Tuesday, June 10, 2003
# Posted 9:23 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 9:07 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 9:00 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 8:53 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
The short answer: No. But to Marshall's credit, he has now put up a long post describng the esoteric but nonetheless intersting story behind the scandal he didn't find. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:47 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
U.S. Soldiers Face Growing Resistance; Attacks in Central Iraq Become More Frequent and SophisticatedThe NYT headline reads
Deadly Attacks on G.I.'s RiseMatt Yglesias says that
the speed with which the "post-war" casualty figures are rapidly approaching the levels sustained before the end of organized Iraqi resistance give us, I think, good reason to worry that the situation won't be improving any time soon. If you ask me, this is the big under-covered story taking place right now.Apparently, Matt is too busy with The American Prospect to glance at the front page of the WaPo...(Yes, that was a cheap shot.)
Also sounding the alarm is Matt's favorite conservative, Tacitus, who writes that
Blaming this on "Ba'athist holdouts" doesn't seem to cut it, really. It's more honest to admit that these are resistance movements with some measure of popular support that don't need Ba'athist ties to survive. The popular psychology of the Arab world is more than sufficiently motivated to violence by the perceived humiliation of occupation -- as we've seen in Palestine, where it trumps all rational concerns of self-preservation and communal well-being. I hope that the individuals formulating counterinsurgency strategy are being honest with themselves about this.No wonder Tacitus is the left's favorite conservative. He's still living in Vietnam.
Frankly, I see no evidence of a self-sufficient resistance movement which can survive independent of Ba'athist ties. Nor does Tacitus provide any. Besides, the fact that almost all of the attacks on US soldiers have been in the former Ba'athist strongholds of Tikrit and Falluja demonstrates just how closely tied the attacks are to the fallen dictatorship.
Now here's some food thought: Remember the good old days when our big concern about postwar Iraq was the potential for Shi'ite resistance to the occupation?
Well, even back then OxBlog was pointing out that anti-American violence was coming from the Sunni community, not the Shi'ites. So? The bottom line is that only that small minority who benefited from Saddam's rule seems interested in resisting the occupation.
But don't worry, Matt. Guerrilla attacks on US soldiers will always be big news. While the WaPo and NYT articles were more subtle than Tacitus, the fact is that any military encounter even vaguely reminiscient of Vietnam will go straight to the front pages.
Does that mean I'm discounting the Ba'athist threat? The answer is "yes" if you think any significant amount of Iraqi real estate will ever fall to the ex-Fedayeen. The answer is "no" if you expect the Fedayeen to take the lives of dozens of brave American soldiers but ultimately prove nothing more than a reminder of the brutality of the man who ruled Iraq before Paul Bremer. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:54 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
It's with a great deal of pleasure and hope that I come to Geneva to meet with the great President of Syria, President Asad. As leader of one of the great countries in the Middle East, I look to him for guidance and advice and for support as all of us search for progress in achieving peace in that important and troubled part of the world.Of course, if Carter had stuck around for a few more years he might have seen that strength and moderation in action at Hama, where the Syrian government massacred 20,000 citizens as part of its struggle against the Muslim Brotherhood... (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:40 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
While I know next to nothing about law, it does seem fair to say that the 1789 Alien Tort Statute was not meant to become a human rights enforcement mechanism. On the other hand, if the law is now bringing criminals to justice why not?
I guess the tougher question (and one which I am in no way qualified to answer) is whether the moral value of misusing the 1789 Statute compensates for the procedural havoc it might create. At the moment, I'm leaning toward no. The real answer is to have the US government -- especially the current one -- take a more serious interest in human rights and democracy promotion. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:26 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
"Jewish prophets and Catholic teaching both speak of God's special concern for the poor. This is perhaps the most radical teaching of faith, that the value of life is not contingent on wealth or strength or skill, that value is a reflection of God's image."For inspiration, Bush might consider the positive example set by Alabama's Republican Gov. Bob Riley.
"I've spent a lot of time studying the New Testament, and it has three philosophies: love God, love each other, and take care of the least among you," [Riley] said. "I don't think anyone can justify putting an income tax on someone who makes $4,600 a year."That's the kind of religious talk I like to hear. Not pious generalities, but specific humane proposals.
In contrast, Nick Kristof deals with the nasty side of religion, specifically a number of prominent evangelists' demonization of Islam. While breathing fire and brimstone at the demonizers, Kristof argues that "Vituperations about Islam are a throwback, not the trend." Evangelicas are getting more tolerant, not less.
Going further, Kristof puts aside all partisanship and declares that
Mr. Bush displayed real moral leadership after 9/11 when he praised Islam as a "religion of peace" and made it clear that his administration would not demonize it. He should now join the evangelical leadership in repudiating remarks by religious zealots who preach contempt for other religions — and then we should demand that Saudi and Yemeni leaders repudiate their own zealots.Hell yeah. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 3:28 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 2:57 PM by Patrick Belton
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# Posted 1:06 AM by Patrick Belton
Monday, June 09, 2003
# Posted 7:32 PM by Patrick Belton
There once was a number named piThere are more of them here, unfortunately. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 1:41 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Also in the WaPo is a front-page story about Suu Kyi which contains the most details I've seen about her condition. US and other diplomats have concluded that it was nothing short of a bloody ambush that left scores of Suu Kyi's supporters dead in addition to resulting in her capture. The assault seems to reflect a power-play by the hardline faction in the ruling junta.
Also on the Burma front, Winds of Change says that conservatives should be up in arms about John Ashcroft's shameful effort to defend US corporations who exploit slave labor in Burma. Joe K. rightly credits Randy Paul for focusing on the slave labor issue and says that if conservatives want the right to criticize ANSWER, Galloway etc., they have to be just as ready to denounce those in their own ranks who betray American values. Damn right.
Finally, for background on Aung San Suu Kyi and the struggle for democracy in Burma, visit the Free Burma Coalition, an online international network of activist organizations trying to bring a measure of humanity to brutal land. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 1:24 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Perhaps more importantly, Glenn places the event in its proper context by reminding us of Nobel Laureaute Amartya Sen's wise observation that there has never been a famine in a democracy. So who says Instapundit doesn't think profound thoughts? (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 11:26 AM by Patrick Belton
In the meantime, here's some of what methinks is worth reading on the web today. The foreign policy society I run in Washington had a meeting last night on the roadmap. While I'd like to say we solved all the problems of the Middle East in two hours of pizza, we did compile a list of readings that I think are relevant to understanding the current peace process and issues for the U.S. in "riding herd": they're here.
MEMRI offers a synopsis of Arab press coverage of the discovery of large mass graves in Iraq. Some of the venues are frequent repositors of self-criticism by Arabs of Arab governments, such as London's Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, but other sources such as Lebanon's Al-Nahar appear as well. The broad tenor of the coverage is a salutary realization by the Arabic-language press of the extent of Saddam's depravity. This conclusion is representative: "To prevent the reappearance of these graves, [we must] discuss why they [came into existence]... and these reasons concern tyrants' domination of the peoples' lives with dogma and slogans..." If run to its conclusion, this course of stories may have an effect of increasing popular displeasure with Arab governments in general - in turn, a displeasure which may be directed either toward liberal reform or Islamic militancy.
Staying in the region, Gary Gambill of the Middle East Intelligence Bulletin has an interesting piece on democracy promotion efforts in the Middle East that I'll return and post on later this week. The MEIB's interview with the UK rep of SCIRI is fascinating ("How big are your bases?" "Very big! I have been to some of these camps, they are huge, with thousands of fighters"), and another piece examines Syrian support for Hezbollah.
The WaPo is to be congratulated for running one of its stories, as it periodically does, that remembers there's a very large, interesting country right to the south of us! - but, predictably, its reporting generates sentences like this: "Panzo heard of a war this year in a place called Iraq -- a friend of a friend saw pictures of it on his boss's television." Note to the Post: my mother didn't even know there was a war in a place called Iraq. More to the point, the article discusses rural poverty in an isolated indigenous village without ever touching on, say, the local economy of the place, or how its fortunes have been affected by broader economic trends, national and state policies, or free trade. Instead, lots of poignant vignettes of rural poverty and human suffering, without terribly much political or economic context to illuminate how that poverty came about or the prospects for its eradication. (One thinks of Soviet-era stories about south Bronx: foreign correspondents far too often focus on the unimaginable poverty/racism/suffering in the Other Country - which are real and important parts of the picture, no question - but neglect the political, economic, or sociological trends which would make for thornier, more complex reporting.) B- for effort, guys.
