Monday, October 18, 2004

# Posted 11:53 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ACTUALLY, JOSH, I had the post ready to go before Kent stepped up to the plate. With Beltran on second, I just knew that something good was going to happen.
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# Posted 11:20 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BOTTOM OF THE 9TH: Sweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet!
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# Posted 4:56 PM by Patrick Belton  

MORE BUBBIE: In one of the few truly entertaining sidenotes of this campaign (err, not involving bloggers or friendly members of the press, that is...), a friend of ours at the NJDC has just released episode two in the Little Jewish Grandmother v. Bush series. In the interests of equal time, we should take pains to note that a 'Bubbie is full of lies' page has quickly appeared, pointing out the obvious forgeries and discontinuities in the Bubbie memo, I mean, movie. Q.v.: (1) It doesn't take her ten minutes to find something in her purse. (2) She doesn't then stop and say "Oy, it's in my other purse.", (3) At no point does she break her hip, (4) Not a single word about education. Without education, her son would have never become a doctor, or her other son the lawyer, or her daughter the doctor, or her grandson at Brandeis studying to be a doctor, or the two grandaughters at Vassar, oh, she's so proud of them; (there are several more, but equal time's just run out...).
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# Posted 2:56 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

"AMERICA, F*** YEAH!" Trey Parker and Matt Stone couldn't have chosen a better theme song for their latest film, Team America: World Police. The film critics, however, can't seem to figure out exactly what the title song means or what the movie is all about.

In the Weekly Standard, Jon Last warns his fellow critics not to pretend that this film is mostly about politics. Above all, what Parker & Stone want is to satirize the formulaic blockbusters that Hollywood churns out on a regular basis.

Last's instinct has been confirmed by Matt Stone himself, who told the WaPo that
"People are saying that [Team America is] about politics...It's a
satire of movies."
Somehow, the Post's film critics didn't get the message. Demonstrating an incomparable penchant for condescension and ignorance, Hank Stuever writes that:
Stunned by all the fun, I am almost moved to salute Parker and Stone for their nuanced and careful takedown of American jingoism and the seemingly disastrous foreign policy that Team America stands for.

Only that isn't quite how it played to an audience on Tuesday night, at one of those free-ticket radio station giveaway previews in a packed cineplex in Northwest Washington. The biggest laughs came when "Team America" assaulted any and all concepts of ethnicity, or when the joke was on gays, Michael Moore or a vast left-wing idiocy.

The movie feels like an elaborate inside joke on the very Americans laughing hardest at its easiest gags, oblivious to the sly, allegorical digs at a USA brand of bravado. What I took as a lampoon of Bushworld seemed to be received, in the seats around me, as a triumph of Bushworld. Pollsters and campaign workers, take note: "Team America" will only further confound your election-year data.
Fellow WaPo critic Desson Thomson applauds the film for it's merciless take-down of
Plain old couch-potato us and our perception of the post-9/11 world thanks to a composite prism of fear, cultural ignorance and government spin. Filmmakers Trey Parker and Matt Stone, creators of "South Park," are holding up a mirror to our worst sides and making us laugh hysterically for the privilege.
Ironically, liberal critics such as Stuever & Thomson are actually the butt of Parker & Stone's toughest jokes. As the very-liberal-but-much-less-ignorant A.O. Scott points out in the NY Times, Parker & Stone
Expend most of their spoofy energy sending up action-movie conventions and over-the-top patriotic bluster, reserving their real satiric venom for self-righteous Hollywood liberals (with special attention to Alec Baldwin)
It seems likely, though, that their emphases and omissions reflect a particular point of view. "South Park," with its class-clown libertarianism and proudly juvenile disdain for authority, has always been hard to place ideologically, but a number of commentators have discerned a pronounced conservative streak amid the anarchy, a hypothesis that "Team America" to some extent confirms.
The victims of Team America's satire seem to have gotten the message. Sean Penn -- one of Kim Jong Il's principal collaborators in the film -- denounced Team America for
"Encourag[ing] irresponsibility that will ultimately lead to the disembowelment, mutilation, exploitation, and death of innocent people throughout the world."
As far as I can tell, Penn's comments are sincere and not a self-deprecating parody of his left-wing views.

Even though Jon Last is right to insist that Team America is more about Hollywood than it is about Washington, I think that A.O. Scott just happens to be right when he says that the climactic speech at the end of the film represents
One of the more cogent — and, dare I say it, more nuanced — defenses of American military power that I have heard recently.
I would tell you what that cogent defense is, but I don't want to ruin the surprise for those of you who haven't seen the film. I'll just say that for those of you who enjoy both South Park and foreign policy, ten bucks is a bargain for the entertainment that Team America provides.
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# Posted 8:29 AM by Patrick Belton  

GOOD STUFF FROM THE LRB'S 25TH ANNIVERSARY ISSUE, on class in Britain and the long-standing jousting match between Anglo-American and Continental philosophy. In the latter, Anglo-American philosopher Jerry Fodor writes: 'The place on the [Borders] shelf where my stuff would be if they had it (but they don't) is just to the left of Foucault, of which there is always yards and yards. I'm huffy about that; I wish I had his royalties. Royalties aside, what have they got that we haven't? It's not the texture of their prose I shouldn't think, since most of us write better than most of them. Anyhow, our arguments are better than theirs.' So why the declining fortunes of Anglo-American relative to Continental philosophy, at least in the readership of nonphilosophers? Problem one: 'Whereas it used to be said that philosophy is about, for example, Goodness or Existence or Reality or How the Mind Works, or whether there is a Cat on the Mat, [now] it's not the Good, the True or the Beautiful that a philosopher tries to understand, it's the corresponding concepts of "good" "beautiful" and '"true".' Problems two and three are then titled 'Quine' and 'Kripke'. Well worth a read.
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# Posted 7:58 AM by Patrick Belton  

INSPIRATIONAL THESIS QUOTES FROM ENGLISH CHILDREN'S LITERATURE, NO. 5:  PETER gave himself up for lost, and shed big tears; but his sobs were overheard by some friendly sparrows, who flew to him in great excitement, and implored him to exert himself.
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Sunday, October 17, 2004

# Posted 10:34 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SHAMEFUL: Wearing a Kerry shirt at a Bush campaign event? Expect to be thrown out.
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# Posted 10:20 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE KILLING CONTINUES: In Darfur. Sadly, the coincidence of genocide in the Sudan with a presidential election in the United States has only benefitted the murderers.

I expect that within a matter of months, both Republicans and Democrats will look back and wonder how they did so little to prevent an impending disaster. Of course, if Europe wanted, it could take advantage of this golden opportunity to demonstrate that multilateralism is not just a codeword for amoral passivity.
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# Posted 10:15 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HE-SAID/SHE-SAID HEADLINES: The WaPo Ombudsman tackles one of OxBlog's favorite subjects. He concludes that Bush and Cheney have benefited from excessively balanced headlines attached to articles that are far more critical of the President and Vice-President than they are of John Kerry and John Edwards.
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# Posted 10:07 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PUTIN BEHAVING BADLY: Russia's aspiring dictator claims that he is the victim of a double standard that condemns him for punishing terrorists while praising others who do the same. Yet Stephen Sestanovich, the respected scholar and diplomat, documents how the United States and its allies have held Russia to a far lower standard than they have held themselves.
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# Posted 3:11 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE POLLS: I don't know much about the reliability of state-level polls, but I think it's interesting to compare electoral college vote projections. My first stop while poll-hunting is always RealClearPolitics. It's a great site and co-editor Tom Bevan happens to be a really nice guy.

Right now, RCP has Bush ahead in Florida and Wisconsin but says that Iowa and Ohio are toss-ups. RCP's judgements reflect an average of statewide polls in each of the battleground states.

Next up is Electoral-Vote.com, which is calling Ohio and Wisconsin for Bush but says that Florida and Iowa are toss-ups.

The outlier among the poll-watchers is Pollkatz, which has Bush ahead in both Ohio and Florida, but mysteriously has Kerry winning in Arkansas and Missouri not to mention Iowa and Wisconsin. I think that these differences seems are a reflection of PK's methodology, which he explains here.

Finally, we come to Rasmussen, which is very liberal about describing states as toss-ups. In addition to the usual four, Rasmussen has a list that includes Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, and Pennsylvania.
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# Posted 3:04 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OH NO! NOT ANOTHER DEBATE! My old high school has invited me back to participate in a mock debate on election day. As things now stand, I will be representing Bush, although I told the teacher in charge that I don't have much in common with the GOP when it comes to domestic politics. If I'm lucky, she'll find someone to represent Bush and then I can represent the undecideds!
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# Posted 2:56 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FUZZY MATH: Jon Chait dismantles George Bush's indefensible assertion that John Kerry voted to raise taxes 98 times.
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# Posted 2:46 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ONE FLU OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST: Kevin explains why there is a shortage of flu vaccine in the US right now.
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# Posted 2:09 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

COLLATERAL DAMAGE: With good reason, Spencer Ackerman is concerned about the civilian casualties inflicted by US airstrikes on Falluja. (Hat tip: MY again.) With reference to the lessons of Vietnam, Ackerman writes that
The insurgency grows stronger, not weaker, as a result of embittered civilians who suffer the consequences of the attack.
I agree. But doesn't the acceptance of this principle imply that the insurgents have antagonized even more Iraqi as a result of their indiscriminate and intentional suicide bombings across Iraq?

