Saturday, June 28, 2003

Well, just one post

I was going to write a quick post to say that Budapest is awesome, but then I read a Washington Post story stating that U.S. forces have put a stop to all local elections in Iraq, and that set me off.

The key grafs:

U.S. military commanders have ordered a halt to local elections and self-rule in provincial cities and towns across Iraq, choosing instead to install their own handpicked mayors and administrators, many of whom are former Iraqi military leaders.

The decision to deny Iraqis a direct role in selecting municipal governments is creating anger and resentment among aspiring leaders and ordinary citizens, who say the U.S.-led occupation forces are not making good on their promise to bring greater freedom and democracy to a country dominated for three decades by Saddam Hussein.

The go-slow approach to representative government in at least a dozen provincial cities is especially frustrating to younger, middle-class professionals who say they want to help their communities emerge from postwar chaos and to let, as one put it, "Iraqis make decisions for Iraq."

"They give us a general," said Bahith Sattar, a biology teacher and tribal leader in Samarra who was a candidate for mayor until that election was canceled last week. "What does that tell you, eh? First of all, an Iraqi general? They lost the last three wars! They're not even good generals. And they know nothing about running a city."

The most recent order to stop planning for elections was made by Maj. Gen. Ray Odierno, commander of the 4th Infantry Division, which controls the northern half of Iraq. It follows similar decisions by the 3rd Infantry Division in central Iraq and those of British commanders in the south.

In the capital, Baghdad, U.S. officials never scheduled elections for a city government, but have said they are forming neighborhood councils that at some point will play a role in the selection of a municipal government.

L. Paul Bremer, the civil administrator of Iraq, said in an interview that there is "no blanket prohibition" against self-rule. "I'm not opposed to it, but I want to do it a way that takes care of our concerns. . . . Elections that are held too early can be destructive. It's got to be done very carefully."

If you read further, it's clear that what scares Bremer and others is the prospect of radical parties -- which are now better organized -- taking power.

I can see this, except it's also true that radical parties tend to act more like moderates once they face the prospect of governing rather than campaigning. By halting the electoral process -- and rewarding ex-generals -- the current policy seems to do little more than successfully alienating the people you most want to motivate in Iraq.

posted by Dan at 08:47 AM | Trackbacks (0)

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Empty and stupid threat of the year

Here's more evidence that the Iraq debate is driving people batty -- A Financial Times article on Congressional reaction to European opposition on Iraq. Most of it falls into the garden-variety blowing-off-steam category. Then there's this idiocy:

His [House Speaker Dennis Hastert's] comments reflect a growing resentment in Congress that may yet result in punitive legislation, directed mainly at France but also extending to other European countries, including Germany....

Reflecting the toughening attitude, Bill Thomas, the powerful Republican chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, has already suggested that if the EU does not substantially reform its agricultural policy the Congress may vote to leave the World Trade Organisation. Congress is due to vote on renewing the US's WTO membership in 2005. (emphasis added)

Look, I could yammer on endlessly about all the reasons why this move is idiotic, but it boils down to this: pulling out would be stupid for selfish reasons. At this moment, the U.S. receives more benefits from the WTO than any other international organization -- why destroy it? Furthermore, such a move would succeed in causing a collapse of the global trade regime, a triumph for EU protectionism, and perhaps a global depression. That's a recipe for instability and violence -- not in our interests either.

I must congratulate Thomas for coming up with the single dumbest foreign policy proposal of 2003. I seriously doubt anyone else will be able to top it in the next nine months.

UPDATE: Mickey Kaus has more on another Thomas policy initiative.

posted by Dan at 02:31 PM | Trackbacks (0)

The half-life of the antiwar movement

George Packer has an excellent piece in today's New York Times Magazine on the network of antiwar movements. Eli Pariser, a staffer at one of the larger antiwar groups, is the likeable protagonist of the piece. Read it to get Packer's main thesis, but here are three vignettes to chew on:

1) The origins of the antiwar movement: According to Packer, "On the day after Sept. 11, Pariser, who was living outside Boston at the time, sent an e-mail message to a group of friends that urged them to contact elected officials and to advocate a restrained response to the terror attacks -- a police action in the framework of international law. War, Pariser believed, was the wrong answer; it would only slaughter more innocents and create more terrorists."

