OxBlog

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

# Posted 7:58 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FREE TRADE DEFICIT: Dan Drezner praises the EU's sensible approach to outsourcing, bashes its reactionary farm subsidy policy and says that the real issue here is technology, not the lure of low wage labor markets in the Third World.
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# Posted 2:04 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FATALITIES CONTINUE, BUT CASUALTIES FALL: Roadside bombs killed three American soldiers yesterday. Even so, the overall fatality rate has fallen this month, although not by much. In contrast, the casualty rate continues to fall, with weekly totals dropping below thirty.

Unfortunately, I have no idea why the fatality and casualty tolls are out of sync. Perhaps the insurgents are focusing their resources on fewer but better attacks. Perhaps it's all just a statistical anomaly. Anyhow, while victory and defeat can't be measured with a body count, it is nice to know that fewer of our soldiers are having to sacrifice their well-being.
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# Posted 1:03 PM by Patrick Belton  

WITHDRAWAL: AN EFFECTIVE METHOD? CS Monitor ponders whether the US will delay the transfer of sovereignty to Iraq out of concern for the security situation in the country and worries over the possibility of a civil war.

But unlike most commentators who've placed the onus on an on-time handover on the White House's desire not to carry the Iraq occupation into the autumn's elections, the Monitor argues it's the other way around - Bremer and the Baghdad-based contingent of officials are pushing a transfer of sovereignty on schedule in order to maintain credibility with the Iraqis (and with an eye to Sistani's response to a delay). On the other hand, it's the White House which is most wary of the prospect of a civil war, joined in this by the State Department. Secretary Rumsfeld, on the other hand, along with the ranks of the Pentagon (excepting the deputy secretary and officials in line with his line of thought), are reputed to be quite eager to pull out of Iraq, and hand responsibility over to Foggy Bottom in the bargain.

(Any southerners in the readership are welcome, if they like, to instead refer to a possible Iraqi civil war as a "war between the sheikhs.")
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# Posted 11:05 AM by Patrick Belton  

STRATFOR ON PAKISTAN: Stratfor's weekly analysis argues that Musharraf has consented to escalate the fight against Al Qa'ida within Pakistan's borders, after presented, allegedly, with an ultimatum from DCI Tenet that the US would do so itself if Pakistan did not.
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# Posted 10:10 AM by Patrick Belton  

GRATUITOUS THESIS/CLINTON JOKE: Congrats, Josh!

As part of my own dissertation work at the moment, I'm reading through the Public Papers of the Presidents for the past two decades to see what various Presidents have said about China policy. I'm also doing the same thing in the Congressional Record - the idea is then in the end to be able to say something about how the President and Congress interacted in making China policy at important moments. (An early draft, if you're interested, is here).

So, over the next few days, I might be sharing a few funny moments with our readers out of the Public Papers and the Congressional Record. (The alternative is alcoholism.) So here's one amusing bit that appears in the "Remarks to the China and United States Women's Soccer Teams Following the World Cup Final in Pasadena, California, July 10, 1999," at p. 1185 of the second volume of presidential papers for 1999. I'd like to draw your attention in particular to the stage direction the editors include at bottom.
The President (to the China's women's soccer team). I want to say to the whole team how much we admire your performance in the whole World Cup. You were magnificent today, and we were very honored to have you in our country. You will win many more games.

[After greeting China's team, the President proceeded to the locker room of the champion U.S. women's soccer team.]
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# Posted 3:05 AM by Patrick Belton  

OPEN QUESTION: So Comcast is attempting to buy out Disney. Does this mean that my broadband internet will begin coming with a Mouse?
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# Posted 2:37 AM by Patrick Belton  

FAREED ON GETTING OUR BUDGETARY HOUSE IN ORDER: Drawing on Oxfordshire exile Niall Ferguson, Fareed Zakaria says that the greatest threat to the United States's new engagement with world comes from the Bush administration's spendthrift addiction to butter.
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# Posted 2:03 AM by Patrick Belton  

LE PLUS CA CHANGE, ET LE CHINE: James Mann, of CSIS and formerly the LA Times and one of the leading analysts of contemporary China within journalism or the academy, contributes a piece to today's WaPo on how in human rights, China hasn't changed over the past decade - the rest of the world has just lowered its standards:
The problem is that in fundamental ways relating to human rights and political repression, China today is not much different than it was a decade ago. Yes, China has been brought into the international community, if we define that phrase exclusively in terms of economics. But ordinarily the international community is not defined solely by membership in the World Trade Organization.

Chirac is right about one thing -- something has changed over the past decade. But it's not China. Rather, the rest of the world has become far more tolerant of the same Chinese political repression that it condemned in the early 1990s. A lifting of the EU arms embargo would be one more big step in this tawdry policy of accepting repression.
From permitting the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit prisoners in its jails, to allowing unauthorised public meetings or making the smallest statement of remorse for using arms against its peacefully protesting citizens, the Chinese regime has not budged in the slightest toward international norms of decency and human rights. On the contrary, from 1989 on, it's the West that has positively run, under three consecutive US presidents, to erase from the public stage all criticism whatsoever of the way Beijing treats its subjects.
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# Posted 1:40 AM by Patrick Belton  

PUTTING NUMBERS ON A BIG, BIG PROBLEM: Over 4,450 Catholic priests can be documented to have been accused of committing sexual assault on minors over the past 52 years, according to a report commissioned by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops and written by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. To put this number in perspective - there are only 44,000 priests currently serving in the United States; and even though the report entirely discards incidents involving a further 3,300 priests who had died, and only deals with incidents in which a victim of abuse has come forward, the number still represents over 4 percent of all priests who served in that period.

CORRECTION: 3,300 incidents involving dead priests weren't counted, rather than 3,300 dead priests. (Some dead priests may have been serial pedophiles.) Still, the point remains that even without taking a single dead priest into account over 4 percent of American priests have been accused of sexual assault of minors - an unforgiveably large amount of rape of children, and an unforgiveable betrayal of trust.
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Monday, February 16, 2004

# Posted 4:03 PM by Patrick Belton  

STRATEGY UNDER SPIRES: Our friends in Oxford are very warmly welcome to come along this Wednesday to listen to our think tank's Eurasia Director, Paul Domjan, lead a conversation on different contemporary analytical techniques which may be used in making strategies for the future. Our meeting will be held in the New Room at St Antony's (Hilda Besse building), at 8 pm on Wednesday, and the more, the merrier. Some optional readings which are useful on the subject are on our foreign policy society's blog.

We also have frequent meetings in Washington, New York, Chicago, the Bay, LA, Boston, and New Haven, and a think tank we're getting off the ground - please just drop us a note if you'd like to be kept in the loop!

UPDATE: And a friend in our San Francisco chapter was kind enough to suggest a few more, which we've added here.
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# Posted 2:49 PM by Patrick Belton  

CRYSTALIZING THE FOREIGN POLICY CONVERSATION: Charles Krauthammer presented the Irving Kristol lecture at AEI last week, which was a quite good analysis of the four most noticeable currents within the contemporary American foreign policy conversation (i.e., isolationism, liberal internationalism, realism, and global democratization). One of his more interesting moves in this lecture is to propose the rechristening (errr, brising) of neoconservatism as democratic globalism - which, inasmuch as it makes muscular, idealistic democracy promotion into more of an option which both political parties can adopt, is something of which we who are the tradition's partisans can wholeheartedly approve.
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# Posted 9:51 AM by Patrick Belton  

AMERICA AND ASHURA: Reza Aslan has a piece in Slate on the background of Ashura, and its potential this year for politicization in the context of the Iraqi Shi'a community's flexing of its political muscles.
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# Posted 3:58 AM by Patrick Belton  

GOVERNMENT-SPONSORED DUMBING DOWN OF CULTURE: While the NYT public editor makes a virtue of his newspaper's reporting on candidates' hairstyles and sartorial choices, the BBC does the Grey Lady one better with substantive, in-depth reporting on crop circles, psychics, and, yes, a webcam of a BBC reporter spending a night in a haunted hotel. Considering that one of the stronger arguments to be made in favour of publicly funded broadcasting is that high culture won't survive in a fully market-driven public sphere (and, therefore, the likes of Classic FM's "relaxing" Mozart will drive out the more serious, undebased cultural coinage of a BBC 3 or 4), it's not entirely clear why funds from the public treasury should be drawn upon to provide broadcasting fare which seems, if anything, a fair cut below what the market left to its own resources will provide.
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# Posted 3:02 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

JOSH MARSHALL TURNS THIRTY-FIVE: Congratulations to a savvy journalist who has helped the blogosphere earn its reputation as both informed and influential. It's an especially happy birthday for Josh, since he thinks there a real chance that America will get rid of its President come November.
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# Posted 2:41 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DEFENDING KERRY: Matt Yglesias and Kevin Drum respond to the WaPo. Whereas Matt bashes the media for manufacturing artificial criticisms, Kevin says that
one of the things that has long bothered me about Kerry is the fact that he seems to take such deliberately calculated positions on so many issues. This is a gut reaction on my part, not something I have documentary evidence of, but he often seems to be trying just a little too hard to simply come up with a position — any position — that won't piss off anyone on either side too badly.
Still, Kevin thinks Kerry had solid-yet-complex rationales for all of his positions. And both Matt and Kevin like the fact that Kerry prefers knowledge to ideology when it comes to decisionmaking.