How often does the newspaper article (or left-of-center blog post) describing such an attack suggest that it will play to the advantage of the United States? Not often. Instead, one tends to read that Iraqis blame America for failing to provide the sort of security that would protect them from suicide attacks.

One possible justification for this double-standard is the fact that Iraqi nationalism leads most Iraqis to blame the United States regardless of who is responsible for the deaths in question. Or to be more precise, Sunni Arabs in Iraq will blame the United States no matter what, whereas Kurds and Shi'ites -- who are often the victims of such suicide attacks -- will approach such matters with a more open mind.

Yet when a suicide bomb detonates in the heart of Baghdad, it is almost as likely to kill a Sunni as it is a Kurd or Shi'ite. Can Iraqi Sunnis forgive such indiscriminate slaughter even if they support the objectives it hopes to achieve? I suspect not.

Of course, Falluja is enemy territory so there are no suicide bombings there. Thus, civilian casualties tend to be American inflicted. On the other hand, the threat of an American-led assault seems to have provoked a divide between native Fallujans who prefer to negotiate and those foreign fighters who prefer to fight to the death. Let's hope that the sensibilities of the natives prevail.
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# Posted 1:43 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ONLY IN THE PRINT EDITION: In Saturday's morning's WaPo, on the bottom of page A8, there is a priceless photo of the young John Edwards. He looks like a cross between Marlon Brando and Luke, the blond guy from the Dukes of Hazzard.
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# Posted 1:29 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

"THE FAITH-BASED PRESIDENCY": That is Ron Suskind's description of the George Bush's time in office. Suskind develops his argument in great detail in the current issue of the NY Times Magazine. (Hat tip: MY)

Even though Suskind's anecdotal evidence is less than impressive, I share his concern about Bush's apparent inability to question the highly contoversial assumptions on which his policies are based. More than anything else, I think that this explains my instinctive attraction to John Kerry and his thirst for information.

The unique aspect of Suskind's argument is his direct and uncompromising effort to explain Bush's lack of intellectual curiosity as a direct extension of his faith in God. Even though the President's critics often murmur about the connection between his faith and his policies, I can't recall anyone other than Suskind actually making an explicit and detailed argument about the connection between the two.

I am especially wary of such argument because I am aware of my own profound prejudices about the Christian right and its political agenda. After a dozen years of Jewish education, it is almost impossible not to have a negative attitude toward any Christian who insists that the Bible should guide the hands of politicians and policymakers.

Yet for the moment, I have decided to suspend my prejudices about the Christian right and ask how much actual evidence there is to justify the pervasive caricature of evangelicals as simple-minded and intolerant. I am especially looking forward to reading the work of JS, one of my colleagues at the Miller Center, who is now working on a dissertation entitled "Compromising Crusaders: Passion, Deliberation and the Christian Right." Here is how he describes his research:
From the founding of the United States, many thoughtful observers of its political system have regarded the public activities of religious movements as a threat to individual freedom and deliberative democracy. Most recently, social scientists and public intellectuals have denounced the Christian right for violating the norms of a pluralist democracy. Yet scholars have not examined the movement deeply enough to understand the inner workings of its principal political organizations. By doing exactly that, this dissertation demonstrates that the Christian right is not the uncompromising movement that detractors fear.

Although Christian right organizations do—as their critics contend— arouse moral passions, they do so in order to mobilize apathetic citizens. But once they have mobilized citizens, most of these organizations then labor diligently to moderate and inform the passions they have provoked by teaching activists how to become civil, compromising, and strategic actors in the public realm.

Elites within the Christian right undertake these labors because success in electoral politics requires it. Understanding this fundamental tension between the exigencies of mobilization, on the one hand, and successful activism, on the other, is critical to any thoughtful evaluation of the Christian right.
In the opening paragraphs of his NYTM essay, Ron Suskind writes that
Faith asserts its hold ever more on debates in this country and abroad. That a deep Christian faith illuminated the personal journey of George W. Bush is common knowledge. But faith has also shaped his presidency in profound, nonreligious ways. The president has demanded unquestioning faith from his followers, his staff, his senior aides and his kindred in the Republican Party. Once he makes a decision -- often swiftly, based on a creed or moral position -- he expects complete faith in its rightness.
Susking later observes that:
Every few months, a report surfaces of the president using strikingly Messianic language, only to be dismissed by the White House. Three months ago, for instance, in a private meeting with Amish farmers in Lancaster County, Pa., Bush was reported to have said, ''I trust God speaks through me.'' In this ongoing game of winks and nods, a White House spokesman denied the president had specifically spoken those words, but noted that ''his faith helps him in his service to people.''
I don't think that the White House is above playing such games. Yet if Bush's certainty comes from his faith in God, where do the certainty of Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and the rest of the inner circle come from? For that matter, what about Reagan's legendary certainty and his immunity to facts?

Even though Bush bears far more responsibility than Suskind for reinforcing negative stereotypes about Christian evangelicals, I think that the time has come for America's coastal elites to reconsider their attitude toward political Christianity.
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# Posted 1:11 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CUBA LIBRE: In a brief post I put up while in Vegas, I mocked the decision of the Latin American Studies Association (LASA) to allow Cuban "scholars" to present their research at LASA's recent conference.

There is more to the story, however. As it turns out, there were no Cuban presentations at the conference because the State Department refused to let the Cuban presenters into the country. Moreover, according to a colleague of mine who is quite fair-minded, a fair number of the Cubans are serious scholars, even though others are unofficial propagandists.

If the State Department were smarter, it would have welcomed the opportunity to let the Cubans show themselves for what they are. Instead, it provided the pro-Cuban Americans at the conference another chance to vent their (self-)righteous indignation.

On the second day of the conference, I attended a panel on US-Latin American relations since the end of the Cold War. During his presentation, Prof. Philip Brenner of American University declared that what the United States really hates about Cuba is the fact it has "stood up with dignity" to American efforts at domination.

Whoa. Let me say that again. Whoa. Apparently, Brenner has a bad habit of making such remarks. On Sept. 6, 2001, Brenner suggested to his class that "perhaps Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein are only bad from a Western perspective. Think about it." After the September 11th attacks, Brenner suggested that the US had also committed massive acts of terror.

Anyhow, the only one who came close to contradicting Brenner's remarks about Cuba was his colleague from American University, Dr. Robert Pastor. Pastor happens to have been the National Security Council's director for Latin American Affairs during the Carter Administration.

I think that Pastor would have kept quiet if not for Brenner's effort to directly provoke him by insisting that even the Carter Administration was blindly committed to humiliating Cuba at any cost. Pastor sharply and persuasively responded that Carter did his best to improve relations with Havana, but made it very clear to Fidel Castro that if he dispatched another Cuban expeditionary force to Africa, the Carter administration would not be the least bit forgiving.

Fidel sent the expeditionary force and Carter called off the pursuit of detente. As Pastor observed, America extended its hand in friendship, but Cuba consciously chose to slap it down.

So, in conclusion, what you really need to know about LASA is that its most jingoistic, right-wing members tend to be former officials in the Carter administration.
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Saturday, October 16, 2004

# Posted 11:22 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

KRAUTHAMMER RIDICULOUS: Josh may have liked Charlie K's most recent column, but I thought it was ridiculous. John Edwards may have said something sort of dumb, but Krauthammer's reaction is completely over the top. Edwards said:

If we do the work that we can do in this country, the work that we will do when John Kerry is president, people like Christopher Reeve are going to walk, get up out of that wheelchair and walk again.
That's optimistic campaign trail fluff. A closer reading of Edwards' statement implies that somehow Bush & Cheney are against Chris Reeve being able to walk again. Edwards' fluff hardly merits that kind of analysis, however. But here's what Charlie K says:

In my 25 years in Washington, I have never seen a more loathsome display of demagoguery...

There is no apologizing for Edwards's remark. It is too revealing. There is absolutely nothing the man will not say to get elected.
A demagogue willing to say anything? Perhaps Krauthammer is confusing Edwards with Dick Cheney. Remember Cheney? He's the guy whose remarks about Saddam and 9/11 George Bush had to publicly disavow.

Of course, there are Democratic demagogues as well. From where I stand, there is no excuse for John Kerry saying that George Bush wants to bring back the draft. By the way, it's worth comparing the NYT and WaPo comments about Kerry's remarks. In a straight up news article, the Post said that

Kerry offered scant evidence to support the allegation of an impending draft under Bush.
So much for he-said/she-said journalism. The NYT avoided that sort of overt analysis, but did include this failry damning paragraph

When the candidates debated a week ago in St. Louis, Mr. Bush ruled out reinstating the draft. "We're not going to have a draft, period," he said. "The all-volunteer Army works." In his rebuttal then, Mr. Kerry did not question the president's assertion.
That last sentence is a classic. It provides coverage of a literal non-event. But it has the exact same connotation as the WaPo's front-and-center analysis.

