Thursday, September 28, 2006
Big thumbs up to Tom for the feed.
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
"You know, despite how much fun they are, I was never really sure if blogs
served a useful purpose in our society until I realized today that they can
be used to get stories like this out to a larger audience. If this isn't
DCat material, I don't know what is": Porn star's name may ring a 'Bell'
Let's just put it this way: The phrase "Dirty Sanchez features.
I live to serve my readers.
I'll let Lizza Take it from here:
I truly don't mean to pile on, but it's worth summarizing what we now know about Allen's history on matters of race:
-He wore or displayed Confederate memorabilia from high school (late 1960s) until 1993, including on himself, his car, in his living room, and in a campaign ad.
-In high school he allegedly sprayed racist graffiti on his school's walls.
-In college he allegedly stuffed the head of a deer in a black family's mailbox.
-According to the accounts of three independent, on the record sources and two anonymous sources, in college and law school in the 1970s and as an attorney starting a political career in the early 1980s, Allen regularly and casually used the word "nigger" to describe African Americans.
There are two possibilities: Allen is the victim of a massive conspiracy to paint him as a racist, a plot that involves numerous high school and college classmates, a Virginia housewife, an Alabama anthropologist, and a North Carolina radiologist. Or, George Allen was a racist.
And since George Allen in recent weeks referred to someone by what he knew from both his knowledge of French and his mother's North African roots to be a racist slur (and compounded his xenophobia by welcoming the native Virginian to America) one can seriously question the use of the past tense. And unlike Lizza, I actually do mean to pile on. George Allen is running for reelection to his seat as one of Virginia's United States Senators and he has eyes on the presidency. We need to pile on early and often.
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
This is only a small sample of the pictures he sent me. Iran is obviously a beautiful country with a rich cultural heritage and a long history. Jonathan had some eye-opening experiences (for good and for ill) and met some wonderful people and he wants to be hopeful. I too sincerely harbor hope. But my approach is to hope but also to prepare for the possibility that some of those hopes may come up short.
On the other hand, there are some on the left who toss the accusation of racism out with such frequency that it allows real racists to seek cover under the cynical but effective anti-PC backlash. If racists are everywhere, some racists have discovered, one can plausibly deny that they are anywhere. Such goes the logic amidst a peculiar and unintended convergence of the racist right and domogogic left, with each representing a very small but visible slice of their side of the political spectrum.
So with this surface analysis out of the way, let's get to the heart of the matter: I'm sorry to hurt his feelings, and I'm sorry that so many dopey multi-culti caricatures have turned it into a no-no, but George Allen is a racist. No qualifiers. No tip-toeing. George Allen is a racist, he was a racist, and he will continue to be a racist. With each passing week a new incident occurs, new evidence emerges. And each week the evidence seems more damning. The newest allegations are that while a student at the University of Virginia, Allen knew the business end of using the N-bomb. As the story builds, more revelations emerge. Now to be sure, these are unproven allegations, but at a certain point, when you have enough allegations from enough independent sources, many of whom clearly were reluctant to come forward and speak, a reasonable person is going to come to the concusion that there is something to them. This is especially so when one sees enough Confederate Flag lapel pins and pictures of meetings with neo-Confederate organizations, when one hears enough racial slurs from the candidate's mouth, and when one sees enough outrage on the part of the candidate when he is asked about the possibility of having Jewish heritage (ok, so maybe I am blurring anti-Semitism and racism -- debate freely; is this really the ideal Allen talking point? In any case, as events in the past week or so reveal, Allen apparently was against being Jewish before he was for it).
So far the Allen campaign has taken one of the three most obvious approaches available to it. Naturally Allen has denied ever having used the racial slur in question. How could he not, at least in the first phase of spin. But is there any serious person who believes him?
The second approach that, while patently absurd, would be the one I would take were I a GOP operative, would be for Allen to try to claim that he is being Swift Boated. Of course this could backfire -- after all, the problem with the loathsome Swift Boating approach is that virtually all of the people who actually served with and under John Kerry supported him and spoke to his courage and bravery. The Swift Boat vets who went after him never actually served with him. They were ideological hatchet men who concocted stories and cynically blurred lines between truth and lies. In the case of Allen's accusers, they all knew him, in some cases well, and all had direct experiences with his racism. Nonetheless, in a cynical age, I would be surprised if Allen does not take the cynical tack -- though another problem is that he cannot use the term "Swift Boating" without revealing the loathsome GOP tactic for what it was.
The third possible option, which may end up being Allen's last and most risky gambit, is to acknowledge being a racist young man in a racist period in a racist state. Then he could repentantly throw himself on the mercy of Virginians who, in all honesty, may not much care, or at least may not care so much that it makes the election a, um, Lost Cause. This is not ideal, and is any strategist's nightmare, but it would at least have the ancillary effect of being honest.
Of course there is a fourth option that my imagination never would have summoned. And that is to concoct an argument so silly, so absurd, so ridiculous, that some people actually buy it. The Big Lie is the approach Allen and his support staff have taken. Apperently Allen cannot be a racist, he argues, because he played football, and, (believe it or not he actually implies this) because he has black friends! That's right. By Allen's logic if you play football, you cannot be a racist. Because playing on a team with someone apparently confers magical powers off the field that make men live in brotherhood. Yes, on the field, race may not matter. But unfortunately, Allen apparently is unaware that most of life is lived off of the great rainbow gridiron of his dreams.
And so this brings me back to the dilemma of accusing someone of racism in a postmodern age. And I have a simple and very modernist response: A racist is someone who does and says racist things. And if pointing out to someone that they have said and done racist things hurts their feelings, that is beside the point. George Allen, whatever he feels about it, and whatever he tells us now, has spent most of his life as a racist. Let us hope that the voters of Virginia, white and black, Indian and Jewish, send him a message in November that he and his kind are not welcome in their ideological neighborhoods.
Probably the most bothersome aspect of the whole ongoing imbroglio (beyond the further diminishment of the civic dialogue, I mean) is the fact that Zengerle uses as an example of Sirota's no-holds-barred style the fact the he once called an opponent a "No Talent Ass Clown" without telling TNR's readers that the insult was not even original. Sirota stole it directly from an insult aimed at the singer Michael Bolton by a character who unfortunately carried the same name in the cult movie classic Office Space.
The issue of insult plagiarism aside, the Connecticut race is destined to grow uglier as the day of reckoning approaches. polls indicate that the race is tight, with Lieberman leading but within the margin or error according to Rasmussen, and with a slightly more comfortable margin according to the generally more respected Quinnipiac poll. Strap yourselves in -- the run-up to the elections is going to be a bumpy ride.
Monday, September 25, 2006
Fortunately, since dcat has not yet passed judgment on all ad hominem attacks on individuals who have demonstrably earned them (just on those comparing people to evil and murderous dictators and regimes, and to the Prince of Darkness): Jerry Falwell is a jackass. (So are you, Hugo Chavez.)
A car commercial proclaiming a jihad on the U.S. auto market and offering "Fatwa Fridays" with free swords for the kids is offensive and should not be aired, Muslim leaders said on Sunday.
The party responsible for this cavalcade of idiocy is Dennis Mitsubishi car dealership in Columbus, Ohio. What is remarkable is how many different ways this thankfully aborted plan slices off great big hunks of dumb. There is the obvious fact that the proposed ad campaign is incredibly insensitive to American Muslims. There is the fact that this may not play especially well in the rest of the world -- Muslim and non-Muslim alike. But what about the feelings of the victims of Jihad? What about the families and friends and colleagues of those who died on 9-11? What about the victims of the USS Cole, or the Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, or the hundreds dead as the result of the Jihads in Israel and the occupied territories, or the victims of the 7 July bombings in London or the bombings in Madrid?
Outrage is easy to muster and just as easy to trumpet. But it is difficult to get a sense of what sentient being could possibly have thought this was either clever or savvy. Dennis Mistubishi deserves your scorn no matter your political or ideological perspective. If you live in Ohio, it certainly does not deserve your custom.
(Thanks to Homz for the heads up.)
As for the Patriots, what is there to say? The offense was misfiring on all cylinders last night. Brady, heretofore the most composed football player I have ever seen, has looked nonplussed all season. He has thrown a better deep ball than I have seen him throw in his career, yet not one of those deep balls ever seems to be within five yards of the intended wide receiver. The running game has been inconsistent, though Maroney is clearly the real deal. The defense has been fine -- when you hold a team to 17 points in the NFL and you have Tom Brady at quarterback you should win, period -- but they seem to give up score at inopportune times and they have not been the turnover-forcing factory of recent years.
This week the Pats get Cincinnati in Cincitucky. Cincinnati beat Pittsburgh yesterday in one of the best games of the season so far, but did not exactly look dominant in so doing. Still, the Bengals will and should be favored. The Patriots are in real danger of going to 2-2. But the reality is that this may be the toughest stretch of their schedule, and if they can defeat the Dolphins (has a bandwagon ever emptied so quickly? You know who you are) they will be 3-0 in division with a bye week coming up. And during a bye week, Patriots fans can take solace in one fact: We have Bill Belichick and everyone else does not.
The purported leaders of the Palestinian people have a geopolitical agenda -- the destruction of Israel -- that they will never accomplish, but rather than pursue truly ameliorative steps, they prefer to foment violence. No matter what Israel does, unless it sacrifices all sanity by engaging in inevitably fruitless negotiations with those who do not recognize Israel's legitimacy in the first place, it will face criticism not only from those who actively pursue its destruction, but also from those who passively would acquiesce to it.
So Israel once again appears to be trapped. If it withdraws unilaterally, Israel is condemned, the Palestinians see the Jews as weak, and Jews die. If Israel engages in negotiations, Israel is condemned, is perceived as weak, and Jews die. If Israel builds a wall, Israel is condemned. The unfortunate question is, if Israel builds a wall and ceases all unilateral withdrawal, a wall that can be torn down if an honest broker and legitimate partner emerges, do more Jews die? Does perceived weakness promote intensified attacks? If the answer to either or both of these questions is "no," then which policy would seem the wisest and safest for Israel to pursue, at least in the short run?
As you might imagine, then, I was very pleased to see Jonathan Chait's TNR online article, Irish Lore, which explores the "mythology of Notre Dame football." (The article originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.) Chait argues that much of the mythology is based on lies and half truths. Again, no one can deny Notre Dame its place in college football history, but one would think that there would be no need to overinflate that greatness.
When I am king of the world, and someday it will happen, one of my first pronouncements will be that Notre Dame, and all other independents, must join a conference. If they do not want to do so, fine, but they also will not be eligible for the 16-team postseason tournament that I will also mandate. Everyone likes to discuss how Notre Dame always schedules such tough opponents, but they do so only because they are not in a conference that forces them to play a slate of teams that may not always be great, but that is always tough by the histoey and rivalry inherent in conference play. Ohio State may also be a loathsome agglomeration, but at least the football program doesn't get to pick and choose whether or when to play Wisconsin. Year-in and year-out, the conference schedule in the Big Ten, or SEC, or even the Pac-10, Big 12 or the ACC with its recent changes is more grueling than Notre Dame's schedule irrespective of the aggregate record of opponents by the very nature of conference play.
Saturday, September 23, 2006
Apparently no one told Harvard head football coach Tim Murphy, despite that fact that he has been Harvard's head coach for 13 seasons. At this year's Skit Night, Keegan Toci, a twenty-one-year-old senior wide receiver from Tucson, Arizona, performed a skit in which he gave twenty reasons why Harvard will never make the jump from Division I-AA to I-A (a pemise that, far from being offensive, is irrefutably true). Several players who were there have acknowledged that several other skits were more offensive -- including one that more than implied that a player had orally serviced Murphy.
How did Murphy reply to Toci's skit? By dismissing the wide receiver from the team. According to the Boston Globe srtory:
Harvard players have long believed they enjoyed immunity from discipline for their performances on Skit Night, an irreverent, sometimes raunchy, ritual that was considered part of their social bonding during the run-up to the season opener. But this year's event ended like no other, with Murphy later announcing he would abolish the Skit Night tradition because of Toci's performance and a number of racy, off-color acts such as the one portraying Dawson and the coach.
Murphy declined to state publicly why he believed Toci should be ousted from the team while players who engaged in suggestively lewd performances should not be disciplined, other than to characterize Toci's remarks as unacceptably malicious.
Efforts to reach Harvard athletic director Robert Scalise last night were unsuccessful.
After Murphy announced Toci's dismissal, he asked the 110-member team whether it supported his position. An uneasy silence ensued, then one player after another rose from his seat until about 20 stood in protest, with others apparently poised to follow, before Murphy abruptly ended the meeting and left the room, according to one witness.
Another witness said Murphy departed only after determining that a vast majority of the team supported his decision.
This last assertion seems highly unlikely. It is clear that Toci had the support of a number of his teammates -- otherwise why would Murphy have cut short the meeting at just the moment when players were starting to exercise their protest? -- and that Murphy was surprised and taken aback by the opposition to his stance. Furthermore, his capriciousness is stunning. Harvard has already had a rash of disciplinary suspensions this season. The latest ought not to have happened. The coach's thin skin will scuttle a longstanding tradition and Harvard's reputation for taking itself far too seriously will remain intact.
Toci has appealed to the university's administration, which I'm sure was the last thing the solons at Harvard needed and which is put in a rather uncomfortable situation: Reinstate Toci, who almost certainly will never see the field again and whose reinstatement will fuel dissension, or else back Murphy despite the demonstrably erroneous nature of his decision. I would not be surprised if Murphy does not find himself on a short leash at Harvard, where football should be seen and not heard, and where athletics should enhance and never detract from the mission of the university.
In the Boston area people sometimes refer to Harvard as the World's Greatest University (or "WGU"), usually with equal parts irony and admiration and always in a tone acknowledging Harvard's self importance. But the fact is that Harvard probably is the WGU, or at least holds a place of prominence in any discussion of the world's greatest universities, and it is beneath the university to have to deal with this sort of nonsense simply because the football coach is a bit too touchy. The administration should reinstate Toci forthwith with a clear message to Murphy: This is the end of this tempest in a teacup. There should be no more ramifications for Toci, and the season should go on as if it had never happened, as if Murphy had never let his own ego and weirdly delicate sensitivities get in the way of good judgment. Harvard does not need to be in the business of metaphorically fellating the coach, even if he believes that to be the job of his players.
Friday, September 22, 2006
שתהיה לכם שנה חדשה עם רימון ותפו
May you have a new year filled with apples and pomegranates
שתישא אותנו השנה על כנפי היונה
Which will carry us on the wings of the dove
לעבר המתיקות שבאופק ושבלב
Towards the sweetness in the horizon and in the heart
And may we be written in the book of life.
I am, quite frankly, sick and tired of Islamic extremism and increasingly, I am saddened to say, of Islam itself. For too long now, like a spoilt child stamping its feet, Islam has been demanding that the rest of the world succumb to its every whim. Islam dominates the news agenda like no other issue or ideology. Its adherents revel in the abhorrent brutality and bloodshed which it both propagates and feeds upon. Islam is now viewed the world over as a religion of violence, of intolerance, of extremism, and of hatred. At present, my contempt for Islam is almost inexpressible.
When rightly and reasonably accused, in measured tones and from many quarters, of crimes against humanity, Islam screams 'Death to the Infidels!' and promises, and then delivers, yet more bloodshed. While followers of other faiths take the indignity of satire in their stride, and laugh at their own oddness and idiosyncrasies, Islam demands, quite literally upon pain of death, to be respected and pussy-footed around, even beyond what is required by the law. Islam demands an extraordinary level of sensitivity on the part of the followers other faiths, while brutalizing them both verbally and physically in return. Islam, extreme and unreasonable at every opportunity, demands an unequal equality.
First, let me say that I don't embrace everything Seb has written here. I'd prefer, for one thing, that he not couch his objections to radical Islam in such generalized terms that they impugn all Muslims. But it is also telling that this tirade (I'm pretty sure he would not mind me calling his entry a tirade. I do not know Seb, but I know his self-deprecating approach to blogging, and I think he is fairly clear that he intended this entry to be a rant) comes from a denizen of the UK who is not a supporter of Tony Blair or of the Iraq War. Someone who abhors violence. Someone who is a strong advocate of human rights (and who holds contests at his blog, or "blag" as he prefers to term it, in which the winners have money donated in their names to charities, usually involving human rights in Africa). In other words, Seb would ordinarily be the sort who would bend over backward to be tolerant and understanding of the untolerated and the misunderstood. But he is beginning to question just how misunderstood too many Islamists are. His recent entries, and the sentiments of others like him on the left, are for Muslims the rough equivalent of when LBJ knew he was losing Middle America because he had lost Walter Cronkite.
Ty Burr's review in the Boston Globe and A.O. Scott's in the New York Times are among many that identify the same flaws -- overacting (especially on the part of Sean Penn), directionless direction, poor casting. I've used Warren's book in class before and Huey Long is one of my favorite figures to teach. I'll likely still see the movie (I'll consider it a professional imperative) but this loooks likely to be one of those times when hope does not meet reality -- a trend that seems increasingly common with the movies these days. Hollywood makes a hell of a trailer and can build buzz like no other industry. Unfortunately, the consummation does not often match the anticipation. Hollywood increasingly is in the sizzle industry, and we keep buying the gristle.
Thursday, September 21, 2006
The statistics are staggering, both nationally and in New England. Of 616 football teams affiliated with the National Collegiate Athletic Association, only 16, or 2.6 percent, are guided by African-American head coaches, even though an estimated 19,667, or 32.7 percent, of the players last year were black, according to an NCAA survey (the figures exclude historically black colleges and universities).
The landscape is even grimmer in New England, where all but one of the 54 head coaches for NCAA football teams are white, according to a Globe survey. The lone minority is Mel Mills, a former Arena Football League player who has taken over a fledgling Division 3 team at Becker College in Leicester that went winless last year in its inaugural season.
Back in December 2003 I wrote an article about this issue after mississippi State hired Sylvester Croom as its new head coach. Things seem not to be improving, and might be getting worse. I hate the idea of mandating change in this arena and would like to think that universities, of all places, would place a premium on seeking out good black coaches, of which there are many working at the assistant ranks and many more among former players who would love a shot at coaching. but the situation is not changing quickly enough if it is changing at all.
[And by the way, while Pele is one of the heroes of this story, he refused to be interviewed. The filmmakers take a very discrete but clear jab at him during the closing credits. As they encapsulate the lives of each of the main players since their Cosmos tenure, Pele is shown and we are told simple that he is a "football ambassador" (they may use the Americanized "soccer" appellation. I don't recall.) Then on the screen appears the phrase "refused to be interviewed," with the distinct sound of a cash register "cha-ching!" I would surmise that to interview Pele may carry with it a cost that the filmmakers either could not or would not pay. But otherwise the footage from the era, especially the 70s heyday of the team and the league, is incredible stuff. the film is a reminder of how central New York was, for good and for ill, in forging the zeitgeist of the era. I know someone writing a book on the 1970s who will want to get hold of a copy of this video post-haste.]
