OxBlog

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

# Posted 2:58 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ANOTHER CAPPUCINO CONSERVATIVE: Dan Drezner blogs about the virtues of expensive chocolate.
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# Posted 2:37 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE EXPERTS ARE ALWAYS RIGHT: I dare you not to enjoy Malcolm Gladwell's new book Blink. There isn't a boring page in the whole book. Which is why you will soon finding yourself reciting Gladwellian anecdotes to all of your friends and neighbors.

But the big question every reviewer seems to ask is "So what?" Gladwell presents himself as much more than a storyteller. He presents himself as a humble conduit for the great but unknown truths of modern science. By presenting himself as the messenger instead of the Word, Gladwell deflects attention from himself and from his role in the (mis)interpretation of the stories he has told.

Blink is about the power of cultivated intuition. That adjective is extremely important, and some of those who have reviewed the book seem to have overlooked its significance. Right up front, Gladwell grabs your attention by arguing that
We live in a world that assumes that the quality of a decision is directly related to the time and effort that went into making it. When doctors are faced with a difficult diagnosis, they order more tests, and when we are uncertain about what we hear, we ask for a second opinion. And what do we tell our children? Haste makes waste. Look before you leap. Stop and think. Don't judge a book by its cover. We believe that we are always better off gathering as much information as possible and spending as much time as possible. (Pages 13-14)
Thus,
The first task of Blink is to convince you of a simple fact: decisions made very quickly can be very bit as good as decisions made cautiously and deliberately.(Page 14)
The second task of Blink is to ask why intuitive judgments are sometimes so tragically wrong, as in the case of the four New York cops who pumped 41 bullets into Amadou Diallo because they thought his wallet was a gun. In other words, decisions made very quickly can be far, far worse than those made cautiously and deliberately. Which is why:
The third and most important task of this book is to convince you that our snap judgments and first impressions can be educated and controlled...The power of knowing, in that first two seconds, is not a gift magically given to a fortunate few. It is an ability that we can all cultivate for ourselves. (Pages 15-16)
Actually, the evidence in Gladwell's book suggests something slightly different. It suggests that highly-educated experts are capable of making very good snap judgments about questions that concern their particular area of expertise.

For example, the Getty Museum in California conducted extensive research in order to determine whether a $10 million statue it wanted to buy was an ancient Greek original or a later-vintage imitation. Yet before committing to buy, the Museum asked a number of experts to take a look at the statue. Almost all of them instantly declared that it was a fake, even though they couldn't explain why they felt that way...at first. Ultimately, they were able to provide evidence to back up their point.

In contrast, average human beings often make bad snap judgments when high-pressure, high-adrenaline situations cloud their judgment. When you throw racism and other cognitive biases into the mix, the results can be explosive, a la Amadou Diallo.

Which makes you wonder, shouldn't the title of this book be Blink (Sometimes)? As David Brooks pointed out in his review of the book,
Though Gladwell describes several ways intuition can lead people astray, he doesn't really dwell on how often that happens. But I've learned from other books, notably David G. Myers's more methodical but less entertaining ''Intuition,'' that there is a great body of data suggesting that formal statistical analysis is a much, much better way of predicting everything from the outcome of a football game to the course of liver disease than the intuition even of experts.
Brooks is definitely right about Gladwell ignoring a lot of evidence that points to the shortcomings of intuition. But I think Gladwell does have a partial, albeit implicit answer to the question of how often snap judgments are well-made. The answer is "When experts make them."

I can only think of one example in Blink of how expers' intuition can lead them completely astray. As Gladwell relates, female musicians used to have an extremely hard time getting chosen to play for prestigious orchestras. That is, until concerns about sexism led to the innovative idea that during auditions, there should be a screen between the performer and the judges that prevents the latter from knowing whether the former is a man or a woman.

Before the screens went up, the judges always provided aesthetic justifications for their decision to reject female candidates. They insisted that the performances of female candidates were objectively inferior. And they probably believed it. But they were wrong.

In addition to sexism, Gladwell identifies racism as one of the cognitive biases most often responsible for making bad snap judgments. He also identifies physical attractiveness and height as factors that can lead us astray. What these four things have in common is that all of them are basically visual attributes. Moreover, they are all preferences which everyone now condemns as superficial (e.g. looks and height) or morally reprehensible (e.g. racism and sexism).

In other words, Gladwell seems to be telling us that it is easy to make good snap judgments if we are good human beings who don't give in to prejudices that we already know are bad. While no one would recommend giving in to prejudices that we already know are bad, Gladwell seems unable to recognize just how many other sorts of prejudices there are that may lead us astray.

The book I read immediately before Blink was Moneyball by Michael Lewis. Moneyball is a story about how statistical analysis is so much better than intuition that the Oakland A's were able to win 90+ ballgames four years in a row even though they spent only a fraction of what their rivals did on recruiting talented players.

(Coincidentally, David Brooks also talks about Moneyball in his review of Blink. Spooky, no?)

Part of the story about the Oakland A's is that their general manager, Billy Beane relied on an unusual set of statistics to decide whether or not a player was talented. Far more importantly, Beane discovered that other managers didn't notice which players had talent because, over course of decades, baseball had developed a culture that considered certain players to be defective even though they were good at getting on base and winning ballgames.

In short, baseball culture is full of prejudices. According to Lewis, major league scouts are always looking for young players who seem athletic. To some degree, these scouts bought into the myth of good looks that Gladwell describes. Yet they also focused on seemingly objective indicators of talent, such as how fast a player could run around a baseball diamond.

Speed isn't bad thing, but Beane discovered via statistical analysis that the added value of having a fast runner on your team isn't very high at all. However, there is nothing superficial or immoral about having a preference for speed, especially if you are a baseball coach. Thus, a preference for speed is precisely the sort of cognitive bias that Gladwell can't warn us about.

What my intuition tells me is that is almost every field of expertise has the same sort of prejudices as those of major league baseball. Especially politics.

To be continued...
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Monday, April 04, 2005

# Posted 2:09 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHY OXBLOG IS SO CIVILIZED: Have a look at my mother's letter-to-the-editor in Saturday's New York Times. (It's the first of three on the page.) Now multiply that by 18 years and you'll get a better sense of who I am.
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# Posted 2:03 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

JOHN PAUL II, IN MEMORIAM: The president said it well: "The world has lost a champion of human freedom." Even so, John Paul deserves many more kind words. Yet at the moment I am hoping to organize my words of praise into publishable form, so please forgive the laconic nature of this post and expect something more polished in the coming days.
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# Posted 12:35 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BOBOS IN PARADISE HELL: One shouldn't take for granted the upbeat and neighborly tone of David Brooks' socio-comic treatise. Brooks suggests that Bobos are inherently moderate, friendly and willing to compromise. But there is a dark side to the Bobo lifestyle and I became aware of it last night.

Last night, I began to watch Super Size Me, the highly-acclaimed documentary about a director who put himself on a strict, McDonald's-only diet for thirty days. The politics of the film are pretty boring. If you've seen one anti-corporate polemic, you've seen them all. As we all know, corporations brainwash us with slick advertising and spend millions on lobbyists in order to prevent the government from actually representing the voters who put it in office.

What kept me interested was the culture. Super Size Me is the perfect expression of the Bobos' unmitigated condescencions towardAmerica's primitive middle-class or, if you will, lumpenbuergertum. Although the film holds McDonald's responsible for the atrocious eating habits of its very satisfied customers, there is a powerful subcurrent of horror at the ignorance of those who subject themselves to this sort of nutritional abuse.

Although the film never says so explicitly, it has a very rigid, albeit unspoken class structure. The lower class consists of those who love McDonald's, dozens of whom are interviewed by Spurlock, usually in one of our glorious nation's many McDonald's franchsies. The upper class consists of the physicians, nutrionists, scholars and legal experts who practically beg Spurlock not to force himself to eat all that junk food.

According to the pop-psychological theory on which Spurlock bases his argument, manipulative advertising has the ability to instill vulnerable children with unbreakable, lifelong habits of consumption. Yet somehow, all of the educated individuals who advise Spurlock have cleansed themselves of the destructive messages to which they were exposed as children. Although Spurlock never explains exactly how this is possible, the implicit message is clear: educated people simply know better.

While the average American may think that he really enjoys eating at McDonald's, he actually is suffering from what scholars refer to as 'false consciousness'. Early on, Spurlock seems to enjoy some of what he is eating. But after a while, his only reaction is to mock both its appearance as well as its taste. In other words, well-informed people find McDonalds to be self-evidently disgusting.

I have to admit, I find this argument somewhat persuasive, since I also find much of what's for sale at McDonald's to be self-evidently disgusting. (On the other hand, Burger King and Wendy's cook food that I can really enjoy.) However, I don't hold it against anyone that they like McDonald's. In fact, it is perfectly sensible to say that eating at McDonalds is an enjoyable activity in spite of being bad for one's health.

This sort of trade-off between short-term pleasure and long-term welfare is not irrational. It is necessary for living a good life. And it helps explain why people do things like smoke, have extra-marital affairs and vote for Howard Dean. Yet instead of acknowledging that such a rational trade-off is taking place, Spurlock & Co. are genuinely disgusted by the thought of liking McDonalds. Rather, they live in a world where basic choices about personal consumption must reflect profound ethical commitments.

This is classic Bobo thinking. One might even say that it is Bobo religion. Everything must be organic. Instead of instant coffee, there is cappucino made from fair-trade Colombian beans. Instead of low-priced mega-stores, over-priced boutiques. Instead of SUVs, gas-electric hybrids. (NB: Brooks identifies the SUV as the ultimate Bobo vehicle because of its pseudo-ruggedness, but I think he'd now agree that the smart set has come to regard SUV's as a guilty pleasure. Someday, it will loath them as it does McDonald's.)

What prevents the Bobos' condescension from exploding into utter loathing and contempt is the sense that America's primitive majority is not responsible for its crude and ignorant behavior. Instead of contempt, there is a certain pity. If you watch Super Size Me, I think you'll agree that Spurlock betrays a definite affection for all of the misguided McDonalds' lovers he interviews. He wants them to live better and healthier lives, but he would hate himself if he ever became like them.

The ignorant middle-class is the shameful Other that helps Bobos reinforce their identity. The Bobos' confidence in their own enlightment depends to a considerable extent on the availability of a pathetic, pitiful Other. While there may be much to admire about the Bobo lifestyle, it also has a divisive side that Brooks doesn't seem to acknowledge.

When a Bobo sees (on film, of course) a 200-pound woman ordering a Big Mac, large fries and 32 oz. soda, he or she says to himself, "There but for the grace of Harvard (or Swarthmore or Middlebury) go I."
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Thursday, March 31, 2005

# Posted 1:38 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

KYRGYZSTAN: Even the New York Times seems to think America had something to do with the uprising.

Plus, one of my Oxford classmates has an article about Kyrgyz democracy in TNR. He suggests that
Bush should become the first American president to visit Kyrgyzstan by stopping in Bishkek on his way to Moscow in May. (The president has already scheduled layovers in Latvia and Georgia, in part to recognize their progress toward democracy.)
Hear, hear.
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# Posted 1:25 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ONE YEAR OF GOOD NEWS: Arthur Chrenkoff celebrates his blogiversary. I think Arthur's success demonstrates that in the blogosphere, the old guard is still more than willing to welcome new voices into its ranks.
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# Posted 1:11 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A HEARTFELT RESPONSE: On Monday, I suggested that the WaPo's glowing profile of Sgt. Brett Parson demonstrated a surprising lack of interest in numerous complaints that Sgt. Parson has used excessive force in the line of duty. In response to that suggestion, I received the following response from Chris Grasso, Sgt. Parson's boyfriend (it is reprinted with Mr. Grasso's permission):
Oxblog writes:
But what are we supposed to think of someone who admits to a reporter from a nationally renowned paper that he pushes the limits of acceptable behavior? And what are supposed to think of a reporter who doesn't find that newsworthy?
The answer to the first question: think what you'd like. Newspapers report facts, which they did here; if you decide on the balance of the facts reported by the Post, both positive and negative, that Sgt. Parson is a bad guy, that is your conclusion to draw. The statement that the reporter didn't deem this issue newsworthy is patently false. The reporter explicitly deemed the fact newsworthy: she put it in her story. Oxblog wouldn't have even known of the fact if she hadn't. The reporter gave readers the information they needed to draw their own conclusions. Did she spend the exact amount of column inches on the issue as you would have if you'd been the reporter? Perhaps not; that is the judgment every writer and editor has to make when putting together a piece. But she drew no conclusions herself; she gave the assessment of the chief of police, not her own. If you "presume" the behavior in question is okay, that's your presumption, by definition, not the Post's.

I'm Parson's boyfriend, so I'm obviously biased in his favor. But the fact that a reader of the piece could disagree shows that the reporter did her job.
I wrote Mr. Grasso the following message in response:
Dear Chris,

Thanks for writing. Your name rang a bell but I just couldn't place it until you mentioned you were Sgt. Parson's boyfriend. First of all, let me point you to my statement that "the [WaPo] article will convince you that Sgt. Parson is an extremely talented public servant who [has] done tremendous things for the citizens of our nation's capital."

I stand by that 100%. I don't want to leave the impression that I was trying to reduce Sgt. Parson to a two-dimensional caricature.

With regards to the issue of excessive force, first, let me offer to print your message in its entirely on OxBlog. Normally, I presume that all messages sent to the editor are on the record. However, since you have a personal connection to this article, I didn't not want to assume that you were speaking to the general public.

With regards to being "newsworthy", perhaps my choice of words in that final sentence was poor. Let me point you to my the sentence from my post where I ask, "What happened to journalists looking for both sides of the story[?]" If Ms. Hull didn't look for the other side of the story, then she did not provide readers with the information we need to draw our own conclusions. Reporting what is on the public record in Sgt. Parson's file is simply not enough. If Ms. Hull didn't think that the numerous complaints in that file merited further, independent, investigation on her part, then she didn't treat the issue of excessive use of force as SUFFICIENTLY newsworthy.

I find that judgement extremely questionable in light of the extensive efforts that journalists generally make to ensure that the alleged victims of police brutality have as great an opportunity as possible to share their views. In other words, I am saying that there is a double standard. Why does such a double standard exist? I can only respond with speculation. Perhaps Ms. Hull was so enamored by all of the good work that Sgt. Parson does that she gave him an easy pass on the use of force issue. Or perhaps Sgt. Parson represents a political agenda to which Ms. Hull subscribes and therefore she was less inclined to emphasize his shortcomings.

Once again, I appreciate your taking the time to write in with your thoughts on my work.

Sincerely,
David
Mr. Grasso sent a brief reply to this message and I sent an even briefer one back. I will spare you the details since I believe that we have both elaborated our arguments to the point where one can evaluate their merits.
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# Posted 12:30 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE MAGNIFICENCE OF THE LIBERAL HAWK IMAGINATION: I don't like the term 'liberal hawk', but the individuals to which it refers happen to share almost all of my ideas about my American foreign policy. So therefore, I have no choice but to praise Noam Scheiber's hope that the Democratic party will wake up to the importance of democracy promotion. Noam argues that
By embracing a robust democratization agenda, the Democratic nominee in 2008 will be able to appeal to his [her? --ed.] base while also claiming the new, pro-democratization center. The Republican nominee, who has to win the nomination of a party at best indifferent to democratization, will enjoy no such luxury.
The premise of this argument, of course, is that the Democratic base cares about democracy promotion. Rather than respond to this premise in detail, I refer you to Reihan Salam, who shares both Noam's hope and OxBlog's doubts. One amazing fact Reihan cited was that
When asked
“Should the United States try to change a dictatorship to a democracy where it can, or should the United States stay out of other countries' affairs?”
in a CBS/NYT poll (2/24-28/05), 51 percent of Republicans said we should “try to change.” The number for Democrats? It was 13 percent.
Wow. Let me say that again: Wow. I've got to track down that poll and double-check the results. Although I tend to agree with Noam that "latte-sipping liberals" have a greater interest in global do-gooderism than most conservatives, I wonder if the latte-sipping set is any more in touch with the Democratic base than the neo-cons were with the Republican base circa 1999.

[NB: Even if I someday become more conservative than Pat Buchanan, I will never break off my love affair with latte. In other words, I would become a cappucino conservative.]

As Noam points out, much of the Democrats' current distaste for democracy promotion is simply the result of a partisan reflex that identifies the party as being against anything that Bush is for. But if the Democratic commitment to democracy promotion is that volatile, can it really become a focal point for the 2008 campaign?

Moreover, what if Bush becomes the author of a historic realignment in which the GOP becomes the party of democracy promotion? Reagan's soaring rhetoric inspired numerous Republicans to get serious about democracy promotion, even Democrats dismissed it as hypocritical.

Yet Reagan's inability to distance himself from right-wing dictatorships compromised his rhetoric in a devastating manner. I would speculate that the GOP's turn inward in the 1990s had a lot to do with the inconsistent and hesitant nature of Reagan's commitment to democracy promotion in practice.

In contrast to Reagan, Bush has a sterling record on the democracy front. One can always point to Musharraf or one of the Central Asian dictators as an example of Bush's hypocrisy. But Bush has no contras, no Salvadoran colonels and no Ferdinand Marcos. Abu Ghraib is minor by comparison. If Bush can facilitate the consolidation of democratic triumphs in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority, his legacy will match his rhetoric.

What I hope, of course, is that the United States will have two parties committed democracy promotion. This is an interest and an ideal that transcends party lines. Or at least it should.
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# Posted 12:15 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NOW RETURN THE FAVOR: There was a time when the West imposed sanctions on South Africa because it was a racial dictatorship. The United States resisted at first, but it eventually went along with the effort, which helped transform the apartheid state into one of Africa's flagship democracies.

So why is Thabo Mbeki, who never could have become president of South Africa if not for an international commitment to democracy and justice, unable to criticize Robert Mugabe, the thug in charge of neighboring Zimbabwe? Now, Mbeki may turn out to be right that Thursday's parliamentary election in Zimbabwe will be relatively fair. But Mugabe will still be president regardless of the outcome, so Mbeki will have plenty of chances to show that doesn't just care about democracy when he is its beneficiary.
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# Posted 12:09 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HOAGLAND VS. ABDULLAH: The WaPo columnist wants to know why Bush is so nice to the dictator king from Amman who is working so hard to undermine everything America hopes to achieve in Iraq.
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Monday, March 28, 2005

# Posted 10:35 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHEN DOES THE MEDIA APPROVE OF POLICE BRUTALITY? When the perpetrator is a gay rights activist, of course. This morning, the WaPo profiled Sgt. Brett Parson, the head of the DCPD Gay and Lesbian Liasion Unit. I think the article will convince you that Sgt. Parson is an extremely talented public servant who done tremendous things for the citizens of our nation's capital. But this disturbed me:
Parson's file also shows he has been cautioned for being domineering and using excessive force. He freely admits to swatting a mouthy suspect on the back of the head or ratcheting the handcuffs a notch too tight. Parson is in the Early Warning Tracking System, a program that monitors officers with an excessive number of citizen complaints. "Guilty as charged," says Parson, who says aggressive policing brings complaints.

Unlike most sergeants in supervisory roles, he makes arrests, many not related to gays, such as catching a teenager on 14th Street NW one night with 36 bags of crack cocaine. Ramsey calls him "one of the best officers on the force, bar none."
And that's all we get to hear about accusations of Parson using excessive force. Should one presume that as long as an officer is open about ti, it is OK for him to swat "mouthy suspects"?

What happened to journalists looking for both sides of the story. It's not as if Anne Hull, the correspondent for the Post, didn't have time to look at the issue more closely. Her story starts on the front page and fills up two entire pages inside the paper, without advertisements. She clearly spent a lot of time working with Parson. Would it have been impossible to track down one of the "mouthy suspects" who might have been on the receiving end of one of those swats?

Now, I am generally of the opinion that police officers can't do their job with one hand tied behind their collective back. But what are we supposed to think of someone who admits to a reporter from a nationally renowned paper that he pushes the limits of acceptable behavior? And what are supposed to think of a reporter who doesn't find that newsworthy?
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# Posted 10:16 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

I DIDN'T EXPECT TO EMPATHIZE WITH BUSH, but his decision to file a lawsuit against Enterprise Rent-a-Car seems quite reasonable. In this post from Dwight Meredith (Hat tip: KD), you can find the stories of Bush and several other high-profile Republicans who are avid supporters of tort reform but haven't held back from filing lawsuits of their own. Dwight's main point is that
Perhaps lawsuit abuse would not [according to Republicans] be holding back our economy and costing us so many jobs if Republican politicians did not file so many of those suits they deplore.
But how can Dwight be so sure that the pols in question didn't really have a good reason to file suit? To be sure, some of the lawsuits seem bizarre, like the one in which Gov. Arnie demanded $37 million in damages from a car dealership for using his photo without permission. But here's what happened to Bush:
When one of his twin daughters was involved in a fender bender (in which no one was hurt), then Governor Bush filed a lawsuit to recover property damage to the car. I do not know which driver was at fault, but I found it interesting that Bush sued Enterprise Rental-A-Car.

His theory was that the other driver did not have a valid driver’s license and, therefore, that Enterprise should not have rented him a car. I leave it to you to decide if that is an example of looking for a deep pocket with only a tangential relationship to the damage. Bush collected a $2,500 settlement from Enterprise.
Damn right Bush should've sued Enterprise. It is ridiculously irresponsible to rent a car to someone who doesn't have a valid license. I should know -- I once tried to do that.

Last spring, when I was living in Boston, love was in the air. I had a date with a very beautiful young woman in Vermont. But I didn't want to take the bus up to see her. I wanted to drive. However, my driver's license had just expired and I couldn't get a quick renewal, because I no longer lived in DC, where the license was from.

Swept away by thoughts of romance, I decided to head over to the local Enterprise Rent-a-Car and hope they wouldn't notice my licensed had expired. But they did. And they explained politely but firmly that renting a car to someone without a valid license is absolutely unacceptable. I knew they were right, so I took the bus. Perhaps that why the girl broke up with me.

Anyhow, I've got to get the President's back on this one. Enterprise is lucky that it only had to pay $2500 after renting a car to someone who didn't have a license and managed to hit a car belonging to the governor's daughter.
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Sunday, March 27, 2005

# Posted 3:51 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BROOKS! BROOKS! BROOKS! In case that last post wasn't enough for you, check out Brooks' thoughtful analysis of the Schiavo case as well as Matt Yglesias' thoughtful repsonse.
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# Posted 2:35 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BOBOS IN PARADISE, CONTINUED: Almost two weeks ago, I attempted to write my own review of David Brooks' zeitgeist classic, Bobos in Paradise, in honor of its fifth anniversary. I got halfway through what I wanted to write, but then got distracted. So, since I really like Bobos and really want to write about it, let me pick up right where I left off.

In the first half of my review, I observed that Bobos says almost nothing, until its final chapter, about the politics of the bourgeois bohemian class. Then, in that brief final chapter, Brooks suggests that Bobos are inherently moderate because Bobo culture itself represents an effort to reconcile liberal and conservative lifestyles.

With the benefit of hindsight, I have enough confidence to add Brooks to the list of those authors whose generalizations about American politics simply cannot withstand the fallout of an event like September 11th. Naturally, one can't hold Brooks responsible for failing to anticipate an event no one foresaw, but it is still important to point out that the political analysis of Bobos has become an artifact of the post-Cold War era, which came to an end on the morning of September 11th, 2001.

Five years ago, Brooks wrote that:
The politicians who succeed in this new era have blended the bohemian 1960s and the bourgeois 1980s and reconciled the bourgeois and bohemian value systems. These politicians do not engage in the old culture war rhetoric. They are not podium pounding "conviction politicians" of the sort that thrived during the age of confrontation. (Page 256)
More or less, the elected officials of today hold the same offices they did five years ago. And yet we now live once again in age of confronation where both the left and right have more than enough moral clarity to last a lifetime. Alongside the great divide over the war in Iraq, there is also far more talk about values and culture today than there was five years ago. This is clearly not what Brooks expected. He wrote that:
Whereas the old Protestant Establishment was largely conservative Republican, the new Bobo establishment tends to be centrist and independent...Indeed, in the Bobo age disputes within parites are more striking than conflict between parties...

The people of the left and right who long for radical and heroic politics are driven absolutely batty by tepid Bobo politics...Whether you are liberal or conservative, Bobo politicians adopt your rhetoric and your policy suggestions while somehow sucking all the radicalism out of them. (Pages 258-60)
With the benefit of hindsight, it seems the relevant question to ask is whether the moderates of yesterday have simply receded into the background while avowed partisans claim the spotlight, or whether the moderates of yesterday have become the avowed partisans of today because they once again have something to fight about.

I would argue in favor of the latter. Rather than losing its ideological edge, American politics simply went through a more moderate phase during a decade in which there were no great issues to fight about, except for the occasional blowjob. But the ideas were always there, embedded deeply in American culture, ready to reemerge once a new age of peril had begun.

According to Brooks, the essence of Bobo politics is an effort to rein in the excesses generated by the social liberation of the bohemian sixties and the economic liberation of the bourgeois eighties. Thus,
The two crucial words in the Bobo political project these days...are community and control. Across American society one sees effort after effort to restore social cohesion, reassert authority, and basically get a grip on the energies that have been unleashed over the past quarter century...

The main thrust of Bobo politics is the effort to restore the bonds of intimate authority. (Pages 261-64)
George W. Bush was still a candidate for President when Bobos went to press. In light of Bush's rhetorical style on the campaign trail, it is not surprising that Brooks described him as emblematic of the new Bobo consensus. Yet even if one disregards Bush's post-9/11 foreign policy, his agenda has been very un-Bobo. Bush's massive tax cuts and current drive to marketize Social Security are a return to the Reagan era, not a step beyond it. Thus, even if there never had been a War on Terror, it would be hard to defend the proposition that Bobo hegemony was assured.

But there has been a War on Terror, so we have to take that into account. At first, this new war didn't challenge the Bobo emphasis on community and control. But sometime during 2003, the War on Terror transformed itself into a global crusade for democracy. What we saw in Baghdad after its liberation from Saddam was anything but community and control.

And now we look at Georgia, Ukraine, Lebanon and Kyrgyzstan and see struggles for liberation emerging all around us. Of course, David Brooks has had no reservation about celebrating these remarkable developments. And if you take a closer took at the final pages of Bobos, you can see exactly why. Brooks writes that
I don't want to close witha paean of praise for everything Bobo...In preferring politicians who are soggy synthesizers aand in withdrawing from great national and ideological disputes for the sake of local and community pragmatism, we may be losing touch with the soaring ideals and high ambitions that have always separated America from other nations...

It could have been something like that this that alarmed Tocqueville as he speculated about the future of America. "What worries me most," he wrote in Democracy in America, "is the danger that, amid all the constant trivial preoccupations of private life, ambition may lose both its force and its greatness"...

This is no longer a prediction for the future. Tocqueville's scenario has come to pass. These days most of us don't want to get too involved in national politics because it seems to partisan and ugly. (Pages 272-73)
And yet ironcally enough, now that national politics have become far more partisan and ugly than it was five years ago, Americans are voting in larger numbers than they have in decades, organizing massive protest marches, and donating more money than ever to political causes.

Although we don't usually think of partisanship and polarization as a good thing, perhaps Brooks' reminder that the good old days weren't so good will enable us to appreciate that the kind of politics we have right now are actually quite healthy for America.

Moreover, the direction taken by American foreign policy is almost exactly what Brooks hoped for. In Bobos, he suggested that the process of reinvigoration would entail
Picking up the obligations that fall to the world's lead nation: promoting democracy and human rights everywhere and exercising American might in a way that reflects American ideals. (Page 272)
Strangely enough, that sounds a lot more like what Al Gore was talking about five years ago rather than George W. Bush. Yet somehow, Bush managed to run for re-election by espousing the exact same ideals he once denigrated. The difference, of course, was 9/11. It changed the way that Americans see the world.

And I think the transformation of our president reflects a broader truth about American society that was obscured by the halcyon daze of the late 1990s. We have never lost touch with our ideals. We were just waiting for them to become relevant again.
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# Posted 2:27 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

APROPO OF THE PREVIOUS POST, check out the front pager in today's WaPo entitled "Business Sees Gain In GOP Takeover; Political Allies Push Corporate Agenda". Once again, this is anything but he said/she said journalism. Here's the opening graf:
Fortune 500 companies that invested millions of dollars in electing Republicans are emerging as the earliest beneficiaries of a government controlled by President Bush and the largest GOP House and Senate majority in a half century.
Like so many articles in the campaign finance genre, this one suggests that the GOP has been sold to the highest bidder, without ever asking whether large corporations give more to the GOP because it already shares their interests. By the same token, this article doesn't think to ask whether the Democrats were somehow bought by union or minority lobbies.

Now, I'm not saying that the information in this article isn't important or shouldn't be in the paper. But the article is reported from a very definite perspective, rather than pretending that both sides of the issue have equal merit.
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# Posted 1:44 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HE SAID/SHE SAID JOURNALISM, THE SAGA CONTINUES: The linchpin of the liberal defense against conservative accusations of media bias is the theory of "he said/she said" journalism. Briefly, the theory states that even if most journalists are liberal, it doesn't matter because they always report every issue as if it had two equal and opposite sides.

By extension, most liberals argue that it is conservatives who benefit from this situation, since their unjustifiable attitudes toward social security reform, bankruptcy reform, etc. are given the same status as rational, evidence-based liberal arguments.

It is with all this in mind that I read an article in this morning's WaPo entitled "Past Arguments Don't Square With Current Iran Policy". Mind you, this wasn't an analysis column or anything like that. It was straight news. And in case you think it's just the headline writers who like to wax interpretive, here are the opening grafs:
Lacking direct evidence, Bush administration officials argue that Iran's nuclear program must be a cover for bomb-making. Vice President Cheney recently said, "They're already sitting on an awful lot of oil and gas. Nobody can figure why they need nuclear as well to generate energy."

Yet Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and outgoing Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz held key national security posts when the Ford administration made the opposite argument 30 years ago.
Thankfully, the article does point out that 30 years ago, Iran was an American ally. (You might say the WaPo did the White House a favor by not mentioning that, back then, Iran was a reactionary dictatorship. Or to be more precise, a reactionary dictatorship very different from the one now in Teheran.)

The WaPo is also fair enough to point out that 30 years ago, there were serious questions about whether Iran had enough oil to satisfy its long term needs. The Post suggests, however, that the situation is not much different today.

So all in all, what this story boils down to is that Rumsfeld, Cheney and Wolfowitz are a lot more concerned about what might happen if one of our enemies, rather than one of our allies, had the capacity to build nuclear weapons.

Now, it certainly doesn't look good that Rumsfeld, Cheney and Wolfowitz are now arguing against the exact same position they were arguing for 30 years ago. In fact, it's probably an important enough story to be in the WaPo.

But should the thrust of the story be that there is an apparent inconsistency in the arguments made by American policymakers? Or should there be a greater focus on the empirical issue of whether Iran needs nuclear power to supplement its oil reserves? Because it just might be the case the situation now is very different than it was 30 years ago, so it may be perfectly sensible for Rumsfeld, Cheney and Wolfowitz to have switched sides in this debate.

So what I'm trying to say is not that this is a bad article, but that it is an article with a definite perspective, rather than one that treats both sides of the issue as having equal merit. In fact, one can make a pretty strong case that journalists should identify which side in a given debate has greater merit.

But journalists can't have their cake and eat it, too. They can't insist on their own neutrality and detachment while taking an interpretive approach to their subject. Nor can the defenders of mainstream journalism on the center-left continue to defend the he said/she said theory of American journalism if it doesn't describe the actual behavior of journalists.
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Saturday, March 26, 2005

# Posted 9:36 PM by Patrick Belton  

FOR CLOCK-CHANGE DAY: BBC's cult department presents a nostalgia trip through its television clock faces past and present.
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# Posted 3:19 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HAWKS IN HOLLYWOOD? Don Cheadle, nominated for Best Actor because of his performance in Hotel Rwanda, says its time to get tough about Darfur.
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# Posted 2:57 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MORE DDT LINKS: The Belmont Club has a new post up on the subject of whether there is a de facto ban on DDT. Reader MDL points to the work of AEI fellow Roger Bate as a good source of information about fighting malaria. For an opinion pubished long before the current dust-up, check out Dan Wismar's blog. And if you think that bed nets are a better response to malaria than DDT, you should be glad to know that Sharon Stone is on your side.

Finally, on a tangential note for all you environmentalists, check out the solar death ray!
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# Posted 2:45 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE DICTATORS' CLUB: Joseph Braude of TNR reports on the latest from the Arab League. Suffice it to say, this is not a good time to be a Middle Eastern dictator.
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# Posted 2:00 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BLEEDING-HEART CONSERVATIVES: Let me sum up what happened while my wireless card was on vacation: Schiavo! Schiavo! Schiavo! There's no way I can do justice to the massive debate about this subject, so I'll just make three quick points. First, to my surprise, the most sensible column I read all week was by Charles Krauthammer. Charlie K writes that
Given our lack of certainty, given that there are loved ones prepared to keep her alive and care for her, how can you allow the husband to end her life on his say-so? Because following the sensible rules of Florida custody laws, conducted with due diligence and great care over many years in this case, this is where the law led.

For Congress and the president to then step in and try to override that by shifting the venue to a federal court was a legal travesty, a flagrant violation of federalism and the separation of powers. The federal judge who refused to reverse the Florida court was certainly true to the law. But the law, while scrupulous, has been merciless, and its conclusion very troubling morally. We ended up having to choose between a legal travesty on the one hand and human tragedy on the other.
This is just a terrible, terrible situation with no right answers. But even if one should err on the side of caution before taking a life, I think that the politicization of this issue by conservatives has been self-interested and short-sighted. On the other hand, I have been disturbed at the callousness of some of my liberal friends here at UVA.

One of them -- a descendant of Thomas Jefferson, no less -- said he would rather die than live like Terri Schiavo. So would I. But my friend's analysis just ended there. He wasn't concerned about the mixed motives of Schiavo's husband. He wasn't interested in empathizing with Schiavo's parents.

