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July 03, 2008

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the more i think about it, the less i like my post. i mean, honestly, i'm having more trouble even seeing where he was sloppy now that i see the whole answer in context (is there a link for that ? or did you transcribe it?)

i mean, good lord, it looks more like the press just got rolled on the basis of nothing.

i mean, i guess that last part was unnecessary -- it sort of implies he doesn't have the knowledge he needs right now. and i do think he needed to be on super-duper careful today not to feed the narrative-in-waiting.

but still, this is pretty weak stuff to base a frenzy on

by "that last part", i meant that maybe the premise of his last sentence isn't necessary. and maybe they should have thought out the consequences of saying things like that. but still, pretty weak on the part of the press

but still, this is pretty weak stuff to base a frenzy on

Remember the old Wall St. saying about "if you look around the room and you can't spot who the mark is, then it's you".

I think it's about time we coined a similar idea for media-driven feeding frenzies: "if you can't spot the hyperventilating fools, get out your paper bag and take a few deep breaths into it and then look again".

This episode demonstrates what others have already argued -- Obama has to run against the press also to some extent. I am not sure how that is done. The problem, as shown by this episode, is that they will run with the version of your message that they want to tell.

How are the Republicans going to attack him though for tacking towards a position that they consider a better position anyway?

publius: oops, forgot the link. Now it's there.

Sorry about posting on top of yours -- I was about a nanosecond away from finishing when I decided to check and make sure no one else had posted, and then I thought: well, it is a bit different...

The problem for Obama is cumulative, not any one event or story. This latest storm is completely set up by the last two weeks of the campaign actions.

"That's why, even though I think that in general timetables for withdrawal are a bad idea (why telegraph your movements in advance?)"

Seems to me that not "telegraphing" our movements is precisely the problem?

The normally temperate and even-keeled Josh Marshall:

"I spent most of today in bed with some kind of nasty cold. So I only caught up on any news this evening. And I must confess to being little short of astounded by the avalanche of press BS I'm reading on Barack Obama's position on Iraq. (...)

For the McCain campaign to put out a memo to reporters claiming that Obama has adopted McCain's policy only shows that his advisors believe that a sizable percentage of the political press is made up of incorrigible morons. And it's hard to disagree with the judgment."

How are the Republicans going to attack him though for tacking towards a position that they consider a better position anyway?

The GOP will try to run the same "flip-flopper" attack against Obama that they used on John Kerry.

Nate at 538 is skeptical that this attack is going to work as well this year as it did in 2004.

I agree. IMHO the current WH occupant has tarnished the brand for unbending determination and steely-eyed resolution come what may, which means that flexibility and empiricism are the new black. I don't see how the GOP can attack Obama as too flexible without opening themselves up to counter-punches on the theme of "we need to discard the old rigid dogmas and partisan gridlock that has prevented Washington from getting anything done".

What is more apparent is that the GOP has hit upon a successful tactical approach to countering Obama's speeches, which is to immediately stir up a faux-controversy (first Gen. Clark, now this) in the wake of each one to try to suck away the media oxygen and prevent the speech itself from being covered or any of the issues being addressed in it actually getting discussed.

Obama and his media team will need to adapt to this tactic to ensure that the content of his speeches receive coverage. Part of the problem is that it is high summer and most people don't want to pay that much attention to the election right now, so big policy speeches just aren't going to get much media attention anyway, unless they contain a gaffe.

updated my post below

This is an attempt at depressing the vote by painting Obama as pro-war and trying to smush the difference between Obama and McCain.

It's pretty damned obvious that no one is that stupid to report the way they've done. It was on purpose.

The press...is really...not...our...friends.

Well, there is his website statement for gosh sakes:

Bringing Our Troops Home

Obama will immediately begin to remove our troops from Iraq. He will remove one to two combat brigades each month, and have all of our combat brigades out of Iraq within 16 months. Obama will make it clear that we will not build any permanent bases in Iraq. He will keep some troops in Iraq to protect our embassy and diplomats; if al Qaeda attempts to build a base within Iraq, he will keep troops in Iraq or elsewhere in the region to carry out targeted strikes on al Qaeda.

Hmmm. No real mention of consulting commanders on the ground, although there is that part about al Queda . . .

I'm more interested in Obama getting a lesson on the first few words of the Declaration of Independence in time for the 4th of July. Gotta have that preamble stuff in there.

Also more interested in promoting the singing of the 4th verse of the Star Spangled Banner so that we don't always end our national anthem with a question.

Also more interested in promoting the singing of the 4th verse of the Star Spangled Banner so that we don't always end our national anthem with a question.

Wouldn't it be easier just to encourage people to shout "YES!!!!" at the end of the first verse?

Other than that, I got nothing.

I've always said the pace of withdrawal would be dictated by the safety and security of our troops and the need to maintain stability.

Safety and security of US troops, fine - we wouldn't want any Saigon embassy scenes.

But the need to maintain stability - what on earth is that supposed to mean?

novakant: But the need to maintain stability - what on earth is that supposed to mean?

Well, it could either mean - since having US troops all over Iraq is ensuring the situation in Iraq stays drastically unstable, get the troops out of Iraq ASAP.

Or it could mean, which I think is more likely, that, well, there's oil under Iraq and it would be very, very unstable to withdraw the American occupation without first making sure that American companies have access to it.

Hilzoy: But if you do trust a candidate to the limited extent required to think that he takes one of his central commitments seriously

Obama claimed that civil rights were one of his central commitments, and then he supported the FISA bill.

So, well, no: judging by his current behavior, there's no reason to believe he takes his "central commitments" seriously, because he's just proved he doesn't.

I think a sane ruler of the US would withdraw from Iraq, or at least stop wrecking the US military just to avoid having to admit defeat. Obama may withdraw from Iraq because he's more sane than Bush. McCain may withdraw from Iraq because he's more sane than Bush.

Jes,
We get it. You are VERY unhappy about Obama's statement about the FISA bill. Does it really have to be pushed in EVERY ObWi thread?

socratic_me: Does it really have to be pushed in EVERY ObWi thread?

Why not? Hilzoy and others at Obsidian Wings are supporting a candidate who supports the repeal of your Fourth Amendment rights. And yes, McCain is worse, and there's really no option but to hold your nose and vote for the candidate who is less bad on civil rights.

However: Hilzoy asserts that Obama can be trusted on Iraq because that's one of his main issues. So was civil rights, until he decided civil rights wasn't as important as taking the Republican position that it's better - what's the phrase? - oh yes, to have less freedom for more safety.

The proper position to take with a politician who just reneged is not "Well, I'm sure he won't do it again".

so that we don't always end our national anthem with a question.

Is "Play ball!" a question?

Last line of English national anthem: God save the Queen.

Last line of Scottish national anthem: Tae think again.

Last line of Welsh national anthem: Na thelyn berseiniol fy ngwlad. (The harp of my country survives.)

Count your blessings. "O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave" - with or without a question mark - isn't a bad way to end it, given what other countries refer back to...

The Danes have "Bring Them On" in theirs ;-)
("Who can stand up to Denmark's Christian in battle?")

But nothing beats the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Anthem_of_Mauritania>Mauritanian national anthem (in tune and text).

I'm more interested in Obama getting a lesson on the first few words of the Declaration of Independence in time for the 4th of July. Gotta have that preamble stuff in there.

"When in the course of human events?" Beyond that you've gone far past "the first few."

Americans HATE the press. It ought to be easy to campaign against them. Just show them thinly, very thinly, veiled contempt. When Charles Gibson obsesses about capital gains taxes,call him out on his megamillion salary-on the air. Etc. I'll bet a minute percentage of voters know Andrea Mitchell is married to Alan Greenspan. Let 'em know.

Jes, in American English, one would say civil liberties rather than civil rights for the concept to which you are referring.

Can somebody point me to prior mention of the "need to maintain stability" phrase? That seems new to me. It's nice to see that Obama has learned a few things about diplomacy, finally--he's mastered the fine art of saying the same thing over and over and adding a phrase here and there that gradually morphs its meaning. That's a useful skill.

But I agree that he hasn't really cut the heart out of the standard Democratic party line--yet. He still maintains that the war was a "mistake" (which is safe and likely true) and that there is "no military solution."

This last is nice as a piece of orthodoxy but remains one of the sillier positions of recent history. Of course there's no purely military solution. But it's equally true that there's no solution without a military component. As long as Obama fails to acknowledge this, he's hostage to changes in the facts on the ground in Iraq. What the Democratic party line--which Obama espouses--is really saying is that there's no solution, period. That might have worked two years ago but to cling to that position in the light of recent developments seems about as realistic now as Bushco seemed in late 2005 when they said everything was going swimmingly.

Being a bright fellow, I'm sure Obama realizes this and will find ways of adding additional phrases to the position that he's always maintained, right from the very beginning, until his rhetoric slowly converges with reality.

Charley: Jes, in American English, one would say civil liberties rather than civil rights for the concept to which you are referring.

Huh. Okay. Two countries divided by a common language...

I’d like to get an Obama supporter’s take on why Afghanistan is any different than Iraq. They are the same police action.

Jes: I suppose a lot depends on how you define 'central commitment', but fwiw, if you mean something like 'one of the three or four issues he takes to define his candidacy', I don't think civil liberties were among them. I might wish it were otherwise, but there we are.

Hmm, yes, the Mauritanian anthem is rather nice. But does having a lingering fondness for La Marseillaise make me a bad person?

"Allons enfants de la Patrie,
Le jour de gloire est arrivé !
Contre nous de la tyrannie,
L'étendard sanglant est levé !
L'étendard sanglant est levé !
Entendez-vous dans les campagnes
Mugir ces féroces soldats ?
Ils viennent jusque dans nos bras
Egorger nos fils et nos compagnes !"

Nombrilisme Vide, I like La Marseillaise but suspect it's because I'm a long-time Casablanca fan. That scene in Rick's, you don't care what it means... it's all about watching the Nazis choke and Yvonne's eyes fill with tears...

