mm240: Iowa – a wonderful state, except every four years around this time…

January 1, 2008

MUDGE’S Musings

When he’s right, he’s 100% correct. Christopher Hitchens, a true lightning rod for controversy, struck again in Slate.com as he put into scathing words and concrete concepts the vague unease we’ve always felt regarding Iowa’s caucuses.

Not only are the caucuses influential far out of proportion to the significance of its population (this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere© put it this way the other day: how do you feel about the reality of those tiny states with their tiny populations of single-issue largely rural [or in N.H.’s case, refugees from urban life] overwhelmingly homogenous Caucasians usurping your opportunity to influence the election process?”), but the process is, as Hitchens explains, flawed to the point of corruption:

slate

The Iowa Scam

The undemocratic caucuses are a terrible way to choose a presidential candidate.

By Christopher Hitchens | Posted Monday, Dec. 31, 2007, at 12:02 PM ET

It is quite astonishing to see with what deadpan and neutral a tone our press and television report the open corruption—and the flagrantly anti-democratic character—of the Iowa caucuses. It’s not enough that we have to read of inducements openly offered to potential supporters—I almost said “voters”—even if these mini-bribes only take the form of “platters of sandwiches” and “novelty items” (I am quoting from Sunday’s New York Times). It’s also that campaign aides are showing up at Iowan homes “with DVD’s that [explain]  how the caucuses work.” Nobody needs a DVD to understand one-person-one-vote, a level playing field, and a secret ballot. The DVD and the other gifts and goodies (Sen. Barack Obama is promising free baby-sitting on Thursday) are required precisely because none of those conditions applies in Iowa. In a genuine democratic process, these Tammany tactics would long ago have been declared illegal. But this is not a democratic process, and besides, as my old friend Michael Kinsley used to say about Washington, the scandal is never about what’s illegal. It’s about what’s legal.

As far as Hitchens is concerned, the caucuses have achieved the outlandish importance they maintain due to the connivance of the media (only a little tempted to use the MSM pejorative of some of my colleagues here in the ‘Sphere).

… the avalanche of tripe coverage that is provided by a mass media that (never forget) is the direct beneficiary of the huge outlays of money the candidates make…

The horrible result is that a tiny fraction of voters in this tiny state can provide a grotesquely outsize win to distinctly unqualified candidates, and has done so quite frequently.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Iowa’s undemocratic caucuses are no way to choose a presidential candidate. – By Christopher Hitchens – Slate Magazine

And the result: by the time super-duper Tuesday February 5 rolls around, a huge segment of voters will once again, despite the amazingly early primary date, find themselves disenfranchised by Iowa and New Hampshire.

Hitchen’s conclusion bears repeating:

It is an absolutely terrible way in which to select candidates for the presidency, and it makes the United States look and feel like a banana republic both at home and overseas.

Thus the context with which the results from January 3’s tragic comedy should be understood.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

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mm175: "Islamofascism" – Deal with it!

October 22, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

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“Islamofascism” – Deal with it!

We have stated before in this space that we’ll accept a good idea, regardless of its source, in this case, the diffident and soft-spoken Christopher Hitchens in today’s Slate.

In that spirit, we present: Islamofascism.

It’s a valid term. Here’s why.

By Christopher Hitchens
Posted Monday, Oct. 22, 2007, at 11:33 AM ET

The attempt by David Horowitz and his allies to launch “Islamofascism Awareness Week” on American campuses has been met with a variety of responses. One of these is a challenge to the validity of the term itself. It’s quite the done thing, in liberal academic circles, to sneer at any comparison between fascist and jihadist ideology. People like Tony Judt write to me to say, in effect, that it’s ahistorical and simplistic to do so. And in some media circles, another kind of reluctance applies: Alan Colmes thinks that one shouldn’t use the word Islamic even to designate jihad, because to do so is to risk incriminating an entire religion. He and others don’t want to tag Islam even in its most extreme form with a word as hideous as fascism. Finally, I have seen and heard it argued that the term is unfair or prejudiced because it isn’t applied to any other religion….

… The most obvious points of comparison  [between Islam and Fascism] would be these: Both movements are based on a cult of murderous violence that exalts death and destruction and despises the life of the mind.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Defending the term “Islamofascism.” – By Christopher Hitchens – Slate Magazine

So, anyone reading this with access to one of the events on a nearby campus this week — go listen.

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Free my phone!

Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal and his All Things Digital blog states a cogent case for demonopolization of the cellular telephone industry.

Suppose you own a Dell computer, and you decide to replace it with a Sony. You don’t have to get the permission of your Internet service provider to do so, or even tell the provider about it. You can just pack up the old machine and set up the new one.

Now, suppose your new computer came with a particular Web browser or online music service, but you’d prefer a different one. You can just download and install the new software, and uninstall the old one. You can sign up for a new music service and cancel the old one. And, once again, you don’t need to even notify your Internet provider, let alone seek its permission.

Oh, and the developers of such computers, software and services can offer you their products directly, without going through the Internet provider, without getting the provider’s approval, and without giving the provider a penny. The Internet provider gets paid simply for its contribution to the mix: providing your Internet connection. But, for all practical purposes, it doesn’t control what is connected to the network, or carried over the network.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Print : Free My Phone

Monopolies of all kinds are unpleasant. This writer rails against his monopoly cable television / Internet Service Provider that also (heaven help us!) wants to be our telephone company!

Walt, at least with cell phones, I’ve got choices.

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Innovation Nation: Losing our edge

This Business Week book review is definitely worthy of attention.

Innovation Nation

Innovation Nation: How America Is Losing
Its Innovation Edge, Why It Matters,
and What We Can Do to Get It Back

By John Kao; Free Press; 306pp; $26
The Good An insightful, and scary, account of the innovation challenges faced by the U.S.
The Bad A key issue gets little space: the role of global corporations in innovation’s changing geography.
The Bottom Line A very useful book that punctures America’s complacency about innovation.

In a Sept. 7 speech before a World Economic Forum meeting, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao announced his country was “pursuing an innovation-based model of development.” Why should America care if China puts innovation at the center of its next five-year plan? In fact, why worry about Brazil, Britain, Canada, Denmark, India, Israel, Korea, or other countries whose government policies push innovation? After all, Google (GOOG ), Facebook, the iPod (AAPL ), and the Boeing (BA ) 787 Dreamliner all have “Made in America” stamped on them. Right? And we have Silicon Valley. They don’t.

Well, actually they do. In fact, as John Kao, an innovation consultant, points out in his new book, Innovation Nation: How America Is Losing Its Innovation Edge, Why It Matters, and What We Can Do to Get It Back, all the key advantages once enjoyed by the U.S. are going, going, nearly gone. In a scary, insightful, and ultimately very useful book—written to inform the 2008 Presidential primary agenda—Kao punctures America’s smug self-congratulation.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

America’s Fleeting Edge in Innovation

Innovation has been a key theme at BW for some time, and one wants to hope that the message is getting through to business leaders. One wonders, actually, whether any corporation near you ever has hired the likes of Mr. Kao, an innovation consultant.

Can’t happen soon enough, apparently.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm121: We’re fighting at least three wars in Iraq. Do you want to end them all? – By Christopher Hitchens – Slate Magazine

August 29, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Christopher Hitchens is that guy you love to hate. His best seller, God is Not Great is currently No. 5 on the New York Times list (since one needs an account to access the list, I thought I’d just show you the pix):

hitchensbestseller

This is not some retiring violet — the man does like to pick a fight.

But yet. He does have a way of making sense.

Here he is in Slate yesterday, making sense:

slate

We’re fighting at least three of them.

By Christopher Hitchens
Posted Monday, Aug. 27, 2007, at 4:56 PM ET

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Click image to expand.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki

When people say that they want to end the war in Iraq, I always want to ask them which war they mean. There are currently at least three wars, along with several subconflicts, being fought on Iraqi soil. The first, tragically, is the battle for mastery between Sunni and Shiite. The second is the campaign to isolate and defeat al-Qaida in Mesopotamia. The third is the struggle of Iraq’s Kurdish minority to defend and consolidate its regional government in the north.

The balance of the article is quite concise for Mr. Hitchens. Take a look.

[Per L-HC’s reformed process, please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

We’re fighting at least three wars in Iraq. Do you want to end them all? – By Christopher Hitchens – Slate Magazine

So, no wonder the Bush administration is so confounded by Iraq. I’m sure that they have no idea that they’re fighting three different wars there!

And our prospective leaders may have the same trouble:

The ability to distinguish among these different definitions of the “war” is what ought to define the difference between a serious politician and a political opportunist, both in Iraq and in America….

Meanwhile, it is all very well for Sens. Clinton and Levin to denounce the Maliki government and to say that he and his Dawa Party colleagues are not worth fighting for. But what do they say about the other two wars?

Attention, candidates! Please learn already that the USA’s position in the world cannot be summarized in a 20-second sound byte.

What are your substantive thoughts (i.e., body text, not headlines) about the panoply of messes (some we’ve inherited, some we’ve created, some we’re just bemusedly observing) in the world?

Show us your brains, candidates! (And that goes for you putative non-candidates — Michael Bloomberg I mean you!)

Start by telling us what you think of this Christopher Hitchens analysis (I know, you wouldn’t touch his atheistic whatever with a 10-foot whatever so leave his name out of it if you must), but acknowledge that our world is more complex than ABC123.

Wouldn’t it be a wondrous achievement if we elect a president for her/his brains, not his superficialities as showcased through the expenditure of $billions in manipulative advertising and nefarious “swift boaters”?

Will I live that long?

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE