Wednesday, May 31, 2006
# Posted 11:56 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
The conservative movement is full of disillusioned revolutionaries; this could be their theme song, an oath that swears off naïve idealism once and for all.Now, John J. probably never imagined that Pete Townshend himself would take issue with his interpretation. (For the uninitiated, Townshend is/was the songwriter and lead guitarist for The Who.) Writing on his diary/blog, Pete says that
Won't Get Fooled Again has been listed in the UK Independent Newspaper as the number one song with - as I understand it - the political message most often misunderstood - in this case the message is said to be 'conservative', a word that may mean different things in the UK and USA.Pete does acknowledge, however, that the song is very much concerned about the potential for disillusionment with noble ideals. More than a decade after writing the song, Pete himself experienced one such moment of disillusion in the 1980s:
Peter Gabriel and I spoke often on the phone about work we were doing...to raise money to help spring Nelson Mandela from gaol [jail] in South Africa. We realized quickly that what we were doing was buying guns for the ANC.Which is guess is a way of saying that we will get fooled again. Oh well.
UPDATE: Perhaps I was too quick to judge. Michael Moore asked Pete Townshend to use "Won't Get Fooled Again" in Fahrenheit 9/11, but Townshend refused. Plus, TAP suggests Pete is a bourgeois, pro-war sell-out.
And more links at Memeorandum. (4) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 11:48 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 10:50 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
However, there is one OxBlogger who need not dream of such things. Josh Chafetz, our erstwhile colleague and author of a whole damn book on parliamentary privilege, argues in TNR that the constitution actually does forbid executive agencies from searching legislative offices. As I understand it, the essence of his argument is as follows:
In fact, the Speech or Debate Clause of the Constitution should be interpreted to prohibit searches like these. To allow such searches undermines the independence that the clause is meant to secure for Congress...I do recommend that you read the whole of Josh's article, since this summary does not do it justice.
For an opposing perspective, I recommend this essay in Slate by Akhil Reed Amar, a professor at Yale Law School whom Josh knows quite well. (Hat tip: WB) Amar argues that:
The [Speech and Debate] clause does not insulate sitting Congress members from ordinary criminal arrest and prosecution. No arrest-immunity exists whenever a congressman stands accused of "Treason, Felony, [or] Breach of the Peace"—and the last phrase was, according to the canonical jurist William Blackstone, a catchall term of art that effectively covered all crimes...So who is right? As I said, this one is way over my head. What I can say is that Josh's essay brings forward a lot of evidence that Amar's essay does not address (and vice versa, to a certain extent). Of course, Prof. Amar may have a ready response to such points but did not see fit to include them in his essay.
But I wouldn't be so sure, since Prof. Amar knows what a formidable scholar Dr. Chafetz is. On the back cover of Josh's book, this is what Prof. Amar had to say:
This book heralds the arrival of an important new scholar in the fields of comparative constitutional law and legal history. Fitting a broad range of institutional details into a comprehensive and subtle theoretical framework, Chafetz shows how Congressional privileges in America and Parliamentary privileges in England sprang from common origins but then evolved along separate paths as a result of basic differences in the political ecosystems. An excellent chronicle of the evolution of legislative privileges from the parliamentary supremacy of England to the popular sovereignty in kingless America."High praise from such a prominent author. Good work, Josh. My guess is that William Jefferson will get what's coming to him regardless of what becomes of the evidence taken by the FBI search. (4) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:32 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 2:57 PM by Patrick Porter
A counter-strategy needs to recognise the potential of bloggers as an instrument to challenge the metaphysical freedom of the recruiterBloggers as virtual warriors? David and Patrick reporting for duty. (3) opinions -- Add your opinion
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
# Posted 10:20 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Reihan also manages to throw in a reference to Voltron, defender of the universe. (3) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 9:56 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Although I do tend to see Hillary as a tactician without core values, I recognize that my opinion is just that: an opinion. An interpretation. An inference. But Balz does quite a job of portraying that opinion as a matter of fact in an article that isn't even labeled as "news analysis".
Although correspondents don't write headlines, this one is telling: "Clinton is a Politician Not Easily Defined; Senator's Platform Remains Unclear". The first half isn't terrible, but "Platform Remains Unclear" may as well be the same as "Flip-flop! Flip-flop!"
The article's first sentence is:
Hillary Rodham Clinton has fashioned a political persona that generates intense passions but defies easy characterization.Authentic human beings don't fashion personas. As our teachers all told us in elementary school, "Just be yourself. Don't pretend to be someone else just because you want to be popular."
Of course, being oneself is a very hard thing to do, so one ought to cut Hillary some slack. But I don't think many journalists will. Here's another gem from Balz's profile:
Yet for all her fame, there are missing pieces to the Clinton puzzle: What does she stand for? And where would she try to take the country if elected?One can pretend that such questions are objective and neutral, but Balz's talk of "missing pieces" lets you know these questions are reprimands for Hillary's evasiveness. And then there's this:
For now, [Hillary] is defined by a combination of celebrity and caution that strategists say leaves her more vulnerable than most politicians to charges that she is motivated more by personal ambition and tactical maneuver than by a clear philosophy.In the name of balance, Balz does include the obligatory quote from Hillary, as well as praise form some of her supporters, followed by antagonistic quotes from Kos and Jerry Falwell. (The juxtaposition of those two was absolutely delightful.)
If you want to defend Balz's approach to Hillary you definitely can. His profile is a long one includes lots of material from both sides. There is one assertion (in the ominiscient, impersonal voice journalists so adore) that "there are clear patterns" to Hillary's behavior on both foreign and domestic issues. Yet on balance, there is no question that this profile belongs with all those that reinforce the caricature of Hillary as yet another slippery Clinton. (2) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 5:47 PM by Patrick Porter
Which is more important: to symbolise our total rejection of fascism? Or to leave traces of it as a grisly reminder of its reality in the past?
If it is part of the landscape and the fabric of a city, should it be reflected in the city's topography?
This is a real question in Berlin on the eve of the World Cup:
Nazi-era statues depicting muscular, Aryan supermen at a stadium in Berlin, where the football World Cup final will be played in July, fuelled a bitter controversy Tuesday less than two weeks before the games open.
The cult of the body may well have had a complex relationship with Nazism. But its location at the stadium serves to identify it in this instance as a monument to the Hitlerian ideal of racial purity and its corollary, the struggle against racial degenerates. The 'new man' of Nazi mythology was an icon of annihilation as well as physical perfection.
Maybe the very act of destroying the statues should be memorialised - a large mural depicting citizens dismantling it, with an accompanying text explaining why.
This gesture, perhaps, would both enshrine the rejection of fascist architecture while reminding people that the evil of fascism existed, and that in remembrance of its victims and in gratitude to the people who defeated it, we have no right to forget it completely.
Monday, May 29, 2006
# Posted 11:55 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Anybody else notice that the Washington Post today has not a single tribute to a fallen warrior?But the title of the Post's lead editorial is "Memorial Day", in which the editors observe that
What ought to be unquestioned among us is the honor due those who have little to say about the rightness of a war but who take on the duty of fighting it.The Post also ran the latest installment of Faces of the Fallen, in which it publishes a photo of each fallen servicemember from Iraq and Afghanistan. I think that counts. (5) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 11:51 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 11:41 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 11:31 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
People familiar with the case say they expect that charges of murder, dereliction of duty and making a false statement will be brought against several Marines.The NYT dispatched an Iraqi writer to interview the relatives of the dead, who affirmed Murtha's version of the story. The Times hedged on the believability of those accounts, and then cited anonymous sources in a manner similar to the Post. It reported that:
The four survivors' accounts could not be independently corroborated, and it was unclear in some cases whether they actually saw the killings. But much of what they said was consistent with broad outlines of the events of that day provided by military and government officials who have been briefed on the military's investigations into the killings, which the officials have said are likely to lead to charges that may include murder and a cover-up of what really happened.If the allegations are true, punishment must firm and swift. But that will not repair the damage.
UPDATE(S): Kevin looks at some of the other information available, none of it yet definitive.
Gary Farber is following Haditha very closely. (5) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:59 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Sensenbrenner: B+. He's very good at making the case against a rush to reform. I've graded him down in the past for insisting that any path to citizenship for illegal immigrants amounts to amnesty, but since the folks on my side of the debate won't admit that their plan, intentionally or not, rewards illegal behavior, I'm going to give Sensenbrenner a pass.And now for the hosts:
Russert: B.See ya next week. (2) opinions -- Add your opinion
Sunday, May 28, 2006
# Posted 1:46 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Nir's dispatch from Fallujah was given pride of place in the July 5, 2004 issue of the New Yorker, an accomplishment that immediately established his reputation as leading observer of occupied Iraq. A book contract soon followed. Earlier this month, the Free Press, a division of Simon & Schuster, published In the Belly of the Green Bird: The Triumph of the Martyrs in Iraq. In addition to various assignment for the The NYT Magazine and The Atlantic, Nir also has a major article on the cover of this morning's Outlook section in the WaPo.
Before getting to the substance of Nir's publications, I should warn you that I have been friends with Nir since elementary school. There is no question that I want him to succeed and I am proud to have OxBlog contribute to his success in whatever small way it can.
However, you don't need to worry at all that I will show any undeserved kindness to Nir's opinions, since I disagree with him vigorously about almost everything. He says the occupation is a manifest failure and wants to the bring the troops home now. To put it mildly, I think that's a bad idea.
But rather than rehashing that debate, let's talk about Nir's article in the WaPo. The first and last paragraphs of the articles summarize its message quite effectively:
Every morning the streets of Baghdad are littered with dozens of bodies, bruised, torn, mutilated, executed only because they are Sunni or because they are Shiite. Power drills are an especially popular torture device...The article doesn't mention any of Iraq's three elections or its new government, but suggests that they are irrelevant by focusing on the viciously sectarian nature of the police and armed forces:
The Mahdi militiamen were already back in force that morning, blocking off the roads and searching all who approached, wielding Iraqi police-issue Glock pistols and carrying Iraqi police-issue handcuffs. In Baghdad and most of Iraq, the police are the Mahdi Army and the Mahdi Army is the police. The same holds for the actual Iraqi army, posted throughout the country.Although the overarching narrative here should be familiar to anyone who reads the newspapers, I think Nir is especially good at capturing details that bring the narrative to life, such as the police issue Glocks and handcuffs that found their way to the Mahdi army.
Of course, capturing such details is not the same as making a definitive case for the failure of the occupation. In that respect, I found the following passage from Nir's artilce to be quite revealing:
Even shared opposition to the Occupation couldn't unite Iraq's Sunnis and Shiites, and perhaps that was inevitable given their bitter history of mutual hostility. Instead, as the fighting against the Americans intensified, tensions between Sunni and Shiite began to grow, eventually setting off the vicious sectarian cleansing that is Iraq today.If you happen to know Nir personally, you may recognize this passage as a veiled mea culpa. After returning from Fallujah in 2004, Nir was passionately persuaded that Iraqi Sunnis and Iraqi Shi'ites would unite against the Christian, American occupation.
This was what Nir told me in Lombardi's Pizza in SoHo in the late summer of 2004. I mostly kept my disagreement to myself since Nir had the ultimate trump card to play: he was there and he saw it all for himself. I just read the newspapers, which actually supported his argument more than they supported mine.
Although there is no question that I am enjoying this little "I told you so", the real point here is that even those with unprecedented access to the facts on the ground in Iraq are profoundly influenced by their preconceived notions. Knowing Nir's politics, I couldn't help but infer that his observation of an emergent Sunni-Shi'ite alliance in 2004 reflected his desire for a united front against the American occupation.
Of course, I have made similar mistakes myself. Go through the OxBlog archives and see how long it took me to recognize just after the invasion that a full-scale insurgency was underway.
In the end, I don't think the outcome of the occupation will turn on who made more predictions that were right or wrong. It will turn on a few critical issues that are much more important than the rest: whether an elected government can hold together, whether the army can fight, and whether the police will enforce the law or function as sectarian militias and death squads.
Nir and others have made a strong case that the trend in each of these issue areas is running in the wrong direction. But I'm not throwing in the towel just yet, because even those with first-hand experience have been wrong before about the most important trends in Iraq. (47) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 1:07 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
I had met four of my companions for the first time earlier that evening and had met two of the others only a couple of times before. My final companion was a good friend but a man of few words, who said nothing of my politics. Thus, the other six assumed that I was just like them: a young, white, well-educated, well-intentioned liberal.
Eventually the subject of discussion turned to politics, specifically Al Gore's new film The Inconvenient Truth. A few of my companions hopefully asked whether we thought Gore would run in 2008. Others lamented the Democratic Party's pathological habit of nominating unelectable losers.
One of my companions hoped aloud that there wouldn't be 74 different Democrats running for the nomination in 2008. Someone else responded that if 74 different Democrats actually ran, maybe one of them would turn out to be a good candidate.
Inevitably, the subject turned to Hillary. I expected nothing less than firm support, but I was wrong. Concerns about her being unelectable emerged almost immediately, and no one bothered to dispute that assessment. One person went as far as to say that he hoped Hillary wouldn't run because it would hurt the party and its chances in 2008.
But why was Hillary unelectable? One person quickly suggested that she was too liberal. Another person responded that she really isn't all that liberal. But no one denounced the First Lady they way they regularly do over at Kos. This exchange confirmed in my mind that I was listening to part of the mainstream Democratic electorate and not the party's left-wing base. In other words, these concerns about Hillary's electability were coming from her most favorable demographic.
My inference based on last night's discussion is that my companions would vote for Hillary in the primaries, although with a heavy heart. They would only abandon her if the party produced a candidate that seemed unbeatable (which is a very remote possibility).
