Monday, December 06, 2004

# Posted 6:32 AM by Patrick Belton  

FRENCH POLICE PLACE PLASTIC EXPLOSIVES IN UNSUSPECTING PASSENGERS' LUGGAGE: Ahem, you know, guys, maybe your government's taking the whole 'subcontractor for the terrorists of the world' thing a bit far....
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# Posted 1:31 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LOW-HANGING FRUIT: Yglesias bashes The Nation.
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# Posted 1:30 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

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Sunday, December 05, 2004

# Posted 11:20 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WaPo CELEBRATES MEDIA-BASHING BLOGGER: If it sounds to good to be true, that's because it is. The blogger in question is "Hugh Upton", a 26-year old from Manhattan and and the pseudonymous author of Iraq in Pictures, hosted on blogspot. Compared to Mr. Upton, Michael Moore is an exemplar of probity and non-partisanship.

The correspondent responsible for celebrating Mr. Upton's accomplishments is Thomas Ricks, who contrasts Mr. Upton's forthright work with the disingenuous propaganda emanating from the Defense Department. Ricks reports that
The military's presentation depicts the fight for Fallujah as a liberation of a city from the insurgents. The Web log posts far more graphic wire service and other photos, and tends to point the finger of blame for civilian suffering at the military.

Judging by the reaction of several soldiers and military experts, a comparison of the two presentations shows, among other things, how the might of the U.S. military can be matched by a single blogger working part time.
To Mr. Ricks' credit, he describes the DoD presentation on Falluja both accurately and in detail. [If you don't have Power Point, you can download a free Power Point reader directly from Microsoft.] It is also to Mr. Ricks' credit that he gives some indication of Mr. Upton's style of argumentation. For example,
In the version of the Web site that was up last week, the first image on the site showed a malnourished Iraqi baby, wide-eyed and screaming in pain, under the sarcastic headline, "another grateful Iraqi civilian."
Yet for reasons unknown, Mr. Ricks avoids reporting on the more inflammatory -- as well as more representative -- aspects of Mr. Upton's website. For example, one post from November 17th is entitled "What exactly do you mean when you use the word genocide?" Apparently, what Mr. Upton means is not the wholesale slaughter of civlians a la Bosnia or Rwanda. Rather, his definition of genocide refers to the American killing of Sunni insurgents, or as Mr. Upton prefers to call them "resistors".

That's right -- insurgents, not civlians. Perhaps, perhaps I could understand if Mr. Upton described the death of Iraqi civlians as a form of genocide. Yet none of the captions under the photos in the November 17th even mentions civilians. Two of the photographs depict "resistors" while the rest depict unidentified corpses that also seem to belong to insurgents.

But let's stay focused on civlians. There are many photographs on Mr. Upton's site of suffering civlians. In numerous instances, the captions identify these civilians as the victims of American attacks. Yet none of the photographs depict the hundreds and perhaps thousands of civlians who have been killed by suicide bombings, IEDs, and other reckless attacks by the insurgents.

On occasion, Mr. Upton includes photos of Iraqis "found murdered" or killed by "unknown gunmen". There is even one photos of an Iraqi policemen "injured in attack by resistors". Injured, not killed. Because only Americans kill.

Of course, Mr. Upton is entitled to his opinions. But it is incumbent upon Mr. Ricks, a professional correspondent, to describe Mr. Upton's opinions with a certain measure of accuracy. However, this is the passage that Mr. Ricks chooses to excerpt from Mr. Upton's writing on the Iraq in Pictures website:
"This is not an antiwar site. You can visit this site and appreciate what it's doing and still support the war. . . . We need the whole story." He added that those wanting to see "the other side" of the story should "Go to Fox News, CNN, USA Today, WSJ, the Washington Post, or any of the other outlets that has these pictures and doesn't show them."
Yes, you can visit the website and still support the war. I did and I do. Yet Mr. Ricks leaves us with the very false impression that Mr. Upton's primary interest is education, rather than advocacy of his radical anti-American views.

Even though Mr. Ricks is smart enough not to express his opinion about Mr. Upton website explicitly, he clearly suggests that Mr. Upton's work is far more persuasive than that of the public relations officers at the Pentagon. After quoting one retired officer who provides lukewarm praise for his colleagues at the Pentagon, Mr. Ricks writes that
"As far as the blog site, this is information operations at its finest," said one Marine officer who has served in Iraq. "IO is about influence, and this piece tries to influence people by depicting the human cost of war."

An Army soldier who fought in the Sunni Triangle last year and maintains a blog himself agreed. "The winner has to be the blog," he said. "There's something all too visceral about seeing the pictures of the dead and wounded, on both sides, which overwhelms static displays of weaponry" in the military presentation.
With all due respect to the servicemen in question, Mr. Upton's site is not primarily concerned with "the human cost of war". Yet just in case these officers' comments weren't persuasive enough, Mr. Ricks closes out his article by citing the judgment of an "expert in Iraqi affairs" well known to those of us in the blogosphere:
Juan Cole, a University of Michigan expert on Iraqi affairs who has a blog called "Informed Comment" (http://www.juancole.com/), came to a similar but broader conclusion: "What the two presentations show us is that the U.S. military is full of brave and skilled warriors who can defeat their foes, but is still no good at counterinsurgency operations, and is wretched at winning hearts and minds."
How impressive. A left liberal professor who insists that the US military is incapable of winning hearts and minds because a 26-year old leftist in Manhattan is against the war. (Of course, Mr. Ricks doesn't tell you anything about Prof. Cole's politics. He simply describes Prof. Cole as an "expert".)

Even though it is hard to understand how Mr. Ricks could provide such a deceptive impression of Mr. Upton's a website, one may infer a certain motivation from something that Mr. Ricks wrote not long ago in the Post. In article about a new exhibit at the Smithsonian, Mr. Ricks wrote 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.
If Mr. Ricks believes that an emphasis on casualties (inflicted or sustained by our side) as the essence of "balance" and "loyal opposition", than perhaps Mr. Ricks sought to promote such balance and opposition by lavishing praise on Mr. Upton.

Perhaps Mr. Ricks decision to misrepresent Mr. Upton's website was only subconscious. According to Phil Carter, who knows more about the military than anyone else I have ever met, Mr. Ricks is "the best defense reporter out there." Be that as it may, I still think that Mr. Ricks has a lot to learn.
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# Posted 7:53 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHAT'S DUMBER THAN A 1,800 HARVARD STUDENTS? Absolutely nothing.
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# Posted 7:41 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FOR SALE: You never know what you'll find for sale on the UVA maillist. For example:
I have for sale a WW2 German K98 Mauser rifle.
Nice condition
Very collectable
$300.00 with bayonnette
So if someone buys the rifle without the bayonette, will this guy put up the bayonette for sale by itself? I think I would buy and give it to Patrick as a Chanukah present.

And now here's my favorite ad from the UVA list:
VW Jetta For Sale
97GL, auto, black, 120k
Featured: moonroof, cd changer, alloy wheel, security system, new tires and timing belt
Very clean and in good condition, sale price: 4300
So what's the big deal about that? Well, let me provide you with some context. This same ad has been running for over two months. Back when I was looking for a car, I test drove this Jetta. The price back then was $4800.

I asked the owner if there was a reason he was asking for 20% above Blue Book (which was already more than the car was worth). He said he was just charging what the market would bear. I knew back then that he was out of his mind, and dropped a hint to that effect.

In addition, the car's moonroof is broken and this guy still isn't honest enough to mention that in his ad. So, one of my favorite things about the UVA maillist is that I can get my recommended daily allowance of schadenfreude by seeing this ad run again and again.

The question is, how much further will the price drop before it gets sold? And will I test drive it again just to make sure Mr. Jetta gets the point?

Nah, that's rude.
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# Posted 3:22 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WWW.PRISON.BLOGSPOT.COM: Yeah, I know that you can get thrown in jail for anything in Iran. Still, it's just bizarre to think of us pajama-clad folks as being dangerous.
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# Posted 3:01 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ELEPHANTS BREEDING LIKE RABBITS: Republicans have more babies. Thus, it is imperative "for Democrats to return to a worldview centered around the baby-making electorate." Sounds like a Bill Clinton demographic.
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# Posted 2:49 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IT MAY BE FREE, BUT YOU CAN'T JUST TAKE IT: Someone has stolen all 2,400 copies of the most recent issue of the Yale Free Press, a student-run libertarian/conservative paper. I have a special place in my heart for the YFP, since it once skewered me as a soft-on-crime, guilt-laden liberal hack. These days, I have to pay people to write stuff like that about me.
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# Posted 2:21 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

2004 WEBLOG AWARDS: Lots of categories, lots of choices. Here are a few select endorsements from this third of OxBlog:

Best Liberal Blog: Matt Yglesias
Best Election Coverage: Real Clear Politics
Best of the Top 100: Dan Drezner
Best Blog Ranked Below 2500: The Moderate Voice.
Best Group Blog: Volokh (...although we won't hold it against you if you vote for OxBlog.)
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# Posted 2:18 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

GOOD COP, BAD COP: Phil Carter says Bernard Kerik is the right man to replace Tom Ridge. Fred Kaplan says Kerik is just another White House errand boy. They both make good points. I guess Kerik is a reasonably good choice given the political constraints on this situation.
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# Posted 2:03 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

INEFFECTIVE SELF-OBSESSESED PROTESTERS: The Economist and the WSJ Online have added their voices of protest to George Will and others (e.g. OxBlog) who are up in arms about the kneejerk liberalism of American universities.

In other words, all the usual suspects have spoken up and no one else is really interested in this issue. And why should anyone care if they don't have a personal or ideological stake in this fight?

Compared to journalists, professors inhabit a world that is far more distant from the daily life of American politics and far more impervious to change. Thus, most conservatives can spend their time more productively on other issues while liberals have no incentive to defend the professoriate.

In closing, let me just say that I cannot wait to finish my dissertation.

UPDATE: Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby has joined our little chorus.
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Saturday, December 04, 2004

# Posted 11:51 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

YOU WON'T SEE THIS IN THE NYT: Consider as a whole the four columns that appeared on the WaPo op-ed page this past Friday morning. One of them is the Henry Kissinger column mentioned below. The rest were written by columnists on the WaPo stuff.

Two of the three columns were written by staunch liberals -- EJ Dionne and David Ignatius. Both of them know how to think outside the box in a way that Dowd, Krugman and Herbert simply can't.

Dionne's column is a response to the 3rd Circuit decision that allows law schools to expel military recruiters from campus without risking their access to federal funds. Like Dionne, I fully support the open integration of homosexuals into the United States military.

Yet Dionne argues that law schools should voluntarily allow the recruiters back on campus because
Liberals especially should be worried about the growing divide between the armed forces and many parts of our society. They should acknowledge that if liberals stay out of the military, their chances of influencing the military culture are reduced to close to zero...

The best way to change the military and to create greater fairness in sharing the burdens of defending our country is to embrace the call to service, not reject it. By opening their doors to recruiters, our universities can strengthen our democracy.
I agree.

Ignatius' column consists of a description rather than argument, yet is also demonstrates an impressive ability to transcend the conventional wisdom of the liberal left. The subject of Ignatius' column is the tremendous but unheralded success of our military logistics officers in Iraq, who have kept our frontline soliders in the field in spite of constant attacks on our supply chain.

Finally, there is this column by Charles Krauthammer. Unsurprisingly, it contains the expected measure of Europe-bashing that one might expect from certain neo-conservatives (although not necessarily Robert Kagan). Yet Krauthammer also asks that we "all join hands in praise of the young people braving the cold in the streets of Kiev."

That sort of identification with a popular revolts is not your everday brand of conservatism. Now that David Brooks has replaced William Safire as the voice of the right at the NYT, Krauthammer may not be alone. The question is, when will Bill Keller decide that the liberal dinosaurs on his staff should go the way of their conservative colleague?
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# Posted 11:25 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A WEIRD DAY FOR OXBLOG: First, we decided to praise Henry Kissinger. Now we're going to say some nice things about George Will. It's as if OxBlog decided to betray everything it ever stood.

Anyhow, Will does have a good column up about the unmitigated liberalism of the American professoriate. In his column, Will reports on some interesting findings
about professors registered with the two major parties or with liberal or conservative minor parties:

Cornell: 166 liberals, 6 conservatives.
Stanford: 151 liberals, 17 conservatives.
Colorado: 116 liberals, 5 conservatives.
UCLA: 141 liberals, 9 conservatives.

The nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics reports that in 2004, of the top five institutions in terms of employee per capita contributions to presidential candidates, the third, fourth and fifth were Time Warner, Goldman Sachs and Microsoft. The top two were the University of California system and Harvard, both of which gave about 19 times more money to John Kerry than to George W. Bush.
In the second half of his column, Will goes a bit too far when he argues that the death of intellectual diversity on America's campuses is the product of liberal professors' overt antagonism toward anything conservative.

Will's argument draws heavily on a recent article by Mark Bauerlein in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Even though I have no reason to dispute any of the anecdotes that Bauerlein recounts, I think that he ignores the degree to which the conservatives' departure from the ivory tower is an elective response to the unpleasantness of being in such a rigid intellectual environment.

I think that Bauerlein should also pay more attention to an important phenomenon that provides evidence to support his main argument, namely conservatives' voluntary suppression of their own dissent in what they perceive to be a hostile environment.

For example, I once had a colleague to whom I suggested publishing an article in the Weekly Standard. He immediately responded that doing so was unthinkable because it would severely damage his prospects for professional advancement.

At first, I was somewhat dismayed by his decision not to speak out as a matter of principle. Yet because I have no interest in becoming a tenured professor and no family to support, I put nothing on the line when I publish in the Standard.

More importantly, my colleague's patient discipline will ensure that there is one more moderate voice that may play some role in restoring a sense of balance to America's campuses. As the leftists of the last generation might have said, it is wiser to embark on a "long march through the institutions" instead of simply turning one's back on them.
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# Posted 5:10 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHOUDA THUNKIT? This may be this first time that OxBlog has had anything good to say about Henry Kissinger. It may also be the last.

Regardless, I'd recommend taking a minute or two out of your day to read old Henry's essay on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in yesterday's WaPo. [No permalink -- due to copyright issues it is only available in the print edition.]

The one point on which I'd take issue with Kissinger is exactly the one you might expect: democracy in the PA. To be fair, Kissinger is actually quite good on this point. His essays speaks out forcefully against corruption and lawlessness while recognizing that transparent institutions (his words, not mine) are critical to the success of a viable (and peaceful) Palestinian state.

The lesser point on which I disagree with Dr. Kissinger is his suggestion that Israel
Must not insist on postponing the beginning of the peace process until democratization on the West Bank is complete. But it has every right to demand the acceptance of genuine coexistence and the disavowal of terrorism before it agrees to move tens of thousands of its settlers from the West Bank.
First of all, I don't believe that Israel has made such a demand. More importantly, as the situation in Iraq illustrates, democratic reforms may actually be considerably easier to achieve than a disavowal of terrorism. Whereas disavowing terrorism represents an outright concession to the Israelis in the West Bank and the Americans in Iraq, democracy is something of a win-win proposition.

Speaking more broadly, Kissinger seems to be making the same conceptual error that damaged John Kerry's proposals for Iraq, i.e. the proposition that stability can be achieved without democratization. This proposition, of course, is an extension of the classic Realist doctrine that the relationship between foreign policy and regime type is tenuous at best.

Yet as Bob Kagan has argued quite persuasively (with OxBlog's hearty endorsement), democratization is the most plausible road to achieving stability, even if its accomplishments so far are less than impressive. Kagan's column was about Iraq, but I think the same lesson applies to the PA.

Since Arafat's legitimacy rested on reputation as anti-Israeli figher, he could not make peace without risking his leadership of the Palestinian movement. In contrast, a Palestinian leader with a popular mandate can make peace without sacrificing his own ambitions.

Naturally, the inherent risk in the election process in the PA is that it may result in the election of a President (e.g. Marwan Barghouti) who refuses to disavow anti-Israeli terrorism. Yet the election of a figure such as Barghouti would at least force the Palestinians to take responsibility for their decisions. After five more years of war, they may well vote for a pro-peace candidate.

Five years is a long time to wait, but what is it compared to the last decade of chaos under Arafat? Throughout that time, Palestinians could blame Israel both for the persistence of conflict as well as the failure of internal reform within the PA.

Barghouti might even turn out to be something of as Sharon -- elected on a hard-line platform only to recognize its futility and then initiate the pursuit of peace. Or perhaps that is only pipe-dream. Even so, the bottom line is that the peace process cannot move forward until Palestinians take joint respoinsibility for its outcome.

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Friday, December 03, 2004

# Posted 2:18 PM by Patrick Belton  

SMOKING CRACK: A HOW-TO GUIDE FOR TEENS, and other new Microsoft-hosted blogs.
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# Posted 8:43 AM by Patrick Belton  

A FATEFUL YEAR FOR UKRAINE: We're grateful to have a piece today on the Ukrainian elections from the Carnegie Endowment's Anders Åslund, who directs Carnegie's Russia and Eurasia programme. Dr. Åslund, a former Swedish diplomat who has advised the Ukrainian government on economic matters, writes this to us from Kiev.
“I am looking at the next year with fear. Everybody agrees that the [October 2004 presidential] elections will be the scariest and dirtiest ever,” said Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma recently, and he should know, because he is widely perceived as the main threat to democracy in the country.

These elections are truly fateful. They can bring about a definitive democratic breakthrough or lead to its collapse. Ukraine’s geopolitical orientation is also up for grabs.

The latest opinion poll gave Kuchma 6 percent support to compare with 29 percent for Viktor Yushchenko, the leader of the democratic opposition and a respected former Prime Minister and Chairman of the Central Bank. Even so, Kuchma appears to be considering running for a third term. The current Constitution does not permit that, but, since Kuchma controls the Constitutional Court, he is likely to overturn that provision.

At the same time, Kuchma is trying to swiftly amend the constitution by hook and crook to reduce the presidential powers, showing that he is truly worried that Yushchenko may win.

Behind Kuchma stands a few big business clans, or oligarchs, who dominate government, parliament, media and security services. Their concern is that a new regime will undertake a redistribution of the considerable property they have amassed and prosecute them for crimes committed. The Ukrainian communists are marginalized but still form a third force.

The outcome of this struggle is no foregone conclusion. The prospects for democracy appear much more promising in Ukraine than in Russia. Power has not been consolidated in the security services, and competition prevails among the leading business groups. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian democratic opposition is much stronger and better organized than in Russia, primarily in Our Ukraine, a moderate center-right bloc.

Unlike Russians, Ukrainians are neither passive nor resigned. In the March 2002 parliamentary elections 70 percent of the voters participated, and 70 percent voted for parties opposing President Kuchma. Even so, the elections resulted in a hung parliament because half the seats are allocated in one-man constituencies, often purchased by rich businessmen. The joke is that two-thirds of the Ukrainian parliamentarians are millionaires, and that is probably not far from the truth.

Accidentally, the Ukrainian elections are scheduled for October 31, just two days prior to the US presidential elections. If anything goes awry in the Ukrainian elections, it will haunt the US administration. As heavy Russian interference is expected, Ukraine is set to be a major bone of contention between the US and Russia in 2004.

The US and Russia are bound to disagree upon most things in Ukraine. Russia will support Kuchma or whatever candidate he puts up, while the US will favor Yushchenko. While the US advocates democracy, the Russian leadership prefers a more authoritarian regime.

Aggressive nationalism is reasserting itself in Russia. Many nationalists entering the new Russian Duma do not conceal their contempt for Ukrainian independence. They advocate Ukraine’s union with Russia, ultimately eliminating Ukrainian sovereignty. The Russian government offers Ukraine with a “Common Economic Space” with Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan in place of the World Trade Organization. The democratic opposition, by contrast, favors closer ties with the West, including Ukraine’s entry into NATO and the European Union.

With the roaring revival of the Russian economy, Russian corporations are swiftly expanding abroad, notably in Ukraine. The most contentious Russian economic interests involve energy, notably the ownership of pipelines and power utilities in Ukraine.

The US has a big presence in Ukraine, and it can play a major role. The Ukrainian opposition’s desire is to have election observers at all of Ukraine’s 33,000 polling stations. The Ukrainian diaspora in North America could mobilize that many volunteers, needing only the seal of approval from the Organization of Cooperation and Security in Europe (OSCE).

The opposition also hopes for more media support. Radio Liberty/Radio Free Europe and Voice of America are as important as in the past. They need more, not less, resources. The opposition’s dream is a daily election newspaper. Foreign financing of such an undertaking is both legal and desirable.

Semi-democratic Ukraine can turn truly democratic or authoritarian, and the US can influence its fate. President George W. Bush will be either praised or blamed for the fortune of Ukraine, and rightly so.

The writer is Director of the Russian and Eurasian Program at the Carnegie for International Peace. He served as an economic advisor to the Ukrainian government from 1994 to 1997.
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Thursday, December 02, 2004

# Posted 9:24 AM by Patrick Belton  

OXBLOG AT THE MOVIES: Oh dear. Oliver Stone, having already botched the story of Alexander, is now planning to do the same for Baroness Thatcher. This seems like precisely the sort of thing that a peerage might in earlier times have protected against.

If you want a better Colin Farrell flick than Alexander (and you should, if for no other reason than I'm biased by sharing a birthweek as well as a genome with the boy from Castleknock...), go rent Intermission, possibly the best Irish film to come out in recent years, and one which riffs playfully on a number of stereotypes (lovable roguish thieves/coppers with a Celtic heart, &c) while ultimately stepping past them to knit together a rather nice love story out of a credible pastiche of characters. Second OxBlog movie recommendation: it got panned by reviewers who rather prize, say, Polanski's loving paeans in Chinatown to the camera shots in the Maltese Falcon, but if your tastes run a bit more toward continental philosophers and eccentric humour (and you are reading this blog...), then you might give I Heart Huckabees a try, which I found, in spite of its reviews, the sleeper surprise of the season.

We're happy to accept any reviewer perks the cinema houses would like to dish out on us, by the way. As long as it doesn't involve needing to go see Bridget Jones.
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# Posted 6:26 AM by Patrick Belton  

HEAR, HEAR: Thus Peter Beinart on the need for a liberalism which is as forceful an advocate of freedom and human dignity abroad as it is at home:
In sharp contrast to the first years of the cold war, post-September 11 liberalism has produced leaders and institutions--most notably Michael Moore and MoveOn--that do not put the struggle against America's new totalitarian foe at the center of their hopes for a better world. As a result, the Democratic Party boasts a fairly hawkish foreign policy establishment and a cadre of politicians and strategists eager to look tough. But, below this small elite sits a Wallacite grassroots that views America's new struggle as a distraction, if not a mirage. Two elections, and two defeats, into the September 11 era, American liberalism still has not had its meeting at the Willard Hotel. And the hour is getting late.
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# Posted 5:28 AM by Patrick Belton  

DICTIONARY COMPANY MERRIAM WEBSTER names 'blog' its word of the year. BBC helpfully points out that 'the number of people reading even the most influential blogs is tiny. Statistics by web influence ranking firm HitWise reveal that the most popular political blog racks up only 0.0051% of all net visits per day.' Oddly, though, that would make the BBC only more irrelevant, since its most read story garnered only 234,000 page views yesterday - almost exactly the number of page views Instapundit had.
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# Posted 1:45 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NEWS IS STYLE AND STYLE IS NEWS: One of the things I can't figure out about the WaPo is why most of its commentary on the media appears in the Style section. That's usually where Howard Kurtz's column shows up, not to mention this extraordinary inside account of a White House press conference.

When I say 'extraordinary', I don't necessarily mean it in a complimentary manner. Presumably without the intention of doing so, Mike Allen's essay demonstrates how transparent the fiction of journalistic objectivity really is.

In rhetorical terms, a George Bush press conference is a particularly vicious sort of trench warfare. Allen makes it very clear that the raison d'etre of the White House press corps is to trick, trap and otherwise embarrass the President, while the President's objective to say as little as possible about what he believes or how he is running the country.

In spite of most journalists' preference for nuance, Allen describes the ordeal of the press conference with a significant degree of moral clarity. He writes that

These sessions are a contest between Bush's desire to repeat his previously articulated views ("sticking a tape in the VCR," as one frequent Bush questioner puts it), and the reporters' quest to elicit something that will contribute to democracy, not to mention getting them on television or the front page.
How generous of Allen to admit that personal ambition sometimes influences journalists' behavior. Otherwise we would assume that journalists' only desire to defend our freedom from the depredations of the President.

Not surprisingly, Allen never considers the possibility that Bush is so maddeningly evasive precisely because he knows that journalists want nothing more than to put his misstatements on the next morning's front page.

Now, I'll be the first to admit that Bush is not just a poor speaker, but one whose unscripted performances are often disturbing to watch even when one agrees with what the President is saying. But since Bush can't magically transform himself into Cicero or Pericles, the logical thing for him to do is to avoid confrontations with hostile audiences.

It is also quite interesting to note what Allen and other journalists consider to be the best, i.e. most embarrassing questions that the President has been asked. The first question is
Do you believe that Ariel Sharon is a man of peace, and are you satisfied with his and his government's assurances that there was no massacre in Jenin?
Bush responded that "I do believe Ariel Sharon is a man of peace." Other memorable questions include
Whether Muslims worship the same Almighty as Christians. (Bush said they did, prompting a stir among some evangelicals.)
Finally, there is this:
In April, [John] Dickerson [of Time] asked one of the most famous questions of Bush's presidency: "In the last campaign, you were asked a question about the biggest mistake you'd made in your life, and you used to like to joke that it was trading Sammy Sosa. You've looked back before 9/11 for what mistakes might have been made. After 9/11, what would your biggest mistake be, would you say, and what lessons have you learned from it?"

Bush did not have a tape ready to stick into his VCR and he struggled to improvise. "I wish you would have given me this written question ahead of time, so I could plan for it," Bush said. He went on to say he could not think of a mistake he had made, providing months of fodder for his critics.
Again, I'll be the first to admit that Bush did a terrible job of answering this question. But think of what he was being asked to do -- he was being asked to provide the Democrats with admissions of fault that they could throw back in his face for the rest of the campaign.

Even though this post has entailed a defense of the President from Mike Allen's misleading accusations, I don't want to leave the impression that I am satisfied with the way that this administration treats either the press or the voting public.

Right now, neither side wants to give an inch lest it be taken advantage of. Yet the only way to raise the level of public debate is for the President to be more candid and for the press to challenge him on substantive matters, rather than forcing him to walk through a rhetorical minefield.

How, you might ask, can we build up the sort of trust necessary to reach this more civilized state of affairs? Frankly, I have no idea. But we certainly won't get there by pretending that either the President or the media is entirely responsible for the current stalemate.

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# Posted 1:38 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

EVEN ESPECIALLY THE LIBERAL NEW REPUBLIC loves to skewer other liberals' pretentious hypocrisy. (And Tom Ridge.)
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Wednesday, December 01, 2004

# Posted 2:43 PM by Patrick Belton  

OXBLOG FAVOURITE Timothy Garton Ash writes in the Guardian about how the West must come to the help of Ukrainian democrats in the latest of Eastern Europe's Velvet revolutions. He knows whereof he writes.
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# Posted 1:31 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THIS IS A RESPONSE from Prof. Colleen Shogan to a recent post on OxBlog. The response has not been edited.
I’m grateful for the opportunity to respond to Mr. Adesnik’s critique of my working paper on anti-intellectualism and Republican presidents. While I do not question Mr. Adesnik’s right to criticize my paper, I believe his characterizations of my research and my own integrity as a scholar are severely misconstrued.

First, Mr. Adesnik selected quotations from my paper completely out of context. Several readers of Oxblog actually went to the Miller Center website, read the entire paper, and contacted me to dispute Mr. Adesnik’s depiction. For example, Mr. Adesnik implies that I disparage Reagan for his anti-intellectualism. This is simply incorrect. In fact, I argue that Reagan’s firm ideological beliefs provided him with the political skills needed to succeed in the presidency. In the paper, I discuss an anecdote provided to me, courtesy of interviews I conducted with Ed Meese and Martin Anderson, about Reagan’s desire to keep his intellectual pursuits hidden from the public’s eye. Reagan understood the political value of anti-intellectualism. In my mind, that doesn’t make Reagan a naïve simpleton; on the contrary, it makes him a sophisticated, savvy politician. The same can be said for George W. Bush, who I argue is the most skilled operator of anti-intellectualism. Bush’s anti-intellectualism allows him to rebuff political opposition and disarm his opponents—a very shrewd tactic in today’s polarized Beltway climate.

Mr. Adesnik’s commentary neglects the driving force of my thesis: anti-intellectualism is an effective political strategy because it enables presidents to demonstrate forceful independence. In my paper, the section on Bush makes this point very clear. Bush’s ability to demonstrate this forceful independence generates an aura of confidence surrounding his leadership that is difficult, if not impossible, to neutralize. As my dissertation adviser Stephen Skowronek wrote in The Politics Presidents Make, the presidency is an “order-shattering” institution which thrives on independent leadership. It is my contention that Bush uses anti-intellectualism as one resource for demonstrating that charged independence. This is the crux of my paper, yet Mr. Adesnik never mentions it. This is what presidential scholars are interested in—how political strategies affect the essence of executive power and the institution of the presidency itself.

This is not to say that my paper is perfect. It is a work in progress. In my opening remarks at the Miller Center, I explained that while I was reasonably satisfied with the case studies (Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan, Bush) in the paper, I needed to work on the causal explanations of Republican anti-intellectualism. The most instructive comments in this regard were not provided to me by Mr. Adesnik, who seemed overly concerned with my supposed liberal bias, but from Professor Brian Balogh, who co-directs the Miller Center American Political Development project. Professor Balogh observed that I need to pay attention to how intellectuals have changed since World War II. Whereas Richard Hofstadter used to write history books for the masses, now our most prominent scholars are not widely read. A gap between the academy and the public has grown, which may also explain the rise in popularity of anti-intellectual appeals.

Lastly, I want to address Mr. Adesnik’s characterization of my own political beliefs and their alleged effect on my scholarship. For me, this is the most distressing part of Mr. Adesnik’s public remarks. Although he had never met me, Mr. Adesnik assumed that I was part of some left-wing academic conspiracy that aims to discredit all Republicans as stupid morons. This is perhaps the best example of an academic bias and arrogance—the willingness to assign a label to someone without any corroborating evidence.

After Mr. Adesnik accused me at the Miller Center forum of a liberal bias, two individuals in the room, Professor Sid Milkis (co-director of the American Political Development project) and Russell Riley (Project Leader of the Presidential Oral History Project at the Miller Center) both vouched publicly that Mr. Adesnik’s comments about my scholarly integrity were inaccurate and misplaced. In particular, Mr. Riley assured Mr. Adesnik that he would have never selected me to conduct interviews with former White House staffers (both Republicans and Democrats) for the Presidential Oral History Project if he detected any hint of a political bias that impeded my work. Quite conveniently, Mr. Adesnik did not include the remarks of Mr. Riley and Professor Milkis in his Oxblog entry. Apparently, Mr. Adesnik felt he knew more about my intellectual motivations than two senior scholars I have worked with for most of my professional career. Clearly, I am not the one who suffers from intellectual arrogance.

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# Posted 3:29 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ANOTHER OXBLOG? While browsing the comments section over at MY's website, I happened to come across the opinion of a certain Chris Brooke. It's a fairly generic name, but it caught my eye because my academic adviser at Oxford (not to be confused with my dissertation adviser) is none other than Dr. Christopher Brooke.

And so it turns out that Dr. Brooke has a blog. Since Dr. Brooke's archives extend all the way back to May of 2001, one might even say that his was the original OxBlog. Then again, who knows what other Ox-blog I may discover if I continue to explore the blogosphere?

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# Posted 3:09 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

EVIL AMERICANS CONSPIRE TO PROMOTE DEMOCRACY: Bob McGrew points to this bizarre column in The Guardian that attributes unrest in the Ukraine to an American master plan.

Dan Drezner has lots more on this subject. I agree with him that the US has played an important role in building up Ukrainian, Georgian and Serbian opposition movements, but that America has played the role of facilitator rather than puppet master. If the peoples of Eastern Europe didn't actually want democracy, there is no way America could get them to pour into the streets to protest on democracy's behalf.

Matt Yglesias adds the valid point that one fair election doth not a democracy make. But then he makes the rather strange point that
Realpolitik plays a large role in explaining the level of Western interest in and commit[ment] to reform in Ukraine...[because] democracy-promotion and mild nationalism have proven to be an effective tool for advancing American and Western European interests [in Eastern Europe] over the past 25 years
I can only imagine what Matt would have said if George Bush had decided to pander to his good friend Vladimir Putin by ignoring Ukraine instead of supporting its democratic opposition. It seems to me that the application of realist principles to Ukraine would result in a policy of doing as little as possible to offend Russia, our supposedly valuable great power ally in the War on Terror.

Which is not to say that supporting democracy in the Ukraine damages our national interest. Rather, there are many different conceptions of the national interest, each of which entails a different set of policy initiatives. A Wilsonian idealist sees democracy promotion as the foundation of national security. A Kissingerian realist would disagree.

As I have so often found in my research on democracy promotion during the Cold War, the critical question for the United States is not whether there is a conflict between democracy promotion and the national interest, but whether we define the national interest in a way that is conducive to democracy promotion.

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Tuesday, November 30, 2004

# Posted 8:53 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OH, HOW THE MIGHTY HAVE FALLEN: After winning seventy-four consecutive matches and more than $2.5 million, Ken Jennings met his match on Jeopardy!

If you are also a Ken Jennings fan, or simply in awe of how much he knows about almost everything, you can catch an interview with the man himself tonight on Letterman. At the exact same time on ABC, Nightline will be devoting an entire show to Jeopardy!

Finally, it's time for a shout out to my good friend PF, who won $5,000 in the Jeopardy! Teen Tournament. But that was a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away when PF still had a full head of hair.
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# Posted 5:19 AM by Patrick Belton  

DUBLIN LITERARY LANDMARK Bewley's cafe, a haunt of students, shoppers, and pen-wielders since Joyce, to close its doors for the last time this evening in the face of the smoking ban, soaring Dublin rents, and competition from Starbucks.
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Monday, November 29, 2004

# Posted 2:42 PM by Patrick Belton  

HARVARD SUCKS: The photographic evidence.

(Note: this doesn't indicate in any way that I wouldn't accept a lectureship at the Kennedy School, however.)
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# Posted 1:45 PM by Patrick Belton  

TRUMAN DEMOCRATS ON DEMOCRACY IN THE UKRAINE: Our friend, and sometime classmate, Matt Spence has an op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Times on democracy promotion and the Ukrainian elections. Not only is Matt a grand person and a Truman Democrat besides, but he happens to have just completed a dissertation here at Oxford on democracy assistance programmes and the Ukraine. So go read.

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Sunday, November 28, 2004

# Posted 1:02 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A TRAGIC MURDER: There is a sobering report in the WaPo on the death of Iman Hams, a 13 year old Palestinian girl shot for no apparent reason by Israeli soldiers. An initial investigation by the Israeli military reported no wrongdoing, but the independent work of print and broadcast journalists forced the military to re-open the investigation and take responsibility for what was, in essence, a murder.

On the WaPo homepage, the headline for this story reads "A Chilling Death in Gaza". Underneath it is a sub-headline that reads: "Israeli army concedes failure in the shooting of a young girl."

Of course, when Hamas and Al Aqsa murder Israeli children, they describe it as a tremendous success.
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# Posted 6:40 AM by Patrick Belton  

1234567 WATCH: Our warm congratulations to Kevin Brogle, who was our 1234567th reader, and wins something English and Christmas-related. (Kevin: 'I would just like to thank all three of you for the fine work you are doing. It is always thought provoking. Except, maybe, discussions on psychadelic purple shirts.') Also, Jack Brounstein wins the runner-up prize (presumably something Cornish or Manx and Christmas-related).
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Saturday, November 27, 2004

# Posted 8:00 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

YGLESIAS FLIP-FLOPS ON TEEN LUST: Methinks that Yglesias' earlier position on the subject represents a defense of his aspirations rather than his practices. Meanwhile, Prof. Drezner indulges in a bit of brilliantly ribald satire.
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# Posted 7:50 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE DeLAY DELAY: Time for him to move on, no? David Brooks says the majority leader is vulnerable. Tom Friedman is apoplectic.
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# Posted 7:39 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

STILL INTERESTED IN VENEZUELA? It's not front-page news, but the Bush administration's unprincipled decision to endorse a military coup in April of 2002 is one of the most important indications that the President isn't 100% committed to democracy promotion.

Two years ago, the administration denied that it had any advance warning of the coup. Turns out, that simply wasn't true. (Hat tip: KD)
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# Posted 7:31 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DON'T THINK OF AN ELEPHANT! Kevin Drum reviews George Lakoff's surprise bestseller. Go read the interview, even if there's no reason to buy the book.
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# Posted 7:06 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HOPE IN UKRAINE? In the short term, the most effective (although immoral) response to a massive, peaceful protest is extreme violence. The longer such a protest remains peaceful, the less reversible it becomes. Thus, I am hopeful about the prospects for democracy in Ukraine.

Reuters reports that the Ukrainian parliament has issued a non-binding resolution declaring the election to be invalid. In other news, negotiations between the government and opposition have begun. Opposition leader Viktor Yuschenko has declared that
"We will only hold talks on staging a new vote," Yushchenko declared after the talks to supporters in Independence Square. "If there is no decision within one or two days, it means Yanukovych cannot hear you."
I also consider the following detail to be quite interesting:
Yushchenko appeared to be drawing support from some members of key organs of government in the capital -- the security services, the prosecutor's office, state television journalists and government workers.

In a symbolic but potent example of that shift, cadets from the country's Interior Ministry academy marched in uniform Friday morning to a spot where riot police were protecting the offices of the president. The cadets called on the riot police to cross over and join them. None did.
Without firm control of the security forces, violence may not be a viable option for the government.

On the international front, there is also good news. Vaclav Havel has forcefully stated that democracy is non-negotiable. Lech Walesa has also lent support to the opposition.

The WaPo has characterized President Bush's first direct response to the crisis as dangerously ambivalent. According to correspondent Mike Allen,
Bush's comments appeared to allow for the possibility that the Moscow-backed candidate's victory will stand, despite charges of fraud, and that the administration will have to work with him instead of his Western-leaning opponent.
What Bush said was that
There's just a lot of allegations of vote fraud that placed their election -- the validity of their elections in doubt. The international community is watching very carefully. People are paying very close attention to this, and hopefully it will be resolved in a way that brings credit and confidence to the Ukrainian government.
Even though Allen is correct to point out that the President's comments were less forthright than those of the Secretary of State, it seems strange to suggest that the President indicated any tolerance for fraud. In contrast, NY Times correspondent CJ Chivers portrays the President's remarks as fully consistent with other strong statements issued by the United States government.

For the latest updates and in-depth commentary on the situation in the Ukraine, head over to the ever-informative website of the incomparable Dan Drezner.
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# Posted 3:34 PM by Patrick Belton  

THE CHANTICLEER ENSEMBLE, who together with Britain's Tallis Scholars are one of the world's few truly great a capella ensembles, will in the coming weeks be performing in North Carolina, Virginia, New York City, Chicago, and then through a Californian December in San Francisco, Berkeley, Stanford, and Los Angeles. Do go see them if you can - their tour details are here.
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# Posted 9:34 AM by Patrick Belton  

ANOTHER OXBLOG CONTEST: If you happen to be our 1234567th reader, send us a screenshot and we'll send you something Christmas-related from blighty.
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# Posted 9:14 AM by Patrick Belton  

DEFENDING MY FASHION SENSE: Oh dear. Lest any of our readers be disconcerted by the thought that OxBloggers sit around wearing psychadelic purple pyjamas, the shirt I was wearing at Thanksgiving actually looks a bit more like this before image-reduction algorithms got to it.

And as far as David's question about the noble bird, I'm happy to note that my fellow Bulldog Oxonian Rachel and I have apparently moved into second place in the yahoo search results for 'the more similar education the more successful marriage.' (The first went to Andrew Sullivan, who with the present regrettable state of the law probably doesn't quite count as competition for present purposes.)
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Friday, November 26, 2004

# Posted 6:05 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

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# Posted 5:54 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SPEAKS FOR ITSELF: What follows is the text of the "Petition to Protest the advertising of OUEAS's [Oxford University European Affairs Soceity's] "Ottoman Ball": Questioning the Ethics of Representation"
The Oxford University European Affairs Society's "Ottoman Ball" is only a few days away, and has been widely advertised through posters and email announcements across the university. The event has been billed as a showcase of "the once glorious Ottoman Empire," and aims to "reflect the best of this culture, and the role of modern Turkey as a bridge between European thought and Islamic art, music and philosophy".

However, instead of promoting respectfully and representing fully the breadth of the Ottoman Empire or of the cultures and societies associated with it, the OUEAS's posters depict a debaucherous harem scene, with numerous nude women lounging around, dancing, and playing music - an image that recapitulates the best of European stereotypes of its created 'Orient.' In fact, the image is not far from the cover painting on Edward Said's renowned book, "Orientalism," which critiques this very construction of the Near East in the European imagination.

Not only are the image and the advertising of the ball in general offensive to many of Turkish, Arab, and Persian backgrounds, and to other historically -aware and culturally-sensitive students, but they are arguably just plainly inaccurate. It is very difficult to see how such stereotypical depictions reflect "the best of" the region's multiple and complex histories, philosophies and cultures, and it is reductionistic of the OUEAS to suggest that they do.

An additional and entirely separate concern is the representation of womenin the publicity campaign. It is indisputable that the institution of theharem epitomizes the objectification of women and their use as objects ofsexual pleasure. The historical accuracy of the harem as it is portrayed here is very much a contested issue, and to use a harem scene to publicize a ball purporting to "reflect the best of" a culture, is problematic at best; it serves to glorify this representation of blatant sexual exploitation. Alternatively, if the organization claims to be against such derogatory depiction of women, the use of these images in their publicity campaign is hypocritical.

We seek to voice our disagreement with the OUEAS's posters and blurbs and ask for an apology for its insensitive and inaccurate advertising. Now in particular, at a time when many are seeking to forge genuine bridges between societies and cultures that have been long linked, such unquestioned reinforcement of stereotypes does little to further coexistence and cooperation; there needs to be a deeper and more accurate ethic of representation.
The official host of the OUEAS Ball is the Turkish Ambassador to the United Kingdom. Please note that interested parties can sign the petition online. If you follow the link in the upper left hand corner of the signature page, you can purchase a lovely ottoman for only $129.99 (shipping included).
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# Posted 1:42 PM by Patrick Belton  

THIS JUST IN, VIA MODERATE VOICE: Bush kills turkey, pardons Tom DeLay.
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# Posted 6:41 AM by Patrick Belton  


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Thursday, November 25, 2004

# Posted 10:42 AM by Patrick Belton  

LARGESSE, A GREATNESS OF ATTITUDE: A North Indian princess having died has left half of her fortune to a pair of peanut sellers. Her brother is furious; the remaining half of the princess of Bilaspur's property will be used to open an old people's home.
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# Posted 6:47 AM by Patrick Belton  

Social scientists, who are always to be trusted, say that persons exhibiting senses of wonder and gratitude lead much happier lives. So, on Thanksgiving, we invite all of our readers to think about things they're grateful for.

We'll start.

This Thanksgiving, we're thankful that Irish girls are only the second most obese of any nation in the world, and not in first place at all.

We're thankful that the current American administration has only succeeded in driving most, and not its entire, clandestine service into early retirement through arrogance, unpardonable condescension, and in general not behaving in a very well-brought up way toward them. You can do a lot with our remaining four spies. Witness the Cambridge spy ring, for instance.

I'm also grateful that former Ambassador, and now former deputy National Security Advisor, Robert Blackwill, by shoving and manhandling a female State Department employee in the course of a temper tantrum over a missed flight and thereby getting himself fired from the Bush administration a second time, has helped us to remember to go gently with and always give second chances to criminals, and realise not to blame the child, but the environment in which the child is brought up.

I'm grateful that I have an ex-girlfriend from Los Angeles who reminds me to only call Thanksgiving 'Thankstaking,' or else I wouldn't be very welcome in the proper sets in Westwood.

I'm grateful that I really do have the most wonderful wife, co-editors, family, friends, and set of readers anyone could ever imagine hoping for. I'm also grateful that my long-suffering thesis supervisor puts up with me, for which he is entitled to great reward in any and all afterlives that exist.

A very warm and happy Thanksgiving to all of our readers and friends.
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# Posted 1:29 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE LANCET RECONSIDERED: A study published in The Lancet suggested that the United States was responsible for 100,000 deaths in Iraq, the greatest number of which were attributable to American bombing raids. After Fred Kaplan published a forceful refutation of the study in Slate, I sensed that the debate was over.

But I was wrong. The liberal websites I visit may have stopped talking about the subject, but apparently my sample of such websites wasn't representative. At the moment, I'm in the middle of a long critique of Kaplan's essay by Daniel Davies of Crooked Timber. Expect more to come...
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Wednesday, November 24, 2004

# Posted 10:49 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LAMBERT 1, OXBLOG 0 (WaPo -1): In an update to his update, Tim Lambert mischievously writes that he didn't have to rely on Google or Lexis to find the truth. He just went to the IAIS hompage, which now has an update advertising the WaPo article that covered its malnutrition study.

So much for my speculation that the WaPo had confused the new study by IAIS with a May 2003 study by UNICEF. Unfortunately, the IAIS update gives us only the most rudimentary information about its study. The update instructs the curious reader to visit this page on its site, which has been available for quite a while now and contains no new information about the study's results.

One should also note that according IAIS, the malnutrition rate for Iraqi children is 7.5% and not 7.7%, as reported in the WaPo. Presumably, those numbers are indistiguishable from a statistical perspective. I have to admit, the 7.7% figure from the WaPo made me somewhat suspicious, since it was exactly the same as the final number provided by UNICEF last year.

IAIS also writes that a 7.7% malnutrition rate translates into 216,000 Iraqi children with the condition, presumably a correction of the 400,000 figure provided by the Post. Frankly, all this presumption is rather frustrating. It would be nice if IAIS were more straightforward abot all of this.

Moving on from facts to logic, Tim is still unhappy with my explanation for why the invasion was not the probable cause of rising malnutrition in Iraq. He writes that:
I didn’t offer “just speculation”, but quoted the conclusion of the study, which found that “Seven out of 10 children reported had suffered from diarrhoea at some time during the previous 5 weeks.” Adesnik can doubt that the children got sick, but the doctors who examined them seem to think otherwise.
That last comment makes me sound like some sort of ostrich-headed Luddite, but Tim is missing the point. The question isn't whether a certain child had some diarrhoea during the invasion, but whether that child started to have diarrhoea (or whether the condition intensified) during that five week period.

I should also point out that diarrhoea is not the same as acute malnutrition, which has been the focus of our survey. As Tim notes, 70% of Iraqi children had diarrhoea. In contast, only 7.7% percent suffered from acute malnutrition. In order to show that the invasion was the primary cause of rising malnutrition, one has to show that the preponderance of the children's severe weight loss took place during the six weeks of major combat operations, rather than the preceding year or so.

Tim is a long way from proving that that is the case, but my argument rests on speculation as well, i.e. the belief that it would take more than six weeks for 100,000 children to develop acute malnutrition. (I said 200,000 in my last post, but I'm assuming that the updated IAIS figure is more accurate than the original figure from the WaPo.)

On a brighter note for OxBlog, Tim doesn't seem to challenge my assertion that the similar results of the UNICEF and IAIS studies demonstrate that the malnutrition rate has been essentially stable since the beginning of the occupation. Thus, the WaPo was still very wrong to report that malnutrition "shot up...this year".

Final score: Lambert 1, OxBlog 0, WaPo -1 (although I'm considering deducting a point from Tim's score because of his assertion that "it doesn’t seem likely that Saddam could get Unicef to cook their numbers". Saddam bribed high-ranking officials at the United Nations. In return, they allowed Saddam to steal billions and billions of dollars even though the Security Council considered him a threat to international security. Why assume that UNICEF -- a UN agency -- was any less receptive to Saddam's tempting offers?)

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# Posted 7:39 PM by Patrick Belton  

THROUGH A GLASS, DARKLY: Alan Henderson shows what we look like in our proverbial blogging uniforms, according at least to the New York Times....
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# Posted 4:55 PM by Patrick Belton  

AUTUMN IN NORTH OXFORD: Some photoblogging, in anticipation of Thanksgiving tomorrow:

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# Posted 4:28 PM by Patrick Belton  

THE INDEPENDENT, WHICH I've got to admit I'm rather catching a fondness for (in particular because of their cultural and literary coverage), thinks they've finally uncovered who the Ripper really was - Liverpudlian cotton merchant James Maybrick's gold watch has been, under electron microscopy, shown to bear the scratched initials of five victims and the words, dating from roughly the appropriate period, helpfully stating 'I am Jack' and 'J Maybrick.' Well, perhaps - though Maybrick's purported diary, in which he makes a claim to be the Ripper, uses several twentieth-century expressions, and the handwriting doesn't quite match that in his marriage certificate and will. The riddle of the Ripper will never be solved until enthusiasts finally admit the one ineluctable source of a cover up with an incentive to keep the murderer's true identity obscure for all this time - the website Casebook.org.
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# Posted 2:54 PM by Patrick Belton  

ARE YOU A POLITICAL SCIENTIST? (IF SO, POOR YOU. YOU KNOW, THERE ARE RESOURCES FOR PROBLEMS LIKE THAT.) So our foreign policy society is beginning a small research listserv for democratisation scholarship, as well as research on democracy and rule of law assistance, and most likely dealing with formal government promotion of human rights to some extent also. In terms of tone and scholarly level, the diplomatic history list H-Diplo is probably as good an example as any of what we're trying to do, though of course the subject matter's a bit different. If this interests anyone, we have two opportunities to involve people: as advisory board members (where the demands won't be very extensive - basically, you won't really have to do anything at all, although you do get the ability to fire our editors - though speaking as initial lead editor, it would really be quite all right if you didn't), and as editors (who will have the opportunity to take a more active role). If you might be interested at all in either possibility, please do just let me know and I'll write back with a bit more about what the listserv is trying to do. Also, it comes with a fetching logo, a half-decade's residence in Britain having left me oddly rather susceptible to lavender.
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# Posted 1:50 PM by Patrick Belton  

ENGLISH LESSONS, II: Our historic first inclusion of Cockney rhyming slang on OxBlog having met with such resounding success, we decided to take the logical next step and link to one of the basic first sites of the CockneyWeb, CockneyRhymingSlang.co.uk. Click the balloon hovering above the person born within the requisite earshot of the bells of St Mary-le-Bow, Cheapside (source also of the 'Marylebone Road' which the M40 turns into), and they'll take you through the basics.... And OxBlog Extra Credit Hebrew tie-in: the East End was also one of the principal destinations of Lithuanian Jews fleeing pogroms through emigration to London. Oy ve, innit!
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# Posted 8:46 AM by Patrick Belton  

STILL LOOKING FOR, NOT FINDING THE SUPERIOR MORAL LEGITIMACY: Continuing an earlier theme and via a tip-off from the blog of Sasha Castel,*

The Times (UK) reports on a vote of no confidence in the United Nation's management taken by the employees of its Secretariat in New York, after the U.N.'s director of oversight was cleared on charges of exchanging promotions for money and sexual favours following an extremely cursory investigation. Staff representatives who had raised complaints were not consulted or interviewed in the course of the investigation, nor were they informed it was taking place until it had exonerated the undersecretary.

Dileep Nair, the official accused of peddling promotions for sex, is incidentally the U.N.'s anti-corruption watchdog.

The present scandal follows close on the heels of Annan's recent admission that civilian and peacekeeping personnel on UN duty in Congo and Sierra Leone have committed what appear to be several hundred separate documented instances of gross misconduct, frequently dispensing food aid to under-age local girls on the condition of having sex with them first, and with instances of rape and paedophilia by peacekeepers documented on videotape as well. (see Scotsman, CNN, BBC, BBC). This continues a pattern of sexual predation perpetrated by the United Nations upon vulnerable host populations occurring in previous years with the presence of UN peacekeepers and officials in East Timor, Cambodia, Bosnia, and Kosovo.

The sad perversions of peacekeepers raping women and children from the very populations they were dispatched to protect, and promotions allegedly being levied for sex by none other than the organisation's principal anti-corruption official, are only indicative of a more systematic culture of corruption, in which the son of Annan's chief of staff Iqbal Riza was hired to work for the United Nations in clear violation of nepotism rules, in an incident for which Riza was never held accountable. The affair of the organisation's corruption czar also represented the second time in two weeks, point out employees, that U.N. management refused to take action against a senior official accused of harassment: U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers being exonerated earlier this month of allegations of sexually harassing an American woman working in his agency. Furthermore, the investigation continues into the Oil-for-Food scandal, in which senior U.N. officials accepted bribes in exchange for diverting funds meant as aid for impoverished Iraqis directly to former Iraq dictator Saddam Hussein. In a bureaucracy which has been as isolated as the United Nations from ordinary mechanisms of accountability, one begins to sadly suspect that in the present scandals we might only be seeing the tip of the iceberg.

* the blog world's cutest Jewish Ukrainian Australian of whom we're aware
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# Posted 8:37 AM by Patrick Belton  

THE VIRGIN MARY GRILLED CHEESE SANDWICH SELLS FOR $28,000. This via the Screws and Currant (i.e., Cockney rhyming slang: currant bun – Sun).

Short on its heels, the Canadian Jesus Fish Cake. So much for vaunted northern tastes.
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# Posted 7:49 AM by Patrick Belton  

ENGLISH LESSONS: Royal Navy toasts corresponding to days of the week, from the Gentleman's English Dictionary and Usage, not to everyone's tastes but not wholly repellant to mine:

Sunday: Absent friends and those at sea.
Monday: Our native land or King and country.
Tuesday: Our mothers or Health and wealth.
Wednesday: Ourselves or Our swords or Old ships.
Thursday: The King; honest men and bonnie lassies.
Friday: Fox hunting and old port or Ships at sea.
Saturday: Sweethearts and wives.

The current versions,

Sunday: Absent friends.
Monday: Our ships at sea.
Tuesday: Our men.
Wednesday: Ourselves (the remark "since no one else is likely to think of us" usually follows).
Thursday: A bloody war or a sickly season.
Friday: A willing foe and sea room.
Saturday: Sweethearts and wives ("may they never meet" is the popular rejoinder).
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Tuesday, November 23, 2004

# Posted 11:18 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MALNUTRITION UPDATE: Tim Lambert thinks that there are fatal flaws in my recent post on malnutrition in Iraq. First and foremost, Tim says I have my facts wrong. He points to this page on the IAIS website as evidence that there were two separate malnutrition surveys conducted in Iraq, not (as I suggested) just one.

According to the page in question (which I saw before adding the final update to my original post), IAIS completed a comprehensive survey of living conditions in Iraq this past June. The website promises that the collected data will be released shortly.

Perhaps it will. According to the WaPo, the results of the new study haven't been released yet, even though the survey was conducted in April and May. (Although presumably someone released them to the Post.)

Hoping to track down the data, I sent an e-mail to IAIS on Sunday asking for further information about their work. In addition, I spent a considerable amount of term searching for related information on Google and Lexis-Nexis, yet found absolutely nothing.

Of course, it may turn out that IAIS really has done a new survey. But for the moment, there is hardly enough evidence to substantiate Tim's allegation.

But what if I were right and there were just one malnutrition survey conducted (in April-May 2003)? Tim says that the United States may still be responsible for widespread malnutrition. First of all, Tim notes that the survey was conducted six weeks after the invasion of Iraq, not (as I said) less than three.

Pardon the ambiguity on my part. I was counting from the fall of Baghdad, which marked the end of major combat operations. But lets just say six weeks for the sake of argument. According to Tim, "Adesnik seems to be unaware that a sick child can lose a lot of weight in a few weeks."

Actually, I'm quite aware of that. What I doubt is that 200,000 thousand children can get that sick in the space of a few weeks. Major combat operations were fairly localized and coalition bombing raids did not target civilian infrastructure.

While most Iraqis probably were dependent on official food rationing programs that may have been disrupted during the war, I tend to doubt that such a disruption would translate so immediately into a national epidemic of malnutrition. Of course, that is just speculation -- but Tim is only offering more of the same.

Next up, we come to the issue of logic. I suggested that malnutrition may have been far more widespread before the invasion than Saddam wanted to admit. Tim responds:
Even if, for the sake of argument, we believe that Saddam could force UNICEF into cooking the statistics, why would Saddam have been artificially lowering the figures? Surely he would have been raising them so that he could point to the harm that the sanctions were inflicting on Iraqi children.
The premise here is that Saddam's propaganda always sought to persuade Western audiences that Iraq was a victim, not an aggressor. That same premise led us to conclude that Saddam had extensive stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons. After all, if he didn't have them, why wouldn't he allow foreign inspectors to demonstrate that Iraq was a victim, not an aggressor?

The absence of the stockpiles suggests that we don't understand Saddam nearly as well as we thought we did. Perhaps Saddam believed that if he were exposed as a paper tiger, the Iraqi military revolt. The premise behind that bit of speculation is that Saddam was more concerned about his image at home than abroad.

Thus, perhaps Saddam wanted to downplay malnutrition in order to persuade his subjects that things were not so bad. Or perhaps he wanted the hide the degree to which precious supplies of food and medication were being given out only to Sunni children, while the Shi'ite majority was left to suffer.

The bottom line is that speculation about Saddam's motives is futile.

Finally, let me hedge my bets just a bit. Let's say that tomorrow, Tim turns up definitive evidence that there was a second survey done this year and that the child malnutrition rate in Iraq is 7.7%. It was also 7.7% last year, at least in Baghdad -- which suggests that the malnutrition rate has been stable for almost eighteen months now. In contrast, the WaPo reports that the malnutrition rate has "shot up...this year."
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# Posted 2:35 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PEOPLE POWER IN THE UKRAINE: We can only hope that the democratic movement led by Viktor Yuschenko will prevail over the Moscow-sponsored thugocracy that rigged the results of Sunday's election.

For background on the vote, check out this excellent by Stephen Sestanovich. While the State Department has already spoken out against electoral fraud, it is the reaction from the White House that will matter most.

On a historical note, the official color of the Ukrainian democratic movement is orange, a potent reminder of the bright yellow chosen by democratic reformers in the Philippines in 1986. Just like Corazon Aquino, Viktor Yuschenko is relying on massive peaceful protests to overturn the results of a fraudulent election.

Fashion may not be the most important factor in politics, but bright colors sometimes have bright futures.
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# Posted 2:24 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IMMINENT TRIUMPHALISM: As Patrick mentioned, Dan Rather has resigned, effective next March. Rather insists that his resignation has nothing to do with Memogate. According to the AP
He made no mention of the National Guard story in announcing the change, saying he had agreed with CBS executives last summer that after the Nov. 2 election would be the right time to leave.
Yet someone at the WaPo clearly thinks that Rather's explanation is pure bulls***. Underneath the link to the AP's report on the ever-changing WaPo homepage, there is a subhead that reads
After flap over forged documents, the anchor will step down in March.
Objectively speaking, this statement is true. Only the most confused of metaphysicians would insist that March 2005 precedes September 2004. Yet the purpose of this objective statement is to advance a (probably correct) subjective interpretation.

Apparently, Dan Rather isn't the only one who needs to refine his definition of journalistic detachment and objectivity. Even so, I hope the blogosphere doesn't embarrass itself by going overboard in celebrating its victory over the notorious MSM.
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# Posted 1:55 PM by Patrick Belton  

OXBLOG: STILL AMONG THE WEB'S TOP hits for 'something interesting'. Somewhat more distressingly, also still the top hit for 'ivory coast porno.'
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# Posted 1:10 PM by Patrick Belton  

DAN RATHER STEPPING DOWN. You heard it here first (or may have, anyway). Blogosphere one, Lazy Coddled Journalistic Profession zero.
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# Posted 1:04 PM by Patrick Belton  

AL QAEDA 2.0: THE CONFERENCE: Just to clear up any potential misunderstanding, our foreign policy society's Washington chapter is not lending its support to a conference with Al Qaeda, but to a conference on it. The conference is being organised by Steve Clemons, who recently spoke to our Washington chapter. Among the speakers are Bruce Hoffman from Rand, the Kennedy School's Jessica Stern, CNN's Peter Bergen, academic Rohan Gunaratna, the WaPo's David Ignatius, and several former case officers from the Agency with a background in operations against the organisation. It is on 2 December in the Russell Senate Office Building (having incidentally worked in the building, SOB truly is the official acronym, with no disrespect of which I'm aware toward the Senator from Georgia). More information here.
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# Posted 6:46 AM by Patrick Belton  

THE QUEEN has delivered the Queen's Speech this morning, setting out the Government's legislative programme for the coming year. Chief proposals include increased powers to local municipalities to deal with anti-social behaviour, a Serious Organised Crime Agency to parallel the American FBI, a national identification card (not immediately to be made mandatory), and creation in law of an offence of incitement to religious hatred. Black Rod has again had the door to the Commons slammed fast in his face; as someone whose aesthetics, if not politics, are rather conservative, all is well, or well as it can get, with the world.
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# Posted 5:04 AM by Patrick Belton  

IS IT JUST ME, OR DO criminal sex rings follow UN peacekeepers wherever they're deployed? (c.f., Kosovo, Bosnia, East Timor, Sierra Leone, Congo... I'm looking for this 'superior moral legitimacy' thing, I'm just not seeing it.)
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Monday, November 22, 2004

# Posted 10:01 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE GOP SHOULD SIMPLY DO WHAT'S RIGHT: Stephen Bainbridge says that it was wrong for the GOP to do Tom DeLay a favor by lifting its ban on indicted congressmen from serving in the party leadership. Glenn agrees.

Amy Ridenour doesn't. She says the investigation of DeLay is politically motivated and that the GOP should fight fire with fire. Mark Kleiman says the DA going after Congressman Tom is actually a consummate professional.

I don't know enough to weigh on that subject. I don't like Tom DeLay one bit, but that's not really the point. The GOP decided to ban indicted members from serving in its leadership after an indicated Democrat refused to step down from his leadership position some time ago. To change the rule now that DeLay is in hot water would simply be hypocritical.

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# Posted 8:35 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IVORY TOWER POLITICS: Last Friday, I attended a colloquium at The Miller Center on the subject of anti-intellectualism in American politics. Over lunch, we discssed a paper on that subject by Prof. Colleen Shogan of George Mason University.

I feel compelled to respond to Prof. Shogan's paper because it embodied so fully the manner in which professional scholarship rests on a foundation of unstated liberal presuppositions. One might describe the tone and style of Prof. Shogan's paper as thoughtful, sedate, and even non-partisan. Yet on almost every page there are statements that strongly suggest an unacknowledged debt to a liberal worldview.

Yet before describing exactly what is in Prof. Shogan's paper, it may be more important to mention what isn't. Based on a close reading of public and private statements by Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan and Bush, Prof. Shogan concludes that anti-intellectualism is part and parcel of a Republican strategy to attract less affluent voters. Perhaps. Yet not once does Prof. Shogan consider that the GOP's anti-intellectualism represents a conservative response to the intense commitment of an overwhelming majority of American intellectuals to a passionately liberal ideological agenda.

The conceptual roadblock that prevents Prof. Shogan from recognizing the ideological nature of American intellectuals is her identification of ideology and intellectualism as polar opposites. For example, she refers to President Reagan's "reliance upon ideology rather than intellectual prowess" and observes that
As Reagan demonstrated, ideologues and intellectuals do not make the best bedfellows. (Page 24)
In contrast to her (often justifiable) criticism of President Reagan, Shogan provides an extremely positive, almost glowing description of the academy. She writes that
The intellectual community is inherently critical of the status quo and often serves as the catalyst for social upheaval and development. (Page 8)
Shogan also takes care to point out that the "lasting, negative stereotype of the intellectual" grew out of "a clash between the educated elite and the party machine politicians" in the Progressive era. (Page 4) In other words, Republican anti-intellectualism amounts to nothing less than an embrace of reactionary prejudices that retard social development.

Naturally, this identification of the GOP with social regression begs the question of why Republican candidates have prevailed so often in presidential elections. In the manner of Thomas Frank, Shogan asserts that
For Democrats, fostering a populist connection is an easier task, since liberal policy proposals emphaisze the diffuse benefits of government intervention and social welfare. (Page 7)
According to Shogan, the voting public fails to recognize the advantages of voting Democratic, because television gets in the way. Shogan writes that
The political era of the sound-byte [sic] frustrates an extended intellectual discussion of complex policy issues...

Furthermore, the plebiscitary presidency is dependent upon the creation of "spectacles" that encourage awestruck citizens to become passive spectators rather than active participants in politics. Spectacles lend themselves to the portrayal of presidents as energetic, dynamic, hyper-masculine individuals who defeat evil in the name of American democracy, exemplified most recently by George W. Bush's landing on the USS Abraham Lincoln. [Do I detect a note of sarcasm here? --ed.] The intellectual process of deliberation cannot constitute a spectacle. (Page 6)
Unsurprisingly, Shogan doesn't even consider the possibility that media coverage may favor Democratic presidential candidates (cf. "Rather, Dan").

In any event, Shogan goes on to argue that Republican candidates also benefit from the fact that evangelical voters are decidedly anti-intellectual. According to Shogan,
Animosity between evangelicals and intellectuals in the United States has existed for over a century. As theologians, Darwinists, and scientists discredited religious fundamentalism and literal interpretations of the Bible, evangelicals were displaced from mainstream intellectual discourse. (Pages 10-11)
While I can understand how one might argue that science has discredited creationism, Shogan seems unaware of the fact that science cannot discredit those all-important passages in the Bible that consist of moral prescriptions rather than statements of fact.

'Thou shalt not kill', 'Thou shalt not steal' and other commandments -- including the controversial ban on homosexual behavior -- are simply not amenable to scientific proof or disproof. Thus, it is somewhat misleading for Shogan to write that "Religious and moral imperatives are consistent with anti-intellectual leadership stances." (Pages 10-11)

On a similar note, Shogan writes that
Bush's anti-intellectualism and moralism are complementary and reinforcing.
The example that illustrates this point is Bush's "visceral" reaction to one of Bob Woodward's questions about North Korea. During an interview with Woodward, Bush emotionally shouted
"I loathe Kim Jong Il!" Bush shouted, waving his finer in the air. "I've got a visceral reaction to this guy, because he is starving his people...It is visceral. Maybe it's my religion, maybe it's my--but I feel passionate about this.
One would hope that even the most nuanced contemplation of Kim Jong Il's brutality would produce a similar outburst. Yet Shogan writes that
By definition, a visceral reaction cannot be reflective; it comes from the "gut" or from deep-seated beliefs that are firmly rooted in place. (Pages 27-8)
It seems that even when Bush is right, he's wrong. Anyhow, Shogan concludes her analysis of Bush's anti-intellectualism with a back-handed compliment:
There is no doubt that the "cowboy" persona performs well as a plebiscitary [read: electoral] tool, but its utility to fight the international War on Terror is more limited.
There is something to this argument, yet the way in which Shogan takes its validity completely for granted demonstrates the degree to which an unstated liberal worldview animates an academic work that presents itself as detached and non-partisan.

At Friday's colloquium, I made many of the same points that I make in this post, although somewhat more briefly. Prof. Shogan responded that my criticism is misdirected, since she has more positive things to say about Bush than any of her colleagues. For example, she recognizes that Bush is sincere and that he is very successful at putting together winning coalitions.

In other words, Shogan has absolutely nothing good to say about Bush's policies, although she acknowledges that he is a formidable politician. However, it is her first statement that is far more revealing. If she represents the right-wing of the American academy, then it should come as no surprise that Republicans lash out so often at the professoriate. Thus it is quite ironic (but not at all surprising) that Prof. Shogan attributes the GOP's anti-intellectualism to its conservatism rather than her own liberalism and that of her colleagues.
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# Posted 8:26 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NOT SO FAST, PATRICK: Long before Washington had Senators, it had Nationals. According to the selfsame article you cite,
Nationals was the name of the Washington franchise as early as the late 1800s, and it was the official nickname of the team from just after the turn of the century into the 1950s, though Senators gained popularity during the late stages of that period as well. Owner Calvin Griffith officially changed the name to Senators in 1957, and that franchise left town twice.
The name 'Senators' is clearly bad luck, since the Senators have already abandoned Washington twice -- perhaps because the District of Columbia has no representatives in the United States Senate.

However, those committed naming our team after the least representative elected body in the Western Hemisphere may find some consolation in the fact that
The primary [Nationals] cap -- which Williams and other officials donned immediately after unveiling the logo -- are red with a script "W", exact replicas of the old Washington Senators hats.
As for you Mr. Belton, isn't it time for you to come clean and just admit that you your affinity for the nation's capital approximates the affinity of Michael Moore for George W. Bush?
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# Posted 8:21 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

GOING, GOING, GONZALES: The new Attorney General may be here to stay, yet both this editorial and this column argue persuasively that his credibility is already gone.
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# Posted 8:13 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BUSH'S NAIVE MULTILATERALISM: There is no excuse for the decision to accept a watered down Security Council resolution rather than a real mandate to stop the genocide. This embarrassment should remind America's liberal multilateralists that the moral legitimacy of the United Nations is less of a fact than a fiction. And it should remind our conservative unilateralists that the President just doesn't understand his own rhetoric about "the transformational power of liberty."
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# Posted 7:25 PM by Patrick Belton  

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# Posted 5:35 PM by Patrick Belton  

IMMODEST PROPOSAL: Joe Gandelman points out that embedding reporters with terrorists may not on reflection be the wonderful idea that Guardian's Alex Thompson is so enthusiastic about...
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