Friday, August 8, 2003

Hugh Hewitt's intriguing idea

I've taken Hugh Hewitt to task when he was wrong, so it's only fair to link to this brilliant suggestion:

When do you suppose it will strike some producer at Fox or MSNBC that they ought to launch "Blogweek," hosted by James, Glenn, and Virginia and featuring three minute segments with 10 different bloggers talking about their blogs? Instantly a cable show would have an audience with the complete attention of the web and the opinion class.

Try watching weekend cable. This show would dominate the weekend ratings as surely as Arnold did the news cycle this week.

Would it actually work? Maybe, maybe not. The largest blogs currently average less than 100,000 hits a day, so I'm not sure how large a built-in audience exists for this sort of thing. Still, by news channel standards, it's a decent starting point.

Plus, I wholeheartedly support any opportunity to see blue nail polish.

And if it didn't work out? There would be waves of media coverage about how the Blogosphere has jumped the shark, which would be followed by snarky blog posts mocking the media meme.

C'mon, MSNBC -- how could it be worse than Michael Savage?

If the news channels don't work out, the backup plan should be to encourage VH1 to start a monthly Behind the Blog feature.

posted by Dan at 06:19 PM | Comments (9) | Trackbacks (3)

Not a good sign for Ashcroft

Lawyer-bloggers are teeing off on the Justice Department. Glenn Reynolds has the roundup, and David Bernstein -- new to the Volokh Conspiracy -- provides the harshest rhetorical joust:

Let's see: little respect for state sovereignty (medical marijuana, same sex marriage, etc.), attempts to deny American citizens charged with terrorism-related offenses and arrested on U.S. soil access to federal courts, use and abuse of antiterrorism statutes for unrelated law enforcement purposes, and, as Instapundit reports, a nascent crackdown on that ever-present threat to American society, the pornography industry, in the middle of what is supposed to be a war on terrorism. Geez.

The best defense of Ashcroft that I've heard is that he's no Janet Reno. I don't think that's a particularly ringing endorsement.

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

Thoughts on the Iraqi resistance

My all-time favorite Simpsons line comes at the end of an episode when Marge repeatedly tries to offer what the moral of the story was. At which point the following exchange takes place:

Marge: Well... Then I guess the moral is the squeaky wheel gets the grease.
Lisa: Perhaps there is no moral to this story.
Homer: Exactly! Just a bunch of stuff that happened.

I bring this up in the wake of recent attacks, bombings, and assorted mayhem in Baghdad. Military spokesman, pundits, journalists, and yes, bloggers, are trying to fashion a coherent narrative to events on the ground (e.g., "Islamic terrorism is on the rise")when there may not be one, for two reasons:

1) There are disparate narratives across the country. One can acknowledge the chaos in Baghdad while still pointing out that market forces and first-hand accounts suggest that resistance is fading in other parts of the country.

2) There are disparate actors involved in the violent resistance. It seems increasing clear that Mickey Kaus and Hassam Fattah are correct in pointing out that there exist multiple forms of organized and disorganized resistance. There are a couple of sources for attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq -- Baathists, foreign terrorists, radical Shiites, tribal chiefs, Al Qaeda infiltrators, etc. Juan Cole provides a list of possible suspects, including Ahmed Chalabi, which seems like a hell of a stretch to me.

Another wrinkle in this mix is that areas like the Sunni Triangle -- in which U.S. forces exercise precarious control -- are more likely to experience violence. Stathis Kayvas' work on this subject is particularly illuminating. One summary of his research contains this point:

violence is likely to be motivated more
by petty everyday personal and local disputes than by grand impersonal hatreds; few people engage in acts of direct violence (e.g. killings) but many people engage in acts of indirect violence (e.g. denunciations); and people tend to willingly engage in indirectly violent behavior during civil wars because they tend to be strongly disinclined to engage in directly violent behavior in general.

My point? A lot of stuff is happening, and I doubt any single narrative will be able to explain it.


UPDATE: Josh Marshall has some similar thoughts on this issue.

posted by Dan at 11:04 AM | Comments (10) | Trackbacks (1)

Thursday, August 7, 2003

Media Bias(?)

Tim Noah links to a July 2003 Michael Tomasky paper put out by the Kennedy School's Shorenstein Center study to argue that the conservative media is more doctrinaire than the liberal media.

From the paper's executive summary:

This study of the partisan intensity of the nation's agenda-setting liberal and conservative editorial pages finds that while the pages are more or less equally partisan when it comes to supporting or opposing a given presidential administration's policy pronouncements, the conservative pages are more partisan-often far more partisan-with regard to the intensity with which they criticize the other side. Also, the paper finds, conservative editorial pages are far less willing to criticize a Republican administration than liberal pages are willing to take issue with a Democratic administration.

The methodology used in the paper is pretty solid. It compares editorial responses for two liberal papers (the Washington Post and New York Times) and two conservative papers (the Wall Street Journal and Washington Times) on matched sets of issues -- the Zoe Baird and Linda Chavez nominations, for example. Noah rightly quibbles with labeling the Post as a liberal paper but concludes:

Tomasky's findings hold up when you compare just the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. The Times supported Clinton 37 percent of the time and opposed him 37 percent of the time. The Journal, meanwhile, supported Bush 75 percent of the time and opposed him 3 percent of the time. The Journal opposed Clinton 83 percent of the time while the Times opposed Bush 68 percent of the time. The Journal praised Clinton 5 percent of the time while the Times praised Bush 8 percent of the time.

Tomasky is going to be the new executive editor for The American Prospect, so the right half of the blogosphere might be tempted to dismiss the study's findings. Some of them are probably not as generalizable as Tomasky thinks they are -- for example, Noah points out that editorial civility is likely to be a function of editorial page editor's personality rather than ideology. However, the final graf of Noah's piece has the ring of truth to it:

When the Brock piece came out, Chatterbox (then writing a media column for U.S. News) interviewed the conservative commentator David Frum about its thesis. Frum basically agreed with it. "What happens with the liberal press is that there are loyalties to causes," he said. That's correct. In Tomasky's study, the Times editorial page supported Clinton on policy matters 52 percent of the time, a mere 7 percentage points less than the Journal supported Bush. But, Frum added, "[w]ith conservatives, I suspect there is much more of a loyalty to people."

UPDATE: Let the debate commence!! Andrew Cline, Jim Miller, Jay Manifold, and PowerLineBlog all thake their whacks at the study. Their criticisms amount to:

a) Tomasky's own rhetoric is biased and nasty;
b) The sample size is too small;
c) The ten "matched" cases are not really matched; and
d) Tomasky is not on the cutting edge of rhetorical analysis.

(a) is correct but irrelevant -- what matters are the comparison of cases, not Tomasky's presentation style. (b) makes little sense -- obviously, one would prefer as large an N as possible, but controlled comparison -- which is what Tomasky does here -- is perfectly appropriate. (c) is a judgment call. I looked at the cases, and they seem pretty comparable to me -- but I'm sympathetic to arguments that some of the cases are not parallel. I have no doubt (d) is correct, and it's probably the best critique, but it doesn't necessarily vitiate his results.

posted by Dan at 03:14 PM | Comments (12) | Trackbacks (0)

Good economic news

Brad DeLong is on vacation, so I'll just step up and report the latest economic news:

America's business productivity soared in the second quarter of 2003 and new claims for unemployment benefits dropped to a six-month low last week, a double dose of good news as the economy tries to get back to full throttle

America's business productivity soared in the second quarter of 2003 and new claims for unemployment benefits dropped to a six-month low last week, a double dose of good news as the economy tries to get back to full throttle....

Thursday's report showed that people who kept their jobs made gains. Workers' real hourly compensation rose at a 2.9 percent rate in the second quarter, the biggest increase since the third quarter of 2000, and up from a 0.2 percent growth rate in the first quarter.

Companies' unit labor costs, meanwhile, fell at a rate of 2.1 percent in the second quarter, boding well for profit margins. That compared with a 2 percent rate of increase in the first quarter.

Not bad.

Of course, this news came out the same day as this Bob Herbert op-ed predicting economic catastrophe.

posted by Dan at 12:38 PM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)

What gets my neighborhood excited

The 15th edition of the Chicago Manual of Style -- published, of course by the University of Chicago Press -- will be released on August 15th. It's the first new edition since 1993.