Anyhow, getting back to Charlie K, I'd like to propose my own candidate for the most loathsome display of demagoguery in the past 25 years. On December 2, 1983, a high school student said to Ronald Reagan:
This week you vetoed a bill passed by Congress which linked military aid in El Salvador with human rights. Why did you veto this bill, and how can we justify supporting governments, be they leftwing or rightwing, which violate human rights?
Reagan gave a fairly detailed response to the question, which included this statement:
We're doing everything we can, not only to help [the Salvadoran] Government deal with these rightwing squads, but I'm going to voice a suspicion now that I've never said aloud before. I wonder if all of this is rightwing, or if those guerrilla forces have not realized that by infiltrating into the city of San Salvador and places like that, that they can get away with these violent acts, helping to try and bring down the Government, and the rightwing will be blamed for it.
Reagan's comments made the front page of the next morning's papers because there was absolutely no evidence to suggest that Communist guerrillas were masquerading as right-wing death squads. While it is theoretically possible that such a masquerade took place, overwhelming evidence indicated that anti-Communist forces were responsible for 90 percent or more of the tens of thousands of civilians murdered during the first years of the Salvadoran civil war (and that the other 10 percent didn't involve masquerades).

Moreover, those murderous anti-Communists were soldiers and policeman employed by the Salvadoran military and acting with its explicit support, not independent "rightwing squads" as Reagan suggested. And his administration knew it. Less than ten days after Reagan's controversial remarks, Vice-President Bush handed a list of known murderers to the Salvadoran high command and demanded their explusion from the armed forces.

In my dissertation, I argue that Reagan's demagoguery was not intentional, but rather a reflection of the 40th President's unparalleled ability to blind himself to the obvious truth. Declassified CIA reports, now available from the National Security Archive, demonstrate that the administration's knowledge about the death squads was detailed and unequivocal.

Of course, anyone capable of reading a newspaper knew what was going on in El Salvador -- that is why Reagan's comments were almost incomprehensible. White House spokesmen backtracked from the President's remarks almost immediately. No other Republican stood up on the President's behalf.

The only plausible explanation for the Great Communicator's self-destructive rhetoric was that he himself believed in it.
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# Posted 7:03 PM by Patrick Belton  

The third model, comparative interbranch strength, places asymmetries of political resource endowments as central in explaining variations over time in the congressional influence on policy outcomes. Those outcomes then reflect the primary preferences of the actor with the greater resources, in proportion to the ratio between the two actors’ allotment of political resources.

Assume three axioms about strength:

1. greater popularity among the public, both in general and specifically of their foreign policy positions, confers strength upon the branch possessing it;
2. a larger Δpop(equal to Positive opinion (branch Bx) – Negative opinion (branch Bx)), which takes into account the distinction between neutral and averse segments of the public, also confers strength upon the branch possessing it;
3. a greater degree of ideological homogeneity in the majority caucus in each house also confers strength upon the legislature.

Strength is, for present purposes, defined as the sum of these three dimensions,


And relative strength, then

ΔΣi=1…3μi = Σi=1...3μB1i - Σi=1...3μB2i

Which is, incidentally, the name of a fraternity at my first university.
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# Posted 5:43 PM by Patrick Belton  

I'M TOUCHED....I THINK DEPARTMENT: From my latest reading material:
'Quilted Velvet ® is deeply quilted, soft toilet tissue that really cares for your bum.'

'If you feel that this product doesn't care for your bum enough, please let us know by sending this pack and its contents FREEPOST to:

Velvet ® Bum Care Department
SCA Hygiene Products UK Limited
Freepost ANG 5856
Dunstable, LU6 3YY
Dunstable, incidentally, was where I went to buy my car. Maybe there's a pattern. More significantly, I have the strong impression that this was written by the same guy who wrote the 'manicure' interview for FOX, a.k.a, the joke that wasn't meant to see print...
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# Posted 8:51 AM by Patrick Belton  

NEW ARAB REFORM BULLETIN: Edited ably as always by the Carnegie Endowment's (and OxFriend) Amy Hawthorne, with articles on judicial reform, the variegated Iraqi insurgency, and two pieces on the opposition and ruling party in Egypt.
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# Posted 8:46 AM by Patrick Belton  

AFGHAN ELECTIONS POST-MORTEM: From who else but our dashing Afghanistan correspondent:
Two of my Afghan friends and colleagues arrived in Washington, DC yesterday. Their satisfaction and enthusiasm with the elections in Afghanistan can hardly be overstated. Both showed off the fading indelible ink on their thumbs (one of them had initially gone to a polling place where the pens proved delible, but the mistake was caught early and the voters sent to a different polling station). One said, eyes twinkling: “It was a miracle. There were hundreds of us, and everyone was standing in one straight line. Afghans never stand in line, they always crush in together. But that day, we all stood in line and waited to vote.” The other pulled out his mobile phone and proudly showed the digital photo he’d taken in the privacy of the polling booth: a ballot with a big black checkmark next to Hamid Karzai’s picture.

It’s unsurprising that two young, married Kabulis who work for a Western NGO and who backed Karzai would find the election satisfying. They have everything to gain from a continuation of the policies of the last three years. But after the initial shock of the washable ink and the soon-retracted opposition boycott, the reports out of Afghanistan have suggested that most Afghans throughout the country shared my friends’ enthusiasm. The electoral process was extraordinarily popular. When all is said and done, with a mere 43 purported irregularities under investigation by the joint UN-Afghan panel (from over 5,000 polling stations) and all the major opposition candidates committed to accepting the panel’s findings, it is hard to imagine the delible-ink scandal leaving an indelible blot on the Karzai presidency.

The best news of all, of course, was the remarkably limited violence. On September 24, I argued that the former Taliban and other violent malcontents had already lost their chance to derail the election. In the event, they were almost entirely inactive. A Taliban spokesman afterward claimed that this election-day restraint was a deliberate policy to spare the lives of fellow Muslims. Besides this unprecedented goodwill, a few other factors were probably at work:

• The rebels in southern Afghanistan are not meaningfully a Taliban resurgence (as I argued in July), but a loosely organized ethnic-Pashtun insurgency. As the election approached and Qanuni seemed likely to force Karzai into a runoff, community leaders throughout the Pashtun south realized that if their people didn’t make it to the polls, they might end up with a Panjshiri Tajik president. I imagine at this point they made it clear to the insurgents that everyone in their villages would be voting, for the good of the Pashtuns. And the insurgents blinked first.
• Karzai has been working hard at dialogue with the Pashtun insurgent leaders, particularly those from Gulbuddin Hekmetyar’s Hizb-i-Islami party. It’s possible that many more have been won over or bought off than we know about.
• According to my friends’ reports, Pakistan’s President Musharraf quietly but forcefully increased security along the Afghan border and in Afghan refugee camps in the weeks leading up to the election. This did a lot to keep out al-Qaeda troublemakers. (Iyad Allawi, take note).
• The insurgents dedicated significant resources, perhaps even a majority of their resources, to attempted attacks in Kabul which were thwarted by extraordinary security measures.

Whatever its causes, their failure is a major blow to the credibility of the insurgency, and for all its flaws, this election is a heartening victory. The Afghans are rightly proud and excited; they deserve much praise for this imperfect but important step toward stable democratic government. I’ve also talked to Afghans who feel that the U.S. government deserves more credit than I’ve been inclined to offer. They point to the role of Zalmay Khalilzad (American ambassador and Karzai’s éminence grise) in keeping the warlords on board when Karzai began throwing his weight around. As one rumor has it, all three major Panjshiri ministers tried to resign when Marshal Fahim was dropped as vice-president, but Khalilzad summoned them to his residence for a blunt remonstration. “Without America, you would still be isolated in Panjshir, alone and on the defensive. Do you want to go back there?” He’s also been making the rounds of all the opposition candidates, doing what he can to make sure they’re reconciled to a Karzai victory. Khalilzad’s success as horse-trader-in-chief deserves acknowledgment, and reflects well on the administration that appointed him.

But America’s larger failure in Afghanistan remains: we have not committed enough troops to secure the country, nor managed to convince other countries to commit their troops. Our initial policy of Occupation Lite was reasonable, even prudent – no one wanted to trigger the historically familiar Afghan response to foreign armies. By last year, however, all sides recognized that we were well below the troop threshold that the people of Afghanistan would tolerate. When asked, most Afghans responded that they would welcome more foreign troops if that would bring some accountability to the local warlords. NATO accordingly committed itself to expanding ISAF – and did next to nothing. America had committed the bulk of its armed forces to Iraq, and continued to focus its diplomatic attention on getting support for the war there, not on coaxing uncertain allies into securing Afghanistan.

This election is not a vindication of that policy. It would be an understandable but grave error to mistake the lack of violence surrounding this poll for a stable security situation in Afghanistan. While I don’t share the unrelenting gloominess of Human Rights Watch’s pre-election report, they correctly document that the threat of violence remains the primary political backdrop throughout Afghanistan (in particular for Afghans outside Kabul). As most commentators on Afghanistan recognize, the coming parliamentary poll will be far more precarious than the recently concluded elections. Without major improvements between now and then, the enthusiasm and success attending Afghanistan’s first election will be matched by the disillusionment and failure of its second.

In the first place, the south-eastern insurgency isn’t quite as depleted as its feeble voter intimidation efforts would suggest. Many of the Pashtun leaders who united to prevent a Qanuni or Dostum presidency are still hostile to America and sympathetic to the rebels. In the parliamentary elections, without the clear goal of maintaining a fairly popular co-ethnic president in power, the violent rejectionists will face less intra-Pashtun opposition. If they rally, project their power out of remote provinces like Zabul, Uruzgan, and Khost, and frighten voters away from the polls in populous Helmand and Kandahar, the insurgents could actually threaten the legitimacy of the parliament.

But violent rejection by Pashtun insurgents has never been the main threat to peaceful elections in Afghanistan. The greater, more general threat is from warlords who violently support their client candidates, especially in the ethnically divided north. In the recently concluded presidential campaign, violence of this sort was limited, because it would have been ineffective. It was never likely to affect Karzai’s overwhelming lead, one way or the other; and when Fahim may have been tempted to try it, a prompt and forceful response from Khalilzad and NATO deterred him. In the south, Pashtun tribal differences were set aside in the attempt to get out the vote for Karzai.

The game will be entirely different in the parliamentary elections, with scores of local contests at stake and the overall outcome anything but pre-ordained. In constituencies dominated by a single militia commander, any other candidates risk persecution and assassination. In constituencies divided between rival commanders, the race would be real but potentially bloody. With dozens of close races around the country, a great deal will hang on ballot irregularities and perceived interference at the polls. If the parliamentary elections are monitored as weakly as the presidential election, such disputes are all the more likely to be resolved by force.

My friend Mike wryly writes from Kabul, “I get the feeling that it's easy to arrive in Afghanistan, spend a few days looking around, and then confidently announce that the next few months is absolutely critical to the nations’ future, etc etc.” Still, I do think the next months will be as crucial as any time since the Taliban fell. We have a short window in which to prepare for the parliamentary elections. Meanwhile, Karzai has repeatedly said that “the time of horse-trading is over” and that he does not expect warlords to have a strong voice in his cabinet. The big question of the coming winter is whether he means what he says; and whether the warlords will accept a disarmed and diminished role.

So what to do? First: we need to get more troops in there to back up Karzai and Khalilzad – their bold strategy of checking the warlords will sooner or later meet a forceful challenge, especially if they do push the disarmament program. These troops will have to come primarily from Europe. (Russia and India, two countries who at one point considered sending troops to Iraq, are both non-starters in Afghanistan). Fortunately, many countries that wouldn’t consider sending troops to Iraq could be talked into reinforcing Afghanistan, especially since the first election proved to be so very un-apocalyptic. Europe has a strong interest in stemming the flow of Afghan opium and refugees. The bad news for John Kerry is that this “internationalization” probably wouldn’t free up many US soldiers – most of the American soldiers in Afghanistan are chasing bin Laden and the Taliban, a task that neither Kerry nor Bush is likely to “outsource.” But more European troops could be invaluable in the coming election campaigns, to protect journalists and opposition party candidates, and to weaken rumors that America is rigging Afghan elections to its own ends.

Second: we need many more election monitors, much better election security (including stepped-up disarmament and demobilization), and an extensive voter education program. Parliamentary elections are more complex than presidential elections, and we should expect more (and more effective) attempts at fraud. Countering this will require increased funding and attention from foreign donors. Security should be provided by Afghan national troops and police where feasible, by foreign troops where necessary, and by warlord militias as rarely as possible.

Third: we need a counter-poppy strategy that is also pro-farmer. Stepped-up interdiction is essential; Karzai should use his strengthened position in the wake of elections to take on the drug lords as well as the warlords in his country, lest it turn into a narco-state. But aggressive eradication strategies will turn rural Afghans against the occupation and the Kabul government. We may hope that this year’s glutted market and price collapse will lead to fewer hectares of poppy cultivated next year. But the primary standard for success in the next few years should be increased hectares of alternative crops and better Afghan agricultural processing facilities, with diminished poppy cultivation as a secondary, dependent indicator. Until there are genuine alternative income sources for rural Afghans, we can’t start ploughing up the poppy fields.

Finally: the United States should be prepared for Hamid Karzai to lose the next presidential election. The enthusiasm with which Afghans are embracing elections recalls nothing so much as the first electoral rounds in Central and Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall. There, the bubble of expectations surrounding democracy was quickly deflated by harsh economic realities, and (to the horror of many in the West) the second round of elections went to former Communists. It’s easy to imagine a similar scenario playing out in Afghanistan at the end of Karzai’s term, with a disillusioned, still-impoverished electorate responding to the nationalism of a former warlord. The first reports from the vote-counting have Qanuni at 17 percent, compared to 15 percent for Abdul Rashid Dostum. We’ll see how things look when all the ballots have been counted. But I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we see one of the two succeed in four years. As we negotiate the roadblocks of the next few years, we should keep such a contingency always in mind, and not back ourselves into a corner where Karzai becomes indispensable. There’d be no quicker way to dispel Afghans’ enthusiasm for democracy than to foolishly rig the election in Karzai’s favor next time.

(N.B. Many thanks to Mike, by the way, whose dispatches from the frontline have kept me up on events despite the fact that I’m out of the country. His analyses combine equally keen insight and humor, as for example:

“My favorite election quote to date comes from our Uzbek friend General Dostum, at a recent election rally: ‘It will be clear very soon who is a warlord and who is the people’s lord.’ Because ‘people’s lord’ has such a nice, democratic ring to it.”)
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# Posted 7:35 AM by Patrick Belton  

WANT A JOB? Don't brag about your accomplishments. Instead, kiss up.
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Friday, October 15, 2004

# Posted 10:10 AM by Patrick Belton  

I PERK UP ANNUALLY about this time of the year to pay enough attention to baseball to enjoy watching the Yankees win their annual World Series. Then, I go back to generally ignoring spectator sports, apart from the occasional glances at Irish rugby and South Asian cricket. I derive great pleasure from this, because (1) I'm generally most at home in the United States in New York, and spend most of my time there when I'm stateside, and (2) rooting for the Mets, though undoubtedly more authentic, provides limited meaningful opportunities for postseason spectatorship. Particularly via UK telly.

So, a quick review of the relevant facts, going into Game 3 tonight. Yanks begin with a 2-0 advantage at Fenway tonight, after utterly dominating that plucky but masochistic bunch of ruffians from Beantown for the previous two evenings of play. Mussina and Lieber in the bullpen are pitching pretty, holding the Red Sox to one hit in 37 at-bats in innings one through six. And team playing seems to be fairly good, with broad contributions coming from Hideki Matsui (driving in five runs in Game 1), and Bernie Williams (three), Derek Jeter turning a walk into a run in the second game, and this by stealing second and scoring on a single from Gary Sheffield. Nice team. Now any of them want to run for president?
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# Posted 6:08 AM by Patrick Belton  

SCIENCE CORNER: Millihelen: unit of beauty. In particular, a millihelen is the degree of beauty able to launch one ship.
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Thursday, October 14, 2004

# Posted 6:34 PM by Patrick Belton  

WELL BUGGER, I never knew we had Shakespeare blogging for us. (I guess that's one of the advantages of being the Anglo-American blog...)
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# Posted 3:39 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HE SAID/SHE SAID JOURNALISM: Back when the Swift Vets were still on the front pages, I had a brief exchange with Kevin Drum and Zachary Roth (of CJR) about whether or not professional correspondents mislead their audiences by engaging in he said/she said journalism, i.e. mechanically reporting on the arguments made by both sides in any given debate without giving any sense of which side is telling the truth.

The subject came to mind again when Kevin linked to an internal memo from ABC News Political Director Mark Halperin which made this remarkable statement:
I'm sure many of you have this week felt the stepped up Bush efforts to complain about our coverage. This is all part of their efforts to get away with as much as possible with the stepped up, renewed efforts to win the election by destroying Senator Kerry at least partly through distortions.

It's up to Kerry to defend himself, of course. But as one of the few news organizations with the skill and strength to help voters evaluate what the candidates are saying to serve the public interest. Now is the time for all of us to step up and do that right.
Kevin's take on the memo is that it's about time the media started getting as tough on Bush as it should be. To some degree, the existence of such a memo implies that ABC's correspondents had been holding their punches in the first place.

Yet take note of the author's observation that the Bush campaign had already stepped up its complaints about ABC's coverage. In addition, Halperin bolsters his argument by observing that leading correspondents at both NYT and Newsweek also believe that Bush's attacks on Kerry are on the brink of becoming outright lies -- lies designed to deflect public attention from the administration's failure in Iraq.

Perhaps Mark Halperin doth protest too much? If the NYT and Newsweek are already calling Bush a liar, and the campaign already thinks that ABC has been unfair, does Halperin really need to remind his correspondents that they should aggressively expose Bush' distortions of the truth?

Now let me make my own position clear. If Bush distorts the truth -- which he often does -- then journalists should make that clear. Journalists should interpret events rather than just reporting on them. Objectivity is a relative notion, and nothing produces more bad journalism than false pretensions of objectivity.

All I want is for left-of-center media critics to stop pretending that journalists' passivity lulls the American public into believing Republican lies.
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# Posted 11:27 AM by Patrick Belton  

GUT REDUX: CNN/Gallup gives Kerry the edge last night, by 53-39.
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# Posted 11:24 AM by Patrick Belton  

CHRISTINE BOESE points out that spam filters and spammers have jointly done what Victorianisms never succeeded in doing: removing words such as ‘breast’ and ‘sex’ from written discourse.
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# Posted 10:58 AM by Patrick Belton  

SOMEONE EXPLAINED IT TO ME: It's probably to keep the fabulously dodgy McAuliffe off the airwaves in the States, where it matters.
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Wednesday, October 13, 2004

# Posted 11:20 PM by Patrick Belton  

ALSO, COULD SOMEONE EXPLAIN TO ME why Terry McAuliffe and White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett were spinning to the BBC after the debate and not, say, to some hometown newspaper in Florida? Nice country though the one in which I reside is, the last I checked it doesn't have many electoral votes in play, and the time spent with the BBC of two senior spin artists seems, frankly, fairly wasted.
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# Posted 11:19 PM by Patrick Belton  

MY GUT, and it's only my gut, is that this was a knockout win for Kerry. The balance actually hung in contention for the first half - it wasn't clear at first whether Bush's superior abilities at conveying personal warmth (witness his punchier delivery and variations of speaking pitch) would match Kerry's more boring, solid debating style, but after too many questions where Bush's dodge to repeat his talking points about education was too painfully skillless, Kerry's boring steadiness weathered the barrage of the contest much better and showed that in some circumstances, being boring and competent can be a good thing. I'd be surprised if the spin didn't reflect this, and unless the public was completely exhausted by the debates by now, if this didn't win Kerry a valuable point or two.
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# Posted 1:30 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

POLITICS AT THE WATER' S EDGE: Daniel Drezner writes that the administration subordination of its military strategy in Iraq to its re-election strategy in the United States represents a "mortal sin". Riffing on the same LA Times article that Professor Dan cited, Kevin Drum asks:
What was it Bush said during last Friday's debate? Oh yeah: "I don't see how you can lead this country in a time of war, in a time of uncertainty, if you change your mind because of politics."
Ouch! According to the "senior administration official" quoted by the LAT,
"When this election's over, you'll see us move very vigorously."
Presumably, the White House is afraid that a high-casualty operation during the final weeks of the campaign may cost it the election. On the other hand, if the Bush administration were as aggressive as Dan and Kevin suggest it should be, the critics would probably say that Bush was sacrificing soldiers' lives in a desperate attempt to win votes by generating the impression of success in Iraq.

What I don't understand is why a "senior administration official" (or SAO)would have made such a damaging claim. The smart thing to say would have been that the White House is letting the commanders on the ground make all the military decisions so that politics doesn't get in the way.

Perhaps the SAO in question just committed a gaffe. Or perhaps his remarks reflect an intentional effort to shame the administration into being more aggressive on the ground in the run-up to the election that really matters: the one in Iraq.
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# Posted 1:30 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

TONIGHT'S DEBATE COULD BE MINOR, IRRELEVANT FACTOR IN RACE: The top headline on the WaPo homepage reads: "Tonight's Debate Could Be Pivotal Factor in Race." The article's actual headline is far more sensible (and boring): "On Debate's Eve, Campaigns Hone Message".

Now, if the first debate between Kerry and Bush played a crucial role in reviving the challenger's hopes, how can I be so sure that tonight's debate won't matter at all? Well, I'm not actually sure, but I think that all the indications are that it will be anything but pivotal.

After his embarrassing performance in the initial debate, Bush seemed to regain his composure during last Friday's rematch. Is it possible that Bush will break down again under pressure? Possible, yes. Likely, no.

The real question is whether Bush will make one or two critical gaffes that give Kerry an opening to hit hard during the final days of the campaign. That is eminently possible.
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# Posted 7:56 AM by Patrick Belton  

IRISH CORNER: I don’t know if there are any other tin whistle enthusiasts among our friends, but Chiff and Fipple, the poststructural Tin Whistle internet experience, have got their latest newsletter out. It includes ‘This month’s favourite name for an Irish traditional tune, TM’ (i.e., O'Carolan's Maggot), odd homages to the campaign and SpaceShipOne, and finally an appeal to American citizens to ‘blow the vote’.
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# Posted 7:36 AM by Patrick Belton  

AMONG THE HEAPS OF GENERALLY DISAPPOINTING appreciations of Derrida and his work, one which stands out as worthy of interest is the Chronicle of Higher Ed's depiction of him as at essence a latter-day talmudist encouraging us simply to take texts more seriously, in a tradition including such other companion exegetes as Gadamer.
In interviews and autobiographical texts from his final decade, he began to speak about growing up as a Jew in Algeria during the Vichy period. More and more of his writing began to take the form of an overt dialogue with the work of Emmanuel Levinas, a French Jewish thinker who worked at the intersection of Heideggerian philosophy, ethical reflection, and biblical commentary.

"The idea of something of unconditional value begins to emerge in Derrida's work -- something that makes an unconditional claim on us," said Mr. Caputo. "So the deconstruction of this or that begins to look a little bit like the critique of idols in Jewish theology."

In 2002 Derrida gave the keynote address at the convention of the American Academy of Religion, held in Toronto. Speaking to a crowded auditorium, the philosopher said, "I rightly pass for an atheist" -- a puzzling formulation, by any measure.

Mr. Caputo recalled that other scholars asked Derrida, "Why don't you just say, 'Je suis. I am an atheist'?" Derrida replied, "Because I don't know. Maybe I'm not an atheist."

"He meant that, I think, the name of God was important for him," said Mr. Caputo, "even if, by the standards of the local pastor or rabbi, he was an atheist. The name of God was tremendously important for him because it was one of the ways that we could name the unconditional, the undeconstructible."
He indeed hints respectfully at his own lineage as a talmudist in the ending passage of Writing and Difference, where he closes with a quotation attributed to a rabbi named Derrisa.
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# Posted 7:32 AM by Patrick Belton  

NERD CORNER: Paypal crashes. It makes the news on BBC.
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# Posted 7:14 AM by Patrick Belton  

RUSSOPHILE CORNER: Michele Berdy really likes Russian men. And, from the sounds of it, one suspects vice versa:
I’m not the first to recognize that American men have problems talking about—admitting, recognizing, naming, revealing, discussing or even acknowledging—their feelings, or, God forbid, their needs.... Instead they play sports, which allow them to work through stress, anger, confusion, fear and other taboo emotions on the playing field. Or anyway I think that’s what they’re doing out there, rolling around on muddy football fields on Sunday afternoons.

Oh, what they could learn from their Russian brethren! Russian men do not suffer from bottled-up emotions. In fact, they are one of the least emotionally bottled-up populations on the face of the earth. With the help of the bottle—say, four or five liters of 80 proof vodka—they sit with their friends (three being the magical number of drinking buddies), pour down the liquor, and let it all out: all their fears, all their sins, all their doubts and worries and needs. About 3:00 a.m. one usually asks the others, “Do you respect me?” and the others reply, with the solemnity of a military oath, “Of course, old man, of course.”

I have to admit that I didn’t get the point of this for many years; it seemed like one of those quaint but opaque mysteries of the Russian soul that we foreigners can never quite penetrate. But now I do: it’s the confessional, it’s the shrink’s couch, it’s a way of getting all those taboo emotions off their chests: Absolut absolution.
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Tuesday, October 12, 2004

# Posted 4:18 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

TNR & SLATE SLAM KERRY'S INCOMPETENCE: Noam Scheiber can't figure out -- and neither can I -- why the Kerry campaign keeps trying to shift the debate to domestic issues every time the momentum starts going its way.

While it's true that domestic issues favor the Democrats, this election is about national security. Period. Doesn't Kerry remember what happened in 2002 when the Democrats emphasized domestic politics and ran away from national security?

In addition to focusing on the wrong issues, Kerry also seems to suffer from a Dukakis-like inability to hit Bush hard even when the President sets himself up for a knockout punch. Will Saletan takes a closer look at last Friday's debate and shows just how many major openings Kerry failed to take advantage of.

In contrast, Saletan says, Edwards knows exactly how to go on the offensive instead of getting tangled up in thicket of nuances:
Halfway through the debate, a questioner asked Kerry why he had picked a running mate who "has made millions of dollars successfully suing medical professionals." Here's how Edwards began his answer to a similar question Tuesday: "I'm proud of the work I did on behalf of kids and families against big insurance companies, big drug companies, and big HMOs." Here's how Kerry answered tonight: "John Edwards is the author of the Patients' Bill of Rights. He wanted to give people rights. John Edwards and I support tort reform." See the difference? Edwards reframes the question right away, goes on the offensive, and talks about people. Kerry accepts the way the question is framed, plays defense, and talks about legislation.
In his first months as a candidate, Kerry insisted repeatedly that he had learned the lessons of 1988 and that he would respond to Republican attacks with overwhelming force. I just don't understand why Kerry has failed to take his own advice on this critical point.

But perhaps the Democrats shouldn't be all their surprised by the failures of their candidate. Instead of facing a tough challenge in the primaries that might have prepared him to go one-on-one with Bush, Kerry inherited the nomination in the aftermath of Dean's sudden collapse.

Looking for a safe harbor after Dean's collapse and hoping to avoid a divisive intra-party conflict, Democratic primary rallied around Kerry before he ever had to face a serious test of his ability as a candidate. A bolder electorate inspired by bolder leadership might have taken a risk and chosen Edwards as their candidate, a decision that looks more and more attractive in hindsight (and which some of us supported at the time).

Yet why would the kind of committed Democrat that votes in the primaries prefer a Southern moderate with minimal experience to a Northern liberal who had proven his loyalty to the party time and again throughout his twenty years in the Senate?

Ironically, the front-loaded primary schedule that facilitated Kerry's rise was designed to strengthen the eventual Democratic candidate by protecting him from internal challenges. Perhaps this time around the Democrats will learn their lesson.
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# Posted 2:09 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FACTCHECKING THEIR A**ES: Kevin Drum reviews the media's efforts to document Bush and Kerry's lies during their second debate. Kevin has also put up a comprehensive chart that lists each candidates' misleading statements.

In addition, the chart assigns a numerical score to each statement, based on just how wrong it is, how intentional the deception was and how significant the issue is in this campaign. Kevin's final score is 118 dishonesty points for Bush and 60 dishonesty points for Kerry.

On a related note, OxBlog apologizes to Kevin for suggesting that his lackadaisical live-blogging of the first presidential debate reflected a lack of interest in the task. Had I read his blog more closely, I would've known that Kevin was having server problems at the time.
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# Posted 1:46 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DASCHLE'S FLIP-FLOPS: Writing in the National Review, South Dakotan blogger and history prof Jon Lauck describes Tom Daschle's record of spine-bending ideological acrobatics. Compared to Daschle, Kerry seems positively Bushian.
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# Posted 1:35 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WOULDA, COULDA, SHOULDA: Peter Beinart argues that the Bush administration missed a very clear opportunity to bring Russian and Indian peacekeepers into Iraq in the spring of 2003 -- and that Kerry would've known better.

Beinart doesn't ask whether such Russian and Indian peacekeeprs -- probably around 17,000 in all -- would actually have done much to improve the situation on the ground in Iraq. Nor does Beinart ask whether Russia's apalling brutality in Chechnya suggests that inviting the Russians into Iraq might've been a very, very bad idea.
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# Posted 1:27 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CHENEY SLIGHTS HIS ISRAELI FRIENDS: Why is the VP publicly taking credit for stopping Hamas?
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# Posted 1:16 AM by Patrick Belton  

THEY CAN'T EVEN BRING THEMSELVES TO SAY THE WORD WATCH: Thus New York Times, in a piece this morning on Bush and the Catholic vote: 'executive vice president of the Federalist Society, a conservadakirtive legal group'
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# Posted 1:12 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

YOU DON'T SAY! The Village Voice reports that Chinese, Russian (and French) corporations' heavy investments in Sudanese oil may have something to do with the Security Council's embarrassingly slow efforts to confront genocide in Sudan.

Are such accusations any more accurate than the widespread belief that the United States invaded Iraq in order to get at its oil? I don't know. I'm usually suspicious of anyone who says that economic interests drive foreign policy.

My sense is that China and Russia oppose intervention in Sudan because their own national interest (and flagrant violation of their citizens' human rights) compels them to defend the notion that national sovereignty is inviolable.
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Monday, October 11, 2004

# Posted 11:56 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

2+2=PARANOIA? Under the heading "Scare Tactics Work", I recently read in the WaPo that:
Less than one month after Kerry threw out the suggestion that Bush might reinstate the military draft, a new poll shows nearly half of younger voters swallowed the Democratic nominee's bait, hook, line and sinker.

The University of Pennsylvania's National Annenberg Election survey found about 50 percent of 18-to-29-year-olds believe Bush will bring back the compulsory draft. It also found this group is often clueless about the candidate's views. "Young voters are much more misinformed about the presidential candidates' positions on the draft than the population in general," said Kate Kenski, a senior analyst for the group. Bush has repeatedly denied he would reinstitute the draft.
It turns out that this sort of ignorance is no accident. The LA Times reports that Rock The Vote, an officially non-partisan organization supported by MTV, recently
Sent fake draft cards to nearly 640,000 e-mail addresses.

"You've been drafted" was the subject line of the message sent by Rock the Vote. The message contained an image of a draft card addressed to the recipient and warned, "real cards may be in the mail soon if the situation doesn't improve."...

Rock the Vote political director Hans Riemer said the group was trying to inform its members about the limits of U.S. military forces, not persuade them to vote for a particular candidate.

"It would be crazy if young people went to the polls and didn't factor this into their votes, however they come down on it. It's very real," said Riemer. "We're one major military conflict away from the draft. I don't see why candidates get to talk about war all day long and we can't talk about a draft."...

Last week, House Republicans sought to dispel suggestions that the war in Iraq could lead to a new draft by hastily bringing the idea to a vote and defeating it in a 402-2 vote.
I met Hans during the GOP convention. My sense is that he really believes what he's saying and that he has no idea how liberal and partisan his non-partisan activism really is.
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# Posted 11:42 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NOBEL PRIZE FOR TINFOIL HAT? Reader MM points to Ms. Maathai's bizarre comments, recorded in this AFP dispatch:

Some say that AIDS came from the monkeys, and I doubt that because we have been living with monkeys (since) time immemorial, others say it was a curse from God, but I say it cannot be that...

"It's true that there are some people who create agents to wipe out other people. If there were no such people, we could have not have invaded Iraq," she said.

"We invaded Iraq because we believed that Saddam Hussein had made, or was in the process of creating agents of biological warfare," said Maathai.

"In fact it (the HIV virus) is created by a scientist for biological warfare," she added.

I guess there are two ways you can look at this. If you're conservative, it serves as a useful reminder that Nobel Peace Prize winners are often out of touch with reality. If you're liberal, it demonstrates that only someone thoroughly out of touch with reality could've supported the invasion of Iraq.
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# Posted 11:39 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

'STROS WIN! 'STROS WIN! Chafetz delirious.
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# Posted 6:16 PM by Patrick Belton  

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# Posted 3:09 PM by Patrick Belton  

INTO THE ARAB MIND: Retired Col. Norvell De Atkine, who teaches at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare School and is an 'incurable romantic' about the region in which he served during tours in Jordan, Lebanon, and Egypt, in this issue of Middle East Quarterly corrects some of the more misguided factual errors in Seymour Hersh's New Yorker piece 'The Gray Zone' about the book The Arab Mind, by the cultural anthropologist Raphael Patai, and its rather less sinister role in Army education about the Middle East than Hersh imagined. De Atkine also presents his own thoughtful, nuanced exposition of the psychology of the Arab world, its potentialities, and his reflections as an area officer traversing the semipermeable membrance separating it from the West. He is, in the end, touchingly an optimist: in a concluding sentence worthy of T. E. Lawrence, he writes 'Ultimately, the Arabs, who are an immensely determined and adaptable people, will produce leadership capable of freeing them from ideological and political bondage, and this will allow them to achieve their rightful place in the world.'
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# Posted 7:48 AM by Patrick Belton  

OUT OF THE MAILBAG: You wrote in, and in droves, with your own favourite funny stupid national anthem tricks. Here are just three selections:
On the subject of state songs, you should be aware of that of Maryland, my favorite, by far.  You can find it here. Don't stop reading before you get to the last verse.   - Aaron Gurwitz (friend, incidentally, of OxParents Prof. Adesnik and Rabbi Hauptman) In re: 'It was adopted as the State song of Maryland in 1939 and remains so today, possibly because, as Richard Marius points out in The Columbia Book of Civil War Poetry, it has had little competition.'

Was rather surprised you didn't mention the Japanese. ed.: Duly remedied It's a lovely song with a somewhat mournful melody, glorifying the reign of the emperor (may you reign for 8000 yrs, etc.) Does he get time off for good behaviour? Some people think it sounds kind of evil. Very different, in any event, from the majority of national anthems. - Adrian Jensen, Columbia

You may already know this, but as far as outdated state songs go, Texas had a strong claim until recently.  From 1959 to 1993, we persisted in claiming, every time we sang "Texas, Our Texas," to be the "largest and grandest" state -- pointedly ignoring that other large upstart with oil so recently admitted to the Union.  (I remember being sentenced by my seventh grade Texas History teacher to stand in the corner for a half an hour back in, oh, about 1970 or so for arguing that I shouldn't have to sing a song that contained such an obvious lie.)  By act of the Texas Legislature in 1993, however, the song lyrics were amended to "boldest and grandest," which certainly puts those mellow Alaskans back in their place!  (Rumor was that the Legislature was trying to work in something about "Big Hair," but couldn't get the rhythm to work.) Plus, we have our own flag pledge. Best regards, Beldar
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# Posted 6:28 AM by Patrick Belton  

ANDREA GRIMES, a senior journalism student at NYU and shameless anglophile, is on assignment, blogging about the British reaction to the US elections. Her prose is sharp, and bears situating in the tradition of one of my favourite writers, who also wrote his reflections as an American intellectual in England.
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Sunday, October 10, 2004

# Posted 11:47 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

UNKNOWN HEROES: Congratulation to Wangari Maathai, winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize. I never heard of her until today, but she seems to be a truly remarkable women who has made a tremendous contribution to the growth of human rights, democracy, and environmental protection in her native Kenya.

One passage in the WaPo article about Maathai struck me as unusual, however. Correspondent Emily Wax writes that:
The tall and velvet-voiced Maathai joins past laureates who include former president Jimmy Carter, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama and Martin Luther King Jr.
Wax might also have written that:
The tall and velvet-voiced Maathai joins past laureates who include amoral egomaniac Henry Kissinger, incompetent terrorist Yasser Arafat and imaginative liar Rigoberta Menchu.
No disrespect is meant toward Ms. Maathai, yet is important to remember that the favor of the international community is a capricious thing. Thus, we should do our best to remember that thousands and thousands of heroic activists who struggle for freedom will never win a Nobel Prize, thus entitling them to the protection that it affords.

Until just a few days ago, Wangari Maathai was one of those activists. Had she been imprisoned or murdered -- she was beaten and arrested in 1999 -- we might never have known.

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# Posted 10:55 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

AFGHANISTAN VOTES: During a pit stop on the way home from Washington, I saw this morning's top headline in the Post: Afghan Election Disputed. I thought to myself, "Typical. Just typical. And it was probably our fault, too."

When I got home, I saw the next headline up on the WaPo website: Afghan Election Concerns Subside. As of right now -- 10:55 PM on Sunday -- the abbreviated headline on the WaPo homepage reads: "Concerns Subside on Historic Afghan Election".

I guess the Post isn't all that worried about corruption anymore, otherwise it wouldn't make much sense to call the elections historic. For the moment, the evidence of election-tampering seems thin. Even the initial WaPo article on the subject contained nothing more than allegations by losing candidates.

Yet I have heard quite often that the number of registered voters in Afghanistan is greater than the number of eligible ones. So I guess the story isn't over yet.

But whatever the outcome, one story will remain: the massive turnout of Afghan voters. As is so often the case when a long-suffering nation is finally given the chance to vote, the public response has been overwhelming.

The people of Afghanistan have affirmed that even in those nations with no history of democratic rule, there is still a profound human desire to have a voice in the halls of government.

UPDATE: Robert and Glenn have both posted solid election round-ups.

UPDATE: AS writes in that:
The number of registered voters exceeded AN ESTIMATE of eligible voters. But, in reality, nobody has a clue how many eligible voters there are in Afghanistan. There hasn't been a census, there are no birth certificates or ID cards, there is LITERALLY NOTHING to inform us as to how many eligible voters there are. Moreover, millions of refugees have returned to the country -- but, again, nobody knows how many.

So, some people guessed at a number of eligible voters, and the number of registrations exceeded that guess.
Good point.
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# Posted 6:44 AM by Patrick Belton  

DEATH OF A PHILOSOPHER: We may not have always agreed with what he had to say, but as a prominent man of letters and thought who did much to engage the world of intellectual introspection with the society around him, we will mourn the passing of Derrida.

Several introductions to what indeed it was that he had to say are here, here, and here. By way of requiem, we include one exchange Derrida had a year ago with several filmmakers who were producing a documentary about his life and contribution to contemporary thought. At one point, wandering through his library, one of the filmmakers asked Derrida, 'Have you read all the books in here?'

'No,' he replied, 'only four of them. But I read those very, very carefully.'
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# Posted 6:02 AM by Patrick Belton  

SING A NEW SONG: National anthems are by far a fairly execrable lot. China's March of the Volunteers and Ireland's Soldier's Song are melodically unfortunate, and in those instances where the tune is halfway worthwhile, the wounded, martial, defensive nationalism of (royalist) Rouget de Lisle's La Marseillaise is typical of the genre (e.g., 'Entendez-vous, dans la compagnes. / Mugir ces farouches soldats / Ils viennent jusque dans nos bras / Egorger vos fils, vos compagnes', a.k.a., 'Do you hear in the countryside / the roar of these savage soldiers? / They come right into our arms / to cut the throats of your sons, your country.' They get worse: see Mexico's '¡Guerra, guerra! Los patrios pendones / En las olas de sangre empapad. ... Antes, patria, que inermes tus hijos / Bajo el yugo su cuello dobleguen, / Tus campiñas con sangre se rieguen, / Sobre sangre se estampe su pie,' a.k.a., 'War, war! The patriotic banners saturate in waves of blood.... May your countryside be watered with blood, / On blood their feet trample.') A very bloody lot, these songs.

There are better exemplars in the canon. Italy's actually sounds like a feisty Neapolitan number, and India and Pakistan have both done fairly well with theirs. For its part, America, I have always felt, would do much better with the stirring simplicity of 'God Bless America', echoing the godly simplicity of both the frontier and the first Puritan cities of New England, than the bombastic pyrotechnics of the current national anthem, with its melodic past as a drinking song, and its unfortunate susceptibility for mauling at the hands of minor-order pop stars clutching microphones at sporting games and political conventions.

I bring this up because I was just listening to Haydn's string quartet in C, Op. 76, No. 3, first performed in 1797 and most commonly known to all except Haydn scholars as the Deutschlandlied. In the more liberal spirit of 1848, Deutschland was not 'uber alles' with regard to, say, the remainder of Europe and lesser races of humanity to Germans, but rather to, say, Bavaria or Brandenburg in the loyalties of citizens of a country seeking unification. Also, while most second verses are embarrassing, q.v. those of God Save the Queen and the Star Spangled Banner, the Deutschlandlied's is rather nice - invoking Deutsche Frauen, Deutscher Wein und deutscher Sang - while Deutchland uber alles may have to be consigned with its unfortunate associations to the symbolic dustheap of history, who could object to German women, German wine, and German song? Read against the European experience, it seems that from the perspective of her neighbours, keeping the Germans pacifically drunken, copulating and singing seems, by and large, A Good Thing. One of the more poignant conversations in contemporary Germany is the extent to which these symbols of German national identity can, at some point, be separated from association with the horrors of Naziism, without disrespect for the memory of those horrors' victims. It's hard to become too worked up, as an interested observer, over the ultimate disposition of the name of the state of Brandenburg, but the Deutschlandlied is preeminently from an artistic standpoint not only worth saving, but justified of being elevated, in its original Age of Enlightenment spirit, to a model. The world could make do with more national anthems of Haydn string quartets, and several fewer evoking a readiness to discard the nation's youth against invaders. There is enough blood of youth spilt in the world as it is.

The second anthem which has been on my mind lately is Virginia's state song emeritus. For practical purposes, however Virginia has not at the moment got a state song, as the present one is generally regarded as unperformable at the moment - mostly because of its references to 'old massa', which clearly have got to go. Ditto, of course, for 'old darky' - the lyrics clearly require a rather massive scrub. But what's interesting to me, at least, is that no one has ever pointed out the extraordinary potential, from the standpoint of racial integration and recognising the contributions of Virginia's quite substantial black population to the state's history, in having a state anthem in the voice of a black Virginian, and furthermore written by a black Virginian, James Bland. It's usually, and quite justly, been criticised for nostalgic references to slavery, of which the principal reference is 'Massa and Missis have long gone before me, Soon we will meet on that bright and golden shore.' The question, though, is how much these references contaminate the entire song, and to what extent these can instead be excised and it can be made to about something else entirely - not nostalgia for segregation and slavery, but instead one of the few recognitions in America at the level of state symbolism of the experience of the African-American people who live there. For my part, I would be rather saddened to see the nation's canon of symbols stripped of one of its few examples of the latter. Attempts to come up with a bland, saccharine cookie-cutter anthem have, for their part, by and large been predictably execrable; witness, for a particularly apropos example, sausage maven Jimmy Dean's attempt to bribe official status for his own forgettable anthem 'Virginia'. My impression, however, is that symbolic lines are probably far too firmly drawn in the American south, and aligned with emotionally laden positions (which are often quite reactionary - see, of course, debates over other much more discardable symbols in other states in that region), for any sort of creative updating of a tradition to make it cohere with modern aspirations while engaging the history of the region.

So there, that's the liberal case for 'Deutschland Uber Alles' and 'Carry Me Back to Old Virginny'. I think I'll unplug my computer before I can get myself into any more trouble today.
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Friday, October 08, 2004

# Posted 5:57 PM by Patrick Belton  

WHY DO MOST (NOT ALL) COMMONWEALTH COUNTRIES DRIVE ON THE LEFT? On our OxBlog-does-motorworks kick for the week, we thought you might find this interesting - it all has to do with preserving the right hands of feudal Europeans for their epynomous feuds. (Then, in turn, the States and Napoleon's France wanted to be different from Britain and, in the latter case, traditions associated with the Bourbon monarchy as well.)

Incidentally, and while on the subject of carblogging, tomorrow morning I'll amusingly enough be getting up at 6 to...:

(1) catch a series of buses straight across England to a small town in Devon
(2) get there at 5:50 pm (after, of course, doing thesis work the whole way), and quickly test drive and purchase a lovely £300 used coupe
(3) learn how to drive a manual transmission car
(4) apply knowledge gained in the previous step and transport self and car across England to Oxford. Take quick nap and have delightful dinner with friend from India.

If all this goes as planned, I can show off car (step 2) and manual transmission driving ability (step 3) to all of our readers on Sunday (see 4). But if any amusing adventures have taken place (well, more than I've accounted for) between now and Sunday evening, well, you'll have a chance to read about them in detail then, too.
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# Posted 5:43 AM by Patrick Belton  

WE FOUND OUT WHO RUNS THE COUNTRY WATCH: Together, that is, with the (sexually desirable) Jewish Rhodes Scholars and the (less so) little green men in Arizona. CNN busts out a quote this morning from the U.S. Security Administration, as, in fact, does Reuters, perhaps following its lead. Now we on OxBlog (and our minions at Google*) have heard of the Transportation Security Administration, and even that true eminance grise the Social Security Administration, but perhaps CNN has actually stumbled on the true possessors of power in this grand republic?

Or maybe no one actually edits the stuff.

* I had a very nice brunch in Williamsburg with two Googleniks, the last time I was in New York. They were very nice. (Even when I brought up their male leader's propensity for wearing a dress in close proximity to news cameras.)
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# Posted 5:38 AM by Patrick Belton  

NOT DEAD YET WATCH: One of the most interesting dimensions of the reigning pontiff, wherever you stand with respect to his tenure, is his prior life as a dissident intellectual in Poland - there aren't many senior clerics in any religion who had youth remotely comparable to his, spent working in a Kraków stone quary by day, and by night studying Husserl and helping to keep Polish intellectual and literary life alive during Nazi occupation, by helping to found underground organisations such as the 'Studio 38' experimental theatre group, meeting in basements in evenings following his days of forced labour . This is why it's truly wonderful that in spring of next year, the Italian publishing house Rizzoli will publish a transcript of a series of searching conversations on the philosophy of history the Pope had in 1993 with two Polish intellectuals, professors Josef Tishner and Krzystof Michalski. Memory and Identity, as it's to be called, apparently struggles with questions of the meaning of history in a world after the evils of war and collapse of grand Hegelian narratives. For my part I'll certainly be reading it.

Though his philosophical corpus from before his papacy still awaits collation into a convenient volume, scholars have finally begun to delve into the window into wartime and postwar Polish intellectual life provided by this fascinating man, Wojtyła: see, for starters, here, here, here, here, and here. Much of this, as would be expected, is by devout Catholics; it would be quite nice to see an interesting engagement with the topic from the perspective of more secular intellectual historians, as well.
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# Posted 5:27 AM by Patrick Belton  

SIZE MATTERS: William Boyd, who knows something about both genres, compares short stories with novels.
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Thursday, October 07, 2004

# Posted 11:09 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

48 HRS. IN VEGAS: I'm here right now for the annual conference of the Latin American Studies Association. This internet cafe is closing in 5 minutes, so I'll keep my comments brief. The most interesting thing I've noticed so far is that there will be a panel tomorrow morning on the subject of: "The Ideas of Che Guevara: A Socio-Political Alternative in the Contemprary Context?"

Most of the participants on the panel are from universities in Cuba. I was hoping that one of them would give a presentation entitled: "How to Persuade American Scholars that You Are a Legitimate Academic Even When You Are the Payroll of a Communist Dictatorship."
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# Posted 5:04 PM by Patrick Belton  

CARLOS FUENTES WATCH: Any of our readers in London who might like are warmly welcome to join a friend and me to hear a reading by one of our age's great novelists, at Carlos Fuentes's lecture next Tuesday evening at Canning House, at 7:30. Tickets range from £12 down to £5 for concessions, and Lord Garel-Jones will be chairing. If you'd like to reserve a ticket, please phone Claire Rivett at 020 72352303 ext. 222, and do say we sent you!
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# Posted 4:59 PM by Patrick Belton  

LIGHT BLOGGING FROM ME TODAY as I ponder the used car market and Pejman's advice. Incidentally, for those of you who might eventually find yourselves in the same situation, Yahoo has a useful feature which allows you to check the blue-book value for any car you like.

Pictures of the Oxmobile forthcoming when available!
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# Posted 9:39 AM by Patrick Belton  

WHY A YALE EDUCATION REALLY WAS WORTH ALL THAT MONEY WATCH: What other alumni association (okay, don't answer that)* would give official sponsorship to an event with the title 'First Quadrennial Presidential Debate Drinking Game'? (a.k.a., Wednesday, October 13th, River Place North Building #242, 1121 Arlington Blvd., Arlington, VA.)

And come on, you're not really going to buy 79,250 first-class stamps a year, anyway. Or, for that matter, 1,333 of these.

* particularly if you went to school in Texas
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Wednesday, October 06, 2004

# Posted 1:36 PM by Patrick Belton  

PEUGEOT QUOTE OF THE DAY: As I’m about to purchase a fine specimen of this species, for all of 100 pounds, I thought I might pass on a particularly memorable quote I ran across: 'There seems to be some polarization on the issue of Peugeot's image: one camp says that it has no image because the Americans haven't heard of them; the other says they suck.'
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# Posted 1:04 PM by Patrick Belton  

SCOTT BURGESS does another admirable job at fact-checking the Guardian, this time their environmental editor:
John Vidal, the Guardian's environment editor, demonstrates either incompetence or dishonesty today with his comments concerning Exxon's greenhouse gas emissions. Here's what he has to say:
"But its greenhouse gas emissions in 2003 rose 2%, to 135m tonnes. To put that into perspective, the UK last year emitted some 150m tonnes. Exxon is now as great a carbon polluter as Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines combined - that's about 350 million people."
Pretty eye-opening stuff - except that it's not true.

Exxon's report does in fact read: "In 2003, our direct equity GHG emissions increased 2 percent to 135.6 million tonnes ..."

However, a look at the accompanying graph indicates that the measurement is being made "on a CO2 equivalent basis."

The figures Mr. Vidal cites "to put that into perspective" are expressed in terms of carbon equivalent, not CO2 equivalent. As we learn from the US Environmental Protection Agency: "Carbon comprises 12/44 of the mass of carbon dioxide; thus to convert from CO2 equivalent to C equivalent, one multiplies by 12/44. [.273]"
So Guardian can't multiply. It makes sense, actually - they all went to Balliol,* after all.

*rival college at Oxford to my own
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# Posted 6:56 AM by Patrick Belton  

AND THE OXBLOG PRIZE IN ECONOMICS GOES TO: ‘Bidding on eBay: Strategic Behaviour in Second-Price, Continuous-Time, Fixed-Duration Auctions’, by German academic Axel Ockenfels and Harvard’s Alvin Roth. And who said game theory could never be useful?

Sidenote: the best bit of the article comes on page four, in which the authors describe the strategies of proxy bidding and sniping bidding (i.e., where you wait until the final seconds - thereby incurring a risk factor whose terms combine the possibility someone else will outsnipe you with the countervailing risk your internet connection won't record your sniping bid if it falls too close to the end of the auction). In November 2000, the designers of the web service esnipe.com, which automates sniping bidding, put their company up for sale. Amusingly, the first bid came on day ten of the auction, the last day. And the last three bids, including a bid which won the auction at a final price of $35,877.77, came in the last minute during which time the price rose over $10,000, from $25,300 (one increment over the second highest bid one minute before the end.)

In either case, though, you may want to think twice before purchasing nuclear powered submarines off of eBay, nice company though it is.
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# Posted 6:11 AM by Patrick Belton  

NERDS DO SEX: Hey, it got your attention. OxBlog’s model* friend the lovely and svelte Orli Bahcall, who truth be told is no nerd, is as Nature Genetics editor the eminence grise behind this piece in the Economist showing that male philandering existed at least several tens of thousands of years before the birth of Bill Clinton.

More on nerdsex (oh, the hits we’ll get today…) here and here. And lest you think she only has mitochondrial DNA on the brain, Orli's also the mind behind Nature's popular mutant of the month feature.

* Models infectious diseases
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# Posted 6:05 AM by Patrick Belton  

PUT DOWN OF THE DAY AWARD: 'A ping, qualified by a thud.' Rival composer Virgil Thomson on John Cage's Sonatas and Interludes for prepared piano.
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Tuesday, October 05, 2004

# Posted 9:14 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LIVE BLOGGING-LITE: I am watching the debate, but I don't think I'll be doing a minute-by-minute commentary. However, I will be on BBC FiveLive after the debate, which you can listen to online. (There's a button on the upper right-hand side of their homepage that says "Listen Live".)

9:12 PM: Cheney mentions El Salvador. I guess he reads David Brooks. Or OxBlog.

9:57 PM: Right at the beginning of the debate, John Edwards hit the administration hard for relying on Afghan warlords to capture Osama bin Laden at Tora Bora. Edwards comments' were especially interesting because Kerry said almost exactly the same thing in his debate with President Bush.

Will this become the Democrats' preferred avenue of attack on Bush's ability to fight the war on terror? My sense is that this sort of criticism can only go so far because the decision to rely on the warlords was apparently made at the opertional level by Tommy Franks. As with Abu Ghraib, I think the President was too far removed from the situation on the ground for him to be held responsible by the voters.

10:07 PM: Bloggers often get criticized for saying whatever crosses their mind rather than searching for information and crafting evocative sentences. Yet I notice that both the NYT and WaPo have already posted lengthy articles about tonight's debate. The quality of their writing is certainly excellent. But I won't comment on their content because I can't analyze the articles at the same time that I'm trying to watch this debate.

10:24 PM: Here's the Factcheck.org commentary on Halliburton that Cheney mentioned earlier.

10:26 PM: Cheney is recalling how when he was in Congress, there was much more bipartisanship. Yet just this afternoon, I was reading through a congressional debate about Nicaragua from 1988 and I can assure you, bipartisanship is not what I saw.

Edwards asks if Washington has ever been more divided. Another topic that came up in my research today was Iran-Contra. You know what? Things really aren't that bad in the United States of America right now. As for Iraq...

10:45 PM: Ix-nay on the Ee-Bee-See-Bay. It turns out I won't be on BBC 5 tonight. But Alex Dryer from TNR is on right now with Clifford May from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
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