I have some friends coming into town in a few hours, so this will probably be my last post for a few days. I'm turning this one over to the philosophy crowd. One of my friends has volunteered my help to someone researching (I don't think I'm allowed to say for what, but it's a pretty cool legal question) various philosophical definitions of "fact." As in, "what have been the major philosophers' definitions of 'fact'?" Feel free to jump into those comments; precision not required, citations appreciated, secondary sources ok!
This is from a brief press availability the president gave this morning with Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin ...
There's a lot of people in the world who don't believe that people whose skin color may not be the same as ours can be free and self-govern. I reject that. I reject that strongly. I believe that people who practice the Muslim faith can self-govern. I believe that people whose skins aren't necessarily -- are a different color than white can self-govern.
There is so much that is wrong-headed and dishonorable in this repeated invocation -- an implicit, churlish claim that the only reason to oppose him is racism -- that it is hard to know where to start.
This constant refrain does suggest a certain hyper-awareness and focus on skin color and perhaps limpieza de sangre. And what's the deal with 'our' skin color being white? I'm white. The president is white. But 'our' skin color is not white.
If you're an NBA playoff junkie, I think you'll get a kick out of this article.
And that Doug Christie business: sooo weird.
Gary Farber notes a story that begins,
The Treasury Department agency entrusted with blocking the financial resources of terrorists has assigned five times as many agents to investigate Cuban embargo violations as it has to track Osama bin Laden's and Saddam Hussein's money, documents show.
Must be a lot of porn in Cuba.
First, a big thanks to everyone who recommended music; that's a wonderful list, and I'm even willing to let other people use it...and this doesn't mean we're full up: if you know of more good stuff, please share.
I thought some of the gadget geeks might like to know why I asked for music. I do most of my listening in the car, and I recently read something that reminded me that my receiver has an auxilliary input. So, I bought this adapter, and this mp3 player, attached the player's cradle within arm's reach in the car, drilled a little hole for the adapter wire, and presto: all my music, in the car. I love it.
We've got ourselves a brouhaha because a UMass grad student wrote a column saying that Pat Tillman is not a hero, but "a 'G.I. Joe' guy who got what was coming to him." UMass President Jack Wilson called the column "a disgusting, arrogant and intellectually immature attack on a human being who died in service to his country." Sure enough. The column itself is too poorly written to bother with, and Wilson's calls for an apology also seem wrong (What's the point of demanding an apology? Are we trying to save souls here?) But I just wanted to highlight one sentence--one word, in fact; one "probably"--and let it stand for the rot of moral reasoning in the academy.
[The Taliban's] resistance is more legitimate than our invasion, regardless of the fact that our social values are probably more enlightened than theirs.
UPDATE: He apologizes.
This Matthew Yglesias post on rats in restaurants reminds me of something I can't believe I haven't already blogged.
There I was, a young, trusting, hungry college student at one of my favorite local eateries, happily eatering my very yummy burger when I came this close to biting into the cockroach that was stuck in my bun. I took it up to the front, where the man behind the register took a look, and said, "that ain't one of ours."
I know at least a few of you are music hipsters, so let me turn the comments to this post over to you: What's good?
(Non-hipsters may also answer. Don't say the Beatles.)
I watched Croupier yesterday, the first half of which I thought was fantastic, the second half just passable, and there was a line repeated that I'd never heard and--despite its bumper stickerishness--I quite liked: "hang on tightly, let go lightly." Come on, it's good. Right up there with "never complain, never explain," which really is all you need to live by (and harder than it seems) (Disraeli, right?).
Speaking of sayings, a few weeks ago here at the office, I said to a co-worker (about Tiger Woods), "early ripe, early rotten." He'd never heard it. We polled just about the whole damn office: no one had heard it. Y'all have heard it, right?
Ha! I'll just note that he never seems to refuse to do the love scenes.
Is Jack O'Toole the only person who understands the problem?
How much longer can we get away with offering essentially disconnected criticisms of Mr. Bush and his administration while the other side is going directly at John Kerry with a coherent message about his character and policies that, if communicated effectively, will make our guy unelectable? How much longer can we play checkers while they're playing chess?
I don't pretend to know exactly what our negative critique should be. But I do know that you can't unseat a president without one. And I'm beginning to wonder whether waiting until the convention to unveil ours -- which I suspect is the current plan -- is really the wisest course. (At this point in 1980, for example, I already knew that Jimmy Carter was "weak." And by this time in '92, I knew that George Bush, Sr. was "out of touch" -- that he just didn't understand or care about the lives of people like me. What, thematically speaking, is wrong with this President Bush? I really couldn't tell you.)
That's exactly right. What's the coherent critique of Bush that will resonate will voters? As Jack points out later in the post, "he's stupid" hasn't worked. And Jack understands that this is also a problem in the blogosphere.
Each and every day, Glenn quite skillfully uses his site to weave the right side of the blogosphere into a coherent, compelling whole, a narrative of conservative ideas and opinion. In short, a message. And despite our signal successes -- the professional-level political and policy analysis being done by some, the potent partisan anger that's bracingly channeled by others -- the left side of Blogdom still doesn't have anything quite like an Instapundit. And we suffer for it. Seven days a week, three hundred and sixty five days a year.
Jack puts his finger on the source of Instapundit's popularity and his influence. We have a lot of fun noting that the most popular right-wing blogger says things that seem plainly nuts; meanwhile, he's kicking our asses.
So what's the message? What's the one-sentence knock on George Bush? Here's one thing to get straight at the outset: how true a criticism is has little relation to how effective it will be. George Bush lies constantly. But people think he's credible and it's far too late to change that impression to such a degree that John Kerry will benefit.
Generally, a negative critique has to resonate with an already established trait of the target. But stupid hasn't worked; and stubborn is too easy to counter. And keep another thing in mind when criticizing George Bush: the things liberals think reflect poorly on him are precisely those things that make him popular; the strange combination of his background and life story inoculates him from any of the obvious charges. He may have grown up among the rich and powerful, but he was the ne'er do well black sheep. Say he's rich, and people remember that he didn't fit in. Say he's a C student, and people think, "yeah, not like those rich snobs he never got along with."
But there's something else. Bill Clinton was supposed to be the empathic President who had an emotional connection with voters, but that was never really true: unsophisticated voters liked him because he knew what they wanted to hear, and more sophisticated voters just marveled at his slickness because it was a great performance. But Bush connects, and does so in a more powerful, wordless way. When I read details of Bush's management of meetings, or how he makes decisions, or gives people nicknames, I'm constantly reminded of people I've known, and all their insecurities, and what I liked or hated about them. But then ask yourself: how many people have you known like Bill Clinton, or Ronald Reagan, or George HW Bush?
Remember that George Bush came in promising to restore "honor and dignity" to the White House. The important implicit message of those words has not been "no blow jobs," but the separation of the man from the office, and the respect the one accords the other. Bill Clinton seemed, in some ways, larger than the office he held. In contrast, George Bush has made being smaller than the office an explicit part of his own appeal. His verbal stumbles, and his confused look, and his haggard expression, all reinforce that impression, and therefore work to his benefit. And now, because he is the President, it's just about impossible to make him seem too small for the job. He has all the perks of incumbency at his disposal whenever he needs to look (modestly) Presidential.
So what to do? Here's my nomination: George Bush doesn't play by the rules. From the Iraq war, to the South Carolina primary against McCain, to the outing of Valerie Plame, to putting political hacks into career civil service positions, to not holding enough press conferences, to refusing to release records, to his National Guard service…all of these are examples of not playing by the rules.
I like this line for a couple of reasons. First, my guess is that people do have this impression of George Bush. He was a party animal, he snorted coke, he was a drunk, he was "young and irresponsible." He's done a brilliant job of casting this trait as "boldness," and we need something else to call it: breaking the rules (with the sense, better left unsaid, I think, that he flouts authority...and…acts as the child of privilege. Better unsaid because making this charge just cues up a very easy emotional rebuttal from GW about how he really loves and respects his papa and wants to live up to his example, and not let him, or the American people, down. Just don't say it.) (In many instances, I think it could also be called "recklessness," with the implication of indifference to consequences, or—the privilege thing again—expecting the consequences not to apply to him. And again, don't say "privilege.")
Second, because Bush is running on "boldness," he'll keep doing and bringing up things that can be called reckless, or indifferent to the rules. And we should also keep in mind all the ongoing investigations of Republicans. Every trickle of news about any of them will feed the "not playing by the rules" beast. Having a counter to the "bold"/"strong leader"/"decisive" persona lets us shift the debate to facts and outcomes, which are overwhelmingly in our favor.
Obit here, at the fascinating but dangerous Blog of Death.
update: link fixed.
Just added Billmon to the blogroll. Consistently smart and excellent stuff over there.