OxBlog

Monday, October 13, 2003

# Posted 1:31 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FAKE LEFT, GO RIGHT: On Friday, Matt Yglesias took something of cheapshot at me. In respone to Thursday's suicide attack on an Iraqi police station, Matt asks: "More knee-jerk negative coverage from the press corps, Mr Adesnik, or does this qualify as actual bad news?"

While I will respond to Matt's question directly (especially since there was another suicide bombing in Baghdad today), I'm also going to speculate that Matt's below-the-belt attitude is something he has conjured up to guard his left flank while quietly moving toward a more positive evaluation of the occupation's progress. In other words, Matt may not want good liberal pessimists to realize that he moving toward the acceptance of controversial arguments made by Dem-hawks such as myself, not to mention most neo-cons.

Don't believe it? Then consider Matt's new take on the situation in Iraq; the question isn't whether we are achieving success in the short-run (which we are), but whether those successes will still be there six, twelve, eighteen or twenty-four months from now. Or as Matt puts it:
Let it never be said that we're not making progress in the military campaign in Iraq. The problem, I think, is not that we're not making progress, but that we're not making progress fast enough. Not by the standard of some arbitrary time table I cooked up in my bedroom, but by the fact that it simply won't be possible to maintain the current level of manpower and financial commitment for very long.
Alternately, Matt observes that
The trouble is that we are simply expending resources -- money, and (especially) manpower -- at an unsustainable level... All indications are that if we keep up what we're doing for years and years we can hold things together, but all indications are also that we can't keep up what we're doing for years and years without bankrupting the country and doing incredible harm to the Army Reserves and National Guard.
I share Matt's concerns about the sustainability of US policy in Iraq. We will have to start rotating American soldiers out in February, we don't have much of an Iraqi force in place, and the Europeans seem to have neither the inclination nor the ability to have their troops man the barricades. These are issues we will have to look at very closely in the coming months.

But my point for now is that Matt's take is dramatically different from that of the NYT, for example. Sometimes, the Times just implies that the entire occupation has already become a fiasco by ignoring the good news staring it in the face. At other times it is more direct, writing in a masthead editorial that
The administration's wrong-headed insistence on maintaining exclusive control over Iraq has already proved costly. Attacks against American troops, international aid workers and Iraqi police recruits continue at an alarming rate. Separate incidents in and near Baghdad yesterday killed at least 10 people and injured more than 40...

Washington should be listening more attentively to proposals that promise to open the door to substantial international help. President Bush has repeatedly said that American forces came to Iraq as liberators, not occupiers. He should follow through on the logic of those words and begin arrangements for transferring power to an interim Iraqi government.
In short, we are losing the hearts and minds of Iraq as well as the bodies of American soldiers. Yet from where I stand, we are winning those hearts and minds while paying a tragic but necessary price.

In fact, approaching the occupation from a hearts-and-minds perspective is the best way to demonstrate how misleading Matt's question about the recent suicide car-bombings is. I am not going to go into my argument in great detail, because it is exactly the same argument I made after the attack on UN headquarters in late August.

First of all, this week's attacks as well as those on UN headquarters and the Shi'ite mosque in Najaf are undoubtedly bad news. However the implication of Matt's question is that such bad news reflects both the fundamental failure of the US nation-building effort as well as the ideologically-induced blindness of its supporters.

Yet as I said before, the decision of Ba'athist insurgents and/or Islamists to slaughter their own kinsmen demonstrates just how desperate they have become. They have either given up all hope of winning the people's hearts and minds, or are so blinded by their own fervor that they truly believe that half-a-dozen car bombs will persuade the people of Iraq that Saddam & Osama have more to offer than those American liberators who are about to provide $20 billion of butter, not to mention a lot of guns.

Even Matt admits that "the consensus among Iraqis certainly seems to be that their liberation from Saddam was a good thing." (Said consensus refers, of course, to the positive poll results that have started to come out of Iraq with surprising consistency.) It is because Matt is so aware of such evidence, that it is hard to interpret his occasional cheapshots as anything other than the classic New Dem/DLC strategy of "fake left, go right."

Six weeks ago, Matt was still pretty sure that the occupation was headed for an outright, in-the-here-and-now kind of failure. Just two weeks ago, Matt was still writing that
The fact is that things aren't fine, but if we and the international community act decisively they can be made fine. Bush needs to drop the pretense and level with people, even though doing that may well cost him his job. Otherwise, we're going to wind up holding the situation together with duct tape until November '04 only to see it all fall apart sometime in the near future with disastrous consequences.
But that was a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. In other words, Matt, welcome to the club.
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Sunday, October 12, 2003

# Posted 9:07 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PHIL CARTER KICKS A**: It's really hard to say enough good things about Phil. Believe me. I try. So for now, just go and read his excellent posts on whether we have enough troops in Iraq,what the importance of Wesley Clark's military record is, and how the US should spending the $87 billion being appropriated for Iraq. Or you know what? Just start at the top and read everything Phil has to say.
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# Posted 4:01 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

YGLESIAS '04? Matt says: "I don't think I'd be a great pick for commander in chief. I bet I'd do better than the current guy, as would all of the viable candidates, but that doesn't mean any of us would necessarily do very well." In case you couldn't tell, Matt is coming close to endorsing Wes Clark.
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# Posted 10:05 AM by Patrick Belton  

A NEO-CON IN PARIS: Mes amis, je me vais a Paris. I'm heading to Paris this afternoon for the week, to scribble in the Sorbonne library and be study-buddies with my friend Sarah as she preps for the oral segment of the French bar examination. Precisely because of my background as an American foreign policy specialist and democracy-promoter, I'm very much looking forward to getting a better sense of trends there, and speaking with some of the more thoughtful members of our generation in France. To that end, I'll be spending my evenings along the cafes of the Rive Gauche buying cups of coffee for young academics and Quai d'Orsay staffers, and will dutifully be reporting back my findings here.

Comme disent les anglais: Honi soit qui mal y pense!
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# Posted 9:32 AM by Patrick Belton  

WAPO ON DYNAMICS OF BUSH ADMINISTRATION foreign policy decisionmaking: although the title suggests it's a hit piece on Rice, this piece in the Sunday WaPo gives a fairly well-researched glance into this administration's internal decisionmaking dynamics. Worth a read.
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# Posted 1:58 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

TOMMY HITS A HOMER: Friedman's column in today's NYT is that damn good. The WaPo's David Broder is also swinging for the stands with his column on Iraq.

Elsewhere, the Times' John Tierney notes that
After international sanctions were imposed on Iraq in 1990, [Saddam] started a program that now uses 300 government warehouses and more than 60,000 workers to deliver a billion pounds of groceries every month — a basket of rations guaranteed to every citizen, rich or poor.
Guaranteed. To every citizen. Rich or poor. Including the Marsh Arabs? Including the families of those slaughtered in Saddam's torture chambers? I don't want to take away from all of the wonderful things Saddam did for his country, but perhaps Mr. Tierney (and his editors on 44th St.) could be slightly more skeptical about Saddam's wisdom and benificence? Or does skepticism stop at the water's edge?
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Saturday, October 11, 2003

# Posted 7:01 PM by Patrick Belton  

A LETTER FROM SARAJEVO: OxBlog's dear friend Saliha returned recently to the Sarajevo of her birth, for the first time in years. She writes us with her impressions:
Hello my dear Washingtonians, current or former!
 
As most of you know, I've spent over three weeks in Bosnia recently. I've waited until now to send you a report because I wanted my impressions to form as well as because I've wanted to send you a few pictures -- which I still haven't found a good way of doing (suggestions welcome), as I didn't want to clog your email accounts, especially if you too are travelling.
 
My early days were spent resolving a bureaucratic mess (involving recalled passports such as mine and a lack of blank passports), so insert here a mental picture of me persistant, begging, frustrated, crying -- well, not quite, but almost.  Fortunately, the weekend came around, and I was forced to take respite from all that, at my grandmother's house in the most beautiful place in the world.  The mediterranean town of Stolac is on a landscape that looks a lot like Tuscany, an 1-2h drive from the Adriatic, (and would be much less if there were a straight highway to it), and I used to spend every summer there, until the war.  This was my first time back in 12 years. 
 
Another day I went to Prusac, a small town 2 hours away from Sarajevo.  A village near it on the hill is obviously still recovering, with the reconstrucion of homes still in process, and with its point of focus, an old Ottoman mosque, badly damaged.  As we looked around it, together with local community and international donor representatives, an old local lady walked up carrying a tray with Bosnian coffee pot and cups and home-made sugar cubes in her arms, welcoming us as if we were her personal guests.  It was a lovely day, one I imagine I will always remember, because the beauty of rural Bosnia, the tragic experience of the village, the scars -- the demolished mosque, the mining and the deforestation occurring illegally as people struggle to make ends meet and which mar an otherwise surreal landscape -- the kindness of a woman who didn't know us, where I'd expect only bitterness and distrust, caused different emotions to well up all at once, and I was filled with despair and hope at the same time. 
 
My birth city, Sarajevo, is usually rainy and cold this time of year, but I guess the record-high temperatures of the summer have carried over into this season, turning the last month into a most pleasent September.  As long as the weather is warm and dry, the city streets are filled in the evening with the young and the old alike.  Looking at this it is hard to imagine that the unemployment in this country exceeds forty percent. 
 
It was not easy to be in Bosnia, but leaving it was even harder.  It's amazing how many emotions I have surpressed, and have been surpressing for so long.  It's amazing how clear some things become from over there...  You realize the meaning of family and friendships, and in my case, you realize how difficult it can be to have your heart in so many different places.  I wish you were with me, but I'll write you instead.  I've arrived in Dubai a few days ago, and as soon as my impressons form, you'll hear from me, and I hope you'll do the same, at your leisure.  Take care, and think of me.
 
Love, 
Saliha
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# Posted 5:52 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DON'T RUSH ELECTIONS IN IRAQ: This top-notch essay is from the Sept. 28 edition of the San Jose Mercury News. The authors are both professors at Stanford, and one of them is Mike McFaul, whose work I have praised consistently on this site.

The money graf from the SJMN article is this one:
Snap elections in Iraq may serve the personal interests of Chirac, Chalabi and some American politicians. But history shows that premature elections in war-torn countries are disfigured by fraud, discredited by incompetence and rejected by the losers as well as much of the public. They rarely birth democracy. Instead, they often revive autocracies and, in the worst cases, lead to renewed war.
Damn right. What's especially intersting is that this point is almost identical to the one made by Tom Carothers, a far more dovish and skeptical advocate of democracy promotion. When it comes to elections, no one who thinks seriously about this issue favors the aggressive approach that seems to gaining ground at both the State Department and Pentagon, not to mention the United Nations.

Also, I'd like to make one less substantive point about the McFaul-Diamond essay: It demonstrates that regional newspapers often publish material that is just as impressive as the NYT or WaPo. Of course, the only reason I found this essay in the SJMN was because I am on the haute-exclusif McFaul e-mail list. And even if I don't have enough time to read the regional papers all that often (let alone many blogs that deserve my time as well), it is worth remembering that ideas are not only found in the Bos-NY-Wash corridor.
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# Posted 1:49 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PASS RUSH: Given that Mr. Limbaugh has been having some tough times lately, I thought I'd link to this defense of his McNabb remarks by Jeffrey Collins. JC is right that Limbaugh wasn't being racist in the limited sense of demeaning black quarterbacks. But Rush was saying that white liberals have created an illusion of black success by lowering their standards. Without more evidence to back up that kind of assertion, it basically comes across as racist.
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# Posted 7:13 AM by Patrick Belton  

KOIZUMI CALLS ELECTIONS IN JAPAN: The elections will be held on November 9, and Koizumi leaves the first day of campaigning to his young, popular LDP deputy, Shinzo Abe. MSNBC is reporting that the opposition Democrats are closing to eight points in the polls, half the distance from a month ago. See also the Economist's story, which points out that PM Koizumi's fiscally conservative reforms have more of a backing within the opposition party than within his own governing coalition.
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# Posted 7:08 AM by Patrick Belton  

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, VODKA! My, 500 years, and you haven't aged a bit..... (Okay, bad joke)
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Friday, October 10, 2003

# Posted 9:58 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NOBODY'S BUSINESS BUT THE TURKS? Back when Istanbul was Constantinople, the Turks were in charge of Baghdad. So it is a good idea to invite them back into Iraq, or a very, very bad one?
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# Posted 9:52 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

JUSTICE FOR THE GURKHAS! Some of Britain's finest are still treated as second-class citizens (or non-citizens as the case may be).
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# Posted 9:43 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

I KNEW IT WAS A JOKE...I just didn't get it at first. Another classic Zoolander line with disturbing relevance to everyday life. When I put up this post on the political implications of the NYT decision to root for the Red Sox, I meant it entirely as a joke. Then I find out -- courtesy of MK, AS & LB -- that the NYT owns part of the Red Sox but decided against full disclosure in its anti-Yankee editorial. Moreover, there was nothing on the letters page about this despite the fact that the Times published four letters disagreeing with its point of view. Perhaps Jayson Blair has been rehired...
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# Posted 9:35 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THAT SHI'ITE MEME AGAIN: Back in April, there was a lot of talk about the potential for a Shi'ite backlash against the American occupation. The consensus among the experts was that Iraqi Shi'ites would show little gratitude to their ostensible liberators and instead mobilize en masse to throw the Americans out, presumably so that the Shi'ite majority could transform Iraq into a fundamentalists state.

Not known for its long memory, the NY Times is once again raising the spectre of a Shi'ite backlash. The occasion this time was an unfortunate incident in which American forces suffered two fatalities after an extended firefight in one of Baghdad's massive Shi'ite slums. As the NYT notes,
A confrontation with [radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-] Sadr, who is about 30 years old, and his followers, many of them poor young men without jobs, does not seem out of the question. American officials have long regarded him with concern, for his anti-American oratory, his close ties to radical clerics in Iran and his insistence on establishing an Islamic state in Iraq.
So what does the WaPo have to say about all this in its article on the firefight? Namely, that
A clash with Shiites could open a second front for troops already facing regular attacks in the Sunni heartland of central Iraq where Saddam Hussein drew his greatest support. Still, al-Sadr has very little support among the mainstream Shiite clerical leadership.
Sadr's lack of support within the Shi'ite hierarchy is a well-known fact. Thus, the NYT correspondent was either ignorant of the fact or somehow decided it wasn't worth mentioning.

All in all, this latest episode just adds to the point I made a couple of days ago in my response to Kevin & Matt, i.e. that there is a big difference between reporting on violent events and insisting that such events represent a general trend rather than an exception to a more positive rule.
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# Posted 9:16 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

JIMMY CARTER'S VICTORY was the price we had to pay for Shirin Ebadi's Nobel Peace Prize. And you know what? It was a bargain.

Carter's victory was a political football that had no impact on current events. But Ebadi's prize may become one of the straws that will someday break the Teheran dictatorship's back. And long before that, it may bring about substantial improvement in the lives of women and children throughout the Middle East. (Btw, compare the NYT and WaPo articles on Ebadi. Very interesting.)

Speaking of Jimmy Carter, I spent an hour this afternoon reading an article in Diplomatic History about his Administration's Cambodia policy. In short, it made quite an effort to bury its head in the sand until public outrage forced Carter to admit that Pol Pot was "the worst violator of human rights in the world today".

But the matter didn't end there. Even after the Vietnamese drove the Khmer Rouge out of Phnom Penh and into the jungles, Carter & Co. kept hammering away at the Vietnamese with accusations that they were aggravating the widespread famine in Cambodia despite the fact that they were doing their best to provide some sort of relief to the victims of the Khmer Rouge genocide.

While that sort of disingenuity is unpleasant, its impact was far more than rhetorical. While holding up aid shipments to Vietnamese-controlled territory in central Cambodia, the Carter administration sent a considerable amount of aid to the Thai-Camodian border. While the ostensible purpose of such aid was to save the lives of Cambodian refugees who had fled in the direction of Thailand, the Administration knew that most of the aid sent to the borderlands would wind up in the hands of the Khmer Rouge.

Now, for tough-minded realists such as Henry Yang, there may be nothing objectionable about Carter's foreign policy. After all, its purpose was to advance the United States' national interest by preventing the expansion of Soviet influence in Southeast Asia. On the one hand, Carter didn't want to be too vocal about the Cambodian genocide lest it derail his effort to establish diplomatic relations with China. On the other, his Administration somehow arrived at the conlusion that the hellish graveyard known as Cambodia actually had geostrategic value.

To top it all off, Carter allowed the United Nations to recognize the Khmer Rouge as one of the legitimate occupants of Cambodia's seat at the United Nations. Less well-known is the fact that Carter quietly signed off on Chinese and Thai military aid to the Khmer Rouge. (A fact somehow left out of the citation that accompanied Carter's Nobel Prize.)

To be fair, Reagan did nothing to improve on Carter's policy and demonstrated that he was no less blind to the viciousness of the Khmer Rouge. Then again, that is hardly a point in Carter's favor, given that his reputation as a statesman rests on his moral superiority relative to Ronald Reagan.

That said, one possible way to end this post is to ask what the Cambodian people have to say about the Nobel Prize board's decision to grant such renown to Jimmy Carter. The answer is: "Nothing. Because they're dead."

However, indulging in that sort of clever repartee gets in the way of the substantive point raised by recognition of the Carter administration's relationship with Cambodia. Namely, that the 39th President did make a tremendous contribution to the promotion of human rights and democracy around the globe, but that his legacy has much more to do with the way in which the positive examples he set changed the intellectual and political climate that prevailed both during and after his term of office. The task now facing historians is to better understand how intellectual climates and, by extension, how such changes translate into the visible advancement of human rights.
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# Posted 8:51 AM by Patrick Belton  

MY FIRST DEARBORN ARTICLE is hitting the streets today (alhamdulillah), in a new urban studies magazine called The Next American City - an online version of my piece is here on my website (and I also wrote an impressionistic Letter from Dearborn here on OxBlog several months ago, after returning from my first research trip to Michigan).

I had a truly lovely time getting to know the Muslim community of Dearborn, and many of my sources have now quite happily turned into friends. So my many thanks to all who kindly helped me with this piece. (Also, the article's being turned into a book, so I'd be very interested in any feedback or comments that any of our readers might have.)
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# Posted 7:51 AM by Patrick Belton  

NIGERIA HAS ALWAYS SOUNDED like a rather nice place, but I think I'll be staying away from Gambia and Ghana for a bit, though.
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# Posted 7:22 AM by Patrick Belton  

MEMRI has an essay on progress being made in Iraq. Among other points I found interesting were these:

* Polling data: The Saudi daily Okaz polled the following statements in Iraq. First: "Iraq, and the people of Iraq, are today better off than they were in the past." 66 percent of the respondents "strongly agreed" and another 17 percent "agreed" with the statement. Only 17 percent disagreed. One hundred percent of respondents disagreed with the second statement: "It is possible that Saddam Hussein will return to govern Iraq because he is preferable to the Western coalition."

* Also, the Zogby polling shop found great optimism in Iraq, combined with a willingness to give the United States one to two years further to carry out political and economic reforms. Seven out of 10 say they expect their country and their personal lives will be better five years from now. 59 percent of respondents would give the occupation forces and the CPA the additional time of one to two years to initiate political and economic reforms.

* There are also very touching, daily changes. For the first time in over thirty years, Iraq has no torture chambers, and has no arbitrary arrests or executions. More than 100 dailies and weeklies are flourishing, writing from perspectives ranging from Khomeinism to Kurdish nationalism. Information is flowing freely, which it has never done before. For the first time, students will attend school without having to sing the praises of Saddam or recite Ba'ath party slogans. (An old, Saddam-era textbook includes a chapter entitled "Valuable Things," referring to valuable things students bring to school. One excerpt: "A girl brings a watch; a boy brings a picture of Saddam.")

Many problems remain, but there is progress being made, and I will cheer it.
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# Posted 5:07 AM by Patrick Belton  

WE HAVE A NOBEL PEACE LAUREATE: Iranian human rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi has won the Peace Prize. (CNN)

This is a selection I'm enormously pleased by (though a Havel prize would have been quite nice, too). Famous as the first female judge in Iranian history, Ms. Ebadi had to resign her position in 1979 after the Iranian Revolution, and has since then been a quite brave activist in the cause of democracy and human rights in her country.

She came to particular prominence, and danger, in 2000 when as counsel she took up the case of Darious and Parvaneh Foruhar, two intellectuals and writers murdered by the Iranian government, together with her defense of a number of other persecuted intellectuals. For performing her work as a lawyer she was then herself arrested and faced with a closed hearing in July 2000. The particular attention of a letter-writing campaign directed by Amnesty International resulted in her being given a five-year disbarment together with a suspended sentence for the same period. Her other efforts have focused on Iranian women and children.

Pieces written about her before her selection include profiles in the Christian Science Monitor, and pieces by her include numerous pieces critical of the Iranian juvenile justice system (here, here, here, and here).

The Nobel Committee's biography of Ms Ebadi is here, and its citation and press release are online as well. This is a strong selection, in line with the Committee's 1991 selection of Aung San Suu Kyi and its 1983 selection of Lech Walesa (and drawing a strong contrast with some of the Committee's past choices which have not withstood the test of hindsight, such as Ms Menchu and Chairman Arafat).

May Ms. Ebadi's work, supported now by its proper attention, prosper and continue.
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Thursday, October 09, 2003

# Posted 8:16 PM by Patrick Belton  

THE TRANSCRIPT FROM Steven Pinker's lecture at AEI this week, on "The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature," is up online now. Professor Pinker is not only one of current U.S. academia's most prolific and thoughtful figures, he is also a (actually, the) charter member of the "Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for Scientists," to which he links from his Harvard site. This from the LFHCfS website:
The initial list, assembled by a subcommittee comprised of seven members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, was meant as a nucleating seed, from which a larger list could grow. Here is the initial list: Steven Pinker (note: Pinker's is the sole name on list).
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# Posted 1:21 PM by Patrick Belton  

JUST BECAUSE THERE ISN'T ENOUGH blogging on Guv'ner Arnold already (come on, people, we have to make this last at least two years!) - Michael Barone interprets Schwarzenegger's California win for a British audience in the Telegraph (and finds augury in it for Blair).
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# Posted 10:02 AM by Patrick Belton  

WINNER OF THE BAD IDEA OF THE DAY CONTEST: Urban Outfitters has begun selling in its stores a board game called "Ghettopoly," featuring properties including Harlem, the Bronx, and Westside Liquor, and squares with names including "Smitty's XXX Peep Show" and "Weinstein's Gold and Platinum." (A close friend of ours even gets a possible mention with Tyron's Gun Shop.) Cards read, inter alia, "You got yo whole neighborhood addicted to crack. Collect $50." Among mispelt historical figures are to be found "Malcum X" and "Martin Luthor King."