The problem with the Welsh national anthem is that most Welsh people don't speak Welsh well enough to sing it.

I think La Marseillaise is The National Anthem (with all due respect to the British and leaving out the un-pc language of the French*). Btw, do they play all 158 stanzas of the Greek anthem at official events? ;-)

*They also have something to say about "hoi aristoi" in their other popular song le "Ca Ira"

Oh well, I have a weakness for the Scottish national anthem myself. A country which without shame refers back to its last major military victory in 1314. But it has a very singable tune and sounds well at rugby matches, which is - as far as I know - mostly where it and the Welsh anthem get sung these days.

I’d like to get an Obama supporter’s take on why Afghanistan is any different than Iraq. They are the same police action.

BOB, I don't mean this as an attack, rather as an honest question: did you have any idea, when you wrote this, just how comprehensively uninformed about these two countries you would demonstrate yourself to be by doing so? Or how utterly impossible it would be to take anything you have to say on the subject seriously after reading it?

To name just a sampling of the ways in which Iraq and Afghanistan are different: history and character of sectarian strife, support level in the native population for our presence, geography, national culture and history, levels and nature of Taliban or al Qaeda activity, religious and ethnic demographics... take any single one of these factors and they will make a nontrivial difference in the character of our military and political efforts there. Taken all together, they are so different that the about the only thing they have in common is the general geographic vicinity.

Given all of this, I am offering you an extremely strong suggestion to go out and educate yourself on at least the most fundamental, basic facts about these two countries and conflicts before commenting on the subject any further. It will save you considerable embarrassment.


To name just a sampling of the ways in which Iraq and Afghanistan are different: history and character of sectarian strife, support level in the native population for our presence, geography, national culture and history, levels and nature of Taliban or al Qaeda activity, religious and ethnic demographics...

Yes, yes, but aside from all that, what have the Romans ever done for us?

There's a great little historical vignette by Stefan Zweig on the composer of the Marseillaise, a poor sergeant or something in the French army, who was totally out of his depth, as he was only chosen because he was a middling amateur flutist and on top of that he only had two days to compose it (this is from memory, so don't quote me on it).

The whole book, Sternstunden der Menschheit (literally translated something like "Stellar Moments of Humanity" and available here) is wonderful midbrow entertainment, expecially if you like a bit of enlightened historical pathos.

Personally, I like The Internationale best - in Russian!

Yes, yes, but aside from all that, what have the Romans ever done for us?

Heh. Pretty much.

I'm sorry, I just can't stop marvelling at just how gobstoppingly ignorant one would have to be about Iraq or Afghanistan in order to call them "the same police action". I cannot fathom how anyone could write that and not be a spoof or a troll.

Iraq is 80% Arab, with a large Kurdish minority. Afghanistan has a plurality of ethnic Pashtun, with a very large Tajik minority and a scattering of others.

Iraq is a majority Shi'a country, with a large Sunni minority who long oppressed them. Afghanistan is a majority Sunni country with a very small Shi'ite minority.

In Iraq they primarily speak the local dialect of Arabic. In Afghanistan the dominant languages are Persian and Pashto.

Iraq was long oppressed under a brutal secular dictator, and now has a mostly-dysfunctional government that largely wants us out. Afghanistan was occupied by the Soviet Union for ten years and later taken over by the extreme fundamentalists of the Taliban, but now has a semi-functional government that wants us to stay.

Iraq has a small population of a group loosely affiliated with but mostly inspired by al Qaeda, but most of the violence against US forces comes from native insurgency and militia groups. Afghanistan has a small remaining component of al Qaeda, but the biggest threat is from the resurgent Taliban.

Iraq has many sites of extreme religious significance to the region as a whole, where our presence is seen as an affront to people who don't even have a dog in our fight with al Qaeda. Afghanistan, not so much.

In Iraq we have a five-year history of doing wrong just about everything we could have done wrong, from a strategic standpoint--including committing humiliating war crimes against their people. In Afghanistan, we've done a bit of a better job.

Our invasion of Iraq is broadly resented, not just in the Middle East but in the rest of the world as well. Our invasion of Afghanistan is broadly viewed as justified, given that they actually attacked us.

Oh, and then there's that whole Pakistan angle.

I mean, dear God. Spot the difference.

Personally, I like The Internationale best - in Russian!

Yes, yes, Novakant, but we're talking about national anthems, so this doesn't exactly fit...

(...sez the person who was about to invoke it themself..)

"I’d like to get an Obama supporter’s take on why Afghanistan is any different than Iraq. They are the same police action."

Now you're just trolling.

"I would like to see someone defend Obama’s position that Afghanistan is a just war. I know that the Democratic line is Afghanistan good, Iraq bad."

Helpful clue, Bill: al Qaeda attacked the U.S. multiple times, including on September 11th, 2001; they were supported by the Taliban, rulers of Afghanistan. This was an act of war, recognized by more or less every country on Earth.

Posted by: Gary Hussein Farber | July 01, 2008 at 12:44 AM

Bored, now.

"When in the course of human events?" Beyond that you've gone far past "the first few."

My point exactly. Obama quoted "We hold these truths to be self-evident" as the "first lines" of the declaration. In a speech on patriotism no less. And what, we have 54 or so states according to Obama (or was it more)? His speech writers need some help, not to mention him . . .

But maybe he was getting confused with his own personal Declaration of Independence . First he co-opts the presidential seal, now the DOI, what next? "Oh say can you see . . . whose broad shoulders and bright eyes . . .?"

But it has a very singable tune and sounds well at rugby matches, which is - as far as I know - mostly where it and the Welsh anthem get sung these days.

My second pet peeve about the national anthem. Our footballers can't sing worth a darn and are always shown up by the Europeans. It's not how well you can sing, it's how you sing it.

Count your blessings. "O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave" - with or without a question mark - isn't a bad way to end it, given what other countries refer back to...

You have that right. For some strange reason that reminds me of the ice machine at a convenience store in my hometown. I stopped by there yesterday to see a sticky note that read "our ice is not free!" To which I replied "Fee the ice!"

Is "Play ball!" a question?

lol. No subliminal message to the commander in chief intended about "playing ball", right?

Wouldn't it be easier just to encourage people to shout "YES!!!!" at the end of the first verse?

Much easier solution and I like it, even though the fourth verse rocks.

Before this thread got sidetracked by national anthems (wonderful discussion, btw) and the troll who pretends not to know the difference (to the US) between Iraq and Afghanistan, there was a lot of (justifiable) complaining about the press ("MSM" as we know it) and its treatment of Obama.

I think it has to do with the youthful tilt of the blogosphere, but the blame, if there is any, resides not so much in the press itself but in the evolution of journalism in the last 30 years.

People - especially younger people and cable networks - tend to crow about how much news there is now, and how quickly it gets out. But there is a negative side to that. When newspapers came out once or twice a day (even in multiple editions) and the network news came on once a day, the news was subject to very careful reporting and editing. If the president had a press conference, or there was a congressional hearing or court decision, the reporters and editors for the 630 newscast had several hours to report the story, think about and rewrite the reporting, and get the story edited and fact checked - likely by more than one person - before Cronkite or Brinkley went on the air with it. Morning newspapers had even more time, editing well into the evening before putting the morning paper to bed. Sure, there were rabidly one-sided papers (the old Manchester Union Leader comes to mind) but most of the major metropolitan dailies, and certainly the news services, were truthful and evenhanded in their reporting.

Now, of course, its all about speed: get the damned story out there, because it will be on the web and in the blogs within minutes. No editing (not even for grammar and syntax anymore!), no time for that. What's the lede? What the other guy said as he was typing into his laptop, sitting next to me while I was on my cell back to the newsroom? Yup, lets go with that.

And once the story is reported with a certain meme, well, you don't expect Charley Gibson or Wolf Blitzer or WaPo to change it for the "official" newscast or the morning paper, do you? Don't be silly, if we did that Fox or the blogs will jump all over us and we'll look bad, because NOTHING goes unremarked or unreported anymore.

Herd mentality is not done on purpose, its a function of how the MSM does its job now, as it still tries to adapt to 21st-century technology. I don't know the answer. The YouTube/Blog world does not lend itself very well to contemplative, careful editing. We may never see it again. Or, by the next election cycle in 2012, a whole new world of reporting and editing may have evolved. Who knows?

Before this thread got sidetracked by national anthems (wonderful discussion, btw) and the troll who pretends not to know the difference (to the US) between Iraq and Afghanistan, there was a lot of (justifiable) complaining about the press ("MSM" as we know it) and its treatment of Obama.

I think it has to do with the youthful tilt of the blogosphere, but the blame, if there is any, resides not so much in the press itself but in the evolution of journalism in the last 30 years.

People - especially younger people and cable networks - tend to crow about how much news there is now, and how quickly it gets out. But there is a negative side to that. When newspapers came out once or twice a day (even in multiple editions) and the network news came on once a day, the news was subject to very careful reporting and editing. If the president had a press conference, or there was a congressional hearing or court decision, the reporters and editors for the 630 newscast had several hours to report the story, think about and rewrite the reporting, and get the story edited and fact checked - likely by more than one person - before Cronkite or Brinkley went on the air with it. Morning newspapers had even more time, editing well into the evening before putting the morning paper to bed. Sure, there were rabidly one-sided papers (the old Manchester Union Leader comes to mind) but most of the major metropolitan dailies, and certainly the news services, were truthful and evenhanded in their reporting.

Now, of course, its all about speed: get the damned story out there, because it will be on the web and in the blogs within minutes. No editing (not even for grammar and syntax anymore!), no time for that. What's the lede? What the other guy said as he was typing into his laptop, sitting next to me while I was on my cell back to the newsroom? Yup, lets go with that.

