Saturday, February 23, 2008


In keeping with the big media theme that the small-media blog world is a fickle place (for which, if one or a handful of blogs says something, all 20 million must also say the same thing), The Washington Post has an article this morning on a supposed Obama backlash. The paper then lists a few of the sites, which all poke fun at the Obama phenomenon. They're not bad. Is Barack Obama the Messiah? is more typical of Republican snark, including the obligatory photo of Obama speaking near George Soros. The humor-value is weak once you get past the initial snark. But BarackObamaIsYourNewBicycle is brilliant. It's the best use I've seen of Jenny Holzer's aesthetic. But funny.
Here's a claim to consider: 2008, it is turning out - with a couple of steps left to go - is the year of the end of the Cold War. Neither the Soviets nor the Americans won. Fidel Castro won.

In one of the only reflective and temperate pieces I've seen on Castro's resignation, Tony Karon writes,
Take a survey among today’s Latin American leaders on Fidel Castro, and he’ll get a huge popularity rating. For the likes of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega, he has, rather unfortunately, been a role model in every sense; for the more sober and pragmatic social democrats of the Lula-Bachelet-Kirschner variety, Fidel nonetheless represents an inspiration that opened the way for their generation to cut their own path and stand up to the U.S.-backed dictators that imprisoned and tortured their ilk. In Latin America, Castro personifies nothing as much as defiance of the Monroe Doctrine, by which the U.S. had defined the continent as its backyard, reserving the right to veto, by force, anything it didn’t like. Get a Mexican conservative politician drunk in a discreet setting, and you’ll probably discover a closet Castro fan.
For such an honorable man, John McCain keeps getting himself into trouble. McCain seems to have a problem with his image of himself, and the reality of his ties to the money world of politics. If he says a lobbyist is a good guy, then there's just no worry because John McCain - convinced of his own honesty - says so. Note the circle - not a recipe for accountability. But, even if it's only a matter of public appearance, lobbying from the Straight Talk Express bus pushes the matter too far. We've had eight years of a presidency that says, contrary to all evidence, that we ought to trust it. We've seen the results of that.
Jonathan Schwartz:

NPR: One of the criticisms Mayor Fenty has gotten from parents since taking over the schools is that his decisions are being made from the top down, with not enough input from grassroots education reformers. What advice would you, Mayor Bloomberg, give to him—

BLOOMBERG: That's what mayoral control is about!

NPR: —based on mistakes and changes you've made with your own system over the years?

BLOOMBERG: I don't know of any—the last time we had an organization try to be run where everybody had a say, it was in Russia, it was called communism, and we all know how well that worked.

Exactly: if there's anything that was wrong with Stalinism as a political system, it's that it wasn't top-down enough. People would wander through the gulag, plaintively wondering why no one in society had the power to make important decisions.


President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov was awarded an international order “For Outstanding Achievements in information science. The Turkmen leader received the award and an relevant certificate today from the Head of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the UN Secretariat Alexey Tikhomirov and another UN employee, President of the International Informatization Academy Alexandr Khariton....

...there is only one word that comes to my mind as a comment to what the United Nations have done: shame. How can one award an order for achievements in the development of informatiology to the president of a country that has practically no access to Internet, where only state-owned media are allowed to function and independent journalists are either in prison or in exile and the only independent source of information is satellite TV ( access to which has recently been limited as well)?
Pascal Boniface and Lilian Thuram (via Dani Rodrik):
When it comes to wishing for peace in the Middle East – virtually a New Year’s tradition ­– one needs to be careful. So many hopes have vanished in the bitter failure of so many negotiations. But we have a wish for the Middle East – one that, while perhaps not bringing peace, can create one of peace’s preconditions: goodwill. Israel and Palestine should jointly bid for, and be awarded, the Football World Cup in 2018.
... was only natural for Koreans to think that their first astronaut must have the beloved national dish when he goes on his historic space mission in April. Three top government research institutes went to work. Their mission: to create "space kimchi."

"If a Korean goes to space, kimchi must go there, too," said Kim Sung Soo, a Korea Food Research Institute scientist. "Without kimchi, Koreans feel flabby. Kimchi first came to our mind when we began discussing what Korean food should go into space."

* Phronesisaical does not endorse heroes. In fact, it prides itself on being anti-hero. Besides, it is not certain what a hero even is, especially in a day in which anyone can be a hero for doing nearly anything. Phronesisaical also does not intend to suggest that the aforementioned people have anything in particular in common with each other. If forced to, we might consider choosing Obama, Thuram, and the kimchee-porting astronaut as heroes, but would nonetheless be uncomfortable doing so as such.


Anonymous said...

Why is phronesisaical proclaiming itself an anti-hero when it can't comfortably decide what a hero is? It seems Phronesisaical can only be certain of its anti-heroic qualities when they're able to contrast them with those specific qualities of somebody it might call a true hero.

helmut said...

You're totally right. We seem to be claiming something utterly incoherent here. Let me qualify: if someone somewhere proclaims someone to be a hero, we're against it. In that way, we can be lazy enough not to draw some distinction between genuine and non-genuine heroes, and basically just be against hero-worship in general.

MT said...

Haven't you just risked elevating yourself to the level of hero among heroes?

Anyway, I wanted to say I totally called it the same way: Game, set and match to Castro.

Anonymous said...

snark snark snark snark
your so l33t