New York Times reporter David Carr jokingly threatened to kill Atlantic Magazine editor James Bennet Tuesday night, following a screening of the new documentary “Page One: Inside the New York Times” at the Aspen Ideas Festival.
The topic of dispute was a 2010 story in Bennet’s magazine exploring the idea of whether the New York Times could go out of business.
The movie explores the same territory, following Carr and other Times journalists through their work-life as the storied paper attempts to adapt to the reality of new media, online content and decimated advertising revenue.
“When we get off this stage I’m going to choke the life out of you,” Carr jokingly told Bennet at the outset of a public conversation following the film. “That was such a bullshit piece.”
Bennet countered that the article had argued that print media is so troubled that the Times could conceivably go out of business, but not that it would necessarily go under.
The release of the Atlantic story is covered in the film, a full-length documentary that drew a capacity crowd at the Paepcke Auditorium. The movie provides a snapshot of the Times during this unprecedented period of change in the media world, mostly through the eyes of the reporters — including Carr — assigned to cover the changing media landscape, and the Times itself.
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L. Paul Bremer, the diplomat tasked by the Bush administration to oversee initial construction efforts following the invasion of Iraq in 2003, made a case for the importance of nation-building at an afternoon panel Wednesday afternoon while conceding widespread early failures in Iraq.
“I am hopeful,” he said on a panel with former Congressman Mickey Edwards and former ambassador James Dobbins. “The history on Iraq is still being written.”
While he said his nation-building team was woefully under-resourced and unprepared for Iraq, he cautioned against reactionary strains in U.S. leadership who are arguing for a new isolationism and nation-building in American cities like Detroit.
“I think there’s a real dangerous tendency in American politics now to want to come home and do the nation-building here,” Bremer cautioned. “I think it’s very dangerous and it’s particularly evident, I’m sorry to say, in the Republican party.”
In retrospect, Bremer said there were fundamental problems with the provisional authority government in Iraq, with a staff and military force half the size that it needed.
“We were not prepared in Iraq to conduct the most fundamental role of government, remember under international law we were the government in Iraq,” Bremer said. “The fundamental role for any government is to provide security for its citizens, and we didn’t.”
Still, Bremer argued that the U.S. ought to intervene in certain countries as it did in Iraq, where people are living under brutal dictatorships. But he argued there’s no set criteria for where nation-building is a good idea.
“I don’t think you can come up with a cookie-cutter strategy,” he said. “You’ve got to take it one case at a time.”
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Stanford law school Dean Larry Kramer debated current Supreme Court Associate Justice Steven Breyer and former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor Wednesday morning, on how the high court does and doesn’t serve the American people.
They aren’t elected and they serve for life, he noted.
“Ask yourselves, what’s the difference between that and a monarchy?” he asked the judges.
But he also said that the court’s decisions on controversial issues tend to coincide with the shifts in public opinion.
The judges both said that they are human and are shaped in certain ways by society, but both stressed that their allegiance is to the law and the U.S. Constitution, not necessarily to voters or the presidents who appoint them to the high court.
“People say quite often, ‘You’re just junior politicians,” Breyer said. “That’s
O’Connor added that the justices are informed about current events, but not shaped by polls or political influence.
“I can only say that most members of the Supreme Court do read newspapers ... I don’t think members of the court read the latest election results and the polls when making a decision,” she said.
Judge Stephen Breyer, associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, right, and Sandra Day O’Connor, U.S. Supreme Court retired justice speak during the Aspen Ideas Festival in the Doerr-Hosier Center on Wednesday morning.