Moving to Central Asia, the always-excellent Central Asia Analyst features a few interesting stories. For one, the radical Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir is making inroads in Kazakhstan, redoubling recruiting efforts and capitalizing on popular displeasure with the U.S. and Britain after the War against Saddam. For another, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization is showing new signs of life, with a secretariat in Beijing and a counterterrorism center in Bishkek - a welcome development, since the thorniest security, economic, and resource-management problems in Central Asia require multilateral solutions. Key developments to keep an eye on: whether the SCO is too taken over by Chinese and Russian efforts to forestall US regional dominance to be able to address important regional issues, and whether practical efforts at economic integration result from the organization, or whether it is sidetracked by bilateral disputes between the Central Asian countries. And, speaking of bilateral disputes, Turkmenistan is reconsidering relations with Uzbekistan after seven months of high tension following a November 2002 assassination attempt against Turkmenbashi Niyazov, in which the increasingly erratic, isolationist, and Stalinist Niyazov imputed the involvement of Uzbekistani intelligence and the nation's ambassador in Ashgabat.
And lest we forget you, India: deputy PM Advani told SecDef Rumsfeld in Washington that his government is considering sending troops to Iraq. Pakistani PM Jamali is pushing forward with summit plans and promising normalized rail, road, and air links between the two South Asian countries by the end of the year, while the Pakistani Foreign Office is saying stability on the subcontinent can only be achieved with a strategic balance in nuclear and missile capabilities. Death tolls from the heat wave in Andhra Pradesh (the state in which Hyderabad lies) pass 1,300, with high temperatures hovering between 113 and 120 for the past three weeks.
Okay, me go away now....
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Sunday, June 08, 2003
# Posted 7:52 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
In fact, if extended and thoughtful posts are your favorite kind, you should be visiting Josh Cherniss' site as often as you can. An impressive guy who also happens to be a very nice one...and has good taste in Scotch.
UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan is still following the Strausscapades as well. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:36 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Anyway, this post is actually about the WaPo op-ed page, which came up with three big scores in a single day.
First off is a column by Physicians Without Borders that describes the horrors of hospital life under Saddam Hussein.
Next, Democratic consultant Mandy Grunwald points out the real reason that journalist become so defensive when they are the targets of investigation -- they simply have no idea what it is like to be judged instead of juding others. A simple point, but one that is all too true and often ignored.
Finally, Robert Kagan compiles a devastating list of Democratic and European politicians who said all the same things about Saddam's chemical arsenal long before Bush ever did. As Kagan wryly observes,
if all these people are lying, there's only one person who ever told the truth: Saddam Hussein. And now we can't find him either.Ouch! (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:24 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 7:12 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
First of all comes Randy Paul, who demonstrated a serious interest in Burma even before Suu Kyi was assaulted. As Randy points out, the Bush administration has previously shown a disturbing lack of concern about human rights in Burma.
On the positive side, Glenn Reynolds thinks that the Myanmar junta's defensive response to the assualt on Suu Kyi and the NLD is a sign that they are concerned about international pressure. I hope so. The question is, will the President recognize the opportunity and add his voice to critics of the regime?
Kevin Drum points out that Burma has joined Zimbabwe and the Congo as the latest additions to crisis central. Like Matt Yglesias, Kevin wonders what the international community can do in such situations given that few have the will to use force while sanctions tend to be ineffective.
One post no one should miss is Boomshock's devastating account of other East Asian nations' -- yes, the democratic ones' -- embarrassing and hypocritical silence when finally given a chance to demonstrate that they are rising actors on the international stage.
Adding a small but important point is Jeff Hauser, who has reminded me (via e-mail) that the proper name of Aung San Suu Kyi's homeland is Burma. "Myanmar" is an invention of the generals.
Last but not least, I'd like to give a shout out to Atrios (yes, really!), who doesn't often visit this corner of the blogosphere but generously decided to publicize Aung San Suu Kyi's plight after I told him about OxBlog's concern.
All in all, I'm glad to see that the blogosphere has started to get its priorities in order. Besides, the NYT will probably appoint a replacement for Raines who is just as good a target for criticism...
