OxBlog

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

# Posted 8:03 PM by Patrick Belton  

A PLEA FOR OUR READERS: If any of our friends happen to have a moment or two, and wouldn't mind dropping a note to the President of Iran and (for non-US residents) the Iranian embassy in your country, I think that would be a worthwhile cause. Twenty-five bloggers and civil society activists have been arbitrarily arrested in recent weeks. Here is a message from the World Movement for Democracy on that subject, which I will pass on in its entirety:
The World Movement for Democracy would like to express its concern for the safety of two Iranian women leaders, Fereshteh Ghazi, an online journalist, and Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh, editor of a women’s rights journal “Farzaneh.” According to the Women's Learning Partnership, Abbasgholizadeh has contributed to the strengthening of Iranian civil society by conducting capacity building programs as Director of the NGO Training Center in Tehran, and was arrested at her home on November 2, 2004. Ghazi has used her skills to create an increased awareness of the status of women in Iran using the Internet, and was arrested in her office on October 28, 2004. Both women have been denied the right to legal counsel. Over the past two months, a string of Internet writers and civil society activists have been arrested for “propaganda against the regime, endangering national security, inciting public unrest, and insulting sacred belief,” according to Jamal Karimi Rad, the judiciary’s spokesman.

Amnesty International reports that Ghazi and Abbasgholizadeh are among 25 internet journalists and civil society activists that have been arbitrarily arrested in recent weeks. The Women’s Learning Partnership, a World Movement participating organization, has been contacted by colleagues in Iran asking them to help bring attention to the plight of civil society activists in Iran.

Suggested Action: To demand the immediate release of Fereshteh Ghazi and Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh and express your concern for the rise in human rights violations in Iran, please write to President Hojjatoleslam Sayed Mohammad Khatemi, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the President of the European Parliament, and the Iranian embassy in your country:

His Excellency Hojjatoleslam Sayed Mohammad Khatemi
The Presidency Office
Pasteur Avenue
Tehran 13167-43311 Islamic Republic of Iran
E-mail

Her Excellency Louise Arbour
High Commissioner for Human Rights
United Nations Office at Geneva
1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
Fax: + 41 22 917 9022
E-mail

His Excellency Josep Borrell Fontelles
President of the European Parliament
Division for Correspondence with Citizens
L-2929 LUXEMBOURG
Fax: (352) 4300 27072

Iranian Embassies

Additional Information:

“Iran: Web Writers Purge Underway”
Human Rights Watch

“Iran: Civil society activists and human rights defenders under attack”
Amnesty International

“Iran: Call for the unconditional release of Mahboobeh Abbasgholizadeh”
Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML)
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# Posted 2:02 PM by Patrick Belton  

ATTENTION CONSPIRACY MONGERS: still no winner in Ohio...

(That's all for now, you can go back to monging....)
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# Posted 5:07 AM by Patrick Belton  

INDIANA CONGRESSMAN SHOCKED - SHOCKED! - that the Highway Service has a U.S. Highway 69. He's been convinced by local religious groups to introduce legislation to change it to Highway 63. Except that it's a hoax.
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# Posted 2:23 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OUR GLORIOUS HISTORY OF MULTILATERALISM: Over at YFP, Gene Vilensky deconstructs an anti-Bush, pro-UN broadside by Robert Tucker and David Hendrickson, a pair of realist historians. While it is one thing to imagine the Clinton years as a utopian multilateral interlude in the history of American foreign relations, it is amazing to see professional scholars pretend that
Throughout its history, the United States has made gaining international legitimacy a top priority of its foreign policy. The 18 months since the launch of the Iraq war, however, have left the country's hard-earned respect and credibility in tatters. In going to war without a legal basis or the backing of traditional U.S. allies, the Bush administration brazenly undermined Washington's long-held commitment to international law, its acceptance of consensual decision-making, its reputation for moderation, and its identification with the preservation of peace.
Hello? Vietnam? The Contra war? CIA coups in Guatemala, Chile and Iran? The invasions of Panama, Grenada and the Dominican Republic? Even Jimmy Carter got in trouble with the French and Germans for provoking the Soviets by talking about human rights!

My point here is not that the United States' long history of unilateralist behavior provides a justification for anything that George Bush has done. Rather, the point is that apocalyptic predictions about the breakdown of US-European relations have been standard fare for the last sixty years. These predictions crops up every decades or so and they are always wrong.

Why? Because what unites us with Europe is far more important than what divides us. Our democratic values coincide even if we have very different ideas about how to apply them to the world. When transatlantic relations go bad, strong voices on both sides of the ocean demand reconciliation.

That is the ultimate irony of Tucker and Hendrickson's argument. Their heightened fears of a permanent breakdown are what have brought the United States and Europe back together after each of our confrontations.
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# Posted 1:34 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A COSTLY VICTORY IN FALLUJAH: Yes, but for whom? As of yesterday morning, 38 American soldiers were dead. American officers claimed to have killed between 1,000 and 1,200 insurgents.

I have no idea if those figures are credible. The incentive to exaggerate success is obviously tremendous, given the political significance of this operation. I don't distrust the military, there are always favorable and less favorable estimates, and it is often the former that get publicized. (Besides, given that the US military adamantly refuses to count civilian casualties, one wonders how it can count the dead insurgents.)

During first eighteen months of the occupation, both the military and the American media did their best to measure the success or failure of the occupation in political terms, rather than Vietnam-style body counts. Yet suddenly, that conventional wisdom is no more. Commentators on left and right seem to agree that destroying enemy forces is far more important than occupying enemy territory. If the insurgents live to fight another day, they can simply retake Fallujah when American forces return to base. If the insurgents die, they can't.
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Monday, November 15, 2004

# Posted 6:45 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE MEME IS DEAD. LONG LIVE THE MEME! Now David Broder is denoucning the pernicious "values voter" myth. Given that Broder, Dionne and Kevin Drum have all come out against this myth, I think it's safe to say that gay marriage won't become this year's Willie Horton.

On the other hand, I think it's premature to say that the Democrats have finally decided to get serious about national security, because that is the only way to win elections. For example, take a look at Robert Kaiser's essay on the cover of the Outlook section in yesterday's WaPo. Kaiser begins by offering five possible definitions of what it means to be a Democrat. Not one of them has a damn thing to do with national security. Here is Kaiser's advice for the Democratic party:
Yes, America is a conservative society. It always has been...

But we are also, polls make clear, a tolerant and moderate people. Democrats could become the party of tolerance, meaning tolerance for everyone: Bible readers, gay couples and Bible-reading gay couples alike. There is a strain of intolerance in today's conservative Republicanism, and that's an opportunity for the Democrats as they try to bring new people into their tent.

Americans also believe in economic fairness. Most Americans say the Bush administration's policies principally help the wealthy...

And a neoconservative foreign policy is hardly a popular platform -- couldn't Democrats come up with a believable approach to national security that actually makes sense?
It's interesting to note how Kaiser has specific advice to offer on the economic and cultural fronts, but can offer nothing more than a plea for sanity when it comes to foreign policy. Yet if Bush's (allegedly neo-conservative) approach was so unpopular, why did he have such a commanding lead in the polls when voters were asked who they trusted more to handle the situation in Iraq and the war on terror?

For some time now, OxBlog has hoped that the Democratic party would return to the principles of Harry Truman, who recognized that strength and idealism are not mutually exclusive, but mutually reinforcing. George Bush may have inherited Truman's mantle, at least rhetorically, but his policies still don't measure up. That is the Democrats' opening.

UPDATE: Reader AS cannily points out that Kevin Drum has fallen into the same trap as Robert Kaiser. In Kevin's bullet-point version of Democratic ideals, there isn't a single mention of foreign policy.
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# Posted 4:55 PM by Patrick Belton  

DAVID'S KIND AS ALWAYS, but what caught my eye today was a job opening for Josh, actually: William Safire stepping down from the New York Times's op-ed page, after a stint of 32 years.
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# Posted 1:08 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A JOB OPENING FOR PATRICK: Colin Powell resigns.

UPDATE: Joe Gandelman rounds-up the reactions to Powell's departure and the speculations about his replacement. Personally, I think Dick Lugar would do an excellent job at State, although I don't know if his personal relationship with Bush is strong enough to get him the job.

This week, Lugar reminds us once again how strong his personal commitment to democracy promotion is by traveling to the Ukraine to observe the critical election taking place there.

Students of the Reagan administration will always remember Lugar for his indispensable role as an election monitor in the Philippines in 1986. After Filipino dictator Ferdinand Marcos sought to perpetuate himself in office by stuffing the ballot boxes -- while Reagan blindfolded himself to this reality -- Lugar boldly insisted that the President live up to his own democratic principles. Ultimately, Reagan backed down and Corazon Aquino inaugurated the Philippines' second democratic era.

If one were President Bush, the preceding anecdote might provide a compelling argument against Lugar's appointment. However, I think Bush may just have the guts to appoint someone with a mind of his own.

If Lugar doesn't get the call, my black-horse candidate is Colin Powell's current deputy, Richard Armitage. Never underestimate the value of continuity.

UPDATE: Mr. Yglesias refers to the above post as "hilarous-in-retrospective". He writes that
The issue isn't that Lugar's "personal relationship with Bush" isn't "strong enough to get him the job" the issue is that the plan for the second administration is that the now mandate-possessing Bush can crush all elements of independence and critical thought inside the administration and stock the government entirely with toadies.
Well as long as we're being open-minded...
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# Posted 9:53 AM by Patrick Belton  

TEXAN? LOOKING FOR A GOOD TIME? No, sorry, this isn't a proposition to come back to the Bush compound... But if you're Houstonian and free tonight, stop by the Black Labrador (4100 Montrose, Cézanne Room, 7 pm) for our foreign policy society's discussion of Niall Ferguson's Colossus! More events coming up in other towns, too, as I recover from rather evilly inflicting 150 previously unseen pages upon my long-suffering supervisor's inbox.

UPDATE: We also have a meeting in Washington tonight on what the 2004 election means for American foreign policy, for which we're grateful to Steve Clemons, executive vice president of the New America Foundation, for being our guest speaker (6:30, APSA headquarters, 1527 New Hampshire Avenue).
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Sunday, November 14, 2004

# Posted 3:14 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IMAGINARY EXPERTS: Public Editor Dan Okrent writes that
In "Discord on North Korea as Powell Finishes East Asia Trip," Steven R. Weisman, The Times's chief diplomatic correspondent, wrote of current negotiations that "the impasse is not likely to broken soon, many experts say, at least until the American presidential election is over." When I asked him about his posse of experts, he acknowledged that "you caught me using some lazy writing, probably because I was on deadline and exhausted from jet lag."
I'm curious: Is the "chief diplomatic correspondent" at the Paper of Record responsible for ensuring that all of his colleagues subscribe to the same high standards that he does?

(And three cheers for Okrent, who got Weisman to confess. And let's not forget Jayson Blair, without whom the Times wouldn't have a Public Editor.)
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# Posted 3:04 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

AND ONE FOR MY DEAD HOMIES: Farwell to ODB. Wu-Tang forever.
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# Posted 2:51 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HOW REALISTIC ARE THE REALISTS? Ex-idealist Robert Kaplan indignantly announces that the culture and history of Iraq don't favor American efforts to democratize it. Here's what Kaplan has to say about Afghanistan:
Over sizable swaths of the country there had been only warlords and tribal militias, with whom we had to work for many months before we began to co-opt them into a new legitimate authority: or, as the situation demanded, help that new authority to gradually ease them out. In Afghanistan following 9/11, we did what we had to do, and otherwise accepted the place as it was.
Funny, I don't remember Afghanistan having elections or allowing women into the classroom before 9/11. But that's just me...
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# Posted 2:31 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WINNING HEARTS & MINDS, A LA FRANCAISE: Dateline Abidjan, Cote D'Ivoire --
Chanting, "We want the French!" a crowd of armed and angry young men swept past La Planta, a club owned by an Ivorian. They started to attack the nearby Byblos restaurant, then stopped when the owner pleaded, "No, no! I'm Lebanese!"

But when it came to Club Le Saint Germain, the mob showed no restraint. The elegant eatery had not only a French owner but also a predominantly French clientele, including soldiers from the nearby military base.

Last Saturday night, witnesses said, men armed with wood planks, iron rail spikes and a lust for revenge battered down the club's steel doors. They yanked bars from the windows and bashed a gaping hole through the concrete wall.

As the owner and a friend watched from an adjacent roof, the mob stole everything that could be taken and destroyed what remained, witnesses said. The posh establishment was reduced to little more than a dirt-streaked shell.
If the French get chased out out of Cote D'Ivoire, maybe they can stop off in Iraq on the way home to share their expert advice about nation-building.
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# Posted 1:54 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SHUT HIM UP BEFORE 2008: According to Wes Clark,
It's hardly surprising that the measure of success in Fallujah is elusive: There's no uniformed enemy force, no headquarters, no central command complex for the troops to occupy and win. At the end, there will be no surrender.
According to the WaPo:
In the southernmost section of Fallujah, where a showdown still loomed, U.S. soldiers discovered an underground bunker and steel-enforced tunnels connecting a ring of houses filled with weapons, medical supplies and bunk beds.

The fighters in the area were armed with assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, and dressed in blue camouflage uniforms with full military battle gear.
It's almost as if the insurgents put on uniforms just to make Clark look stupid. Now, there are some good points in Clark's essay (which also happens to be in the Post.) He says that we have to use diplomacy and force together to win the war in Iraq. But sometimes (and this isn't the first), Clark seems to suffer from political amnesia:
U.S. forces don't "lose" on the battlefield these days. We haven't lost once in Iraq. Nor in Afghanistan. Not in the Balkans, or in the first Gulf War. Nor in Panama.
It's as if Clark never heard of Somalia. Someone should send the General a copy of Black Hawk Down. By the way, doesn't the fact that we have to retake Falluja suggest that we have lost at least one battle in Iraq? But moving on:
This has been a tough battle, and the men and women fighting it deserve every Combat Infantryman's Badge, Bronze Star or Purple Heart they receive.
Come on, Wes, the election is over. Besides, are you suggesting that when you were in charge, the army handed out Bronze Stars and Purple Hearts to soldiers who didn't deserve them?
Neither Syria nor Iran could welcome American success in Iraq if they believe it means they'll be next on a list of regimes to be "reformed" by the United States -- and yet that's precisely the goal of American policy. Bringing about change in those countries should be a matter of offering inducements as well as making threats, but not if it adds to the danger for our men and women in uniform. We need to choose: continue to project a grand vision, or focus on success in Iraq.
Right-o! Let's consolidate those dictatorships in Damascus and Teheran! If George Bush stops talking about democracy promotion, then maybe Bashar Assad and the hard-liners in Teheran will suddenly decide that America is no longer a threat (because they were oh so cooperative back when Clinton was President).

It's not that Clark doesn't make good points. It just that he makes so many bad ones, too.
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# Posted 1:48 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NOT WHAT I WOULD SAY IF I HAD A FACE FULL OF SHRAPNEL: Again from the WaPo:
[Lance Cpl. Matthrew] Vetor, who said he could squeeze shrapnel out of his facial wounds, would not be able to return [to battle] just yet.

"You know it could happen to you, but you really don't think it will be you," Vetor said, looking at the TV screen. "I'm just glad I was part of it. I was glad I got to fight with these guys. It had to be done. We were really fighting. We were doing great. It doesn't stop us. We'll keep going."
Really not what I would say if I had a face full of shrapnel. But that's probably why he's a Marine and I'm not.
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# Posted 1:36 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

INDICATIVE: From the WaPo:
In areas controlled by U.S. forces, loudspeakers mounted on Humvees urged that "all fighters in Fallujah should surrender, and we guarantee they will not be killed or insulted."
"Insulted"? Is that a mistranslation? A euphemism? Anyhow, the insurgents' response to the American announcement was even more indicative:
From a loudspeaker on a mosque still controlled by insurgents, the fighters replied: "We ask the American soldiers to surrender and we guarantee that we will kill and torture them."
The insurgents' are only doing us a favor by saying such things. The same goes for Zarqawi's decision to officially rename his outfit "Al Qaeda in Iraq". It's as if Zarqawi had asked himself, "Gee, how could I possibly persuade the American public of the necessity of fighting a war that many of them consider to be hopeless?"

Or even better: "How can I best validate George Bush's claim that the war in Iraq is an integral part of the war on terror?" You heard it hear first: Zarqawi is on the CIA payroll.
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Saturday, November 13, 2004

# Posted 3:40 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

VOTING FRAUD: Joe Gandelman dismantles the rumors.
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# Posted 2:43 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

KILL THE BASTARD: Perhaps our nation can come together as one by paying more attention to a fundamental truth that is close to the heart of all Americans: Scott Peterson is human trash and deserves to die.

I guess the only problem here is that most Blue Staters would be against giving Peterson the chair even though he deserves to die. Then again, Peterson is pretty frikkin' white, so you won't get the ACLU crowd all up in arms about how the death penalty is inherently racist.

On a different sort of dissenting note, James Joyner writes that

I'm one of the relative few people who don't much follow these high profile trials. It's never been clear to me why the murder of one person I never met by someone else I've never met is any more noteworthy than any of the thousands of other murders that are committed each year.

Come on, Jim! Peterson murdered his wife and unborn child for no particular reason except for the fact that they made it harder for him to have fun on weekends. Actually, that's a good reason not to give him the chair. Once the other inmates gets their hands on Peterson, his life will be a living hell.

(Hmmm. I'm sounding a little bloodthirsty today. It must be all the wrestling movies.)

UPDATE: JW writes:
Were you drunk when you wrote this? There is no point too it, and it's offensive.
I respond:
Sadly, I was sober. This is just the kind of reaction that normally sane and thoughtful people seem to have when some guy kills his wife and unborn child. But point taken.

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# Posted 2:21 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE DEFINITIVE INTRODUCTION TO BLOGGING: Go read Dan Drezner & Henry Farrell's essay on blogs in the current issue of Foreign Policy. If anyone ever asks me, "What one article should I read to learn about blogs?", I now know the answer.

Moreover, you won't enjoy the article any less if you are an experienced blogger yourself. Dan & Henry provide numerous examples and refer to numerous blogs that I've never read or even heard of. Everyone can learn from what they have to say.

Think I'm being too positive about Dan & Henry's work? Well then, in the blogospheric tradition of self-criticism, Dan has linked to this post by Elizabeth Spiers which dismisses his work as "pretty shallow analysis overall". Liz doesn't really elaborate, but, hey, that's the problem with us bloggers -- all opinion no substance.

Come to think of it, that does remind me of one important oversight in Dan & Henry's article -- they don't talk about the backlash against blogs. This oversight doesn't detract from their analysis or result in an unbalanced article, but the fact that so many prominent scholars and journalists consider blogs to be a sort of menacing garbage is a phenomenon worth taking note of.

Hehehe. "Menacing garbage". I like that.
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# Posted 1:42 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

EPISODE III: The trailer is out. The death watch has begun. Professor Dan writes that
You just know that the odds are heavily stacked in favor of the movie being God-awful.
Pejman adds:
I know that this movie will suck much. Yea verily, it is a sure thing that it will suck mightily. But chills still go down my spine at the thought of it.
Offhand I can't remember, but I think it was Pejman who pointed out the extremely annoying (chrono)logical flaw in the premise of Episodes I-III, i.e. that in the interval between Episodes III and IV, which is clearly less than thirty years, the entire known universe has forgotten about the Jedi so much so that they believe the Force to be a myth.

However, the trailer for Episode III includes the famous speech from Episode I in which Obi-Wan describes how Darth Vader, his pupil, hunted down and murdered all of the Jedi, thus ensuring that they -- and the force -- would be forgotten. Now, you might say that Ben is hundreds of years old, which is why he alone remembers the Jedi. But that would mean that Vader himself is also hundreds of years old and the two of them are the only ones who remember the Jedi and believe in the force. (This scenario gets more complicated when we learn about the Emperor's background in Episode III, because he clearly remembers the Jedi, too.)

As a student of politics, this scenario seems especially unlikely, because why wouldn't Vader want to take credit for killing off the Jedi, if only to enhance his own reputation? Sure, it sounds bad, but Vader clearly doesn't have any reservations about presenting himself as evil.

Moreover, the historian in me wonders how even the passage of hundreds of years could lead an entire Empire -- one whose technological sophistication far exceeds our own -- to forget its past. While Vader may be quite powerful, it's completely implausible to think that he could've destroyed the entire documentary record of the Jedi's existence. Face it: Vader clearly has a hard enough time preventing R2-D2 from shuffling around with records belonging to the Rebel Alliance. What are the chances he could get rid of everything else?

A further complication to add to all of this is that, according to the original trilogy, Luke's uncle and aunt knew Darth Vader when he was still Anakin Skywalker. By extension, that means that they were alive and well before hunted down and killed off the Jedi. So in order to make this whole thing work, we need to figure out a way in which Ben Kenobi, Darth Vader, the Emperor and Luke's uncle & aunt can be the only five people in the universe who remember the Jedi.

Goddamn George Lucas!
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# Posted 1:41 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NEWSFLASH: ARAFAT STILL DEAD. See, the news isn't always bad.
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# Posted 1:12 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HARD KNOCKS: THE CHRIS BENOIT STORY: It's been too damn long since I did a wrestling post. But it's Friday night, so what the hey.

After dinner, I headed down to Blockbuster and picked up the 2-disc DVD Edition of Hard Knocks: The Chris Benoit Story. I wasn't sure to expect. Would it be a collection of highlights? A serious biography of one of the greatest pro-wrestlers ever?

The biopic itself is around an hour and twenty minutes long. Its biggest drawback is that it can't decide whether or not to pretend that wrestling is real, or just to appeal straight out to mature fans by taking about the artistry involved in its being "fake".

Early in his career, Benoit almost crippled a wrestler by accidentally dropping him on his head. At this point is the film, there is no question that wrestling is "fake". Benoit talks about how he never intended to hurt his opponent but how the accident made him realize how dangerous professional wrestling is. However, promoter Paul Heyman decided that Benoit could win over the fans by pretending that he had intended to hospitalize his opponent. From then on, Benoit was known as 'The Crippler'.

