Friday, February 17, 2006

Putin's party becomes a caricature

Steven Lee Myers reports in the New York Times about how a Russian province deals with cartoons that offend the sensibilities of Valdimir Putin's United Russia party:

In a controversy with echoes of the Islamic anger over Danish cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad, the authorities in a central Russian city today ordered the closing of a newspaper that published a cartoon showing Muhammad along with Jesus, Moses and Buddha.

The cartoon, published on Feb. 9 in the official city newspaper in Volgograd, prompted some criticism and a federal criminal investigation but no public outrage. That may be, in large part, because it depicted the figures respectfully, renouncing violence, though Islamic teachings forbid any depiction of Muhammad.

"Well, we did not teach them that," Moses says in a caption as the four watch a television set showing two groups confronting each other with banners and clubs and hurling stones. The cartoon appeared on Page 5, accompanying an article on an agreement signed by regional political parties and organizations to combat nationalism, xenophobia and religious conflicts.

Volgograd's first deputy mayor, Andrei O. Doronin, announced the closing of the newspaper, Gorodskiye Vesti, or City News, "in order not to inflame ethnic hostilities," according to the official Russian Information Agency. He gave the newspaper a month to liquidate its assets, leaving the fate of its staff unclear....

Most of the criticism against the cartoon in Volgograd came not from Muslim or other religious leaders, but rather from the local branch of United Russia, the pro-Putin political party that dominates governments across the country. Those complaints prompted Russia's deputy prosecutor general, Nikolai I. Shepel, to announce an inquiry on Wednesday.

Officials in Volgograd initially defended the newspaper, but another deputy mayor, Konstantin E. Kalachyov, said the decision to close the newspaper was an effort to contain a scandal that was "fanned up artificially" in the wake of the fury over the Danish cartoons.

"You can say that the journalists were taught a lesson in political correctness," he said in a telephone interview.

Since a city enterprise owns the newspaper, the mayor's office was essentially shutting its own business, though Mr. Kalachyov said he hoped the newspaper's staff could continue to work at a new city-owned paper that would replace Gorodskiye Vesti.

posted by Dan at 07:09 PM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)

Donald Rumsfeld's new front in the war on terror

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld gave a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations today about a new front in the war on terror. Blogs are involved:

We meet today in the sixth year in which our nation has been engaged in what promises to be a long struggle against an enemy that in many ways is unlike any our country has ever faced. And in this war, some of the most critical battles may not be in the mountains ofAfghanistanor the streets of Iraq, but in newsrooms -- in places like New York, London, Cairo, and elsewhere....

I want to talk today about something that at first might seem obvious -- but isn’t. Our enemies have skillfully adapted to fighting wars in today’s media age, but for the most part we -- our country -- has not -- whether our government, the media or our society generally.

Consider that the violent extremists have established “media relations committees” --and have proven to be highly successful at manipulating opinion elites. They plan and design their headline-grabbing attacks using every means of communications to intimidate and break the collective will of free people. They know that communications transcend borders -- and that a single news story, handled skillfully, can be as damaging to our cause and as helpful to theirs, as any other method of military attack. And they are able to act quickly with relatively few people, and with modest resources compared to the vast -- and expensive -- bureaucracies of western governments.

Our federal government is only beginning to adapt our operations for the 21st Century. In fundamental ways, we still function as a “five and dime” store in an E-Bay world.

Today we are fighting the first war in history -- unconventional and irregular as it is -- in an era of... blogs [among other IT-related innovations]....

What complicates the ability to respond quickly is that, unlike our enemies, which propagate lies with impunity -- with no penalty whatsoever, our government does not have the luxury of relying on other sources for information -- anonymous or otherwise. Our government has to be the source. And we tell the truth.

These new realities have placed unprecedented challenges on members of the press as well. Today’s correspondents are under constant pressure in a hyper competitive media environment to produce exclusives and breaking stories. Daily or weekly deadlines have turned into updates by the hour or even minute -- to feed a constant news crawl that now appears on most cable channels. And the fact is that the federal government -- at the speed at which it operates -- doesn’t always make their job easier....

Let there be no doubt -- the longer it takes to put a strategic communications framework into place, the more we can be certain that the vacuum will be filled by the enemy and by news informers that most assuredly will not paint an accurate picture of what is actually taking place.

Whether Donald Rumsfeld is the person best-suited for this kind of combat " in places like New York, London, Cairo" newsrooms, I'll leave to the readers.

posted by Dan at 04:54 PM | Comments (11) | Trackbacks (0)

A catastrophic victory for Hamas?

As Bob Uecker would put it, this New York Review of Books essay by Hussein Agha and Robert Malley on Hamas is juuuuust a bit slanted in its assessment of the Palestinian situation.

That doesn't mean it's devoid of value, however. Their take on Hamas after victory seems pretty much on point to me:

Out-and-out victory was not what Hamas had expected or, for that matter, what it had wished for. It had come to see itself as a watchdog on the sidelines, sitting in the legislature without controlling it, shaping the government's policies without being held accountable for them, taking credit for its successes and escaping blame for any setbacks. Its triumph presents it with challenges of a different, more urgent, and less familiar sort. Hamas suddenly finds itself on the front line, with decisions to make and relations to manage with the world, international donors, Israel, Fatah, and, indeed, its own varied constituents. The Islamists may have secretly expected to sweep the elections but, if so, that secret remains well kept. Referring to Iraq, President Bush once spoke of America's catastrophic success. Judging from the Islamists' initial, startled reactions to their triumph, this may well be theirs....

Hamas's leaders were counting on an honorable defeat, and they looked forward to the prospect of making the most of it. Coming in a close second, their options would have been wide open. They could have joined the government, or stayed out. Either way, they would have remained in the safety of the fringes, keeping a watchful eye on domestic issues, seeking to demonstrate that Hamas's presence, including the services it provides, could improve daily life, reduce corruption, and deal with lawlessness. Hamas would have concentrated on its long-term goal of Islamicizing Palestinian society, doing so doggedly, though in increments. It would have kept to its conditional truce, reserving the right to respond to Israeli attacks on Palestinian population centers and against its own leaders....

How swiftly victory can spoil the best-laid plans. Hamas's leaders had hoped to hide behind Fatah and the PA; they are now on the front lines. The burden that was supposed to be on others is now squarely on them. In the days just after the election, Hamas suddenly sounded more modest, restrained, and dependent on third parties. This was not a matter of choice. It had to reassure Fatah members and Fatah security forces that were knocked off balance by their loss, as well as donors hesitant to bankroll a Hamas-led PA, and Arab neighbors apprehensive about having an Islamist stronghold at their doorstep, doubly so about witnessing an Islamist success at the polls. The calm and quiet that Israel once requested has become a necessity for Hamas: if it is to consolidate and maintain its popularity, it will have to live up to the promise of reform and good governance. Renewed violence would lead to swift, devastating, and unrestrained Israeli attacks, thwarting any chance for the Islamists to have a successful domestic policy. Paradoxically, Hamas's electoral sweep has curbed its freedom of action far more than defeat would have....

Abbas's gamble was that integrating Hamas into Palestinian politics would moderate its behavior. To a degree, it already has. During the past eleven months, Hamas has demonstrated its willingness and ability to honor a cessation of violence, and Israeli officials regularly credit its discipline for the sharp drop in attacks. Elected in record numbers to municipal positions during 2005, local Hamas officials have maintained practical coordination with Israel wherever necessary. Throughout the campaign, the Islamic movement dropped repeated hints of possible flexibility. Its leaders did not rule out changing their charter ("It's not the Koran," they whispered), negotiating with Israel, or accepting a long-term truce based on Israel's withdrawal to the 1967 lines. Since the elections, the pattern has continued. Hamas has indicated that it is prepared to extend its truce, integrate its forces into a Palestinian army, and accept some past arrangements between Israel and the PA. There are serious caveats to all these positions and the ideological aggiornamento still will have to wait. But if it is a trend one is looking for, it is there.

If this trend holds -- and that's an admittedly big "if" -- then Hamas' catastrophic victory is good news for everyone else. And further evidence that the best way to deal with Islamists is to let them try to govern.

posted by Dan at 10:48 AM | Comments (13) | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Anti-semitic cartoon contest!!!

Well, after the whole cartoon flap over Mohammed, and the Iranian decision to hold a contest on the best cartoon mocking the Holocaust, you knew this was just a matter of time:

Amitai Sandy (29), graphic artist and publisher of Dimona Comix Publishing, from Tel-Aviv, Israel, has followed the unfolding of the “Muhammad cartoon-gate” events in amazement, until finally he came up with the right answer to all this insanity - and so he announced today the launch of a new anti-Semitic cartoons contest - this time drawn by Jews themselves!

“We’ll show the world we can do the best, sharpest, most offensive Jew hating cartoons ever published!” said Sandy “No Iranian will beat us on our home turf!”

The contest has been announced today on the website, and the initiator accept submissions of cartoons, caricatures and short comic strips from people all over the world. The deadline is Sunday March 5, and the best works will be displayed in an Exhibition in Tel-Aviv, Israel.

Sandy is now in the process of arranging sponsorships of large organizations, and promises lucrative prizes for the winners, including of course the famous Matzo-bread baked with the blood of Christian children.

Mmmmm.... blood-soaked matzot.

Sandy has a running start on this. Today he was interviewed by Terry Gross for NPR's Fresh Air . Entries are starting to trickle in -- here's one of the first entries:

Furthermore, noted Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt has already agreed to be one judge.

If Sandy needs another judge, I'd be happy to volunteer. I have a Ph.D., I love cartoons, and as my darling wife said when she pointed out this story to me, "you're a prominent Jew in the blogosphere!"

UPDATE: This isn't as cool as the cartoon contest, but on a related note, the editors of PS: Political Science and Politics are calling for papers on The State of the Editorial Cartoon:

The editors of PS: Political Science and Politics invite contributions to a symposium on the state of the editorial cartoon. The symposium will explore the current condition of editorial cartooning, with an emphasis on daily newspaper editorial cartoons but encompassing politically minded weekly newspaper cartoons, magazine cartoons, comic strips, and web comics. The editors invite informed essays that advance our empirical, historical, and theoretical appreciation for editorial cartoons as art, politics, and culture.

The dramatic worldwide protests over the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad are only partly about the cartoons themselves, of course. Yet the protests underscore the fact that editorial cartoons are or can be of immense political and social significance.

In recent years, political scientists have had relatively little to say about the history, form, ideology, and political economy of editorial cartooning. This symposium will bring together political scientists and other scholars to help situate editorial cartooning in relation to political communication and political conflict.

posted by Dan at 09:47 PM | Comments (12) | Trackbacks (0)

The GAO on TAA

The Government Accountability Office has a new survey of workers at five plant who lost their jobs due to trade competition -- the clear losers of trade liberalization. The survey was designed to see the extent to which Trade Adjustment Assistance -- a program born in the 1974 Trade Act and reformed as recently as 2002 -- was reaching the people it's supposed to.

Here are the key results:

At the time GAO conducted its survey, most of the workers had either found a new job or retired. At three sites, over 60 percent of the workers were reemployed. At another site, only about 40 percent were reemployed, but another third had retired. And at the final site, about a third were reemployed, but this site had the highest proportion of workers who entered training and most of them were likely still in training. The majority of reemployed workers at four of five sites earned less than they had previously—replacing about 80 percent or more of their prior wages—but at one site over half the reemployed workers matched their prior wages.

Few workers at each site received either the health insurance benefit or the wage insurance benefit available to some older workers. No more than 12 percent of workers at each site received the health insurance
benefit, and at four of five sites, fewer than half the workers who visited a one-stop center were aware of it. Many workers did not use it because they had other coverage or because the cost of available health insurance was too high. No more than one in five of the older workers at each site received the wage insurance benefit, and at two sites, fewer than half the older workers who visited a center were aware of it.

posted by Dan at 04:30 PM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

A libertarian barista on Starbucks

Jacob Grier has a blog post at Smelling the Coffee on the contradictory impulses he feels towards Starbucks -- as a libertarian who nevertheless thinks quality control at Starbucks has gone down.

Read the whole thing, but the part about how Starbucks has affected the industrial organization of coffeehouses is particularly interesting:

Let's begin with the easy issue: Starbucks is driving independent coffee shops out of business. Anecdotally, this may seem obviously true. Many people can name a favorite coffee shop that went out of business soon after a Starbucks moved into the neighborhood. The fact is, though, that Starbucks is creating a market, not destroying it. Growth in both independent and corporate coffee shops has been huge over the past fifteen years, thanks in large part to consumers being introduced to specialty coffee drinks in the safe confines of their local Starbucks.

The Specialty Coffee Association of America, a leading trade group, tracks American retail sales. In 1989, the SCAA estimates there were 585 coffee houses operating in the U.S. By 1995 that number had risen to 5,000. By 2003, there were 17,400 shops in operation.

Starbucks growth is notable, but it's far from the sole factor driving these new shop openings. The SCAA reports that 57% of the shops open in 2003 were independent, having only one to three locations. Microchains (4-9 units) made up another 3% of the market. All the large chains combined make up the remaining 40%. [Source .pdf]

A 2004 article in the Willamette Weekly finds a similar pattern at work in Portland. In 2003, a misguided miscreant attempted to blow up a new Starbucks in a neighborhood where residents claimed to not want the imperial corporate giant. But a survey of the local yellow pages reveals that indie shops were doing just fine in Portland:

According to the Portland Yellow Pages, before Starbucks came to Portland in 1989, there were 28 coffee shops in the city. Today, there are 91 non-Starbucks coffeehouses in Portland proper, compared with the chain's 48 stores within city limits.
Bellisimo Coffee Infogroup, a consulting company for coffee shops, notes that Starbucks plays an important role in giving people their first gourmet coffee experience, after which they can and often do branch out to try out other sources. Tully's, a smaller chain, agrees, intentionally locating new stores in the vicinity of existing Starbucks locations. In the same Willamette article, one coffee expert gets perhaps a bit too effusive, but his point is well made:
"Every morning, I bow down to the great green god for making all of this possible," says Ward Barbee, publisher of the Portland-based coffee trade magazine Fresh Cup.
Of related interest: this Tim Harford essay in Slate about why Starbucks doesn't advertise it's "short" cappucino.

posted by Dan at 04:19 PM | Comments (10) | Trackbacks (0)

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Could Åland secede from the EU? Where the f#$% is Åland?

David Rennie has a story in the Daily Telegraph suggesting that a very small cluster of Finnish islands could cause some headaches for the European Union:

In the decade since they voted to join the European Union the islanders of the Åland archipelago in the Baltic Sea have been outvoted and overruled by Brussels, time and again.

Now Åland, a unique, autonomous region of Finland, is about to teach Brussels a lesson in democracy it may never forget.

Thanks to a quirk of early 20th-century history, Åland's 26,000 people are essentially sovereign co-rulers of their home nation of Finland. As such, they can veto any international treaty that Finland wants to enter, including EU treaties.

And the islanders are threatening to do just that when the European Commission attempts to revive the moribund EU constitution later this year.

But last week the archipelago's head of EU affairs, Britt Lundberg, travelled to Brussels - a day-long trek - to deliver a warning that dismally low public opinion on Europe could mean Alanders prevent Finland from ratifying the constitution.

The islanders' revolt has been brewing for some time. First, this community of Swedish-speaking Finns lost the right to fish at sea with traditional nets.

Then Ålanders saw their beloved spring duck hunting virtually abolished. To the Ålanders' final outrage, local laws on consuming "snus" or Swedish chewing tobacco, are about to be quashed by the European Court of Justice....

Brussels is trapped in a "Catch 22" situation of the EU's own making. Snus, a form of chewing tobacco, has been outlawed by EU fiat in every nation except Sweden, which secured a -special opt-out as a condition of its joining the EU, and in every region - except Åland.

The Commission recently took Finland to court to quash Åland's snus law. But Finland has no power to change that law. Finland does not control laws covering health in Åland; Åland does.

Åland is not allowed to defend its law before the justices in Luxembourg because the court recognises only nations. So the court is set to convict and fine Aland, without allowing the island's government to plead its case....

