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The Real Me

Belle Waring asks "Do you think blogs reveal a person's true personality?" Not to get too existential about it, but I think this is a somewhat naive question. We all present ourselves in a variety of ways in a variety of contexts, both in writing (be it on the web or, when applicable, in print) and face-to-face. I'm not sure it makes sense to say that any o those modes of presentation are our "true" selves. It seems to me that Duncan Black could probably play Atrios in real life if he wanted to, but that's not what he was doing on the occassions when I saw the physical him, and I suspect his disinclination to talk to the hordes of reporters around derives from a disinclination to either play that character or to break character in public. The virtual Matthew Yglesias "knows" (i.e., is read by) many more people than the "real" Matthew Yglesias knows so, in a sense, he's more real than the "real" me. In another sense that's bunk and the guy you're reading now is just some words on a screen and the other me is a flesh-and-blood person. But, of course, I can and do adopt various guises in life according to who I'm talking to and why.

July 31, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (113) | TrackBack

War and Deficit

Since Michael Totten approved of this I'd just like to point out that the president's bizarre fiscal policies aren't just -- or even primarily -- an economic problem. They endanger our security as well. The sort of a "war on terrorism" that intelligent people think we're in -- a prolonged ideological struggle with military, diplomatic, intelligence, law enforcement, and domestic security elements -- is bound to cost a lot of money. And not in a one-off way like world war two, but in a semi-permanent way like the coldwar. The semi-permanence of the needed expenditures is key, it's not the sort of thing that can be financed through wartime deficits that we'll confidently pay back once peace has returned. We need to budget for these things as if the emergency will never end. That's not to say that the emergency won't ever end, but simply that it will take a long time, it's impossible to say exactly how long, and whatever we do we want to make it credible that we'll keep on doing it for as long as it takes.

July 31, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (49) | TrackBack

Bad Question

Rasmussen Reports misses the chance to give us some really interesting data by asking a poorly worded question:

Fifty-one percent (51%) of American voters say that making sure Iraq becomes "a peaceful nation enjoying freedom and democracy" is more important than bringing home American soldiers right away.

A Rasmussen Reports survey also found that 39% believe bringing home the troops as soon as possible in more important.

Sadly, there's a huge excluded middle here. What I'd like to see is how long people are willing to put up with the sort of deployment we have right now. Certainly if you told me that a peaceful nation (forget freedom and democracy) was six months away, I'd say keep the troops. If we can get "freedom and democracy" along with peace in a year, then sign me up for the year. But I'm very skeptical that the second option is a real one and somewhat skeptical that the first one is as well. Keeping the troops around for a year in order to create a "stable" "democracy" that falls apart in the year after US troops leave (see, e.g., Aghanistan) isn't a good idea at all. What we have here are questions about feasibility and cost of achieving feasible goals. There's no particularly need to bring troops home "right away" as long as keeping them around longer accomplishes something, and I think everyone would agree that, hypothetically, there are aims which it would be worth prolonging the deployment in order to achieve, as long long as such prolongation would actually achieve them.

July 31, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (32) | TrackBack

Imperial Hubris: Early Thoughts

I've finally started reading Imperial Hubris and I can tell you that I don't think this book has gotten the attention it deserves. I wouldn't want to endorse all of the author's ideas (indeed, I haven't even finished the book!) but there's a lot of analysis in there coming from a very alien perspective to the prevailing debate that ought to be at least thought about. Some examples over the coming days....

July 31, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (14) | TrackBack

A Question

What did people think of the Prospect's convention blog? From my perspective, it was interesting to write, but it was a pretty unorthodox exercise and I couldn't get any real sense of whether it was something anyone was interested in reading. If it was innovative and successful it seems like we should think about extending that sort of model to other big political events, but if it was a failure we can stick to writing magazine articles.

July 31, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (51) | TrackBack

Early Modern Philosophy

This looks to be an excellent resource. Not only are the author's whose works are reproduced excellent, but the proprietor is on to one of the main problems with these texts, namely their relative impenetrability to the average reader of the English language. Thomas Hobbes will tell you just about what you need to know.

July 31, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (23) | TrackBack

"Turning the Corner"

Truly this is the last refuge of the desperate -- things aren't actually better, but they will be soon! Paradise is just around the next curve. . . .

Actually around the bend lie such things as national bankruptcy and Iran.

UPDATE: Let me say a bit more. The basic fact is that as long as George Bush is president no corners will be turned anywhere simply because he isn't driving the country in any particular direction. John Kerry can be maddeningly vague at times, but in a broad sense one knows where he stands -- the government should spend more money in a variety of areas in order to try and solve various problems and tax rates should be set at a level adequate to matching those expenditures. An alternative philosophy would hold that tax rates should go down and then spending reduced to bring expenditure in line with revenue. Bush, though, doesn't hold this latter belief. Whenever he focuses on a problem -- be it homeland security, education, health care, democracy promotion, whatever -- he winds up spending more money. But he also keeps cutting taxes again and again. The result is that new Bush initiatives wind up not having adequate resources behind them to be successful, and an ever-widening budget deficit. It's line turning a corner, getting a flat tire, and then realizing you're heading over a cliff.

July 31, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (44) | TrackBack

Stable, Democratic, Whatever

Look, look, it is fun to get all upset about Democrats who'll accept a "stable" Iraq rather than a "democratic" one, but you've got to ask yourself a thing or two. Would I rather have a stable Iraq or would I rather have a failed state Iraq that the president of the United States calls a democracy? This is your choice. If you like what's behind door number two (i.e., Afghanistan) then you really ought to vote for George W. Bush. He's really good at talking about democracy-promotion. Way better than John Kerry. The only Democrat who even gets the text in the right neighborhood is Joe Biden and his delivery is nothing compared to Bush's. And not only is Bush good at talking about democracy promotion, he's really good at calling Afghanistan a democracy, and really, really good at pretending that Baathist hitman Iyad Allawi is an emerging liberal democrat.

George W. Bush for President: Because He'll Keep You Detatched From Reality.

Back in the real world, democracies don't just blossom in the desert like so many warring ethno-religious sub-groups. If you have a stable state in place, that state can liberalize and democratize. If you have no stability, on the other hand, then it doesn't really matter what you say about democracy, does it? If we should ever find ourselves in the fortunate situation of having a stable Iraq on our hands debating whether or not to push for it to democratize some more, we will be lucky people indeed.

July 30, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (81) | TrackBack

Remaindered Reporting

I was going to use this in a column, but I've decided not to, but it may as well see the light of say somewhere. The other day Rand Beers got asked a question about "would we under the Kerry administration see a US representative lift a sole hand" to check Israeli actions in the West Bank. The construction of the security wall, for example. Beers said, that Kerry's view on the subject "is a recognition by John Kerry of Israel's right to its own self-defense which is why we have stood in opposition to the World Court's jurisdiction over this." It looked to me from Beers' body language like this was the statement of a man who knows he's advocating for a bad policy, but thinks it's what he needs to do in order to be able to accomplish what he really wants to do.

Or maybe that was wishful thinking on my part. Either way, the question remains whether it's really possible to do what Rand Beers wants to do if in order to be in a position to be able to do it, he needs to stick with our current Israel policy. I tend to think that it isn't. Well-meaning as John Kerry and his team may be, if they don't think they can get away with deviating from the AIPAC line (and I readily admit they may be correct in thinking that they cannot so deviate) there are big limits on what they can really do.

July 30, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (43) | TrackBack

Also Not Mentioned...

... at the Democratic Convention was the small matter of looming genocide.

Elsewhere, Juan Cole tries to put some flesh on the notion of bringing in allies, and makes a pretty strong case that there are viable options.

July 30, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (16) | TrackBack