average male college grad earns $2.5 million over his lifetime, 90% more than his high school counterpart. That's up from 40% more in 1979, the peak year for U.S. manufacturing. The average college diploma holder also contributes four times more in net taxes over his career than a high school grad, according to Northeastern's [Andrew] Sum. Meanwhile, the typical high school dropout will usually get $40,000 more from the government than he pays in, a net drain on society.Hmmm. If that income statistic is correct, then I still have $2.44 million to look forward to... (Thanks to A at Rational Explications for the link.)
Also, RS recommends that anyone with a serious interest in inequality take a look at Jeremy Waldron's Liberal Rights, specifically Waldron's essay on charity and the welfare state. If all y'all get a chance to read it, send in your thoughts. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:26 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Today's "Democratic liberals" are big central government statists who are functional isolationists. As such, a political party run by them can provide neither national security nor long term economic prosperity...Sounds like Trent thinks Jimmy Carter was president in the 1990s. Thankfully he wasn't. The fact is that almost all American presidents migrate, over time, to the center. Clinton started out far more to the left than he ended up. His shift reflected both self-interest and the will of the electorate. So don't underestimate the Dems.
This criticism aside, Trent's post is quite thoughtful, definitely worth reading, and full of great links to articles about the Dems and national security. Viva Winds of Change! (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 6:54 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
In an e-mail, Dan writes that
I'm no Bush lover, believe me, but I think you do him a disservice in your analysis of China.I'll grant that the jury is still out. But I sense that China's participation in the North Korea talks has much more to do with China's self-interest than Bush's diplomacy. As for the talks themselves, I don't think I'll be willing to admit they've accomplished anything until there are some concrete results.
But I really do hope that Bush can put together a deal that puts a permanent end to the crisis on the peninsua. First of all, it would be good for both the US and North Korea. And more importantly, it would set Josh Marshall up for a big "I told you so!" ;) (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 6:34 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 6:31 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
For those of us who watch Dowd like hawks, an implicit confession admission is gratifying enough. But the overwhelming majority of NYT readers won't notice a thing. They have better things to do with their time than monitor Dowd's honesty. Thus, I'm glad that NY Daily News columnist Zev Chafets has chosen to expose Dowd in his most recent column. The question is, when will Howell Raines give Chafets Dowd's job?
(Thanks to N for the Chafets link.)
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# Posted 4:34 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 12:00 PM by Patrick Belton
Beauty matters most, though, for reproductive success. A study by David Buss, an American scientist, logged the mating preferences of more than 10,000 people across 37 cultures. It found that a woman's physical attractiveness came top or near top of every man's list.Here's hoping this study was at least some grad student's excuse to get funding to look at lots of women. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Thursday, May 29, 2003
# Posted 4:32 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 4:28 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Dan is absolutely right when he says that
a signal virtue of U.S. diplomacy is the ingrained habit of trusting subordinates to innovate and adapt to local circumstances, and then copying those innovations when they work.All I can add to Dan's point is a bit of historical context. According to Cold War historian John Lewis Gaddis, the United States' successful effort to transform Germany and Japan rested heavily on local commanders' efforts to adapt American values and institutions to local circumstances.
In most cases, such commanders received no direction from above. According to Gaddis, they simply acted on the belief that the Germans and Japanese deserved exactly the same rights as US citizens had on the homefront.
There was, however, some recognition on the part of higher-ups in Washington that the best way to transform Germany and Japan was to ensure that American soldiers held foreigners to the same standards that they did their fellow Americans. According to John Dower, the foremost American historian of modern Japan, the training films shown to US soldiers departing for Japan emphasized that American values were the key to reform in Japanese society.
If shown today, such films' uncritical glorification of the United States and its values would provoke immediate accusations of cultural imperialism. While I wouldn't recommend the replication of such propaganda today, the fact remains that promoting democracy in Iraq will depend more on the occupation forces' ability to instill democratic values than on their ability to appreciate the local populations' cultural heritage.
Even so, this is not necessarily cultural imperialism. First of all, the values in question are not American or even Western. They are the values shared by democratic nations in Latin America, East Asia, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, the Indian subcontinent and even parts of Africa.
Perhaps more importantly, the occupation forces will transmit such values more by setting the right example than by spreading propaganda. Then again, the simple fact of holding elections privileges democratic values over all others.
The critical point to recognize here is that elections provide the Iraqi people a means of expressing themselves. If this sort of fostering self-determination counts as cultural imperialism, then the accusation has become meaningless. As I see it, true democracy cannot be imperial.
All in all, one of the most important reasons that I have much greater faith in the Pentagon's ability to promote democracy in Iraq (as opposed to the State Department's), is that rank-and-file American soldiers have a long tradition of sharing democatic values with all those they encounter. Even our generals and admirals tend to adopt this same straightforward approach.
While American diplomats have often risked their lives and reputations for the sake of human rights, their measured, cosmopolitan approach is not best-suited to countries in need of a total transformation. From where is stand, the best hope for democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan to just let our soldiers do what their grandfathers did in Germany and Japan: be themselves. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 4:07 PM by Patrick Belton
Most of these newly-retired flag officers - like top officials in the supreme court, federal police, and SIDE (Argentine intelligence) - were appointees of President Menem, and generally a thuggish lot. It is somewhat poetic that the SIDE's new chief, thanks to Kirchner, is to be Sergio Acevedo - a man has spent the last several years on a congressional committee staff, bravely challenging Menem and his appointees' cover-up of the role of Iranian intelligence in the 1992 Hezbollah bombing of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires. According to the court testimony of an Iranian defector currently in German protection, Menem personally received $10 million from the Iranian government in return for diverting the course of the investigation into the bombings. The story of the investigation, perhaps not surprisingly, has been one of disappearing evidence, unfollowed leads, and the occasional videotape surfacing starring an investigating judge discussing payoffs.
Kirchner's bold act is good news. Argentina, and we as a hemisphere, are much better off without the likes of these in office. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:03 PM by Patrick Belton
Gunaratna moves peripatetically among several of the leading centers of counterterror analysis, including his principal affiliation at St Andrew's Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence, Israel's International Policy Institute for Counterterrorism, and the US-based RAND Corporation. If you can't find the book, you're lying - it's in a library within two miles of you - but here are two of his interviews in Singapore and PBS's Newshour. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 2:02 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 1:37 AM by Patrick Belton
For another perspective, see the WaPo, which says the pro-western Tehran street is becoming so pro-western that now it's even apathetic about politics too. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Wednesday, May 28, 2003
# Posted 11:33 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 11:19 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
As to the "Protestant" DOS being the foundation for capitalism, again, leaving Weber aside, it *is* true that the Microsoft Way has generated entire short-lived cottage industries which have grown up to plug the busted dams and fill the holes and generally fix the glaring weaknesses in their products. Microsoft generates industryI admit it. I am a terrible, terrible bigot. What fair-minded invidual would dare suggest that Catholic Europe of the Middle Ages and Renaissance was a backwards place?
By the same token, who but an unthinking partisan of DOS could deny the tremendous progress made on computer technology in the 1940s, '50s and 60s? It's not as if Bill Gates was responsible for taking computers that once filled entire rooms and transforming them into desktops.
As such, I must repent. Yet as it says in the Book of [Steven] Job[s], it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a Windows user to enter the gates of Heaven. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:22 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Argentine Leader Takes Office, Pledging to Combat PovertyThe constant repetition of the "four presidents in two weeks" motif makes Argentina seem like a banana republic. But in fact, the "four presidents" comment is profoundly misleading.
Fernando De La Rua, elected in 1999, resigned in response to violent protests in December 2001. Because there was no vice-president at the time, the leader of the Senate automatically became president. He refused the office, however, and the Senate later chose provincial governor Adolfo Rodriguez Saa to govern as interim president for 90 days so that new elections could be held. Yet thanks to the Senate leader's 48 hours in office, he is counted as a president.
Rodriguez Saa immediately provoked widespread anger by appointing corrupt ministers and indicating that he would use his position as interim president to position himself as front-runner in the new elections. In response to protests that were actually quite peaceful, Saa left office.
This time, the presidency fell to the leader of the lower house, who also rejected the office. Yet once again, thanks to the 48 hour interval between the resignation of Saa and the selection of his successor, Argentina technically observed the inauguration and resignation of a fourth president in two weeks.
Complex as the December 2001 transition was, the WaPo could've avoided its raft of errors by replacing the last five words of its lede with "Fernando De La Rua, elected in 1999."
Addressing Congress and 12 leaders from Latin America, including Cuba's Fidel Castro, Kirchner promised to reinvigorate Argentina's once-solid middle class, which has been hit hardest by the worst economic crisis in the country's history. But he also appealed for an end to the cronyism and corruption thatMentioning Castro is gratuitous and damning. It's how American reporters imply that the Latin American left is resurgent without providing any evidence to that effect. But the fact is that Castro attends lots of inaugurations, so his presence means nothing.
Next comes the misleading description of "Kirchner's ruling Peronist Party". The Peronist Party is a badly divided party which doesn't stand for much of anything at all. Such internal divisions were so extreme that the party couldn't agree on rules for a presidential primary. As a result, four separate Peronist candidates ran for president, each representing one faction within the party.
Even though Kirchner is no saint, he ran as a reformist outsider bent on challenging the corruption of former President Carlos Menem, who withdrew rather than facing a run off he was sure to lose by a landslide.
However, Kirchner did have the support of current President Eduardo Duhalde, who is known for running a massive political machine whose corruption is second only to that of Menem's. But Duhalde only supported Kirchner after Duhalde's hand-picked successor performed so badly in early polls that he had to withdraw from the election. Once again, the WaPo could've significantly improved its coverage by changing only a few words.
"We want to be the generation of Argentines that restores upward social mobility, but also promotes cultural and moral change and respect for the law,"The repetition of the "four presidents" error suggests that the WaPo doesn't even understand how misleading his dispatch is. While lede senteneces have to be short, there is no excuse for this sort of glaring inaccuracy later in the article.
Despite the lack of a clear mandate from voters, poll results released last week showed that Kirchner has the support of nearly 70 percent of voters. Today he continued to strike the defiant, populist tone that characterized his campaign.Kirchner is getting off pretty easy here. Imagine quoting an American president's inauguration speech without getting any sort of response from the opposition. What might the opposition say? That Kirchner talks tough but will give in to the IMF like all of his predecessors.
Kirchner has proposed a New Deal-like $2.8 billion public works program to create jobs and jump-start an economy that contracted nearly 11 percent last year. Nearly 60 percent of the country's 37 million people live on less than $2 a day, and Argentina's official jobless rate is roughly 18 percent...The Post really needs an opposition quote here. I guarantee that my old boss, Sen. Terragno, would've been happy to provide one. He might've said that there is no way Argentina can afford massive public works and that even if the Congress passes them, the funds will be siphoned off by all sorts of corrupt officials.
Although Kirchner has questioned Argentina's relationship with the United States, he has promised greater cooperation with other Latin American countries, particularly Brazil. Lingering resentment of U.S.-backed free-market reforms helped elect a former metalworker, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, known as Lula, to the Brazilian presidency, and he publicly supported Kirchner during the campaign in Argentina.Resentment of U.S.-backed reforms had almost nothing to do with Lula's election. The Brazilian himself cut a deal with the IMF during the campaign, even though the IMF's demands still consisted of "U.S.-backed reforms". Fact is, American reporters thrive on a strange mix of paranoia about the Latin American left and liberal guilt about the United States' responsibility for its alleged rise to power. Until they get over both obsessions, we're going to get third-rate coverage of the region.
PS Argentina is not a Third World country! But there is no better way to get Argentines' attention than to accuse Argentina of being backward... (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 6:45 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
(If you want actual commentary on the MILF rather than prurient entertainment, see this post by Boomshock.) (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 6:37 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 6:30 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
In contrast to the American papers, the Financial Times and The Economist provided top-notch coverage both before, during and after the crisis. I make this claim with a fair amount of confidence because one of the projects I conducted as a Senado intern in Buenos Aires was a review of all articles about Argentina published between July 2000 and June 2001 in the four periodicals mentioned above.
In my final report on the project, I argued that the financial papers' superior coverage of Argentine affairs was not a random event, but rather the direct result of two very different approaches to covering the news.
The Times and thePostrely on one or two full-time correspondents to provide coverage of the whole of Latin America. In contrast, The Economist, the FT and financial news services such as Bloomberg have correspondents in almost every country in the region. Often, these correspondents have enough experience covering economic affairs to provide much more thoughtful coverage than their non-expert competitors.
The reason that the financial papers devote more resources to this sort of thing is that their readers demand accurate news about all those countries in which their capital is invested. If a financial doesn't provide such coverage, it will lose it readers.
In contrast, no one will cancel their subscription to the NYT or the WaPo because of their coverage of Latin America is less than stellar. (Of course, it is entirely possible that the NYT and WaPo provide better coverage of those countries in which foreign investors have little interest.)
The broader lesson of all this is that one has to be especially careful when reading what the papers have to say about any country that isn't the focus of sustained international attention. While the editorial position of any given paper may influence its coverage of Israel or Iraq, one can have a certain degree of confidence in the nuts and bolts of its coverage.
Elsewhere, that isn't the case. To make my point, I am now going to go ahead and fisk the WaPo whose inaccuracies provoked me enough to write this whole post in the first place. However, I am about to go out to dinner, so I will fisk said article in my next post on the subject.
UPDATE: Randy Paul recommends the Miami Herald's coverage of Latin America, which is arguably the best around. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 5:50 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
I am now embarrassed that OxBlog didn't take the story more seriously at the time. Patrick wondered why two long-serving FBI agents would betray their wives and their country to sleep with a woman who is so profoundly unattractive. I responded that that Lewinsky affair had perilously lowered the standards of American males. In short, OxBlog spun the Leung affair for laughs.
What brought it all back to my attention was this excellent column by the WaPo's Fred Hiatt, who persuasively argues that true significance of the Leung affair is not its exposure of either the vulnerability of the US intelligence community or the hypocrisy of all those Republicans who bashed the Clinton administrion for its China spy scandal.
Rather the Leung scandal is a powerful indicator of just how adrift and directionless the Bush administration's China policy is. On the campaign trail, the President attacked Clinton for the failure of his policy of "constructive engagement" and promised to get tough on China both for its espionage and its human rights abuses.
Bush has done neither. To be fair, it may not be productive to antagonize China given its relatively constructive approach to both Iraq and North Korea. But the Republicans silence in response to the Leung affair shows that the adminsitration isn't even thinking about China.
For example, if it were committed to working with China on the North Korea front, the administration should thoroughly investigate the Leung affair and use it (behind doors) to remind the Chinese that they have to demonstrate their good faith through action, not promises.
Is it possible that the administration has been doing just that, albeit without public knowledge? Possibly, but given the inevitability of leaks within this administration, I find it very hard to believe that this is the case.
I think it's far more likely that the administration is desperate to direct attention away from yet another fiasco that emphasizes the failures of the US intelligence community. And fortunately for the President, Iraq and the Roadmap have largely kept China off the front pages.
Without excusing OxBlog's negligent avoidance of the Leung affair, I still think it is fair to criticize Josh Marshall for presenting the scandal in entirely partisan. From his first post onward, Marshall presented the Leung affair as a partsian issue that exposed Republican hypocrisy.
While that perspective is significant in its own right, I've tended to become somewhat inured to Marshall's constant focus on the scandal of the moment. To be fair, Marshall isn't the only who covered the Leung affair in partisan terms. I think one could direct that charge at most of the mainstream media.
Even conservative columnist Michelle Malkin -- who deserves considerable credit for commenting on her own party's hypocrisy -- approached the Leung affair in partisan in terms.
So why single out Josh Marshall for abuse? Because I know he is capable of so much better. While I usually find myself opposing TPM, its posts often provide the most persuasive argument for Josh's side of a given issue.
At the moment, I hope Josh is working on something other than the Texas Legislature scandal, which has been TPM's cause celebre over the past week or so. While Josh does have a professional interest in writing up unique stories that can advance his career as a journalist, I still think he might do even better by focusing his considerable talents on issues that will have a greater impact on American national security.
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# Posted 12:29 PM by Dan
# Posted 1:16 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
I haven't had time to read the whole thing yet (because it is very, very looooong), but I'm really hoping to turn up some evidence of a Straussian conspiracy. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 1:08 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
If your blog is just starting up, definitely think about submitting an entry to the contest. If you run an established blog, than vote for your favorite new entrant.