And once the story is reported with a certain meme, well, you don't expect Charley Gibson or Wolf Blitzer or WaPo to change it for the "official" newscast or the morning paper, do you? Don't be silly, if we did that Fox or the blogs will jump all over us and we'll look bad, because NOTHING goes unremarked or unreported anymore.

Herd mentality is not done on purpose, its a function of how the MSM does its job now, as it still tries to adapt to 21st-century technology. I don't know the answer. The YouTube/Blog world does not lend itself very well to contemplative, careful editing. We may never see it again. Or, by the next election cycle in 2012, a whole new world of reporting and editing may have evolved. Who knows?

efgoldman, I must respectfully disagree. The problem with the press is not primarily one of time, but one of incompetence and incentives. Most people in the media are genuinely stupid. When I read articles in the WAPO about economics that reach ridiculous conclusions because the author does not know that inflation is real, that's not the kind of problem that can be solved with more editing time. When I watch the white house press conferences, I see reporters consistently refuse to ask obvious questions either because they're not very smart or because they don't dare endanger their access. Can you imagine the HORROR if they didn't get invited to the ranch or to McCain's next BBQ?!

For what it is worth, technology could help reporters dramatically improve the quality of their product if they wanted to, but they have zero interest in doing so. There is no reason why the NYT or the WAPO or CNN couldn't select a couple of subject matter experts in different areas and ask them to do quick reviews of articles in their field. Email is instantaneous. Non-disclosure agreements protect secrets with much higher value than most scoops. Experts would work for free: I certainly would, just so I wouldn't have to suffer the agony of seeing the ignorant tripe some idiot reporter and editor had strewn all over my newspaper the next day. News organizations are never going to do this because they don't care about the quality of their product since the quality has nothing to do with how much money they get. News media in this country sell eyeballs to advertisers, and quality or truth or correctness have only the most tenuous relationship to the number of eyeballs you can sell.

I work in a business that has also become much faster in recent years because of technology as well, but we've actually taken the initiative to embrace technology so as to improve our work product. We don't just work faster, but we work better because we constantly integrate feedback from others through continuous review. We were able to change our processes because we accept that we are imperfect and have to constantly be on the lookout for defects in our work flows. Journalists don't seem to do this.

The YouTube/Blog world does not lend itself very well to contemplative, careful editing.

Careful editing can do nothing for ignorant tripe. Brad Delong and Matthew Yglesias and Hilzoy don't have editors but their writing is consistently much better than any newspaper I've ever read. Yes, they do make changes and respond to feedback, but even if they didn't, their writing would still be better than most media product. Really smart people, especially people that are focused in particular topics, can produce much better product even without editing than idiotic generalists edited by fools and madmen can. Note however that Hilzoy and Delong don't get paid for this service. We may never get a media that is halfway competent, but it may not matter anymore.

In general, I'm very skeptical of tributes to how great it was back in the day. The competitive landscape in journalism has changed lately due to technology and market pressure, but mostly it seems to have exposed the fetid rotting sores that were always there. After all, many of the worst offenders (Brooks, Cohen, Dowd, Broder, Russert, Ignatius, and Krauthammer) have been poisoning our discourse for decades. They didn't become stupid and evil over night because of technology: they were always stupid and evil.

Technology is like booze: generally speaking, if it makes you look like an ass, deep down, you were always an ass but you'd been able to cover it up.

If we're going to talk about the Declaration of Independence (and what better day to do so?) let us remember that its first sentence says, in the modern vernacular:

The purpose of this memo is to justify our action in the eyes of world opinion.

A few people still recall "When in the course of human events ..." but hardly anybody remembers that " ... a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation" is the actual operative clause of that famous opening sentence.

Certainly the modern-day American imperialists, or exceptionalists, or devotees of FOX-style "pariotism" have no use for the sentiment that Tommy Jefferson and his gang of insurgents expressed at the very start of their manifesto in 1776. They scornfully ask why we Americans should give a damn what foreigners think of us.

The spirit of Jefferson and Franklin lives, however fitfully, in the world-view of Barack Obama. In McCain, not so much.

-- TP

Technology is like booze: generally speaking, if it makes you look like an ass, deep down, you were always an ass but you'd been able to cover it up.

Turbulence wins the +5 Insightful award of the day.

Others have remarked upon similar phenomena.

When I watch the white house press conferences, I see reporters consistently refuse to ask obvious questions either because they're not very smart or because they don't dare endanger their access

Why do you think it is in the reporters' interests to ask those questions? If the billionaires that own the corporations the reporters work for felt it was important to get the questions asked, don't you think that they would get asked?

After all, many of the worst offenders (Brooks, Cohen, Dowd, Broder, Russert, Ignatius, and Krauthammer)

Is that supposed to be a list of journalists? Evil certainly, but when someone gets paid handsomely by corporate America for decades to vomit up opinions, rest assured those opinions are found to be serve certain purposes.

"My point exactly. Obama quoted
We hold these truths to be self-evident' as the 'first lines' of the declaration. In a speech on patriotism no less."

It's impossible to take this as serious criticism, and thus very difficult to see as other than inane. Did you apply this standard of exactitude to George W. Bush's utterances? Do you apply this standard of specificity to Republican politicians? No?

If not, then how can you expect anyone to take it seriously, and if so, then how can you expect anyone to take it seriously?

"I think it has to do with the youthful tilt of the blogosphere, but the blame, if there is any, resides not so much in the press itself but in the evolution devolution of journalism in the last 30 years."

Fixed.

"I think it has to do with the youthful tilt of the blogosphere"

If you can find figures indicating that most political bloggers, or readers of political blogs, are "youthful," that would be interesting. Most of the folks who comment at ObWi, based on those who have spoken up to give ages, seem to be over 25, and even over 30, and perhaps the majority are even over 40.

"Brad Delong and Matthew Yglesias and Hilzoy don't have editors but their writing is consistently much better than any newspaper I've ever read."

I'd kill to be able to give Matt a proofreader, or proofread for him, or do anything to encourage him to check that his posts have sentences that make sense, however. One out of three posts seems to almost always contain some gibberish, but with a properly spelled inappropriate word. Thus spell-checkers, as always, leading to the decline and fall of clarity.

One out of three posts seems to almost always contain some gibberish, but with a properly spelled inappropriate word.

True enough. It doesn't bother me as much as it seems to bother others though, and I think spelling and homonym errors are a small price to pay in exchange for reading a writer that is both honest and knowledgeable. If I want well-edited prose, I can go to any newspaper in the US, but very few of their pages will be written by people that I can trust to know the truth and write it plainly even if they do know it.

Thus spell-checkers, as always, leading to the decline and fall of clarity.

But consider how many errors we might see without spell checkers!

It's impossible to take this as serious criticism, and thus very difficult to see as other than inane. . .

Come on, you can if you try REAL hard. Give it the old Yankee try if only for the 4th.

Did you apply this standard of exactitude to George W. Bush's utterances?

I'm picky period when it comes to founding documents. I don't expect anyone to be perfect off the cuff, but in a speech? I mean, really, Gary, you would have edited his speech differently; admit it. It's at least as much of a knock on his writers as on him. And, no, I wouldn't give any politician a break in those circumstances (i.e. "I'm here to define patriotism; let me begin by quoting from the first lines . . .").

The purpose of this memo is to justify our action in the eyes of world opinion.

Good point and a worthy argument. There is certainly an element of justification (or else why list all the "bad King George" stuff) but there is an equal element of knowing what you are doing is right and simply wanting to declare it to the whole world and let them judge what they may.

"...and I think spelling and homonym errors are a small price to pay in exchange for reading a writer that is both honest and knowledgeable."

Oh, I read Matt regularly, and appreciate his intelligence, just as I have since I first started reading his blog when he was in college, back when I was on his blogroll. And he's filling in some of the lacunae his youth has made for.

That doesn't prevent me, unfortuntely, from being driven mildly mad by the constant correctable gibberish. But that's just me. It doesn't stop me from reading his posts as often as I can make time for admidst all my other reading. I agree with Matt's POV a high percentage of the time.

"If I want well-edited prose, I can go to any newspaper in the US,"

No, you can't.

"But consider how many errors we might see without spell checkers!"

The only remotely useful spell-checker is in one's head, or in someone else's head; a spell-checker that leads to lots of errors isn't much use compared to the two alternatives.

(Sure, some people are dsylexic, or just unable to recognize errors enough to double-check, and that's not their fault; those people need a human proofreader -- the software ones don't work -- not for a definition of "work" that means "catching more or less all the errors," which is what any competent human proofreader will do.)

(Me, I make a zillion typos per comment, and constantly forget how to spell a word; for a blog comment, I'm not going to work furiously to eliminate all typos, and some particularly get left in when I'm in a hurry, or tired; I only make a correcting comment if the meaning seems indicipherable or misleading; whenever I have doubts as to how to spell a word, which is reasonably often, I just drop any the word into Google, to double-check; for a piece of writing I take more seriously, I reread the piece a few times, and make corrections when I subsequently notice them. But that's me, and I'd never prescribe a writing methodology to anyone; I'm just mentioning what works for me.)

Let's not forget that MY averages something like 15 posts a day. Having read a lot of Hegel in my more youthful years, I can attest to the fact that even with the finest minds, the amount of gibberish is directly proportional to the volume of their output. He was better at spelling, though, and improved with age.

Guys, BOB thinks Afghanistan and Iraq are "part of the same police action" not because of any similarity or proximity between the two countries, but because he genuinely believes we are or should be working to destroy Islam around the world. Don't feed his paranoid fantasies by justifying his question as one a reasonable person would ask.

bc: Obama quoted "We hold these truths to be self-evident" as the "first lines" of the declaration.

Is line 3 (excluding the title) not among the first lines? What's your criticism here?

I have a weakness for the Scottish national anthem myself. A country which without shame refers back to its last major military victory in 1314.

What I like (despite being English), is that Flower of Scotland is the only anthem on battles and warfare I know that isn't bloodthirsty. The restraint of the key lines is striking:

And stood against him,
Proud Edward's Army,
And sent him homeward,
Tae think again.

No 'impure blood', no 'rockets' red glare', no 'confound their knavish tricks' etc, etc. It's a classy piece of lyric writing.

Not to forget the line from the 3rd stanza:
"These days are past now and in the past they must remain"

Compare:
The national anthem of Borogravia:

Awake, ye sons of the Motherland!
Taste no more the wine of the sour apples
Woodsmen, grasp your choppers!
Farmers, slaughter with the tool formerly used for lifting beets the foe!
Frustrate the endless wiles of our enemies
We into the darkness march singing
Against the whole world in arms coming
But see the golden light upon the mountain tops!
The new day is a great big fish!

(thanks, Terry Pratchett)

I’d like to get an Obama supporter’s take on why Afghanistan is any different than Iraq. They are the same police action.

When you stop to think about it, there's scarcely a nation on earth that's much different from Afghanistan. Let's invade them all.

Technology is like booze: generally speaking, if it makes you look like an ass, deep down, you were always an ass but you'd been able to cover it up.

Well, I'm in trouble on at least two fronts.

no 'confound their knavish tricks'

I plan to take every opportunity to say 'confound their knavish tricks'.

Thanks -

A country which without shame refers back to its last major military victory in 1314.

Well if I'm not mistaken they fought the Romans to a draw. Not many can say as much, IMO the Scots have nothing to prove to anyone.

Thanks -

"Not many can say as much"

Um, actually, the list of opponents that drew or beat the Romans is extremely long.

Um, actually, the list of opponents that drew or beat the Romans is extremely long.

Yes, but how many of those went into battle naked and painted blue?

Nonetheless, I stand corrected.

Thanks -

A lovely anthem, Flower o' Scotland. Here's a nice performance of it by its authors (video surreally degraded but still haunting).

The problem is, there is a tiny grain of truth in B.O.B.'s comments. Ignore for a moment the origins of the US/UK involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan and look at the current situation. You have two countries with little sense of national identity, and where ethnic and/or religious loyalties predominate. You have warlordism, where a politician's strength depends on the militias behind him. You have a weak central government, which is unable to enforce its will much further than its capital and which itself is prone to corruption and ethnic/religious favouritism. You have a country that desperately needs reconstruction, but where insecurity makes this extremely difficult to do, and where large amounts of reconstruction money is often wasted as a result. You have porous borders that potentially allow foreign jihadis in and out.

You have Western forces that are backing one side in a conflict, because they're seen as the least bad option. You have these forces trying to 'win hearts and minds' even as their attempts to attack their opponents mean they accidently kill innocent civilians.

There are people in Britain (and not just those who are anti-war in general) asking whether the war in Afghanistan can be won and a successful state be created. I don't know if that debate is yet being heard in the US. But I think it does need some serious discussion, not just the Green Lantern tendency to say 'we will prevail because we must prevail'.

The problem is, there is a tiny grain of truth in B.O.B.'s comments.

Yes. In the same way that there is a tiny grain of truth in the claim that The Dark Knight is the same movie as the Tim Burton's 1989 Batman. After all, they both have Batman as their main character, and Joker as the villain. They were both produced in American Hollywood, and both based off of a D.C. comic book. They both have Gordon and Dent as characters, and chronicle the rise of the Joker. Why, they're practically the same movie!

Except that they're, well, not. You can do this with just about anything: cherry pick the similarities while ignoring the differences, or vice-versa. It doesn't matter how many superficial thematic similarities there are if the differences are deal-breakers, and trying to claim that they're the same thing while glossing over the parts that make it emphatically not so just make the person so claiming appear to be either a complete ignoramus or dishonest hack.

It's certainly true that there are those who wonder if Afghanistan can be "won" and a successful state created. I'm one of them, though not for the same reasons as my near-certainty that Iraq cannot be won. But that wasn't the argument that BOB was advancing. He was engaging in a low-rent attempt to "gotcha" Obama supporters on Obama's Iraq position by blurring the differences between the two countries, seemingly without realizing how much he would beclown himself in the process.

Or to put it more simply: the best lies have a grain of truth in them. That doesn't make them any less a lie, or make that grain of truth any less beside the point.

You have two countries with little sense of national identity, and where ethnic and/or religious loyalties predominate. You have warlordism, where a politician's strength depends on the militias behind him. You have a weak central government, which is unable to enforce its will much further than its capital and which itself is prone to corruption and ethnic/religious favouritism. You have a country that desperately needs reconstruction, but where insecurity makes this extremely difficult to do, and where large amounts of reconstruction money is often wasted as a result. You have porous borders that potentially allow foreign jihadis in and out.

The flaw here is that, in the case of Iraq, you're describing the country *after* our invasion.

In other words, in case it's not clear enough, in Iraq you're describing the situation we created by invading.

Thanks -

Someone referenced a difference between Iraq and Afghanistan (in answer to a "troll") is that one attacked us.

