Dispatches > The Buzz


buzz from online journals of politics & culture

Issue: "Nuclear threat in Korea," Aug. 16, 2003

One of the best examples of specified blogging is Maggie Gallagher's new blog (www.marriagedebate.com/blog/blog.htm) devoted entirely to the issue of gay marriage. Ms. Gallagher, who comes down on the traditionalist side of the issue, posts views from a variety of contributors from both sides. Dan Cere responded to the Catholic church's strong stand on the issue, specifically Calgary, Alberta, Bishop Fred Henry's statement that Canadian legislators place their eternal salvation at risk by supporting same-sex unions.

While not condemning the Vatican's views, Mr. Cere begged caution: "It's very late in the day. As the sun sets on the common human understanding of marriage in Canada, religious leaders are now rushing into this debate with guns blazing." Mr. Cere pointed out that "faith-based advocates of marriage do not have to jettison or repudiate their moral concerns, however, but they do need to be alert to the fact that this is precisely the basis on which [gay-marriage advocates] want to do battle." According to Mr. Cere, they want to "frame the battle as a pro vs. anti-gay contest, not a pro- vs. anti-marriage contest." Mr. Cere said that places moderates in a tight spot: "If push comes to shove, they will side with redefinition rather than be labeled as 'anti-gay.'"

Reports that the Pentagon was experimenting with a futures market to predict terrorism, a website on which people could bet on the possibilities of terrorist attacks (although not, as commonly reported, assassinations), sparked heated conversation throughout the blogosphere, where criticism generally involved moral squeamishness about betting on terror. But in a rare lengthy post, Glenn Reynolds, the InstaPundit (instapundit.com), ascribed criticism to "members of Congress who, I suspect, couldn't accurately describe the operation of existing futures markets." Mr. Reynolds thinks that the futures market is "a diffuse, fast-moving response" to terrorism and a "very plausible way of recruiting a lot of minds in the service of anti-terrorism."

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Josh Chavetz of Oxblog (www.oxblog.blogspot.com): "If we're going to demand that the government get creative in fighting terror, we shouldn't be so quick to criticize when it does just that." Most blogospheric criticism stemmed from the moral repulsiveness of betting on terror. After congressional pressure shut down the program, Virginia Postrel (dynamist.com/weblog) summed up, "In Washington, appearance is more important than reality. That's why airport security is confiscating pen knives, while innovations that might actually make us safer get squelched. 'Thinking outside the box' is a nice idea until it comes time to write a press release."

Ever since North Korea revealed that it had restarted its nuclear-weapons program, critics have attacked the administration's apparent lack of action. However, with the news that North Korea had abandoned its insistence on bilateral diplomacy with the United States and agreed to six-way talks, blogger Steven Den Beste claimed a victory for the White House. Mr. Den Beste (www.denbeste.nu), who recently sparked blogospheric controversy with an ends-justify-the-means column on Iraq in The Wall Street Journal, believes that Pyongyang's retreat is a crucial pace-setter for the rest of the crisis. Mr. Den Beste praised the Bush policy of "engaged apathy," for instance, not overreacting when the North Korean government "reactivated a facility for reprocessing reactor fuel rods ... formally withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty ... [and] announced that they might start selling nuclear weapons on the world market to anyone with the price."

As Mr. Den Beste pointed out, "North Korea shoved all their chips into the middle of the table. But they're playing poker with a Texan. He didn't panic.... Just one week after that threat ... [North Korea] seems to have capitulated completely." Mr. Den Beste added a cautionary note, but finishes optimistically: "[North Korea] will begin the talks by viciously denouncing the U.S. and blaming everything on us.... We won't pay much attention to it.... [North Korea] only has a couple of diplomatic cards left to play, and all of them will hurt [Pyongyang] more than they hurt us, because they'll either totally alienate the Chinese or because they amount to suicide."


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