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Wilkie and Duvshani

Posted by Ogged
on 06.28.03

Why are the normally perspicacious Kevin Drum and impeccably reasonable Eugene Volokh so uncritical in the matter of Andrew Wilkie and Amit Duvshani?

Duvshani is an Israeli who applied to study with Andrew Wilkie, Professor of Pathology at Oxford. Wilkie replied to Duvshani,

From: "Andrew Wilkie" awilkie@worf.molbiol.ox.ac.uk

To: "Amit Duvshani"

Sent: Monday, June 23, 2003 9:58 AM

Subject: Re: PhD application

Dear Amit Duvshani,
Thank you for contacting me, but I don't think this would work. I have a huge problem with the way that the Israelis take the moral high ground from their appalling treatment in the Holocaust, and then inflict gross human rights abuses on the Palestinians because they (the Palestinians) wish to live in their own country.
I am sure that you are perfectly nice at a personal level, but no way would I take on somebody who had served in the Israeli army. As you may be aware, I am not the only UK scientist with these views but I'm sure you will find another suitable lab if you look around.
Yours sincerely,

Andrew Wilkie

(Wilkie has since apologized, and you can read more about that at Kevin and Eugene's sites.)

Kevin comments, "'I am not the only UK scientist with these views'? No doubt, but aren't they supposed to at least pretend otherwise? I shall be interested to hear the result of Oxford's investigation next week." And Professor Volokh writes, "I'm not sure that it was quite anti-semitism, but it certainly seemed like bigotry, hatred of people (Israelis even if not Jews) because of what their government does."

But that's not what Wilkie said. In fact, he's very clear, "no way would I take on somebody who had served in the Israeli army." It's not a question of what Duvshani's government has done, but what he's done as an agent of that government. And we should keep in mind that there is an option to refuse to serve.

In part this is a question of the discretion allowed a professor in accepting or rejecting a student. In part it's a question of whether we find condemnation of the IDF a credible moral position.

Given the close working relationship between a PhD advisor and his graduate students, isn't it quite reasonable for Wilkie to take the fact that Duvshani was part of an organization that, in Wilkie's view, committed "gross human rights abuses" into consideration? Is no judgment passed on a prospective graduate student's moral behavior acceptable? Wilkie has simply said, you've done something I consider horrible and I don't want you in my lab. Isn't that within his discretion?

To answer that question, we have to make a judgment as to whether Wilkie's view of the "horrible" is credible. This may seem thorny, but in fact I think very little needs to be said about this. One can fully support even Israel's hard-line Likud position of no land before total security and still concede and regret that the IDF has committed human rights violations.

It seems to me that Andrew Wilkie was reasonable and honest in this matter. The fact that he was forced to apologize, while perhaps comforting to those who disagree with his views, strikes me as an ominous encroachment on a professor's discretion in choosing his students.

NOTE: Please see the comments where I revise the claims I make in this post.

UPDATE: There's some brief follow-up on this story here.


 

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Affirmative Action Roundup

Posted by Ogged
on 06.28.03
I already linked to Brad DeLong's defense of affirmative action, delivered contra Andrew Sullivan's question, "But why is a racially un-diverse but intellectually multi-faceted campus such a bad thing? Why is a world without... [affirmative action] so 'intolerable'?" Andrew Sullivan responds here. Brad DeLong responds to that here. And Bill Keller of the NY Times has an remarkably reasonable discussion of the issue here.

 

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More Soldiers Killed

Posted by Ogged
on 06.28.03
This is upsetting. It really is, politics aside. Are the soldiers in Iraq getting the support they need? Are there enough of them? What's being done to keep them from being killed? It's not as if people killed a month ago died in battle and people killed yesterday are incidental casualties; someone needs to start asking questions.