The one issue I really want to take up with Matt concerns Kerry's attitude toward reconstruction. As Matt correctly observes,
Kerry (and Dean and Edwards) all very clearly said at the time was that their "no" votes should not be interpreted as opposition to appropriating large sums of money for the reconstruction of Iraq. Rather, they felt that the $87 billion was being misappropriated and financed in an unsound manner (increased borrowing) and that if the request could be defeated in the Senate it would be possible to negotiate a different, better deal with the president.
That's not a bad justification for voting against the bill. But what has Kerry done since then to show that he actually cares about nation-building and democracy promotion in Iraq? Edwards has at least made a serious effort to lay out a democracy promotion agenda. But with Kerry, you get the sense that he was doing exactly Kevin says he always does: looking for the position that will piss off the fewest people.

What I really want to hear from Kerry is this: "George Bush got us into the wrong war and prevented the UN from giving us any real help with reconstruction. But it is simply wrong to see the occupation of Iraq as a burden. Rather, it is a historic opportunity for the United States to address the root causes of terrorism by bringing freedom to the Middle East. The Bush administration is letting this historic opportunity slip away, but I can guarantee you that my administration won't."

Naturally, I disagree with the first sentence of that paragraph. But I put it in there to show that a sincere commitment to rebuilding Iraq is fully compatible with most Democrats' insistence that the war was wrong and that the peace is being lost. Do I expect John Kerry to say anything like this? No, not really. I think he really does see the occupation as a burden and does not want to antagonize those Democratic voters who share that view. But I do hope that Matt and Kevin, who have consistently emphasized the importance of doing Iraq right, will come out and say that if Kerry really cares about rebuilding Iraq he should say so unequivocally.
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# Posted 2:12 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ORIGINAL REPORTING BY CALPUNDIT: Kevin Drum has been doing lots of original reporting on the Bush/National Guard issue. He's convinced that Bush had his military record "cleansed" while governor of Texas, but that there's not enough evidence left to prove it. Also, I agree with Matt that the Administration's stop-and-start release of Bush's military records has made the White House look both incompetent and dishonest.
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# Posted 12:29 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MORE RIDICULOUS THAN MAUREEN DOWD: The Yankees sign A-Rod. That's just crazy. Don't the Red Sox at least deserve a chance to challenge us for the division title?
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Sunday, February 15, 2004

# Posted 12:40 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WAPO MASTHEAD CHALLENGES KERRY: Read the whole thing.
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# Posted 12:26 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

JUDEOPHOBIA IN BRITAIN: It's not exactly anti-Semitism.
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# Posted 12:21 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A HERD OF BLACK SHEEP: The following paragraph is from a WaPo article about George Bush's National Guard service:
Bush was unquestionably out of step with his generation and, as his mother has said, a late bloomer. While many of his 1960s contemporaries were openly challenging authority and convention, Bush held on to his father's values and ambitions, but with little success at the time. He partied and drank, clashing with his father after a night of carousing in 1972, and supported a war that many of his peers reviled.
But don't those facts show that Bush was actually very much in step with his generation? He didn't want to go to Vietnam, he took drugs, and he didn't follow his parents' advice. Only compared to the rest of the Ivy League and the Northeast was Bush clearly outside of the mainstream. For better or worse, the same could be said today.
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Saturday, February 14, 2004

# Posted 11:50 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WISHING FOR A LIBERAL HAWK: Tom Friedman is fantasizing about John Kerry. Meanwhile, MoDo is fantasizing that Ahmad Chalabi tricked Bill Clinton and Hans Blix into believing that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. Wait, did I say Clinton and Blix? I meant Bush and Cheney. MoDo conveniently avoids explaining how Clinton and Blix, let alone almost all foreign intelligence agencies, became convinced that Saddam had WMD.
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# Posted 11:48 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FOREIGN FIGHTERS LAUNCH DEADLY ASSAULT ON IRAQI POLICE: Fifteen Iraqi police and several civilians died in today's attack. Of the four assailants killed in the raid, one was from Lebanon and two from Iran.
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# Posted 11:29 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NYT BLOG DEBUTS! The first NYT blog -- referred to officially as a "Web journal" -- belongs to none other than Public Editor Daniel Okrent. The format of Okrent's journal will be familiar to all those who inhabit the wretched hive of scum and villainy known as the blogosphere. The journal consists of brief posts which contain links to those documents and articles to which Okrent refers. Each post has a permalink attached in order to give it a unique URL. And, finally, readers have the right to respond by posting comments.

(NB: "Kristof Responds" is almost a blog. If it linked to other authors' work, it would be there. Still, there's no question that Kristof deserves considerable credit for interacting with his readers.)

I say that this is a victory for openness and transparency at the New York Times. Its own in-house critic has chosen to adopt the means of communication preferred by the Times' most inveterate critics. I think we are beginning to see a transformation in the way that journalists define their responsibility to their readers.

While journalists' have long -- and deservedly -- insisted that they serve the public by publicizing information about public figures and institutions, they have always hesitated to let anyone outside of the journalistic profession define how such service ought to be performed. As a result, journalists ensured that they themselves were largely spared from the oversight to which they subjected other influential men and women. But we may now be seeing the beginning of a day and age in which journalists acknowledge their responsibility to justify their methods and decisions to the reading public.

The reaction to such oversight is not surprising. As Okrent reports in his most recent column,
A lot of people here believe that The Times should be as open to examination as those The Times itself examines each day; their welcome has been generous and heartening. What's worse than I expected is the overt hostility from some of those who don't want me here...

One reporter ripped me up and down about how offensive it was that the staff had to endure public second-guessing, how it makes reporters vulnerable to further attack, how the hovering presence of an ombudsman can hinder aggressive reporting. When I objected - "I don't think your complaint's with me; I didn't invent this job" - the reporter hissed, "You accepted it!"
I think that this sort of reaction is indicative of many journalists' condescension towards the reading public they are supposed to serve. This reporters response is reminiscent of something that might have been said in the Nixon White House in the midst of Watergate. How dare the public insist on its right to know! That's not in the Constitution!

Unsurprisingly, the rest of the Times' staff has begun to assert its right to criticize Okrent in public. For example, NYT Executive Editor Bill Keller told the WaPo that one of Okrent's columns was "ill-informed". That is something that should happen more often -- a powerful journalist should be forced to empathize with all those who are constantly misrepresented by the news media. Perhaps, over time, this will teach journalists to respect their subjects a little more.

Even now, these initial moves towards transparency are forcing journalists to begin grappling with one of the most complex and explosive issues in the media world: bias. If Okrent's mail is any indication, the criticism he gets is predominantly from the NYT's left. To understand the following quotation from Okrent's column, you have to know that he wrote it as an imaginary interview with himself, i.e. he both asked and answered the questions. Hence:
Q. Speaking of editors, when are you going to write about the editors' evident pro-Bush, anti-Republican, Likud-sponsored, Israel-hating bias?

A. Not soon. I'm reading carefully; I'm taking notes; a few readers have kindly offered to keep track of what they perceive to be bias. I'm going to wait until I've bird-dogged this one over time before I come to any conclusions.
Strangely, it seems that those who object most to the Times' coverage would like to see it become more like The Nation. Perhaps that is inevitable in a liberal metropolis like New York. Perhaps the majority to the Times' right has assumed that there is no hope for change. Which is why I am going to conclude this column with a salute to the one man whose unorthdox and brash journalistic style forced the Times to confront its own failures. His name is Jayson Blair.

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# Posted 5:54 AM by Patrick Belton  

EXCITING PROGRESS THIS WEEK in Cypriot peace talks, which under substantial coaxing from Kofi Annan, and the shadow of a standing EU offer of accession to at least the Greek moiety of the island if there is no reunification by 1st May, have resulted in a drafted plan calling for reunification refendera in both communities in late April. See VOA,
On May 1...the European Union will grant full membership to 10 countries, including Cyprus.

EU leaders have made clear that they will allow the Greek Cypriot south of the island to join, even if a deal is not reached. And European leaders have also repeatedly warned that failure to re-unite the island could have an impact on Turkey's own chances of opening membership negotiations with the EU.

Analysts say Turkey's decision to persuade veteran Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash to agree to resume talks on the basis of the latest U.N. plan is rooted in Turkey's desire to be given a date for the membership talks to start when European leaders meet for their last summit of the year in December.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded the north of the island in the wake of an abortive coup attempt by Greek Cypriot nationalists, aimed at uniting the island with Greece. Under the terms of the U.N. plan, some 35-thousand Turkish troops on the island would gradually withdraw, which could lead to the establishment of a loose federation of the Turkish and Greek communities on Cyprus.
See also NYT:
According to the plan [agreed on Friday, under Secretary General Annan's brokerage], the two sides will reconvene on Thursday in Cyprus under a tight timetable calling for them to agree by March 22 on reunification language that can be put to simultaneous island-wide referendums in April.

Technical committees on laws and treaties will work out details, also starting next week, and the United Nations will preside over a separate committee on the financial and economic aspects of reunification.

If the two parties are unable to reach agreement themselves, the pact calls for Turkey and Greece to enter the talks. If differences still persist by March 29, Mr. Annan will have the power "to fill in the blanks," according to United Nations diplomats. The proposed date of the referendums is April 21.

"Very much as a last resort, the secretary general, with reluctance, will have the last word," said Álvaro de Soto, the Peruvian diplomat who is Mr. Annan's special adviser on Cyprus and who will lead next week's talks.

Athens, Ankara, London and Washington engaged in busy overnight diplomacy, and a European Union official in Brussels said Friday that they had no interest in becoming directly involved, thus taking the air out of the Greek Cypriot proposal.
If the Secretary General is able to succeed in bringing this 40-year conflict to a peaceful close, it will be one of the great successes of his organisation in our decade toward public order and human dignity, and will win justly deserved praise even from this often sceptical quarter.
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# Posted 5:43 AM by Patrick Belton  

HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY to all of our readers! We love you guys.
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Friday, February 13, 2004

# Posted 6:34 PM by Patrick Belton  

OUR FRIENDS THE SAUDIS are bribing journalists. On the other hand, with a record like this they probably need to.
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# Posted 3:01 PM by Patrick Belton  

YLS'S LEA BRILYAMER on conflict of laws, full faith and credit, and gay marriage.
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# Posted 10:18 AM by Patrick Belton  

READING LIST: Here's a quick round-up of a few interesting pieces that appeared recently....

A former intelligence analyst, and current professor at the National Defense University, writes on intelligence community reform in Policy Review. Nicholas Eberstadt writes in the WaPo about the demographic emptying of Russia, and William Safire writes in FT about Russia's withdrawal from the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe. Kaus has some wonderful stuff on Kerry, not all of which is about sex. John Gaddis, a friend of all the OxBloggers, goes for a Q&A session with the Council on Foreign Relations on Bush administration grand strategy. Brookings releases a report on global governance and shortcomings in the UN Millennium Declaration (as well as getting the Upstate economy going again). CSIS has loads of good stuff: on political trends in China, the Sudan peace process, AIDS in India, and Mid-East oil. Carnegie has pieces on women's rights in the Arab world (as well as liberalization and democracy promotion), proliferation strategy, and the effects of Nafta on Mexico.

TNR meanwhile runs a piece on France's idiotic veil law, while the Weekly Standard analyzes the administration's human trafficking policy. (The latter, incidentally, was also the subject of a talk here by Yale Law's Dean-Designate Harold Koh last night, who kindly stuck around to talk with some of us after his talk and again over lunch today). Also in the Standard, Jonathan Last writes a requiem for Clark, and neo-con-babe-turned-budget-geek Katherine Mangu-Ward analyzes the Bush budget. In New Haven, the Yale Corporation met and decided to jazz up Science Hill, reach out to China, and hike up tuition 5%. And here in Oxford, Oxford students are getting beaten up by townies left and right - incidentally, just days after a student newspaper printed a cover showing that basically every individual on every side of the BBC-Blair-Kelly-Hutton debacle had done some time in the local uni.

So - nothing to do for Valentine's Day? Don't want to duke it out with local hooligans, or visit a Parisian red light district? It's okay: cuddle up with OxBlog tomorrow.
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# Posted 10:14 AM by Patrick Belton  

MORE SUPPORT FOR TRANSLATING WESTERN POLITICAL DISCOURSE INTO ARABIC: This time from Juan Cole, a professor at the University of Michigan.
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# Posted 12:30 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IT'S MINE! ALL MINE! Matt Yglesias formulates the Adesnik Thesis. I might formulate it somewhat differently myself, but as they say, possession is nine-tenths of the law. Even better, Matt apparently thinks that I'm so well known that he doesn't have to use my first name, mention OxBlog, or link to anything I've written. And Matt should know, because he is famous.

What this all reminds me of is a story my father used to tell about his ambitions. If memory serves, the son of one of my father's colleagues married the daughter of violinist Itzhak Perlman. In the NYT wedding announcement, it identified the bride by simply saying that "Her father is the violinist." My father said that he would know that he had hit the big time if one day I got married and the newspaper identified me by saying "His father is the scientist."
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# Posted 12:08 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SPINNING THE POLLS: The WaPo reports that
A majority of Americans believe President Bush either lied or deliberately exaggerated evidence that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction in order to justify war, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
If you scroll down a ways, you find out that 21% believe Bush lied while 31% believe he exaggerated without lying. Putting those numbers together to create a majority seems rather suspicious. If the WaPo wanted, it could just as easily have run a headline that emphasized a different finding from its most recent poll: that 68% of Americans think Bush really believed that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. The WaPo also reports that
the president's declining ratings related to Iraq were most striking. Approval of his handling of the situation there has fallen to 47 percent, down 8 percentage points in the past three weeks.
Actually, there's nothing particularly striking about that. If you look at the supplementary data provided on the WaPo website, you discover that Bush's rating on Iraq is almost exactly where it was at the end of last October. His rating shot up when we captured Saddam and has slowly returned to where it was beforehand. The WaPo also observes that
The survey found that, for the first time since the war ended, fewer than half of Americans -- 48 percent -- believe the war was worth fighting, down 8 points from last month. Fifty percent said the war was not worth it.
To put that number in perspective, you again have to go to the supplementary data. It turns out that 58% of American think that the war in Iraq contributed to the United States' long-term security. In addition, 57% believe that the war can be justified even if we don't find any WMD Iraq. In contrast, 24% think that finding the weapons is critical to justifying the war while 17% think the war simply wasn't justified. On a related note, 61% of Americans still believe Iraq had WMD, a 28-point drop since December. All in all, it seems hard to agree with the WaPo's conclusion that
Questions about Bush's use of prewar intelligence, in addition to feeding doubts about his honesty, have sent his performance rating plummeting.
Given that Bush's overall approval rating has dropped 8% while his approval rating for handling the economy has dropped 7%, it seems a lot more sensible to conclude, as a great American statesman once said, "It's the economy, stupid."
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Thursday, February 12, 2004

# Posted 11:39 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OCTOBER SURPRISE: MoDo expects Osama bin Laden to suddenly appear in American custody just before the presidential election. Well, at least she's actually predicting something instead of just talking about sweaters.
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# Posted 11:31 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE LITTLE THINGS: This sentence from the NYT amused me: "American soldiers responded with a firestorm of gunfire and cannon, and the shooting lasted for at least a minute." What would you call it if the Americans kept on shooting for two or three or even five minutes? An inferno? Would an hour-long battle count as hell-on-earth?
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# Posted 11:24 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE DANCE CONTINUES: Are inspections working, or are Iranian confessions an indication of the fact that Teheran simply cannot be trusted?

Iran is an interesting case for the concept of inspections because it seems to lie halfway between Libya, the willing participant and Iraq, the intransigent opponent. It seems that Teheran will do its best to keep inspectors in the dark, but compromise when confronted with evidence of its misbehavior.