But when it comes to Benoit's time in the WWF (now the WWE), he acts is if is his victories are "real". The culmination of the film is Benoit's victory at Wrestlemania XX this May in Madison Square Garden, when he won the WWE title for the first time.

Apparently, that victory really did mean a lot to Benoit. He actually cried in the ring, and his wife stepped out of the crowd and into the ring in order to hug him. But why was that moment so special? What does being champion mean in a "fake" sport?

More broadly, this element of make-believe prevents Benoit from talking about numerous aspects of wrestling that are most interesting to fans. How does he feel about the development of his character over time? Never considered one of the more charismatic wrestlers, Benoit made it to the top because of sheer acrobatic ability and physical conditioning.

How does Benoit feel about the evolution of the sport in recent years? Has he been comfortable with the more entertainment-oriented style of the WWF? On the other hand, the acrobatic sophistication of WWE wrestling has increased dramatically in recent years, a development which presumably helped Benoit.

The fact that WWE produced the film also limits who we see interviews. Sadly, this means that we don't get to talk to either Stu Hart or his son Bret 'The Hitman' Hart, both of whom played extremely influential roles in both Benoit's personal life as well as his career.

But you know what? Even if you don't watch the Benoit bio (which is worth it just for the pictures of him as a teenager), you should rent or buy this DVD just for the bonus footage, which includes over two and a half hours of Benoit's classic matches. (And don't even think about getting the VHS version, which only has the bio.)

So far, I've only watched two of the fifteen matches in the set. In the first match, from back in 1990, Benoit fights Jushin Liger for an IGWA title in Japan. The array of holds both men use is simply unbelievable. There were at least a half-dozen submission moves that I'd never seen before in North American wrestling. Best of all are the ones where Liger locks in the hold, then pivots onto his back, hoisting Benoit into the air while bending his limbs at the sametime.

The second match I watched was the main event from Wrestlemania XX, the three-way match in which Benoit defeated Triple H and Shawn Michaels to take home the world title for the very first time. It's an excellent match, but not historic. Nonetheless, it's worth it for the emotion alone, when Benoit breaks down at the end and celebrates reaching the pinnacle of his profession after eighteen long years.

Viva el Crippler!
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Friday, November 12, 2004

# Posted 5:54 PM by Patrick Belton  

UMM....YEAH.... Headline of the day, just in time for shabbas: 'Missing fuel tanker worries officials'. (CNN). The attached story includes the memorable line, from an FBI spokesperson, 'We're asking the public to be on the lookout for a fuel tanker in a location inconsistent with where you'd typically see' one. Like, say, in your neighbour's backyard, your son's oddly familiar looking new set of wheels, or underneath the table at your cousin's at Thanksgiving. (Others may not find this as funny as I do. In this case, they are certainly right.)

UPDATE: Oddly, a reader prefers this,
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# Posted 7:28 AM by Patrick Belton  

NOTE TO OUR OXFORD READERSHIP: Go see Michael Ignatieff at the Rothermere Institute at 5.
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# Posted 6:27 AM by Patrick Belton  

I'M CAUTIOUSLY HOPEFUL by the rise once again to the leadership of Abu Mazen, Mahmoud Abbas, who I have long watched with great curiosity. Profiles are here, here and here.

It is well known that he has preferred statesmanship to dirty politics (and in the West Bank and Gaza, that can get fairly dirty), which has not given him the popular base enjoyed by other Palestinian politicians such as Barghouti. As prime minister, at one point a poll had his support rating at four percent. Less remarked on are his international assets - his network of powerful contacts, carefully cultivated through the years of Oslo, that included Arab leaders and heads of intelligence services. He has headed the PLO's portfolio on international relations since 1980; in 1988 he also acquired the portfolio for the Occupied Territories to replace the rather unfortunately named Abu Jihad. His detractors also point out, not without cause, unfortunate comments from his youth about the number of Holocaust deaths, and supposed Zionist-Nazi contacts during the war (which he has subsequently recanted). It must be remembered, though, that alone among prominent politicians in his nation he was the first to make contacts with Jewish civil society groups, to denounce the Intifada Al-Aqsa as a mistake, to recognise Israel, and to make risky moves toward final settlement (at Oslo, and again with Yossi Beilin). People must be allowed to improve; and Abu Mazen has.

