Monday, October 31, 2005

More Dowd

“Bush Senior, one of his assistants teases me that we have this kind of forties movie-star relationship where he’s the upper-crust guy and I’m the lower-class girl and we have this funny cultural collision,” Dowd says. “Once when I was having dinner with one of his top aides, after he’d had a couple martinis, he goes, ‘Frankly, we don’t see you at the New York Times. We see you more like the New York Post or the Chicago Tribune.’ And I said, ‘You mean because I’m ethnic or working class?’ And he was like, ‘Yeah.’ ”

WTF does being ethnic or working class have to do with working at the Times or the Post or the Tribune. Also, since when is someone who is making at least 6 figures working class?

More on Dowd

Dowd thinks of her columns as “political cartoons.” In her hands, W. is a spoiled brat in cowboy boots; the Democrats are the “mommy party.” If Dowd fears castrating, she also seems frequently unable to resist it. Clinton behaved “like a teenage girl trying to protect her virginity”; “he would be laughed out of any locker room in the country.” (Clinton returned fire at the 1998 White House correspondents’ dinner when he read a list of mock headlines, including “ ‘Buddy Got What He Deserved,’ by Maureen Dowd.” Buddy was his neutered chocolate Lab.)

As in all caricatures, some traits are minimized, others are amplified and possibly distorted, but the fundamental essence is usually captured so precisely that Dowd’s images often win a permanent place in the culture. She’s retold the last three presidencies as long-running sitcoms, where the joke is always on the man in charge. In a way, she’s created her own reality—Dowdworld—and we just live in it.

What's Wrong with the Modern Press Corps

Tom Friedman's response to bad news in the Middle East: going into Maureen Dowd's office and saying, "Let's go get a daqiueri."

From a Daily Show interview.

Friday, October 28, 2005

I don't like the binary possibilities of this quiz.

You fit in with:

Your ideals mostly resemble those of an Atheist. You have very little faith and you are very focused on intellectual endeavors. You value objective proof over intuition or subjective thoughts. You enjoy talking about ideas and tend to have a lot of in depth conversations with people.

50% scientific.
60% reason-oriented.

Take this quiz at

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

A Thinking Person's Game

A very fun game called Planarity. I bet it also helps your analytic/geometric thinking skills.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

More Harold Koh

What I tried to do was to say, "There are basically four principles we really care about. First is telling the truth in human rights; second, promoting accountability for past violations, while promoting reconciliation; third, with regard to ongoing abuses and present violations, engaging violating countries to try to get them to stop, and with regard to the future, preventing future abuses. And [fourth], the long-term solution is promoting democracy." In the end, torture, genocide -- these are not diseases, they're symptoms, symptoms of bad government. So we try to promote healthy government.

Now, interestingly, my brother, the commissioner of public health, said to me, "I used to treat smoking patients, and then I decided if I wanted to make people not get cancer, I would encourage them not to smoke." He said, "If you promote a healthy body, you don't have to deal with the symptoms of disease." I realized in the same way, if you promote democratic government, you don't have to deal with the symptoms of unhealthy government.

So those were our focal points: Truth-telling, accountability, engagement, and promotion of democracy. And we had a very exciting period. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, that was the largest expansion of freedom in the twentieth century; the second largest came during the time when I was in government. Nigeria and Indonesia, and various parts of the former Soviet Union, all switched to a democratic form of government. There was an amazing fact, which we uncovered, which was that in 1971 there were only 25 democracies in the world, and in 2000 there were more than 120.

In fact, when Colin Powell's people asked me to brief him on what the challenges were for the democracy in human rights policy, they said, "We'd like you to start with a presentation of about fifteen seconds." I thought about it and I said to my staff, "Get me two maps: one is a map of the world in 1970, with all the democracies in blue, and all the non-democracies in red; then get me another one for 2000, same thing." Then, when he said, "Are you ready for your briefing?" I said, "Secretary Powell, I want you to look at these two maps. What you'll notice is there are a lot more democracies now than there were thirty years ago. The countries that are in red, the non-democracies, are the ones that are giving us the most human rights problems. The countries that are in blue are the ones we can cooperate with the most to try to address those problems. And the major difference is that you now have many, many more countries with whom you can cooperate to deal with a much smaller number of countries. So your success in achieving this policy will be your capacity to mobilize the blue countries to address the red countries." I still think that's right. I think that's what we should have done with regard to 9/11.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Koh and the Supreme Court

Wouldn't it be nice if Harold Koh were on the Supreme Court? That would probably be the case if it were not for the War on Gore. Sigh.

Another thing he said was, "Theory without practice is as lifeless as practice without theory is thoughtless." Partly because of that, I became convinced that I had to somehow make my academic work relevant to what was happening in the real world.

When I got to the State Department, I was struck -- I said this in a number of things -- that people with ideas have no influence, and people with influence have no ideas. The people who are making decisions often have no time to consult anything academic. But [even] if they do, it's not written clearly enough for them to be able to apply it. The people with ideas who do have time to think about these things often don't present their ideas in a way that they can be used by those who are trying to make decisions. So I've tried to bridge that gap as much as I can.

You're suggesting that the potential for synergy is very great, but that mediation is required between these two worlds. Is that a fair assessment?

Oh, very much so. When I was in the government, every day matters would arise in which I'd think, "How can I be making this decision in such a short-term focus? Somebody must have written about this. Somebody must have put this into a pattern, and I'd like to know what that pattern is." I would send my staff out to look for articles and books. But very often what they came back with was so tangential and so abstract that I couldn't use it; it didn't help me. When I went back into academia in 2001, part of my thought was that I needed to figure out a way to bridge this divide.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Nice quote

Part of the project of overturning nationalism should involve moving away from 'national histories' told from the point of view of a single nation-state protagonist. Going from "this had nothing to do with us," to "this was a tremendous tragedy for us" takes an important step: it broadens the meaning of us.

-- Saurabh at Rhinocrisy, at the end of a meditation on the histories of the Japanese-Chinese conflicts of World War II.

Agreed. I hate nationalism. I despise it when people say the United States is the greatest nation in the history of mankind.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


I want to be riding here.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Walter Benjamin

"The tradition of the oppressed teaches us that the 'state of emergency' in which we live is not the exception but the rule. We must attain to a conception of history that is in keeping with this insight. Then we shall clearly realize that it is our task to bring about a real state of emergency, and this will improve our position in the struggle against Fascism. One reason why Fascism has a chance is that in the name of progress its opponents treat it as a historical norm. The current amazement that the things we are experiencing are 'still' possible in the twentieth century is not philosophical. This amazement is not the beginning of knowledge--unless it is the knowledge that the view of history which gives rise to it is untenable."

--Walter Benjamin, "Theses on the Philosophy of History," (Spring, 1940) trans. Harry Zohn.

I think I would be happy if I spent my entire life reading Benjamin. Most of his work is critical, but it also offers glimpses of optimism. Just like my temperament.

Also note that the these posted above applies just as much today during the global War on Terror as it did during World War II.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Halloween Costumes?

A smurf? Fidel Castro? A black cloak with a mask a la Eyes Wide Shut?

Update: Caesar? The Mat Hatter from Alice in Wonderland?

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Quote of the Day

"But then, there’s nothing so silly that we humans won’t say it—until we train ourselves to do better.z" - Bob Somerby

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Good comment at Brad DeLong's

"The objection to Roberts comes from Oliver Wendell Holmes: the life of the law is experience. What we want is experience with the lives people actually live, rather than the lives that the moral absolutists and ideologues think we should live. Roberts never represented anyone whose income was under the national median, and darn few whose last name wasn't Inc. He has no experience with the lives that my family lives, let alone people who never graduated from grade school.

I wonder about Ms. Mier in this area."

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Rightists do not understand the value of explanation. Or rather, their explanations are myths: religious, nationalist, and economic.