Richard Byrne

Richard Byrne is a journalist who lives in Washington, D.C. He blogs at Balkans via Bohemia.

Recent Articles

<i>Selling</i> It Short

Joe McGinniss' classic text on presidential campaign ads is almost 40 years old now. But it still has valuable lessons for candidates and the public alike.

The original dust jacket of Joe McGinniss' The Selling of the President 1968 has Richard Nixon's face emblazoned on a package of cigarettes.

To value that image at a thousand words is parsimonious. It elicits a multiplicity of responses to Nixon and to his 1968 campaign: clever, slick, amoral, dangerous, familiar, branded, and addictive. (Yes, addictive. How long was Nixon in American political life?)

In sum, Richard Nixon was very, very bad for America -- and some very skilled men persuaded voters to buy him anyway.

Arresting Developments

The capture of Radovan Karadzic, a primary architect of the vicious war in Bosnia, could transform the Balkans. But the U.S. and Europe must beware of overplaying a good hand.

The arrest of Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic in Belgrade yesterday was another dose of welcome news in the Serbian corner of the Balkans. He was a primary architect of the vicious war in Bosnia from 1992 to 1995. Under his leadership, Bosnian Serb military forces shelled civilians in Sarajevo. Karadzic's government created concentration camps for Muslim men that it wanted to remove from Serb-held areas of Bosnia. And it was on his watch that the massacres at Srebrenica occurred in the summer of 1995.

Bodymore, Murdaland

“It's Baltimore, gentlemen. The gods will not save you.”

-- The police commissioner to his commanders on The Wire

The Baltimore Police Department's 2005 annual report is crammed with statistics that tell a story. Violent crime is down in every category measured by the department. The city witnessed 269 murders in 2005, or seven fewer than the previous year. The department's Organized Crime Division seized 618 firearms; 37 kilos of marijuana, cocaine, and heroin; and more than $10 million in cash. The narrative here is straightforward: The streets may be mean, but the cops are winning.

Follow The (Dear) Leader

In Team America: World Police, the puppet-film satire of the global war on terrorism made by Matt Stone and Trey Parker (of South Park fame), North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il is gleefully depicted as an oddball Bond villain: outsized glasses, Elmer Fudd lisp, a streak of maudlin solipsism, and a team of lackeys including al-Qaeda and Alec Baldwin. He even lures United Nations weapons inspector Hans Blix into a shark tank straight out of Thunderball.

Big Wind From Ohio

Back in the lo-fi bliss of mid-1980s, the Columbus, Ohio band Great Plains wrote a song called "Letter to a Fanzine." It was a brilliantly Janus-faced take on indie rock's navel gazing, neatly encompassing satire and self-satisfaction. ("Isn't my haircut really intense / Isn't Nick Cave a genius in a sense?") Rock critics of that era rejoiced in Ron House's nasal sneer and the garage-band swirl of organ and guitar laid down by brothers Mark and Matt Wyatt. The question at the center of "Fanzine" -- "Why do punk rock guys go out with new wave girls?" -- remains the band's most-cited bon mot.