Friday, May 27, 2005

An Exit 145 Hajj

A few points of order:

1. I did not, unfortunately, get the chance to catch Andrew Bacevich last night. So you'll all have to wait a little longer for Exit 145's first exclusive lecture report.

2. Frank and I will be in our home state's metro area this weekend; expect blogging to be light. (I am a tool)

3. I no longer receive the New Yorker at my home, so I am very much looking forward to reading the John McCain profile when I get to my parent's house. Expect posts next week on McCain's chances in '08.
-- Eric

Gitmo, Torture and "Perception"

Thomas Friedman calls for the detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay to be torn down amid the countless allegations of torture and murder and the -- here we go again -- ensuing image problem the U.S. is facing. In typical Friedman fashion he calls for a plan of action that cannot feasibly be implemented, but he makes some solid points along the way.
Why care? It's not because I am queasy about the war on terrorism. It is because I want to win the war on terrorism. And it is now obvious from reports in my own paper and others that the abuse at Guantánamo and within the whole U.S. military prison system dealing with terrorism is out of control. Tell me, how is it that over 100 detainees have died in U.S. custody so far? Heart attacks? This is not just deeply immoral, it is strategically dangerous.
And farther down:

Guantánamo Bay is becoming the anti-Statue of Liberty. If we have a case to be made against any of the 500 or so inmates still in Guantánamo, then it is high time we put them on trial, convict as many possible (which will not be easy because of bungled interrogations) and then simply let the rest go home or to a third country. Sure, a few may come back to haunt us. But at least they won't be able to take advantage of Guantánamo as an engine of recruitment to enlist thousands more. I would rather have a few more bad guys roaming the world than a whole new generation.

"This is not about being for or against the war," said Michael Posner, the executive director of Human Rights First, which is closely following this issue. "It is about doing it right. If we are going to transform the Middle East, we have to be law-abiding and uphold the values we want them to embrace - otherwise it is not going to work."

Somewhere in DC, Eric and Andrew Sullivan are high-fiving.

--Frank

Response to Commenters

It seems that my first post of the day stirred up some strong feelings, at least among two of our readers. Both responses were thoughtful and well-argued so instead of putting my response in the comment section, I have decided to address their issues here. I will begin with Anonymous and then move on to Kerner. Their comments are in italics.

First, I think that you would get some strange looks in Germany and France for calling them "Muslim Chiracs and Arab Schroeders (those who gain power and popularity briefly by preaching anti-Americanism)". Not only do I think that is inappropriate, it is just wrong.

Fair point, it was probably a little over the line and pseudo-clever. Nevertheless I still like the phrase – Muslim Chirac sounds like a racehorse. But I digress.

Schroeder did not come to power by preaching anti-Americanism, and a statement such as that only goes to show how influenced you are by the American mainstream media. Schroeder was an incumbent when unemployment in Germany raged. People believed that the Social Democrats would be able to solve the problems of the economy without a drastic cutback in the welfare state (Chirac is much the same story). While Schroeder was no friend of the U.S. and the war, and he used it to his advantage, there was no difference between his position of "No War" and that of CDU/CSU candidate Edmund Stoiber.

Ok, both you and Kerner have a point here. I should have differentiated between gaining popularity/power and hanging onto it. I understand that the war in Iraq is greatly unpopular across France and Germany, and so do the leading politicians. My point, perhaps fashioned sloppily, was that both Schroeder and Chirac played up to their countrymen’s disdain for the Iraq war specifically and U.S. foreign policy overall in the hope of taking the focus off of domestic failures during election time. It is also the tactic that has been used by Arab leaders for years to shift blame for repressive and ineffective governments. Hell, all politicians use it to one degree or another.

You seem to leave out the fact that the media (not liberal media) do very often fan the fires of dissent and publish inflammatory pieces. The Bush administration has done a poor job of communicating with the Arab world, but how can this be an example of the failure. How can the administration disprove a negative?

I do not believe I did leave out the fact that the media (liberal, conservative, fascist, whatever) “very often fan the fires of dissent and publish inflammatory pieces.” Two examples from my post spring to mind: 1) The headlines from papers across the country misrepresented the content of the articles. The story, to me at least, was more about discrediting the Koran flush story and noting the relatively small scope of this problem in the detention facilities. 2) While the conclusion of the post was pointed in the direction of the administration, that was largely because I thought it redundant to lay this problem at the feet of the media. That simply goes without saying. Perhaps this was not made clear.

Riyadh Comm Director: "Just another one of our daily notices to the people of Saudi Arabia today that we are 36 days without one desecration of the Koran. Thank you. Just in case you hear some story from a prisoner and the media picks up on it."

Very cute, anonymous.

That would be difficult to pull off. Much of the Muslim world does not trust the United States because of many years of neglect and abuse--not reports from Newsweek. The administration, while doing a poor job, has an uphill battle and, much like Nixon, inherited a pretty shitty situation.
Why not say "However, the failure on the part of the AMERICAN GOVERNMENT is the larger issue here." We have never communicated well with other cultures. We get involved based on short-term national interest, and we don't think long-term. Guatemala, Dominican Republic, Chile, Nicaragua, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, and the list goes on.

The government must find a way to communicate with non-Americans--that is the key. As Kissinger will tell you, perception is more important than reality, and we have to fix their perception. But this is not a problem created by Bush and his actions--only exacerbated.

I agree with almost all of these comments particularly the point about perception. The whole idea behind the original post was to note the administration’s lack of ability to change the existing perception – which is not to say it is a simple open and shut task. I called on the Bush administration specifically because: 1) it is currently in office now and therefore is the AMERICAN GOVERNMENT; and 2) Under the Bush administration, which again I support in these matters, we became far more involved than before. And it was the specific responsibility of the Bush administration to have a plan going in for dealing with these issues which have obviously been festering for years. I do not believe that they did have a coherent plan.

When I wrote this post I thought that if it got any responses they would be representing the opposite perspective of “anonymous.” Although I must note that the references to German politics, Kissinger and Nixon somewhat disintegrate the façade of anonymity.

And Kerner:

Second, Newsweek isn't "a third rate U.S. newsmagazine." You may not like Newsweek, but I am pretty sure it has one of the largest circulations of any magazine of its type. I don’t think the liberal media debate (which I think you were referencing) is at all relevant here. Considering a mini-series based on the protocols of elders of Zion was a big hit in the middle east recently, Newsweek seems like a pretty credible source of information.

