Tuesday, November 25, 2003
# Posted 9:29 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
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. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 9:06 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
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... (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:57 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
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. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:51 PM by Patrick Belton
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. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 2:21 PM by Patrick Belton
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.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. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 1:02 PM by Patrick Belton
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)(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:56 PM by Patrick Belton
(Okay, a healthy one). (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:49 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 7:27 AM by Patrick Belton
Monday, November 24, 2003
# Posted 10:06 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
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.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 9:44 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 9:39 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 9:35 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 9:24 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 3:34 PM by Patrick Belton
IANAL. KWIM? (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 11:50 AM by Patrick Belton
In many poor countries, markets concentrate wealth in the hands of prosperous ethnic minorities. In these places, democracy can be an engine of vengeance.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.(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 11:36 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 11:26 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 11:23 AM by Patrick Belton
UPDATE: WaPo has more. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 9:26 AM by Patrick Belton
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.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. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Sunday, November 23, 2003
# Posted 7:11 PM by Patrick Belton
Saturday, November 22, 2003
# Posted 1:38 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Friday, November 21, 2003
# Posted 1:34 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 1:08 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
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. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 1:03 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
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...
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Thursday, November 20, 2003
# Posted 8:07 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 5:39 AM by Patrick Belton
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. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 3:11 AM by Patrick Belton
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. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:13 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
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! (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Wednesday, November 19, 2003
# Posted 11:09 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 11:02 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 10:52 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
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. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:09 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
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.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 1:13 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
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. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:47 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Tuesday, November 18, 2003
# Posted 9:59 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 9:57 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 9:45 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
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. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 9:22 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 9:06 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 9:02 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Monday, November 17, 2003
# Posted 11:26 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
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.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 11:12 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 11:05 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 10:58 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 10:29 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
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. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 1:12 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
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. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:51 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
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. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Sunday, November 16, 2003
# Posted 5:56 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 12:35 PM by Patrick Belton
Tuesday 2 December - Oberlin, OHApart from London, I'm not sure where they're performing in each city, but their publicists'll know. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 2:53 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Saturday, November 15, 2003
# Posted 5:42 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 5:30 PM by Patrick Belton
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. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 5:27 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 2:04 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
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. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 1:53 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
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. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 1:04 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 12:18 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 12:10 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 12:03 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Friday, November 14, 2003
# Posted 11:48 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
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...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. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:55 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
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. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:43 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
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... (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 5:28 AM by Patrick Belton
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.) (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 2:26 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 2:13 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 1:52 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Thursday, November 13, 2003
# Posted 7:58 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 6:44 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 5:22 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 5:18 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 3:02 PM by Patrick Belton
The old advertising slogan "Guinness is Good for You" may be true after all, according to researchers.Well...sláinte - to your health - which seems appropriate! (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:13 AM by Patrick Belton
Wednesday, November 12, 2003
# Posted 11:52 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 11:45 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 11:41 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
(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.) (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 11:20 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
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.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
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.(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 6:49 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
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. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 6:33 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
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. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion