Tuesday, November 09, 2004

# Posted 9:40 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

UNSPINNING THE POLLS: Steve Waldman, editor of Beliefnet.com, points out that Catholics and non-church goers also came out much more strongly for Bush than they did in 2000. In Ohio and Florida, where Bush did much better than in 2000, church attendance among voters actually went down quite a bit.

Yes evangelicals turned out in record numbers, but so did young voters and African-Americans. Often, evangelicals just added to Bush's margin in the Red states rather than helping him in battlegrounds.

For once, I agree with E.J. Dionne:
John Kerry was not defeated by the religious right. He was beaten by moderates who went -- reluctantly in many cases -- for President Bush. This will be hard for many Democrats to take. It's easier to salve those wounds by demonizing religious conservatives.
Sure it is, but Democrats spent the entire election demonizing Bush & Cheney, insisting that their lies tricked voters into approving of their foreign policy. All I'm suggesting is that Democrats shouldn't flip-flop in the midst of demonization.
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# Posted 9:25 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE GOP HAS THE EVANGELICALS, THE DEMOCRATS HAVE THE BLACK VOTE: Imagine that John Kerry had prevailed in Ohio or even nation-wide. Would the experts attribute his victory to surging African-American turnout or to a widespread repudiation of Bush's foreign policy?

Hypothetical questions may not have answers, but I am struck at how far Democratic pundits are willing to go in order to demonstrate that Bush's victory has nothing to do with his foreign policy and everything to do with evangelical homophobia and ignorance.

Laura Rozen says that if you are complacent about Christian conservatives' assault on our civil rights, then you are just plain ignorant (like David Brooks). Laura approvingly cites an e-mail sent to Andrew Sullivan which argues that:
To point out that the evangelicals voted in the same proportion for Bush as they did in 2000 gets a fact right and misses the point. What matters is that the Bush vote by these folks did not erode in the face of catastrophic management of post-invasion Iraq, prisoner atrocities, transformation of the surplus into a suffocating deficit and terrible job performance. It seems to me that their religious views trump everything. You switched your vote - why didn't they? The answer is complex, but you can bet it includes homophobia deftly catalyzed by Mr. Rove et al.
Sullivan responds: "He's got a point, no?" Actually, no, no he doesn't. Leaving aside the issue of whether Kerry would've been even worse for Iraq than Bush, I think it's misleading to suggest that homophobia compensated for evangelicals' hypothetical dissatisfaction with Bush's foreign policy.

Again, think about African-Americans. How badly would a Democratic president or candidate have to perform to lose more than 15% of the black vote?
This trend in black voting doesn't provoke much concern because observers on both sides consider it to be rational.

But when it comes to evangelicals, we presume that their motives for voting Republican are misguided, illegitimate, or even undemocratic. But what if evangelicals, like African-Americans -- and as Richard Cohen points out, American Jews -- consistently vote for one party because of its basic cultural orientation, rather than because of its position on any single issue?

Matt Yglesias wants to know exactly when John Kerry or any other Democratic candidate was condescending toward evangelicals. The answer to Matt's rhetorical is "almost never". But that's not that point.

Negative attitudes towards evangelicals, justified or not, abound in the Blue State Media. Democratic candidates may avoid invoking them, but I don't think that even Matt would deny that Christians, especially evangelicals, are looked down upon by the glitterati. After all, Matt himself refers to the them as "chumps" and suggests that they are "detached from reality".

In essence, evangelicals face the same dilemma as African-Americans. They consider one major party to be anathema, thus ensuring that the other major party takes them for granted.

Steve Waldman, editor of Beliefnet.com, suggests that Christian activists may not let Bush get away with being as non-committal as he was during his first term. (Laura Rozen cites Waldman approvingly.) But how much is going to change while the underlying political dynamic remains the same?
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# Posted 4:01 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

AN UGLY MESS IN FALLUJA? Matt Yglesias points to this NYT article by Dexter Filkins as evidence of how tough and dangerous urban combat is.

Filkins article recaps the most important reasons that urban warfare is so tough: the uselessness of high-tech weapons in confusing terrain, the ability of a small local force to hold off a much larger number of outsiders, unexpected obstacles to movement, etc.

As a result, the offensive Filkins describes became "bogged down" (hint, hint)and
For a time, this frightening urban battlefield became a pulsing cacophony of strange and deadly sounds.
But notice the one really important thing that is missing from Filkins story: American casualties. Or for that matter, Iraqi government casualties. There will undoubtedly be some. It's just hard to make the case that urban warfare is hell on earth if its no more dangerous than your average daylight patrol in Baghdad.

UPDATE: The WaPo reports that 10 American and 2 Iraqi government soldiers have been killed so far in the battle for Fallujah. The general tone of the article is extremely upbeat, but relies almost entirely on quotations from Lt. Gen. Thomas Metz, commander of US ground forces in Iraq.

UPDATE: Matt now says we all should've known that the battle would've been this easy, because guerrillas always avoid direct confrontations with better-armed foes. Come on, Matt, even John Kerry didn't flip-flop that fast.
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# Posted 3:43 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

Blogs are run by good people with positive intentions, but if they're you're primary source for information, you're outlook is perverted by an overwhelming amount of good news and a general disdain for the factual accuracy of bad news. It perverts your perspective and, because the sample group is so totally different than most of America, it begins to twist your political predictions and assumptions of what works.
That's what Ezra Klein has to say about why so many liberals believed that Kerry was going to wallop Bush. A cautionary tale, perhaps.
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# Posted 1:54 PM by Patrick Belton  

PERSONALLY (and speaking as a genuine supporter of Palestinian national aspirations and all liberal democratic reformers in that land), I think he should have been declared brain dead four years ago when he walked away from viable Palestinian statehood at Camp David.
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# Posted 10:09 AM by Patrick Belton  


• Due to the Isle of Man's lack of constitutional incorporation within the United Kingdom, one of the Queen's more grand-sounding royal titles within the UK is the rather theological 'Lord of Man.'

• During WWI trench fighting, from their German opposing numbers, the kilted Black Watch acquired the nickname 'Ladies from Hell.'
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# Posted 2:09 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DOES DR. CHAFETZ MAKE HOUSE CALLS? With an eye toward the (non-existent) "values voter", Dan Drezner predicts that Thomas Frank is about to become the next celebrity intellectual du jour. That may be a disturbing thought, but OxBlog is getting ready to celebrate. After all, none other than Josh Chafetz is the author of the definitive debunking of Franks' delusional diatribe, What's The Matter With Kansas? If people are getting ready to pay Franks to recite his dogmatic drivel, I bet some of them might also be willing to pay Dr. Chafetz to put in his two cents.
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# Posted 1:55 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NOT REALITY-BASED: Via Howard Kurtz:
After Fox News called Ohio for President Bush on Election Night, John Kerry's aides began phoning top executives at the other networks to urge them to hold off, while White House adviser Karl Rove pressed them to join Fox in making the call.

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# Posted 1:24 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FALLUJAH: Just read a fascinating report from Belmont Club. I hope things are going as well as BC suggests. I admit to being a pessimist about urban warfare, but American casualties were very low in Najaf this summer. However, the Sunni insurgents seem to be much less primitive than their Sadrist counterparts.
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# Posted 1:19 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

The consequences of a big biological strike could be epically catastrophic, and rapid advances in science are placing the creation of these weapons within the reach of even graduate students.
I reckon that three political scientists have just as good a chance of producing bioweapons as one chemical engineer.
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Monday, November 08, 2004

# Posted 11:47 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CLARIFICATION/APOLOGY: In my previous post, the reference to "god***n Christian evangelicals" was intended as a tongue-in-cheek satire of liberal condescension toward Christian conservatives. It in no way reflects my persional views, which I have discussed before on OxBlog.
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# Posted 3:11 PM by Patrick Belton  

NEW YORK, NY: LEADER OF CORRUPT international cartel decries efforts by elected liberal democratic leaders to remove terrorists from city out of which they have been killing unarmed civilians. World yawns.
"I wish to share with you my increasing concern at the prospect of an escalation in violence, which I fear could be very disruptive for Iraq's political transition," Annan wrote to Bush, Blair, and Allawi.

"I also worry about the negative impact that major military assaults, in which the main burden seems bound to be borne by American forces, are likely to have on the prospects for encouraging a broader participation by Iraqis in the political process, including in the elections."
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# Posted 1:37 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OUT HERE IN THE REAL FAKE WORLD: I've been off-line for four days and a whole news cycle has passed me by. Does Bush's victory represent a true mandate, or just the ignorance of those god***n Christian evangelicals? I know what my gut is telling me, but I don't have much evidence to go on since I've been cut off from all my usual sources of information except the NY Times.

Being in NYC and seeing my family and friends seems a whole lot more real than being in the blogosphere, because I see people face-to-face and talk about things other than politics. But then I realize that I'm part of a Sino-Jewish, Ivy League-educated, medico-legal cabal. It doesn't get any more Blue State than this.

Anyhow, I was glad to see that yesterday's NYT had two whole op-eds (one by David Brooks, one by an ABC pollster) devoted to debunking the "moral values" myth.