Circulation does not translate to credibility or quality. And despite the mini-series you reference, that credibility has been damaged.

Third, I think it’s ridiculous to chalk up Arab mistrust to our failure to get the message out. I don't really know what we are or are not doing, but even if we were doing an impeccable job, I can't think of any reason why the Arab world would take our claims of good intentions seriously. We don't exactly have a good track record over there. And even if we did (and we don't), a lot of these folks just don’t like the idea of non-Muslim interference in the Muslim world and it doesn't really matter what our intentions are or how well we sell them.

I did not ‘chalk up Arab mistrust to our failure to get the message out.’ Nor do I necessarily disagree that there are some men you just can’t reach. The administration was not responsible for the riots over the Newsweek error. But surely there was a more effective (and, to reference anonymous here, far-sighted) approach to dousing the flames than to have the white house press secretary wagging his finger at Newsweek. That was merely a “get even and settle a score with the media” moment. I believe that we played directly into the hands of the enemy here.

Where were the calls for restraint, from the administration or Arab/Muslim leaders? In this instance, responsibility was only taken by the media and the white house, not those responsible for the riots and killings. We are repeatedly caught off guard by these occurrences and lose every public relations battle that comes along. It is not necessarily the fault of the administration or Bush’s policies that these battles occur, but the lack of a thoughtful and, again, far-sighted approach is distressing.

--Frank

Lebanon vs. Iraq

Michael Young has written a very informative piece in Slate on the current state of affairs in Lebanon. Elections begin this weekend and will likely result in a government far less dependent, and beholden to, Syria. Events have progressed at a phenomenally quick pace since the yet-unsolved murder of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in Beirut, and while there are still some major obstacles (see: Hezbollah, disarming) there is much good news. The only issue I have with the article is the following paragraph:

Those who accuse the Bush administration of incompetence in the Middle East because of events in Iraq may soon have to temper that with an assessment of its shrewder behavior in Lebanon. Lebanon is today under de facto international trusteeship, and the mainstays of that order, ironically, correspond to what the Bush administration's critics would have regarded as ideal in Iraq: The United Nations is involved; the United States and the Europeans are reading from the same songbook; the administration has not used military force; and a heinous crime may one day be punished. Most important, change came through a combination of outside and domestic pressures, so even compulsive foes of U.S. unilateralism might approve.
While it is true that the Bush administration has played its hand well in Lebanon so far to compare what has taken place there since February with the events in Iraq since 2003 is laughable. To begin, the nations of Western Europe (save Britain) have largely abdicated responsibility in Iraq. Hitching a ride on the diplomatic cakewalk that has been the movement toward Lebanese independence does not make up for that abdication. Indeed, when Egypt and Saudi Arabia are calling for Syrian withdrawal, it is somehow not as bold to step in and 'help.' At no point was outside (re: U.S.) military force needed or even suggested in Lebanon as the transition has been largely peaceful. Rest assured, however, no empty threats were needed to convince Syrian President Assad that it was in his best interest to pull out of his smaller neighbor's land. Perhaps most astoundingly is the implication that only in Lebanon will a 'heinous crime' be punished. Is Saddam, murderer and torturer of thousands, not in prison awaiting trial by his own people?

To state a case for Lebanon as a model for a peaceful uprising is fair; to compare events there to those in Iraq is amateurish at best and disingenuous at worst. The overarching answer to all of the criticisms leveled above is simple: the dramatic and inspiring events in Lebanon would not taken place without intervention in Iraq first laying the groundwork. The Lebanese protestors knew they had an ally in the Bush administration, Assad knew he could not respond to the protests violently because a precedent for direct U.S. intervention had already been set and thus no military intervention was necessary.
--Frank

Toilets and Holy Wars

Read this front page article from the NY Times. I cannot be the only one to find this particular quote from a one-star general ridiculous: “I'd like you to know that we have found no credible evidence that a member of the Joint Task Force at Guantánamo Bay ever flushed a Koran down a toilet.” A few points on this mess:

Headlines in papers around the country trumpeted the news that there have been documented occurrences of Koran desecration at Guantanamo Bay. Nevermind that these occurrences were very rare or that half of these cases were unintentional. What’s more is that the detainee who started the entire “Koran in the toilet” uproar claimed in the new interview that he “was not a witness to any Koran abuse.” (emphasis added).

Despite these new reports, there are massive protests scheduled for today throughout Pakistan. (Look for folks upset about a wet book to be burning flags and stabbing Bush mannequins.)

Is this all the fault of Newsweek? To a small degree, yes: no one is denying their sheer and utter incompetence. However, the failure on the part of the Bush Administration is the larger issue here. It has become too easy for extremist clerics and leaders to rally the masses to their side based on flimsy allegations and hearsay. When waving a copy of a third rate U.S. newsmagazine can start murderous riots, we know the message machine is broken badly. The administration needs to find a way to communicate directly with the Muslim world – possibly in Arabic? – as the current method of denying all wrongdoing and pointing the finger at the liberal media is clearly not working with the masses. What is most frustrating is that the overall aims of the administration in the region are wholly positive -- yet we cannot convince these people of it. We are making it way too easy for the Muslim Chiracs and Arab Schroeders (those who gain power and popularity briefly by preaching anti-Americanism) to influence events. An interesting and related post can be found on Democracy Arsenal.
--Frank

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Torture: An Introduction

Slate has an excellent interactive and quite comprehensive piece on torture today. The abuse and torture of prisoners is a subject that both Frank and I have been discussing informally and would like to address on Exit145. The topic, however, is so complex, and requires such a finely-tuned understanding of legalese that I have been reluctant to engage it.

I will say, for now, that while I am opposed to torture on human rights grounds, I am surprised by the lack of a widespread argument against torture on realist terms.

As usual, Andrew Sullivan has made the most sense on this issue:
My careful, fully documented criticisms of the U.S. treatment of detainees have been made not because I am anti-war or anti-military. They are because I am pro-war and pro-military. Does Glenn really believe for a second that idiotic tactics like brandishing fake menstrual blood or Stars of David at Muslim inmates are good interrogation practices? Does he think these excrescences have helped gain any useful intelligence in any way? The problem with these abuses is that they are evil and stupid; immoral and counter-productive, as so many experts in interrogation will testify. All of this is the gift to bin Laden that keeps on giving. But it wasn't Newsweek who gave him the gift. It was this administration. And, indirectly, those who shill for it.

Those on the right who argue for zero restraint on the treatment of prisoners and for journalists to exercise discretion by not reporting allegations of torture against U.S. troops have no concept of the ideological war we are fighting with fundamentalist Islam.

To quote John Cole:
In the weird world-view of the post-modernist right-wing apologista that Hugh represents, if a story is unreported, it didn't happen....Except it did, and the communities we are ostensibly trying to help know it did, and it breeds legitimate resentment, contempt, and hatred for the United States to bolster the already existing irrational hatred of the US. If Hugh gets his way, the 'Newsweek riots,' as he pithily labels them, will give way to a much deadlier and much more wide-spread and, I might point out, LEGITIMATE groundswell of violence that will have long term implications in the region and on American military and diplomatic power for years to come.
Amen. Check out the Slate interactive piece and look for more on torture soon.
-- Eric

Peggy Noonan 1, Maureen Dowd 0

Maureen Dowd's evil twin, Peggy Noonan, has written a blistering column criticizng the self-congratulatory nature of the coalition of moderates that saved the Senate from nuclear holocaust.
People who charge into burning towers are heroic; nuns who work with the poorest of the poor are self-denying; people who volunteer their time to help our world and receive nothing in return but the knowledge they are doing good are in public service. Politicians are in politics. They are less self-denying than self-aggrandizing. They are given fame, respect, the best health care in the world; they pass laws governing your life and receive a million perks including a good salary, and someone else--faceless taxpayers, "the folks back home"--gets to pay for the whole thing. This isn't public service, it's more like public command. It's not terrible--democracies need people who commit politics; they have a place and a role to play--but it's not saintly, either.

I have never read a column by Noonan that sounded so sensible. I have never read a column by Noonan that didn't make me want to tear out my hair. I also never knew that during the JFK era, the term "politicians" was deliberately changed to "public servants," reflecting either a sea change in public perception of politicians or the success of a political strategy to manipulate our use of language.

So for those of you keeping track of worthwile Noonan and Dowd columns, it is now Noonan 1, Dowd 0. (Book reviews don't count)
-- Eric

The New American Militarism, Part I

Democracy Arsenal scoops us this morning with a discussion on Andrew Bacevich and his new book, The New American Militarism.
Issues of war and peace deserve far more congressional attention--says Professor Andrew Bacevich, who is the author of "The New American Militarism" and who I had the opportunity to have a discussion with today. His book outlines worrying trends--both in US policy and society--of the American infatuation with all things military including unrealistic idealization by the public and the mis-match of resources in policy making. The resulting imbalance, he attests, creates both social division as well as an unhealthy environment for the military as an institution in American democracy.

When one works in conjunction with the military and lives inside the Beltway, it is difficult to get a good perspective on just how deeply the culture of war and the military has been infused into the rest of our country. It's worth noting, too, that Americans could gain a lot of very good things by learning from the culture of the modern American military, namely an appreciation of civic responsibility and service as well as an increased tolerance of different religions and ethnicities.

It seems, though, that Bacevich is more concerned with America's current enthusiasm for and glorification of the use of force to solve our foreign policy problems. I look forward to hearing Bacevich speak tonight and plan to buy his book.
-- Eric

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Mankiw: With Rove, Good Policy Trumps Politics

An insightful interview with Greg Mankiw. Who is that, you ask?
Gregory Mankiw, former chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, recently spoke with FORTUNE’s Peronet Despeignes, providing his most extensive remarks to date since leaving the White House on...well, just about everything.

It's worth reading the whole thing.

Tomorrow: reaction to this interview and an Exit 145 exclusive recap of a Washington DC lecture by Andrew Bacevich on his new book The New American Militarism.
-- Eric

You want Lohan?! You can't HANDLE the Lohan!

First of all, this blog was started for a number of reasons, not least of which is that the topics addressed here interest the posters. This will be the last time I defend our blog. We do appreciate the feedback and will take your comments to heart. Note that this is our first week at this, so we are still trying to find our niche in an already overcrowded blogosphere.

It's nearly midnight in Central Asia, so we'll have to wait until tomorrow for more updates on the Azeris and Uzbekis. To tide you over, however, a little taste from today's Page Six.
LINDSAY Lohan has a new friend and protector — Scarllett Johanssen's ex, Jared Leto. The two were hanging out at the "Saturday Night Live" after-party at Rock Candy when, a spy says, "a guy got drunk and got into a small argument next to their table on the stage. Jared acted like security and held up the guy onto the wall to try to calm him down." A staffer ran up and said, "Be nice to the kid, he just drank a little too much — it happens." Leto let the guy go and partied with Lohan until 6 a.m. Sunday.
--Frank

Hater Mail

Exit 145 reader CV writes in:
relate iraq to the OC

Reader SR writes:
Your blog makes my head hurt. Where is the celebrity gossip and pictures of Lindsey Lohan’s eating disorder?


Your feedback is helpful, and Exit 145 truly appreciates our readers. While the blog's original purpose was for Frank and I to practice our writing, we will make an effort to be more open-minded when choosing topics to address.
-- Eric

Just Writing in my Gournal

An interesting article in the Wall-Street Journal summarizes the high-points of The Journal's D: All Things Digital conference which was held the past few days.

In the article, Ana Marie Cox is quoted as suggesting that blogs are becoming more like the mainstream media:
"They're cliqueish, they're arrogant, they get things wrong." As an example, she cited the Power Line blog (www.powerlineblog.com), whose investigations helped debunk the now-notorious CBS memo about President Bush's National Guard service, but which then got "memo-happy" in the case of the Republican strategy memo on Terri Schiavo, decrying it as a fake. GOP Sen. Mel Martinez later said an aide had written the Schiavo talking points.
It does seem that with time the bloggers are becoming more arrogant, but they have been cliqueish since day one. Powerline, in particular, has become almost the mirror-image of the New York Times editorial page during the mid-nineties: speaking with a tone of uncompromising authority and supreme erudition while above all remaining steadfastly devoted to factual accuracy. It is worshipped by its readers. Except, significantly, Powerline now does this from the right, and of course it is a blog.

