Political Animal

Icy Reception

ICY RECEPTION….This is ridiculous. It will probably be gone in a few minutes, but the banner headline at Drudge right now is “Sarandon Movie on CBS Finishes Last Place in Overnights”:

It is not clear if it was ICE’s subject matter — a woman suffering from breast cancer in the South Pole — or if it was viewership rejection of Sarandon that resulted in the startling ratings crash.

Really, don’t the pro-war folks have something ? anything ? better to do than pretend that a dud TV movie was some kind of national referendum on anti-war movie stars?

Coup Planning

COUP PLANNING….Chris Kelly of Needlenose sends along this link to a story in the Financial Times about problems getting the Oil Ministry back up and running. Everyone’s confused, but the best line comes from the former director general:

He lamented the whole US approach to dealing with post-war Iraq. “We have a lot of experience with coups d’etat and this one is the worst,” he said. “Any colonel in the Iraqi army will tell you that when he does a coup he goes to the broadcasting station with five announcements.

“The first one is long live this, down with that. The second one is your new government is this and that. The third is the list of the people to go on retirement. The fourth one, every other official is to report back to work tomorrow morning. The fifth is the curfew.”

This is usually done within one hour, he added. “Now we are waiting more than a week and still we hear nothing from them.”

Damn Bushies, can’t even run a coup properly….

Anal Site Design? Or Thoughtful Layout Decision?

ANAL SITE DESIGN?….OR THOUGHTFUL LAYOUT DECISION?….Many thanks to everyone who’s come to visit the new site, and especially to those who have already left comments. Posting comments is a lot more satisfying than writing me an email that no one else will ever see, and I hope that having a lively comments section will make CalPundit even more fun for everyone.

The redesign is also a good excuse to explain something that I get asked about occasionally (and that also showed up in some of the comments about the new design): the fact that my site design is fixed. The main text column is set at 600 pixels wide and the font is set to 11 points and can’t be changed. Why?

Fair warning: I know there are lots of good reasons to be more flexible about this, but I’m afraid on this issue I have a heart of stone. Still, I figure the least I can do is explain, so here goes.

  • The entire site is (approximately) 800 pixels wide so that it can be viewed on an 800×600 screen.

  • Allowing 200 pixels for the sidebar leaves 600 pixels for the main text column.

  • The font is 11 points because at that size the line length is approximately 80-100 characters, which readability research shows to be an ideal length.

Now, you may be thinking that this is all very fine, maybe even sort of interesting in a geeky kind of way, but even so why not allow the font size and column width to be changed for people who don’t want to be bound by what a bunch of hoity toity academic researchers say is the best line length? Why indeed? Am I just anal?

Perhaps, but the more charitable explanation is that I frequently use pictures in my posts and I’m pretty careful about how I place them. By predefining the column width and font size, I can ensure that my layout will look the same no matter where it’s being viewed.

I’m afraid that my addiction to careful layout is the result of years and years of journalism training, technical writing, and marketing work, and there’s nothing to be done about it at this point. I like the blog a lot better when it looks the way I want it to, and my mental stability is, after all, critical to keeping this endeavor going. Sadly, a few people with tiny monitors or browsers that render the font very small have to pay the price for my idiosyncrasies.

Other issues, however, are more easily taken care of. TrackBack, for example, has now been turned on, and apparently I also now have an RSS feed, although I don’t recall actually doing anything to get this. Can someone out there confirm that this is true?

Do We Want to be Liked or Respected

DO WE WANT TO BE LIKED OR RESPECTED?….Writing about our desire to have a permanent military base in Iraq, Matt Yglesias points out today that we are probably going to have a choice to make in the near future: a democratic Iraq vs. a pro-America Iraq.

The inability of most Americans (well, most humans, I suppose) to see the world through any eyes but their own is truly remarkable. We seem to feel that because we think America is a great and altruistic country, others will feel the same way if we can only get them to look at the world rationally. Thus, democracy will produce an America-friendly Iraq.

Is it really so impossible to understand that Iraqis view our presence quite differently than we do? By way of comparison, can you think of any circumstance ? nuclear devastation, total economic collapse, bubonic plague, anything ? that would make you happy to accept a reconstruction of America along Mideastern lines even if it were carried out by an Arab country that truly had our best interests at heart?

We can install a pro-America government in Iraq, as we did in Iran for many years, but it won’t be a popular one. Or we can install a popular one, but it will almost certainly be hostile to American interests. Remember, even Turkey, which has been a key American ally for half a century, opposed American action in Iraq by about 90%-10%.

We’ve seen the stick, now it’s time for the Bush administration to tone down the blustering and bring out the carrot. So far I haven’t seen it, and I don’t think the Arab world has either.

UPDATE: And almost like an ironic God is watching over me, ?ber-rationalist Steven Den Beste has now responded to Matt’s post in comments:

But in actuality, [an American military base is] not going to be something they’ll fight very hard, and in fact they actually will want it. One reason is that a US base is really good for local business. Another is that Iraq is going to be vulnerable to its neighbors for a long time, and a big concentration of American troops is good insurance against that. And the record in the world is that generally speaking American bases make good neighbors, which is why so many nations are so eager to have us.

In the case of Iraq, there’s yet another reason. The presence of a large American military in the region will help keep warlords from getting uppity; it’s going to be an indirect guarantee of ongoing peace in the nation.

“So many nations are eager to have us”? The Iraqis will enjoy our presence because it’s “good for local business”? How is it possible for such a smart person to assume that everyone in the world has the same Western attitude toward things that we do? After all, if an actual popular vote were taken today, there wouldn’t be a single American soldier anywhere in the entire Middle East.

Of course, none of this is the real reason we’ll have our base there anyway. As he admits in the next sentence, the real reason is that “They don’t really have any choice.” Quite so, but that’s not exactly a democratic attitude, is it?