Homo homini rodentius est

Bloggers blabbing: a Slate symposium

Slate Blogging Symposium

Last night I attended a symposium at the New York Public Library celebrating the 10th anniversary of Slate magazine and addressing the current state of online journalism. Michael Kinsley moderated a panel made up of Arianna Huffington, Malcolm Gladwell, Jacob Weisberg and Norman Pearlstine. It was a good talk by some of the brightest lights in the world of journalism and culminated in a very typically New York moment.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Dark Side

Angry CheneyFrontline aired a 90 minute episode tonight entitled [The Dark Side], about Cheney’s covert internecine manipulations of intelligence to redirect war on terror efforts from fighting Al Qaeda in Afghanistan to support for a war against Saddam Hussein. Beautiful production values, as always, but biased: no interviews with any of the principals they address including Cheney, Tenet, Wolfowitz, Powell and only about 3 seconds from John Yoo, an architect of the expansion of presidential powers — but plenty of air time for Administration critics Joe Wilson, David Kay and others. No mention — at all — of any rationale for the war that rested on larger strategic goals of reshaping the political landscape in the Middle East, rather the war in Iraq is presented as a way for Cheney and Rumsfeld to settle old scores against Saddam and the CIA. Still, over the 90 minutes, a story becomes clear enough — the intelligence about threat from Iraq was twisted beyond recognition. Tellingly, they point up that more than once, right after 9/11 and just before the Administration decided to push ahead on Iraq, President Bush didn’t defer wholly to Cheney and Rumsfeld but looked to the CIA for guidance and acted on the information provided. Perhaps, if Tenet had been a stronger man, things might have been different.

In [yesterday’s post] I bemoaned the frailty of people in the face of uncertainty, that drives them to rush to judgement before they should. It didn’t address those who don’t want to know the truth, or see it as an obstacle, and merely use information as a means to an end. As someone that figuratively and somewhat literally grew up in psych labs, the thought of conciously distorting knowledge in the effort at pursuing an end — particularly one that will require the ultimate sacrifice of others — is particularly abhorrent.

Three simple words

What three words are among the most difficult for anyone ever to mutter? Words that strike terror into the heart and tie the guts into knots? I don’t know. No, those are the words: I don’t know. If you spend much time reading newspapers or watching television or, especially, sitting in business meetings it’s a phrase you rarely encounter. Kind of ironic isn’t it when so many of the situations we face in life — especially the most challenging and controversial — are not open to easy solution. Last night, in an interview on PBS that Jim Lehrer had with Ben Bradley, Bradley said something interesting. Lehrer asked him if he thought all presidents lie. Bradley said that he did, but the reason he gave for it wasn’t the one you’d expect. I thought he’d say that they lie because it helps serve their political goals — no, he said they lie because they get into difficult situations without easy solution and cannot admit they don’t know what to do or feel the truth is too dangerous. So they lie.

Arianna is already [flogging] a book to come out this year about fear — she sees it as the root of most of the problems of life, both personally and politically. Hard to disagree. I see the effects of fear everywhere. Fear to really address the implications of challenging issues. When issues (or as Popper would say, societies) are too open, the temptation is to retreat to tribal keeps and time tested dogma.

Alas, the devil really is in the details. People seek stability by wrapping (ensnaring?) themselves in the doctrinal details of arguments over important issues because it keeps them from having to address the Big Scary Question directly. And so, we have people debating whether gay people are born or recruited — because we hope we will find in the minutiae of that argument an answer to the larger question of what it means to society for men to build lives without women and vice versa. Similarly on abortion, we try to parse the moment that a human life begins in hopes that we can somehow legislate away the real issue that has existed since the time of Medea: how does society deal with the fact that a child is an extension of a woman’s body, ultimately to do with as she pleases?

I don’t know.

I suppose that’s why I tend toward the conservative pole of the lightning rod when it comes to judicial or legislative remedies to vexing public issues — do as little as possible for as long as possible when complicated issues need time to work themselves out in an uncertain public mind.

Now he is 64

Paul McCartneyThis Sunday Paul McCartney turns 64. He was a teenager when he wrote When I’m Sixty-Four — though it didn’t show up until Sgt. Pepper in 1967. I have to admit when I first read about it, I thought, “He’s only 64?” So much has happened since then: the assasinations, the war(s), Watergate, Reagan, end of the Cold War, 9/11, the internet — computers for God’s sake, that the Beatles seems like another planet. Another century to be sure. They were [bigger than Jesus] you know. Now Jesus sets foreign policy. Jesus sure showed that John Lennon.

They never could have seen the world coming. Youth never does and so much of the 60’s convulsion was demographic — a bubble of kids swept through the culture and shook everything to its core. Then they got older, less resilient, more conservative and dutifully began putting it all back together. But I wonder how they look back on their idealism. Do they look back? Or is it too painful.

Send me a postcard, drop me a line,
Stating point of view
Indicate precisely what you mean to say
Yours sincerely, wasting away
Give me your answer, fill in a form
Mine for evermore
Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When I’m sixty-four

Headgear for the troops

army helmetOn Thursday, June 15 at 3:00 ET, headgear expert Cherilyn Sarkesian will testify with Dr. Bob Meaders, founder and president of Operation-Helmet.org, before the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces about the pressing need for an upgrade to the type of helmets that our troops are using in Iraq and other battlezones. Under discussion will be the positive effects and benefits of upgrading the current helmets by using a pad suspension system vs. a strap or sling suspension system.

A photo of Sarkesian with another type of headgear can be seen after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »

« Previous Entries   Next Entries »