Dateline: above the garage in Portsmouth RI, 13 June 2004
Despite my continuing anger and embarrassment over the New York Timesí refusal to review my book (or perhaps driving it), I just love reading the Sunday Times. Thereís no Sunday Wall Street Journal, and frankly, the Washington Post, outside of the Outlook section, is significantly weaker than the weekday version (not surprising for workaholic DC). But the Sunday Times is strong from stem to stern. The Week in Review is typically strong, the book reviews are among the best, Arts & Leisure is probably the strongest of the bunch (giving you all sorts of overview analysis of movies, music, theater, opera and so on), and the Sunday magazine often contains one or even two really solid stories worth reading all the way through (although James Traubís article today on Iranís nuclear program was a complete snooze).
But what always amazes me about the paper is how many great stories there tends to be in the A section. Without a doubt, one of the best bets to find several great stories on how things are moving across the country and the world is the main section of the Sunday Times. Itís almost a barometer of my futurology fitness: if Iíve spent the week wondering about some issues and then I see the articles capturing the same emerging sentiment or analysis on page 1 of the Sunday Times, I feel ìfitî versus ìflabbyî in my ability to sniff out tipping points. If I were to locate the brain of the NYT, it would be on page 1 of the Sunday Times.
As for the ego, that would definitely be the op-ed page, which has become such an avowed star-system with the Times that the quality has really gone downhill in recent years. Itís almost like a daily reminder of the Heisenberg Principle (or Observer Created Reality): once you make the reporter the center of attention, all the analysis goes downhill. Paul Krugman and Maureen Dowd are the worst examples, but Thomas Friedman is catching up. For now, Nicholas Kristof is keeping it together, but slippage is inevitable. You have to admit, though, itís an efficient production system, because all they need to do is bag up the op-eds every two years and itís an instant bestseller, with a guaranteed review in the Times and lots of advertisements and TV appearances that all come together to pretty much predetermine its ìbrillianceííóeven if itís only a rehashed collection of op-eds. But think of it, you pay something like $40 a month for the op-eds in the first place, and then they nab you for $25 later just to have them all stitched together.
But enough with the carping and back to the main point: yesterday I wrote about how the Reagan funeral extravaganza created this profound pause in the whole Bush-is-going-down-because-Iraq-is-a-disaster scenario that many political analysts seem to buying whole cloth. I mean, everybody likes a sequel of a popular story, but the problem is Bush 43 is a real improvement on Bush 41 and Kerry just ainít Bill Clinton (unless heís waiting to break out a can of I-can-feel-your-pain whupass on the campaign trail).
My points were basically that it shut down Kerry for a significant period during which Bush seemed like he was bottoming out due to Iraq, meanwhile the whole Iraq thing quietly shifted from a complete-disaster-of-neocon-making into something a whole lot more hopeful, primarily because itís now Iraqis running the show with the U.S. slipping into the background and working more as System Administrators dispensing aid that rebuilds Iraqís social networks and economic infrastructure and as the on-site military Leviathan dedicated to serving as the fledgling regimeís bodyguard.
Judging by the emails Iíve gotten from various people on-site in the Green Zone, the splitting of the U.S. military force into Sys Admin and Leviathan roles isnít just emerging, itís basically there. Itís not a question of predictive powers oróeven more ludicrouslyóthe notion of influence, but simply the ability to spot undeniable strategic realities as they emerge. Itís not a gift, but a skill. It can be learned, taught, self-developed, and kept up through consistent use.
Why I say that is because I feel strongly that anybody can develop this skill with enough effort and that America as a whole needs to develop this muscle if weíre going to ever reach a happy ending in this global war on terrorism, moving far beyond that limited goal to what I call the global future worth creating.
So hereís my answer to the eternal question of what is the one thing Iíd want when stranded on the desert island in terms of information flow: the Sunday New York Times. Pound for pound, itís the best.
Todayís evidence includes:
ìIraqis Start to Exercise Power Even Before Date for Turnover,î by Jeffrey Gettleman, New York Times, 13 June, p. A1.ìHello, this is God speaking,î volunteers Vishnu in a perfect American accent
ìRoad for Relief Team Is Gauntlet of Enemy Fire: ëWe canít fix anything if theyíre shooting at us,î by Michale Kamber, NYT, 13 June, p. A16.
ìBehind the Scenes, a Restless and Relentless Kerry,î by Jodi Wilgoren, NYT, 13 June, p. A1.
ìApproval in May,î results Gallup Polls, NYT, 13 June, p. A25.
ìA Nation Divided? Who Says? On gay rights, gun control and abortion, thereís a whole lot of agreeing going on,î by John Tierney, NYT, 13 June, p. WK1.
ìWhy America Sees the Silver Lining: ëSuccess in life is pretty much determined by forces outside our control,î by John Leland, NYT, 13 June, p. WK1.
ìAnd Yes, He Was a Great Communicator: A presidentís debt to Jefferson Smith, George Bailey and Tom Joad,î by Geoffrey Nunberg, NYT, 13 June, p. WK5.
ìShort on Priests, U.S. Catholics Outsource Prayers to Indian Clergy,î by Saritha Rai, NYT, 13 June, p. A13.The disconnecting strategy gets more perverse by the day
ìSaudi Gunmen Kill American; Qaeda Claims Another Death,î by AP, NYT, 13 June, p. A8.
ìIsrael Says Children Enlist Children as Suicide Bombers: Peer pressure among Palestinian teenagers to become martyrs,î by Greg Myre, NYT, 13 June, p. A3.