I wonder three things -- a) Does Pariser now acknowledge that Operation Enduring Freedom was "a police action in the framework of international law"? Or was that action just too violent for his tastes? b) Given the success of Enduring Freedom, and the more fragmented nature of post-9/11 Al Qaeda attacks, does Pariser still think military action was the wrong answer? c) Would the people that form the backbone of the antiwar movement ever justify the use of force to advance the cause of freedom?

2) The prejudices of the antiwar movement: I love the condescension that drips from this quotation: "he [Pariser] found that opinion polls and political rhetoric didn't come close to doing justice to Americans' beliefs. 'There's all this gloss and spin and whatever, and then there's actually what people think,' he told me. 'Even when we talked to people who are racists, pro-gun folks, I couldn't make myself dislike them just because of their political views.'" (my italics)

Maybe I'm misreading an admittedly vague phrasing, but it sounds to me like Pariser thinks that racists are either identical to or just as bad as pro-gun folks. I can't believe Glenn Reynolds hasn't commented on this yet. [Well, now he has--ed.]

3) The shallowness of the antiwar movement: One of Packer's closing grafs:

"A young woman from Def Poetry Jam shouted: 'We send our love to poets in Iraq and Palestine. Stay safe!' The notion that there is little safety in Iraq and, strictly speaking, there are no poets -- that the Iraqi people, while not welcoming the threat of bombs, might be realistic enough to accept a war as their only hope of liberation from tyranny -- was unthinkable. The protesters saw themselves as defending Iraqis from the terrible fate that the U.S. was preparing to inflict on them. This assumption is based on moral innocence -- on an inability to imagine the horror in which Iraqis live, and a desire for all good things to go together. War is evil, therefore prevention of war must be good. The wars fought for human rights in our own time -- in Bosnia and Kosovo -- have not registered with Pariser's generation. When I asked Pariser whether the views of Iraqis themselves should be taken into account, he said, 'I don't think that first and foremost this is about them as much as it's about us and how we act in the world.'" (My italics)


Despite my extracts, Pariser seems like a genuinely nice guy. The thing is, genuinely nice guys with such an inward and uninformed view of world politics scare the crap out of me.

posted by Dan at 02:31 PM | Trackbacks (0)

A working vacation

Blogging will range from intermittent to nonexistent for the next week. I'm off with the blogwife to Budapest for a conference. [Sure, it's all work to you--ed. No, really, check the program -- I'm working for a few days.] A few days of vacation after that.

Seems like the time for bloggers to go on vacation -- Virginia Postrel and Matthew Yglesias are also on hiatus.

What to do while I'm away? A few suggestions:

1) Check some new blogs out. If you are interested in global political economy, go check out this blog. Robert Tagorda at Boomshock is also generating some high-quality output.

2) Turn off the computer and read a book. My spouse once told me that the only difference between me working and me on vacation is that there's a different book in my hands. So, in quasi-homage to Brink Lindsey's retirement from blogging right after he published his critical review of books read during the past year, here's what I'm bringing with me to Budapest to read:

The Future of Freedom, by Fareed Zakaria [Didn't you already bash this book here, here, and here?--ed. No, I critiqued the core ideas that Zakaria presented when he was in town before the book had come out. In response to a personal request by the author, however, I want to read it in print.

Prague, by Arthur Phillips. It's novel that actually takes place in Budapest.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, by Michael Chabon.

Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, by J.K. Rowling. [Yeah, this book really needs your plug--ed.]