To be fair, it's not as if my friend spend his spare time reading about bioethics. But his reaction matters because it was the instinctive response of someone who is otherwise a welfare-state, multicultural, latte-loving liberal.

My friend JB, an aspiring tax lawyer and unabashed Chomskyite, also said that Schiavo's life was pointless, so they should let her die. Admittedly, JB is prone to exaggeration, especially when he think he can get a rise out of me. So I was quite glad when his fiancee, the lovely AS, promptly shot him down by announcing that "It's obvious you have never had any children."

Ouch! But it's true. The idealistic young liberals I know have found it very hard to empathize with Schiavo's parents. They can empathize with the inner city poor, refugees in the Bangladesh, and even spotted owls. But somehow, their bleeding hearts turned cold when it came to Terri Schiavo.

Richard Cohen argued on Thursday that Democrats' silence on the Schiavo issue is an embarrassment. How can they let Republicans run roughshod over the legal system and not say a word?

Here's how: My sense is that Democrats recognize that they have nothing to gain by taking sides against Schiavo's parents. The party already has an image problem when it comes to values, so even if they phrase all of their arguments in legal terms, they will still come across as the party that wants to pull the plug.

Moreover, I don't think that there is much at stake here. Although I'm waiting for Josh to write about the legal implications of the Schiavo precedent, shifting the case to federal court hasn't affected the outcome.

Speaking more broadly, I don't think that conservatives will be able to turn Terri Schiavo into a justification for restricting abortion rights or anything. Schiavo's case is simply too unusual. Then again, I could be very wrong because all of this is far outside of my area of expertise.

UPDATE: Joe Gandelman has put up a very interesting post on Schiavo guest-written by a disabled journalist-slash-activist.
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# Posted 1:54 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MAY GOD SMITE WINDOWS 98 (SECOND EDITION): So it turns out that the entire problem with my wireless card was that I had to reinstall the software in a slightly different manner because I'm running 98 SE. Of course, the instructions for the wireless card don't mention this anywhere, so I had to find out by calling tech support.

So to be fair, 98 SE was not at fault. In fact, it's a pretty good operating system as far as Microsoft goes. (Mac & Linux users, please contain your laughter.) 98 SE is just pretty old by now, so almost every new application or piece of hardware has to be rejiggered to ensure compatibility.

The real issue is that I'm still using a laptop I bought in 1999. Even with extra RAM, it doesn't have the capacity to run Windows 2000 or XE. So when will I get a new laptop? Just as soon as I finish this darned dissertation...
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Thursday, March 24, 2005

# Posted 5:57 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DDT REDUX: Many thanks to all of you have written in with links and opinions about the relationship between DDT and malaria in the developing world, a subject about which I still have much to learn.

Before getting to the more complex issue of whether DDT can prevent malaria, I'd like to address the straightforward factual question of whether there is currently a ban on the use of DDT. Nick Kristof suggested that such a ban exists. Citing the Malaria Foundation International (MFI), Tim Lambert responded that Kristof was simply wrong. The Belmont Club (Hat tip: TB) responds, however, that MFI wouldn't be celebrating its efforts to prevent a ban unless there had been a very strong push by environmentalists to impose one.

This brings us to the issue of whether there is a sort of implicit or de facto ban on the use of DDT that results from European pressure on the developing world. Blogger CR points to this article as an example of how the EU can impose such a ban by threatening to close its markets to nations such as Uganda that want to use to DDT to stop the spread of malaria. Moreover, according to RF,
While there is no international ban on DDT use, western aid agencies often provide a large percentage of the anti-malaria budgets of many poorer nations. These agencies are opposed to using DDT for malaria prevention, probably due to bans on its use in their own countries. Without this funding to support DDT spraying, these nations can not afford it and are forced to adopt less cost effective measures encouraged by western agencies.
The reluctance of donors to fund DDT spraying is also cited as a major obstacle by Tina Rosenberg, whose NYT Magazine article on malaria and DDT seems to have influenced Nicholas Kristof.

When it comes to the issue of whether spraying is effective, I'd like to thank JZ of Africa Fighting Malaria (AFM) for sending in a long letter on this subject. As JZ points out, AFM is prominent advocate of increasing the use of DDT, so hers should not be considered an impartial opinion. JZ is still confident, however, that there is enough evidence on her side to overcome potential concerns about bias. As she points out,
DDT is a powerful spatial repellent, [and] this characteristic of it keeps mosquitoes from entering the house. Second[,] for the mosquitoes that do enter the house, DDT is a powerful contact irritant.

Anopheles mosquitoes like to hang out on the walls for a bit and groove before biting. When they come into contact with DDT, they [become] tetchy and some are so irritated by it that they will exit the house without biting. Third[,] DDT is toxic to mosquitoes, and will kill some preventing the from spreading malaria further.
JZ acknowledges that mosquitos have often developed resistance to DDT and that this is a serious challenge for disease prevention efforts. Nonetheless, DDT has scored some important victories over malaria even in recent times:
The classic example is [the] experience of South Africa in the late 1990's, where the reintroduction of DDT combined with the introduction of Coartem as a first treatment dropped malaria rates by 80% in one year in KwaZulu Natal province. South Africa's experience has been duplicated in Zambia, where an area using [indoor residual spraying] dropped malaria rates by 50% one year and another 50% the next.
Sounds good to me. But once again, I am only beginning to learn about this issue so my opinions are very much open to new arguments evidence.

For those interested in more information about malaria and DDT, reader CH recommends this article from the Washington Monthly and reader NJ says he attended an informative lecture by Paul Driessen, author of Eco-Imperialism: Green Power, Black Death.

