An open letter to Tom Maguire

by Ted on January 20, 2006


I hope that you’ll forgive that I didn’t just put this in your comments. I don’t hold you responsible for them (much as I wouldn’t want to be held responsible for everything in our comments), but your commenters scare me.

I really think that you’re off-base here. There are times when the arguments made by virtually any partisan can be shown to be parallel to the rhetoric of some unsavory character. It’s not hard to squint your eyes and find parallels between the rhetoric of Michael Moore, Howard Dean or Ted Barlow and Osama Bin Ladin. Similarly, it wouldn’t be hard to quote Rush Limbaugh, Dick Cheney, or Tom Maguire and find a somewhat similar argument that had been made by David Duke, Timothy McVeigh or… you know. The guy we’re not supposed to mention. (You may remember that during the 90s, Republican congressmen had a habit of making arguments that were similar to the rhetoric of Slobodan Milosevic.)

But so what? There’s simply no way to defend yourself against this, short of just shutting up. There’s no plausible way to make a case against a war without opening yourself to the possibility that the enemy will ever use a similar argument. (Any patriotic rhetoric will be simply excised by an attacking pundit.) There’s no way to oppose social spending without exposing yourself to a comparison some modern-day Scrooge. There’s no way to oppose affirmative action without exposing yourself to comparisons to racists. You don’t enjoy being on the receiving end of this sort of playground logic, so why take such pains to excuse it when the shoe is on the other foot?

People who make the kinds of statements that Chris Matthews made aren’t really making an argument. Rather, they’re just trying to get a little bit of tar onto the partisan they’re criticising. There’s no principle that they’re trying to establish. It’s just a show of contempt.

And it really does little good to bat your eyes and say that the good fella didn’t mean anything by it. You’ve found an angle at which Chris Matthews’ statement can be literally defended. Good for you. Now read your comments and trackbacks. At your blog, one of the most reasonable right-of-center blogs around, your readers have spent the day lamenting what they imagine to be an alliance between al-Qaeda and the American left. They understand the message.



The Army and Vietnam, part 2

by Ted on January 20, 2006

More from The Army and Vietnam by Andrew F. Krepinevich. It’s especially interesting, if I perceive the state of the world correctly, because al-Qaeda front terrorists in Iraq (as opposed to jockeying Iraqi ethnic militias) don’t seem to be terribly interested in gaining the positive support of a wide swath of Iraqis. That might reflect a nihilistic worldview, or it might be my own myopia.

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A twist on online communities

by Eszter Hargittai on January 20, 2006

Judging from my posts around here – not to mention my daily browsing habits – I’m obsessed with Flickr. I wanted to take a step back and give a bit of basic info about the site to those who are not that familiar with it. It is my way of trying to spread all that Flickr goodness to more people.

Flickr may seem like no more than a photo-sharing Web site, but it’s actually much more than that. It is a large community of people sharing images, yes, but also learning about a myriad of topics, exploring nearby and distant lands, and communicating with people from all over the world. In some ways it resembles corners of blogworld. One important difference is that a good chunk of the communicating is done through images rather than text.

Flickr can help you get to know people in all sorts of ways through their photos (and I don’t just mean by looking at what they had for dinner, although frankly, if the cook or restaurant is a good one, that can be interesting as well), get to know cities (e.g. the Guess Where Chicago and Guess Where NYC groups are both fun and informative), learn about healthy foods, read thought-provoking (or not) quotes, and much more.

In case you don’t need these basics, perhaps you’ll find some helpful tips in my guide to finding great photos on Flickr published yesterday on Lifehacker. Consider that the second installment to this post.

Here are some of the basic features of the site. Some of the links below will only work if you are logged in to the system. If you have a Yahoo! account then you are all set. If not, sign up for a free account now, you won’t regret it.*

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