My votes for the week go to and to Rational Explications for its post on income inequality and to Page Three for its post on Star Wars. Again, I strongly encourage all of you with blogs to vote, since just a few more can make all the difference. Happy blogging! (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:37 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Tuesday, May 27, 2003
# Posted 7:24 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 6:58 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
The real question is: How poor is America willing to let its least fortunate be?...Those that advocate assistance to the poor are in essence trying to raise the standard of living for the poor to some minimum standard...I agree that our objective should be to establish a minimum standard of living rather than a minimum share of income growth. At the same time, we have to recognize that what we consider a minimally acceptable standard of living rises over time. Fifty years ago, it was acceptable to live without a washing machine, a television, or a computer. Now it isn't.
That aside there are some reasons to think that the inequality situation isn't as bad as Kevin makes it out to be. CS points out that according to the Census data Kevin cites
"The official income estimates in this report are based solely on money income before taxes and do not include the value of employment-based fringe beneifts nor of gevernement-provided noncash benefits, such as food stamps, Medicare, Medicaid, and public or subsidized housing."In other words, Kevin's data provide no indication of the degree to which major government programs have actually mitigated extant inequality. While it's fair to say we should be doing more for the poor, especially in terms of education (remember the President's campaign promise?), one has start by establishing exactly how much the government does for them already.
JV adds that if the top 5% of American households earned $687 billion more than they "should have", much of that $687 will be sent to Washington as taxes, since -- contrary to popular myth -- the rich pay much more in taxes than the poor. (JV kindly provides a link to this page on the Cato Insitute website which has the hard data she is working with.)
On the other hand, if that growth were proportionately distributed in the first place, we wouldn't need the government to collect taxes and redistribute them!
Moving on, JAT writes in to emphasize just how much the changing nature of the family has contributed to inequality. As he says,
Remember, households aren't people. There are two major, major changesAll these seem like good points to me. But to paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, I don't even know what I don't know about economics. I sense that the arguments made above are just the tip of the iceberg.
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# Posted 2:36 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
The first response I want to talk about is the one from your favorite sociologist and mine, Kieran Healy. Kieran heads straight for the jugular and questions my fundamental premise that "rapidly increasing inequality is an inevitable feature of capitalism," given that entreprenuers always reap the lion's share of the return on their investments.
As I understand it, Kieran's main argument is that top executives have rigged the American economy to ensure that "middle-managers and workers [are] being forced to bear a much larger part of the risk inherent in the capitalist enterprise" even though top executives still take home the lion's share of the profits.
Sounds improbable to me, but I'm going to take Kieran's argument seriously, since his position reflects the good professor's extensive reading on the subject, a bibliography of which is included in his post.
[Btw, don't forget to check out Kieran's clever comment about my post on Marx.]
Next we come to Kevin Drum's own response to my post (which he sent along via e-mail rather than posting it on the web). Kevin says
Good post. At least you addressed the main point of my post, instead of dodging it, as so many have done..."Regulated capitalism" is an interesting phrase, since regulation entails everything from the existence of a central bank to the establishment of a Scandinavian welfare state.
Whereas progressives tend to think of regulation as their rallying cry -- while conservatives denigrate it as a wrench in the capitalist works -- the fact is that even the most committed free marketers have accepted the existence of extremely powerful regulatory bodies such as the Federal Reserve Board.
In fact, I think there's an argument to be made that the simple existence of a legal system with the power to enforce contracts is a pervasive form of regulation. Whereas some might argue that the existence of contract law is the foundation on which the market rests rather than an imposition on it, the existence of market economies in places such as China shows that markets can operative with remarkable vigor regardless of whether contracts can be reliably enforced.
In short, the point I'm trying to make is that regulation is always a question of "how much", not "whether or not".
Anyhow, I'm going to cut off this post right here since I have to run out to meet a friend. This evening I'll start putting up all the great responses that are now waiting in my inbox. Hasta luego!
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# Posted 1:56 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Steve points to this column by celebrated Italian novelist Umberto Eco, which observes that
The fact is that the world is divided between users of the Macintosh computer and users of MS-DOS compatible computers. I am firmly of the opinion that the Macintosh is Catholic and that DOS is Protestant. Indeed, the Macintosh is counterreformist and has been influenced by the "ratio studiorum" of the Jesuits. It is cheerful, friendly, conciliatory, it tells the faithful how they must proceed step by step to reach - if not the Kingdom of Heaven - the moment in which their document is printed. It is catechistic: the essence of revelation is dealt with via simple formulae and sumptuous icons. Everyone has a right to salvation.Never much of a theologian, what concerns me are the socio-economic implications of Eco's argument. The MS-DOS emphasis on personal responsibility recalls Max Weber's insistence that Protestant thought is the foundation of capitalism.