The Times also had an extraordinary editorial on Yasir Arafat's legacy. In general, I can count on one hand the number of NYT editorials about the Middle East that strike me as being at least 90% right. But this was one of them, so go check it out.

Well, see you tonight, Amtrak permitting.

CLARIFICATION/APOLOGY: The reference above to "god***n Christian evangelicals" was intended as a tongue-in-cheek satire of liberal condescension toward Christian conservatives. It in no way reflects my persional views, which I have discussed before on OxBlog.
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Friday, November 05, 2004

# Posted 3:52 PM by Patrick Belton  

OPEN MUSING: Does Colombia have a House of Drug Lords in its legislature? Corollary musing: does Afghanistan then have a House of Warlords?

(Incidentally, blogger's been down most of the day, hence the light posting...)
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# Posted 12:41 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WE MUST CHALLENGE ACADEMIC ORTHODOXY! Just got this on the Rhodes mail list:
Interested in challenging orthodox, mainstream academia? A new series of
workshops is starting this weekend: the Alternative Academics. The idea
is to discuss about alternative topics usually excluded from mainstream
academia, in an alternative format as well (no speaker meeting where the
speaker is on a platform and tells you what to think). I won't tell more
about it; just come and take part in it!
What's this? A secret neo-conservative cabal dedicated to dethorning the Ivory Tower's liberal (or in Oxford, leftist) orthodoxy?

No, of course not. It's actually an effort to push the academy even farther left, because right now it is just a tool of the global corporate hierarchy. How do I know? Well, I know the guy who sent out the message. All you need to know about him is that e-mail signature includes a link to Indymedia.
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# Posted 12:32 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NEVER TO BE OUTDONE BY THE BRITISH, the United States has created an even more maddening public railway system. I am in New York right now, having spent eleven hellish hours trying to get here from Charlottesville.

First, the bus from Charlottesville to Union Station in DC was half an hour late. That was the best thing that happened all day.

Ten minutes after my train left Union Station for New York, the engine died. Around 45 minutes later, another engine arrived. It died, too, but at least it got us to Baltimore. In a haze because I tried to catch some sleep while waiting for the second engine, I left my umbrella on the train.

In Baltimore, they told us another train to New York was coming. Just before it arrived, they told us not to get on because it was too crowded, but to get on the commuter train across the platform which would be redirected to New York. From the window of the commuter train, we could see that the train across the platform wasn't crowded...as it pulled away from the station.

Half an hour later, our commuter train left Baltimore. They never told us we were going to have to wait that long, so I missed the chance to get my umbrella back. It was a nice one, too. Finally, the train left Baltimore. When it arrived in Philadelphia, they ordered us off the train and told us we had to switch again.

At least it wasn't too long of a wait, and the next train turned out to be an Acela, and we got to sit in business class because that's all that was available. But that really didn't make up for being two and a half hours late and for being led around like ignorant cattle.

Amtrak is usually very reliable, but this was simply ridiculous. You can bet I'll be asking for a refund.
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Wednesday, November 03, 2004

# Posted 3:23 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NOTHING SCARES'EM LIKE A COWBOY HAT: In order to signify my membership in the reality-based community, I wore a cowboy hat to the office today. A little while ago, I got up from my desk to get a (non-alcoholic) drink and happened to pass by the screening room just as Bush was about to make his acceptance speech.

There were two or three folks already in there when I showed up, and a palpable hush fell over the room. I considered letting them know that I'd voted for Kerry, but figured that if they couldn't handle the hat, that's their business. Besides, I had a six-pack of Diet Coke under my arm, and if that wasn't enough of an indication of my political sympathies, then what is?

Anyhow, I'm looking forward to Saturday night, when I get to wear my cowboy hat to a party in the West Village. People will probably just assume I'm a Log Cabin Republican. But if they ask, I'm going to tell that them a little-known clause in the Patriot Act made wearing a cowboy hat mandatory as of Nov. 2, 2004.

More importantly, the reason I'm headed up to New York is that today is my parents' 30th wedding anniversary and they are having a little get together after services at our synagogue on Shabbat morning. So, Mom, Dad, congratulations!
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# Posted 11:34 AM by Patrick Belton  

BEST ELECTION DAY QUOTE TO BE SUPERSEDED BY EVENTS: Mike McCurry of the Kerry campaign: 'We're counting all the votes. At the end of the day, we win. I'm not sure what day, but we win.'
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# Posted 9:02 AM by Patrick Belton  

INCIDENTALLY, my piece from The Hill yesterday, which was offline for a bit with election day traffic, is back online. In brief: a surprising number of foreign governments are hoping for a second Bush term, though not always for the best of reasons....
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Tuesday, November 02, 2004

# Posted 11:46 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BETTER LATE THAN NEVER: Last week, the NYT explored the cutting-edge phenomenon of cat-blogging. Congratulations to Kevin and Inkblot.
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# Posted 10:08 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BUSH THE LIBERAL RELATIVIST: Some important evangelicals are not happy.
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# Posted 10:07 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

INDEPENDENTS' DAY: Ruy Teixiera says Kerry has had a consistent lead in the polls among independents and independents decide elections.

UPDATE: TNR reaches the same conclusion based on different evidence.
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# Posted 9:33 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A RELUCTANT VOTE FOR BUSH: Robert Tagorda decides.
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# Posted 8:58 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FILMMAKER SHOT DEAD: A young man with joint Dutch-Moroccan citizenship has shot dead Theo van Gogh, the Dutch director of a film that explores violence against women in Islamic societies. Memeorandum has more.

UPDATE: 20,000 protest Van Gogh's murder.
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# Posted 8:45 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LIVE BLOGGING: Here I am in downtown Charlottesville, in a renovated building just a block or so from the Mall. FYI, the Mall isn't a mall, but a pedestrian walkway with trendy stores and independent coffee shops. It's like a little bit of Greenwich Village in the mountains of Virginia and it's been the driving force behind the revival of downtown Charlottesville.

It's just a small election-watching party here, with three super-intense Kerry partisans and myself. When I called my friend SC to ask if I could come over, he first made me tell him who I was voting for. I lodged an official protest, but I gave in. After all, it's no secret.

8:49 PM: We're watching MSNBC after briefly flirting with Fox, which my friends declared to be intolerable after around 30 seconds. The plan, however, is to start watching Fox if and when Kerry pulls ahead.

9:39 PM: Chris Matthews asks Joe Trippi whom the bloggers are voting for. He also cut to Trippi for a blogging update around an hour ago. Back then, Trippi gave the blogosphere credit for giving Dan Mongiaro [sp?] the momentum he needed to catch up.

Now, Matthews asks Trippi if it's fair that an 18-year-old with a newspaper and a website should have as much clout as a 75-year-old expert with decades of experience in journalism.

Chris, that's a dumb f***ing question. How many important bloggers can you name that are even under 25? Yglesias, and Josh Chafetz started before he was 25. But look at which bloggers were on the NYT op-ed page today: Djerejian, Cox, Kaus, Drum, DeLong, Hinderaker, Johnson and Reynolds. (I don't know how old Jacobs, Byrd and Althouse are.)

How about the in the Ecosystem? The top includes Kos, Marshall, Sullivan, Atrios and Wizbang.

Anyhow, enough navel-gazing. Chris Matthews may be condescending, but he feels compelled to mention blogs constantly and even set up his own.

9:50 PM: Four of us here, every one with a laptop. The internet provides the information you want when you want it. The TV gives you an anchorperson to make fun of. Although it's not their fault. Who can say intelligent things for hours on end when they don't have any new information?

9:58 PM: I just discovered that the Ecosystem now does rankings in terms of traffic as well as links. The top ten blogs all get more than 100,000 hits per day. That's medium-market newspaper territory. No wonder big media have started to pay attention.

11:20 PM: The wifi went down for a while but just came back. All four us immediately flipped open our laptops to start checking results compulsively.

Also, we just switched over to Comedy Central. There was just a point where the networks became intolerably boring.
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# Posted 6:36 AM by Patrick Belton  

SINCE EVEN OSAMA GETS TO BE A PUNDIT THIS ELECTION CYCLE, ABC News Now is having me on tonight to talk about foreign governments' response to the election. You can watch online, and I'll be on sometime between six and seven EST. If any of our readers find a way to record it for me, I'd not only be very grateful but also happy to reciprocate with free Oxford stuff! (Like, say, an MBA degree...)
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# Posted 1:42 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

TOMORROW'S NEWS TODAY: In a fiendishly subversive satire of news analysis, CJR explains why George Bush narrowly defeated John Kerry in today's election and why John Kerry just managed to edge out the incumbent. (Hat tip: MY)
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# Posted 1:32 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BLOODY-MINDED: Matt Yglesias defends The Lancet or perhaps just attacks its critics. Matt writes that
I, for one, don't think the humanitarian argument for war really needs to be taken seriously, since, in my opinion, it's rather obviously offered in bad faith.
He also predicts that the civilian casualty will spiral upwards once the Marines begin to exact their "revenge" on Falluja.
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# Posted 1:28 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

TERESA'S SON: Chris Heinz recently told an audience that
One of the things I've noticed is the Israel lobby - the treatment of Israel as the 51st state, sort of a swing state.
Dr. JMR responds:
The new liberal bigotry is to despise traditionally religious people and Jews. Go to [the] local University, read the memo board, and you will see it.
What in God's name could he be talking about? (Uh, this.) For a round-up of reactions to Heinz, see Memeorandum.
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# Posted 1:23 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

"THE JEWS": Great title for an op-ed, huh? I guess the Duke University student paper was really desperate for material. Talented writers can usually come up with an argument better than this:
What Jewish suffering—along with exorbitant Jewish privilege in the United States—amounts to is a stilted, one-dimensional conversation where Jews feel the overwhelming sense of entitlement not to be criticized or offended...

What’s worst is that the “Holocaust Industry” uses its influence to stifle, not enhance, the Israeli-Palestinian debate, simultaneously belittling the real struggles for socioeconomic and political equality faced, most notably, by black Americans.
What can you say to an argument like that? Well, it turns out that the website for the Duke Chronicle supports comments, so you can hundreds of things in response to an argument like that. For example:
This jewish power must be stopped. You forgot to mention all the Jews who steal all the nobel prizes instead of leaving them for others.
Jahaan Badour
New York

I enjoyed your article, however you did not dwell on recent Jewish problems such as 9/11 and the war in Iraq.
Mohammed Marouf

I am glad you have the courage to stand up to the Jews. I agree with everything in your article, except you pointed out that the holocaust is a fact, when in reality what happenned is still open for debate.
Ayman Belghazi

Among the the comments here supporting your editorial, one denies the holocaust took place, one believes that Jews steal all the Nobel Prizes, and one believes 9/11 to be a Jewish conspiracy. Is this truly the company you wish to keep?
Shan Anwar

I cannot stomach these words you've written since I object to your complaint as both a child from a Jewish mother and Muslim father.

The responses speak for themselves. For more background on the roots of this controversy, head over to Kesher Talk.
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# Posted 1:08 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHEN IT RAINES, IT POURS: You didn't think Howell Raines was fair and balanced during his tenure at the NYT? Well, Raines' latest op-ed shows just how much he was holding back during his reign on West 43rd Street:
If George Bush wins the presidential election, Americans can mark it down as a triumph of thug politics...
P. Diddy would be proud.
The New Politics birthed in the '60s, which stressed altruism and good government, has been displaced by an intellectual crudeness that was inherent in the modern American conservatism that began slouching toward Washington after the Republican convention in San Francisco in 1964...
Thank God the convention was isn't Dallas!

The most dangerous trait of the Internet is not merely its speed, but its creation of demand and credulity for unverified information. Perhaps for the first time since invention of the printing press, a new information technology has become more efficient at spreading disinformation than knowledge...
Whereas old technologies, such as television, spread enlightenment and joy. What, you think I'm talking about CBS? I meant Fox!
In another amazing shift, a foreigner, Rupert Murdoch, and his handpicked chairman of Fox News, the campaign strategist Roger Ailes, have become the most important standard setters in the nation's political journalism.
Oh my God! Not a foreigner! What next, a Catholic in the White House? Even worse, a Jew!

By the way, I'd bet Bill Keller and the rest of the NYT would love to hear Ol' Howell say that they've been brainwashed by Roger Ailes.
Will a Kerry victory bring the promised end to the much-discussed division among the American electorate?...I'm not sure that will happen with the best of wills.
You said it.
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# Posted 1:03 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PATHETIC NYT LOWERS STANDARS EVEN FURTHER: Bloggers on the op-ed page? OxBloggers? What happened, did they run out of real journalists?

Of course, I'm ecstatic. Who doesn't like seeing their byline in the second-most prestigious, third-most respected and fourth-most accurate paper in the nation? On election day, to boot.

(It would've been grammatically correct to say "his byline", not "their byline" since "who" refers to a single individual. But since I'm a blogger, I can do wild and crazy things like disregard the rules of grammer...and speling.)

Well, I guess ought to give some credit to the open-minded folks on the NYT editorial staff, since they asked for contributions from some of the Times' most unrepentant critics, including yours truly.

As I said in the midst of Memogate,
The bottom line is that the media listen. In the spite of their condescencion and self-righteousness toward us non-journalists, the media have much less of an appetite for obstruction than most government officials.
As we head to the polls, we ought to remember that keeping our elected officials honest is priority #1, and that journalists have the same priority. (They just need a little advice from us every once in a while.)
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Monday, November 01, 2004

# Posted 7:20 PM by Patrick Belton  

OXBLOG ELECTION DAY SPECIAL: I have the election-day featured article in The Hill tomorrow, and it's up online this evening. I'd say go read it, but there's always the chance it's not very good, so (1) go read Voltaire, as something infinitely more worth reading; and (2) if you perversely insist on not doing (1), you can read this instead. Conversely, as I'll be doing a second piece on the same theme as postmortem afterwards, I'd be very grateful for any thoughts or suggestions our readers might like to offer.

My first two paragraphs, which basically introduce the gist of the piece, are these:
In the first American election fought on foreign policy since the Cold War, world capitals have been scrambling to assess how the foreign policies of a John Kerry and a second George W. Bush administration might be expected to diverge toward them and their interests. And in an election where the Democrat's principal claim to office has been his promise to restore the decent opinions of mankind to the nation, and the Republican's has been his willingness to do right (in democracy and counterterror) even when unpopular abroad, one of the principal ironies has been that a surprising number of foreign capitals actually want Bush to win.

In some instances, such as India and Pakistan, this is because of working relationships they have already brought up to speed with Bush and his advisors; others, such as China and Japan, worry about Kerry's vulnerability to domestic lobbies which Bush could ignore either from strength (congressional Republicans, Taiwan supporters) or neglect (labor). Africa prefers Bush because he as a Republican evangelical could push foreign aid through Congress, a miracle they believe beyond the intercessive powers of the Catholic Democrat. While public opinion supports the Democrat in most countries other than Russia and Israel, governments weigh different concerns, such as the value of established understandings and relationships with the current administration, and the susceptibility of each candidate to different forms of domestic pressure.
In general, most autocrats tend to support Bush, though Arab autocrats are backing Kerry.

Many thanks to everyone who helped me with this piece, and please do let me know your responses!

UPDATE: Looks as though election day traffic has driven the site off line, at least temporarily. There's a mirror copy of my piece on my website o' clips, though.
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# Posted 11:44 AM by Patrick Belton  

MORE WAPO PHOTOGRAPH-CAPTION MISMATCHES: From the archives, and via a reader....

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# Posted 6:41 AM by Patrick Belton  

SHE'S EVEN BETTER THAN BUBBIE, THEN: Photograph and accompanying caption currently leading the Washington Post website:

Rod Gardner caught three passes for 41 yards and one touchdown. (John McDonnell/Post)
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Sunday, October 31, 2004

# Posted 10:50 PM by Patrick Belton  

HAPPY SAMHAIN: A very happy Oíche Shamhna to all of our readers and friends!

In traditional Ireland, Samhain was the harvest festival marking the end of one year and beginning of the next. The two years wouldn't fully align, though, so for a short bit, time would quite literally be out of joint (thus the Celtic origins of the phrase from Macbeth.) Thus faeries would get lost, wander up around the world of men, and generally not know what they were about - so if you were kindly enough, you'd dress yourself up like a faery and go about, so when they ran into you, they'd run straightaways back to the faery world, and a big fright on them. Hence the original custom, which I've always found much nicer than its contemporary descendant. So a very happy maith Oíche Shamhna ort from OxBlog.

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# Posted 8:11 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

"DEMOCRATS RALLY FOR KERRY, WEED": That's an actual headline from the UVA Cavalier Daily. You see, Al Weed is the Democratic candidate for Congress in the 5th District of Virginia. His signs and buttons are very popular in Charlottesville.

One middle-aged woman complained to a friend of mine that malicious Republicans had stolen the "Weed for Congress" sign from her front lawn. My friend explained that this was very unlikely.

Weed's opponent is incumbent Virgil H. Goode. I had personally hoped that Al and Virgil would run together on a "Goode-Weed" ticket, but the candidates have dashed my hopes and reverted to the adversarial relationship common among Democrats and Republians...which means that I have to figure out who I'm going to vote for.

So, check back here in a little while and I'll have some answers for you.

UPDATE: This Al Weed press release is priceless. It provides a detailed discussion of how "Weed for Congress" signs have been stolen all across the district, but can't bring itself to admit the real reason why.

One woman says that she has caught college students stealing her signs at 11:30 or midnight, but since the last sign was stolen at 4:00 AM, it must have been the Republicans. (Or perhaps college students who realized that they would caught if they kept stealing the signs before people were asleep.)

In another "bizarre case",
a large sign was stolen sometime Thursday night and a deer carcass was thrown over a fence into the yard where the sign had been removed, as if to send a message of intimidation.
Or perhaps a message of "we are really drunk, so we're going to steal 'Weed' signs and play a few rounds of Toss the Carcass.