Given that there is no military option on the table, it seems the best option for the United States to throw all its weight behind ensuring the seriousness of the inspections process. Then again, it may be best for certain top officials to say nothing about the issue, since they have a way of antagonizing the UN and the rest of NATO whenever they decide to speak out.
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# Posted 9:42 AM by Patrick Belton  

IRANIANS MEET AMERICANS, FIND THEY'RE NOT GREAT SATAN AFTER ALL: In one unusual benefit of having a large number of uniformed and other Americans on their border, a large number of Iranians have been having personal contact with Americans, and liking them. This the same week, incidentally, that marked the 25th anniversary of the declaration of the Iranian theocracy, which that April executed all prominent dissenting Iranians, and in November violated the laws of decent nations by seizing 66 American diplomats to hold as hostages, intended to force America to return the Shah from his exile there to face what would have been certain execution. You've come a long way, baby....
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# Posted 8:45 AM by Patrick Belton  

CLIMBING UP THE HILL: Several interesting appearances within the last fortnight by State Department officials making the cross-town trip to the oak-panelled committee rooms of Capitol Hill. In particular, Assistant Secretary Anthony Wayne testified yesterday on progress in Iraqi economic and financial reconstruction, DAS Randall Schriver spoke last week on both Chinese military modernization and cross-Strait relations and China's membership in the WTO, Under Secretary Margaret Tutwiler testified on reforming public diplomacy, and coordinator for Afghanistan William Taylor presented a report card on Afghan reconstruction.

Also of interest are recent testimonies by executive branch officials on terrorist financing, Syrian support for terrorism, the state of counterterror operations in South Asia, East Asia and the Pacific, and U.S. policy towards Iran, Central Asia and Colombia.
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# Posted 1:55 AM by Patrick Belton  

EWWWWW: Just ask yourself - does the world really need a magazine devoted to photographs of undressed Harvard undergraduates?
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Wednesday, February 11, 2004

# Posted 11:33 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WISHFUL THINKING: According to a Pentagon report, top Iraqi officials amazingly persuaded themselves that George Bush was not serious about going to war. If only they had listened to Chirac and Schroeder...

Also, I didn't know that
Dr. [David] Kay, the former chief C.I.A. weapons inspector, has said that his team learned that no Special Republican Guard units had chemical or biological weapons — but that all of the officers believed that some other Special Republican Guard unit had them. He said it appeared that the Iraqi officers were the victims of a disinformation campaign by Mr. Hussein.
It makes you wonder. Were all of Saddam's efforts to deceive UN arms inspectors just part of an effort to persuade his own government that such weapons existed? After all, if Saddam believed that Bush wasn't serious about going to war, then he had no reason to be concerned about committing the sort of material breach that would have been picked up by US intelligence agencies.

What I still want to know was whether Saddam thought the US wouldn't attack despite believing Iraq had WMD or whether he assumed that we wouldn't attack because we knew that the WMD were a fabrication designed to fool Saddam's own henchmen.
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# Posted 11:20 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SADNESS AGAIN: Another suicide bombing claims dozens of lives in Iraq.
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# Posted 5:53 AM by Patrick Belton  

DISCUSSING HOMELAND SECURITY IN THE WINDY CITY: I would be awfully remiss if I did not take very grateful note of the kind support for the inaugural meeting Sunday of our foreign policy society's Chicago chapter that was graciously extended by Dan Drezner ("bipartisan, idealistic, nuanced"), the Crescat authors ("drop by!"), and Proculian Meditations ("dupes and running dogs ... figuring out what national security policy best serves the interests of the capitalist class"). Thanks, folks!

Will Baude and Amanda Butler's notes from the meeting are up here. Tonight, our Oxford chapter is meeting at 8 pm in the New Room in St Antony's (in Hilda Besse - ask the porters) for a talk by Zach Kaufman (Magdalen) on the history of war crimes tribunals from Nurenberg to the present, with a particular view toward the implications for an eventual trial of Saddam. His catchy title: "Dealing (with) the Ace of Spades." Many more events coming up soon in the Bay, LA, New York, DC, and Boston - please drop a note if you'd like to be kept in the loop!
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# Posted 1:58 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OXBLOG FILM CLASSICS: I've been watching a lot of old movies lately, so I thought I would review some of them here. After all, you don't hear much about films once they become a few months old, let alone a few decades. And if you want to hear about new releases, the professionals have a lot more interesting stuff to say than I do. So here goes...

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is a 1962 western directed by John Ford and starring John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart. Offhand, I don't think I've seen any John Wayne or Jimmy Stewart films before (which tells you a lot about how ignorant I am on the subject of film). So what you're getting here are the impressions of a total novice.

First of all, the vintage acting style in Valance struck me as extremely artificial and melodramatic. The characters didn't seem to interact with one another so much as deliver monologues while standing near one another. While this approach seems deficient from a 21st century perspective, I imagine that it has its own strengths which I'll come to appreciate over time.

That said, I still found Jimmy Stewart extremely annoying. He's like a WASPy version of Woody Allen, except not at all funny. While you pretty much know that Stewart, the hero, won't get shot and killed, that didn't stop me from hoping. On the other hand, I liked Wayne's performance a lot more, althought it was hard not to laugh when he ended every sentence with the word "pilgrim" (as in "You look mighty tired there, pilgrim.")

Anyhow, once I got past the culture shock of watching a 40-year old film I really began to like it. Valance is a story about a classic dilemma in American life: should we resist force with force, or strive to establish just laws that prevent others from using force unjustly? The scenario plays out as follows: Ransom Stoddard (Jimmy Stewart) is a young Eastern-born lawyer headed for the frontier. On his way, he is robbed and beaten by the outlaw Liberty Valance. Upon arriving in the town of Shinbone, Stewart discovers that no one has the courage to make Valance pay for his crimes.

The only thing that prevents Valance from taking over Shinbone completely is the fact that Tom Doniphon (John Wayne) can draw a gun just as fast as the outlaw himself. Apalled by this situation, Stewart resolves to put Valance on trial. Stewart carries on even though Wayne insists that his approach is naive and will only result in Stewart's getting killed.

There is also a very strong political element in the film, since the territory is in the midst of a struggle to decide whether or not it wants to join the Union. At the same time that Stewart tries to bring Valance to justice, he is also trying to organize the townsfolk to vote for statehood. However, it turns out that Valance has been hired by rich cattle ranchers to scare the voters out of joining the Union.

From the perspective of February 2004, Valance seems to be a film about democracy promotion and nation-building. In academic circles, one often hears that democracy is about more than elections. It is about the rule of law. It is about having a free press. It is about ensuring that those with wealth cannot distort the political process.

As it turns out, Hollywood knew that 40 years ago. Thus it might be a good idea to have a special screening of Valance in the White House theater. It might remind George Bush that the challenges facing Iraq and Afghanistan today are similar to those Americans faced in the West 120 years ago.

However, the film might also serve as a reminder to critics of the administration that the use of force is often necessary in order to put American ideals into practice. As Stewart discovers, you can only take the high road in those lands where the law is already sovereign. On the frontier, you need a gun.
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# Posted 1:13 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LOOKING FOR BUSH: Kevin Drum has a whole lot of posts on the President's newly released military service records. Just keep on scrolling.
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# Posted 1:06 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PUNDITS IRRELEVANT: Not much to say after Kerry's wins in Virginia and Tennessee. I can't say I'll miss Wes Clark, although there was a time in early January when he looked pretty attractive as the only viable alternative to Dean. So much for foresight.
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# Posted 12:59 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ONCE A TYRANT, ALWAYS A TYRANT: Saddam rules in prison.
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Tuesday, February 10, 2004

# Posted 10:35 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A SAD DAY IN IRAQ: The terror continues. Our condolences to the victims, whose only crime was wanting to participate in the rebuilding of their country.
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# Posted 10:18 AM by Patrick Belton  

iBROKE: My iBook is sadly iBusted, so iWill be writing slightly less than usual on the iBlog and iThesis for the next several days. iSorry.
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Monday, February 09, 2004

# Posted 6:20 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BLACK IS WHITE, UP IS DOWN: Glenn Reynolds thinks CNN may be spinning the Zarqawi memo as proof that anti-American insurgents are growing stronger, not weaker.

But I think that this is a case of sheer incompetence, not bias, a possibility that Glenn acknowledges. If you read the article attached to the headline, its gets the story right. The headline just seems out of place, like some sort of accident.

Unfortunately, I can't even find the original story on the Netscape/CNN site. Instead, there is a similar report bearing the headline: "Letter: Bin Laden Has Recruiting Problems". Of course, that's somewhat misleading as well, but at least they're getting closer...
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# Posted 7:21 AM by Patrick Belton  

BRIGHT COLLEGE YEARS, REDUX: Psychologist and current graduate school dean Peter Salovey to replace Richard Brodhead as dean of Yale College; American religion scholar Jon Butler will take over as dean of the Graduate School.
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# Posted 6:19 AM by Patrick Belton  

IT'S ALL IN THE ADVERTISING, PART 31 OF A SERIES: Statravel.co.uk includes this Valentine's Day special on its website:
If you fancy a quaint little number, then we have the perfect weekend break for you to impress. This delightful hotel located in the area of Montmartre and minutes from the Sacre Coeur and Moulin Rouge has to be a bit of a find.
Area of Montmartre, by Moulin Rouge - so basically, you're saying that it's right plunk in the middle of Paris's red light district? (Unless this is a fairly heterodox species of British "Valentine's Day special"?)
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Sunday, February 08, 2004

# Posted 9:50 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BUSH VS. RUSSERT: There are two basic ways to think about Tim Russert's hour-long interview with the President, broadcast this morning on NBC's Meet the Press. One is that Russert went soft. The other is that the debate about the missing WMD has been played out to the point at which every thrust and parry on both sides of the aisle has become extremely easy to predict.

While Russert certainly could have been nastier and interrupted the President more often, there is an expectation (perhaps unjustified) that even journalists will show a certain amount of deference to the Commander-in-Chief when talking with him in person. Besides, Bush is usually willing to hang himself if you just give him enough rope.

Anyhow, Russert did get to ask the tough questions that everyone expected. For example:
The night you took the country to war, March 17th, you said this: "Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised."...

How do you respond to critics who say that you brought the nation to war under false pretenses?
Or:
Can you launch a preemptive war without ironclad, absolute intelligence that he had weapons of mass destruction?
And:
Looking back, in your mind, is it worth the loss of 530 American lives and 3,000 injuries and woundings simply to remove Saddam Hussein, even though there were no weapons of mass destruction?
Finally:
The Bush-Cheney first three years, the unemployment rate has gone up 33 percent, there has been a loss of 2.2 million jobs. We've gone from a $281 billion surplus to a $521 billion deficit. The debt has gone from 5.7 trillion, to $7 trillion, up 23 percent. Based on that record, why should the American people rehire you as CEO?
While relatively tough, those questions are also relatively predictable. How much you wanna bet that Bush's prep team asked him almost exactly the same questions in their rehearsals for the Russert interview?

Of course, the fact that the questions were so predictable makes the President's lackluster responses even more disturbing. While Bush managed to hit his talking points, his stumbling defensiveness made the interview hard to watch, even for someone like myself who thinks that there are perfectly good answers to all of Russert's questions about the war.

Now, we know George Bush is going to stumble. We can forgive him for being less than eloquent. But more important than the fact of stumbling is the way in which it conveyed a total inability to think through the issues in a sophisticated manner. Throughout the interview, Bush seemed like he was struggling to remember what he had been told to say at rehearsals. This, after 18 months of having Iraq in the headlines?

But personally, far more disturbing than this stumbling was Bush's defensiveness. Everyone response came across as an almost desperate effort to pretend that Russert's questions hadn't really hit on one of the administration's major failures. Bush came across as someone who simply couldn't admit to the American public when something had gone wrong. If Bush had just come into the interview and said, calmly and confidently, that of course there were major intelligence failures, I think he would've won a lot of respect without losing anything in political terms. Everyone already knows the weapons aren't there. Admitting is the best damage control strategy.

Now, there was one point at which the confused and defensive Bush gave way to a calm and confident alter ego. In the middle of a question about nation-building (which he was in the midst of fumbling), Bush suddenly got this look in his eye as if he knew exactly what the right answer was. He said that
The best way to secure America for the long term is to promote freedom and a free society and to encourage democracy. And we are doing so in a part of the world where people say it can't happen, but the long term vision and the long term hope is -- and I believe it's going to happen -- is that a free Iraq will help change the Middle East. You may have heard me say we have a forward strategy of freedom in the Middle East. It's because I believe so strongly that freedom is etched in everybody's heart, I believe that,and I believe this country must continue to lead.
The change in the President's body language was astonishing. It's the kind of thing that doesn't show up in transcripts, the kind of thing that made me glad I actually got up so damn early on a Sunday morning in order to watch the interview.

When Bush started talking about democracy promotion and the universal desire for freedom, his words began to flow in a way they hadn't before. And you couldn't help thinking that the words were coming straight from his heart. With Reagan, you could dismiss it as acting. But with Bush, it's hard not to believe he's sincere.

Now, that doesn't mean that Bush truly understands what kind of effort serious democracy promotion entails. It doesn't mean that he will notice when the US begins to compromise its principles in countries that don't make the headlines. But it gives me a certain confidence that he understands why the reconstruction of Iraq is vital to our long-run victory over the forces of terror. That is why Bush put himself on the line for the $87 billion reconstruction bill. That is why we still have 120,000 troops on the ground. While I can't shake my suspicions that Bush (or Cheney or Rumsfeld) is getting ready to cut and run, the fact is that the President has shown a surprising willingness to stay and fight for what innumerable critics have long dismissed as a lost cause.

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# Posted 8:50 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WAITING FOR MODOT: Who says that there's no such thing as good political art? This dramatic tour de force is a masterpiece worthy of Chekov. Letting an author of such brilliance work as a mere columnist is a travesty, an outright betrayal of all that is good and pure about the American theater. Thus, I suggest that the New York Times fire her immediately.
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# Posted 10:15 AM by Patrick Belton  

IN A STEP OF EXTRAORDINARY IMPORTANCE in the evolution of Japan's use of its military, the first convoy of troops drawn from Japan's Ground Self-Defense Force crossed into Iraq today to participate in reconstruction and peacekeeping activities. They will deploy in the southern city of Samawa, and will eventually build up to 1,000 air, ground, and naval personnel, in line with legislation passed in July to permit the deployment of Japanese military units in non-combat zones abroad. The deployment will likely receive additional legislative authorisation from the upper house of the Diet tomorrow. Christian Science Monitor has a great deal more.
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# Posted 6:18 AM by Patrick Belton  

JIM WOOLSEY ON this question, in the WSJ op-ed page:
So which is it: Are America's spies a gaggle of fools for believing that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction? Or is the Bush administration a gang of knaves for lying us into a war?
One of Jim's most interesting points has to do with the scale of the biological weapons in question:
Take anthrax. The Iraqis admitted they had made 8,500 liters (8.5 tons), and Colin Powell in his February speech to the U.N. Security Council noted that the U.N. inspectors thought Saddam could have about three times as much. But even this larger amount would weigh only some 25 tons in liquid form--slightly more than one tractor-trailer load. If reduced to powder, as Mr. Powell suggested in his speech, it could be contained in a dozen or so suitcases.
His final conclusion, I also think, is also noteworthy:
[A] three-part emphasis on human rights, terrorist ties and WMD programs would have been solidly in line with the president's own explicit policy. A three-legged stool is more stable than a one-legged one, but for some reason the administration decided not to make all three parts of its case in justifying the decision to go to war. As a result, its very heavy emphasis on WMD to the exclusion of the other two bases of its strategy has left the administration vulnerable to the failure to find WMD stockpiles.
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# Posted 12:54 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE GRUNTS' WAR: The WaPo has an excellent article on what fighting insurgents means for the common soldier. But as the article also makes quite clear, there are no common soldiers.
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# Posted 12:36 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

JUST HOW LIBERAL IS JOHN KERRY? That's the question of the day over at the NYT, which has up an in-depth look at Kerry's two decades in the Senate. The profile opens with lavish praise of Kerry's work as chairman of special committee established for the purpose of investigating whether or not there were still American POWs in Vietnam. I don't know much about the issue, but it does seem that Kerry deserves credit for navigating a political minefield and helping re-establish US-Vietnamese relations. On the other hand, characterizing some of Kerry's critics as "zealots steeped in Rambo movies" doesn't exactly suggest that the NYT is taking an even-handed approach to the issue.

After the POW issue, we get to the bread and butter: Kerry's strong support for abortion rights, gay rights, gun control and environmental protection. I think he's been on the right side of every one of these issues. However, he has broken with the Democratic majority on NAFTA and welfare reform, positions that I also support. Even so, it's probably fair to describe Kerry as "solidly liberal", even if he doesn't seem to want that label himself.

The one major error in the NYT profile concerns Kerry's role in the Iran-Contra affair. The Times writes that Kerry's
ad hoc investigation paid off. Suspicions about Colonel North increased. The Foreign Relations Committee began a formal inquiry. Documents found in a plane that was shot down in Nicaragua indicated involvement by the C.I.A. And in November 1986, a Middle Eastern newspaper reported that United States arms had been secretly sold to Iran with the proceeds diverted to support the contras.
While Kerry's deserves credit for paying attention to the issue before many other Senators did, it is absurd to imply that his work contributed to any major revelations of the Reagan administration's misconduct. What blew the case wide open was the plane crash mentioned above. The fact that a Nicaraguan soldier shot down a plane and that one of its American crewmen survived was a matter of sheer luck -- bad for the President, good for the Constitution. Without that plane crash, there would've been no story.

As for the Iranian connection, the story of American arms shipments was broken by a small Lebanese paper called Al-Shiraa. Again, that was a matter of considerable luck. Kerry did not in any way lay the foundation for it.

But enough about what the NYT did write. Far more important is what it didn't. If you compare the NYT article to it's counterpart in the WaPo, you'll be left asking yourself how the NYT managed to avoid any mention of Kerry's double-speak justifications of his votes against the first Gulf War and for the second. The WaPo reports that
Nowhere has Kerry been challenged more for voting one way and talking another than on Iraq, both for his vote in support of the war in 2002 and his vote opposing the Persian Gulf War in 1991.

In 2002, he voted for the resolution authorizing Bush to go to war unilaterally, but then became one of Bush's harshest critics for having done so. Kerry, in his floor speech before the vote, warned Bush to build an international coalition through the United Nations, but the resolution did not require the president to gain U.N. approval before going to war. Kerry later said he was voting not for the use of force but for the threat of force.

In January 1991, Kerry opposed the resolution authorizing Bush's father to go to war to eject Iraq from Kuwait, arguing that the U.N. sanctions then in place should be given more time to work. When former Vermont governor Howard Dean recently challenged Kerry to square those two votes, aides said that the 1991 vote was not one in opposition to the use of force, just as Kerry has said his 2002 vote was not in support of the use of force.

In his 1991 floor speech, Kerry accused President George H.W. Bush of engaging in a "rush to war" -- language similar to that he used in criticizing the current president on the eve of the Iraq war a year ago. Kerry argued in 1991 that there was no need to pass the resolution to send a message threatening force against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, although that was his justification for supporting the 2002 resolution.

Before and after last year's war on Iraq, Kerry criticized the president for failing to assemble the kind of coalition Bush's father put together in 1991. But in his 1991 floor statement, Kerry was dismissive of the elder Bush's coalition. That effort, he said, lacked "a true United Nations collective security effort," and he was critical of the then-president for trading favors for China's support and cozying up to Syria, despite its human rights record.

"I regret that I do not see a new world order in the United States going to war with shadow battlefield allies who barely carry a burden," he said then. "It is too much like the many flags policy of the old order in Vietnam, where other countries were used to try to mask the unilateral reality. I see international cooperation; yes, I see acquiescence to our position; I see bizarre new bedfellows and alliances, but I question if it adds up to a new world order."
Now how does the NYT spin the issue? It writes that
In 1991, [Kerry] opposed sending troops to fight in the Persian Gulf war. But he voted in 2002 to authorize fighting in Iraq, and he supported military action in Panama, Somalia, Kosovo and Afghanistan.

"I think he's a moderate Democrat ? very liberal on social policy and reasonably conservative on foreign policy and defense matters," said former Senator Warren B. Rudman, Republican of New Hampshire.
How clever. Using an out-of-context quote by a Republican to make Kerry seem to have a far more consistent record on national security than he actually does. I doubt Karl Rove will be so kind.

All in all, it looks like I'll be facing the usual dilemma this November. I can get the domestic policies I like by voting Democratic and the foreign policies I like by voting Republican. But no matter which way I vote, the chances of getting a straight-talker in the White House aren't very good.
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Saturday, February 07, 2004

# Posted 11:48 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SHOUT-OUT TO STARBUCKS: Yes, I know that public praise for Coffee Inc. may result in my being branded as a yuppie reactionary. F*** that. Yesterday, my local Starbucks accepted an expired coupon in exchange for a three dollar drink. Three minutes later, the barista came over to me and admitted that he had forgotten to put the espresso in the mix. He already had a properly-made caramel macchiato in hand.

Would I have known that there was no coffee in my drink if the barista hadn't freely admitted his own mistake? Perhaps. After tasting the replacement the difference was clear. But I was quite happy with my hot milk, caramel syrup and whipped cream. So let's hear it for neo-liberal corporate-led globalization. Because good service is invaluable.
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# Posted 5:49 AM by Patrick Belton  

RE LEVIN APPOINTMENT TO INTEL PANEL: Well Josh, we did invent the whole dern apparatus - who else should be brought in to fix it?
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Friday, February 06, 2004

# Posted 7:09 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MR. DEAN GOES TO WASHINGTON. State, that is. Tomorrow's northwestern caucus gives Dean a chance (albeit slim) to come out on top for once. For an insightful look ahead to next week's primaries, Terry Neal's Talking Points column is the place to go. But what I really want to know is, will Terry Neal have to fight a grudge match against Joshua Micah Marshall for the right to the "Talking Points" name? Or does Marshall's use of the word "Memo" protect him charges of intellectual property theft?

More importantly, Kerry has Michigan sewn up while Edwards and Clark fight over Tennessee and Virginia.
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# Posted 1:40 PM by Patrick Belton  

WINDS OF CHANGE BLOW THROUGH IRAN TODAY: Winds of Change takes the blogospheric lead in today's coverage of the unfolding election crisis in Iran, with an enormously comprehensive and insightful special briefing, provided by Project Free Iran. It's well worth a read, and warmly recommended.
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# Posted 1:28 PM by Patrick Belton  

NEW EGYPTIAN BROTHERHOOD HEAD: There's a new head for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt - Muhammad Mahdi 'Akef has succeeded the deceased Mamoun al-Hudeibi as head of the organisation which is a parent to many current jihadist-orientated religious groups in the Middle East, including Hamas. The changeover of command occurred on 14th January, according to ArabicNews.com, and Memri has organised a collection of his early speeches, which do not seem to be taking the Brotherhood in a radically different direction from his predecessors. The best profiles of the organisation online are to be found at FAS, the Encyclopaedia of the Orient, and in Economist's broader survey of Egyptian political forces.
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# Posted 2:33 AM by Patrick Belton  

WORD PLAY: Amateur etymologists (etymophiles?) among our friends will take great pleasure in this site by England's Michael Quinion, an OEDist. You might spend some pleasant minutes there, if by chance you have been vaguely curious since kindergarten about the origin of, say Lb (and £) for "pound", the expression "big cheese" (the origins of which are incidentally Persian and Hindi, not dairy), the semantically nonsensical "I could care less" (which is found only in the States, and derives from Yiddish semantics), and my newly prized term to describe my own academic prospects, sticky wicket.

Also you might check if you're interested in Jesus H. Christ, or conversely the whole megillah (megillah, Heb., "scroll", from the reading of the book of Esther on Purim), the relationship between sycophancy and the Dantean insult "go suck a fig" (Gr. sukon, fig; see also the Sistine Chapel, wherein Michaelangelo shows his true feelings about his Julian patron), snob (from a Home Counties dialectical term for cobbler), keeping mum (with origins more onomatopoeic than Freudian), Elephant and Castle (from Infanta de Castile, translated into Cockney), and - for David and Rachel - bunny, a rural English term of endearment from the 17th century.

And Quinion also has an extraordinary wit which I'd be remiss if I didn't quote here extensively:
from the relevant entry: “I was in a deli recently when the girl behind the counter dropped something between the cabinets. There was an officer waiting on line and she said: ‘Do you think the long arm of the law can get this out for me?”
And on clams, happy and otherwise:
“Do you have any idea of the origins of the phrase happy as a clam? I’ve used it for years without knowledge of just how one would determine that a clam is happy—my acquaintance with the mollusc is strictly through consumption.”

[A] Near that stage in their lives, only the most masochistic of molluscs could be expected to experience anything but a sense of imminent dread. Even the most comfortable of clams, however, can hardly be called the life and soul of the party. All they can expect is a watery existence, likely at any moment to be rudely interrupted by a man with a spade, followed by conveyance to a very hot place.
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Thursday, February 05, 2004

# Posted 2:24 AM by Patrick Belton  

AFTER A STATE SUPREME COURT RULING, THE STATE OF MASSACHUSSETS is to begin issuing marriage licenses to qualified same-sex couples beginning May 16. WaPo covers this important step in the evolution of the United States's treatment toward its homosexual citizens. The text of the recent advisory opinion is here; insightful commentary on the topic is to be found here, here, and here.
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# Posted 1:46 AM by Patrick Belton  

CHICAGO IS...OUR KIND OF TOWN!: Our foreign policy society is having its first meeting in Chicago this Sunday - with no lesser co-hosts than Will Baude and Amanda Butler from Crescat Sententia! Our chapter in New York co-hosted Assistant Secretary of State (Economic Affairs) Bob Hormats on Tuesday, and our chapters in Washington and Oxford have just met with guest speakers to discuss themes and trends in homeland security. We've also got highly active chapters in San Francisco, LA, Boston and New Haven, too: if you're not already receiving our weekly newsletter of our own events and other foreign policy events and job openings going on around the country, and you'd like to, then please just drop us an email!
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Wednesday, February 04, 2004

# Posted 10:51 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE FEEDING FRENZY HAS BEGUN: This NYT article gives way too much attention and credibility to cheapshots that Republicans have begun to take at Kerry. While Kerry's defenders get a few good shots in themselves, you've got to scroll down a ways to see what they say. But that is the price of being #1. And while the Times' editors are hoping that John Edwards will do their mud-slinging for them, the fact is that the media will play the lead role in picking Kerry apart.

Now, one particularly disturbing aspect of the NYT article is that it focuses on partisan slurs while ignoring substantive criticisms of Kerry's record. If the RNC can get top billing by calling Kerry an extremist, it doesn't exactly promote serious debate. But it's not as if the Times is letting Bush off the hook. Also in today's paper, the Times reviews the military service issue, which never plays well for Bush.

The basic message of the article is Kerry=hero, Bush=lazy rich boy. That's not exactly wrong, but one might easily say that a balanced article on the subject would point out that war hero John Kerry couldn't make up his mind about whether to support either Gulf War. Also of the note, the NYT reports Democratic accusations that Bush went AWOL but doesn't really say whether there is any merit to the charge. As the Daily Howler point outs in a very comprehensive post, neither the NYT nor the WaPo nor the Boston Globe has ever presented the facts of the case very clearly. Finally, a Campaign Desk investigation shows that all of the recent attention given to the AWOL issue resulted not from Michael Moore's charge that Bush was a "deserter", but from Peter Jennings' interrogation of Clark regarding Moore's charge at the recent South Carolina debate. I wonder how much we'd have to pay Jennings to mention OxBlog...

UPDATE: Phil Carter points out a number of ways in which enterprising journalists might confirm or disconfirm the AWOL charge.
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# Posted 8:33 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CLINTON THE DEFICIT HAWK? Steve Sturm says OxBlog must be smoking something. But Steve agrees that Bush's "budget" is indefensible.
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# Posted 7:35 PM by Patrick Belton  

IRAN WATCH: There are quite good round-ups of the latest events by MaroonBlog (also here), Regnum Crucis, and Free Thoughts (thanks to Winds of Change for pointing out these last few to me). Dead tree coverage includes WaPo, Economist, New Zealand NBR, and Voice of America. The day's big event was a call by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei for a second review of about 2,000 candidates whose candidacies were banned by the Guardian Council; he also insisted the election would take place as scheduled on February 20th. The review will be undertaken by the Ministry of Intelligence and Security, which is comparatively friendly to reformists. Commentators have speculated that Khamenei is grasping for a compromise solution which permits elections to continue with a minimum of protest and, in so doing, preserves as much legitimacy as possible for the unelected clerical organs of governance - the Guardian Council and his own office of Supreme Leader.

(P.S. We wrote a bit more about the subject a day or two ago here, too.)
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# Posted 2:03 PM by Patrick Belton  

ABC APOLOGIZES FOR SENIORS GOLF TOUR BREAST-BARING STUNT: From SportsPickle.com, and courtesy of our friend David Cavalier:
ABC Apologizes for Mickelson Breast-Baring Stunt

Phil Mickelson stunned and disgusted millions of television viewers on Sunday with a shirt-ripping publicity stunt that revealed his right breast as he walked up the final fairway at the FBR Open. ABC, who televised the tournament, and Mickelson both apologized for the incident, saying it was caused by a “golf shirt malfunction.”

(underneath, there's a photo and caption: Chris DiMarco and Phil Mickelson walk up the 18th fairway moments after DiMarco tore away part of Mickelson’s shirt, revealing his right breast. Mickelson is seen throwing the ripped piece of his shirt to the ground.)
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# Posted 4:30 AM by Patrick Belton  

FOR, FORGETTING THEIR FATHERS, THEY KNOW NOT YOU: Only weeks after Joel Engel memorably announced against the Beatles's song "Imagine," the often quite clever Second Breakfast admits she once argued another Beatles' tune should be more aptly and literally entitled "All You Need Is Food." (via Pej).

UPDATE: Someone points out correctly that "Imagine" was actually a Lennon solo. So clump me in under the title of this post....
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# Posted 1:26 AM by Patrick Belton  

"SMART, NERDY, AND SINCERE:" Judy Dean for President? Anyone?
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# Posted 12:38 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

GET READY...GET SET...SPIN! So what happened today? Was it an unmitigated victory for Kerry? Or an indication that Edwards and Clark are still strong enough to challenge him? Howard Kurtz argues rather persuasively that the Edwards-as-serious-challenger spin doesn't have much to back it up. He might even be right that some journalists are playing up Edwards' strength because an outright Kerry victory means the end of this spring's biggest story.

Still, Kurtz misses an important point: After watching Kerry come from nowhere to surprise Dean, the media is very hesitant to expose itself to another potential embarrassment in the event that Kerry falls from grace. Besides, with Tennesse and Virginia coming up next Tuesday, Edwards may be able to generate some serious momentum (or the impression thereof). Edwards would then have three weeks until Super Tuesday to make his case while letting the media pick Kerry apart.

And what about Clark? I really don't know why he has such concentrated support in the southwest. One can plausibly argue that Arizona and New Mexcio have more liberal primary voters, since they put Dean in third while decisively rejecting Edwards. Yet Oklahoma went strong for both Clark and Edwards while giving Dean just 4%.

But perhaps none of this is relevant since Kerry took home majorities in three states and 40%+ in two others. Edwards and Clark really have no choice but to play for the breaks. And Dean? Heading back north, you just never know.

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Tuesday, February 03, 2004

# Posted 10:41 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A LOOK BEHIND THE CURTAIN: I got an e-mail just now announcing a seminar series at MIT. The announcement began with the following caveat:
Please note that the Tuesday, March 30 seminar by Harvey Rishikof should be entitled "Prosecution of Saddam Hussein," not "Persecution of Saddam Hussein." Sorry for the mix-up! :)
If only it had been a Chomsky seminar, that really would've been funny.
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# Posted 9:09 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PRESS GOES SOFT ON BUSH? Brad DeLong (with an "Amen" from Kevin Drum) denounces the WaPo for publishing a major story on the budget deficit that reads like a White House press release.

DeLong is right that the WaPo article doesn't really provide readers with the information necessary to really know what's going on with the budget. But given its unmitigated denunication of Bush as a fool and liar on the editorial page, I think it's a good idea for the WaPo to stick to the facts in the news section.

The counterargument here is that, presumably, more people read the front page than the editorials. Even so, I suspect that the budget-of-lies concept will get across to anyone who follows the issue. Some voters just won't care, and the media can't change that. But with Bush's credibility on this issue so low and the deficit spiraling out of control so soon after Clinton reined it in, Bush can't come out of this looking good.
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# Posted 8:49 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PAPERS SLAM NEW BUDGET: If you read these three columns without knowing who'd written them, you'd probably guess that Paul Krugman had written all three.

Of course, the first is a WaPo masthead editorial, the second a NYT masthead and the third an actual Krugman column. In fact, the WaPo may be the harshest of the three. It opens by asserting that "The Bush administration's 2005 budget is a masterpiece of disingenuous blame-shifting, dishonest budgeting and irresponsible governing." It's hard to disagree.

What really pisses me off is the administration's refusal to acknowledge the continuing costs of our work in Iraq and Afghanistan. That doesn't amount to a cut-and-run strategy, but it isn't all that much better. What this kind of evasiveness ensures is that whenever the President does submit a funding request for Iraq and Afghanistan, it will become a political football.

Perhaps that's smart politics. Perhaps Bush expects that the Democrats will embarrass themselves again and reinforce their image of weakness on national security by bickering over whether or not to fund the occupations. But one sure result will be a weakening of public support for nation-building and democracy promotion. Whenever one of these funding debates start, it is hard even for the bill's supporters to come out and say that we should spend abroad while cutting back at home.

While spending on Iraqis may be for the purpose of ensuring own security, it's a hard case to make on the campaign trail. Thus, if the administration were 100% committed to promoting democracy in the Middle East, it would try to build bipartisan support for its objectives by stating up front just how it intends to pay for them.
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# Posted 5:39 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DAMN THOSE SENSIBLE ISRAELIS! Polls show that Israelis favor Arik Sharon's plan to dismantle the Gaza settlements by a 25-point margin, 59-34.
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# Posted 3:21 PM by Patrick Belton  

PLUG: It's been my great pleasure before to note here the tour schedule for the Tallis Scholars, and I'd like to do the same today for Chanticleer. Together, they're uncontestably the finest a capella ensembles singing anywhere at present, and I really can't recommend highly enough that any of our readers who might have the chance to attend one of their concerts would certainly do so.

Chanticleer will be performing in the following cities over the next two months:

February
4 Indianola, Iowa: Simpson College, 7:00p.m.
5 Storm Lake, Iowa: Buena Vista University, Schaller Chapel, 712-749-2452, 7:30p.m.
7 Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, Ted Mann Concert Hall, 612-624-2345, 7:30p.m. 
8 Duluth, Minn.: University of Minnesota/Duluth, Weber Music Hall, 218-726-8877, 7:30p.m.
21 San Francisco: One World, Calvery Presbyterian Church, 8:00p.m.
22 Petaluma, California: One World, St. Vincent Church, 3:00p.m.
27 Santa Clara, California: One World, Mission Santa Clara, 8:00p.m.
28 Sacramento: One World, First United Methodist Church, 8:00p.m.
29 San Francisco: One World, Calvery Presbyterian Church, 7:00p.m.

March
5 Palm Springs , California: Annenberg Theatre, 760-325-4490 or boxoffice@psmuseum.org
6 Irvine, California: Irvine Barclay Theatre, 949-854-4646 or tickets@thebarclay.org
7 La Jolla, California: St. James Church, 858-459-3421, Ext 109, 4:00p.m.
10 Anchorage: Anchorage Concert Association, Atwood Concert Hall, 907- 272-1471, 7:30p.m.
29 San Francisco: New Voices, Calvery Presbyterian Church, 8:00p.m.

And the Tallis Scholars, incidentally, will meanwhile be performing on tour in the UK, Europe, and the US:

February
Tuesday 24 February: St. John's, Smith Square, London (020 7222 1061)
Thursday 26 February: at 7.30pm Bridgewater Hall, Manchester (0161 907 9000)

March
Sunday 14 March: Teatro della Pergola, Florence (info@mamusic.com)
Tuesday 16 March: Monfalcone, Italy (same email)
Friday 19 March: Zamora, Spain (porticozamora@terra.es)
Monday 22 March - Richmond, VA
Thursday 25 March - Ann Arbor, MI
Friday 26 March - Lexington, KY
Saturday 27 March - New York, NY
Sunday 28 March - Rhode Island, RI
Tuesday 30 March - Roanoke, VA
Wednesday 31 March - Savannah, GA

April
Friday 2 April - Stanford, CA
Sunday 4 April - Boston, MA
(Further details for US tour are obtainable from: info@franksalomon.com)

Doing things like this is one of the greatest pleasures of having a blog - we're always very happy to support the arts!
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# Posted 6:05 AM by Patrick Belton  

DETERMINED TO SHOW THAT "SECURITY COUNCIL" IS A EUPHEMISM: After September 11th, the UN Security Council formed a panel to investigate the funding of terrorist organizations, and ways in which the international community could cooperate to halt those organizations' streams of finance. The panel was founded, under the leadership of a British diplomat named Michael Chandler. It released a report saying that the international community was not doing enough to combat Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations.

So what did the UN do? Well, of course, it dissolved his commission and fired Mr Chandler.
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# Posted 5:42 AM by Patrick Belton  

CALPUNDIT'S NOTING that in very initial polling, Kerry's opening up a small lead over Bush. Undoubtedly, the Skull and Bonesman (errr...I mean, the one from Massachusetts) is being helped out by his recent bounce from comparative obscurity, and hasn't been front-runner long enough to attract a great deal of criticism - but if it holds up, then we might be in for a very interesting summer and fall....

At the very least, we'll have something to write about.
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# Posted 4:40 AM by Patrick Belton  

DAVID'S ABSOLUTELY RIGHT, the extraordinarily important events going on with the Iranian legislature and scheduled elections this week deserve far more attention from all of us here in the blogosphere. Toward that end, here's a first round-up of what people have been writing about Iran, both in the blogosphere and in print. We'll be furnishing these round-ups regularly, so please let us know if we've overlooked anything or you have suggestions....

First off, BBC is offering up a Q&A about the election crisis and the text of the letter submitted by the resigning MPs, while also summarizing the coverage and editorial positions of the various Iranian newspapers.

Voice of America is repeating a US government call for free elections in Iran, while "refraining from specific comments about developments in the struggle between reform politicians and the conservative Guardian Council out of concern it might be seen as American interference." Meanwhile, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty is reporting the Iranian government's alleged deliberations about whether to postpone the elections (a view which is particularly strong in the Interior Ministry. The Financial Times is pointing out the low level of enthusiasm for the Islamic Republic's 25th birthday celebrations over the weekend. According to the FT, pragmatic conservative strategists worry public response may swell the ranks of the reformists, and reformers as well as many analysts hope for the intervention of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, to overturn the Guardian Council's ruling disqualifying 2,400 reformist candidates for parliament. EurasiaNet, however, is finding both sides to be digging in and appealing to their bases, and says the Ayatollah has given no indications he will intervene or exercise leadership - his office has indicated he would be "unavailable" for the coming two days. The piece also notes that the boundaries of acceptable criticism of the revolutionary state are expanding - reformists are now openly questioning the existence of the Guardian Council and the office of Supreme Leader, which they had not dared to do before. There is also good reporting to be had in the CS Monitor and NYT, and excellent analysis in the Economist. The NYT, on the other hand, editorializes (too harshly, in my opinion) that the disqualification of the reformist candidates may spell the end of reform in Iran.

Turning to bloggers, Pejman writes:
In addition to the decision of over a hundred Iranian reformers to resign en masse from their parliamentary seats, the the largest reformer party has decided to sit out the upcoming elections:

Iran's reformists are enraged by the decision of the Guardian Council -- an unelected constitutional oversight body run by religious hardliners -- to declare more than 2,000 would-be lawmakers unfit to stand in the election.

More than 120 reformist lawmakers resigned from parliament on Sunday and President Mohammad Khatami's reformist government has called for the vote to be postponed.

"We have no hope that a fair, free and legitimate election can be held on February 20. So in the current circumstances we cannot participate," Mohammad Reza Khatami, head of the Islamic Iran Participation Front (IIPF) party, told a news conference.

He added the party, one of the main backers of his brother President Mohammad Khatami, would only put forward candidates for an election if the candidate bans were overturned and the vote was delayed to allow more time for campaigning.

The hope now is that the supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, will overturn the ban to avert a legitimacy crisis. However, given the continuous efforts of the hardliners in the Guardians' Council (and elsewhere) to sabotage and undermine the work of elected reformers, there is no way to consider the Islamic regime as anything but illegitimate.
At NRO, Michael Ledeen is pointing out that now might not be the best time for congressional staff to cozen up to the regime in Tehran (see AP and WaPo for more). MaroonBlog has a great deal on the topic, too.

Students at Tehran University are reported to be planning a protest on Wednesday - we'll be following along closely.
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# Posted 3:20 AM by Patrick Belton  

ONE MORE CONTRIBUTION TO THE ARABIC CONSTITUTIONAL DISCOURSE: In a continuing effort to share a humble, brotherly contribution with the free people of Iraq in their constitutional discussions from out of our own Anglo-American constitutional tradition, a small play about the drafting of the US constitution's been written and translated into Arabic. (Thanks to Kelion Kasler for pointing this out to us.)
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# Posted 1:11 AM by Patrick Belton  

BELTON, YOU GIVE ESOTERIC A BAD NAME: This isn't nearly as important as David's post on Iranian democracy below, but for those of you who will be interested in this sort of thing, this is the sort of thing you'll be interested in. Indiana University is in the process of collecting online an exhaustive list of all RFE/RL programs and segments broadcast in Central Asian languages from 1989 or so on. Many, but not all, are also in the process of eventually being posted online in RealPlayer format. (And they also link to the current programming pages of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and BBC World Service in different languages, so you can listen to today's news in Uzbek, Dari, Pahsto, Tatar, Turkmen, Kyrgyz, and every other funny language your mom's never heard of.) This is awfully useful if you're interested in learning any of these languages or seeing what the BBC and RFE/RL are broadcasting in that part of the world - it's also useful if you're just curious what Tajik sounds like.
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# Posted 12:49 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FLOOD THE ZONE: Jason Broander says today's dramatic events in Iran deserve more attention both in the blogosphere and in the mainstream media. He's right, and we should've been on this one earlier.

All indicators suggest that we are about to confront a major turning point in the history of Iranian democracy. The President's own party -- the most popular and legitimate party in Iran -- is boycotting elections. I can't think of any other country in which that ever happened. Moreover, more than a third of Iran's MPs have resigned.

These actions seem to represent a clear challenge to the conservative clerics who are preventing Iran from becoming a true to democracy. Khatami's party is saying that it will no longer lend its legitimacy to fake elections that install governments without power. What it wants now are real elections that let the people choose who governs.

So dammit, flood the zone! (That means you, too, George W.)
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