Sunday, March 21, 2004
# Posted 6:06 PM by Patrick Belton
(In the meantime - and until the eighth day rolls around - you might check out our foreign policy think tank's policy paper on North Korea.....) (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Saturday, March 20, 2004
# Posted 8:24 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 8:23 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 8:10 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
A year ago, it would have been inconceivable for a citizen of Syria, run by the Baath Party of President Bashar al-Assad, to make a documentary film with the working title, "Fifteen Reasons Why I Hate the Baath."My compliments to the NYT for putting this story on the front page. The Times also ran an excellent front page story yesterday looking back at the past year in Iraq through the eyes of a single family. I thought this passage was particularly interesting:
Three weeks after the bombardent, the [Imaris] returned to Baghdad. American soldiers were cruising the streets.(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:56 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
I know that everyone — and I mean everyone — is probably tired of this comparison even before it's made, but, um, Kelley's fabrications are actually a lot worse than Jayson Blair's, right? And they went on for a much longer time, right? And there are a lot more of them, right?I don't really expect the Kelley affair to get that kind of attention either. But ask yourself the following questions: How often do you read USA Today? Does anyone consider USA Today to be the United States' paper of record and its standard-bearer of journalistic integrity?
(You don't have to answer those questions. They were rhetorical. Oh, and one bonus question for all you bloggers out there: How many times have you linked to a USA Today story in the past six months?) (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:35 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
What Clarke adds to that story is the allegation that Rumsfeld wanted to go after Iraq instead of Afghanistan. According to Woodward, "everyone agreed that destroying al Qaeda was the first priority". If a second, credible source confirms Clarke's allegation, it might begin to get some serious play. Otherwise, Clarke will become just another Paul O'Neill. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 3:44 PM by Patrick Belton
This is pretty standard in Asia - when I was working there last summer we had to eat fish that were fried in the middle but not at the head or tail, and were still alive when brought out to the table. This is a huge nouveau riche type specialty in Asia, and everyone pretty much "ate it with gusto"...so I don't know what that quote was about, really. If the intent of the quote was to prove somehow that Kim is a monster, then it's really a bit short-sighted. But who knows - maybe you were commenting on his status as multimillionaire, who are generally the only people who can afford to eat live fish in good restaurants in Asia.Thanks, Zoë! (Though I've got to admit, it still sounds a little weird to me....) (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:12 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 6:02 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 12:30 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
The question of whether or not Aznar's government lied about the evidence seems to have been answered in the affirmative. Still, it is more than possible that the Socialists' would have won the election regardless. That is the point made in an excellent essay by Timothy Garton Ash (link via TPM):
Rightwing American commentators charge Spanish voters with "appeasement". This is crass. More than three-quarters of the Spanish electorate turned out for a massive defence of democracy in the face of terror. Every single Spanish voter was a soldier in the "war on terror". They voted different ways for all sorts of reasons. Historically, high turn-outs have favoured the left. Some of the former communist electorate voted tactically for the socialists. Many swing voters punished the conservative government of Jos? Mar?a Aznar for initially attributing the attacks to the Basque terrorist organisation Eta. And, yes, some emotionally blamed him for having made Spain a more likely terrorist target by supporting Bush's war on Iraq. But to say that this vote adds up to "appeasement" is a stupid slur.So now what? According to Robert Kagan,
The Bush administration needs to recognize it has a crisis on its hands and start making up for lost time in mending transatlantic ties, and not just with chosen favorites. The comforting idea of a "New Europe" always rested on the shifting sands of a public opinion, in Spain and elsewhere, that was never as favorable to American policy as to the governments. The American task now is to address both governments and publics, in Old and New Europe, to move past disagreements over the Iraq war, and to seek transatlantic solidarity against al Qaeda.That kind of advice is very, very surprising coming from Neo-Conservative #1 -- and all the more important because of it. On the other hand, Kagan seems to have written his column before becoming aware of the backlash against Aznar's deception. Would he still describe the Spanish elections as "al Qaeda's most significant geopolitical success since Sept. 11, 2001" if the elections results were a reflection on the Spanish Prime Minister's dishonesty rather than the Spanish public's supposed receptiveness to blackmail?
Then again, as Garton Ash points out, the precise cause of the Spanish conservatives' defeat may simply be irrelevant. We need to demonstrate that terrorism simply does not work. The best way to do that is to capture Osama bin Laden. In the meantime, we do have to improve relations with Europe and work harder than ever to promote democracy in Iraq.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Friday, March 19, 2004
# Posted 11:38 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
UPDATE: Josh Marshall defends himself, albeit indirectly. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 11:27 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
I worked as a banker in Russia from 1997-2000 and can give some missing perspective. Russia's current "boom" is due entirely to $38-per-barrel oil. Each $1 rise in the oil price adds $1B to the Russian state's foreign reserves. Though structural demand and supply conditions may well keep oil prices high long-term, it's useful to think of the Russian economy as another version of Nigeria: an oil-addicted primitive economy in which basic market institutions are either stunted or non-existent.I'm no economist, but I wouldn't be surprised if Russia's economy was no more substantive than its constiutional order. As Mike McFaul has noted, that sort of relationship between growth and democracy is the norm in Eastern Europe. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 4:39 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
On an unrelated note, Matt has graciously admitted that New Haven has the best pizza in the United States. While Matt believes that good pizza can generally be found throughout the nation, he notes that he has not yet found it in Washington, DC.
As a former resident of the nation's capital, I must sadly inform Matt that he is not going to find it there. The best DC has to offer is Bertucci's, which is actually pretty good but nothing to write home about.
UPDATE: Eve Tushnet writes
Bertucci's? Oy Gott! No.You know, I did eat at Paradiso once. It was quite good, but I wouldn't have put it in the same league as Sally's. Maybe I was just there on an off night. As for Armand's, I think it's pretty run of the mill. Or perhaps it's gotten better since I left town. Frankly, I'm surprised that I don't see eye to eye with someone like Eve who is known for having good taste. Oh well.
Now for those of you in Alexandria, Mark the Pundit recommends Generous George's. And finally, getting back to DC, TB writes that
Two places sell world class pizza in the DC area. The Italian Store in the Lyon Park Shopping Center off of Spout Run has great Pizza and great sandwiches too. Don't try walking in to get a slice on the weekend. The place is mobbed. And then there is Faccia Luna; they make it all over the place now.I haven't heard of either place, but I'm an open-minded pizza lover, so I'll be sure to give both a try when I get the chance! (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 3:04 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 3:00 PM by Patrick Belton
Our thoughts are with the innocent members of both Kosovar communities who are suffering now the reprisals and aftermath of this act of genocide by Albanian leaders. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:14 AM by Patrick Belton
Can't read it? Here's another version, this not in the Bard's own hand. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 4:47 AM by Patrick Belton
Thursday, March 18, 2004
# Posted 5:40 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 5:30 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 5:29 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Moreover, such offensive statements tend to have the exact opposite of the intended effect, since voters don't want to be told by foreign politicians -- especially American presidents -- whom they should vote for. Of course, most Americans will never hear what the new Spanish PM said, since Spanish PMs don't get paid much attention on this side of the Atlantic (unless Democratic presidential candidates foolishly remind voters that Europeans never support Republicans).
UPDATE: Steve Sturm adds some thoughtful comments to my response. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 5:03 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
During the last 15 years, Russia has undergone an extraordinary transformation. It has changed from a communist dictatorship to a multiparty democracy in which officials are chosen in regular elections. Its centrally planned economy has been reshaped into a capitalist order based on markets and private property. Its army has withdrawn peacefully from both eastern Europe and the other former Soviet republics, allowing the latter to become independent countries. In place of a belligerent adversary with thousands of nuclear missiles pointed at it, the West finds a partner ready to cooperate on disarmament, fighting terrorism, and containing civil wars.In contrast, consider what's Stanford Russianist Michael McFaul has to say about the subject:
In his first term in office, Putin continued a brutal and ineffective war in Chechnya, acquired de facto control of all major national television networks, turned both the Federation Council and State Duma into rubber stamps, and tamed regional barons who once served as a powerful balance to Yeltsin's presidential rule. He has arbitrarily used law enforcement structures to jail or send into exile political foes. He has removed candidates from ballots and rigged regional elections; harassed and arrested human rights activists, outspoken journalists, and environmental leaders; and weakened Russia's independent political parties and civil society.The most striking difference between these two descriptions of Putin's record is the way in which Shleifer and Treisman provide vague descriptions of Putin's supposed accomplishments while McFaul relies on specific and detailed evidence to demonstrate what has gone wrong in post-Soviet Russia. What Shleifer and Treisman do get right, however, is that Russia's economy is in the midst of an unheralded boom. Of course, this is no secret. McFaul praises Putin's economic record as well. The WaPo reports that Putin "oversaw a dramatic economic expansion". But who would notice those five words in the midst of a lengthy article devoted to the semi-democratic nature of Sunday's election?
Shleifer and Treisman marshall an impressive array of evidence to demonstrate how far Russia's economy has come under Putin. In spite of having a stagnant GDP for most of the 1990s,
Retail trade actually rose 4 percent between 1990 and 2001. And average living space per person rose from 16 square meters in 1990 to 19 square meters in 2000. The shares of households with radios, televisions, tape recorders, refrigerators, washing machines, and electric vacuum cleaners all increased between 1991 and 2000. And private ownership of cars doubled, rising from 14 cars per 100 households in 1991 to 27 cars per 100 households in 2000. The number of Russians going abroad as tourists rose from 1.6 million in 1993 to 4.3 million in 2000.In other words, a vote for Putin isn't a vote against democracy or even a vote for stability. It is a vote for real improvements in national wealth and standards of living. The next point Shleifer and Tresiman make is that widespread condemnation of Russia's post-Soviet economic reforms has been perilously misguided. First of all, critics of the post-Soviet era tend to dramatically exaggerate the efficiency of the Soviet economy. While GDP may have fallen in absolute terms after 1990, the substance of such economic indicators has changed dramatically. Whereas Soviet figures rested on high production of second-rate military equipment and unwanted consumer goods, newer statistics reflect the actual production of useful goods.
Now, when Shleifer and Treisman get into their more detailed discussions of the Russian economy, it is hard for a non-expert such as myself to evaluate their evidence. Nonetheless, their arguments seem plausible and well supported. For example, they point out that there is only a tenuous link between capitalism and inequality in Russia, since inequality hits its peak in 1994, well before capitalist reforms had reconfigured the economy. Shleifer and Treisman also argue that the economic power of the oligarchs has neither damaged the economy nor resulted in unsustainable growth, since the oligarchs' firms have performed extremely well while investing unprecedented amounts in capital stock.
Of course, nothing Putin has achieved on the economic front justifies his agressive efforts to promote what his own officials refer to as "managed democracy". It is also damaging for experts such as Shleifer and Treisman to downplay Putin's anti-democratic measures by arguing that "Even in rich countries such as Italy and the United States, journalists shape their broadcasts to fall into line with the views of media tycoons such as Berlusconi and Rupert Murdoch." That sort of comparision is simply absurd. Unless the Bush Administration decides to put all of Fox's competitors out of business and throw George Soros in jail, there can be no comparison between the state of journalism in the United States and Russia.
Lest one argue that Putin's anti-democratic measures have paved the way for economic growth, one should take note of Michael McFaul's observation that there is no connection between rigging elections, shutting down opposition media and the efficiency of the private sector. Moreover, "The experience in the postcommunist world is clear: The fastest democratizers are also the fastest economic reformers and the most successful economies."
As such, the Bush administration should not hesitate to demand that Putin's stop undermining the foundations of Russian democracy. Colin Powell should not be saying that "I have some concerns, but I don't think democracy is in trouble in Russia." It is. And when the US ignores that fact, it damages our own credibility as a global advocate of democratic reform. Moreover, Putin is hurting our efforts to win the War on Terror by waging a brutal and senseless war in Chechnya. While we can't force Putin to change his ways, we can keep the global spotlight on his authoritarian and aggressive behavior. Ever the self-interested pragmatist, that kind of negative attention may just keep Putin in line. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 5:02 PM by Patrick Belton
What prompted the arrests, Saudi sources say, was a plan by the reformers to establish an independent human rights organization. The professors first asked permission to set up the group, only to be told that the government planned to establish its own human rights organization. Predictably, the official group rolled out last week excluded the dissidents as well as other notable government critics. So the reformers revived their plan for an independent organization -- only to be dragged from their classrooms by Interior Ministry officials, purportedly for "questioning."(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:21 AM by Patrick Belton
Unless President Bush dispenses with his discredited argument for the war — W.M.D. — no one will hear or listen to what I believe was always the only right argument for the war and is now the only rationale left: to depose the genocidal Saddam regime in order to partner with the Iraqi people to build a decent government in the heart of the Arab-Muslim world — because it is the pathologies and humiliations produced by Arab misgovernance that are the root causes of terrorism and Muslim extremism.Also, sticking with the theme of the post indicated in the header - our foreign policy society releases today a policy paper on North Korea, as well as launching the website for our high school and college foreign policy essay contest. Let us know what you think! (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Wednesday, March 17, 2004
# Posted 10:23 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 10:03 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Ralph isn't happy with OxBlog because I recently dismissed these sorts of academic crises as "tempests-in-a-teapot". Perhaps that description was a bit harsh. I fully support all those who actively defend the right of free speech. It's just my sense that such incidents happen so often on campuses across the nation that one shouldn't approach them as landmark battles in a national culture war. (NB: I was unaware of the USM affair before today. The "tempest" comment was about academic politics in general.)
As Kikuchiyo observes, the ivory tower has a strong propensity to overestimate the significance of its own affairs. As Henry Kissinger once said, "University politics are vicious precisely because the stakes are so small." That isn't the whole story, but it is a big part of it.
Kikuchiyo is also right to speculate that OxBlog takes a similar approach to academic slugfests regardless of whether they take place in the Ivy League or the Mississippi Delta. While Ralph detected a note of condescension in my original comments, the fact is that my lack of interest in academic politics reflects my experiences at Yale and Oxford, rather than any sense that political controversies only matter if they happen at Yale or Oxford.
Finally, I don't think Ralph was being fair to Salma Hayek. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 9:33 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
UPDATE: I wouldn't exactly call it good news, but the death toll for yesterday's blast has been revised sharply downwards. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:07 PM by Patrick Belton
Speaking of Saint Patrick's extravaganzas, The Irish Times provides admirable coverage of Dublin's St Patrick's Day festival, which this year invited entries inspired by the concept "glorious." In Galway, a city I nurse warm feelings toward, today's parade will be a re-enactment of the Battle of Knockdoe, fought 500 years ago this year. And the Taoiseach joined Manchester's Irish community this afternoon to open the parade in that city. (The Irish community of Oxfordshire, I should note, will incidentally be congregating tonight in the OxBlog branch office at 109 Rawlinson Road.) (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 5:46 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 5:36 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 3:31 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 3:27 AM by Patrick Belton
The EU will also hold an emergency meeting of EU interior and justice ministers on Friday before a summit of European leaders on March 25-26. The issue of terrorism is sure to overshadow scheduled talks on economic reforms.(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Tuesday, March 16, 2004
# Posted 6:30 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 12:02 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 10:40 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 7:20 AM by Patrick Belton
That disagreement aside, Cole is sponsoring a very admirable translation project aimed at producing Arabic translations of books about American democracy, the American Jewish community, and Western scholarly histories of the Mid East, as well as other works from the Western liberal tradition which are not readily available in Arabic translation. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 5:10 AM by Patrick Belton
Podhoretz asks how [Sir Isaiah Berlin] squared his Zionism with his continued appearance in a publication (The New York Review of Books) that regularly published enemies of Israel such as Noam Chomsky and I. F. Stone. Berlin responded with a witticism. “I see,” he responded. “You are accusing me of being a fellow-traveler of a fellow-traveler.”(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 4:58 AM by Patrick Belton
BBC concludes, "it suggests that the reporting of the daily attacks on the occupying forces in Iraq could be obscuring another picture. This opinion poll gives a glimpse into the real life of Iraqis, who appear to be overwhelmingly pre-occupied with bread and butter issues - whether the lights go on or not, and the restoration of the economy."
(Question for the NYT's Dan Okrent: is this what you meant when you told us about rowback?) (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 4:34 AM by Patrick Belton
[In the Symposium, as the hours drag on] we learn that the real object of desire is not young men but rather elderly ones, and our ultimate aim is not pleasure but wisdom. One sees why everyone at the symposium was drunk: they had to be legless to swallow Plato's argument, as the great philosopher clumsily substituted one object for another, until he ... made the squat septuagenarian Socrates the pin-up boy of ancient Athens.Read on, and you can discover Blackburn's concept, in reading Hobbes, of "fungibility", "which frankly sounds more like something caught from sex than a concept to help explain it." (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 4:15 AM by Patrick Belton
"He particularly enjoyed sashimi so fresh that he could start eating the fish as its mouth is still gasping and the tail is still thrashing," Fujimoto said. "I sliced the fish so as not to puncture any of its vital organs, so of course it was still moving. Kim Jong Il was delighted. He would eat it with gusto."(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Monday, March 15, 2004
# Posted 9:37 AM by Patrick Belton
More importantly though, for present purposes, this sets up a bad joke.
It's a little known fact that Julius Caesar did not die from stab wounds by Brutus, but, rather, was poisoned. During a sumptuous banquet which they both attended on that fateful Ides of March, Brutus slipped some poisonous hemlock leaves onto Julius' salad. (Thus making the world's first Caesar's salad - no, that's not the joke, wait for it....)There are more here, but they aren't as funny. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 2:56 AM by Patrick Belton
Named Sedna after the traditional Inuit goddess of the ocean, it orbits 10bn kilometres from Earth in a region of space known as the Kuiper Belt (or KB, for those in the know or who care to use the lingo). That there seem to be a large family of Kuiper Belt Objects, as they're called - leftover parts, in essence, from the creation of the solar system - has been known for some time: these include a number of minor planets, but before Sedna none yet had been discovered to rival Pluto's 2,000 kilometer diameter. Though it's unclear as yet whether ten planets will result from Sedna's discovery, what seems likely to happen is that there won't any longer be nine - either Sedna gets counted, or Pluto suffers demotion to the ranks of a large number of Kuiper Belt Objects lounging about in the most exotic tourist location in the solar system.
UPDATE: Noting the Latinate names of the current registry of the club of planets (Mercury, Venus, and the rest), reader James asks "Ye Gods! Why Sedna?"
AND ANOTHER UPDATE: BBC has a picture. Also, our New Haven friends might be interested to know that one of the discoverers, David Rabinowitz, does his stargazing from Science Hill. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Sunday, March 14, 2004
# Posted 4:24 PM by Patrick Belton
As Joe Gandleman has pointed out (see also here), the Socialists have promised to withdraw Spain from the Iraq coalition in the event of their election. Which is to say, of course, that the terrorists got what they wanted - assuming that Al Qa'eda was indeed behind the attack - to deter a European country from further participation in Iraq, after punishing it for its involvement to this point. But to be fair, on the other hand the Spanish government has gone out of its way to play down the Al Qa'eda implications (which would make it vulnerable) in favor of ETA (which would strengthen it). An attribution of the attack to Al Qa'eda would have made Aznar's party vulnerable, having brought the country into Iraq and provoked the terrorists' ire; an attribution to ETA would have strengthened the party, having amassed a strong record in combatting the separatist group. Aznar's government is seen as having played politics with the investigation, which if true would have been unworthy both of the commitment to principle which brought his government into Iraq and of the continued trust of his nation. And at any rate any nation which had suffered the unprovoked tragedy which Spain did in the March 11th attacks may be given considerable leeway in forgiving actions it takes while grieving.
The webpage of the party, whose full name is the Partido Socialista Obero Español, is here. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:16 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 6:41 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 1:57 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Saturday, March 13, 2004
# Posted 9:27 PM by Patrick Belton
Also, our San Francisco chapter will be getting off the ground this coming Friday, March 19, with an event on globalization at 6 pm at the Berkeley Faculty Club. Nayan Chanda of the Yale Center for Globalization (and editor of its magazine, YaleGlobal) will be the guest speaker. There is unfortunately a door charge of $15, but it buys a great deal of food.
Penultimately, we're running high school and college foreign policy essay contests in each of the ten cities in which we have a chapter; please let us know if you'd like to volunteer and pitch in!
Finally, we've got new pages up for a few of our programs, in democracy promotion, Trade, Security, and Development, and Asia. Please do drop us a note if you've got any ideas for resources you think we should link to from any of these pages (or if you can at least think of a particularly funny way to make fun of what we've got so far...). (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 4:17 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
That's just pathetic. If the NYT cared so much about its integrity, perhaps it should've kept an eye on Jayson Blair. On the other hand, this sort of vindictive behavior is an implicit admission of just how vulnerable professional journalists are to the criticism of intelligent amateurs. Viva el blogosphere!
UPDATE: Joe Gandelman observes that Robert Cox "couldn't BUY this kind of advertising." That's absolutely right. Cox has already gotten a hundred times more exposure than he would have if the Times said nothing. His work is being distributed by dozens of websites. I guess all we can hope for is that the NYT will sue OxBlog someday.
UPDATE: I was sort of curious whether anyone left-of-center would pick up on this and what their take would be. Kevin Drum answers both questions in an impressive manner:
This goes beyond mere bullying and descends into paranoid — and hypocritical — lunacy. The Times certainly has the right to protect its copyright, but at the same time you'd think the publisher of the Pentagon Papers would show a little more respect for free speech and a little more tolerance for criticism.Amen. Kevin also has a very solid post up on Social Security. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 4:01 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 3:55 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
The great challenge facing so many martial arts films is how to translate the lexicon of the contact weapon -- sword or fist -- into the language of the bullet-riddled present day. In Way of the Dragon, Bruce Lee granted himself the miraculous ability to disarm polyester gunmen with wooden darts. Other films, such as the Once Upon a Time in China series, have made the wiser decision to cast themselves as period epics in which the world still had a place for pure martial artists. Jarmush transcends this divide by having his protagonist endow a firearm with the philosophical elegance once reserved for the sword and the fist. The result is unforgettable. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 3:00 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Anyhow, there was one paragrpah from Bumiller that struck me as somewhat disingenuous:
Generally, the campaigns of the 19th century were meaner than the ones today, in large part because the newspapers of the era took sides and were often subsidized by the political parties. "There was almost no restraint on what could be said in the partisan press," said Bruce J. Schulman, a professor of history and American studies at Boston University. "Party organizations were much stronger, and the partisan attachment of voters was much more loyal. Politics then was not about trying to convert voters based on issues. There were more or less no swing voters. It was all about getting your army of voters to the polls."Although no expert on the subject, I think Prof. Schulman is right about the changing nature of partisanship. Nonetheless, Bumiller is really pushing the envelope when she credits the relative civility of modern campaigns to the rise of objective journalism. As Harvard prof Thomas Patterson documents in his excellent book Out of Order -- not to be confused with the Rod Stewart album of the same name -- the modern media has taken upon itself the mission of exposing every presidential candidate as a liar, an exaggerator and a hypocrite.
To be fair, the candidates often do much of the journalists' work for them. Even so, journalists have chosen to focus their coverage on the candidates' inconsistency and spin rather than the substance of their policy proposals. Now, this isn't necessarily a bad thing. Perhaps voters should have a healthy cynicism about the candidates they elect. In fact, the modern press may do a far more effective job of character assassination than the partisan press ever did because today's journalists are detached enough to focus on actual lies and inconsistencies rather than generating the outrageous rumors of yesteryear (or of post-Soviet Russia). Whereas 19th century voters could easily discount the output of the other side's spin machine, today's journalists are neutral enough to ensure that whatever they report has to be taken seriously.
Perhaps the best way to put it is that thanks to the media, the negativism of modern campaigns is more substantive and disciplined than ever before. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 2:19 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
"Scientists have found the oldest known fossilized animal that is definitely male. The pinhead-sized yet proportionately well-endowed ocean-dwelling creature was retrieved from 425-million-year-old rocks in the United Kingdom. Dubbed Colymbosathon ecplecticos, Greek for "amazing swimmer with a large penis," the animal is remarkably similar to a group of modern crustaceans known as ostracodes."In other news about impressive endowments, Jesse Jackson is demanding that Yale place at least 5% percent of its assets in the hands of minority asset managers. I think Yale's response to Jackson was about right: When it comes to the endowment, we're color-blind. We only see green. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 1:52 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 12:45 PM by Patrick Belton
A black joke of the later Soviet period supposedly quotes a history book of the 21st century: "Who was Adolf Hitler?"Interesting, but like usual, you can do better than the BBC just by pilloring random sites from the internet:
A delegation from his native Georgia leaves Stalin's office after an hourly meeting. Stalin realizes that he cannot find his pipe and calls Dhzierhzynsky to find out if anyone from the delegation took his pipe. After 30 minutes Stalin finds the pipe under the table and calls Dhzierhzynsky to let the delegation go. Dhzierhzynsky answers Stalin's call: "I am sorry Comrade, but one half of the delegation already admitted that they took your pipe, and the other half died during questioning."UPDATE:
One of my favorite Soviet Era jokes is this one. In 2072, a boy asks his father, "Dad, who was Leonid Brezhnev?" His father answers, "He was a politician who lived at the time of Solzhenitsyn."(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Friday, March 12, 2004
# Posted 10:19 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
While some might conclude that the absence of such a force paved the way for February's chaos, I would argue that the minimal human cost and peaceful outcome of the crisis were a direct result of the fact that Haiti had been demilitarized. I regret that a hundred or more Haitians may have died, but am glad that there was no return to the pre-Aristide era, when death tolls rose into the thousands and tens of thousands. Moreover, the absence of a reactionary military establishment all but ensured that French and American peacekeepers could take up their posts without a challenge. Instead of mourning the dead, Haitians can now focus on rebuilding their nation. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 9:54 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 9:23 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
The phenomenon you note -- viciousness being a response to provocation -- is played out nicely in 1940s and 1950s cartoons. Chuck Jones usually required that Bugs Bunny be (playfully) mean in response to a provocation. Jones's typical introduction of the shift from mildI think JL is right, although my memories of Bugs & Duffy are a little bit hazy. It's also interesting how in almost every episode of M*A*S*H, Burns has to antagonize the audience before Hawkeye is allowed to have a go at him. This sitcom/cartoon logic: the characters have no apparent history and must reenact their morality each time the camera starts to roll. Next up, SC tries to provide a little more context for my perceptions of M*A*S*H:
Just to clear up some misconceptions...You know, I may just go back and rent the DVD again so that I can listen to the commentary track. Getting a director's insight into his own work is one of the great benefits of upgrading from VHS to DVD. However, when you rent DVDs, you don't often want to watch the movie twice in the space of four or five days. But when I own the DVDs, I tend to go through as much of the extra material as possible. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:19 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 9:27 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 8:47 AM by Patrick Belton
www.cricinfo.org is likely to have access to at least a radio broadcast and quite possibly video too. The BBC's site may also be of use.
UPDATE: AND MORE INDIA-PAKISTAN CRICKET - It turns out that coverage of the match is live online at the BBC website. Also, a friend whose sympathies lie more with the Pakistani side responds to our email above:
Hey there,AND EVEN MORE!
...In the above paragraph, it should be noted that the Nawab of Pataudi and Ghulam Ahmed, also Indian Muslims, have captained the Indian side back in the 50s and 60s.Thanks very much, Swami! And our congratulations, as India's now won the match by five runs. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:02 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 7:46 AM by Patrick Belton
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# Posted 7:42 AM by Patrick Belton
THE BUSH administration's clumsy diplomacy and its critics' hyperbolic charges of "unilateralism" sometimes obscure the fact that the United States has had true and valuable allies in the war on terrorism. Yesterday one of the best of those, Spain, suffered a blow as shocking and as terrible as any the enemy has landed since Sept. 11, 2001. Authorities said that more than 190 people were killed and more than 1,200 injured when 10 backpacks crammed with compressed dynamite exploded on four trains in Madrid at the height of the morning rush hour. It remained unclear last night who was responsible; police initially blamed the Basque ETA organization but later discovered evidence pointing to al Qaeda. Either way, as Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar put it, "March 11, 2004, has taken its place in the history of infamy."See also the New York Times, which poignantly notes "We are all Madrileños now.". (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 6:13 AM by Patrick Belton
I'd be very interested to hear whether any of our South African or cricket fancying friends might know whether the international is to be webcast, and if so, where (and when)? I'll be very happy to share the information with our readers. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 3:07 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 2:55 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 12:16 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Thursday, March 11, 2004
# Posted 11:55 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
I'm not sure that I care one way or the other. The process of governing has already become a permanent campaign. From the moment a President takes office, he works on building public support for his agenda while keeping a watchful on his approval ratings. Well, duh, isn't that what Presidents are supposed to do?
Not exactly. For the past forty years or so, governing has resembled a permanent campaign. But before that there really was a divide between electioneering and policymaking. Now, I'm not saying that political considerations didn't have an overwhelming impact on policy. But in the days of Roosevelt, Truman and Eisenhower, politics between elections had more to do with closed-door bargains than public appeals for support. Depending on your perspective, the old system may have been more or less democratic and more or less efficient.
Anyhow, that doesn't mean I want to see a Kerry-Bush catfight dominate the news for the next eight months. I think it's fair to say that the more we hear about the candidates the less we will hear about what's going on outside of this country. Then again, no one is stopping from reading foreign newspapers, so if I get caught up in the catfight I've only got myself to blame. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 11:35 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 11:15 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 11:09 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
The purpose of the dinner was for Hagee to share his thoughts on the future of warfare. The talk was off the record, but my buddy Captain K said it was the same canned routine you always get. As far as I can tell, Hagee's message was about the same as the one on the Marine Corps website: our strength is our people. We are flexible, adaptable and fast. Nonetheless, it was an interesting talk, with some good war stories and insight into the challenges of rapid deployment.
I sort of suspect that Hagee only described his talk as off the record in order to give the impression of greater intimacy. Without breaching confidence (which I can get away with now that John Ashcroft is on the disabled list), I think I can tell you all that the only impolitic thing Hagee did was take some very mild cheapshots at NATO. Moreover, he had a very sympathetic audience, consisting mostly of security studies faculty who like to feel that they're inside the machine.
The best story of the night came from Captain K and was not told within earshot of the Commandant. Apparently, one of K's sailors went down to Davy Jones' locker as a result of auto-erotic asphxiation. That shouldn't be funny, but the Navy medical team found him dead "in mid-stroke". Not knowing exactly what happened to their son, the sailor's parents demanded access to all of the evidence gathered as part of the official investigation of his death. Thus, it fell to Captain K to write a letter suggesting to them that the evidence -- including detailed photos of the "crime scene" -- were more graphic and disturbing than they could handle.
It's actually not the first time K had to handle this kind of bizarre situation. Another one of his soldiers discovered after shipping out of Bangkok that his new wife was a man. However, he told K that he loved "her" very much and that they were saving up for an operation to make "her" a real woman. And to think Kevin Drum was worried that true love no longer exists. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 4:34 PM by Patrick Belton
The announcement ran in Al Quds al Arabi:
The newspaper Al-Quds al-Arabi said it received a five-page e-mail from the Brigade of Abu Hafs al-Masri claiming its "death squad" had penetrated "one of the pillars of the crusade alliance, Spain."WaPo has added:
The statement to the al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper said, "We have succeeded in infiltrating the heart of crusader Europe and struck one of the bases of the crusader alliance," and called the attacks "Operation Death Trains."Reuters, for its part, has:
We bring the good news to Muslims of the world that the expected 'Winds of Black Death' strike against America is now in its final stage...90 percent (ready) and God willing near," the letter said.... A copy of the letter was faxed to Reuters in Dubai.Also, Spanish investigators have found detonators and a Qur'anic tape in Arabic in a stolen van near Madrid.
Several thoughts at the moment: the coordinated aspect of the attacks in different locations, as well as the scale of casualties, would both tend to be points in favor of an Al Qa'eda attribution; further, Al Qa'eda had threatened Spain as an ally of the United States's in the Iraq war; Eta as a matter of practice has always telephoned a warning prior to an attack in public; and finally, Eta has not produced a massive attack in years, with the number of its operatives pared after a series of high-profile arrests. On the other side of the balance sheet, a new generation of leaders will be coming into their own in Eta precisely on account of those arrests; and the timing, 72 hours before elections predicted to return a right-of-center party, would seem to suggest a domestic group. Of course, there always remains the analytic possibility that Eta and Al Qaeda may have joined forces - in the way that Hamas and the IRA share weapons and operatives (and in their case, post-colonial ideology), and may both be found in FARC-controlled areas of Colombia - they may simply have decided that both groups could agree on having Spain as an enemy. Like everyone, I'll be following the news very closely for the next few days, to see how the attribution dilemma unfolds. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 1:41 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 10:39 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 4:36 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 1:00 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 12:13 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Getting back to Matt and Rob, the debate started with Matt's column in TAP, which argues that the flip-flop charge is a artificial one created by the Bush administration and picked up by journalists with a compulsive interest in embarrassing the candidates. Rob's first response to Matt implies that Matt is attacking a strawman, since he debunks conservatives attacks on Kerry's record while ignore what the WaPo and TNR have to say.
Matt then got the jump on Rob by pointing out that he had already responded to the WaPo and TNR pieces in question. Undaunted, Rob responded with some original research by using Nexis-Lexis to pore over back issues of Kerry's hometown paper, The Boston Globe. Unconvinced, Matt shot back that the Globe has it in for Kerry and that its evidence is less than compelling.
So where do I stand on all of this? I don't know yet. I spent an hour and half tonight reading just some of the many articles devoted to the flip-flop question. What struck me as most surprising was Matt's statement that if you "look at Kerry's words and deeds with the pre-existing assumption that he's a man of principle and integrity" you will that find his positions to be consistent and nuanced. Yet "if you go into it assuming that Kerry is an opportunist, you can read the events to support that conclusion." While Matt's comments refer specifically to Kerry's vote to authorize the use of force against Saddam in October, they seem to reflect his general take on the issue.
What surprises me so much about Matt's approach is its implication that there is no right answer to the question of whether or not Kerry has flip-flopped on the major issues of the day. It all comes down to a question of trust. While Matt may be right, "Trust me" is a very hard message for a candidate to run on. To be sure, Bush's less-than-forthright approach to the deficit, the 9/11 commission, the WMD question and his National Guard service record make it just as hard for him to ask for the voters' trust. But as the challenger, Kerry has to show that he is better than Bush, not that he isn't worse.
Asking for the voters' trust is also an invitation for journalists to challenge a candidate's reputation. When Jimmy Carter promised that he would never tell a lie, journalists did all they could to catch him telling one. And Gary Hart...well don't ask about Gary Hart. The point is that Kerry can't lay the flip-flop issue to rest by telling either voters or journalists to trust him. In fact, doing so would only ensure that the issue stays on the table. And even now, there may be enough evidence out there to cast doubt on Matt's "pre-existing assumption that [Kerry]'s a man of principle and integrity". Consider the opening grafts of the NYT profile devoted to the flip-flop question:
When Senator John Kerry was speaking to Jewish leaders a few days ago, he said Israel's construction of a barrier between it and Palestinian territories was a legitimate act of self-defense. But in October, he told an Arab-American group that it was "provocative and counterproductive" and a "barrier to peace."Later on in the Times' profile, Kerry explains that
He had criticized the Israeli wall before the Arab-American group in October because its path was then expected to deviate widely from Israel's border into West Bank villages ? though he conceded he had not made the distinction clear at the time.Perhaps Kerry is telling the truth. But why does it always seem that Kerry has to pull this kind of rabbit out of his hat in order to reconcile apparently inconsistent views? By the same token, Kerry has recently revised his 1996 conclusion that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional. This subtle distinction has enabled Kerry to argue against Bush's proposed amendent banning gay-marriage but in favor of state-level amendents that have the same effect. If one assumes that Kerry is "a man of principle and integrity", then all is well. But isn't it just a little too convenient how Kerry has revised his passionate and long-held views on gay marriage just in time to present a more moderate face during his presidential campaign? Again, there's no evidence to show that Kerry is being opportunistic. But my gut instinct says that this guy has to be watched.
Tomorrow: Bush's flip-flops and Kerry's stance on the war. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion