From the monthly archives:

August 2005

Best of the Web

by Henry on August 23, 2005

I mentioned Alfredo Perez’s “Political Theory Daily Review”: a few days ago – it’s a wonderful site. I see today that Perez is looking to get a little publicity, by asking people to nominate his site for Business Week’s “Best of the Web”: survey. It seems a laudable goal to me (you can also, of course, vote for other websites that you think don’t get as much attention as they deserve; feel free to list these in comments).

Digital Phoenix

by Henry on August 23, 2005

[This is the first of a few book reviews that have been piling up on my desk – next up is Chris Mooney’s _The Republican War on Science_, and then sometime in the not _too_ distant future, Glyn Morgan’s _The Idea of a European Superstate_].

_Digital Phoenix: Why the Information Economy Collapsed and How It Will Rise Again_ by Bruce Abramson, (the MIT Press 2005). Available from “Powells”: and from “Amazon”: (deprecated).*

Bruce Abramson’s’ _Digital Phoenix_ is a smart read – it combines an excellent overview of the recent developments of the digital economy, with some important insights into how it works. The writing style is pacey, the stories (the Microsoft-Netscape battles, the MP3 wars, the birth of open source) are well told, and the quite substantial intellectual content is delivered in a user-friendly format. It’s the best non-technical account I’ve read of how network economies do and do not work in the information age. I’ll be assigning it to my students – as far as I can see, it’s the best and most complete account available. This said, there are two problems. First is its slightly breathy enconium to the new economy. All we need to do, says Abramson, is to renew our faith in the “corporate innovators and entrepreneurs who make growth possible,” and we can achieve the original promise of the information technology revolution. It isn’t that simple; the New Economy was never “everything it was cracked up to be”:, and the future, insofar as we can discern it, seems likely to be considerably weirder than Abramson gives it credit for being. Second is the concluding section which feels a bit tacked on, jumping into an argument over the fight for control of the information economy between terror movements and authoritarian governments on the one hand, and democratic liberals on the other. It reads like the conclusions of a very different book, and a substantially inferior one. [click to continue…]

Money, Mouth

by Henry on August 22, 2005

As Kieran “says”:, Chuck Hagel is now talking bluntly about the Iraq quagmire. But as Matt Yglesias has noted many times, prominent Republican legislators who are unhappy about administration policy have been all talk and no action. What could Republican dissenters in the Senate be doing? Let’s ask “Hagel himself”: :

bq. More than thirty years ago, the former Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, J. William Fulbright, held hearings on Vietnam that raised critical questions about U.S. policy. Fulbright received criticism for holding public hearings on Vietnam, especially with a President of his own party in office. Fulbright later wrote that he held those hearings, “in the hope of helping to shape a true consensus in the long run, even at the cost of dispelling the image of a false one in the short run.” Today we must not be party to a false consensus on Iraq or any other foreign policy issue.

Hagel drew this analogy back in January of this year; he hasn’t done much about it since. While he and his colleagues have asked a few sharpish questions of generals and others, they haven’t cared to demand the kind of “concerted examination”: of the conduct of the war (and whether the US should withdraw) that Fulbright instigated. Hagel is an influential member of the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee; if he demanded proper hearings it could have consequences. Time for him to put up, or shut up.

Update: “Mark Leon Goldberg”: has similar thoughts.

Update 2: modified slightly following comments.

Why does Chuck Hagel hate America?

by Kieran Healy on August 21, 2005

Chuck Hagel, the Republican U.S. Senator from Nebraska, “this morning”:,1282,-5224310,00.html:

Hagel scoffed at the idea that U.S. troops could be in Iraq four years from now at levels above 100,000, a contingency for which the Pentagon is preparing.
“We should start figuring out how we get out of there,” Hagel said on “This Week” on ABC. “But with this understanding, we cannot leave a vacuum that further destabilizes the Middle East. I think our involvement there has destabilized the Middle East. And the longer we stay there, I think the further destabilization will occur.”
Hagel said “stay the course” is not a policy. “By any standard, when you analyze 2 1/2 years in Iraq … we’re not winning,” he said. … “we are locked into a bogged-down problem not unsimilar, dissimilar to where we were in Vietnam,” Hagel said. “The longer we stay, the more problems we’re going to have. … What I think the White House does not yet understand – and some of my colleagues – the dam has broke on this policy,” Hagel said. “The longer we stay there, the more similarities [to Vietnam] are going to come together.” … Hagel described the Army contingency plan as “complete folly.” “I don’t know where he’s going to get these troops,” Hagel said. “There won’t be any National Guard left … no Army Reserve left … there is no way America is going to have 100,000 troops in Iraq, nor should it, in four years.” Hagel added: “It would bog us down, it would further destabilize the Middle East, it would give Iran more influence, it would hurt Israel, it would put our allies over there in Saudi Arabia and Jordan in a terrible position. It won’t be four years. We need to be out.”

Hagel was awarded two Purple Hearts for his service in Vietnam, so I’m sure that by Wednesday we’ll be hearing from Michelle Malkin that he might have shot himself in the leg a couple of times to get them. In the meantime, here’s a proleptic taster of what might be in store, courtesy of the National Review’s Rich Lowry. Way back in August 2002, Hagel was talking about the risks of invading Iraq. The Corner “spoke out in response”:

Chuck Hagel is now deemed a foreign-policy sophisticate for mindlessly repeating over and over that there are “risks” to invading Iraq. Golly, Chuck, really? Hagel MUST have a Ph.D. in international relations or something to have developed such a nuanced view of American foreign policy. Who knows how many thousands of hours of study and thought it took Hagel to come to the conclusion that invading Iraq is “complicated” and “risky”? I bet Nebraska has never been blessed with such Metternich-ian savvy, possibly ever. So, it’s really too bad that Hagel debased his foreign-policy genius in the New York Times today by resorting to the most shamelessly stupid of peacenik arguments: “Maybe Mr. Perle would like to be in the first wave of those who go into Baghdad.” Ohhh, Chuck—your rhetorical powers are over-awing us here in The Corner. How long did it take you to think that one up?

It goes on a bit longer in this vein. You get the idea.

Google growing

by John Quiggin on August 20, 2005

Google is about to issue 14 159 265 more shares (the number chosen is derived from the decimal expansion of pi) aiming to raise about $4 billion at an average price of about $250 a share. Given that I argued that Google was overvalued at the initial offer price of around $80, it might be time to take another look, both at Google as an investment and at the issues raised by its position in the Internet. In this post, I’ll stick to the first issue.

[click to continue…]

Flaming the Left

by Kieran Healy on August 19, 2005

Flaming the Left is a difficult matter,
It isn’t just one of your holiday games;
You may think at first I’m as mad as a hatter
When I tell you, you’re going to need THREE DIFFERENT FLAMES.
First of all, are the flames that the bloggers use daily,
Such as Ignorant, Jerk-in-the-Box, Leftist or Lame,
Such as Asshat or Poopy-head, Liberal or Crazy–
All comprehensible, everyday flames.
There are fancier claims if you think they sound neater,
Some for the heated times, some for the tame:
Such as Clintonite, Keynesian, New Deal, Single-Payer–
But all of them regular, everyday flames.
But I tell you the left needs a flame more particular,
Something less honest, a bit more cockeyed,
Else how can we keep up our image testicular,
Or cook up the data, or tell garish lies?
Flames of this kind are by now ten a penny,
Such as Darwinist, Feminist or Stab-in-the-Back,
Such as Idiotarian, or else Fifth Columnist,
Codes the wingnuts all listen for, on their antennae.
But above and beyond there’s still one name left over,
And that is the charge you by now have all guessed;
The thing that no liberal will ever admit to–
But RIGHT-WINGERS ALL KNOW, and have “often”: “expressed”:
When you engage a liberal in argumentation,
Your tactic, I tell you, should be to defame
His motives, his background, his disloyal mother,
And be sure to
Cry Treason,
With no sense of shame.

Kinds of Quagmires II

by Kieran Healy on August 19, 2005

“Orin Kerr”:, “Ted”: and “Kevin Drum”: think about options for the future in Iraq and the likelihood of various outcomes. Kevin says,

bq. I happen to think “a timed withdrawal is probably the best bet left to us”:, although I admit that I suspect Iraq is going to end up in chaos no matter what we do. That would be a disaster, but if we can’t stop it anyway there’s no point in making things worse by staying. For now, that’s pretty much where I’m at, and anyone who disagrees really needs to give the chin scratching a rest and tell us clearly and concisely what they’d do differently to turn the tide in this war. Time has run out.

As many have noted, as the situation in Iraq remains stuck, the political push from the pro-war side will increasingly move towards blaming the war’s failure on those who opposed its initiation, who had no power whatsoever over its direction, and even, in some cases, those who sacrificed a great deal to its prosecution. The astonishing vilification of Cindy Sheehan by right-wing talking heads is evidence enough of that. I find it depressing — and a sign of how stuck things now are — that a CT post from “almost two years ago”: stands up pretty well.

[click to continue…]

Calling all sofa and moving experts

by Eszter Hargittai on August 18, 2005

Super smart and super nice blogger Jeremy Freese is calling out to the blogosphere in a desperate plea to help him figure out how to get his sofa into his new place. Jeremy just moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts and it turns out his beloved sofa won’t make it up the stairs into his new apartment. Even before his furniture arrived earlier this week he had already succeeded in finding wifi and keeping his blog readers updated regarding his move. Not having any furniture for a night didn’t pose any major challenges, but the sofa’s arrival yesterday meant the start of some real stress. It is still standing in the hallway its legs now only held up by the remaining three screws that won’t come off.

Anyone with suggestions on how to solve this puzzle, please leave a note on Jeremy’s blog.

I’m sure everyone has and knows of hellish moving experiences. One of the worst stories I recall concerns a friend gearing up for her last year in graduate school. The university’s housing office told her that they could not accomodate her any longer so she had to move. She packed up all her stuff and transferred everything to the new location. Unfortunately, it turned out that several items among her possessions would not fit through the doorway and hallway of her new apartment. In the end, the univ housing office let her back into her old apartment. But so why exactly was all that packing up necessary?

The winner of the most unfortunate move in my circles is my brother. He was in the midst of moving in between cities and spent a night in a motel. His truck in the parking lot got broken into overnight. The culprits managed to take all the really personal stuff that could never be replaced leaving the few things that were perhaps of any objective value (e.g. a computer). Go figure.

It seems that moving always entails some hellish experience, the question is more about the magnitude of the unfortunate events that will unfold.

UPDATE: Thanks to some helping hands and some power tools, Jeremy’s sofa is now in his apartment.

Strange bedfellows

by Henry on August 18, 2005

Something that’s been bothering me for a while – the ever-smushier and less critical lovefest between leftwing opponents of the Iraq war and rightwing realist opponents of same. “Steve Clemons”:, who has contacts in both camps, quotes an unnamed _Nation_ person yesterday as saying that “realism has become the new liberal foreign policy ideology.” When it isn’t (quite rightly) ripping shreds out of the “liberal hawk” establishment, Ari Berman’s _Nation_ article reads like a mash-note to an emerging “dissident establishment”: that unites left and right against foreign policy adventurism. Now there’s a lot to be said in favour of building a short-term alliance to push back against the lunacy of recent years, and inject a little reality into foreign policy thinking. Rightwing realists have smart and interesting things to say, and are, all in all, a vast improvement on the crew of yahoos and me-too cheerleaders who gave us “Operation Wishful Thinking”: I’d be delighted to see the Perles, Boots and Ledeens of the DC foreign policy establishment consigned to the outer darkness. But leftwingers who rush too quickly to embrace their new friends on the right should meditate upon the malign example of Henry Kissinger, and the implications of _Realpolitik_ for the causes and issues that they’re committed to. We should all be in favour of the reality-based crowd taking over Republican foreign policy making – it’ll mean that our arguments with them will be conducted on a saner basis. But we shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking that those arguments will magically disappear. Whatever realism is, it isn’t a good basis for a leftwing approach to foreign policy (though it may have valuable lessons to impart to such an approach).


by Henry on August 18, 2005

More interesting things from around the WWW.

Scott McLemee is back from a break, with two great columns. The “first”: is on Alfredo Perez’s “Political Theory Daily Review”:, which is one of my daily reads, and imo a simply terrific resource. It beats the better-known “Arts and Letters Daily” hands-down in terms of depth of coverage and (for me) interest. Somebody needs to give this guy a paid job doing this full-time The second is an “essay”: on the mutual disdain of academia and journalism for each other, defending intellectual border-crossing and amateurism, in the original sense of the word.

The American Institute for Contemporary German Studies has set up a “German elections blog”: with commentary in English from German journalists and experts. Speaking of which, I’ve been meaning to give a plug to “Sign and Sight”: feuilletons page for a while; it’s a great way of keeping up with the intellectual debate in Germany and elsewhere.

Tim Harford and others have set up the World Bank’s first “blog”:, which aims to promote private sector approaches to international development.

My old colleague, Ron Deibert has set up “Civiblog”:, a free blogging service for people involved in NGOs and civil society organizations.


by Ted on August 18, 2005

Jesse at Pandagon finds Kathryn Jean Lopez wondering why the media isn’t covering an Amnesty International report on terrorism in Iraq. He notes, among other things, that “this may constitute the first time since September 11th that any conservative commentator has honestly admitted that Amnesty writes anything that isn’t a direct attack on America.”

