Monday, May 10, 2004
# Posted 11:01 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 10:51 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 9:38 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
What does it mean to lose hearts and minds? How will we know when the fallout from Abu Ghraib is undermining the American-led reconstruction? Will there be mass demonstrations across Iraq? Will there be nation-wide prison riots that provoke further American abuse? Will law and order break down in the few places where it now exists? And how can the United States prepare itself for the chaos to come?
Today's WaPo has some good suggestions about how, in the short-term, to demonstrate an American commitment to international law: raze Abu Ghraib, announce that the Geneva Conventions will apply to all detainees, and allow Iraqi and international monitors to visit the Coalition's prisons.
But what comes after damage control? In the absence of an implementation plan for the June 30 transition, it is almost impossible to know how Abu Ghraib will affect the handover. For a long moment, any proposal with an American imprint on it may become poisonous to Iraqi representatives. Thus, it is fortunate that there is a UN representative handling the process at the moment. Even so, any proposal the Americans support may become controversial for precisely that reason.
The real issue, however, is elections. First, can the United States hold out until January? Will Abu Ghraib add fuel to the fire of the Sadr and Ba'athist insurgencies? My guess is that will affect the former much less than the letter. Over at Needlenose, Swopa makes a pretty persuasive argument that Sistani and other influential Shi'ites are doing all that they can to crush the Sadrist rebellion. Thus, I don't expect the Shia rank-and-file to vent their anger at the Americans by supporting Sadr.
The fact that Sistani is doing so much of our work for us vis-a-vis Sadr reflects a fundamental truth of the occupation: that those who expect to gain the most from the elections will always be our best allies. The WaPo writes that
America's greatest strength in Iraq remains that its goals are not only right but shared by most Iraqis, by most people of goodwill in other democracies and by the leadership of the United Nations.That point is very similar to the one I am making, but it ignores the fact that goodwill isn't worth much without institutional structures to express it. Sistani provides that sort of structure for Iraqi Shi'ites. The Kurdish political parties provide it for the Kurds. No one seems to be providing it for the Sunnis.
All the Sunnis have is an institution capable of expressing rage: the Ba'athist insurgency. Thus, I expect that the reaction to Abu Ghraib will be increased support for the insurgency within the Sunni triangle (assuming that such support hasn't already reached its theoretical maximum.)
While it may seem trivial to point out that our best allies are the ones who have the most to gain from elections, that idea has some very important implications. Above it all, it illustrates Robert Kagan's argument why it will be even harder to stabilize Iraq if we abandon our goal of promoting a democratic order. If we start looking for "responsible", "pro-Western" generals to run the show, we would have a real Shi'ite insurgency on our hands, not to mention a Kurdish secession.
In other words, the best advice I have is to just stay the course. It's not original. It's not insightful. But it is better than the irresponsible alternatives.
UPDATE: Kagan & Kristol offer a modified version of staying-the-course: move up elections to September. In other words, make the course shorter so that staying it isn't as hard. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 6:03 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 5:25 PM by Patrick Belton
On the other hand, it has the bad fortune to star an actor who: (1) Cosmo helpfully notes has 'killer B.O.', (2) who in 1988 was arrested and fined $450 for exposing himself to (unimpressed) drivers on the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, (3) whose pre-silver screen employment consisted of driving strippers to dates (theirs, not his), and (4) whose more recent public embarassments include 'The Mexican' and being taken down by Shania Twain. Yes, in other words, Brad Pitt as Achilles. Talk about a Hobson's choice.
(fr., incidentally, Tobias Hobson, c. 1544-1631, a Cambridge stable manager made famous by Milton and who insisted customers take the horse in the stall closest to the door or take none at all. Hence, a Hobson's choice was not a choice at all). (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 5:16 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 1:39 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 6:16 AM by Patrick Belton
• Verlan, a French banlieu slang which relies on constant inversion of syllables. The name is itself Verlan: Verlan is verlan for Lanver, or l'envers, the reverse. Some examples, to get you up and speaking Verlan for your next trip to the banlieux: tromé - métro; laisse béton - laisse tomber (drop or stop it); keum - mec (colloquial for man); meuf - femme (woman); reum - mère (mother); reup - père (father); keuf - flic (policeman; flic is coll. for cop); ouf - fou (crazy); zyva - vas-y (go for it); fais ièche - fais chier (slang for it's boring); céfran - français; relou - lourd (heavy, boring); zarbi - bizarre (strange); chanmé - méchant (wicked!, excellent!); chelou - louche (shady); keutru - truc (stuff). Where it gets even more interesting is that the generation of soixante-huitards, in university around 1968, adopted Verlan so broadly, and then rose to positions of prominence in the Establishment, that young, often Maghrebbian banlieu residents began to Verlan the Verlan. Doesn't that make, err, French, you ask? No, not precisely, because it changes a bit in each incarnation: c.f., reubeu - beur; beur is itself Verlan for arabe, making reubeu an instance of double-verlan. Here's a handy Verlan phrase book, for your next trip to Paris.
• Polari, which began as a cryptolect used in the nineteenth century by carnies and other entertainers, and in the 1950's became an in-group cant used by London fishmongers and later widely by male homosexuals (for whom a language incomprehensible to outsiders afforded a measure of protection against, say, plainclothes policemen, who may have been better received had they been wearing uniforms). It includes influences of the earlier medieval sailors' and merchants' lingua franca pidgin, who would presumably have gone to different parties. It's the origin of the term naff (not available for, erm, fornication; used broadly by the BBC's show Round the Horne in place of other expletives unavailable for broadcasting). Handy Polari phrase: "How bona to vada your ecaf!" - "How good to see your face!" For more, here and here.
• Shelta or Travellers' Cant, sometimes also called Gammon, a secret dialect of Irish spoken by the nomadic, itinerant Travelling people. It's still largely a secret language; anthropologists who have studied it have been asked by members of the Travelling community to withdraw their research from the public domain, and these have generally complied. Now it's more broadly documented, as members of the community come to fear it will die out: a few sources on their language are here and here. Prince Hal, in Henry IV, Part I, boasts he "can drink with any tinker in his own language." The Travellers were once roundly (and, as it turns, incorrectly) assumed to have lost their land during the Famine and never recovered it; and were until recently referred to by the now-pejorative "tinkers," to describe their pre-Industrial Revolution principal occupation of metallurgy, now replaced generally by mending and recycling. There are also Scottish Travellers, as the Travellers, well, they travel. There are other secretive cants, too: Thieves' Cant, as the name subtly hints, was used as a secret language by Victorian brigands, and is now helpfully documented for those wishing to to pursue a career in that promising field, and Eton now obligingly includes a glossary of (the tamer sorts of) public school cant.
Of course, some secret languages have managed to still remain truly secret. In fact, there's one which David, Josh, and I speak to proficiency, if not quite fluency. However, the cryptolect of Political Science Jargon rarely includes anything interesting or edifying to an outside audience, so I won't waste space by going into it here. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 4:56 AM by Patrick Belton
Sunday, May 09, 2004
# Posted 8:29 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 5:27 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
This makes me happy that Bush is President. Very happy. In a really fundamental, non-political way. I really can't explain it adequately.Even Yglesias had to admit that it was very sweet. Not that it prevented him from using it to demonsrate Bush's ethical shortcomings...
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 4:55 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 4:49 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
On an unrelated note, the WaPo article on the generals' dissent contains this classic line: "The New York Review of Books is not widely read in the U.S. military." Say it ain't so! (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 2:48 PM by Patrick Belton
• `[WaPo Managing Editor Steve] Coll has done a great service by revealing how Saudi Arabia and its intelligence operations aided the rise of Osama bin Laden and Islamic extremism in Afghanistan. Saudi Arabia's alleged involvement in terrorism has been the subject of wild conspiracy theories since Sept. 11; Coll gives us a clear and balanced view of Saudi Arabia's real ties to bin Laden. The links he reveals are serious enough to prompt an important debate about the nature of the Saudi-American partnership in the fight against terrorism. ''Saudi intelligence officials said years later that bin Laden was never a professional Saudi intelligence agent,'' he writes, referring to Saudi support for foreign Arab fighters against the Russians in Afghanistan in the 1980's. Still, ''it seems clear that bin Laden did have a substantial relationship with Saudi intelligence.''' (NYT reviewing Steve Coll's Ghost Wars)
• `"Some of the most gripping passages take place far from Washington, as intrepid C.I.A. agents, code-named rockstars, begin to penetrate northern Iraq in advance of the invasion, handing out so many $100 bills to their informants that $100 soon becomes the going rate for a cup of coffee.' (NYT reviewing Bob Woodward's Plan of Attack)
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# Posted 12:26 PM by Patrick Belton
Wikipedia - which incidentally, as an encyclopedia written by the public grows more impressive by the day - has one list of projects. These include Seeds of Peace, a justly celebrated project which brings Israeli and Palestinian teenagers together for a summer at a site in Maine; the American Jewish Committee's project of dialogue with Muslim organisations of many stripes from around the world, and collaboration with the Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee in roundly denouncing and opposing scapegoating and vindictive attacks against American Muslims after the September 11th attacks; and the Abraham Fund, which is based in Israel and seeks to develop closer ties between Jews and Arab Israelis.
These organisations and ones like them are worthy of a great deal of moral and practical support - as when peace finally comes to the Middle East, it will in large part be because of their efforts and those of similar people of good will, on both sides of the painful divide which presently separates Jews and Muslims, people of the Book and Semitic cousins both.
Ure'êh bethubhyerushâlâim kol yemêy chayyeykha (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 11:32 AM by Patrick Belton
Your coverage of Sudan has been excellent. In the rare case you missed it, this was the first paragraph from AFP's story this afternoon:(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:06 AM by Patrick Belton
Clearances, IIRachel also insists everyone immediately go inspect cute pictures of maternal polar bears. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Saturday, May 08, 2004
# Posted 10:00 AM by Patrick Belton
Margaret-opa: Oxforddan salom! (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 6:48 AM by Patrick Belton
(And plus, it's just really cool, too.) (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:27 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Going into the discussion, I had no idea what to expect. I'd never met Patrick before and hadn't read much of his work until I spent a couple of hours reading his articles on Lexis-Nexis the night before. I'd invited him to speak because the Globe is our hometown paper and he is its lead correspondent on the Kerry campaign. I'd hoped to have their Bush correspondent come as well, but a last minute schedule change by the White House kept her away.
When I first saw Patrick in person, I was surprised at how young he looked. Now, I guess that's a funny thing to say since he's older than I am. But the firm authority with which jounralists write makes you want to believe that they are all grizzled professionals. Once Patrick started talking, however, he immediately began to seem more authoritative without abandoning the humility that makes you want to be his friend rather than take him down a notch.
Patrick opened up the dicussion by talking for about 10 minutes about where the Kerry campaign is now. The rest of the hour and a half was all Q&A. So when I say that I didn't know what to expect, that had as much to do with not knowing what kind of questions the audience would ask as with not knowing how Patrick would answer them. At first, I was concerned that Patrick wasn't making a good impression because so few hands went up when I opened the floor to questions. But after just a short while, it became clear that the audience was quiet because it was spellbound, not because it was bored.
The audience consisted of advanced grad students, mid-career diplomats and government officials spending a year at Harvard, institute staff, and a couple of faculty members. All together, there were around 20 of us. Patrick opened up by saying that the Kerry campaign was approaching a turning point. After the medal-throwing story broke a couple of weeks ago, Kerry became enraged and shut himself off from the press. After the ABC interview that started it all, Kerry said he was sick of journalists "doing the bidding of the RNC". But now, Kerry is set to resurface with a major press conference in the next couple of days.
Taking a broader look, Patrick said he thinks there hasn't been a lot of substantive debate about Kerry's foreign policy. One reason for that the Vietnam story line has become overwhelming. Kerry plays endlessly on his war record, so it is always the issue. Of course, journalists are complicit in that process.
I think the best way to describe the Q&A with Patrick is that it was like an introduction to blogging. The audience asked all those questions that I only began to ask once I started blogging and backseat journalism became my profession.
After hearing how journalists actually travel on the same bus as the candidate day after day after day, one of my colleagues very earnestly asked whether developing a relationship with the candidate and depending on him for information makes it harder to criticize.
Patrick he didn't think he'd really pulled any punches, but he talked about one of the other correspondents who wanted to do a feature on Teresa Heinz Kerry and wound up turning in an unremittingly positive profile that his editor rejected because it didn't cover any of the official negative storylines about her, such as concerns that she is a loose cannon or out of touch with the American mainstream.
At that point, I was thinking to myself that both Patrick and my colleague had missed half of the story, if not more. While journalists may depend on candidates for information, candidates depend on journalists for coverage. With few exceptions, candidates simply have to accept what journalists write and keep on working with them. The more influential the publication, the more this relationship favors the journalists.
At one point, in order to illustrate the dependence of journalists on the candidates they cover, Patrick described how Kerry's staff once distributed a major policy proposal in advance to the NYT, the WaPo, the WSJ and (I think) CNN. When all those papers got their stories out ahead of Patrick's, he got pretty angry and called the campaign staff to complain. At first they told them that if they'd given him the proposal, they would have had to give it to all of the correspondents for the big regional papers.
Patrick said that was bullsh**, since the Globe is Kerry's hometown paper and it had been covering him when no one else was. The staffer responded that Kerry may have needed the Globe before New Hampshire, but now he was running a national campaign. Besides, the Globe had always been far harsher on Kerry than the other papers, and you don't win points for that.
From my perspective, the moral of that story was that the NYT, WaPo et al. have tremendous influence over the candidate, probably more than he has over them. But no one in the audience saw it that way.
In general, both the questions and answers during the Q&A began from the implicit premise that the job of journalists is to prevent the candidates from distorting the truth. As such, the real danger is not that journalists will be excessively judgmental or critical, but that they will be too soft. There was no sense on either side of the table that perhaps there needs to be someone who watches over the journalists.
The one audience member was one man with a white beard who seemed perpetually agitated. He scribbled constant notes on a pad in front of him and was wearing a sweater that only made it half-way down from his neckline to his waist. His canvas tote-bag had "concerned liberal" written all over it. (Figuratively.) His was the one question that came from someone who had clearly spent a lot of time thinking about the media and its problems.
The question he asked, as one might have guessed from his tote-bag, was why the mainstream media invested so little effort in researching Bush's lackadaisical attendance at National Guard training sessions. Now, I would've phrased the question as "Why does the media pay attention to Bush's service record in sporadic bursts rather than trying to resolve the issue once and for all?" Still, it was a good question.
Patrick offered a number of answers. First, the Globe had done more than any other paper on the subject. Second, no new documents were coming out of the White House because there was no public pressure on at the moment. Third, Bush is an incumbent, so you don't need to infer how he will act as commander-in-chief from something he did more than thirty years ago.
Now, answer one is true, but it doesn't say anything about other papers' inconsistent coverage of the subject. Answer three suggests no one will ever pay attention to the issue, so it can't explain why sometimes it becomes front-page news. And answer two just begs the question of why public pressure suddenly comes and goes. At least in the case of Bush's service record, the answer is the media. Peter Jennings made it an issue by asking Wes Clark about Michael Moore's AWOL charge. There was a flurry of attention, but the story died once Kerry's victory in the primaries hit page one.
The question I was left asking myself after the debate was what questions I might have asked if I had been in the audience but hadn't been a blogger. Probably exactly the same ones that the actual audience asked. They were intelligent. They solicited important information from the guest. But from the perspective of a blogger-slash-backseat journalist, they seemed so elementary. And that made me realize just how much I had learned by spending a couple of hours a day on this website for the last eighteen months
It also made me realize how specialized and pedantic bloggers' media criticism is. Even the most intelligent "normal" people out there have only the vaguest sense of how bloggers read the newspaper. Much like scholars, bloggers tend to think of their analytical methods as being a secret treasure, while critics think of them as the product of some kind of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Yet in contrast to scholars, bloggers are rapidly winning bigger and bigger audiences.
Bloggers are also getting the attention of those they criticize. In contrast, politicians ignore what political scientists write (while obsessing about the media). If Instapundit gets more than 100,000 hits a day, how long is it before blog-style thinking becomes mainstream among the one or two million voters who are really well-informed?
The final thought I had about today's discussion was that if I can look back on myself from two years and say "Oh my God, I can't believe how ignorant I was!", who might look at me now and say "Oh my God, I can't believe how ignorant he is!" Would it be the soldiers who read what I have to say about Iraq? The officials at State and DoD who might laugh at my primitive concept of how policymaking works? Or the journalists who marvel at how much arrogant advice and allegedly constructive criticism comes from someone who hasn't written edited a newspaper since high school?
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Friday, May 07, 2004
# Posted 5:29 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
According to a profile in the WaPo, Darby was not the kind of person one would expect to become a lone voice for justice. He had a violent temper and seems more like someone who might express his anger by abusing the rights of those prisoners he was supposed to guard.
Yet when faced with a profound moral dilemma, Darby did the right thing. I'm not sure it is possible to explain why. There are simply some men and women who do not become remarkable individuals until faced with an unprecedented challenge.
Another hero of that sort, one whose name will live on because of his greatness, is Oskar Schindler. Why did he risk own life to save so many Jews? It is impossible to say. Schindler was not a particulary good or generous man before confronted by the Holocaust. Then he became one.
Conversely, there are those who become evil when confronted with moral dilemmas. I am sure that many of the soldiers responsible for the vicious abuse of Iraqi inmates were good, generous people before doing what they did. And some may not have been good.
But all of them had a choice. There is simply no way to claim that they and their superiors do not bear full responsibility for the horrific things they did. And that Joseph Darby has become a hero by letting the world know about those horrible acts. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 5:03 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
"Any step forward in the job market is good news for America's workers, but let's be clear: we still have a long way to go to get America working again," said Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry (Mass.), in a statement. "America is still in the worst job recovery since the Great Depression, with 2.2 million private-sector jobs lost in the Bush presidency, 8.1 million Americans still looking for work, and long-term unemployment at the highest level in twenty years."As one might infer from Kerry's statistics (which are not the only ones out there), it will be almost impossible for Bush to head into the elections with less than a 1 million net private-sector job-loss on his hands. But if the economy really does add another 1.2 million jobs before November, I don't think it will matter what Kerry says. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:05 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 7:34 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 6:30 AM by Patrick Belton
It’s a relic of British India. It comes from a Hindi word bilayati, foreign, which is related to the Arabic wilayat, a kingdom or province. Sir Henry Yule and Arthur C Burnell explained in their Anglo-Indian dictionary, Hobson-Jobson, published in 1886, that the word was used in the names of several kinds of exotic foreign things, especially those that the British had brought into the country, such as the tomato (bilayati baingan) and especially to soda-water, which was commonly called bilayati pani, or foreign water.For more word play from Michael, see this. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 4:46 AM by Patrick Belton
Like the two prior parts, it's up on Winds of Change. And as before, I'll really look forward to hearing any suggestions or comments that our readers might have! (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Thursday, May 06, 2004
# Posted 4:50 PM by Patrick Belton
For those of you who know more about Pakistan than me, and who would be kind enough to point out any mistakes I may have made, or issues I may have neglected - I'd be very grateful to hear from you! (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 2:11 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
As it turns out, one purpose of my doctoral dissertation is to do exactly that. In the 1980s, few issues were more controversial than US-Central American relations. At different times, the media was partial to either the Reagan administration or its opponents. A serious effort to explain the media's strengths and weaknesses must go far beyond a simple identification of it as either liberal or conservative.
With regard to democracy promotion and Iraq, I have argued periodically that the American media derive their interpretations from an unspoken narrative about the nature and consequences of the war in Vietnam. Twenty years ago, that narrative had far greater influence than it does today. In order to make that point in a more concrete manner, I'd like to post a short excerpt from dissertation, which in fact was written today:
In the early morning of February 28th , the President spoke in private to twenty influential congressmen and asked them to provide $60 million in supplemental military aid for El Salvador. For the next two months, El Salvador made the headlines almost every day. On March 8th, Reagan asked for an additional $50 million for FY 1983, bringing his total request for supplemental aid to $110 million. Both contemporary journalists and later scholars have portrayed anti-Communism as the exclusive motive for the President’s interest in El Salvador. On March 4th, after Reagan delivered an address on foreign policy in San Francisco, a member of the audience responded that “The recent request for escalation of military aid to El Salvador appears to be the beginning of a replay of the early days of Vietnam. What assurances can you offer that this is not the case?” Reagan answered the question as follows:Since I don't know how to do footnotes with Blogger, I'll just state for the record that both newspaper articles cited above were from March 5, 1983. Both appeared on the front page. The quote from LeoGrande is on page 201 of the hardcover edition.Reagan then recounted his favorite anecdote about the Salvadoran women on election day – one who defied death threats in order to vote and another who was shot in the leg by guerrillas but refused to go the hospital before casting her ballot. The President closed by mentioning that he might want to increase above fifty-five the number of American soldiers assigned to train the Salvadoran armed forces. The next morning, a front-page headline in the New York Times read “U.S. May Increase Salvador Advisers”. The Times described the President’s exchange with his audience as follows:
In the context of American politics circa 1983, this sort of partiality in the media obviously favored liberals and damaged conservatives. To some degree, this sort of coverage was a response to the extremely deceptive way in which administration officials described the conflict in El Salvador, primarily for the purpose of covering up gross violations of human rights. However, my sense is that the unjustified credibility and prominence given to the Vietnam scenario reflected an honest assessment by journalists of what was most likely to happen in Central America.
By the same token, a quagmire is what journalists honestly saw ten days into the invasion of Iraq and continued to see thereafter. If such journalists were more aware of their own history, however, they might developer a sharper eye for the direction of current events.
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# Posted 10:58 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 10:27 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 3:46 AM by Patrick Belton
Contemporary sport, professionalised and commercialised beyond all ability to relate to the massive egos of its performers, may attain to greater heights of athleticism, but has lost its capacity to inspire. It is difficult to pinpoint precisely where this took place, but it happened somewhere along the path between Bannister's muted, humble celebratory pint in an Oxford pub after he downplayed the greatest athletic achievement of humankind to reporters with the sportsmanship, decency, and sense of fair play of the England of his generation; and the more recent courtroom appearances, titanic salaries and athletic shoe sponsorship contracts, and rather less than inspiring behaviour off of the field of Pete Rose, Michael Jordan, Daryl Strawberry, or any of the other current legions of interchangeable bearers of Nike contracts whom history will fairly soon forget.
The man who from across the world raced Sir Roger to the mark and soon followed him across it, John Landy, is now remembered for his decision to stop racing in the 1956 Australian Championships, after he accidentally clipped the heels of world junior mile record holder, Ron Clarke, who fell. Landy (who would go on in life to serve as Governor of New Victoria) stopped and ran back to help Clarke to his feet, made sure that his competitor was all right, and then reentered the race - whereupon he caught the other runners and won the race and championship with a time of 4 minutes, 4.2 seconds.
The two men would race head-to-head in the 'Race of the Century' after both had broken the four-minute barrier. Bannister bested Landy, passing him on his right in the final stretch as Landy looked to his left. Landy accepted his defeat with grace, saying 'the better man won'; it was only much later revealed he had run with four stitches in his foot, the result of stepping on a flash bulb in bare feet.
Sir Roger told the BBC, "It may seem incredible today that the world record at this classic distance could be set by an amateur athlete, in bad weather, on a university running track."
Incredible indeed - both in the sense of unbelievable, and extraordinary. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Wednesday, May 05, 2004
# Posted 11:46 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 11:44 AM by Patrick Belton
Also, I generally don't tend to disagree with David that often, except for when it happens to be really funny to do so ... but the way I remember the anecdote is that when one certain unnamed distinguished Oxford academic (who may or may not be one of our advisors) introduced a sentence with "So when England entered World War Two against Germany," a booming, but not instantly intelligible, Scottish accent emitted "Bri'ain, no' 'England" (apostrophes to denote very strong glottal stops). To which
# Posted 11:44 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Firstly, for someone who spent any time in the UK, you should know that "England" and "United Kingdom" are not synonymous. Anyone who posts a Blog on politics, and one named after a City in the UK, without knowing this rather elementary fact is automatically subtracting from his credibility somewhat.As CH points out, I have made a terribly obvious mistake. How could I not know that without Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland there would be no United Kingdom?
Well, let me tell you a story. In my first year at Oxford, a lecturer concluded a sentence with the observation that "the English defeated the Germans in World War I." Whereupon a powerful Scottish voice boomed out from the back of the lecture hall: "It was the British that defeated the Germans in World War I. The British!"
All I can say in my own defense is that I am not ignorant, but that I have given in to the self-congratulatory chauvinism of those who live in Southeastern England and confuse it with the whole of the UK. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Tuesday, May 04, 2004
# Posted 10:25 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
On the day of Saddam Hussein’s capture, last December, the left-leaning political weekly The Nation celebrated its hundred-and-thirty-eighth birthday. It was a Sunday night, and the weather was dreadful—forbiddingly cold and wet, heavy snow giving way to sleet...When I started to read The Boondocks, I came to the immediate conclusion that Aaron McGruder was a genius. After 9/11, I discovered that the only thing McGruder knew how to write about was race. He knows jacksh** about politics. But, hey, nobody's perfect. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:15 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Answer: I don't know. But if we are going to turn this into a competition about length and endurance, then I will feel compelled to point out that the German record of stable government makes the British record look positively Italian.
From 1949 to 1969, every German chancellor was a Christian Democrat. The first and foremost of the chancellors was Konrad Adenauer, who served from 1949 to 1963. More than any other individual, he made West German democracy a reality. What Iraq needs right now is its own Konrad Adenauer.
After Adenauer, Ludwig Erhard and Kurt Georg Kiesinger each served for three years. Then, for thirteen years, the Social Democratic Party (SPD) was the party of government. Its first chancellor, Willy Brandt, served for five years before resigning because of a spy scandal. Its second chancellor, Helmut Schmidt served for eight years, until unseated by Helmut Kohl.
Kohl, also a Christian Democrat, served for 16 years. In 1998, Gerhard Schroeder defeated Kohl and still governs. All in all, Germany has had 7 chancellors in 55 years. In those same 55 years, the party in power has only changed 3 times.
Message to England: You lose. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 5:33 PM by Patrick Belton
By comparison, here are the governments in post-war Britain which have lasted at least three years, by prime minister:
Margaret, now Baronness, Thatcher, 11 yearsBy contrast, here are the governments of post-war Britain to have lasted less than three years:
Sir Anthony Eden, subsequently Earl of Avon, 2 yearsFor Italy's part, in that period it has had 59 governments (Ferruccio Parri, June 21, 1945 - Dec. 8, 1945, Alcide De Gasperi, Dec. 10, 1945 - July 1, 1946; Alcide De Gasperi, July 13, 1946 - Jan. 20, 1947; Alcide De Gasperi, Feb. 2, 1947 - May 13, 1947; Alcide De Gasperi, May 31, 1947 - May 12, 1948; Alcide De Gasperi May 31, 1947 - May 12, 1948; Alcide De Gasperi, May 13, 1948 - Jan. 26, 1950; Alcide De Gasperi, Jan. 27, 1950 - July 16, 1951; Alcide De Gasperi, July 26, 1951 - June 29, 1953; Alcide De Gasperi, July 16, 1953 - July 28, 1953; Giuseppe Pella, Aug. 17, 1953 - Jan. 5, 1954; Amintore Fanfani, Jan. 18, 1954 - Jan. 30, 1954, Mario Scelba, Feb. 10, 1954 - June 22, 1955, Antonio Segni, July 6, 1955 - May 6, 1957, Adone Zoli, May 19, 1957 - June 19, 1958, Amintore Fanfani, July 1, 1958 - Jan. 26, 1959, Antonio Segni, Feb. 15, 1959 - Feb. 24, 1960, Fernando Tambroni, Mar. 25, 1960 - July 19, 1960, Amintore Fanfani, July 26, 1960 - Feb. 2, 1962, Amintore Fanfani, Feb. 21, 1962 - May 16, 1963, Giovanni Leone, June 21, 1963 - Nov. 5, 1963, Aldo Moro, Dec. 4, 1963 - June 26, 1964, Aldo Moro, July 22, 1964 - Jan. 21, 1966, Aldo Moro, Feb. 23, 1966 - June 5, 1968, Giovanni Leone, June 24, 1968 - Nov. 19, 1968, Mariano Rumor, Dec. 12, 1968 - July 5, 1969, Mariano Rumor, Aug. 5, 1969 - Feb. 7, 1970, Mariano Rumor, Mar. 27, 1970 - July 6, 1970, Emilio Colombo, Aug. 6, 1970 - Jan. 15, 1972, Giulio Andreotti, Feb. 17, 1972 - Feb. 26, 1972, Giulio Andreotti, June 26, 1972 - June 12, 1973, Mariano Rumor, July 7, 1973 - March 2, 1974, Mariano Rumor, March 14, 1974 - Oct. 3, 1974, Aldo Moro, Nov. 23, 1974 - Jan. 7, 1976, Aldo Moro, Feb. 12, 1976 - April 30, 1976, Giulio Andreotti, July 29, 1976 - Jan. 16, 1978, Giulio Andreotti, March 11, 1978 - Jan. 31, 1979, Giulio Andreotti, March 20, 1979 - March 31, 1979, Francesco Cossiga, Aug. 4, 1979 - March 19, 1980, Francesco Cossiga, April 4, 1980 - Sept. 27, 1980, Arnaldo Forlani, Oct. 18, 1980 - May 26, 1981, Giovanni Spadolini, June 28, 1981 - Aug. 7, 1982, Giovanni Spadolini, Aug. 23, 1982 - Nov. 13, 1982, Amintore Fanfani, Dec. 1, 1982 - April 29, 1983, Bettino Craxi, Aug. 4, 1983 - June 27, 1986, Bettino Craxi, Aug. 1, 1986 - March 3, 1987, Amintore Fanfani, April 17, 1987 - April 28, 1987, Giovanni Goria, July 28, 1987 - March 11, 1988, Ciriaco De Mita, April 13, 1988 - May 19, 1989, Giulio Andreotti, July 22, 1989 - March 29, 1991, Giulio Andreotti, April 12, 1991 - April 24, 1992, Giuliano Amato, June 28, 1992 - April 22, 1993, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, April 28, 1993 - April 16, 1994, Silvio Berlusconi, May 10, 1994 - December 22, 1994, Lamberto Dini, January 17, 1995 - May 17, 1996, Romano Prodi, May 18, 1996 - October 9, 1998, Massimo D'Alema, October 21, 1998 - December 18, 1999, Massimo D'Alema, December 22, 1999 - April 19, 2000, Giuliano Amato, April 25, 2000 - June 11, 2001, Silvio Berlusconi, June 11, 2001 - present) (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 4:59 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 4:24 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 4:18 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 3:59 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
In addition to Kos, TPM and Atrios, Moving Ideas' list of top ten progressive blogs includes, strangely enough, OxBlog. I take that as a compliment. It has always been our aspiration to speak to both sides of the political spectrum. Moreover, as committed idealists, we have no reservations about describing ourselves as progressive, even if most self-described progressives are further to the left.
Nonetheless, I am surprised that Moving Ideas didn't put some sort of warning label on us which advises readers that we are liberal hawks or open-minded neo-cons or something like that. While we hope to win ourselves a reputation as independent and principled centrists, our persistent criticism of the media and conditional support for the the President's position on Iraq clearly differentiate us from most liberals and progressives.
I guess the purpose of this post is to ensure that any one who discovers OxBlog via Moving Ideas doesn't get the wrong idea about who we are. As with most blogs, the best way to find out what OxBlog stands for is just to keep on scrolling down. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:42 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 6:16 AM by Patrick Belton
Note to Oxford: my first 150 pages of my dissertation are taking so long because I...errr...mailed in the first draft and didn't keep a copy? (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 4:41 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 4:01 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 3:47 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 1:05 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
If any Americans want to be governed by politicians who short-circuit complex discussions by recklessly imputing racism to those who differ with them, such Americans do not usually turn to the Republican choice in our two-party system.Sadly, Will's column leaves behind a strong start and degenerates into neo-con bashing. Yet just like NRO, Will refuses to name any of the neo-cons supposedly responsible for the quagmire. Why? Because Bush, Rice, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Powell were making the decisions. Not Wolfowitz.
Just as bad, Will says absolutely nothing about how deal with the situation in Iraq after proudly declaring that a true conservative would not seek to promote democracy in such an inhospitable climate. So has Will joined John Kerry in the stability camp? Or is it just time to pullout? Either way, Will shouldn't forget what Robert Kagan has pointed out: that both of those options court disaster -- and may be even harder to accomplish than just doing the right thing.
UPDATE: Right Coast has a deviously funny and insightful post about George Will and the bowtie crowd. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:48 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 12:36 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 12:23 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Monday, May 03, 2004
# Posted 11:56 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
My first thought was: Which Bush administration offficial decided to mint a coin honoring successful American negotiations with France? Was this the brainchild of ironic liberal bureaucrats at the Treasury Department? Or had the neo-conservative cabal decided to mock the French for getting suckered in one of the worst real estate deals in recorded history?
As far as I can tell, the answer is 'neither'. Amazingly, the US Mint has designed a memorial to the Louisiana Purchase that doesn't even suggest that the French had anything to do with it. Instead, the back side of the nickel depicts an American soldier shaking hands with a Native American. Above the clasped hands are a peace pipe and a tomahawk.
Talk about no sense of irony. What do you suppose that the American soldier is telling his Native counterpart? "I just bought your home from the French"? As it turns out, the clasped hands & peace pipe design was first used on medals that the Jefferson administration minted in preparation for the Lewis & Clark expedition. The explorers then gave the medals to native chiefs and other dignitaries as signs of friendship.
The reverse of the friendship medals, much like today's nickels, had a portrait of Thomas Jefferson. What an egomaniac. Imagine if George Bush put his own portrait on the Iraqi dinar. Well, at least Bush is trying to promote democracy in Iraq. Jefferson and his successors were more interested in a permanent occupation. (I guess if the NYT were in business back then, it would insist that the United States had gotten itself into a quagmire in Nebraska.)
Anyhow, while we're on the subject of coins, I'd just like to state for the record that all the new state quarters are boring and dumb. Do I really need a picture of a race car on my Indiana quarter? No offense meant to any Hoosiers or racing fans (both of whom I like), but shouldn't our money be a little more dignified? What's next? A shirtless David Hasselhoff on the California quarter?
Also, I don't want there to be fifty different coins. Yes, I know the government makes a lot of money by creating instant collectibles. Even the new Jefferson nickels are expected to result in a $100 million profit. And it is good to see the government coming up with innovative market-based revenue plans. Maybe I could've accepted 13 quarters, one for each of the original states. But fifty is just ridiculous.
Oh, and while I'm ranting, I think that the next three Americans to get their own coins should be Harry Truman, Martin Luther King Jr. and Eleanor Roosevelt. They bumped Franklin off of the half dollar and replaced him with Kennedy in 1964. OK, so maybe they should've issued JFK coins for a couple of years as a tribute. But isn't Franklin just a little more important? And what exactly are we honoring Kennedy for? He got us into a quagmire!
MLK Jr. got shot four years after JFK and what did he get? Nothing. Why? Because that's the way The Man wanted it. It's not like I'm saying we should put Malcolm X on the dime. But what if we take JFK off the half dollar and give it to Martin? Or what about the golden dollar? It's not like too many people really care about Sacagawea.
Now, Harry Truman, what he really deserves is to be on the Russian ruble. Every time a Russian spends money in a free market, he or she has Harry Truman to thank. (We've heard rumors of the Reagan dime, but he isn't dead yet. And he didn't win the Cold War!) Of course, since Truman won't be getting his due from the Russians, I figure we should thank him for all that he did.
Finally, Eleanor Roosevelt. She was so multilateralist she helped found the United Nations. She also played a big role in coming up with its Declaration of Human Rights. And she's a woman. And she was gay. Now that's what I call killing two birds with one stone.
Finally thoughts? Yes. Put Jimmy Carter on a coin whose value is indexed to the rate of inflation. And is only legal tender in Europe. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:23 PM by Patrick Belton
Q: What is the formula for converting pressure in millibars of pressure to inches of mercury?Or, for those of you who got lost somewhere in that mess of USA Today-speak, you could alternatively just use (milibars) * 0.02953 = (inches of mercury). (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:19 PM by Patrick Belton
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 5:21 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 8:03 AM by Patrick Belton
A new multipurpose recreation facility has opened in the Al Dura neighborhood, benefiting thousands of residents in Baghdad's Al Rashid district.(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 5:20 AM by Patrick Belton
Roughly eight years ago, a Yale professor with a strongly Southern accent was giving the final lecture of his class on Faulkner, and advised his students that in studying for the final exam, they should focus particular attention upon "
At precisely which point they received their blue books, and eight tightly spaced pages of questions about As I Lay Dying. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 5:08 AM by Patrick Belton
(Incidentally, Josh, David, and I applied to join the Oxfordshire Optimists Club, but personally I don't think they'll let us in.) (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 1:23 AM by Dan
The event began with a reception for AIPAC Club Members, which I believe refers to those who give AIPAC many thousands of dollars (not tax deductible, mind you). We did not give many thousands of dollars, but made our way in. They had a great spread with delicious sushi (kosher, of course). We proceeded upstairs to the main event, where elected officials from New England competed in a game of "Who Could Possibly Be More Pro Israel Than Me?." After some introductory remarks, they played a video championing AIPAC's importance, including television news clips where news anchors referred to AIPAC's power. The video also showed Clinton Bush, Daschle, Sharon, Barak, Peres, and Rabin at AIPAC events where they too talked about AIPAC's importance.
Only nerds who studied AIPAC and America's relationship with Israel would have noted the irony of AIPAC including a clip of Rabin's praise for it. In late 1992, after one of AIPAC's VPs had said Rabin had "chutzpuh" for proposing territorial concessions, he reportedly scolded the organization's heads in a closed meeting, saying "You have failed at everything. You waged lost battles. You caused damage to Israel. You created too much antagonism." The Israel Policy Forum was created in 1993, a primary purpose of which was to create American support for Rabin's efforts (AIPAC was seen as dragging its feet in this regard). Rabin's confrontation with AIPAC makes sense: it is much easier to defend an embattled Israel, and when it seemed like Israel was no longer embattled and did not need to be defended from its enemies (or certainly less so), then AIPAC has lost its cause. It just seemed a bit awkward for them to include a clip of his praise for the organization. Or maybe I'm just a nerd. People nearly hissed when they showed clips of Arafat screaming in Arabic and grisly suicide bombing scenes. Those who had to tone down their anti-Arafat rhetoric during the early Oslo years must have wanted to say "I told you so" a few times to a few people.
Susan Collins (R-ME) gave a nice keynote address in which she addressed Israel's challenges as well as those faced by Jews worldwide. She finished strong with a quote from Amos Oz about how Jews in Europe used to be told to go to Palestine, and now they are told to leave Palestine...." She finished with the words "never again" and the crowd gave her a standing ovation.
The experience confirmed my feelings about how AIPAC's opponents and the organization itself often employ identical rhetoric: they say that AIPAC is all powerful. Its critics can do this as a way to ignore the considerable non-Jewish support that exists for Israel absent any lobby group, and AIPAC can use it as a fundraising tool--"you can support the most powerful organization affecting America's relationship with Israel!" It was nice to see so many supporters of Israel in one place, but there were several reminders that we are a long way away from Arab-Israeli peace. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Sunday, May 02, 2004
# Posted 2:47 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 5:40 AM by Patrick Belton
UPDATE: And here is the announcement - an American hostage, Thomas Hamill, has escaped from his captors. He returned to the CPA, and indicated that he was healthy and eager to get back to work.
In other recent news, the tabloid photographs of British soldiers abusing an Iraqi prisoner appear to have been fabricated, according to recent reports. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Saturday, May 01, 2004
# Posted 6:50 PM by Patrick Belton
Friday, April 30, 2004
# Posted 11:31 PM by Patrick Belton
With that said, Rachel and I are off now to Magdalen to hear the May Morning Hymn Hymnus Eucharisticus sung, per tradition, dreadfully early on May morning annually as a requiem for the soul of Henry VII. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 11:19 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 10:50 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
So here's the story: Our guest tonight was a very high-ranking official at the United Nations. Our discussion focused primarily on Iraq. It was a fascinating discussion upon which I will elaborate in a later post. An important concern raised in the discussion was the absence of an Arab model for Iraqi democrats to emulate. On that point, a question was asked by a certain graduate fellow in international relations known for her uncritical embrace of Palestinian 'activists'. If she were just one of the Trotskyites or Lyndon LaRouche supporters hawking flyers in Harvard Square, I would ignore her. But her intention is to become a professor. Therefore, she will be in a position to access hundreds of students who may not have access to another credible source of information. That is sad.
Now here is what my colleague asked: Given that the United States continues to have strong alliances with Arab dictatorships and continues to endorse the Israeli occupation of Palestine, might it be said that the United States has prevented the emergence of an Arab model of democracy for Iraq to emulate? All right. That is a standard argument found in the pages of The Nation. In fact, the President himself has said that the United States must no longer embrace Arab dictatorships.
But here's what really left my jaw hanging open. Before turning the floor back over to our guest, my colleague added that the first Intifada was a landmark example of democratic participation in Arab politics that the United States and Israel crushed without a second thought. Oh my God. The first Intifada happens to be one of the subjects of my colleague's doctoral dissertation. She will be arguing in journals and lecture halls that this was the lost model of Arab democracy.
My only consolation is that sometimes, people like this get their comeuppance. A number of months ago, this same colleague of mine delivered a paper on the subject of non-violent resistance. Her case study was the first Intifada. In the audience there happened to be a former Israeli soldier who is also a current graduate fellow at Harvard. He said to her: I served in the occupied territories during the first Intifada. Was it a non-violent rock that Palestinian rioters used to crush the face of one of my close friends? (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:19 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 1:30 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 11:58 AM by Patrick Belton
(And Rachel has asked me to point out that Dan's blog is required reading for Truman National Security Project members, too.) (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:58 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 5:57 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 5:13 AM by Patrick Belton
Then, the worrying: while his trade rhetoric is nowhere near the protectionist nonsense touted by, for instance, the otherwise attractive Senator Edwards, in his desire to win over the battleground rust-belt states of the mid-west, Senator Kerry's trade policy is oriented around getting tough on China and Japan for manipulating their currency, and going after other countries engaging in unfair trade practices with the "Super 301" process. While this, erm, unilateralism isn't Ross Perot, neither is it the Clinton administration's leadership of new free trade rounds, either.
Finally, the inevitable: Candidate Kerry is not above subordinating the sensible, centrist economic instincts displayed by his Senate-floor counterpart to the dictates of appealing to an electorate. For instance, he has now distanced himself from his earlier bold proposals to restructure Social Security, claiming now that Social Security can survive as is without structural adjustment, raised reitrement age or premuims, or lowered benefits. Which, of course, is pure poppycock, but perhaps inevitable. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 4:44 AM by Patrick Belton
(As a further note, when Rachel and I were invited over to meet the family in August, he was, incidentally, by far the most friendly to us - which perhaps explains my source of personal bias. Admirable humility from someone whom the Pacific islanders on Tannu worship as a god.) (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 4:30 AM by Patrick Belton
Dr Andrew Rathmell, Director of Planning, Policy and Analysis at the Coalition Provisional Authority, today received the Office of the Secretary of Defense Medal for Valor. The medal was presented by Ambassador L. Paul Bremer at a ceremony at the CPA Headquarters in Baghdad.This might serve as a fairly moving reminder that even in our day, heroism is not dead. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:04 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Thursday, April 29, 2004
# Posted 11:48 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Medals and ribbons are NOT considered to be interchangeable uniform accoutrements by anyone who served or is serving on active duty. In fact, in 1971, it would be possible for one to replace his ribbons with store bought official copies -- but not the medals. Medals were controlled items issued by the government. If you lost one (or several) they were hell to replace. John Kerry knew this then and knows it now.That being the case, how do Kerry's explanations of the medal throwing incident stack up with it? JS writes:
Did you see the clip from the  interview? [No, just read about it. -ed.] It was aired on Monday on The News on CNBC in a report from Kelly O'Donnell (the report was probably also shown on NBC Nightly News).That's a pretty good argument, but I'm not persuaded. When Kerry says "and above that...I gave back my others" he seems to be explaining how it was possible for him to have given back six or more medals if he'd only been awarded five. But that isn't the whole story. DC writes that
If you heard Kerry on Hardball last night or went to the site showing military ribbons with their medals attached to them, you would see that the medals are attached to the ribbons above them. Most soldiers don't usually wear the medals on their uniform, they only wear the ribbons. Purple Hearts, Bronze and Silver Stars all have corresponding medals. So when he said that in 1971 he threw his Bronze, Silver Star and Purple Hearts he was referring to the ribbons of the Silver and Bronze Star and the Purple Hearts. Ergo he didn't lie or mislead in 71 or 84 or now.That seems like a good explanation, but then why does Kerry describe himself in the '71 interview as throwing back "medals"? If the distinction was so clear to all the veterans involved, why does Kerry continue to insist that "what I said was and back then, you know, ribbons, medals were absolutely interchangeable"?
By the way, I asked yesterday Kerry had gotten so defensive and tried to blame Medalgate on the GOP attack machine if he himself were responsible for it. As JS (same JS as above, same JS as yesterday, still doing research on OxBlog's behalf) points out, the only reason ABC got its hands on the '71 interview was that the GOP sent it to them. Still, it's sort of strange that Kerry is blaming the GOP for what he himself said (a long time ago).
Finally, we get to a letter from GH. He writes
I'm not the least convinced that Kerry was acting bravely during his three month stint in-country. Recall that he was awarded, at least, three Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star, and a Silver Star. Many, including me, went in harm's way almost every day for a year or more and didn't collect an array like that.I'm not sure what to say about that. As someone who has never put his life on the line for his country, Kerry's actions seem extremely impressive to me. But if his fellow veterans don't buy his story, then Kerry will pay for it at the polls.
(3) opinions -- Add your opinion