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Archive for January, 2005

Monday, January 31st, 2005


First, Collounsbury has been relatively busy on MENA topics, always worth reading. Secondly, Dave Schuyler has a post ” What do you believe that you cannot prove?” that links to a site with supremely bright ( ex. Freeman Dyson) folks answering the same question. I had a comment at Glittering Eye on Howard Gardner’s answer.

Monday, January 31st, 2005


I’m looking forward to the end of home renovations this week that will provide me with a) a new floor b) new and considerably more comfortable office furniture and c) extended shelving that will allow me to uncrate the thousands of books that are filling my garage. Thus, putting my library- or at least most of it – within easy blogging reach and actually allowing the garage to be used for a car.

And…Mrs. Zenpundit gets a new bedroom set.

Sunday, January 30th, 2005


Early signs are hopeful. The results are going to be spun but its going to be interesting to see how the anti-war crowd spins a 72 % voter turn-out under threats of horrific violence into a dismal failure for democracy when the United States could not muster that kind of participation if we made election day a national holiday.

The election won’t solve all of Iraq’s problems but it was a first not only for Iraq but for the Arab world. The Bush administration, though they should have done scheduled elections long ago, deserves credit. The brave Iraqi voter, deserves even more.


The initial reaction of the Arab press.


In the wake of a successful Iraqi vote, Liberal senators scurry to distance themselves from Ted Kennedy’s overt defeatism ( the GOP should thank old Ted for reminding the public that as badly as the Bush administration screwed up the occupation of Iraq, the Democratic wing of the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party stands ever ready to screw things up even worse).


Juan Cole looks for the cloud in the silver lining. Al Jazaeerah describes a purported 50 % turn-out in Saddam Hussein’s Sunni heartland as ” Confusion “.


It’s another dark day for the wingnuts who now dominate Kevin’s comments board, though not as bad as last November.

Sunday, January 30th, 2005


Coming from an academic background in diplomatic and economic history that was heavy in archival research, I’ve read a lot of documents, diaries and memoirs of a kind that just aren’t terribly likely to be seen again. One legacy of special prosecutors and ” gotcha” journalism is that heavy-hitting statesmen today seldom keep the type of candid personal records their predecessors once did, much less tape recording conversations like LBJ and Nixon. What Stanley Kutler has done in his career will not be repeated by future historians. We’re never going to have that kind of certainty of what really happened in the Oval Office ever again.

Which is a shame, not just for the historical record itself but for the intelligent student of public affairs. Presidents are subject to unending personal abuse to the extent that we forget that even the ones we generally considered mediocre were, at a minimum, shrewd and canny politicians. Jimmy Carter, often reviled for being “weak”, crushed Ted Kennedy into the dirt when the bloated scion of Hyannisport challenged Carter for the presidency. Moreover, the best men who became Commander-in-Chief often had keen intellects and great insight into human behavior, history and philosopy. A few of them could legitimately have been described as geniuses.

In short, there’s a lot of presidents who would have made excellent bloggers !

The first two that come to mind are John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. If you haven’t read some of their correspondence, you should. The back and forth exchange, writing for history, for themselves and for the Republic, they established a literary dialogue that is without peer. As a blogger Adams would have been the more tart and the more frequent poster. If the marginalia of his personal papers are any indication, Adams would have been an entertaining, curmudgeonly, partisan. Jefferson would have penned longer, more elegant, posts than Adams and let his blog lapse into silence for long periods of time. Nothing of a personal nature would have crept into Jefferson’s posts but the sheer range of topics on his blog would have been fascinating. To have matched Jefferson in this regard we would have had to have given Leonardo DaVinci and Aristotle their own Blogger accounts.

Two others who would have been naturals in the blogosphere were Harry Truman and Ronald Reagan. Truman was a serious reader of history, caustic in his judgements, sometimes letting his temper get the better of him. Harry Truman as a blogger would have had a lively comments section with readers reacting to his unvarnished opinions which would have been more like Truman appears in Plain Speaking than in his autobiography. Ronald Reagan, contrary to liberal myth, was a fine writer and thinker in his day, with a smooth touch even when he was driving home his point. Reagan probably would have cut a more modest figure in the blogosphere than he did in politics. The Gipper was, first of all, a master of presentation and delivery which are intangible qualities of personal charisma, hard to translate into prose. Secondly Ronald Reagan was simply too nice and gentlemanly in an old-fashioned way to mix it up the way bloggers do.

Abraham Lincoln we must include because of the Gettysburg Address, which is short enough to be a post, and for Lincoln’s humor and insight into human nature. Teddy Roosevelt, amateur historian and one of America’s first media celebrities, would have tried to take the blogosphere by the throat. ” T.R.’s Corner” would have been a colorful, blustering, blog. Teddy’s daughter Alice would have had one too and her lethal wit would have given Wonkette a run for her money. Richard Nixon was angry enough to be a blogger but his paranoia and insecurity about his image would have drained his blog of the real expertise and analytical brilliance Nixon had to offer on foreign affairs and politics.

John F. Kennedy would have had a blog but Ted Sorensen would have done all of the posts. And it would have ranked at the top of the Ecosystem.

Saturday, January 29th, 2005


I’m still too tired to do an extended commentary but there were a few things that I found interesting to read over the last few days:

TM Lutas ” Garbage Cans and Pressure Cookers”. In reference to Peggy Noonan, whom I like, TM reminds us that elegant prose doesn’t always mean particularly deep thinking.

Praktike, preaching among the heathen, at Dean Nation. In all seriousness, I hope people like prak and Paul Berman succeed in their endeavors. Right and Left in this country should be able to disagree on all aspects of political economy while standing on a common ground in regard to the apalling threat Islamist terror poses toward free societies.

Of course, the Rule-Set Reset ( never let it be said that I am above shameless self-promotion).

The website for The Muslim American Society. I’ve perused it and while these folks are not Islamist extremists they are not going to be first in line to criticize radical Islamism either. Or perhaps even get in that line at all.

For the Anglophiles, two posts from Geitner Simmons” Hitler in London “ and ” Decline of the Aristocrats” – informative and well-crafted as always.

From Coming Anarchy ( great name for a blog) a review of PNM.

Dan at tdaxp fisks Juan Cole’s latest on Doug Feith.

JB at riting on the wall deconstructs ” Liberal Democracy”.

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