 

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Anyone You Can Do

Posted by Ogged
on 06.27.03
Here I was, all set to get excited about female army officers playing around with their underlings, just like the men, when I hit this sentence.
The relationship reached the point where Major Vivier [female and of superior rank] was washing and cooking for Corporal Sanna, witnesses said.
Yuck. Anyway, the South African military is having quite a hot time over charges that Major Vivier was sleeping with two married subordinates.

 

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Why I hate the Chicago Reader

Posted by Unf
on 06.27.03

No review yet on the latest by Liz Phair. I ordered it from amazon, but I selected the super-saver shipping option (I'm cheap that way), so it won't arrive for a little while yet. I couldn't find it on iTunes - yet another example of the disappointing selection there.

I will say that this review makes me about 150,000% more likely to like it and recommend it to friends and strangers alike. By my count, there is, at best, about a paragraph and a half of actual discussion about the quality of the music on the album. I'm with Majek on this one - tell me if it rocks. Or tell me if its just bubble gum pop. Or tell me that Liz Phair couldn't carry a tune to save her own life. But for Christ's sake, tell me something about the music.

I guess I'm supposed to admire Steve Albini given how he's portrayed in the review (as well as in this other piece by Ms. Cox), but he mostly comes off as a titanic jerk. Like the Jack Black character in High Fidelity, except not at all funny and allegedly to be taken seriously. Albini's attitude (and the attitude displayed in Ms. Cox's review) is what makes so much music criticism (and almost all criticism in the Chicago Reader - if you don't believe me, just try reading something by Jonathan Rosenbaum) almost completely unreadable. Little, if any, attention is paid to the music and much to whether the band in question is "too corporate" or "lacks integrity", whatever the hell that's supposed to mean. In fact, it sometimes seems like the key metric for judging recording artists for Albini, et al. is whether the artists would lose out to a 16" with extra cheese from Domino's in terms of ability to feed a family of four.

It seems to me (based on highly unscientific sampling and raging personal biases) that most music criticism is designed to confirm to the reader (to the extent anyone is actually reading) that they too are so much more hip than the washed masses. Obscurity and inability to carry a tune/write interesting lyrics/jam like you've got a pair apparently matter most. And heaven forbid that an artist signs with a major label, get's played on something other than a 100-watt college radio station or otherwise tries to please people who don't think wearing trucker caps is in fact all that cool. Because then we have to suffer through some diatribe against Clear Channel (or some other corporate villain du jour) from someone who wouldn't have anything intelligent to say about market structure even if they got locked in a closet for six months in the seminar room of the University of Chicago Economics Department.

On the other hand, I thought Ms. Cox's takedown of Jonah Goldberg was awfully funny.

Enough bile. I am off to get a burrito for lunch. And not from some little storefront in Pilsen. But from Chipotle, because I won't touch it if it hasn't been properly homogenized.

UPDATE: This review seems to be the right way to diss the album. My burrito from Chipotle was excellent.


 

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Jobless? You've Got to Blog Man!

Posted by Ogged
on 06.26.03

Sounds like Ted Barlow just lost his job. Take a look and see if you can help.


 

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More Foul Than Phair

Posted by Ogged
on 06.26.03

Uh oh. While the world awaits Unf's review of his just-ordered Liz Phair album, the merciless Ana Marie Cox has heard enough.

less Mrs. Robinson than Mrs. Roper

 

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Madame X

Posted by Ogged
on 06.26.03
John Singer Sargent's "Mrs. Charles Inches" is one of my favorite paintings. I remember being at the MFA in Boston several years ago with my then girlfriend who noticed, in her wanderings, that I'd been staring at Mrs. Inches for a long time. She walked over, looked over my shoulder for a while and said, "Yup, she's the woman for you all right." So I loved this story of a woman who became curious about Sargent's most famous sitter, Madame X, and decided to find out more about her.

 

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Who the F*** are You?

Posted by Ogged
on 06.26.03

The Supreme Court overturned Texas' anti-homosexual sodomy law today. There is an extensive collection of links at Lawrence Solum's blog. I just read the opinions--Justice Kennedy wrote for the majority, Scalia in dissent--and I know Scalia has a reputation for brilliance (or whatever reputation it is you get when you constantly make fun of other Supreme Court justices) but he's just plain wrong here.

The principle majority claim is not that homosexual sodomy is suddenly, contrary to decades of legal precedent, a protected activity. Rather, the Court has recognized that homosexual sodomy isn't merely an "act," but an act that is an essential component of some people's identity and is thereby protected. From the majority opinion:

The laws involved in Bowers and here are, to be sure, statutes that purport to do no more than prohibit a particular sexual act. Their penalties and purposes, though, have more far-reaching consequences, touching upon the most private human conduct, sexual behavior, and in the most private of places, the home ... When sexuality finds overt expression in intimate conduct with another person, the conduct can be but one element in a personal bond that is more enduring.

The liberty protected by the Constitution allows homosexual persons the right to make this choice.

That is precisely the point that Scalia doesn't understand. He writes,

JUSTICE O'CONNOR argues that the discrimination in this law which must be justified is not its discrimination with regard to the sex of the partner but its discrimination with regard to the sexual proclivity of the principal actor ... Of course the same could be said of any law. A law against public nudity targets "the conduct that is closely correlated with being a nudist," and hence "is targeted at more than conduct"; it is "directed toward nudists as a class."

The great step forward by the Court's majority opinion is the distinction between acts that are incidental to identity and those that are essential to it and the inclusion of homosexual acts on the side of the essential.

And now I see that Slate's Dahlia Lithwick nails this point.

In his opinion today, Justice Kennedy painstakingly points out the fundamental flaw in the logic of Bowers [a previous Court decision that did not control the outcome today]: Instead of deciding whether consensual homosexual conduct was fundamentally private, intimate activity that came under the murky zone of privacy, established by Griswold v. Connecticut and its progeny, the Bowers court just asked whether gay sex had been a protected activity for zillions of years. By framing the question in such an absurdly narrow way, the court arrived at the (wrong) answer they sought.

And Jack Balkin recognizes it and its attendant legal difficulties.

O'Connor argues that Bowers involved general disapproval of sodomy; here, she insists, a ban only on same-sex sodomy must be nothing other than moral disapproval of homosexuals. In fact, I think this argument, which attempts to achieve a much narrower holding than the majority, is much more complicated than O'Connor thinks it is, for she is assuming a clear connection between what one does (engage in same sex relations) and who one is (a homosexual).

For a less legalistic but more entertaining analysis, there's Ana Marie Cox.


 

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There oughta be a law

Posted by Unf
on 06.26.03

I think Congress should pass a law that all blogs (especially those linked at very prominent sites) should be required to have a comment feature. I read Political Aims from time to time and always enjoy it. It does get a little bit wacky sometimes (I find this to be the case with most politically minded blogs I read, no matter where they sit on the ideological spectrum) and so it would be great if there were a place to leave snarky comments.

Also, am I the only one who finds the growing use by people of their three (or four or more) full names (vs. two names with a middle initial(s)) kind of irritating? The form says middle initial for a reason, people.


 

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Euro Blow

Posted by Unf
on 06.26.03

Via the occasionally loopy but always interesting and fair minded TalkLeft, I read this story about how over 90% of all euro notes in circulation are now contaminated with traces of cocaine. The explanation for this is that some small fraction of notes become contaminated and then the contamination spreads at cash registers, banks, atms, etc., right? Or are people just way more f****d up than I had previously thought?


 

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Globalization

Posted by Ogged
on 06.26.03

You can believe that corporations are rapacious and that CEOs have flinty hearts but still think globalization is, on balance, a good thing. Here's a very interesting reading of the recent PEW Global Attitude Survey that notes

In general, there is a positive view of growing economic integration worldwide. But what was striking in the survey is that views of globalization are distinctly more positive in low-income countries than in rich ones.

Right. Those poor for whom we would ostensibly fight in opposing globalization don't want that particular help, thanks very much. Are they just ignorant? shortsighted? in desperate straits? That's possible, but it seems much more likely that they understand the situation much better than we do.

...the survey shows that there are common anxieties around the world concerning the availability of good jobs, job insecurity, old age support, and other quality of life issues. Interestingly, people tend not to blame globalization for lack of progress in these areas, but rather poor governance in their own countries.

The article makes a very good case that what's needed is market integration coupled with governmental reforms. If you're interested in the topic, there's much more information in the piece.

In the same publication, there's another excellent article which makes an oft forgotten point about the local meaning of globalization.

In Beijing, but not in Boston, a Big Mac was classified as a snack, not a meal, and university students thought of McDonald's as a good place to go for a romantic night out. To bite into a Big Mac thinking that you are about to do something pleasantly familiar or shamefully plebian - two common American experiences - is one thing. To bite into one imagining you are on the brink of discovering what modernity tastes like - a common Chinese experience - is another thing altogether.

One related point the article doesn't make is that local meanings "talk back" to global meanings, such that the entire system is changed; neither pure homogenization, nor stasis.

I don't want to sound glib: the risk of cultural erasure and economic exploitation is real and efforts to combat it are worthy, but protesting in the name of people we don't understand can be a nasty sort of globalization.


 

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Ready, Set, Done

Posted by Ogged
on 06.25.03

No time to read all that political commentary? Problem solved. (via uggabugga)


 

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Just Take the List

Posted by Ogged
on 06.25.03

Pardon my parasitism, but if you're looking for book recommendations, check out the response Kieran Healy got when he asked. Sheesh.


 

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Now See Here

Posted by Ogged
on 06.25.03

This Economist article is subscriber only, but that's OK, because I'm writing about what's not in it. The article reviews some offerings in a hot new software niche, information visualization. But it doesn't mention the one information visualization program that you can download and have running on your desktop in about five minutes. Personal Brain is, at the very least, quite nifty. You can see it in action here (click things in the top half of the page).


 

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The Michigan Decision

Posted by Ogged
on 06.25.03

There's plenty to read in the major outlets and the blogosphere about the University of Michigan affirmative action decision by the Supreme Court yesterday. But there are a couple of very good things you might not otherwise see.

Michael Bowen of Cobb, in a post that is well worth reading in its entirety, writes

To say that Affirmative Action is racist is tantamount to saying that arrest is equal to assault.

And Sam Heldman, in a post from January that didn't get nearly enough attention, reframes the affirmative action debate in a way I found particularly helpful.

First, you've got to figure out why we admit people to public universities. It's not as a reward for making good grades in high school. It's so that we can improve our society -- spending public resources to expand the minds of a lucky relatively-few, so that they will go on to do things that will make the world better. Admission is not an entitlement that arises from being smart. It is a matter of being chosen to be the subject of a public investment. Second, we have decided that we ought to invest in just about as many minority kids, proportionately, as white kids. Why? Because it seems pretty obvious to us that this is the way to improve the world -- not by reserving this public good mostly for white folks, but by spreading it around ... To my eye, the beauty of this argument...is that it puts the opponent to the real test: What, are you saying that you don't take it as a fundamental agreed principle that we should be investing just as much in the smartest minority kids as we do in the smartest white kids? Are you saying that you don't take it as a fundamental agreed principle that the distribution of human merit, in terms of that specific sort of merit that deserves great educational opportunity, is equal across races and ethnicities?

 

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I Have...

Posted by Ogged
on 06.25.03
...nothing to add.



 

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The Geds

Posted by Ogged
on 06.25.03
Frank Deford's commentary on sports teams' names is good. UPDATE: Here's the text.

 

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Malinky

Posted by Ogged
on 06.24.03

I've only heard the title track from this band's latest CD, 3 Ravens, but it sounds great. Nice site too.


 

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Sisyphus Spun

Posted by Ogged
on 06.24.03
Andrew Sullivan tries valiantly to exonerate the Bushies from charges of exaggerating evidence in order to take us to war.
The premise is that after 9/11, only rock-solid evidence of illicit weapons programs and proven ties to terrorists could justify a pre-emptive war to depose Saddam. But the point of 9/11 was surely the opposite: that the burden of proof now lay on people denying such a threat, not those fearing it. Would I rather we had an administration that remained Solomon-like in the face of inevitably limited and muddled intelligence and sought the kind of rock-solid consensus on everything that would satisfy Jacques Chirac or the BBC (or John Kerry)? Or would I rather we had a president who realized that post-9/11 it was prudent to be highly concerned about such weapons and connections and better, by and large, to be safe than sorry? Condi was clear about this distinction: "There will always be some uncertainty about how quickly [Saddam] can acquire nuclear weapons. But we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud." I don't think that's hype. I think it's prudence. Do I wish in retrospect that the Bushies - and more pertinently, the Blairites - had been doubly careful in not saying things that couldn't be proven? Yes. Does this prove them to be liars and irresponsible leaders? Nope, as even the New York Times concedes.
I think he's right about the changed premise: the "better safe than sorry" rationale was one of the main reasons I supported the war, but the argument certainly doesn't let anyone off the hook for exaggerating. It merely shows that it should not have been necessary to exaggerate. Sullivan tries a bit of misdirection when he claims that the governments of the US and the UK said "things that couldn't be proven." At issue isn't whether what was said could be proven, but whether it accorded with whatever the people saying it believed to be the case. No one has been able to refute the exaggeration charge. As for what the New York Times concedes, read Tapped's dissection of the article Sullivan references and then read Paul Krugman not conceding a thing--in the New York Times, of course.

 

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Need Help Cleaning Up?

Posted by Ogged
on 06.24.03

Julian Sanchez deflates the "mass graves in Iraq justify the war, whether or not we find WMD" argument.


 

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Now I Can Relax

Posted by Ogged
on 06.24.03

Eugene Volokh (cleverly seizing an opportunity to criticize one of Instapundit's favorite complaints without criticizing Instapundit) sums up nicely why it's unfair to demand that bloggers criticize their "own side" with as much energy as they criticize those with whom they don't generally agree.

But if someone decides that he'd rather be posting about something else, or for that matter doing something other than blogging, simply because criticizing someone on his own side isn't really that enjoyable, I wouldn't condemn him much on that score. Blogging about something -- taking time out of one's day to write something for free -- shouldn't be seen as an obligation. (There may be some exceptions, for instance, if the blogger had erred, he may be obligated to set the record straight, but they should be quite rare.) And while I expect each post to be accurate and fair to its subject, I don't expect bloggers to be evenhanded in their choices of which subjects to harp on.

 

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Seeing the light

Posted by Unf
on 06.24.03

I was watching TV the other day, and I discovered that Rummy and I wear the same kind of glasses. I try not to scowl quite so much, though.


 

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Phair enough

Posted by Unf
on 06.24.03

The Unf appropriations committee decided that, due to the favorable interest rate climate and receipts running ahead of expenditures for fiscal 2003, as well as various other technical factors, the amazon.com line item in the Unf 2003 budget could be expanded without an adverse effect on other required expenditures and entitlement programs. So I went ahead and bought the new Liz Phair album (as well as some other books and DVDs that had been moldering in my shopping cart for a while). However, if it ends up stinking, certain people who goaded me into buying it will be getting a bill for all or a part of the album's purchase price (depending on how much it sucks).


 

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A Real Defense of Affirmative Action

Posted by Ogged
on 06.24.03

Please go read Brad DeLong's post on affirmative action and why it's important.



 

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Instant Karma

Posted by Ogged
on 06.24.03

I will now speak for all lefties.

We will take this man Gephardt and we will punish him. Most severely. He will be cast into a universe in which he is the President of the United States. And in this universe, he will be compelled to issue an Executive Order every five minutes: "I, this man Gephardt, do hereby declare and decree that I am to be beaten, by the most vigorous and irascible sitting member of the Supreme Court of These United States, about the face and head, with one Tightly Rolled pocket-sized Constitution of the United Blessed States of America."

Pure blind partisan bias also compels me to note that Trent Lott didn't resign because Democrats didn't like what he said, but because Republicans thought he didn't represent their party (unlike, say, Mr. Santorum). Dick Gephardt will never win the nomination of his party, because of these and other clue- and eyebrow-less remarks.

I trust the balance has been righted. Carry on.


 

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Academics are so funny

Posted by Unf
on 06.23.03

They would probably get a lot more dates if they didn't do everything by committee.


 

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A fan's quandry

Posted by Unf
on 06.23.03

As I'm sure is the case with Ogged, there are certain musicians, writers, directors, etc. whose newly-issued work I will purchase/view/listen to immediately upon release and without regard to reviews or other critical commentary. Until yesterday, I would have put Liz Phair on that list (among the many reasons I love her, we both bleed green and blue). However, I happened to read this review yesterday, which called Phair's new album, among other things, "an embarrassing form of career suicide." Ouch. Now I'm torn. Do I buy the album, criticism be damned? Or do I strike her off the list of worshipped artists?

As I said, I would normally buy the album, criticism be damned. And I normally don't pay much attention to music criticism, finding it to be mostly of the "I know more about obscure bands than you do" variety. But this review makes me think that if I purchase this album, I will be shunned by all right thinking people everywhere in the world.

Incidentally, what do you suppose an unembarrassing form of career suicide would be?


 

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I am alive

Posted by Unf
on 06.23.03

I thought I would return to blogging with the following monumental observation. Is there anything in the world worse than spilling Diet Coke on your white shirt front first thing in the morning? Today, I can't really think of anything worse. I find myself walking the halls of my office with my arms perpetually crossed in front of me. It makes me look like an idiot.


 

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RSS Benefits

Posted by Ogged
on 06.23.03

Apparently, not many of you found Fuzzmail very interesting, but I'm still fascinated by the way people write and edit. One of the benefits of using an RSS aggregator to check blogs for updates is that I get a record of how other people edit (at least for those who edit after they post).

So, with the information I have before me, I name Kieran Healy the Grand Persnickety Persnick of All Blogdom. I have three or four versions of each of his posts from the past month. As a prize, I'd like to ask everyone to go to his site and find typos and other errors sure to fill him with self-loathing.

You might find good stuff to read there too.


 

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Harry Potter

Posted by Ogged
on 06.23.03

Just finished the latest Harry Potter and I can confirm that it is...really damn long. I have just one small comment containing a bit of a spoiler: can you have a great story with a benevolent god? As long as Dumbledore is alive and unbeaten, the core of the story is a bit hollow. No doubt Rowling knows this and something will happen to Dumbledore--and it could be quite dark for Harry when it does--but this was the first book in which I felt, for the sake of the story, that it should have already happened. Ok, if you haven't finished the book, what are you doing online??


 

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Wow

Posted by Ogged
on 06.22.03
Holy moly. Really. Just go read this right now.



 

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Argh!

Posted by Ogged
on 06.22.03
A couple of weeks ago I tried to head off the "Bush lied/Bush is innocent" dichotomy by pointing out that the middle-ground, exaggeration, seemed quite bad enough. Apparently not everyone at the New York Times is convinced. The headline of this NY Times piece: "Bush may have exaggerated, but did he lie?" Is Ted Hinchman right? Do people really expect the President to spin and exaggerate even when the topic is possible war?

 

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