Given the worldly success of Microsoft, it seems that Weber's analysis may be just as relevant to the information age as it was to the industrial era that came before it. While there is every reason to celebrate the beauty of Macintosh Catholicism, one dare not forget that it alone could not have brought us out of the dark ages. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:28 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 3:33 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
As usual, I've decided to give Kevin a hard time because he runs my favorite left-of-center site in the blogosphere. Whenever I put up a post that criticizes the Democratic party, liberal policy or anything similar, I try to anticipate Kevin's counterarguments. Of course, Kevin still manages to surprise me and come up with solid arguments that expose flaws in my own logic. And I'm happy to do the same for him.
Now onto the post in question. In it, Kevin rails against the unjust distribution of the economic gains made by the United States over the past 20 years. In general, I am open to that sort of criticism. I do think that the US government needs to a lot more for America's poor. But designing such programs must begin with a solid analysis of why poverty continues to exist in the midst of rapid growth.
As Kevin points out, the top 5% of American households have seen their incomes rise by $687 billion more than one would expect if one made such projection on the basis of population size. In other words,
That means that the bottom 95% — in other words, households making less than $150,000 per year — have gotten $687 billion less than they would have if we had all shared equitably in the economic prosperity of the past two decades...Translation: if increasing prosperity had been equitably distributed, those households — 100 million of them — would have incomes today nearly $7,000 higher than they do.With that extra income, those 40 million Americans without health insurance might be able to afford to protection. Or they could spend more on their children's education. In fact, they could probably do both and still have some cash left over to spend on the simple pleasures of life, such as a fine steak and some good beer.
So, to Kevin's credit, one has to admit that the stakes on this issue are large. But I can't bring myself to agree with Kevin's observation that
It's one thing to say that the rich have most of the money — after all, that's the whole point of being rich. But it's quite another to say that as our country grows ever more prosperous, the rich should actually grow richer at a faster rate than anyone else.Without pretending that the Republicans have done anything to ensure the equal distribution of income growth, one can make a strong case that an unequal distribution is (a) the natural outcome of market interactions and (b) especially likely given the United States' recent transition from an industrial to a service-based economy.
While I don't understand much about economics, I tend to accept that growth in market economies reflects the willingness of those with capital to invest it in projects that carry with them a certain degree of risk. If the projects fail, so be it. If they succeed, those who put up the capital reap a far greater share of the profits than those employees who enjoyed the security of wage-based income.
Writ large, this process ensures that when the economy grows, the rich will always get richer far faster than everyone else. Should the government redistribute such gains? Perhaps. But there is no reason to expect, as Kevin seems to, that the distribution of income growth will be at all proportionate.
Now consider the specific state of the American economy over the course of the past couple of decades. Thanks to the decline of heavy industry, millions of high-paying union jobs -- held by those without a college education -- have ceased to exist. While there seems to be little question that the flexibility of American labor markets has given the United States a decisive advantage over Japan and Europe, one cannot doubt that such flexibility incurs tremendous social costs.
Ideally, the government would sponsor programs that facilitate a workers' transition from an outmoded industrial job to a more viable service-based one. How might such a program work? I don't know. How much might it cost? I don't know.
I don't even know if anyone knows the answers to those to questions (although I am willing to guess that no one on the Republican side of the aisle has spent much time trying to figure it out.)
In light of our transition to a service-based economy, education has become ever more valuable. And while I don't know much about American education, it seems that the American system does quite a competent job of educating those bound for college, while those without much interest in higher education don't get the preparation they need to compete in today's economy.
As such, is there any reason to expect that income growth in a service-based economy will benefit the lower income brackets as much as the top 5%?
One last trend I want to comment on is the changing role of women in the marketplace. Women are now a majority of students at America's colleges. If they haven't already, they will soon become a majority at the graduate level as well.
Unsurprisingly, such women tend to marry men who have achieved a similar or higher level of education. Again unsurprisingly, such well-educated couples tend to benefit disproporitionately from the growth of the United States' service-based economy. So in this instance, feminism seems to be responsible for a definite proporition of the inequality that often gets placed on the shoulders of Promise Keeping GOP legislators.
As should be evident from the arguments above, I have no idea what proportion of income inequality reflects natural trends in the American economy as opposed to Republican policy objectives. What I do know is that Kevin and others like him ought to seriously consider such arguments before asking
And when is 95% of American going to wake up, realize they have been mightily ripped off over the past 20 years, and fight back?That sort of question only leads to elitism and despair on the left, since almost half of those 95% will keep on voting Republican regardless of what the Democrats have to say about the economy. Instead, I think it would be better for all of us -- right, left and center -- if the Democrats sought to gain a few percentage points at the polls by supporting program that promote equality of opportunity rather than equality of outcome.
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# Posted 2:38 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Underneath each photograph is a brief description of how each soldier died. The descriptions provided considerable support for point made by my friend, Lt. MT, who said that driving is no less dangerous than helicopter transportation, even though the dramatic nature of helicopter crashes inevitably results in extensive media coverage of airborne casualties.
Opposite the page with the photographs, the Post ran a misguided story with a Vietnam-era headline: "In Iraq, U.S. Troops Are Still Dying--One Almost Every Day." As the story thunderously notes, 23 soldiers died after President Bush declared on May 1 that "major combate operations in Iraq have ended."
In a minimal nod to fairness, the Post observes that according to Pentagon officials, the casualty rate in Iraq is little different from the casualty rate in peacetime training. Six paragraphs later, the Post informs us of a far more important fact: that only two soldiers have lost their lives to hostile fire during the month of May. The other 21 fatalities this month were due to accidents, often in traffic.
While our success in Iraq is scarce consolation for those who lost the ones they loved, we ought not forget that their losses were for a cause that many great men and women have died for.
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# Posted 2:14 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
So let's talk about the WaPo. Thanks to the 3 1/2 hour train ride from DC to New York, I had my first chance in almost two years to sit down with an actual print edition of the WaPo. It felt good, but don't even think for a second that I'm going to go soft on Don Graham's crew. When you're #1, you have to prove it day in and day out.
While the lead story for the day was Sharon's victory in persuading Likud to accept the roadmap, the Post devoted far more column inches to the situation in Iraq. Not a bad choice.
The front page led off with features on both Iraqi entrepreneurs in the Kurdish north and tough living conditions for occupation forces. But far more interesting was the Post's decision to head up its "World News" section with an extremely flattering profile of Paul Bremer.
While its nice to see that the mainstream media aren't wedded to their inveterate critcism of the occupation, I have to wonder if this positive coverage of Bremer's efforts reflects his savvy courting of the media as opposed to his actual record on the ground. According to the Post,
Bremer has been in Iraq less than two weeks, but he has already changed the tone and character of the U.S. effort here.That conclusion seems premature. Consider this: the focus of the WaPo profile is Bremer's trip to Umm Qasr to celebrate the unloading of 28,000 tons of rice donated by the United States to the people of Iraq. Given that importing massive amounts of food aid has been an American objective since the beginning of the war, Bremer's visit to Umm Qasr actually highlights the continuity of US efforts rather than Bremer's innovative approach.
In fact, OxBlog has made a consistent point of emphasizing the magnitude of American nutritional aid to occupied Afghanistan, which was the basis of our confidence that the US would do everything in its power to defy critcis' predictions of massive starvation in postwar Iraq. During the war, we devoted constant attention to the status of Umm Qasr and its readiness to receive aid shipments. While Bremer deserves credit for making sure things have worked out over the past couple of weeks, he has hardly changed the "character" of the occupation.
The WaPo is on more solid ground when it talks about Bremer's change of tone. Whereas "the term 'occupation' was taboo" while Jay Garner was in charge, Bremer has come straight out and said that
Occupation is an ugly word, not one Americans feel comfortable with, but it is a fact.Absolutely. America now has its reputation on the line. The Security Council has backed off and decided to let us take responsibility for Iraq.
But to give Bremer sole credit for this change of tone is somewhat misleading. As if to mock his superiors' intense unilateralism, Jay Garner spent his tenure as governor of Iraq fretting that the people of Iraq and Europe would perceive the United States as imperalistic. You have to wonder if Garner really is a Republican.
