Friday, February 8, 2008
Great innovations in world diplomacy
The Onion devises a new way to directly communicate the world's displeasure with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad:
Roastmaster and former U.N. secretary general Kofi Annan kicked off the evening by welcoming President Ahmadinejad to "what [was] sure to be the first and last time Mahmoud would ever be surrounded by 72 virgins."Readers should feel free to suggest the following in comments:
1) Other wold leaders deserving of such an honor;
Thursday, February 7, 2008
The vice presidential paradox
In a post on whether Mike Huckabee might be John McCain's wingman on the 2008 GOP ticket, Ramesh Ponnuru makes an interesting point regarding the ratcheting up of standards for Vice Presidents:
The job of the vice president has changed, thanks to Clinton's decision to pick Al Gore in 1992 and Bush's decision to pick Dick Cheney in 2000. These men, at the time they were picked, were extraordinarily well respected; and they went on to have greater responsibilities than previous vice presidents. I think voters now expect vice presidential nominees to pass a higher bar. They can't be picked solely to win a state or lock down a constituency. They have to be plausible presidents. I expect that consideration will be even more important given McCain's age. And I'm not sure that Huckabee can clear that bar.I have really mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, Huckabee is clearly not ready for prime time as a president, and based on his foreign policy views, I want pretty far away from the corridors of power.
On the other hand, the ratcheting of the VP bar creates a different problem -- instead of a buffoon or a lightweight, you have a talented, ambitious politician placed in an ambiguous position. This means presidents need to give them something to do in terms of policymaking. And, frankly, the results have ranged from unproductive (negotiating a global warming treaty that had zero chance of ratification; outsourcing government) to destructive (screwing with the foreign policymaking process).
The paradox is that an ideal vice president should be ready to be president from day one. At the same time, such a person -- in order to take the job -- requires major policy bailiwicks to tide him or her over.
I'm not sure what the right mix is for a VP selection, but I don't think either the "true lightweight" or "ambitious heavyweight" molds works terribly well.
Anyone have any suggestions?
UPDATE: Over at the Monkey Cage, Lee Sigelman crunches some numbers to try and divine who the actual VP picks might be for the donkey side.
Wednesday, February 6, 2008
Your cool statistic for the day
The number of mobile phone users will overtake the number of nonusers this year for the first time, according to the U.N. telecoms agency.I would be more impressed, however, if this piece of information appeared anywhere on the International Telecommunications Union main web page.
So you can see why I'm in a good mood today
As near as I can figure, the following people would have to be classified as the "losers" from Super Duper Tuesday:
Ted Kennedy, Patrick Kennedy, Caroline Kennedy, John Kerry, and the African-American "establishment" in the Deep South: so much for the Kennedy's pull with either Massachusetts voters or the Hispanic community [UPDATE: Hmmm... Matt Yglesias makes a convincing case that the endorsements had some pull in Massachusetts.] And so much for the endorsements of the "establishment" African-Americans in the South swaying the black community.So it's a Super Wednesday for me.
[Wait, what about bad political prognosticators?--ed.] Oh, I'm always a loser in that category
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
A hegemonic bloggingheads
My latest bloggingheads diavlog is with Rob Farley from Lawyers, Guns, and Money and the Patterson School of Diplomacy. Topics include the Super Bowl, waning hegemony, Republicans who like Obama, and bold Super Tuesday predictions. Go check it out!!
There's also this challenge to listeners:
And in the end, I voted for....
I was tempted to vote for Romney -- not because I'm really a fan of Mitt, but because I wanted to se Romney push McCain on economic issues. I've never bought the supposition that candidates who lock up the nomination early are better placed for a general election victory. Competition is what brings out the mettle in a politician.
McCain has certainly been tested, and he deserves some credit for sticking to his positions even when they cost him the frontrunner status. I liked a lot of his Foreign Affairs essay, and I really like his take on executive power.
Still, like Ross Douthat, I can't shake the impression that McCain has reclaimed that status more by default, luck, and the utter incompetence of the rest of the GOP field.
Think about this. Giuliani self-destructed. Romney's pandering was about as subtle as a 15-year old boy would be in a room with the Pussycat Dolls. Paul's a bigot -- or quite friendly with bigots, I'm not sure which. Tancredo and Hunter were non-entities. Only Huckabee has improved his standing from the campaign he's run, but that's not saying much.
It would be good to see Romney, as the last man standing, push McCain to be a better candidate. In the end, when faced with his name on the ballot, I couldn't seriously pull the trigger on someone who appears to hold no core values whatsoever.
Monday, February 4, 2008
Why Republicans feel OK about Obama
Peter Wehner, a former deputy assistant to President Bush, writes in the Washington Post about why Republicans have positive feelings towards Barack Obama:
What is at the core of Obama's appeal?I'd say this sums it up nicely, but the last point in particular should be stressed. Every single conservative I've talked to since the South Carolina primary has mentioned the Clinton comparison between Obama and Jesse Jackson -- and it left a bad taste in everyone's mouth.
A good year for Connecticut sports fans
It's not easy being raised in a comfortable suburb of central Connecticut. It creates confused sports loyalties that cannot be explained to others. The past two weeks, I've had to explain to friends and neighbors how I can simultaneously root for the Boston Red Sox and New York Giants.
Well, after last night's game, I'm not thinking it's that difficult a burden. Despite some sloppiness in the middle quarters, the Giants wrecked the Patriots' perfect season. They didn't wreck it through luck, but through superior line play and intelligent play calling. So much for the shock and awe of an unbeaten season.
There were no wardrobe malfunctions. The announcing team was confident. The commercials were mostly mediocre, but not abysmal. For once, it was just about the game -- with an awesome fourth quarter.
One last thought -- for all the hand-wringing about "what the children will think" about Spygate or steroids or what have you, this football season finally contained a positive parable for the children. Despite the fact that the last regular-season game against the Patriots was a meaningless one for the Giants, they put maximum effort on the field. Even though they lost that game 38-35, their effort was rewarded. That game gave the Giants the confidence to win three straight playoff games on the road, and then pull off a shocker in the Super Bowl.
In professional sports, it's not only about talent -- effort still matters. And that's a great moral for the children.
Sunday, February 3, 2008
Why I'm screwed in the book publishing biz
Rachel Donadio's essay in the New York Times Book Review asks a very good question: why, in this age of digitized publication, does it still take friggin' forever for a completed book manuscript to actually become a book?
Donadio's answer -- marketing a book is essentially like marketing a movie:
The three-martini lunch and the primacy of the Book-of-the-Month Club may be things of the past, but publishing still relies on a time-honored, time-consuming sales strategy: word of mouth.Read the whole thing. One part of the essay surprised me, however:
Like movie studios jockeying over opening dates to score huge first-weekend box office numbers, publishers often change publication dates to avoid competition for reader attention and marketing buzz....Actually, for books on more arcane topics -- like sushi in the global economy -- I would have thought the reverse to be true. If two or more books on a similar subject come out at the same time, well that's a trend. This means they're more likely to earn reviews at high-profile places, and other sections of the newspaper might even start writing about the trend.
It's dead-wrong instincts like that one which might explain why I'm not in the book publishing industry.
Hat tip: Megan McArdle.