Black clergymen and other community leaders are not amused.
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# Posted 8:38 AM by Patrick Belton  

WALL OF SHAME: The Do Not Call list legislation wasn't merely an exercise in populism, it was a defense of a public interest. Voting against it were Reps. Bishop (Ut.), Meek (Fl.), Strickland, Cannon, Paul, Terry, Flake, and Ryan (Oh.) If any of our readers happened to live in one of their districts, and felt like giving them a call (perhaps ideally while their staffs are trying to eat), the Corner has their office numbers. (via Genoan Sailor)
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# Posted 5:17 AM by Patrick Belton  

NEWS ROUND-UP: Top news story of the day is the NATO ministerial in Colorado Springs, featuring scenario planning (with the sobriquet "Dynamic Response '07") and serious discussions about the interesting new NATO Response Force (CNN, WaPo, MSNBC). A prototype of the NATO Response Force will come online next week for testing, and it is intended to be ready for real-world use in October 2005, and fully operational by October 2006, with a core force of 5,000 troops and 15,000 additional support troops.

Lord Robertson raised the obvious and long-standing complaint: "We've [ NATO allies] actually got plenty of people in uniform," but because of structural shortcomings in European militaries, these soldiers cannot be deployed on foreign soil. "So long as you have so many unusable soldiers," Robertson noted, "the taxpayers are being ripped off." Of the 1.4 million non-U.S. soldiers among NATO countries, a paltry 55,000 of them are deployed on operations in the Balkans and elsewhere, yet the US's NATO allies feel overstretched. In other NATO news (and representing an overdue development), the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Aghanistan, with 5,000 German, Canadian, and U.S. troops currently stationed in Kabul, is preparing to add 2,000 to 10,000 more troops into Aghanistan's provincial cities.

Elsewhere in the papers, NYT is running a piece presenting Putin as torn between a KGB officer and a democrat struggling within him for equipoise. (Note to readers: great, Hamlet running the world's most sizable nation. One pictures him in the shower, muttering in a Boris Badanov accent "Oh, that this too, too sullied Grozny would melt away...")

And in the neat-but-no-cigar category, WaPo is running a piece on Virginia v. Maryland, an original jurisdiction case the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on yesterday, where the two states had recourse to 1632-vintage colonial documents from Charles I to contest whether Maryland or Virginia owned the Potomac. Maryland's case to full ownership, however, is shaky, as reflected in the decision of the special master and questions in oral arguments.

Finally, in the blogosphere, look for a fascinating new blog providing strong coverage of Central Asia on Afghan Voice, with recent posts up on Dostum, Chechnya, and the resignation of the US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, and the expansion of the NATO force in Afghanistan. Slate is encouraging drunkenness to get through primary debate season. TNR is running a fairly thoughtful online debate on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And Weekly Standard has a piece on that foremost American cleric who began the Great Awakening, penned the essay "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," and now is immortalized chiefly by having a residential college named after him at Yale - admittedly, though, one with the motto "JE sux."

(OxBlog: riding herd on the daily papers since the Bush administration, focusing like a laser beam on democracy promotion since - okay, maybe not quite - the Clinton years. Or at least since Chelsea's years at Oxford)
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# Posted 1:27 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

INCHING TOWARD A POSITIVE OUTLOOK: Two days ago, I challenged Matt & Kevin to defend the conventional wisdom on Iraq, i.e. that the occupation is headed for failure. As expected, both of them raise good point in response to my challenge. And perhaps more importantly, it seems we share a fair amount of common ground.

First off, one thing that both Kevin (via e-mail) and Matt share in common is their insistence that there is little point in focusing on the pessimism of the mainstream media, since journalists almost always focus on dramatic and violent events. As Matt puts it,
After all, if you took the Washington Post Metro section too seriously you might think that 10 percent of DC residents have been murdered this year, since after all one article in ten seems to discuss a murder.
Now, I admit that drama and violence are the bread and butter of the mainstream media. However, that generalization does not have enough explanatory power to account for two critical facets of media coverage in Iraq.

First of all, a focus on individual dramatic or violent events does not necessitate coming to conclusion that drama and violent are the fundamental characteristics of a given situation. For example, the WaPo Metro section tends to balance reports of specific murders with articles charting the overall trend in the murder rate. If that rate is falling, as it was for most of the 1990s, the Metro desk won't report that the city is descending into chaos. In Iraq, however, the media interpret almost every Ba'athist attack as an indication of growing insurgent strength and sophistication. And they ask after every American soldier falls whether the United States can afford to hold out until it achieves its objectives on the ground.

Second, a general preference for violence and drama hardly explains how certain correspondents can miss good news that is staring them right in the face. For example, my post from two days ago compared comparable stories about the situation in Kirkuk published, respectively, in the NY Times and the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Notice that neither story came in response to specific events. Both were atmosphere pieces meant to assess general trends in the city. And yet the NYT correspondent managed to come up with a narrative of chaos and failure while the PI reporter focused on the general calm in the city and the critical role of the 173rd Airborne Brigade in ensuring it. While one might say that the PI correspondent is simply naive and misguided, the fact that he was able to produce far better evidence than his counterpart at the Times suggests that that is not the case. (NB: The Chicago Tribune was already commenting on positive trends in Kirkuk back in may, but there wasn't much interest in the story except online.)

Now, to be fair, the fact that some mainstream journalists are reporting the kind of news that favors my position means that there is some sort of balance within the media as an institution. However, this "good news" is something of a recent phenomenon. More importantly, it tends to come from regional papers rather than the NYT or the (more balanced) WaPo.

As Matt notes, I have never been one to believe that this kind of negative reporting reflects either a conscious or unsconscious liberal desire to embarrass a conservative administration. Rather, it is the product of a historically-conditioned mindset that took hold of the journalistic profession as result of the war in Vietnam.

Now, this isn't to say that because Iraq isn't Vietnam it is therefore a success. Rather, my point is that historical blinders have prevented foreign correspondents -- both American and otherwise -- from paying attention or attributing significance to positive trends. Of course, the evidence sometimes becomes so overwhelming that denial is no longer possible. Hence, the invasion of Iraq was a quagmire on Day Ten but an unprecedented triumph on Day Twenty. By the same token, the media had to do rapid about faces after American successes in both the first Gulf War and Panama.

Since it is getting let and this post is getting long, I'm going to cut it off here. But when I get a chance, I will address two other important issues that Matt & Kevin raise. First, is there any reason to believe that short-term successes in Iraq will translate into permanent improvements, especially given the United States inability to maintain an 100,000-strong invasion force for more than a year or two? Second, is there enough information from which to draw firm conclusions about the state of the occupation, or is agnosticism the wisest option? Coming soon...
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Wednesday, October 08, 2003

# Posted 8:13 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ECONOMISTS' MORAL VALUES: Matt Yglesias provides some interesting commentary.
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# Posted 7:58 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CALVIN & HOBBES REDUX? From the WaPo:
In Texas, thought to hold perhaps half the nation's backyard tigers, a string of attacks during the past four years underscores the threat to youngsters...

The day after the Las Vegas incident [involving Siegfried & Roy --ed.], New York authorities removed a 425-pound tiger from a fifth-floor Harlem apartment after it attacked and injured its owner.
Well folks, you can rest assured that there are no tigers on OxBlog. Only paper tigers.
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# Posted 7:46 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BLAMING THE JEWS AND THE COMMUNISTS: This op-ed by the Russian ambassador to the United States is almost Saudi Arabian in its faux indignance. According to Mr. Ushakov, Americans' "Cold War mentality", i.e. their ignorant inability to differentiate Russians from their Soviet predecessors, is a leading cause of tension in the US-Russian relationship.

And then there's the Jackson-Vanik amendment, designed to punish the Soviet Union for barring the emigration of Soviet Jews. While "the amendment does not substantially damage Russian commercial interests", it represents a symbolic threat to Russian sovereignty. Huh? Unless Russia has plans to follow the Soviet precedent on immigration, I don't think Jackson-Vanik will do any damage to Russian commericial interests, substantial or otherwise.

Now here's a radical thought Mr. Ushakov might want to consider: there is continual tension in US-Russian relations because Russia's President is a lying thug and because some of us aren't happy that our President is closing his eyes to Putin's brutal and dictatorial methods of government.
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# Posted 7:27 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BLEEDING-HEART LIBERALS: The NYT editorial board is actually rooting for the Red Sox. While acknowledging that
Cold reality favors the Yankees; warm sentiment, which is at the heart of baseball and to which we are always susceptible, favors one or the other of baseball's most reliable losers.
If it had any real moral fibre, the Times would call for a Red Sox win in the ALCS so that Boston fans might later face the maximum humiliation of losing the Series to the Cubs.

Perhaps worse than the Times' emotional attachment to a Red Sox victory is the superficiality of its commitment to the cause. In a classic extension of its limousine liberalism to the wide world of sports, the Times professes its deep sympathy for Red Sox fans, all the while knowing that "cold reality" will ensure that New York celebrates yet another victory. Thus, even as they bask in the glory of yet another World Series crown, the editors at the Times will be able to tell themselves that they are different and better than the rest of us because they are sensitive to Boston's true needs. How touching.
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# Posted 4:58 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OR PERHAPS Patrick meant to say "Joschka"?
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# Posted 11:45 AM by Patrick Belton  

THAT'S OKAY, we know how you spell your name, Josch.
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# Posted 9:11 AM by Patrick Belton  

(BAD) JOKE OF THE DAY: CNN, reporting on the assault, murder, and likely rape of Canadian journalist Zahra Kazemi by Iranian intelligence, has this to say after the usual palather about Khatami's reformist credentials:
The Intelligence Ministry, which is controlled by reformists, have rejected the indictments of its agents and threatened to "expose all the facts" if the conservative judiciary do not withdraw the charges.
"Reformists": is the word losing all of its meaning?
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# Posted 7:21 AM by Patrick Belton  

THIS JUST IN FROM OUR FRIENDS THE SAUDIS: Saudi Princess Reem Al-Faisal, granddaughter of the late King Faisal, had this to say in a piece in the Saudi-based Arab News:
"It is time for the American nation to acknowledge its crimes and apologize and ask forgiveness from the many people it has harmed. Beginning with the Native Americans, followed by the Africans and South Americans, right through to the Japanese, who have suffered such horror by being the only race to know the true meaning of weapons of mass destruction.

"The U.S. should leave Iraq after apologizing for over a million dead after an unlawful embargo and a colonial war which at best is a farce and at worst a crime... Are the Americans willing to admit their mistakes? This is the most important question of the 21st century, since much of the world's safety depends on it."
...
"The Americans insist that most criticism directed toward their policies stems from a deep-seated anti-Americanism which the entire world has been suffering from since the founding of the U.S. In fact, I find that the world has been more than forgiving toward the Americans from the very beginning.

"If you take a quick look at American history, you will realize instantly that the atrocities committed by the Americans on their fellow man might be one of the worst in human history, and that's saying much - one, because humanity has reached levels of evil that no other creature on earth can compete with, and two, because the very short history of the American nation makes its crimes even more shocking when compared with other, more ancient lands.
Like Saudi Arabia, one assumes.
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# Posted 7:09 AM by Patrick Belton  

BRIEF BLEG (OR: IS THERE AN ECONOMIST IN THE HOUSE?): I've recently become involved with a working-group which will be working on writing a policy paper on trade policy, starting out from a commitment to increased opportunity. I assume we'll end up doing four things, probably in descending order of importance: (1) examining how gains from freer trade can be distributed to its losers without distorting market mechanisms, (2) examining the most successful programs for assisting displaced workers and affected communities adapt from the manufacturing to the service economy, (3) summarizing the evidence at hand for the relationship of past free trade initiatives to indices of opportunity (i.e., income, disposable income after purchase of goods, etc), (4) surveying the current landscape of free trade, and ideally offering some new suggestions for the executive's trade policy. I'd be very interested to hear from any of our readers who have backgrounds related to the subject. Thanks!
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# Posted 6:00 AM by Patrick Belton  

WEDGWOOD ON ISRAELI SELF-DEFENCE: My old professor, Ruth Wedgwood, has a piece in today's Journal, where she writes:
If you can't enjoy a good laugh, you shouldn't serve as a diplomat at the United Nations. One source of amusement is Syria's current membership on the U.N. Counter-Terrorism Committee. ... Any succor to terror groups that seek out noncombatant civilians for mayhem and maiming for "political" purposes might seem to be inconsistent with the Counter-Terrorism Committee's program.
... Unembarrassed by its obligations of membership on the Security Council, Syria has announced a rather different standard. In a little-remarked September 2002 Counter-Terrorism Committee filing, Syria reported that it could not regard as terrorism any acts committed in a "legitimate struggle against foreign occupation."
She also reminds us that there is a clear distinction between terrorism and guerilla insurgency: "The international law of armed conflict does not permit the deliberate targeting of civilians by suicide bombings, no matter what the occasion or cause for struggle." Again, "Terrorism is the deliberate use of force against protected persons. It is not defined by the political objectives of the actor." And she concludes memorably:
"The standards of international humanitarian law and the law of armed conflict are set by treaty and international custom. They make no exception for passionate liberators who wish, for an instrumental purpose, to target seaside cafes crowded with Arab and Jewish civilians. The identity of the suicide bomber points out the tragedy of this intellectual and moral confusion. The bomber was a young Palestinian woman, with a life ahead of her. She was also a lawyer."
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# Posted 5:33 AM by Patrick Belton  

THE PERENNIAL RECOURSE OF SCOUNDRELS: Despite President Bush's pledge of "full disclosure" in uncovering who in his administration violated the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982, thereby imperilling US lives and interests in countless countries, administration officials are indicating they may seek to protect the felon with that perennial recourse of scoundrels, claims of executive privilege. (The president is also to be seen protesting that he has no idea whether the felon in his administration will ever be uncovered.)

I am growing very, very disappointed.
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# Posted 5:13 AM by Patrick Belton  

THE VOTE: Here's a roundup of the news coverage surrounding governor-elect Ahnold. NYT notes Schwarzenegger did not do significantly worse among women, even after repeated allegations of sexual misconduct. NYT also notes that, keeping with the Hollywood theme, Jay Leno introduced the governor-elect before his victory speech. LA Times notes that Schwarzenegger picked up 20% of Democratic voters (along with 40 percent of independents and 69 percent of conservatives). Cruz Bustamante received almost 60 percent of the Latino vote, and two-thirds of liberal voters. Davis scored best amongst blacks and Jewish voters. McClintock's conservative appeal won the support only of a fifth of conservative Republican voters. (The San Francisco Chronicle has more numbers, too.) Other California-related tidbits: Secretary of State Kevin Shell estimated turnout at 60 percent (or 9.25 million voters), the state's highest turnout in a nonpresidential contest since 1982. Jesse Jackson spent a considerable amount of time in California attempting to rally Democrats on behalf of Governor Davis. Arnold spent $10.3 million of his own money on his campaign (out of a total of $83 million being spent by all candidates, more than half of which was spent on TV ad buys in the final weeks). In the blogosphere, excellent coverage as usual from Politics and Frivolities, Kaus explains why he voted for the Terminator, Andrew kvells, and CalPundit's comments section is lit up like a Christmas tree.
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# Posted 4:55 AM by Patrick Belton  

EURASIA WATCH: Some very good pieces appearing this week on the Soros Foundation's EurasiaNet: on Kazakh-Uzbek tensions, opposition politics in Turkmenistan, and the U.S. cutting development aid to Georgia in response to the Shevardnadze government's lack of democratic reforms. (No, not that Georgia....)
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Tuesday, October 07, 2003

# Posted 11:24 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BROUGHT TO YOU BY NAVIGATOR: I've had enough of Explorer. Ever since I started up my new DSL service in Boston, it has been malfunctioning all the time. So I switched to Navigator. Unsurprisingly, everything works a lot better now. So if momentum is the only thing keeping you loyal to Explorer, take five minutes of your life and install Navigator now.
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# Posted 1:33 PM by Patrick Belton  

SMART FRIENDS WE'VE GOT: Congrats, Lisa!!! (okay, four months or so overdue, but hey, news travels slow over water...)
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# Posted 1:24 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

TOTAL RECALL: Schwarzenegger guru Robert Tagorda will be Recall-blogging throughout the day. He already has a bunch of great posts up, so go over to his site and check'em out.
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# Posted 12:44 PM by Patrick Belton  

MORE ON NEW NATO SECGEN: A few weeks ago, when we were guest-blogging on Volokh, I posted on NATO's new secretary-general-designate, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. I was interested in Mr De Hoop Scheffer (and his formidable last name) not only because he will be taking the helm of the day-to-day workings of the U.S.'s principal strategic alliance, but also because, on a personal note, I worked for his soon-to-be predecessor, outgoing SecGen Lord Robertson. Lord Robertson was kind enough to write a note to Rachel and me at our wedding, in which he musingly compared the ongoing compromise of running a successful multilateral alliance of democracies with the one required to fashion a loving marriage. He is a classy act, and will be a difficult one to follow.

My post, incidentally, attracted this response from a journalist who has had the opportunity to interview Mr De Hoop Scheffer extensively:
With reference to your post on Mr De Hoop Scheffer, let me fill you in (I hold Dutch citizenship and had the honor of interviewing said Scheffer in the past): he is very typically a man of the European center-right. Undoubtedly what would be called an "Atlanticist" in the continental context, i.e. someone who is very friendly of the United States, and squarely opposed to the left-wing admiration of America's enemies. Before becoming Foreign Minister in 2002 (in the Fortuyn/Christian Democrats/Liberals government), his career wasn't spectacularly successful. In particular, he was considered to have been a particularly ineffective leader of the Christian Democrats, losing the elections in 1998 and being ousted as leader in a coup to be replaced by the man who is now the prime minister. From my own experience with De Hoop Scheffer --and you can use this if you want, but please don't attribute it to me by name-- I would have to say that he does not only have weak leadership/executive skills, but is also not the most intelligent of politicians. I interviewed him for an hour and a half shortly before he became leader of the Christian Democrats back in the mid-nineties and I really found him to lacking in knowledge and basic strategic insight. On the whole, I suspect De Hoop Scheffer is one of the few Europeans who can be expected to be supportive of the United States in the war on terror, but who lacks both the leadership potential, the charisma, and the intelligence to develop into a serious player as NATO SG.
Tough shoes to follow in, indeed.
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# Posted 12:05 PM by Patrick Belton  

SOME DARN GOOD WRITING coming out of PNAC these days: on terror financing in Southeast Asia, democracies in East Asia, Hong Kong, and, of course, Iraq. Good work, Kristol, et al.
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# Posted 11:08 AM by Patrick Belton  

BLATANT NEPOTISM: Hey, he may be my brother-in-law, but he's a dern good filmmaker anyway, and it's not just me who thinks so. So you readers who are (a) in Chicago, and (b) want something to do for Halloween, think about slipping on down for the Chicago Horror Film festival later this month to see Daniel Kleinfeld's adaptation of the Fall of the House of Usher.

(And speaking of nepotism, when do Josh, David, and I get to meet the chick who plays Madeline?)
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# Posted 9:53 AM by Patrick Belton  

PHOTOS FROM OUR IRAQ BUREAU: OxBlog's friend Jay Hallen, a recent Yale grad and member of a little foreign policy roundtable I helped start, is in Baghdad serving in the interim government - and, in his spare time, he's taking pictures. A few of them are up here. (You can also find his account of his first few days up on Tech Central Station, here).
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# Posted 9:36 AM by Patrick Belton  

POSSIBLY INTERESTING IF TRUE: A tipper (no, not that Tipper) writes in to indicate Hillary filed papers associated with a possible presidential bid with the FEC on late Friday, October 3.

An online record on the FEC website apparently reads
CLINTON, HILLARY RODHAM ID: P00003392

Office Sought: President
Election Year: 2004
State: Presidential Candidate
District: 03
Party: DEM (Democratic Party) (To get there from the www.fec.gov website: search "View Financial Reports" for "Clinton" and click on the blue number by her name.)
If this is true, I don't know to what extent filing papers of this nature represents a common precautionary tactic to keep options open. But it seems interesting if true.

UPDATE: Kathryn Lopez on the Corner has traced the record to a Draft Hillary committee, and not to Herself. (Sorry, Attorney Urman, didn't mean to get your hopes up.)

(Note: I should append sooner or later a blanket disclaimer to all of my posting on the elections - i.e., that in the next several days I'm accepting a position as overseas fundraising chair with the Clark campaign. I'll detail my reasons for doing so later - in a nutshell, they're that (a) Clark's candidacy seems to be showing greater chances for success than Lieberman's, and would (b) take the Democratic party toward a much stronger posture in foreign policy and centrism than would Howard Dean's candidacy; and while on the other hand I support much, if not most, of this adminstration's principle-driven foreign policy, I'm (c) disquieted by l'affaire Wilson. But, most importantly for me to establish from the start, I intend to keep my blogging role wholly separate from my role in that campaign.)
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# Posted 6:33 AM by Patrick Belton  

BACK FROM ERIN (no, the country, not a putative mistress): So I've just gotten back to Oxford after passing a lovely fortnight with Rachel on the secluded Irish-speaking island of Inishmaan, in Galway Bay off the west coast of Ireland. It was a lovely experience, on which I'll be posting more shortly - but first, I thought for the benefit of our Washington-based readers I might take a moment to publicize this Steven Pinker lecture at AEI this evening. The lecture is from 5:30 to 6:30 at AEI's building at 1150 17th Street NW. Pinker's own scribblings on what he's planning to talk about are these:
Why does talk of human nature inspire such fear and loathing in so many people? It challenges three deeply held beliefs: the blank slate (the mind has no innate structure), the noble savage (people are naturally good), and the ghost in the machine (behavior is not caused by physical events). These beliefs are thought to undergird indispensable moral values, and challenges to the beliefs are therefore thought to undermine the values. These orthodoxies, however, are flawed and should not have such influence on modern ethical principles. The meaning and purpose that people ascribe to life are not compromised by explanations of the ascribing process.

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# Posted 12:38 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE SPIDER AND THE FLY: On Wednesday night, the Red Sox will be fighting for their lives in the Bronx.
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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  

KARZAI COALITION HEADED FOR SPLIT: The WaPo has the story.
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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 -- "

"I WARNED YOU ! I WILL NOT TOLERATE MENTION OF YOUR ABNORMALITY UNDER THIS ROOF!" (PAGE 2)
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  

THE TRUTH SHALL SET YOU FREE (IF YOU PAY FOR IT): The WaPo reports that Iraq's
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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