I will not hesitate to criticise Abbas if he disappoints, but should he fulfill his liberal democratic potentialities, then he will count me as his ardent supporter.
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# Posted 4:42 AM by Patrick Belton  

SCHAMA LOSES IT: Britain's leading pop historian presents ten insightful, sympathetic paragraphs analysing the counterposed 'godly' and 'worldly' Americas, then promptly implodes at the end into sputtering nonsense:
[I]t's all sand and towelheads anyway, right? Just smash "them" (as one ardent Bush supporter put it on talk radio the other morning) "like a ripe cantaloupe". Who them? Who gives a shit?
Who them indeed.
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# Posted 3:02 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

AL GONZALES: The wrong man to become Attorney General.
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# Posted 2:53 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BETTER LATE THAN NEVER: Numerous folks have pointed this article in Slate (by a professor at UVA -- go Wahoos!) as a definitive debunking of the 'values voter' myth. Caveat:
Freedman makes some good points, although I suspect cultural issues are more important than he's giving them credit for. After all, even if they haven't become any more important than they were in 2000, they're still important — and Democrats need to figure out a way to reduce their impact.
Agreed.
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# Posted 2:06 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

EMERGENCY EXIT POLLS: Kevin Drum examines the mystery of why Kerry was so far ahead in the early afternoon. Kevin is also dabbling in ancient Hebrew.
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# Posted 2:03 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A BRIGHT SPOT FOR WOMEN IN KUWAIT? Brian Ulrich says maybe.
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# Posted 1:58 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

"IF YOU'RE NOT MAKING LIBERALS UNCOMFORTABLE, YOU'RE NOT GOING TO WIN": That's what Peter Beinart has to say about John Kerry. I like the sound of it, but I disagree. The Democrats can win by being serious about national security, and they can do that by embracing fundamental liberal principles such as democracy and human rights.
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# Posted 1:31 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IS THAT WHAT THE BLUE STATES CALL PATRIOTISM? A good rule of thumb for reading the papers is that you shouldn't take political statements too seriously if they aren't made in the first section of the paper. On the other hand, the opinions expressed elsewhere are often more revealing because they aren't subject to the same kind of self-censorship and artificial imposition of balance.

In Thursday's Style section, WaPo correspondent Thomas Ricks reviews the Smithsonian's new exhibit on America's wars. Ricks writes that
Some might be put off by the loaded title, "The Price of Freedom: Americans at War." But behind that red-state rubric is a well-balanced show, with enough combat gear to please the warriors, enough emphasis on casualties and Indians and blacks and women to comfort the loyal opposition, and enough balance to satisfy most historians.
So, believing that America fights for freedom is a Red State belief, whereas an emphasis on the suffering that America has inflicted is a Blue State preference?

That's just ridiculous. I bet that a strong majority of those who voted for Kerry (and perhaps even Kerry himself) believe that America does fight for freedom most of the time. And I bet there's a strong majority of Bush voters who understand that America is far from perfect.

However, there is a certain elite (say, journalists) who believe that virtue can only be achieved through constant mea culpas. If one were in a provocative mood, one might refer to such an elite as those who want to Blame America First.

On that note, it is probably worth pointing out that Mr. Ricks is not simply a museum reviewer but one of the lead national security correspondents for the Post. It's been his job over the past year to report on people in Washington are thinking about Iraq. Keep that in mind.

UPDATE: Kevin Drum also linked to Ricks' article in the Post, but sans criticism. Yet for some undiscolsed reason, the article provoked such a vicious set of comments that Kevin had to delete the entire thread.
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Thursday, November 11, 2004

# Posted 1:20 PM by Patrick Belton  

REMEMBRANCE DAY:
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Laurence Binyon (1869 - 1943), 'For the Fallen', fourth stanza
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# Posted 6:00 AM by Patrick Belton  

TWO THUMBS UP, THOUGH, FOR GONZALES: A Texas migrant worker turned Harvard Law graduate, and a moderate on the bench - I'll be looking forward very much to seeing more of this guy.

(Even if his middle name is being treated as a state secret by the White House...)

UPDATE: Phil Carter takes a different view, and I take his point, as in my experience, Phil's usually right. Still, having been writing with great interest about California and Texas migrants since my first published piece, it does seem rather worth rejoicing that at least one person could ascend from the most isolated, dusty margins of American society to its highest corridors of power, and might then perhaps help to smooth the way for more; it's also hard to see how the attorney general-designate couldn't represent a vast improvement on his benighted predecessor.

UPDATE SQUARED: Josh Cherniss weighs in.
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Wednesday, November 10, 2004

# Posted 11:21 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

50 YEARS TOO LATE: Arafat dead.
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# Posted 11:15 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OXBLOG ON THE RADIO: In a few minutes, I'll be talking to Shaun on Subject to Discussion over at LV Rocks. If you want to tune in, just go the LV Rocks homepage and click on the "Listen Now" button in the upper left-hand corner.

If you don't want to listen to me talk, you can go to the LV Rocks homepage and click on the link for Girls of the Internet 5, also sponsored by LV Rocks.
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# Posted 11:00 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

REALITY-BASED: Kevin Drum writes that
If Democrats are going to engage in navel gazing, our gaze really ought to be directed toward the one topic we continue to avoid like the plague: becoming more credible on national security. That's where Kerry and the Dems lost the election. Like it or not — and I can almost hear the outrage brewing already in the comment section over the mere fact that I'm mentioning this — fighting terrorism is the major swing issue of the day, and perceived Democratic weakness toward terrorism is likely to remain our biggest electoral albatross for quite a while.

It's remarkable, really, that in the last week an awful lot of commenters have seemed blithely willing to recommend that Democrats appease the Christian right on things like abortion choice and gay rights, which are core issues for liberalism. At the same time, though, they're silent on the possibility of changing our tune on terrorism, which isn't. John Kerry made significant inroads when he spoke plainly about hunting down terrorists and killing them, as he did in the first debate, but he was never really willing to much further than that.

Why? Why didn't he make a bigger deal out of his plan to increase the size of the Army by 40,000 troops? Why didn't he make a bigger deal out of his desire to get tougher with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan? Why didn't he make a bigger deal about George Bush's unwillingness to confront the Arab world over their continued funding of radical madrassas?

Beats me. Those were all part of Kerry's official national security package, but you didn't hear much about them either on the campaign trail or in the debates.
Maybe that's because Kerry just didn't care about all of those things. He's a multilateralist at heart, and getting tough is the last things he knows how or wants to do.
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# Posted 10:37 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER QUAGMIRE: Two days ago, Dexter Filkins of the NYT described Fallujah as a "frightening urban battlefield" and saw little hope of swift progress. The WaPo is now reporting that Coaltion forces have basically taken over the city. Belmont Club concurs, providing its usual in-depth analysis of the situation on the ground.

Meanwhile, Dexter Filkins is still warning us about how hard it will be to make any progress in Fallujah. His description of the battle seems to be directly lifted from Stanley Kubrick's Oscar-winning film, Full Metal Jacket:
They fired 35 or so 155-millimeter artillery shells, 10 shots from the muzzles of Abrams tanks and perhaps 30,000 rounds from their automatic rifles. The building was a smoking ruin.

But the sniper kept shooting.

He - or they, because no one can count the flitting shadows in this place - kept 150 marines pinned down for the better part of a day. It was a lesson on the nature of the enemy in this hellish warren of rubble-strewn streets.
In the evasive manner of a professional, objective correspondent, Filkins suggests that Coaltion forces aren't making any progress but never says so directly. In order to convey a sense of futility, Filkins closes his report by describing how a probable sniper escaped from American forces after an epic battle:
Somehow, through a volley of gunfire, whoever it was got away.

At 5 p.m., the marines finally crossed Highway 10 and searched the smoking remains of the two buildings. At 5:30 p.m., a sniper opened up on them.
While there's nothing wrong with conveying the atmospherics of urban warfare, Filkins does owe us an explanation of how Coalition forces managed to occupy so much of the city so quickly and at relatively low cost.

Of course, exposing the negative mindset of American journalists isn't the same as demonstrating that things are going well in Iraq. In all probability, a significant number of insurgents escaped from Falluja. Meanwhile, deadly attacks continue in other cities. I just wish I could depend on the nation's paper of record to give me a somewhat better sense of what's really going on.
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# Posted 8:16 AM by Patrick Belton  

ASHCROFT, IN HIS RESIGNATION letter, has claimed victory (and credit) for defeating both crime and terrorism. Or, to let him speak in his own words, 'the objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved.'

Boy, do I feel safer already. Though admittedly, that's largely because yet another of the people capable of writing a letter of resignation marked by so little humility, or even engagement with reality, is now gone from government. (The previous, for those keeping score at home, was Blackwill, whose self-aggrandising epistle after succeeding in having his embassy in New Delhi taken away from him will stand as a classic of the prose style)
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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  

NAIVE CONSERVATIVE OPTIMISM ABOUT IRAQ?
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  

MISCELLANY COLLECTED IN A STUDY BREAK:

• 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  

DOES OXBLOG HAVE WMD? From the WaPo:
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
rentgin@hotmail.com
Computers
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
giftsoftime@hotmail.com
Engineer
California

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
Student
Michigan

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
shan.anwar@gmail.com

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.

Hossein
mahdavir@seattleu.edu
Student
Seattle
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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