OxBlog

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

# Posted 9:29 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE MUD HAS BEEN SLUNG: Via TPM, I came across this NYT article on an RNC commercial for Bush that will start running in Iowa. According to the NYT, the new commerical
shows Mr. Bush, during the last State of the Union address, warning of continued threats to the nation: "Our war against terror is a contest of will, in which perseverance is power," he says after the screen flashes the words, "Some are now attacking the president for attacking the terrorists."
That is low, misleading and flat-out wrong. Unsurprisingly, the White House has tried to distance itself from the commerical and say that the RNC was in charge. But how credible a defense is that?

If this is what we can expect from the Bush campaign, count me out.
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# Posted 9:06 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BOOOORING: Dan Drezner has an excellent post on the new Medicare bill which begins with Matt Yglesias' statement that bloggers (including himself) should learn to pay attention to critical issues such as Medicare no matter how boring they are.

That's why I'm putting up this link to Dan's post. We can't pretend that foreign policy and the war on terror are separate from domestic issues. If Medicare and Social Security and tax policy keep us in the red, we won't be able to devote the necessary resources to fighting terror. It's not a choice of butter vs. guns. It's a challenge to be reponsible and efficient in our consumption of both so that choices don't have to be made.

Anyhow, when reading Dan's post, do you know which link was the only one I followed? This one. So much for practicing what I preach...
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# Posted 8:57 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

@#$*%&! In a pre-Thanksgiving display of blogospheric love, Dan Drezner is cursing out James Lileks for cursing out Salam Pax. The whole thing started because Salam said some pretty dumb things in the Guardian, to which Lileks responded with some good points that were pre-empted by stupid insults. Rather than bring everyone back to the substantive side of things, Dan lost his temper and decided to chew Lileks out for being a jerk.

As far as the bad blood goes, I think it should be water under the bridge. Salam, Lileks and Dan have contributed so much to the blogosphere that no one should hold it against them if they lose it once in a while.

However, I would like to respond to what Salam said, since I think it deserves a serious response. At the core of SP's open letter to George Bush is his sarcastic frustration with the US-led reconstruction effort:
To tell you the truth, I am glad that someone is doing the cleaning up, and thank you for getting rid of that scary guy with the hideous moustache that we had for president. But I have to say that the advertisements you were dropping from your B52s before the bombs fell promised a much more efficient and speedy service. We are a bit disappointed. So would you please, pretty please, with sugar on top, get your act together and stop telling people you have Iraq all figured out when you are giving us the trial-and-error approach?
Given that Salam lost numerous friends and relatives to Saddam's brutality, it is surprising to see him triviliaze the value of liberation. Moreover, as Lileks suggests, it would be nice to see some recognition on Salam's part that American soldiers are giving their lives day in, day out, to prevent a Ba'athist resurgence and facilitate the reconstruction.

But leaving all that aside, let's look at what Salam is really asking for: a more credible guarantee that the United States will not cut and run, but rather stay in Iraq as long as is necessary to ensure prosperity and freedom. The hesitant and sarcastic way in which Salam gets this message across reminds of something that Tom Friedman said a while back [no permalink]. Friedman reminded us how dependent and helpless it must feel for the people of Iraq have the United States army liberate them and supervise their recovery from three decades of dictatorship.

Thus, it should come as no surprise that Salam puts up an aggressive and critical facade to mask his desire for cooperation. Moreover, the United States has a compelling interest in learning to distinguish between constructive critics and corrupt subversives. We have to be 'big' enough to get our emotional satisfaction elsewhere while rebuilding Iraq.

If we do our job right, than twenty or thirty years down the line, Iraqis will think of the occupation the way the Germans and Japanese think of theirs. It won't become an excuse for wholesale submission to everything the US wants, but it will establish an unbreakable bond that lets citizens of both nations know that they are on the same side regardless of how fiercely they disagree.
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# Posted 8:51 PM by Patrick Belton  

A BAD MAN GOES TO JAIL: Mohammed Hamdi al-Ahdal, a senior Al Qaeda leader who was involved in the terror attack of the USS Cole, was arrested today by Yemeni security forces. (CNN) Al-Ahdal had been reported to be in hiding in the Marib province of Yemen, perhaps under the protection of armed local tribesmen. The previous deputy to Al Qaeda's director of operations in Yemen, Abu Al-Harithi (also known as Abu Ali), Al-Ahdal took over the organization's operations in Yemen when the CIA successfully detonated two Predator-launched Hellfire missiles into Abu Ali's convoy in November, removing the chief operative and several other leaders from the scene. (ABC)

Online Islamist sources indicate that Al-Ahdal was among the first Mujahideen to enter Bosnia, fighting in the Battle of Tishin (August 1992) against the Serb army and losing one leg and use of an arm in that battle. After making Hajj in 1998, he was arrested by the Saudi government in Makkah on suspicion of plotting against the government, and was interrogated by the Saudis in the Ar-Ruwais Concentration Camp, Jeddah. On support for Al Qaeda in the Yemeni hinterlands, see BBC and EurasiaNet.
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# Posted 2:21 PM by Patrick Belton  

DAVID BROOKS AT THANKSGIVING: Warming up for the holiday in which we celebrate the Puritan and Kemalist legacies, David Brooks argues that American exceptionalism has been reborn, and it is a good thing:
The American work ethic shifted, so that the average American now works 350 hours a year — 9 or 10 weeks — longer than the average European. ...Economically, the comparisons are trickier, but here too there is divergence. The gap between American and European G.D.P. per capita has widened over the past two decades, and at the moment American productivity rates are surging roughly 5 percent a year.
While I'm not sure my French friends would let me live down giving thanks this week for a longer workweek, Brooks then goes on to some trends that we can all feel some measure of gratitude for:
In fact, we may look back on the period beginning in the middle of the 1980's as the Great Rejuvenation. American life has improved in almost every measurable way, and far from regressing toward the mean, the U.S. has become a more exceptional nation.

The drop in crime rates over the past decade is nothing short of a miracle. Teenage pregnancy and abortion rates rose in the early 1970's and 1980's, then leveled off and now are dropping. Child poverty rates have declined since the welfare reform of the mid-1990's. The black poverty rate dropped "to the lowest rate ever recorded," according to a 2002 study by the National Urban League. The barren South Bronx neighborhood that Ronald Reagan visited in 1980 to illustrate urban blight is now a thriving area, with, inevitably, a Starbucks.

The U.S. economy has enjoyed two long booms in the past two decades, interrupted by two shallow recessions, and perhaps now we're at the start of a third boom. More nations have become democratic in the past two decades than at any other time in history.
Even more heartening, Brooks attributes much of this to new, ambitious, talented young blood from the rest of the world:
The biggest difference is that over the past two decades the United States has absorbed roughly 20 million immigrants. This influx of people has led, in the short term, to widening inequality and higher welfare costs as the immigrants are absorbed, but it also means that the U.S. will be, through our lifetimes, young, ambitious and energetic.
Amen, brother. Pass the cranberries.
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# Posted 1:02 PM by Patrick Belton  

I ALWAYS WONDERED HOW THEY GOT THOSE:
An American woman has been left with a British accent after having a stroke. This is despite the fact that Tiffany Roberts, 61, has never been to Britain. Her accent is a mixture of English cockney and West Country. (via BBC)
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# Posted 12:56 PM by Patrick Belton  

I WANNA BE A SEA URCHIN.

(Okay, a healthy one).
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# Posted 7:49 AM by Patrick Belton  

MEDICARE PRESCRIPTION DRUG BENEFIT TO PASS TODAY: And hardly anyone seems too terribly happy about it. The left, c.f. Senator Kennedy, is worried that the introduction of competitive mechanisms will pave the wave for the privatization of social security. The right perhaps might not think that would be such a terribly bad thing, but is concerned that we've just created a quite large entitlement without really thinking about how to pay for it. On these lines, the WaPo was opposed to the bill, arguing principally that the cost-control provisions to be passed along with the new pricey drug benefit were not powerful enough - but also because an extremely important, 1,100-page bill with profound effect on the nation's fiscal and physical health was brought up for a House vote only one day after it was finished in largely secretive conference, making it impossible for legislators to have any real idea of what they were voting for or against. TNR's Jonathan Cohn criticizes the bill for giving unduly sweet deals to the large-contributing insurance and pharmaceutical industries, while including a competitive mechanism (Senator Breaux's) which he argues costs the government more than it saves. Equally critical is The Economist, which calls it "At a price-tag of $400 billion over the next ten years (and far more thereafter)...an extremely expensive way to buy votes."
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# Posted 7:27 AM by Patrick Belton  

A HECKOFA LONG TIME TO EAT PEANUTS: Okay, I'm personally very fond of Singapore as a country. But Singapore Airlines is advertising at the moment to win free tickets on its new, 18.5 hour long-haul nonstop flight from Singapore to Los Angeles. 18 hours - think about it, that's a whole day squeezed into a airplane seat, eating airplane food, and being subjected to that very unique form of authoritarian governance known more commonly as the flight attendant system. If that isn't far enough for you to go without getting out of your seat, lucky you - this will be followed in several months by a non-stop Singapore to New York route. (And if you like airline food, hey, on the internet there's a page for every sort of kinky obscene taste nowadays ....)
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Monday, November 24, 2003

# Posted 10:06 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A NOVEL EXPLANATION FOR NYT MEDIOCRITY: Matt Yglesias and Kevin Drum think that the 800-word limit on NYT biweekly columns stifles creativity and prevents some authors from putting their foot forward.

My response: Huh? There is an almost endless supply of 800-word columns out there that contain both new information and original ideas. Granted, most of those columns are in the WaPo. But that just goes to show that format isn't what's holding the NYT back.

Moreover, I think Kevin & Matt would grant that what's wrong with Bill Safire or David Brooks is their ideas, not their format. By the same token, you won't find me complaining about the format of Dowd & Krugman's columns (or Safire's for that matter).

Now, Kevin does raise an interesting point about the NYT constantly hiring columnists who have no experience in the genre. Why not, he suggests, recruit the best columnists from leading regional papers? I agree. But I think the problem with unproven columnists is not that they have trouble adjusting to the format, but rather that they don't have a demonstrated ability to bring new ideas into play on a biweekly basis. As a former bimonthly columnist myself, I'd say that the challenge of op-ed writing is finding something worthwhile to say, not figuring out how to say it in 800 words.

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# Posted 9:44 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

GRASSROOTS DEMOCRACY IN IRAQ: The WaPo has an excellent report.
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# Posted 9:39 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

UNITED AGAINST IRAN? The US and Europe have taken a big step closer to confronting Iranian nuclear ambitions togehter.
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# Posted 9:35 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

"THEIR BREASTS ARE SO LARGE THAT THEY ARE UNABLE TO WALK OR EVEN HAVE SEX": Plastic surgery gone awry? Nope. Just your typical factory-farmed turkey.
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# Posted 9:24 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE PEOPLE HAVE SPOKEN: The citizens of Hong Kong want more democracy. And they want it ASAP. (Note to Singapore: What "Asian Values"?)
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# Posted 3:34 PM by Patrick Belton  

WORRIED THAT YOUR ENGLISH IS TOO COMPREHENSIBLE? Not to fear, OxBlog is here. This fun list will provide you with many amusing ways to worsen your English, and fit in more in (say) English text messaging communities, or American teenage chat rooms. (Note: OxBlog actively does not endorse picking up teenagers. Particularly by our readers at http://www.clintonpresidentialcenter.com; you know who you are. This is with the possible exception of in Idaho, where that sort of thing seems to be legal.)

IANAL. KWIM?
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# Posted 11:50 AM by Patrick Belton  

AMY CHUA ON DEMOCRACY AND MARKET-DOMINANT MINORITIES: Young Yale Law professor Amy Chua has a beautifully written piece in Prospect Magazine (UK), on the possibility that social changes accompanying democratization will unleash forces of resentment against market-dominant ethnic minorities. Amy Chua's subject is close not only to her research interests but also to her personal experience from an ethnic Chinese family in the Philippines. Of course, Chua chooses not to stress that market-successful ethnic minorities are prone to scapegoating under authoritarian states, too, which generally seek ways to deflect popular discontent from themselves - think Stalin (or, for that matter, Putin) and Jews. However, Chua's argument is well-presented, and her prose style is remarkable, as here in her opening paragraph:
In many poor countries, markets concentrate wealth in the hands of prosperous ethnic minorities. In these places, democracy can be an engine of vengeance.
One morning in September 1994, I received a call from my mother in California. In a hushed voice, she told me that my Aunt Leona, my father's twin sister, had been murdered in her home in the Philippines, her throat slit by her chauffeur. My mother broke the news to me in our Hokkien Chinese dialect. But the word "murder" she said in English, as if to wall off the act from the family through language.
The murder of a relative is horrible for anyone, anywhere. My father's grief was impenetrable; to this day, he has not broken his silence on the subject. For the rest of the family, though, there was an added element of disgrace. For the Chinese, luck is a moral attribute, and a lucky person would never be murdered. Like having a birth defect, or marrying a Filipino, being murdered is shameful.
I find Chua's writing to be some of the best-written prose, if nothing else, coming out of the academy at the moment. If the Bulldogs lost the Yale-Harvard matchup on the football field last Saturday, then we certainly won with regard to luring Chua away from Cambridge. I'll look forward to reading much more from her in the future. And her final note is more optimistic with regard to ways in which market-dominant minorities may be ultimately reconciled with their broader societies - i.e., by being seen to be "significant and visible" contributors to those societies:
The University of Nairobi, for example, owes its existence to wealthy Indians in Kenya. The Madhvani family, owners of the largest industrial group in east Africa, provide education, healthcare and housing for their African employees, and also employ Africans in top management. In Russia, there is the unusual case of the Jewish billionaire Roman Abramovich, whose philanthropy won him election as governor of the poverty-stricken Chukotka region in the Russian far east. More typically, however, building ethnic goodwill requires collective action through ethnic chambers of commerce, clan associations, and so on.
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# Posted 11:36 AM by Patrick Belton  

WHITHER CONTINENTAL DRIFT? Our foreign policy society's DC chapter took up the theme of Euro-American relations last night; here are the notes. We discussed the topic here in Oxford too, just a couple of weeks ago.
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# Posted 11:26 AM by Patrick Belton  

ITALIAN NATIONAL ALLIANCE LEADER GOES TO JERUSALEM to apologize for Mussolini's misdeeds, and is received by Israel. Deputy Minister Fini, wearing a skullcap, paid a visit today to Yad Vashem and is being received later in the week by Sharon, Shimon Peres, FM Shalom, and President Katsav in what's being perceived as the culmination of Fini's decade-long campaign to haul his National Alliance out of its post-fascist fringes and into the mainstream. Ha'aretz writes favorably of his trip, citing sources as saying, "apart from converting he has made every possible step to get closer to us and to Italy's Jews."
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# Posted 11:23 AM by Patrick Belton  

SNIPER TO BE EXECUTED: The sentence has just been handed down by the Prince William County jury, subject to Circuit Court Judge Millette's ratification on February 12th. More when more is available....

UPDATE: WaPo has more.
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# Posted 9:26 AM by Patrick Belton  

TWO GOOD PIECES in the Weekly Standard today: The first is on why the U.S. military requires staying power, and more divisions, for theaters such as Iraq, rather than Secretary Rumsfeld's dream of a lighter, faster, leaner army. The second, by Bob Kagan and Bill Kristol, beautifully praises the President's pro-democracy rhetoric during his trip to London, and hopes that it is the President who wins in the councils of his advisors:
There can no longer be any doubt that whatever Republican "realist" inclinations the president may have inherited from his father and his father's advisers when he took office, he has now abandoned that failed and narrow view and raised the torch previously held high by Ronald Reagan--and before that by John F. Kennedy and Harry Truman.

In this respect, Bush has broken from the mainstream of his party and become a neoconservative in the true meaning of the term. For if there is a single principle that today divides neoconservatism from traditional American conservatism, it is the conviction that the promotion of liberal democracy abroad is both a moral imperative and a profound national interest. This is a view of America's role in the world that has found little favor in the Republican party since the days of Theodore Roosevelt. Reagan was a modern exception--the product, no doubt, of his own roots as a Truman Democrat--but this aspect of Reaganism was largely abandoned by Republicans after 1989. And so we are not surprised to see traditional Republican conservatives, of whom there is no more esteemed intellectual spokesman than George Will, now denouncing the supposed folly of such ambitious ventures. Nor are we surprised that in Bush's own cabinet, neither his secretary of state nor his secretary of defense shares the president's commitment to liberal democracy, either in Iraq or in the Middle East more generally. Indeed, the only thing that surprises us, a little, is the failure of American liberals--and European liberals--to embrace a cause that ought to be close to their hearts.
If the President would like to earn a place in the ranks of TR, JFK, Truman and Reagan by promoting a principled policy of national strength in the service of democracy, this Scoop Jackson Democrat, for one, will not be minding in the least.
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Sunday, November 23, 2003

# Posted 7:11 PM by Patrick Belton  

UPDATE ON GEORGIA: Shevardnadze has resigned power.
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Saturday, November 22, 2003

# Posted 1:38 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BULLDOG! BULLDOG! At The Game. No blogging today either.
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Friday, November 21, 2003

# Posted 1:34 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CASE UN/CLOSED: Newsweek rebuts Stephen Hayes. Hayes responds. Newsweek gets one good shot in (which Hayes acknowledges), but also seems to have made quite a few mistakes.
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# Posted 1:08 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NOT ENOUGH PROTESTS IN LONDON: George Bush gets a villain's welcome. But Jiang Zemin, Vladimir Putin, Bashar Assad and Robert Mugabe get left a lone by the protesting masses. Why? Greg Djerejian explains.

And while you're at it, take a look at Greg's extended fisking of some of the letters from prominent intellectuals that the Guardian published in honor of George Bush's visit.

Finally, if you enjoy nothing more than mocking misguided demonstrators, than head over to this Instapost and scroll down for plenty more.
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# Posted 1:03 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OXBLOG SLANDERS SOUTH & MIDWEST: When you blog, everything you write gets put under the microscope. Sometimes I wish it weren't so. But at the end of the day, it is precisely this sort of challenge that makes this a rewarding experience.

For example, I randomly decided to put up a post on this list of America's 10 most dangerous intersections. It turns out to be a pretty flawed list. In my original post, I wrote that "It's hard to believe that none of [the 10 interesections] are in Boston or New York." Yet as MG points out, State Farm's "national" list only includes information on those states where it sells insurance. Had I paid closer I attention, I would've noticed that neither New York nor Massachusetts is one of those states.

Next up, DB points out that State Farm's "danger index" only takes into account the number of accidents at an intersection, not the amount of traffic that goes through it. Furthermore, DB went looking for aerial photos of the intersections on the list and discovered that that most of them are really, really big. In other words, the frequency of accidents at those intersections may not be exceptionally high, but sheer size catapults them to the top of the list. (For a photo of the number one intersection, click here.)

All in all, I'd say that this is a pretty good demonstration of how the blogosphere forces all of us to think more seriously about everything we say. Without hundreds of writers and thousands of readers, the system wouldn't work. The end result? My apologies to the South & Midwest for naively accepting groundless assertions that their drivers are worse than our own up here in the North. I guess OxBlog won't be getting the votes of anyone with a Confederate flag on the back of their truck...

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Thursday, November 20, 2003

# Posted 8:07 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

TOO POPULAR FOR THEIR OWN GOOD: Crescat Sententia was down yesterday because of insufficient bandwidth. But now they're back and better than ever with an upgraded account, an interesting post on homosexuality and the bone marrow donation process, and 20 Questions for Stuart Buck.
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# Posted 5:39 AM by Patrick Belton  

A SAD DAY IN ISTANBUL: Between three and five coordinated explosions have struck the Turkish city this morning, and our thoughts are with the many victims of these latest senseless outrages against human decency. (CNN, NYT, BBC). Their perpetrators are murderers, and must be treated as such.

UPDATE: The press is now reporting that HM Consul General in Istanbul, Roger Short, was assassinated in the day's attack. A lifelong diplomat since his graduation from our university, Short was remembered by the Archbishop of Canterbury as a 'kind and caring' diplomat. (His obituary) Fluent in the nation's language, Turkey was his the site of his first and last posting. He is survived by a wife and three children; Basiniz sag olsun.
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# Posted 3:11 AM by Patrick Belton  

TIME FOR THE WORLD'S MOST UNUSUAL SPORT: That being the Eton Wall Game, played (in the version that counts, anyway) annually on the Saturday before St Andrew's Day. (Which also happens this year to be the date of another important academic sporting event in Britain's daughter country.) Thus Economist:
The wall game is played on only one ground in the world, at Eton College, a few miles west of London; and even there, only by a select few of the school's 70 “collegers”, or scholarship-holders, plus a small number of “oppidans”, the fee-payers who comprise most of the school's roughly 1,300 pupils. Add a few former (or unsuspecting) players invited to make up the occasional visiting side, and you have the wall game community of the planet.
Eton helpfully provides the rules of the game (the inspiration of rugby as well as Harry Potter's Quidditch), as well as a brief explanation of something which, to many O.E.s as well as bystanders, seems perennially to defy explanation.

The Collegers v Oppidans match takes place this Saturday at the Wall, at 11.10.
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# Posted 12:13 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CRIMSON SOLIPSISM: Ah, the Internet. I live and work in Cambridge, MA but had to find out from Steve Sachs in Oxford, England that the editors of the Harvard Crimson are up in arms about a supposed plan to reinstate the draft.

While Josh did link to Steve's post about the Crimson last week, I thought that my reliance on Steve to find out what's in the Crimson substantiates what Steve has said more recently about the Internet having the potential to unite those divided by long distances and divide those united by short ones. On an even more fascinating note, Steve cites the work of legendary historian Marc Bloch, who observed that information flows in medieval Europe had the same tendency to unite the distant and divide the promixate.

Anyhow, in case you haven't read Steve's post on the reinstatement of the draft, it turns out that the whole thing was cooked up by a far-left hack who got the Guardian and others to play along. Exposing this fact promptly resulted in Steve being denounced as a shill for the Bush administration.

Bottom line: The Crimson editorial got played big time. So much for Harvard having the smartest undergraduates. And come Saturday, it should become painfully clear that their football team sucks, too. Go Bulldogs!
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Wednesday, November 19, 2003

# Posted 11:09 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FRENCH DEMOCRACY PROMOTION: This TNR piece says French troops are accomplishing nothing in Cote D'Ivoire, but it seems to me like they're doing their best to promote peace and democracy. It isn't easy, you know.
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# Posted 11:02 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MORE BUREAUCRA-SPEAK: Stephen Hayes puts the DoD's press release under the microscope and finds it to be vague and misleading -- half-way, that is, between a denial and a non-denial.
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# Posted 10:52 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ASTROTURF BLOGGING: TAPPED's Nick Confessiore has an article up exposing TechCentralStation as a front for corporate lobbyists. Glenn Reynolds thinks this is ridiculous, since no one ever tells him what to write in his TCS columns. Dan Drezner says pretty much the same thing.

Reading the article, what struck as most interesting is that TCS seems to devote a lot more coverage to issues that affect its corporate sponsors. Then again, TCS founder James Glassman tells Confessiore that "We're an advocacy group. There's no doubt about that. I don't think we ever had pretenses of being an academic think tank." Not exactly stonewalling, is he?

UDPATE: Matt Yglesias also notes that he was never told what to write for TCS. The difference between Matt's post and the ones put up by Glenn and Dan is that Matt's post is an actual effort to apologize for his association with TCS, which he seems to be sort of embarrassed about.
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# Posted 10:09 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HAL TADRUS AL-ARABIYYA? American students' interest in Arabic language courses has spiralled since 9/11. More than 10,000 students are studying Arabic right now, out of a total of 1.4 million students studying some foreign language.

According to the State Department, Arabic is a "super-hard" language to learn, a classification shared by Chinese, Japanese and Korean. Even so attrition rates in Arabic programs have been lower than expected.

Here at Harvard, the department is struggling to find enough teachers and assistants to staff the Arabic courses. Personally, I have had the great good fortune to be taught by the illustrious Mostafa Atamnia. My aspiration is to have OxBlog become the official blog of Al-Jazeera.

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# Posted 1:13 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

EATING IT UP: Liberals, even my fellow hawks at TNR, are extremely pleased with Bob Kagan's recent column that declares Howard Dean's foreign policy safe for the mainstream. The folks at &c. are even projecting that Dean will run against Bush from the right on foreign policy.

While I can accept Kagan's basic premise that Dean is no McGovern (granting for the moment that McGovern was a McGovern), there still seems to be good reason to belive that Dean's foreign policy would be both excessively multilateralist and insufficiently committed to democracy promotion. Of course, you could probably say the same about Kerry, Clark and Edwards.

Personally, I still can't get over Dean's statement that the fall of Saddam Hussein might have been a good thing. It's very hard for me to dismiss that as just a gaffe. From where I stand, it is an indication of Dean's instincts.

On the other hand, I'm probably going to find myself apalled at the cheapshots that the GOP will take at Dean's dovishness if he gets elected. They'll try to blur the line between being against the war in Iraq and being against the war on terror. And so it will come down to the lesser of two evils. Sigh.

UPDATE: There go those instincts again.
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# Posted 12:47 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CONSERVATIVE WOLF IN LIBERAL SHEEP'S CLOTHING: Matt Yglesias has an interesting column up about Peter Boyer, author of a recent hatchet job on Wesley Clark that somehow made it's way into the liberal New Yorker. As both Matt and Fred Kaplan argue, there isn't much substance to Boyer's case that Clark shouldn't be taken seriously when it comes to foreign policy. But why worry about what Boyer says, when Clark is doing such a good job of demonstrating his own incompetence?
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Tuesday, November 18, 2003

# Posted 9:59 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

UNPROCESSED INTELLIGENCE: Glenn links to a whole bunch of sites that are trying to put together as much raw infomation as possible about the occupation.
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# Posted 9:57 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CROSSING INTO MODO-LAND: Lately, David Brooks has been spending his time reading fashion magazines. Halfway through Brooks' column, I thought to myself, "Oh my God, he's becoming another Dowd." Yet by the end, Brooks had made a reasonably intelligent and coherent point about the magazines' socio-political significance. Think he'll give Maureen some lessons on how to do it?
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# Posted 9:45 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ROOT CAUSES: France has decided to combat anti-Semitism by spending $8 billion on urban renewal in rough neighboorhoods with heavily Muslim populations. The package also includes tougher policing and prosecution measures. My gut says that the latter initiatives are far more important. But let's give the French a chance to prove that carrots have a more lasting effect than sticks.

Alternately, the French could let the Turks into the EU and ask them to share some of their remarkable tolerance for Judaism with their French counterparts.
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# Posted 9:22 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ONLY IN ISRAEL: Where the army is filled with guilt-laden doves.
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# Posted 9:06 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MUCH ADU ABOUT SOMETHING: 14-year old Ghanaian-American soccer phenom Freddy Adu has signed a six-year deal with DC United after turning down offers from Man United and Chelsea. The future of American soccer may already be here.
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# Posted 9:02 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A SHORT, EASY SLOG: Phil Carter says Rumsfeld's new warfighting plans blatantly disregard the lessons of recent history.
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Monday, November 17, 2003

# Posted 11:26 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HOWARD'S TOP 10: It's turns out that Howard and I both have the same favorite recording artist: Wyclef Jean. Andrew Sullivan likes Dean's taste in music since Wyclef is known for appreciating the rewards that the free market brings.

I would not be so sanguine, however. If you listen to The Score or The Carnival, you might figure out why Howard Dean thinks all Southerners have the Stars & Bars in their pickups.

One of Wyclef's big messages is that the black man must wear a mask of respectability until he is powerful enough to overthrow the white order. Needless to say, I appreciate Wyclef for his talents as a musician and storyteller, not his advice on social policy.

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# Posted 11:12 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BELIEVE IT OR NOT: In the space of 27 hours, Matt Yglesias has both admitted that he is too poor to get laid and praised an OxBlog post without resorting to a single backhanded compliment or snide remark.
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# Posted 11:05 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE TIMES' SALVATION: John Burns alone makes the NYT worth reading. (Via Instapundit)
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# Posted 10:58 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BIZARRE: BBC reports that Italian anti-war activists are raising money for Ba'ath aligned insurgents in Iraq.
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# Posted 10:29 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE BIGGER THE MOUTH, THE BIGGER THE SHOE: Wes Clark is doing an uncannily good job of undermining his credentials as the serious foreign policy candidate. The place to turn for the best accounts of his foot-in-mouth performances in TNR. In the TNR primary, we get to hear about how Wes Clark thinks that "engaging" Eastern Europe (via Citibank) won the Cold War, how working more closely with the Saudis dictatorship is the way to stop Al Qaeda, and how it was OK to go fight Milosevic without a UN resolution -- but not Saddam -- because Milosevic had abused Kosovar human rights.

When Clark finally decided to show some foresight by saying that it's time to lift the embargo on Cuba, he quickly backed off the statement and hypocritically added that candidates shouldn't make "foreign policy announcements" in the middle of a campaign (except on such important subjects as the giving the UN control of Iraq.)

On the bright side, it turns out that Clark may not be as arrogant as we all once thought. Then again, walking around with one's foot in one's mouth is conducive to humility.

Clark also seems to get in shape rhetorically when facing off against the right. Yet even Clark supporter Kevin Drum, who proudly asserts that Clark knows more about foreign policy than both Glenn Reynolds and Kevin's cat, admits that the General has a habit of saying some very stupid things about foreign and domestic affairs.
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# Posted 1:12 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MIRACLE ON 44TH STREET: Kevin Drum reports that the NYT has decided that bloggers can now post real permalinks to its content, not just semi-permalinks that disappear once the content goes behind the NYT firewall.

As a result of this new policy, Kevin has decided to declare the NYT more blog-friendly than either the WaPo or LAT, since both of them move their content behind a firewall after a fixed period of time. However, I think the WaPo deserves a lot more credit than Kevin is giving it. If you go to the WaPo webpage for any given topic or country, you can usually access 100 recent stories about it, sometimes going back more than a year. That's a tremendous amount of information that you can't get out of the NYT.
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# Posted 12:51 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE SHI'ITE VOTE: Take a look at this somewhat better than usual article on Shi'ite attitudes toward democracy. It has some interesting information about Ayatollah Sistani and the way he expresses his official opinions.

What I don't about like the article is the way it argues by implication that Iraqi Shi'ites just want power and don't understand and/or care about democracy as a system of government. For example, WaPo correspondent Anthony Shadid describes some pro-Iranian graffiti outside the office of Sistani's spokesman before letting us hear the spokesman's endorsement of constitutional government.

Is this supposed to be a tip off that Iraqi Shi'ites want an Islamic state? If so, why not just ask Sistani's spokesman about Iran? Why not ask him whether he sees democracy as a permanent system or just a transitional process? And ask those same questions to all the other man-in-the-street types whose opinions fill out the second half of all these articles.

We've known since day one that the Shi'ites have a lot of incentives to support democracy just long enough for them to take control of postwar Iraq. Now it is time for the media to stop repeating that fact endlessly and figure out whether the Shi'ite leadership means what it says about democracy or whether it just talks about democracy to advance its own interests.

By the same token, the American occupation authorities should be hammering away at a similar point when talking to the Shi'ite leadership: The more of a commitment that you show to democracy as an institution, the faster we can transfer power to an elected government in which your representatives will have a majority.
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Sunday, November 16, 2003

# Posted 5:56 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DETOUR RECOMMENDED: Here's a list of the 10 most dangerous intersections in the United States. It's hard to believe that none of them are in Boston or New York.
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# Posted 12:35 PM by Patrick Belton  

RICHLY-DESERVED PLUG: One of the best choral ensembles currently around working with the polyphonic Renaissance repertory, the Tallis Scholars, will be touring around the United States and Britain in December. Here are their tour dates - if they're in your city, you should go!
Tuesday 2 December - Oberlin, OH
Wednesday 3 December - Kansas City, MO
Friday 5 December - Seattle, WA
Saturday 6 December - Vancouver, BC
Sunday 7 December - Los Angeles, CA
Tuesday 9 December - Portland, OR
Wednesday 10 December - Berkeley, CA
Friday 12 December - Boston, MA
Saturday 13 December - New York, NY
Sunday 14 December - Daytona Beach, FL
Saturday 20 December 2003 at 7.30pm (Hazard Chase Christmas Festival, St John's, Smith Square, London, call for tickets)
Apart from London, I'm not sure where they're performing in each city, but their publicists'll know.
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# Posted 2:53 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PARSING THE BUREAUCRA-SPEAK: While the meaning of this DoD press release isn't exactly clear, it seems like a repudiation of the Saddam-Al Qaeda memo published in the Weekly Standard. Is the DoD denial more credible than the original report? I don't know. But it does seem fairly clear that there is a bureaucratic scuffle going on inside the executive branch, perhaps inside the Pentagon.
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Saturday, November 15, 2003

# Posted 5:42 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

JESSICA LYNCH AND WOMEN IN COMBAT: The National Review says that the capture of Jessica Lynch demonstrates the heavy price paid by female soldiers as a result of feminists' efforts to force them into front-line roles. Phil Carter responds to this charge point-by-point and shows that it is based on an apalling amount of distortion and ignorance.
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# Posted 5:30 PM by Patrick Belton  

ROUND-UP OF THE NEWS ON THE ISTANBUL TRAGEDY: At the moment, Turkish officials are placing the number of causalties at 23 dead and 302 wounded. While the Iran-backed Great Eastern Islamic Raiders' Front, also known as IBDA-C (info, more), immediately claimed responsibility in a telephone call to the Anatolia News Agency (Guardian), Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul blamed international terrorist organizations for being principally responsible (Zaman, Turkey). Similarly, Israeli officials are saying that they had never heard of the group before Saturday, and are blaming Al Qaeda rather than Hezbullah (Haaretz), while Prof. Gabriel Ben-Dor of Haifa's National Security Studies Centre argues that indigenous Turkish Islamists could not have carried out the attacks unaided by external networks: "These were fairly sophisticated terrorist attacks, carried out almost simultaneously, that would have required quite a good deal of planning, intelligence, logistic support, and so forth," he said in an interview. (Jerusalem Post). Israel has sent Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom to Istanbul, as well as a police forensic unit. CNN reports on three arrests in connection with the bombings.

Turkey's Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Haleva said he had warned Turkish police before that car traffic posed a threat to the two synagogues (News 24, South Africa). Mossad had also passed warnings about threats to the two synagogues onto Turkish intelligence on two occasions in the preceding months. (AP) One blast, in Neve Shalom synagogue, took place during a Bar Mitzvah (Guardian). Reuters includes a history of the Sephardic community in Istanbul.

Eli malei rachamim sho-khein bam'romim, hammtzei m'nukhah n'khonah al kanfei hash'khinah.
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# Posted 5:27 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

COLLIN MAY IS BACK at Innocents Abroad. His first post is on the crisis of confidence that has emerged in France despite Marianne's apparent vindication in Iraq.
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# Posted 2:04 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

TRAGEDY IN ISTANBUL: Wherever our people lives, it is the target of vicious hatred. Our thoughts go out to the families of the dead and injured.

Of course, our thougths also go out to the families of the non-Jews killed and injured in the attack. Initial reports suggest that there were 14 passesrby and 6 synagogue-goers killed. In Istanbul, those passersbys were most probably Muslism. And so the irony of September 11th recurs: in an effort to slaughter the Zionists and their American allies, innocent Muslims lives are taken.
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# Posted 1:53 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WAITING FOR THE OTHER SHOE TO DROP: I just read the Weekly Standard article on the Saddam-Osama connection which Patrick mentioned earlier. I'd like to believe that such a connection existed, but for the moment I'm not buying it.

Something just seems wrong. Why has the information turned up now? Why would the White House sit on information that would vindicate its decision to invade Iraq? The Standard article says the information was compiled in response to a request by the Senate Intelligence Committee. Why the heck would the administration wait until the Senate showed an interest before doing some serious research on the Saddam-Osama connection? I thought that was the kind of research that they'd been doing all along.

Another set of concerns are raised by Matt Yglesias. The information in question is contained in a memo from Doug Feith's office at the Pentagon. Given Feith's connection to the controversial Office of Special Plans (OSP), one has to wonder. Even if you don't accept Matt's premise that the OSP is an operations center for partisan hacks intent on distorting the intelligence process, it is fair to ask why this memo didn't come from a source with greater public credibility.

In short, I think we are waiting for the other shoe to drop. My guess is that someone in the government feels very strongly about this report, and is trying to get the White House to stand behind it by indirectly going public. But if the case can't be made on its own merits within the government, then something may be very wrong. We'll find out exactly what that is when the Washington press corps gets a hold of the story and starts telling us far more than the Weekly Standard's source wants us to know.

PS: How convenient is it that this information is coming out now, at a moment when Howard Dean is threatening to wrap up the Democratic nomination? A proven Saddam-Al Qaeda link would blow his campaign out of the water.
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# Posted 1:04 PM by Patrick Belton  

MORE ON IRAQ-AL QAEDA COOPERATION: The Weekly Standard's website is down at the moment, so Little Green Footballs is mirroring a piece by Steve Hayes which details in great depth newly uncovered instances of alleged operational cooperation between Iraqi intelligence and Al Qaeda, beginning in 1990 and continuing through mid-March of this year. Definitely worth a read.
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# Posted 12:18 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MOM FINDS OUT ABOUT BLOG! Oh no.
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# Posted 12:10 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PNAC VS. BUSH: The issue is China.
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# Posted 12:03 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FAIR AND BALANCED: Since the previous post was pretty harsh on JMM, I thought I'd link to one of the many good and informative posts on TPM. This one is about some CPA documents that fell (how exactly?) into Josh's hands. The documents make the case that the US would be better off curtailing its search for non-existent WMD in Iraq and focus instead on locating the scientists who worked for Saddam's WMD program but may now migrate to Syria or worse, Al Qaeda. While it's hard to know just how much effort should be put into the WMD search, it is certainly is worth tracking down the brains behind the WMD operation.
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Friday, November 14, 2003

# Posted 11:48 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

JOSH MARSHALL IN FOREIGN AFFAIRS: It looks like Generation X is taking over the foreign policy establishment. Too bad FA doesn't print author photos, otherwise Josh's oh-too-stylish headshot from the TPM website could have livened up the pages of that august publication. Anyhow, what's going on in is that FA has published Josh's review of Ivo Daalder and James Lindsay's "America Unbound", a mildly critical account of the Bush administration's foreign policy by a pair of scholars at the Brookings Institution.

While endorsing the standard multilateralist critique that Daalder and Lindsay advocate, Marshall takes them to task for underestimating the neo-con influence on Bush's foreign policy. As Marshall writes,
The "neocons," they say -- referring to them as "democratic imperialists" -- may be powerful at magazines such as The Weekly Standard and think tanks such as the American Enterprise Institute, but key movement figures such as Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and Pentagon adviser Richard Perle actually missed out on the top appointments. Those plums went to people such as Cheney, Rice, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who the authors claim are more properly classified as "assertive nationalists."
I think "assertive nationalists" is a pretty good way to describe them, with the exception of Rice, who is a dyed-in-the-wool realist. While Marshall shares that assessment of Cheney, Rumsfeld, et al., he counters that
The defining characteristic of the Bush administration's foreign policy, in fact, has been the way the neocons in and out of office have been able to win so many of the key battles -- if not on the first go-round, then on the second or the third...

At the Pentagon, for example, Rumsfeld may have played the key part in internal debates over defense transformation, but on foreign policy issues, his neocon lieutenants, Wolfowitz and Feith, were decisive, and managed to secure nearly total control of all aspects of policy surrounding the war and the subsequent occupation.
And what is it that differentiates a neo-conservative policy from an assertive nationalist one? Marshall's answer is that,
Although it is the sworn enemy of realism, neoconservatism has never been and is not now limited to one particular foreign policy school. It is a protean construct centering on a belief in the righteousness of American power, the wonder-working qualities of bold gestures, and an unwillingness to muddle through.
Righteous power? Bold gestures? That sounds like....assertive nationalism. According to the conventional wisdom on both sides of the aisle, what separates neo-conservatism from assertive nationalism is its hopeful vision of a global democratic revolution. Yet Marshall dismisses this distinction on the grounds that too many neo-conservatives showed too much sympathy for too many right-wing Third World dictators back in the 1980s.

That point is a fair one. Yet it completely ignores the transformation -- better, purification -- of neo-conservatism that began during Reagan's second term and accelerated during the aftermath of the Cold War. Moreover, it prevents Marshall from emphasizing the best evidence for his theory of neo-con dominance, i.e. the ideologically-charged occupation of Iraq.

Strangely, Marshall insists on
the essential continuity of the administration's policy before and after September 11, 2001. The attacks on that day allowed President Bush to refashion American foreign policy in a far bolder and more audacious fashion than otherwise would have been possible, the authors argue, but in fact the administration's essential goals, premises, and assumptions changed very little.
But what about the pronounced aversion to nation-building that defined Bush's foreign policy on the campaign trail? Surely the simplest explanation for his about face on this issue is the influence of the neo-conservatives.

Ultimately, Marshall's hands are tied by his unwillingness to acknowledge that intellectually dishonest neo-conservatives could be the driving force behind a morally progressive international agenda such as global democracy promotion. While there is no direct evidence of this in Marshall's review of America Unbound, it is a point that will be familiar to those who have read "Practive to Deceive" Marshall's anti-neo-con polemic in the Washington Monthly or to those who visit his website on a regular basis.

When it comes down it, Marshall is right that the neo-cons credibility is on the line in Iraq and that its success or failure will have a tremendous impact on their reputation. Yet that suggestion only makes sense if one gives the neo-cons credit for giving the occupation of Iraq its moral foundation, regardless of whether the implementation of their vision was competent enough to ensure its fruition.
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# Posted 10:55 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHO IS SUSAN SACHS? All I know is that she won't be working at the NYT much longer if she keeps writing such ridiculously optimistic stories about Baghdad like this one. It's about the new major crimes unit of the Baghdad police and reads like a 1950s profile of J. Edgar Hoover's righteous crusade against Communists. And it's supposed to be a news story.

Apparently, the headline writers think Sachs has to be reined in, since they took her 99% positive story and titled it "Joy, and Jeers, as New Police Patrol Baghdad." The jeer referred to in the title comes from one citizen who asks the new Baghdad cops, "What took you so long?" Of course, that is just about the last question anyone would ask when Saddam's uniformed thugs came knocking at the door. But why should OxBlog point that out when Sachs does it herself?! As she writes,
Such a happy scene would have been unimaginable a year ago. The Iraqi police force was as tainted as the rest of Saddam Hussein's security forces, feared for its casual brutality and powers to spy, residents said.
It can't be long before she's working for Fox.
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# Posted 10:43 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ENTERTAINMENT MEDIA BIAS: I don't usually read movie reviews, but since I'm a really big Russell Crowe fan, I thought I'd see what the WaPo has to say about Master & Commander. According to Desson Howe, the film
isn't just a fabulous seagoing spectacle. It's one for the ages. Not only does Peter Weir's film give you an atmospheric feel for the agony and ecstasy of early 19th-century sea warfare, it's a rollicking good story.
On the other hand, Stephen Hunter says the film
feels weirdly overstuffed, as stories keep stumbling into and over one another or are buried beneath the arrival of other stories. The worst example is the film's narrative framework...
While film reviews are obviously a matter of taste, it's a little strange to hear two-highly paid professionals disagree about virtually every aspect of a film (except the opening battle sequence, which they both think is great.)