I have no doubt this will elicit groans from those under the age of 18. who over the next few years will be receiving this weighty tome as a bar/bat mitzvah, confirmation, or graduation gift. However, according to the Chicago Tribune, my neighborhood's reaction has been somewhat different:

Even in this age of ubiquitous blogging and dress-down Fridays -- an age when rhetorical etiquette presumably is a quaintly touching anachronism, like a dance card at a cotillion -- the new version of the manual was eagerly awaited, said Jack Cella, general manager of the Seminary Co-Op bookstore in Hyde Park.

"For the past few years, it seemed like every second or third person who came in here wanted to know when the new edition was coming out," he said. "It's been one of the most anticipated new books in years." (emphasis added)

I will admit to some eagerness as well, if for no other reason than to see how they handle citations of electronic texts.

For more on this, there's a nice Q&A tool from the press, and Gary Lutz has already written a critique of the new grammar section for Slate.

posted by Dan at 11:18 AM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (2)

Wednesday, August 6, 2003

Jerry just picked the wrong race

Jerry Springer has decided not to run for the U.S. Senate seat in Ohio currently held by George Voinovich. Here's his explanation, according to Bloomberg:

"I fully recognize that as long as I am doing this show and don't have that separation, that message is not going to get through,'' Springer said. "What was becoming clear is that whatever I said always came back to me."

Contrast this with Mickey Kaus' recent observation about the California gubenatorial recall ellection:

The source of the recall's appeal appears to be similar to the source of a PowerBall lottery's appeal or American Idol's appeal: Anyone can play. .... Who needs the American Candidate reality show, which would bring the American Idol model to politics? This is a real American Candidate, and it's creating a powerful argument for lowering the filing requirements in all elections, so hundreds of citizens can run.

Poor Jerry -- if only he was from a state that understood him.

You know, October is a sweeps month... perhaps taking his show on a trip to Cali would be in the offing?

Just trying to make mischief....

UPDATE: Imagine the following guests for a Springer visit to California:

Arnold Schwarzenegger
Gary Coleman
Larry Flynt
Porn star Mary Carey [What, no links?--ed. Don't get your hopes up.]
Georgy Russell

Of course, Arianna Huffington and Michael Huffington would probably merit their own show.

posted by Dan at 05:45 PM | Trackbacks (0)

A dyspeptic Canadian

David Martin really doesn't like Canadian conservatives. He says the following in today's Chicago Tribune:

What began in the 1980s as an occasional Reagan-inspired polemic has grown into a panoply of Canadian-bred George Will wannabes. Media once filled with liberal and left-of-center columnists are now rife with young Canada bashers who would like nothing better than to turn us into the 51st state.

These FOWs (friends of W) take every opportunity to belittle Canada and praise the American way. Socialized medicine--bad. Free enterprise--good. Multilateralism--bad. Unilateralism--good.

Often children of privilege, Canada's print corps of self-styled compassionate conservatives bridles at the notion of cooperative federalism or government intervention. They belittle the very societal structures that gave them their privileged status and yearn for the more individualistic American society that will presumably yield them even greater riches.

David Frum, Mark Steyn, David Warren, Danielle Crittenden, Andrew Coyne and Rondi Adamson. These are just some of the Republicans-in-waiting who haven't met an American institution they didn't like.....

Take our young conservative commentators off our hands. They all want to be Americans anyway. So please, just let them. And if you'd like, we'd be happy to accept any of your old liberal commentators in return. Assuming you have any left, that is.

This rant is pretty amusing, given the lack of influence conservatives have in Canada. The Conservative Party has never recovered from it's decimation following the U.S.-Canada free trade agreement. The Liberal Party has been ascendant in Canadian politics for the last decade.

Apparently, that's not enough for Martin. Only when every Canadian writing anything about Canada is suitably liberal will this man rest.

Go read the whole op-ed -- it manages to combine some unusual traits -- bitterness and silliness.

posted by Dan at 03:01 PM | Comments (14) | Trackbacks (0)

It would be prudent to know more

Want to know the background to my latest TNR online essay?

In many ways, this article is a follow-up to my March TNR online article about the likelihood of building a democratic regime in Iraq. The embryonic version of this article came from this post.

Dennis Hastert provides a lovely example of pro-war supporters quoting Burke to advance their cause. UPDATE: Oliver Kamm informs me that this Burke quotation is an urban legend, i.e., Burke never uttered these words. This January 2002 essay by Martin Porter supports this assertion. [I wish you had found this out when writing the article -- it would have been a perfect opening--ed. No argument here.]

Postwar, click here for an antiwar critic quoting Burke to critique the postwar administration of Iraq, and here for an example of Islamic activists using Burke in a similar way.

Although I largely disagree with Fareed Zakaria's The Future of Freedom, it's still worth reading. I critiqued parts of Zakaria's argument here and here. Robert Kagan critiqued it with far more relish in his New Republic review (TNR subscribers only).

Larry Diamond's arguments about the viability of democracy in the developing world can be read at your leisure in this Policy Review article. For those who want to see more of the raw data upon which Diamond bases his argument, click to this longer version of the paper.

Here's the main RAND page for America's Role in Nation-Building: From Germany to Iraq -- the quote in the TNR article comes from this press release. While Paul Bremer keeps this book at his bedside table, Fred Kaplan argues in Slate that senior Bush administration officials were foolhardy to ignore the advice from its primary author, James Dobbins.

On commentary calling for the U.S. to admit it overreached and therefore pull out of Iraq, see this Hubert Locke essay from the Seattle Times from last month, and this Edward Luttwak op-ed from yesterday's Los Angeles Times.

Finally, for further reading on what Edmund Burke -- and other political theorists -- can teach us about the postwar administration of Iraq, go check out Stanley Kurtz's nuanced discussion of the topic in this Policy Review article, as well as a more embryonic version of the argument in City Journal. The greatest compliment I can pay to Kurtz's use of Burke is that it there was no way I could summarize it accurately in my TNR essay without going past my word limit.

Final caveat: although I have no doubt that my critics will heartily agree with this assessment, let me still get it on the record -- I have not nor will I ever claim to be an expert on Edmund Burke.

posted by Dan at 12:39 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (5)


My latest TNR online article is up -- it addresses critics of democracy promotion in general and specifically with regard to Iraq. Go check it out.

posted by Dan at 12:03 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

Testing -- one, two... sibilance...

Glenn Reynolds gets a new RX-8 -- I finally get my own web site. Such is the food chain of the blogosphere.

So take a look around. Note that I've added a comments feature -- we'll see how that works out. Also note that the posts that have been moved from Blogger have duplicate titles and such -- I'll try to iron that problem out over the next week or so.

In the meantime, enjoy!!

posted by Dan at 11:00 AM | Comments (7) | Trackbacks (2)

Tuesday, August 5, 2003

A critique of administration excesses

Last month I linked to a defense of the administration's homeland security policies in response to criticism from civil libertarians. Now, lots of links to examples of administration overreaching in the name of homeland or national security.

Virginia Postrel provides lots of links. Chief among them is Jacob Sullum's dissection of the executive branch's power grab with regard to the designation of "enemy combatants. The "good parts" version:

The requirement that the executive branch detain people only as authorized by Congress is grounded in the Constitution as well as in statute. The separation of powers means the president is supposed to enforce the law, not write it.

The Constitution specifically gives Congress, not the president, the authority to suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, which allows citizens to challenge their detention. Even Congress may suspend that privilege only when public safety requires it because of rebellion or invasion....

It might seem that the president's power grab, while alarming in principle, has not had much impact in practice, since so far only two citizens (that we know of) have been detained as enemy combatants. Yet the possibility of receiving that designation may already have made it impossible for anyone accused of terrorism to get a fair trial.

The government says the "Lackawanna Six," a group of young men arrested in upstate New York last fall, constituted an Al Qaeda "sleeper cell." But the details reported in the press suggest they were half-hearted wannabes rather than committed jihadists. Although they went through training in Afghanistan in the spring of 2001, they never hurt anyone and apparently did not plan to do so.

That does not make them innocent, but it suggests they did not deserve the sentences they received, which ranged from six-and-a-half to nine years. They decided that pleading guilty was preferable to risking indefinite confinement as enemy combatants. As one attorney told The Washington Post, "The defendants believed that if they didn't plead guilty, they'd end up in a black hole forever."