In light of Garner's preemptive liberal guilt, it isn't all that surprising that American occupation policy became far too laissez faire. Predictably, this led to reporters to criticise the occupation effort while columnists (fairly) called for a more profound commitment to rebuilding Iraq. Moreover, I suspect that widespread emphasis on the chaos in Baghdad persuaded the Security Council to abandon its initial efforts to demand a more substantive role in the occupation. Better to let the US take responsibility for it, after all.
To those conspiracy buffs obsessed with the Straussian domination of American foreign policy, it must seem that the Bush administration wanted there to be just enough chaos in Iraq to ensure that everyone would demand a stronger American hand in Baghdad rather than an immediate withdrawal.
While no one in their right mind should believe that, it is important to recognize that the initial confusion in Iraq entirely defused potential criticism of the occupation as just another manifestation of this administration's supposedly mindless unilateralism. If Donald Rumsfeld actually considered promoting democracy in Iraq a priority, he would now be in a perfect position to pursue that objective with the full support of both the reading public and the journalists who inform it.
But regardless of what Rumsfeld thinks, Paul Bremer may now have the perfect chance to establish his reputation as a kinder, gentler, postmodern incarnation of Douglas MacArthur.
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Sunday, May 25, 2003
# Posted 12:09 PM by Patrick Belton
Birthdays are egalitarian holidays, thus very low-stress. To celebrate, by contrast, a graduation or wedding, one needs to do something - even celebrating Christmas requires, perhaps somewhat technically, at least getting religion - but birthdays come to one and all, and in a wonderfully individuated manner, too. We're told they date, in shamanistic cultures, to fears that evil spirits presented greater dangers to people experiencing changes in their daily life, such as ageing by a year; by surrounding the person with laughter and joy, a person's family and friends would thus protect them from this evil. In less shamanistic and more medieval Western cultures, it was a perquisite of the aristocracy; hence birthday "crowns," in our more democratic age. Irish children (and others) receive "birthday bumps" on the floor while suspended upside down (Israelis get to do it seated, and right side up), Russians receive birthday pies, Argentines get their earlobes pulled (again, once for each year). Birthday cards are a Victorian invention, while the "happy birthday to you" song dates to two American sisters in 1893. The Scandinavians have a number of tender traditions, such as a Norwegian student's dancing in front of a class with a friend on his or her birthday, or a Dane being greeted by presents surrounding his or her bed; Swedes, by contrast, are more likely to get breakfast in bed; all three are wont to fly their national flag on birthdays.
None of this is to give my friends any ideas. I'm just happy to be able to share today with them. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Saturday, May 24, 2003
# Posted 8:34 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Rather than respond to the charges levelled against me by Dr. BL, I shall simply reprint the accusations verbatim and let you, gentle reader, decide on their merits. The good doctor writes:
Mr. Adesnik,Please note that the author of this letter is a Zionist communist homosexual.
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# Posted 8:19 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Even worse, The Economist thinks Paul Bremer's zeal for de-Ba'athification is distracting him from issues that really matter. In the meantime, Shi'ite clerics are doing a surprisingly effective job of restoring basic services, thus undermining American credibility and positioning themselves as kingmakers.
As is often the case, it's hard to know what to make of The Economist's coverage, since its news coverage is often argumentative in style. As I've pointed out before, the coverage of postwar Iraq in other publications is often contradictory.
On the one hand, I tend to have considerable faith in The Economist. On the other hand, its stories on the occupation don't even seem to acknowledge that American officials have done anything other than while away their time in Saddam's abandoned palaces. For example, its article on the overplayed the extent of both the thefts and of US responsibility.
Well, I guess I won't really have any answers for you until I make my way over to Iraq. Oh well.
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# Posted 6:05 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
So here I am in the Apple Computer store, blogging on a lovely 17" screen. Whatever your stance on the great Mac-Windows debate, you have to admit that Mac's designs are aesthetically brilliant. Even the store itself is designed in a way that makes you feel comfortable.
But I guess you have to approach computers the way you approach signicant others: However nice they are on the outside, it's the inside that matters most. On the other hand, if you're only interested in a short-term relationship, go for the Mac. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:58 AM by Dan