Monday, October 06, 2003

# Posted 11:14 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

GENTLEMEN, PREPARE TO DEFEND YOURSELVES: Splinters are beginning to emerge from the mainstream media consensus that the occupation of Iraq has been a tragic failure -- more specifically, a failure resulting from the Bush Administration's incompetence.

For example, Andrew Sullivan points to the absolutely shocking contrast between these two articles on occupied Kirkuk. The first is from the New York Times. It tells us that
[Saddam] expelled tens of thousands of Kurds and replaced them with more loyal Arabs imported from elsewhere. A secret police force was recruited within each group to spy on rival communities...

Mr. Hussein is gone, but the effect survives. Late last month, a sudden burst of ethnic bloodletting in Kirkuk and a neighboring town left 13 people dead. The United States occupation administration quelled the violence through a combination of military muscle and forced negotiations.

But the lingering question remains whether the multiethnic city government being glued together under American tutelage can channel sectarian hatred away from bloodshed.
The NYT correspondent goes on to admit that "If [ethnic reconciliation] succeeds in Kirkuk, many believe, then the effort to create an Iraq unscathed by similar fault lines may succeed, too." Yet it is rather clear from the article that one should not expect this to happen. In contrast, the Philadelphia Inquirer tells us that
Kirkuk, a multiethnic city of Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen and Assyrians that is 150 miles north of the capital, may be the U.S. military's greatest Iraq success story. Attacks on soldiers are unusual, violent crime is low, and Iraqis have worked with Americans to restore basic services to prewar levels
Perhaps most shocking is that fact that American soldiers live in normal homes within the city rather than in fortified camps. In fact, the "soldiers of the 173d regularly eat and shop in local establishments and interact with residents." Given that the NYT and PI correspondents filed their stories within seven days of each other, the contrast between them is almost incomprehensible.

Perhaps even more surreal than this contrast is an article from the London Oberver (aka The Guardian on Sunday) which begins by blasting George W. Bush as the
head of a cabal that seeks to install a client regime in Iraq as a first step to bringing the region under American-Israeli control.
but then insists that
even in Baghdad, even with Saddam and his sons still at large, the sense of relief at the toppling of the regime was palpable.

A university lecturer living above a bakery where colleagues were burned alive told me: 'I feel as if I have been born again. Iraq was a prison above ground and a mass grave beneath it.'

Outside Baghdad, in the Shia south, the mood was overwhelmingly upbeat. In Basra, ordinary people gave the thumbs-up at the mere sight of a Brit. In Najaf, a waiter blew kisses.
Now the purpose of this isn't to make the same old point that the media hasn't been doing a good job of reporting on the occupation. It's purpose is to issue a direct challenge to intelligent pro-Democratic bloggers who still insist that the occupation is failure. The question is, will these liberal web giants wait until the media consensus on the quagmire has completely fallen apart, or will they get ahead of the curve and show that bloggers are consistently one step ahead of their dead-tree partisan allies?

Today, for example, Kevin Drum mocks the Bush Administration for rejiggering the bureaucratic hierarchy responsible for the occupation. While some might regard it as a sign of good things to come that the President is putting Condi Rice, his closest confidant, in charge of occupation oversight, Kevin regards it as a sign of total desperation.

Last we heard from Josh Marshall on this issue, he consdescendingly observed that those "right-wing columnists" naive enough to spin the UN bombing as a sign of progress were totally unable to comprehend just how bad things were going.

Matt Yglesias has been more effusive than most in advertising his belief that the United States has a compelling interest in establishing a lasting democratic order in Iraq. (Kevin has been pretty good about this too, though.) But he also argues tireless;y for bringing in the UN and multilateralizing the occupation (a strategy that OxBlog has never been fond of.)

So, Matt & Kevin (& Josh, if he has time) what do you say? Have we Iraq boosters finally persuaded you that media bias is more than a figment of the conservative imagination? Or is there a compelling case for the conventional wisdom that the occupation is a failure? En garde!

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# Posted 8:41 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BUSH COMPLICIT IN RUSSIAN CRIMES: I've already said that Vladimir Putin is a lying thug. What I haven't said (because I didn't realize it until now) is that George W. Bush deserved to be hit hard for his praise of Putin.

After reading this NYT article, I thought Bush has the good sense to damn Putin with faint praise. But then I took a look at Fred Hiatt's column in today's WaPo where he slams the President for saying that
"I respect President Putin's vision for Russia: a country at peace within its borders, with its neighbors, a country in which democracy and freedom and rule of law thrive."
While aides insisted that Bush sent a different message in private, that really isn't worth a damn. I think Hiatt isn't far off the mark in his closing statement that
When [Bush] praises Putin's vision of "democracy and freedom and rule of law in Russia," how can Bush expect anyone to believe that he is any more serious about his own commitment to democracy and freedom in Afghanistan or Iraq?
When it comes to the President's short-sightedness, Hiatt is absolutely right. This kind of hypocrisy doesn't speak well of Bush as human being. But politics is about more than being a good human being. Bush has invested a tremendous amount of political capital in the reconstruction of Iraq (less so Afghanistan), thus ensuring that his self interest is tied up with the objective of democratization. Even if you don't trust Bush to do the right thing, it wouldn't come as any surprise if he tried to save himself.

As you might have guessed, this analysis of the President's incentives is a direct application of the lessons derived from doctoral dissertation on Reagan's democracy promotion efforts. As I note in my dissertation, Reagan's behavior suggested that his initial commitment to a "worldwide democratic revolution" reflected a cynical desire for short term partisan advantage in his endless war with Congress over Central America. Yet precisely because Reagan hammered home the pro-democratic message so powerfully and so often, both Republicans and Democrats began to expect a certain sort of behavior from the President.

When it came to Nicaragua, Reagan was willing to invest the political capital necessary to support Contra forces only marginally committed to democratization. Yet when it come to less important countries such as the Philippines, Chile and South Korea, Reagan recognized that he didn't have enough political capital left to persuade either the American public (or even his fellow Republicans) to support those nations faltering dictators.

Now, Bush may decide to invest all of his political capital in persuading the American public to accept a less-than-democratic outcome in Iraq and Afghanistan. But I sense that the President has other priorities, such as ensuring his re-election and (perhaps) supporting another tax cut. Thus, doing the right thing in Iraq (and possibly Afghanistan) may be no different than following the path of least resistance.
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# Posted 8:34 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SPEECH DEFECT: This WaPo masthead notes that "only 54 State Department officers are fully qualified in Arabic". That is un-frikkin'-believable. We have embassies in more than 20 Arabic-speaking countries. Just who the hell works there?

Well, I guess that good news is that once I finish my coursework in Arabic I will be very, very, VERY employable. (NB: Take the rest of the WaPo editorial with a grain of salt.)
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# Posted 7:57 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PUTIN STILL A LYING THUG: OJ Simpson must be giving this guy lessons in chutzpah. He says the occupation of Chechnya is a success and that Russia continues to make "tremendous progress" towards democracy. On the bright side, Putin had the good sense to make fun of California for its carnivalesque recall vote. I bet Putin is glad he won't have to face one of those...
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Sunday, October 05, 2003

# Posted 11:41 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE KAY REPORT: An excellent WaPo editorial evaluates the significance of the report.
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# Posted 11:20 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ONION OR WAPO? Wesley Clark believes that human beings will some day perfect the art of time travel. Dave Letterman responds: "As a matter of fact, earlier today [Clark] went back in time to remove his foot from his mouth."
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# Posted 11:13 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

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# Posted 10:45 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

JOE WILSON'S POLITICS: Kevin Drum takes a careful look at Joe Wilson's background and discovers, lo and behold, that Wilson was eminently qualified for the Niger mission as well as somewhat hawkish on using force in Iraq. In short, Wilson was not exactly the "avowed opponent of the war" that the WSJ has imagined.

PLUS: Peter Beinart demolishes the conservative media's effort to defend the administration.
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# Posted 8:00 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DECISIVE COMMAND: NYT military correspondent Michael Gordon is defending Wesley Clark from unfair attacks on his record as a general. Also, despite allegations to the contrary by Howard Dean, Clark was never a Republican. Then again, why should Dean know what party Clark belongs to if Clark himself isn't sure?
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# Posted 7:40 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SADISTS IN THE DUGOUT: I am a Yankee fan. More importantly, I have been a Yankee fan since the age of six. I suffered along with Mattingly from his first season to his last, not once taking a division title. I watched as my friends celebrated the Amazin' Mets' World Series victory in 1986 as well as their general excellence throughout the second half of that decade.

So when the Yankees started to win again when I was in college, I felt that I deserved it. I was no fairweather fan. But now I have to ask myself, do I really want the Yankees to win yet another World Series? Before answering that question, let me say that I am definitely rooting for the Red Sox to win Game 5 in Oakland. The explanation for that is simple enough: it would be much more gratifying to watch the Yankees beat the Red Sox than to let the A's do the dirty work instead.

But what if the ALCS is a Boston-New York affair? Don't the Sox deserve a chance to win it all after their 40 years in the desert? (More than 40 actually, but precision would've taken away from the biblical metaphor.) My answer to that question depends on whether the Cubs are able to prevail in the NL playoffs. If they are, wouldn't a Cubs-Red Sox series be an event of national importance, worth far more to baseball fans across American than another Yankee assault on the title?

But more importantly -- and this is were the unbridled sadism comes in -- could you imagine anything more delicious than watching the Red Sox lose to the Cubs? It would be another Bill Buckner moment. A series for the taking. A series against the one franchise with a postseason record as dismal as the Red Sox's own.

And so I face the sadist's dilemma: What my matters more? My own pleasure...or my enemies' pain?
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# Posted 7:05 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

STAND BY YOUR MAN: It's nice to see Maureen Dowd (implicitly) sticking by shop-a-holic Arnold Schwarzenegger despite all the charges of sexual harassment. It's also nice to see her slamming Hillary Clinton, Ann Richards and Gloria Steinem for their hypocrisy. But as Josh has always said, Dowd is capable of first rate work when politics gets reduced to personality flaws. It's just the actual issues she has trouble with.
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Saturday, October 04, 2003

# Posted 1:10 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LOW BLOW: Daniel Drezner says the LA Times is not being nice to a certain Austrian.
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# Posted 12:58 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CONSERVATIVES DIVIDED: CalPundit rounds up the right-wing media's debate over the significance of L'Affaire Wilson. It isn't everyday Kevin admits that 50% of the GOP media machine is staffed by honest and competent individuals! (For Kevin's sake, I hope Paul Krugman doesn't get wind of this.)
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# Posted 12:13 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

I DEMAND A NEW STATISTIC: "On Day Without Deaths, GIs Remain Alert" -- that a headline from today's WaPo. Toward the end of the article beneath it, the Post reports that
The number of Iraqis killed by explosives apparently intended for occupation forces climbed by two today when a bomb exploded in a traffic circle south of Tikrit.
Of course, it's hard to know the significance of a number climbing by two if one doesn't know that number in the first place. Which is why the time has come for the media to keep tabs on just how many Iraqis have lost their lives as a result of Ba'athist attacks on occupation forces.

My guess is that there is at least one Iraqi civilian killed for every US soldier taken down. (Naturally, that projection doesn't include the victims of intentional attacks, such as those on UN headquarters or the Najaf mosque.) In the past nine days, fifteen Iraqi civilians have died in attacks on US soldiers. In that same period, American forces have suffered two combat fatalities and lost three soldiers in truck or car accidents.

The real question, of course, is why come up with a number at all? First, it may have an effect on the population of the Sunni Triangle, which may then prove more willing to cooperate with US forces. But more importantly, it will make a point to American audiences: Our soldiers are not being shot by Iraqi nationalists outraged at the thought of occupation. They are being shot by extremists whose selfishness is so great that they don't care how many of their fellow Iraqis die so long as America bleeds.
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# Posted 12:04 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A NOBLE NOBEL? Oswaldo Paya should win the Nobel Peace Prize. It's the best chance the award committee has of restoring its lost prestige -- not to mention doing something good for the world.
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Friday, October 03, 2003

# Posted 7:48 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LIMBAUGH NABBED...BY THOUGHT POLICE? MV makes a strong case that I've been unfair to Rush Limbaugh because I don't know what I'm talking about when it comes to pro football. (NB: This is a different MV, not the onanistic Frog mentioned in my previous post who (presumably) knows nothing about the NFL.) Anyhow, MV writes that
I usually read you because you offer constructive and valid criticism of the Bush administration’s handling of Iraq, among other things. But to say Rush’s comments about Donovan McNabb were comparable to Trent Lott’s is utterly ignorant. First of all, why did Michael Irvin, who is black, say “Rush has a good point” in the very same segment Rush made those comments.

Secondly, the only thing negative Rush said about McNabb was that he wasn’t as good as everyone makes him out to be. He accused the MEDIA of elevating McNabb’s status as a player because of his skin color. There’s no doubt what he said was politically incorrect, but it was also a very valid and legitimate point. Check out Slate’s defense of Rush.

...So before you indiscriminately compare Rush to Trent Lott’s remarks, put things into some perspective.
I read the Slate article that MV mentioned and I think it's pretty good. I pretty much accept that many commentators wanted McNabb to succeed because he is black (which isn't necessarily a bad thing). But that is not the same as pretending that McNabb is doing well when in fact he wasn't.

Thus, what I'd appreciate are good examples of the media being extra nice to McNabb because of his race. Given how easily this website comes up with examples of media bias, I imagine these wouldn't be too hard to find. So to some degree, I'm agnostic on this one, espeically because I don't know all that much about pro football (or any kind of football). Still, I think Dan Drezner's point about McNabb is pretty persuasive:
There are now a lot of successful black quarterbacks in the NFL -- see Steve McNair, Michael Vick, Aaron Brooks, etc. The media focused on McNabb because he was good (I say this as a New York Giants fan) and looked great playing on TV.
Finally, with regard to the Trent Lott analogy, that was mostly humor. No question Lott's comments were of a different order of magnitude. But there is something about having a brand-name conservative forced out of a prestigious job (before it even began) because of his un-PC remarks. I suspect Rush won't be the last one to have a Trent Lott moment...

UPDATE: The NYT has harsh words for Limbaugh, but evades the issue of whether McNabb was a star or just a product of hype. Now that's unfair.

UPDATE: Matt Yglesias points to this post by the NRO's Robert George, which says there's no evidence McNabb was overrated because he was black.
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# Posted 7:16 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

POTTER & FREUD, CONT.: Sadly, my (mis)reading of Harry Potter has not generated any of the outrage Josh expected, but it has produced some interesting comments, to say the least. Blogivore MD says
Hopefully, tongue fully in cheek. Non-Freudian interpretation of this comment is recommended.
MD, I'm not going to go there. (NB: "blogivore" refers to one who has a tremendous appetite for blogs, just as "carnivore" has come, in common parlance, to refer to someone with a great appetite for meat.)

Next, MC Masterchef observes that I am not the first to read far too much in to JK Rowling's prose, whether intentionally or unintentionally.

Now, as far as the next couple of comments are concerned, I suggest that you don't read any further unless you are over the age of 18 (or 21 in some states and 14 in Europe). According to ER,
You need to date more. Or at least go hit a few strip shows. That logic of yours is an incredible stretch. By your own rules we should find all sorts of ribald nonsense in say "Moby Dick".
Hmmm. I don't usually think of dating and going to strip clubs as interchangeable activities. After all, when you go on a date you pretend to like the girl, but when you go to a strip club the girl pretends to like you. (Note to my secret admirers: That last comment was no less tongue in cheek than my reading of Harry Potter. I am always extremely sincere when going on dates.)

Finally, MV asks
Hand lotion? That sounds like a very American, and/or Jewish concept. We Christian Europeans still have everything, if you see what I mean, and therefore we don't need any lotion. Sorry for bragging... We may be wankers ("the French"...), but at least we are good at it.
First response, a joke: Why do Jews circumcise their sons? Because they always demand 10% off everything.

Second of all, I'll have you know MV, that us Semitic folk only deduct 10% from what nature has given us in order to make all you goyim feel less insecure by way of comparison. And I'll have you know that both shiksas and yiddishe madels rate us higher than all you Frog types. So there!
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Thursday, October 02, 2003

# Posted 8:41 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HARRY POTTER -- A FREUDIAN (MIS)READING: I keep telling myself that a cigar is just a cigar. But the more I read of the Harry Potter books, the more obvious it becames that they're real subject isn't magic, but sex.

I first got a sense of what was going on when I went to see Harry Potter & The Chamber of Secrets back in Oxford. It turns out that one can only enter this Chamber through a secret opening in the girls' bathroom at Hogwarts. Once inside the Chamber, Harry does battle with a tremendous snake that submits once Harry uses his sword.

Now, when I finally got around to reading the books, it all started to become more obvious. Any of you remember the scene where Harry gets his first magic wand? It's pretty much an extended discussion of how long other wizards' wands are, measured in inches. Sort of reminds me of eighth grade.

Next up, consider this passage from Chamber of Secrets (American edition):
WHAT HAVE I TOLD YOU," thundered [Harry's] uncle, spraying spit over the table, "ABOUT SAYING THE 'M' WORD IN OUR HOUSE?"

"But I -- "

"HOW DARE YOU THREATEN DUDLEY!" roared Uncle Vernon, pounding the table with his fist.

"I just -- "

Now, it turns out that the "M-word" is magic, at least according to a superficial reading of the text. I think it's pretty clear, however, that what the book is really talking about is Masturbation.

All in all, the message of the Harry Potter books is one of sexual liberation. Is it any coincidence that Harry's unmagical relatives force him to live in a closet?

In the second book, author JK Rowling contrasts the repressive atmosphere at the home of Harry's aunt and uncle with the relaxation and freedom found at the house of Ron Weasley, whose parents are wizards.

When Harry first enters Ron's room, he notices that "Ron's magic wand was lying on top of a fish tank full of frog spawn on the windowsill." (Page 40) Kleenex and hand lotion anyone?

Coincidentally, we discover the frog spawn just after Harry and Ron finish whacking their gnomes. Literally. As the book informs us, such gnomes are "small and leathery looking, with a large knobby bald head exactly like a potato" (Page 37). Need I say more?

All in all, it's surprising that the main controversy surrounding the Potter books has been their alleged endorsement of un-Christian witchcraft. But from where I stand, doing magic tricks is the least of the problems one should expect from children who are taught to play with their wands...

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# Posted 8:15 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LIMBAUGH NABBED: Dan Drezner rounds up the reaction to Rush Limbaugh's Trent Lott moment.
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# Posted 8:10 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MAN OF MYSTERY: TAPPED's authors are now signing their posts, so you won't have to guess which ones are by Matt Yglesias.
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# Posted 8:07 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WILSON/PLAME: CalPundit has a whole lot of posts up, with the most recent one here.
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# Posted 8:00 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MARSHALL PLAYS SOFTBALL: A couple of days ago, Josh Marshall got to interview Wesley Clark. Abandoning his usual attack-dog style, Marshall decided not to get tough with the General.

At first, I though Marshall was just tossing softballs so that Clark would let down his guard and be more candid. But that wasn't the case.

As I see it, going easy on an interview subject isn't necessarily a bad decision. Sometimes a confrontational approach shuts down the communication process and prevents candidates from really expressing themselves. But in this instance, going easy on Clark produced nothing but vague and evasive answers.

For example, Clark said that
Before you pick a party, make sure you know why you're picking a party. Make sure you understand what the partisan political process is in America. What does it commit you to? What does it mean? How does it affect the rest of your life? What is it all about? And so I thought I'd take a look at both parties...

And it was clear as I looked at the parties, looked at the culture, watched the dialogue, it wasn't just that I had voted for Al Gore, I really believed in what the Democratic party stood for. And so when it came time to choose a political party, I chose the Democratic party.
Marshall tried to pull a little bit more out of Clark by asking him which wing of the Democratic party he gravitates toward, but didn't get much of an answer. This resulted in Clark saying that
I have strong views. I have strong feelings about what's right and what's wrong in the way of policy.
What are those views? Beats me. In the interview, Clark comes close to being specific only when recycling standard Democratic criticisms of the current administration: Too ideological, too unilateral, too many tax cuts.

The one passage in the interview that has sparked some controversy is the one in which Clark gave Josh exactly what he wanted to hear: a denunciation of the neo-conservatives' pernicious but little noticed role in the making of American foreign policy. Strangely, Clark holds the Project for a New American Century responsible for Clinton's decision to take a hardline on Iraq in 1998.

In response, the NY Sun ran a somewhat hysterical column denouncing Clark as a conspiracy theorist. Unsurprisingly, Josh responded with a long post praising Clark's extraordinary insight into the foreign policymaking process. Isn't it amazing how smart people are when they agree with you?

Anyhow, I thought the most disturbing part of Clark's interview was where he talked about what counts as a victory in Iraq:
The elements of it might be the following: What kind of government? A unitary Iraq? Maybe a federalized Iraq? A common language, common currency, common -- no customs problems inside Iraq. Common schools, common flag, all the symbols of nationhood.

So, you want to hold Iraq together. And, a country that doesn't threaten its neighbors, and a government that has enough security wherewithal to be able to protect itself and not become a recruiting base for al Qaida. And an Iraq that's able to be integrated into the modern world. So if you lay out those five criteria in some way, you probably could come up with a definition of success.
God forbid that the words "democracy" or "human rights" should pass the General's lips. Or think of this way: here's a man who brags about standing up to Slobodan Milosevic and forcing the Pentagon to fight in Kosovo, but can't say anything about the importance of freedom in Iraq?

While the chances are quite good that I would favor Wes Clark if the race came down to one between him and Howard Dean, I think it's becoming increasingly clear that Clark doesn't really know why he wants to be President.
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# Posted 6:56 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HOW NOT TO RUN AN OCCUPATION: The Kremlin is in the process of sabotaging upcoming "elections" in Chechnya. Now what was it that people were saying about giving other Security Council members greater influence in Iraq?
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# Posted 6:53 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

Teachers are still paid poorly, but received salary increases from the U.S.-led occupation authority. Their monthly salary is now between $67 and $333 a month. During Hussein's rule, the wages ranged from $5 to $13 a month.
A damn good investment, if you ask me.
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# Posted 6:46 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHAT IS LE BIG DEAL? Rather than jumping all over George Bush as one might expect, the French are coming off as surprisingly complacent about "L'affaire Wilson". You have to give'em credit for being consistent when it comes to abuses of presidential power -- they didn't complain much about Saddam, either.
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# Posted 6:21 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WELL, HE IS MARRIED TO A KENNEDY: Arnold admits he has behaved less than admirably around women.
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# Posted 6:15 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NORTH KOREAN OLIVE BRANCH? The government says it has no intentions of exporting nuclear technology.

UPDATE: Kevin Drum and the WaPo have a very different take on this one than myself and the NYT.
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Wednesday, October 01, 2003

# Posted 8:22 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

EMPOWERING AMERICA: The WaPo says that empowerment is the secret of Howard Dean's success. The question is, can Dean empower centrists and independents as well as committed Democrats? And can he keep his foot out of his mouth in the process of doing so? (Not that Clark is any better on that count...)
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# Posted 8:12 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

GOT OUR BACKS: TAPPED is (indirectly) defending myself and Mr. Chafetz from Andrew Sullivan.
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# Posted 7:57 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PARALLEL FISKING: CalPundit introduces a revolution in layout aesthetics. Plus, Kevin says Gray Davis is about to be Terminated.
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# Posted 7:46 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

TEMPEST IN A D-CUP: Beware of killer breasts.

UPDATE: OxBlog medical correspondent Dr. BL says that the killer breasts mentioned above should not be confused with these killer breasts, which happen to be fictional.
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# Posted 7:42 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CONFUSION AND IRONY: At first, Democratic legislators told President Bush he wasn't doing enough to rebuild Iraq. Now they're telling him he's doing too much. (While still insisting he isn't doing enough in Afghanistan.)

Instead of an outright grant, Senate Democrats (along with some Republicans) want American aid to come in the form of a loan secured against Iraq's expected oil revenues. You know, I never thought I'd see the day that a White House run by oil executives would be criticized by its opponents for not taking enough of an interest in Iraqi oil.

Fortunately, both the NYT and WSJ agree that demanding repayment from Iraq is both morally unacceptable and politically unwise. Moreover, the Times is right that the Democrats should focus on ensuring a fair bidding process for reconstruction contracts rather than adding to Iraq's debt burden.

Finally, if the Democrats straightened out their priorities, they might be able to focus the President's attention on emerging challenges to democracy and human rights in Afghanistan. More importantly, let's just hope General Clark has his head on straight when it comes Iraq and Afghanistan.
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# Posted 7:31 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BETRAYING THE REVOLUTION: Nick Kristof writes that
A generation ago, Americans protested and held divestment rallies in a snowballing movement against the injustices of South African apartheid...

These days, an incomparably greater injustice — random sickness and death, often striking infants — ravages South Africa.

[President] Mbeki's know-nothing obstructionism has killed incomparably more South Africans than any apartheid leader ever did.
Those are harsh words coming from such a staunch liberal. Imagine saying that Ben Gurion killed more Jews than Hitler. The sad thing is, Kristof is probably right. Mbeki's negligence is criminal.

But is there any hope for change? I guess I'd say there is a possibility, if not much hope. I suspect that change will only come if Nelson Mandela is willing to risk his reputation as South Africa's founding father and demand that Mr. Mbeki and the ANC start acting responsibly.

While Mandela does often say the right things about AIDS, he does not say them loud enough. He is an old man who seems afraid of risking his incalculable prestige by taking a controversial position on the major issues of the day.

