Sunday, April 30, 2006

What You See/What You Read

What you see: Stephen Colbert hammering Bush and the Washington establishment as Bush smolders and the audience watches in awkward silence. What you read: George Bush light-heartedly mocks himself, is happy to be there. Oh and Stephen Colbert showed up too.. (The Post's similar account.) Blogs have gone gaga over Colbert's performance, but the mainstream media has hardly a word to say about it. It says everything about why blogs have invaded the turf of the regular media. The two-presidents thing was cute, but it was obviously not the compelling story of this event. I don't know who was ballsier, Colbert (who turned and looked Bush in the eye as he glibly delivered some of his harshest lines) or Mark Smith, the president of AP Radio, who invited Colbert to appear.

Monday, April 24, 2006

The Economist

Was just reading this series of articles on The Economist and thought, naturally enough about TBWJ. Though for a bunch of young tech savvy gentlemen such as yourselves the contents may not be shocking, it is a good bit of writing about the new media.

As long as I am linking to The Economist I think I will advertise a couple of other bits of their content there. Not all of their articles are freely available but enough are to make it well worth a weekly visit in my opinion (and they occasionally give you the option of watching an add in exchange for a day pass).

I thought this one was fairly good with regard to the current position of the Democratic Party. Though I have been intending to post a piece with my opinion as to why both of the parties suck so much and why the American people have become so polarized.

Another sweet Economist link is here. It's the original edition of The Economist from 1843 and an excellent argument in favor of liberal trade policies.

One final link. A quote in the media related Economist article linked above referring to Blogs as "the toilet walls of the internet" reminded me of a site I discovered this week. Ancient Roman graffiti.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

People Don't Like Being Threatened

It seems like I've written about this same issue many times before in the contexts of both Iran and Israel-Palestine. It is also largely applicable to Iraq. People in a country (or in any other context, for example a family) may have their differences. They may not like each other. They may want to see change. But you do not capitalize on those differences by threatening them. The only thing that will do is bring them together in unity against you. Of all the stupid things I've heard and read about the possibility of military action against Iran, the most irritatingly stupid has been the oft-repeated idea that the young people in Iran don't like the conservative clergy who run the country and will therefore welcome an invasion or, in the face of Western pressure, will overthrow the government. My god, have we not heard this before?

The Iranian clergy had real reason to worry about their future position after the 1998 election, and consequently they allowed some moderation in policies that they otherwise would not have. Our constant belligerence towards Iran since 2001 has put an end to that and has seen a moderate president Khatami replaced by an extremist Ahmadinejad, and talks of reform replaced by talks of nuclear weapons.

When Khatami won the 1998 election, the Clinton administration, after much deliberation, decided that the proper response was to do nothing. Any action taken in support of the reformists would only have served to taint them with the appearance of Western influence. It was a fight that belonged to the Iranian people, and one where the side we favored had a good chance of success. Patience was the proper course.

That opportunity for internal reform in Iran has now been squandered, and reformists will need years to recover. I can't say whether we can afford to wait years for them. But I can say with some confidence that we can choose to either maintain an aggressive posture (as is the present course) or hope for internal reform in Iran. There is no option that will allow both. We are rallying reformists and conservatives alike to the flag. If we back off and hope for reform, there is no guarantee that Iran won't get the bomb. In fact, Iran probably will. But if they really liberalize, and I think they might, even with the bomb, that is a far better outcome and a more permanent solution than will ever be achieved through an aggressive approach.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Glad We Got to the Bottom of That

You can all rest easy now. After months of investigation into the story that the CIA had secret overseas prisons where prisoners were being held incommunicado and possibly subject to torture, we've finally gotten to the bottom of this story. The CIA agent who leaked this information has been found and fired by the CIA. No word on whether the agent will be subject to further legal action. Hallelujah, go USA! Now you'll have to pardon me while I go sick up.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Was Brent Scowcroft This Cool When He Was In Office?

Because man, oh man he looks like a genius now. The idea that we should have a consistent policy on nuclear power rather than picking favorites and expecting every other country to jump on board with our judgments only seems obvious if you don't follow the news in the U.S., because here that concept is downright fricken revolutionary. And the idea we should try find common ground with the Security Council nations and attempt to defuse the situation instead of ratcheting up tension? Mindboggling. Where does this guy come up with it?

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Don't Be Stupid (Again)

James Fallows had another great article in The Atlantic, this time on potential military action against Iran. It's short and to the point, and, I think, well-argued. The bit about oil leverage was insightful, particularly in explaining the reluctance of the EU to push for strong sanctions.

Friday, April 14, 2006

McCain Madness

Just wanted to comment a little on all the John McCain discussion going around (inspired mostly by Howard Kurtz's obsession with covering it blow-by-blow in his Media Notes). I caught the interview with him on the Daily Show a couple weeks ago when McCain was going to speak at Liberty U. and Stewart told McCain that he was killing him. It was possibly the most absurd interview I've ever seen. I've been a huge McCain fan for a long time, and I still think he does a lot of good things in the Senate, outside the spotlight, that people tend to overlook (see my Lobbying Reform post of March 30), and I was really quite tolerant of his whoring himself to the Bush campaign in '04 as a matter of political necessity. I don't necessarily want to jump on the anti-McCain bandwagon, because I feel like a lot of it is sour grapes by people who never liked him and were just looking for a good excuse to vent. But I have to say he's coming awfully close to losing me, and if he keeps pushing for evangelical Christian support, he'll do just that. McCain has fought so hard and so long to maintain his integrity, I really can't express how disappointing it is to see him sell his soul now...

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Fiat Currency, Dollar Dominance, and the War on Terror

Texas congressman Ron Paul attempts to tie all the pieces together (and I do mean ALL the pieces). It's bit on the sketchy side, but there could be something to it... If nothing else, there's probably a top-selling novel in it.

Sidenote: I love this blog (the source of this link).

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Spare Us From Electable Candidates

So Kos is pumping some political consultant's early take on the '08 presidential election, and in particular the guy's 10-point guidelines for electoral success. Some of it manages to be non-stupid, but when I got to the last point I just about choked:

10. Winning is everything. And the only thing. As in 2004, Democrats want to win. Unlike 2004, they REALLY want to win. No candidate will secure the nomination whom they fear will lose to the Republican nominee. Electability is going to play a major role in 2008.

Didn't we go down this road already? I'm pretty sure we did, because David Brooks wrote this brilliant column on it two years ago (I think it was my favorite column of the election cycle). Now it must be acknowledged that our system encourages strategic voting. Certainly we've hashed that topic out in mind-numbing detail with Dave some time ago (the 'winner takes all vs. coalition government' argument). But this is just ridiculous.

As Brooks rightly notes, what we get is a bunch of Iowa liberals trying to predict who Palm Beach independents want to vote for. This would be strategic if their analysis wasn't so stultifyingly stupid. Invariably this leads to lots of primary voters watching TV and listening to pundits spewing out the breathtakingly idiotic conventional wisdom to find out who is "electable". But the TV pundits are watching the voters who are watching them (and are too stupid to find their way out of a paper bag on top of it). As Brooks again astutely points out, it's a gigantic post-modern circle-jerk, culminating in someone winning in Iowa and being anointed with the ultimate mark of electability, that of having just won an election. At this point the rest is perfunctory. I'll make one guarantee: the Democrats will end up with a more electable candidate if they vote for the candidate they feel in their hearts is the best candidate than they will if they play the electability game. God save us from another "electable" nominee. I don't think the party could survive it...