Dynamist Blog


MediaBistro, whose daily email of article links has largely replaced my visits to Romenesko, today publishes a solid article on its own site analyzing the relationship between blogs and traditional publications.


News reports say Gen. Abid Hamid Mahmud al-Tikriti is the ace of diamonds in the Pentagon's most-wanted card deck. They also say he's the fourth-most wanted Iraqi official after Saddam and his sons.

So shouldn't he be the ace of clubs?


My blogroll is woefully out of date. Instead of my usual haphazard update, I'm soliciting reader input. If you read and like a blog that isn't on my current list, please send me an email with the subject line "Blogroll nominee" and explain in a sentence why this site's blogroll should include that blog. Do not nominate your own blog. I'm always happy to hear from bloggers themselves, but this process is designed to elicit input from blog readers. The deadline for nominees is midnight Friday, June 20, Central time.


This Reuters story, ominously titled "Iraqi belly dancer loses her freedom," suggests that Islamic fundamentalism is on the march in Baghdad, oppressing women in general and belly dancers in particular. Since attacks on belly dancers have in fact been a sign of rising fundamentalism in Egypt, I at first found the story worrisome:

"Before the war I was practicing my work freely. It was quite normal for me to stay out late after midnight but now I have to be at home before 6 in the evening," said 27-year-old Siri, who lives in a small apartment in a poor Baghdad suburb....

For women, the streets of Baghdad are a more dangerous place, and an upsurge in religious fervor means they must stick to Islamic dress if they want to be left alone.

"It is difficult for me now to walk on the streets wearing jeans. There is no security on the streets and especially for someone who was known as a dancer," said Siri, a chain smoker.

"I do not like the abaya and the head cover. I usually wear them when I visit holy shrines but now I am obliged to wear them all the time. They restrict my freedom," she said.

Sounds bad, right? But if you read down the article, way, way down the article, you finally get to this:

Siri misses dancing for one of her best customers, Saddam Hussein's son Uday.

She said that she used to get 500,000 dinars for one hour dancing at public parties but more when she danced at events organized by Uday, known as a womanizer who threw wild parties

"I danced many times in parties hosted by Uday at his Hunting Club, and I danced once in a party of his brother Qusay," she said.

Sometimes I stayed to chat with Uday after I ended my dance. He had an easy manner. He never did anything to offend me," she said.

Now there's a reason to cover yourself on the street--to avoid being recognized as a friend of brutal torturers. No mullahs needed, just good old post-totalitarian anti-collaboration sentiment.

For a more balanced look at the situation of women in postwar Iraq, see this article by Sharon Waxman of The Washington Post. An excerpt, which directly contradicts the Reuters version of life in Baghdad:

It was just over a week ago that Jalil, 46, made the decision--as she puts it--"to liberate myself from the veil."

"I should have freedom to wear or not to wear the veil," she says. "I don't want to let these people dictate my thoughts. I am an educated woman. I am a religious woman. I know my duties to God. I fast in Ramadan."

Jalil is sitting with friends in an otherwise empty ice cream parlor in central Baghdad. It is one of the few times she has dared to leave her house since the end of the war. Now security seems to have improved and she is willing to take the risk.

But not, as before, with her head and neck covered by the traditional hijab. Jalil says there is no need for her to prove her modesty or her decency to strangers. "A woman is purer, higher than these low things, in her thoughts, in her good works, in her beliefs." She smiles, but the expression beneath it is worn. The hollows around her eyes are deep and dark.

The article is fairly long and quite interesting. Read it all here.


My latest NYT column looks at the trend away from vertical integration. An excerpt:

Since the 1980's, American corporations have been disintegrating--not falling apart, but becoming more specialized. Revenues or production volumes may be as large as ever, but even big companies tend to combine fewer stages of production under the same corporate ownership.

This trend presents a puzzle. As the business historian Alfred Chandler famously chronicled, the modern corporation succeeded in large measure by bringing many different stages of production under central ownership and control.

Why did vertical integration seem like the way to efficiency, predictability and riches? Was Mr. Chandler wrong?

Naturally, I think you should read the whole thing.

For more info on Dick Langlois's research, including a downloadable version of his paper, look here.


While I wasn't paying attention, the always-interesting anthropologist Grant McCracken has been enriching his website with new "Culture by Commotion" projects. One idea is what he calls the "Pepys Now" project, which encourages people to document common experiences that future readers wouldn't otherwise understand:

There is no shortage of diarists these days, not with billions of blogs on line. But will bloggers find immortality? No. This is not just because there are so many of us. The trouble is we assume the things readers will want to know in 100 years.

There are, for instance, countless blog entries from people experiencing the flu. But what history will care about are all the details that struck us as too obvious or banal to mention.

What the "flu" was like, what we took as "medicine." The "pharmacy" we got the medicine in. The conversation we had with that man in the lab coat. The advice we got from friends. What we wore while recuperating. What we watched on TV. What was illuminated by that faint light in the "refrigerator." The idea, for instance, of "comfort food." (What was it? What comfort did it give?) What we talked about on the "phone." What "emails" we wrote. What happened to personhood? What was it like to be us, as we lost momentum, as our affairs went into suspension, as our life began slowing to come undone. Where did the mind turn in this rare inactive moment. What fretting did we do?

In 100 years, the flu will be an exotic experience. (We read Pepys for his accounts of the plague; we know longer know what this was like.) Historians will hold conferences on the experience of sickness and curing. And they will consult our blogs mostly with unhappiness.

For the sake of future anthropologists, explain the flu! It's a fascinating proposal, if only as a thought experiment. Grant's full posting, worth reading in its entirety, does a great job of making the familiar strange and of reminding us how different the world will be sooner than we think.


It's a dog-bites-man story, but nonetheless significant. The American Medical Association has declared that "cloning for biomedical research is consistent with medical ethics," while recognizing "that physicians are free to decide whether to participate in this type of research or to use the products that result from this research."

The policy "makes a stance for science," Dr. Michael Goldrich, incoming chairman of the committee that drafted the report on which the new policy is based, told the Associated Press.

The policy emphasizes the physician's freedom of conscience. Media reports have portrayed that emphasis as a protection for those who oppose cell cloning--no physician will be ethically compelled to participate in a practice he or she deems morally wrong. True enough. But that isn't what the policy says. It says something much more sweeping: "An individual physician must remain free to decide to participate in this research."

In other words, neither Congress nor state legislatures should make this research a crime. Let's hope the AMA backs its policy with political clout.

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