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Yesterday's results in the GOP primary resulted in a first as well: Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey is the first woman that the state's Republicans have nominated for governor. (She ran unopposed, perhaps a reflection on the perceived strengths of Mitt Romney, a GOP presidential hopeful.) If Healey wins she will become the state's first elected woman governor. Either way, history is unfolding in Massachusetts, and while it is unlikely to provide any sort of national bellwether, that state that is so passionate about politics should provide another fascinating political campaign.
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
I love Bill Belichick.
Monday, September 18, 2006
there still is a lot of anger out there toward the Browns, but the anger is not nearly as scary for the Browns and their fandom as another emotion: sadness. Browns fans, at least from my perspective, have just become sad. Not depressed, exactly, but sad.
That sadness is an indication of a growing trend--many Browns fans find themselves not caring anymore. I'm even talking about hardcore fans, people with season tickets and Browns gear from throughout the years. They can feel themselves letting go, not investing the energy in hoping that their team will pull it together. The Browns have lost too often and for too long. That losing has worn on dedicated fans. You can't do it. You can't let your whole life be crushed by what happens on sixteen Sundays stretched out over a large chunk of the year for seven years in a row without getting tired of putting yourself in that situation.
So you start to let go. It happens a little bit at a time. First you start to expect to lose while hoping to win. Then you just expect to lose, without any hope. You realize that you don't care about the players, how well they represent the team and the city, or how much national respect they get when they perform well. If you live outside of your team's region, you find yourself making the conscious decision not to wear your team's gear anymore, just so you don't have to have that conversation. You find yourself caring less and less that you see every play of every game live, so the recorder goes on while you take care of other things. You find that visiting teams, even your rivals, have huge numbers of boisterous fans at your home games.
And that is why Browns fans are sad. Not because the Browns are losing, but because they realize they just don't care that much anymore. To have something so passionate and so special, and then have it fade away....
It occured to me while I was talking to my best friend Ryan after the game that until yesterday, I never understood the whole lovable losers thing that the Chicago Cubs have going. How can you be a happy-go-lucky fan for a team that constantly loses? How lame and pathetic is it that your teams futility is the exact reason why they have so much support? Well, that's what happens when the choice is either enjoy losing or don't watch at all. Browns fans are rapidly approaching that choice. Sad.
Tom sums it up pretty well, I think. Boston fans have been lucky in the past few years, and especially in the past few decades. Even prior to 2004 the Red Sox were almost always good, even if they could never get over the hump. Being a Red Sox fan was always fundamentally different from being a fan of the Cubbies. The Sox always took us oh-so-close to nirvana without getting there. Obviously the Patriots have been a source of unalloyed joy for us, and even before the three championships in four years, the Pats could be relied on to be competetive with a few notable and nauseating exceptions. The Celtics are, not to put too fine a point on it, the most successful franchise in the history of the NBA. And the Bruins, well, the Bruins used to be good. But even then, I think that the failures of the Red Sox to win it all, the snakebitten history of the pre-2001 Patriots, the post-Len Bias/Reggie Lewis Celtics hangover, and the more than three decades the Bruins have spent wandering aimlessly in the desert gave Red Sox fans an insight to the array of emotions that sports fans can face, including the specific kind of sadness that Tom pinpoints.
It would, however, be a shame to see Browns fans relent to the malaise. They are, without a doubt, one of the greatest fan bases in all of sports. But they cannot be asked to be both patient and passionate forever. At some point, the team will have to carry its share of the weight. I doubt that even has to mean simply winning. But it does have to involve a certain way of playing, visible passion and commitment, a sense of a forward trajectory. Cleveland fans have not asked for much, and they have given a lot. I think the city's teams owe them something more than what they have been giving.
[The weekend was] a win-win for the sport enthusiast/history geek. It's almost a fantasy weekend for us, especially since he is getting married soon and I have a second child on the way. Such trips will be fewer and farther in between.
The weekend was a lot of fun, if a bit exhausting. We flew in Friday night, and after getting ourselves a bit lost in Denton, Texas (we found our bearings after stopping at a Jack in the Box, which can really solve any problem) but eventually settled in to our Radisson directly across from the football stadium at the University of North Texas. Odds are you've not heard of it (It is Mean Joe Greene's alma mater, and as a consequence the nickname of the sports teams is the "Mean Green") and yet just to show that Texas is simply bigger than most places, UNT has 31,000+ students who attend school on campus. It has several PhD programs, including one in history. And of course UNT is far from Texas' largest university. In any case, we stayed in Denton, about 45 miles or so north of Dallas, because we had a day-long conference on teaching history through biography at the university on Saturday.
The highlights of the weekend came on Saturday afternoon and evening, when we went to the Rangers-Angels game, saw the home team win by a half dozen (12-6) on a night when the Angels' Chone Figgins hit for the cycle. We arrived early enough to catch some batting practice, to wander the stadium thoruoughly, and to get a few pictures with a mariachi band that showed up for Hispanic Celebration Day at the Ballpark at Arlington. From there we enjoyed some North Texas shenanigans.
Sunday was geared toward the nationally-televised Cowboys-Redskins night game at Texas Stadium. Redskins-Cowboys is one of the great rivalries in the NFL, a league with a dispropotionate amount of great rivalries, so I will not drink the "best rivalry in football" Kool Aid that fans of both teams were selling last night. (Cleveland-Pittsburgh and Green Bay-Chicago are at least two that I would argue are as intense.) But it is true that 'Boys-'Skins is a serious event, especially when both teams believe themselves to be playoff-worthy, as both teams do this year. It is increasingly clear that the NFC East was vastly overrated coming into the season, but it will be a competitive conference because all four teams are similarly mediocre.
I hate the Redskins and am a big fan of Drew Bledsoe based on his Patriots years and how he handled the potentially divisive situation with Tom Brady in 2001, so I appropriated the Cowboys last night. ("When in Rome . . .") The Cowboys kicked the Redskins all over the turf last night, which did not show a lot of signs of the saturation that it faced in the hours leading up to the game as a result of torrential rains that wreaked havoc throughout the Metroplex. Bledsoe looked great (There are a lot of good Cowboys fans; there are also a lot of morons. Every time Bledsoe threw -- wisely -- a pass out of bounds rather than force something, and every time his receivers dropped the ball -- something that happened a lot -- some morons behind me would call out for Tony Romo, a savior in the mind of many despite the inconvenient fact that Romo has never thrown a pass in a game that counted.) and despite enough penalties, drops, and general screups to make Bill Parcells say after the game that his team's performance made him "sick," the Cowboys simply pounded the Redskins, who scored their only touchdown on a Rock Cartwright 100-yard kickoff return. Meanwhile, Terrell Owens' (mis)adventures continue, as he dropped three passes, though we later discovered that he broke his hand early on. (Broken hand or no, you have to think that the dropped passes, and especially the dropped touchdown in the first quarter, buy Bledsoe a little bit of insulation from Owens' notoriously sour treatment toward quarterbacks whom he perceives as having failed him. It will be awfully tough for Owens to exercise his petulence against Bledsoe this season after that performance last night.) The fans in the stands had fun with the Redskins loyalists who braved ramshackle Texas Stadium, particularly in the fourth quarter when the Cowboys opened up the 17-point lead that proved the margin of victory.
5:30 this morning came awfully early, but the upside was that I somehow managed to get back in time (well, five minutes late) for my 9:00 class this morning. I am dragging now and have to survive a graduate seminar tonight. I think I need a weekend to recover from my weekend, but it was well worth it.
Friday, September 15, 2006
Thursday, September 14, 2006
Conspiracy theorists, this is your lucky day! It has often been said, perhaps most famously by Axl Rose, that just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not after you. A team of computer scientists at Princeton have created a vote-stealing program for the Diebold AccuVote-TS, one of the most common electronic-voting machines. I can see it now: A call for an investigation by a most bizarre pairing. My money is on Robert Kennedy, Jr. and Pat Buchanan.
Over at Radar they have an entertaining feature on the worst trends in Congressional hairstyles. Don't worry -- it includes pictures. As a general rule, dcat does not support these sorts of shallow, fluffy distractions (!). But in this case, we'll have to make an exception. (Courtesy of the good folks over at TNR's Plank.)
On a more somber note, flags began flying at half-mast in Texas yesterday, because former Governor Ann Richards lost her fight with cancer in Austin. Richards was able to win out in the rough and tumble good old boys political climate that is Texas. I was once a member of a bipartisan commission here in Odessa that put together a debate among local college students on the eve of the 2004 elections. Two little old ladies from Midland who were both active in the area's Republican politics spoke in hushed tones about Richards, as if just saying her name ran them the risk of God's wrath. they spoke of how she had a "filthy mouth" and acted just as bad as most of the men. But that was sort of the point. Politics, especially here, is not for the dainty. Richards won by playing politics at the highest levels as well as anyone. Local GOP double standards aside, I always admired Ann Richards, and even though I knew she had been battling cancer for quite some time, it was still a shock to hear of her passing.
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
The Cowboys and their lawyers have presented the argument that, according to team spokesman Brett Daniels, "it's premature to release the documents because of proprietary business practice information as well as issues with security." My view is that the Cowboys sacrificed their proprietary business claims as soon as they stuffed their snouts in the public trough. In fact, this claim so reeks of arrogance that it almost overwhelms all of the other arguments. It is increasingly common for professional sports teams to suckle at the public teat and then turn around and pretend that they owe the public nothing because they are fundamentally engaged in private enterprise. In the future one hopes that sports teams are subject to more, not less, public scrutiny. Even those teams that build new stadia with their own funds almost always receive tax breaks worth millions. Billionaire owners want to have the public pay for their opulent facilities in which they will charge exorbitant prices for tickets and concessions. They are learning, just like the poor guy who stands in line at halftime to spend $60 for a wretched gelatinous pile of food and drinks, that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Or half-billion dollar stadium.
But the other claims, those tied to security, give pause. I've said for years, even before 9/11, that stadiums on game day or concert night were among the most vulnerable targets for terrorist attacks. Tens of thousands of people in a celebratory mood unwary and focused on something else. Screaming crowds. Public address announcers. Amps at rock shows. Lots of drunk people. Showy but largely perfunctory security. Providing diagrams and blue prints to terrorists, whether Islamist or of the home grown variety (the President seems to have forgotten about the Eric Rudolph, Ku Klux Klan, Tim McVeigh, Unabomber, Charles Whitman types; His defenders share in his selective amnesia; some of us do not) seems shortsighted. Clearly the public does not have the right to know everything.
Then again, someone with malice aforethought can take plenty of time to plan an attack upon an open stadium. Once a stadium opens, it is usually fairly clearly laid out -- section one to section 26 or so all the way around a lower bowl, above that 101 to 126, and so forth. Football and multipurpose stadia, as well as basketball/hockey arenas are the most predictable, baseball facilities only somewhat less so. Providing diagrams that once a stadium opens will be available anyway hardly seems like a serious breach of either public safety or security. The danger will not come from simply knowing a stadium's layout, however essential that might be to a planned attack.
Prevention of a terrorist attack (or murderous rampage, which almost assuredly poses a greater and more likely danger in the long run) will come in the form of vigilance, intelligence and competence. A little sanity would also go a long way in bringing a level of reasonableness to our discussions as well. When you enter a stadium on a hot day and are drinking a bottle of water, recent news stories notwithstanding, the odds that the water will become a deadly weapon are almost nil. It is hard not to be cynical about a policy that happens to profit the concession stands significantly without demonstrably (or even plausibly) increasing safety. It also inspires less, not more, confidence among those of us who try to pay attention to these matters that the biggest concern at security gates always reflects the latest news cycle so that the only concern officials at the UT game this past weekend seemed to have was whether or not those entering the stadium had liquids. Meanwhile, if I had hidden a gun in my waistband there would have been no way of them noticing because they clearly did not bother to try to notice. In terms of odds, I would surmise that an attack at a big game will more likely come from someone wielding a gun that someone wielding a half-empty bottle of Crystal Geyser or Moland Spring.
In November Chafee will square off against a former state attorney general and US attorney for the state, Sheldon Whitehouse who yesterday easily won the Democratic Senate nomination yesterday against two lesder candidates. As Rhode Island goes, so may go the Senate.
One wonders how Whitehouse will gain traction, however. Chafee, largely because of the enduring popularity of his late father, John, has a great deal of support in the otherwise overwhelmingly Democratic state. Whitehouse's war opposition won't win him many points given that Chafee became persona non grata in his party largely because of his vocal opposition to the war. Chafee is enough of a social liberal to make Whitehouse seem like little more than a cipher or an opportunist. Perhaps the discontentment with the national GOP will create a riptide that will pull Chafee under, but for now, it looks as if the GOP can breathe easily, even if most within the party are holding their noses.
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
"My top 5 biggest assholio sports fans -- 1. Yankees 2. Maryland 3. Any Philly sport aside from baseball (because there are only 4 Phillies fans) 4. Ohio State 5. UConn"
Obviously this is a great idea for a list, and I hope we get lots of contributors in the comments. Although there may be some universals (I would suspect Yankees fans will get a lot of votes) I am also curious about regional variation -- I know Tom has nothing good to say about Denver Broncos fans, for example, and Brian, if he weighs in, will have his opinions on Texas A&M, and I hope we get a Jaime appearance on San Francisco or Arizona fans.
This list is not for those who are bad fans because of apathy (can't we just give those dishonors to fans of just about any pro sport in Miami, Atlanta, and LA?) but rather because of boorishness, obnoxiousness, and loathesomeness. Think of this list as the sports equivalent of coyote ugly -- you'd rather gnaw off your arm than be trapped in a room with these people. Here is my list, always subject to change:
1) Yankees fans. Just simply the worst. New York fans tend to forget that for all but a small percentage, sports fandom is fungible -- 70% of Yankees fans are also fans of other New York teams, the others jump from bandwagon to bandwagon -- part of their evil. Other New York teams suck. Yet this does not temper the obnoxiousness of the entire Yankees fan subculture. Hey, Yankees, fan -- who are your favorite football, basketball, and college teams? Yeah, I thought so.
2) Ohio State fans. And this is not simply the function of this past weekend, though before the game I was shocked and dismayed that Texas fans are such good hosts -- outnumbered outside of the stadium by roughly 20-1, had those OSU fans acted like they did in the northeast or rust belt midwest they would have ended up as bloodied stumps. I couldn't help but notice that they were a lot more quiet on the way out of the stadium after seeing a slew of of big, hostile Texas fans full of tailgating juice. Twenty beers has a way of moderating hospitality. But beyond that, my freshman college roommate was a diehard Ohio State fan, and that is usually enough to push anyone over the edge. But then I lived in Ohio for a few years. I learned quickly why the Fabulous Sports Babe, who used to have a nationally syndicated radio show, would not take calls from Columbus. They are odds-on favorites to win this year's national championship. This is not good. In my book mOhio State fans are closer to Yankees fans than you might imagine. I at least know some tolerable diehard Yankees fans, and I know a lot of smart Yankees fans. I honestly cannot say as much for many Buckeye boosters.
3) Eagles fans. Passion is the most important aspect to being a fan. But by having as a key part of their identity a pridefulness in being reactionary jerks, Philadelphia fans have sort of forgotten the key to it all. Sports real are supposed to be fun, and while anger sometimes is part of being a fan, when it is your whole shtick, well, that makes you both an unpleasant lout and a crappy fan. Philadelphia fans (and the national media, which fuels the average Philadelphian's idiocy) have confused prickishness with passion. I know you love to tell it all the time, Philly fan, but we really are not impressed that you once booed Santa Claus at an Eagles game. You realize that it wasn't the real Santa Claus, right?
4) Buffalo fans. I know this one may not register for most people. Buffalo? Really? Really. I've only known obnoxious Buffalo fans. And when the Bills were good they were insufferable. Even losing Super Bowls four years in a row did not shut them up. A Buffalo guy lived on my floor freshman ear of college. We went up to the AFC Championship game in 1991, which was Bo Jackson's last game in uniform and which the Bills won 51-0. before the game, the tailgating was fun, but Bills fans threw beer bottles at anyone wearing Raiders gear. I'm all about making the opposing fans miserable, but throwing bottles at them before the game? Back to the Suck for you. These, by the way, are my favorite kinds of awful fans. They arise seemingly out of nowhere, enjoy a brief period in which they have no idea how to handle themselves, and then they slink back to their holes. But you always know they are there. the fact that Buffalo will always suck is solace enough for those of us who had to put up with them at their absolute apex, which was still a place in all-time sporting ignominy. Four Super Bowl losses in a row, two of them among the worst blowouts in the history of the game, another a gag job in which they were favored heavily. Good work.
5) Redskins fans. These egregious frontrunners tend to be so dopey that they rub things in your face before they have actually won anything. I lived in DC when the Skins hired Spurrier. You would have thought that the redskins had acbieved a return to greatness right then and there. So that falls apart, and Redskins fans manage to accomplish the seemingly impossible -- maintain their obnoxiousness while jumping en masse off the bandwagon. So of cousrse chastened by the Spurrier debacle (and by the way, I have always been of the belief that given enough time Spurrier may have succeeded in the NFL) what do Redskins fans do when the team hires Joe Gibbs back? Yup -- taunting galore. I derived great schadenfreude over reading the Washington Post on Mondays after Redskin losses, which was rather often.
I welcome your contributions.
Monday, September 11, 2006
Austin is a fantastic city from what I saw (this was my first trip), UT has a great campus, and the people we were with (my friend, colleague, and reader Brian's parents) have had season tickets for something like two decades, and they said they have never seen it quite like that on campus before. Tailgating was mad, there was a sea of burnt orange, and although OSU fans may be assholes (they have always been in my bottom five, not as bad as Yankee fans, but maybe the worst outside of the Bronx), but they were out in force. They travel very, very well. The rumors are that there were anywhere between 40,000 and 60,000 who showed up in Austin, and I'd guess that at least 5,000 got into the game at rates that were as high as $1600 apiece if rumors and reports are to be believed.
When we first arrived we had an hour or more to kill, so we just wandered, found some AT&T tent and watched the afternoon games (The Oklahoma and Notre Dame games were both on) and then headed to this new performance facility where the UT president had a reception and Brian's parents had managed to get four spaces. When we walked in the door, there was Texas coaching legend Darrell Royal. Put it this way -- the Stadium at UT is named after him. I cannot even convey to you how good the food was -- Tex Mex, with three kinds of enchiladas (my favorites, in a close race, were the tamales, taco salad, refried beans, rice, and desserts. Booze was free too, but since I was dying -- I did not get in until 4 saturday morning from a poker game the night before -- I scarcely partook. Anyway, after an hour or so about 30 members of the UT marching band came in to the foyer on the ground floor -- we were on the fifth floor, but it was open and overlooked the foyer -- and played all of their traditional songs: the Yellow Rose of Texas, the Eyes of Texas, Deep in the Heart of Texas, and so forth. I eat that folderol up, and it was pretty awesome.
We got into the stadium about 45 minutes before kickoff and there was just a slow build. UT traditionally has pretty sedate, genteel fans -- that is the reputation, anyway. UT fans are upscale where Texas A&M fans are supposedly the sane ones. Until ten years ago or so, everyone did not even always wear orange to the games. But Mack Brown came in and introduced a "be loud, be proud" ad campaign and now the fans are just nuts. The only analogy I could make, and it was a poor one since I've never been, but was to the half hour before a heavyweight championship fight is supposed to feel like. The band was there and out in full effect, and I got to dig in to some of the big time traditions that they have with the band and the times when you are supposed to Hook 'Em horns and the lyrics to the songs. I have to say, I think I'm hooked. I'll always be a BC fan, but I've been looking to adopt a big time team for quite a while, and I work in the UT system, and obviously live in Texas, so I'm thinking that jumping on the UT bandwagon is a huge possibility. (Keep in mind that I grew up in New hampshire which has no major DI sports, except for UNH hockey, which has just become big in the last decade -- though I was thrilled to see them beat Northwestern in football on Saturday; I went to a DIII school, which I love, but it leaves room for bigger college football loyalties; I went to a then-Conference USA basketball school with no football program for my MA and to a MAC school for my PhD. BC is still my favorite DI team, but I'd like to develop a regional loyalty. The one problem with my UT plans is that my fiancee went to A&M for her undergrad and to Tech for her PhD. But she hates sports, which I figure gives me some leeway.)
The game was what it was. UT had their chances. They oftentimes stopped themselves. OSU showed no ability to stop the Texas running game, but UT insisted on trying to pass, which OSU could stop. I thought the Longhorns just should have gone with the 2-headed running monster until OSU stopped it, wore them down, and when they were dragging, then started opening up the passing game. Instead with no rhyme nor reason, Texas had this bizarre offensive flow to the game. They wanted to get Colt McCoy into the game, so they pursued these ineffectual dinks and dunks that supplemented the running game but that developed too slowly against a team with Ohio State's quickness. The first half was still great fun, and while OSU was leading the whole way, they never really looked dominant until that last drive.
Halftime was great--I have to admit, I usually could care less one way or the other about bands, but you knew it was a national game -- OSU brought their band and did a full show, finishing off with Script Ohio, which I had never seen. The Texas band did a traditional halftime show with all of their standards, but then had worked up a giant "Script Texas" while the OSU band watched and cheered. The OSU band's presence reaffirmed the big-game nature of the weekend and halftime was a spectacle worth seeing.
All in all it was a great weekend. Seeing a #1 versus #2 matchup is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The only drawback was the result, but Austin seemed pretty committed to winning the party Saturday night even if they lost the game. And to think, this coming weekend I'll be in Dallas, where on saturday I'll catch the Rangers-Angels game and on Sunday night the nationally televised Cowboys-Redskins clash at Texas Stadium. I love sports.
Friday, September 08, 2006
Imagine you were scheduled to be executed, for whatever reason, by hanging. Now imagine that you went and spent your own money to buy a big pile of wood. Now imagine that out of that pile of wood you build the scaffold from which you will hang. Get the rope (again with your own money), tie the noose, and attach it to the scaffold. Now, ahead of the scheduled execution time, imagine voluntarily walking up the scaffold and voluntarily putting on the noose. That's kind of how I felt yesterday when I ordered the NFL Ticket from DirecTV so I could watch all sixteen games of my 2006 Cleveland Browns.
Tom mentions one of my favorite college players of the last couple of decades, Eric Metcalf, who I liked less for his football skills than because of the fact that he was NCAA long jump champion when he was at Texas. As a long jumper, I always was a fan.
I was planning on writing my own NFL preview, but just got so darned busy, (and did I mention that I have tickets for tomorrow's Texas-Ohio State game at Memorial Stadium in Austin?) but here it is in a nutshell: The Patriots are going to be very good, and will be better if they get Deion Branch back in the fold. The Dolphins are tremendously overrated. Pittsburgh will not repeat. Cleveland will be better but Tom will still have plenty of reason to scream epithets at the television set. Indy will be there as always. Indy will choke. As always. The NFC East is enormously overrated but is balanced, and year one of the Bledsoe to TO experiment will work out just fine. The Panthers are everyone's chic pick. They will be a good football team, will win ten games, and will lose in their second playoff game. Everyone's new darlings, Arizona, will be much improved but will win nine games and miss the playoffs with Matt Leinart getting five starts and making several of the teams who drafted from positions one to nine regret their decision (this will not count Houston, who already regrets their decision.) The Pats will win their fourth Super Bowl in six seasons. All the experts will be scratching their heads and wondering how they overlooked Tom Brady and Bill Belichick in favor of the Dolphins, who will have gone 9-7 again.
Hat Tip to LJ.
George Allen's macaca riff may have exposed him as a racist bully. But the reason it caused such an uproar probably has less to do with Allen himself than with today's GOP. To put it bluntly, the GOP doesn't really do race-baiting any more, at least nothing like it used to. Republicans more or less stopped bashing Democrats as the party of welfare queens and violent criminals some time in the mid-'90s, just before they started attacking Democrats as the party of adulterous presidents and monogamous gays.
Obviously, most blacks still don't vote Republican. But the whites who do have more or less soured on race-baiting. That's why George W. Bush never missed a chance to pose with cute little black children during the 2000 campaign. And it's why watching an aspiring presidential candidate try to score points with a crude racist appeal is so jarring today. In addition to being offensive, Allen's comments recall a political strategy that has been out of style for nearly a decade.
Scheiber's point is a good one. His observations also represent a sign of progress in American race relations. America's racial conservatives (oftentimes but not always racists) are almost overwhelmingly Republicans. But the Republican Party is not a racist party. This is a distinction that makes an enormous difference.
If we want to debate the need for and efficacy of broader wiretapping capacity, by all means, criticize away. At a certain point it becomes nearly impossible to place faith in the administration. They need to make a case beyond mere platitudes. Yes, we get it, you want to protect the Homeland. Now please show us concrete evidence of how this will help you do so, of where our wiretapping is lacking, and of how you will use the intelligence to make us safer. Also, let's see the safeguards against excess. So on the merits, criticize. But also at least be thankful that the President, perhaps chastened, perhaps merely cynical, has chosen to utilize Congress this time around. Whether he is trying to shore up support among GOP members of the House and Senate, or if instead he sees the writing on the wall that indicates that he might be in for a long couple of years in his dealings with Capital Hill, it is hard to imagine the President Bush of 2005 being this up-front in his desire to get Congress to support programs that heretofore he seems to have believed to have been the domain of the executive.
But what also rings clear is that the President has already entered lame duck status. He appears to be almost a nonentity in terms of the way in which Congress goes about its business. Republicans as much as Democrats seem content either to criticize, or perhaps more ominously for 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, to ignore or dismiss president Bush. The next two years might represent the political equivalent of trench warfare in which a scorned and irrelevant president faces off against an opponent deeply dug-in and unmovable. Whether it will lead to a reluctant bipartisanship of necessity or gridlock, we cannot know. We can hope for the former, but we may want to prepare for the latter.
Thursday, September 07, 2006
But there is more, and it does not redound to the President's benefit. The President continues to deny that Americans have engaged in torture. Andrew Sullivan calls him out on this patent lie and then some.
In the cases the president cites, he authorized torture as plainly stated in U.S. law and common English. Moreover, he says he has set up an elite group trained specifically for torture, the kind of elite torture-squads once dear to South American dictators. They have, he reassures us, 250 extra hours of torture-training over regular CIA interrogators. The president is asking the Congress to establish this in law. Yes, this is America. It just no longer seems like it.
Sullivan is not alone. Spencer Ackermann decries the duplicity here and here. And apparently even the Pentagon has grown squeamish. Otherwise, why would officials there have outlawed the use of "harsh interrogation tactics"? Why would Charles "Cully" Stimson, deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs, have to argue that the new policy:
"unambiguously articulates the values and traditions of our nation, values that John Adams called 'the policy of humanity,' which has been the cornerstone of the American ethos of warfare. More importantly, it provides our forces in the field the policy guidance needed to ensure the safe, secure and humane detention during armed conflicts, however those are characterized."
As opposed to? Well, obviously as opposed to the pre-revision policy.
Torture goes against every ideal we should hold dear. It is of dubious efficacy -- people being tortured will say whatever they think their torturers want to hear. people who legitimately know nothing will say that they know something, adding to bad intelligence, to make the torture stop. People who know something will purport to know more than they do in order to get the toruture to stop. the self-fulfilling prophecy of torture will then encourage the toruturer to believe that the one being tortured knows more. Furthermore, it has been shown in case after case that much torture develops a life of its own so that the infliction of pain and suffering becomes a goal in and of itself irrespective of whether or not the pain and suffering actually brings about actionable intelligence. (And let's recall that this is an administration for which warnings of Osama bin Laden making plans to hijack planes and fly them into buildings did not qualify as actionable. They set that bar. Not me.) Finally, our use of torture means that if our enemies were to have any qualms about torturing captured Americans, we can feel pretty confident that those have dissipated.
Some will try to parse definitions of torture to decide if waterboarding qualifies. In my mind, a pretty good rule of thumb is that if a form of inquisition is hauntingly akin to a favored technique of the apartheid police, we probably ought to err on the side of calling it torture. Our policies have been wrong, and the administration has consistently lied to us about them. That, and not the president's announcement about trials that was far too late in coming, is the problem.
On my way to work I bicycle past a car that bears the bumper sticker, 9/11 was an inside job. I disagree, if only on the grounds of incompetence; if this administration had targeted the Twin Towers, we'd be grieving today for the meaningless tragedy that befell the Minnesota Twins.
This administration really might be that incompetent.
That's right. This guy! The giddy one who probably won't get any work done between now and Saturday. #1 versus #2. Under the lights at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.
Eat it, Ohio State.
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
Hat Tip to Holmes.
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
But the question that I hope Democratic strategists are considering even as they plot the path to victory: Then what? It is one thing to run as disgruntled outsiders in the face of arrogance and incompetence. It is quite another to have partial power in a divided government in the face of an executive branch that has somehow managed to try to cast blame on your party even when it has been utterly out of power. If things go (further) awry in the next two years, even if as the result of ongoing administrative incompetence, the feel-good effect of winning in November might well be short-lived. In politics, unlike in sports, the goal should not be just to win. Winning is, or at least ought to be, the first step toward governing. I hope that, even in the heat of battle, Democrats understand the difference.
Open University explains its mission statement thusly:
To the best of our knowledge, this blog is unlike any other out there. It's dedicated to thinking about not just the news of the day but also the news from the academy: Controversies in campus politics that warrant thoughtful discussion. Scholarship from our various disciplines that we think deserves a broader hearing. Ideas we had in doing our research that seem eerily relevant to something we read in The New York Times today. Our bloggers range widely over the political spectrum. They include both novices and old hands . . .
TNR's newest blog should be a welcome addition to online commentary and will hopefully provide a model of public intellectualism.
Monday, September 04, 2006
A progressive foreign policy would elevate democracy promotion as its primary component -- not only because it is right, but because it is necessary. For a movement and a political party that continue to grope for “big ideas,” a focus on democracy would transform a set of seemingly unrelated policies into a cohesive vision that can inspire and reassure Americans.
His argument was as sincere as it was misguided. As with much talk about democracy promotion, it mistook the world that American liberals would like to live in for the actual one that American liberals must confront. Hamid conflates a liberalism of good intentions with a liberalism of good results. But American liberals have a responsibility when acting abroad to advance a liberalism of good results -- good for America, and good for liberalism. [. . .]
What liberal democracy-promoters want to see in foreign closed societies is more precisely located in the advance of human rights: the protection of basic human dignity, freedom, and justice. Indeed, liberal democracy-promoters frequently criticize their neoconservative cousins for their lack of concern with the social protections of civil and legal rights. But it's time to uncouple human rights from democracy, and recognize that democracy has value only to the degree to which it safeguards human rights -- which is to say the degree to which democracy is liberal. Democracy in that respect is a fine and worthy thing, but the emphasis for the United States and for liberalism should be on the end, not the means.
At the risk of turning our audience off by going to the same piece again and again, I am going to refer to the recent op-ed piece that Tom and I penned. The reason I want to suggest that you look at this article for the first time if you have not is because I believe that it fits into the Ackerman-Hamid discussion. Here is the money excerpt for this conversation:
If you focus too much on security and the mere appearance of democracy and do not work toward fostering the development of the full panoply of liberal institutions, strongmen will take over, as has happened in Africa. Security and elections are necessary but not sufficient conditions for Iraq's ultimate success. Winning hearts and minds is fine, but creating a vibrant civil society and stable institutions enables true democracy to flourish.
I would argue (and I am speaking only for me, and not for Tom, though I will use the royal "we" since the piece is both of ours) that fundamentally, we dovetail with Ackerman inasmuch as we believe that liberal institutions fuel human rights. Unlike Ackerman, and perhaps closer to Hamid, we do believe that democracy is necessary. Indeed, we believe that human right require democratic institutions. But this is an important discussion that I believe we ought to be having, as Iraq is simply the latest grappling with what it means to reform a once-authoritarian state. In the past we have not always done so well. But that does not mean that we do not work for the future.