Saturday, March 26, 2005
Let's get something clear..
I was remiss before, but it's worth quoting the salient parts of this Tyler Cowen post:
And for those who think this is merely an example of the United States "outsourcing" torture to other countries, consider the following Los Angeles Times story by Mark Mazzetti: (which is not about torture per se, but certainly an exanple of what happens when torture is condoned):
Despite the report, the Army does not plan on prosecuting anyone named.
Here's a thought -- with the Iraqi insurgency looking for an exit option, and with it becoming increasingly clear who's running foreign policy nowadays, perhaps this would be a good time to ease out the guy responsible for this cancer on the military?
Friday, March 25, 2005
Another day, another vulnerable ex-Soviet republic
If there were an award for Most Quiescent ex-Soviet Population, Belarus would probably just squeak by Turkmenistan for the trophy. Belarusian president Aleksandr Lukashenko rules with an iron fist, but in the past most Belarusians have just shrugged their shoulders in coping with their dictator.
Here's a photo:
Pravda notes wryly that the demonstration took place, "just as the government criticized Kyrgyzstan's opposition for the seizure of power there.... The Belarusian Foreign Ministry on Friday harshly assailed the Kyrgyz opposition, warning that its action could destabilize the entire region. 'The unconstitutional overthrow of the government in Kyrgyzstan could have fatal consequences for peace, stability and prosperity in the country, as well as in the Central Asian region as a whole,' it said."
The cautionary note comes from the Reuters report:
That assessment seems true to me -- but then again, I didn't think the Ukrainians were going to rise up a few months ago.
The key difference is that, as today's events demonstrate, Lukashenko will have no problem whatsoever with using all the coercive tools at his disposal to stay in power.
Developing -- the fourth wave, that is.....
The universality of inane Internet chatter
Hamish McDonald reports in the Sydney Morning Herald that the Internet afford people the opportunity to make jackasses out of themselves no matter how old the civilization. To be specific, not all Chinese reacted well to Condi Rice's recent trip to Asia:
Read the whole thing -- not for more quotes like this, but to see how the Chinese leadership has had a bad foreign policy stretch as of late.
Thursday, March 24, 2005
The fourth wave of democratization?
Events in Kyrgyzstan (click here for a useful BBC backgrounder), combined with previous events in Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq, Ukraine, Afghanistan and Georgia, are making me wonder if maybe, just maybe, we're at the beginning of the fourth wave of democratization. In his book The Third Wave, Samuel Huntingtion observed that previous moments of democratic regime change took place in clusters. The first (small) wave was in the early 1800's, the second took place immediately after the Second World War, and the third wave started in Southern Europe in 1974 and ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
All waves of democratization are followed by counter-waves, which happened in the mid-to-late nineties, with authoritarian and semi-authoritarian regimes emerging in a lot of the post-Soviet states. However, the exogenous shock of 9/11, the Rose Revolution in Georgia, and the strong rhetoric of the Bush administration on this front has combined to trigger some serious political change across the Eurasian land mass.
The Kyrgyz example is likely to send chills down the spine of two much larger countries -- Russia and China. In Moscow, Vladimir Putin can't be thrilled with the fact that he can't have a tea break without some country in his near abroad overthrowing a ruler that was on decent terms with Putin. The fact that ousted Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev is reportedly fleeing to Russia will highlight this painful fact.
As for China, Beijing's first preference is not to have a democratic revolution take place in Central Asia so close to Xinjiang -- China's western-most province with plenty of restive Uighurs chafing at Beijing's control. [UPDATE: In somewhat unrelated news, China is also feeling international pressure from it's ham-handed efforts to presure Taiwan.]
Let's be clear -- there's a fair amount of fragility in this nascent fourth wave: Iraq could curdle, Kyrgyzstan could descend into chaos, Hamas could win Palestinian elections, and Lebanon could be split by sectarian strife. The Bush administration's actions may not match their rhetoric. Writing in the International Herald-Tribune, Aaron David Miller points out the resiliency of Arab dictatorships:
Then again, as Michael Doran points out in Foreign Affairs online, this whole Palestine-as-pivot-root-causes theory of change in the Middle East just might be hokum:
UPDATE: Also be sure to check out Stephen A. Cook's essay in the March/April 2005 issue of Foreign Affairs on how to promote political reform in the Arab Middle East. The abstract:
Noam Chomsky, egomaniacal liar
Via Alina Stefanescu (who has a blog that's worth checking out), I stumbled across this Sunday Herald column by Alan Taylor on Noam Chomsky. The most absurd bits:
I'm not sure what Barsky and Chomsky are smoking, but my information about the latter's flirtation with totalitarian, oppressive, exclusionary movements comes from several sources. Click here and here to read about Chomsky's errors of omission and comission with regard to the Khmer Rouge. Click here to read about Chomsky's bizarre theory of why the U.S. supported the Bosnian Muslims. And then there's Stefan Kanfer's takedown of Chomsky from the Summer 2002 City Journal:
So how's Iraqification going, part II
As a follow-up to my previous post on the question of transfering police and security functions to Iraqis, it's worth linking and quoting from Spencer Ackerman's Iraq'd blog. Ackerman -- hardly a fan of the administration's Iraq policy in the past -- was a huge fan of the raid on foreign insurgents that took place yesterday.
Why is Ackerman in such a good mood about this raid?:
Wednesday, March 23, 2005
Random Schiavo thought
As the Terry Schiavo case wends its way through the federal court system, there's a thought that keeps nagging at me. Ostensibly, the motivation behind the congressional and presidential decision to intervene was to preserve and broaden the "culture of life," to use the term of art. The March 17th presidential statement essentially makes this argument:
This is my nagging thought -- could it be possible that making a federal case out of Terry Schiavo actually shrinks the culture of life? I wonder after reading this Chicago Tribune story by Bonnie Miller Rubin:
Neither of these news stories is definitive. However, if this case has prompted a marked increase in the number of people specifying when they do not want heroic measures used to extend their biological life, then by their actions the Bush administration and both houses of Congress will have retarded rather than extended the culture of life.
Just a thought.
UPDATE: Many comentators, commenters and e-mailers have pointed out that feeding and hydration tubes are not normally thought of as "heroic measures" -- which is true but only underscores my point. If it turns out that the Schiavo case triggers a backlash among most Americans, more people might codify living wills or other legal documents that go beyond the denial of DNRs and heroic measures, and ban additional treatments that are accepted within the medical profession as routine and justifiable.
FINAL UPDATE: This post was inspired in part by the ABC poll showing hostility to federal intervention in this matter. Mickey Kaus provides an excellent collection of links suggesting that the poll question was improperly framed. However, Mystery Pollster disagrees and points to additional polling that reinforces my original point.
Tuesday, March 22, 2005
Kofi Annan's publicist can't be happy
On Monday, Kofi Annan "urged world leaders Monday to implement the boldest changes to the United Nations in its 60-year history" according to the Associated Press. You can see for yourself by clicking on “In Larger Freedom: towards development, security and human rights for all.” On the plus side, it seems that Annan recognizes that the U.N. Human Rights Commission is a joke and wants to genuinely reform it.
On the other hand, Annan also says in one section of the report (paragraph #151) that, "The United Nations does more than any other single organization to promote and strengthen democratic institutions and practices around the world, but this fact is little known." To which I must reply, "BWA HA HA HA HA!!! " [Which single organization does more, smart guy?--ed. Well, there's NATO and the European Union for starters -- and before I got even close to the combined set of UN agencies, I'd throw in Mercosur, the Organization of American States, and even the World Trade Organization. To be charitable, I'll give the UN agencies a slight edge over ASEAN, but that's about it.]
However, regardless of the intrinsic merits of Annan's proposal, I'm thinking that this Financial Times story by Claudio Gatti might throw a monkey wrench into generating any policy momentum:
Glenn Reynolds has more links that will cause headaches for Annan's publicist.
Liveblogging the Brookings event
Click here to watch the live webcast of the Brookings Institution panel, "The Impact of the New Media." I'll be liveblogging this event, and to make life easier for the Brookings tech people, newer comments will be higher than the older ones. UPDATE: Now that it's over, I actually prefer doing it with newer comments below rather than above, so I've reconfigured it.
Let the liveblogging.... begin!!!
9:40 AM: OK, let's see.... coffee in mug, pajamas on body [He's liveblogging from home, thank you very much!!--ed.], editor now locked in closet [Mmmmmph!--ed.], earphones plugged in and on head to better hear the webcast, and a feeling of eager excitement that I've beaten my fellow livebloggers to the first post.... yes, yes, I believe I offically am a complete dweeb.
Still fifteen minutes to the Brooking panel itself... there needs to be a word for that soft murmur of voices that precedes any C-SPAN-like event. Readers are encouraged to post posibilities. 9:55 AM: A danieldrezner.com exclusive -- MUST CREDIT DANIELDREZNER.COM. Ana Marie Cox has chosen the teal shirt for today. That's teal, people. UPDATE: I'm informed that it's green... must be the camera.
10:02 AM: What, they haven't started yet? This would never happen at a University of Chicago faculty meeting!!!
10:07 AM: Let the games begin!!
10:10 AM: Interesting... Dionne points out that Atrios, Kos, Marshall, and Yglesias were invited to live-blog as well but declined... one wonders if this ties into this paper's observation that liberals are also less likely to link to each other. [UPDATE: to be fair, Marshall had a very important engagement this weekend.] Dionne also tries to roil waters by characterizing bloggers as "parasitic" on mainstream media. I prefer the word "symbiotic."
10:15 AM: So Cox is high on Robitussin... again. "Do bloggers make mistakes?" Cox says (paraphrasing), "Duh, yes, but since blogs aren't really a primary source of news, it's not as catastrophic as the MSM believes." Which is true -- but another difference is that bloggers can quickly correct factual errors.
10:20 AM: Shafer approvingly cites Jay Rosen's characterization of blogs as "distributed journalism."
10:23 AM: Jodie T. Allen confesses to being a "web addict"; earlier Shafer states that many journalists Technorati themselves to see who's commenting on their writings.
10:27 AM: Allen makes a shrewd point about the faltering economic model of newspapers... and it's not just bloggers that are threatening them. She frets about the closing of overseas bureaus, which could lead to a decline in factual reporting, because "opinions are a lot cheaper than facts." However, here's the thing -- bloggers often function as superb stringers. The tsunami disaster allowed many bloggers to provide on-the-spot reporting from a breaking news event. Of more concern is whether bloggers would be able to match reporters in reporting on, say, opaque givernments.
10:30 AM: "Blogging is traditional; podcasting is new media" Sigh.... Mickey Kaus is right--we've jumped the shark.
10:31 AM: Dionne is weirdly.... sexy when he reads AndrewSullivan.com. Not that there's anything wrong with that!!
10:32 AM: Hmmm..... Sullivan has the sniffles, Ana Marie Cox has the sniffles.... no, let's not go there.
10:34 AM: Ah, real news -- Sullivan says that as he grew more critical of the administration, his fundraising drives produced lower yields -- from $80,000 to $20,000 to $12,000. This is something I'd like to see the panelists discuss -- to what extent will the lure of large sums of money (by blogger standards) act as an ideological straight-jacket for prominent bloggers?
10:38 AM: You know Internet journalism is getting old when Shafer and Sullivan reminisce about the good old days of... 1996.
10:40 AM: Sullivan makes a key point -- for bloggers to be effective, they must be "pariahs." The fact is, the medisphere can be a clubby place, both within itself and between reporters and politicos. Will bloggers get sucked into this vortex as well?
10:41 AM: Cox uses the phrase "circle jerk" at Brookings.... somewhere, Richard Nixon's ghost is wondering why he ever thought of firebombing the place.
10:43 AM: Hey, E.J.!! The problem with Kos was not that he raised money for Dems, it was that he took money for consulting for Dems as well..... though I do believe this particular kerfuffle was overblown, since he admitted this from day one.
10:48 AM: "People are still fact-oriented," according to Allen -- even among Deaniacs.
10:50 AM: FYI, here are the specific links to other livebloggers: Ruy Teixeira, Ed Morrissey, and Laura Rozen; Trevino and Cole appear to be MIA. UPDATE: Here's Cole's post -- Trevino never bothered to post.
10:52: Someone who works for the Center for Public Integrity says that many blogs promote slander and libel.,.. as opposed to the Center for Public Integrity, which never issues misleading press releases. Seriously, Shafer and Cox shoot this down pretty effectively -- because there are costs to royally screwing things up.
10:58 AM: Dionne points out that blogs can foster the spread of rumor and slander faster than traditional media... except that blogs also make this spread much more transparent. The counterfactual is not just traditional media, but the spread of urban legends via private e-mails and listservers. The best example of this was the claim that the exit polls were correct and Kerry really won the election. Without blogs and other Internet media, this rumor would have just festered -- because of blogs, these accusations got quickly aired and quickly falsified.
11:00 AM: Sullivan points out that bloggers are much harsher to each other than to any public figure -- I have no idea what he's talking about. UPDATE: Dionne mentions this comment -- I am so inside the Beltway right now. Now I have to go and buy one of those Blackberry thingmabobs.
11:02 AM: Props to the guy who called the comments section of blogs a "cacophony of crap" -- you know he'd been up all night honing that phrase. Seriously, I do think there's a scaling problem with comments section -- the bigger the blog, the greater the percentage of crap. Fortunately, I don't have to worry about this.
11:07: What does it say that I'm an avid blog-readers and writer, but any discussion of talk radio and the fairness doctrine puts me to sleep? In other news, it appears to be standing room only in the room. And let's have a shout-out to those twentysomething interns who have to get those mikes to the people in the room!!
11:11 AM: Sullivan said, "hetero".... heh.
11:15 AM: Cox thinks it's useless to distinguish between "media" and "journalism." I'd rephrase -- there is a difference between
11:18 AM: Sullivan thinks there should be no schools for journalists, and that the "interns of the future" are those who are writing blogs in college. Matthew Yglesias has no idea what Sullivan's talking about.
11:24 AM: Ratner is harping on the economics of journalism, and asking whether bloggers will reduce the ability of media institutions to invest in reporting. I understand ratner's concern, but it seems to me this applies more to investigative journalism than most other sections of the media. For example, does journalism really have a comparative advantage over an expert blogger when a think tank or a research institute, for example, issues a press release?
11:27 AM: Sullivan points out that bloggers provide hyperlinked footnotes, which the New York Times op-ed page does not.
11;28 AM: A questioner asks what happens if a blogger receives an e-mail informing them that they're wrong? In my case it depends on whether the e-mailer has their facts correct as well. I've found that about two-thirds of the time the dispute is more over my interpretation of facts rather than the facts themselves. The others -- hell, yes, I'll post a correction. I'm not thrilled about it, but it's happened enough so that I'm used to it.
11:30 AM: Sullivan says blogs are a new form of literature. Great -- I want my own Pulitzer Prize now, dammit!!
11:33 AM: Sullivan has blog insurance??!!!
11:34 AM: Click here to see Ryan Sager's New York Post column discussing the Pew sponsorship of research into campaign finance reform that the panelists are discussing. Key section:
On the first point, I do think that bloggers serve two useful purposes -- a barometer of public opinion, and an opportunity to discuss specific issues raised by this case -- the legal and medical questions.
On the second point, I'm working on a large post which I'll inflict on people later in the week.
11:51 AM: Ruy has the best one-sentence summary of the event: "an interesting but not cutting-edge event."
11:54 AM: On the role of blogs elsewhere, do be sure to check out my Foreign Policy essay with Henry Farrell, "Web of Influence." Sullivan is correct that blogs can be a subversive tool in repressive societies -- but authoritarian governments are learning how to respond with brutal but appallingly effective tactics (link via Glenn Reynolds)
11:56 AM: Allen says opinion journalism are like "thumb-sucking," and that women don't like the taste of their thumbs. Must.... resist.... savage mockery of metaphor.
11:58 AM: Dionne gets the first Nazi reference in -- and after an hour and fift-eight minutes of discusion about blogs. That has to be a record for the longest period of time before Godwin's Law kicks in.
12:03 PM: Ana Marie Cox bravely calls for a moratorium of panels on blogs.... oh, sure, now that she's hit her premier frequent-flyer status via blog conferences, she wants to shut down the ravy train.
12:06 PM: That's a wrap.... and thank God, because I desperately need to go to the bathroom.
Monday, March 21, 2005
How I'm spending tomorrow morning
What better way to spend a Tuesday morning (10-12 Eastern time) that to liveblog a Brookings Institution panel!!
[Was that, like, a real question or a rhetorical one? Because with the right person, I can think of an infinite combination of activities that might be superior--ed. It was a rhetorical question.]
The panelists include Jodie T. Allen (Senior Editor, Pew Research Center), Ana Marie Cox (Wonkette.com), Ellen Ratner (White House Correspondent, Talk Radio News Service), Jack Shafer (Editor-at-Large, Slate), and Andrew Sullivan
Be sure to tune in tomorrow.
UPDATE: My live-blogging post is here.
So how's Iraqification going?
Derrick Jackson argued in the Boston Globe last Friday that the U.S. has no exit strategy for Iraq and this is costing us allies:
Sounds like Iraqification is not going well. However, two press reports from inside Iraq suggest that in fact progress has been made. John F. Burns reports in the New York Times that the transfer of duties from the U.S. military to Iraqi security forces has helped in one Baghdad neighborhood:
Meanwhile, Time's Christopher Allbriton reports on the growing professionalism of The Iraqi Special Forces Brigade (ISOF):
At this rate, the departure of other coalition country forces from Iraq is less a sign of failed American leadership than a sign that they can hand over their duties to the Iraqis themselves. Everyone agrees that this is the best possible exit option.
Open Schiavo thread
Feel free to comment here on the federal government's decision to intervene in the Terry Schiavo case. I was paying zero attention to this until I read the AP story this morning. My first response to it is identical to Orin Kerr's:
Andrew Sullivan raises a valid point about what this means for modern-day conservatism:
Comment away!!! As Mickey Kaus says, "Our society is going to have to have this out at some point--why not now?"