I don't recall Afghanistan attacking us. It supplied aid and confort to a leader of the group that did, though most of the hijackers themselves came from Saudi Arabia. Of course, we were are war with Iraq before, and arguably it was in breach of the peace.

Various sorts opposed the war in Afghanistan too, in part because it didn't attack us and foreign involvement in the country under the Brits et. al. left a lot to be desired. In effect, more imperialism. And, distrust on how it would be carried out.

Of course, there are differences, but to sneer at those who see some similarities ... well, that's a bit much.

Oh, and as to russell's comments, before the invasion in Afghanistan there was too corruption, warlordism, and the like.

As to weak gov't, that too -- the Taliban was accepted as a means of strength and stability (if a dubious means), and once you took it away, the central gov't was much weaker.

I don't recall Afghanistan attacking us.

Really. I could've sworn the Taliban was the ruling power in Afghanistan on September 11th, 2001, and that they were pretty deeply intertwined on both a financial and philosophical basis with al Qaeda, who did in fact attack us. As I recall, we waged war on the Taliban specifically because they refused to give up bin Laden to us.

If you want to rehash the old argument about whether Afghanistan was a just war on your own time, be my guest, but to most of the world that's a settled matter.

Of course, there are differences, but to sneer at those who see some similarities ... well, that's a bit much.

Which would be a valid observation if anyone here was sneering at someone for "see[ing] some similarities".

As it so happens, that's not at all the case. I outright mocked BOB, and rightfully so, for asserting that the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan were "the same police action"--an assertion made specifically in the context of trying to imply that supporting the war in Afghanistan but not Iraq was somehow inconsistent. I'm not sure you appreciate just how sweeping and appallingly stupid his statement was.

I didn't sneer at magista for his/her observation that there is a grain of truth in BOB's comments, but I did spend a little time demolishing the idea that said grain of truth has any significance other than making BOB's lie a slightly more effective lie.

As I recall, we waged war on the Taliban specifically because they refused to give up bin Laden to us.

Nope. The Taliban may or may not have been negotiating in good faith when they offered to give up Osama bin Laden to be tried in a neutral country if the US would show the Taliban evidence of his guilt: but we know that the US was not negotiating in good faith with its drumbeat "Surrender Osama bin Laden or die": the popular feeling that the US military really ought to bomb the bejesus out of somewhere would have been frustrated had the US actually got Osama bin Laden.

Afghanistan didn't attack the US on September 11: al-Qaeda - primarily a Saudi terrorist group - attacked the US on September 11. The US was no more justified in bombing Kabul in revenge for 9/11 than the UK would have been justified in bombing Dublin - or Boston - in revenge for the IRA attacks. Recent estimates suggest that at least 20 000 Afghans have been killed in the war the US started on 7th October 2001. That is no more an acceptable response to 9/11 than the 3000+ people killed on 9/11 was an acceptable response to the US military bases in Saudi Arabia.

"Various sorts opposed the war in Afghanistan too"

Various sorts also believe the Sun revolves around the Earth, but the relevance to this discussion, this blog, and liberals/Democrats in general is equally unclear. Do you have any cites to any front page bloggers on this blog opposing the war in Afghanistan? Any cites to demonstrate that more than a handful of regular commenters here opposed the war in Afghanistan? Any cites to demonstrate that more than a small percentage of Democrats opposed the war in Afghanistan?

Here's one datum:

In October 2001, polls indicated that about 88% of Americans backed the war in Afghanistan versus 12% who disapproved. In the UK, 65% also backed military action.
More specifically:
BASED ON -- 485 -- NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM A; ±5 PCT. PTS.
2001 Dec 14-16

How satisfied are you with the amount of progress made by the U.S. military in the war in Afghanistan -- very satisfied, somewhat satisfied, not too satisfied, or not at all satisfied?

Very
satisfied: 69%

Somewhat satisfied: 23%

Not too satisfied: 5%

Not at all satisfied: 2%

No
opinion: 1%

2001 Nov 26-27: Very Satisfied: 58%

Somewhat Satisfied: 35%

Not too satisfied: 4%

Not at all satisfied: 2%

No
opinion: 1%


2001 Nov 2-4: 27%, 52%, 11%, 7%, 3%

Do you have a cite to different figures?

"The US was no more justified in bombing Kabul in revenge for 9/11 than the UK would have been justified in bombing Dublin - or Boston - in revenge for the IRA attacks."

Majority public opinion in the U.S., then and now, disagrees with you. Majority public opinion the UK also used to disagree with you, as I recall; I've not updated on how Britons view it retrospectively. If you have any cites, please do feel free to give them. Of course, that public opinion differs with you may be entirely irrelevant to your point and certainly is to your belief, I expect, which is fine. I believe public opinion is wrong about plenty of things, myself.

But quite a few people do believe that the Taliban were and are not particularly similar in relationship to al Qaeda as the population, or government, of Dublin or Boston was to the Provisional IRA. Do you have any finer-grained cites to demonstrate factually that the relationship was particularly similar?

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