The reigning conventional wisdom on both sides of the aisle is that mobilizing a passionate base is the key to victory in 2008. But conventional wisdom has a very short life span. After all, in 1996 and 2000, the conventional wisdom was that you have to play to the center.
In the end, politics is always a gamble. If I were Hillary's, I wouldn't even think about giving up just yet. (7) opinions -- Add your opinion
Saturday, May 27, 2006
# Posted 3:29 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
But that isn't what's remarkable about the book. Publishing houses churn out hundreds of suspense novels a year, some of which become very popular but amount in the end to nothing more than light reading for a few hours at the beach.
Not so The Rule of Four, co-authored by Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason. The Rule is the brilliantly imaginative story of two students at Princeton who struggle to decipher hidden messages in a Renaissance text known as the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili. Their nemesis is an aging scholar who struggled with the Hypnerotomachia in his youth and has now become insanely jealous of the protagonists.
(Full disclosure: I discovered the Rule of Four because Thomason's father is my supervisor at work.)
What I didn't know while reading the Rule is that the Hypnerotomachia is a real book from the late 15th century, prized by scholars but little known to the general public. What Caldwell and Thomason have done is used the Hypnerotomachia as a template from which they draw to invent impossibly complicated riddles whose answers point to the location of a (fictional) buried treasure, lost since the days of the Renaissance.
Such riddles are best illustrated by example. Early on, one of the book' s protagonists, Paul Harris, receives a remarkable gift from his mentor, a trustee of the Princeton University museum of art by the name of Richard Curry. The gift takes the form of an exhibit in one of the museum's galleries. It consists of twelve paintaings by Renaissance masters such as Pontormo and Andrea del Sarto. Each paintaing recounts some part of the bibilical story of Joseph.
The second protagonist, Tom Sullivan is mystified by the exhibit and demands an explanation from Paul. The answer lies is a bibilical verse, Genesis 37:3, which reads "Now Israel [Jacob] loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colors." The twelve paintaings on the wall are also a coat of many colors, a gift from Richard to Paul as a symbol of his affection.
Of course Richard said nothing to Paul about the significance of the paintings or the Biblical verse that unlocks their meaning. Richard simply presumes that Paul will decipher his code, because both of them inhabit an intellectual world that prizes playful erudition.
What is doubly amazing about such puzzles is the extensive knowledge of Renaissance, Classical and Bibilical learning that Thomason and Caldwell had to master in order to create such riddles. And more than learning, Thomason and Caldwell possessed the imaginative flair necessary to transform such knowledge into a compelling narrative rather than a dry academic text.
But the merits of their book are even greater. Not surprisingly, numerous readers have compared The Rule of Four to The DaVinci Code. Yet they quickly add that The Rule of Four is different because it is so well-written. Although I haven't read The DaVinci Code, I wouldn't hesitate to describe countless passages in The Rule of Four as beautiful.
Often, it is just a few words or a metaphor that strike the reader as poetic. For example, while driving after a snowstorm, the narrator observes that "The roads we travel are thin black stitches on a great white gown." A descriptive gem of this kind appears on perhaps every other page of the book. In other words, there are hundreds of them in The Rule of Four.
All of which forces one to ask an unusual question: Does this book transcend the genre of the thriller and achieve the status of literature? There are many reasons to say yes, in addition to those mentioned above. The book's protagonists and other characters are far more than paper cut-outs whose existence serves to advance the plot. They are flesh and blood whose development as inviduals drives the plot almost as much as the mystery of the Hypnerotomachia.
In the final analysis, I don't think I am particularly qualified to judge whether a certain book counts as literature. That is a judgment others can better make for themselves. What I can do is share my feeling that The Rule of Four often seems divided between the author's love of its mystery and their affection for its characters. In fact, an important theme of the book is the need to achieve balance in life between intellectual pursuits and human relationships. Even so, it sometimes feels that this book is actually two books in one, each one struggling to suppress the other.
Since this is Caldwell and Thomason's first book and both are just 30 years old, they undoubtedly have long authorial careers ahead of them. If The Rule of Four is any indication, they have the potential to write serious fiction just as impressive as their suspenseful debut. In the meantime, they deserve tremendous credit for demonstrating that the life of the mind can be the subject of compelling popular entertainment. (4) opinions -- Add your opinion
Thursday, May 25, 2006
# Posted 11:31 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
By today's standards, Lincoln's address was highly unusual. It was long, about 3,200 words. He did an exhaustive amount of research into the questions of what the 39 signers of the constitution believed about the power of the federal government to limit slavery. He wrote every word himself. And he made a highly reasoned argument for his position based on the facts he found. The speech offered a minimum of rhetorical flourish and political potshots.So did follow the example set by the Great Empancipator? Judge for yourself:
I came here in 1993, to make my case for my new economic plan, a dramatic reversal of the "trickle down" theory of the previous 12 years which had quadrupled the national debt, increased poverty, concentrated extreme wealth in few hands, and left middle class wages stagnant.Which is a pretty fair summary of the US economy in the 1980s, at least as remembered by The Nation.
I made the case for a controversial "invest and grow plan" that was fiscally conservative but socially progressive, raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans, reducing them for lower income working families, cutting less essential government spending and investing more in education and new technologies to fuel economic growth.So what "ultimately produced" the boom of the 1990s? The free market? Innovative entrepreneurs? New technology? Low inflation inherited from the Federal Reserve's bold policy in the 1980s? No. It was the Clinton plan!
Actually, all things considered, Clinton's speech was pretty moderate. He even said something nice about John McCain. Of course, a cynic might say that praising McCain is a tactic designed to hurt McCain in the GOP primaries and improve Hillary's chances of becoming President...
UPDATE: The text of Lincoln's address is here. Would you say that Clinton's characterization of it was accurate? (10) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 11:10 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 10:38 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Since I happen to be so close to Lancaster, PA, I couldn't help but wonder whether there is much of an Amish presence in the blogosphere. It turns out, the whole Amish-on-the-internet shtick is pretty cliche, but there are still many good laughs to be had. For example, there is the following e-mail, announcing the spread of the Amish Virus:
You have just received the Amish Virus.Rumor has it that Jimmy Carter lost all of his files to the Virus. Perhaps ol' Jimmy should call Amish Tech Support for help.
According to one expert quoted by the NYT, there actually was an Amish blog at one point, but apparently no more. I'm guessing it all went downhill when the author switched from cable to wireless, only to discover that there aren't many hotspots in his village.
But what I really want to know is, do the Amish make fun our obsession with technology? What kind of jokes do they tell about us? Here are some examples I came up with:
Q. Did you hear about all the people on the airplane?At least technology isn't all bad. (4) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 1:13 PM by Patrick Porter
# Posted 9:46 AM by Patrick Porter
In the cool breeze outside the small bar, the talk ranged from the Ottomans to petro-politics, from love to war. I learnt a lot in a few hours. We didn't see eye to eye on all questions, and he listened patiently to my garbled views. In these truly politicised times, its nice to see that high-voltage dialogue and civility can go hand in hand.
Anyway, he will be interviewing none other than Noam Chomsky as part of the Shia-Sunni Speakers Panel at the New York Society for Ethical Culture, on 3 June. Here's the flyer.
Chomsky's views on America's role in the world often don't convince me. To say the least. But it'll be interesting to hear the man in the flesh. And you never know who might turn up. (6) opinions -- Add your opinion
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
# Posted 11:06 AM by Patrick Porter
his inexperienced side are not intimidated by the prospect of facing mighty Brazil in the group phase of the World Cup finals in Germany next month.Our team may not be intimidated. Personally, I'm terrified.
UPDATE: Our boys done good. We've just defeated Greece, the European Champions, in Melbourne! (5) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 1:22 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Many of those interviewed were granted anonymity to discuss a relationship for which the Clintons have long sought a zone of privacy. The Clintons and, for the most part, their aides declined to cooperate for this article and urged others not to cooperate as well.The contents, however, turn out to be less than titillating. The nastiest parts are actually the interpretive flourishes which reinforce the (not inaccurate) caricature of Hillary as a hyper-calculating pol.
But notice what isn't in this article: Any criticism of any ideas the Clintons have. (5) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:59 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
The situation here bears some rough similarity to the one on the Korean peninsula. There, Kim Jong Il wants direct talks with the US in order to raise his standing on the international stage and avoid the pressure that comes with talking to China, Russia, Japan, the US and South Korea all at once.
By the same token, Iran may want to get away from facing the British-French-German negotiating team that has been on the job up until now. The Euro-3 didn't get Iran to compromise, but they did demonstrate Iran's intransigence to the point where the UN had to take up the issue.
Does this mean we shouldn't talk to Iran one on one? Not necessarily. If pre-negotiations suggest potential for a major breakthrough, fine. But first we have to make sure that direct talks will strengthen the hand of both the Euro-3 and the UN/IAEA, so that such talks don't become the pretext for Iran renouncing any negotiation whatsoever.
And given liberal skepticism of the Bush administration's ability to do anything right, especially anything complicated, do Kevin and Matt really want the White House to take the reins away from our enlightened European allies and their colleagues at the UN? (5) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:40 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Douglas J. Feith, then the Defense Department's under secretary for policy, said in an interview that the C.I.A.'s prewar assessment deemed Iraq's police professional, an appraisal that events proved "fundamentally wrong."Both Kevin and Dan want to know why the heck this document isn't in the public domain at a time when so many other classified reports wind up on the front pages of the NYT or the WaPo. Dan writes:
Given the CIA's track record of selectively leaking material to bolster its image and tarnish that of the White House, I wonder why someone over there hasn't leaked this police document if the agency's assessment was so spot on.Kevin writes:
If Doug Feith says it, it's a pretty good bet that exactly the opposite is the case. Still, why is this report classified? Surely this would be one of those cases that Scott McClellan told us about in which declassification would be in the public interest? Right?I guess what we have here is trench warfare. CIA analysts figure that they have to leak because the administration will only declassify documents that make it look good. The administration only declassifies documents that make it look good because it figures that dissenters at the CIA are already determined to leak enough of the bad stuff.
Not really a system that's working, eh? (4) opinions -- Add your opinion
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
# Posted 1:28 PM by Patrick Porter
Student speaker Jean Rohe claims that at the New School:
We've gotten very good at listening to the views of othersApparently not. As McCain spoke at the graduation ceremony
jeers, boos and insults flew, as caustic as any that angry New Yorkers have hurled inside Madison Square Garden.When I heard Tony Benn speak last year at a big event, I disagreed with almost every word he said.
But I didn't try to shout him down. By internally formulating my own reasons for disagreement, it stimulated my own views. By reacting mentally to each thing he said, it helped to breath fresh life into my own little dissenting opinion.
As John Stuart Mill said of free speech, there is value in hearing opinion you believe to be false. Unless your own opinion is
vigorously and earnestly contested, it will, by most of those who receive it, be held in the manner of a prejudice, with little comprehension or feeling of its rational grounds.So John McCain might have done his hostile audience a favour, if only they had listened. A missed opportunity to fortify their own world-view.
(Hat-tip for various articles, Taylor Owen) (6) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 11:47 AM by Patrick Porter
I haven't changed my mind on the issue! But on reflection, it seems that other commentators such as Andrew Sullivan have already articulted the 'wrongness' of torture. Rather than simply echoing others condemnation of torture, I got thinking about the fact that practices such as 'rendition', ie handing over suspects to other states to interrogate, predate the Bush administration.
In the nineties, suspected terrorists or their accomplices were allegedly handed over to governments like Egypt and Syria, whose interrogation methods were medieval in their severity.
My question is, how much was this issue highlighted in American public life at the time, beyond human rights organisations? (10) opinions -- Add your opinion
Monday, May 22, 2006
# Posted 10:10 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 9:28 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Ten days before John McCain spoke at the New School graduation, Dan pointed to this quote from an organizer of student opposition to McCain's presence:
"This ceremony is supposed to represent the culmination of these students' experience at a school that is known for being progressive, liberal, and open-minded," she said. "For the speaker not to represent these values at all is appalling."Dan commented:
So we're "progressive, liberal, and open-minded" but we only want to hear from those we agree with. Wonder if they offer an introductory course in logic at the New School?I'm not sure I could come up with such an absurdly ironic quotation if I tried. And to add to the irony of it all, the emphasis of McCain's commencement addresses at Liberty College, the New School and Columbia has been on tolerating dissent and promoting civil dialogue.
On top of that, throw in the pathetic and disrespectful heckling of McCain while he delivered his speech. Now, I don't mind at all that Jean Rohe, the student speaker at the New School commencement chose to attack McCain rather than talking about her music. K.Lo describes it as "rude", but that's exactly the rough-and-tumble-dialogue McCain welcomed in his remarks.
In fact, if you look at Rohe's remarks, they are a testament to just how successful McCain was at forcing civility on those who might be otherwise inclined. Rohe said that:
Senator Mc Cain will tell us today that dissent and disagreement are our "civic and moral obligation" in times of crisis. I consider this a time of crisis and I feel obligated to speak...Well, I sort of fear Osama bin Laden and Mahmoud Ahmedinejad and various folks in Darfur, but I think you get the point. Somehow, a Republican senator wound up as the poster child for tolerance while self-professed liberal dissenters sought to shout him down.
And at the same time, McCain plays to the GOP base by showing just how much lefty wing-nuts resent him. Ya think McCain's staff payed those students to heckle him? (12) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:56 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
On all NBC and CBS, the headliners were followed by a pair of legislators, one for and one against, debating immigration. On NBC, Lindsey Graham faced off against Rep. Charlie Norwood (R-GA). On CBS, Dianne Feinstein faced off against Jim Sensenbrenner. On ABC, John Edwards got the spotlight all to himself.
And before we get to the grades, remember that more details are always available from Mark Kilmer at Red State.
Condi: B+. Let's just say it would be a good idea if the White House cancelled all of Dick Cheney's interviews and sent Condi instead. The Pentagon might also consider hiring her. So why no 'A' or 'A-'? Because the SecState only parried Russert's blows, instead of striking her own.Instead of individual grades for the hosts, I'm going to give them a collective 'B-'. Their questions on immigration are completely one-sided. They aggressively challenge the opponents of reform, going after the fundamental premises of their arguments. In contrast, they occasionally question the tactics of those who support reform, or instead go after them from the left.
The question for opponents of reform is always "What are you going to do with the 12 million immigrants who are already here?" A good quesiton. But the question for those who support reform is always "How will you get the House to support a reform bill in conference?" not "Why should illegal immigrants be allowed to earn their citizenship while those who chose to play by the rules and stay at home get nothing?"
As an advocate of reform, perhaps I shouldn't bite the hand the feeds. But I care more about balanced journalism, so I won't endorse a double standard even when it favors my side. (2) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:46 AM by Patrick Porter
# Posted 10:28 AM by Patrick Porter
There was just something discomforting about the assumption that military action should only be taken with the approval of regimes in China and Russia, the architects of the Tianenmen Square massacre and the catastrophe in Chechnya.
As well as placing unwarranted authority in the hands of these states, historically, the insistence on formal Security Council approval would have prevented several humanitarian interventions. Vietnam could not have intervened in Pol Pot's Cambodia, nor Tanzania in Idi Amin's Uganda, nor India against genocide in east Pakistan, nor the USA and its coalition against the predations of Milosevic in Kosovo.
For the main problem with fetishising the Security Council, Mark Steyn says it simply:
The problem is, by the time you've gone through the UN, everyone's dead.(9) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:51 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
First, we spent two nights at the Inn at Meander Plantation, a bed & breakfast about half-way between Orange and Culpeper. The main house, built in the 18th century, was once the home of Col. Joshua Fry, commander of the Virginia militia. Fry's second-in-command was a young major by the name of George Washington.
It is hard to match the Inn for either comfort or aesthetics. In addition, there are extensive grounds and even a few hiking trails. We also enjoyed a five-course dinner at the Inn's restaurant, not to mention a gourmet breakfast both mornings.
Also in a culinary vein, we enjoyed lunch at It's About Thyme in Culpeper, which has a Cordon Bleu-certified chef even though is in semi-rural Virginia. Further south, we also enjoyed lunch at Orange's Elmwood at Sparks. There are no French cooking certificates on the wall, but the food is superb. I had the Hawaiian barbecue over focaccia with homemade cole slaw.
Switching over to wine, I highly recommend a visit to Pearmund Cellars outside of Warrenton. I bought bottles of both their Viognier and Cabernet Franc, although every one of the seven wines I tasted was excellent, and the staff was both friendly and informative.
Finally, our tour of the countryside did involve at least one activity that had nothing to do with food. On Saturday afternoon, we visited the moderately famous Luray Caverns near the town of (you guessed it) Luray. The caverns are filled with a jagged array of stalactites and stalagmites, including pillars that stretch more than forty feet from floor to ceiling.
The only downside is that in order to protect the caverns, all visitors must take a guided tour that is expensive ($19 for one hour) and a little bit cheesy. One can only imagine what it was like for the original discovers of the caves to wander through them on their own, discovering these natural works of art.
Now, you may think I sound like an advertisment sponsored by the Virginia tourism boad. But I can't help it. Virginia's a great place. (7) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:21 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
And with regard to Hillary's foreign policy, since you asked, I will add my two cents to the subject. First, let me reframe the question. The challenge with Hillary (as with so many politicians) is to separate the tactical opinions from the heartfelt principles. Thus, Nitin's summary of Hillary's positions on recent issues of interest is accurate, but doesn't provide enough information to help sift out the tactical from the heartfelt.
To that end, I think Aron is correct to identify an interest in women's issues in the developing world, especially micro-lending programs, as a subject in which Hillary has had a long-standing and unwavering interest. In the first half of her autobiography (which was way too boring to finish), Hillary extensively describes her efforts on behalf of women in the developing world. Even so, I think it's fair to say that being for micro-lending tells us almost nothing about the broader principles that may or may not shape Hillary's ideas about foreign policy. I support micro-lending and so do many folks further to my right.
Going back the autobiography (or at least it's first half), I feel pretty comfortable saying that Hillary has nothing much to say about foreign policy or national security at all. In my review, I pointed out some of the vague comments she made about Vietnam, as well as other foreign policy issues, in order to illustrate just how unformed Hillary's approach to foreign affairs seems to be.
On domestic issues, the story is the same. The autobiography mentions a number of policy issues its author favored or opposed, but makes no effort to describe any broader principles fundamental to her outlook. What is clear from the book, however, is that Hillary will go to almost any length to avoid describing herself as "liberal.". Not surprisingly, Kos & Co. are infuriated.
By the same token, Hillary's refusal to renounce her initial support for the war in Iraq has antagonized much of the Democratic base. I find it very interesting to watch Hillary on this issue, since my working hypothesis is that she saw exactly how John Kerry was raked over the coals for being inconsistent, and believes that it is more important now to play to independent voters by being consistent than to play to her base by breathing fire.
In other words, I think that tactical considerations are the decisive factor for Hillary, but her timeline has always extended out to 2008, so she doesn't rush about taking all sorts of inconsistent positions like your average legislator.
But that is all speculation about Hillary's mindset, so the presentation of evidence is liable to chane my mind. In the comments below, I would be especially glad to hear from anyone who can point to other foreign policy issues on which Hillary took a consistent position before 9/11. (3) opinions -- Add your opinion
Sunday, May 21, 2006
# Posted 3:22 PM by Patrick Porter
Oh yeah, one question:
I've been researching Hillary Clinton's opinions. My first impressions are that she is quite focused on certain issues in domestic policy (childhood health, women's emancipation), as First Lady she was involved in some worthwhile projects (heritage preservation). And to her credit, she spoke out against the maltreatment of Afghani women under the Taleban.
But on the whole, she doesn't really seem to stand for anything in foreign policy.
Is that fair, or am I missing something? (7) opinions -- Add your opinion
Friday, May 19, 2006
# Posted 11:23 AM by Patrick Porter
(I've only been able to find the official link which only gives part of the full article, if anyone can find the article in full online, I'd be grateful for the link.)
Anyway, the value of the essay is that it provides some historical perspective on what is often glibly dismissed as a natural/inevitable alliance. And it qualifies the popular image of a warlike USA being constrained by a more diplomatic Britain, reminding us that since world war two, it has often been America playing conciliator and moderator to British belligerence.
It may be that during the debate over Iraq in 2002-3, to borrow Robert Kagan's phrase, it seemed that Americans are from Mars and Europeans from Venus. But it was not ever thus:
A look back over recent decades reveals that the United States is by no means always the most ready to resort to armed force. The recently published Human Security Report, a study of modern conflict financed in part by the Canadian government, contains a table ranking countries according to their participation in international wars since 1946. The United Kingdom tops the list with 21 instances, followed by France (19) and the United States (16).As Freedman notes, some of these campaigns have been colonial struggles, others humanitarian interventions. But for the Brits,
the problem with Washington since World War II has been not so much its predilection for using military force as a first resort as its hesitation and uncertainty when going to war. Both Blair and his predecessor John Major, were frustrated by President Bill Clinton's reluctance to put U.S. troops in harm's way in Bosnia and then Kosovo. In 1956, it was the United States - standing up for the principles of international law and using its economic muscle to restrain foolish adventurism - that prevented the United Kingdom and France from seeing through the reoccupation of the Suez Canal.This pattern in some respects continued in the Falklands campaign of 1982. The American government was cultivating (or at least trying not to alienate) the junta that ruled Argentina, viewing it as a cold war ally that could help its anticommunist operations in Central America. They also doubted that the British could prevail.
As it turns out, they underestimated Moscow's wariness of the Argentinian dictatorship, which was widely reviled by other leftist groups in Latin America, and overestimated the willingness of the Argentinian militarists to contemplate shifting sides in any event.
Crucially, there were no automatic reflexes or predetermined postures, and the military outcome was not taken for granted on either side. The US administration was triangulating between two compelling interests. The British government was careful to convey its dismay at the American stance while trying to limit the strain on the relationship.
Moscow was reluctant to pursue the mirage of an Argentinian rapprochement that could have strained its own standing with other Latin American revolutionaries.
So the war was much more than 'two bald men fighting over a comb', but a test of relationships between allies, and their ability to survive their own miscalculations. (5) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 9:31 AM by Patrick Porter
Putting it mildly, I disagree with some of Churchill's opinions. But if I ever get tagged with abuse like that, I'll be a happy man. (5) opinions -- Add your opinion
Thursday, May 18, 2006
# Posted 10:26 AM by Patrick Porter
A PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS: Bush is a beleaguered President. His approval rating has plummetted to Nixonian levels. Violence in
The immigration debate has an impact on the issue directly, but also has a wider significance for American civil society. An acrimonious and polemical debate will sour and embitter the public space in other areas, and make sober debate more difficult on other questions.