:: Friday, September 19, 2003 ::
:: Thursday, September 18, 2003 ::
Amen to this Talking Points Memo post about Wesley Clark's "flip-flop" on Iraq:
Republicans and a number of Democrats who support a certain candidate have teamed up -- made common cause, really -- to argue that it's not possible to have voted to authorize the president to use force and then to criticize the circumstances and manner in which he chose to do so. The supposed flip-flop isn't one at all. What [Clark is] saying is that he probably would have voted to give the president the power to use force but never would have voted for the war [Bush] actually ended up waging. (We'll discuss in a later post why there's nothing necessarily contradictory about this.)I've been a lot less diplomatic on some other blog comment threads about this, where I accused Dean supporters of creating not just a "common cause," but an unholy alliance, with Republicans in claiming that you were either with Bush 100% of the way or against the war 100% of the way, with no other position having been allowable at any point in time.
An interesting talk
:: Wednesday, September 17, 2003 ::
I saw a lecture (actually, more like a seminar talk) last night by Hebrew U. professor Shlomo Avineri, one of the more prominent public intellectuals in Israel. He discussed a lot of the same things from articles I've read by him, like this one about his preference for unilateral separation from the territories, which he hopes could provide a "Cyprus-like stabilization" that might eventually allow for a negotiated settlement to the conflict.
His take on the US role in the Israel/Egypt Camp David negotiations was interesting. He explained that although almost all of the details had been worked out bi-laterally before the summit, maybe 95% of them, the complications arising from the last 5% led both leaders to effectively decide that while they might be willing to make those concessions to the US President, they weren't willing to make them to each other directly. So although most it was already resolved ahead of time, it might not have come together without that active US involvement at the end. A fair summary of Avineri's view would be that the two competing narratives about the Carter administration's role in the peace agreement--it couldn't have happened without their involvement, or that they played only a minimal role in actually bringing the two sides into agreement over all the details--are both true, without contradicting each other.
A most welcome development
:: Tuesday, September 16, 2003 ::
It's great to see that Wesley Clark has finally entered the presidential race. My own thinking on foreign affairs in recent times has really been guided by stuff that he's written. Since it'll still be at least a little while before he gets really specific on domestic issues, I should probably take Ruy Teixeira's advice from the end of his Sept. 16 post, but man, that Clark Kool-Aid is awfully strong. More than anything else, I'm glad to see him right in the thick of things for the Democrats. If he can't become president, he'd be great in almost any other major position, national security advisor being the job I'd most like to see him get if a different Democrat makes it to the White House.
An apt comparison?
:: Monday, September 15, 2003 ::
I thumbed through a bit of Madeleine Albright's memoir, which was just released, at the bookstore today. In her section on the 2000 Camp David summit, she described Barak as courageous, but politically unskilled and personally difficult, and Arafat as manipulative, paranoid, and uninterested in serious negotiations. She observed that if two female leaders in such high-profile positions had behaved the same way at a major summit, they would have been described by other politicians and opinion-makers as "menopausal."
Math with an MTV connection
:: Sunday, September 14, 2003 ::
This is a post I did last December, which I recalled after seeing Lynn B's post with a link to a Lego interpretation of an M.C. Escher painting:
I saw a talk at Michigan about mathematical work being done with respect to some M.C. Escher artwork. Specifically, the people working on the project were trying to figure out what could be going on inside the white spot that Escher left in the middle of this drawing. They ended up using what is known in Dutch as the "Droste effect," named after a brand of hot cocoa, where a picture contains a smaller image of itself, that contains a smaller image of itself, that contains etc. into infinity. Being a sophisticated intellectual myself, I thought of this high-culture example of the same effect. You can see animations of some of the filled-in versions of the Escher drawing on the project's web-site. The one on the right in this link achieves the Droste effect by rotating as it zooms in, according to a specific mathematical rule--it's really amazing!
"Sorry, buster, the ball game is over!"
There was a great article in last week's New Yorker about The Manchurian Candidate, a movie I enjoy very much. The article is mostly about the original novel. John Frankenheimer, the late director of the movie, told a funny story on the DVD commentary. One of the scenes late in the movie has Frank Sinatra's character trying to de-program the brainwashed title character, played by Laurence Harvey. The scene cuts back and forth between close-ups of the two actors. The shots of Sinatra are somewhat out of focus, not distractingly so, but pretty noticeable. As Frankenheimer explained, it happened because Sinatra disliked multiple takes and was always at his best on the first one or two attempts at filming a scene. He was particularly good in that scene, but when they looked at the footage, Frankenheimer was crestfallen to discover that he had been out of focus. They tried re-shooting, but Sinatra couldn't get back to the same level of intensity he had when they first shot it, so they went with the out of focus stuff and hoped that nobody would notice. Some critics who did notice it had a surprising reaction--they praised Frankenheimer for his artistry, with the out of focus shot of Sinatra hailed as a clever cinematic representation of the unstable mind of Harvey's character!