OxBlog

Monday, June 30, 2003

# Posted 10:19 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NATION BUILDING: Yesterday, I referred in passing to Greg Djerejian's suggestion that the US military should train its own corps of nation builders rather than depend on international forces. Phil Carter also thinks that's a good idea, and point out that Fareed Zakaria agrees as well. Me three.

NB: Greg's permalinks aren't working, so scroll down to "Constabulatory Duties and the Warrior Ethos". Also, in yesterday's post on the occupation of Iraq, I exaggerated Greg's support for a greater UN role. He'd like to see more cooperation, but agrees that the US should be firmly in charge.
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# Posted 10:10 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SPEAK OF THE DEVIL: Kevin Drum expressed his concern yesterday that the US is appointing too many Ba'athists to influential posts in occupied Iraq. Then today, American forces arrested the mayor of Najaf, a former military official, on charges of corruption and kidnapping.

So does that mean we're appointing Saddam's henchmen to high office, or that we're able to recognize and correct our mistakes with reasonable speed and accuracy? I tend to favor the second explanation, given that we haven't heard much about Ba'athists being appointed to high office.

Paul Bremer seems to be rather fixated on de-Ba'athification, so I imagine that lower-level officials are mindful of its importance as well. In Najaf, for example, the mayor's arrest apparently came in respone to public dismay with his Ba'athist past.

It also wouldn't surprise me if the WaPo's recent article on reinstated Ba'athists had something to do with the arrest in Najaf. In fact, the WaPo explicitly identified the mayor of Najaf as a former Ba'athist whose reinstatment had led to popular resentment.

While it would be better if occupation forces acted even before the media let them know what was wrong, it is still quite remarkable that a single article (probably) led to immediate action. Often, the government does nothing until it is avalanched with negative press coverage. Thus, the occupation forces's apparent responsiveness demonstrates a real commitment to promoting democracy Iraq.
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# Posted 9:50 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OUTSIDE IRAQ: While things in Iraq are going better than expected, the Administration is adrift almost everywhere else.

As a candidate, the President criticized his predecessor for his excessive personalization of US diplomacy, i.e. depending on single figures such as Yeltsin rather than building a strong overall relationship with Russia. Yet in Russia, Pakistan and Afghanistan, Bush has fallen prey to Clinton's old habit.

When it comes to more peripheral regions such as Africa, Latin America and (for the moment) East Asia, the Administration seems to have no strategy at all. But that much is to be expected.

Few American presidents have ever developed a truly global strategy. Nixon and Kissinger did, but theirs was worse than none at all. So let's just hope that our ambassadors and assistant secretaries of state are ready to face regional challenges without much guidance from above.
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# Posted 9:06 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DOWNSIDE UP: Yesterday, I commented with surprise on a strong preference for the GOP among small donors to political campaigns. Alas, my surprise has exposed my ignorance of campaign finance to the entire blogosphere.

As JAT points out,
It's not surprising that small donors are heavily favoring Republicans. They always do. This has been true since at least the 1910s. I remember my US History books specifically pointing out this fact.

People who actually are small donors still have to have enough excess cash to really consider contributing. The Republicans have always had a strong advantage among a broad section of the fairly rich-- the upper middle class, lower upper class, et al. The Democrats have generally had support from the broadly poor and a relatively small number of highly committed supporters among the superrich.

Even back in the 1920s, the Democratic Party funds were mostly financed from a mere handful of people. Eugene McCarthy's 1968 campaign was primarily financed by just a handful of people, such as Stewart Mort and Jack Dreyfus Jr. (This explains why he was also a plantiff in Buckley v. Valeo, challenging the campaign finance limits of the time. He still argues that being able to raise money from such a small group of people is much less corrupting than having to raise money from so many different interest groups.) By contrast, Barry Goldwater was the first politician to raise significant amounts of his presidential campaign funds in small amounts through direct mail. To be fair, George McGovern followed in his footsteps and was also very successful at this method.

The Republican Party has *always* had an edge in direct hard money contributions from many different individuals in small amounts. The Democratic Party has always been able to equalize only with massive soft money contributions from the very wealthy, such as celebrities. This why McCain-Feingold is so, so damaging to the Democrats, unless they find ways around it.
JVL adds
Not to quibble, but the only aspect of this story that resembles a yoga asana is the failure of the WaPo to notice the phenomenon [of GOP predominance] until now. Ever since the Reagan landslide of 1984, the GOP has scored the bulk of its hard money from small donors. Ron gave the RNC a mailing list that Terry McAu[liffe] would kill for. No fault of yours that this may be news. In 1984, you were creating in Legos, not blogs.

N.B. Not a hint of condescension there. I have yet to discover that having been born when Cal Coolidge was gearing up to run for re-election confers any eminence upon said dodderer.
Ah, Silent Cal. If only modern Presidents had the good sense to keep their thoughts to themselves more often.

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Sunday, June 29, 2003

# Posted 8:12 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FUBAR IN BAGHDAD: CalPundit and Tacitus think that the occupation has spun out of control. I don't.
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# Posted 8:01 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OBJECTIVITY: Daniel and Eugene comment on bias in the blogosphere.
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# Posted 7:56 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE GUERILLA MYSTIQUE: Criticism of the American occupation of Iraq is widespread. While much of it comes from those who have long insisted (or implied)that an American occupation must fail, some of it comes from those who are passionately committed to promoting democracy in Iraq but believe that the United States is not doing enough.

The editors of both the Washington Post and The New Republic fall into the latter category. Even though I am committed to hearing out both the constructive and the destructive critics, I have found it harder and harder and to take the latter seriously as a result of their Vietnam mindset. However, when the WaPo and TNR criticize the occupation I take their observations very seriously.

Recent criticism from the WaPo and TNR is all the more surprising because my own interpretation of the public record suggests that the occupation is going better than expected. Moreover, Josh is at least as optimistic as I am, if not moreso.

So what's going on? First and foremost, the rising casualty toll and persistence of guerrilla warfare has persuaded even supporters of the occupation that something is going seriously wrong. Second, the Pentagon's decision to have combat troops serve as peacekeepers suggests that one can trace much of the chaos in Iraq to the occupation forces' lack of appropriate training.

On the first point, I think that the WaPo and TNR may have fallen prey to media spin. The headlines coming out of Iraq are almost entirely negative. For example:And those are just the headlines from Friday's WaPo. By themselves, none of these headlines are inaccuate or misleading. Yet taken together, they indicate the inability of even top-flight journalists to put the military situation in a broader perspective.

As you might have guessed, I think the guerrilla threat is not all that serious. I tend to agree with this former Marine officer who argues that the Ba'athist insurgents have already demonstrated their incompetence as military strategists. In short, he argues that the Ba'athist offensive is extremely premature, given the overwhelming American forces still on the ground in central Iraq.

Without sounding like a kneejerk reactionary, I would like to suggest that the American media -- including moderate, mainstream, responsible publications such as the WaPo -- are still imprisoned in a Vietnam mindset. In contrast to those conservatives who constantly attack the mainstream media, I do not believe that this Vietnam mindset is part and parcel of a pervasive but unacknowledged left-liberal agenda.

Rather, much of this mindset reflects an honest but misguided effort to learn the lessons of history. If Vietnam were the only guerrilla war ever fought (in addition, perhaps, to those in El Salvador and Nicaragua) one might fairly conclude that American generals consistently underestimate the popular support and tactical sophistication of their opponents. Yet quite often, government forces destroy overconfident and unprepared insurgents.

Recently, I have been giving a lot of thought to the Vietnam-Iraq analogy thanks to Neil Sheehan's masterful work on the Vietnam War, A Bright Shining Lie. After confronting the depths of ignorance and incompetence that led to the fall of Saigon, it is ridiculous to suggest that the Ba'athist any surgents can mount any sort of challenge to American occupation forces.

In Vietnam, the United States was supporting a brutal regime that showed total disregard for its citizens' lives, economic welfare, and political rights. In contrast, the Viet Cong demonstrated an impressive concern for the people of Vietnam despite committing some appalling atrocities.

In Iraq, the United States has brought down a regime that strongly resembles the one its supported in Saigon. The occupation forces are also doing far more for the people of Iraq than even the Viet Cong did for the people of Vietnam. Even so, the unexpectedly swift fall of the Ba'athist government ensured that thousands of its supporters would fade into the woodwork, along with considerable amounts of military equipment.