The head of the Åland government, Roger Norlund, admitted that he did not even like snus. To him, the row is philosophical. "Åland finds small-scale solutions to its problems. But the EU model is one of large-scale solutions, and harmonisation."

Tomas Grunér, a navigator on the big boats, uses snus "24 hours a day". "It keeps me relaxed," he said. "I thought the EU was a good idea, but now I think it sucks."

For more on why snus is such a big deal in Åland, check out this Brussels Journal post.

Rennie might be exaggerating Åland's influence just a wee bit. It's true that the Finnish Customs Service confirms the special tax and regulatory status of the island. However, if you go to the Åland Islands' official home page, you discover the following:

Foreign affairs is not transferred to Åland under the Autonomy Act, but remains under the control of the Finnish Government. Even so, Åland has a degree of influence on international treaties that contain provisions relating to areas where Åland is the competent authority. The Autonomy Act states that an international treaty of this kind entered into by Finland requires the consent of the Parliament of Åland to become valid also in Åland.

Thus, when Finland became a member of the European Union in 1995, Åland’s accession was dependent on the consent of the Parliament. After the population had expressed its opinion in two separate referendums and it had been decided that Åland’s relationship to the EU would be regulated in a special protocol, the Parliament of Åland expressed its consent. The protocol, which is part of Finland’s treaty of accession, states that Åland shall be regarded as a third territory with respect to indirect taxation. It also contains certain special provisions relating to the purchase of real property and the right to conduct a business in Åland, and confirms Åland’s special status under international law. (emphasis added)

So, if I read this correctly, Åland can block the proposed European constitution from applying to its jurisdiction -- but it doesn't hold a veto over the rest of Finland. I will happily defer to real international lawyers on this question of law that probably interests only me.

Click here if you want to know the historical reasons for Åland's special status. For some irrational reason, I do find it amusing that a small jurisdiction of 26,200 people could decide to stymie the mighty, mighty European Commission.

posted by Dan at 08:34 PM | Comments (8) | Trackbacks (2)

So what are you going to watch?

At six o'clock this evening EDT, you have a choice -- you could watch Vice President Dick Cheney's interview with Brit Hume on Fox News..... or watch me talk about offshore outsourcing on CNN International's Insight?

I thought so.

[You do realize most Americans can't get CNN International--ed. It was a rhetorical question... and I got my hypothetical rhetorical answer.]

posted by Dan at 04:47 PM | Comments (9) | Trackbacks (0)

Your pop quiz on politics for today

Let's see what's on the front pages today.... hey, what do you know, both the New York Times and the Washington Post have stories on the fact that:

1) The Cheney hunting mishap story has some surprising legs;

2) The Bush White House staff would have handled the story a bit differently; and

3) There's some new tension between the POTUS staff and the VPOTUS staff

Here's my pop quiz. Beyond the obvious, what do these stories reveal?
A) Bush's staff is delighted to highlight one of the few arenas of press coverage -- presidential foibles -- where they've been perfectly forthcoming;

B) Bush's staff is trying to get as far away from this press debacle as possible -- by leaking to the Times and the Post as much as Brangelina insiders leak to People and Us Weekly;

C) Bush's staff apparently has so little influence with the Vice President that rather than simply, you know, ordering the VPOTUS staff to do what they're supposed to do, they're leaking more than Boston's Big Dig;

D) I really, really like lame leak metaphors similes;

E) The press is overjoyed that they've been able to convert what should have been an inside-the-fold-one-news-cycle story into a story that appears to symbolize how Bush's stonewalling on other issues has made their jobs very frustrating;

F) Cheney has generated absolutely zero loyaly among the Bush 41 team (see the Marlin Fitzwater quotes dotting the media landscape;

G) This event symbolizes two facts that, in combination with each other, are distrubing -- Cheney is the most powerful vice president in recent memory, and Cheney is also the vice president who cares the least about public feedback; and

H) All of the above.

posted by Dan at 10:41 AM | Comments (20) | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The Decline and Fall of Europe?

Cato Unbound is having a debate around the question of "Old Europe," centered around this Theodore Dalrymple essay:

The principal motor of Europe’s current decline is, in my view, its obsession with social security, which has created rigid social and economic systems that are extremely resistant to change. And this obsession with social security is in turn connected with a fear of the future: for the future has now brought Europe catastrophe and relative decline for more than a century....

The problem is multiplied when a rigid labor market is capable of creating large castes of people who are unemployed and might well remain so for the whole of their adult lives. To the bitterness caused by economic uselessness will then be added, or rather be multiplied by, the bitterness of cultural separation. In the case of Islam this is particularly dangerous, because the mixture of an awareness of inferiority on the one hand, and superiority on the other, is historically a very combustible one.

Responses come from Timothy Smith, Charles Kupchan, and Anne Applebaum.

Meanwhile, Fareed Zakaria touches on a similar theme in his Washington Post column today:

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), headquartered in Paris, released a report, "Going for Growth," that details economic prospects in the industrial world. It is 160 pages long and written in bland, cautious, scholarly prose. But the conclusion is clear: Europe is in deep trouble. These days we all talk about the rise of Asia and the challenge to America, but it may well turn out that the most consequential trend of the next decade will be the economic decline of Europe.

It's often noted that the European Union has a combined gross domestic product that is approximately the same as that of the United States. But the E.U. has 170 million more people. Its per capita GDP is 25 percent lower than that of the United States, and, most important, that gap has been widening for 15 years. If present trends continue, the chief economist at the OECD argues, in 20 years the average U.S. citizen will be twice as rich as the average Frenchman or German.

Zakariacloses with some speculation on what Europe's decline means for world politics:
What does all this add up to? Less European influence in the world. Europe's position in such institutions as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund relates to its share of world GDP. Its dwindling defense spending weakens its ability to be a military partner of the United States, or to project military power abroad even for peacekeeping purposes. Its cramped, increasingly protectionist outlook will further sap its vitality.

The decline of Europe means a world with a greater diffusion of power and a lessened ability to create international norms and rules of the road. It also means that America's superpower status will linger. Think of the dollar. For years people have argued that it is due for a massive drop as countries around the world diversify their savings. But as people looked at the alternatives, they decided that the chief rivals, the euro and the yen, represented economies that were structurally weak. So they have reluctantly stuck with the dollar. It's a similar dynamic in other arenas. You can't beat something with nothing.

One mild rebuttal -- Europe's decline does not mean it's influence in international institutions will automatically fall. International organizations have notoriously sticky rules, and those rules benefit those who were powerful in the past. By any measure of power, Britain and France have no business being permanent members of any Security Council that keeps India or even Japan out. Yet there they stay, for two reasons: 1) It's costly to change the rules; and 2) The U.S. doesn't want to change them.

For all of the guff about transatlantic tensions, the U.S. is still keenly aware that it has more shared prferences with Europe than with other regions of the globe. Until that changes, European countries may decline, but they won't fall.

posted by Dan at 10:53 PM | Comments (19) | Trackbacks (0)

Not the biggest shock in the world

Which sci-fi crew would you best fit in?

You scored as Serenity (Firefly). You like to live your own way and don't enjoy when anyone but a friend tries to tell you should do different. Now if only the Reavers would quit trying to skin you.

Your Ultimate Sci-Fi Profile II: which sci-fi crew would you best fit in?
created with

Hat tip: Glenn Reynolds -- but I'm still upset at him for this post -- I lost a good hour of productivity following the links to their logical conclusion.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'll be in my bunk.

posted by Dan at 01:16 PM | Comments (9) | Trackbacks (0)

Are those netroots showing?

Ian Urbina reports in the New York Times that Pail Hackett has dropped out of the Democratic primary to challenge Senator Mike DeWine of Ohio. It appears that Hackett is none too happy about the way the Democratic establishment has treated him:

Paul Hackett, an Iraq war veteran and popular Democratic candidate in Ohio's closely watched Senate contest, said yesterday that he was dropping out of the race and leaving politics altogether as a result of pressure from party leaders.

Mr. Hackett said Senators Charles E. Schumer of New York and Harry Reid of Nevada, the same party leaders who he said persuaded him last August to enter the Senate race, had pushed him to step aside so that Representative Sherrod Brown, a longtime member of Congress, could take on Senator Mike DeWine, the Republican incumbent.

Mr. Hackett staged a surprisingly strong Congressional run last year in an overwhelmingly Republican district and gained national prominence for his scathing criticism of the Bush administration's handling of the Iraq War. It was his performance in the Congressional race that led party leaders to recruit him for the Senate race.

But for the last two weeks, he said, state and national Democratic Party leaders have urged him to drop his Senate campaign and again run for Congress.

"This is an extremely disappointing decision that I feel has been forced on me," said Mr. Hackett, whose announcement comes two days before the state's filing deadline for candidates. He said he was outraged to learn that party leaders were calling his donors and asking them to stop giving and said he would not enter the Second District Congressional race.

"For me, this is a second betrayal," Mr. Hackett said. "First, my government misused and mismanaged the military in Iraq, and now my own party is afraid to support candidates like me."

Mr. Hackett was the first Iraq war veteran to seek national office, and the decision to steer him away from the Senate race has surprised those who see him as a symbol for Democrats who oppose the war but want to appear strong on national security.

"Alienating Hackett is not just a bad idea for the party, but it also sends a chill through the rest of the 56 or so veterans that we've worked to run for Congress," said Mike Lyon, executive director for the Band of Brothers, a group dedicated to electing Democratic veterans to national office. "Now is a time for Democrats to be courting, not blocking, veterans who want to run."

But Democratic leaders say Representative Brown, a seven-term incumbent from Avon, has a far better chance of toppling Senator DeWine.

"It boils down to who we think can pull the most votes in November against DeWine," said Chris Redfern, chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party. "And in Ohio, Brown's name is golden. It's just that simple."

Mr. Fern added that Mr. Brown's fund-raising abilities made him the better Senate candidate. By the end of last year, Mr. Brown had already amassed $2.37 million, 10 times what Mr. Hackett had raised.

I bring this up only because Hackett was Exhibit A in the power of the Democratic Party's "netroots." He almost won last year's special election in a district where no one thought Democrats could be competitive.

Hackett was also relying on the netroots in his nascent primary run -- this week he was TPM Cafe's Table for One (though it should be pointed out that Brown blogged last week for TPM). UPDATE: Here's a link to Hackett's withdrawal post at TPM.

The netroots ain't happy, either -- MyDD says, "This is ugly." Atrios concurs.

Click here to read the reaction among the Kossaks. Kos himself has a post that puts Hackett's decision into some perspective -- though I'm not sure his commenters would agree. Other liberal bloggers share Kos' sense that this was meant to be. This Ezra Klein post suggests Hackett would have given good interview).

It's worth remembering that Karl Rove has spent the last six years trying to hand-pick Senatorial candidates that can topple Democrats -- so it's hard to blame the Dems for doing the same.

[So why are you posting about this?--ed.] Because this is a pretty big slap in the face to the argument that the Democratic Party is being held hostage by its netroots base -- although the real test will be to see if Brown faces any backlash.

UPDATE: More on the netroots effect from Steve Clemons and Real Clear Politics' Nick Nordseth.

posted by Dan at 08:27 AM | Comments (16) | Trackbacks (0)

Monday, February 13, 2006

Nobody give me a column!!

Note to self: if someone is ever so foolish as to offer me a weekly column, re-read this Jack Shafer paragraph:

Those whom the gods wish to destroy they first make a newspaper columnist. Most columnists start off with a bag full of ideas and endless energy. But the job begins to weigh on even the most talented journalist. He starts writing columns about columns he's written, about his kids, or about the deaths of relatives. He composes columns as open letters to world leaders—or writes from inside their heads. He quotes cab drivers. His columns become more assertion than argument. Finally, he starts picking silly, protracted fights with other media machers.
[Yeah, we're not worried about this possibility--ed.]

posted by Dan at 02:38 PM | Comments (8) | Trackbacks (0)

Transatlantic radio and telly debate

Kieran Healy has a post up at Crooked Timber on the superiority of U.K. radio trivia to the United States, and then closes with this paragraph:

Incidentally, Radio 4’s The News Quiz, when set against NPR’s execrable Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me, joins the long list of cultural objects that serve to illustrate the difference between Britain and the United States. Others include The Office (UK) vs The Office (US), Yes Prime Minister vs The West Wing, and so on.
This has prompted quite a lively debate in the comments section (including an intervention from yours truly), about a) whether Kieran was correct; and b) What kinds of programming do not appear to be replicable across the Atlantic?

For example, Kieran is correct to point out the complete lack of a U.S. competitor to Yes, Minister/Yes, Prime Minister. At the same time, however, I'm not sure that there's anything in the U.K. that can compete with The Daily Show or The Simpsons. The U.K. version of Friends was pretty appalling (curiously, though, that didn't stop NBC from trying to copy it). Both Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm are commedies of manners, yet I can't think of their British equivalents.

When it comes to genre shows, well, I can't think of any program that could compete with Buffy the Vampire Slayer or the new Battlestar Galactica.

I'm not sure there's any great lesson to be drawn from this, but I invite readers to do two things: 1) Isolate creative excellence in TV that appears to be non-replicable once you cross the border; and 2) Reasons for why this is so. For example, I'd wager that the U.S. does better at certain kinds of comedies and teen shows because television producers have a much greater comfort level with America's affluent class than British producers have with their yuppie audience (there's that whole need to sell advertising as well).

posted by Dan at 12:03 PM | Comments (18) | Trackbacks (0)

William Easterly trashes Angelina Jolie!!

William Easterly -- the anti-Jeff Sachs -- has an op-ed in today's Washington Post about Africa. He's upset at the do-gooding of Angelina Jolie and those of her ilk [Her ilk? You mean really attractive actresses? Is he upset at Salma, too?--ed. No, I'm talking about those who wish to "save" Africa.]:

Jeffrey Sachs and Angelina Jolie toured the continent on behalf of MTV, with Jolie asking how we can stand by and let it be destroyed. The world's leaders gathered at the United Nations in September to further discuss ending poverty in Africa, apparently unfazed by yet another voluminous U.N. report highlighting the failure of the grand plans (the "Millennium Development Goals") to make any progress. They repeated a familiar refrain: If aid efforts aren't producing the desired results, then redouble those efforts. The year closed with the rock star Bono being named Time magazine's person of the year (along with the rather more constructive Bill and Melinda Gates) for his efforts to save Africa....

Everyone, it seems, was invited to the "Save Africa" campaign of 2005 except for Africans. They starred only as victims: genocide casualties, child soldiers, AIDS patients and famine deaths on our 43-inch plasma screens.

Yes, these tragedies deserve attention, but the obsessive and almost exclusive Western focus on them is less relevant to the vast majority of Africans -- the hundreds of millions not fleeing from homicidal minors, not HIV-positive, not starving to death, and not helpless wards waiting for actors and rock stars to rescue them. Angelina, the continent has problems but it is not being destroyed....

The West's focus on sensational tragedies obscures the achievements of people such as Patrick Awuah and Robert Keter, who are succeeding even against tremendous odds. Economic development in Africa will depend -- as it has elsewhere and throughout the history of the modern world -- on the success of private-sector entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs and African political reformers. It will not depend on the activities of patronizing, bureaucratic, unaccountable and poorly informed outsiders.

The hard-working staff here at takes great pride in its stout defense of American celebrities. So we feel compelled to point out to raise the possibility that Easterly is just ticked off because he didn't get to go on safari with the lovely and talented Ms. Jolie. But I doubt it.

Read the whole thing.

posted by Dan at 09:08 AM | Comments (8) | Trackbacks (0)

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Your headline contest for today

"Cheney Accidentally Shoots Fellow Hunter," The Associated Press, February 13, 2006.

If you want more details check out the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, which broke the story.

What I would like my readers to propose is what the subhead should be to this story.

My suggestion: "Vice President, Relying on Raw Intel Reports, Convinced Victim was Deer."

UPDATE: Pajamas Media has a quick roundup of blog reactions.

posted by Dan at 11:42 PM | Comments (24) | Trackbacks (0)