Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Bono at CMC, or, In Defense of Celebrity Philanthropy

In what was undoubtedly one of the biggest speaking engagements of the year at CMC, U2 frontman and Africa activist Bono came to Bridges Auditorium to give students, faculty, and staff from the 5Cs as well as local citizens "A Lesson in Giving Back."

Bono's speech certainly played more to his rock-star side than his technocrat side. His accounts of his trips to Africa and meeting with countless heads of state and captains of industry to rally support to his cause both awed and inspired. To be sure, his accounts of suffering in Africa were sobering -- I'm sure not a few in the audience were moved to some sort of action to help the cause -- but overall, his message was one of hope and inspiration, exhorting our generation to action. (The unabashed admiration of America and her values didn't hurt, either.) To give a better idea of the inner workings of Bono's mind, I've compiled a list of memorable quotes from his speech and the Q&A session that followed:

"Please don't tell my band I'm here."

"Rockstars have two instincts: they want to have fun, and they want to change the world."

"The world is more malleable than you think."

"This rockstar knows that the power of rock 'n' roll should not be undersold."

"The question for your generation -- and mine, by the way -- is whether or not we know what is going on -- because we do -- but what are we going to do about it?"

"Human rights and civil rights going global -- that's what the ONE campaign is really about."

"I've become the least attractive thing in the world: a rockstar with a cause."

"I like to call it 'the swarm of bees strategy.' That's right, the buzzing you hear isn't your iPhone, it isn't your hangover -- it's the swarm."

"...The America that says, 'Is that the Moon? Let's take a [rhymes with "truckin'"] walk on it!'...of thee I sing."

Former head of the IMF Horst Köhler to Bono on fame: "'So you make ze money and zen you develop ze conscience?'"

"...The U.K. is a great country -- ugh, I can't believe I just said that."

"Sorry to be so anecdotal tonight, I had a gin and tonic."
To be sure, Bono is not without his critics (fellow classmate and blogger Charles Johnson among them). But while the arguments against Bono-style aid efforts have their virtues, it seems to me that those arguments are nonetheless flawed. Celebrity philanthropists like Bono strike a key balance between celebrity and technocrat -- not so far removed from those who would otherwise not be interested in Africa as to alienate them, but clearly knowledgeable enough in the subject to avoid accusations of simply being a publicity-seeker. Such "celebthropists" are capable of tapping into the vast base of average American citizens who hear about the plights of the African continent but are unaware of how they can make a difference; one need only look at the Product Red line of consumer goods, which has raised $45 million for The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, to see the effect that ordinary Americans can have if they practice what Bono referred to as "conscientious consumerism" -- that is, purchasing products that not only accomplish what the consumer desires from it, but are also under a system where the proceeds go towards such initiatives as The Global Fund.

Critics of the "conscientious consumerism" approach argue that there is a lack of transparency inherent to such corporation-supported enterprises, and that direct philanthropy is far more efficient. Yet the movement's detractors perhaps fail to recognize one of the key benefits of the approach: that the participants receive something tangible -- along with the satisfaction of having contributed to a charitable cause -- for their money, and this ultimately broadens the possible base of donors. Over 110 million iPods have been sold in the United States, and even if only a small fraction of them have been Product Red purchases, that is still a vast amount of cash flow waiting to be tapped. If a consumer is planning on purchasing an iPod, he or she can walk into any Apple Store and receive an iPod that is no way functionally different from other models, but additionally contributes to the Global Fund (and comes in a snazzy red color, to boot). In the simple act of buying a product he or she already wanted, the consumer can contribute in some meaningful way towards one of the great humanitarian efforts of our time. This is nothing less than the harnessing of the great power of the free market for the purpose of improving the lives of millions of people, and that is something that cannot be argued against.