That sort of threat, which has no legal or constitutional basis, makes a mockery of justice.

Check out this Postrel post as well.

Then, there's the administration's penchant for excessive secrecy on all national security matters. This was on display last week with the President Bush's refusal to declassify portions of a Congressional report on the 9/11 attacks. Glenn Reynolds, however, points to an even more obvious example of this kind of behavior, as reported in the New York Times:

he Treasury Department said yesterday that it would decline to provide the Senate with a list of Saudi individuals and organizations the federal government has investigated for possibly financing Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups.

The action was the second in two weeks to set the White House and Congress at odds about the Saudis and federal intelligence-gathering related to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

Moreover, the move contradicted an assertion made on Thursday by a senior Treasury official, Richard Newcomb, who told the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee in a hearing on Saudi sponsorship of terrorism that the list was not classified and that his agency would turn it over to the Senate within 24 hours.

Yesterday evening, with senators still awaiting the list, the Treasury Department advised the committee that it would soon send a letter declaring the information classified and thus unavailable to the public.

"The information requested relates to ongoing U.S. government efforts to disrupt terrorist financing," Taylor Griffin, a department spokesman, said yesterday. "Public disclosure at this time would frustrate those efforts."

To be fair, the administration line on this is that Newcomb -- head of the Office of Foreign Assets Control -- was wrong about what was classified and what was not.

To be equally fair, Newcomb is a smart, plain-spoken career guy at Treasury -- not someone who would ordinarily misspeak. One wonders if the administration spin on this is related to other political developments at Treasury.

posted by Dan at 01:44 PM | Trackbacks (0)

Monday, August 4, 2003

How left is the Academy?

In reaction to this post and this post on the rarity of conservative academics, I've received a few e-mails rebutting the point. Here's a good example:

Apparently, public policy schools, law schools, economics departments, medical schools, and political science departments are no longer in academia. My recollection is that there are respectable numbers of Republicans in these precincts.

There are other departments, too, where Republicans (or those to their right!) still find their place in academia. Try the classics, or departments of European literature -- you'll almost certainly find folks who think in teems of blood and soil there. One such man I knew at Yale tended to play opera and mutter under his breath about the failure of the modern world to appreciate the achievements of Franco's Spain.

All of which is to say: enough self-pity, please! The Republican party currently controls the White House, both houses of Congress, seven of nine Supreme Court appointments, and a majority of the governors' offices.... Seems like an odd time for him [Brooks] to complain about being marginalized.

Two small points and one larger point in response.

Small point #1: Trust me when I say that there are not a lot of Republicans in political science departments.

Small point #2: With the exception of economics departments, I'd wager that this observation probably holds true for most departments within an arts and sciences faculty.

Large point: The e-mail is still correct. Point taken.

posted by Dan at 03:45 PM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (1)

The trouble with animus

Josh Marshall bats .500 in this post on Democratic animus towards the Bush administration. The key section:

There are more and more articles being written about the intense animus toward president Bush among Democratic partisans....

Here's what's weird about this, though: no one seems to mention how deeply this parallels the situation which prevailed through most of the 1990s between core Republicans and President Clinton. It wasn't simply that hardcore partisans then and now despised the president. But there was perhaps a third of the electorate that believed deeply in the president's illegitimacy (then Clinton, now Bush) and were driven further into that belief by the fact that they could not manage to get the rest of the electorate (say 60% or so) to see the man in the way they did. The difficulty of unmasking him became a sign of his political sins.

This was certainly the case with Bill Clinton. And there are at least hints of that now with Bush. If anything the depth of the enmity against Clinton was far more in-grown and aggrieved. But the parallel is so strong, the dynamics so similar, that the fact that it's gone so little mentioned really points to a blindspot among the folks who think up these ideas in the Washington press corps and commentariat.

Marshall is absolutely correct on the animus parallels. However, he whiffs in failing to mention the logical conclusion of this parallel -- that if the Democrats keep this up, they'll be out of power for the next five years.

Clinton-hating did not serve the Republicans well. Yes, the GOP took both houses of Congress in 1994, but that more to do with the combination of low voter turnout, the Contract with America, and the Clinton administration's early missteps than efforts to make Clinton look illegitimate. In 1996 and 1998, the Republican encouragement of the anti-Clinton hysteria achieved less than zero in terms of electoral results.

Say what you will about Bush's policies -- most of the public has a favorable view of him. A campaign dominated by over-the-top attacks on an incumbent president will likely alienate far more voters than it will attract.

Marshall is correct to point out that the Dems are not the first party to get bent out of shape about the sitting president. He should also have pointed out that Republican critics are neverthelesds correct in saying that this is not a good thing for the Dems' electoral chances.

UPDATE: A lot more on this throughout the blogosphere. Megan McArdle, James Joyner and Pejman Yousefzadeh agree with me. Kevin Drum laughs in my face.

posted by Dan at 01:06 PM | Trackbacks (0)

Reforming Iraqi higher education

For those who believe in media conspiracies, it's interesting to note that over the weekend both the Washington Post (link via InstaPundit) and the New York Times had long articles on efforts to reform Iraq's universities.

Both stories go over the myriad difficulties in this process -- primarily physical insecurity and infrastructure damage.

The Post story does a nice job of suggesting that the phrase "multicultural Iraq" will not necessarily be an oxymoron. The key quote:

On campus, though, the new atmosphere of debate and tolerance is already transforming Baghdad University into an oasis. Last week, students from various ethnic and religious groups -- once pitted against each other by Hussein -- chatted easily between exams. Some engaged in vigorous political arguments that would have been unthinkable only a few months ago.

During one exam break, a group of political science students volunteered opinions that ranged from passionately pro-Hussein and anti-American to the extreme opposite. Shiite students shared once-banned CDs of religious sermons. Kurdish students, whose minority group was severely repressed by Hussein, said they felt safe and comfortable on campus for the first time.

"There is a huge difference now, like between the earth and the sky," said Yaser Abdul Majid, 20, a chemistry student, as his classmates issued a chorus of complaints about the U.S. occupation, the crime problem and the dire lack of water and power in the capital. "The difference is that now, none of us will be killed for expressing our opinion."

Meanwhile, the Times story has more detail on curricular reform, suggesting that U.S. authorities are making the right decision by delegating a healthy share of responsibility to the Iraqis:

The next stage of reconstruction will be perhaps the trickier of tasks: depoliticizing the curriculum and reintroducing Iraqi students, scholars and scientists to the broader intellectual community through fellowships, exchanges and conferences. Professors were not able to leave Iraq without signed permission from the minister of higher education. So few did. And they have viewed education as a one-way street in which information is passed onto students, rather than encouraging critical, independent thought and analysis.

The presidents of all the universities, including from Kurdistan in the north, have been meeting weekly. A committee of representatives from each institution has been set up to prepare a plan on addressing the curriculum. Dr. Erdmann hopes to recruit consultants from American organizations like the National Academy of Sciences, though curriculum decisions will be up to the Iraqis. Experts say that's smart policy.

''Everyone agrees on de-Baathification of the curriculum, but if the U.S. intervenes in how Iraqis view America and globalization and Iran, you're going to see a lot of rebelling,'' says Samer Shehata, an assistant professor of Arab politics at Georgetown University, who recently returned from Iraq. ''The whole Arab world is afraid the Americans are focusing on education and want to rewrite curriculums in all the Arab states. It's a threat to their culture and their identity, and they see it as heavy-handed and imperialistic. If we just leave the Iraqis to do it themselves, you'll see that anti-American sentiment won't be primary.''

Frankly, the progress described in both articles is extraordinary. As someone who spent a year in Civic Education Project working to rebuild Ukraine's university system after the collapse of the Soviet Union, it sounds like the Iraqis have a much firmer commitment to reform.

Full disclosure: I know Andrew Erdmann, the American administrator featured in both stories, from when we were fellows together at the Olin Institute for Strategic Studies. I take no responsiblility for Erdmann's decision to grow a moustache.

posted by Dan at 10:27 AM | Trackbacks (0)

Twenty Questions

I answer them over at Crescat Sententia. Topics range from blogging to North Korea to Buffy to my mother. Go check it out.

posted by Dan at 09:49 AM | Trackbacks (0)