Publius at Law and Politics has a marvelous look at Hitchens’ “sister cities” article.

I understand the emotional need to attack those who you don’t care for anyway. But the idea that the anti-war Left and the sister city program have one damned thing to do with our problems in Iraq is nothing short of full-blown delusion (though it is interesting from a psychological perspective)…

Just to be clear, if we are unsuccessful in Iraq, the people to blame are the people who caused the war to happen, not the people who didn’t want it to happen. If we are unsuccessful, the leaders who executed the war are to blame, not the liberal groups who had exactly zero influence in the war planning and execution.

You may hate the Left so bad that you’d like to wring all their necks. But that hatred has exactly zero relevance to the larger truth that you may or may not be willing to confront – if this war is lost, then Bush lost it.

I’m afraid that we might be having this argument a lot more in the future.

Beautiful Horizons is a just a terrific blog that doesn’t get as much attention as it deserves, because few other bloggers can talk on Randy Paul’s level about Central and South America.

During the Vietnam war, John Steinbeck was writing to the White House with ideas about weapons and tactics, including the idea for a baseball-sized napalm weapon. Funny old world.

Living in Texas can drive a liberal crazy, but the people here do some things right.

Finally, Brad DeLong has the Concord Coalition’s plausible forecast of budget deficits.

What next

by Ted on August 18, 2005

Orin Kerr recently proposed a useful simplified framework of possible outcomes in Iraq:

1) The U.S. beats back the insurgency and democracy flowers in Iraq (call this the “optimistic stay” scenario),
2) The U.S. digs in its heels, spends years fighting the insurgency, loses lots of troops, and years later withdraws, leading to a bloody and disastrous civil war (the “pessimistic stay” scenario);
3) The U.S. decides that it’s no longer worth it to stay in Iraq, pulls out relatively soon, and things in Iraq are about as best as you could hope for, perhaps leading to a decent amount of democracy (optimistic leave), and
4) The U.S. decides that it’s no longer worth it to stay in Iraq, pulls out soon, and plunges Iraq into a bloody and disastrous civil war with the bad guys assuming control eventually (pessimistic leave).

Speaking only for myself, I’m entirely confident that we could achieve outcome 4, believe that staying the course will continue to lead to outcome 2, and can scarcely imagine outcome 3. What about outcome 1? Is it achievable?

There’s been some good discussion among some war supporters who believe that the situation in Iraq is dire, but salvageable. They aren’t spending a lot of time flailing against a stab in the back from the press or from tricksy liberals. They’re disturbed by the dialing down of expectations, and by official talk of troop withdrawls. See Charles and von at Obsidian Wings, Bill Kristol at the Weekly Standard, Greg Djerejian at Belgravia Dispatch (also here).
[click to continue…]

Lego triumph

by Chris Bertram on August 18, 2005

How fitting that the greatest sporting moment (so far) of the 21st century, and one of the greatest comebacks of all time, should be commemorated “thus”: :

bq. WITH a triumphant look on his face, Steven Gerrard can be seen standing next to the Champions League Trophy flanked by his manager, Rafael Benitez.

bq. But look again. For this is not an image from the historic final between Liverpool and AC Milan in Turkey earlier this year – it is a re-creation of the scene made entirely from Lego.

bq. Artists Darren Neave and John Cake – who are known as The Little Artists – have built the work from the toy bricks and it will go on display at Liverpool’s Walker Art Gallery later this week.

The September Project 2005

by Eszter Hargittai on August 17, 2005

The September Project was launched last year to encourage libraries to engage citizens in discussions related to freedom and democracy on September 11th. This year the project continues its mission and has already attracted hundreds of libraries from 20 countries to participate. The organizers are hoping to attract even more. This map shows participating libraries in the US (e.g. the entire Chicago Public Library system has signed up), this one shows international venues (e.g. libraries in Cuba, India, South Africa, Singapore, New Zealand, etc.). Any CT readers in the vicinity of Universidad Cienfuegos? I’d be curious to hear a report from that discussion.

The site offers a description of the events that occured at libraries on 9/11 last year. The Project has a blog where people can follow updates.


by Henry on August 17, 2005

A point of occasional confusion for people linking to, or commenting on CT – “Henry Farrell” is not the same person as “Harry Brighouse” . When a post is by “Henry,” it’s written by me, and when it’s by “Harry,” it’s him. I’m not really complaining about this, as I get much the better end of the deal – while I get to “author books on political theory”: without actually having to write them, he “gets attacked”: for saying rude things about Robert Conquest that he didn’t in fact say. But still, perhaps better to keep things straight.