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Tuesday, September 30, 2003

# Posted 11:15 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THOUGHTS: I just want to send all my best to SS, who's in the hospital right now. Here's to a quick and full recovery.
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# Posted 11:02 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SUICIDE AND IDEOLOGY: Scholar Martin Kramer has put up a very good response to Robert Pape's argument that suicide bombings are not an ideological phenomenon.
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# Posted 10:46 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LIBERATING IRAQ...FROM TARIFFS: Dan Drezner says free trade is already benefitting Iraq tremendously. But Juan Cole thinks free trade is a Chalabist scam (and Josh Marshall agrees). I know which way my instincts go on this one, but I don't have any actual evidence.
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# Posted 10:27 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

GRAHAM CRACKED? I haven't seen anything in the papers yet, but I think it won't be long before he drops out. Mid-level campaign staffers are losing their jobs and some of the upper-mid-level folks are already talking to the Clark campaign.
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# Posted 10:19 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NO DANGER OF THAT: Matt Yglesias kindly warns me not to confuse Harvard with America.
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# Posted 10:02 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CALLING TPM: Why isn't Josh Marshall all over Dick Cheney's ridiculous defense of his assertion that Saddam was involved in the Sept. 11th attacks? Probably because Josh is focused "like a laser" on the Wilson/Plame scandal. If you want the latest on "Wilsongate", TPM is the place to go.

Also, it seems that Josh doesn't have enough time to invest in good publicity photos. As we all know, TPM features a photo of unshaven hipster Josh, gazing dreamily throught geek-chic glasses at what seems to be an invisible computer screen. Compare that to the snapshot of Josh running in his most recent Hill column. He's wearing a suit and scowling like he's got indigestion. Plus, what happened to "Micah"? Everyone knows that middle names are cool. If you don't got one, you're nothing. Right, W.?
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# Posted 9:42 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MY SPIDER-SENSE IS TINGLING: The NYT reports that Bush's 2000 campaign manager has set up a lobbying firm devoted to helping corporations get reconstruction contracts for Iraq.

In theory, there's nothing wrong with that. There are lobbyists for everything. But wouldn't it help for the administration to have a bidding process that was a lot more transparent? It almost makes you wonder if Paul Krugman is coming back into touch with reality. (But notice the cheapshot Krugman takes at Bechtel; if you read the WaPo story his accusation is based on, you'll see it's pretty unfair.)

UPDATE: Josh Marshall was all over this one before the NYT. Scroll up for further details.
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# Posted 9:16 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BAD NEWS & DIRTY POLITICS: In yesterday's Best of the Web, James Taranto catches WaPo correspondent Dana Milbank admitting that the media is looking for bad news in Iraq. Presumably for reasons of space, Jim left out the following Milbank quote, which I thought was even more damning:
MILBANK: What happened with President Bush is he was doing well for so long because of September 11. I think there was a lot of pent-up frustration in the press corps. They were waiting for that moment when there was, No. 1, a scandal, or, No. 2, a major policy failure.

KURTZ: They were waiting to jump on the president, waiting for him to stumble.

MILBANK: Yes, and that's not Bush in particular. Any president would get that.
What's really surprising is that Milbank answered Kurtz's question in the affirmative. I assumed Kurtz was baiting him, daring him to say the media wanted to make Bush look bad.

Now Milbank is probably right that the media would do that to any president. Hey, even Jimmy Carter got mercilessly thrashed by his ideological teammates.

But it's still pretty warped to think that the media would want to take the President down just because of his success (or perception thereof). That's even worse than an ideological or partisan bias. At least in those cases it's a matter of principle or politics. But resenting someone for their success is just short-sighted and childish, not to mention a betrayal of journalists obligation to their audience.

Then again, it isn't fair to condemn the entire press corps on the basis of one statment from one correspondent. Besides, Milbank deserves credit for being honest, i.e. telling us how he does his reporting.

CLARIFICATION: The original version of this post referred to Dana Milbank using feminine pronouns. This was a reflection of my ignorance, not an insidious effort to undermine Mr. Milbank's masculinity. And thanks to RiceGrad for catching my mistake. Also, Josh reminds me (via e-mail) that Aziz Poonawalla is a woman, not a man.
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# Posted 9:01 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SPEAKING OF CULTURE WARS: Maybe David Brooks should've have written about the one going on between Japan & China.
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# Posted 8:54 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THROWING THE BOOK AT BROOKS: I don't know why I have it in for this guy. He's intelligent. He's moderate. But sometimes it seems like the broad social trends he identifies are fantasies cut from whole cloth.

Today, David Brooks writes that the Culture Wars have been replaced by attempted assassination of the President's character. It happened to Clinton and now its happening to Bush. Brooks writes:
During the 1980's, when the culture wars were going full bore, the Moral Majority clashed with the People for the American Way. Allan Bloom published "The Closing of the American Mind" and liberals and conservatives argued over the 1960's.
Uh, hello? Does anyone remember Ronald Reagan and how much both mainstream Democrats and committed liberals hated him? In fact, Reagan played a critical role in the Culture Wars, with opponents charging that his cliche vision of America as a Norman Rockwell painting was a deceptive facade behind which Republicans hid a radical right agenda.

The big point Brooks seems to miss is that the current occupant of the White House is always at the center of debates about American culture. The American President is the ultimate celebrity. No other figures commands to close to as much attention from the media, even if the question of the day is "Boxers or briefs?"

Brooks is right that abortion and other issues of personal morality are not in command of the headlines the way they once were. But what do you expect after 9-11? We're still fighting culture wars, except this time the playing field is foreign policy.
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# Posted 8:32 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

RUMSFELD LISTENS TO OXBLOG: Last week, the SecDef published a contentious op-ed in the WaPo. This week he has an almost identical column in the WSJ Online edition. Identical, except for the fact that every argument OxBlog criticized has been taken out. Maybe those "dod.gov" hits were coming from the Secretary's office...

Also, Rumsfeld notes that
In Iraq, virtually all major hospitals and universities have been re-opened, and hundreds of secondary schools--until a few months ago used as weapons caches--have been rebuilt and were ready for the start of the fall semester.
Around here, we're still using the secondary schools as weapons caches!

PLUS: The WSJ has some sensible comments about reducing Iraq's debt burden.
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# Posted 8:22 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

VASECTOMY DELAYS TUBE COMMUTERS: While breakdowns are standard fare for the British rail system, I never suspected that this was the cause. (Special thanks to JK for the link.)
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Monday, September 29, 2003

# Posted 1:15 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BROOKS YET AGAIN: I really want to go to sleep, but after seeing Glenn cite this post from Juan Non-Volokh, I just had to respond.

Juan writes that
When I was an undergraduate at Yale, I had several long discussions with my senior essay advisor about whether to pursue my PhD. My advisor, who was himself quite liberal, cautioned against it, largely because of my emerging, right-of-center political views. As he described it, succeeding in the liberal arts academy is tough enough as it is without the added burden of holding unpopular views. To illustrate the risk, he noted that one of his colleagues on the graduate admissions committee explicitly blackballed each and every candidate who had ever received financial support (scholarships, fellowships, etc.) from the John M. Olin Foundation because, his colleague insisted, the Olin Foundation only funded people who thought like they did, and Yale did not want any graduate students who thought that way. If I truly wanted to be an academic, he counseled, I was better off going to law school.
So I guess I must be pretty f***ed, given that I'm a fellow at the John M. Olin Institute for Strategic Studies. Then again, I'm headed for DC, so it's no skin off my back.

But seriously...prior Olin fellows have an extremely impressive track record of finding tenure-track positions at top-tier universities. Moreover, we're very much part of the mainstream here at Harvard. And finally, I can assure you that the rest of the Olin Fellows don't share either the Foundation's political views or my own.

So, is there a message here? First, read the rest of Juan's post. He has some excellent insights into the hiring process which aren't quoted above. Second, I agree with the points Juan makes in the rest of his post, namely that anti-conservative sentiment is rarely a direct factor in the hiring process. However, it shapes the environment in a way that it makes it hard for conservatives to feel comfortable.

In so many words, Juan does a far more eloquent job than myself of arguing for the importance of self-selection in the hiring process.
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# Posted 12:58 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MORE ACADEMIC FASCISM: Yesterday, I discounted David Brooks' concern that the liberal academy persecutes conservative professors and graduate students. The question is, am I being naive?

JG says
I do not quite understand how you can argue that there partisan political ideas do not affect the hiring process. If that is the case, how do you explain the fact that America is divided roughly equally between conservatives, liberals, and independents, and yet the academy is 90% liberal?

I mean that as an honest question, not rhetorically...at my college and among most of my friends, the idea that you could vote for Bush is considered beyond the pale. I had a friend from college (now getting a PhD in physics at Cornell) who said, matter-of-factly, that someone he knew "opposed the war in Iraq - as any reasonable person would." Well, since I supported the war in Iraq, I objected to this. We ended up having a very good conversation about it (he's a very open-minded person), and he concluded that my position was rational and that conservatives weren't as crazy as he thought - and that he simply had been in an environment where no one had ever even bothered to understand conservative views.
So why are 90% of professors liberal? One answer might be self-selection. Given how liberal the academy is, how many conservatives would actually want to spend their entire professional lives there? There's a lot more respect available elsewhere, not to mention financial rewards and job security (after all, tenure is rather hard to come by).

Obviously, I don't have empirical evidence to back up my claim. But I am very skeptical of those who look at the numbers and assume that active prejudice is responsible for the divide.

By way of comparison, think about journalism. Most reporters are left-of-center. But that's because the left valorizes journalism in a way that the right simply does not.

Now what about the evidence of active prejudice that I dismissed as hearsay? Michael Ledeen writes that
Anecdotally, I have spoken to many young academics who are concealing their true political convictions because they know that they will never get tenure as conservatives, but only as liberals.
Adding fuel to the fire, AC describes a strange incident at the University of Michigan in which a Nigerian professor sued the University, charging that the lesbian feminist chair of his department denied him tenure because he wasn't a woman.

Now, what this all reminds me of is a column I wrote for the Yale Daily News a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. (Btw, many thanks to the YDN for continuting to archive all of my old columns online, along with those of my fellow columnists.)

Anyhow, in said column I took issue with student activists who argued that sexism was responsible for the predominance of men on the Yale faculty. While writing the column, I had the chance to sit down with two representatives of the Yale Women's Center who passionately believed that sexism was responsible for the gender imbalance.

I found their arguments unpersuasive, however, precisely because they rested on exactly the same sort of hearsay that Brooks and others rely on to demonstrate the anti-conservative prejudice of the academy. This is not to deny that some of this hearsay evidence reflects actual instances of prejudice.

Rather, I suspect that those who focus on the hearsay tend to ignore much more compelling arguments for the absence of certain sorts of professors, be they female or conservative. (With regard to women, I listed the other relevant arguments in my column.)

While I haven't researched the hiring process as it pertains to conservatives, I think one has address two big points before crying wolf: First is the issue of self-selection, as mentioned above. Has anyone actually documented the political preferences of grad school applicants? By the same token, what explains the decisions of so many conservative Ph.D.s to leave the academy? Was it prejudice or opportunity?

Second is an issue briefly mentioned in yesterday's post, i.e. the influence of esoteric methodological debates on hiring practices. Given the demonstrated importance of such concerns, shouldn't we look at them first before concluding that political concerns drive the hiring process?

I'm not saying that I have the answers to these questions. But I think David Brooks should've made a much more serious effort to address them before deciding that liberals are the one to blame.
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# Posted 12:14 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WITH FRIENDS LIKE THIS: Never a fan of Ahmed Chalabi, OxBlog asked last week why the INC chief was echoing French demands for an immediate transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqi council.

Well, we may now have an answer. According to an internal report by the Defense Intelligence Agency, all of the information provided by Chalabi & Co. before the war was completely worthless. Thus, Chalabi may have assumed that his days as a Pentagon protege were numbered, and figured that the sooner America is out of Iraq, the better for him.

After all, Chalabi only has a position on the Iraqi council thanks to American influence. If elections are ever held, he'll probably become nothing than a footnote in Iraqi history. But if the council becomes the first sovereign Iraqi government, Chalabi may be in a position to consolidate his power base despite having negligible popular support.

Of course, this is all speculation. But there is good reason to only expect the worst from Chalabi.
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# Posted 12:00 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE LESSONS OF (RECENT) HISTORY: The British have been involved a quiet nation-building exercise in Sierra Leone since 1998. The United States may want to consider the implications.
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Sunday, September 28, 2003

# Posted 11:53 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

I WANT A RAISE! This morning's paper says that
Harvard, whose endowment was already the largest in the country, earned a 12.5 percent return on its investments in the 2003 fiscal year (which ended June 30) helping its endowment climb to $19.3 billion. Investment experts said the gain was not only one of the highest among colleges, but also among large financial funds generally.
I'd also like my own office, preferably with a window. And a pony.
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Saturday, September 27, 2003

# Posted 8:46 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DUELING HEADLINES: The WaPo says "Bush, Putin Urge Iran, N. Korea to Abandon Suspected Nuclear Weapons Programs". The NYT says "Russia Won't End Accord With Iran to Build Reactor"

I'm going to have to go with the NYT on this one. Putin is a lying thug. And what is going on at the WaPo? Last week, it ran an editorial saying Putin is a lying thug. Now they're making nice?

Well, at least W. isn't going on anymore about seeing into Putin's soul. Instead, he damns him with faint praise: "I like [Putin]. He's a good fellow to spend quality time with." They used to say that about Brezhnev, too.
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# Posted 8:28 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LEFT-WING FASCISTS: David Brooks says the liberal academy is making life impossible for aspiring conservative professors.

I don't buy it. First of all, Brooks' evidence consists mostly of hearsay statements made by those with axes to grind. Thus, I'm glad Brooks is fair enough to quote Volokh Conspirator Jacob T. Levy, who observes that
...some conservatives exaggerate the level of hostility they face. Some politicized humanities departments may be closed to them, he concedes, but professors in other fields are open to argument.
From where I stand, what matters far more to hiring committees (at least in polisci departments) are not their partisan political preferences, but rather the sides they have chosen in esoteric ivory tower civil wars.
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# Posted 8:20 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

EVASION OR EFFICIENCY? The NYT reports that US Central Command is making it harder and harder for visitors on its website to get news about casualties in Iraq.

While the Times strongly implies that Central Command is hiding the bad news in order to make it seem like the occupation is working, I think there's a much simpler explanation to be had: The Pentagon doesn't want to waste energy publicizing casualty reports that the NYT is going to splash all over the front page anyway.
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# Posted 8:09 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

"IT IS OK TO HATE GEORGE BUSH": That's one of the signs that today's protesters have up in Harvard Square. Another good one was "Lobotomies for Republicans -- It's the Law". Well at least they're promoting a positive agenda for social change, instead of just engaging in destructive partisan attacks.
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# Posted 9:37 AM by Patrick Belton  

IT'S A LONG WAY TO TIPPERARY but Galway's not so far off. My lovely wife and I are off to Ireland to pass our anniversary in the traditional style - i.e., cold, and with lots of busybodying fishermen neighbours poking their noses in our bedroom window when we wake up. We'll be off in Inishmaan, the middle of the three Irish-speaking Aran Islands in Galway Bay, where I've got some relations. Look for a Letter from Ireland to come.

In the meantime, we'll be reading Playboy to each other on the bus to Stansted (not Heffner's, sorry, but Synge's Playboy of the Western World - close as I could get us), as well as Ulysses to each other once we get there.

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Friday, September 26, 2003

# Posted 5:20 PM by Patrick Belton  

BRAVO TO THE WASH POST for having this to say about Russia's undemocratic efforts in Chechnya, and Russia's pure gall in comparing its operations there with US and allied opererations in Iraq and Afghanistan:
Mr. Putin likes to compare the four-year-old Russian war against Chechens seeking independence with the U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan; in a meeting with American journalists last weekend, he questioned whether U.S. forces were violating human rights on the streets of Baghdad. In fact the comparison is obscene. In Chechnya Russian troops have wiped out a democratically elected government, killed tens of thousands of civilians, forced others out of refugee camps and back into the war zone, reduced the capital and every major town to rubble, indiscriminately rounded up the entire male populations of dozens of villages for torture or summary execution and so shattered the country's civil society that previously marginal Islamic extremists now are a major force.
This war, remember, was launched purely to bolster Mr Putin's presidential ambitions. As the WashPost notes,
Putin was a strong opponent of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and now he says he is skeptical of U.S. plans for reconstruction. Any political transition, he insists, must be endorsed by the United Nations and Arab states around Iraq. So we can only imagine what Mr. Putin's reaction would be if, during their scheduled meeting at Camp David this week, President Bush were to confide that his official plan to return Iraq to representative government was a mere facade. Mr. Bush might say that Iraq's constitution actually would be written in Washington so as to permanently require the presence of U.S. troops and political control and that the United States would select a presidential candidate who would be allowed to install his campaign manager as supervisor of all Iraqi media. If any serious challengers dared to take on Washington's favorite in a U.S.-run election, the White House would simply force them out of the race."
Well put.
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# Posted 10:27 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE RACE FOR 2004: Kevin Drum rounds up yesterday's Democratic debate and says its time for the also-rans to let Dean & Clark get down to business.