The Paradox of American Power, by Joseph Nye.


posted by Dan at 10:52 AM | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Michael Kinsley flunks logic class

Here's how Kinsley's latest Slate essay starts:

Admission to a prestige institution like the University of Michigan or its law school is what computer types call a "binary" decision. It's yes or no. You're in, or you're out. There is no partial or halfway admission. The effect of any factor in that decision is also binary. It either changes the result or it doesn't. It makes all the difference, or it makes none at all. Those are the only possibilities.

For any individual, the process of turning factors into that yes-or-no decision doesn't matter. Any factor that changes the result has the same impact as if it were an absolute quota of one. It gets you in, or it keeps you out. And this is either right or it is wrong. The process of turning factors into a result doesn't matter here, either. In this sense, the moral question is binary, too.

Now, while I actually agree with Kinsley that "O'Connor's opinion... sinks back into a vat of fudge," the logic he uses above is incorrect.

Let's ignore the concept of the wait-list and grant Kinsley's point that admission is a binary decision. His next logical leap to assert that each factor has a binary quality because, "it either changes the result or it doesn't. It makes all the difference, or it makes none at all."

What Kinsley is describing is a necessary and sufficient condition: if X, then Y, if not X, then not Y. However, many admissions criteria are necessary but not sufficient. For example, it's safe to say that you cannot get into a good law school with a felony record. Not having a felony record is a necessary condition, but it does not make "all the difference"; it's not sufficient.

Other admissions criteria are sufficient but not necessary. For example, if an applicant had a letter of recommendation from William Rehnquist saying "this is the brightest undergraduate I've met," that person will be accepted. However, it's not necessary to have such a letter to be accepted.

One can parse conditions further. There are SUNI conditions -- sufficient but unnecessary parts of a necessary but insufficient condition. There are also INUS conditions -- insufficient but necessary parts of an unnecessary but sufficient condition.

Race, in the Michigan admissions criteria, is a INUS condition. To be let in for reasons of diversity, it's necessary for the person to be a minority. There are other criteria that must be satisfied -- no felonies, remember. Race, in and of itself, is not a necessary and sufficient condition.

[Er, does this actually matter?--ed. Let me ruminate on that. I'll update this post if it does. The abuse of logic bugged me, however.]

UPDATE: The abuse of logic bugged Kieran Healy in exactly the same way.

posted by Dan at 08:03 PM | Trackbacks (0)

Affirmative action links for the day

Robert Tagorda has a first-person account of the myriad absurdities of the diversity rationale for affirmative action.

I disagree with some of what Orlando Patterson wrote in his Sunday New York Times essay, but he does an excellent job of spelling out the problems with the emphasis on diversity:

while diversity is a goal that deserves to be pursued in its own right, it was a major strategic error for African-American leaders to have advocated it as the main justification for affirmative action. In doing so, they greatly expanded the number of groups entitled to preferences — including millions of immigrants whose claims on the nation pale in comparison to those who have been historically discriminated against. Such a development understandably alarmed many whites who were otherwise prepared to turn a pragmatic blind eye to their principled concerns about affirmative action.

Using diversity as a rationale for affirmative action also distorts the aims of affirmative action. The original, morally incontestable goal of the policy was the integration of African-Americans in all important areas of the public and private sectors from which they had been historically excluded. But if diversity is the goal, the purpose of affirmative action shifts from improving the condition of blacks to transforming America into a multicultural society. Thus the pursuit of inclusion is replaced by the celebration of separate identities....

The gravest danger, however, and what perhaps alarms the majority most, is the tendency to view affirmative action as a permanent program for preferred minorities and, simultaneously, the refusal even to consider it a topic for public discourse. Indeed, among the black middle class, especially on the nation's campuses, blind support for affirmative action has become an essential signal of ethnic solidarity and commitment.

Then there's Dahlia Lithwick's logical demolition of O'Connor's majority opinion. It's no use excerpting it -- just read the whole thing.

posted by Dan at 04:54 PM | Trackbacks (0)

Humorous links for the day

The Boondocks confirms what I've long suspected.

This site had me giggling for a good long while (link via Time).

Finally, Gawker posts about Tucker Carlson admitting he put his foot in his mouth and now he's going to have to do the same thing with his shoe. Points to Carlson for being a good sport about it.

posted by Dan at 04:46 PM | Trackbacks (0)

Blix's revenge

Hans Blix is currently on a gloating tour before he retires as head of UNMOVIC -- and he's certainly got a right to, at this point. His latest stop was the Council on Foreign Relations:

Blix, whose deliberate investigation of Iraq's suspected cache of unconventional weapons frustrated some U.S. officials, threw a jab at the Bush administration, which before the war issued several statements asserting that Iraq possessed such weapons.

"It is somewhat puzzling that you could have 100 percent certainty about the weapons of mass destruction's existence and zero certainty about where they are," Blix said. "We felt that the intelligence did not turn out to be very impressive," he said. "Shaky was the word I used."

At another point, Blix, referring to the U.N. inspections that started in November and ended in March, said that "three-and-a-half months for new inspections was a rather short time before calling it a day."

"And especially when we now see that the United States government is saying that you have to have a bit of patience" as American forces search for Iraqi weapons, he added. "These things take time."

Before the critics start whopping it up too much, however, consider this:

Blix added that not only the United States and Britain believed before the war that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, but so did many other countries, including Sweden and Germany.

As to why Saddam failed to prove he had destroyed all such weapons--if in fact that was the case--and thereby perhaps avoid an invasion, Blix said that was really "a big question."

posted by Dan at 04:01 PM | Trackbacks (0)

Duty, joy, and blogging

Eugene Volokh on bloggers and biases:

It's certainly good when people are fair-minded and clear-headed enough to criticize people on their side, and we do especially respect people who act this way. I certainly try to criticize conservatives and libertarians when I think such criticism is warranted.

But I think it's a mistake to demand that bloggers be evenhanded in their criticism. Blogging is something that people do for fun. It has to compete with other things -- family, work, reading, sleep.

And usually it's more fun to criticize your adversaries than to criticize your friends. I wish this weren't so, but I think that (at least for most people) it is. Sometimes one might do it out of a sense of duty, a feeling that people in each movement should police their own: That was one reason I complained (fruitlessly) about the Cynthia McKinney misquotes coming from conservative commentators. But the more one blogs out of duty, the more likely it is that one will just lose the desire to blog.

So, yes, people's own political bias is one of the things determining whom they choose to spend their scarce time criticizing.

Eugene is factually correct about the inclination of bloggers -- hence my general silence about the Bush tax cut. However, for scholar-bloggers, I don't think it's that easy to dismiss the notion of obligation altogether.

In my day job as one who publishes and teaches international relations, I feel a duty to acknowledge opposing arguments or contradictory facts. If I don't, then my papers won't get published in good journals and my teaching approaches hackery.

This doesn't affect the choice of what scholar-bloggers write about (Eugene's point), but it should affect the content of their posts. No one can rebut every opposing argument, but the good ones demand acknowledgment and a good intellectual wrestle.

Does this make blogging less fun? Not for me. I like an old-fashioned rant as much as the next blogger, but I like it even better when I acknowledge the points made on the other side of the debate but still win the larger argument.

Finally, there's something of an obligation here. For all of the talk about the Blogosphere as an egalitarian community, hierarchies still exist. It's easier to attract readers when your day job carries some signal of expertise, and being a professor at the University of Chicago is that kind of day job (Many academics forget this, because they tend to socialize only with other academics. When everyone you know has a Ph.D. or is working towards one, it tends to lose its luster. Outside such social clusters, it's a different story altogether). People can point to graduate students or recent undergraduates as exceptions, but their educational affiliations pack a powerful credential.

Because I know that part of what attracts my readers is my profession -- not to mention my acute awareness that several members of that profession will be reading these words -- does create a sense of obligation.

In choosing my topics, I'm never going to be an equal-opportunity blogger. Once I've chosen the topic, however, duty calls [Even on posts like this one?--ed. Well, most topics.]

posted by Dan at 03:12 PM | Trackbacks (0)


Permalinks not working. New Blogger interface disappointing.

Rage at Blogger.... growing.

Desire to discard possessive pronouns and good grammar increasing.

posted by Dan at 02:35 PM | Trackbacks (0)

"Fibber, dumb-ass, or panderer?"

That's Andrew Sullivan's question about Richard Gephardt. According to multiple news sources -- all courtesy of Eugene Volokh -- Gephardt said the following at a candidate forum sponsored by Jesse Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH Coalition in Michigan yesterday:

When I'm president, we'll do executive orders to overcome any wrong thing the Supreme Court does tomorrow or any other day.

Dennis Kucinich made a similar statement.

Here's Volokh's assessment

Do we really want a President who thinks that the President has the power to overcome "any wrong thing the Supreme Court does" using an Executive order? I know lots of people think various actions of the Bush Administration are unconstitutional; I too disagree with some of the Administration's positions, for instance on the alleged power to detain all unlawful combatants (including U.S. citizens captured on U.S. soil) with no judicial review. I hope the Supreme Court agrees, and decides against the Administration. But I'm pretty confident that if the Supreme Court does so decide, this Administration will comply with the Supreme Court's order.

Gephardt and Kucinich are promising that they'll flout those orders. Seems to me that they should be taken to task for this, and severely.

Indeed. However, I'm even more alarmed by Gephardt's casual assumption that he knows more about constitutional law than the Supreme Court. Shudder.

By the way, I'd have to go with "panderer."

posted by Dan at 10:45 AM | Trackbacks (0)

Monday, June 23, 2003

How France helps the world's poor

I blogged earlier this month about French efforts to derail the "development round" of WTO talks. The Economist has the latest on this story:

Unfortunately, it is not just European consumers whose pockets are hit by the EU's spending of over euro40 billion a year to subsidise agriculture. Farmers in the poor world are doubly hurt. They must compete against subsidised European stuff. And even then their access to European markets is severely impeded. Tackling the western world's farm protectionism (meaning, above all, the EU's) has become a critical issue for the World Trade Organisation's latest attempt to foster liberalisation, known as the Doha round. A top American says bluntly that if the EU cannot agree to a package of agricultural reforms before a crucial WTO meeting in September, Doha will be “in deep, deep trouble”....

This week the EU's farm ministers were locked in traditional all-night negotiations, picking apart the proposals of Franz Fischler, the Union's commissioner for agriculture. France, whose receipts of some euro9 billion a year in farm subsidies make it the largest single recipient of CAP funds, has once again been leading the opposition....

The beauty of France and the glories of its food and wine are indeed splendid, and help make the country the world's most popular tourist destination. But the idea that the CAP is all about helping rustic smallholders to keep making rare cheeses has very little to do with reality. In fact, 80% of the EU's farm subsidies go to the 20% of the Union's farmers with the biggest farms. Because EU subsidies are linked to production, they encourage ugly, intensive, industrial farming. The people the CAP helps most are big businessmen with vast fields of sugar beet in northern France or miles of bright-yellow oil-seed rape in southern England....

The fact that France opposes these reforms gives the lie to its government's argument that its support for the CAP is all about a principled desire to defend the unique lifestyle of la France profonde. The fact is that France is extremely proficient at intensive farming and it is intensive farmers who stand to lose most from Mr Fischler's reforms. This concern, added to the French government's fear of enraging its notoriously irascible farmers, is the real motivation behind France's refusal to contemplate real reform of the CAP.

[Isn't it hypocritical to blast France when the U.S. has its agricultural subsidies?--ed. Look at this chart and you'll see that U.S. subsidies are considerably smaller than the those in the EU, Japan, South Korea, or Scandinavia]

More on this from the Financial Times and the EU Observer -- which observes that The French stance "is isolated among European partners."

posted by Dan at 05:04 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

Dean's debut

Howard Dean officially announced his candidacy for President today. Here's a link to his announcement speech.

We'll see if Dean can recover from his Meet the Press fiasco yesterday. Here's The Note's assessment:

Yesterday, Howard Dean failed miserably in the eyes of all but 10 members of the Gang of 500 by performing - by Gang standards - absolutely unfabulous in a key Beltway ritual....

To say Tim Russert was significantly more prepared for the interview than Howard Dean would be to insult Tim....

Besides being evasive, Dean left himself vulnerable from the left, right, or both on the military, gay marriage, Social Security, and more.

He looked thin-skinned, unprepared, stuttering. His odd position on whether he had apologized to Bob Graham defied understanding.

If you think either ABC or myself is exaggerating, read the transcript. My favorite part:

Russert: Well, you apologized to Bob Graham.
Dean: No, I didn’t.
Russert: You called the AP and recanted the statement.
Dean: I called the AP and said, “I’m sorry I said that.”
Russert: Well, that’s an apology.
Dean: No, it’s not.
Russert: “I’m sorry I said it” is not an apology?
Dean: I didn’t actually say I’m sorry. I said, “I shouldn’t have said it because it’s not my business to handicap the races.”

To be fair, I think the press is exaggerating Dean's inability to recall the exact number of U.S. troops in either Iraq or Afghanistan.

Still, not an auspicious debut.

UPDATE: Pejman Yousefzadeh highlights another recent Dean gaffe.

posted by Dan at 03:38 PM | Trackbacks (0)

More on Iranian bloggers

This San Francisco Chronicle story (link via Sullivan) discusses how new media are bolstering Iranian protestors.

This Christian Science Monitor story (link via Tom looks at Iranian bloggers, including Lady Sun, described by the Monitor as the "emotional voice of Iran's Generation X." She's not very happy with CNN's headline editors.

posted by Dan at 11:56 AM | Trackbacks (0)

Iraq and WMD

Elaine Sciolino makes a provocative point in yesterday's New York Times -- that regime change in Iran would not necessarily spell the end of its nuclear ambitions:

Before he was overthrown by an Islamic revolution in 1979, Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi of Iran said that his country would have nuclear weapons "without a doubt and sooner than one would think."

In the late 1970's, in fact, Iran and Israel discussed a plan to adapt for Iranian use surface-to-surface missiles that could be fitted with nuclear warheads, according to documents discovered in Tehran after the revolution. The documents described conversations between Israeli and Iranian officials about the plan, which was kept secret from the United States.

So if the monarchy had lasted longer, Iran might have become a nuclear power years ago. As George Tenet, the director of central intelligence, testified to Congress early this year, "No Iranian government, regardless of its ideological leanings, is likely to abandon" programs to develop weapons of mass destruction "that are seen as guaranteeing Iran's security."....

Iran has been blessed and cursed with a strong national identity, bountiful natural resources, an ancient intellectual and cultural tradition, and a strategic location. It shares borders with Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkey and the former Soviet republics of Central Asia, and has a 1,570-mile coastline on the Persian Gulf. It has long seen itself as a regional superpower. So an American campaign to persuade or coerce Iran to abandon nuclear weapons that does not consider its security concerns risks appearing unrealistic and futile.

Is Sciolino correct?

On the one hand, number of democratic governments that overthrew unrepresentative regimes -- South Africa, Argentina, Brazil, even Ukraine and Belarus in the early 1990s -- did voluntarily abandon their nuclear weapons programs.

However, none of those countries were in the Middle East.

posted by Dan at 11:21 AM | Trackbacks (0)

The WMD question

Greg Whyte and David Adesnik have some thoughts on the state of the debate. Worth a read.

I've stayed silent on this issue, because my support for going to war was not related to the immediacy of the WMD problem. Even if Iraq was WMD-free by 2003, no sane person engaged in the debate on Iraq doubted that Saddam Hussein was going to make every effort to acquire such weapons if and when he could. Just because a house is cleaned once doesn't mean that dust will never reappear.

I supported the war for other reasons:

1) What we did in 1991 needed to be fixed. President Bush urged Iraqis to rise up and overthrow Saddam. 17 of 18 provinces in Iraq did so. We did nothing -- actually, worse than nothing, since we tolerated infractions of the no-fly zones -- while Saddam viciously put down those uprisings among the Kurds, Shi'a, and Marsh Arabs.

Chomsky types tend to blame the U.S. for every wrong committed everywhere. This, however, was a case of the U.S. government encouraging people to risk their lives and then sitting on its hands because the uprising was perceived to be messier than an anticipated military coup. The cause-and-effect link here was pretty tight, and the effect was devastating to the Iraqi people. This was a debt that needed to be repaid.

2) All of the other policy options stunk. It's important to remember that the containment option was deteriorating day by day even before 9/11. France, Russia, and China were openly agitating for an end to the sanctions regime. The U.S. was deemed responsible for the mass immiseration of the Iraqi people. The presence of U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia were leading to discomfiting policy externalities.

War was not a great option. But it was better than the other alternatives.

posted by Dan at 11:06 AM | Trackbacks (0)

Sunday, June 22, 2003

While I was away....

Not blogging for a couple of days generated two wildly contradictory impulses. The first was the rather pleasant sense of leisure. Not having to have an opinion on anything or everything was a nice respite. As Michael Kinsley recently observed, competition in the the opinion industry has accelerated its pace:

There may be a few ancient pundits such as George Will who still follow the traditional guild practices: days in the library making notes on 3-by-5 cards, half a dozen lunches at the club with key sources, an hour spent alone in silence with a martini and one's thoughts and only then does a perfectly modulated opinion take its lovely shape. Most of us have no time for that anymore. It's a quick surf around the Net, a flip of the coin, and out pops an opinion, ready-to-go except perhaps for a bit of extra last-minute coarsening.

Mark Jordan, in a lovely piece of writing, conveys the problem an academic sometimes faces in trying to join the opinion mafia:

There is a choice to be made between scholarship and media success. Scratch the overtaxed word "scholarship." The choice is between the kinds of thinking or writing possible in a university and the kinds permitted by the media. My ways are still not their ways. I have -- or am supposed to have -- that rarest privilege, leisure. Leisure lets me construct meanings in time, over time. What I think I know... takes time to lay out -- not because it is a long series of facts, but because it can only be seen after a long series of missteps and reversals, through grudging discoveries and skeptical assents. My conclusions can't have their meaning without the "hard," the frustrating approach to them. That approach can't be fit into news. No leisure is permitted in our news -- precisely because they are "leisure" media.

At the same time, I missed blogging -- it's just so much fun. Worse, I felt a pang of responsibility from not blogging. I got a fair amount of e-mail asking for posts, and as a good Jew I respond to guilt exceptionally well.

I'm optimistic enough to think that it is possible to engage in both quality scholarship and pithy opinion-making. So the blogging will continue, regardless of how much Blogger tries to thwart me.

UPDATE: Alas, Brink Lindsey appears close to blogging retirement for a reason I didn't mention above but certainly empathize with:

Let me make this clear: blogging has been a real kick. Writing about whatever I want, whenever I want, at whatever length I want, sending it out into the world immediately, and getting great feedback almost immediately after that. What's not to like?

The problem is that I don't have the time to do the blog as I'd like to do it -- while doing everything else I need and want to do with my time. I have all these ideas for things to post about, but I only get around to a tiny fraction of them. Which I find frustrating. Consequently, I've gone cold on the whole enterprise.

posted by Dan at 01:32 PM | Trackbacks (0)