Tuesday, April 20, 2004

# Posted 10:22 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NOW THAT'S AN OMBUDSMAN: As if it weren't bad enough that I'm a Yankees fan, I betray Boston twice over by reading the NYT and WaPo rather than the Globe. But since restaurants and stuff often have copies lying around, I do get to take an occasional look. Today, for the first time, I came across a column by Globe ombudsman Christine Chinlund and I have to say that I was very impressed. Chinlund does an admirable job both of addressing reader complaints and of documenting the behind-the-scenes decisions in the news room that produced the complaints in the first place.

One especially interesting part of yesterday's column was Chinlund's observation that there were few complaints about the Globe's decision to run a photo of a fallen Marine on its front page, but that those few who complained were themselves Marines. As one corporal asked, "If you were over there in Iraq, would you want that to be your family's last memory of you?"

A very fair question. Still, I think the Globe made the right decision. The photograph in question showed a group of Marines praying over the body of their fallen comrade. It was very touching and I believe that it was respectful as well. Of course, each reader should judge for himself whether that is the case. (Which is easier said than done since I can't find the photo on the Globe website. Paging the ombudsman!)
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# Posted 10:07 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LITTLE ORPHAN DONNIE: Even the red-blooded conservatives want nothing to do with Rumsfeld. After all, how often is it that both the Weekly Standard and the National Review devote their editorials to bashing a hawkish Republican Secretary of Defense?

Kristol & Kagan are even harsher on Rumsfeld than NRO was, and I agree with everything they have to say. As I mentioned before, I agree with NRO's criticism of Rumsfeld but don't think much of its attempt to pin's Rumsfeld's mistakes on the neo-cons.

Another point of difference between the Standard and NRO is that the Standard explicitly challenges the President to make good on his word about Iraq, instead of directing all of the accusations at his subordinates. Even so, after their initial mention of Bush, Kristol & Kagan focus exclusively on Rumsfeld. But how viable of a strategy is that? If the Secretary of Defense has been screwing that badly for that long, isn't it time to hold the President responsible?
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# Posted 1:44 PM by Patrick Belton  

NEW DEMOCRATIC FOREIGN POLICY GROUP STARTS, MILLIONS RUSH TO JOIN: This just in from, errr...okay, my wife. But it's a damned good group anyway, and is set to declare the Scoop Jackson wing of the party once again open for business:
For those of you who feel you are Democrats longing for a party that takes national security more seriously, (or even borderline Republicans discontented with both parties) a new group has formed that would love to have you as members.  The Truman National Security Project (www.trumanproject.org) is a group of young foreign policy professionals dedicated to creating a strong foreign policy platform for the Democratic Party, and working to move the national security debate beyond the tired battles between Cold Warriors and Vietnam-era liberals, to create new ways of thinking about foreign policy for an age of transnational threats and terrorism.  

Truman Democrats believe in a strong military and intelligence network, and think that national security is best secured through proactive policies of democratization, liberalization, and free trade.  Unlike neoconservatives, however, Truman Democrats believe that in an age of transnational threats, real security can only be achieved by working in concert with international partners, convincing other countries that we share joint threats, taking malignant threats such as AIDS and social breakdown seriously, treating aid and trade as crucial national security tools, and bolstering American legitimacy to strengthen our soft power. 
And if you're feeling particularly like a joiner (or if you just want to keep track of them all), other organizations within the OxBlog universe you can also take part in are the Nathan Hale Foreign Policy Society, a burgeoning bipartisan national foreign policy society with thirteen local chapters (ed: quick, someone, add another!) and an active think tank; OxDem, which supports democracy movements overseas and democracy promotion as a keystone of American foreign policy; and the Ibn Khaldun Project for Internet Media, which will be involved in translating weekly selections from the English-language blogosphere into Middle Eastern languages. And once my cofounder Marianna finishes up her M.Phil. exams, we're also looking forward to establishing a race NGO with local chapters which will foster spaces, through dinners and an assortment of other programs, in which people can have conversations and make friendships across race lines. All these organizations are carrying out important work and could very much use your help if you'd like to be part of them; and most importantly, we just wouldn't be being completely honest with you if we failed to note that membership in any one (or all) of these organizations is reported by scientists to confer on the member instant irresistability to the opposite sex.

To find out more about the Truman Project and to become involved with its efforts, please contact Rachel Belton.
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# Posted 1:19 PM by Patrick Belton  

REMEMBER CENTRAL ASIA? If not, that's okay, you'll fit in fine with our nation's principal newspapers. That's the region - just to jog your memory - where one rather despotic security ally has just exploded in insurgence, and where a second nation's reconstruction prospects lie pretty much in our hands. And when it comes to Central Asia, Nathan from The Argus is your man. He's got a roundup just for you on Winds of Change of what's new in that part of the world.
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# Posted 8:17 AM by Patrick Belton  

IN YER OXBLOG IRISH-FRIENDLY CORNER FOR THE DAY: Tin whistle legends Chiff & Fipple answer the questions everyone's been asking and present an in-depth, side-by-side comparison of the tin whistle, the recorder, and the Norelco Triple Head shaver.
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# Posted 7:43 AM by Patrick Belton  

QU'EST-CE QUE font les Français quand ils ont trop d'heure....
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Monday, April 19, 2004

# Posted 11:23 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NEGROPONTE AND THE DEATH SQUADS: As of June 30, US Ambassador to the United Nations John Negroponte has will become the United States' Ambassador to Iraq. And in case you haven't noticed, Matt Yglesias has been waging a one-man blog-war against Negroponte because of his toleration of right-wing death squads while serving as Ambassador to Honduras in the 1980s.

On Matt's behalf, I'd like to say that both the NYT and the WaPo have done a marvelous job of whitewashing Negroponte's record in their coverage of his appointment as Ambassador to Iraq.

Throwing balance out the window, neither the Times nor the Post bothers to balance the President's lavish praise of Negroponte with a single critical comment. And believe me, it would not be hard to find some very knowledgeable people who would be willing to gives the Times and the Post an earful. If any NYT or WaPo staff happen to be reading this post, why not give Bill LeoGrande or Cynthia Arnson a call? Both of them are well-respected scholars who have published op-eds in the leading newspapers as well as longer articles in places like Foreign Affairs and Foreign Policy, not to mention numerous books on the subject of the United States and Central America.

You'd think Matt would've had some more sharp words for the Times and the Post, given his constant efforts to show that the media is biased in favor of the right and not hte left. So is this a case of conservative media bias? No, not really. I think what's going on here is simply that journalists have very little knowledge of any sort of history that they didn't experience themselves. If Ray Bonner or Alan Riding -- both of whom are current NYT correspondents with experience in Central America in the 1980s -- had written the Negroponte story, I seriously doubt that Negroponte would've gotten off so easily.

Now, you may be wondering, "What did Negroponte do that was all that bad? If the only one covering this story is Yglesias, wouldn't it be safe to dismiss the accusations against Negroponte as just another liberal Democratic vendetta?" Actually, no. For an excellent summary of Negroponte's amazing ability to deny the existence of death squads in Honduras, take a look at this article in TNR from March 2001. (Link via Yglesias)

However, Matt goes pretty far overboard with his suggestions that Negroponte will start training death squads in Iraq. Now, I generally agree with Matt that from an ethical perspective, Negroponte is not the right man to be running the Embassy in Baghdad. After all, how long will it be before Sunni and Shi'ite insurgents begin telling anyone and everyone that the United States has installed a death squad chieftain in the embassy in Baghdad? No, that characterization of Negroponte isn't fair. But the Iraqi people aren't likely either to appreciate the nuances of the situation in Central America in the 1980s or give the benefit of the doubt to an American pro-consul.

But nuances there were, and an American audience deserves to know a little more about them. While Matt and others have focused on the death squad issue, Negroponte real job in Honduras was to build up the right-wing Nicaraguan guerrilla force known as the contras. In addition to the logistical challenges of running a guerrilla war, Negroponte had to face the twofold diplomatic challenge of keeping the whole operation secret while also persuading the Hondurans to severely compromise both their own sovereignty and international law by voluntarily hosting a guerrilla force dedicated to the violent overthrow of a neighboring government.

In November 1982, Newsweek destroyed the myth that the United States wasn't the main sponsor and organizer of the Contra forces. Unsurprisingly, widespread knowledge of what the United States was up to made it far harder for the Hondurans to pretend that they weren't involved. The fact that Negroponte persisted in such adverse circumstances won him a reputation as a top-flight diplomat, at least on the Republican side of the aisle. Lately, Negroponte seems to have won admirers on both sides of the aisle.

What I can't say, since I haven't finished my research yet, is what role Negroponte played in the illegal phases of the Contra war. If you're interested in reading what an unreliable and partisan source has to say about Negroponte and the contras, click here. When I have some hard facts, I'll put up a post on the subject.

On a related note, it is also important to put Negroponte's blindness to human rights abuses in context. During Negroponte's five years in Tegucigalpa, the Honduran death squads only committed about as many murders as the Salvadoran death squads did in an average month (between 1980 and 1983). At the same time, the Guatemalan military was waging a genocidal campaign against indigenous Guatemalans that resulted in tens of thousands of innocent lives lost. Thus, Negroponte hardly stands out among diplomats of his time as someone blind to human rights abuses.

On the other hand, American diplomats in El Salvador did far more to speak out against the brutality. In 1981, Reagan sent Deane Hinton to replace Bob White, the Carter's administration's Ambassador in San Salvador who was appointed precisely because of his commitment to human rights. While Reagan & Co. expected Hinton to stay relatively quiet, Hinton delivered a blistering anti-death squad speech in late 1982 that the Reagan administration disavowed because it was so embarrassing to the United States.

On the other hand, it was Bob White who presided over the most murderous era in the Salvadoran civil war. His intentions were good, but does that really excuse the fact that he actively supported a junta responsible for ten thousand murders? The same can be said of Hinton. Should White and Hinton have resigned? Or was being more honest than their colleagues enough? The same can even be said of Thomas Pickering, the #3 man at State under Albright. As Ambassador to El Salvador after Hinton, he was so outspoken in the campaign against the death squads that they ultimately tried to kill him. Yet he, too, presided over a slaughterhouse far worse than that in Honduras.

Of course, it was not the killings in Honduras that truly represent Negroponte's greatest blindness. In my opinion, his willingness to work with the Contras, whose leadership was drawn from the ranks of the Somoza dictatorship's brutal National Guard, was even more problematic. Unsurprisingly, the Contras amassed a record of human rights violations far worse than that of the Hondurans. They just didn't have death squads.

But there is another twist to the story. Neither the New Republic nor Matt Yglesias describe how Negroponte helped consolidate democracy in Honduras. Although the transition to democracy in Tegucigalpa begun under Carter, it could not have been completed without the active support of the Reagan administration. While Honduras is not exactly a model democracy today, we'd probably all be pretty happy if Negroponte managed to build an Iraqi state that regularly held elections for more than 20 years, subordinated the military to the civilian government and ultimately got rid of almost all major human rights abuses.

All in all, the situation is far more complex than what you would pick up by reading either the NYT/WaPo descriptions of Negroponte's career or Matt's polemics against him. In spite of my belief that the Reagan administration made a tremendous contribution to promoting democracy in Central America, I still cannot forgive the fact that so many of its highest ranking officials regularly lied to Congress in order to support that policy. Even in hindsight, it is very hard to separate right from wrong.
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# Posted 9:28 AM by Patrick Belton  

BROOKINGS PANEL ON IRAQ AND ISRAEL: The transcript is interesting, not least of which because it incorporates both the views of a number of smart people we often agree with (e.g., Michael O'Hanlon) and others whom we occasionally differ from (such as Kenneth Pollack), as well as some new information and perspectives.
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# Posted 8:23 AM by Patrick Belton  

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, WE HAVE A NAME! I think we may have received a winning suggestion for a name for our project to translate weekly selections from the English-language blogosphere into Arabic and Farsi. So our friends, please say hello to the Ibn Khaldun Project! For those of you who aren't familiar with his work, Ibn Khaldun was a brilliant and incisive fourteenth-century traveller and scholar, who translated the outside world and its political dynamics for an audience of his countrymen. His Kitab al-l'bar was a masterful rendition of the history of every empire and people known to medieval Islamic civilisation, and his ponderous Muqaddimah revolutionised medieval historiography by searching for economic, sociological, geographical, and psychological factors underlaying the rise, evolution, and decline of states - it has in many ways been judged the superior by scholars of the Italian Renaissance's Prince. So in naming our project the Ibn Khaldun Project, we are trying to live up to his legacy of bringing the Western and Middle Eastern worlds into productive dialogue with each other, and to make legible to audiences in the Middle East the varieties of opinion and political conversations to be found in the English-speaking world.

We've also gratefully got our first handful of volunteers - Arabic and Farsi speakers, as well as expert computer hands. We can always make use of the efforts of more, and we will look forward to making this project worthy of its namesake!

(SIDENOTE: It's also an acronym, incidentally - "I" stands for internet, and "bn Khaldun," well, we won't get into that for considerations of space....)
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# Posted 7:01 AM by Patrick Belton  

WAITING FOR BOUDREAUX: Glenn links yesterday to the ongoing investigation into a photograph - correctly publicised by CAIR - in which a Louisiana reservist poses with two smiling Iraqi children who are holding a sign which appears to read "Lcpl. Boudreaux killed my dad then he knocked up my sister." What's interesting in this whole matter - apart from the fact that CAIR staffer Ibrahim Hooper comes off as the most sensible person in the whole saga ("My assumption has always been these things didn't happen, and in fact I doubt there's any girl at all") - is the as-yet unresolved question as to whether the text on the sign was just photoshopped in the first place. Museum of Hoaxes tracks the image through its different permutations- which include a 'Lcpl Boudreaux saved my dad then he rescued my sister', a boring blank piece of cardboard, and the inevitable odd spoofs, some of which involve Teletubbies. Purely as a technical question, I'm curious whether any of our readers might have any idea about how to tell which among these different versions is a genuine photograph rather than a doctored one? To my untrained eye, the text looks equally fishy in the "shagged my sister" as in the "saved my sister" shot. But I wouldn't want to bet the ranch on it. (And no, that's not really my ranch.)

Also, just as an incidental sidenote, I've as yet only seen Teletubbies in Serbo-Croatian, which I've got to say didn't really help to reduce the oddness of the series for me.

UPDATE: We've got, ahem, fans.
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# Posted 6:25 AM by Patrick Belton  

MODERN-DAY ENGLAND IN A NUTSHELL: Thus Education Secretary Charles Clarke:
"There is no point having improving GCSE results and higher education participation rising towards 50% if there remains a huge chunk in the middle that continue to drop out and enter into a cycle of continuous low paid work or unemployment."
While I'm hardly a Nietzschean in matters of education policy, it seems to me there actually is indeed some point in raising test scores and the number of people going to university, even holding for the moment constant the number of students dropping out of secondary school. This might be true, for instance, even if it were motivated only by Rawls's Difference Principle, and a desire to create a larger reservoir of income with which to drive a more robust social welfare state. But such ideas are coming to be seen as terribly out of fashion in an England which would rather condemn its principal research universities to slightly-below-European-level mediocrity than subject itself to criticism for pursuing any goal other than (or even together with) utter levelling equality, or allowing any inequality irrespective of how meritocratically attained or useful for the society as a whole.
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Sunday, April 18, 2004

# Posted 9:25 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BLOGGER-CON II, CONT'D: (Click here for Part I) Before letting you in on the secrets of how to blog for profit, I thought I'd let you know that Tara from Liloia.com has put up a comprehensive set of links to posts about Blogger-Con II. As you might guess, it's hard to think of an event that could possibly get more blog-love than a convention of bloggers. Anyhow...

There are a lot of different ways to blog for profit, and Jeff Jarvis has put up a rough list of them here. Even though I've never had much interest in figuring out ways to make money off of blogging, I've noticed that more and more of my favorite blogs have started to put up ads.

Sometimes, you just don't have a choice. As Kevin Drum mentioned when we met up last December, the cost of bandwidth for a popular site can add up to thousands of dollars per year. In other words, Kevin basically had the choice of paying out of his own pocket to give readers access to his site or, instead, selling ads to cover the cost. As Kevin found out, a site as popular as his can easily earn back five or six times in ad revenues what it lays out for bandwidth.

One of things I'm curious about is how many hits per day a site has to have before BlogAds will take it on as a client. I'm also sort of curious about the maximum amount someone can make off selling-ads. The BlogAds site says it has clients making up to $1500 a month. Is that a reference to Glenn Reynolds? Or will he break that ceiling wide open?

Anyhow, I don't think I'm doing a very good job of conveying the substance of Jeff's session. Frankly, a lot of the business talk passed me by because I don't have any sort of framework to plug it into. What definitely was both interesting and relevant was when Jeff polled the audience to find out what are the most important challenges facing the blogging industry.

The top two answers, far and away, were: 1) A blogging industry trade association and 2) Reliable demographic information about blog readers. A trade association is necessary to set standards as well as deal with collective welfare issues such as legal concerns, lobbying and insurance. Reliable stats are critical to turning profits because it is very hard to sell ads or product without a reliable way to quantify the target audience.

While blog audiences are small compared to big media, my suspicion is that our demographics are extremely impressive in terms of education, income and geographical distribution. But you can't sell a suspicion. The challenge then becomes how you get a representative sample of readers to provide information about themselves.

The technical folks at Jeff's session seemed to be in agreement that measuring internet traffic is a very, very hard thing to do. Why is that so? You probably know more about it than I do. But I wonder if there are solutions to this problem already out there. After all, the NYT and WaPo have a strong incentive to get demographic information about their readers. Whatever methods they use should have some applicability on a smaller scale as well. Or not. After all, what do I know?

In closing, I think that Jeff's standing-room only audience felt that his session was a big, big success. The participants were very excited about sharing their ideas and actually seemed very excited just about being together and sharing the hope of turning blogging into a major industry. I hope they're right about that. I could use the cash!

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# Posted 6:16 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HAS ISRAEL WON ON THE BATTLEFIELD? It looks like Oxblog underestimated the NYT. Right now, the lead story on its website is an excellent article by Greg Myre which reports (argues) that Hamas may simply not be able to follow through on its threat to retatiate for the death of Abdelaziz Rantisi.

In March 2002 alone, 16 suicide bombers struck Israeli citizens. In 2002 as a whole, there were fifty attacks. In 2003, there were twenty. So far this year there have been six, including a recent attack that only killed one border guard.

While Myre doesn't come out and say so directly, this trend may reflect an extraordinary vindication of Sharon's strategy of crushing terrorism with overwhelming force. I have to admit, I never really thought it was possible. Much as I resented the media's kneejerk condemnations of Sharon, I never really liked him either and never thought Hamas or Fatah could be beaten on the battlefield. Their popular support and organization resources were simply too deep.

But, hey, I've been wrong before. And I may be wrong now. The current setbacks for Hamas and Fatah may only be temporary. Of course, I hope not.
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# Posted 6:03 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHO KILLS AMERICAN SOLDIERS? Ten more soldiers lost their lives today during combat in Iraq. What I can't tell from the news coverage, however, is whether they are dying in battle against Ba'athist insurgents or against the Sadr militia. In fact, that distincation has almost never been made since the double insurgency broke out two weeks ago.

Based on where most American soldiers seem to have been killed, it looks like the Ba'athists and not the Sadrists have been responsible. But what is the significance of that fact? Are Sadr's men simply less proficient in combat? Are they less willing to die? Or is level of hostilities between Coalition forces and the Sadr militia simply not as serious?

Unfortunately, I don't have an answer to any of these questions. But my instinct says that our conflict with Sadr is very different from our war against the Ba'athists because Sadr and his men are not dead-enders with nothing to lose, but political operatives looking to establish themselves in the new Iraq.
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# Posted 5:55 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SPAIN TO WITHDRAW: Even if Zapatero had some reservations about pulling out of Iraq after the Madrid bombing, there is no way that he could break his most important campaign promise. What Spain should do, however, is demonstrate its commitment to the War on Terror and refusal to compromise with Al Qaeda by sending two troops to Afghanistan for every one it pulls out of Iraq.
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# Posted 8:13 AM by Patrick Belton  

DEMOCRACY IN THE WORLD THIS WEEK: Here's a quick round-up of democratization related stories that were in the headlines this week: (We also contributed brief posts on South African and Algerian elections over at Winds of Change, if you're interested...)

• Burmese democratic activists released: National League for Democracy chairman Aung Shwe and party secretary U Lwin were freed Tuesday by the country’s ruling junta after nearly a year under house arrest. With their release, Aung San Suu Kyi and her vice president Tin Oo remain as the last senior NLD officials in confinement. Yangon-based observers tell the press there is widespread expectation that Suu Kyi will be released shortly, most likely before the junta holds a convention on May 17 to court international support by touting its seven-point “road map to democracy,” which it claims will end with free and fair elections. Suu Kyi’s decision will then be whether to participate in - and lend legitimacy to - the junta’s multiparty conference, after having led the NLD to resounding victory in the country’s last election.

• In Iran, President Mohammad Khatami formally withdrew two key reform bills this week which had passed the country’s parliament last year, in a sign of the utter collapse of Iran’s reform movement within the country’s political system. At the same time, Tehran prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi - who was behind the closure of about one hundred pro-democratic publications in the run-up to elections - was publicly honoured as the "best manager" in the Iranian judiciary. The two withdrawn bills had each been vetoed last year by the Guardian Council; one would have increased presidential powers against the clerical Guardian and Expedience Councils, while the other would have barred the Guardian Council from disqualifying parliamentary and presidential candidates.

• In Nepal, thousands of people have taken to the streets in the last several weeks urging King Gyanendra to initiate democratic reforms. Gyanendra said last month that he hoped to hold elections by April next year, but left ample room to delay them past that date based on a lack of security. The country has been in the grip of a Maoist insurgency since 1996, with 9,300 people having died in fighting between Maoist and government forces. In 2002, Gyanendra dismissed the country’s prime minister for failing adequately to contain the insurgency, and used the occasion to postpone indefinitely elections which had been scheduled for November of that year. Over the past two weeks, more than one thousand people have been detained for taking part in demonstrations against the King, which are officially illegal.

• A Congress of Democrats from the Islamic World opened Tuesday amidst warnings from Turkey and Jordan that political reforms must not be imposed by outside powers. Separately, Egypt’s President Mubarak visited President Bush at his Crawford, Texas ranch, where the U.S. president lavished praise on him for having hosted a conference of Arab civil society representatives who met at the Alexandria Library in March.

• South Korea voted for its National Assembly this week under the shadow of presidential impeachment. Polls favored President Roh Moo-hyun’s Uri party, which campaigned on a government reform platform, and benefitted from a backlash against the conservative Grand National Party after it drove impeachment through the legislature.
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# Posted 2:39 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

JAILHOUSE BLOG: At the conference today, someone said that there aren't any bloggers working out of jail cells. It turns out there are.
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# Posted 1:56 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BLOGGER-CON II: It's the Mecca of the blogosphere. More than 200 bloggers gathered together not just in real time, but in real space. Their purpose? To advance the state of the art. To navel-gaze with unprecedented commitment. To consume bandwidth with unmatched ferocity. To have a damn good time.

Sessions at BCII included everything from discussions of international blogging to personal television networks to blogging and religion. The sessions I attended were the prolific Michael Watkins' discussion of academic blogging and the illustrious Jeff Jarvis' workshop on blogging for profit. And no description of BC II (or for that matter, BC I) would be complete if you didn't mention the man responsible for it all, Dave Winer. Go Dave!

A professor at Harvard Business School (HBS), Michael opened up his session by existing whether universities still have a right to exits. After all, aren't there much more efficient ways to accomplish the conflicting objectives of teaching students, conducting research and certifying professionals? In spite of universities' self-image as the home of free think and the free exchange of ideas, doesn't the inflexible academic hierarchy unsure that the most innovative ideas are the ones least likely to be pursued? And finally, can the blogosphere save the university from itself?

The question that clearly preoccupied the participants in Michael's was whether and how blogs have the potential to subvert the informal mechanisms of control that limit academic freedom. Michael's personal experience is quite relevant on this front since he used his weblog, World Events on Weekdays, to challenge HBS when it denied him tenure. Michael's case is exceptional, however, in that his outstanding achievements as an author -- writing six books in five years and selling 50,000 copies of the most recent one -- have prevented him from becoming dependent on the academy for employment.

However, there are compelling examples of rank-and-file academics who have challenged the authorities within their discipline. As one anthropologist related, there was recently a case in which his discipline's governing body responded to a major academic scandal by appointing a rather lax investigative committee. Yet to the committee's surprise, rank-and-file anthropologists chose to post the early drafts of its report in an online forum and deconstruct the report in considerable detail. As a result, the committee was forced to take its job seriously and confront the scandal head-on.

In addition to institutions, individuals can also become the targets of the blogosphere. As one participant asked Prof. Watkins, how would he feel if his students set up weblogs devoted to the in-depth critique of all of his lectures? Now, that was a softball question for self-avowed subversive like Michael. But what if other professors suddenly found themselves the subject of online forums? What about elementary or high school teachers? Although often unstated, there is a powerful academic norm which says that what is said in the classroom stays in the classroom.

But why should that be the case? With some justification, teachers are often concerned that public pressures will get in the way of academic freedom. Yet at the same time, blogs might offer unprecedented opportunities for students, parents and concerned others to become involved in the educational process. Similar concerns about the vulgarity of popular taste often lead professors to treat the blogosphere as a means of communication that is beneath them. Online, they can't rely on the protection provided by membership on the faculty of an august university or publication in a prestigious academic journal. In the blogosphere, some punk kid might turn out to know more than the supposed experts and proceed to embarrass them quite thoroughly.

Of course, blogging isn't the only medium that professors avoid because it is beneath them. As two professors of marketing related, many of their colleagues refuse to watch television and fail to recognize how ironic it is that supposed experts in marketing are totally unfamiliar with the most important medium for advertising today.

Even in a post of this length, it is hard to cover all of the issues and illustrative examples that participants shared in the course of Michael's session. Thus, the last thing I'd like to focus on is what wasn't said this afternoon. While talking to a former CNN correspondent at the reception that followed the conference, I mentioned that Michael had begun the session by asking whether academics do anything that is relevant to the real world. Instead of addressing that question, however, the participants mostly decided to talk about themselves. Typical, she said. Academics more concerned with what goes on inside the ivory tower than outside of it.

While that brief exchange didn't do justice to a very thoughtful session, I think it is fair to say that we never looked back after wading into the bog of academic politics. As someone who rails prolifically against the irrelevance of political science to actual politics, I would have been glad to talk about whether blogging may help make scholarship more relevant. Then again, this discussion was just a first. It is the foundation for discussions to come, not the final word on the subject.

Coming soon: Jeff Jarvis on blogging for profit.
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# Posted 1:38 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SUPPORT OUR TROOPS: Learn more about the innovative ways in which bloggers are working with American soldiers to make Iraq a better place.
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# Posted 1:34 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE MAN BEHIND 'WINDS OF CHANGE': Who is Joe Katzman? Follow the link and find out more about the man who created what may be the most impressive collection of foreign affairs experts in the blogosphere.
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Saturday, April 17, 2004

# Posted 7:47 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HAMAS LEADER SLAIN (YES, AGAIN): Last night, an Israeli missile strike took the life of Abdelaziz Rantisi, the leader of Hamas. I don't think anyone is going to miss Rantisi, who was a hardened terrorist devoted to the total destruction of the State of Israel. But was this a good time for Israel to lash out at Hamas? Will Hamas respond with a wave of suicide bombings?

These are, of course, the exact same questions that we all asked one month ago when Israeli missiles ended the life of Sheikh Ahmad Yassin. Back then, the NYT wrote that
Hamas will now redouble its efforts to send human torpedos into Israel. The Palestinian Authority will be even less inclined to confront terrorists in its midst and less able to coax Hamas into observing a cease-fire.
At the time, OxBlog shared the expecation that Hamas would hit back hard, but despondently observed that
After all, what is the difference if the bombers detonate themselves this week in honor of Yassin rather than next week in honor of someone else?
Well, as it turns out, OxBlog was wrong. Neither Hamas nor Fatah was able to retaliate with a major strike. My guess is that this kind of failure on their part only encouraged the Israelis to follow through on their plans for more targeted killings. Moreover, the targeted killings certainly didn't deter the Bush administratrion from coming out strongly in favor of Sharon's Gaza withdrawal plan.

What all this adds up to, I guess, is a strong incentive for Israel to continue with the targeted killings. Not a pleasant thought, but with no prospects for a negotiated settlement, violence is all that we can really expect. I'm also going to guess that most of the American media will raise the same objections to the killings that they did the last time around. But if neither Bush nor Sharon listened then, why listen now?
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# Posted 7:04 PM by Patrick Belton  

104 YEAR OLD PROFESSOR RETIRES: At the rate I'm writing my thesis, I'll need an academic career roughly that long myself....
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# Posted 3:54 PM by Patrick Belton  

TODAY'S MUST-READ: Namely, TNR's Michael Crowley writing in Slate on the seven different factions vying for control of the Kerry campaign. Apart from the less interesting dueling-operatives jousting between Boston and Washington, the interesting policy fights are being fought between DLC hawkish centrists on the one hand (Bruce Reed, Gene Sperling, Richard Altman, Sarah Bianchi, Jamie Rubin) and fiery leftish populists drafted on a TDY basis out of Senator Kennedy's office (Bob Shrum, Mary Beth Cahill, Stephanie Cutter) and dovish Vietnam veterans (Tom Vallely, Chris Gregory, John Hurley) on the other, who respectively crave more class warfare and anti-war soundings out of the campaign. Interesting and useful analysis - and may the DLC folk win!

UPDATE: Matt has a different reading of Crowley's piece, and thinks Crowley's light tone extends both to his analysis as well as his presentation, as well as that the DLC faction (note to self: think up witty factional nicknames before end of campaign. then go back and put them here. result = really funny!) is running the more important policy shop rather than menial matters of political strategy. Matt's interesting as always, but I'm not sure I'm convinced yet. First, I think Crowley's analysis, as opposed to his metaphor of tribes and warlords, is meant to be fairly much taken at face value, but I guess in the final instance we could always just ask Crowley which of us is right. (Although Barthes might be grumpy.) Second, Mary Beth Cahill, a Kennedy office alumna, is Kerry's campaign manager, which seems like a more ponderous position to affect policy than from the issues staff. And incidentally, about the relationship of speechwriting to policies, there's actually an awfully interesting piece about how rhetoric can trap policymakers in being better than their intentions by some pundit daring to commit actual scholarship under the diabolically ingenious nom de plume of Adesnik.
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# Posted 2:57 PM by Patrick Belton  

NEW WEBSITE: I've noticed that we get a really remarkable number of hits (and will get even more after this post, in all likelihood) from people googling "Dearborn (/Oxford / Washington / Kabul / Baghdad - hey, you're an adventuresome bunch) Massage Parlours," "Arabic gay sex pics," and even some really interesting combinations of Bush administration foreign policy statesmen (and women) and the former. This probably reflects the principal usages of the internet at this point in history (59% pornography, 31% Nigerian diamonds and Viagra sales, 10% email and e-commerce). In the past, I've tended to just say "welcome, gentlemen, and you can leave your trenchcoats by the door." But my current idea is that, if our dissertations don't come through in the end, we could always just spin out a companion website, OxxxBlog.

Second, we've been talking with friends in the democracy-promotion community about our idea to get funding to translate a weekly "best of blogs" round-up into Arabic and Farsi, with a scrupulously balanced representation each week of centre-left to centre-right blogs from the US and abroad. I have to admit, though, I still haven't figured out a cool title for the project. I've been thinking "Internet (something something) Project," where the middle bit has something to do with electronic political media, and perhaps the Middle East, but just neater-sounding. Any ideas?
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Friday, April 16, 2004

# Posted 8:17 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NRO VS. THE NEO-CONS: The National Review have some sharp words for the Bush administration regarding its conduct of the occupation. But sharp or not, I think that NRO's criticisms are basically fair. (Thanks to JM for the link.)

Where NRO gets things wrong is when it tries to blame everything that's gone wrong on the Wilsonian neo-cons in the administration. Strangely, none of these supposed neo-cons gets mentioned by name. And in fact, the mistakes that NRO mentions were just as much (if not moreso) the fault of NRO-style conservatives like Rumsfeld, Cheney and Rice as they were of Weekly Standard readers like Wolfowitz.

Of course the real culprit here is George W. Bush. No one has done more to push a Wilsonian agenda for Iraq than the President himself. Judging from their public statements, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Rice and Powell have only gone along with the President because they have no choice. Yet the NRO is afraid to point its finger at Bush because what they're trying to do is get Bush to stop pushing the neo-con agenda. But perhaps the NRO should recognize -- as most of Bush's other critics have -- that he actually means what he says.
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# Posted 6:54 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

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# Posted 6:45 PM by Patrick Belton  

CAN YOU SMOKE IN THE UN CAFETARIA? According to this article, no - but New York cops can't stop you. Under the 1947 headquarters agreement (the article gets the year wrong), unless explicitly stated otherwise in the agreement, the federal, state, and city laws that apply to the rest of New York also apply to the Headquarters District - but American police officials can't enter the UN to enforce them. (An exception is that they can enter on the Secretary-General's invitation, which is contemplated in emergency situations to maintain law and order within the district).

So you can smoke a camel with your coffee, or even a Cuban in the cafeteria, there on the East River? If you're okay with violating unenforceable New York City regulations, well, sure - assuming the UN hasn't enacted a law for the Headquarters District. And in fact, Secretary General Annan tried to do so by decretal authority, but diplomats accredited to the United Nations protested that only the General Assembly had lawmaking competence for the Headquarters District. Indeed, the current, though disputed, dominant sense does seem to be that only the General Assembly, and not Secretary-General Annan, could outlaw cigarettes within the Secretariat building - and given how difficult it is to get the General Assembly to do anything, you can probably rest assured in the confidence that at the UN for a long while you will be able to smoke your stogies to your heart's content.
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# Posted 6:42 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHEN IT RAINES, IT POURS: Rob Tagorda isn't so sure that Frank Raines would make a good running mate for Kerry. Nor is Rob all that happy with what Kerry's saying about Iraq or about the economy. But as Rob reminds us, there is always another Senator from Massachusetts who could be President...
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# Posted 6:30 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A WALK DOWN MEMORY LANE: Dan Drezner links to his April 2003 review of what the anti-war crowd got right and what they got wrong about the war. I'd say that the passage of time has only made Dan's post look even more insightful than it was 12 months ago.

Dan has also some very good posts up on US-China trade relations and the comparative efficiency of knowledge-based economies. While the talking heads may be wringing their hands about outsourcing and the loss of high-tech jobs, the numbers say that America is doing just fine.
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# Posted 6:17 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NEGATIVE CAMPAIGNING: Attack ads will never be the same.
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# Posted 1:53 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IGNORE THE HEADLINES: "Bush Planned For War as Diplomacy Continued" blares the WaPo. "Book Alleges Secret Iraq War Plan" says the NYT/AP. The existence of such a plan is one conclusion of Bob Woodward's new book on the invasion of Iraq. But the book also has something quite interesting to say about the phantom WMD:
Bush wanted someone with Powell's credibility to present the evidence that Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction -- a case the president had initially found less than convincing when presented to him by CIA deputy director John McLaughlin at a White House meeting on December 21, 2002.

McLaughlin's version used communications intercepts, satellite photos, diagrams and other intelligence. "Nice try," Bush said when he was finished, according to the book. "I don't think this quite -- it's not something that Joe Public would understand or would gain a lot of confidence from."

He then turned to Tenet, McLaughlin's boss and said, "I've been told all this intelligence about having WMD and this is the best we've got?"

"It's a slam dunk case," Tenet replied, throwing his arms in the air. Bush pressed him again. "George, how confident are you."

"Don't worry, it's a slam dunk case," Tenet repeated.

Tenet later told associates he realized he should have said the evidence on weapons was not ironclad, according to Woodward.
Woodward could be wrong about all of this. Critics often assert that he gets access to top officials because they know that he will write what they want to hear. But let's say Woodward got this exchange between Bush and Tenet right. Shouldn't the WaPo headline have read: "Bush Never Lied About WMD"?
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# Posted 9:05 AM by Patrick Belton  

LONDON RESTAURANT REVIEW OF THE DAY: From OxBlog's Afghanistan correspondent (who's, disconcertingly, in Oxford; we're shooing back to Afghanistan, where he's supposed to be):
We all went out in the evening to Montuno's, a good restaurant (serving ostrich and alligator) in a dodgy East London neighborhood. It had a 1920s Prohibition theme that didn't quite come off (all the waiters were wearing black suits and fedoras, and looked more like Lubavitchers than Capone boys).

# Posted 6:49 AM by Patrick Belton  

TWO MATURIN QUOTATIONS: After coming back from a surprise birthday party that Josh and I, and a handful of our Oxford friends, threw for Rachel last night, I laid in bed for a bit with my moment's Patrick O'Brian novel, HMS Surprise, and ran across two passages which I wanted to share with our readers:
'Even more painful than the fact that my let us call it interrogation was carried out by the French, the nation I love best.'

'What civilised man does not? Their rulers, politicians, revolutions set apart, and this horrible engouement for Bonaparte.'

'Bonden,' cried Stephen, 'take pen and ink, and write-'
'Write, sir?' cried Bonden.
'Yes. Sit square to your paper, and write: Landsdowne Crescent - Barret Bonden, are you brought by the lee??'
'Why, yes, sir; that I am - fair broached-to. Though I can read pretty quick, if in broad print; I can make out a watch-bill.'
'Never mind. I shall show you the way of it when we are at sea, however; it is no great matter - look at the fools who write all day long.'
Just as a sidenote, I was still thinking about the first passage as I was about to wake up this morning, and while I was in the midst of dreaming of a very intense older woman who had been recounting to me how, as a member of the Free French in June 1940, she had broadcast the rally to occupied France: "Vous, vous, vous, vous, vous, vous, vous maintenant devez agir de défendre votre patrie. Vous, vous, vous, vous, vous, vous, vous devez soutenir vos voisins et vos familles. Vous, vous, vous, vous, vous, vous, vous vous devez prouver aujourd'hui que vous êtes digne fils de la France." I quickly woke up to realise the pigeons had begun their broadcast of "ooo, ooo, ooo, ooo" from outside my window, as they do dutifully each morning from 6 am until the broadcast day ends around dinner-time, occasionally later.

PS: And incidentally, I couldn't agree more wholeheartedly with David's sterling taste in the blogosphere's best exemplars, as reflected in the post immediately below!
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# Posted 1:52 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A LESSON IN CIVICS: Kevin Drum has made a point of apologizing for his derisive and unfair comments about the quality of the CIA's prose. It was not a major point and Kevin clearly had the option of saying nothing and letting his readers forget about it.

In fact, Kevin had already put up one post acknowledging that Patrick's praise for the CIA's work may have been more valid than his (Kevin's) initial criticism. The fact that Kevin has continued to post additional corrections is yet another illustration of Kevin's commitment both to civility in public discourse and to putting the truth ahead of personal interests.

A damn fine blog and a damn fine blogger.
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# Posted 1:31 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A SOLDIER'S SACRIFICE: A meditation on the human costs of war.
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# Posted 1:26 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IRAQ ISN'T VIETNAM -- IT'S WORSE: So says Krugman. Unsurprisingly, Krauthammer disagrees. While some may find it disturbing that critics of the occupation have resorted to the language of Vietnam so quickly, I am actually encouraged by it. Their cards are now on the table. Their reputation as analysts is now invested.

After one week of hard combat, the critics gave up on the occupation as lost. We heard that Sadr's militia represent the advance guard of a national Shi'ite revolt. We heard that Shi'ite and Sunnis were joining forces against the Americans. But now things are quieting down again.

To be sure, there is still no transition government to speak of. But the US seems to have built a good working relationship with the UN envoy to Iraq. What may emerge from that relationship is a government appointed by the UN but which will respect both American and Iraqi interests. With very mild justification, Kerry's partisans are now claiming that Bush is following Kerry's line on Iraq. Yet the Bush administration hasn't come close to the turning over the occupation to the UN in the way that Kerry and other Democrats have demanded. Rather, the administration has invited the UN to mediate critical disputes that the CPA couldn't handle by itself.

In the long run, the emergence of a healthy democracy in Iraq is still a longshot. But if the United States stays the course, it can shift the odds in democracy's favor.
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# Posted 12:53 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SUDDENLY BIN LADEN'S A GENIUS: This is how the WaPo opens its analysis of Bin Laden's latest offer:
Osama bin Laden's psychological operations campaign against the United States took a surprising turn yesterday with the release of an audio message that is modern, tactical and nearly diplomatic in tone, and that addresses Europeans rather than Muslim devotees, counterterrorism experts and intelligence officials said.

In doing so, experts who have analyzed his previous audiotapes and videotapes said bin Laden is employing a powerful weapon in psychological warfare: an adaptable propaganda machine that understands the nature of Western democracies, seeks to exploit political dissent and knows how to disseminate its message worldwide without being caught.
That is patently ridiculous. Is it "modern, tactical and nearly diplomatic" to tell Europeans that Bin Laden will stop murdering their fellow citizens if they surrender completely to his demands? If Bin Laden "understands the nature of Western democracies" why has every European government rejected the prospect of negotiating with Al Qaeda as unconscionable? Here's a sample of what Europe has to say:
"There cannot be negotiations with terrorists and criminals like Osama bin Laden," a German government spokesman said. "The community of nations must continue the fight against international terrorism, and Germany will continue to contribute to that fight."

Miguel ?ngel Moratinos, the new foreign minister of Spain, said Spain would not negotiate with Mr. bin Laden. "Bin Laden is the enemy of all of us who seek peace, democracy and freedom," Mr. Moratinos said. "Therefore we must not listen to him or pay attention to him."

The Italian foreign minister, Franco Frattini, said, "It is unthinkable that we may open a negotiation with bin Laden."
It should come as absolutely no surprise that Europe responded to Bin Laden with such united and unequivocal condemnation. No matter how controversial the war in Iraq has become, Europeans share our fundamental conviction that terror is beyond the pale. Rather than dividing Europe from the United States, Bin Laden has only succeeded in reminding us of the moral foundation on which our alliance rests.
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Thursday, April 15, 2004

# Posted 6:26 PM by Patrick Belton  

NEW ARAB REFORM BULLETIN: Carnegie releases these every month, courtesy of Yalie Arabist Amy Hawthorne, and they're always worth reading. In this month's issue, the Congressional Research Service's Kenneth Katzman says that the bulk of Iraq's Shi'i are quite moderate, CFR Next Generation Fellow Steven Cook writes that Algeria's elections were only democratic by Arab standards (why? because the military played a role in keeping the state secular, and sidelining Islamist parties...), and other pieces on Europe's response to the Greater Middle East Initiative, the role of Arab media in US reform efforts, and speculation as to the ultimate cause of the collapse of the Tunisia summit.
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# Posted 1:10 PM by Patrick Belton  

EURASIANET ON US-UZBEK RELATIONSHIP: There generally isn't a lot of good analytical coverage of Uzbekistan and the rest of Central Asia, but Ariel Cohen offers a good piece in which he reports that the administration isn't planning to alter its relationship with Karimov in light of the explosion of terrorism in his country which occurred this month, and reports official scepticism that the violence was a result of Karimov's authoritarianism.
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# Posted 1:07 PM by Patrick Belton  

AMERICA IN OPEC? On an APSA listserv which I take part in, Connecticut government professor Tristan Borer poses the interesting international law question of whether, as an occupying power exercising Iraq's sovereignty, the US is therefore currently a member of OPEC.
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# Posted 12:56 PM by Patrick Belton  

MARINES FOR IRAQI LOCAL TV: Jim Hake and a group of Marines (see synonyms) have just begun a project to set up a network of low-powered local television stations in Iraq, which will be manned by Iraqis, and will report on local news - and particularly on things that are going on in parts of Iraq where there are no explosions, fires, bodies, or mainstream media coverage. There's more on the project's website. This sounds to be a wonderfully thought out and useful project, and definitely deserves any support people feel able to give it.
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# Posted 6:04 AM by Patrick Belton  

A VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO OUR FOREMOST READER, AND MY BELOVED WIFE: To Rachel, with many happy returns of the day, from the three of us....
First sight. First snapshot isolated
Unalterable, stilled in the camera's glare.
Than you ever were again.
Swaying so slender
It seemed your long, perfect, American legs
Simply went on up.
That flaring hand,
Those long, balletic, monkey-elegant fingers.
And the face - a tight ball of joy.
I see you there, clearer, more real Than in any of the years in its shadow - As if I saw you that once, then never again.
Ted Hughes, "St. Botolph's," Birthday Letters (about his first meeting Sylvia Plath at Cambridge in 1956)
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Wednesday, April 14, 2004

# Posted 10:17 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHAT'S NEW HERE, EXACTLY? No question about it, this morning's Bush-Sharon press-conference is the top story of the day. But why, exactly? If you get your news from the WaPo or NYT, the answer to that question is far from self-evident. Both papers' headlines focus on Bush's support for Sharon's plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip unilaterally. So? Why does Sharon need Bush's support to make concessions to the Palestinians? Halfway through its cover story, the NYT provides a cryptic answer to that question:
The United States' support is expected to strengthen [Sharon] at home, and help him push his disengagement proposal through a binding vote by his Likud party on May 2.
Those familiar with the details of the peace process will recognize that the May 2 vote represents an effort by Sharon to overcome the opposition of Likud hard-liners to making any sort of unilateral concessions to the Palestinians. In other words, Sharon is investing a good amount of political capital in an effort to give up land to the Palestinians and Bush is investing political capital in an effort to support Sharon.

Of course, casual readers of the NYT would have a hard time figuring out that that is what they President and the Prime Minister are trying to do. Readers of the WaPo wouldn't have any idea at all about what's going on, since the WaPo cover story doesn't even mention the May 2 vote.

Now, if you focus on the text of the NYT and WaPo articles rather than the headlines, you get a better idea of the point that those papers' correspondents are trying to make. The first sentence in the Times tells its readers that
President Bush, in a significant shift in American policy, told Prime Minister Ariel Sharon today that the United States would not object if Israel retained some West Bank settlements under a future peace accord.
According to the second paragraph in the WaPo's version of the story,
In an appearance with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and in an exchange of letters to be made public later today, Bush accepted essentially all of what the Israeli leader had sought. The move substantially changes U.S. policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, softening the American objection to Israel's settlements and dropping a reluctance to dictate terms of a final peace settlement.
In other words, today's big story is that Bush is damaging the peace process by publicly endorsing -- for the first time ever -- the most unreasonable of Israeli demands. In case this message wasn't clear, the NYT reports that
The [American] announcement seemed sure to anger many Arabs and Muslims, many of them already deeply resentful of the United States occupation of Iraq. [If I were less generous, I might describe this reference to Iraq as entirely gratuitous. --ed.]

Ahmed Qurei, the Palestinian prime minister, issued a powerful denunciation, saying, according to Reuters, "Bush is the first U.S. president to give legitimacy to Jewish settlements on Palestinian land. We reject this."

Earlier today, anticipating the administration's action, Yasir Arafat, the Palestinian leader, said in a statement that such an accord "means clearly the complete end of the peace process."
That's funny. I thought that the "complete end of the peace process" was when Arafat walked away from the negotiations at Taba in December 2000 and ordered a merciless assault on Israeli civilians that continues to this day. Now, given that both the NYT and WaPo describe Bush's new position on the peace process as a major innovation, you'd think that they would at least have the decency to compare his position with the one that Clinton endorsed at Taba. After all, how else can you figure out what's changed?

Well, FYI, Arafat walked away from Taba because neither Clinton nor Barak considered the Palestinians' Right of Return to be legitimate. The bottom line is that letting millions of Palestinians settle inside the Green Line is an invitation to civil war. Clinton and Barak also negotiated some marginal territorial concessions in order to bring as many Israeli settlers as possible inside the boundaries of Israel proper. Nonetheless, Clinton and Barak offered Arafat more than 90% of the occupied territories as a Palestinian state. As the NYT correctly states halfway through its coverage, Bush's position represents a
Clear shift from a longtime United States position that issues such as borders, the "right of return" for refugees and the status of Jerusalem be resolved in final-status talks.
In other words, what's changed isn't the substance of the American position but the articulation of it. But when it comes to diplomacy, articulation matters. That's why today's announcement really is a big story. By staking out a clear position in advance of final-status talks, Bush is essentially saying that important aspects of Israel's demands are simply non-negotiable. If the Palestinians negotiators accept those demands, they will now come across as giving in to American pressure rather than compromising in the name of peace. Thus, if you think that only a negotiated accord can end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, then Bush and Sharon really have thrown a wrench in the works. Clearly, that is the premise on which the NYT and WaPo correspondents are operating.

But there is another premise out there which also deserves a fair hearing: that a negotiated settlement is no longer possible and that Israel simply has to find the best way to let go of the occupied territories. That is why Sharon wants to pull out of Gaza. That is why he is building a massive wall to separate Israel from the West Bank. While one can argue that good fences don't make good neighbors, a strong majority of Israeli voters have taken Sharon's side on this one. Interestingly, Bush said that
the security fence Israel is erecting to separate part of the Palestinian territories "should be temporary rather than permanent, and therefore not prejudice any final status issues, including final borders."
In other words, Bush has no intention of letting Sharon use the wall to define the borders of a future Palestinian state. That message doesn't really come across in either the NYT or WaPo, which both cite Bush's statement but don't explain its significance. In fact, the WaPo follows it up by writing that
Bush's stance in favor of Sharon's policy of "disengagement" and promise that Israel need not return to its pre-1967 borders has the potential to further inflame relations between the United States and the Arab world. Although Arab states are opposed to the security fence, they have urged Bush not to allow Israel to use its unilateral withdrawal from Gaza to mean that it will keep its position in the West Bank.
That last sentence makes it seem that Bush actually is going to let Sharon use the wall to draw Palestine's broders. What it would be fair to say is that even if Bush describes the wall as temporary, what difference does that make if there is no prospect for peace talks that would enable Israel to remove the wall? Thus, I am very concerned that Bush has given Sharon an implicit green light to force an unfair settlement on the Palestinians.

As this excellent article in Foreign Affairs [subscription required] points out, there are multiple paths that the security wall might take. Some of them bring an overwhelming majority of the settlers into Israel proper without expropriating more than a small amount of Palestinian land. If such a path were followed, the wall would have the basic effect of imposing the Taba agreement on the Palestinians. However, there are Israeli hawks who want to use the wall to punish the Palestians by carving up their state and surrounding it with Israeli territory. That is a recipe for conflict and that is what the NYT and WaPo should be focusing on.
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# Posted 2:06 PM by Patrick Belton  

OPEN QUESTION FOR PEACE PROCESS JUNKIES IN THE AUDIENCE: Speaking today with Israeli PM Sharon, President Bush said "it seems clear" that Palestinians will have to give up the right of return in order to attain statehood. My question: have U.S. presidents addressed the right of return before in this way, or is this something more or less new in the history of American engagement in the peace process? I know Clinton suggested the Palestinians concede the right of return as part of a grand bargain, in exchange for East Jerusalem, or at least al-Haram al-Sharif (i.e., Temple Mount for Jews), but whereas that was a suggested exchange, this seems to me like a more a statement of a precondition. First answer that seems correct to me wins a falafel, but you have to come to Oxford for it.
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# Posted 1:33 PM by Patrick Belton  

BBC BAITING, BEATS BAITING BEARS, COMPANY: Scott Burgess from Daily Ablution emails to suggest that if we have any readers who aren't preoccupied with skateboarding dogs, then they might be interested in his recent posts on the BBC's rather cockamamie poll asking "Is the US a bigger threat than terror?" (and the Beeb's response), and on the striking difference between how the Beeb treats the Israeli and Palestinian foreign ministers - which you don't exactly have to be an ardent AIPAC member to find rather striking.

Of course, if you'd rather bait bears - well, it's a rather unpleasant thing to do, and you shouldn't. But if you'd be happy looking at fairly cute pictures of bears instead, then here are some. (OxBlog: little. cute. furry. Not to mention generally amusing or at least inoffensive.)
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# Posted 9:58 AM by Patrick Belton  

SO YOU CAN TEACH A DOG TO RIDE A SKATEBOARD. What I want to know is, can you get him to wear baggy pants and a backwards baseball cap?

ANSWER: I love our readers. Apparently you can...if he's a dog, inside a cartoon, inside a cartoon.

So my next question is, when can we look forward to replacing all the teenagers in Oxford city centre with cute puppies who can do the same job more cheaply and with fewer piercings?
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# Posted 1:10 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BLACKMAIL IS NOT ENOUGH: This evening, the Boston chapter of the Nathan Hale Society had the privilege of dining with Prof. Sung-Yoon Lee of the Fletcher School of Diplomacy at Tufts. Prof. Lee is an expert on Korean politics and history. The subject of our discussion was the North Korean nuclear program.

The analytical linchpin of Prof. Lee's approach to North Korean behavior is his conclusion that the Pyongyang dictatorship considers the possession of nuclear weapons to be the only reliable guarantor of its existence. In the absence of a nuclear deterrent, it would only be a matter of time before the South Korean government destroyed its Northern counterpart by tempting its citizens with the prospect of prosperity and freedom Thus, there is no reason whatsoever to believe that Kim Jong Il will accept the verifiable dismantling of his nuclear program in exchange for economic aid, international legitimacy, a non-aggression pact with the United States or some combination of all three. Immoral or not, giving in to blackmail simply won't work.

In other words, Prof. Lee vehemently disagrees with all those who believe that the United States can resolve its ongoing confrontation with North Korea by means of either bilateral or multilateral negotiations. Yet given that war is simply not an acceptable option, Prof. Lee has nothing against negotiation, since it can't make matters worse and -- given some extraordinary luck -- may result in a lessening of tensions.

In assessing the state of US-North Korean relations, Prof. Lee believes that both the Bush administration and its critics make the categorical mistake of interpreting North Korean behavior as a response to American initiatives rather than the imperatives of North Korean domestic politics. Coming from this perspective, Prof. Lee tends to believe that the Bush administration has been beset by critics who offer unrealistic alternatives because of their naivete about North Korean politics. Thus, with regard to the Bush administration's decision to confront the North Koreans in October 2002 with evidence of their illegal uranium enrichemnt program, Prof. Lee suggested that the temporary escalation of tensions was essentially insignificant given that North Korea constantly creates crises as a result of its own provocative behavior.

Turning southward, Prof. Lee expressed grave concerns about rising anti-American sentiment in South Korea. While describing himself as an ardent South Korean nationalist who puts the interests of his homeland above all else, Prof. Lee nonetheless argued that absolutely nothing is more critical to South Korean security than an unflinching American commitment to protect it from Northern aggression. Speaking historically, Prof. Lee observed that whereas Harry Truman went to war in 1950 in order to contain Communism and protect American interests, his decision had the unmistakable effect of liberating South Korea from Northern occupation and laying the foundations of the moderan South Korean state.

With no memories of the war to rely on, young South Koreans have forgotten the degree to which South Korean and American security are inextricably linked. Thus, young South Koreans' passionate desire for reunification with the North leads them to indefensible conclusion (expressed via opinion polls) that it is the United States, rather than North Korea, that is preventing reunification. What young South Koreans do remember is that in 1980, South Korea's military government slaughtered thousands of civilians in what became known as the Kwangju Massacre. While there is no question that the Carter administration supported the military government almost uncritically, many South Koreans believe that the United States actually played a direct role in the massacre, since the military government could not have transferred its soldiers from the northern border to the southern city of Kwangju without the direct authorization of hte United States. [Apparently South Koreans don't think highly enough of Jimmy Carter to believe that he would never do such a thing. --ed.]

In addition to his wariness of South Korean public opinion, Prof. Lee is fiercely critical of both the current administration of Roh Moo-Hyun as well as that of his predecessor Kim Dae Jung. One year ago, Prof. Lee wrote that
[South Korean] nationalism was a constructive force in resisting colonial oppression and in the staggering challenge of nation-building half a century ago. Today, in its virulent anti-US rhetoric and shockingly naive attachment to North Korea, it is simply self-defeating.
One example of naivete that Prof. Lee mentioned was the Kim and Roh governments' decision to all but abandon counter-espionage programs designed to protect the South from the vast network of covert operatives -- numbering in the thousands -- that North Korea continues to operate in the South. In fact, the North Korean commitment to espionage is so fanatical that drafts preadolescents into its espionage programs so that they can undergo decades of training and indoctrination before being deployed to the South.

In spite of this bleak assessment of North Korean motives, is there any hope for change in the near future? Prof. Lee says 'no'. At the moment, there are no indications of factionalization within the North Korean military and thus no known prospects for a coup d'etat. While the North depends on China to provide much of its food and most of its fuel, China is in many ways the subordinate partner in the relationship. Knowing that a collapse of the North Korean regime would result in the arrival of millions upon millions of starving North Korean refugees in northern China, Beijing simply will not take any sort of action that endangers the existence of the Kim regime. At the same time, China desperately wants to avoid a military confrontation on the Korean peninsula that involves the United States.

How does China reconcile such conflicting impulses? The answer isn't exactly clear. Prof. Lee observed that the Beijing government does all in its power to hide its intentions from the West, as well as denying to the West any of the information it derives from its unique relationship with North Korea.

In closing, Prof. Lee shared his expectation there will be no significant developments on the Peninsula before the US presidential election in November. Moreover, even if John Kerry takes the White House there is little reason to expect any substantive change in American policy. For as long as the imperative of survival governs the decision-making process in Pyongyang, the options available to the West will remain extremely renstricted.

If you are a young scholar or professional and this conversation with Prof. Lee sound like something you want to be a part of, then get in touch with your local chapter of the Nathan Hale Society. If you happen to be a fellow Bostonian or Cantabrigian, then get in touch with chapter President Ronan Wolfsdorf find out what we're up to. (Information is also available on the Nathan Hale blog, which you can find here.)

If you happen to be a young member of the working class or even a known felon, don't be deterred by the words "scholar or professional". They are meant to be more descriptive than prescriptive. If you are young at heart but middle-aged in body type, check out the Council on Foreign Relations. If you are still in high school, you are up past your bedtime.
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Tuesday, April 13, 2004

# Posted 5:56 PM by Patrick Belton  

POLITICAL WEBSITE OF THE DAY: Apart, of course, from all of our friends in the blogosphere.... WaPo's Veep-o-matic: select up to five characteristics of the ideal vice presidential candidate for Senator Kerry to select (non-politician, southerner, live or work outside the beltway - hey, I'm not saying these are good characteristics to select a vice-president on....), and let the magic of 21st-century technology do the work for you.
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# Posted 5:23 PM by Patrick Belton  

PESACH IS A VERY NICE HOLIDAY when it comes, but it's an even nicer holiday when it ends. So a very happy chametz eating season, everyone!

Here are lots of nice leavened recipes, to help you celebrate: for Irish soda bread, crumpets, and lots of other nice yummy types of bread.
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# Posted 5:17 PM by Patrick Belton  

COUNTERTERRORISM AND DOMESTIC INTELLIGENCE IN DEMOCRACIES: RAND has a report gauging lessons learned from the experiences in domestic intelligence and counterterrorism of Britain, France, Canada, and other democracies.

Also from RAND lately, recommendations on organising counterterror responsibilities within the executive branch.
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# Posted 1:41 PM by Patrick Belton  

SENATOR KERRY GIVES HIS VIEWS ON IRAQ this morning in the WaPo. While some is sound-biteish ("Progress is not possible in Iraq if people lack the security to go about the business of daily life. Yet the military alone cannot win the peace in Iraq. We need a political strategy that will work."), some is unfair or incorrect (e.g., the attempt to make political hay out of the recent violence: "In the past week the situation in Iraq has taken a dramatic turn for the worse." Or the factually disputable claim in - "Finally, we must level with our citizens. Increasingly, the American people are confused about our goals in Iraq, particularly why we are going it almost alone.") - but a few ideas are quite interesting, including increasing the role of Nato in Iraq. My take: this piece includes a number of notes - some anti-war, some more hawkish - which Kerry will be trying out in public over the next few weeks, while the campaign is still in a low stage of intensity, to develop the views that he judges will meet with the best public response. A great deal of his ultimate foreign policy stance will depend on the result, and is currently up for grabs.
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# Posted 1:26 PM by Patrick Belton  

US TO STOP PATROLLING DMZ: The UPI is reporting that the U.S. military will relinquish its outpost along the Demilitarized Zone in October, in favour of permitting South Korea to take a greater role in its own self-defence. This comes at a time when President Roh Moo-hyun seeks to make good on campaign promises to move his country closer to its northern neighbour and away from the United States; the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade remains in favour of close defence ties with the United States. It's unclear, however, whether this latest move, intended to downplay the U.S. presence, will gladden too many hearts across the Korean political spectrum - Korea's conservatives worry that removing U.S. forces from the DMZ removes an important security tripwire, while liberals complain that the U.S. will now build new bases further to the south to replace the reployed soldiers.

The more salient and interesting question here is, did the United States act correctly here? The answer in the short term, most likely, is a clear yes. There are no friends to be won for the United States by its sticking around in countries where its presence isn't wanted. Basing represents as much a natural irritant to a relationship as a solidifier of ties, and it may well be that ties between Washington and Seoul will draw closer minus a few hundred adolescents away from home for the first time, and largely immunized against local prosecution for their misdeeds by a Status of Forces Agreement, along with the electoral irritant their presence often provides. And that troops of the 2nd Infantry Division might be safely brought home without prejudicing the nation's security is a view not only held among the South Korean electorate, warming toward their northern neighbour and chilling toward their nation's historical alliance partner, but also among such rather less sentimental and anti-American voices as, say, Michael O'Hanlon. Rumsfeld's plan to eliminate redundant command structures in Hawaii, Japan, and Korea makes eminent sense if it can actually be carried out in the face of service-level bureaucratic inertia. And that the present moment represents a particularly good time to draw down the American footprint in areas where it's outsized, in order to shift troops home or toward theatres where they're acutely needed, is as clear a proposition as they come.

It's the longer term that's somewhat more tricky. The drawing-down of American troops in Korea is clearly a very pleasant scenario for the Chinese, who for the past two decades have been pursuing a quiescent strategy in which they plan that a peacefully unified Korea will naturally fall into its orbit, along with Tiawanese reunification. In Beijing's post-normalisation calculus, this process will be nudged along as its economy and trade ties grow stronger in the Asia Pacific, while the United States grapples with unpopularity in the region stemming both from basing and the rise of opposition parties to unseat historically governing pro-U.S. parties, while at home it comes to face the domestic electoral and economic effects of overextension. While one recent War College paper suggests Guam as an alternate American basing site, however ideal Guam may be in logistical terms, as a politically symbolic ally it leaves a bit to be desired. But a drawing down of basing in politically problematic crowded Seoul and Okinawa, along with the construction of the groundwork of a new alliance with the foreign policy establishment of Roh's party - and the dramatic upgrading and restructuring of security ties with a Japan which looks ready to have outgrown its post-World War Two straightjacket - may represent as good a policy choice for the United States in Asia as is out there.
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# Posted 10:30 AM by Patrick Belton  

ROUND-UP: With Rachel having decided to erect a Mexican death shrine next to the sofa for my cold, laid out with lillies and various British cold ailment remedies, blogging at least holds out the possibility of making me feel slightly less like a 90 year-old Tamaulipeca woman waiting patiently for the angel of darkness.... (There's also something distinctly Indian in my shrine, too - most likely in the flowers - but I can't quite tease it out yet.)

Rob's suggesting the UN call on Sistani to crack down on Sadr, since Sistani seems to have deferred to it in the past. Meanwhile, Crooked Timber points out far-right tabloid speculation that Europe will become a province of Islam is utter demographic scaremongering, and touches on jurisdictional challenges in prosecuting spam.

Josh Kurlantzick points out that the internet has not been the death knell to authoritarianism that enthusiasts in the optimistic 1990s had hoped: the reasons why - principally the individual nature of web-surfing (but then again, what about such electronic political phenomena as blogging and meet-ups?), and the suppression of sites with political content (successfully "nailing jello to the wall," is his quote with regard to China). Still, in countries which unlike China and Singapore don't actively suppress independent electronic fora for political conversation, it sounds from this piece that there's likely a great deal of potential in spreading internet-mediated political technologies such as blogging and meet-ups to young populations that already frequent cybercafes, if only at present to download - merciless google troll coming - naked pictures of Brittney Spears and Paris Hilton kissing topless Osama Bin Laden while listening to free ringtones...

Christopher Hitchens points out, mercifully, that Iraq isn't Vietnam. Also in Slate, and equally mercifully, Lee Smith points out that Al-Jazeera's tendency of late toward conspiracy theories about the U.S. is unprofessional and silly. (Also awkward and silly is Bob Dylan in a bra, a phrase which is likely to win us substantially fewer google hits.)
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# Posted 9:25 AM by Patrick Belton  

MORE ON SUDAN: As genocide continues - and as human rights organizations continue to ignore it, preferring instead to comfortably attack the United States - Dan Geffen has more on the possible European response.

UPDATE: A former Oxford amnesty member emails in
OK, admittedly it's not as thorough as one would like (and dated 3 February so they are taking their eye off the ball) but still a step up from "ignoring" it...


How's Trinity at this time of year? Do the ducks still nest next to the
porter's lodge near Staircase 1?

Hope you're feeling better,

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# Posted 4:41 AM by Patrick Belton  

I'M A SICK, SICK MAN: So possibly light posting from me today - too much Pesach celebrating and dissertating, I guess, not to mention cavorting with a sick, diseased woman. Go read Drezner instead. You could even enter our essay contest - deadline is May 1st!
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Monday, April 12, 2004

# Posted 4:59 PM by Patrick Belton  

I HAVE A NEW favourite ship in the Royal Navy! I'm referring, of course, to the HMS Belton, which has won my heart. She was a minesweeper, run aground heroically in the Hebrides in 1974. (But there was no naval action in Hebrides in 1974! No, but it sounds sort of like the Falkands, and they were only eight years after. Oh) Incidentally, those interested in my academic work will be gratified to know "Belton is busier than ever", according to the website of the village of Belton in Lincolnshire. You can also read about medieval Belton and Victorian Belton, and even visit Belton House, which has apparently after only four years of entertaining already been put on the tourist map!
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# Posted 11:04 AM by Patrick Belton  

GUINNESS IS GOOD FOR YOU: Now it's official.

UPDATE: But that doesn't mean it doesn't have its detractors nonetheless:
Although I don't always agree with you, I usually find your posts worthwhile or at least inoffensive. (Ed: new OxBlog slogan - "usually worthwhile or at least inoffensive!") In this case you are spreading psuedoscientific nonsense that could have serious detrimental effects on an entire class of people. The nutritional benefit of Guinness has been systematically exaggerated by corporate propaganda for a century. As more recent research has shown, Guinness is beneficial only as part of a balanced diet. Please see this link for proof.
The link goes on to note "So, to fulfill all of your daily nutritional requirements you would need to drink a glass of orange juice, two glasses of milk, and 47 pints of Guinness." (I actually know a bloke in Galway City who does that.) Personally, in this genre of biased, malinformed detractor literature, my preferences run toward the classic "Young Scientist Proves Guinness Not 'Good for you'"
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# Posted 9:36 AM by Patrick Belton  

IN BOSTON? WANT FUN? Our foreign policy society's Boston chapter is having its first meeting this week - if you live in the area, and would like to come along, please drop our friend and chapter president Ronan Wolfsdorf a note!

Also, warm thanks to Robert Tagorda in Los Angeles, Eric Hassman in San Francisco, Will Baude and Amanda Butler in Chicago, Justin Abold in Washington, Allen Dickerson and Roger Schonberg in New York, Tom Petrick in Houston, Marc Schulman in Miami, and now Lindsay Hayden at Yale for their kind efforts in starting up chapters of our foreign policy society around the country. If you'd like to get in touch with our friends in a city near you, please feel free to drop them a note!
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# Posted 9:25 AM by Patrick Belton  


Incidentally, a friend and I are planning to start up an ngo soon to foster cross-racial understanding and friendships in cities in the US and UK - I'll be asking for your suggestions, and more on that to come shortly.
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# Posted 6:07 AM by Patrick Belton  

OKAY, I DID IT. I have a confession to make. It was years ago, Rachel and I had broken up for a weekend, and I did it out of weakness. No, not go to one of the multiple students financing their Oxford education through prostitution - something much worse, and much darker. I sat down, in the dark, and in my weakness took a test for admission to a nerd group. I've pretty much been haunted by the results ever since. Particularly when I get emails like this:
UFO SIG: an international Mensa e-SIG for serious discussion about unidentified flying objects. (Ed: SIG="Special" Interest Group)

We are here to discuss unidentified sightings and experiences of our members. We encourage and welcome members with specific experiences to post a note about their observations to our group.
Whilst our group is factually-oriented, many of our members are also interested in science fiction. There are two international e-SIGs of possible interest to these members, M-Star Trek and M-Babylon 5. These groups' home pages are listed below.
FYI, our UFO SIG is the fastest-growing SIG in the history of international e-SIGs.

More links of interest to our members:
And unlike, say, much cooler clubs like the Illuminati, Skull and Bones or Freemasons, or even your average trip to the Madame in Magdalen, I think I'll be haunted by these folks for years to come.

MAILBAG: JH from Dallas notes "I joined long enough to get a Mensa Credit Card from
MBNA. I hand it to snotty waiters." Hey, good idea, can I get one? (a credit card, not a snotty waiter). And "Anon" from an academic email address takes a different tack entirely and writes: "Forget about all that Fallujah nonsense, what we all want to know about is the Madame of Magdalen. Does every college have one, and is there is an equivalent of the Norrington table?" No, but now we do have a slightly better idea where all those hits from "Oxford massage parlor" were coming from.
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