Kevin also raises the important issue of Mrs. Clark's hairstyle. I have to admit, it may be even siller than Laura Bush's.
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# Posted 9:40 AM by Patrick Belton  

PARIS, CAPITAL OF FREEDOM: Today in the capital of Freedom (well, that would be the logical result of doing a massive cultural search-and-replace, converting "France" and "French" into "Freedom," wouldn't it?), a Frenchman named Thierry Meyssan took moral umbrage at the much-publicized deck of cards presenting ex-tyrant Saddam and his sub-thugs as the jokers they were. Said deck of cards had, of course, an illustrious lineage dating back to the Allies' efforts in WWII, but then again, come to think of it, the French weren't too much in favour of that, either. Thus Monsieur Meyssan: "I found it completely indecent to present a manhunt as a game." So he came up with his own deck, with members of the Bush administration prominently displayed therein. "We thought this card game would allow us to ... explain why we consider the government of George Bush a threat to international security."

M. Meyssan's seizure of the moral high ground, however, gets a little shaky when we remember that in a kooky book called 9-11: The Big Lie, he claimed that no plane ever crashed into the Pentagon on September 11, and that the attacks were plotted by a faction within the U.S. military. What's even more troubling is that his book was a best-seller in France (sorry, I meant Freedom).

As with culture, music, and revolutions, of course, Moscow's destiny has generally been to copy Paris, so we can now also buy a deck na-pycckii from Kommersant. Which, incidentally, attempted to take the high road with its. "We want to show our readers the various faces of the current U.S. political elite,...that it is a complex, living organism with varied and vivid personalities," said Azer Mursaliyev, foreign editor of the business daily Kommersant, which designed the cards. Danyet. Gimme a break.
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Thursday, September 25, 2003

# Posted 7:49 PM by Patrick Belton  

TEQUILA WARS: Half of Mexico's total Tequila output is consumed in the United states - 86.4 million bottles in 2002. That's a lotta Tequila. Of this, 83 percent is shipped to the U.S. in bulk form and bottled here. This, however, may change, and whether it is set to do so or not is the topic of a trade war currently...err, brewing...between Washington and Mexico City. Mexico is threatening to cut off the bulk exports, saying it needs to tighten quality controls on the namebrand which the Government of Mexico, in fact, owns. So the Mexican government is drafting a regulation to ensure all Tequila is bottled in Mexico, and is moving on a timetable of publishing the regulation in late October, with the aim of entering into effect as early as the start of the coming year. Meanwhile, American bottling industry officials are saying the Government of Mexico is simply making a grab for bottling jobs. Mexico's Tequila Regulatory Council is saying that purported bulk shipments have turned out to be sugar cane alcohol or grains spirits, or that U.S. bottlers were violating Mexican standards by mixing different varieties of Tequila together.

Maybe if they just all had a drink together....
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# Posted 7:49 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

TEMPEST IN THE ACADEMIC TEAPOT: When I put up posts about theoretical and methodological issues in political science, I generally expect them to be ignored. After all, that kind of stuff is pretty distant from real politics.

But what I underestimated, I think, was how many bloggers have a dog in this fight. Thus, there were passionate responses to my post from both Dan Drezner and Chris Lawrence, as well as a pretty animated discussion in the comments section following Dan's post.

However, despite the rising temperature, I don't think I disagree with all that much in their posts. A few clarifications are in order, however. First of all, I was all but unaware of the "perestroika" movement in political science at the time of writing my post.

As a scholar of British extraction, nothing that happens on the far side of the Atlantic tends to enter my stream of consciousness. However, in the past three weeks at Harvard, I have heard some murmuring about "perestroika" without really knowing what it's about.

What I can definitely say is that after reading the article about the movment which Dan recommended, I think I can say that I am fundamentally sympathetic to its objectives. (On the other hand, I find it strange to agree with John Mearsheimer about anything.)

Next up: Dan surmises that
There's a very big difference between creating new data and using new statistical techniques to analyze old data. I strongly suspect Adesnik's source of irritation is the latter. The former is way too rare in the discipline, especially in international relations. Mostly that's because building new data sets takes a lot of time and the rewards in terms of professional advancement are not great, whereas relying on old data has no fixed costs.
Actually, I'm far more frustrated by the new data sets than the rehashing of the old ones. Just three days ago I was at a presentation in which a colleague described the data set she assembled on over 120 civil wars that have taken place since 1945. Since Latin America is the region I know best, I pulled the Latin American cases out of the data to set look at them.

What I found was that a very large proportion of the cases were "coded" in a misleading or flat-out wrong manner. Why? Because no one can study 120 civil wars. But pressure to come up with data sets leads scholars to do this anyway and do it poorly. Of course, since their work is evaluated mostly by other scholars who lack the historical knowledge to criticize their work, they get away with it. And so the academic merry-go-round spins merrily along.

Now for an actual disagreement: Chris Lawrence takes exception to my statement that "it is absolutely impossible to explain the tactics of Al Qaeda or Hamas without reference to their perverse ideologies." He responds:
It is? Actually, it’s pretty easy to explain their tactics—historically, they’ve been quite effective. What’s (slightly) more difficult to explain is why Al Qaeda and Hamas engage in terrorism while the Sierra Club and Libertarian Party don’t.
With apologies to Chris, his comment summarizes everything that is wrong with political science. Who but a political scientist could think that ideology is not a good explanation for the differences between the Sierra Club and Hamas?

Now, if Chris is still willing to talk to me after that cheap shot, I'd ask him where he's been spending the past month given that he
just came back from spending a month with people who told me that the absolute worst way to get a job in political science is to “invent statistics.”
Around Harvard, all one hears is that incorporating statistics into one's work significantly increases one's marketability (and I don't just mean at the p<.05 level -- we're talking p<.01 on a one-tailed test.) Obviously, Harvard isn't the be all and end all of political science, but all the visiting fellows from Stanford, Columbia, etc. agree. Also, consider the following, taken from the Perestroika article that Dan recommended:
In their study “Methodological Bias in the APSR” David Pion-Berlin, a political scientist at the University of California at Riverside, an outspoken perestroikan, and his student Dan Cleary assessed APSR content from 1991 to 2000, finding that 74 percent of its articles were based on empirical statistical analysis or formal modeling. Only 25 percent involved political theory, and just 1 percent were qualitative case studies of particular governments or institutions. In a “publish or perish” world where jobs and research funding are doled out according to APSR appearances on c. vitae, qualitative researchers, as Mearsheimer puts it, “are considered dinosaurs.”
Yikes. Btw, I do need to concede one point Chris made. It is ironic that my anti-polisci jeremiad was provoked by a study that had comparatively few statistics in it -- something I would've noticed if I'd looked at the American Political Science Review instead of the New York Times. Still, the words "comparatively few" are important here. The study in question makes exactly those mistakes I ascribe to political science in general, even if it is not the worst offender.

Finally, the Edward Said challenge. I obviously agree that many area studies experts with extensive language training add little to our collective knowledge because of their political prejudices. But I am firm in many conviction that many of the simple errors that political scientists make could be avoided through greater area expertise.

Take, for example, the flaws in the civil war data set mentioned above. I'm hardly a Latin America specialist, but even some knowledge of the region's history made it apparent that the data set was flawed. If political scientists had greater expertise in a given region, they would appreciate just how often in-depth study is necessary to get even the basic facts right. Thus, when putting together a global data set, no political scientist would even consider coding the data before consulting colleagues who are experts in the relevant regional subfields.

But is that enough? As Dan says,
I have no doubt that historians can, through closely argued scholarship, identify which groups are extremist -- ex post. The key is to find descriptive characteristics that can be identified ex ante. Without ex ante markers to identify proper explanatory variables, theories degenerate into tautologies.
It's sort of strange that Dan picked the identification of extremist groups as his example, since that's an easy case for me. Long before 9/11, almost everyone in the US government believed that Osama bin Laden was a menace because of his radical ideology. Included in that "everyone" are Steve Simon and Daniel Benjamin, NSC experts who published an article months before 9/11 arguing that bin Laden's ideology set him far apart from other terrorists precisely because he wanted to kill as many civilians as possible, rather than simply generating media coverage though small to medium-sized attacks.

Only now, two years after 9/11, does a generalist like Robert Pape come along and tell us that ideology isn't the primary cause of suicide terror attacks. Ah, political science.

Last but not least: I can agree with just about everything in Josh's response to my original post. That post was certainly more polemical than nuanced.
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# Posted 7:02 PM by Patrick Belton  

NOW THIS is just cool. What's even cooler is that one of my better friends at Oxford is working on the project. (And incidentally, she's gorgeous, single....and is singularly easy to date, since she comes with her own portable library of movies...)
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# Posted 6:52 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE DUROCHER MYTH: Multiple readers have let me know that Leo Durocher never said "Nice guys finish last." Actually, someone asked him about the Chicago Cubs and he said "Nice guys;...[they'll] finish last."

My real problem with this correction is that now you can't follow up Durocher's alleged remark with "Or not at all." Think about it.
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# Posted 4:25 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

RUMSFELD AS PILATE: Josh is right that there were some strong points in Sec. Rumsfeld's op-ed in the WaPo this morning. But there was also much about his column that was disingenuous and disturbing.

First of all, I don't know how Rumsfeld can pretend that the US limited its role in the reconstruction of Afghanistan in order to prevent Afghans from becoming dependent on American largesse. Next he'll be telling us that we left all those warlords in place so that we don't deprive the Afghans of the good feeling that comes from building one's own central government.

Then, in a truly splendiferous display of chutzpah, Rumsfeld insists that the United States has consistently sought to treat Iraq no differently than Afghanistan by avoiding an excessive post-war presence. Hence,
We kept our footprint modest, liberating Iraq with a little more than 100,000 U.S. troops on the ground.
That's right folks, the real reason for limiting the size of the invasion of force had nothing to do with technology or military strategy. It was all about increasing Iraqi self-esteem.

But perhaps one ought to look past this sort of ridiculous rhetoric and accept that Rumsfeld simply isn't able to be honest about a lot of things. At least he's decided to get on board the President's plan for democratizing Iraq. As Rumsfeld writes,
The work in Iraq is difficult, costly and dangerous. But it is worth the risks and the costs...

If we succeed, we will deal terrorism a powerful blow, because a democratic Iraq in the heart of the Middle East would be a defeat for the ideology of terror that is seeking to take control of that area of the world.
Still, I can't shake the feeling that Rumsfeld is starting to lay the groundwork for American withdrawal for a nation-building process he never wanted to become involved in in the first place. Take the following passage, for example:
To help Iraqis succeed, we must proceed with some humility. American forces can do many remarkable things, but they cannot provide permanent stability or create an Iraqi democracy. That will be up to the Iraqi people.
In other words, once things begin to head south, we can blame the Iraqi people and bring the boys back home. Or we can declare democracy a failure and recognize a military regime.

No, Rumsfeld didn't say either of those things...explicitly. But can you really trust a man that has so little respect for the American public?
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# Posted 4:05 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE IMMUTABLE LAWS RETURN: Last month, Maureen Dowd told us that Arnold Schwarzenegger is
is running on pecs and running away from peccadilloes...he's smoked marijuana and his father was a Nazi...
But the Times they are a changin'. Today, MoDo is praising Arnold for his unmatched candor:
Later that night [after our interview, Arnold] called to say he hadn't given me properly reflective answers. Oh, boy, I thought, here comes the usual pretentious pap pols dish out about reading Winston Churchill and watching foreign indies. "I forgot to tell you," Arnold said eagerly, "my two favorite actresses are Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep. And my idol is Clint Eastwood. And I loved `The Lion King.' "
So what's going on here? How did Schwarzenegger go from whipping-boy to poster boy?

Answer: He made Dowd believe that he is a real European. And as The Fifth Immutable Law of Dowd states: "Europeans are always right."

Last month, Dowd thought of Schwarzenegger as nothing more than a product of Hollywood kitsch, i.e. pure America. But then, Arnold told Maureen that
"I love shopping for my wife...because wherever I go in the world, I think about her and I want to bring something back. So when you go to Europe, they have great stores. So I go and I get jackets, shirts, whole outfits, dresses. Because I know exactly the sizes!
So I guess I've learned my lesson. Dowd never departs from the Immutable Laws. It is just lesser mortals such as myself who fail to apply them properly.
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# Posted 3:39 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

Mr. Bush and his aides also seem to go to great lengths to underline the degree to which the president closes himself off from the news media. In an interview with Fox News this week, the president said he learned most of what he needs to know from morning briefings by his national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, and his chief of staff, Andrew Card.

As for newspapers, Mr. Bush said, "I glance at the headlines" but "rarely read the stories."
Bush doesn't read OxBlog either, but we won't use that as an excuse to take cheapshots at Condi & Andrew!
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# Posted 12:34 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BASEBALL AND POLITICAL SCIENCE: The next book I'm going to read is Michael Lewis' Moneyball. It is the story of how the Oakland A's have managed to win more games than anyone else while spending less and less on players' salaries. But really it's a book about capitalism.

For a good review of the book, head over to TNR. According to Cass Sunstein & Richard Thaler, the remarkable success of A's manager Billy Beane demonstrates how unconventional thinking can expose and exploit massive inefficiencies in an open marketplace.

This is not a new idea for Lewis, however, who first made a name for himself with Liar's Poker, an inside account of Salomon Brothers' meteoric rise and fall reflected the damaging conventional wisdom and inbred culture of the bond-trading world. (I happen to be reading Liar's Poker right now and recommend it highly.)

Thus, to my mind, what really stands out about Moneyball is how its hero, Billy Beane, drew most of his ideas from the work of an obscure statistician by the name of Bill James.

Now, for some of us, James is not obscure. As an intellectual and inept eleven-year old, I thought of James as a godsend. Here's was someone who insisted that brains matter far more in baseball than raw talent. (Not that the kids at summer camp would stop laughing at my incompetence on the baseball diamond, but at least I could feel a little bit better about myself.)

In hindsight, it seems pretty self-evident that the relationship between myself and the jocks strongly resembles the current relationship between political scientists and policymakers. Like James, the professors blast the policymakers for subscribing to primitive myths that prevent them from doing their job as best they can. Like jocks, the policymakers laugh at the pointy-headed intellectuals who think they know how to draft good laws and negotiate with foreign governments.

The difference between James and the political scientists is that James' ideas are now proven to work. Meanwhile, political scientists continue to produce veritable avalanches of useless statistics that resemble pseudo-science more than anything else. Of course, what motivates political scientists (some might even admit it) is that one day, a man like Billy Beane will become President or Secretary of State or National Security Adviser and decide to put their ideas to work, finally vindicating all those years of hard academic labor.

My guess is that political scientists who read Moneyball will find it a source of renewed faith in their profession. That, however, is wrong the lesson to draw from it.

The starting point for a political analysis of Moneyball is recognition of the fact that baseball is an inherently amoral activity. As Leo Durocher said, "Nice guys finish last." Ty Cobb was selfish and cruel individual, but also perhaps the best hitter of all time. Unsurprisingly, the Detroit Tigers' management decided that Cobb's ethical deficiencies didn't reduce his value as player.

In contrast, politics is an inherently ethical enterprise. Of course, after watching politicians in actions, you may conclude that politics is an inherently unethical enterprise. But that is exactly the point. We judge politicians from a moral perspective, regardless of whether we are praising or condemning them.

Unfortunately, political scientists seem to believe that they can grapple with the most profound political challenges without approaching them from an ethical perspective. After all, the mission of modern political science is to produce objective analyses of political events from which one can derive rational policy recommendations.

Yet in the absence of values, there is no such thing as rational politics. Rationality is a means to an end. Only values can define the merits of one end as opposed to another.

In theory, there could still be room for a rational science for politics if professors recognized that their mission was to identify the most effective set of means to a given end. However, this will only be possible if political scientists recognize that political actors are fundamentall moral actors.

The great flaw of modern political science is its desire to imitate microeconomists (and share in their prestige) by developing theorems that explain and predict the behavior of rational actors. Of course, that is exactly the wrong way to go about things. It is only when political scientists recognize that ideas and values are what drive politicians and voters that they will begin to produce something worthy of the name "science".
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# Posted 9:29 AM by Patrick Belton  

KLEINFELDS ON A ROLL: A couple of days ago over on Volokh, I was pointing out my mother-in-law's new book on the significance of frontiers in American culture. Well, now I'll be darned if they haven't got a dern good piece out on Iraq, too. Wow - my in-laws are writing more than me, and they've got real jobs! Not too shabby!

A few morsels, to provide a taste of their argument:
As we try to institutionalize democracy and freedom in Iraq, we need to take a clear-eyed look at what makes them stick. Externally imposed institutions, like constitutions and systems of law, are necessary but not sufficient. What makes freedom put down roots is culture. The world is littered with tyrannies calling themselves democracies with paper constitutions like our own. As the great Judge Learned Hand put it, "Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women. When it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it . . . While it lies there, it needs no constitution, no court, no law to save it."

What can be transferred to Iraq are institutions that may go some distance in fostering a freedom-loving culture. Chief among these is the free-enterprise system, which creates economic incentives to protect private property, spurs individuality and creativity, and — of no small importance — fosters anti-authoritarian childrearing practices to adapt children to succeed in an entrepreneurial environment. Free enterprise would be greatly assisted by something like the Alaska Permanent Fund, so that a portion of the oil money goes from the oil companies to the people, instead of from the oil companies to the government. Not only is it absurd for the people to be so poor in one of the richest oil states in the world, but the money excessively concentrates power in the government. If more people have money, more will have an interest in personal freedom, in being left alone by the government, and people with money will furnish power centers independent of each other and government.

Federalism, as well as separation of powers in the national government, promotes freedom, by creating independent, competing centers of power. It is a natural fit with Iraq's existing cultural divisions. Americans can support and encourage an Iraqi culture of democracy and freedom by supporting Iraqi artists and intellectuals who celebrate individual liberty grounded in indigenous cultural traditions. We did this successfully in Europe after World War II, such as by funding publications where freedom-minded authors unwelcome in the Communist magazines could publish. Iraq needs its own free, individualistic heroes. Much of our own socialization into a culture of freedom comes from the stories, music, movies, and heroic romances we grew up with, celebrating strong individuals doing the right thing, and doing their own thing.
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Wednesday, September 24, 2003

# Posted 12:38 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HONEY, I SHRUNK THE BLOG: Wondering where we've all been the past couple of days? Actually, probably not, since Josh explained the situation rather clearly. Anyhow, we're once again in business here at OxBlog.

Actually, we're only half in business for the moment since none of our permalinks are working. #$%@& Blogger!

That said, the big news for the moment is that Wes Clark is far ahead of the pack in a new CNN poll, even beating Bush in a head-to-head competition. Then again, Dukakis was a 15-point leader back in the summer of '88...

Yet regardless of the fact that this poll doesn't say much about November '04, it does provide Clark with the kind of jet fuel he needed to avoid becoming just another Democratic hopeful. Things may get interesting, especially Clark can finally decide whether he was for or against the war in Iraq.

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Sunday, September 21, 2003

# Posted 11:07 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

TREASON AND FAITH: The Army has charged a Muslim chaplain at Guantanamo with betraying his country. Phil Carter provides the analysis.
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# Posted 10:47 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ARAFAT'S ERRAND BOY: In July, the American media rallied to the defense of Palestinian academic Khalil Shikaki, who became the victim of a local mob after he planned to announce the results of an opinion poll which purported to show that Palestinians had no interest in actually exercising the right of return.

Online, Daniel Drezner put up comprehensive and well-written posts tracking the media's reaction to the Shikaki incident. And OxBlog linked to those posts.

And why not? It was a great story. Brave academic discovers that a negotiated peace is possible, but extremists try to shut him up. Liberals and conservatives could both love it.

But now there is serious reason to believe that Shikaki is a charlatan who never deserved our sympathy. According to an article written by a friend of mine at the Washington Institute for Near Eastern Policy, Shikaki's opinion polls relied on question and methods designed to elicit exactly the answers that he -- and top Palestinian officials -- wanted to hear. As Max tells it,
The problem is that the poll makes relocating to Israel an unappealing option for most Palestinians since it stipulates a priori that "only a small number" of refugees will be allowed to "return," and that the fortunate few may have to wait "several years"...

Conversely, the respondents who opted to settle outside of pre-1967 Israeli land were led to believe that they would receive unrealistically generous amounts of financial compensation...of those who opted for financial compensation over relocating to Israel, two-thirds of the respondents believed they were entitled to anywhere between $100,000 and half a million dollars.

In the text of his press release, Shikaki does acknowledge, "The estimates for a fair compensation were much higher than the estimates of what would actually be paid." Yet in publicizing his findings in the American and Arab media, he avoids mentioning this fact.
Good work, Max. Hopefully this will get some more press.

What still isn't clear is why Shikaki did what he did. On the one hand, a real desire for peace may have tempted to manufacture evidence providing hope for a negotiated settlement. On the other hand, Shikaki may have been Arafat's errand boy, helping to lull the Israelis into accepting a sucker's deal in which they acknowledge the right of returning -- believing that Palestinians won't take them up on it -- only to find Israel deluged with refugees.

As Shikaki himself told an audience at the Brookings Institution,
"We consulted very heavily with Palestinian negotiators as we planned the instrument, that is, the questionnaire...

"We worked with them, we asked them what questions they wanted asked, and we proposed questions to them, and the eventual final product was one that essentially tried to include as much as possible the questions that negotiators were interested in answers to."
That just doesn't sound good...
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# Posted 10:12 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHAT THE SOLDIERS ARE THINKING: As I said, I don't know. But here's an op-ed by one reservist, and some comments from a journalist friend of mine in Iraq:
Purely from anecdotal experience, American soldiers are very
disillusioned. From high ranking officers to grunts, they are incredibly
cynical (especially for Americans) about why they are there, hate being
there and take advantage of every opportunity they can to tell journalists
this, and that they want to go home.

Of course it varies from unit to unit, but the 3 month extension was a huge betrayal and destroyed whatever moral[e] was left. Eventually I'll write an article about that. I've been spending a lot of time with American military guys though, and
that's my impression. They also dislike the civilian CPA guys, who they
think are incompetent and ignorant, and I tend to sympathize with that view.
While I might conjecture that my journalist friend tends to attract soldiers with political opinions similar to his own, I am confident that he reports what he sees, no more and no less. So take it for what it's worth.
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# Posted 9:54 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IT'S ALL CHALABI'S FAULT: This is partisan sniping, but it has the ring of truth -- probably because I've never trusted Ahmed Chalabi.
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# Posted 9:45 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FREE MARKET OR FREE FOR ALL? The NYT has an interesting article on private security firms in Iraq. The basic message is that locals understand how to provide security whereas foreigners don't. If that's the case, then the free market in security is doing great things for Iraq.

But I still have questions. Most importantly, how do we know that these private guards don't use excessive force? Unless instructed to respect the rights of those they must confront, there is no reason to believe that their experiences under Saddam has taught them to behave in an appropriate manner.

Also, will private guards and their superiors cooperate with law enforcement officials? Or will they become a law unto themselves? Excited at the prospect of demonstrating that American incompetence is a reflection of American ignorance, the NYT forgot to ask if those who have local knowledge share the American vision of civil and human rights.
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# Posted 9:27 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

AT WHAT PRICE, HERR SCHROEDER? In a NYT op-ed, the German Chancellor makes nice to America and says Germany will help rebuild Iraq. He doesn't say what Germany expects in return. In other words, caveat emptor.

UPDATE: M. Chirac hints at the price.
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Friday, September 19, 2003

# Posted 12:04 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HISTORY SPEAKS: Matt Yglesias has a column up on the unimpressive record of generals-turned-presidential-candidates.
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Thursday, September 18, 2003

# Posted 11:52 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SEEING RED (STATES): Kevin Drum has some interesting comments on the distribution of federal tax dollars at the state level. Plus, Megan McArdle responds and Kevin responds back.
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# Posted 11:47 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

GOOD NEWS: As always, Glenn is collecting soldiers' stories from Iraq, with a very strong emphasis on good news. Today, the theme is soldiers getting angry at distorted news coverage that presents the occupation as a disaster.

While it's nice to read these stories, I still wonder whether the frustrated and disappointed GIs are holding back out of deference to their superiors. I know for sure that officers critical of the Administration are extremely reluctant to say anything at all.

Perhaps the truth will come out only after the troops have come home and are able to speak their minds. Of course, by that time the truth may be speaking for itself in Iraq.
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# Posted 11:22 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BAD NEWS: In Afghanistan and Iraq. Here's an idea: When the US finishes training the new Iraqi Army, send half of it to Afghanistan!
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# Posted 11:14 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LOTS AND LOTS OF CLARK: Both Ryan Booth and Howard Kurtz have extensive round-ups of the media's take on Big Wes' candidacy. I'd also recommend this WaPo profile of the candidate, which leans slightly toward the favorable.

For the latest news, see this story from tomorrow's Post. As the General told a Florida audience, he "probably" would've voted in favor of the congressional resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq.

"Probably"? Umm, excuse me for asking a stupid question, but shouldn't a four-star general have a more definite position on whether the war in Iraq was a good idea? How about a four-star general who later became a CNN analyst? While I'm wiling to give Clark a pass on his underdeveloped domestic agenda, this is a little much!
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