Sadly, I must admit that my impulse is to distrust the positive review. In other words, I'm an optimist when it comes to Iraq, but not when it comes to Hollywood. There is something of the beret-clad art-house critic in me, so I tend to believe that there really is such a thing as taste in film and that most of what comes out of Hollywood is recycled trash.

On the other hand, I love Jet Li and Jackie Chan and all sorts of far-out action flicks that don't pretend to offer you anything but a good time. So while I tend to trust bad movie reviews, I was also taught at a young age how the permanent presence of a stick in most film critics' hindquarters (especially at the NYT, my adolescent paper of choice) means that they will poo-poo any film which offer its viewers a good time rather than a sobering intellectual odyssey.

Speaking of which, what does the NYT have to say about Master & Commander? According to A.O. Scott,
This stupendously entertaining movie, directed by Peter Weir and adapted from two of the novels in Patrick O'Brian's 20-volume series on Aubrey's naval exploits, celebrates an idea of England that might have seemed a bit corny even in 1805, when the action takes place.
Hmmm, so you start out thinking it's a compliment but then it turns out to be somewhat backhanded. Later on, Scott tells us that
The Napoleonic wars that followed the French Revolution gave birth, among other things, to British conservatism, and "Master and Commander," making no concessions to modern, egalitarian sensibilities, is among the most thoroughly and proudly conservative movies ever made. It imagines the Surprise as a coherent society in which stability is underwritten by custom and every man knows his duty and his place. I would not have been surprised to see Edmund Burke's name in the credits.
So is this a good thing or a bad thing? Burke: Intellectual and European. But also conservative. Cleverly, Scott also points out that the date of the action in the film has been moved back a few years from 1812 to avoid the unpleasant fact that at the time, the Anglo-American special relationship was not all that special. At least they don't let Krugman do movie reviews...
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# Posted 5:28 AM by Patrick Belton  

SOME INTERESTING READING TO GO WITH YOUR COFFEE: And you can even read these if you don't drink coffee. In the Middle East, Sharon indicated he would meet with Palestinian PM Qurei, though he may backtrack now that Arafat has triumphed in a struggle with Qurei over control of the Palestinian security apparatus. Hezbollah leader Sheikh Nasrallah is negotiating with a German intermediary over a prisoner exchange with Israel. Some commentators argue that the prisoner swap will elevate Hezbollah's stature in Lebanon at a time it has been declining. And Bremer has been dispatched back to Iraq with instructions to accelerate the political transition to self-governance, as Operation Iron Hammer continues.

Central Asia Analyst has an interesting analysis of Uzbekistan's repression of its outlawed opposition parties (which the analyst argues has grown milder since the U.S. presence began; the opposition parties enjoy widespread domestic support). The site also analyzes Kyrgyzstan's antiterrorist units and their commander's strategy of seeking security assistance from any neighbor who would offer it. Georgian parliamentary elections drew stunning participation, and represented a strong rebuke for the governing party. In the Moscow Times, India is setting up bases in Tajikistan.

In the Americas, Columbia's AUC is beginning to disarm, unrest brews in the Dominican Republic, and Mexico is complaining of a relationship of "convenience and subordination" with its northern neighbor on the eve of the cabinet-level Binational Commission's meeting. (And incidentally, joining us later in the afternoon in the OxBlog studios will be our ex-girlfriends, to speak further on this theme of relationships of convenience and brutal subordination.)

In East Asia, reporting has centered on China's sexual revolution (the most shocking finding: "half of the urban males in their thirties say they have had more than one sexual partner." ed: oooooooh. half of urban males in graduate school haven't had more than one sexual partner), and the party is making limited gains in attempting to coopt Chinese entrepreneurs. China is also indicating it will shortly take up a more hawkish policy toward Taiwan. (And in OxBlog's consular affairs department, check your credit card receipts next time you're in Hong Kong.)
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# Posted 2:26 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MISERY LOVES COMPANY: If things in Iraq really do go all pear-shaped, then I'll probably give Mike O'Hanlon a call so we can commiserate about the sad plight of being failed optimists.
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# Posted 2:13 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE MILITARY FRONT: Phil Carter surveys the situation on the ground in Iraq. Phil also has insightful comments on the nature of American heroism and profound concerns about the future of the Army reserve.
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# Posted 1:52 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BITTER ANTI-FRENCH INVECTIVE: Plus some good thoughts from Greg Djerejian about the prospect for elections with the Ba'athist insurgency still raging.
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Thursday, November 13, 2003

# Posted 7:58 PM by Patrick Belton  

WE'RE ALL MALE: At least according to the internet Gender Genie. Following Glenn and Andrew, I visited said Genie today to judge by my use of definite articles and conjunctions whether I wrote in a way more in keeping with male or female writers. I write like a guy; okay, no huge surprise there. Then I tried running through an op-ed piece by Rachel in the WaPo; somewhat surprisingly, the Genie thought she was a guy as well. So then, I tried running through the algorithm the most recent online writing of several female friends, prominent bloggers, and columnists - Virginia Postrel (whose picture is on her blog; she clearly isn't a guy), YaleDiva, Maureen Dowd, and Anne-Marie Slaughter (as well as a post by Rachel on Thucidydes). This sample included some variance in ideology and prose style. And, I don't mean to use a phrase from back in high school here, but - it was a total sausage fest. Every single one of these women writers came up as male. So either the algorithm's not spectacularly powerful (i.e., "guess male"), or perhaps the concept that the gender of an author can be inferred from a text needs revisiting. But given that we're all guys here, I figure I might as well stick with Rachel over Maureen. (Though I guess I'll probably be needing one of Eugene's pills....)
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# Posted 6:44 PM by Patrick Belton  

WORTH READING TODAY: TNR's editors are effusive in praise of Bush's democratization speech: "It was a radical speech, and for once the radicalism of this administration did not seem small or sectarian. It contained arguments, not slogans; a sense of history, not a sense of politics. It was the credo of an idealist, but there was realism in it, too. The interesting question is whether the president grasps that the moral and strategic course that he set at NED may be at odds with the requirements of his own reelection. For Bush's international campaign is not exactly what Bush's domestic campaign has ordered." Elsewhere in the blogosphere, it's Josh Marshall's blogiversary.
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# Posted 5:22 PM by Patrick Belton  

ALCOHOL, ISRAELI ESCORTS, AND PLAGUES OF LOCUSTS: Heck, I can't wait to see who gets sent here from google today....
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# Posted 5:18 PM by Patrick Belton  

STORM OVER THE ATLANTIC (BUT INSIDE THERE'S PORT AND GOOD CONVERSATION): The Oxford chapter of our foreign policy discussion group took up Euro-American relations last night. This is what people had to say.
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# Posted 3:02 PM by Patrick Belton  

SO INSTEAD, DO THIS: It's official - Guinness is good for you! This courtesy of our good friend Josh Cherniss:
The old advertising slogan "Guinness is Good for You" may be true after all, according to researchers.

A pint of the black stuff a day may work as well as an aspirin to prevent heart clots that raise the risk of heart attacks.

Drinking lager does not yield the same benefits, experts from Wisconsin University told a conference in the US.(BBC)
Well...sláinte - to your health - which seems appropriate!
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# Posted 8:13 AM by Patrick Belton  

HERE'S ONE MORE good reason not to go see hookers. Particularly if you live in a fairly small country.
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Wednesday, November 12, 2003

# Posted 11:52 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FREE TRADE is not on the Bush agenda.
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# Posted 11:45 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WALKING A FINE LINE: NYU law prof Noah Feldman takes a careful look at the conflict between Islamic and democratic provisions in the new Afghan constitution.
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# Posted 11:41 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

JUST ANOTHER BRICK IN THE WALL: According to a new UN report, the wall that Israel is constructing between itself and the Palestinians will put 15% of the West Bank on the Israeli side of the barrier. While Israeli spokesmen are probably right that the 15% figure is an exaggeration -- not to mention the UN's estimate that the barrier will disrupt the lives of 600,000 Palestinians -- I think it is safe to say that a good bit of the West Bank will wind up on the Israeli side of the fence.

(NB: I have no evidence that the UN is exaggerating. But it has chosen sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict no less firmly than the United States has.)

Now, Israelis officials have insisted repeatedly that the wall is not a political barrier and would not affect the status of land on either side. Even so, it seems clear that neither individual Palestinians nor the Palestinian authority will exercise any effective control over land on the Israeli side. And that may be a good thing.

For the moment, Israel has very little new to offer the Palestinians at the negotiating table. While I am firmly of the opinion that the Israelis offered more than enough at Taba and that Arafat's rejection of that offer was criminal, I recognize that something will have to change for negotiations to work.

As it happens, President Arafat is calling for negotiations again, now that he has installed another Prime Minister who controls neither the Cabinet nor the security forces. Perhaps if Arafat recognized that the wall had cut off some of his precious West Bank, he will try to get it back by actually doing something about suicide bombings.

Of course, the chances of that sort of thing working aren't high. On the other hand, waiting for a plan with a good chance of success would mean waiting indefinitely. (Or until the Palestinian Authority get serious about internal democratic reforms. In other words, indefinitely.)
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# Posted 11:20 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE FAINTEST OF SILVER LININGS: For the first time in six months, the news coming out of Iraq has given me that bad feeling in my gut. Above all, I am dismayed by the apparent conclusions of a top secret CIA report which asserts that the people of Iraq are losing faith in America's commitment to stay the course, thus creating a more secure base of support for the Ba'athist insurgency.

Departing from convention, Paul Bremer explicitly endorsed the CIA report, which was the apparent cause of his sudden decision to return to Washington for consultation. It was during those consultations that Bremer and the Bush administration principals decided to schedule Iraq's first national elections for early to mid-2004, rather than the end of the year. Rather than waiting for the emergence of a constitution that would govern the electoral proces, the government elected early next year will have a mandate to define the constitutional drafting process.

According to the WaPo,
Th[is] decision represents a major shift in U.S. political strategy. Mirroring the U.S. military strategy of "Iraqification," Washington now wants to hand over as much responsibility for the political process as is feasible, as fast as it is feasible.
When you read something like that, your gut says that the Administration is getting ready to cut and run. I don't believe that just yet, but the prospect is going to gnaw at me.

As Kevin Drum and Matt Yglesias have been quick to point out, Bill Kristol & Robert Kagan have already decided that the Bush Administration won't match its soaring democratic rhetoric with a real commitment on the ground. The development that most concerns them is the Pentagon's mad rush to train Iraqi security forces without any apparent concern for their preparedness, either militarily or politically. As I said a few days ago, that is a concern with which I wholeheartedly agree.

(NB: I fully expect an I-told-you-so post from Matt Yglesias in response to this post, since he's already put one up in response to Josh's post on the Italian bombing earlier today.)

Also relevant right now are speculations that electoral motives are behind George Bush's decision to rush the political transition in Iraq. The timeline is certainly plausible. Elections at mid-year make him look good and keep the Democrats quiet during the campaign. Then if Bush wins, he has a free hand to either declare victory and withdraw or use his new mandate to fulfill his democratic pledge.

In the meantime, I would hope that the Kristol/Kagan editorial puts Bush on notice that he may begin losing support on his own side of the aisle if he doesn't demonstrate a concrete commitment to building democracy in Iraq. While I don't think that editorials (even in the Weekly Standard) have all that much effect on this White House's foreign policy, Kristol/Kagan may get a lot of nods on Capitol Hill, enough to force the administration to pay attention.

Finally, the silver lining. The NYT reports that
Elections have been demanded by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's most influential Shiite religious leader. Experts assume that Shiites, who predominate in Iraq, would win a commanding majority of seats in any election.

Ayatollah Sistani's demand stirred fears among some American officials that an elected constitution-writing body might write a theocratic charter that enshrined Islam as a state religion and marginalized the Sunni minority, potentially aggravating the violent rebellion of remnants loyal to Saddam Hussein.
Now that doesn't sound like good news. Even if fears of an elected Shi'ite theocracy are often exaggerated, they should be on the table. Still, I find Sistani's demands encouraging. Would he be that forceful if he didn't see elections as a legitimate political institution, rather than a one-shot grab for power?

Admittedly, Sistani has a motive to be cynical. The real question is, what will happen if Paul Bremer draws him out on his approach to democracy? Is Sistani willing to say not just that he demands elections now, but that elections -- real elections for real power -- must be a permanent feature of Iraqi political life? If yes, that would have a very powerful impact on Iraq's Shi'ite community, as well as credibly signaling to the United States that the Shi'ite clergy have an appreciation of democratic politics far richer than a short-sighted insistence on "one man, one vote, one time."


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# Posted 7:59 PM by Patrick Belton  

LETTER FROM KABUL: OxBlog's Afghanistan bureau chief is likely the only Evangelical in the world to be keeping Ramadan fasts at the moment. With the extra time he's saved by not eating (and also by not brushing his teeth), he's written us this:
One of the many ways for bored expats driving around Kabul to pass their time is to speculate about which of the foreign restaurants are actually brothels. All new restaurants immediately fall under suspicion, especially those attached to new guesthouses. Chinese restaurants draw a wildly disproportionate share of hearsay. I've heard rumors from several sources about the curtained Croatian place across the street -- including from my housemates, who have managed not to eat there in the entire year they've lived on Taimani Street. My disappointment at discovering these particular rumors to be false was more than outweighed by discovering what is almost certainly the best calamari in Kabul. The welcoming yet slightly dictatorial proprietress (probably the inspiration for many of the rumors) starts off every table with a tray of dough balls fried according to an old Dalmatian recipe; and her chocolate walnut crepes are the best dessert I've had in this town.

I've had a number of good chats about ISAF, the King, and the future of Afghanistan over beers and Zadar Authentic Croatian Cuisine during the last week, but I think I'll wait and try to put my impressions of Afghan politics and economics into one big package next week. (Knowing that not everyone I send these updates to will be interested in those impressions, I'll send that one out only to known foreign affairs junkies, Oxbloggers, and readers of The Economist. Plus anyone who asks for it). Instead, this dispatch will be about adventure, appalling recklessness, and really good views. I'll thank you all not to forward it to my mother.

The city of Kabul is divided by a pair of mountains, Asmayi and Sherdarwaza. The Kabul River trickles through the ravine between the two, and the city runs a surprising way up their arid, craggy slopes. A drivable road leads up to the summit of Asmayi, which bristles with TV and radio antennae. The higher mountain, Sherdarwaza, is the anchor of Old Kabul -- a tight-packed, mostly treeless maze of small brick and stone houses spreading out from the mountain's skirts. On the eastern slopes is Shohadayi Salehin, the largest cemetery in a city full of graves. There are no roads or antennae atop Sherdarwaza; instead, the thousand year-old wall of the old city runs along the serrated summit ridge, from an imposingly dilapidated British fort on one end to the abrupt plunge to the Kabul River on the other.

When I told the gang at Zadar that I was planning to hike the length of the boundary wall, their first response was, "Aren't there landmines up there?" In all-too-recent memory, the twin mountains of Kabul were the poles of the mujahidin's civil war, with Ahmad Shah Massoud's faction dug in on Asmayi and Gulbuddin Hekmetyar fortifying Sherdarwaza. They shelled each other and the streets of Kabul below until Hekmetyar was finally forced to retreat. Like much of Afghanistan, the Kabul mountains are plagued with mines and rumors of mines. "I dunno if I've ever seen anyone grazing sheep up there," said one refugee worker doubtfully. But I'd heard other rumors that people had hiked the wall end to end, and I figured we'd stick to well-maintained trails, keep our eyes open, and ask the locals to steer us clear of any particularly dangerous slopes.

So on Friday morning, I arrived at the Kabul River side of the mountain with my grizzled Alaskan co-worker Ray and our gruff, long-suffering Afghan driver Basyir. Basyir had proposed that we drive up one of the foothills of Sherdarwaza and hike the relatively gradual slope up to where it intercepts the wall; but Ray was
dead-set on following every inch of the wall, which meant starting at the foot of the ravine and heading straight up. "It's like sheep hunting in Alaska," Ray said cheerfully. "The cliffs always look impossible from a distance, but when you get there, you realize you can haul yourself up." I thought he had the right idea. "Course, getting back down with the sheep again can be a little tricky," he added a few minutes later, but I didn't find that too upsetting.

The village headman told us that a couple Westerners had climbed up to the base of the old wall, but we were the first he knew of to try hiking all the way up. He also assured us, to our relief, that there were no mines along the wall. That first ascent was a good scramble, with a little light rock climbing and much vertigo. Basyir began to cough heavily -- I can't imagine that spending your work day on the Kabul roads does anything good for your lungs -- and eventually drifted away to take a gentler path up. Ray went straight for the wall, climbing up thousand-year old, eroding adobe. I stuck with the steep rocks just to the left of the wall. The lower slope of Sherdarwaza was densely inhabited, with sturdy mud houses built on tall stone terraces; as the hill grew steeper, the houses fell away, save for a scattering of small stone buildings balanced on rocky outcrops. We quickly left the houses behind, climbing a sheer, jagged gorge that the locals clearly deemed most useful as a toilet. Spent 22mm shells clattered underfoot, and Ray once beckoned me over to inspect the bones he'd found half-buried in the wall, but I declined.

Basyir rejoined us at the crest of the first ridge, where the wall leveled out and began a more gradual ascent to the peak. Now above the smogline, we could see the snow-capped Paghman Range to the west, which Basyir identified as his ancestral home. To the north was central Kabul, barely visible through the thick, brown morning haze (though as we continued to hike, much of the smog burned off, and by noon our view over the city was reasonably clear). Thistles bloomed all along the rocky hillside. For a couple hundred yards the wall was merely a mound of toppled earth and stone. "Massoud did this," Basyir explained, pointing across the ravine to Asmayi. "To chase out Gulbuddin. The artillery was set up there, and there."

As we approached the summit ridge, the wall sprang up again, with occasional holes and craters. Soon we could clearly see the fortifications at the top. At this point, however, we also noticed that there were three young men running up the hill after us. Ray asked Basyir to find out what they wanted, and strode boldly onward toward the summit. I hung back a bit, and thus was close enough to hear Basyir rather matter-of-factly say, "Mines?" I looked up and saw Ray about to climb into the fortifications at the summit. Running up to where he was standing, I said, "Ray, I think I heard them say..."

"Mine!" one of the young men yelled as he crested the wall below us, and illustrated his point with an explosive noise and gesture. Basyir craned his neck to face us and clarified helpfully: "He says there are mines up there." I froze. Ray looked around rather doubtfully, then continued at a slow, deliberate pace in the direction he'd been going. This elicited a frantic burst of Dari from the three young men; I began walking back down, and Ray was finally convinced to follow. Our benefactors informed us that there were mines everywhere up here, and that a man had been killed by on just a few months before. Ray tried to convince them that there were only a few mines, and that we would be perfectly safe if we just stayed to the main trails. The young men understandably felt that they knew better than Ray on this point.

At length, one of them tentatively led us up to the summit fortifications, with glorious views on all sides. Old machine-gun nests were littered with fallen stones, shells, and (a little incongruously) kite string. The old wall ran off along the summit ridge to the southeast; a smaller, parallel wall and ditch had been constructed by Gulbuddin's men during the war. We realized that the highest peak was a short ways farther along the ridge, and was even more heavily fortified than the one on which we stood. As we watched, a small silhouette walked up to that peak from the far side of the mountain.

This was more than enough to convince Ray that we could go there too. He interrogated the young men (by way of Basyir) as to whether we could safely take the large, clear trail that ran some ways downhill of the fortifications to the east. They seemed to sort of agree that we could maybe do so, and Ray forged ahead, me and Basyir in reluctant train. About three minutes later, Ray's eyes began to wander back to the wall; it was clear that the magnetism that had drawn him back on the cliff was still in full effect. "I think we should try to stay closer to the wall," Ray said decisively. "Try not to step on any loose piles of rock." And he stepped off the path -- behind us, the three young men threw up their hands and stalked away -- and began moving in the direction of the old wall. I started to protest, then realized that if I let him get more than a few steps ahead, I would lose track of exactly where he'd put his feet. "You figure if they mine anyplace, it'll be the area right in front of the wall," Ray commented as we walked gingerly onward. "So we should try to get in between the two walls. We'll be safe if we walk on the wall." This was wildly unnerving as we walked ever closer to the fortifications, from the outside. I tried to recall if I'd ever heard of Afghans using the mines with timers set to explode when the _second_ guy in line stepped on them.

We made it safely to the low wall built by the mujahidin -- Basyir and I exhaled windily -- and hiked on to the peak, hopping across the ditch once or twice to the ancient boundary wall to look down into West Kabul. To our surprise, the fortifications on the peak were inhabited. A bunch of Afghan soldiers emerged from a dugout to look at us with some curiosity. They had a well-oiled Russian 22mm gun on a tripod, a fence of old shells and mortar casings, and a very unfriendly off-white dog. We chatted with them for a while, and they reassured us that the trails were in fact safe, and that all the mines were on the West Kabul side of the mountain. We surveyed the hills off to the south, and were told where the minefields were there as well. The views were amazing, and I had a sudden vision of taking a few soldiers out to mark out "Mine-Free" hiking trails for tourists -- once the tourists start coming, anyway.

The downhill hike was terrific, too -- the battlements of the old wall are essentially intact, and as you walk down them you can peer out through the old arrow slits into the valley below. The great cemetery is down there, as is Kabul's largest lake (completely dry now, after the five year drought). On the other side, you can see and hear the whole old city of Kabul, with the laughter of children, the clangor of metalsmiths, and the chanting from the Shi'ite mosque reverberating up through the clear, dry air. About halfway down Sherdarwaza, the old boundary wall finally collapses into a mound again, with a single pillar of brick and stone rising like a crooked finger from the last rampart. When you think of the effort it must have taken to build so long a wall to the peak of the highest mountain in Kabul -- much of the stone and all the water carried up from the valley below -- it's nothing short of astonishing. Far below, people today are quarrying the foundations of the wall for granite for their homes.

In the shelter of some large rocks, we came across a group of gamblers, surreptitiously crouching in a ring around a stack of crumpled afghani notes and tattered playing cards. They cheerfully hailed us in Dari, then Urdu, then broken English. "They hide out here because the police will stop their games otherwise," Basyir explained. "Yes, this gambling is illegal. It is a bad use of money." I asked whether this was really the best place for the gamblers to hide out, with soldiers hiking up the ridge every day. "Oh, the soldiers will not stop them," Basyir laughed. "They do not care. Only the police."

We descended at last to the old British fort, Bala Hasar, where the Uzbek warlord Rashid Dostum holed up during the civil war. By this point, Basyir's enthusiasm for pointing out the various sights of Kabul was at its peak; so after dropping off Ray at the office, he drove me across town to Bagh-i-Bala, the hilltop palace built by Amir Abdurrahman a century or so ago. It's a small and now slightly shabby building, closed and shuttered when we were there, and its grounds have suffered greatly from the drought and war. There used to be countless grapevines here, Basyir informed me, and fruit trees. There are still several scattered pines -- "very old trees" -- but most of the rest have dried up. We stood looking over the empty swimming pool (built in the 70s to replace the wading pool of Abdurrahman), and the rehabilitated but still dry irrigation channels dug in the newly raked gardens. "When I was a young man," Basyir said gruffly, "there were flowers everywhere here. And many trees. It was very beautiful."

It still is.
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# Posted 6:49 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SOUTHERN EXPOSURE is the name of a new group blog focusing on Latin America. It came to my attention thanks to Randy Paul, creator of the very good one-man Latin American blog, Beautiful Horizons. At the moment, SE has good posts up on Brazil reaction to the WTO ruling against US steel tariffs, the Guatemalan elections, and the turmoil in the Bolivia (as well as its relationship to events in Venezuela.)

While it is hard to get bloggers -- let alone most Americans -- interested in Latin America these days, I think Randy does a great job of making the region interesting. While my own posting will probably stay focused the occupation of Iraq and the war on terror, I know that Randy -- and now SE -- is there when I need informed commentary on a region whose politics are continually distorted by the mainstream media.
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# Posted 6:33 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SCOTS CONSPIRACY THEORISTS: JR points to this mind-bogglingly bizarre investigative report in Scotland's Sunday Herald. In a new twist on the Mossad-was-responsible-for-9/11 shtick, the report suggests that Israel was aware that Al Qaeda had something big in the works but decided to keep quiet in the expectation that an attack on American citizens would generate sympathy for Israel.

According to the Sunday Herald's homepage, it's investigation has "provoked an international storm". If you follow the link on those words, you get to another page listing the eminent news organizations that have picked up on the story, including The Palestine Chronicle, Indymedia, Antiwar.com, and Sullywatch.

There are two reputable organizations on the list, however: ABC News and New York's Jewish weekly, the Forward. While neither one substantiates any of the ridiculous suggestions made by the Herald, there was an interesting story behind the hype.

It turns out that the FBI picked up five Israelis on the afternoon of September 11th, thanks to a tip from a New Jersey housewife who saw the men acting strangely and filming the burning towers. When arrested, one of the men had thousands of dollars of cash in his sock, while one of the others had mutliple passports. Most ominously, one of the men had a boxcutter.

Upon further investigation, it turned out that the moving company the five men worked for was a front, probably for the Mossad. In custody, the men were subjected to repeated lie detector tests.

According to the Forward, the real story seems to be that the five men were Israeli intelligence agents spying on radical Muslims in the United States. Since Israel (and other US allies) are supposed to coordinate such activities with the US government, a thorough investigation had to be conducted.

Given that it will be another fifty years before we know all the details of the case, it simply won't be possible to disabuse conspiracy theorists of their more bizarre notions. Then again, it is that sort of undisprovability that it is the bread-and-butter of true conspiracy theorists.

UPDATE: According to a Scots journalist,
The Sunday Herald is a genuinely curious newspaper - it's increasingly red-green and anti-American for one thing - but even by its standards this was an extraordinary piece. One thing woth noting is that within Scottish journalism circles the author of this article, Neil McKay, is notoriously flaky (the editor Andrew Jaspan also gets a little too carried away on occasion). There are, I know for a fact, a number of editors in Scotland who would never ever even briefly consider employing him. He has a record of extravagant "scoops" that subsequently are revealed to be much, much less than they seem.
Full disclosure: The author of this comment works for one of the Herald's rivals.
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