UDPATE: I'm voting for Weed. He's a real left-winger with a bad position on Iraq, but Goode really doesn't have much going for him. In fact, neither his campaign site nor his government homepage contain much information at all. I even looked for his speeches in the Congressional Record, but couldn't find anything substantial.

In the House, Goode's main accomplishment seems to have been the introduction of a bill establishing English as the official language of the United States. I presume that this effort is an extension of Goode's position on immigration, which is
We need to stop illegal immigration. I am opposed to granting amnesty to those persons who come into this country illegally.
In other words, Goode has no real ideas on this subject, but will waste everyone's time in the middle of a war on stupid symbolic gestures.

On the usual range of domestic issues that I care about, Goode is on the other side. For tax cuts, anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage, etc. Even on the issues where I prefer the Republican stance, Goode is on the wrong side. In addition to being a protectionist, Goode actually voted agains the No Child Left Behind act.

So what about Al Weed? The thing that I like most about him is that he has an impressive record as a business owner and entrepreneur. He won't be your typical anti-business, anti-market liberal Democrat.

Weed also has a good military record, including a tour of duty and bronze medal in Vietnam, where he was a green beret. He also served in the reserves for almost forty years, including ten months of active duty in Bosnia. Given the importance of Special Forces and the National Guard in our current situation, Weed's experiences should prove beneficial.

The weak point is his position on Iraq, which is a little bit hard to make out. The short version is
With no weapons of mass destruction found in Iraq and Saddam's regime gone, [Al Weed] thinks it is time for our allies to assume a greater role and for the U.S. to bring our troops home.
Talk about delusional. He says there's no point to staying in Iraq but expects our allies to take over the occupation. Anyhow, the long version of Weed's stance on Iraq is rather different
We owe it to our troops to bring them home when the job is done. [Emphasis added. --ed.]...

Hopefully, we have set the stage for the development of a free, democratic, and pluralistic Iraqi society.

If the new Iraqi government and the people of Iraq want our troops to stay and help rebuild their country, we should oblige. If they want us to leave, we should oblige that wish as well...

There is no risk to our military credibility if we withdraw on an American timetable....

To stay indefinitely puts us at risk of being dragged into a guerilla war without a foreseeable end and cost us dearly in lives and resources. As a veteran of the Vietnam War, I speak from experience when I say that this is a possibility that we must carefully avoid.
Still pretty bad, but at least he understands that democracy is the outcome we are working towards and that we should stay if the people of Iraq want us to (although I'm guessing he assumes that they don't.)

Not that any of this offers much consolation. But my vote for Congress is more about domestic policy, so what I want is to get rid of the Republican majority. By the way, did I mention that Weed is a protectionist who favors single-payer universal health care? So he's not the kind of moderate Democrat I like. But there isn't much future for Weed's ideas in the current political environment, so I'm not too worried.
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Saturday, October 30, 2004

# Posted 3:21 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

JOIN THE CLUB at KerryHatersForKerry.com. (Hat tip: SYYC)
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# Posted 11:37 AM by Patrick Belton  

GLAD TIDINGS FOR MAC USERS IN BRITAIN: Recent studies have shown that two out of three OxBloggers use Macs. In that connection, and for all of our friends in the UK who are also Mac users, the first Apple store in Europe is opening in London on 20 November, at Regent Street. Given that local shills have been charging top dollar (er, pound) for the sorts of small useful services that the staff in North American Apple stores would provide for free, for all Mac users in Britain, this is very good news indeed.
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# Posted 9:32 AM by Patrick Belton  

IN MEMORIAM, Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester, at 102.

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# Posted 2:54 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

UNDECIDEDS BREAK FOR THE CHALLENGER? BOLLOCKS! This in-depth debunking has been all over the blogosphere.
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# Posted 2:35 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHAT EVERY KERRY ENDORSEMENT HAS IN COMMON: Riffing on The Economist, Kaus observes that
It's always a shaky moment in these non-peacenik endorsements when the writer tries to convince himself or herself that Kerry won't bail out on Iraq prematurely, isn't it? (Kerry has been "forthright about the need to win in Iraq," but do you trust him and if so why? Because Andrew Sullivan's blogging will keep him honest?)
As Homer Simpson might say, it's funny because it's true. It's certainly true about my endorsement of Kerry. But I still prefers the risks of John Kerry to the risks of George Bush.

And here's something for all you Bush supporters to ponder: If Kerry wins, how much commitment will congressional Republicans show to promoting democracy in Iraq? Do they share Bush's vision? Or will they revert to type and embrace the inward-looking mercantilism of the GOP in the Clinton years?
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# Posted 2:13 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BIN LADEN CAUGHT ON FILM WITH PARIS HILTON: Why do you think she was filmed in the dark? Who is more likely to have friends with night-vision goggles -- a dimbulb heiress or a terrorist mastermind?

For more on the Bin Laden tape, see TMV's uber-comprehensive round-up.
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# Posted 1:55 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DOUBLE REIHAN! The eminence gris behind David Brooks shares some of his thoughts in a two part series in TNR.
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# Posted 1:52 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SPEAKING THEIR LANGUAGE: Mike McCurry is a master of spin because
He couches the campaign's message in the horserace and tactical language upon which reporters thrive. He understands the press's obsession with political process, and he dishes it out with relish.
In other words, mimic their neuroses and they'll think you're a genius.
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# Posted 1:47 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CIVILIAN CASUALTIES UPDATE: For the second day in a row, the WaPo casualty count for Iraq has excluded the IBC data which provoked OxBlog's protest last Sunday. Then along came The Lancet and shunted aside that entire debate by insisting that there have been 100,000 civilian casualties in Iraq.

I just came across the WaPo story on the Lancet study and thought it was rather interesting. In order to provide balance, the Post plays off The Lancet against a military expert at Human Rights Watch who describes The Lancet's figure as "inflated" and "a reach". Now how often do you get someone from Human Rights Watch telling you that civilian casualtiy figures have been exaggerated?

On the other hand, The Lancet's higher figure has given accidental credibility to IBC by suggesting that it's methods and conclusions are reasonable. Thus, the Post reports that
Previous independent estimates of civilian deaths in Iraq were far lower, never exceeding 16,000.
Actually, the Iraqi Human Rights Organization has been throwing around a 30,000 figure for a while, which got mentioned in the WaPo world opinion roundup. But that number will also pick up some credibility thanks to The Lancet. And the truth? Damned if I know.

UPDATE: Well, Fred Kaplan seems to know. (Hat tip: MF) He says The Lancet's figure is not just completely unreliable, but that the authors of the study have basically lied through their teeth to get publicity for their work.

So, you might ask, is Fred Kaplan biased? Of course he is. Here's what he has to say about whom he'll vote for next Tuesday:
Bush has done too much damage to America's reputation in the world. His view of the world is naive and, too often, wrong. His victory would mean a victory for the most cynical politics practiced by any president in my memory.
The one drawback to Kaplan's analysis of The Lancet study is his lavish praise of IBC. It looks like someone will be getting an e-mail from OxBlog...

UPDATE: ChicagoBoyz has more on The Lancet's primitive methodology. (Hat tip: LH) Um, so if the problems with this study are so obvious, how the hell did it get into a peer reviewed journal?
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# Posted 1:37 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ADVICE FOR THE INSURGENTS: I'm not you asking guys to be nice to the Americans or even to stop gunning down your fellow Iraqis. But please stop killing journalists. It's for your own good.

If you read this diary kept by a WSJ correspondent, you'll realize how hard it is for reporters to do their job in Iraq. Now, why should you care about whether American reporters do their job? Because they might turn out to be the best friends you have.

I'm guessing you guys haven't studied much American history. Most Americans haven't either. But I've been reading a lot about US intervention in El Salvador and Nicaragua in the 1980s. The guerrillas in those countries were smart, because they actively encouraged American reporters to travel with them and see how they really lived. The press coverage they got was invaluable.

Now, it's true that American journalists are also going to tell everyone about it if you kill people. But, hey, they already report about that all the time, so you've got nothing to lose.

(PS If there are any actual insurgents reading this, please ignore my advice. I'm glad that everyone here to the right of Michael Moore thinks you're a bunch of cold-blooded murderers.)

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# Posted 1:29 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

RESPONDING TO MY PARENTHETICAL QUERY, Matt has posted some of his thoughts on Kerry's approach to democracy promotion. Matt describes his position as a "not a very hearty endorsement of Kerry on democracy grounds.
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Friday, October 29, 2004

# Posted 1:10 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE NEW MASS-MURDER IN IRAQ: A study just published in the Lancet, a prestigious journal of medicine, uses statistical methods to demonstrate that the United States is guilty of mass murder in Iraq. The article estimates that 100,000 Iraqis have been killed since the beginning of the war and that upwards of 80,000 died as a result of US airstrikes.

No, those aren't typos. The numbers are 100,000 and 80,000 respectively. Gilbert Burnham, one of the authors of the study, has provided some detailed comments about his methodology in an interview with Spencer Ackerman of The New Republic. (Hat tip: WAB)

Burnham's methods seem logical enough, although I have to admit that I am deeply, deeply skeptical of his results. Historically, only out-and-out carpet bombing, as in WWII or Vietnam, tends to have this kind of result. And one has to wonder how Western journalists failed to notice this alleged scale of destruction in Iraq. (NB: If you follow that link, make sure to read the comment by TM, which the second one down from the top.)

Rough estimates of bombing casualties from the first Gulf War, Kosovo war, and Afghan invasion are on the order of 3,000, 500 and 1,200 respectively. Of course, if this new study has any merit to it, we should probably revise those figures upwards by an order of magnitude.

That's all I have to say in the meantime. I guess we'll only know for sure that this story is bogus when Michael Moore starts to tell it.
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Thursday, October 28, 2004

# Posted 10:25 PM by Patrick Belton  

IRISH CORNER: NYT pans the Abbey Theatre's centenary Playboy of the Western World, in New York for a few days, but go see it anyway. It features, incidentally, a lovely Galway actress by the name of Cathy Belton.
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# Posted 5:00 PM by Patrick Belton  

ANTHONY DANIELS fact-checks the Motorcycle Diaries and their deeply illiberal protagonist.

Incidentally, congratulations, Josh! Our readers should know he cut a fine figure in subfusc on his way to his viva.
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# Posted 9:52 AM by Patrick Belton  

ELECTORAL VOTE WATCH: It's tipped again, this time toward Kerry, with swinging Pennsylvania and Ohio falling his way (by 3 and 1 per cent, respectively), and Florida toward Bush (by 2, all numbers Zogby, 27 October).

Still haven't received my postal ballot from New Haven, incidentally, so I guess I'll be filling out one of these - which unfortunately doesn't give me the option of voting against Mayor DeStefano, for not sending me an absentee ballot.
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# Posted 1:55 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IBC FOLLOW UP: This post will take a detailed look at some of the reports of civilian casualties in the IBC database. It will compare the description of the incidents provided by IBC (in the categories labeled 'Targets', 'Weapons' and 'Min'/'Max' [Casualties]) with the descriptions provided by the newspaper articles they cite as evidence. For purposes of clarity, this post will identify each incident according to the 'Incident code' assigned by IBC.

Incident: k471 Date: 15 Oct 2004 IBC: Police patrol/car bomb; 10/10 dead.
AP: A vehicle bomb reported Friday by the U.S. military blasted near a police station in southwest Baghdad, killing 10 civilians - including a family of four who were driving by at the time of the blast. (16 Oct 2004)

Incident: k467 Date: 16 Oct 2004 IBC: Police returning from Jordan to Karbala/gunife; 9/9 dead.
AP: A militant group claimed responsibility for the killing of nine Iraqi policemen returning from training in Jordan, criticizing in a statement Monday the role Jordan is playing in building what it called "the traitor Iraqi police force." (18 Oct 2004)

Incident: k445 Date: 10 Oct 2004 IBC: Possibly police academy/suicide minibus bomb; 9/17 dead. AP: Two car bombs shook the capital in quick succession Sunday, killing at least 11 people, including an American soldier...A suicide attacker detonated a minibus packed with explosives near an eastern Baghdad police academy, police Cap. Ali Ayez said at the scene...The nearby Kindi Hospital received 10 bodies and treated five wounded from the blast, said Dr. Ali Ghazi...Iraq's most feared terror group, Tawhid and Jihad, claimed responsibility for both attacks. (10 Oct 2004)
Reuters: A suspected suicide car bomb killed up to 17 people near Baghdad's Oil Ministry and a nearby police academy on Sunday, a spokesman for the ministry said...The Interior Ministry official put the death toll at six. Police sources said they believed it had been a suicide car bombing and said they could confirm nine dead.

Incident: k444 Date: 8 Oct 2004 IBC: Suspected al Zarqawi safehouse/US airstrike; 11/13.
AP: American warplanes struck a building where the U.S. command said leaders of al-Zarqawi's network were meeting early Friday. Residents said the house was full of people who had gathered for a wedding. The attack killed 13 people, including the groom, said Dr. Ahmed Saeed at the city hospital. Seventeen others were wounded, including the bride, he said. (8 Oct 2004)
Reuters: A U.S. air raid, aimed at foreign fighters led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, killed 11 people and wounded 17 after a wedding party in the rebel-held Iraqi city of Falluja on Friday, residents and doctors said...At the hospital, where blood pooled on the floor, a doctor named Rafah al-Hayat said 11 people had been killed and 17 wounded. One of his colleagues, Khaled Nasser, said nine females aged between 5 and 50 were among the wounded.

Incident: k437 Date: 06 Oct 2004 IBC: Iraq National Guard recruits/suicide car bomb; 15/16 dead.
AP: Dr. Waleed Jawad Qamar of the Anah health clinic said his facility recorded 13 dead and 25 injured. Another hospital in nearby Hadithah reported three dead and five injured. U.S. officials said no Americans were killed or wounded but had no report of Iraqi casualties. (6 Oct 2004)
Reuters: Local doctors said 16 people had been killed and 24 wounded. Witnesses said they saw a car hurtling towards the National Guard centre on the edge of town just before the explosion. (6 Oct 2004)

Incident: k433 Date: 4 Oct 2004 IBC: Suspected al Zarqawi supporters/US airstrikes; 11/11 dead.
AP: The military, which regularly accuses hospitals of inflating casualty figures, said the strikes targeted followers of Jordanian terror mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and their associates.
A strike in the central al-Jumhuriyah area killed nine people, including three women and four children, said Dr. Adil Khamis of Fallujah General Hospital...A second strike in the city's southern Al-Shuhada neighborhood killed two more people, Khamis said. (04 Oct 2004)

Incident: k429 Date: 4 Oct 2004 IBC: Army or police recruiting station/car bomb, possibly suicide; 14/14 dead.
AP: Yarmouk Hospital received 15 bodies and 81 wounded from the explosion, said Sabah Aboud, the facility's chief registration official. (4 Oct 2004)

This is just an informal sample of the incidents in the IBC database. I basically chose the incidents because they all occurred in the past month and resulted in approximately 10 deaths, which was above average.

If you total up the casualty figures, you get 57-66 dead from five insurgent attacks and 22-24 dead from two sets of US airstrikes. The credibility of these reports seems to rest on the reports of doctors and hospital officials, who are generally quoted by name.

The motives to exaggerate such casualty figures are obvious. I wouldn't be surprised if doctors in insurgent-held territory are intimidated into revising their estimates upwards. Moreover, there is no local press there to hold anyone accountable.

The situation may not be all that different in government held territory. The Allawi government may bribe doctors to revise their estimates upwards, even if the United States prefers otherwise. There is a nascent press in Iraq, but I have no idea whether it focuses on such issues as the accuracy of casualty counts.

Anyhow, my intentions for the near future are to fact-check all of the October 2004 incidents in the IBC database. I am curious whether the overall ratio of casualties from government and insurgents attacks will be much different from the 2.5:1 ration in my little unscientific sample. Either way, I will defintely let you know.
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Wednesday, October 27, 2004

# Posted 11:43 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ENDORSEMENTS THAT MAY ACTUALLY MATTER: The Orlando Sentinel has switched from Bush in 2000 to Kerry in '04. The Cleveland Plain Dealer and Tampa Tribune have gone from Bush in 2000 to 'no endorse' today.
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# Posted 11:29 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

GETTING READY FOR THE RECOUNT(S): An AP poll reports that six out of ten voters don't expect there to be a clear winner by the morning after the election. (Hat tip: Megan-guest-blogging-for-Glenn)

This seems to me like a classic example of the human tendency to predict the future on the basis of the very recent past. Four years ago, no one said to themselves: "A close election? I hope it doesn't turn into another 1876!"

But now, you can open the paper any morning and read about legal battles in a dozen different states, with accusations of dishonesty flying on both sides. These stories are important and they should be covered in considerable detail. Nonetheless, they have the cumulative effect of creating misperceptions among the voting public. It's an inevitable process, but one we should think about more often in a broader set of contexts.
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# Posted 11:08 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

INSTAHIPPIE: This, from Glenn's TCS column:
We were all dancing in abandoned warehouses, under the radar of the authorities, and there was lots of PLUR-talk (Peace Love Unity and Respect)
Can you say 'acid flashback' (to the mid-1990s)?

But even if Glenn is in an altered state, he does make some good observations about the future of the blogosphere:

Over the next few years, blogs will grow both more and less significant. They'll grow more significant because more people will be reading them, and -- at least as important -- more people will be writing them. That will expand their impact considerably. On the other hand, they'll grow less significant, in a way, because they'll grow more ordinary. Like other communications media, from newspapers to email, they'll just become part of the background, and their particular thread of impact will be less noticeable.

And that will make a lot of journalists very happy.
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# Posted 11:07 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE END BEGINNING OF MAJOR COMBAT OPERATIONS? The NYT reports that a major assault on Falluja and Ramadi is inevitable in the coming weeks.
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# Posted 10:48 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IS IT TOO EARLY TO CELEBRATE? The Cards are down by 3 with two innings to go. It reminds me of the night eight years ago when the Yankees won the World Series for the first time in 18 years.

Eighteen isn't eighty-six, but I had spent my entire childhood desperately rooting for a team that just couldn't win in September. In contrast, all of my friends were Mets fans, who got to celebrate in 1986.

(Boston now has men on 2nd and 3rd with nobody out in the 8th.)

After eight years of near-invincibility it's hard to remember how close the Yankees came to losing it all in 1996. The Braves won the first two games of the series in New York and took a solid lead in Game 3 in Atlanta. Then the Yankees came out of nowhere to win four games in a row.

By sheer luck, I happened to be home from New Haven and having dinner with my family the night of Game 6. It was Rosh Hashana. [CORRECTION: My mother points out Rosh Hashana took place far too early to coincide with the World Series. My mother says that my false recollection of this detail indicates that my memory is no more reliable than that of certain presidential candidates who insist that they were in Cambodia on Christmas Eve.] At the beginning of the ninth, my whole family got up and went to watch the game on my parents' television.

I can still remember Charlie Hayes catching that fly ball just outside the third base line. A single moment made up for two decades of disappointment. I want every Red Sox fan to feel that way tonight.

UPDATE: The curse has been reversed!
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# Posted 1:21 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

TOTALLY UNSURPRISING ENDORSEMENTS: At least Matt Yglesias has a sense of humor about his decision to endorse John Kerry in a formal manner (or at least what passes for formal in the blogosphere; it's not like any of us got up at a press conference with Kerry himself and said, "Dude! This guy is the man!")

On the other hand, the New Yorker has broken with its eight-decade tradition of non-partisanship and come up with an extremely bland and formulaic denouncement of Bush with some praise for John Kerry tacked on at the end.

Frankly, I'm sort of curious about whom the editors hoped to persuade with its endorsement. Isn't the entire magazine sort of an implicit endorsement of Kerry in the first place?

But much more importantly, I'm disturbed by the fact that the New Yorker, like its (what the hell -- "our") candidate betrays absolutely no concern about promoting democracy in Iraq. (Matt was pretty weak on this point as well, but his whole endorsement was sort off-the-cuff.)

Moreover, David Remnick and his fellow editors even describe Iraq as one of this issues on which
Kerry offers a clear, corrective alternative to Bush’s curious blend of smugness, radicalism, and demagoguery.
Huh? You'd think that Remnick & Co. would have at least tried to demonstrate their high-minded concern for balance and self-awareness by pointing that Kerry's plan to bring in the French and the Germans is patently ridiculous.

You know, if the New Yorker really wanted to be clever, it could've just reprinted The Nation's endorsement of John Kerry -- under the heading of science-fiction.
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# Posted 1:04 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

I remain totally unimpressed by John Kerry. Outside of his opposition to the death penalty, I've never seen him demonstrate any real political courage. His baby steps in the direction of reform liberalism during the 1990s were all followed by hasty retreats. His Senate vote against the 1991 Gulf War demonstrates an instinctive aversion to the use of American force, even when it's clearly justified. Kerry's major policy proposals in this campaign range from implausible to ill-conceived. He has no real idea what to do differently in Iraq. His health-care plan costs too much to be practical and conflicts with his commitment to reducing the deficit. At a personal level, he strikes me as the kind of windbag that can only emerge when a naturally pompous and self-regarding person marinates for two decades inside the U.S. Senate. If elected, Kerry would probably be a mediocre, unloved president on the order of Jimmy Carter. And I won't have a second's regret about voting for him.
More importantly, Weisberg explains why Slate's official policy is to ask each of its staff members to explain in public whom they're voting for and why:
News organizations that, for understandable reasons, are less open about the political views of their staff may have a harder time with the challenge of being fair to both sides. Repressed politics, like repressed sexuality, tends to find an outlet of one kind or another. This may explain how Dan Rather and other conscientious journalists at 60 Minutes ended up promoting some sloppily forged documents thought to be damaging to President Bush's re-election effort. Conservatives were right to point out that an equally flawed story harmful to Kerry almost certainly would not have aired. What if CBS reporters and producers openly acknowledged that the vast majority of them prefer Kerry and the Democrats? Perhaps in openly expressing their political leanings, they would be forced to try harder to be fair to the other side, lest they be dismissed as biased.

The case most commonly made against fuller disclosure of opinion at "straight" news organizations like CBS—as opposed to journals of opinion like Slate—is that the information would be misused by media critics on the right. Movement conservatives would seize on the revelation that most journalists vote Democratic to discredit professionals who are doing their conscientious best to be fair. But wait—conservatives already dismiss the press as biased against them, on the well-supported assumption that most journalists at national news organizations are liberal. Is denying a cheap shot to critics really a good enough reason to withhold information that many news consumers would deem not only interesting, but useful and relevant?
Hat tip: Phil Carter (a Slate contributor who'll be voting for Kerry)
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Tuesday, October 26, 2004

# Posted 11:19 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE CURSE REVERSED? The Red Sox are about to go up 3-0 in the World Series. What are the chances of anyone coming back from three games down? Even as an Yankee fan, I want nothing more than for the Red Sox to redeem themselves after a century of disappointment.

I think my uncle put it quite well in his letter to the NYT last Friday:
The "monumental collapse" (Sports, Oct. 21) of the Yankees to the Boston Red Sox has rekindled memories of my youth, when I was a devout Brooklyn Dodgers fan and spent many wonderful days rooting for them at Ebbets Field.

I remember the decades of Brooklyn's archrivalry with the Yankees and the glorious moment in 1955 when Brooklyn finally won the World Series.

I was heartbroken when the Dodgers moved away, and I refused to seek refuge in any other team until my three nephews, who were growing up to be ardent Yankee fans, persuaded me to convert.

Boston's victory evokes memories of my first love (the Dodgers) and the ecstasy of overcoming seeming insurmountable obstacles.

I applaud the Red Sox victory! Maybe it's time to bring the Dodgers back to Brooklyn.

New York, Oct. 21 1984

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# Posted 9:43 PM by Patrick Belton  

HE'S FAR too nice a guy to mention it himself, so we'll have to do it for him - OxBlog's friend Josh Cherniss has a stunning entry on Isaiah Berlin up on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy now, which is quite simply the best introduction to his thought I've yet come across. And when you've got one of our favourite writers Michael Ignatieff beat on that score, that's really quite an accomplishment.
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# Posted 6:04 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FINALLY: Sullivan endorses Kerry.
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# Posted 5:56 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ACHOO! In TNR, Jonathan Cohn takes a look at the flu vaccine fiasco. It's an informative article, although I think Cohn pushes his evidence to far when he says the debacle is a reason to vote against Bush.
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# Posted 11:27 AM by Patrick Belton  

AS BIG a fan as I am of geeky things you can do with technology, I steadfastly refuse to vote for any officeseeker who ever comes to my door riding one of these.
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Sunday, October 24, 2004

# Posted 9:47 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

"A MAGAZINE OPENED TO REVEAL A PICTURE OF THE PRESIDENTIAL BALLS...FBI forensic testing would later confirm the balls' authenticity."

That is an actual quote from today's WaPo Magazine. It has nothing to do with Bill Clinton. Rather, it concerns the theft of four spherical sporting objects bearing the autographs of Presidents Taft, Wilson, Harding and Coolidge.
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# Posted 8:47 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BAD ROLE MODELS: I wasn't going to write about this story, but it upset my Chinese roommates so much that I figured it must be big news.

So, it turns out that Liu Xiang, China's surprise gold medalist in the 110m hurdles, has signed an endorsement deal with China's #1 cigarette maker.

But hold off before you criticize Liu, because I smell a rat. It turns out that
The official government-backed Track and Field Association has sole right to negotiate product endorsements for the country's athletes, with income split between athletes and the group.
Sounds to me like some bureaucrat is trying to cash in on this national hero's reputation. On a less important but more amusing note, check out this Orwellian statement about the endorsement deal from the CEO of the cigarette manufacturer:
Everyone likes Liu Xiang and hopes he will 'soar' higher and faster, and maintain his sunny, healthy, progressive image.
Sort of like Joe Camel in gym shorts.

UPDATE: Reader DM points out that Baisha, China's #1 cigarette maker, also makes other products. His comment led me to re-read the two articles I linked to above, neither of which explicitly says that Liu Xiang will be endorsing cigarettes.

Instead, Liu will serve as an "image ambassador" for Baisha, which both AP and the BBC describe as China's biggest cigarette maker, with no mention of other products. Moreover, the headline of the BBC article is "Hurdler Xiang to Back Cigaretttes". So did the Beeb confuse its own headline writers, or does it know more about Baisha than it's letting on? (And isn't the guy's surname 'Liu'?)
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# Posted 7:18 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PROFOUND OBSERVATION ABOUT 60 MINUTES: Ed Bradley should not have an earring. If he is going wear one anyhow, it should be stud, not a hoop.

And notice how Bradley's headshot on the 60 Minutes website is a three-quarters profile that thrusts forward his unpierced lobe while hiding its bejeweled counterpart.
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# Posted 7:05 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

JON STEWART ON CBS: The 60 Minutes profile of Big Jon should be on in around 20 minutes. The CBS internet summary, as well as the commericals I've seen, suggest their going to play Stewart as an equal opportunity critic fed up by American journalists' failures to expose politicians' (read: Bush's) lies. In short, it's the he-said/she-said hypotheis (recently elevated to the status of meme.)

For a better look at Stewart, head on over to Howard Kurtz's profile in Saturday's WaPo. With the help of Ted Koppel and Wonkette, Kurtz pigeonholes Stewart with impressive precision. Wonkette says that Stewart
To say his is just a comedy show is a cop-out in a way. He's gotten so much power. So many people look to him that you can't really be the kid in the back throwing spitballs
Koppel adds:
[Stewart] is to television news what a really great editorial cartoonist is to a newspaper...

A satirist gets to poke and prod and make fun of other people, and when you say, 'What about you, dummy?,' he says, 'I'm just a satirist.'
Naturally, I like Kurtz's message because it's exactly what I've been saying about Stewart for quite some time now. He is gut-wrenchingly funny, but has to stop pretending that his is a noble effort to restore balance to the American political agenda. At least for the past four months, Stewart has been active Kerry partisan who uses his influence to reinforce negative stereotypes about Bush.

That's all fine, it just means that what Stewart deserves is a roasting from his comedic colleagues for adopting as his own the pious ambiguities of the politicians he so loves to mock.

"We don't have an agenda to change the political system. We have a more selfish agenda, to entertain ourselves. We feel a frustration with the way politics are handled and the way politics are handled within the media," Stewart says. Yeah, right.


7:37 PM: Stewart resorts to the "I'm just a fake journalist" cop-out.

7:39 PM: Footage of Stewart making fun of Kerry, helping him do the bi-partisan spin.

7:41 PM: Another CBS pairing of Stewart making fun of the GOP, then Stewart making fun of Kerry.

7:42 PM: "Stewart expects to vote for John Kerry, but that's not an endorsement."

7:46 PM: Great clip of Stewart trashing CBS because of the Dan Rather memo f***-up.

Then Stewart asks why Rathergate is the big scandal but no one cares about Halliburton or the missing WMD. Can you say "he-said/she-said journalism"?

7:48 PM: Clip of Stewart wrangling with Tucker Carlson, bashing cable media for its yelling idiot vs. yelling idiot he-said/she-said journalism.

7:50 PM: CBS is really playing this brilliantly. They defuse charges of liberal bias on their part by letting Jon Stewart subtly argue for the unintentional pro-conservative bias of the mainstream media.

To top it all off, they let the liberal Stewart trash CBS's incompetence as if to make it seem that Memogate was just a little accident that had nothing to do with Dan Rather's politics.

7:55 PM: How come no one told me Mickey Andy Rooney was so funny? (In that laughting-at-him-not-laughing-with-him sort of way.)
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# Posted 6:57 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OXBLOG ENDORSES LAROUCHE as idiotarian menace of the year. I got used to the LaRouche activists in Harvard Square, so I just figured that they weren't all that different from the rest of the left-wing kooks who hang out there. Except maybe a little more anti-Semitic.

But this report in the Washington Post magazine demonstrates that LaRouche is a lot more than a failed politician. He is a paranoid cult leader who ruins the lives of countless young men and women. One of them died on a highway is central Germany, hit by multiple cars just minutes after he called his mother in the UK, begging for help.

LaRouche is also a convicted criminal who spent much of the late 1980s and early 1990s in prison for extensive fraud. When the eight-time presidential candidate tells you that fascist Jews have sent zombie assassins to murder LaRouche and that they, not Al Qaeda are responsible for 9/11, it's really the least of what's wrong with him.
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# Posted 6:55 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SUPERBOWL QUALITY FOOTBALL: The final seconds are ticking off the clock as the Jets go down to defeat and New England extends its mind-blowing records of 21 consecutive victories. Amazing.
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# Posted 4:11 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHAT ARE IBC'S STANDARDS? The most appropriate benchmark for measuring the veracity of IBC's information is the standards that it elaborates on its website. According to IBC:
This database includes all deaths which the Occupying Authority has a binding responsibility to prevent under the Geneva Conventions and Hague Regulations. This includes civilian deaths resulting from the breakdown in law and order, and deaths due to inadequate health care or sanitation.
Casualty figures are derived from a comprehensive survey of online media reports and eyewitness accounts. Where these sources report differing figures, the range (a minimum and a maximum) are given.
The test for us remains whether the bullet (or equivalent) is attributed to a piece of weaponry where the trigger was pulled by a US or allied finger, or is due to "collateral damage" by either side (with the burden of responsibility falling squarely on the shoulders of those who initiate war without UN Security Council authorization). We agree that deaths from any deliberate source are an equal outrage, but in this project we want to only record those deaths to which we can unambiguously hold our own leaders to account. In short, we record all civilians deaths attributed to our military intervention in Iraq. [Emphasis in original --ed.]
The ambiguity of this last paragraph is striking. It asserts that collateral damage caused by either side is the result of "our" , i.e. US-UK, intervention in Iraq.

The application of this standard is even more striking. It includes not just those civilians killed by insurgents' bullets and bombs in the heat of battle, but civlians deliberately murdered by suicide bombers affiliated with the insurgents. This is a total perversion of the concept of moral reponsibility.

In order to understand the method behind this madness, one ought to consult the most recent IBC press release, which explains the political significance of its work:
So far, in the "war on terror" initiated since 9-11, the USA and its allies have been responsible for over 13,000 civilian deaths, not only the 10,000+ in Iraq, but also 3,000+ civilian deaths in Afghanistan, another death toll that continues to rise long after the world's attention has moved on.

Elsewhere in the world over the same period, paramilitary forces hostile to the USA have killed 408 civilians in 18 attacks worldwide (see Table 1). Adding the official 9-11 death toll (as of October 29th 2003) brings the total to just under 3500...

For each civilian killed by "terrorists" on and since 9-11, the USA and its allies have brought about almost four non-combatant, civilian deaths in return...

The claim that a strategy which produces 14,000 civilian deaths is the expression of a "philosophy of tolerance and freedom" is a claim which we find incomprehensible. Our incomprehension is shared, we believe, by the majority of the world's people.
The hypocrisy of this statement is stunning. IBC seeks to demonstrate that the United States is more dangerous than its terrorist opponents by blaming the United States for acts of premeditated murder that those same terrorists have perpetrated.

This is why we must work together to reverese the unthinking embrace of IBC's statistics by the Washington Post and other leading publications.
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# Posted 4:01 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MORE BODY COUNTS: The credibility and integrity of iraqbodycount.net (IBC for short), rest on the information contained in its publicly available data base of civilian casualties. For the reasons described in my previous post, I believe that the time has come for a thoroughgoing investigation and potential repudiation of IBC's data.

This past summer, my investigation of a limited number of the incidents described in the IBC database exposed major factual and interpretive errors. Even though no individual can fact check such a massive data base, the distributed power of the blogosphere can be brought to bear on this task.

What I propose is a coordinated effort to parcel out all of the incidents in the IBC data base to volunteers willing to check IBC's claims against the publicly available news accounts cited as the source of its information.

I'm not sure exactly how to coordinate this effort, so your suggestions are welcome. But I believe that it can and should be done.
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# Posted 2:33 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FLOOD THE ZONE! FLOOD THE ZONE! Each day, the Washington Post performs an admirable service by updating the number of American soldiers killed and wounded in Iraq, while also providing the names of those fallen soldiers identified by the Pentagon.

This morning, however, the Washington Post committed a grave error by including estimates of Iraqi civlian casualties provided by iraqbodycount.net (IBC for short). The Post deceptively states that the figures are provided by Reuters and IBC. Yet Reuters itself states that the figures for civilian casualties come from IBC alone.

(NB: The Post provides the IBC figures on page A18 of Saturday morning's print edition. I have not been able to locate the figures online.)

In the past, OxBlog has demonstrated conclusively that IBC relies on fraudluent data and that its flagrant dishonesty reflects its lleft-wing extremist agenda.
Principal flaws of the IBC count include:

1) Counting the victims of suicide bombings as victims of American intervention.

2) Counting victims of common crime as victims of American intervention.

3) Claiming false knowledge of the names of such victims.
As my partner Josh Chafetz documented in the Weekly Standard in April 2003, IBC's has a long history of blatant deception. As both Josh and I have shown, mainstream publications have a disturbing habit of citing IBC as a reliable source.

However, the Post's decision to rely on IBC for its daily count brings unprecedented prestige and credibility to a malicious organization. Therefore I ask you that join me in contacting Washington Post ombudsman Michael Getler to demand that the Post repudiate the IBC count, investigate why it use was approved in the first place, and issue an apology for this failure to maintain professional standards of reporting.

If you are a blogger, I ask that you encourage your readers to contact Mr. Getler. His e-mail address, provided by the Washington Post, is:ombudsman@washpost.com.

I ask you to join me in this effort first of all in the name of truth. But this particular truth matters because IBC's falsehoods unfairly blacken the reputation of the United States and its armed forces, which have made extraordinary efforts to minimize the number of civilian casualties inflicted during this war.
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# Posted 2:20 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IT ALL COMES DOWN TO ACCOUNTABILITY: Dan Drezner, Ambivablog and The Washington Post have all come out for John Kerry and all for the same reason, more or less.
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Saturday, October 23, 2004

# Posted 8:46 PM by Patrick Belton  

TODAY'S READING: Woody Allen in the New York Times on George S. Kaufman.
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# Posted 1:48 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE NATION ENDORSES KERRY: Hey, you're not supposed to judge people (or blogs) by the company they keep. Here are some highlights:
The gift of a true electoral mandate now to this previously unelected President would give fresh legitimacy and momentum to all his disastrous policies. And that new momentum could in turn place our constitutional system itself at risk.
Wait, so if the American people actually chose Bush it would put the Constitution more at risk than if the Supreme Court installed him in office?
We believed that the invasion of Iraq was "the wrong war, in the wrong place, at the wrong time" (as he now describes it) before the war was ever launched; he has come to that conclusion only recently, having voted to authorize the war.
Wait, so The Nation is accusing Kerry of being a flip-flopper?
[Bush] has pandered to a "base" of religious fanatics, many of whom are looking forward to a day of "rapture" when Jesus returns to earth and kills everyone but them.
Instead of ex-felons, why not purge those with unsound theology from the voter rolls!
Yet it is so far only the government that has asserted global imperial ambition, waged aggressive war on false pretexts, condoned torture, strengthened corporate influence over politics, turned its back on the natural environment and spurned global public opinion. If Bush is now elected, then a national majority -- a far weightier thing -- will stand behind these things.
No! Not a majority! Let's turn over the government to a vanguard party instead!
A systemic crisis -- a threat to the Constitution of the United States -- has taken shape. At the end of this road is an implied vision of a different system: a world run by the United States and a United States run permanently by the Republican Party, which is to say imperial rule abroad, one-party rule at home.
To hell with the vanguard party. Bush is already making us more like the Soviet Union every day! (But if Canada tries to invade liberate us, The Nation will insist on absolute respect for American sovereignty.)

The most important reason to vote for John Kerry in November is to safeguard democracy in America.

Kerry's election would not necessarily save, and Bush's election would not necessarily destroy, democratic government in the United States. Even as President, even "in power," Kerry might well find himself "in opposition." In that case, he would need all the help from ordinary people he could get, and there's good reason to believe it would be forthcoming...

For all its importance, the election is only one episode in a longer popular struggle, whether Bush or Kerry is President. Either way, The Nation will devote itself to the fight.

We must take to the streets! We must take to the mountains! Viva la revolucion!
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# Posted 1:19 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DAMN INTOLERANT CHRISTIAN FUNDAMENTALIST LIBERALS: I'm pretty sure this isn't joke. If it were a joke, it wouldn't be funny. I got a press release today with the headline:
United Methodists Call on George W. Bush and Richard Cheney to Repent
It goes on to explain that
United Methodist Church members and clergy are bringing charges against President George W. Bush and Vice-President Richard Cheney.

"Our hope," says Rev. Courtney Ball, "is that President George W. Bush andVice-President Richard Cheney will recognize the sinfulness of their actions, sincerely repent, and move on to change their ways."

Organizers of the website TheyMustRepent.com, Courtney Ball and Josh Steward, are taking action as Christians and United Methodists who are desperate to hold two of their own accountable for their actions in starting an unjust war in Iraq. [Ball & Steward were presumably "desperate" to hold Saddam Hussein accountable for mass murder circa March 2003, but they couldn't, because he is neither a Christian nor a United Methodist. --Ed.]

A letter of complaint at TheyMustRepent.com outlines the justification for bringing charges.
Go read the letter of complaint. The best part is when they accuse Bush of politicizing Christianity.
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Friday, October 22, 2004

# Posted 1:47 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

KERRYMANDERING: All of the responses to yesterday's post about reforming the electoral college focused on the issue of gerrymandering. My original post built on the analysis of Joshua Spivak in USA Today, and Joshua was kind enough to write in with his comments on my post.

Joshua makes two points. First, gerrymandering has already resulted in the polarization of Congress. Handing out electoral votes by congressional district might have the same effect on presidential politics.

Second, the Maine-Nebraska method is just as likely as the winner-take-all approach to hand the election to the candidate with fewer popular votes. For example, Nixon won a majority of congressional districts in 1960.

Now, as DS points out, one way around the gerrymandering problem is for more states to follow the Iowa precedent of appointing a non-partisan commission to divide the state up into congressional districts.

But what're the odds of that happening, right? As SK points out, adopting the Maine-Nebraska approach without getting rid of gerrymandering ensures that
All the distrcits out there which are "safe" house seats, become "safe" electoral votes.
Such an outcome is possible, but not definite. As part of my thesis research, I've been focusing on a group of about 30 Democratic congressmen, mostly from the South, who supported Reagan's foreign policy. Their critics asserted that this decision wasn't a matter of principle, but just a reflection of their fear that opposing the President would cost them the upcoming election.

Even though I haven't finished my research yet, I have noticed that a lot of these congressmen were re-elected with more than 60% of the vote in 1984 in spite of the fact that Reagan won 60% or even 70% of the popular vote in their districts.

Obviously, this is just one counter-example, and I wouldn't want to adopt the Maine-Nebraksa method without carefully considering its impact. But perhaps that method is worth a serious look.
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Thursday, October 21, 2004

# Posted 11:46 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

EVEN THE LIBERAL NEW REPUBLIC is supporting John Kerry. Here's my favorite anti-Kerry point from the article:
Building "firehouses in Baghdad"--a notion Kerry has repeatedly mocked--is not only something we owe the Iraqi people, it stems from the fundamentally liberal premise that social development can help defeat fanaticism. Abandoning that principle under pressure from Howard Dean is the most disturbing thing Kerry has done in this campaign.
Ouch. But here's the crux of TNR's argument against Bush:
The common thread is ideological certainty untroubled by empirical evidence, intellectual curiosity, or open debate. The ideology that guides this president's war on terrorism is more appealing than the corporate cronyism that guides his domestic policy. But it has been pursued with the same sectarian, thuggish, and ultimately self-defeating spirit.
Even though my endorsement of John Kerry focused on his prospective policy for Iraq, I should also have mentioned how strong my instinctive discomfort is with a President who betrays absolutely no desire to measure the actual impact of his policy choices against his initial expectations.

The obvious counterpoint to this argument is that John Kerry's Clinton-esque obsession with processing ever more information results in exactly the sort of paralysis that the United States cannot afford in the midst of its War on Terror.

My preferred counterpoint to this argument is that John Kerry's inconsistent approach to critical issues such as the war in Iraq reflects a lack of firm principles much more than it does an inability to make decisions. Kerry has made decisions -- he simply made them in response to the pressure generated by Howard Dean and then remade them in response to the pressure generated George W. Bush rather than focusing all along on the pressure generated by the situation on the ground in Iraq.

While this sort of inconsistency is an obvious source of concern, my wager on Kerry reflects my belief that it would be in Kerry's own self-interest as President to "finish the job" in Iraq.

But that's not what I wanted to write about (again). I want to focus on the instinctive discomfort with George Bush's policymaking habits that so many hesitant Kerry supporters have. I think that Dan Drezner is talking about essentially the same thing when he talks about preferring a solid process to solid principles/instincts.

As a professional researcher, I think I simply find it almost impossible to trust someone whose thought process is apparently so different from my own.

In theory, I am sure that Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld all believe in evaluating the relevant data and adjusting their decisions to reflect reality. Thus, when I say that I object to the way that this administration makes decisions, I am saying that I do not believe that it has lived up to the intellectual standard it presumably accepts.

So, if my preference for Kerry reflects my general intellectual style, am I engaging in an idiosyncratic sort of identity politics? Perhaps. In my own mind, I am making an empirical judgment about George Bush's ability to adapt to new information and new situations. But I also firmly believe that I have to defend that proposition instead of taking it for granted.
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# Posted 11:30 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DAMNED IVY LEAGUE CONSERVATIVES: The first time I voted for President I was an undergraduate at Yale. At our polling station, Dole just barely won more votes than the Green Party candidate, while Clinton took home a solid majority.

Yet as Bob Musil points out, an informal poll of the Yale football team shows that 62 players are supporting Bush but only 27 are backing Kerry. I'm half-surprised and half not. There's no specific reason to think that athletes would vote Republican.

On the other hand, if you play the liberal free association game, you'd come up with a result something like this: Football = fraternity = conformist = anti-intellectual = arch-capitalist = Republican. On the other hand, support for Bush may just reflect the fact that he was chapter president of DKE, one Yale's most athletic fraternities.

The real question is, who will get the Skull & Bones vote?
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