by Henry Farrell on September 15, 2004

Following up on my “review”: of “Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell”: last week, there’s a very nice piece on the book at “N+1”:, which has a lot more to say about the book’s “levelling streak” than I could fit in a blogpost.

I know about N+1 thanks to a conversation with Scott McLemee, who does a very interesting article on ‘big processes’ sociologist “Michael Mann”: for the Chronicle. There’s a short critical quote from David Laitin, a Stanford political scientist – this reflects a long standing argument (Laitin is “no great fan”: of the kinds of research that Mann and others like him are interested in).

Finally, “Cosma Shalizi”: makes it into _Physical Review Letters_, which I understand from my colleagues in the hard sciences is a pretty big deal. Congratulations.

Democracy promotion as Realpolitik

by Henry Farrell on September 15, 2004

“Matt Yglesias”: says that there’s “no content to the Bush democracy agenda,” and that it’s “just a rhetorical flourish.” I don’t think that this is quite accurate – the real problem is that the Bush democracy agenda wasn’t intended to promote the worldwide spread of democracy as an end-goal; democracy was supposed to be an intermediate means towards a fix for America’s security problems in the Middle East. As “Josh Marshall”: pointed out last year, the rationale was that democracy in Iraq would lead to the eventual creation of “a string of democratic, pro-Western governments (Turkey, Iraq, and Iran) stretching across the historical heartland of Islam.” In short, this was democracy promotion as _Realpolitik_ by other means. Thus, there’s no real inconsistency in principle with the toleration and indeed occasional encouragement of human rights abuses and autocracy in those parts of the world where US security interests wouldn’t be furthered by democratic reform. The problem, it seems to me, wasn’t so much the incoherence of the objectives (which were coherent, if wrong-headed) as the lack of any fundamental commitment to democracy _as such_, the unwillingness to use means of democracy promotion that might have had increased international legitimacy because they limited US power, and, of course, the profound and near-total incompetence with which the US pursued its goals.

Shana Tova

by Eszter Hargittai on September 15, 2004

I just wanted to wish people a Happy New Year. I am not going to say anything profound, just post text from an email that was forwarded to me a few days ago (below the fold). Of course, depending on your perspective, some of those lines could be considered pretty profound.

Otherwise, you can head over to the Unsealed Room to read up on the amusing circumstances of Madonna’s/Esther’s[1] visit to Israel (e.g. please, no Jewish photographers, wouldn’t want Jews to violate the High Holy Days).

fn1. I’d just like to add that I’m really glad she went with the English spelling so as not to upset my Google rankings.:)

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The $4/gallon solution

by John Q on September 15, 2004

WIthout much fanfare, the US recorded its largest ever current account deficit in the June quarter, $166 billion. The NYT gave the story a fairly prominent run in the business pages , but the Washington Post ignored it altogether as far as I could see, and CBS Market Watch buried it in small print[1].

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Marty Peterson

by Ted on September 15, 2004

I recently went to see a speech and Q&A session by Marty Peterson, deputy executive director of the CIA. Some notes:

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Getting Technical about the Killian Memos

by Brian on September 15, 2004

If “Matt Yglesias”: is going to use philosophical technical jargon in political debates, he could at least try to be pedantic about it.

bq. After CBS ran the story, the conservative side of the ‘sphere came up with dozens of purported debunkings of their authenticity, almost all of which turned out to be more purported than debunking. Then after a few days of back-and-forth, traditional reporters at The Washington Post came out with a more careful, more accurate, more actually-debunking story. The folks at PowerLine and LGF are, at best, Gettier cases, they didn’t do any of the actual debunking. Instead, it was done by reporters working for major papers.

But these aren’t really Gettier cases, because Gettier cases are instances of *justified* true belief that aren’t knowledge, while the beliefs of the folks at Powerline and LGF were *unjustified* false beliefs.

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