And then, from Dan Gillmor, a former columnist:
"People have all these new options in terms of where they get what they want and how much they want to participate," he said, comparing what's happening in journalism to "bringing the conversation into what had been a lecture," with readers now talking back to journalists.
Which begs the question: if novices like Frank and I, who have little or no experience in journalism, can make our voice heard on a blog like this, what reasons remain for smart, young people to enter journalism as a field? The terrible pay? The contempt from your fellow citizens?
-- Eric

Dictionary Chief Wields Military Metaphor

The otherwise splendidly-written story on a project to promote dictionary use by Exit 145's Gaithersburg correspondent Sebastian Montes contains a dubious paragraph:
Erin McKean, editor-in-chief of American dictionaries for Oxford University Press, believes the dictionary will always have a permanent, though nebulous (adj., lacking definite forms or limits), place...But if looking up a word electronically is a commando raid, she said, then using a paper dictionary is a full-scale invasion.

Are we to believe that Ms. McKean described looking up a word electronically as a "commando raid" as the article suggests?

And the American media scandal juggernaut accelerates.
-- Eric

UPDATE: Exit 145 contacted Sebastian Montes and confirmed the accuracy of the quote. To avoid another Stephen Glass situation, we will be reviewing his reporter's notes after work. We extend a very insincere apology.

Humanitarian Aid and the War on Terror

Democracy Arsenal has a thought-provoking post on humanitarian aid and how it fits into the War on Terror. It has been a longstanding policy of the International Red Cross for its workers to both remain non-partisan during their work and to give out "little or no information about the situation that" they observe. By maintining discretion, they aim to preserve their neutrality.
Field NGOs trying to be genuinely non-partisan, of course, don't have the luxury of wringing their hands. Instead, they have two unpalatable choices: leave or diminish their activities in war zones, as the ICRC did after an attack on its Baghdad headquarters in 2003; or become more partisan and seek protection from one side, as many NGOS have felt they had no choice but to do in Afghanistan.
Perhaps during military interventions of lesser scope - Bosnia and Somalia come to mind - it was realistic for the ICRC to remain non-partisan. But considering we are in the midst of a Global War on Terror - where we have declared that people are either "with us or against us" - trying to preserve complete independence is dangerous to the aid workers and simply unsustainable.
-- Eric

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Uzbekistan

Bill Kristol and Stephen Schwartz take on U.S. policy toward Uzbekistan in an excellent op-ed in the upcoming Weekly Standard. The authors note the reasons why we are allied with the Karimov regime at this point and dismiss such reasoning as out of date.


An ongoing hazard of the fight against terrorists has been that tyrants would exploit the threat of terror to win indulgence or even support from the United States. From the Saudi royals, to Vladimir Putin, to Putin's Uzbek friend Karimov, strongmen hope to gain acceptance by Washington of their violent habits of governance. Of course, it is true that the United States does (mostly) have to deal with the governments it finds in place in the world. But we don't need to wink at their bad acts. To the contrary, a more or less coherent strategy for the spread of freedom will often require pressuring and criticizing these governments. And, incidentally, it is political, civil, and economic freedom to which most Central Asian Muslims aspire. Just like Ukrainians, Georgians, and Iraqis.
So, toleration of Karimov's brutality threatens to undercut this administration's impressive and successful foreign policy. Previous administrations have unfortunately allowed dictators to learn the lesson that repression works.

Exactly. As has been expressed here in an earlier post, the lack of reaction from the Bush administration to the massacre in Andijon is appalling.


President Bush should lead the international pressure on Karimov to allow journalists, legitimate relief workers, and trustworthy investigators to travel to Andijon and render a verdict on the events there.
Read the whole thing.

Despite what some may think of Bush's foreign policy, it is difficult to deny that we have men of Karimov's ilk on their heels around the world. A double standard in this case would be unwise. At this juncture, independent relief groups, NATO and various western countries have supported an investigation along the lines of what Kristol and Schwartz mention above. Nearly two weeks after the violent crackdown on political dissidents, it is past the time for Bush to directly address what is happening there.

And in the "as if the news couldn't get any worse, now this" department, there are two new developments today. First, China is now openly supporting Karimov's indefensible use of force, strengthening the comparisons drawn between Andijon and Tiananmen. Also, there are now reports of political activists 'disappearing' throughout Uzbekistan in the wake of the May 13th events.

UPDATE: Gateway Pundit has been following this story well from the beginning and has more on Karimov's visit to China here.

Azerbaijan Update: As noted here yesterday, Secretary Rice was expected in Baku today for the opening of the BTC Oil Pipeline. Exit145 has learned that contrary to these reports, the Secretary will not be attending. All we can do at this point is speculate, but one has to wonder if the Bush administration is sending a signal to the Aliev government by pulling the plug on Rice's trip. An Op-Ed in the Washington Times today is quite giddy over today's opening of the BTC and makes a strong argument for continuing ties to Azerbaijan.
--Frank

Response to a Sobering Question

Point taken. But as Rosie Perez said in "White Men Can't Jump," 'sometimes when you win you really lose and sometimes when you lose you really win and sometimes when you win or lose you really tie.'
Victories:
1) Kerry remains a junior Senator.
2) Gore teaches journalism.
--Frank

A Sobering Question

Bill Quick asks:
What was the last "big one" that secular, small-government, constitutionalist conservatives won under the GWB administration?

Frank, I assume that's approximately how you would classify yourself. In all seriousness, do you have an answer?
-- Eric

Police Academy?

Ross Douthat, quickly establishing himself as Complainer-in-Chief when it comes to discussing the academy's failings, has another piece in The New Republic today.

Kimball advocates greater alumni influence on campus culture and academic appointments (he praises Princeton's right-leaning James Madison Program, funded by wealthy alums like Steve Forbes) and suggests the abolition of tenure, which he calls "a means of enforcing conformity and excluding the heterodox."...
These lines of attack are defined, above all, by a belief that universities can be diversified from the top down. And this is precisely why it's likely to fail. Understandably but fatally, conservatives are ignoring the example set by the very New Left "tenured radicals" they hope to unseat, which is that real academic change comes through bottom-up infiltration, not attempts at engineering from the top.

Douthat is the author of a recent book excoriating Harvard, his alma-mater, as a "an incubator for an American ruling class that is smug, self-congratulatory, and intellectually adrift."

Douthat's solution to this problem - the cultivation of "a new wave of great minds and great books" - seems easy enough, but he never answers exactly where these minds and books would come from. Is the problem that conservatives are barred entry by a biased academy, or instead, that conservative intellectuals are simply not drawn to academia?

Could the dearth of conservatives in academia possibly be attributed to their predisposition toward careers in other fields? And given that conservatives are running Washington, DC right now - where their ideas are actually being implemented - does it make sense to complain so loudly about their lack of influence in the academy?

It seems this current state of affairs refutes the notion that the vibrancy of conservative ideas relies in any large part on their development in academia.
-- Eric

Rice in Azerbaijan Tomorrow

Here is an informative article on EurasiaNet detailing what's been happening in Azerbaijan lately and what may soon boil to the surface there. Also check out an earlier posting here for further background. Things seem to be coming to a head in the former Soviet republic and tomorrow could prove a big day. The official opening of the Baku-Tiblisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline takes place on May 25 and none other than Secretary Rice will be in attendance. The clash in U.S. policy between new energy production and democratization of the region will be hard to ignore, particulary after last weekend's protests. More on that:

Before being set upon by club wielding riot police, some opposition demonstrators could be seen holding portraits of US President George W. Bush. During a May 10 speech in capital of neighboring Georgia, Bush indicated that the United States would back democratic change in all former Soviet states. "Across the Caucasus, in Central Asia and the broader Middle East, we see the same desire for liberty burning in the hearts of young people. They are demanding their freedom -- and they will have it," Bush told the crowd assembled on Tbilisi’s Freedom Square. "We are living in historic times when freedom is advancing, from the Black Sea to the Caspian." In organizing the Baku rally for fair elections, opposition leaders seemed to be acting on Bush’s Tbilisi’s comments. "
Rice does not have an easy task ahead of her. The Azerbaijani government obviously has no intention of democraticizing soon, despite vague comments to the contrary.

In comments made prior to the May 21 rally, Ali Hasanov, an advisor to Aliyev, insisted that the Azerbaijani government is committed to democratization. "We think this [democratization] is normal," Hasanov said in comments broadcast May 21 by Space TV. "Azerbaijan has chosen the way of evolution. Some states have chosen the way of revolution, and that is their own business."
Bush's trip to Georgia last month was a phenomenal P.R. success. But there were few of the complications in Georgia that will arise in Azerbaijan in the coming months as November elections and the implementation of the massive BTC pipeline could escalate the situation. This story will develop rapidly over the next few months--and potentially tomorrow in Baku. Expect the state department to play down the U.S.'s role for the time being.
--Frank

Syria: Friend or Foe?

It's hard to know what to make of this Times article that appeared on the website late last night about our deteriorating relations with Syria.
Syria has halted military and intelligence cooperation with the United States, its ambassador to Washington said in an interview, in a sign of growing strains between the two nations over the insurgency in Iraq.
The ambassador, Imad Moustapha, said in the interview on Friday at the Syrian Embassy here that his country had, in the last 10 days, "severed all links" with the United States military and Central Intelligence Agency because of what he called unjust American allegations. The Bush administration has complained bitterly that Syria is not doing enough to halt the flow of men and money to the insurgency in Iraq.
Mr. Moustapha said he believed that the Bush administration had decided "to escalate the situation with Syria" despite steps the Syrians have taken against the insurgents in Iraq, and despite the withdrawal in recent weeks of Syrian troops from Lebanon, in response to international demands.

This certainly seems to be something of a he-said/she-said situation. The current poor state of our relationship with Syria has probably been exacerbated by the recall of our Ambassador to Syria after the Feb. 14 assassination of the Prime Minister of Lebanon.

The crux of the American complaints seems to be here:
American military officers in Baghdad and intelligence analysts in Washington say militant cells inside Iraq draw on "unlimited money" from an underground financial network run by former Baath Party leaders and relatives of Mr. Hussein, many of whom they say found safe haven to live and operate in Syria.

So while Syria has been aggressively policing its borders, which the military officer later concedes, they have been less dilligent in identifying and arresting the remnants of the Baath party that have sought refuge there. This does seem to be a major problem, but it's difficult to know how serious without having access to the specific intelligence.
-- Eric

Some Historical Perspective

Recently there has been a backlash over the popular history genre, highlighted by an article in Slate last week. The thrust of this argument is that the large scale blockbuster biographies and American history books (authored by such household names as McCullough, Ambrose, Chernow and Morris) 'dumb-down' the field of historical research and analysis. David Greenberg, the author of "That Barnes and Noble Dream" acknowledges some of the reasons for the McCulloughesque popularity among the American public. Superior storytelling ability, exciting and patriotic subject matter and a lack of deep (read: boring) insight. It is this same absence of rigorous analysis that has upset so many 'traditional' historians. For example, by adding sheen to the subject matter and playing up heroism while avoiding psychological analyses and in-depth discussion of the effects of cultural forces on individuals, the author is cheating the reader. To a point, yes. But this is also very much a case of sour grapes.

Having read most, if not all of the major works cited (largely unfavorably) by Greenberg, I can attest to the vapidity of several of these studies. "Truman," by Greenberg's main target, David McCullough, was an entertaining and informative story replete with historical drama. As a summary of a period of time and one of the more important lives in that era, it was incredible. After reading the book I had a far greater understanding of a subject I had earlier known little about. However, the book lacked significant depth and I closed the book knowing much about what the man did and little about what drove him other than what I had gleaned from the book jacket. The same can be said of "Theodore Rex" by Edmund Morris and, to a lesser degree, "Benjamin Franklin" by Walter Isaacson. However, two points must be made in opposition to this theory.

Firstly, there are a great number of books that have sold phenomenally well--some by the very authors listed above--that are very insightful. Two examples are Morris's "The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt" and McCullough's "John Adams." In the case of "Adams," the strength of the book lies not in the tales of the formation of the nation nor in the day-by-day description of Adams' term as President. Instead, what sets it apart is the analysis of the letters that flow back and forth between Adams and his wife, Abigail. Through these letters the reader gains more of an understanding both of what influences the second President and how this changed the course of history. "Rise," the Pulitzer Prize winner and precursor to "Rex," chronicled the early life of T.R. While any author could have done wonders with the breadth of material offered by Roosevelt, Morris captured well the bravado that drove him and the weaknesses that limited him.

Second, Greenberg stops just short of comparing these books and their respective authors to the Grishams and Clancys of the fiction world. Now this is vapid. Furthermore, the goal of these books is twofold: 1) to make money; and 2) to capture complex ideas and histories in abridged form. While there should always be room for more advanced scholarship in the market, the function that these books serve as basic lessons for the general reading public is invaluable. In short, the McCullough's of the scholarly world more than make up for their lack of analytical heft with the service they provide to an increasingly aware public. I have a sneaking suspicion that most of the critics cited in Greenberg's article would trade their "intellectual superiority" for the stylistic ability of Ambrose.

--Frank
**UPDATE**: A review of McCullough's latest, "1776" in the NY Times. Two appropriate quotes:

"Although the reader in search of a wide-ranging overview of the Revolution would be better off turning to any number of earlier books (from Trevelyan's classic "American Revolution" to more recent works like "The Glorious Cause" by Robert Middlekauff or Benson Bobrick's "Angel in the Whirlwind"), "1776" does succeed in its limited aims. Mr. McCullough uses his descriptive powers and tactile sense of drama to lend his story a pungent immediacy, and he does an ardent job of conveying the hardships and outright specter of devastation faced by George Washington and his troops as they took on the better trained, better equipped, better disciplined British forces." Washington, Mr. McCullough concludes, "was not a brilliant strategist or tactician, not a gifted orator, not an intellectual," and at several crucial moments "had made serious mistakes in judgment." But "experience had been his great teacher from boyhood, and in this his greatest test, he learned steadily from experience." Above all, he adds, "Washington never forgot what was at stake and he never gave up.

"Similar assessments of Washington's achievement, of course, have been made many times before - most recently by Joseph J. Ellis in his 2004 book, "His Excellency." But if "1776" remains a highly familiar story, and an incomplete story at that, it nonetheless remains a gripping read: readable, even thrilling popular history, and a graphic reminder of the parlous circumstances that attended the birth of this nation."

Seems that despite the largely positive review by the Times, this book would provide more ammo--and angst--to Greenberg.
--Frank

Monday, May 23, 2005

My other blog is a blog

It seems appropriate that today, the second anniversary of my move to the District of Columbia, would also mark the first full day of blogging at Exit145. I have fully and officially become part of everything I loved to hate about DC before I got sucked in. I like to think I fought the good fight for some time, but a daily barrage of Belgravia Dispatch, OpinionJournal, political conversations in bars, infinite emails from my current blogging colleague and WAY too much free time led to the inevitable. We hope you like what you find here but even if you don't, post a comment and tell us what you think. Looking forward to your feedback. Of course, this leads to the inevitable question: If two guys in DC spend hours a day on a blog and nobody reads it--does it really exist?

--Frank

A Fresh Perspective from Hamid Karzai

There are two ways to view Hamid Karzai's recent statement that he made when he visited President Bush.
The prisoner abuse thing is not at all a thing we attribute to anybody else but those individuals. The Afghan people are grateful, very, very much to the American people, and recognize that individual acts do not reflect either on governments or on societies. These things happen everywhere."

On the one hand, one could view Karzai simply as President Bush's puppet, ready to thank the U.S. in spite of their abominable behavior. Doubtless many on the left will take this view.

On the other hand, in spite of our recent failed effort to attend a Karzai lecture at Johns Hopkins, the bloggers at Exit 145 take a more charitable approach. Yes, we find the recent reports of torture in Afghanistan to be repellent. We do not support the action of any individual in the military who would torture prisoners. We must recognize, however, that the United States' broader war effort in Afghanistan, which has done much to liberate the Afghanistan people and ridded the country of the abusive Taliban, is frankly far more important than any isolated incidents of torture. Karzai's words of appreciation put these events in perspective.
-- The Editors

Sullivan on the State of Conservatism in America

Andrew Sullivan has blogged and published prolifically on his skepticism about the current state of conservatism in America.

His article in the New Republic "Crisis of Faith" was the second big-picture piece that has caused a stir in Washington since the election, the first being Peter Beinart's excellent "A Fighting Faith." Kudos to TNR for putting these out.

Today, Sullivan disapprovingly quotes The Belmont Club:
Not only the treatment of the enemy combatants themselves, but their articles of religious worship have become the subject of such scrutiny that Korans must handled with actual gloves in a ceremonial fashion, a fact that must be triumph for the jihadi cause in and of itself.


Sullivan rightly condemns this line of thinking as counter-productive to the war that we are trying to win which, of course, is both military and ideological. When those on the right attack a caricature of Islam, or characterize "Arabs" or "Muslims" as inherently violent, they do everyone a disservice. Newsweek and RatherGate aside, it is ludicrous that right-wing bloggers have been attacking the MSM for the invaluable reporting they provide, simply because the information the reporting uncovers may reflect negatively on America.
-- Eric

Band of Brothers

Over the last few weeks I watched the "Band of Brothers" mini-series for the second time. Based on Stephen Ambrose's book of the same title, the ten-part epic follows the men of Easy Company from paratrooper training, through the battles at Normandy and Bastogne and finally into Germany and Austria at the conclusion of WWII. The series earned high ratings for HBO and wide critical acclaim when it aired in 2001. I would recommend to anyone who has not seen it (and equally to those who have not seen it in a few years), to rent the dvds and watch them sequentially.

The quick pace of the action and storylines combine with the enormous cast to make B.O.B. easy to get into but difficult to follow closely. Rewatching some of the more chaotic episodes (particularly the drop on D-Day and the closing of the Battle of the Bulge) cleared up much of the confusion. While the battle scenes are powerful, it is the emotional and physical toll that war takes on these men that becomes the central focus of the series. By experiencing different periods of the war through the eyes of various men in the company, the viewer is able to learn more about what really went on at the front lines during the advance through Western Europe. Perhaps more exciting--and certainly more emotionally involving--is to learn how the men interacted with each other through alternating losses and triumphs. One cannot breeze through the ten-plus hours of this epic and fully appreciate the story that Ambrose captured. Through the help of the dvd bonuses (character bios, battle outlines and background) and by simply taking the time to become involved in the lives of the men of Easy Company, it is possible to get the full experience out of "Band of Brothers."
--Frank

W = Tsunami

Fouad Ajami has just returned from four weeks in Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan and Iraq and has excellent news to report.

I was to encounter people from practically all Arab lands, to listen in on a great debate about the possibility of freedom and liberty. I met Lebanese giddy with the Cedar Revolution that liberated their country from the Syrian prison that had seemed an unalterable curse. They were under no illusions about the change that had come their way. They knew that this new history was the gift of an American president who had put the Syrian rulers on notice. The speed with which Syria quit Lebanon was astonishing, a race to the border to forestall an American strike that the regime could not discount. I met Syrians in the know who admitted that the fear of American power, and the example of American forces flushing Saddam Hussein out of his spider hole, now drive Syrian policy. They hang on George Bush's words in Damascus, I was told: the rulers wondering if Iraq was a crystal ball in which they could glimpse their future.

The Bush Doctrine continues to transform the political environment of the Middle East. You don't have to be a fan of cynical Republican politics or even want Social Security reform to recognize the success of Bush's foreign policy.
We met with parliamentarians and journalists, provincial legislators, clerics and secularists alike, Sunni and Shia Arabs and Kurds. One memory I shall treasure: a visit to the National Assembly. From afar, there are reports of the "acrimony" of Iraq, of the long interlude between Iraq's elections, on Jan. 30, and the formation of a cabinet. But that day, in the assembly, these concerns seemed like a quibble with history. There was the spectacle of democracy: men and women doing democracy's work, women cloaked in Islamic attire right alongside more emancipated women, the technocrats and the tribal sheikhs, and the infectious awareness among these people of the precious tradition bequeathed them after a terrible history.

Truly amazing. It may sound trite when Bush speaks about the "power of freedom" and "doing the hard work of democracy," but it's true. The insurgency has not been quelled in Iraq, but most rational supporters of the war never believed it would be a cakewalk. A report like this from someone like Ajami is heartening.
-- Eric

More on Islam and Democracy

In this International Herald Tribune op-ed, Egyptian presidential candidate Saad Eddin Ibrahim makes a case for Islamist democracies, specifically in the Mid-East. Money graph:
"Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have hinted recently that the United States would accept the outcome of any fair and free elections, even if it brings Islamists to power. That hint should be explicated in a clear doctrine.

A government open to all and serving all is our best weapon against both autocracy and theocracy."
And terrorism. Word.
--Frank

Quick thought on Uzbekistan

This Fred Kaplan article in Slate offers no real solutions to the festering situation in Uzbekistan, but goes along way in outlining why it is imperative for the Bush administration to find an alternative to Karimov's harsh rule. Things in Uzbekistan are far more complicated than the situations in Ukraine or Georgia recently (or even Azerbaijain currently) thanks to the overwhelmingly Muslim population. Yet as Kaplan notes, two factors take precedence here.

1) We do not need to give Muslims in the region another reason to hate us. At best we are loosely allied with the brutal Uzbek autocrat, at worst we are propping him up. This is yet another battle for hearts and minds in the War on Extremism that the administration cannot afford to lose.

2) Dictatorial governments around the world are beginning to heed the calls toward democracy, or at the very least have gone through the motions of doing so. To think that the Mubaraks and Assads of the world are not evaluating how Bush reacts to developments in Central Asia is naive.
--Frank
UPDATE: Check out this post on TechCentralStation.

Channeling Joseph Heller: The Real Life of Pat Tillman

Drudge links this morning to a story about Pat Tillman, a truly inspiring young man who was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan. Tillman was a football player for the Arizona Cardinals who decided to join the Army Rangers after 9/11. Though he was killed by fratricide, the Army originally tried to spin the story to make Tillman's death sound more heroic and even misled his family.

Influential opinionmakers in the American media continue to misunderstand the concept of war. Death and random killings are going to occur during any war, and this makes the war itself no more or less morally justified.

Similarly, the circumstances of Tillman's death make it no more or less tragic. The fact that he was willing to serve his country in Afghanistan is sufficient cause for us to honor him.

On the other hand, the way that the Department of Defense has handled the situation is embarassing, and not exactly out of character. The fact that Tillman's death did not fit the fantastical Hollywood storyline that had begun to be drawn up in the media should have re-enforced to the public the mundane and inglorious nature of most deaths that occur during war.
-- Eric

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Santorum Slept with a Dead Fetus

That should have been the title of this New York Times Magazine profile of Rick Santorum.
What happened after the death is a kind of snapshot of a cultural divide. Some would find it discomforting, strange, even ghoulish -- others brave and deeply spiritual. Rick and Karen Santorum would not let the morgue take the corpse of their newborn; they slept that night in the hospital with their lifeless baby between them. The next day, they took him home. ''Your siblings could not have been more excited about you!'' Karen writes in the book, which takes the form of letters to Gabriel, mostly while he is in utero. ''Elizabeth and Johnny held you with so much love and tenderness. Elizabeth proudly announced to everyone as she cuddled you, 'This is my baby brother, Gabriel; he is an angel.' ''

That is nutty. On the one hand, Santorum seems to be a relatively genuine guy, at least as far as politicians go. On the other hand, I disagree with about 98% of his beliefs. I also find his intolerance of gays to be abhorrent. I was surprised how positive the article was, though. This and the fact that they have appointed a former Wall Street Journal editor to be their new public editor may even temporarily placate disgruntled conservatives.
-- Eric

More Democratic Rumblings....

An exciting, and dangerous, time to live in Central Asia. Gateway Pundit follows the pro-democracy uprising in Azerbaijan. Even more interesting is the post from Democracy Guy, who pointed out the possibility of an uprising days ago.
The Bush administration and the neo-con movement are peppered with oil interests linked to Azerbaijan. This is not conspiracy theory nonsense. It is a well documented fact, which has helped keep geopolitics in the region frozen in stalemate while democracy continues to decay. In addition, there is no real Islamist movement in Azerbaijan that could be blamed if protests turn into blood stained streets, as in Uzbekistan. In short, Azerbaijan is the perfect storm in which the democracy doctrine will either be shown as real policy, or merely neo-con happy talk.

So, Mr. Bush...here you go. Time to put up or shut up.
I almost wish I hadn't found this gem. I would love to have written it myself, albeit with far less credibility. Here's to hoping that Azerbaijan follows the lead of neighboring Georgia more closely than, at least so far, Uzbekistan.
-- Frank

Okrent's Swan Song

I have only recently begun to read the Public Editor column in the NY Times Sunday Edition, but from what I have seen, I'm sorry to see Okrent go. As Eric pointed out in an earlier post, he delivered some perspective with regard to the difficulty of his job. My favorite part, however unsurprisingly, was the triple call-out of Dowd, Krugman and the now-retired William Safire.


Op-Ed columnist Paul Krugman has the disturbing habit of shaping, slicing and selectively citing numbers in a fashion that pleases his acolytes but leaves him open to substantive assaults. Maureen Dowd was still writing that Alberto R. Gonzales "called the Geneva Conventions 'quaint' " nearly two months after a correction in the news pages noted that Gonzales had specifically applied the term to Geneva provisions about commissary privileges, athletic uniforms and scientific instruments. Before his retirement in January, William Safire vexed me with his chronic assertion of clear links between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, based on evidence only he seemed to possess.

No one deserves the personal vituperation that regularly comes Dowd's way, and some of Krugman's enemies are every bit as ideological (and consequently unfair) as he is. But that doesn't mean that their boss, publisher Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr., shouldn't hold his columnists to higher standards.

I didn't give Krugman, Dowd or Safire the chance to respond before writing the last two paragraphs. I decided to impersonate an opinion columnist.
The last line was particularly funny, but I think out of the three editorialists, only Safire will be laughing at this well placed dig. Emphasis added above as a way to point out the only statement I disagree with.
-- Frank
***UPDATE***: Power Line comments on Okrent's piece as well.

Filibust-a-rhyme

For the second time in a week David Brooks has gone against popular opinion (he was one of the first to call a spade a spade at the start of the Newsweek fiasco), and I have a feeling people will catch up with him on the Filibuster matter too. The climax of Brooks' argument:

"The answer, to be blunt, is that some of the moderates are moderates out of conviction. They do have courage. But many moderates are simply people who feel cross-pressured by different political forces, and their instinctive response is to shrink from pressure. They lack spirit to take risks, to actually lead."
Tough but fair.
-- Frank

Iraqi Pluralism--Yet Another Catalyst for Change?

The influence of Iraqi elections throughout the Middle East and elsewhere is a story that has been covered before. As the elections drew nearer toward the end of January, fewer pundits and experts in this country and around the world truly believed that Iraqis were ready to participate in a democratic exercise. That outdated thinking has become just that.

Nearly four months later and the Iraqi government is finally starting to materialize. Despite a recent surge in violence courtesy the terrorist 'insurgency', it seems that the largest groups in Iraq, the elected officials and their appointees are moving forward. Whether the increased bombings are a direct result of this progress remains to be seen. The largest development over the last few days is the apparent realization by the Sunni factions that agreement among themselves will be necessary for effective participation in the new government. Essentially, this is Democracy 101 and it is being taught on the fly. While the different Sunni elements are sparked by unique causes, a lack of unity behind a greater Sunni 'banner' will leave them out in the cold. Not your typical party system, but a promising start nonetheless. The NY Times has a front page article on this very subject. Peaceful political discourse...this is very promising indeed.
Over at the WaPo, Jim Hoagland has an interesting piece regarding Iraqi pluralism. The money quote:

"There is a realization that Arab nationalism should be redefined," Kuwait's foreign minister, Mohammed Sabah, told me. He pointed out that Iraq has Kurds as its president, deputy prime minister and foreign minister; Sudan is
shortly to name a non-Arab vice president, and minority groups advance toward greater influence in other Arab countries.

"We should look again at the concept of the Arab League, to get away from any racist interpretation that Arab nationalism emphasized in the past," said the forward-thinking Sabah, whose country was invaded by Iraq in 1990. "The Iraqis are showing that a more multicultural approach does not divorce the country from the Arab world."

Excellent.

And from Ahmed Chalabi, the CIA's on-again-off-again heartthrob and one of the newly appointed deputy prime ministers:

"Arabs are a majority in this area, but it is not an exclusively Arab area. Other communities cannot be subjugated and their identity eradicated by the force of arms, as Saddam tried to do. We can show that Arabs will accept
pluralism as a fact of life, politically and culturally.

"The great majority of Iraq's population lives nearer to the borders of non-Arab Iran, and non-Arab Turkey, than to Arab countries. These are realities that our politics and culture must reflect."

Starting to sound like a real democracy, no? Take notice Iraqi neighbors.
--Frank

A Post-Partisan Era?

This is an op-ed I have been working on.

In the wake of September 11, the phrase “everything has changed” has been uttered so frequently and so gratuitously that it has been rendered almost meaningless.

This is unfortunate, because the words accurately convey a transcendent truth for millions of our citizens. These men and women reject the partisan invective that we take for granted as ubiquitous in our society since the attacks. They embrace the necessity of a strong national defense and respect above all the courageous sacrifice of our military.

These men and women are not Democrats. They are not Republicans. They are Americans living in a post-partisan era.

If you follow current events, you’d hardly know these people exist. The nightly news shows are heavy on political vitriol, but light on addressing the serious policy questions on national security and foreign policy that our country face. If 9/11 taught us anything, it is that these questions are ignored at our own peril.

Americans who remember that the suicide bombers did not discriminate between Democrats and Republicans or between hetero and homosexuals see little utility in society’s current fixation on our relatively trivial internal cultural differences. We recognize that these differences inevitably manifest themselves in the political arena, but reject the prominence they are given by American media. Too much is at stake for us to be that shortsighted.

There is no moral relativism here. Tom DeLay and his cabal of power-mongers are unpatriotic – treasonous, even – when their actions needlessly perpetuate the partisan divide in our country at the expense of a focus on serious issues. Similarly, post-partisan Americans reject those on the left with an antipathy toward President Bush’s often visionary approach to confronting these issues.

The post-partisan message is voiced by fearless, truth-telling bloggers like Andrew Sullivan, Josh Chafetz, and Philip Carter. They recognize that Democrats and Republicans alike must make a calculated and entirely rational decision to support an imperfect party, and do not glibly reject those that disagree with them. Rather, they are engaging and thoughtful, always questioning, developing and cultivating ideas that can help us better understand the world. These writers are difficult to characterize politically, because their primary loyalty is to America, not a party. For the most part, they are not idol worshippers. Post-partisan Americans realize that they have the responsibility to passionately but respectfully voice their disagreement with the administration. This is correctly perceived as a patriotic act, not a defection from the team.

Post-Partisan Americans are not naïve enough to think that partisan politics will disappear, but instead deeply believe that the American people deserve and need to demand a more relevant and civil public discourse.

But if they were to organize and speak with a common voice, perhaps one of the parties would better support their message. Cynical politicians might dismiss their writing as the idealistic rambling of an incoherent, non-existent movement. They would be wrong to do so. Post-partisan Americans are out there, and they’re dead serious about their love and appreciation for America and their devotion to its continued existence.
-- Eric

Okrent Nails It

Daniel Okrent is brutally honest in his last column as public editor.

Okrent gives us a valuable piece of perspective.
12. I wish I hadn't made so much noise, in print and in various interviews, about how hard this job was. Dexter Filkins, in Baghdad, has a hard job; Steven Erlanger, in Jerusalem, has a hard job. By any reasonable standard, public editor is a walk in the park.

Indeed.
-- Eric

The Original Post

Welcome to Exit 145. Blog content forthcoming.
-- Eric