OxBlog

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

# Posted 7:47 PM by Patrick Belton  

ARAB DEMOCRACY WATCH: Algeria will hold elections tomorrow, which are expected to be free and fair. The U.S. is receiving a great deal of credit for exerting influence to safeguard the fairness of tomorrow's elections, along with the military's neutrality in the election. Brian Ulrich has more.
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# Posted 6:49 PM by Patrick Belton  

NEXT YEAR IN JERUSALEM: Josh and Rachel wisely talked me out of live-blogging our seder, but noteworthy events included our friend Simon Rodberg's quote, in response to the question "why do we lean to the left?", that Jews always lean to the left. Also noted is Josh's, Rachel's, and my idea of coming up with a neo-con hagaddah for next year.

This year we are slaves; next year, free. May slavery give way to freedom, ignorance to wisdom, despair to hope: next year in Jerusalem.
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# Posted 11:44 AM by Patrick Belton  

SUPPORTING DEMOCRATIZING TRENDS IN ISLAM: RAND's Cheryl Benard has written what looks at first glance to be a very thoughtful piece on trends, currents, and subgroups within contemporary Islam. She also has a detailed set of recommendations about supporting modernizers first, and secondarily traditionalists against fundamentalists, which seem to me to be worth further discussion.
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# Posted 10:17 AM by Patrick Belton  

UM, DID ANYBODY NOTICE THAT WHILE WE WEREN'T LOOKING, the Lithuanians have impeached their president? The Lithuanian parliament found Rolandas Paksas to be guilty of ties to Russian business, organized crime, and intelligence (note: in Russia, those aren't separate industries) - Paksas is the first European leader to be removed from office through impeachment. (We're not counting these two though).
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# Posted 8:00 AM by Patrick Belton  

WELL DONE, MA'AM: The Queen, speaking in flawless French, delivered a stirring speech last evening at the Elysee in commemoration of the centenary of the Entente Cordiale, recalling the history of Anglo-French cooperation through the wars of the past century, and calling on the two nations to face the challenges of counterterror side by side. Finishing with a toast to M. le President and the French nation, the Queen ended saying "Vive la difference, mais vive L'Entente Cordiale." Well done, ma'am. Britain is fortunate to have such a skilled practicioner to draw upon in its diplomatic service.
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# Posted 5:00 AM by Patrick Belton  

HAPPY PASSOVER FROM OXBLOG!
A man walks into Central Park from the West 85th street entrance, sits down by the Lake, and takes out his lunch - which, being passover, included a fair bit of matzoh.

A few minutes later, later a blind man comes by and sits down next to him. Feeling neighborly, the man eating lunch decides to pass a sheet of matzoh over to the blind man.

The blind man handles the matzoh for a few minutes, looking puzzled, and finally exclaims, "Who wrote this crap?"
Chag sameach!
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# Posted 4:39 AM by Patrick Belton  

PHOTO CAPTION CONTEST: Madame Chirac clearly counting the seconds until she can get away from the Duke of Edinburgh....
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# Posted 4:10 AM by Patrick Belton  

CHINA=BAD. In the latest instance, for completely reneging on its commitments to democratic self-governance on the part of Hong Kong, most recently by declaring that political reforms in Hong Kong would only be permitted from Beijing and not from the legislature of Hong Kong.

For more, see Brookings on Beijing's attempts to subordinate Hong Kong's wonderfully clean and efficient civil service to its lackeys, Economist on Beijing's anti-subversion law and character assasination labelling democratic legislators as unpatriotic, and Senate Foreign Relations taking the testimony last month of Hong Kong legislators and democracy activists.
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Monday, April 05, 2004

# Posted 5:49 PM by Patrick Belton  

PERSONALLY, I'LL BE LOOKING FORWARD TO the book version of this David Brooks piece on the spirit of Emerson, Lincoln, and Jonathan Edwards as subtly alive in American exurban suburbia.
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# Posted 5:25 PM by Patrick Belton  

WITH THE MONEY THEY'VE SAVED ON FRENCH LESSONS for their Paris correspondent, the Beeb has sent its team around the world to see if binge drinking is really that much worse in England than in other countries. The answer: yes.
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# Posted 4:46 PM by Patrick Belton  

US ON THE VERGE OF SIDELINING IRAQI DEMOCRATS: Just having returned from Iraq, Michael Rubin writes in the L.A. Times that the U.S. is being so even-handed in its treatment of the different Iraqi parties, that liberal democratizers are feeling marginalized:

One February evening, a governor from a southern province asked to see me. We met after dark at a friend's house. After pleasantries and tea, he got down to business. "The Iranians are flooding the city and countryside with money," he said. "Last month, they sent a truckload of silk carpets across the border for the tribal sheikhs. Whomever they can't buy, they threaten." The following week, I headed south to investigate. A number of Iraqis said the Iranians had channeled money through the offices of the Dawa Party, an Islamist political party, led by Governing Council member Ibrahim Jafari. On separate occasions in Baghdad and the southern city of Nasiriya, I watched ordinary Iraqis line up for handouts of money and supplies at Dawa offices. The largess seems to be having an effect: Polls indicate that Jafari is Iraq's most popular politician, enjoying a favorable rating by more than 50 percent of the electorate.
Rubins goes on to argue that the CPA's well-intentioned evenhandedness is being interpreted as support for Islamists, in a society weaned on conspiracy theories:
While Sens. John F. Kerry of Massachusetts and Carl Levin of Michigan demand yet another government audit of the Iraqi National Congress (previous audits have found no wrongdoing), radical clerics find their pockets full, their Iranian sponsors more interested in mission than political cannibalism. Last month, I visited a gathering of urban professionals in Najaf. They repeatedly asked why the CPA stood by while followers of firebrand Shiite cleric Muqtader Sadr invaded homes, smashed satellite dishes and meted out punishment in ad hoc Islamic courts. We may dismiss Sadr as a grass-roots populist, but his rise was not arbitrary. Rather, his network is based upon ample funding he receives through Iran-based cleric Ayatollah Kazem al Haeri, a close associate of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
More here.
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# Posted 12:00 PM by Patrick Belton  

OVERHEARD AT THE OXBLOG BUREAU OFFICE:
Anonymous OxBlogger, to be called "PB": Wait, Ali G is Jewish? (from your wikipedia piece....)
Anonymous OxBlogger 2, to be called "JC" I guess. Not so surprising, is it?
PB: But I thought he was Kazakhstani!
PB: Next you'll be trying to convince me that Spock was a Jew....
JC: Wouldn't dare. He doesn't have the capacity to feel guilt.
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# Posted 11:47 AM by Patrick Belton  

WISE ADVICE FROM EVERYONE'S JEWISH GODMOTHER: Playwright, and every Yalie's Jewish godmother, Toni Dorfman writes a memorable letter giving some of the wisest advice I've yet read on getting over a broken heart.
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# Posted 5:42 AM by Patrick Belton  

WHAT HE SAID: Writing in the Times about the genocide taking place this very moment in the Darfur region of Sudan, Nicholas Kristof correctly commented "Do we advise such refugees that 'never again' meant nothing more than that a Führer named Hitler will never again construct death camps in Germany?" He spoke correctly.

The government of Sudan is currently engaging in genocide against three of its country's black western tribes, the Reziegat, Salamat, and Ta'aisha. Women of those tribes are being systematically raped; roughly one thousand people are being killed each week; and with seven hundred thousand driven from their homes, Sudan's army is bombing the survivors.

The Pentagon is monitoring the situation closely, but with American might deployed already in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Haiti, America's military cannot be asked to be the only one to respond. The UN's response has been significant, but not enough - the Security Council has not addressed the issue by invoking Chapter VII, although UNHCR in cooperation with the government of Chad has done a great deal to alleviate the immediate human plight of refugees by establishing refugee camps far from the Sudanese border, where refugees in Chad were still being attacked by the Sudanese military. Still, the response by the undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs, Jan Egeland, was talmudic, and ridiculous: "I would say it is ethnic cleansing, but not genocide." Still worse, the human rights industry has kept its head equally in the sand: Amnesty International doesn't even mention the genocide in the Sudan on its front page, preferring as usual to pander to its donors with pieces criticizing the United States for the clearly equal crime of executing a dual murderer.

Our friend Zach Kaufman, and director of our think tank's Africa program, wrote in the New York Times recently that "One lesson that should be drawn is that if it is true that the current Sudan resembles 1994 Rwanda, then the United States government should join with others to initiate a humanitarian intervention, assist victims and hold perpetrators accountable. If not, our demands for and promises of 'never again!' will have failed yet again." While the United States cannot bear the sole principal role in counteracting this atrocity at a time when its divisions are already deployed to combating the inhumanity of Fallujah and the Taliban, the responsibility of the international community to make good on its promises of "never again" is clear.
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# Posted 4:59 AM by Patrick Belton  

NOTE TO THE BBC: The correct spelling of the museum on the left bank of the Seine is not, contrary to popular impression, "muse dorsa."

UPDATE: We get results. They fixed it.
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# Posted 12:35 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

RUMBLE IN THE BLOGOSPHERE: Kos said something very, very dumb. Glenn Reynolds called him on it. Kevin Drum reluctantly weighed in on the side of Kos' critics. The Kerry 2004 blog was so embarrassed by Kos that it dropped him from its blogroll. Kos admits he said something dumb but describes the response to it as a product of right-wing paranoia. Yeah, whatever.

CLARIFICATION: Glenn has declared that OxBlog is "officially bored" with Kos-gate. Well, sort of. This whole affair is something of a tempest in a tea cup. However, my "Yeah, whatever" comment above was directed primarily at Kos' paranoid response to his critics. Glenn, Kevin et al. were right to criticize Kos, although the whole thing did get somewhat out of hand.
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Sunday, April 04, 2004

# Posted 11:58 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NYT VS. WaPo: WHO'S TELLING THE TRUTH? Seven American soldiers are dead. That is a fact. But why has violence broken out across Iraq? Is this what radical Shi'ites want? Is the violence an accidental byproduct of the challenges of occupation? Or has the incompetence of the Coalition-led reconstruction effort provoked otherwise passive Iraqis to take up arms?

If you read the WaPo, you will conclude that there is no clear answer to the questions posed above. Coalition forces' discomfort in a foreign environment is just as likely to have been the cause of the violence as are radical Shi'ite provocations. If you read the NYT, there is no doubt that today's events were planned. The first sentence of John Burns' article on the subject reads:
A coordinated Shiite militia uprising against the American-led occupation rippled across Iraq on Sunday, reaching into the heart of Baghdad and the sprawling Shiite slum of Sadr City on the capital's outskirts and racking the holy city of Najaf and at least two other cities in southern Iraq.
Burns' use of the words 'coordinated' and 'uprising' were no accident. Lower down in the same article he writes that
On Sunday, [Moqtada] Sadr's veiled threats to stir public disorder erupted into carefully orchestrated violence, with potentially dire implications over the long term for the Americans, and for Iraq.
Furthermore, Burns lets us know exactly what we should think of Mr. Sadr's efforts. He reports that
Mr. Sadr, the son of a powerful Shiite ayatollah who was assassinated by agents of Mr. Hussein in Najaf in 1999, has been a menacing presence in the shadows of the American occupation. He has refused to involve his organization with the American attempt to construct democratic institutions, calling them a ruse intended to place the country under permanent American control. He has threatened to establish an alternative government, and to send his militia, known as the Mahdi Army, into battle with American troops...

Mr. Sadr issued a statement early Sunday from the mosque in Kufa where he had barricaded himself telling his followers, in effect, to turn to violence.

"There is no use for demonstrations, as your enemy loves to terrify and suppress opinions, and despises peoples," he said, referring to the Americans. "Terrorize your enemy, as we cannot remain silent over his violations."
In contrast to Burns' conviction, the WaPo correspondents responsible for this story have used all of the standard conventions of the journalistic trade to convey their unsurety about the cause of the violence. For example, explanations for the violence offered by Sadr's disciples are juxtaposed with explanations from American officials, implying that the credibility of both explanations is roughly equivalent and that the truth lies somewhere in between:
Sadr, 30, delivered a sermon in Kufa on Friday calling on supporters to challenge the occupation.

Abu Haider Ghalib Garawi, a leader of the Mahdi Army -- a self-styled militia Sadr formed last year -- said the cleric had not called for violence in his sermon and attributed the violent protests in Kufa to frustration with the U.S.-led occupation.

"There is no more patience," he said. "We cannot guarantee the behavior of the wise people and of the ordinary people."

At a news conference in the Iraqi capital on Sunday, L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator for Iraq, said U.S.-led forces and Iraqi security would respond strongly to any violent challenge.
Toward the end of the WaPo article, however, there are some more tangible hints that today's violence was not intentional but rather a product of unfortunate coincidences:
Sunday's protests were sparked by reports that Mustapha Yacoubi, an aide to Sadr, had been arrested...Protests and violence involving Sadr's supporters have been increasing since the closing of the cleric's newspaper a week ago.
These same events are explained very differently by the NYT, however:
The scene for the uprising was set a week ago, when American troops raided the Baghdad offices of a popular newspaper, Al Hawza, that was the mouthpiece for Mr. Sadr, and chained its doors under an order by Mr. Bremer closing the paper for 60 days. American officials said Mr. Bremer had acted because of inaccurate reporting in the paper that incited hatred for the Americans, including a February dispatch that an explosion that killed more than 50 Iraqi police recruits was not a car bomb, as occupation officials had said, but an American missile.

For days, demonstrators in the thousands marched through the streets of Baghdad and Najaf, hoisting portraits of Mr. Sadr and vowing retaliation against the Americans. But what appeared to have pushed Mr. Sadr into insurrection was the arrest by allied troops on Saturday -- by probably Americans, although the American command did not say -- of a cleric who was a senior aide to Mr. Sadr, Mustafa al-Yaqubi. A statement on Sunday from Iraq's interior ministry said Mr. Yaqubi was wanted in connection with the killing at a Najaf mosque last April of Ayatollah Sayyed Abdul Majid al-Khoei, a cleric the Americans brought back from exile in London in the hope of shifting the Shiite clerical establishment into a pro-American stance.

Some reports, unconfirmed by the Americans, have said Mr. Sadr himself is on a list of 25 people who are wanted by the interior ministry in connection with the killing, and that he, too, is likely to be arrested.
The differences between the NYT and WaPo could not be more stark. The former describes an intentional assault on Coalition forces organized by a radical Shi'ite cleric who associates with murderers and may be one himself. The WaPo describes confusing events for which no one in particular was responsible.

Why are these accounts so different? Politics don't seem to be the issue, since the NYT tends to be far more critical of the occupation than the WaPo. My hunch is that John Burns is simply far superior to his counterparts at the WaPo. He sees what they do not. Moreover, I suspect that the WaPo will soon revise its account in order to reflect what was written by Mr. Burns.

The broader lesson to be taken away from this episode is one that this third of OxBlog never tires of repeating: That correspondents routinely employ the conventions of journalistic objectivity in order to convey subjective interpretations of the events that they witness. While subjectivity is an integral part of the human condition, the American media have the potential to dramatically improve their coverage by admitting to both themselves and their audience that they are not nearly as objective as they like to pretend.

To critics of the 'liberal media', such accusations are nothing new. Yet moderate liberals, including OxBlog favorites such as Drum and Yglesias, still tend to dismiss charges of media bias as little more than the carping of conservatives unwilling to face the truth. However, the example described above has nothing to do with politics. My criticism has nothing to do with the fact that I like one newspaper's political preferences more than I like the other. That is why this episode is such a powerful demonstration of how journalistic conventions create the illusion of objectivity.

CLARIFICATION: Seven American soldiers were killed in Baghdad. An eighth American soldier died elsehwere, as did a Salvadoran.

UPDATE: The AP report on today's violence resembles that of the WaPo. USA Today splits the difference while Reuters and CNN come across as relatively agnostic about the cause of the violence. The Guardian subtly implies that the heavy-handedness of the occupation was to blame.
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# Posted 10:08 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

EDUCATING THE DEVIL'S ADVOCATE, PART II: (Click here for Part I.) To what degree is it possible to resolve the theological tensions between Christianity and Judaism? In response to yesterday's post, PJ writes that
To Christians, Judaism and Christianity are and must be entirely consistent. If the two faiths were not consistent, then, because the Jewish Scripture is contained in the Christian, God's revelation (as Christians understand it) would be internally contradictory. Such an inconsistent revelation would prove that Christianity was false.

You say, "I believe that it is necessary to recognize that there are profound and inherent tensions between Christianity and Judaism....[O]ne must recognize that one can never resolve such tensions once and for all." But Christianity cannot be true unless it is possible to resolve tensions between Christianity and Judaism once and for all. From God's perspective, there can be no tensions between his covenant with the Jews and his grace to Christians.

Of course Christians believe we have a fuller grasp of the truth than Jews who reject Jesus as the Messiah, and that Jews would benefit by accepting this fuller truth; but there is no need for Jews to abandon Judaism in order to become Christians, any more than Jesus had to abandon his Judaism in order to found the Christian church.
While I greatly appreciate the spirit in which PJ's comments were written, I'm afriad that I must disagree vigorously with their substance. Regardless of what Christians believe about the compatibility of Christianity and Judaism, it is extremely hard for even the most moderate and progressive Jews to believe that the two religions are "entirely consistent" or even mostly consistent. The idea that "Jews would benefit by acceping [the] fuller truth" of Christianity is simply anathema regardless of the generous spirit in which Christian teachings are offered.

This fact reinforces my argument that there are inherent tensions between Christianity and Judaism. If, as PJ asserts, it is theologically necessary for Christians to believe that Christianity and Judaism are consistent, then the overwhelming majority of Jews' refusal to acknowledge such consistency amounts to a profound attack on the validity of Christian doctrine.

Of course, it is not our intention to assault the Christian faith any more than it is the intention of PJ or other Christians to assault ours. Yet the substance of our respective faiths mandates such a conflict. I wish it weren't so. I think that the vast majority of Americans wish it weren't so. Yet it is.

This returns us to the paradox I pointed out in my previous post: that the coexistence of the Christian and Jewish faiths depends on the ability of religious leaders' to revise the substance of our respective faiths without acknowledging that they are doing so. Yet I doubt that such revisions could ever overcome the tension created by the fact that Jews will never accept Christ as their Messiah. Thus, as I argued in my original post on this subject,
The task before us is to acknowledge the depth of such tensions while addressing them in a manner that promotes dialogue rather than conflict.
Thankfully, we in the United States have proven remarkably adept at doing just that. I believe that it is precisely because of our common heritage as Americans that we are able to deal so constructively with the tensions that separate our faiths.
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# Posted 8:34 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

EDUCATING THE DEVIL'S ADVOCATE: As I had hoped, yesterday's post on the death of Christ has provoked thoughtful responses from those who know far more about Christianity than myself. MP of Scrutineer writes that
I am an agnostic, but I was raised a Catholic and have two brothers who are priests, and your interpretation of the Gospels squarely contradicts that of the Catholic Church.

The RCC does teach that God's covenant with Abraham is still in effect. The RCC does not teach that the Jews are collectively responsible for Jesus' death.

Indeed, while I have heard that some particularly backwards non-Catholic Christians misinterpret the Gospels the way you describe, I have never in my 38 years heard a Catholic profess these anti-Jewish beliefs.

See "The Catholic Church and the Jewish People" for more info.
Multiple readers have observed that according to Catholic and other Christian theologies, the covenant of Abraham is still in effect. Thus, I made a factual error by asserting that it wasn't. Nonetheless, I think it is important to ask how the Christian and Jewish definitions of "chosenness" compare and contrast. The traditional Jewish concept of chosenness (which I fully reject) entails the belief that Judaism is the only true faith and that God has a special and privileged relaitonship with the Jewish people that no other people can enjoy. Thus, if Christians assert that the covenant of Abraham is still in effect, they will find it necessary to redefine certain aspects of the covenant. On a related note, JT writes that
Yes, of course Christianity does claim (to various degrees, depending on denomination) that Judiasm is no longer relevant -- exactly as it claims of all other religions. (Unlike the others, however, it affirms Judaism as true.) Yes, Christianity claims that the only way that Jews can overcome the burden of their own sins is to become a follower of Christ-- exactly as it claim for all others, Jewish or not.

Your statement [about the inherently anti-Semitic nature of the Gospels] is, in my mind, as untrue and offensive as someone claiming that "by my reading, the dehumanization of non-Jewish peoples is an integral part of the theological agenda of the Jewish claim to being a 'Chosen People.'" Ignoring of course the various significance and the commentaries on the subject, because we can merely claim that in the years since the Torah was written, progressive rabbis have reinterpreted the Tanakh in order to mitigate its anti-Gentilism.

If you find such a claim outrageous, you should note that that is the position of Reconstructionist Judaism, which does believe that the entire concept of chosenness, in any way, is very morally suspect.

To be honest, while you start from some reasonable points (such as that Christianity does attempt to delegitimize Judaism and set itself up as a successor religion), you make some claims that are, I think, unwarranted.
Although it is not my intention to offend JT, I must suggest that by my reading, the dehumanization of non-Jewish people is an integral part of the theological agenda of the Jewish claim to being a 'Chosen People'. Consider the genocide of the Amalekites, described in the Book of Samuel. If memory serves, God condemns Saul for slaughtering the Amalekites -- women and children included -- but taking their animals for his own, rather than slaughtering them as well. Even in my relatively progressive school, our teachers endorsed God's condemnation of Saul and observed that if God had asked him to kill the animals as well, that is what he should have done. Not once did our teachers suggest that God's will was fundamentally perverse because it demanded of Saul the genocide of a people whose only sin was that hundreds of years earlier, their ancestors had launched a surprise attack on the Jews.

The irony of this moral logic is disturbing and painful. If one endorses the Jewish slaughter of the Amalekites for a centuries old greivance, how can the Jews of today insist that they bear no responsibility for the death of Christ simply because it happened so long ago? Moreover, what is our response to Hitler and Goebbels if we endorse those genocides that our ancestors supposedly committed?

As such, I am glad that progressive rabbis have chosen to subvert the meaning of the original text and redefine Chosenness in a less bloody-minded manner. Given that the rabbis have spent the last two thousand years subverting the original text in order to advance various agendas, I am glad that at least one of those agendas is the enlightened embrace of human rights. By the same token, I am quite glad that the Catholic Church has begun to insist very publicly that the Jews are not collectively responsible for the death of Christ.

It is important to remember, of course, that those of us who accuse the rabbis and the Church of dramatically reinterpreting sacred texts insult the faith of countless Jews and Catholics. The foundation of Orthodox Judaism is the belief that there is an unbroken chain of interpretation that began with Moses' own interpretation of the Torah and that has continued ever since. My primitive understanding of Catholicism (an attribute I share with Mel Gibson) is that the Church has preserved the true and original spirit of the Gospels.

As such, those of us who advocate greater religious tolerance must accept the paradoxical fact that such tolerance tends to emerge only when the guardians of the faith are able to persuade themselves that their innovations are in fact restorations of a tarnished original meaning. Surely this is what Plato might have referred to as a noble lie.

To be continued...
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# Posted 6:00 AM by Patrick Belton  

SUNDAY TIMES UNREADABILITY WATCH: Once upon a time, the Sunday Times was something one might actually read to, say, find out something about arts, theatre, and literature. No longer.

Today, the Arts section leads with a multipage story about whether Conan O'Brian is moving to 11:30. We're glad that the arts in New York are in such sterling condition that the Times can, well, ignore them. And then, Theatre has a promising piece on Middle Eastern playwrights, which they then proceed to entirely botch:
Some of the women are ethnically Iranian, which means (essentially) that they are Indo-European, and speak Persian. Some are ethnically Arab, which means (essentially) that they are Semitic, and speak Arabic. Their religious roots vary: they are Christian, Muslim or Zoroastrian (a faith that advocates good thoughts and deeds)
And here we were (essentially) getting excited that some other website would start to take up some of the traffic for "Iranian sex change pics."
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# Posted 5:18 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PLAYING DEVIL'S ADVOCATE: Patrick laments the fact that more and more young Americans have come to believe that the Jews killed Christ. But shouldn't Patrick be lamenting the ignorance of their elders who don't believe that the Jews killed Christ?

While I am no expert on the Gospels, my reading of the text suggests that placing collective blame on the Jewish people for the death of Christ is an integral aspect of the Gospels' theological agenda. The Jews' responsibility for the death of Christ is one demonstration among several that they are no longer the Chosen People and that their religion is no longer relevant.

In recent decades, progressive Christians have reinterpreted the Gospels in order to mitigate the violent anti-Semitism that they have provoked. After all, even according to the Gospels, not all Jews were complicit in the death of Christ. Yet the message of the text seems clear: that only those Jews who abandon their own religion and become followers of Christ can overcome the burden of guilt that the Jewish people took upon itself by sentencing Him to death.

In this sense, the Gospels are fundamentally anti-Semitic. This does not mean that they are responsible for the violence and hatred associated with the phrase 'anti-Semitism'. After all, the Gospels were written at a time when Judaism was an established and influential religion whereas Christianity was a tentative and persecuted faith. Nonetheless, the fundamental purpose of the Gospels is to delegitimize the Jewish faith.

I say this not to defend Mel Gibson or The Passion. Yet I believe that it is necessary to recognize that there are profound and inherent tensions between Christianity and Judaism. While one can condemn specific individuals for transforming these tensions into a pretext for hatred, one must recognize that one can never resolve such tensions once and for all. Thus, the task before us is to acknowledge the depth of such tensions while addressing them in a manner that promotes dialogue rather than conflict.
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# Posted 5:05 AM by Patrick Belton  

ALL OF THE BAD GUYS CONVENIENTLY BLOWING THEMSELVES UP, II: Three suspects in the Madrid bombings, Moroccan members of an Islamic militant organisation, blew themselves up this morning in a neighbourhood of south Madrid as special branch agents were preparing to storm their apartment.
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Saturday, April 03, 2004

# Posted 6:26 PM by Patrick Belton  

THANKS, MEL: The percentage of Americans who say Jews were responsible for Christ's death is rising - particularly among young people and blacks - according to a poll just released by the Pew Research Center. In a telephone survey of 1,703 randomly selected adults, 26 percent of respondents said Jews killed Christ - which was up from 19 percent in an identically worded poll from 1997, and the increase among people under thirty was a particularly startling threefold - from 10 percent to 34 percent. (The proportional rise among blacks was smaller, 21 percent to 42 percent.)

That these views are correlated with having seen Mel Gibson's "Passion" movie is borne out by the survey - particularly, again, among the troubling "young anti-semite" demographic: of those 18-34 year olds who have seen the film, 42 percent believe Jews were responsible for Christ's death, compared with 36 percent of 35-59 year olds who watched the movie. And for respondents 60 years and up, there was hardly any difference between the responses of people who had seen the film and those who hadn't.

We should be careful what kind of views we impart to the youngest generation - they'll be with us for quite some time.
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# Posted 11:13 AM by Patrick Belton  

YES, BUT THE MUCH MORE INTERESTING QUESTION the court never reaches is just what one ought to do if told by God to kill their child.

Fortunately, the point is taken up at greater length by Levinas, Kierkegaard, and the Midrash.
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# Posted 6:10 AM by Patrick Belton  

I TOURED THE MUSÉE DU LOUVRE THIS MORNING; you can too. The Louvre has introduced a lovely and innovatively designed visite virtuelle portion of its website, with QuickTime movies allowing you to stroll through each of the principal rooms and collections from anywhere in the world. It makes a very pleasant and humane study break.

Additionally, any of you feeling inclined this morning to enter the great controversy between the ancients and moderns can see how pitiably the Bayeux Tapestry comes up compared with, say, the salle des antiquités grecques et romaines - both now conveniently accessible online.
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# Posted 5:35 AM by Patrick Belton  

OXBLOG COMPLETELY CHANGES ITS OPINION OF THE GUARDIAN: Or at least of its obituary page, at any rate, which runs a briliant piece today on the late Shiela (thus) Grant Duff, journalist and opponent of appeasement - which in turn happens to come from the pen of OxBlog's good friend Josh Cherniss.

When he's not out memorialising the lesser English aristocracy, our friend Josh ably directs our think tank's ethics and foreign policy program, and writes the other politics blog left on blogspot.
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# Posted 4:06 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHAT'S THE OPPOSITE OF A BACKHANDED COMPLIMENT? David Brooks concludes this morning's clever column about productivity by asserting that
Yesterday's good economic news — and the generally good news we've seen over the past 20 years — owes more to innovators like FedEx's Fred Smith than to any of the many fellow Yalies who have sat or will sit in the Oval Office.
Generally speaking, I agree with Brooks. The White House can't have all that much impact on the economy. But this is quite an interesting time for Brooks to make that point. It seems like Brooks is going against the party line by denying his party's president credit for the good news. But what's he really saying is that Democrats shouldn't blame Bush for all the bad economic news that came before yesterday or may come after tomorrow. I can accept that -- as long as Brooks doesn't start defending the deficit.
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# Posted 3:37 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A TRIBUTE TO THE FALLEN: The NYT profiles the four civilians killed in Fallujah.
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Friday, April 02, 2004

# Posted 12:22 PM by Patrick Belton  

FOR ANYONE WHO DIDN'T READ EASTERBROOK'S news round-up yesterday, well, go, shoo!
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# Posted 10:31 AM by Patrick Belton  

LAWYERS WRITE BACK: At the start of the week, I posed an open question to our readers about why a jury couldn't be told what would happen to a woman they found to have been criminally insane. I wondered out loud whether this arrangement was meant to keep factual questions separate from questions of punishment, and then I very generously offered an insane woman drawn from the ranks of my own ex-girlfriends for the helpful person who would enlighten me.

The short result: (in the words of PS from Springfield). Yes. I’ll send the legal bill. (Thanks! You win Tiffany.)

More interesting result: most of our readers, or at least a good part of you, seem to be lawyers. This includes a Harvardienne practicing at a Bay area firm who writes "I assume the trial has been bifurcated into liability and damages/sentencing, as sometimes happens.  The idea is that the jury shouldn't be swayed by the extent of the penalty; the woman's guilt or innocence should hang on the evidence of her (alleged) crimes alone.  Happy to discuss this more if you like, but I'm really more interested in why your ex girlfriends are all insane.  Did dating you drive them crazy?"

Wow - while I recoil and ponder going off to become a Jesuit, let me note that Robert from An Inclination to Criticize offers the same analysis, then says "There is no need to reward me, as I've no desire to add to my coterie of insane ex-girlfriends, though I'm sure yours are quite nice." Awww.

The most detailed analysis comes from the author of CrosBlog, who's a state court prosecutor:
I'm sure you've received several answers to your question, but here's my take on it, (FWIW, I'm a state court prosecutor in Georgia.) 
 
I've also been a prosecutor in Missouri, where jurors actually recommend sentences.  When you deliver a closing argument, you also recommend a sentence to the jury, and they'll deliver a recommendation that the judge usually accepts.  Other states (Georgia included) bar it for the reason you've suggested:  If a jury feels that a mandatory sentence would be too extreme, they may acquit, even when the facts support a conviction.  In fact, it's caselaw in Georgia that if a jury specifically finds a defendant "guilty with leniency", it's reversible error to accept that verdict (the jury should have been sent back.)  (Benton v. State, 588 S.E.2d 267)
 
I suppose a good example of why is the Marcus Dixon case, which is a pretty big deal around here.  This link is probably as good an explanation as any.  Simply applying the facts to the law, Dixon appears guilty of aggravated child molestation.  However, it seems pretty clear that the jury would have ignored said law or said facts had they known he was going to get 10 years (the minimum sentence.) 
 
Hope this helps.  If I win, please donate the crazy ex-girlfriend to charity.  I'm married, and have my own crazy woman. 
Done! And thanks very much to everyone who wrote in!
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# Posted 10:28 AM by Patrick Belton  

NOTES FROM A SPAMMER, II: Consider me a new fan of Jesuit education. So far, for every four high school principals with "S.J." behind their name writing me back to take part in our essay contest, I've heard back from one public school official, of any level. And this isn't just because I was, once upon a time, going to be a jesuitical man in black. (Ed: But wait, aren't you kind of Jewish too? Really long story; let's just say, I root for both the Yeshiva and Georgetown football teams. Oh I see, you've just got a thing for pain and no sense of NCAA athletics.)
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# Posted 6:56 AM by Patrick Belton  

DRIVING AROUND CHERNOBYL: I'd just written two somewhat critical posts and hadn't really wanted to leave for the library on a downward note - so if you hadn't yet had a chance to read Elena's diary of motorcycle rides through the Chernobyl dead zone, where she brings her digital camera, you really should. She brings a geiger counter and a quick wit with her everywhere, and has some poignant portraits of ghost towns, cities abandoned in midday, and a small (and quickly dwindling) number of occasional villagers who have refused to leave their homes and lifestyles.

(Ed: You call that cheerful? Sure, her journal and wit, not Chernobyl itself. Oh, I see now)
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# Posted 6:32 AM by Patrick Belton  

MATT AND I DISAGREE about a Woolsey ambassadorship in Iraq - which I still think would be a great thing - but perhaps we could agree on an anti-Robert Blackwill campaign. Blackwill is a remarkably arrogant former Kennedy School lecturer who managed to have his embassy in India taken away from him earlier in the Bush term, after he managed to alienate his entire staff in New Delhi. The State Department's inspector-general was forced to send two teams to Delhi to investigate complaints which had surfaced in the WaPo and Indian press that Blackwill "treated his staff like furniture" and morale in the embassy had "hit rock bottom." Giving him another embassy is a recipe for disaster; giving him Baghdad would be a Ba'athist's dream.
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# Posted 5:59 AM by Patrick Belton  

HAVING WORKED HAPPILY AT THE ALLIANCE and holding fond views of it as a community of allied democracies, I still have to question the dubious decision by Nato's new secretary-general to bill today's ceremony raising the number of allies to 26 as the end of the Cold War. It's 2004, and the Cold War has incontestably been over for between thirteen years (from the end of the Soviet Union as a political entity) and fifteen (since the fall of the Berlin Wall). That the alliance's new leadership has sought to frame the accession of new allies in terms of an official recognition of an event that happened one and a half decades ago does not inspire confidence in its ability to move even now out of the operational framework of the Cold War to address out of area operations in Afghanistan, the Balkans, and eventually in the Middle East and counterterror theatres. At worst, this is reflective of a paradigmatic problem in facing new operational realities; and at best, a rather embarassing political misstep.

UPDATE: After I posted this, CNN quickly revised their headline from "NATO ceremony ends Cold War" to "Larger NATO facing 'new threats'". They also struck the line "in a ceremony being billed as the official end of the Cold War." The original is here. I'm glad we get such fast results!
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# Posted 4:35 AM by Patrick Belton  

MY LIFE AS AN INTERNET SPAMMER: After spending all my study breaks for the last two days writing high schools and colleges about our essay contest (including, incidentally, both David's and Josh's high school alma maters), I now feel that Miriam Abacha and her Nigerian hordes have got nothing on me. HIGH PO INT SO F@R OF MY NEW CAR EER: the Houston, Texas singing nuns from Incarnate Word.

I would like to note, though, as a follow-up to David's and Moderate Voice's list of historic April Fools pranks, my personal all-time favorite - the BBC's 1957 Swiss Spaghetti Harvest, which the news show Panorama broadcast drolly in a segment which showed rustic Swiss peasants harvesting that year's bumper spaghetti crop, brought on by a mild winter. (You can watch the original broadcast on the BBC's website.) Of course, the entire broadcast was just a joke. But soon after the broadcast ended, the BBC's offices began to receive hundreds of telephone calls from their puzzled viewers, who either wanted to ask whether spaghetti actually did grow on trees, or who were eager to learn how they might grow their own spaghetti tree. To this, the BBC is reported to have replied they should "place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best."
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Thursday, April 01, 2004

# Posted 11:17 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

APRIL FOOLS CLASSICS: Here's a list of the 100 greatest hoaxes of all time. My favorite is #8:
In 1998 Burger King published a full page advertisement in USA Today announcing the introduction of a new item to their menu: a "Left-Handed Whopper" specially designed for the 32 million left-handed Americans. According to the advertisement, the new whopper included the same ingredients as the original Whopper (lettuce, tomato, hamburger patty, etc.), but all the condiments were rotated 180 degrees for the benefit of their left-handed customers. The following day Burger King issued a follow-up release revealing that although the Left-Handed Whopper was a hoax, thousands of customers had gone into restaurants to request the new sandwich. Simultaneously, according to the press release, "many others requested their own 'right handed' version."
(Link via The Moderate Voice)
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# Posted 11:08 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

TAKES ONE TO KNOW ONE: Professional ventriloquist Joe Gandelman says that Maureen Dowd has an impressive grasp of dummy humor. Not all that surprising, is it?
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# Posted 10:58 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HAS CLARKE DAMAGED BUSH? Ryan Lizza points to a new poll which suggests that political independents are being persuaded that Kerry would wage the War on Terror just as effectively as Bush. Yet Lizza also points out that on a broad array of other issues, Kerry is losing ground to the President. While Lizza attributes Kerry's setbacks to the recent Bush advertising blitz, he doesn't even consider the possibility that as people learn more about Kerry, they are finding a lot that they don't like.
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# Posted 10:52 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MOONLIGHTING: Some of the folks over at the Treasury Department seem to be freelancing for the Bush campaign.
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# Posted 10:43 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

AN ANTIDOTE TO OXBLOG: I just checked out Spencer Ackerman's blog for the first time. If you're concerned that OxBlog focuses too much on the positive in Iraq, you can rest assured that Spencer will provide a very different perspective.
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# Posted 10:30 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A CALL FOR REFORM:
The Arab world's need to defy Washington and revile Israel is not a valid excuse to perpetuate medieval autocracies and repressive dictatorships. The claim that the Middle East is somehow immune to democracy, whether through tradition, history or religion, is equally spurious. Striking evidence of this was provided by a gathering of Arab intellectuals and nongovernmental organizations at the Alexandria Library in Egypt in mid-March. The statement they issued is a ringing proclamation of universal democratic values and the urgent need to spread them through the Arab world. The statement rejects talk of special conditions or needs and does not mention the occupation of Iraq or Palestine. It is a call on the Arabs to adopt democracy — not because the West wants them to, but because it's best for them.
Statements such as this restore my faith in the New York Times.
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# Posted 10:23 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HORROR AND SILENCE: The savage brutality of yesterday's murders in Fallujah has shocked the blogosphere into silence. How often does an event of this magnitude provoke only a few lines of commentary from some of the most prolific authors on the web? On the other hand, are there any words that can say as much as the images of joyous young men hacking away at a charred American corpse?

Perhaps it will become possible to think about yesterday's slaughter once the numb and shock begin to wear off. Already, Phil Carter has begun to reflect and the murders. He writes that
News of this attack, and the Iraqi mob's behavior, has likely reached every American and coalition soldier now serving in Iraq. Just as the news of the Malmedy massacre during WWII enraged U.S. troops and gave them a reason to fight harder, so too will this event.
But what about the effect of this brutality on the homefront audience at which it was directed? As one might expect, the public mutilation of American bodies has begun to evoke remembrances of Mogadishu. This time, however, there is no thought of surrending to brutality and abandoning our mission.

But what is it that we must do to overcome the bestial rage now on display? Should the United States, as Glenn Reynolds suggests, withhold from Fallujah the benefits of reconstruction? Or is it now more important than ever to demonstrate our goodwill and, as the Marines' motto says, "Do No Harm"?

Before answering those questions, I think we must first ask who committed yesterday's atrocities in Iraq? The banner headline of today's Boston Globe read "Brutality, Cheers In Iraq". The lead story in USA Today was entitled "Iraqis revel in US deaths".

Both headlines have the unfortunate effect of implying that the entire nation of Iraq was celebrating the brutal slaughter of American civilians. While those who follow the news will recognize that the people of Fallujah are hardly representative of the people of Iraq, I am concerned that the overwhelming majority of Americans will believe that Iraqi sentiment toward the United States approximates Palestinian sentiment toward Israel.

Yet even in Fallujah, that is not the case. According to one resident quoted in the NYT,
"This is a bad advertisement for everything we stand for," said Muhammad Khalifa, a spare parts trader who closed his shop during the disturbance in a sign of disgust. "We may hate Americans. We may hate them with all our hearts. But all men are creatures of God."

In the morning, a team of American officials rushed to a meeting with Falluja's mayor and top clerics. American officials said the clerics promised to issue a fatwa, or religious edict, at Friday Prayer to condemn the ambush and the grisly aftermath. One of the gravest sins in Islam is desecrating the dead...

Mazem Hazem, a 20-year-old engineering student, said killing the Americans was acceptable but what was done to their bodies was not.

"I am satisfied that we killed them ? they are Americans and they are foreigners on our land," Mr. Hazem said.

"But I don't agree with what they did with their bodies. It is haram," he said, using the Arabic word for forbidden. "It is an embarrassment. And people will remember Falluja for this for many years."
If that is the reaction of those who support the insurgents, I suspect that those who oppose their struggle will feel even more strongly that the desecration of American corpses was an outrage. For the moment, the Iraqi media isn't preoccupied with what happened in Fallujah. Perhaps the people of Iraq have more pressing concerns. Or perhaps they are not in the least surprised that those who once supported Saddam have no qualms about emulating his brutality.

To the New York Times' credit, it carefully phrased today's headline to avoid any implication that the people of Iraq as a whole were responsible for yesterday's atrocities. Its headline read "4 From US Killed In Ambush in Iraq; Mob Drags Bodies." Perhaps if all of us exercise such care in describing the atrocities, the broader public will begin to recognize that they were the work of a small number of degenerate fascists who represent Iraq's past, but not its future.
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# Posted 5:05 PM by Patrick Belton  

BEST EMAIL I RECEIVED TODAY: In connection with our essay contest, I just received this -
Dear Patrick,
Thank you for your email; the contest sounds incredibly intriguing. We currently do not have a student body. Please include us in your contest announcement next year.

Best,
R...
San Francisco
Close runner-up, from a good friend from the Journal of Democracy:
Oddly, I now live here:
 
xxx street
Miami, Fl xxx
(here follows a small ICQ picture of several palm trees)
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# Posted 11:30 AM by Patrick Belton  

OXBLOG OFFICIALLY ABANDONS DEMOCRACY PROMOTION: Hey, everybody's got to have some fun on April Fools....
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# Posted 11:23 AM by Patrick Belton  

TODAY'S NEWS ROUNDUP: The Pentagon has announced plans to sell Taiwan early-warning radar systems worth $1.8 billion to bolster its defenses in light of a Chinese missile buildup; in return, China has scolded the U.S. for sending "the wrong message" to Taipei. Egyptian President Mubarak has abandoned his attempt to salvage the Arab League summit and host it in Cairo. The Roosevelt Roads Naval Air Station closed its doors yesterday after 60 years in Puerto Rico. And Secretary Powell, unusually for a U.S. official, said yesterday that the U.S. and Europe had been pursuing different world visions for the past two years, and said it was time for the two sides' paths to converge.

In other news, UAVs are in in the new defense budget, while Comanches are out. They're, like, so Cold War.
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# Posted 10:08 AM by Patrick Belton  

FOREIGN POLICY ESSAY CONTEST GRAND KICK-OFF: Are you an undergraduate or high school student in Washington, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, New Haven, Houston, or Miami? Are you a teacher or professor in one of those cities? If you're a student, we have a foreign policy essay contest for you - and if you teach them, we'd be very grateful if you'd publicize our contest to your students. Our announcement poster is here, and there's a bit more on the essay contest page of our website. Also, please feel free to contact me or Connie Chung, our essay contest chair, if you have any questions or we can be of any help.
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# Posted 5:44 AM by Patrick Belton  

RUMORS DULY NOTED: The liberal Tom Paine claims to have heard that Jim Woolsey has been short-listed for the position of ambassador to Baghdad - which, incidentally, would be a wonderful choice if it's only true. (Juan Cole, in contrast, instead mentions Wolfowitz.) Also, in Dan Drezner's excellent and impartial piece in TNR today on how Bush II and Kerry foreign policy making would likely diverge, Dan passes on the speculation that Condi would supplant Colin at Foggy Bottom in a second Bush term.
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# Posted 4:15 AM by Patrick Belton  

BYE, BYE, YAHOO MAIL: Google will debut a free email service offering 1 gigabyte of storage in the next week or so, and it will also include a particularly advanced search function (not that surprisingly, really, considering this is google...) of all of the messages that are stored in a person's mail folders. The only troubling note is that Gmail (as it's being called) will, however, be poking around in your message text to be able to offer you "relevant" advertising. (I'm not sure how unusual this is, though - Hotmail did seem to know a fair bit about both my anatomy and my pharmaceutical interests.....)
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# Posted 1:16 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHERE NEXT IN IRAQ? The WaPo has a pair of thoughtful op-eds, one by Jim Hoagland, the other by an infantry officer just back from Iraq.
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# Posted 12:28 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CLINTON ON SEPTEMBER 10TH: Patterico comments on a thoughtful speech by the ex-President that has the accidental effect of making Richard Clarke look foolish.
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Wednesday, March 31, 2004

# Posted 7:31 PM by Patrick Belton  

ATROCIOUS, AND SAD: I don't really have much to say, apart from that I am aghast, about the tragic deaths and mutilation of four American contractors today in the Sunni Triangle. Phil Carter is covering the coverage quite well.
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# Posted 9:33 AM by Patrick Belton  

THE ALWAYS EXCELLENT EURASIANET has more on Uzbekistan. Their reporter makes several points: first, a new group other than Hizb ut-Tahrir or the IMU may have been responsible for the attacks, given their modus operandi and presence in Bukhara; second, Uzbekistan's government and security services are tremendously unpopular - the latter being a daily shake-down presence in the nation's bazaars - making popular discontent high and clearing the way for a new anti-government organization; third, various reports have connected the attacks' timing with Novruz or the brutal beating to death of an elderly Bukharan man at Tashkent's Chorsu bazaar by police March 28.

For additional insightful coverage elsewhere, see The Argus, Economist, and Agonist.
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# Posted 2:25 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OPEN SOURCE INTELLIGENCE: Kevin Drum has been reading the stuff we all could read but don't bother with. For example, he's actually read all of Richard Clarke's book and provides some insights into Clarke's character that I haven't seen elsewhere. Kevin has also taken a look at what people were saying about Osama bin Laden before 9/11. Interesting stuff.
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# Posted 1:44 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FUN WITH ZIP CODES: Find out who you and your neighbors are. As a sometime resident of 10012, 20015 and 02139 it seems that I have never even come close to seeing the other side of the tracks. (Well, duh.) Perhaps that's why the five weeks I spent living in 78130 were such an eye opener.
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# Posted 1:25 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BUSH'S APPROVAL RATING: If you put together three years of polling results, things look pretty bad for the President. However, if neither of these compilations controls for either the post-9/11 rally effect or the state of the economy. Thus, while Crooked Timber and CalPundit [I just can't refer to Kevin as "Political Animal" -- ed.] suggest otherwise, I'm not sure these graphs do much to change the established conventional wisdom that Bush's re-election will depend on America's GDP growth and unemployment rates.
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# Posted 1:13 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

I DIDN'T DO NUTHIN'! A front page article in this morning's WaPo asserts uncritically that
Attacks on John F. Kerry by President Bush and Vice President Cheney, backed by millions of dollars in negative ads, have wiped out the narrow lead Kerry enjoyed at the beginning of the month and damaged his public image.
Unsurprisingly, correspondent Dan Balz fails to explore the possibility that there may actualy be substantive reasons for this change in public opinion. Now, the article does point out that most Americans don't know all that much about Kerry. Perhaps those who have begun to learn more don't like what they've found.

But how about the even more plausible hypothesis that the cause of Kerry's deceleration in the polls is not the Bush campaign but the nation media. The only one in Balz's article who comes close to suggesting that the media might have something to do with it is an administration spokesman:
"For six months, it was a one-way conversation, and then you had the final five or six weeks when Kerry was winning primaries that improved his image," said Bush senior strategist Matthew Dowd. "Right after March 3, a dialogue started about who is or who isn't John Kerry, and the president started advocating for himself. I think we're better positioned from that and Senator Kerry is worse positioned."
Leaving aside Dowd's partisan phrasing, it's hard to ignore the fact that the end of the primary season brought an end to daily coverage in which news stories recounted all of the Democratic candidates' attacks on President Bush. Then, once tapped for the nomination, Kerry became the subject of the sort of intense scrutiny that the media had only directed toward Howard Dean while the campaign was on.

Unsurprisinlgy, there emerged a raft of articles that examined with great seriousness whether or not John Kerry was an inveterate flip-flopper. While such articles didn't make Kerry look all that bad, they made his flaws into credible subjects of public debate. Thus, Dan Balz may want to consider that that it is the idiosyncrasies of his own profession and not the Bush war chest that are responsible for John Kerry's reversal in the polls. (And just imagine how bad things might have gotten for Kerry if the media hadn't done so much to build up Richard Clarke.)
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# Posted 12:54 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

RICE TO TESTIFY BEFORE 9/11 COMMISSION: And she damn well should. While there are strong arguments to be made in favor of executive privilege, it is hypocritical for Ms. Rice to play the role of lead attack dog in the White House's Clarke-bashing but refuse to testify under oath.

In addition to being forced to testify, Rice is getting raked over the coals by the media. The NYT article on Rice's forthcoming testimony (as well as a companion news analysis essay) suggests none too gently that Condi has told so many lies that she will have no choice to fess up when under oath. Interestingly, neither of the NYT articles has anything positive to say about Richard Clarke. The same goes for the WaPo's articles on Rice's testimony and the White House's selective declassification of sensitive documents. This suggests that the WaPo's Friday climb down from its effusive praise of Clarke was not an accident.

The lesson to be taken away from all this is that the Bush administration is now suffering more for its incompetent and dishonest effort to attack Richard Clarke than from the substance of Clarke's allegations. The failure of the administration to recognize that it had a strong case on the merits and its reliance instead on character assassination only adds to its reputation as an organization that won't the facts get in the way of its politics.
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# Posted 12:37 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

STOP BEING SO DAMN TOLERANT! If Iraq's Shi'ite and Sunni Muslims keep this up, all of the experts predicting the outbreak of a civil war will have a lot of egg on their collective face. The WaPo reports that
The attacks [on Muslim clerics], numbering more than a dozen over a two-week period this month, have been answered with resolute declarations of unity from leading Shiite and Sunni clerics, who meet regularly to devise a joint strategy for maintaining calm. Adamant in refusing to blame the rival branch of Islam, the religious leaders are instructing preachers of Friday sermons to assure worshipers that the attacks are being carried out by terrorists and shadowy foreign elements intent on provoking a civil war...

"The situation has deteriorated with the approach of the handover of power to the Iraqis," said Sheik Nazam Khalaf Zaidi, a pillow cushioning a hand wounded in a March 11 assassination attempt that killed two of his relatives riding in the same car. "God willing, there will be no civil war. I said the same words as I was carrying the coffins of my son and my son-in-law."

"There is a plot for sectarian war in Iraq," said Abdulsattar Abduljabbar, a senior official of the Association of Muslim Scholars, the most prominent organization of Sunni clerics. "We receive Shiite delegates in our office and we visit Shiite clerics in their office. There are no conflicts that could lead to fighting -- yet."...

In cosmopolitan Baghdad, at least, [Iraqi' feelings still tend to be as gentle as the hand that a Shiite shopkeeper lays on the shoulder of the Sunni standing beside him. "He is my friend," the shop owner said. Friends josh one another about rites whose public practice incites bloodshed in some other countries, such as Pakistan. Most important, Iraqis say, marriages between Sunni and Shiite are commonplace, even in deeply religious families. Yet in recent months, the blending of politics and religion has exposed latent tensions...

The most powerful political figure in Iraq today, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, exemplifies the delicacy. The senior Shiite cleric, who met with Sunni leaders last Tuesday to address the sectarian issue, has declared that Iraq's Shiites must protect all Sunni mosques. At the same time, he instructed Shiite imams to circulate petitions and make sermons urging changes in Iraq's interim constitution, which he fears will dilute Shiite power...
Now, there still are a lot of very serious problems in Iraq. For a summary thereof, take a look at this scathing WaPo editorial. However, Sunni-Shi'ite cooperation may aid the work of UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, whom Kofi Annan has dispatched to help organize a transitional government. Of course, the political reconstruction of Iraq won't end on June 30, which is why the Bush administration ought to be very careful about deciding on a replacement for Paul Bremer. Personally, I think Bill Clinton might be the one for the job. He could feel the Iraqis' pain but wouldn't have much of a chance to feel the Iraqis' women...
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# Posted 12:16 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IT'S BECAUSE, UM, WELL, UH...Richard Cohen asks why the UN rushes to condemn Israel for killing terrorists while doing nothing to condemn Palestinian efforts to recruit children as suicide bombers.
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Tuesday, March 30, 2004

# Posted 4:43 PM by Patrick Belton  

AFTER 125 YEARS, a Bolivian-Chilean border dispute heats up again.

UPDATE: Beautiful Horizons has more.
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# Posted 4:39 PM by Patrick Belton  

AEI'S RADEK SIKORSKI argues in the National Interest that trans-Atlantic defence ties are still a good thing.
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# Posted 1:46 PM by Patrick Belton  

IN OTHER TERRORISM NEWS, there are advantages to having all your adversaries be suicide bombers,
Uzbekistan says 20 suspected militants have blown themselves up during a fierce gun battle with special forces in the capital, Tashkent.

After several hours of armed exchanges, there was an explosion inside the building, followed by silence.

An interior ministry statement read out on television said 20 militants blew themselves up with home-made explosives after being surrounded. (BBC)
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# Posted 1:17 PM by Patrick Belton  

BE FUNNY IF THEY TURNED OUT TO JUST BE REALLY SERIOUS GARDENERS:
Eight British men suspected of being involved in terrorist activity have been arrested in a series of raids across the south of England. More than half a ton of ammonium nitrate fertiliser was also seized (BBC)
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# Posted 8:26 AM by Patrick Belton  

HEY, LOOKEY, WE'RE THE official blog of the New World Order!
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# Posted 7:35 AM by Patrick Belton  

ANDREW SULLIVAN has a thoughtful piece in The New Republic this morning on the relationship of gay rights and the civil rights movment.

Also in TNR, Massoud Ansari examines how Al-Zawahiri got away. Slate looks at the cancellation of the Arab League summit. (UPDATE: So does Robert Tagorda.) And via A&L Daily, an interview with Martin Seligman - a psychologist of whom I'm awfully fond - about the nature of happiness. (It's in three parts, and they're in backwards order.)
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# Posted 6:17 AM by Patrick Belton  

TAIWAN PRESIDENT CHEN SHUI-BAN, emboldened by his narrow election victory and angered by Chinese efforts to intervene in his island's domestic politics, yesterday gave an interview to the Washington Post in which he stated his intention to push for independence:
I think the key issue is not that I personally refuse to accept the "one China" principle. It's the 23 million people of Taiwan who cannot accept the so-called "one China" principle.

If they insist on having dialogue and consultation based on such a precondition, the "one China" principle, I think it will be rather difficult for both sides to sit down and talk.

Therefore, in the year 2006, we will hasten the birth of a new constitution for Taiwan, and in 2008, we intend to enact this new constitution, a tailor-made, efficient constitution that is suitable for Taiwan. And this is just a timetable for our constitutional reform. It is not a timetable for independence or any attempt to change our status quo.
It is difficult not to feel sympathy for Taiwan, as an island of democracy and liberalism which has come far in the past decade toward modernity. Still, the current course which President Chen has set toward steers quite close to a military conflict in the Straits, in which the legal and moral duty of our nation would and ought to be on the side of a free allied republic against nuclear-armed China - a possibility no one can contemplate without trouble.
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# Posted 5:14 AM by Patrick Belton  

ALISTAIR COOKE, KBE (Hon.), who embodied the Anglo-American friendship and gave our age one of its most noted essayists and commentators, has died this morning at 95.

Arriving in the United States in 1932 on a Commonwealth Fund Fellowship to study drama at Yale after coming down from Jesus College, Cambridge, Cooke hurried from his boat not to New Haven but to New Orleans, Basin Street, to sample the jazz age himself at first remove, and that by way of a call on the premier exemplar of the craft he would later make his own, essayist H.L. Mencken in Baltimore.

In 1974 he was invited to address the US Congress on the occasion of the celebrations marking the American bicentennial. He was only the third foreign born person so invited; his predecessors were Lafayette and Sir Winston Churchill. British diplomatist Sir Harold Nicolson (like him, an eighteenth century man living a seventeenth century life in the midst of the twentieth century) sought him out on his valedictory trip to the United States in 1963. Like Samuel Pepys or Isaiah Berlin, he knew nearly everyone in his age; and like them, he recorded his incisive impressions. Of Greta Garbo, he wrote "She gave you the impression that, if your imagination had to sin, it could at least congratulate itself on its impeccable taste." Of Presidents, he said "All Presidents start out to run a crusade but after a couple of years they find they are running something less heroic and much more intractable: namely the presidency. The people are well cured by then of election fever, during which they think they are choosing Moses. In the third year, they look on the man as a sinner and a bumbler and begin to poke around for rumours of another Messiah." Las Vegas he called "Everyman’s cut-rate Babylon. Not far away there is, or was, a roadside lunch counter and over it a sign proclaiming in three words that a Roman emperor’s orgy is now a democratic institution….'Topless Pizza Lunch.'" Of prognostication, he wrote "Man has an incurable habit of not fulfilling the prophecies of his fellow men."

Becoming an American citizen in 1941 to marry his wife, he maintained a substantial enough love for the country of his birth to engage with it in a lifetime of correspondence, his Letters from America which the BBC would broadcast without fail each week for 58 years. The BBC collects a sampling of his letters to it, including his eulogy for Senator Robert Kennedy, his reflections on the American fashion of slimming, Thanksgiving, Groucho Marx and Bing Crosby, and his last letter, on the late war in Iraq.

It is to the BBC's, and our, detriment that Cooke will not be able to continue his correspondence with us from whatever such place as he might be now.
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# Posted 4:52 AM by Patrick Belton  

ANOTHER DAY OF TERRORIST ATTACKS IN UZBEKISTAN: Today's suicide bombing in Tashkent is the second straight; there was also an explosion on Sunday night in Bukhara, which may have been a government attack on IMU assets which led to the current spate of reciprocal attacks.

Due to Uzbekistan's tight control over the media, it is difficult to get hold of information about the current situation, but the choice of targets (such as yesterday's at the Chorsu bazaar, at a time of overlap between two police shifts) seems to reflect a desire to target police and security services. The degree to which news reports are being suppressed by Tashkent is astonishing - yesterday, out of 15 policemen one reporter approached at the bazaar, only one admitted that there had been a bombing, with the remainder explaining that the market was closed for a "sanitary inspection." Reuters is reporting that there were several separate bombing incidents yesterday, with two caused by female suicide bombers, and that four to five separate explosions took place this morning at roughly 8:15 local time. This morning, Tashkent's principal thoroughfares are closed by checkpoints and manned by servicemen with bulletproof vests carrying Kalashikov rifles.

If there was involvement by Hizb-ut-Tahrir in the current round of attacks, it would represent a marked tactical change for the Islamist organization, which to the moment has been peaceful, though it has generated concern for violent potentialities from terrorism and oil industry analysts.
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Monday, March 29, 2004

# Posted 6:04 PM by Patrick Belton  

THAT'S IT FOR ME FOR THE DAY: Rachel's taking me out fishing to catch some gefilte fish.
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# Posted 5:42 PM by Patrick Belton  

WHILE BAUDE IS OFF SHOPPING FOR A PANAMA HAT FOR SPRINGTIME, over at Crescat Amanda reviews a piece on the novel and her other favourite drug, coffee. (Note: OxBlog does not condone abuse of caffeine, cigarettes, or panama hats.)
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# Posted 2:08 PM by Patrick Belton  

OPEN QUESTION: CNN notes today a Texas murder case, in which a woman is pleading insanity in the murder of two of her three children. The story goes on to note that if the jury were to agree with the defence, the defendant would go into a state psychiatric hospital's maximum security ward for evaluation, and could stay there for as long as the maximum sentence she could receive if convicted - in her case, 40 years.

Now here's the interesting part, which I'm quite curious about: as the reporter notes, "the jury will not be permitted to hear and consider that information."

Do any of our legally inclined readers happen to know why this is the case? Is the idea that the jury in this case should be ruling solely on the factual question of whether the defendant met the legal criteria for insanity, and that knowledge of the practical consequences of that determination could have the effect of altering the jury's decision on the question of fact? (As an incentive, the author of the winning legal analysis can receive an insane woman of their choice, drawn from the ranks of my ex-girlfriends....)
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# Posted 1:03 PM by Patrick Belton  

PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE, AS IMPROVED BY MANAGEMENT CONSULTANTS: Slate has the Powerpoint version. This is almost as good as Peter Norvig's truly brilliant Powerpoint rendition of the Gettysburg Address.
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# Posted 12:47 PM by Patrick Belton  

CLINTON AND GENOCIDE: The National Security Archive has released a report on the Rwanda genocide of 1994, demonstrating through declassified sources that the intelligence and diplomatic services had reached a consensus that genocide was taking place in the country as early as April 23; the Clinton administration would nonetheless resist calling the genocide for what it was until May 25.
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# Posted 11:30 AM by Patrick Belton  

NATO TURNS 26 TODAY: The Baltic republics of Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia and the south-east European republics of Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia will officially join the alliance today, as their governments deposit their instruments of accession in a ceremony at the White House.

Albania and Macedonia had participated in the Membership Action Plan but were not extended invitations at the Prague Summit in November 2002, because of concern their militaries could not contribute to peacekeeping and collective defence missions (though they are potentially capable of such specialised functions as transport and medical care).

Each of the successful candidates had quite strong sponsors among the allies. Hungary has urged Slovenia's accession since it would allow Hungary to be contiguous with the Nato nations. Slovakia's candidacy was helped by the victory of reformists in September 2002 elections. Poland was a strong supporter of membership for the Baltic states; their governments also excelled particularly in meeting the MAP requirements. Italy, Greece, and Turkey supported Bulgarian and Romanian entry as assisting in Nato's stability missions in the Balkans; critics have argued that both nations continue to have corrupt civilian government and outdated militaries.

Within Russia, the Duma and the military and intelligence services are strongly opposed to enlargement, but Putin seems to view it as part of a trade-off for acquiescence in Russia's operations in Chechnya, as well as a means toward protecting Russian ethnic minorities in Estonia and Latvia. (Nato and EU regulations both have strictures regarding the treatment of ethnic minorities.)

Amendment of the North Atlantic Treaty to admit new members requires action by each ally in accordance with its constitutional processes for adoption of a treaty. Each of the 19 prior members approved the amendment after the close of accession negotiations on 26 March, 2003, the U.S. doing so by two-thirds vote in the Senate. (The advice and consent motion passed by a 85-6 vote, on May 17, 2003).
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# Posted 10:46 AM by Patrick Belton  

MORE ON EU COUNTERTERRORISM: WaPo compares US and EU counterterror styles, and CS Monitor has a roundup of press coverage of recent EU counterterror initiatives. The new terrorism czar, Gijs de Vries, receives profiles in Time and Reuters. (Reuters is also reporting today that a senior official in Al Qa'ida's intelligence arm was killed in the standoff in South Waziristan.) The Observer, unusually, presents a crisp argument that the war on terror will be won in the realm of ideas, and by projecting convincing images abroad of liberal democracy. Ari Cohen says the EU answer has been to create more bureaucracy. One bureaucratic proposal that was shot down, however, was the tabled creation of a Europe-wide intelligence agency to deal with terrorism, a function which Britain and France zealously preferred keeping in national hands.
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# Posted 10:39 AM by Patrick Belton  

OXBLOG MUSIC PICK OF THE DAY: Radio Free Klezmer, where every other song is a good one.
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# Posted 10:21 AM by Patrick Belton  

IT'D BE A REALLY SICK JOKE if the Noraid financial sponsors of terror brought back this idea from New York.....
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# Posted 5:30 AM by Patrick Belton  

QUICK ROUND-UP, before beginning my day's work as a performance artist interpreting "Chronic Procrastinator Writes a Dissertation," which the Oxford performing arts council is graciously hosting at the moment at the Bodleian library, lower reading room.

The good news is - there might be life on Mars. The bad news - if so, it seems to have a chronic flatulence problem. Policymakers caution that we may not actually want to be in contact with this life form.

Scientists in Bangalore have released a cheap, accessible computer for India's rural population, called the Simputer.

At the same time that the U.S. considers establishing an MI-5, Britain is creating an FBI. The cinematic possibilities for increased cooperation between mother and daughter countries in this realm are endless (think: Godfather IV: James Bond in the Goomba Who Loved Me).

Jackson Diehl editorializes in the WaPo that the unnoticed story of the year is the emboldening of Arab democrats in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. Also in the WaPo, the DC government apparently covered up knowledge of the city water supply's elevated lead levels for at least 15 months before the story broke in the press.

There has been a terrorist attack in Tashkent. Initial suspicion is resting, predictably, on the IMU. This comes at a time when Washington has been considering downgrading strategic ties with Uzbekistan because of the latter's embarrassing human rights record. Also, reports have placed IMU head Tahir Yuldash as possibly having been with Al-Zawahiri in South Wazirstan during the Pakistani operation against an Al Qa'ida stronghold there.

Arab governments are recoiling in embarrassment from the last-hour cancellation of the Arab League summit yesterday in Tunisia, as speculation surrounds the precise reasons for the cancellation. One explanation has been that the Tunisian government was reluctant to play host to a summit which would produce only a tepid call for reform.

Elsewhere, the U.S. and Mexico are considering a revived plan for deep repatriation of undocumented migrants in the US - which is being read as a Mexican gesture of goodwill in the run-up to a more substantial hoped-for change in US-Mexican immigration relations.

Finally, today is, incidentally, the anniversary of the withdrawal of the last U.S. troops from Vietnam, which makes this an appropriate time to thank all of our veterans; for those who did not come back, we will not forget you.
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# Posted 5:25 AM by Patrick Belton  

SIX NATIONS ROUND-UP, for you ruggers fans out there. Il est stupéfiant combien les Français ont appris de nous! Ils méritent beaucoup de félicitations.
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Sunday, March 28, 2004

# Posted 6:17 PM by Patrick Belton  

I IMAGINE IT WOULD BE UNGENTLEMANLY to say we was robbed, so let me instead just warmly congratulate the 'tabs on their victory at Henley this afternoon.
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# Posted 5:48 AM by Patrick Belton  

NASRALLAH IS ATTEMPTING to draw Hezbollah and Hamas closer together: at a memorial in Beirut's southern suburbs for Sheikh Yassin, Hezbollah's Secretary-General told Hamas's Khaled Meshal,
We in Lebanon are with you. Be sure that your blood is our blood and your sheikh is our sheikh. We share the same destiny and this means that our fight is one
Hamas, on the other hand, is widely being considered by analysts to be working at its maximum capacity already, making claims of accelerated activity against Israeli targets principally rhetorical. (And for Palestinian voices calling for peaceful intifada, see Palestinian intellectuals' ad, Muslim WakeUp, and Palestinian Catholic priest Raed Awad Abushlia.)

UPDATE: Dan Drezner has more on Palestinians calling for nonviolence.
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# Posted 4:39 AM by Patrick Belton  

HAPPY SPRING FORWARD DAY, EVERYONE!

UPDATE: Yanks have to wait a week.....
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Saturday, March 27, 2004

# Posted 12:31 PM by Patrick Belton  

HINDI GRAMMAR QUOTE OF THE DAY: If you want to request food, khana, the failure to produce aspiration will result in kana. That is, you will end up asking for a one-eyed person.

UPDATE: Our beloved Adrienne points out that Tamils have no aspirations.
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# Posted 10:03 AM by Patrick Belton  

DIPLOMACY OF IRISH PM AHERN HAILED in restoring direction to sidetracked talks about the EU Constitution. There's more on the Irish presidency here, and on the constitution here.
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# Posted 7:58 AM by Patrick Belton  

PHILADELPHIA MAGAZINE'S SASHA ISSENBERG ably, but a bit harshly, takes down David Brooks's red state-blue state distinction by poking holes in it.

After challenging individual assertions by Brooks about, say, Nascar, QVC, and Doris Kearns Goodwin audiences, Issenberg draws the conclusion that Brooks is feeding into prejudice under the guise of public intellectualism,
There's even a Brooksian explanation for why he has become so popular with the East Coast media elite. Blue Americans have heard so much about Red America, and they've always wanted to see it. But Blue Americans don't take vacations to places like Galveston and Dubuque. They like to watch TV shows like The Simpsons and Roseanne, where Red America is mocked by either cartoon characters or Red Americans themselves, so Blue Americans don't need to feel guilty of condescension. Blue Americans are above redneck jokes, but they will listen if a sociologist attests to the high density of lawn-abandoned appliances per capita in flyover country. They need someone to show them how the other half lives, because there is nothing like sympathy for backwardness to feed elitism. A wrong turn in Red America can be dangerous: They might accidentally find Jesus or be hit by an 18-wheeler. It seems reasonable to seek out a smart-looking fellow who seems to know the way and has a witty line at every point. Blue Americans always travel with a guide.
Leaving aside the obvious fact that Issenberg can't help invoking the red state-blue state distinction even in the act of criticizing Brooks for coining it, I wonder, more broadly, whether he might perhaps discount just a bit too drastically the reliability of lived experience - the "does it ring true?" test - as a guide for an essayist: even if most Marylanders or New Jerseyans are in fact Nascar watchers, and if there are substantial coastal enclaves like Austin, Texas solidly ensconced in red America, Brooks isn't necessarily purveying stereotypes to his buying audience when he seizes onto status details, Tom Wolfe-like, to summon up the distinction between a secular, educated, suburban (and gentrifying-urban) liberal America on the one hand and a godly, more traditional America on the other. This is distinction most readers and commentators would, based on their lived and reflected-upon experience of American social reality, place more evidentiary faith in than in particular demographic points of information about the moment's sales of No Ordinary Time on Amazon.com. As, I think, they should.

Nor is this to say that considered lived experience of social reality can't contain prejudices and biases which can and should be battered down by cannonades of evidence - only to say that something like Scottish enlightenment philosopher and epistemologist Thomas Reid's notion of common sense should also guide us in steering a path between the assumptions we live by and points of information which are adduced to challenge and demolish them.

One last point before leaving the topic: Issenberg (in what I do want to acknowledge again as a witty, provocative essay) depicts Brooks as an ersatz, faux public philosopher, and quotes approvingly an academic who bemoans the tempora and mores which in the place of a public space which once had "Holly Whyte, who got Jane Jacobs started, Daniel Bell, David Riesman, Galbraith," has now given us "David Brooks as your sociologist, and Al Franken and Michael Moore as your political scientists." That, though, is clearly the fault of academics - the serious sociologists, political scientists, and ethicists whose presence in public debate the author laments - who have not risen to addressing a public audience in a creative way which captures the imagination and frames sensed realities in new ideas, language, and distinction. That pundits and reporters have seized the ground only indicates that scholars in the social sciences have in our generation been more preoccupied with academic politics and narrow disciplinary disputes than in fulfilling the role of public intellectuals (or, like Cornel West, have sought fame in the public eye without carrying with them insightful or creative ideas) - and this is a true trahison des clercs.

UPDATE: Wonkette and Easily Distracted both have takes on the piece, too.
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