Friday, October 26, 2007

"Saudi MIT" to Dabble in Academic Freedom

According to the International Herald Tribune, Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah has just unveiled plans for a sprawling new research university some 50 miles outside of the Red Sea port city of Jidda:

Between an oil refinery and the sea, the monarch is building from scratch a graduate research institution that will have one of the 10 largest endowments in the world, worth more than $10 billion.

Its planners say men and women will study side by side in an enclave walled off from the rest of Saudi society, the country's notorious religious police will be barred and all religious and ethnic groups will be welcome in a push for academic freedom and international collaboration sure to test the kingdom's cultural and religious limits.

This undertaking is directly at odds with the kingdom's religious establishment, which severely limits women's rights and rejects coeducation and robust liberal inquiry as unthinkable.

For the new institution, the king has cut his own education ministry out the loop, hiring the state-owned oil giant Saudi Aramco to build the campus, create its curriculum and attract foreigners.

Supporters of what is to be called the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, or Kaust, wonder whether the king is simply building another gated island to be dominated by foreigners, like the compounds for oil industry workers that have existed here for decades, or creating an institution that will have a real impact on Saudi society and the rest of the Arab world.

"There are two Saudi Arabias," said Jamal Khashoggi, the editor of Al Watan, a newspaper. "The question is which Saudi Arabia will take over."

The king has broken taboos, declaring that the Arabs have fallen critically behind much of the modern world in intellectual achievement and that his country depends too much on oil and not enough on creating wealth through innovation.

"There is a deep knowledge gap separating the Arab and Islamic nations from the process and progress of contemporary global civilization," said Abdallah Jumah, the chief executive of Saudi Aramco. "We are no longer keeping pace with the advances of our era."

Traditional Saudi practice is on display at the biggest public universities, where the Islamic authorities vet the curriculum, medical researchers tread carefully around controversial subjects like evolution, and female and male students enter classrooms through separate doors and follow lectures while separated by partitions.

Such an institution, if successful, would prove to be a tremendous step forward for a country that is badly in need of economic and societal progress alike. As was mentioned in the article, the new institution will require foreign capital of the monetary and intellectual variety alike. Enthusiastically but respectfully offering both of these to this venture could provide the West with an unparalleled opportunity to do some good in Saudi Arabia by influencing events there in a manner other than contentious oil-related ventures. Indeed, it would allow the West to help academic and social freedoms take root in Saudi Arabia by respectable means, avoiding any accusations of covert plots of attempting to foment revolt. Such innovation is badly needed in cloistered Saudi Arabia. It will be most interesting to see what, if anything, emerges from this revolutionary new institution, and if it really helps push the rest of the Saudi education system towards greater academic freedom.

Professor Kesler on Modern Liberalism and the Nature of Change

(Author's Note: While my fellow classmate and blogger Charles Johnson beat me to the punch on publishing a piece on this topic, I felt the need to add my own opinion. It's a typical blogger's trait.)

CMC government professor and senior fellow at the conservative Claremont Institute Charles Kesler makes the case against modern liberalism's misguided approach towards change in "Forcing the Spring," his Editor's Note of the Claremont Review of Books and featured at RealClearPolitics.

In the piece, Kesler argues that liberals are trying to "to hurry us into the future, so that we won't have time to think if the future on offer is actually possible or not, desirable or not." He adds that they, by definition, "are selling the future, a product that by definition is never in stock but soon to be shipped," and are therefore, unlike companies selling new products to fill contrived new needs and wants, not accountable to the "market" they serve -- namely, the American people. He illustrates this point by examining "HillaryCare" and the more recent healthcare proposals by the Democratic presidential candidates:

Take, for example, the Democratic proposals for what is euphemistically called health care reform. In fact, their proposals have very little to do with improving the quality of medical care actually delivered in America's hospitals and doctors' offices, and very much to do with changing the control over medical spending and regulatory authority. The point is not to heal the halt and the lame but to tax those who already have health insurance to pay for those who don't. The point is not to make the blind see but to blind everyone to the increase in governmental power that will result from these prescriptions. This was clearer back in 1993, when the bulbs were sprouting early and Hillary Clinton was in charge of her husband's health care reform task force. As czarina of all health care, she planned in detail how the federal government would solve the "crisis." But the plan--and the crisis--fizzled when the details proved too much even for a Democratic Congress to swallow. She learned from her mistakes. Instead of using the plan to show the nature of the change needed, Hillary now trusts change to show the nature of the plan needed. The details will come later, after the country has agreed on the need for change.
Kesler makes an excellent point here that any reasonably-minded person can agree with: change is not inherently good -- it should be desired by a consensus of some sort before it is acted upon. While I would not characterize the tendency to back change without proper forethought as a solely liberal affliction, it is indeed a criticism that should be raised. Particularly in the current atmosphere of polarization and divisiveness, the last thing that is needed is further aggravation of this status quo through lack of proper consideration on important policy choices. Change is good, but just make sure you ask the salesman what you're getting for your money.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Stamp-of-Idiocy #2 & #3: Obama ≠ Osama; O'Reilly Can't Be Outraged Enough

The Stamp-of-Idiocy is back, and we've got a double-feature this week to make up for the recent hiatus.

When I first saw the words "Romney's Osama-Obama mix-up" on RealClearPolitics' video section, I couldn't help but cringe. I've seen all sorts of nonsense from conservatives making a mountain out of the molehill that is Obama's full name -- Barack (gasp!) Hussein Obama -- and I thought perhaps Romney had made some similar slip of the tongue. Instead, I was absolutely floored to find a ten-second clip of Romney accusing Obama of releasing an audiotape exhorting extremists and jihadists to action in Iraq. See for yourself below:

Given the dubious nature of many of Romney's policy stances, what with his various "conversions" and all, I find it difficult to take his campaign at its word when it said this astounding error was "a simple mistake." Whether this was a case of incredible ignorance on Romney's part or a clumsy attempt at a smear against Obama, it's fairly inexcusable. Hey, Mitt, let's go back and do some more work on names, and then we can move on to colors.

Also on the right(-wing) side of life, everyone's favorite conservative pundit Bill O'Reilly recently took to his seat of power, the "No-Spin Zone," to -- what else? -- spin. (In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I take serious issue not necessarily with Bill-O's views per se, but rather with virtually everything about the way he runs his show -- the shameless right-wing spin, frequent misrepresentation of facts, shouting down guests, etc.) He seized on the fact that the "committed-left" media gave less time to the story of the posthumous awarding of the Medal of Honor to Navy SEAL Lieutenant Michael P. Murphey than Fox, virtually apoplectic as he accused them of hating Bush's policies and therefore the hating the soldiers as well. If you're prepared to attempt to follow Bill-O's vast leaps of logic (and risk falling in the giant chasms between), then feel free to follow the link:

Yes, Bill, clearly the other news channels hate the soldiers, because MSNBC and CNN didn't cover the story five and seven distinct times respectively, and didn't actually cover the award ceremony live. Oh, wait.

I await the day when the gravitational force of all of Bill-O's spin inside the "No-Spin Zone" becomes too strong to withstand and causes a devastating rupture of the fabric of space-time inside the studio.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Telling It Like It Is

I apologize to my few faithful readers for the dearth of activity here as of late. The typical problem of "too much work to do, and not enough time to do it," as well as a brief hiatus for my fall break, had claimed me.

Recently, however, I have been catching up on my news, and was pleased to find this gem of an article from Philip Gordon on the necessity of fundamentally altering the way we approach the war on terror. Some key excerpts (emphases mine):

Almost entirely missing from [the] debate [on how to prosecute the war on terror] is a concept of what "victory" in the war on terror would actually look like. The traditional notion of winning a war is fairly clear: defeating an enemy on the battlefield and forcing it to accept political terms. But what does victory -- or defeat -- mean in a war on terror? Will this kind of war ever end? How long will it take? Would we see victory coming? Would we recognize it when it came?

It is essential to start thinking seriously about these questions, because it is impossible to win a war without knowing what its goal is. Considering possible outcomes of the war on terror makes clear that it can indeed be won, but only with the recognition that this is a new and different kind of war. Victory will come not when foreign leaders accept certain terms but when political changes erode and ultimately undermine support for the ideology and strategy of those determined to destroy the United States. It will come not when Washington and its allies kill or capture all terrorists or potential terrorists but when the ideology the terrorists espouse is discredited, when their tactics are seen to have failed, and when they come to find more promising paths to the dignity, respect, and opportunities they crave. It will mean not the complete elimination of any possible terrorist threat -- pursuing that goal will almost certainly lead to more terrorism, not less -- but rather the reduction of the risk of terrorism to such a level that it does not significantly affect average citizens' daily lives, preoccupy their thoughts, or provoke overreaction. At that point, even the terrorists will realize their violence is futile. Keeping this vision of victory in mind will not only avert considerable pain, expense, and trouble; it will also guide leaders toward the policies that will bring such a victory about.
Mr. Gordon goes on to make the comparison between the War on Terror and the Cold War, noting that while they are different in certain fundamental ways, they are also alike in that they involve a duel of opposing ideologies -- a duel that can only be won when one ideology has the full extent of its shortcomings and failures laid bare and is finally ground down into dust. So long as the United States retains its "moral authority and ideological appeal," he says, Islamic fundamentalism can be defeated. However, he also resists the urge to engage in rosy simplifications, reminding us that terrorism will never be eliminated, only marginalized:

This is a critical point, because the goal of ending terrorism entirely is not only unrealistic but also counterproductive -- just as is the pursuit of other utopian goals. Murder could be vastly reduced or eliminated from the streets of Washington, D.C., if several hundred thousand police officers were deployed and preventive detentions authorized. Traffic deaths could be almost eliminated in the United States by reducing the national speed limit to ten miles per hour. Illegal immigration from Mexico could be stopped by a vast electric fence along the entire border and a mandatory death penalty for undocumented workers. But no sensible person would propose any of these measures, because the consequences of the solutions would be less acceptable than the risks themselves.

Similarly, the risk of terrorism in the United States could be reduced if officials reallocated hundreds of billions of dollars per year in domestic spending to homeland security measures, significantly curtailed civil liberties to ensure that no potential terrorists were on the streets, and invaded and occupied countries that might one day support or sponsor terrorism. Pursuing that goal in this way, however, would have costs that would vastly outweigh the benefits of reaching the goal, even if reaching it were possible. In their book An End to Evil, David Frum and Richard Perle insist that there is "no middle ground" and that "Americans are not fighting this evil to minimize it or to manage it." The choice, they say, comes down to "victory or holocaust." Thinking in these terms is likely to lead the United States into a series of wars, abuses, and overreactions more likely to perpetuate the war on terror than to bring it to a successful end.

The United States and its allies will win the war only if they fight it in the right way -- with the same sort of patience, strength, and resolve that helped win the Cold War and with policies designed to provide alternative hopes and dreams to potential enemies. The war on terror will end with the collapse of the violent ideology that caused it -- when bin Laden's cause comes to be seen by its potential adherents as a failure, when they turn against it and adopt other goals and other means. Communism, too, once seemed vibrant and attractive to millions around the world, but over time it came to be seen as a failure. Just as Lenin's and Stalin's successors in the Kremlin in the mid-1980s finally came to the realization that they would never accomplish their goals if they did not radically change course, it is not too fanciful to imagine the successors of bin Laden and Zawahiri reflecting on their movement's failures and coming to the same conclusion. The ideology will not have been destroyed by U.S. military power, but its adherents will have decided that the path they chose could never lead them where they wanted to go. Like communism today, extremist Islamism in the future will have a few adherents here and there. But as an organized ideology capable of taking over states or inspiring large numbers of people, it will have been effectively dismantled, discredited, and discarded. And like Lenin's, bin Laden's violent ideology will end up on the ash heap of history.

Unfortunately, I have little to add on to Mr. Gordon's analysis, if only because it is so expansive and well-articulated. He goes on to lay out the evidence suggesting that the possibility of a widespread backlash against Islamic fundamentalism by ordinary Muslims is strong -- as in the cases of Jordanians turning strongly against al Qaeda after their bombing at a wedding in November 2005 and the "tribal revolt" in Anbar Province in Iraq -- and that the ideology of a new Islamic caliphate as envisioned by Osama bin Laden lacks wide support. As a strong believer in leveraging the incredible power of Internet technologies to shine a light on closed societies, I was also satisfied to hear Mr. Gordon report on signs of increasing Internet openness in Saudi Arabia, where he says 2,000 bloggers have taken to their keyboards.

To paraphrase another Brookings article: there's one big problem with Mr. Gordon's path to victory in the war on terror -- he's six years too late. But unlike the scenario in the aforementioned article, it is not too late to rectify the errors of the past several years. It simply remains to be seen if our next Commander-in-Chief and the Congress have the foresight and political will to put such a plan into effect.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Death of Pragmatism in Government

Dick Polman over at the Philadelphia Inquirer spared no one in a recent and scathing denunciation of Congress' recent obsession with symbolic, non-binding resolutions and general inability to actually do anything:

Are we perhaps nearing closure in the latest Washington war of words? Is the left finally ready to chill out, and just let Limbaugh be Limbaugh? Is the right finally ready to move on from MoveOn.org? Has everybody finally applied salve to their purportedly tender sensibilities?

The faux fisticuffs have been flying for weeks. The antiwar group MoveOn twisted Gen. David Petraeus' name into a nasty pun ("General Betray Us"), whereupon conservatives fell into a well-orchestrated swoon and professed to be insulted. Then Rush Limbaugh briefly referred to antiwar Iraq veterans as "phony soldiers," whereupon liberals got the vapors and insisted that Limbaugh's insult was qualitatively worse than MoveOn's insult . . . whereupon some elected Democrats demanded that Congress formally condemn Limbaugh, since it had already formally condemned MoveOn.

I now wish to yield the floor to a citizen named Brian Del Vecchio. He recently posted a comment on the CNN Web site that summed up the current zeitgeist pretty well. Referring to the aforementioned duel of insults, he wrote on Sept. 28: "I am so tired of the umbrage displayed by both sides, as if they're going to faint from disgust. Pansies. Politicians and citizens alike need to grow up and move on and get back to work."

I, for one, would like to join Mr. Polman in commending Mr. Del Vecchio for speaking the words that have been on everyone's minds. I consider myself a fairly diligent student of 20th-century American history, and I know that divided governments have generally been veritable breeding grounds for bipartisanship and compromise. Clearly this has not been the case with the last few Congresses. However, as Mr. Polman has it, it would seem we are not due for any relief soon:

But here's the problem, Brian: These politicians, and their activist enablers, seem to be incapable of doing real work, of actually getting anything done. So instead they stage these contentious shadow plays in which combatants joust over mere words and perpetuate their manufactured outrage via the 24/7 news cycle. It's a good thing we no longer insist on pistols at dawn as a way to resolve an insult; by now, the Mall in Washington would be littered with the bodies of the affronted.

Both sides are happy to play this game. The Democrats don't have the votes, or the guts, or the smarts, to enact any substantive legislation that might actually stop the Iraq war - so they take refuge in symbolic skirmishes (Stop the presses! Rush Limbaugh said something mean!).

As for the Republicans, the last thing they want to do is discuss substance, which might require acknowledging their supine complicity in a disastrous war - so they look for ways to change the subject, most notably by claiming to be shocked, shocked, that their opponents insulted a military man (which is a bit rich, considering how they once insulted Democratic Sen. Max Cleland - a war hero who lost two legs and an arm due to injuries suffered in Vietnam - for allegedly being soft on Osama bin Laden).

Is it any wonder that more than 70 percent of Americans currently dislike the way Congress is doing business?

Or that the same percentage of Americans think this country is headed in the wrong direction?

We, the American people, are calling out for good governance and an end to useless partisanship. Unfortunately, the end to our woes doesn't yet seem to be anywhere in sight. The light at the end of the tunnel remains far-off and obscured as it has for the past several years. These obfuscating phenomena will only continue to drag us down as we attempt to confront the greatest threat to our national security since the fall of the Soviet Union; it is solely in our hands to sweep them away in the name of progress.

It can only be hoped that we and our leaders alike rise to the occasion.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Cracking the Door Open In Cuba

You've heard about blogging for peace in the Middle East, Egyptian bloggers who act as daring critics of the regime they live under, and the citizens of Myanmar opening a rare window into their closed nation with videos of the protests there.

But perhaps one nation you wouldn't expect to hear about being a hotbed of subversive blogging is one right in our backyard: Cuba. The International Herald Tribune reports on this phenomenon in "Blogging from Havana, secretly":

When Yoani Sanchez, 32, wants to update her blog about daily life in Cuba, she dresses like a tourist and strides confidently into a Havana hotel, greeting the staff in German.

That is because Cubans like Sanchez are not authorized to use hotel Internet connections, which are reserved for foreigners.

In a recent "Generación Y" posting (www.desdecuba.com/generaciony), Sanchez wrote about the abundance of police patrolling the streets of Havana, checking documents and searching bags for black-market merchandise.

She and a handful of other independent bloggers are opening up a crack in the government's tight control over media and information to give the rest of the world a glimpse of life in a one-party, Communist state.

"We are taking advantage of an unregulated area. They can't control cyberspace out there," she said.

But they face many difficulties.

Once inside the hotel, Sanchez has to write fast. Not because she fears getting caught, but because online access is prohibitively expensive. An hour online costs about $6, the equivalent of a fortnight's pay for the average Cuban.

Independent bloggers like Sanchez have to build their sites on servers outside Cuba, and they have more readers outside Cuba than inside.

That is not surprising, since only 200,000 Cubans of the 11 million on the island have access to the World Wide Web, the lowest rate in Latin America, according to the International Telecommunication Union.

Only government employees, academics and researchers are allowed to have their own Internet accounts, which are provided by the government.

Regular Cubans are allowed only to open e-mail accounts that they can access through terminals at post offices, where they can also see Cuban Web sites, but access to the rest of the World Wide Web is blocked.

"My access to Internet is very irregular," said the anonymous author of a blog called "My island at midday," (http://isla12pm.blogspot.com).

The Cuban government blames the limited Internet access on the U.S. sanctions that bar Cuba from hooking up to underwater fiber-optic cables that run just 12 miles offshore, a highway of broadband communication. Instead, Cuba must use expensive satellite uplinks to connect to the Internet via countries like Canada, Chile and Brazil.

Critics say that is just a pretext to maintain control over the Internet, a powerful tool that some believe could play an important role in spreading information in Cuba.

Not surprisingly, many of those 200,000 who do have Internet access are leery of losing their privileges through any imprudent posting that could place them at odds with the Castros:

Dozens of government supporters, mainly state-employed journalists with Internet accounts, have blogs. But most of them avoid commenting on the travails of daily life in Cuba and stick to the official line.

Many reproduce columns that Fidel Castro has written from his sickbed, along with criticism of the United States taken from the state-run press.

One exception is Luis Sexto, a columnist for the Communist Youth newspaper Juventud Rebelde, who recently posted a blistering attack on state bureaucracy at http://luisexto.blogia.com.

"Without public criticism, mistakes will continue to hurt our country," Sexto wrote last month.

Others avoid politics and discuss cinema and literature, or nostalgia for the Soviet cartoons Cubans were brought up on (http://munequitosrusos.blogspot.com).

But most prefer to remain anonymous or use pseudonyms in order to protect themselves.

A blogger who goes by the name of "Tension Lia" posts mostly photographs of the ruinous state of Havana's architectural treasures on a blog called Havanascity (http://havanascity.blogspot.com).

The creator of "My island at midday" told Reuters by e-mail message that the anonymity of the blog has allowed him to say some things that nobody has dared write about.

"Dissent has always been frowned upon," the author wrote. "Intolerance is still the rule in Cuba, even though Cuban society is starting to adapt to diversity of opinions."

I've committed myself to investigate each of these blogs and attempt, in my mediocre Spanish, to comment on whatever I find interesting. (The blogs are, of course, in Spanish.) I think it would be fascinating to start a dialogue with ordinary people in a country whom I would not ordinarily have contact. The Internet, if made widely available, could truly be a powerful tool to allow the Cuban people to gain access to far more information than can be gleaned from the state-run media, and hence a much broader view of the outside world. Of course, it is for precisely this reason that Internet access is restricted to a mere 1.8% of the entire population. As with the State Department's Digital Outreach Team efforts in the world of Middle Eastern blogging and media, starting a dialogue with those who oppose you or don't understand you helps to combat misinformation and is the first step towards righting wrongs and attaining mutual respect.

Clearly, the Internet has revolutionized the world, and will continue to do so for years and years to come. By posting this very feature, I, like millions of other people across the globe, am contributing to the common repository of knowledge and conversation that is the Internet. It is truly unfortunate that the Internet has clearly not affected all parts of the world in a similar fashion. Internet censorship still persists in China, Iran, and a variety of other nations under repressive regimes.

But for now, such censorship can only be defeated by the daring actions of these brave souls. The future of a global exchange of ideas and democratization depends on ordinary people, just like them.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Stamp-of-Idiocy #1: Chris Matthews > Machiavelli?

I'm taking advantage of my minor resurgence into blogging as the opportunity to introduce a new (probably-weekly) feature: the Stamp-of-Idiocy. Essentially, it applies to particularly absurd events I encounter while searching the Web for more blog-worthy subjects. Said events are then brought to attention here, briefly explained, and more or less excoriated.

Everyone's favorite Hardball anchor recently appeared with everyone's favorite fake-news anchor to promote his new book, Life's a Campaign: What Politics Has Taught Me About Friendship, Rivalry, Reputation, and Success. The rather obvious premise of the book is that we can better our lives through the same tactics employed by politicians engaged in that most virtuous of political activities: campaigning.

Jon Stewart didn't buy it. (Say what you want about Jon Stewart's politics, but he's dead-on with this one.) Achieving success when people don't believe a word you say? Listening to people but not caring about what they have to say? Better than Machiavelli?

Mr. Matthews, I read Machiavelli; I wrote about Machiavelli, Machiavelli was a good thesis topic of mine. Mr. Matthews, you're no Machiavelli. Forget the book being about sadness -- Chris Matthews' life is about sadness.

Congratulations, Chris -- you've received this week's Stamp-of-Idiocy. (Thanks to RealClearPolitics for the video.)

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Give the Man a Medal

I'd be willing to wager that David Kilcullen is not a name that is familiar to the vast majority of Americans who follow the events in Iraq with any seriousness or frequency (a feat that is admittedly becoming increasingly difficult). The following video demonstrates why that's a shame.

Kilcullen's interview with former 60 Minutes II correspondent Charlie Rose lasts for approximately one hour, but if you're willing to stick through it, or even just a good chunk of it, I have to think that you'll see why this entry is aptly named. Put simply: this former lieutenant colonel from the Australian Army should have been advising -- if not running -- our counterinsurgency efforts in Iraq from the very beginning. (For those of you who are more textually-inclined, the International Herald Tribune has the transcript of the interview here.)