Sad to say, even a flawless assault on the Ba'athist remnants will cost the lives of scores of American soldiers, even hundreds. No question, some of those lives might have been saved had Coalition forces launched their counterinsurgency campaign immediately after the fall of Baghdad. But in the long-run, a month-and-a-half delay is insignificant. With the postwar casualty toll standing at 23, it's hard to say that the US could be doing much better.

Which brings us to the second trend that has disturbed the democracy promotion advocates at TNR and the WaPo: the decision to employ combat troops as peacekeeping forces. Unsurprisingly, this decision has opened the Pentagon to ample criticism of its unpreparedness to face the realities of postwar Iraq. And such criticism is well-deserved. In fact, I agree wholeheartedly with Greg Djerejian's suggestion that the military should equip and train several divisions for the explicit purpose of peacekeeping and reconstruction.

Along with the WaPo and TNR, Greg think that our troops unpreparedness is an ex post facto vindication of those who insisted that the UN play a greater role in the occupation of Iraq. I wouldn't go that far. Yet while I stand by my argument that a strong UN voice would derail the occupation, I do recognize that peacekeeping damages soldiers' morale and that it wouldn't hurt to bring in UN or NGO officials with experience in Bosnia and Kosovo.

That said, I think that Coaltion forces have been doing an impressive job regardless of their insufficient training. Why? Because American soldiers instinctively put their democratic values into practive. Would further training improve these soldiers' efficiency and morale? Absolutely. Yet I suspect that chaos would still abound even with the best-trained forces in Baghdad.

What matters now is patience. If the President ensures that rebuilding Iraq stays at the top of the American agenda, we can overcome those errors that have already been made. While TNR and the WaPo are right to be concerned about the state of affairs in Iraq, the progress we have already made suggests that a long-term commitment to promoting democracy in Iraq will be well worth the effort.


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# Posted 1:41 PM by Daniel  

SOME OF HIS BEST FRIENDS ARE JEWISH. The Telegraph and the London Times pick up the story of Oxford Professor Andrew Wilkie's rejection of Amit Duvshani's PhD application.
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# Posted 12:17 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SCALIA ON GAY MARRIAGE: Andrew Sullivan comments.
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# Posted 10:58 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SAYS WHO? You might have figured out by now that I like guessing games. So ask yourself who said the following:
1) "overshadowing the military achievement [in Iraq] is the failure -- so far -- to find, or explain the absence of, weapons of mass destruction that were the necessary and sufficient justification for preemptive war. The doctrine of preemption -- the core of the president's foreign policy -- is in jeopardy."

2) "Whatever legitimacy preventive war may claim derives from intelligence reliable enough to persuade responsible people, including allies, that the supposed enemy is really about to strike the United States. If no WMD turn up in Iraq, President Bush will lose a lot of credibility. It seems doubtful that he would be able to lead the American people into wars against Iran or North Korea simply on his presidential say-so."
Turns out the first quote is from George Will, the second from Arthur Schlesinger Jr., the erstwhile JFK advisor and inveterate Democratic mouthpiece.

The surprising resemblance of Will and Schlesinger's views underlines an important aspect of the WMD debate that has often been ignored. While there is little substance to accusations that Bush & Co. invented the Iraqi threat, the President will have to overcome much greater skepticism if he ever asks either the American people or foreign governments to trust his judgment on a matter of fact.

Even if no WMD is found, Bush will be safe at the polls. But America may have its hands tied abroad.
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# Posted 10:19 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

UPSIDE DOWN: Bush is setting fund-raising records in California while small donors across the nation are heavily favoring Republicans over Democrats. What is the world coming to?
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# Posted 10:06 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

AMERICAN DOLLARS FOR TERRORISTS: Jim Hoagland blasts the President's hypocritical embrace of Pakistan. Sadly, the Administration seems unable to recognize that Musharraf is not a provider of stability, but rather a corrupt and incompetent fool who promotes violent fundamentalism, launches terrorist attacks on his Indian neighbors and destroys democracy.

UPDATE: Greg Djerejian thinks that Americans fail to appreciate just how much Musharraf did for us right after Sept. 11th. Fair enough. Still, I think Greg substantially exaggerates the degree to which Musharraf risked his own political well-being in the process of aiding the United States. The people of Pakistan may resent "Busharraf" for his ties to the United States, but they resent him much more for being an incompetent and corrupt dictator.
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# Posted 9:02 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LIKE A BLOG OUT OF HELL: Six days have passed since my last substantive post on this site. My inbox is overflowing. My ignorance is apalling.

Countless news cycles have spun by in my time away from the web. And yet life goes on. To my surprise, it is possible to live -- and live well -- without being constantly plugged in to the information superhighway.

The pinnacle of the past six days has been the Magdalen Commemoration Ball, an all-night celebration of indulgent excess that takes place only once every three years. Its atmosphere ranges from the elegant to the ridiculous, from white tie and tails to barbecue and bumper cars. Admission comes at the price of One Hundred English Pounds.

While I might have been tempted to skulk away from the cocktail bar and fireworks show to post my latest thoughts on the reconstruction of Iraq or peace in the Middle East, I did not have that option. Given the intense demands for electricity generated by three sound stages and all sorts of other entertainment paraphrenalia, the college authorities shut down the computer center in order to save power.

But now I am back and raring to go, ready to take on the world like a blog out of hell.
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# Posted 2:42 AM by Patrick Belton  

NEWS BULLETIN: Rachel's in Oxford - woo-hoo!
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# Posted 2:42 AM by Patrick Belton  

HA'ARETZ ON JERUSALEM'S 4-YEAR OLD ARABIC-HEBREW BILINGUAL SCHOOL: This is precisely the sort of thing all people of good will need to be supporting.....
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Saturday, June 28, 2003

# Posted 10:00 AM by Daniel  

BILL KELLER ON DIVERSITY. He acknowledges the many shades of gray in the affirmative action debate and demonstrates that it does not follow left/right lines.

The column introduced a quote from Stanley Fish which I thoroughly enjoyed. Referring to the problem of stigmas (something Josh and Clarence Thomas disdain about affirmative action), Fish stated: "the low self-esteem that comes from wondering if your success was based on merit is probably preferable to the low self-esteem that comes from never getting a chance to succeed in the first place." In this sense affirmative action, despite its flaws, is the least worst option.
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# Posted 2:14 AM by Patrick Belton  

TROUBLING IF TRUE: Little Green Footballs point out this letter, in which - assuming it is authentic - an Oxford professor refuses to consider advising an Israeli doctoral applicant because of his Israeli citizenship:

From: "Andrew Wilkie" awilkie@worf.molbiol.ox.ac.uk
To: "Amit Duvshani"
Sent: Monday, June 23, 2003 9:58 AM
Subject: Re: PhD application

Dear Amit Duvshani,

Thank you for contacting me, but I don't think this would work. I have a huge problem with the way that the Israelis take the moral high ground from their appalling treatment in the Holocaust, and then inflict gross human rights abuses on the Palestinians because they (the Palestinians) wish to live in their own country.

I am sure that you are perfectly nice at a personal level, but no way would I take on somebody who had served in the Israeli army. As you may be aware, I am not the only UK scientist with these views but I'm sure you will find another suitable lab if you look around.

Yours sincerely,
Andrew Wilkie

Nuffield Professor of Pathology,
Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine,
The John Radcliffe,
Headington,
Oxford OX3 9DS,
UK.

Tel (44)-1865-222619
Fax (44)-1865-222500

A FINAL UPDATE: Ha'aretz picks up the story, and Oxford's formal apology to Mr. Duvshani (though, somewhat inexplicably, they refer to him as seeking an internship).
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# Posted 12:59 AM by Patrick Belton  

THERE'S A TRUCE! HAMAS FOUNDER SHEIKH YASSIN CALLS FOR A CESSATION OF HOSTILITIES AGAINST ISRAEL BY ALL PALESTINIAN GROUPS.

Responses: Israel (skeptical), US (positive), France (supportive of Hamas no matter what), EU (pissy).
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Friday, June 27, 2003

# Posted 11:35 PM by Patrick Belton  

DEFINITELY WORTH A (FAR)READ: That is, Foreign Policy's new issue on rebuilding Iraq. Among others, there are pieces from Marina Ottaway, Tom Carothers, Bob Kagan, Husain Haqqani, and Minxin Pei.

These are all worthy of further comment, but for the moment I need to post quietly, because my happily-frequent roommate Josh is grabbing some shuteye in the other room. On the other hand, sunrise over the half-completed annex going up outside the window of his room in Merton is dazzling and beautiful. (Perhaps all the dust being kicked up into the atmosphere by the construction...)
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# Posted 11:22 PM by Patrick Belton  

SAUDI ARABIA LECTURES THE WEST ON HUMAN RIGHTS: From the Saudi Kingdom and its embassy in London, we now have a set of Questions and Answers about Human Rights. Occasionally, we in the west may get confused on questions of human rights - which, after all, are thorny and complex. Fortunately, we have the house of Sa'ud to explain all these knotty issues to us: (This via MEMRI)

Q: "Why is Saudi Arabia often criticized in the media for violating human rights?"

A: "Human rights, as a concept, did not suddenly [come into] the world in the form of a sacred revelation. The theory of human rights evolved slowly and is still evolving. A century ago, it was difficult to recognize in Europe anything like the human rights of modern Europe. Saudi Arabia does not see fit to accept the latest version of the West's version of human rights. Saudi Arabia has its own vision.

Q: "Why can women not travel freely and alone within Saudi Arabia?"

A: "This phenomenon is not limited to Saudi Arabia. This custom prevails in many Muslim countries. There is a religious basis for it: the Prophet Mohammad said that no women should travel for more than one night without her husband or a Mahram, for example, her father, son, or uncle. Some Muslim scholars believe that the Prophet's instruction was based on the unsafe travel conditions of the time. They argue that as travel is no longer risky, that injunction does not apply. However, religious scholars in Saudi Arabia do not accept this interpretation, and neither do the majority of the Saudi people. This is not a matter of government decree; it is a matter of deep personal belief."

Q: "....Now that you mention Islam, why is it that Saudi Arabia does not allow the followers of other religions the freedom to practice their faiths in Saudi Arabia?"

A: "Anyone in Saudi Arabia is entitled to his own beliefs and practices. But Saudi Arabia cannot allow the public practice of any religion which contradicts Islam. Saudi Arabia is a special place: it is the cradle of Islam and the Prophet Mohammad declared it a preserve of Islam. A lot of the so-called dissidents want all non-Muslims thrown out of Saudi Arabia. But the government takes a far more moderate stance.

Q: "....But Saudi Arabia's courts lack the basic minimum standards of justice."

A: "Britain is only familiar with the Western system of justice and cannot envisage any other. The West's judicial system is the result of its own historic evolution and so is Saudi Arabia's. According to Saudi tradition there are no juries, nor are there likely to be in the future. Lawyers are not an integral part of the system. One can bring a lawyer but that is optional. We don't consider the presence of lawyers a prerequisite for the delivery of justice."

Q: "But without a jury and a lawyer what guarantee to a fair trial does the accused have?"

A: "A good question. In Saudi Arabia the judge acts, in effect, as the defendant's lawyer. He challenges every piece of evidence presented by the prosecution. Unlike judges in the West who simply act as umpires leaving the prosecution team and the defense team to influence the jury, our judges consider themselves personally accountable to God for every judgment they make. If a judge condemns to death a man who is innocent – the judge faces eternal divine punishment and he knows that. Among God-fearing men this is a mighty safeguard."
I'm convinced. Dunno about you.
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# Posted 12:57 PM by Patrick Belton  

DON'T JUST DO SOMETHING, SIT THERE: CalPundit has a wonderful post on differences between the British and U.S. press relationships with senior officeholders. His gist: US politicians are permitted (i.e., by the press and the rules of their game) to dodge questions and avoid press appearances, while British prime ministers must skillfully handle hostile, well-prepared, and dogged interviewers.
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# Posted 12:44 PM by Patrick Belton  

A PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT TO OUR READERSHIP: Every one of you, right now, and yes that means you there, need to go without any delay and register online in the Federal Trade Commission's new do-not-call registry, debuted today. Telemarketers who do not remove registrants from their rolls by October 1st may be fined up to $10,000 for their unwelcome calls at dinner. (More information: FTC, WashPost.) This is one populist bill I can heartily thank God, or at least the Congress for. Bloggers (and members of the press), spread the word....
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# Posted 12:49 AM by Patrick Belton  

SENATOR THURMOND died last night, at 100.

His politics were not my politics, but I had the pleasure of meeting him several times when I worked in Senator Chuck Robb's legislative office. He was a quintessential Southern gentleman who would always generously spare moments for a skinny 22-year old, a flirt who could often be seen walking to Union Station with female interns under each arm, and who once whisked two female colleagues away from a friend of mine with the promise to demonstrate how a gentlemen charmed the opposite sex. Such behavior would have been unthinkable from a younger man, but for Senator Thurmond, well, everyone understood he was being Ol' Strom, and played along. He was a segregationist, but his views changed, and people must be allowed the chance to change for the better - as he did.

An age dies with him. We are better without its worst aspects, and have fortunately learned to treat each other more fully as humans, and as brothers and sisters. But we would do well to recall, and perhaps to imitate, its charm, honor, and graciousness, as they were instantiated so well by the senior senator from South Carolina.
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# Posted 12:31 AM by Patrick Belton  

LOOK FOR mostly amusing ancedotes and such bits out of me for three or four days (i.e., soft-core OxBlog) while I finish up a few articles and bits of my thesis, then back right away to more substantive posting (hard-core OxBlog).

After all, how am I supposed to write or blog when I'm on the road, travelling...okay, in Oxford. As a personal note, it's incredibly nice to be back here, seeing many of my closest friends, and being reminded that this place really exists, and isn't merely a fiction of my delirium. At the very least, Oxford is a fiction which manypeople share.....

My first anecdote, however, isn't very amusing at all. It's about an incredibly disturbing incident that took place in Oxford, and was covered in the non-OxBlog Oxford student publication, Cherwell. Cherwell reports that Maxwell's bar in Oxford (37 Queen Street) served ground glass, mixed in a cocktail, to Oxford student Emma Phillips. She subsequently spent the night in John Radcliffe Infirmary, and in x-rays the bottom of her stomach was shown to be lined with glass. The only immediate action taken by the bar? To offer her two free jugs of cocktails. (Yeah, like she's going to drink those....) The manager on duty insisted there was nothing more he could do. However, after time passed, he relented and generously agreed to pay for a taxi to take Ms. Phillips to hospital. (For those of you who have lived in the UK, this will be instantly recognizable as an instance of Anglo-institutional rationality.)

Finall, the excruciatingly painful quote to carry around with you the rest of the day: "Philips had all but finished the drink before she realised that the crunching sensation in her mouth could not be ice."

Anyone in Oxford who reads this who doesn't immediately boycott Maxwell's, well, should.
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Thursday, June 26, 2003

# Posted 3:04 PM by Daniel  

JOSH, YOU ARE RIGHT that I have no way of 100% knowing that affirmative action gave Thomas an opportunity he otherwise would not have had. You are far better versed in legal scholarship than I am, but here is some other evidence: if I am not mistaken, in 1991 the American legal community expressed apprehension about Thomas's clear lack of experience--he had only served two years as a federal judge. Would that allow me to say that he may have been qualified but not a likely candidate given the fact that several other prospective justices had far more experience than he?

My knowledge of history goes back to the late 1980s/early 1990s, so your antebellum reference did not register too well with me. Was there a program in place in the 1850s which looked at qualified black and white candidates and then chose white candidates based in part on the discrimination against them in the past and present? As far as I am concerned, the moral and political distinctions between slavery and affirmative action clouds any analogies.

I am not calling Thomas or our friend from the 1850s "barking mad." Of course black people can criticize affirmative action. When did I argue that they could not?

I do disagree with you over affirmative action--I think that right now, the benefits of affirmative action outweigh the costs but do hope that we can reach the point where it is no longer necessary. We just aren't there yet, as far as I am concerned.
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# Posted 1:45 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ADESNIK AND CHAFETZ DOMINATE AMERICAN MEDIA: This article mentions Patrick as well. Read the whole thing!
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# Posted 10:55 AM by Patrick Belton  

NARCO AND TERRORISM: Time has a fairly good analysis of some of the dynamics relating to Hamas's ceasefire.

On a completely different note, upwards of 90 percent of banknotes in circulation in Europe betray traces of cocaine, from users having rolled up the notes at some point in the notes' history to form a tube for snorting. (Any readers who want to correct my technical description, please feel free.) The Spanish peseta and Irish pound, followed by the German deutschmark, had the most widespread levels of cocaine contamination in a test run by the EU shortly before the introduction of the euro. Now that the euro has been released, the concentration of cocaine on euro notes from Spain was found in a test to be one hundred times that on euro notes from Germany.
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Wednesday, June 25, 2003

# Posted 10:15 PM by Daniel  

WHAT HORRORS? Josh, I don't think Dowd has a problem with the idea of black conservatives in general. She just has a problem with one in particular. Was her quote from Thomas' 1987 speech inaccurate?

Sure, the shot against Gonzales was unneccesary, since Gonzales might just be the most qualified man for the job, but I don't have a problem with her legitimate lambasting of Thomas. Why not look at Thomas as an example of the benefits of affirmative action--he was a qualified candidate for law school and later jobs who, because of affirmative action, was given an opportunity that he otherwise might not have had?
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# Posted 9:14 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OXBLOG REUNION! Finally, Josh, Patrick and David all in the same place at the same time. The place is Josh's spacious apartments in the graduate annexe of Merton College.

The time is now.

United as one, we have performed the sacred Oxford ritual of purchasing chips & cheese at 1:30am from Hassan, the Lord High Commissioner of Kebab.

As we should have pointed out long ago, the British stopped referring to them as "French Fries" long before any Americans did. Moreover, they refer to it as "snogging" rather than "French kissing"

Contrary to the predictions of organizational theory, the presence of all three OxBlog contributors in one place has not led to any increase whatsoever in our collective efficiency.

(This may have something to do with the fact that Josh insists on watching over my shoulder as I write this post. You'd think Josh would know that Communism doesn't work.)

Anyhow, instead of blogging, we have done many productive things, such as eating in Kurdish restaurant and watching Harlem Nights, a Richard Pryor/Eddie Murphy flick from a few years back. (4 stars out of 5!)

So there. Don't our lives sound fun? Damn right they are.
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# Posted 3:31 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LIGHT SWEET CRUDE: The Post's Outlook section has an in-depth explanation of why this war isn't about oil. The basic points will be familiar to readers of the TNR piece which OxBlog linked to a while back. In short, going to war for oil just doesn't make economic sense, either for individual firms or for the US government. The Post article has a few strongpoints, though, which the TNR piece doesn't. First, it's written by Daniel Yergin, who won a Pultizer for his book on oil and power in the Middle East. Second, it contains a lot more solid evidence, especially concerning Iraq's role within the global oil market. Happy wonking.
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Tuesday, June 24, 2003

# Posted 12:10 PM by Patrick Belton  

NOVELIST LEON URIS, author of Exodus among other notable books, died today at 78.
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Monday, June 23, 2003

# Posted 8:12 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A DECADE OF SUFFERING AND STRENGTH: Andrew Sullivan marks the tenth anniversary of his struggle with HIV.
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# Posted 7:56 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ROADMAP SCHOLARS: Intelligent updates from Reason of Voice, Kesher Talk and Belgravia Dispatch. [BD's permalinks are broken, so scroll down to "Roadmap Implementation Watch".]
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# Posted 7:45 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE PERSONAL IS POLITICAL: Better known to OxBlog readers as the creator of Boomshock, Robert Tagorda has just published a fascinating essay in The American Spectator on his experiences as a Filipino American confronting the idiosyncratic arbitrariness of affirmative action.

While my knowledge of the law consists of nothing more than common sense, I think that Robert's essay provides a compelling illustration of why the Supreme Court chose to strike down all affirmative action programs that treat human beings as numbers rather than complex individuals.
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# Posted 7:18 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

AFFIRMATIVE ACTION: Commentary on the Court's rulings from Jack Balkin and Eugene Volokh.
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# Posted 12:15 PM by Patrick Belton  

ISLAM AND DEMOCRACY: Last night, our D.C.-based Nathan Hale foreign policy group hosted a discussion on the prospects for democratization in the Muslim world. Will Baude posts notes on our discussion here. (And here's what we'd been reading on the subject.) I'll look forward very much to hearing your thoughts!.

On a somewhat related note, there's a new free monthly bulletin Carnegie has just begun, to track and analyze reform and democratization developments in the Arab world. You can subscribe to the on-line version here.
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# Posted 11:33 AM by Patrick Belton  

BASHAR ON IRAQIS IN SYRIA AND THE PEACE PROCESS: Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad gave a recent interview on Al-Arabiyya. Some highlights:

On not cooperating with the US about Iraqi ex-officials from the Saddam regime presently in Syria: "One official entered Syria under a false name, but not from Iraq - from another country. We learned about him from the Americans, who asked that we extradite him, but we refused. I think he was captured later in Iraq. We did not turn over, and will not turn over, anyone to the Americans. There may be [Iraqi officials in Syria that we are unaware of]. Anything is possible. It's impossible to stop the movement of goods and people between the countries. [If we capture any of them], we'll send them back to Iraq. We won't do anything to them. We won't turn them over to anyone."

On Syria's non-cooperation with the peace process: "They (the U.S.) did not require Syria's presence, because Syria is irrelevant to the issue and because we do not agree to the proposals..."

On Syria's supposed benevolence toward the Palestinian people: "When we adopt the [Palestinian] problem, we do it in accordance with the desire of the Palestinian citizen, whose problem it is. We cannot agree to anything that contradicts it, even if we believe in it, and we cannot oppose anything the Palestinian citizen believes in."

Incidentally, the last point belies one of the unstated cruelties of the Arab world: Arab governments' treatment of their Palestinian refugees. Of the 3.5 million UNRWA-registered refugees in Arab countries, only the 1.5 million in Jordan are granted the basic rights of citizenship of the nation in which they reside. This act of humanity is particularly striking for Jordan, a country which is beset by a simmering question of competing Jordanian and Palestinian identities given the fact that Palestinians have come to constitute 60 percent of the Jordanian population. The 373,000 stateless Palestinians living in Lebanon are not allowed to attend public school, own property, or even improve their housing stock. The Lebanese government is even planning to revoke citizenship rights to Palestinians who were granted Lebanese citizenship in 1994. Marginalization of Palestinian refugees in the Arab world does nothing to diminish radicalism or improve the lot of a people whose human suffering has been great. Arab countries are quite happy to treat them as pawns, to clothe themselves in the symbolic legitimacy of their cause while acting in quite atrocious ways to the actual Palestinians, who often live (as in Lebanon) in refugee camps where they face horrific public health, minimal prospects of education or employment, and are instead maintained in as much of a marginalized status as possible to augment their stateless status and maintain pressure on Israel. If Arab governments were only as good as their people, they might remember with the Palestinians the meaning of the phrase "Ahlan wa Sahlan" - "When you cross our threshold you are one of our family, and you have stepped on even ground."
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Sunday, June 22, 2003

# Posted 11:23 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NOTHING NEW UNDER THE SON: We have not found weapons of mass destruction. Thoughtful critics have begun to charge the Administration with practicing pervasive deception. Much of the furor centers around an investigative report in The New Republic, which reaches the damning conclusion that President Bush
has engaged in a pattern of deception concerning the most fundamental decisions a government must make. The United States may have been justified in going to war in Iraq--there were, after all, other rationales for doing so--but it was not justified in doing so on the national security grounds that President Bush put forth throughout last fall and winter. He deceived Americans about what was known of the threat from Iraq and deprived Congress of its ability to make an informed decision about whether or not to take the country to war.
But compare TNR's allegations to the more precise criticism offered by Josh Marshall:
It's suddenly become acceptable to discuss what everyone knew for the last year or so: that is, that the administration was willfully misrepresenting the evidence both on WMD and a purported link to al Qaida.
At first, Marshall's criticism comes across as a repetition of the TNR allegations. But it isn't. Marshall is accusing the administration of engaging in deceptive salesmanship, not wholesale fabrication of an Iraqi threat. As Marshall observes in The Hill:
There were really two WMD debates. One was about chemical and low-end biological weapons. The other was about smallpox, nukes, al Qaeda and pretty much everything else under the sun.

On the former, the White House didn’t hoodwink anyone, since virtually everyone in the foreign policy mainstream figured that Iraq at least maintained a chemical and biological weapons capacity. I certainly thought so.

At a minimum, there was solid circumstantial evidence to believe that they did. Frankly, there still is.
If there still is solid evidence that Saddam had chemical and biological weapons, then Saddam was in material breach of Resolution 1441. Do those words sound strange to you? "Material breach"? "Resolution 1441"?

They should. Because the question everyone is now asking is "Did Bush lie?" rather than "Did the United States have good cause to invade Iraq without the express written consent of the Security Council?"

While I suspect that Bush himself did not lie, there is considerable evidence that high-ranking officials, possibly including the Vice President, knew in advance of the State of the Union address that Iraq had not purchased uranium from Niger. If so, all of the officials involved in that process of deception should be severly disciplined.

Nonetheless, this sort of deception has minimal bearing on the justice of the American cause. Just days ago, Hans Blix
said he remains deeply puzzled by the former Iraqi government's efforts to deceive and mislead U.N. inspectors for 12 years after the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

"Why did they conduct themselves as they did throughout the '90s?" Blix said in an interview last week. "Why deny access if you are not hiding something? What I am groping at now is whether pride was at the root of it."
For the moment, there are no answers to those questions. But if Saddam was refusing to submit to the will of the Security Council, then France and China and Russia had an obligation to ensure that Saddam would face the "serious consequences" mentioned in 1441.

Still, it is fair to ask whether the American people would have supported the President's decision to invade if it had been more fully aware of the salesmanship involved in the presentation of the Iraqi threat. TNR argues that
Had the administration accurately depicted the consensus within the intelligence community in 2002--that Iraq's ties with Al Qaeda were inconsequential; that its nuclear weapons program was minimal at best; and that its chemical and biological weapons programs, which had yielded significant stocks of dangerous weapons in the past, may or may not have been ongoing--it would have had a very difficult time convincing Congress and the American public to support a war to disarm Saddam.
While still within the realm of the possible, TNR's speculations directly contradict the results of multiple opinion polls: that if Saddam was hiding chemical and biological weapons, then the United States should go to war.

In the final analysis, there is nothing new under the sun. The case for war then is the case for war now. While front-page stories continue to hint at startling revelations of presidential lies, even those of us who supported the war knew that the President's rhetoric went too far.

What we are waiting for now is the truth in Iraq. Until we know for sure what happened to the WMD, we will not know whether the invasion of Iraq headed off a major threat to international security, or simply removed a megalomaniacal dictator who conned his opponents into believing that he was much more dangerous than he actually was.
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# Posted 9:41 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

AUNG SAN SUU KYI: Enraged, the WaPo observes that
Southeast Asian foreign ministers, meeting last week in Cambodia with Mr. Powell, agreed to send a delegation to Burma no later than October. October? While one of the world's most courageous political leaders languishes in one of its most infamous jails? Where are Kofi Annan and the U.N. Security Council? Where are the executive orders that President Bush could issue today?
Your answer is as good as mine.
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# Posted 9:17 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

EVIL FORCES: The inimitable Reihan Salam waxes nostalgic about high school life in NY, spins esoteric political rhymes, and comments on the lyrical subtlety of teenage Russian lesbians.
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# Posted 7:34 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ME VS. ME: In the first half of his column in today's NYT, Harvard sociologist Orlando Patterson advertises his liberal credentials by offering a bleeding-heart utilitarian defense of affirmative action. In the second half, Patterson launches a devastating attack on the politically correct multiculturalist rationales offered in defense of affirmative action as it is currently practiced. The horse, my friends, is Trojan.

NB: If you are interested in the history of slavery and emancipation, head straight for Patterson's brilliant work on Slavery and Social Death.
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# Posted 6:58 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A GEM FROM SAFIRE: On freedom in Iran.

For more on the role of foreign broadcasts in supporting the protests, click here. And click here to read about flagrant Iranian violations of the profoundly flawed Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
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# Posted 6:22 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ALL YOU WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT TERRRORISM...but were afraid to ask. Yesterday, I wrote that
If there were any hope of destorying Hamas, Fatah and Jihad by purely military means, I might well support it.
Yet as Greg Djerejian points out [via e-mail], Fatah is not an explicitly terrorist organization, even though it has spawned such offshoots such the Tanzim and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.

In fact, Mahmoud Abbas himself is a member of Fatah. So it is pretty much here to stay. But Greg's real point is that we pundits need to be more precise when talking about different terrorist organizations, lest we say something we don't mean. To that end, Greg recommends consulting the "Terrorism: Questions & Answers" website, a project suppored by the Council on Foreign Relations. I, for one, have every intention of doing so.
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# Posted 5:13 PM by Patrick Belton  

INTIFADA IN GAELIC: In one of the more interesting manifestations of the IRA-Hamas linkages (which extend to symbology as well as cooperation in training exercises - Irish Republicans have begun flying Palestinian flags, and in response Unionists have started to display Israeli flags), a web page has appeared supporting the intifada, in Gaelic.

Small world, indeed.
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# Posted 11:29 AM by Patrick Belton  

MAN ON THE STREET RESPONSE TO BRITISH TOE WRESTLING: "No, Patrick, you do that much better than I do." - Eliana. "That looks like an exciting topic." - Rachel, newly returned from wedding travels. What is everyone talking about - at least at the OxBlog DC bureau office, this morning? It's the British triumph yesterday at toe-wrestling world championships.. "That's sad." - Rachel
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Saturday, June 21, 2003

# Posted 11:14 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

POWELL COMES, POWELL GOES: After a brief visit by the Secretary of State, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have become more optimistic about the prospects of a new security accord for Gaza. What stands in the way of an accord are continuting disagreements between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators about how to provide security for Gaza's main intercity road.

While denouncing Hamas in no uncertain terms, Powell also indicated that the United States and Israel had come to an agreement that targeted killings are out of bounds unless there are indications of an impending terrorist attack.

While this sort of minor advance is encouraging, serious questions about the viability of the Road Map still abound. Without sounding all that optimistic, Reason of Voice observes that the Road Map has forced both Israeli and Palestinian factions to clarify their positions on the prospects of peace.

While the first half of Dan's post amounts to a revisionist history of the Oslo process which declares that it never came close to achieving a lasting peace, I found the second half quite interesting, especially given's Dan's firm support for Likud. He writes that
Mahmoud Abbas' rise and Yasser Arafat's marginalization have forced Palestinian policy 'out of the closet'. The complaints of previous Israeli governments dealing with Arafat was that he would give one speech in English and another in Arabic. It is astoundingly clear how true that statement was in light of the last 3 months of 'roadmap' negotiation. Abbas's statement in Aqaba forced Palestinian terrorist groups to speak for themselves. We've seen Sheik Yassin and al-Rantissi of Hamas, previously unknown publicly, emerge with a firm voice of continued terrorist commitment. These men had previously hid comfortably in the shadows of Arafat's cloaks.
Without intending to do so, Dan seems to have admitted that the (temporary and uncertain) rise of Mahmoud Abbas represents a historic opportunity to negotiate with a Palestinian leadership actually committed to peace. From where I stand, that sounds like a very strong argument in favor of Israeli restraint when it comes to targeting Hamas officials for assassination.

Presumably, friend-of-Volokh Jonathan Zasloff disagrees. He writes [via e-mail]:
My sense is that it would actually ENHANCE Abu Mazen's credibility at this point to tell Hamas: "look, this guy Sharon--you know who he is. I can't control him. Like the Israelis says, he eats Arabs for breakfast. I can get the Americans to lean on him to stop the killings--but only if you commit to an unconditional cease-fire. And you'd better do so--because if you don't, you're all dead men. You know as well as I do that the Shabak is crawling all over Gaza City. They know where you guys are and will find you out eventually. And like I said, this Sharon won't care if he kills a bunch of civilians. He never has."
Given Jonathan's argument, I would counter that Hamas actually wants Sharon to kill as many Palestinian civilians as possible. Each innocent bystander that dies reinforces the Hamas message that Israel is too brutal to negotiate with.

While the killing off of its top leadership may intimidate Hamas, that seems to be a price its top cadres are willing to pay in order to discredit moderates such as Abbas. If that price were too high, Hamas would've declared a ceasefire after the Rantisi attack rather than launching even more destructive suicide attacks.

All in all, the critical question in the targeted killings debate seems to be "Why now?" Why risk destroying Abbas's credibility if he is the best negotiating partner Israel has had? If there were any hope of destorying Hamas, Fatah and Jihad by purely military means, I might well support it. But for as long as one believes that peace can only be had at the negotiating table, there will be no choice for Israel -- at certain critical points -- but to shoulder the risks associated with self-restraint.
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# Posted 4:22 AM by Patrick Belton  

I NEED TO FINISH MY DISSERTATION, so I can be a professor, and teach courses that don't read like this course description:

"You and me baby ain't nuthin' but mammals/So let's do it like they do on the Discovery Channel." Is it true, as The Bloodhound Gang sings, that we are "nuthin' but mammals?" What does it mean to be a mammal, human to otherwise? And, just how do we "do it?"

Makes you kind of want to show up, just to throw rotten fruit....
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# Posted 4:08 AM by Patrick Belton  

MEMRI picks up on a purported Al-Qa'ida message.
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Friday, June 20, 2003

# Posted 11:19 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ANOTHER OXBLOGGER: It seems that England is not the only place where Oxford polisci grad students post political commentary in their spare time.
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# Posted 11:13 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE PROSPECTS FOR REGIME CHANGE: John Kerry seems very confident that the President will be exposed as a liar on the WMD front. If that doesn't happen, Kerry may find it impossible to establish himself as a credible candidate on the national security issue.
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# Posted 11:01 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NO ACCOUNTABILITY: Glenn Reynolds thinks the Bush Administration should stop stonewalling about intelligence failures before 9/11.
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# Posted 10:52 PM by Patrick Belton  

DOG DAYS: The federal government creatively wasted $700,000 on a dog trainer, who was hired to provide explosive-sniffing canines to guard the State Department, Federal Reserve, and other federal buildings. The problem was, the trainer had absolutely no experience in the field, and provided...plain dogs. Cute dogs, yes. Explosive-sniffers, no: when in a test, 50 pounds of dynamite, 50 pounds of TNT and 15 pounds of plastic explosives were driven into Federal Reserve parking lots, the dogs didn't bat a big brown eye. The guy, Russell Ebersole (whose company still has a website, had no experience at all training dogs, and hired as "dog-operators" high school dropouts who had applied for a job cleaning kennels. Question: shouldn't someone have checked on this guy's credentials before giving him nearly a million dollars? I smell a job for a congressional committee here. And I'm not even a pup.
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# Posted 10:42 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CORRECTION: Last week I criticized Matt Yglesias for asserting without a source that cholera and starvation are serious problems in Iraq. However, Nick Kristof is now reporting that water shortages in Basra have led to cholera outbreaks while Unicef calculates that the malnutrition of Iraqi children has risen since the end of the war. While I have less than 100% in either Unicef or Kristof, they are on the ground and I am not, so I will take their word for it.
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# Posted 10:36 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IRAQI CONFUSION CONTINUES: As I have observed more than once before, it is often impossible to reconcile conflicting accounts of whether the occupation of Iraq is accomplishing anything at all. Nick Kristof describes it as a fiasco. Tom Friedman points to some important accomplishment but thinks we could be doing better.

Unsurprisingly, Paul Bremer is proud of what he has accomplished. More interesting, however, is Bremer's stated intention of opening Iraq to international trade and investment. The directness of Bremer's announcement suggests that he isn't concerned about potential critics who will immediately denounce the opening of the Iraqi economy as a reflection of American self-interest.

The most disturbing criticism of the occupation comes from even-tempered WaPo columnist David Ignatius, who charges that Bremer "is turning what was a war of liberation into a war of occupation." Ignatius' case in point is the planned election in Najaf that Bremer cancelled at the last minute.

While Ignatius' concern about elections is well-meant, his demand for national -- as opposed to local -- self-government seems dangerously misguided given the intensity of fighting in central Iraq. I am much more confident in the United States' ability to lead the charge against the Ba'ath than I am in the ability of an interim Iraqi government.

"Leading the charge", however, is not the same as doing all the work. Perhaps to complement the NYT's insistence that our soldiers' morale is dangerously low, the WaPo now has a front-page report making exactly the same point. While I am often suspicious of the way in which the most critical soldiers get the most attention in such stories, it does seem fair to say that we are asking our troops to do a job they weren't exactly trained for.

On the combat front, things seem to be going rather well despite reckless descriptions of anti-Ba'athist operations as a quagmire. If you read the WaPo's latest report on the capture of the Ace of Diamonds, you begin to get a sense of how desperate the top leadership of the deposed government has become.

Abid Hamid Mahmoud spent his last hours as a fugitive in the house of a couple who didn't even want him there. Mahmoud had no significant weapons, cash resources, nor means of transportation. (The WaPo article clarifies earlier reports which suggested that Mahmoud was found along with $8.5 million in cash. In fact, the cash was found during a different raid.)

Mahmoud's desperate condition suggests that the Ba'ath has not been effective in organizing resistance and that it's support among the population is rather shallow. With any luck, such conditions will result in the ultimate capture of Saddam Hussein, who has been pronounced alive (if not well) according to US experts. [UPDATE: Mahmoud himself has claimed that Saddam is alive.]

Finally, we come to the greatest mystery of all: The WMD. While no new evidence has turned up, uber-expert Ken Pollack (and former Clinton NSC staffer) has published a long essay in the NYT which argues that the President was fundamentally right about Saddam's WMD presenting a very serious threat, even if certain administration officials exaggerated at times in order to make a compelling case for an immediate invasion.

So, how is the occupation going? It could be a lot worse.
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# Posted 9:47 PM by Patrick Belton  

EWWWWW: Would you like to write a book, but worry no one will buy it? Don't worry - they've been buying this.

Furthermore, while the previously mentioned book is number 67,697 on Amazon.com's sales chart, this important book is ranked 79,954 on Amazon.com, this important book is 90,283, and this damned important book is number 174,157.
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# Posted 9:09 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BLACK HELICOPTERS, ANYONE?: As Josh has noted, OxBlog is now an official part of the neo-con conspiracy

Given the importance of secrecy for conspiracies such as ours, I though I might learn a little more about World-Information.Org, the organization that "outed" us. What I found out was that,
Under the patronage of the UNESCO, World-Information.Org serves to meet the needs and expectations of citizens for high quality and accessible services of cultural information and content.
Would it be more disturbing if that were true or if that were an outright lie? The UN funding third-rate propaganda outlets?

While I haven't tried to confirm whether UNESCO actually gave WIO any money, I think I just might. Why bother, you might ask? Well, I was looking at the names listed as part of the WIO Advisory Council, and I actually recognized two of them as scholars whose work I've come across while doing my doctoral research. With any luck, they'll let me know what's going on.

As Dan might say, "Developing..."
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# Posted 8:50 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

"$%&@*£!" That is an exact quote from Daniel Drezner, who is very angry at Blogger for not letting him post on his usual site. For the moment, Dan is posting on a temporary site where you can visit him until further notice.
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# Posted 7:55 PM by Patrick Belton  

HEY, CUT IT OUT!!!! Someone just surfed in after googling Yale and Vaseline. Not sure if you found what you were looking for, but thanks for your custom.

(P.S. Some people, of course, go for magazines....)
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# Posted 7:50 PM by Patrick Belton  

WANNA JOB? My favorite magazine, the London Review of Books, is hiring. For my part, I think it would be wonderful if we placed an OxBlog reader there:
The London Review is looking for an editorial intern. The job, which would suit a recent graduate, will last for a year from September, and will involve proof-reading, fact-checking and other even less glamorous jobs. You will be paid.
Want a job? Apply! Hey, you might even get a date while you're there....
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# Posted 4:06 PM by Patrick Belton  

SO SPEND IT on THIS!: Slate has a piece up this afternoon (by A.O. Scott, keeping to our Scott theme for today...) on Robert Lowell, making the important (to my mind) point that: "For more than 20 years, Lowell seemed to be more read about than read. Bidart's goal of restoring Lowell to his rightful place as a great poet may therefore require rescuing the poet from his biographers." Of course, Lowell's poems were about Lowell - and New England's Puritan and Brahmin past, which contribute to his psychic universe, together with the conflicting influences of Kenyon southern agrarianism and his very non-Brahmin bounded conversion to Rome - but precisely for that point, he's perhaps best approached through his poetry, on his own terms.

So for those of you who, like me, find yourselves alone on a Friday night, might find in Lowell a suitable pillow-companion. Start here, for starters...
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# Posted 11:34 AM by Patrick Belton  

AND HE SHOULD KNOW, ONE HOPES: The head of Shin Bet has told senior US administration officials this morning that if it comes to it, the Palestinian security services are in sufficiently good condition to be able to prevail over Hamas in a Palestinian civil war (via Kol Yisroel and Ha'aretz).

AND, to step gingerly into this vat of acid, I agree with David's arguments here.
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# Posted 11:20 AM by Patrick Belton  

GUESS I've disqualified myself from voting on our groupies by virtue of being married.... Oh well, our existing OxBabe thanks you.....
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Thursday, June 19, 2003

# Posted 9:05 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DOES ASSASSINATION WORK? Even though they have not made the front page for a few days now, targeted attacks on Hamas leaders are still a major point of contention. Whereas Palestinian negotiators want Israel to stop the attacks -- period -- the Sharon government insists that it has a right to kill any "ticking bombs", i.e. militants in the midst of planning imminent attacks.

While the definition of "imminent" is not a simple matter, Sharon's apparent willingness to forgo vengeance strikes and limit himself to pre-emptive ones suggests that he is amenable to compromise. I hope that this is what Sharon has in mind, since pre-emptive strikes are far more justifiable than punitive ones. No one (outside the Occupied Territories) can object to Israel saving the lives of its own citizens when they are in immediate danger. In contrast, punitive strikes raise the prospect of a Hamas, Fatah or Jihad counterstrike, forcing Israeli retaliation, necessitating a Palestinian response...(cf. "cycle of violence").

Now, I recognize that the "cycle of violence" argument does not have many friends in the blogosphere. While Matt Yglesias and the Armed Liberal have gotten my back on this one, Gene Volokh (posting on behalf of JZ), Martin Kimel (scroll down to June 14th), Dan Simon and others certainly don't.

While all of those arrayed against me make good arguments, they one question they always seem to avoid is "Why now?" In other words, why launch punitive strikes at the one moment when they could do the most possible damage to the peace talks?

The closest Sharon's defenders come to addressing this point is when they insist that killing off the Hamas leadership will benefit Abu Mazen by weakening his most prominent opponents on the Palestinian side. When I point out that such targeted attacks hurt Abu Mazen's credibility, they point out that Israel cannot afford "credibility" if that entails an acceptance of endless terror.

That point had me for a while, but I have figured out what's wrong with it. Targeted killings almost inevitably inflict civilian casualties regardless of whether they are successful in eliminating their intended target. If such deaths could be avoided, Palestinians might accept Abbas in spite of such attacks. Yet most Palestinians seem to feel that Israel must not be allowed to strike down innocent bystanders in the process of eliminating Hamas.

Of course, there is a significant minority that supports Hamas outright. Yet as Zvi Bar'el observes in Ha'aretz,
"Today the ambition of the Palestinian public is to go to work, to make a living, and therefore, to see the peace process advance...

While the attack was going on, seven thousand Palestinians were standing waiting to pass the terminal gates into Israel, only to be turned away because of the shooting.

When there is a period of no hope, no change, the Hamas 'rides high,' accumulating more and more popularity points among Palestinians. But the moment the pipeline to socio-economic welfare is opened, Hamas must immediately find an alternative. It can find a bad alternative in mounting a terror attack, which we cause Israel to clamp down, but in reading the 'map' today, Hamas knows that what people really want, is to go to work, to begin to live their lives again."
If Bar'el is right, then Abu Mazen has a very strong base of potential support. But regardless of how much Palestinians want work, they won't stand for innocent bystanders being slaughtered.

Is that a one-sided perspective, given constant attacks on Israeli civilians? Of course. At the same time, insisting on the sanctity of civilian life is hardly unreasonable.

In the final analysis, I stand by the "credibility" argument because I believe that the targeted assassination of Hamas officials alienates a constituency that is potentially pro-Abbas and pro-peace. And if Abbas can bring peace and prosperity, this same constituency will fall silent when he finally crushes Hamas.


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# Posted 8:11 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WAITING FOR POWELL: With the arrival of the Secretary of State now imminent, the participants in the Roadmap process have been making last-minute efforts to improve their negotiating positions.

Ariel Sharon has upset both Israeli doves and the New York Times by telling the Knesset that his government would crush Hamas if its attacks on Israeli citizens continued. Then Sharon ordered the armed forces to dismantle, for the first time, an inhabited Israeli settlement in the West Bank.

Given that actions speak louder than words, it would seem that Sharon wants to show Powell that he is serious about implementing the Road Map. At the same time, he is covering his right-wing with conditional threats to destory Hamas.

In the meantime, the Palestinian Authority has rejected an Israeli plan for withdrawal from Northern Gaza, arguing that the plan does not grant it either sufficient control or enough territory. At the same time, the PA is talking up the prospects of a ceasefire with Hamas and other militants.

In tandem, these two moves suggest that the PA wants Powell to believe that it can deliver a ceasefire provided that he forces the Israelis to make further concessions related to the Gaza withdrawal. The question, of course, is whether there is any hope of a Hamas ceasefire.

According to Zvi Bar'el, Arab affairs commentator for Ha'aretz, Hamas can invoke the concept of hudna, or truce, to justify a ceasefire that might otherwise seem to contradict its doctrine of unflagging resistance to Israel.

Under hudna, Hamas is permitted to cooperate with more moderate Palestinians in order to make tactical gains such as the establishment of a Palestinian. Once that happens, it can begin its resistance again. While that sort of Trojan Horse strategy is exactly what Israelis fear, there is no way to persuade Hamas to stop its attacks now unless it can be persuaded that a ceasefire is in its own best interests. The crux of the matter is to ensure that the PA government turns on Hamas once it relaunches its resistance.


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# Posted 7:06 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BURMA UPDATE: Randy Paul has the latest on the prosecution of foreign human rights cases in the US court system.
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# Posted 6:53 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

TOO CLEVER BY HALF: James Taranto has this to say about harsh conditions at Guantanamo:
Remember that New York Times sob story we noted yesterday about the illegal enemy combatants being held at Guantanamo Bay? Here's the last sentence in the Times article: "Hospital officials said that about 5 percent of the inmates were suffering from depression and that they were being treated with antidepressants, typically Zoloft."

Today's Times carries a story titled "More Americans Seeking Help for Depression," according to which "more than 16 percent of Americans--as many as 35 million people--suffer from depression severe enough to warrant treatment at some time in their lives." That means the Guantanamo inmates are much happier than Americans are! If that's so, could it be that they're being treated too humanely?
James' math may be somewhat off, but I have to admit I laughed.
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# Posted 2:31 PM by Daniel  

CHINESE AIR POWER. One of our Oxblog's greatest friends, Jackie Newmyer, opines on China's air power capabilities in Policy Review. Jackie, if you recall, skillfully argued against the Oxford Union's proposition that "America is the Greatest Threat to World Peace" back in February. She's so hot right now. Jackie.
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# Posted 12:42 PM by Patrick Belton  

OOPS. After two decades of selective abortion, Indian society has an acute shortage of women, particularly in the villages of the north.
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# Posted 11:48 AM by Patrick Belton  

BRUSHING YOUR TEETH IS BAD FOR YOU! Well, okay, only if you overdo it...but the story has been picked up with stereotypical ferocity in the British press: Guardian, Daily Telegraph, FT, Globe and Mail (okay, so Globe and Mail is Commonwealth...thanks, JG, for pointing that out...).
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# Posted 7:49 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ACE OF DIAMONDS: The United States has apprehended Abid Hamid Mahmoud al-Tikriti, the fourth most-wanted man in Iraq after Saddam Hussein and his sons. American forces captured Mahmound along with 50 other members of Saddam's special security forces along with $8.5 million in cash. Sounds like a quagmire to me.
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# Posted 12:54 AM by Patrick Belton  

THOMAS FRIEDMAN IS ON CRACK. You know, it takes real indisputable talent to be able to espouse basically sensible arguments and ideas, and yet manage to do it in a way that makes you almost unreadable to your audience. Case in point: Friedman argues, this week, that is in Israel's interests for Hamas to be rooted out, but by Abu Mazen's Palestinian Authority (albeit with substantial quiet U.S. and Israeli help), and not by Israeli tanks. Without wanting at the moment to engage a massive imbroglio, I happen to agree. But for the moment, that's immaterial: what seems fascinating is that, en route to making a fairly sensible (though not uncontroversial) argument, Friedman manages to drop such Friedmanisms as calling Hamas a "ragtag terrorist group" (I'll quibble with "ragtag," don't worry, not "terrorist"), and disputing whether the organization has ever had enough senior operatives and officials for Israel to have been able to kill as many senior Hamas members as it claims to have done. Call Hamas what you will - it doubtless deserves it. Peace will never come about until the organization is gone. But is Friedman on crack? Hamas is a mind-bogglingly vast organization, which includes an overt Da'wah arm, a security arm devoted to gathering information on suspected collaborators with Israel, multiple press and propaganda offices, three military arms (the Izz al-Din al-Qassam hit squads, the Aman, and al-Majahadoun al-Falestinioun), and an unequalled network of overt charitable activities and front fundraising organizations. As much as I agree with the one trick of Mr. Friedman's pony - i.e., that peace and security for Israel (and its neighbors) will require, eventually, a two-state solution and a moderate, secular, reformist government in Palestine - his frequent mistakes and inane comments lead even the most sympathetic reader to question whether he really gets the Middle East that well, after all.
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# Posted 12:27 AM by Patrick Belton  

SANCTIONS BREWING: The Senate has voted 97-1 to ban all imports from Burma and freeze its government's assets in the United States; the House will vote soon on a similar measure. The Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act, sponsored by Senator Mitch McConnell and Senator Diane Feinstein, also calls for the expulsion of the junta's envoy in Washington.

Want to read more? Good for you. See: BBC, testimony of Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Lorne Craner, Sen. Feinstein press release, and CFR report with recommended US actions.
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Wednesday, June 18, 2003

# Posted 9:23 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

POVERTY AND INEQUALITY: Thought we'd beaten that topic to death, didn't you? Not by a long shot. In Monday's WaPo, investor Steven Rattner presents an argument that is striking similar to the one on Calpundit.com that set off the whole inequality debate a while back. (For responses, see here, here and here.)

In short, Rattner argues that the poor are getting screwed and that the Bush tax cut will screw them even worse.

After reading Rattner's op-ed, I came across the following column in the NYT by poverty-fighter and Harvard sociologist William Julius Wilson. Based on the NYT summary of Wilson's column, I expected it to be identical Rattner's. According to the summary,
If the president's tax cuts cause huge budget deficits and further weaken the economy, we may again see the high levels of concentrated poverty recorded in 1990.
After reading Wilson's column, I began to wonder if Jayson Blair had written the summary.

Consider the following facts Wilson presents:
The number of people residing in high-poverty neighborhoods decreased by 24 percent, or 2.5 million people, from 1990 to 2000. Moreover, the number of such neighborhoods — the study defined them as census tracts with at least 40 percent of residents below the poverty level — around the country declined by more than a quarter...

...neither the spectacular rise in black [Americans'] concentrated poverty from 1970 to 1990, nor the dramatic decline from 1990 to 2000, can be explained mainly in terms of race. Rather, these shifts demonstrate that the fate of African-Americans and other racial groups is inextricably connected with changes across the modern economy...

So, just as blacks suffered greatly during the decades of growing separation between haves and have-nots, they benefited considerably from the incredible economic boom in the last half of the 1990's, which not only substantially reduced unemployment, including black unemployment, but sharply increased the earnings of all low-wage workers as well...
While Wilson does get around to saying that the Bush tax cut may reverse the gains of the past decade if it results in massive defecits and slower economic growth, his final message is rather different:
The lesson for those committed to fighting inequality, especially those involved in multiracial coalition politics, is to pay more scrutiny to fiscal, monetary and trade policies that may have long-term consequences for the national and regional economies, as seen in future earnings, jobs and concentrated poverty. We must remember that high-poverty neighborhoods reflect America, all of America.
As they used to say, a rising tide lifts all boats. Or is that just a pleasantly-worded justification for trickle-down economics?

While Wilson's arguments hardly justify the Bush tax cut -- to which I am still adamantly opposed -- they do suggest that poverty and inequality may have an inverse relationship to one another rather than a direct one. If economic growth (easier said than done) is the answer to poverty but also results in growing inequality, then what's wrong with inequality?
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# Posted 8:46 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DOES ASEAN MATTER? The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) is best known for its belief that subtlety is the essence of diplomacy and that public criticism can only aggravate interstate conflicts. In practice, this means that ASEAN members prefer to bury their heads in the sand rather than address the issues of the day.

Thus, it is heartening to see that all of ASEAN's member states (Myanmar excepted) have chosen to make a public demand for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi.

But why act now? Given all the inhumane actions taken by the junta before, why speak out now? As Daniel Drezner shrewdly observes, the Western media tend to portray ASEAN's response as a reflection of American and EU pressure, whereas the Southeast Asian media are reporting that ASEAN's criticism reflects a principled commitment to the rule of law and quiet diplomacy. Moreover, the Southeast Asian's argue that vocal Western criticism will only provoke an even more militant response from the Myanmar junta.

While Dan isn't sure which of these versions is a better reflection of reality, my experience with ASEAN suggests that its members are, in fact, responding to Western criticism, but denying their susceptibility to pressure in order to avoid both setting a precedent or exposing their vulnerability.

Yet as is always the case with ASEAN, actions speak louder than words. The question is, how far will ASEAN go? Will it only do enough to placate the West? Or will it go as far as to threaten Myanmar with expulsion from ASEAN if it continues to embarrass the other member states?

The initial reluctance of even the Philippines and Thailand -- ASEAN's most democratic states -- to speak out suggests that their is no real interest in confronting Burma.

However, united front presented by the United States, the EU and (lately) Japan, may have persuaded ASEAN that it cannot have credibility as an international actor if it doesn't confront those issues that are of concern to the world's leading states.

In practice, that means that ASEAN's member states will have to start monitoring each other's internal affairs. Before ASEAN expanded in the mid-90s to include Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar, this sort of monitoring would not have been much of a problem. But now ASEAN will have to ask itself "What matters more? Quantity or quality?"

Whereas quality enhances ASEAN's presence on the international stage, quantity helps protect the ASEAN states from Chinese aggression. For the moment, the Chinese threat is dormant because of the war on terror. But if the Middle East calms down and the Taiwan Strait heats up, there will be a real test of ASEAN's commitment to human rights and the rule of law.
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# Posted 2:33 PM by Patrick Belton  

OVER IN WASHINGTON, IN THE FOREIGN POLICY CREW I HELP RUN, my lovely wife has some remarkably good thoughts up on Thucydides, honor, and the war on terror. There are also fairly lengthy discussions of two issues raised in democracy promotion: the relationship of processes to objectives, and that between liberalization and broader democracy promotion efforts (here, here, and here). Lately, we've been doing a bit more jaw-jaw than blog-blog, but look for more to come out of this gang of young turks soon.....


UPDATE: And we're off! Archidamus has a lengthy response to Rachel's Thucidydes-and-counterrorism post from Nathan Hale (Rachel's post incidentally merited an Instalink). And many more interesting foreign policy discussions out of the DC Yale community no doubt to come.
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# Posted 2:05 PM by Patrick Belton  

CONGRATULATIONS, JOSH!!!! When you get done recovering, you can type out your answers for all of us to read. :) In the meantime, go have a drink on us!
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# Posted 12:29 PM by Patrick Belton  

FREE SPEECH IN NEW HAVEN: I've been asked by a reader to link to this essay by a Yale freshman on fairly reprehensible behavior by a genetics professor at Yale's medical school. Happily done. Professor Qumsiyeh, in conduct far unbecoming a professor (much less one at a university historically characterized by great respect and collegiality on the part of faculty for their students), sent a mass email at the end of the spring semester to members of a pro-peace student group, reporting his purported 'discovery' of a large overlap between the memberships of Yale Students for Democracy and Yale Friends of Israel. This was supposedly to be of interest because it apparently was to have demonstrated that for 15 years, a Jewish, Straussian, neo-conservative cabal had been planning to "put Israel and personal wealth ahead of U.S. public interests." (his words).

As Eliana points out, however, sleuthful, conspiracy-minded Professor Qumsiyeh sadly wasn't exactly as brilliant as he'd imagined,
Professor Qumsiyeh?s research was not quite as brilliant as he believed it to be; he had mistakenly copied the Yale Friends of Israel member list for comparison purposes rather than the member list of the Yale College Students for Democracy. He was therefore comparing two identical lists of members of the Yale Friends of Israel; not surprisingly, he found "significant overlap" between the two lists. And not surprisingly, Professor Qumsiyeh mistakenly named many students who were staunch opponents of the war in Iraq, and who were horrified at being identified as members of a pro-war cabal by dint of their affiliation with the Yale Friends of Israel.
Putting aside, though, the mistaken empirical basis of his epistle, Eliana notes "The message bears an ugly subtext consistent with Professor Qumsiyeh?s fevered "Jews on the brain" mania." Such behavior has no place whatsoever at a largely principled, humane, idealistic center of learning, and Eliana is right to bring it to widespread attention.

UPDATE: Incidentally, I just discovered Eliana also runs a very nice blog, which just moved to a new Movable Type site. Well done! OxBlog is sending over a bottle of blogwarming champagne.

UPDATE^2: Egads, I just realized Eliana was one of the two freshmen students we mentioned way back here.
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