OxBlog

Monday, July 26, 2004

# Posted 6:32 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HE SAID THAT?
"I'm not a liberal at all. I never joined the Americans for Democratic Action or the American Veterans Committee. I'm not comfortable with those people." 
Answer: John F. Kennedy
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# Posted 6:12 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

JOE WILSON?  NEVER HEARD OF THE GUY.  If you scroll past Howard Kurtz's report on blogs, you get to this:

Former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV's allegations that President Bush misled the country about Saddam Hussein seeking uranium from Africa was a huge media story, fueled by an investigation into who outed his CIA-operative wife. According to a database search, NBC carried 40 stories, CBS 30 stories, ABC 18, The Washington Post 96, the New York Times 70, the Los Angeles Times 48.

But a Senate Intelligence Committee report that contradicts some of Wilson's account and supports Bush's State of the Union claim hasn't received nearly as much attention. "NBC Nightly News" and ABC's "World News Tonight" have each done a story. But CBS hasn't reported it -- despite a challenge by Republican Chairman Ed Gillespie on CBS's "Face the Nation," noting that the network featured Wilson on camera 15 times. A spokeswoman says CBS is looking into the matter.

Newspapers have done slightly better. The Post, which was the first to report the findings July 10, has run two stories, an editorial and an ombudsman's column; the New York Times two stories and an op-ed column; and the Los Angeles Times two stories. Wilson, meanwhile, has defended himself from what he calls "a Republican smear campaign" in op-ed pieces in The Post and Los Angeles Times.

 I am disappointed but not surprised.  Btw, the Senate report does a helluva lot more than "contradict some of Wilson's account".  It pretty much shows that he is a liar, not Bush.
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# Posted 5:45 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHY DO BIG MEDIA SUDDENLY CARE ABOUT BLOGS? Last night, in a dark wooden corner of an Irish pub, he said to me that journalists now think bloggers are important because bloggers have been invited to cover an event -- the Democratic convention -- that journalists describe as inherently unimportant.

Who was "he"?  I wish I remember.  The only name I remember from last night is Sam Adams.  But the point is still valid.  If the convention is a pseudo-event produced for the benefit of the media, then by virture of getting invited, bloggers have become newsworthy.

I've also noticed that the same few bloggers are getting all of the attention.  Since one of them is Patrick Belton, I think that's just great.  But it means that other blogs are getting left out and that journalists are limiting their own supply of information.  For example, all but one of the bloggers mentioned in Howard Kurtz's convention-blogging round-up also get mentioned or quoted in Jenny 8-ball's round-up at the NYT.

If you're willing to invest the time, the best article about bloggers at the convention belongs to Carl Bialik & Elizabeth Weinstein at the WSJ.  After a brief introduction, they let more than two dozen bloggers speak for themselves.  In fact, each one gets a whole paragraph rather than a single quote.

Now let's turn the question around: Are bloggers going to tell us anything interesting about the convention that we wouldn't read about in a newspaper or political magazine?  I don't know.  It's too early to say.  But I'm curious.
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# Posted 8:46 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

"IF HITLER WERE ALIVE TODAY, HE'D HAVE HIS OWN BLOG": That's an actual quote from a recent editorial in the Sioux Falls (SD) Argus-Leader.  As Jon Lauck explains, the editors are not happy about bloggers' criticism of their liberal, pro-Tom Daschle bias.

So what are the editors planning on doing about the "nutty opinions" that pervade the blogosphere, "thereby playing a pivotal role in creating the polarized climate that dominates debate on nearly every national issue"?  Starting their own blog, of course.

(If Hitler had a blog, I bet he'd call it "Instafuehrer"!)
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# Posted 1:36 AM by Patrick Belton  

OXBLOG IN THE NEWS: We'll be on NPR tomorrow at 11, for those of you who might like to tune in. You can listen to the program afterwards here, too.

Also, we made today's NYT and Washington post - thus WaPo's Howard Kurtz:
Patrick Belton of Oxblog, an Oxford graduate student and self-described centrist who worked for Bill Bradley in 2000, sees the convention as "a wonderful time to take a snapshot of all different factions, who's on the rise and who's on the relative wane."

Belton has invited his blogging brethren out for a drink because "we have to cultivate a reputation for delightful alcoholism." The former Richmond resident [that's libellous] adds: "There's a lot happening on the margins that the more established media, by dint of time and space limits, just aren't able to cover. Blogs don't have word count limits."
And NYT's Jenny '8-ball' Lee:
"I look forward to the world that exists in the margins," said Patrick Belton, a 28-year-old Oxford University graduate student who blogs at Oxblog.com and calls himself a "liberal hawk."

"It will be interesting to get around the televised spectacle and see it as a meeting place for the different factions of the party," Mr. Belton said.
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# Posted 1:26 AM by Patrick Belton  

GETTING TO BOSTON: The play by play....

7:00 pm - enter Boston, at Boston South Station. Conversation with reporter from Tucson Jewish Post. Quote: 'I work there, but I'm not a Zionist. My son says, Mom, you can't become a Zionist, even if you work there.' Button: 'Bush Lied, People Died'.

Number of policemen with uzis in South Boston T-station: 4 or 5. Lots of young 20something men in suits with laptop bags. Falun gong women in yellow shirts.

7:08 Park Street station, red line: someone asks about my iBook, and whether I'm there for the convention. Quote: 'They've closed down some of my favorite restaurants, especially bagel cafe, where I go before church. Closed for convention. Unhappy.'

same time, place: on walks badged, glasses-wearing blonde 20something with shirt reading 'Boston & The Gilette Company Welcome You.' (Taking the college bowls sponsorship concept to new heights - the Gilette Democratic Convention.)

7:13 pm: Kennedy staffer: 'I love all these Democrats being here. It's like being a Jew in Israel'. OxBlogger: 'but usually, just being in Boston has the effect of surrounding you with Democrats, doesn't it?'

7:19 pm, Harvard station, red line: Decide, in spite of having been a student at yale, that I will like Harvard just fine if it has a toilet somewhere.

8:00 pm, Bloggers drinks. censored.
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Sunday, July 25, 2004

# Posted 10:13 AM by Patrick Belton  

THOUGHTS ON THE CONVENTION OF THE BLOG: The 2004 conventions will be remembered as the conventions of the blog; just like the 1952 Republican convention was the convention of the television, and the 1924 conventions were the conventions of the radio. Each symbolised the rise of a new technology to mediate between the political space of the public square and the personal, domestic space in people's living rooms, bedrooms, and kitchen counters. (We started OxBlog in April 2002; Glenn Reynolds began InstaPundit in August 2001, and the rush of widely read politics blogs followed then in his wake.)

Each of those forms of communication represented, and recreated, political events differently. What makes blogs different is the restoration of the human voice behind them, in line with the Victorian newspaper or Bagehot in today's Economist, quite different from the 'we' of today's editorial page and the unindividuated speech on page one. Today's newspapers reflect a positivist philosophy of knowledge coming from the 1950s and Karl Popper, when they attained their present form - each draws one authoritative representation of each political event, and exists in splendid isolation, ignoring the others like mildly distasteful neighbours. The blogosphere reflects the epistemology of the moment, Jurgen Habermas's intersubjectivity, where many individuals speak with each other and compare their different representations of the political event. The blogosphere also fits the same social moment as the new economy - it's decentralised, younger, quickly adaptable, and better describable by chaos theories of spontaneous order than Weber's models of bureaucracy, which correspond better to the career foreign correspondent services of the print newspapers, themselves mirrored on that ideal type of bureaucracy, the Foreign Service.

Blogs are personal - there's a human voice behind them; bloggers write as an humble 'I,' not as the powerful, quasi-sovereign editorial 'we'. As a blogger, you engage in running, for the most part respectful conversations with other bloggers to your right and left, which might well turn out to be our age's running conversation of the republic. As a technology for representing politics and mediating between public and domestic space, blogs share neither television's passivity, nor print journalism's unspoken biases, and largely due to these running conversations with other blogs - which as a blogger keep you honest, and continually making explicit, questioning, defending, and reframing your assumptions. You also have the opportunity to place in the foreground many things that in print journalism ordinarily happen off the page - for instance, editors'-office discussions about whether to run a particular sentence, or unattributed source, or whether a particular elicitation of fact is misleading. In the blogosphere, those editors-office conversations take place in the running conversations between blogs, and are all visible to the reader, who's then given the opportunity to make up her own mind.

Which is, of course, rather more democratic; and that in turn gets us back to the conventions, and their place in history. Writing before the Democratic convention of 1924, The Nation speculated the coming campaign would mark a faddish cycle of broadcast journalism, but by 1928 politics would surely abandon the radiowaves to return to more sensible, solider stuff. The New Republic, more optimistic, speculated that radio might instead last for a few more campaign cycles. Broadcast journalism was here to stay, and so is internet journalism today. Eighty years afterward, bloggers such as OxBlog are looking forward to the Convention of the Blog to unveil to a broader audience an exciting new medium for politics, and to use it to get around the televised spectacle which conventions have become, and give some light to the remnants of real politics which still exist there.
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# Posted 10:08 AM by Patrick Belton  

MY ADVICE FOR THE DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Or, Why Kerry Shouldn't Run Away from Democracy

As I've noted here once before, November's will be the sixth election to turn on a referendum for a foreign war - like 1812, 1844, 1896 (the latter two before the fact), 1954, and 1968 before it. The outcome will be decided not by reliably Democratic voters who are lining up to see Fahrenheit 9/11, but by swing voters who want American troops kept in Iraq to provide the security for a stable democracy to emerge, and who aren’t convinced by Bush’s record there.

Democrats should be careful of running away from democracy promotion and toward, of all things, the realpolitik foreign policy of Bush I – an administration which never saw an oppressive government it didn’t like. Kerry staffers privately admit to doing as much, saying that an Iraq-wearied public won’t stand for Wilsonianism and wants a return to cold national interests. The problem is, this will sell out most of what the Democratic legacy stands for at its root in foreign policy: from Wilson’s Fourteen Points to FDR’s Four Freedoms to the Clinton administration's intervention to halt genocide in Kosovo (another war fought without UN sanction). It would also be bad politics.

The Kerry campaign's syllogism runs something like this: 1. Bush is associated with democracy promotion, 2. the American people are tired of both, so 3. therefore, run on realism. However, both premises of the argument are faulty: 1. there are votes to be had in democracy, and 2. Bush's record there is assailable. That voters support promoting democracy is evident in the Chicago Council on Foreign Relation's latest poll, which finds 71 percent of Americans favoring democratic assistance. 85 percent of respondents in the same poll also find helping to bring a democratic form of government to other nations to be 'very' or 'somewhat' important. Before hurrying to repudiate tout court the Democratic legacy in promoting democracy and human rights, Kerry might instead give pause to the votes of the swing 20 percent of Americans who are (according to a recent New York Times poll) committed to democracy in Iraq, but disapprove of Bush’s handling of Iraqi reconstruction.

Furthermore, Kerry can make a convincing argument that he can do much better than the current administration, drawing on the easy overseas popularity coming to an Atlanticist, multilateralist Democrat who would strike Europeans as, subconsciously, one of them. The fact is, campaign rhetoric aside, Bush's performance in promoting democracy is neither uniformly good, nor is it uniformly bereft of accomplishment. On the one hand, in countries from Uzbekistan to Pakistan to Egypt, the Bush administration has pursued security alliances with undemocratic, frequently dictatorial leaders, ensuring that the next generation of anti-regime protesters view the U.S. as the enemy rather than friend of their nationalist or democratic aspirations. On the other hand, in August 2002, the U.S. applied intense pressure to the government of Egypt after its arrest of democracy activist Saad Eddin Ibrahim, including a moratorium on new aid to Egypt as long as Ibrahim remained in prison. The State Department announced on July 13 that it was freezing all aid to the government of Uzbekistan as a rebuke against its human rights record. Madeline Albright’s brainchild the Community of Democracies has since in this administration been carefully fostered by Paula Dobriansky. Like the Clinton administration's, the Bush administration's National Security Strategy gives pride of place to expansion of democracy in the world. There's more than enough here to make an argument on both sides.

To have two candidates running to convince the American people they can better advance democracy in the world, now that's a grand prospect. Instead of running for the vote of Richard Nixon’s ghost or Moore’s viewers, Kerry needs to convince voters in the center that not only is democracy promotion not the exclusive preserve of neocons, but multilateralist Democrats can in fact with their broader international support do the same job, better. Democracy promotion has the potential to be one of a core set of issues at the heart of a new bipartisan foreign policy consensus, along with prosecuting the war on terror and the reconstruction of Iraq, building up the nation’s pitiably overstretched army, and acting to shore up the degenerating security situation in Afghanistan, and with both tickets trying to convince the public they can pursue this centrist foreign policy better than the competition.

Optimistically, it now stands in the interests of both candidates— not merely the nation and its citizens —to reach for a centrist politics in foreign affairs to displace the fiery populism whose flames were stoked over the last decade by Gingrich and Gore, and which led to the heated partisanship in witness since the 2000 result. And the rest of us – those not munching on our popcorn this summer – can finally have some measured hope, for that reason.
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# Posted 9:35 AM by Patrick Belton  

A WARM HELLO to everyone coming to see us after our interviews on CNN yesterday and C-SPAN's Washington Journal program this morning - we hope you'll come back often!
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Friday, July 23, 2004

# Posted 11:18 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A LATTER DAY VAN DOREN: The WaPo profiles Jeopardy! super-champ and millionaire Ken Jennings.  The best part is how all of his personality quirks get under Alex Trebek's skin.  For example:
"Tell us some deep, dark secret about yourself," Trebek implored somewhere in the seventh week, after exhausting his supply of cue cards listing Jennings's hobbies and amusing anecdotes.
"You know," Jennings deadpanned, "I killed a man down South once."
Not PC according to Ralph Luker, but still pretty damn funny.
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# Posted 11:15 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE REAL TALKING POINTS MEMO:  One-sided?  Perhaps.  Intensely partisan?  No doubt about it.  But this clip from The Daily Show is both very interesting and very funny.  (Hat tip: G.p)
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# Posted 11:02 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SANDY BURGLAR: I don't want to touch this one with a ten foot pole.  The amount of time it takes to master all the details of a scandal is just too much.

That said, a few quick thoughts.  First, Greg Djerejian is right; the NYT's first article about the Berger incident was pathetic.  Second, Berger really f***ed over Kerry bad by not letting him know the first thing about the investigation.  My guess is the Berger expected to be cleared and didn't want to say anything until after he was confirmed as Secretary of State or Defense.

Finally, Berger's motives remain a mystery.  Josh Marshall (who saw nothing wrong with the Times' coverage of the story) also admits to being befuddled and writes that:

I think a lot of Democrats are going to be asking why Berger didn't see this coming down the pike, step aside from his prominent advisory role with the Kerry campaign, and avoid at least the immediate partisan political dimensions of the current predicament almost entirely.

I say it with much less than no pleasure. But I'm wondering. And I don't have a good answer.

I don't have a precise answer, either, but Josh might begin by asking whether perhaps, just perhaps, arrogance, selfishness, disloyalty and contempt for open government are personality traits on which Republicans do not have a monopoly.

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# Posted 10:50 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

UNCOMMON SENSE: As I mentioned before, I'm in the midst of reading Thomas Paine's classic treatise, and so I thought I would share some of the more interesting parts.  This is from Chapter One:
Society in every state is a blessing, but government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil...

In order to gain a clear and just idea of the design and end of government, let us suppose a small number of persons settled in some sequestered part of the earth, unconnected with the rest, they will then represent the first peopling of any country, or of the world.

In this state of natural liberty, society will be their first thought.  A thousand motives will excite them thereto; the strength of one man is so unequal to his wants, and his mind so unfitted for perpetual solitude, that he is soon obliged to seek assistance and relief of another, who in his turn requires the same.
Thanks to my deficient knowledge of the Englightment, Paine's emphasis on the human need for companionship strikes me as quite interesting.  From my cursory reading of Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau, I have the sense that in their states of nature, man has no inherent desire to interact with his fellow human beings.  Instead, their is only fear.
 
I also find it interesting that there are apparently no women in the state of nature, even according to Paine.  The omission is somewhat disturbing since, after all, there would be no man in the state of nature if not for the man and woman who gave him life and then protected him while he was a child.

If I had time to read books not about American foreign policy, I think I'd try to figure out where the whole state-of-nature idea came from.  Is it a derivative of the Garden of Eden stories in the Bible?  If so, why are there only Adams in the state of nature and no Eves? 

So many questions.  So little time.
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# Posted 10:35 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHO IS YGLESIAS SLEEPING WITH? Yes, I know.  You're thinking to yourself, "What the hell is happening to OxBlog?  If I wanted this kind of trash I'd spend my time reading Wonkette!"

But don't worry.  The subject of this post has no sexual connotations.  But would I really have gotten your attention by writing "Who is Yglesias co-habitating with?" or "Who is Matt's new roommate?"

Well, the answer is Kriston from Grammar Police, a trenchant, White Stripes-lyrics-quoting and highly-educated blog that I just read for the first time (even thought it's already been around for a whole year).

Now, if pictures are to believed, Kriston is a guy, which must have disappointed Matt considerably.  However, Kriston is extremely liberal, thus disproving the old saying that 'politics makes strange bedfellows roommates'.


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# Posted 7:38 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NOBODY & EVERYBODY:

The former New Jersey governor said that of all the millions of words spoken by Bush and Al Gore during the 2000 campaign, the commission could find only one reference to terrorism. That, he noted, meant that reporters had not been asking about the subject. Which, of course, underscores how totally unprepared the country was--not just the last two administrations and Congress, the CIA and FBI, but the media as well--for the horror that was to be inflicted on us.

Despite the first World Trade Center attack, the bombing of the East African embassies and of the USS Cole, no one was prepared. 

That's from Howard Kurtz, who rounds up some of the recent reactions to the 9/11 Report.  Perhaps the NY Daily News put it best:
"WE BLEW IT, BUT THERE'S NOBODY TO BLAME."

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# Posted 12:40 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MEET THE NEW BOSS: Even the liberal New Republic is praising the hard work and intellectual honesty of Philip Zelikow, the Republican staff director of the 9/11 Comission.

While Zelikow's reputation for fair-mindedness isn't exactly news, I thought I'd point it out since I'm going to start working for Dr. Phil come August 1st.  Prof. Zelikow won't be my direct supervisor, but he is the director of the Miller Center for Public Affairs at the University of Virginia.

Having finished up my time as an Olin Fellow here at  the Cambridge Clown College Harvard, I will now be headed down south to become a fellow at the Miller Center Fellow, where I hope to finish up my dissertation by the end of next January.

I am very excited about moving to Charlottesville, and not just for the weather or the scenery. The Miller Center stands out from all other academic institutions of its kind because of its sincere commitment to produce scholarship that educates the American public.

Instead of the statistic- and game theory-laden political science that predominates at Harvard (although not so much at Olin), Miller embraces a historical approach that combines common sense with uncommon scholarship.

One interesting indication of its interests in promoting public discussion is its requirement that all fellowship applicants submit a hypothetical proposal for a NYT op-ed.  While there are better papers out there, the concept behind this admissions test is sound: that the ultimate validation of political scholarship is its ability to educate the public and guide the hand of government officials.

I subscribe to this philosophy whole-heartedly and look forward with considerable excitement to living in Virginia.

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# Posted 12:24 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

EVEN THE LIBERAL NEW REPUBLIC: Crossing partisan lines to support Republican initiatives is a time-honored tradition at TNR.  That lesson was driven home earlier this evening when I sat down with a copy of the Congressional Record from 1986. 

In March of that year, Congress confronted the single most historic as well as the single most divisive foreign policy vote of Reagan's second term in office: Whether or not to support $100 million of military aid to the Nicaraguan contras.  Throughout the debate, Republicans cited TNR's eloquent editorial on behalf of the contras.

The 1986 contra votes (there was more than one) were far more divisive than the fall 2003 vote on Iraq.  Two-thirds of the American public was against the contras.  Vicious red-baiting from Pat Buchanan and the rest of the White House communications staff polarized Washington.

After a round of initial setbacks, Reagan got what he wanted.  I often ask myself which side I would have voted for if given the chance.  In spite of benefiting from two decades of hindsight, I still don't know the answer.

Thus, there is no moral to this story just yet.  But what I will say is that inspiring and impassioned debate did not come to an end with the demise of Henry Clay and Daniel Webster.  The quality of the debates I have read is truly historic. 

Congress had its share of fools in the 1980s (some of them still in office), but then again, it is a representative body.
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# Posted 12:07 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DA CONFESSIONS OF ALI G: A first-rate interview in the NYT.  Plus, the second MoDo column that consists entirely of retelling Ali's jokes.  Finally, 'respet' to the NYT for finally starting to put relevant hyperlinks in their articles.
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Thursday, July 22, 2004

# Posted 11:53 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ONE MAN'S FREEDOM FIGHTER:
It's been the misfortune of the Palestinian people to be stuck with Yasir Arafat as their founding father, a leader who has failed to make the transition from romantic revolutionary to statesman.
That's from a masthead editorial in the NYT.  Perhaps someone should explain to the editors: 1) The difference between romantic revolutionaries and anti-Semitic terrorists.  2)  That terrorists are not known for becoming accomplished statesmen.  (Except for Lenin, whose accomplishments as a statesman were quite impressive but rather unfortunate for those of us who are not Communists.)

To the NYT's credit, they are now calling for Arafat's resignation.  So, better late than never.

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# Posted 11:46 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A REMINDER OF WHO'S EVIL: Blowing up soldiers.  Blowing up police stations.  Blowing up a hospital?  The insurgents in Iraq are completely out of control.

On the bright side, the attack finally resulted in a NYT article without a single negative comment directed at the occupation.  Then again, it still took the NYT until the eleventh paragraph of its report to explain that the insurgents had fired on the hospital, not the Americans or the Iraqi government.
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# Posted 11:07 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NEWSFLASH: THE BRITISH ARE DRUNK.  In the UK it's a fact of life.  But the NYT provides an admirable summary of the evidence:
"There is a clear and growing problem in our town and city centers up and down the country on Friday and Saturday nights," said [Prime Minister] Blair, whose son, then 16, was found vomiting and incoherent on a London street four years ago after an evening of drinking.
Wow.  Sixteen.  He had Jenna & Barabara beat by a good two years. 
Government statistics show that Britons on average drank the equivalent of 8.6 liters of pure alcohol each in 2001, nearly double the rate of 1951. That translates into more than 86 bottles of wine, or 350 pints of beer...

While people in a number of countries still drink more overall, Britons (and the Irish, as well) are likelier to go on drinking binges, consuming five, six, seven or more drinks in a single session. "Binge drinking is now so routine that young people find it difficult to explain why they do it," a recent Home Office report said.
That's not fair!  They reason they can't explain what they're doing is because they're drunk! 
On weekends, 70 percent of emergency-room patients are involved in drink-related incidents. Deaths from chronic liver disease in England, a crucial indicator of alcohol-related harm, have shot up more than fivefold since 1950...

Dr. Atkinson said he did not know why Britons tended toward violence and accidents after drinking.
Either the good doctor is being quoted out of context or socialized medicine has resulted in idiots becoming doctors. 
The northern [European] countries, including Britain, Ireland and Scandinavia, are more ambivalent about alcohol, relying on it as a crucial social lubricant while also treating it as something that needs to be tightly controlled lest it spin out of control.
Having lived in the UK, I'd say that by 'tightly controlled', what the Times actually means is "available to anyone old enough to shave."
Even genteel Cambridge has had so many problems with street drunkenness that it is debating whether to forbid outdoor drinking.
"Youth culture is just drink, drink, drink," said Eleanor Smith, a 57-year-old retired secretary who lives off Mill Road, one of the rowdiest drinking spots in Cambridge. 
Perhaps Oxford is different from Cambridge, but I'd say that youth culture in Britain is also about "drugs, drugs, drugs" and "sex, sex, sex".  (For the record, OxBlog thinks of itself as firmly anti-drug.)
 
In conclusion, all I can say is thank God the British don't have a Constitution or a Second Amendment, because if they did, all bloody 'ell would break loose.
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# Posted 6:26 AM by Patrick Belton  

NEW OXBLOG FEATURE FOR THE CONVENTION: So this afternoon, I'll be taking off for a couple of blissful days in New York, involving seeing friends, having roast beef at Katz's and Mexican in Spanish Harlem, and napping with a few friends in Central Park (during the day, that is). It's the best city in the world, and I've missed it. I'll also be filming an interview, it looks like, with CNN to debate a yet-to-be-named blog sceptic at the Kennedy School of Government, and I'll let our readers know when that appears, in case any of you might be interested. I'll then reappear in Boston Sunday night, in time to host blogger's drinks (at The Field, in central Cambridge, at 7ish...)

More to the point, though, I've been able to give some thought to the way we'll be covering the Democratic convention. I don't see electronic media emerging as a competitor for broadcast and print journalism, but rather to complement them by doing things they're not by nature well suited to do. Blogs, for instance, don't share the word limits of print press or the time limits of network news. We're free to write as long as we feel is warranted by an interesting turn on events; or to say that nothing at all interesting happened that day. This is partially the result of the prose style, and partially the bliss of writing in a largely amateur medium.

One feature that I'd like to introduce here is something called roughly 'you ask the questions'. This is partly an admitted attempt to shovel off work onto our readers, partly one to take advantage of all the really quite extraordinary expertise of our readership, and partly also to try something that this prose style is conduicive toward - it's easier to ask readers to suggest questions for our interviewees when they're reading us at their computer, after all. Compared with calling in to C-span or writing the New York Times's ombudsperson, an aspect of interactivity is simply built into blogs, because unlike the last two media, the internet is naturally a two-way medium of communication.

So on here, I'll let our readers know which people we're going to be interviewing and when, and then during the interview, I'll pose the questions that we've received from our readers. The DLC and PPI have been quite nice to us in extending a large number of interviews with their principal staff; we'll also be conducting interviews with people in the Kerry foreign policy circle, and with members and staff from the foreign policy and national security committees of Congress.

I think this way of drawing on our readers to shape our coverage is rather democratic; and that in turn gets us back full circle to the convention. The conventions of both parties, and resembling in this respect both chambers of Congress, have principally evolved since 1976 as spectacles oriented toward televised consumption. The symbiosis has been less than mutually beneficial to each of the two species, though, with television decreasing its coverage markedly since 1976, when gavel-to-gavel coverage ended for all networks with the exception of ABC (which had ended its four years before), and more so in each convention thereafter. From the perspective of the media, particularly broadcast media, coverage is quite limited - NBC, for instance, will broadcasting only three hours from this year's convention, mostly to be taken up by the grand speeches and the roll call of the states; but from the perspective of the convention, it is still organised toward generating images on television which will sway voters to vote for the party's candidate. There's less substance, conveniently just as there's less room to catch it up in.

But there remain nonetheless those peculiarly political aspects of conventions that have in recent years been overtaken by the convention-as-spectacle elements, which a subversive medium like the blogosphere can seek to recover and reinvigorate. To film a declining few minutes of 'roll call of the states' footage, the parties have gone to the trouble of gathering representatives of every faction, region, and personality orbit within the party together in one place. So a blog-writer may as well take the opportunity to go and speak with them all.

The Democratic Party is, at the moment, a remarkably heterogeneous assembly, with Clintonites, Kennedyites, Deaniacs, and all the other personalized neologisms spinning around their respective charismatic centers. Blogs such us ours will be looking forward to spending more time speaking with people within each of those orbits - to inspect how the world looks from their perspective, what trends and trajectories may be important for their inhabitants, and which developments in their orbit they believe are underreported in the print and broadcast media.

And writing as an amateur and the equal of the person who is the subject of our journalistic gaze that moment will, I think, compel us to relate to the delegates we cover as individuals, with respect and humility, and without film crews hovering over our shoulders - or, still worse, the journalistic impulse to treat them as 'cute', with their profligacy of buttons. Personally, I'm very much looking forward to the opportunity.
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# Posted 2:06 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALLGAME: It was an extraordinary night at Fenway Park.  It was the first time that I had been to Fenway since moving to Boston last fall.  In fact, it was the first time I'd been to Fenway since I was in high school.

Sitting thirty rows up in the bleachers, we were in the ideal place to see some spectacular plays in the outfield.  In the first, Oriole shortstop Miguel Tejada stole two runs away from the Red Sox with a diving catch.  

In the seventh, Johnny Damon crashed into the centerfield wall, while Oriole DH David Newhan sped around the bases for an inside-the-park home run.   It was only the second inside-the-park job I'd ever seen.

What made this action all the more satisfying was Fenway Park itself.  I've been to a half-dozen ballparks in my life; none is as intimate as Fenway.  The stands huddle around the field, spilling over with the sellout crowds that come to the ballpark night after night.

Alas, I am a Yankee fan.  Still, I was rooting for the Red Sox.  In part, because they deserve so much pity.  But more importantly, because the people of Boston have truly made baseball worth of its designation as America's pasttime.
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# Posted 1:15 AM by Patrick Belton  

JUDICIAL STUDMUFFINS: Underneath their Robes - think Wonkette, for the judicial set - has released the results of its 'superhotties of the federal bench' contest, conducted by polls of its readers. The results? Kozinski takes the cake for the guys, Kimba Wood for the womenfolk. Personally, I would have gone for Souter and, of course, Kleinfeld.
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# Posted 12:54 AM by Patrick Belton  

WELL, AT LEAST WE HAD AN ARMY OF ONE...then this made him/her leave. (Warning: link not suitable for those easily offended by dried food designed to be rehydrated using urine.)
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Wednesday, July 21, 2004

# Posted 7:58 AM by Patrick Belton  

10 YEARS OF BLAIR: It is ten years ago today that the MP for Sedgefield was confirmed as the new leader of the Labour party. He would on 2 May 1997 become the nation's youngest prime minister since Lord Liverpool at the time of Waterloo. Of postwar governments, only Thatcher's lasted longer. Writing both as an American and as a longtime resident of Britain, I regard with great sadness the prospect he will ever have to go.

His political skills are without parallel in his own country, and abroad mark him as the only equal of Clinton. In the final question time before Parliament's summer recess, Blair's task was to defend the war in Iraq in the face of charges of flawed intelligence. He defended it, as was right, as an 'act of liberation for the Iraq people', saying that MPs should 'rejoice' in the result - a conscientious evocation of Margaret Thatcher at the Despatch Box after the Falklands. The magnificent assessments of his performance spanned party lines: the Guardian headlined that he 'survives Commons Iraq debate unscathed', the Daily Telegraph swooned that he 'showed he is a great survivor', and the tabloids joined the chorus.

He has reinvigorated centrism in Britain, as the DLC and similar organisations did for the United States. Again like his transatlantic partner, Blair's mark was to make many of the economic reforms of Thatcherism palatable to the left. As a result, the British economy has in our lives never been stronger. Whereas a quarter-century ago it had fallen past the Federal Republic of Germany and France, and was about to fall past Italy as well, it is now closing in on Germany for the European crown, and its per capita GDP mark it as the second richest country in Europe past Luxembourg.

It is a sad truism of British politics that, as Enoch Powell lamented, 'all political careers end in failure.' Baroness Thatcher is recalled now for the poll tax. Perhaps in the end Blair will be the final casualty of the Iraq war; his ratings are dismally low at the moment in satisfaction (36%) and making Britain a 'fairer' place (22%), and 55 percent believe he lied in the lead-up to Iraq. If so, it would be a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions, and one in which its protagonist met his fate heroically. But perhaps he will live to die another day - he still commands a 5-point lead over the perpetually inept Tory opposition. If he does, it will be greatly for Britain's benefit.

UPDATE: Oh goodness, I've done something wrong with the per capita gdp - there's some measure by which Britain is the second-best off in Europe, but I won't be able to dig it out for a quick bit as I'm about to fly to New York.
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# Posted 4:14 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LIFE IMITATES ONION: Via Pejman.
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# Posted 2:40 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DOES JOE WILSON MATTER?  The extremely charitable Matt Yglesias has graciously sought to straighten out some of OxBlog's muddled thinking.  Yesterday, I admitted that
Frankly, I'm still confused as to why top-ranking administration officials were so eager to distance themselves from the 16 words if Wilson's accusations were so exaggerated.
Matt's answer is that while Wilson exaggerated his role in exposing the mendacity of the 16 words, the words themselves were simply untenable. 

But I beg to differ.  Wilson claimed that his February 2002 report exposed the Italian documents on Iraqi-Nigerien relations as forgeries.  But the CIA didn't have those documents until October 16, 2002.

Nine days earlier, on October 7th, George Bush delivered an address in Cincinnati which the CIA aggressively edited to ensure the accuracy of Bush's comments about African uranium.  As Tom Maguire points out, what the CIA removed were very specific claims about the Nigerien uranium that it couldn't back up. 

Then, shortly after the Cincinnati speech, the CIA suggested replacement language that was extremely similar to the 16 words that ultimately made it into the SotU.   What the CIA suggested was "Sought uranium from Africa to feed the enrichment process."  What Bush ultimately said was "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."

As Tom points out, the similarity of these two statements debunks Matt's claim that the CIA specifically objected to the SotU language (aka the "16 words") as early as October.

Now, since Matt wasn't able to help me resolve my initial confusion about the efforts of Rice, Tenet, et al. to distance themselves from the 16 words, I've come up with a hypothesis of my own: Wilson's accusations may have been false, but they drew attention to the fact that the American, British and French intelligence services had all based their conclusions about the Nigerien uranium on a set of forged documents.

Arms inspector Mohammed El-Baradei publicly exposed the documents as forgeries in March 2003.  What I can't figure out is when, exactly, the US government learned out that the documents were forged. 

This post from TPM suggests that the British didn't identify the documents as forgeries until at least February 2003, i.e. after the State of the Union.  My best guess is that if the UK didn't know until February 2003, neither did the US.

So, in conclusion, my hypothesis is that the Bush administration's panicked response to Wilson's accusations reflected its embarrassment about the forgeries, not Wilson's false accusation that the administration lied.

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# Posted 2:18 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BASHING THE ECONOMIC LEFT: DLC enforcer Matt Yglesias has some tough words for Thomas Frank and Barbara Ehrenreich.  Just as I did when I read Ms. Ehrenreich's column, Matt wonders how she could claim that "millions have absorbed [Nader's] message".  Or for that matter how switching her support from Nader to Kucinich counts as moving toward the mainstream.

Matt's problem with Tom Frank is Frank's commitment to the fanciful notion that if the Democratic Party took a hard left on the economic front, it could win back all of the working-class cultural conservatives who prefer the GOP's cultural politics to the Democrats lukewarm efforts to protect the working man.

The question here is, how many working-class conservatives really think that there isn't much off a difference between Democratic and Republican economic policies?  If Bush tax cuts haven't convinced them that the Democrats are the party of the working-class, nothing will.
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# Posted 1:26 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

RETHINKING THE DECISION TO INVADE: I'd like to acknowledge the recent NYT editorial that cast a critical glance at the positions that the NYT had taken in the months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Ever since the Jayson Blair scandal and the departure of Howell Raines, the Times seems much more committed to initiating public discussion of its own shortcomings.  On the other hand, politics are politics and even this recent mea culpa has its shortcomings.  For example, the Times writes that

We [] fault ourselves for failing to deconstruct the W.M.D. issue with the kind of thoroughness we directed at the question of a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda, or even tax cuts in time of war. We did not listen carefully to the people who disagreed with us...We had a groupthink of our own.

Pardon my asking, but who thought that Saddam didn't have WMD?  Scott Ritter?  By pretending that there were reliable sources it didn't listen to, the NYT suggests that there were also reliable sources that the White House and CIA ignored because of their supposed groupthink. 

Yet  in spite of an overwhelming consensus on both sides of the Atlantic, George Bush had his doubts about the existence of Saddma's stockpiles until George Tenet described American intelligence on Iraqi WMD as a "slam-dunk".  Moreover, Bush decided to subject Saddam to a test  -- UN inspections.  On that subject, the NYT writes that 
If there were no weapons, we thought, Iraq would surely have cooperated fully with weapons inspectors to avoid the pain of years under an international embargo and, in the end, a war that it was certain to lose.

That was a reasonable theory, one almost universally accepted in Washington and widely credited by diplomats all around the world. But it was only a theory.
What the Times fails to point out is that disbelieving such a theory entailed having faith in Saddam's honesty and good intentions.  As Stephen Sestanovich points out on today's op-ed page, Bush was right to act based on this theory:

When America demanded that Iraq follow the example of countries like Ukraine and South Africa, which sought international help in dismantling their weapons of mass destruction, it set the bar extremely high, but not unreasonably so. The right test had to reflect Saddam Hussein's long record of acquiring, using and concealing such weapons. Just as important, it had to yield a clear enough result to satisfy doubters on both sides, either breaking the momentum for war or showing that it was justified.

Some may object that this approach treated Saddam Hussein as guilty until proved innocent. They're right. But the Bush administration did not invent this logic. When Saddam Hussein forced out United Nations inspectors in 1998, President Clinton responded with days of bombings - not because he knew what weapons Iraq had, but because Iraq's actions kept us from finding out.

Sestanovich isn't grinding a partisan axe here.  He was a high-ranking ambassador under Clinton in addition to being a well-regarded expert on Russian affairs.
 
One important question which the Times asks is why it opposed the invasion if it was so certain that Saddam had WMD.  According to the Times,
Our insistence that any invasion be backed by "broad international support" became a kind of mantra. It was the administration's failure to get that kind of consensus that ultimately led us to oppose the war. 
Wow.  Even John Kerry wouldn't go that far.  He says the United Nations will never hold veto power over the American right to self-defense.  That's probably why he supported the war (sort of, maybe, at the time).

Yet much as I disagree with the Times, I think it deserves considerable credit for rethinking its own assumptions.  It makes all us critics feel like somebody is listening.


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# Posted 1:11 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SOLDIERS FOR KERRY? The WaPo has a long report up on our soldiers growing antipathy toward their Commander-in-Chief.  The article is an important reminder of just how much military families suffer when soldiers deploy for combat overseas.

To a degree, the article seems like a compilation of quotes from disenchanted soldiers and their families, rather than a balanced portrait of how the war and occupation have affected soldiers' political opinions.

Even so, the contents of the article match up well with what I heard just a few days ago from a veteran infantry officer who works at the Pentagon.  He made the important point that Navy and Air Force personnel remain as conservative as ever because they do not have to staff the occupation.

Yet the army may have approached a historic turning point.  The question is, can the Democrats capitalize on this opportunity?  I believe that the key to doing so is, in the event of a Kerry victory, investing massive resources in the military so that we have more soldiers to share the burden of foreign operations and far better services available for the families left behind.

Of course, one can also lighten the load on military families by avoiding further conflicts and ending the occupation of Iraq.  But if the Democrats choose that course, they will only reinforce their reputation for a lack of seriousness when it comes to national security.

While big government may not be a popular cause, the Democrats can only gain by investing the resources necessary to protect America's military families. 
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Tuesday, July 20, 2004

# Posted 5:46 PM by Patrick Belton  

RUSSIAN CUSTOMER SERVICE: As though you needed another reason not to fly Aeroflot:
(BBC)Two flight attendants have attacked a passenger in an unprecedented case of reverse air-rage, according to Russia's leading airline.

An Aeroflot spokeswoman said the incident occurred after the passenger, named as Artyom Chernopup, said the men were drunk and not doing their job. Russian media said the alleged victim left the plane with a black eye and reported the incident to the police.

A Nizhnevartovsk airport representative told Izvestiya newspaper that a medical examination after the flight showed the cabin attendants were heavily intoxicated.

Another passenger told a forum on the avia.ru civil aviation website that the stewards distributed in-flight meals only when the plane started its descent, and managed to spill large quantities of food on the floor. "At this point I noticed something was wrong," the passenger said. "Only about half the meals ended up on the tables or in the laps of passengers, the rest ended up on the floor. "We left the plane with lunch-boxes crunching beneath our feet."

Correspondents say intoxicated passengers are common on Russian flights, but this incident was unprecedented.
When they're really mean, they actually give you the food.
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# Posted 12:11 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OXBLOG MEANS ACCOUNTABILITY: If bloggers want to boast that they are more accountable and more responsive than the mainstream media, than bloggers must ruthlessly expose their own mistakes.
 
To that end, I have decided to inaugurate a new feature here on OxBlog.  Each week, I will put up one post that evaluates the work that OxBlog did exactly twelve months earlier.
 
Today's post will cover July 13th through July 19th of 2003.  Strangely enough, the big issue in the middle of last July was the same as the big issue in the middle of this July: Joe Wilson.  In a post entitled Clintonizing Bush, I criticized MoDo and TPM for comparing the Bush's comments about Iraq's search for uranium to Clinton's unforgettable comment about what the definition of "is" is.
 
But was I smart enough to see through Joe Wilson's facade of righteous anger?  In short, hell no.  In that same post on Clinton and Bush, I wrote that
the Administration's inability to get its foot out of its collective mouth is making it harder and harder not to ask just what the White House has to hide. Just a few days ago, George Tenet took the fall for the administration after Condi Rice insisted that the CIA was responsible for letting the '16 words' into the State of the Union. Now Tenet says his staff never asked him to evaluate the 16 before they went into the President's speech.
Frankly, I'm still confused as to why top-ranking administration officials were so eager to distance themselves from the 16 words if Wilson's accusations were so exaggerated.
 
Now what about the significance of the scandal?  My comments on Clinton & Bush linked to an OxBlog post from the week before that said
While I agree that Uranium-gate says a lot about the irresponsible spin doctoring that is characteristic of this administration, Josh seems to think this story has the potential to become a major scandal. Why else would TPM focus so obsessively on every unfolding detail?  But the fact is, Uranium-gate will never become much more than a diversion from the more important issues of the day. Why? First of all, because Niger's alleged sale of uranium to Iraq was never more than a peripheral aspect of the case for going to war.
In hindsight, I'm inclined to admit that Josh may have been more right about this than I was.  Combined with the impact of Richard Clarke's exaggerated allegations, Wilson's charges helped fix in place, at least among Democrats, an image of Bush as an outright liar. 
 
On the other hand, the fact that neither Wilson nor Clarke addressed the issue of Saddam's chemical and biological weapons meant that Bush's case for war still wouldn't be thought of as a lie, even it if did turn out to be wrong.  As it turns out, Wilson actually wrote in February 2003 that

There is now no incentive for Hussein to comply with the inspectors or to refrain from using weapons of mass destruction to defend himself if the United States comes after him.

And he will use them; we should be under no illusion about that. (Hat tip: Glenn)

So how does OxBlog come out looking after all of this?  Not so great, but it could've been a lot worse.
 
Alongside Joe Wilson, another important issue from last July was the imprisonment of Aung San Suu Kyi.  While OxBlog is still 100% behind Ms. Suu Kyi and the Burmese democracy movement, I can't say that I've kept us with this issue as much as it deserves.
 
According to a quick browse of the OxBlog archives, it's been eight months since I've said anything about Burma at all.  Patrick did note last November, however, that the Burmese junta offered to release Suu Kyi, although she refused to be let out until other prisoners were liberated as well.
 
According to news reports on the official website of Ms. Suu Kyi's supporters, she is still under house arrest.  Last week, Kofi Annan called for her release and upbraided the Thai government for not doing more to pressure its neighbor.
 
On July 8th, President Bush renewed the sanctions that the US imposed on Burma after arrested Suu Kyi last year.  The Senate supported the President by a vote of 96-1.
 
In both the WaPo and NYT, coverage of the situation in Burma has been sparse.  Perhaps inevitably so.  There have been no big events there, only the same quiet repression that keeps the people of Burma impoverished and enslaved.


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Monday, July 19, 2004

# Posted 10:48 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

KEEPING UP WITH JONES: Joe Gandelman has posted a very thoughtful response to Alex Jones' anti-blog temper tantrum in the LA Times.  For more links, head over to Instapundit.
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# Posted 9:45 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE WILSON WARS: I pretty muchagree with Kevin Drum's conclusion that Wilson's
Credibility as a source is definitely tattered, but perhaps not quite as thoroughly demolished as his enemies are claiming.
It's also important to point out, as Matthew Continetti does in The Weekly Standard, that the problem is not Wilson's credibility as an intelligence source while working for the CIA, but rather the bombastic attacks he launched against the Bush administration after going public in May 2003.
 
For an opposing perspective on the Wilson wars, check out Josh Marshall, who is still defending Wilson pretty aggressively, perhaps because Marshall's own chestnuts are now in the fire.  As Marshall puts it,
The truth is that we simply don't know whether the Iraqis ever 'sought' uranium in Niger or Africa in the years leading up to the war, though all the evidence we thought we had for such a claim has turned out to be baseless.
Josh has also been pretty insistent about defending the role of Valerie Plame (aka Mrs. Joe Wilson) in recommending her husband for the Niger trip.  While Josh is right that Plame didn't make the decision to send her husband to Niger, Wilson has explicitly stated that she had absolutely nothing to do with it, which is a flat out lie.
 
On another front, Josh takes issue WaPo ombudsman Michael Getler's response to Josh's critique of Susan Schmidt's embarrassment of Wilson in the Post last week.  Both sides score some points, but the whole debate is something of a red herring since the most important charges against Wilson don't get addressed.
 
Once you get past all of the specific questions about what Wilson did or did not say and whether it was or wasn't true, you come back to the basic question of "Who cares anyway?"
 
According to Kevin Drum, the Wilson story is
Hardly a Page 1 blockbuster...Wilson doesn't really matter much anymore except as political sport. The only real issue on the table right now is whether anyone in the Bush administration outed his wife as a CIA agent, and that's a matter under investigation by the FBI.
  I disagree with Kevin pretty strongly.  As Susan Schmidt noted in the WaPo,
Wilson last year launched a public firestorm with his accusations that the administration had manipulated intelligence to build a case for war. He has said that his trip to Niger should have laid to rest any notion that Iraq sought uranium there and has said his findings were ignored by the White House.
The fact is that Wilson's attacks did considerable damage to Bush's credibility.  The heartfelt conviction of most Democrats that Bush lied about the WMD rests to a considerable degree on Wilson's charges as well as the exaggerated criticisms of Richard Clarke. 
 
What's at stake right now is nothing less than the critical issue of whether George Bush is a liar.
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# Posted 10:39 AM by Patrick Belton  

ANOTHER VILLAGE LET THEIR IDIOTARIAN SLIP OUT: In a remarkably insubstantial, whiny piece, Alex Jones of the Kennedy School of Government manages to do precisely what he accuses blogs of: making vituperative arguments driven by emotion rather than fact, and marked by remarkable lack of engagement with facts or evidence, or an understanding of the subject matter at hand.

Jones lists the following as the 'common attributes of the blogosphere: vulgarity, scorching insults, bitter denunciations, one-sided arguments, erroneous assertions and the array of qualities that might be expected from a blustering know-it-all in a bar'. Oddly, this seems to describe fairly well the fare of most politics shows broadcast over cable networks at the moment. Blogging, as I've experienced it, is characterised by polite running conversations, backed up by evidence. I have to respond to friends on my left such as Kevin Drum and Matt Yglesias, and ones to my right such as the Winds of Change. Maureen Dowd doesn't.

Bloggers, says Jones, also 'don't add reporting to the personal views they post online'. Perhaps Jones doesn't understand the point of opinion journalism, which is to add commentary, analysis, and criticism to the facts covered by the news, as well as to examine the very process by which the news outlets report and represent those facts in their reporting.

It would seem that the director of the Shorenstein Center on the Press at Harvard has a thing or two to learn about the press. Let's hope, for his sake, that he does.
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# Posted 7:54 AM by Patrick Belton  

MORE SHOCKING INJUSTICE FROM THE INJUSTICE FACTORY IN TEHRAN: An Iranian court yesterday suddenly halted the murder trial of an Iranian intelligence officer accused of involvement in the death of Canadian journalist Zahra Kazemi, after hearing one day of testimony about Ms Kazemi's torture and death in Iranian detention.

The sudden halt of the trial took place after the court heard testimony on Saturday from Ms Kazemi's mother, Ezzat Kazemi, that when she received her daughter's body, her breasts had been burned and a hand and foot had been broken. The mother was forced to consent to the immediate burial of the mauled corpse.

The journalist was tortured and killed one year ago, after she attempted to photograph a Tehran prison that is notorious for holding political prisoners. On Sunday, Canadian ambassador Philip MacKinnon and other diplomats and journalists were barred from entering the court.

Nobel peace prize laureate Shirin Ebadi, who represented the Kazemi family, has said that the trial was intended as a coverup to protect senior members of the Iranian judiciary who were involved in the torture and murder, including Tehran prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi.

For more, see NYT, and EUBusiness for the European response.
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Sunday, July 18, 2004

# Posted 11:29 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

REPORTING MOMENTUM: In spite of regular car-bombings in and around Baghdad, the combination of the June 28 handover and the lowered intensity of American soldiers' war against Sunni insurgents has led to a temporary sort of optimism in the press. In an essay on the dangers of reporting from a warzone, Ian Fisher observes that
Something in Iraq has shifted, even if it is unclear exactly what or for how long. In the last few weeks, since the new Iraqi government took over, the hair-trigger tension has slackened, and many Iraqis are permitting themselves the luxury of hope in the midst of a long and unpleasant occupation.
In a separate article in the NYT, we read that
Gradually, ever so imperceptibly, the ground is beginning to shift.

The legions of American soldiers who not so long ago erected checkpoints and roared across the capital, guns pointed out of their Humvees, have diminished.

In their place, Iraqi officers are manning checkpoints and swooping down on suspected criminal gangs. Led by their American counterparts, Iraqi soldiers are combing through palm groves in search of weapons caches. One vanguard unit of the new Iraqi Army, known as the Iraqi Intervention Force, is allowed to patrol the streets without Americans.

More and more, the public face of security here is Iraqi.
Of course, if there is a major bombing tomorrow and three or four American soldiers begin to die each day, we will hear that putting an Iraqi face on public security was a failed experiment. Like Fisher, I wonder how long the current calm can last. I may be an optimist in general about the occupation, but I am firmly against reading too much into short term trends.
 
UPDATE: Jim Hoagland, of all people, thinks that the current calm in Iraq is an illusion created by deficient press coverage and Bush administration spin.  Josh Marshall agrees.

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# Posted 11:05 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NATTERING NABOBS: The negative thrust of campaign journalism has begun to engulf the Democratic candidates. Although written in a light-hearted tone, this John Edwards profile in today's NYT resorts to simplistic stereotypes about the candidates that sound more like a Bush-Cheney press release than a dispatch from the paper of record. First, we learn that
Mr. Edwards has been talking up Senator Kerry this week like a used-car salesman urging his customers to look past the dents.
Colorful? Yes. Substantive no. Then there this:
Mr. Edwards spins Mr. Kerry's life story as a veteran, prosecutor and senator, assuring voters, "If you have any question about what John Kerry is made of, just spend three minutes" with the men who served with him in Vietnam.
Perhaps the bar for what counts as "spin" has dropped. Perhaps it refers to anything other than a recitation of accepted facts. But I think that the word still carries a strong connotation of manipulation or even dishonesty and thus shouldn't be used in place of "said" or "announced" or "declared". Moving on,
That [Mr. Edwards] is giving Mr. Kerry such a glowing sales pitch is, in a sense, a tacit admission by the campaign that Mr. Kerry has not done a particularly good job of selling himself.
That's pretty much just an editorial comment, and this isn't even a news analysis piece. Besides, what exactly do you expect to hear a vice-presidential candidate say about the man above him on the ticket? Finally, there's this:
While Mr. Kerry can sometimes come off as stiff and aloof on the campaign trail, Mr. Edwards is in effect vouching for Mr. Kerry, telling voters that Mr. Kerry is really a lot like him - a candidate in touch with the common man.
Kerry may not be Mr. Warm, but I don't think there is much ground for stating as a simple matter of fact that he is stiff and aloof. I generally react positively to his demeanor, which I also think has improved since last fall.

Well, I guess the bright side here is that the media is being even handed in its negativism. That is how it persuades itself that it is honest and detached and not being manipulated by the candidates. But if we want more Americans to get out and vote on election day, then we have overcome the sort of kneejerk negativism that turns so many Americans off to electoral politics.
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# Posted 12:19 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE SEARCH FOR EGYPTIAN DEMOCRACY: The New Yorker has published a mournful but still quite interesting portrait of political life in Egypt. The launchpad for David Remnick's essay is President Bush's bold (if you're an idealist) and foolhardy (if you're a realist) declaration that
The great and proud nation of Egypt has shown the way toward peace in the Middle East and now should show the way toward democracy in the Middle East.
To be sure, contemporary reality offers little in the way of evidence that Egypt is ready for a democratic opening. Then again, after Egypt invaded Israel in 1973, who expected that a peace treaty was just six years away? (That's my point, not Remnick's.)

The moderately good news about Egypt is that the Muslim Brotherhood, the organized face of political Islam, has become a passive, unmenacing and unpopular (albeit still extremist) organization. Ever since the horrific slaughter of seventy tourists at Luxor in 1997, terrorism has been afraid to show its face.

Or to be more precise, Islamist terrorism has been afraid to show its face. State-sponsored terrorism, in the form of pervaisve torture and arbitrary imprisonment is a simple fact of life. Mubarak has no ideas, so he tortures instead.

Nonetheless, Remnicks seems to suggest that it is not Mubarak's brutality but rather America's aggression in Iraq that truly angers the Egyptians. Remnick reports that
In an atomized political culture like Egypt’s, the one issue that has energized, and enraged, the political opposition today is American foreign policy under George W. Bush. I had dozens of meetings in Cairo—with government officials, religious leaders, opposition figures, intellectuals, students, working people—and nearly every session began with a speech on the perfidy of the Bush Administration
I don't doubt that Egyptians hate Bush or even that they hate him much more than they hated Clinton. But is this outpouring of hatred a direct consequence of American behavior, or rather a sublimation of the intense hatred that Egyptians are not allowed to direct at their own government?

After all, there is a fundamental hypocrisy at the heart of Egypt's hatred. Egypt was the first Arab state to recognize Israel and, as a result, has come to benefit from annual, eight-figure infusions of American aid. If the Egyptian people had their say, would their government turn down this aid and sever ties with Israel? Or would Egyptians follow the Gulf states' tradition of declaring their love for Palestine while abandoning the Palestinians to their fate?

Unfortunately, Remnick doesn't provide much in the way of answers. His focus on Egyptians' assessment of US foreign policy and, to a secondary degree, the prospects for Egyptian democracy, consume all of his efforts.

Remnick's article ends on a hopeless note. He suggests -- accurately, I think -- that Mubarak has absolutely no interest in presiding over any sort of liberalization. Thus, it is only a matter of time before Cairo explodes just as Teheran did in 1979.

While I am more inclined than Remnick to believe that the Egyptian people want democracy, I find myself compelled to agree that that Mubarak's repression is paving the way for a radical revolution.
 
CORRECTION: As Gary Farber points out, Egyptian aid is in the ten-figure range, not the eight-figures mentioned above.  Stupidly, I knew that Egypt gets a couple billion a year from the United States, but somehow thought that there are eight significant digits in 1,000,000,000.
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# Posted 12:01 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CONSERVATISM AND RACISM? According to Bob Herbert, not much. Herbert accuses Bush of cynically using black Americans as props to create a false image of inclusivity for the Republican Party.

Now, I'm going to agree with Herbert that the GOP convention in 2000 was pretty shameless about directing its cameras toward the few black faces in the crowd. But what about Herbert's statement that the GOP has been "relentlessly hostile to the interests of blacks for half a century"?

Has Herbert forgotten which party governed the Solid South and enforced Jim Crow right up through the end of the 1960s? Has Herbert forgotten that it was a Republican president who used armed force to desegregate a southern university?

But forget about the past. The question is, are Republicans hostile to black Americans now? All of the examples Herbert cites of Republican hostility seem to have no racial component. Supporting tax cuts? Not enough job creation? Not enough health care?

Sure, you can make a good case against Republican policy on most of those issues. But the GOP's policy agenda derives from its conservatism, not its antipathy toward black America. Yes, some of these programs hurt poor blacks. But they hurt poor whites just as much.

Playing the race-card is the worst thing Bob Herbert can do to address this issue. Declaring the black agenda and the liberal agenda to be identical is just one more way of damaging American liberalism by making it seem to be a projection of narrow racial interests rather than an inclusive strategy for improving America as a whole.

CORRECTION: Ralph Luker points out that I have confused the desegregation of the University of Mississippi with the desegregation of an all-white high school in Little Rock, Arkansas. The former took place while Kennedy was president.
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Saturday, July 17, 2004

# Posted 11:46 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LAST OF THE NAVEL GAZING: Josh and Patrick have already put up their thoughts about OxBlog's appearance on Page One of the NYT, so I thought I'd add my two cents as well.

According to the NYT, OxBlog was "set up by three Rhodes Scholars". Actually, OxBlog was set up by one Rhodes Scholar -- Josh Chafetz -- who is the Founding Father of our website. (You can read his first ever post right here.) Josh had a bit of help from Anand, Arielle, and Dan, all whom are excellent individuals (or so I've heard!)

But the fact is that Josh is our George Washington. He worked hard to give this site a reputation for quality and then did Patrick and myself the favor of bringing us aboard. I don't think any of us ever thought early on that what we were doing was front page news. It was a just a fun way to write and argue with an intelligent audience about subjects we like. And it still is.
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# Posted 10:24 AM by Patrick Belton  

I LEARN SOMETHING NEW ABOUT MYSELF EVERY TIME I READ ABOUT MYSELF IN THE PAPER, CONT'D: Today I learn from the Times that we're a bunch of young Buckleys. (Yesterday, for those of you keeping track at home, I learned from the Boston Herald that I'm English; the day before, I found out from the Philadelphia Inquirer that I 'bristle with attitude'.) Personally, I've always seen, and described, myself as a centrist, but if it's in the Times it must be true, mate - and whatcha gonna do about it? The more pertinent question is, from my perspective, can I show my face in New York after this? Because I am heading there on Thurdsay ... unless the person at immigration reads the Herald and doesn't let me in.

Or on the other hand, maybe I can seek asylum in the Buckley residence in Connecticut.
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# Posted 5:51 AM by Patrick Belton  

ANY OF OUR FRIENDS WHO spent time as students in New Haven will probably be interested to know that the National Labor Relations Board ruled yesterday by a 3-2 margin that graduate students shouldn't be considered workers from the perspective of right-to-organise laws, reversing an earlier decision from four years ago.
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Friday, July 16, 2004

# Posted 5:49 PM by Patrick Belton  

AIDS - THE NEGLECTED SECURITY THREAT: Our good friend, and Nathan Haler, Greg Behrman has been spreading the message of AIDS as a security threat everywhere lately - in the pages of the NYT and Newsweek, and on the luscious sweet soundwaves (hey, it's a Friday evening, after all) of NPR. What's even more poignant is that he's doing this as a memorial for his father, who died while we were students together at Oxford. Good work, our friend.
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# Posted 2:19 PM by Patrick Belton  

EVERY TIME I READ ABOUT MYSELF IN THE PAPERS, I discover something new about myself. For instance, today I found out in the Boston Herald that I'm a Brit. So now my goal is to become a dour Brit; but sadly, that might involve less of both 'bristling with attitude' and occasions when I'm allowed to be 'tickled pink'. Life is so full of tragic choices. Sad.
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Thursday, July 15, 2004

# Posted 4:26 AM by Patrick Belton  

OXBLOG IN THE PRESS: The Philadelphia Inquirer is kind enough to mention us this morning; thanks!
For the first time, bloggers will be covering the action, such as it is, on the floors of the Democratic and Republican National Conventions.

The Old Media that still scribbles in notebooks will confront the New Media of digital pamphleteers. Bloggers are calling it historic.

"The 2004 conventions will be remembered as the conventions of the blog, just as the 1952 Republican convention was the convention of television, and the 1924 conventions were the conventions of the radio," wrote Oxford graduate student Patrick Belton on OxBlog (oxblog.blogspot.com).

Two years ago he [actually, Josh] started a blog - short for Web log, a journal mixing news and opinion and bristling with attitude. Now Belton is flying from England to pick up a convention pass.
I never knew I bristled with attitude before. But then again, I also wasn't aware until shortly that I got tickled pink, either.
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# Posted 3:31 AM by Patrick Belton  

SLATE'S THE FRAY HAS an insightful dissection of myths and false truisms in intelligence reform. A sampling:
First, however, it is essential to understand what is not wrong with the CIA or the IC -- and there are many pet complaints that don't add up. ...

6.It is not necessarily a problem that intelligence analyses are sometimes wrong or not quite right.

Intelligence work is mostly a matter of solving puzzles and making guesses about probabilities. It should go without saying that much intel is going to be wrong, at least in part. But we have a tendency to expect perfection and to call anything less than that an intelligence "failure." Take 9/11. The fact is that we had for years mountains of "intelligence" – most of it in the newspaper – telling us that al Qaeda was a deadly threat and would attack us anyway it could. Plus, we had a lot of solid intel from the IC about who was doing what, where and how. But it is the USERS of intel who failed to draw the right conclusions from the intel. Even near-perfect intel does not automatically mean that military commanders or policy makers will make the best use of it. Prior to the pivotal naval battle at Midway in 1942, Naval intelligence knew the size and composition of the Japanese force and the timing of the attack. Nonetheless, the battle was nip and tuck and won largely due to dumb luck. On the other hand, the supposedly "massive failure" of CIA to forecast the Soviet collapse had almost no effect, since such a forecast doubtless would have been met with derision and the US responded to the changes in the USSR and East Europe with highly successful policies anyway....

I believe the following are real problems:

1)The process for developing the "national intelligence budget," should be focused on allocating funds among the three intelligence collection functions – human, communications and imaging – since only by doing so can the impact of resources be evaluated.

Now, Congress demands a budget divided by operations, R&D and procurement. This is what made it possible for the NRO to obtain and salt away a huge sum for future investments never made. More important, we want to be able to tell what we get out for each dollar we put in....

4)The IC needs centralized doctrine, training and management development.

Intelligence officers in various agencies have no common understanding of their mission or common doctrine about how it should be carried out or shared training in how to manage its various components. ...

6)The FBI should be taken out of the counter-intelligence and counter-terrorism business, except insofar as it is the proper law enforcement agency to be called upon when someone should be arrested. It's intelligence functions need to be placed in a new counter-intelligence agency patterned along the lines of the British MI-5.

The FBI has always been a disaster – or a joke – in this line of work. That's not because FBI agents are stupid; it's because they are cops, and intelligence is not police work. Since 9/11, they may have got better at it, but the true extent of any gains will be forever obscured by the fact that the Bureau has reportedly put as many as 40% of its employees on counter-terrorism duties (compared to about 5% before 9/11).
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Wednesday, July 14, 2004

# Posted 11:48 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HAPPY BASTILLE DAY! It's time to put our small differences aside and remember that French fries are freedom fries and freedom fries are French.
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# Posted 11:36 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A NOTEWORTHY FACT:
Private investment has all but vanished [in the West Bank and Gaza]. But donors stepped in, doubling their contributions, to a billion dollars a year, an amount equal to one-third the Palestinian gross national product last year of $3.1 billion. That works out to roughly $310 a person, more aid per capita than any country has received since World War II, the World Bank says. (Source: NYT)
If the Palestinian Authority is that dependent on foreign aid, then the UN and EU (and US?) should be able to exert some pressure on their favorite insurgents.
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# Posted 10:55 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

COMMON SENSE: While visiting Cambridge, my very generous uncle and aunt recently gave me a 1940's vintage edition of Tom Paine's classic pamphlet. As I wander through it, I thought you might enjoy the occasional quotation. The following comes from the introduction, page vii in my edition:
The cause of America is, in a great measure, the cause of all mankind. Many circumstances have, and will arise, which are not local, but universal, and through which the principles of all lovers of mankind are affected, and in the event of which, their affections are interested. The laying a country desolate with fire sword, declaring war agains the natural rights of all mankind, and extirpating the defenders thereof from the face of the earth, is the concern of every man to whom nature hath given the power of feeling.
Paine's universalism is breathtaking. How could an unknown man on an unknown continent on a planet ruled by monarchs and despots declare that the cause of America is the cause of all mankind? There is simply something magical about the principles that animated Paine and his fellow revolutionaries.

The stunning triumph of democratic ideals in the few short years since 1776 (or perhaps 1688?) seems to have no historical parallel except for the triumph of monotheism in its Christian and Muslim incarnations. These ideas are so powerful that they seem to go leaping acros cultures and continents, building empires that die but are reborn.

Not long ago, we feared that Communism belonged in this same pantheon beside democracy and monotheism. Some may fear that radical Islam now possesses a similar strength. But I do not. To be that powerful, an idea must liberate the human spirit. Islam has that power, but not when it is bound to hatred, violence and terror.
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# Posted 10:17 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SPIDERMAN IN GIULIANI'S NEW YORK: I saw Spider-Man 2 last night. I liked it. I liked it a lot. But I have some quesitons. And I'm going to ask them, right after warning you that if you haven't seen the movie yet you should stop reading this post right now.

The most disturbing thing about Spider-Man's New York is how crime-ridden it is. Shotgun wielding crooks driving down major avenues in convertibles? Come on! And then things really get nuts when Spidey goes into temporary retirement.

First we get another ridiculous car chase. Then the Daily Bugle tells us that crime is up 75% since Spidey retired (thus implying that crime was also that bad before Spidey showed up). Finally, someone gets mugged in broad daylight in an "alleyway" that Peter Parker -- and hundreds of other people all around him -- can see. When I was growing up in NY in the 1980s, it was pretty rough. But Spider-Man's New York is absolutely nuts.

Next question: If Otto Octavius/Doc Ock has access to incredibly strong bionic arms, why hasn't any other criminal tried the whole bionic-arm shtick before? It's not as if Ock is some sort of specialist in robotics. He's a physicist, for god sakes. Moreover, why does the rest of Doc Ock's body become just as resilient as the bionic arms they get welded to his body? Is Doc Ock also that strong in the Spider-Man comics?

Finally, a humorous question. When Peter Parker rescues that little Asian girl from the burning building, why does he just assume that the first Asian couple he meets outside are her parents? It's not as if there are only two Asian people in New York. And responsible heroes should get some sort of verification but giving away rescued children.

Of course, if you're watching the movie, you know that the Asian couple are the girl's parents because the camera cuts to them three times during the rescue scence. But Peter Parker has no way of knowing that! He's inside a burning building! Is there any justification for this? Perhaps. Maybe it's sort of a Spider-sense in reverse. Instead of picking up trouble, it picks up anti-trouble.

So there you have it, my rant about Spider-Man 2. Take it all with a grain of salt. I'm not actually trying to criticize the film. These are just some things I sort of noticed. For some philosophical questions about the film, check out Matt's comments and the responses from Henry and Brayden.

Also, check out the comments on Matt's post for some speculations about who Spidey's next super-villain will be. As the closing scene of the film indicate, Harry Osborn is getting ready to return as the Green Goblin (or possibly the Hobgoblin). But is the introduction of John Jameson a hint that Venom may play a role in Spider-Man's future? I certainly hope so. He is one of the coolest villains ever.

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# Posted 9:55 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

"THIS ISSSUE IS NOT GOING AWAY": That's what Bill Frist had to say about the anti-gay marriage amendment. And you know what? Frist is 100% right. This issue is going to come up again and again every time another state allows gay marriage.

Whatever their personal views about homosexuality, more and more Americans are beginning to realize that depriving homosexuals of their rights is no different than depriving racial and religious minorities of theirs. From where I stand, the President's effort to write prejudice back into the constitution is both shameful and divisive.

Now let me be clear about my personal views. I have absolutely no reservations about homosexuality. It is not immoral. It it is not bad for society. A gay marriage or a gay family is just as good as a straight one.

I don't know whether homosexuality is a product of nature or a product of nurture and I don't really care. Religion is a product of nurture and therefore a matter of choice. I reject discrimination on the grounds of religion. Ethnicity (or at least skin color) is a product of nature and I reject discrimination based on ethnicity.

I recognize that many religious traditions object to homosexuality on ethical grounds. Those same religions also reject pre-marital and extra-marital sex on ethical grounds. And yet not one member of the House or Senate would consider supporting a constitutional amendment to discriminate against fornicators or adulterers. (It would put their jobs on the line, after all.)

I look forward to a day when Americans consider homosexuality and heterosexuality to be not just a private affair, but rather a way of life that must be tolerated in its public expression the same way we tolerate the expression of diverse religious and ethnic heritages. Only then can it be said that gay Americans have secured their inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

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# Posted 4:52 PM by Patrick Belton  

WAIT, JOSH, is that why Kerry hasn't given his democracy-promotion strategy speech yet?
-Confused in Oxford
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# Posted 5:44 AM by Patrick Belton  

INCIDENTALLY, a neat new website, walkingaround.com, lists every ethnic and national group in the world, and where precisely to go in New York City to find the corresponding neighbourhood. Examples: want Greeks? go to Ditmars, in Astoria. Germans? Gerritsen Beach, in Brooklyn. Syrian Jews? Ocean Parkway, also Brooklyn. Fun for hours!
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# Posted 5:15 AM by Patrick Belton  

LA RESISTENCIA NO VALE NADA: Mexico's attorney general Rafael Macedo and several of his staff have been implanted with microchips to allow their whereabouts to be traced in the event of kidnapping, and to serve as safeguards giving them secure access to a new national crime database. If the Borg should also assimilate taquitos, count me in!
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Tuesday, July 13, 2004

# Posted 8:29 AM by Patrick Belton  

GOOD THINGS FROM ME, at comparative first blush, about the selection of Edwards as Democratic vice presidential nominee presumptive. His economic populism aside, the senator's foreign policy proclivities are much closer to this blog's - and, if polling data be trusted, to the nation as a whole - than his running mate's.

This may just well be precisely not because of what Senator Edwards is, but instead what he is not - a foreign policy professional. It may be somewhat ironic for me to assert, given the field of my research training, but it seems to me nonetheless that presidents without foreign policy backgrounds - Clinton, the current President Bush, and to this category add Edwards as a vice presidential candidate - come much closer to reflecting the broadly held assumptions of the American people about, for instance, the role democracy and human rights should play in foreign policy, than do the foreign policy professionals. The amateurs may do imperfect jobs at instantiating those beliefs under the pressure of office - q.v., entries for the Clinton and Bush administrations - but they still cut a compelling contrast with the Kerrys and George H.W. Bushs who have, by foreign policy service, imbibed the realist assumptions of the foreign policy establishment, and its associated sublimation of national value processes to interests and power in their rhetoric.

Edwards, in this schema, emerges as a blissful naif - who on that score, can be expected to hold beliefs much closer to the American people's strong Wilsonian inclinations. And this seems something which is worth applauding. One only hopes that Edwards will wield as much influence with the head of his ticket as Vice President Cheney has been reputed to wield with his.
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# Posted 12:35 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

JOE WILSON'S COMEUPPANCE: This week's big report from the Senate Intelligence Committee has broken both ways; it says we invaded Iraq because of bad intelligence but that it was the CIA's fault, not George Bush's. The sub-head coming out of the Senate report is the evidence that Joe Wilson was way off the reservation when he accused George Bush about making up the uranium-in-Niger story.

Unsurprisingly, this development has provoked a collective 'I told you so' from the right, which long suspected Wilson of being a partisan hack. But it isn't just the hard right that's disavowing Wilson. Kevin Drum, for example, thinks Wilson's credibility is pretty much shot.

Josh Marshall has come to Wilson's defense, but Dan Drezner and Greg Djerejian have shot him down pretty thoroughly. As someone who didn't follow the Wilson-Plame affair all that closely in the first place, I'm still struggling to get my hands around the details. But unless the Senate report got something very wrong, this game is over.
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