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# Posted 6:39 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
While shut out of the blogosphere, I happened to notice how rare it is nowadays for committed bloggers to rely on this server. Will it be long before OxBlog joins the Movable Type revolution? I just don't know... (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Saturday, June 07, 2003
# Posted 5:28 PM by Patrick Belton
Premier Mussolini was seated in the first car with Under-Secretary Giunta. He was followed in another car by Minister of Finance Mosconi, while Minister of Justice Rocco was in a third car.and
The Vatican text was enclosed in a red velvet case with damasked edges and bearing the Papal coat of arms. The Italian text was contained in a white morocco leather case bearing the Italian royal armsWhat doesn't appear in the Times's reporting is anything that could be construed as political - which seems to us unusual, given that the entire event was the entry into force of a treaty marking the emergence of a new polity into the world's society of states. We're not told anything about the actual provisions of the treaty - how security or logistical responsibilities were to be shared among Mussolini's Italy and the Vatican City, or the extent to which Italian police could enter St Peter's Squre under the treaty. Many of these provisions, indeed, were fascinating: under article 8, any "public insult" committed within Italian territory against the Pope, "whether by means of speeches, acts, or writings, shall be punished in the same manner as offences and insults against the King"; substantial extraterritoriality provisions are granted the Vatican over other churches and papal buildings in Rome; and under article 3, Italian police are granted the ability to enter into St Peter's Square, though it forms part of the nation of Vatican City. Instead of covering the actual stuff of diplomacy, though, the Times is seized by its ephemera, and the column reads like contemporary fawning coverage given to an idol from the popular culture, to a Tom Cruise or a (secular) Madonna. The only treatment of the actual treaty comes as an aesthetic afterthought, equal to the white morocco leather case in which the treaty was contained, or the three-pointed diplomatic garb of the Fascist Premier and his secretaries:
With all the contemporary, and just, criticism of the Times, it's useful to remember just how far the profession has come in providing analysis of foreign affairs, and in consigning fawning over celebrities' fashion to the back pages.
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# Posted 7:31 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Also, many thanks to Glenn Reynolds for publicizing my call to arms over at Instapundit. Glenn also links to this VOA report which says that the State Department is trying to up the pressure on the Myanmar junta. Now it's time for the White House to get with the program.
Also deserving of a shout is Bill Sherman, aka the Tough Democrat, who agrees that 50 million Burmese are more important than two editors at the NYT.
More to come...
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Friday, June 06, 2003
# Posted 6:36 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 5:54 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 5:48 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 5:48 PM by Patrick Belton
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# Posted 5:13 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
In case anyone needs reminding, Suu Kyi won a well-deserved Noble Peace Prize for leading the people of Myanmar in a peaceful struggle to overthrow their brutal government and establish a democratic order. However, after winning a landslide election in 1990s, Aung San Suu Kyi became the prisoner of Myanmar's generals who refused to give in to the public's demands.
Actually, it seems that the blogosphere is the only entity that needs much reminding on this count. Both the NYT and WaPo ran masthead editorials today demanding immediate action to ensure Suu Kyi's personal safety and reverse the crackdown on her National Democratic League.
Congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle have rushed to Suu Kyi's defense and even American firms accustomed to trading with Myanmar are supporting Sen. Mitch McConnell's (R-KY) call for an import ban.
President Bush has joined other world leaders in calling for Aung San Suu Kyi's release. (Still, as Josh points out, the leader of the free world and the leading advocate of promoting democracy abroad should be doing much more to help Suu Kyi and her people.)
So come on, people. Forget about Howell Raines and start demanding justice for the people of Myanmar.
PS Some blogs, including AndrewSullivan.com, have put up a post on Suu Kyi. Now let's see more! (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 4:44 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Now what's really impressive is that Robert has gotten the Times to admit it was wrong. The Lelyveld era has begun...again. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 4:31 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
In contrast, the NYT scandals have been front page news from day one. As such, I think the devastating combination of public embarrassment and newsroom pressure would have done Raines in even if the blogosphere didn't exist. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 4:16 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Thursday, June 05, 2003
# Posted 8:38 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Anyhow, I thought I'd throw my hat into the ring just to show I'm a good sport, even if I have no chance of winning. Here goes:
Marx (to nubile Communist co-ed): Hey baby, I turned Hegel on his head. So how about letting me get you on your back?
Talk about a red menace... (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:09 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 7:59 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
But don't worry; Patrick and I have decided to forgive you for your reckless plagiarism of my December post. ;) (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:54 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 7:51 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Here's my advice for Kevin and all of you who have an interest in the UK media: make a mental note if you see something interesting, but don't believe it until the NYT or WaPo reprints it. If something is important and true, the US media will pick it up.
Of course, that advice doesn't really work for British domestic politics, since US papers don't really cover it. When it comes to that, I dunno.
Anyhow, Kevin adds that he was so interested in getting to the bottom of the Wolfowitz affair because he doesn't "like to see liberals make fools of themselves." Neither do I. And I don't like to see conservatives make fools of themselves either.
But the real question is why there are fools at all, liberal or conservative. Without going too far into it, I'd say the answer is a lack of patience. For good reasons, the media prizes being the first with the story above all else.
The real test of integrity is whether we are willing to admit our own foolishness when it comes to that. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:11 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 4:26 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 1:31 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 12:49 PM by Patrick Belton
You never know when that old Boy Scout manual will come in handy.For instance, I had three different ways planned to finish this post, but I'm in the end selecting lunch. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 11:18 AM by Patrick Belton
Wednesday, June 04, 2003
# Posted 9:02 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
For more on Dowd's irresponsibility, see Spinsanity and The National Debate. Happy schadenfreude!
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# Posted 8:51 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
I returned to this question today, in fact, after an interesting exchange on the Rhodes Scholar e-mail list. It all began with a brief message from a physicist, who provided a link to a Guardian dispatch on Paul Wolfowitz, simpy noting that it might be of interest.
In short, the dispatch reported that Wolfowitz had finally admitted, in public, that the American motive for invading Iraq was the possession of its oil. The "evidence" cited by the Guardian consisted of an artilce in the German-language Tagesspiegel as well as the already-distorted statements Wolfowitz made in an interview with Vanity Fair.
Not long after the physicist's missive, OxFriend Steve Sachs sent a brief note to the list providing a link to the full transcript of the Vanity Fair article so that his fellow Scholars could see how the Guardian took Wolfowitz's words out of context.
Next up came a message from a Scholar inclined to trust the Guardian, who pointed out that Steve had done nothing to discredit the account provided by the German press. Guessing that it wouldn't be hard to finish what Steve had started, I decided to discredit the German press myself.
As it turns out, doing so required no effort at all, since Greg D. over at Belgravia Dispatch kindly let me know that he had just put up an in-depth exposing the fundamental dishonesty of the German press in this instance.
Yet before I could even let Steve know what I'd found, OxBlog's own Josh Chafetz sent an e-mail to the Rhodes list which linked to an ABC news story with the correct version of Wolfowitz's remarks.
So what's the moral of this story? Well, one moral is that the proliferation of transcripts online makes it much more dangerous for journalists to quote anyone out of context.
Another moral is that even those of us thought to be most educated are prone to manipulation by the press. Consider this counterfactual: What if Josh, Stephen and myself weren't news junkies who had the wherewithal to fisk the Guardian with a few keyboard strokes? My guess is that hundreds of Rhodes Scholars would now believe (if they didn't already) that Wolfowitz had confessed to invading Iraq for its oil.
Would it be their fault for believing this lie? Of course not. For most of the Oxbridge set, the Guardian has the same credibility that the Washington Post has in the United States. In fact, there are probably tens of thousands of Britons who still believe what the Guardian had to say about the Deputy Secretary of Defense.
(Full disclosure: I myself have been suckered by the media, so I do not place myself above any of my fellow Scholars with regard to this matter.)
Perhaps the more important question is what long-term impact this event might have had on the political beliefs of the Scholars in question. One might hypothesize that those who already have negative attitudes towards either the GOP or the US as a whole might be more likely to remember what Wolfowitz said, whereas the less critical might soon forget it.
Yet even if that rule applies in general, what if a small but definite percentage of those who read the article converted from an uncommitted to a highly negative approach to either the GOP or the United States? Given that the Guardian publishes such articles on a regular basis, how long before all those who think of it as political gospel come to share its cynical view of American motives?
Weighing against such considerations is the possibility that articles in other publications might reverse the effect had by the Guardian. The problem is, of course, how it could ever be possible to measure the impact of any article or publication on a given audience.
While I obviously don't have an answer to that question, I would like to describe one broad approach to it which I find compelling. According to this approach, humans are "online" thinkers who retain only small amounts of relevant information in their accessible memory.
Yet rather than "forgetting" information when it disappears from active memory, the mind updates any concepts which might be affected by the information in question. For example, before forgetting the details of the Guardian's attack on Wolfowitz, one might increase one's distrust of Wolfowitz, the Bush administration, the United States and possibly even all government officials.
If, later on, one asked why one distrusts such persons or categories of persons, one will not be available to refer to the Guardian article as evidence, since one will have forgotten it.
While it should be evident that the "online" paradigm doesn't resolve the issue of measurement, it does explain one of the most mystifying aspects of public opinion, i.e. how hundreds of millions of citizens can have firm views on so many different political issues without having any information at their fingertips with which to back such opinions up.
Until recently, scholars presumed that the average citizens was simply so prejudiced and closed-minded that he or she reached his opinions in the absence of information. With the aid of the online paradigm, however, one can understand how the average citizens forms opinions without devoting a tremendous amount of memory to political information storage.
Is there any neuroscientific evidence to back up the online paradigm? I don't know. My knowledge of the literature isn't great. But someone probably is working on it. Still, the online approach does have common sense working in its favor. While there aren't too many specific conclusions to be drawn from it, it does give us a helpful way of thinking about how media bias fits on to the lives of the vast majority of those who don't have all day and all night to spend worrying about politics.
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# Posted 8:27 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 8:14 PM by Patrick Belton
Those not invited to the dance are predictably feeling grumpy; in this instance, these are the hard-liners from both sides of the 1967 line. From Israel, some of the harder-line Likudniks are now criticizing Sharon with vehemence; tens of thousands of protesters gathered this evening in Zion Square, with MKs and ministers from Likud, National Union, the National Religious Party, Shas, and United Torah Judaism, all scheduled to speak at the demonstration. As-yet unnamed American representatives and senators, it was reported, would be in attendance as well. Labor, for its part, is happy, leading to the possibility Israel will see reshuffling in its coalition, with one of the three National Union member parties indicating it will quit the governing coalition once the government begins its evacuation of outposts and implementation of the road map.
From the Palestinian side, Hamas and Islamic Jihad were no happier - after all, if the intifadah and Oslo were any example, peace processes help the Palestinian Administration by giving it stature at home, while intifadah hurts the PA and gains stature for the militant resistance. Abdullah Shami (Islamic Jihad head in Gaza) accused Abbas of offering "a free service to the enemy in targeting the Palestinian resistance and stopping our legitimate right to fight the occupation." Hamas's Abdel Aziz Rantisi, while saying his organization was "still discussing" the possibility of a ceasefire with the Palestinian government, strongly criticized Abu Mazen for neglecting the right of return and entertaining the surrender of "even one centimeter" of Palestinian territory.
Also feeling grumpy after the party is Arafat's advisor Saeb Erekat (now thankfullly irrelevant), who criticized Sharon for not dropping dates. Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Sha'ath, however, (who for his part is relevant) praised Sharon for his promises of geographical contiguity for the Palestinian state, as well as his promise to dismantle illegal (under Israeli law) settlements in the West Bank.
Sharon may indeed be doing something we never suspected of him - becoming, like Nixon and Reagan, a peacemaker coming from the right. But this is not a region which is easy on its peacemakers, and people are making the inevitable allusions of the cost of the enterprise to previous peacemakers Anwar Sadat (mowed down by Egyptian soldiers in uniform, no less) and Yitzhak Rabin (himself army chief on the fateful day of June 5, 1967). Making ominous alusions to the possibility of violence are such members of the Knesset's rightist fringe as minister Avigdor Lieberman, head of the National Union bloc and himself a settler (in the West Bank settlement of Nokdim), and hard-line rabbis in the settlements, such as Eliezer Melamed of the Nablus-area Har Bracha settlement, who are also making nasty allusions to the possibility of civil war, and bemoaning as treachery their betrayal by a leader they had seen as not only one of them, but the head of the hardline. Many have already remembered, although perhaps (hopefully) with an excess of paranoia, that Rabin's death was preceeded by a month by a rightist protest in Zion Square.
For the United States's part, this administration is to be commended for its reengagement. The Bush administration will be sending a team to Israel and the Palestinian territories to oversee the implementation of the plan, and publicize compliance and violations to it. More of this, please. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:03 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 7:57 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 7:52 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
While I sat down with Cannon's book because my dissertation demanded it, I couldn't help but compare Reagan to George W. Bush. As multiple commentators have observed, both the character and ideology of the current president are far more similar to that of Reagan than that of his own father.
As someone with a special interest in foreign policy, the most apparent similarity from my perspective is the dependence of both Reagan and the younger Bush on a circle of feuding advisers to provide them with the specific knowledge necessary to forge an actual policy. While I don't recall making this comparison explicitly, it was very much on my mind when I was posting about the divide within Bush's cabinet.
But now, having read the first handful of chapters in Cannon's book, I think its important to emphasize a critical distinction between the Reagan and Bush styles of consulting their inner circle.
According to Cannon, Reagan expected his advisors to achieve a consensus among themselves before bringing their options to him. To some degree, this approach was grounded in Reagan's strong averson to interpersonal conflict of all kinds. In contrast, Bush seems to welcome his closest advisors' presentation of contrasting perspectives and strategies, from which he chooses the most effective.
Another aspect of Reagan's approach was his avoidance of all unnecessary detail, almost to the point of being self-destructive. For example, James Baker (then Chief of Staff) approached the President on the morning of the only G7 economic summit held in the US during Reagan's eight years of office, only to find that Reagan hadn't even opened the briefing book Baker had given him the night before.
Although hesitant to confront the President, Baker asked him why he hadn't opened the book. In all seriousness, Reagan replied that the Sound of Music was on the night before and that he wanted to watch it.
From where I stand, this aversion to detail explains how Reagan could, in all sincerity, make the sort of absurd pronouncements that his critics found so maddening, e.g. that the Salvadoran army was struggling to reduce human rights violations or that the brutal Contras were the moral equivalent of the United States' Founding Fathers.
(Now, if you are one of those revisionist historians who believes that the Founding Fathers were genocidal plutocratic racists, the comparison works. But I digress...)
In contrast to Reagan, I think Bush has a far greater command of detail, despite constant attacks on his intelligence and competence as a public speaker.
What made this contrast click in my mind was an anecdote recounted in a front-page story on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in yesterday's WaPo. The anecdote runs as follows:
Bush called Sharon a "man of peace" last year, infuriating Arabs angry over the Israeli army's actions against Palestinians in the West Bank. Bush publicly has not backed off that statement, but last year he privately rebuked Sharon when the Israeli leader began to repeat the comment to the president, administration officials said.Bush final jab shows that he understands both his critics' motivations and the tactical value of refusing to change his stance regardless of such objections.
(While were on the subject of the Middle East, make sure to read this excellent op-ed about Sharon and Abu Mazen by Fareed Zakaria.)
In the final analysis, I think one should be very careful when analogizing between divisions in the Reagan and Bush cabinets. Yes, both Presidents are from being experts on foreign policy. But one of them has a much more productive method for taking advantage of his advisors' expertise. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:28 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 6:58 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Anyhow, you'll know why it is if my posting is somewhat irregular for the next few days. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 3:57 PM by Patrick Belton
(And to those of you who are keeping track, yes, in a noteworthy three-day spurt of nerdiness I've managed to (1) brag about my public library system, (2) tell all of you about a date night spent reading the Greek classics out loud with my bride, and (3) compare the personals ads in two different literary reviews. Hmmm....seems like, to restore this blog's former unparalleled well-rounded image of physical and mental athleticism I should start up a blogger pin-up series or something....)
UPDATE: Matt Madden concurs in part, dissents in part (specifically, the library's no food/no drink rule). (So here's a deal - track me down in the library, Matt, and we'll go out for an interblogonal slurpee) (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 1:19 PM by Patrick Belton
First off we have the New York Review of Books (print ed., June 12, 2003). Here, we see many entries, and they're...basically...all...the same. That is, people who "love cats" and "classical music." They're "confident, yet sensitive." They even look good in earth-toned sweater vests. In a word: annoying, ingratiating wimps.
"ADVENTUROUS, INTELLECTUAL DJM, 47, periodontist...cat-lover, seeks full-figured woman for passionate sex and scintillating discussions"
"BEAUTIFUL, BRAINY SJF, 54, earthmother...passionate about art...knows Paris well...Reply only if you can increase my joy. Handwritten replies only."
"SJM interested in fathering a child in a flexible, supportive parenting partnership. Open to many possibilities, including marriage."
"ALL FETISHES, DOMINATION/SUBMISSION FANTASIES explored by Ivy League educated Goddesses."
And that's leaving out the "Ph.D. Yankee with a twist, spirited not spiritual, California-raised, supportive yet strong, believes humor is key." The passionate, warm, almond-eyed academic (good shoulders)... And lots of avid tennis players, sweater-vest wearers, and strong but compassionate cat lovers who can't live without classical music, and would love to "return to Prague, Vienna, France," with an "educated, financially stable, kind," etc.
etc., etc., etc. Boring, pretentious wimps.
Now, for round two, it's time to turn to the inside back page of the London Review of Books (print ed., 22 May 2003). Yes, even here we do have one or two "passionate, academic, liberal female[s], seeking similar male, also emotionally aware, empathetic, communicative, proactive and progressive." (Et in Londono ego.) But then, we have these:
"EITHER I'M DESPERATELY UNATTRACTIVE, or you are all lesbians. Bald, pasty man (61) with nervous tick and unclassifiable skin complaint believes it to be the latter but holds out hope for dominant (yet straight) fems at box no. 10/18."
"FAT FRISKY AND 42. Not me, it's the wife. Complex M dullard, 43, seeking younger, slimmer and downright unlibidinal replacement to avoid another night of force-fed Viagra. Must enjoy computer battleships, segregated bathrooms and respect my mother by wearing clothes just like hers (calvary twill, mainly). Box no. 10/17."
"BOOKLOVERS! Ask for The Cambridge Companion to My Butt" when you're next in the LRB shop. Embittered overeducated Boston third age gay...not so much disruptive, just plain choleric. Box no. 10/13."
"THEY CALL ME MR BOOMBASTIC. You can call me Monty. My real name, however, is Quentin. But only Mother uses that. And Nanny. Monty is fine, though. Anything but Peg Leg (Shrewsbury Prep, 1956, 'please don't make me do cross-country, sir'). Box no. 10/17"
"MEET A LARDARSE FOR THE THINKING GAY F. Only I'm a man. Difficult to classify bisexual couch potato, 39. Seeking more of the same, only without so many doughnuts this time. Bristol."
"GERMANY IS THE NEW DETROIT" (no text can live up to that, so I'm not quoting it)
"WHEN MY MUM IS IN, I can't make any noise. But when my mum goes out, then I can make a noise. NW M, 38.... Large head. Box. no. 09/02."
"THIS COLUMN IS THE PLACE TO SEE AND BE SEEN. But not too often. Certainly not eight times in the last twelve months. So know when you're beatn G. P.-J., and throw in the towel. Hope for singles nights at the LRB bookshop; failing that, there's always rhumba mornings at the Golden Age Drop-In Centre. Box no. 09/09."
Oh, and the winner,
"MY CURRENT RESEARCH CONSISTS OF UTILISING FRESHWATER and marine isolates for the possibility of Lignin Modifying Enzyme production, Bioremediation of Xenobiotics and Phanerochaete chrysosporium. All this to be blonde. Postgraduate Scottish beauty tired of trans-Euro mousey brown and nights alone with a jigsaw and a chemistry set. Seeking Cambridge hunk, thirties or upwards, for outre bathtime fun and games. Box no. 09/10." (Heck, I'm even writing a couple of hunky Cantabridgian friends about her right now...)
Wow, the difference is striking. So in conclusion: if you want love, go to England.
(Heck, it worked for me...)
UPDATE: Josh C., (no, the other Josh C...if this were grade school, we'd need of course to have Josh C.-sub-1 and Josh C.-sub-2, with precedence being decided by a head-to-head political theory battle royale at noon between these two lovable guys...think "8 mile" meets Rawls...), says the downside of advertising in the LRB is that you might end up with someone in the Balliol MCR....
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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