Monday, 24 February 2003

Deconstructing Avril

Matthew Yglesias and Katie have been having fun deconstructing the lyrics to Avril Lavigne's “Sk8er Boi” (on her debut album, Let Go). Frankly, it's all slick marketing — she may really be a skater punk, but the album isn't what you'd think of as skater punk. IMHO, the gems of the album aren't among the tracks getting airplay; “Losing Grip,” “UnWanted,” and “Things I'll Never Say.”

Anyway, if you won't believe me, believe Ryan McGee, who's down with the Mox's peeps. So he must be cool or right or something.

Separated at birth?

I blog, you decide: Taylor Dent and Erik Estrada.

The dea(r)th of French liberalism

Jacob T. Levy has an interesting post on where the liberal tradition in France is going — mostly straight down the tubes. There's also some discussion in the comments at Matthew Yglesias's site.

I'm not sure if Yglesias is “quite the fashionable place to hang out these days,” but it's definitely more civil than most of the comment sections out there. Hence why I don't have comments here myself; too much hassle. If you want to comment, blog it and TrackBack (see the « links) here. :-)

Missile Defense

C.D. Harris (Ipse Dixit) rightly takes the administration to task for inserting an operational readiness testing exemption for the national missile defense system in the FY2004 budget proposal. C.D.'s more interesting comment is:

I have never understood - and I have tried - the Left's deep-seated loathing of missile defense. Why a purely defensive system - one which would exist for no purpose other than to protect American cities from nuclear annihilation - engenders such a consistent and emotional rejection from the peace, love and u-u-understanding set is, frankly, beyond me.

Me, I'm pretty agnostic on national missile defense. A 100%-effective NMD system (capable of stopping a large strategic missile attack) would be incredibly destabilizing to the nuclear balance of power, because it would effectively neutralize the threat of mutual assured destruction; at some level, this is probably the origin of the left's opposition (although it being a cornerstone of Ronald Reagan's defense policy probably didn't hurt). Of course, this isn't what the administration is planning; they want something that would stop a limited attack (say, no more than a dozen missiles), in essence to neutralize the first-strike threat by a minor nuclear power (say, North Korea).

Bret, from C.D.'s comments, makes two arguments against NMD:

  1. It doesn't work. Scientists have said for years that the technology is barely even in its infancy, and won't be mature for at least 10 years.

  2. It's incredibly expensive. I can't give you the exact numbers right now, but it's in the hundreds of billions.

To point 1: the technology won't even be developed if there isn't an impetus for it. So if we decide in 2010 or 2100 or 3000 that we want national missile defense, we still need to wait 10 years to develop it.

To point 2: it is incredibly expensive. Is it worth, say, $200 billion to ensure that Kim Jong Il can't nuke Honululu, Seattle, or Los Angeles? Or to ensure that a nuclear-armed fundamentalist Islamic state (say Pakistan or Iran) can't wipe out Diego Garcia or London?

Now, I don't know the answer to those questions. It's fundamentally a risk analysis.

On the other hand, there are far less expensive, but equally effective, delivery systems for nuclear weapons; for example, one could be loaded in the hold of a container ship or commercial jetliner, for example. National missile defense would be ineffective against the former, and there are other, cheaper methods (traditional SAMs, fighter jets) for dealing with the latter, if they are detected in time.

The bottom line: NMD alone would be an ineffective strategy. But, NMD might be a part of an effective overall strategy (also including improved human intelligence and signals intelligence) against WMD, if it can be developed cost-effectively, and there might be some civilian side-benefits to developing NMD (such as improved pattern-recognition systems, more efficient lasers, and better geolocation capabilities).

Likud coalition set

The Jerusalem Post, Haaretz, and CNN, among others, report that Ariel Sharon has secured a 61-seat minimum winning coalition consisting of the Likud (and the remnants of Yisrael Ba'aliya which joined it last month), the National Religious Party (NRP), and Shinui. Talks are apparently underway to possibly bring in other parties to bolster the size of the coalition, including the National Union. Nobody seems to really know what the coalition's positions on the peace process or settlements are; most of the discussion (as always) is about internal Israeli politics.

Strangely enough, the Independent runs with an AP report with a headline calling this a “hard-line coalition”; one wonders how they'd have described a Shas-NRP-NU-Likud coalition.

Matthew Yglesias has some new comments as well; I basically agree with him that we're looking at an interim coalition until events (i.e. war in Iraq or some obvious incident of bad faith on the part of the Palestinians) force Labor to abandon its “no coalition with Sharon” pledge, especially since some reports note that Sharon is updating Mitzna on the progress of the coalition talks (which seems rather odd since Mitzna isn't leading Labor into the coalition).

Previous discussion here.

More fun with READY.GOV graphics

Part two of an ongoing series...

Image of an oversized man walking toward a building.

Steve was so confident that the listeners of WXWZ had lodged enough protests against the “Former Mouseketeers” block that he felt safe to reenter the building.

This will make no sense if you haven't already read the first set...

Three clocks, positioned over a television, radio, and laptop computer.

Watching television, listening to the radio, and surfing the Internet are just three ways to occupy yourself while procrastinating on writing your dissertation.

Patrick Carver has assembled some additional captions of his own.

Who's a journalist?

Donald Sensing reflects on that question in response to his experience on a Nashville morning radio show on Friday. Donald makes two interesting statements:

  • Journalism is a job, not a profession. In fact, I have extensive formal journalism training, and I can tell you that there is no particular skill to it that is particularly difficult or unobtainable by average people.

  • There is no "accountability" of journalists in any meaningful sense. There is no equivalent of a bar exam for journalists. There is no licensing procedure for journalists. There is no minimum education level required, nor any particular special kind of training at all. Fill out an employment application, get hired at minimum wage or better, and presto, you're a journalist. Or just take a pad and pencil, call some folks on the phone and do some interviews, and you're a journalist, too.

I've wandered in and out of journalism in my life — I started a short-lived student newspaper in school in Britain, spent two years writing and copy editing for the teen section of the Ocala Star-Banner, and wrote for The Rose Thorn. But, I've never taken a formal journalism class in my life, and I'm not sure one would need to take a journalism class to be a good journalist. The key qualification is the ability to write clearly; the rest can be learned with a copy of the AP Stylebook and by paying attention to a copy editor — in essence, learning on the job.

The bigger question is: is this journalism? It's not reporting; it's more like the opinion page, or perhaps what the New York Times might call “news analysis” (which increasingly look quite similar). There is some first-person reportage here, most notably in the Roadgeekery category, but that's in the distinct minority. Rather, this weblog (and most weblogs) leverage traditional journalism mostly to have something to talk about, rather than engaging in reporting. But, consider this definition, from Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913):

  1. The keeping of a journal or diary. [Obs.]

  2. The periodical collection and publication of current news; the business of managing, editing, or writing for, journals or newspapers; as, political journalism.

Clearly, this blog, like many others, engages in the “periodical collection and publication of current news,” regardless of whether that news is on the conduct of university professors at USF or how Moxie's blind date went on Friday night (after all, newspapers have “society” pages). So I guess blogging is journalism. Sort of.

Bill Hobbs has some worthwhile thoughts on the subject, and he should know.

Taking “warblogging” literally

I discovered L.T. Smash today in my browsings; it's the weblog of a U.S. Army reserve officer at a very insecure undisclosed location surrounded by lots and lots of sand. Betweem L.T. and Salam Pax in Baghdad, it looks like we've got Iraq covered. Now if we could just get a North Korean blogger to explain what the heck Kim Jong Il is up to…