OxBlog

Monday, May 10, 2004

# Posted 11:01 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

GOOD NEWS ON A BAD NEWS DAY: Kevin Drum explains why, contra Patrick, Brad Pitt really is the best choice to play Achilles.
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# Posted 10:51 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HERESY OF THE FAITHFUL: The Republican commentariat is turning on President Bush.
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# Posted 9:38 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ABU GHRAIB AND THE FUTURE OF A DEMOCRATIC IRAQ: Right now is the calm before the storm. We know that the horrific abuse of Iraqi prisoners will derail American efforts to build a stable and democratic Iraq. We just don't know how.

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.
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# Posted 6:03 PM by Patrick Belton  

NEWS FLASH TO HISPANOS IN THE AUDIENCE: Slate's Jacob Weisberg seems to think it's 'ridiculous' that a former governor of Texas, who has a sister-in-law from Leon, Guanajuato, uses the term 'hispanos.' He might have googled.
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# Posted 5:25 PM by Patrick Belton  

DIFFICULT DECISIONS: On the one hand, there's a movie coming out which adapts my personal favourite story, one indubitably among the greatest ever told.

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).
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# Posted 5:16 PM by Patrick Belton  

IN NY? LIKE CENTRAL ASIA? Then go hear the International Crisis Group's Osh director, David Lewis, speak at the Open Society Institute (400 West 59th Street, 3rd floor) on Wednesday, May 19, from 2:30 - 4:00 pm. I've had the happy privilege of being in touch with David on occasion, and he's a brilliant, nice fellow with a lot of folks in government who trust his opinion as a Central Asia hand.
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# Posted 1:39 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

AT WAR WITH RUMSFELD: The editors of the WaPo have been hammering home the same message day after day: That Donald Rumsfeld is personally responsible for creating a system of imprisonment whose excesses have been public knowledge for some time but about which the Secretary has done almost nothing. In light how strong a case the editors have made, it is extremely disturbing to see the President praise Rumsfeld so lavishly and declare that his performance has been "superb".
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# Posted 6:16 AM by Patrick Belton  

SILLY LANGUAGE TRICKS: One of the many things which make the world a generally interesting place to live in is its large number of in-group or secret languages, cants and cryptolects - many of which have existed for enormous stretches of time, and have popped up virtually intact after being transmitted from one very different group to another - and in the process, have often generated bits of slang which all of us would frequently recognise, even if it's occasionally a bit naff. Here are some examples, to get you started speaking incomprehensibly on your own:

• 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.
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# Posted 4:56 AM by Patrick Belton  

UUF! (Leb. Arabic dial.: expression of emotion or surprise; generally enunciated by a male with a forefinger placed on the temple, and eyes closed; c.f. N. Nahas) For those of you in the blogosphere who have wisely jumped ship to Movable Type (which is to say, most everyone in the blogging world apart from us and the Conspirators Volokh, who fortunately happen to be numerically substantial enough to keep Blogger going rather single-handedly), you sadly missed the surprise and confusion of logging on to Blogger this morning and wondering if you hadn't somehow accidentally logged on to Movable Type instead. In an event which the BBC, perhaps rather strangely, decided to cover this morning, Blogger rolled out a substantial change to its user interface this morning, which includes a "dashboard" which looks basically like Movable Type's, except, again for some rather inexplicable reason, you seem to be able to place your picture on it - perhaps to guard against any momentary lapses of identity while blogging. Perhaps because I personally tend to enjoy believing I look rather like Hugh Grant while blogging, I think I'll elect not to disabuse myself of that misconception; on the other hand, one wonders whether this reminding of people of their identity when they post will have the unintended effect of cutting down on pseudonymous blogging.
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Sunday, May 09, 2004

# Posted 8:29 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FAVORITE SONS: North Dakota blogger and historian Jon Lauck has set up a blog devoted entirely to the Daschle vs. Thune Senate race. If you want an in-depth look at this critical race, you know where to go.
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# Posted 5:27 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

AW, SHUCKS: Jason B. writes that
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...

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# Posted 4:55 PM by Patrick Belton  

ONLINE URDU GRAMMAR TEXT: For those of you who might be interested (not all at once, now!), there's an excellent Urdu grammar textbook which has been digitised at the University of Chicago. (Although I haven't yet found as good an online grammar for Hindi, there's a guide to the Devanagari alphabet here - and all of you will undoubtedly be excited to hear there's a digitisation of Mícheál ó Siadhail's excellent Irish grammar from Yale University Press (1988) here.)
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# Posted 4:49 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DISSENT WITHIN THE RANKS: Senior generals are blasting Rumsfeld & Wolfowitz for their conduct of the occupation. The WaPo reports that the unnamed generals won't go on the record because they are afraid of Rumsfeld & Wolfowitz becoming vindictive. As one might expect, those who argue that we are losing Iraq believe that we must abandon our efforts to promote democracy there.

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!
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# Posted 2:48 PM by Patrick Belton  

HEARD AROUND TOWN:

• `[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  

AND PEACE UNTO JERUSALEM: Sunday being a day of peace, today could be an excellent day to take note of several projects doing important work to build understanding between Israelis and Palestinians, and between Jews and Muslims in countries across the world.

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
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# Posted 11:32 AM by Patrick Belton  

SUDAN WATCH: This from the mail bag,
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:

"Sudanese officials strongly denied UN charges of ethnic cleansing in the war-torn western region of Darfur and accused Western donors of fanning the crisis by withholding development aid."

 In other words: "There is nothing going on, but it will worsen in the event we are not payed."

 Were politics not tragic, it would be hilarious!

Cheers,
EA
(a member of our Nathan Hale Foreign Policy Society, Los Angeles chapter)
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# Posted 8:06 AM by Patrick Belton  

A VERY HAPPY MOTHERS DAY to our mothers, and to all mothers in our readership:
Clearances, II
In memoriam M.K.H., 1911-1984

Polished linoleum shone there. Brass taps shone.
The china cups were very white and big -
An unchipped set with sugar bowl and jug.
The kettle whistled. Sandwich and teascone
Were present and correct. In case it run,
The butter must be kept out of the sun.
And don't be dropping crumbs. Don't tilt your chair.
Don't reach. Don't point. Don't make noise when you stir.

It is Number 5, New Row, Land of the Dead,
Where grandfather is rising from his place
With spectacles pushed back on a clean bald head
To welcome a bewildered homing daughter
Before she even knocks. `What's this? What's this?'
And they sit down in the shining room together.

Seamus Heaney, from The Haw Lantern (1987)
Rachel also insists everyone immediately go inspect cute pictures of maternal polar bears.
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Saturday, May 08, 2004

# Posted 10:00 AM by Patrick Belton  

UZBEKISTAN WATCH: For those of you who are the least bit interested in Central Asia, here's a wonderful blog written by a woman named Margaret, who's in Tashkent this year on an American Bar Association/CEELI-sponsored rule of law promotion project, in which she principally works to train litigators and public defenders. She has a canny eye for detail and an attractive writing style, and makes a quite nice addition to the interesting and growing list of bloggers writing from abroad. (And Kevin and the other cat-owners in the blogosphere will be gratified to know she even has a cat, Lola.)

Margaret-opa: Oxforddan salom!
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# Posted 6:48 AM by Patrick Belton  

LASER WEAPON DOWNS INCOMING MISSILE IN TEST: This is very neat. Earlier versions of the Tactical High Energy Laser have been dogged by, among other problems, the need to keep the laser beam tightly focused on a particular point on a generally quickly-moving target. At a time when we've grown used to repeated test failures in missile defence technology, contractor Northrup Grumman deserves congratulations for producing a system which has to date shot down 28 operational, captured katyusha rockets; and this is particularly the case with the recent escalation of hostilities along the Shabaa Farms portion of the Israel-Lebanon border.

(And plus, it's just really cool, too.)
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# Posted 12:27 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ACADEMICS AND AMATEURS: This afternoon, my institute -- the one I belong to, not the one I own -- hosted a discussion with Boston Globe political correspondent Patrick Healy. The subject of the discussion was "National Security and Campaign 2004". I was the moderator, which meant that I had to wear a jacket and tie.

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  

ANOTHER KIND OF HERO: Millions of Americans know the name of Pat Tillman, and deservedly so. But how many know the name of Joseph M. Darby, the soldier responsible for alerting his superiors to the abuse of Iraqi inmates?

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.
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# Posted 5:03 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

GOOD NEWS ON JOBS: Or not. It depends on your perspective:
"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.
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# Posted 8:05 AM by Patrick Belton  

TO OUR GOOGLE REFERRAL FROM 10:30 GMT THIS MORNING: Actually, we don't know either whether Harry Potter is circumcised or not. Sorry.
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# Posted 7:34 AM by Patrick Belton  

NEWS OF THE WEIRD: Now, lest there be any misunderstanding, we love Anne-Marie Slaughter. We also love McDonald's. But McDonald's inviting one of the nation's principal international jurists to serve on its board of directors? That's just ... odd funny. (Not, for instance, that I'd object if McDonald's were to invite one or more OxBloggers too to serve on its board. Particularly if, say, that entitled you to lifetime supplies of free fries, or extra specimens of the little toys which go in Happy Meals.)
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# Posted 6:30 AM by Patrick Belton  

ETYMOLOGIST'S CORNER: Ever wonder why England was referred to as Blighty? OxBlog's friend and OED etymologist Michael Quinion has the answer:
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.

Blighty was the inevitable British soldier’s corruption of it. But it only came into common use as a term for Britain at the beginning of the First World War in France about 1915. It turns up in popular songs: There’s a ship that’s bound for Blighty, We wish we were in Blighty, and Take me back to dear old Blighty, put me on the train for London town, and in Wilfred Owen’s poems, as well as many other places.
For more word play from Michael, see this.
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# Posted 4:46 AM by Patrick Belton  

PAKISTAN, PART THREE: The last of my three-part series on democratic prospects in Pakistan, today's installment examines the history of U.S. efforts to promote democracy in Pakistan, as well as alternative options for American policy and their likely results.

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!
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Thursday, May 06, 2004

# Posted 4:50 PM by Patrick Belton  

PART TWO of my three-part series on democracy prospects in Pakistan is up over at Winds of Change. Today's piece looks at the record of Pakistan's historical experiences with democracy, and examines several possible explanations for why electoral democracy has not taken root to date. It also takes a look at Pakistan's record with regard to several categories of rights generally taken to be part of liberalism, such as the right to free press, women's rights, the presence of forced labour, and the ability of opposition groups and human rights organisations to conduct their activities without interference.

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!
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# Posted 2:11 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE GOLDEN AGE OF MEDIA BIAS: Our neverending debates about the competence and fair-mindedness of the media focus incessantly on the present. But what might happen if someone (an OxBlogger perhaps) systematically examined how the media presented a given issue over an extended period time?

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 [1983], 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:

I can give you assurances. And there is no parallel whatsoever with Vietnam. We have the instance here of a government, duly elected. And just a short time ago – an election – the people of El Salvador proved their desire for order in their country, and democracy, and that they had no sympathy whatsoever for the rebels who are armed, who are trained by countries such as Cuba and others of the Iron Curtain countries…

The threat is more to the entire Western Hemisphere and toward the area than it is to one country. If they get a foothold, and with Nicaragua already there, and El Salvador should fall as a result of this armed violence on the part of the guerrillas, I think Costa Rica, Honduras, Panama, all of these would follow.
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:
''I can give you assurances and there is no parallel whatsoever with Vietnam,'' he declared in response to a question from the audience. But a moment later he said of the leftist insurgents:

''If they get a foothold, with Nicaragua already there, and El Salvador should fall as a result of this armed violence on the part of the guerrillas, I think Costa Rica, Honduras, Panama, all of these would follow…

''It is vital to us that democracy be allowed to succeed in these countries,'' he said.
The Washington Post also relied on subtle devices to suggest that Reagan was oblivious to the parallels between El Salvador and Vietnam:
After saying "there is no parallel whatsoever with Vietnam," Reagan proceeded to tick off his domino theory of what would happen if El Salvador falls to guerrillas, whom he described as trained by Cuba "and others of the Iron Curtain countries" and supplied with weapons coming through Nicaragua.
A decade and a half later, William LeoGrande made this premise more explicit:
Reagan was adamant: “There is no parallel whatsoever with Vietnam.” But he proceeded to describe the importance of El Salvador with a vintage recitation of the domino theory that could have been lifted directly from a speech by Lyndon B. Johnson in the 1960s, with only the names of the countries updated.
The number of American soldiers involved in training the Salvadoran armed forces had remained constant since the middle of 1981. The comparison between El Salvador and Vietnam – to which President Kennedy committed 10,000 soliders and President Johnson 500,000 – reflected the obsession of American journalists with a tragic past. The prominence and validation given to such comparisons at the expense of Reagan’s comments about democracy demonstrates how journalists’ selection and shaping of their articles’ content enables them to promote unequivocal and highly controversial interpretrations of political events without violating official standards of what constitutes objectivity. The de-emphasis of Reagan’s comments about democracy also demonstrated an unwillingness or inability to grasp the President’s main point: that whereas the United States had lost hearts and minds by not even trying to promote democracy in Vietnam, it had already played a decisive role in the holding of internationally-monitored elections in El Salvador.
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.

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  

NEWS THAT MAKES PATRICK HAPPY: Belton.com notes Belton is "consistently delicious." News that makes Patrick sad: per Belton.org, May 13-16 have been designated as Clean Up Belton Days.
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# Posted 10:27 AM by Patrick Belton  

SOMEONE NEW WILL BE SIGNING C: John Scarlett, an Oxford man.
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# Posted 3:46 AM by Patrick Belton  

AT A TIME WHEN PROFESSIONAL BASEBALL, grasping after new depths of crassness, has begun to auction the very covers of the bases on its diamonds to advertisers, the fiftieth anniversary of Sir Roger Bannister's first sub-four minute mile as a 25-year old medical student at Oxford comes as a welcome reminder of what we once had in sport and have lost.

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.
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Wednesday, May 05, 2004

# Posted 11:46 AM by Patrick Belton  

PART ONE of a three-part series on democracy prospects in Pakistan is up now on Winds of Change. (Oh, and it's by me....)
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# Posted 11:44 AM by Patrick Belton  

OKAY I'M BIASED, BUT CONGRATULATIONS, Rachel!

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 Dr Khong this distinguished Oxford academic said, and I quote, "What?" The accent obligingly repeated itself. Finally, at length, and after several repetitions, the DOA availed himself of the translation services of the first several rows of students, who helpfully translated Scots-to-Malaysian English for him, apologised profusely to the accent and went on.
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# Posted 11:44 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NOT A FOOL, JUST A SNOB: CH writes:
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.
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Tuesday, May 04, 2004

# Posted 10:25 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHY DOESN'T THIS HAPPEN MORE OFTEN? From the New Yorker:
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...

Toward the dessert (chocolate torte) portion of the evening, Uma Thurman rose to introduce a special guest: Aaron McGruder, the creator of the popular and subversive comic strip “The Boondocks,” who, as it happens, had travelled farther than anyone else to be there, all the way from Los Angeles. McGruder, one of only a few prominent African-American cartoonists, had been making waves in all the right ways, poking conspicuous fun at Trent Lott, the N.R.A., the war effort. An exhibition of his comic strips—characters with Afros and dreadlocks drawn in a style borrowing heavily from Japanese manga,with accentuatedforeheads and eyes—was on display in the Metropolitan Club’s Great Hall. It seemed to be, as a Nation contributor said later, “his coronation as our kind of guy.”

But what McGruder saw when he looked around at his approving audience was this: a lot of old, white faces. What followed was not quite a coronation. McGruder, who rarely prepares notes or speeches for events like this, began by thanking Thurman, “the most ass-kicking woman in America.” Then he lowered the boom. He was a twenty-nine-year-old black man, he said, who got invited to such functions all the time, so you could imagine how bored he was. He proceeded to ramble, at considerable length, and in a tone, as one listener put it, of “militant cynicism,” with a recurring theme: that the folks in the room (“courageous”? Please) were a sorry lot.

He told the guests that he’d called Condoleezza Rice, the national-security adviser, a mass murderer to her face; what had they ever done? (The Rice exchange occurred in 2002, at the N.A.A.C.P. Image Awards, where McGruder was given the Chairman’s Award; Rice requested that he write her into his strip.) He recounted a lunch meeting with Fidel Castro. (He had been invited to Cuba by the California congresswoman Barbara Lee, who is one of the few politicians McGruder has praised in “The Boondocks.”) He said that noble failure was not acceptable. But the last straw came when he “dropped the N-word,” as one amused observer recalled. He said—bragged, even—that he’d voted for Nader in 2000. At that point, according to Hamilton Fish, the host of the party, “it got interactive.”

Eric Alterman, a columnist for The Nation, was sitting in the back of the room, next to Joe Wilson, the Ambassador. He shouted out, “Thanks for Bush!” Exactly what happened next is unclear. Alterman recalls that McGruder responded by grabbing his crotch and saying, “Try these nuts.” Jack Newfield, the longtime Village Voice writer, says that McGruder simply dared Alterman to remove him from the podium. When asked about this incident later, McGruder said, “I ain’t no punk. I ain’t gonna let someone shout and not go back at him.”

Alterman walked out. “I turned to Joe and said, ‘I can’t listen to this crap anymore,’” he remembers. “I went out into the Metropolitan Club lobby—it’s a nice lobby—and I worked on my manuscript.”

Newfield joined in the heckling, as did Stephen Cohen, a historian and the husband of Katrina vanden Heuvel. “It was like watching LeRoi Jones try to Mau-Mau a guilty white liberal in the sixties,” Newfield says. “It was out of a time warp. Who is he to insult people who have been putting their careers and lives on the line for equal rights since before he was born?”

By the time McGruder had finished, and a tipsy Joe Wilson took the microphone to deliver his New Year’s Resolutions, perhaps half the guests had excused themselves to join Alterman in the lobby. A Nation contributor estimated that McGruder had offended eighty per cent of the audience. “Some people still haven’t recovered,” he said, sounding thrilled.

“At a certain point, I just got the uncomfortable feeling that this was a bunch of people who were feeling a little too good about themselves,” McGruder said afterward. “These are the big, rich white leftists who are going to carry the fight to George Bush, and the best they can do is blame Nader?”
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.
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# Posted 10:15 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DEUTSCHLAND UBER ALLES (ODER MINDESTENS ENGLAND): While it isn't hard to mock Italy for its revolving door governments, the harder question to answer is whether this sort of unstable arrangement actually hurts the substantive aspects of the policymaking process.

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.
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# Posted 5:33 PM by Patrick Belton  

ITALY SETS A NATIONAL RECORD tomorrow as Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's government surpasses in longevity any previous Italian government since the Second World War. It has lasted - wait for it - three years in office.

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 years
Tony Blair, 7 years, thus far
John Major, 7 years
Harold, later Baron, Wilson, 6 years; a second term ran 2 years
Harold Macmillan, subsequently Earl of Stockton, 6 years
Clement, subsequently Earl, Attlee, 6 years
Sir Winston Churchill, 5 years, 4 years
Edward Heath, 4 years
And the government of James (now Baron) Callaghan was in office 3 years, tying Berlusconi's mark.
By contrast, here are the governments of post-war Britain to have lasted less than three years:
Sir Anthony Eden, subsequently Earl of Avon, 2 years
Sir Alec Douglas-Home, 1 year
For 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)
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# Posted 4:59 PM by Patrick Belton  

IRAN. IRAQ. WAR.: MEMRI has an article describing Iranian influence in the Shi'a rebellion.
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# Posted 4:24 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHEN ZIONISTS ATTACK...they turn heads in Saudi Arabia.
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# Posted 4:18 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS: Unbelievable. Figuratively, not literally.
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# Posted 3:59 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

UNEXPECTED TO SAY THE LEAST: The Moving Ideas Network, sponsored by The American Prospect, has set up a comprehensive set of links to liberal and progressive resources" on the web.

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.
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# Posted 12:42 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HOW MCKINSEY CREATED JAYSON BLAIR: Not sure what I think of this idea, but it's certainly a new perspective on the issue.
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# Posted 6:16 AM by Patrick Belton  

ONE IN FOUR, MAYBE MORE? The Royal Mail loses 14.4 million pieces of mail annually, according to a watchdog report.

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?
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# Posted 4:41 AM by Patrick Belton  

LET US PRAISE FAMOUS MEN. And women. Georgiana Gerlinger Stevens, OSS veteran and correspondent for the Atlantic and Economist, rest in peace.
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# Posted 4:01 AM by Patrick Belton  

NEWS RELEASE: UNITED NATIONS LOSES ALL REMAINING MORAL CREDIBILITY. Sudan, which is currently in the midst of perpetrating genocide upon the tribal residents of its western Darfur region, has surpassing all imagination been permitted to retain by re-election its seat on the UN human rights commission.
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# Posted 3:47 AM by Patrick Belton  

DEMOCRACY PROMOTION LISTSERV: Do any of our readers happen to be familiar with any academic or practitioner listserv which focuses principally on questions in democratization and democracy promotion? I had never yet come across one, and thought that if indeed there isn't a listserv in the area, then we might perhaps think about starting one through our foreign policy society.
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# Posted 1:05 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HALFWAY THERE: I almost never read George Will, but the title of today's column grabbed me: "Time for Bush to See the Realities of Iraq". Just how far would Will go with his criticism? Pretty damn far. Will writes that
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.
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# Posted 12:48 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BETRAYING THEIR BROTHERS: Former MP Phil Carter has some very worthwhile thoughts on the abuse of Iraqi prisoners. Most jarring of all is his observation that the soldiers responsible for the abuses at Abu Ghraib have made the job of occupation that much harder for the rest of the armed forces. In short, Americans will die because of what Americans have done.
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# Posted 12:36 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE RIGHT KIND OF DUMMY: Ventriloquist-slash-blogger Joe Gandelman is guest blogging over at Dean's World. Check it out, especially Joe's post on Charlie Brown.
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# Posted 12:23 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DON'T CHANGE A WORD: Robert Kagan hits the bulls-eye with his column on Iraq. It is that damn good. For more links about Iraq, head over to Instapundit.
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Monday, May 03, 2004

# Posted 11:56 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

STOP PLAYING WITH MY MONEY!!! Why didn't anyone tell me about the new Louisiana Purchase commemorative nickel? I was emptying pockets just now and saw what I figured must be a Canadian nickel, so I was feeling pretty ripped off. But then I took a closer look.

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.
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# Posted 7:23 PM by Patrick Belton  

WE MAY NOT BE ABLE TO SINGLE-HANDEDLY DUMB DOWN AMERICA, BUT BY GOD WE'LL TRY, AWARD: Goes to USA Today, for managing to combine stunning amounts of both condescension and needless confusion in this answer:
Q: What is the formula for converting pressure in millibars of pressure to inches of mercury?

You don't really need a formula. The "standard" atmospheric pressure at sea level is 29.92 inches of mercury, or 1013.2 millibars. In other words, these numbers are the same, but in different measurement systems. Anyway, if you see a pressure on a weather map of, say, 1016 millibars, you can convert to inches of mercury by multiplying by 29.92 and dividing by 1013.2 to come up with 30.00 inches of mercury.

Why? Think of the rules for cancellation. When you multiply by inches of mercury and divide by millibars, the millibars cancel out and you're left with inches of mercury. And, it's OK to do the multiplication and division because the numbers represent the same air pressure. A number divided by itself is 1 and when you multiply a number by 1 you get the original number. To go the other way from inches of mercury to millibars, you just divide by inches of mercury and multiply by millibars. This method is a good way to do all sorts of conversions without memorizing a bunch of formulas, as long as you know one equivalent set of numbers in the two systems.
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).
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# Posted 7:19 PM by Patrick Belton  

OXFORD MEETS BAYWATCH: Current Oxford graduate student Amanda Kempa competed in the world beach lifeguarding championship held, need you ask, in Los Angeles. Said Professor-to-be Kempa: "The first time we pulled out a kid, it was, like, what’s happening? At first, you can tell they were scared, because they don’t know what you’re going to do, but then, it’s like ‘Can we do it again?'”
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# Posted 5:21 PM by Patrick Belton  

PAGING DAVID: I think we've found you your next research project for after your dissertation....
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# Posted 8:03 AM by Patrick Belton  

WHAT AMERICA DOES WITH ITS HEGEMONY WATCH: This via email from Baghdad (and just in the off chance you won't be hearing about it on the evening news):
A new multipurpose recreation facility has opened in the Al Dura neighborhood, benefiting thousands of residents in Baghdad's Al Rashid district.

The Al Dura Sports Complex includes a soccer field with bleachers, basketball court, a place for volleyball and a playground with several types of exercise equipment. The area was a vacant lot full of trash when the project started. It is an example of renovating and improving areas for public recreation called for by Ambassador Bremer in his Baghdad Beautiful initiative.

This success is the result of neighborhood District Advisory Council (DAC) leaders working together with the US Army First Cavalry Division to determine a project which would most help the area.

The ribbon cutting ceremony opening the facility was led by Sami Ahmed Sharif, the Al Rashid DAC Chairman, and Colonel Stephen Lanza of the US Army First Cavalry Division. Also in attendance were Baghdad City Councilman Sabin Radhi Zubun and US Army Brigadier General Jeffrey Hammond. Over 500 local residents, mostly children and their parents, attended the ceremony

Councilman Saba' Radhi Zubun said, "This will benefit many families in my district. For example, 60 soccer teams will play here in a tournament soon. And there are five schools with over 1,000 children each who can use this facility."

The children liked it as well. A twelve year old named Jafa said, "This is a very good idea. I play soccer, and my brother is on the field right now playing for the Iraqi Police Service team." His friend Mustafa added, "Thank you, American Army!" A soccer game was played between the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps (ICDC) and the Iraqi Police Service (IPS). IPS was victorious by a score of 2 to 0.
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# Posted 5:20 AM by Patrick Belton  

AND SEMANTIC (NOT SEMITIC) ACCENT ANECDOTE OF THE DAY: This comes via our good friend Josh Cherniss (this is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true).

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 "Sarah Sally Dang." Mystified, the students spent the entirety of reading week searching through the entire Faulknerian corpus and critical literature in vain for any mention of Sally Dang. Finally, with no one having encountered any such thing, they arrived at the exam confident that their professor had played an odd, and undoubtedly humourous, joke on them, the punch line of which he was about to reveal.

At precisely which point they received their blue books, and eight tightly spaced pages of questions about As I Lay Dying.
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# Posted 5:08 AM by Patrick Belton  

OXBLOG AND OPTIMISTS CLUB JOINT HEADLINE OF THE DAY PRIZE: "Qatar plans tourist boom" (CNN)

(Incidentally, Josh, David, and I applied to join the Oxfordshire Optimists Club, but personally I don't think they'll let us in.)
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# Posted 1:23 AM by Daniel  

IS IT GOOD FOR THE JEWS? I just got back from the 5th Annual New England Leadership AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) dinner and had a great time. For a few hours, I forgot that I was in law school and became that guy at Oxford who always talks about America and Israel and finds a way to work it into every conversation. However, instead of running away, people nodded and kept wanting to discuss it! In that way it was not like Oxford. Also, unlike Oxford, everybody seemed pretty pro-Israel.

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.
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Sunday, May 02, 2004

# Posted 2:47 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MASTERING THE ART OF COUNTERINSURGENT WARFARE: Belmont Club has a pair of interesting posts about Coalition forces' subtle integration of military and political initiatives in Fallujah and Najaf. I hope his analysis is correct. If it is, we should see the results soon enough.
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# Posted 5:40 AM by Patrick Belton  

THE CPA IS INDICATING BGEN Kimmitt will be making an important announcement this afternoon, at 2:30 Iraqi time.

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.
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Saturday, May 01, 2004

# Posted 6:50 PM by Patrick Belton  

JUSTICE DAVID SOUTER is one of the nicest, most moderate and thoughtful people to presently occupy a position in the American bench. Which is why this is really awfully sad.
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Friday, April 30, 2004

# Posted 11:31 PM by Patrick Belton  

HEY, LOOKEY, EUROPE JUST GOT ANOTHER TEN MEMBERS!

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.
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# Posted 11:19 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

VEEPSTAKES: It takes guts for a political scientist to actually predict something. That's because all that political scientists really have are their reputations, and they can't afford to put those on the line. So here's a shout out to Larry Sabato, who isn't afraid to put his money where his mouth is. Click here for a digest of Larry's latest picks, via TMV.
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# Posted 10:50 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MEMO TO VILLAGE: OUR IDIOT(ARIAN) IS LOOSE. This is the second time in 10 days that I have felt compelled to use the 'I'-word. It is also the second time in 10 days that I have felt compelled to use this word as a result of something said at a dinner sponsored by my own research institute. Finally, it is the second time in 10 days that I have felt compelled to use this word because of someone's unjust criticism of Israel and extreme naivete with regard to Palestinian 'activists'.

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?
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# Posted 10:19 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

JUSTICE, NOT FORGIVENESS: There is no excuse for the crude and humiliating treatment of Iraqi prisoners. The United States Army must punish the soldiers involved, including all those whose passivity and neglect enabled this shameful behavior to take place.
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# Posted 1:30 PM by Patrick Belton  

NEWSPAPER REPORTING ON SCENARIOS FOR HANDLING SECURITY AMID THE HANDOVER: CS Monitor has a roundup. Andrew has more.
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# Posted 11:58 AM by Patrick Belton  

IF YOU HAVEN'T YET READ DAN DREZNER'S TNR ESSAY today on why, counterintuitively, better prospects in Iraq seem to help Kerry, while Bush's lead has widened over the course of the Iraqi insurgency - then shoo!

(And Rachel has asked me to point out that Dan's blog is required reading for Truman National Security Project members, too.)
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# Posted 10:58 AM by Patrick Belton  

OXBLOG FRIDAY AFTERNOON REAL-LIFE-IS-ODDER-THAN-FICTION ROUNDUP:
  • Most ambassadors to the UN are rather sad at the moment because....because...they're not being permitted to play the part of UN diplomats in an upcoming Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn film. Thus Inocencio Arias, Spanish ambassador to the UN, who was set to play a prime minister: "It was my dream that I was going to be in a movie with Sydney Pollack directing. My opportunity to have a nomination for the Oscar next year went away because of some stupid regulation."

    Jordan's UN ambassador Prince Zeid Al Hussein, similarly miffed, said: "It's a great shame we weren't allowed to have bit parts in this movie because we're very familiar with the setting."

  • Only in Germany....A band in Germany, which performs only with giant panda heads covering their faces, is only releasing its subsequent albums in the form of mobile phone ringtones.

  • The founder of terrorist organisation Ansar al-Islam lost his temper when a female Muslim comedian, having secured the cleric's permission to perform "a little test to see if he was a fundamentalist," walked on to the stage and picked up the cleric, while declaring to her audience "a man who can be carried by a woman can't be a fundamentalist." The cleric, Mullah Krekar, exploded in rage while the audience convulsed in laughter.

  • Rhea County, Georgia Tennessee - whose principal, belated claim to fame had merely been providing the venue for the Scopes trial - briefly banned homosexuals by a unanimous vote of its county commissioners. When the commissioners were advised at a subsequent meeting by the county attorney that they could not actually ban homosexuals, they voted to rescind the ban, and have subsequently declined comment.

  • Harvard Professor Weldong Xu, having raised $600,000 to fund a fraudulent nonexistent project of SARS research in China, then proceeded to blow the entire amount on a Nigerian email scam. (Note to self: remember to apply for professorship at Harvard - may actually be qualified!)
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# Posted 5:57 AM by Patrick Belton  

TODAY'S THE DEADLINE FOR OUR FOREIGN POLICY ESSAY CONTEST: Which means, of course, that there's still plenty of time to enter. Details are here.
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# Posted 5:13 AM by Patrick Belton  

WHILE MOST COMMENTATORS ARE FOCUSING ON HIS FOREIGN POLICY or personality, the Economist displays a titular interest this week in Kerry's economic policies. Its verdict? There's good and bad there - first, the good. Kerry's plan to extend government health care to the uninsured is ambitious but more sensible than the early Clinton administration's proposal to reorganise the entire health-care sector. Also, in sterling contrast to the instincts of the current administration, he touts fiscal discipline (halving the budget deficit, and rolling back tax cuts on individuals earning over $200,000 a year).

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.
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# Posted 4:44 AM by Patrick Belton  

A GOOD PART OF THE DUKE OF EDINBURGH'S ALLURE is that he's the only royal you could even remotely imagine having a pint with. This becomes increasingly the case as the proposition comes to involve an increasing number of pints. Case in point: a recent authorised portrait of Prince Phillip by avant-garde artist Pearson Wright, which depicted him with a fly perched on his finger and a naked torso modeled on that of an elderly homeless man. A more remote royal might simply have glared, but the response of the Prince Consort was precisely that of a middle-aged Londonner with a middling good-natured sense of humour: "Gadzooks - as long as I don't have to have it on my wall" and, asked whether he thought it looked like him, a candid "I bloody well hope not."

(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.)
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# Posted 4:30 AM by Patrick Belton  

BRITISH CPA STAFFER RECEIVES AMERICAN AWARD FOR VALOR: This via email from the CPA press office, about a UK civilian who though injured saved the life of an army colonel and three others while under enemy fire:
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.

On January 21st 2004, Dr Rathmell was visiting the Forward Operating Base Warhorse in Baquba with civilian and military colleagues. While in Baquba, Dr Rathmell was caught in a mortar and rocket attack on the base. One mortar landed close to Dr Rathmell, and he was knocked to the ground, temporarily deafened by the blast. Despite his injury, Dr Rathmell was able to drag US Army Colonel Ralph Sabatino to safety, before running into the line of fire three more times to administer potentially life-saving first aid to others who were wounded, and tragically confirm that two soldiers were already dead.

As Ambassador Bremer presented the award to Dr Rathmell, he said "valor at risk of your own life requires strength of purpose sufficient to overcome the love of life, the fear of death. Andrew Rathmell is not a professional warrior, but he displayed the courage and coolness under fire to which all warriors aspire".
This might serve as a fairly moving reminder that even in our day, heroism is not dead.
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# Posted 12:04 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IS SISTANI A FEMINIST? This post from NZ Bear may not answer the question, but it sure will make you laugh.
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Thursday, April 29, 2004

# Posted 11:48 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MEDALGATE II -- HEAVY MEDAL: Marine Rifleman (Ret.) JC writes that
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 [1971] 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).

Here's a transcript of the clip:

INTERVIEWER: How many did you give back, John?

KERRY: I gave back -- I can't remember, six, seven, eight, nine medals (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

INTERVIEWER: Well, you were awarded the Bronze Star, a Silver Star, and three Purple Hearts.

KERRY: Well, and above that...

INTERVIEWER: Right.

KERRY: ... I gave back my others.

If you watch the clip, by "that" he was referring not to what he'd given back but to the interviewer's list of what he had been awarded; and by "I gave back my others" he meant: Yes, I was awarded those you just mentioned, but I was also awarded other decorations, and those are the ones I gave back (not the decorations you listed but the others).
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.

On Hardball he indicated he had gone to Washington with just his ribbons. Also the vets had initially come to Washington with no plan to toss medals. That was only decided the night before (with Kerry arguing against it and losing) because the Nixon administration had put up a fence which angered them. Military men or vets don't usually travel with their medals or wear the medals on their uniform. They wear the ribbons instead.
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.


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