by Ted on August 13, 2004

Just before you settle down on the landing pad, you look upon Arlington National Cemetery…its gentle slopes and crosses row on row. I never once made that trip without being reminded how enormously fortunate we all are to be Americans, and what a terrible price thousands have paid so that all of us…and millions more around the world…might live in freedom.

Dick Cheney, August 2000, accepting the nomination for Vice-President at the Republican National Convention

The memorials in rows at Arlington Cemetary are rounded white headstones, not crosses.

Do you know why this unimportant gaffe wasn’t a story? Because no Democratic politician put his credibility on the line to point it out. If Gore had gotten on the stump and harrumphed about it, it would have been picked up and played itself out, like countless other sad little pseudo-scandals on the campaign trail.

Similarly, the kabuki outrage about the John Kerry in Cambodia

My opponent said that he was in Cambodia in 1968. Now

John Kerry said, as recently as 1986, that he spent the Christmas of 1968 on a clandestine mission in Cambodia. In fact, he was there on clandestine missions in January and February of 1969 in Cambodia. His recollection was off by between one and five weeks. As Kevin Drum explains,

Kerry did go to Cambodia — even though that was supposedly impossible, he did take CIA guys in — even though that was supposedly absurd, and he did get a hat from one of them — even though that was supposedly a sign of mental instability. The extent of Kerry’s malfeasance is that instead of doing it in December, he actually did it in January and February.

In 1986, he said that this was “seared” on his memory. Rather like, I’d imagine, the memory of a cemetery you had seen and contemplated well over a hundred times.

Readers are invited to share why I should be outraged at John Kerry.

Quick, in high school were you ever told not to date your old girlfriend’s current boyfriend’s old girlfriend? Or your old boyfriend’s current girlfriend’s old boyfriend? Probably not. But I bet you never did, either. This month’s “American Journal of Sociology”: has a very nice “paper”: (subscription only, alas) by “Peter Bearman”:, “Jim Moody”: and “Katherine Stovel”: about the structure of the romantic and sexual network in a population of over 800 adolescents at “Jefferson High” in a midsized town in the midwestern United States. They got a pretty well-bounded population (a high school included in the “AddHealth”: study) and mapped out all the connections between the students. Read on for the lurid details.

[click to continue…]

I Hate NBC

by Brian on August 13, 2004

As most of you reading this outside America will know, the 2004 Olympics have begun. Of course in America none of this has been seen yet, because it is technologically impossible or something to broadcast live from Greece. So the film of the opening ceremony is being sent by carrier pigeon to New York, where it will arrive in a few hours to be shown.

Now I don’t really care when or where the opening ceremony is shown. But I do care about when and where they show Olympic events in which Australians have a decent chance of doing well, especially swimming. And if one is stuck in the televisual hell-hole that is the United States, the answer is “Nowhere live, and unknown time and location on tape delay.” Because NBC refuses to show any swimming events live, and refuses (as far as I can tell) to say just when it will show events on tape delay, it is practically impossible to tell how much of a commitment will be needed to actually see Australians (or anyone else you might be interested in) in action. If you’re lucky NBC will, just like a cable company, say that the event you want will turn up sometime in a 4 hour interval. Just why Americans tolerate this kind of behaviour from a TV station is a little unclear, but I can’t imagine it would be possible to get away with such behaviour anywhere else in the western world.


by Ted on August 13, 2004

Liberal Oasis has a good collection of quotes from our sensitive Republican friends.

Julian Sanchez adds,

I swear, stuff like this is almost enough to make me want to become one of those partisan Democratic hacks that Matt refuses to be. It ought to be crystal clear to everyone—it surely is to Cheney—that Kerry meant by a “more sensitive” war on terror exactly what Bush did when he used the same word: It’s a point about more deft diplomacy, not a suggestion that we watch Steel Magnolias with Osama and talk about our feelings.

Via Tapped, who point out the shoddy job that the press has done in pointing out the dishonesty in Cheney’s remarks. The Washington Post, the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times all fail to print Kerry’s entire quote in their articles about Cheney’s attack. With these guys, it doesn’t matter if what they’re saying is true; it only matters if it’s useful. It would be nice if the major media outlets didn’t keep falling for it.

Mommsen’s death

by Henry Farrell on August 13, 2004

Prominent German historian, Wolfgang Mommsen “has died”:,1518,312871,00.html while swimming in the Ostsee. He was the scion of an astonishingly prolific family of German historians and thinkers (his great-grandfather, Theodor Mommsen, won the Nobel Prize; Max Weber was a relation by marriage). He is likely to be remembered for his prominent and honorable role in the _Historikerstreit_ (historians’ controversy), in which he along with several others (Jurgen Habermas, _Kaiserreich_ historian Hans-Ulrich Wehler, social historian Jurgen Kocka) battled with conservatives who seemed to be trying to normalize the Nazi period of German history. See “Rhine River blog”: for more. Thanks to Nathanael Robinson for letting us know.

Right to know

by Ted on August 13, 2004

Jeff Jarvis makes a decent point:

Apparently, everyone else in New Jersey media knew McGreevey’s secret. And if that’s so, it raises lots of questions. I’m not saying they should have outed him; I long for the day when a politician’s personal life is just that. But if he indeed hired his lover for a state job for which that reputed lover was in no way qualified… well, that’s a crime. Why didn’t we know?

It’s great that McGreevey came right out and told the world that he was gay without apologizing for it. But if the charges about cronyism for his lover are true, they’re much more serious than Jack Ryan’s trips to sex clubs.

I understand that the specific comparison is meaningless; the individuals who make up the press corps in New Jersey don’t have to answer for the Chicago Tribune, or vice versa. There’s no one to point to, other than the imaginary beast called “the media.” Still, the public right to know is self-evident in the case of McGreevey, and not at all evident in the case of Jack Ryan. This isn’t right.

Rawls against desert

by Chris Bertram on August 13, 2004

“Will Wilkinson”: has a “column up at TechCentralStation on desert”: . This very fact is regrettable, since Wilkinson is smarter, saner, and more interesting that the average TCS columnist and hence will serve to cover-up — somewhat — the nakedness of this “astroturf”: operation. Anyway, the real issue is what he says, which is aimed at “Matthew Yglesias”: , “Max Sawicky”: and others who attack the concepts of meritocracy. Wilkinson credits their argument — that we don’t really deserve anything — to John Rawls. The argument Wilkinson (mis)attributes to Rawls is, in a nutshell, that although, superficially, it may seem that we deserve praise or reward for our efforts, in some deeper sense we don’t, because the attributes that enabled us to strive (such as our genetic makeup and our upbringing) were not themselves deserved. Given the moral arbitrariness of of our natural endowments — including the capacity for hard work — those with more talent can be legitimately taxed, as necessary, to support those unfortunate enough to have less.

[I’m putting the rest of this below the fold as it gets into technical Rawlsiana]

[click to continue…]

Get well soon

by John Q on August 13, 2004

According to this AP report in the NY Times, Moqtada al-Sadr has been wounded by US shelling in Najaf. Sadr is an irresponsible demagogue, his political agenda is reactionary and authoritarian and his militia has been guilty of many acts of thuggery and violence. And we should all wish for his complete and speedy recovery from his wounds.

Update There is a ceasefire and negotiations have started for a truce. This is welcome news, and I hope the talks are successful. However, it only points up the fact that the bloody campaign to destroy Sadr was both morally indefensible (as well as being politically stupid). I restate the point I made when the fighting was at its peak.

Almost certainly, the current fighting will end in the same sort of messy compromise that prevailed before the first campaign started. Nothing will have been gained by either side. But 2000 or so people will still be dead. Sadr bears his share of the guilt for this crime. The US government is even more guilty.

[click to continue…]