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Friday, November 3, 2006
By Dr. Steven Taylor

This is a couple of days old, but William F. Buckley has written a very good column on the whole “Webb wrote smutty novels, and is therefore unqualified to be elected to the Senate” business.

I can’t disagree with the first line of the piece:

The charge by assorted gentry that James Webb is not qualified to serve as a U.S. senator from Virginia because there are lewdnesses in his published fiction rattles one’s faith in democracy.

Further, Buckley is quite correct in the following passages:

More generally, the novelist writes to explore the human being. One did not need to await Freud to discern that the sexual drive is, if not the dominant impulse in human nature, at least a subdominant, making way for love, family, political allegiances, vocations, patriotism and treachery. In order to illustrate these human drives it is required that authors explore manifestations of sexual interest, and these involve scenes and thoughts that inform us, whether we are reading “Romeo and Juliet” or “The Merchant of
Venice.”

[…]

Some say that the mere publication of smutty, erotic, realistic passages from Webb’s fiction will undermine his claim to credentials to serve in the Senate. There are many reasons to vote for the Republican incumbent, but anyone who votes for him in protest against Webb’s fiction needs to — grow up.

The entire column is worth a read, especially if one thinks that the Webb excerpts are some damning bit of evidence about Webb himself.

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Sunday, October 22, 2006
By Dr. Steven Taylor

In a book review in today’s WaPo (Has the Right Gone Wrong?) of Andrew Sullivan’s new book, The Conservative Soul, Bryan Burrough distills the argument as follows:

Sullivan is also smart and well read, and in his new book, The Conservative Soul , he calmly and rationally attempts to deduce the malady that in barely 15 years has rendered Reagan-era conservatism all but unrecognizable.

The pathogen he identifies is Christian fundamentalism.

The thing is, that doesn’t make any sense. It is wholly unclear to me how Christian fundamentalism would lead, per se, to the mess that is Iraq, to fiscal irresponsibility, to substantial corruption in the Congress (e.g., DeLay, Ney, Cunningham and others), to incompetence over Katrina or to any number of other issues. Even if the argument would be that Bush’s own fundamentalism (not that Methodists are all that fundamentalist) led him to have messianic/apocalyptic visions in his pursuit of foreign policy (an argument some have made), that doesn’t explain the general problems of the Republican Party these days.

Yes, one can blame, if that is the right word, Christian fundamentalists on a list of issues including abortion, stem cell research and gay marriage. However, regardless of one’s view on those subject, I don’t see an argument that would connect them to the list of ills in the preceding paragraph.

Of course, in Sully’s post on the review I think he may be disagreeing with Burrough’s assessment, but it is unclear.

And, by the way, wasn’t it just two years ago that everyone wanted to talk about “values voters” and how the Democrats have a “God problem”? Now the argument is supposed to be that the GOP is off the tracks because of Evangelicals? That doesn’t make sense, to be honest.

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Friday, September 29, 2006
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Via the NYT: Book Says Bush Ignored Urgent Warning on Iraq

Mr. Woodward’s first two books about the Bush administration, “Bush at War” and “Plan of Attack,” portrayed a president firmly in command and a loyal, well-run team responding to a surprise attack and the retaliation that followed. As its title indicates, “State of Denial” follows a very different storyline, of an administration that seemed to have only a foggy notion that early military success in Iraq had given way to resentment of the occupiers.

The fact that Woodward’s first two books were considered basically positive vis-a-vis the administration will give this one more credibility. Further, the fact that Woodward was for the first two books given a great deal of acess to the principals probably means that he was for this one as well. This, too, will enhance the book’s credibility.

I will note that the thesis that the book appears to proffer, that the administration didn’t plan well for the aftermath of the war and that it did not take the difficulty seriously, echoes what Larry Diamond wrote in Squandered Victory: The American Occupation and the Bungled Effort to Bring Democracy to Iraq .

The criticisms of Rumsfeld also mirror some of what Diamond had to say.

The book is already generating a number of headlines. To wit:

  • WaPo: Card Urged Bush to Replace Rumsfeld, Woodward Says
  • cbs4denver.com: Bob Woodward: Bush Misleads On Iraq
  • NY Daily News: Rummy blasted in book
  • Via the AP: Iraqi violence is growing, author says

More, no doubt, to follow.

And sadly, I have not been offered a review copy…

Update: James Joyner points out: Woodward Scooped on Own Book.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2006
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Well, given my lack of blogging you’d like to think that I got a ton done on the book today, wouldn’t you?

Well, today was a Day of Distractions, so while I did accomplish the feat of getting C2 into a complete, readable format, I still feel like it wasn’t the most productive of days, writing-wise.

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Monday, July 24, 2006
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Ok, so I was going to do this daily, but found little to report last week, despite a good deal of work. I did get Chapter Three into a complete, readable draft, although to call it “finished” would be mislabeling things.

I had hoped by the end of today to have gotten Chapter Two in the same order, and be into getting C1 in the same shape, but no go.

C2 has gone from 27 pages, down to 25 and back up to 31. I need to tidying up the last main section and complete the chapter conclusion/transition to C3.

In my dreams I would have C1, C2 and C3 all in readable form before I head to Peru a week from today, with C4 on the way.

We shall see.

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By Dr. Steven Taylor

I was just re-reading part of a draft that I wrote this morning and I came across this sentence:

An easy summation of this situation is not easy

To which I then have to say to myself: “Gee, ya think?”

I will now go re-write that sentence.

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Tuesday, July 18, 2006
By Dr. Steven Taylor

I thought that, à la Michele Dion, I would give some reports on my writing progress (such as it is). If anything, it gives me something to blog.

I am currently working on a manuscript about Colombian democratic development. The working title is Voting Amidst Violence: Electoral Democracy in Colombia. I am currently under contract with University Press of New England.

Things go well, although not as quickly as one would like (indeed, I have already missed the original deadline…).

In terms of progress yesterday:

-I added five-plus pages to Chapter Three (although some of that was writing and analysis from last week).

-I realized that Chapter Two (on Colombian constitutional development) should be Chapter Three (which was a discussion of Colombian democracy).

-I wrote some notes (and text) for Chapter One.

-I made some useful notes concerning Chapter Four.

Indeed, it was a fairly productive day, and would have been more so, had I not run out of mental energy in the afternoon.

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Monday, July 10, 2006
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Woohoo! My annual royalty check just came in for my contribution to:

I would say I would take the family out to dinner to celebrate, but I don’t think that the check would cover it…

The book is currently ranked 970,663th!

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Thursday, June 15, 2006
By Dr. Steven Taylor

The Raw Story has some damning evidence that Ann Coulter plagiarized a section of her book from a pro-life web site.

To prove the Times science writer wrong, Coulter then provides a “short list” of sixteen “successful treatments achieved by adult stem cell research.”

But fifteen of Coulter’s examples (listed at the end of this story) are nearly identical to items in a longer list of seventeen compiled by the Illinois Right To Life website, that has been available since at least September of 2003.

[…]

For these fifteen items, Coulter appears to do little more than remove the parentheses and slightly change a word or two, such as “using” into “with.”

That, my friend is plagiarism.

Further, it isn’t very good research and is poor argumentation. If one just find a list on the internet that support one’s point of view, that’s pure laziness. And, to make matter worse, if it is a list that itself lacks substantial sourcing to undergird its claims, the list is worthless.

I wouldn’t accept that kind of work from an undergraduate.

Here are some example, the linked story has all of them:

Illinois Right To Life: Repair heart muscle in cases of congestive heart failure (using stem cells from bone marrow)

Coulter: Repairing the heart muscles in patients with congestive heart failure using adult stem cells from bone marrow.

Illinois Right To Life: Repair heart attack damage (using the patient’s own blood stem cells)

Coulter: Repairing heart attack damage with the patient’s own blood stem cells

Illinois Right To Life: Restore bone marrow in cancer patients (using stem cells from umbilical cord blood)

Coulter: Restoring bone marrow in cancer patients using stem cells from umbilical cord blood.

This is all thoroughly unacceptable, and quite sloppy.

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Tuesday, May 2, 2006
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Jack Shafer addresses the issue in Slate: Why plagiarists do it.

The best explanation in the list:

Writing Is Hard Work: A corollary to ambition exceeding talent. Even prolific writers, who can toss off a thousand words an hour, complain about the difficulty of writing. Writing well is a difficult enterprise. So is writing poorly. With so many examples of good writing out there to “borrow,” why suffer only to write poorly?

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