I (heart) the 90s

by Ted on May 12, 2005

USA Today reports:

About a third of the 152 adult guests who slept at the White House or Camp David last year were fundraisers or donors to President Bush’s campaigns, but at least half of those also are family or old friends.

It’s not surprising that there’s a lot of overlap between a successful politician’s fundraisers/ donors and his old friends, so I appreciate that they tried to break that out. It looks like about 1/2 of 1/3 of the guests were donors or fundraisers who were not family or old friends. That’s probably a little less than 16%.

Most readers will remember that Bill Clinton’s presidency came under continuous assault for inviting donors to stay at the White House, specifically the Lincoln bedroom. In 1997, the White House released a list of all of the guests who had stayed in the Lincoln bedroom. (The Bush administration does not report where guests stayed.) CNN posted the list as of 2/97, which they have divided into five groups. They’ve tried to define donors and fundraisers who were not family or old friends as “friends and supporters”. They make up 13% of the list.

There are obviously several degrees of imprecision here. Most importantly, there’s no great way to discern who’s really the President’s friend and who isn’t without a subpoena of his Trapper Keeper. We’re also looking at different timespans, and comparing the Lincoln bedroom to both the White House and Camp David.

What’s less obvious is how the liberal media allowed one President’s pattern of behavior (about 13%) to become a widely-understood multi-year scandal, whereas another President’s pattern of behavior (about 11-15%) is a page 17 story, if that. But, what do I know.

Critiques reconsidered

by Henry on May 12, 2005

Brad DeLong revisits the Guenter Grass question.

bq. UPDATE: Well, the original title is wrong: Guenter Grass is not minimizing the holocaust by comparing Nazi Germany to globalization. And I should not call him crypto-Nazi scum.

bq. But there is, still, something very wrong with claiming not that the neoliberal approach to economic reform is wrong, and that the analyses of people like me and my friends are flawed, but that we and I are the standard-bearers of a new totalitarianism. There is something very wrong with claiming that that the decision of the Social Democratic Party to push Harz IV is not a mistake, but rather a reflection of the Social Democratic Party’s subservience to multinational capital.

bq. Chancellor Schroeder is working for the interests of the German people as he sees them, and deserves a better quality of critic.

There aren’t many (any?) political bloggers who haven’t made overly-hasty or sweeping judgments at one point or another. But there’s a lot more rhetoric out there about the “self-correcting blogosphere” than there are selves who are willing to correct where correction is appropriate. More power to Brad for doing this.

Cons vs. Neo-Cons

by Henry on May 12, 2005

A shoe that has taken a little while to drop; mainstream conservatives are finally beginning to point out in public that the neo-con project of remoulding the world sits uncomfortably with traditional Burkean notions of prudence and culture. In a forthcoming article in conservative house journal, _The National Interest_ (still to be published; hence no link), John Hulsman and Anatol Lieven argue that realism is not only more moral than neo-conservatism (it better reflects the moral duty to be prudent), but that it better reflects traditional conservative values as articulated by Burke and others. They have some harsh words for the neo-cons.

bq. an ethic of ultimate ends – especially when linked to the belief that one’s nation is the representative of all that is good – has a dangerous tendency to excuse its proponents from responsibility for the consequences of their actions. For if ideals and intentions are seen as spotlessly, self-evidently pure, then not only the grossest ruthlessness, but the grossest incompetence is of comparatively little importance. The Iraq War and its aftermath have been the first real test of the neoconservative approach in action. It is not an anomaly of the neoconservative philosophy as some have argued. Rather, it springs fully formed like Athena from neoconservatism’s head.

Hulsman and Lieven also give short shrift to those like Krauthammer who have tried to blend realism and neo-conservatism into an uneasy cocktail.

bq. Moreover, given America’s past historical record, the neoconservative combination of a professed belief in spreading democracy with a commitment to the limitless extension of American power and American interests in the Middle East is bound to be widely seen as utterly hypocritical. This is all the more so when – as advocated by Charles Krauthammer and others – the United States openly adjusts its public conscience according to its geopolitical advantage, talking loudly about democratic morality in cases that suit it, while remaining silent on others.

These tensions have been brewing for a while, and now appear to be breaking out “into”:http://www.thewashingtonnote.com/archives/000020.html “open”:http://www.sais-jhu.edu/pubaffairs/SAISarticles04/Fukuyama_NYT_082204.pdf “warfare”:http://www.sais-jhu.edu/pubaffairs/SAISarticles05/Fukuyama_NYT_031305.pdf. It’s a little surprising that this hasn’t gotten much attention from bloggers, given the obsessive debates over who was or wasn’t a neo-con last year. Some conservatives are clearly “worried”:http://www.gwu.edu/~elliott/faculty/articlenotes/Nau%20NI%20Article.pdf that these divisions may help the Democrats take back the White House in 2008, and are trying to get the different factions of the conservative-foreign-policy-wonkosphere to pull together rather than against each other. But this fight isn’t just reshaping the foreign policy debate among Republicans; Democrats too are being pulled in. On the one hand, people like “Peter Beinart”:http://www.tnr.com/doc.mhtml?pt=whKP5U%2BbbaxbirV9FQhQuh%3D%3D of the New Republic are trying to pull hawkish Democrats into closer cooperation with the neo-cons in the fight to spread democracy. On the other, people like Hulsman (who I heard speaking a couple of days ago), are looking to create a “Truman moment” with Democrats rather than their Republican brethren. They have quite a lot in common with centrist internationalists like Charles Kupchan and John Ikenberry, who believe that America’s power is best preserved through recreating the kind of international institutions and relationships that underpinned American hegemony during the Cold War. While this fight may well have partisan consequences, it isn’t in itself a partisan battle. I’ll be posting more on this as it develops.

Factcheck.org thinks you are a moron

by Kieran Healy on May 12, 2005

Atrios “points to”:http://atrios.blogspot.com/2005_05_08_atrios_archive.html#111590753078228325 an “absurd bit of ‘fact checking'”:http://factcheck.org/article325.html from Factcheck.org:

Judicial Fight Prompts Duelling, Distorted Ads
Millions are being spent on rival ads supporting and opposing two of President Bush’s most controversial judicial selections. Neither ad is completely accurate. … A rival ad by the liberal People for the American Way quotes Texas judge Janice Rogers Brown as saying seniors “are cannibalizing their grandchildren,” without making clear she was speaking metaphorically of debt being passed on to future generations by entitlement programs. … Brown was speaking about the debt being passed on to future generations, not suggesting that Medicare or Social Security causes old people to eat human flesh. Here’s the full quote from a speech she gave in 2000 before the Institute for Justice: … “My grandparents’ generation thought being on the government dole was disgraceful, a blight on the family’s honor. Today’s senior citizens blithely cannibalize their grandchildren because they have a right to get as much “free” stuff as the political system will permit them to extract.”

That’s certainly a colorful metaphor. Readers can decide for themselves whether the idea being expressed is “radical” or not.

Thanks for clearing that up! I now know that Janice Rogers Brown was not, in fact, claiming that Social Security causes seniors to literally eat the flesh of their grandchildren.

Yet it seems that Factcheck.org is not abiding by their own high standards. I think they need to issue a Factcheck on themselves, for erroneously (and perhaps maliciously and with partisan intent?) implying that the Progress for America foundation and the People for the American Way were engaged in a duel using their Ads. _Analysis_: (1) These organizations are merely legal entities, and strictly speaking cannot in fact have a duel between themselves or with real human beings. (2) Even if they could do so in principle, political Ads are not suitable weapons for dueling. According to an “authoritative history”:http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/duel/sfeature/dueling.html of the practice, there has _never_ been a case where the disputing parties agreed that their weapons of choice would be “30-second Spots at Dawn.” This is because major U.S. networks do not air political ads this early in the morning. (3) Perhaps most decisively, “dueling was outlawed”:http://internetproject.com/members/BurdanUSA/duel.htm in all American states in the years after the civil war, and in Washington DC as early as 1839. The continued neglect of basic facts like this in the public square is slowly poisoning our body politic. Oh shit. I mean, not _literally_ poisoning … Look, I’ll fix that later, OK? I need to get back to writing the release about how the “Nuclear Option” in the Senate is not actually a threat to bomb the opposing parties using silo-launched thermonuclear devices.


by Henry on May 12, 2005

From a delightful “short essay”:http://www.ansible.co.uk/sfx/sfx128.html by David Langford on footnotes in literature.

bq. My favourite helpful annotation in fantasy appears in Lord Dunsany’s story “The Bird of the Difficult Eye”, where “beasts prowling in the blackness gluttered” at the doomed protagonist. Gluttered? A footnote is provided: “See any dictionary, but in vain.”

The essay discusses Alasdair Gray’s use of fictional footnotes, but curiously fails to mention his Lanark, an almost uniformly depressing novel, with a happy ending which is only described (implied?) in the endnotes to a nonexistent final section. It also mentions in passing J.G. Ballard’s short story, “The Index” (which nabakov talks about in the comments to this “post”:https://crookedtimber.org/2003/10/15/indexing-as-artform/ on ‘Indexing as Artform’). Of course, Anthony Grafton has written an entire book on the genealogy of the footnote. However, despite frequent displays of Grafton’s personal literary flair ( e.g. “Like the high whine of the dentist’s drill, the low rumble of the footnote on the historian’s page reassures: The tedium it inflicts, like the pain inflicted by the drill, is not random but directed.”), the book confines its scope to the academic footnote, almost entirely ignoring its exotic fictional cousins. Finally, Scott McLemee “writes”:http://www.insidehighered.com/views/2005/05/10/mclemee about the guilty pleasures of reading reference books for entertainment, and solicits nominations for “favorite reference books” to provide “diversion, edification, or moral uplift .” My personal favourite is Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, available in a thoroughly outdated (and thus vastly more entertaining) edition “here”:http://www.bartleby.com/81/. “Fowler’s English Usage”:http://www.bartleby.com/116/ (again available in an antiquated edition) runs a close second, although I understand that its most recent edition has lost much of the vigour and charm that earlier versions had.

Update: I’d always assumed (without reading it) that Fowler’s “The King’s English” was an early and rather different version of “Modern English Usage.” Not so; they’re separate (if related) texts, and the link above is to the former rather than the latter.