Happy hunting.
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# Posted 5:47 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WE ARE EXPERIENCING TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES: Although I am back from Washngton, the ongoing malfunction of my wireless card has prevented me from blogging from home. To a limited extent, I hope to compensate for this problem by blogging from my office when I need a break from my dissertation, which happens to be now.
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Monday, March 21, 2005

# Posted 1:40 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ON THE ROAD: I'm in DC for a few days and my wi-fi card is malfunctioning. I've been getting lots of interesting e-mails about DDT and George Kennan, which I hope to write about as soon as I can.
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Saturday, March 19, 2005

# Posted 12:42 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WEBSITES YOU SHOULDN'T VISIT: If you scroll down a bit, there's a post with links to some great material about George Kennan, courtesy of Foreign Affairs. Although I have the FA website bookmarked, I sometimes just type in the URL rather than pull down my browser menu. As a result, I learned an important lesson: Never, ever, visit, www.foreignaffairs.com.

Which reminds that back when I was a research assistant, a very prominent member of the Washington punditocracy once called down to my office and asked, "David, what's the address for the White House's website?" To which I replied, "I hope you didn't try putting in www.whitehouse.com." Response: Embarrassed silence.
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# Posted 12:27 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE DDT MEME: Earlier this week, OxBlog gave some favorable coverage to a Nicholas Kristof column that took environmentalists to task for their habitural alarmism. It seems, however, that some of Kristof's evidence of such alarmism is nothing more than a myth perpetuated by the illiberal media.

To be specific, Kristof mentioned that a ban on DDT has been responsible for hundreds of thousands of preventable malaria deaths. But according to Tim Lambert,
There is no ban on the the use of DDT against malaria. It is still used for that purpose. This fact is not a secret. Kristof just hasn’t bothered to find out the truth.
Reader JE adds that
While DDT use in homes around doors and windows, etc., may indeed be an effective anti-vector agent, its widespread use to combat mosquitos in the long term has been ineffective and counterproductive...

One of the drawbacks of DDT is that insects, particularly mosquitoes, rapidly develop immunity to it. Thus bringing back heavy DDT use in tropical countries will probably have little or no effect on mosquitoes or malaria, but will seriously harm other elements of the ecosystem, particularly birds. Indeed, malaria was on the rise in many areas of the world already in the 1960's when DDT use was still widespread. Helping poor people in malaria afflicted countries acquire something as simple as mosquito netting for their homes and beds will do more good than giving their governments a green light to blanket large swathes of the countryside with DDT again.
Further comments on this subject are welcome, since yours truly is very much in need of education about the environment.
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# Posted 12:21 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

YOU, TOO, CAN READ ARABIC: You can do it the hard way by studying the language for four or five years. Or you can head over to the new-and-improved Friends of Democracy website, which will continually post direct translations of some of the best Arabic-language blogging from Iraq. (Hat tip: MT)
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# Posted 12:05 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HANDICAPPING THE PULITZERS: Hugh Hewitt is trying to push Claudia Rosett over the top. Her work on the Oil-for-Food scandal certainly demonstrated that she was far ahead of the pack.

According to Hugh, the odds on Rosett taking home the gold are very poor, since the Pulitzer have exactly the political agenda you might expect from highbrow journalist types. Since I don't normally follow the Pulitzers (although I did dream about winning one last night, strangely enough), I have no idea what the committee's politics are. But even if things are as bad as Hugh says, one shouldn't forget that liberals love affirmative action, and conservative journalists are certainly an oppressed minority. (Hat tip: JS)
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# Posted 11:53 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

TNR'S HOOP DREAMS: As a matter of principle, TNR editor and authentic Tar Heel fan Jason Zengerle has decide to root for NC State in this year's tourney.

So far so good: the Wolfpack pulled off a minor upset last night by taking down Charlotte in the first round. But now they face Big East powerhouse UConn, so Jason better keep his fingers crossed.
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# Posted 11:45 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BLING-BLING, NEW HAVEN STYLE: What happens when nerds try to rap? Find out here. Sample verse:
Yeah, I'm a Magnet. I wear glasses, but I rock the boat / So my verdict on your wording is - *ahem* hold on, lemme clear my throat / 'Cause the only thing you gonna understand from this quote / Is that when you mess with Magnets, we gonna kick your asymptote!
OxBlog sez that's funky, fly and fresh. Reihan better watch his back. (Hat tip: MAB)
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# Posted 11:29 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE ORIGINAL KENNAN: Foreign Affairs has kindly posted on its website more than a dozen of George Kennan's essays from the journal, from the 'X' article of 1947 all the way down to Kennan's writings from the late 1990s. All of the essays are full-text and free of charge. (Hat tip: GR)

Also, head over to Fortuna for some unusual posts about Kennan, love, literature and Paris.
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Friday, March 18, 2005

# Posted 10:45 AM by Patrick Belton  

SWEARING OFF THE CRAYTHUR. Back shortly.
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# Posted 2:32 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

GEORGE KENNAN, 1904-2005: Emerson said that to be great is to be misunderstood. By that standard, George Kennan was surely the greatest American diplomat of the 20th century.

Kennan's name is inseparable from the doctrine of containment that influenced American foreign policy throughout the Cold War. Kennan gave the doctrine its name in his legendary essay in Foreign Affairs entitled The Sources of Soviet Conduct.

Yet within just a few short years, Kennan began to denounce what was being done in the name of his doctrine. The NYT obituary of Kennan captures an important dimension of this dissent by observing that
Mr. Kennan was deeply dismayed when the policy was associated with the immense build-up in conventional arms and nuclear weapons that characterized the cold war from the 1950's onward.
Yet long before the military build-up initiated during the Korean War, Kennan became infuriated by President Truman's division of the world into totalitarian and democratic realms as well Truman's commitment to spread democracy across the globe.

The NYT misses this point entirely. It never provides its readers with even the faintest suggestion that Kennan was fundamentally opposed to democracy promotion as a matter of principle. In contrast, the WaPo obituary of Kennan quotes him as saying that
"I would like to see our government gradually withdraw from its public advocacy of democracy and human rights. I submit that governments should deal with other governments as such, and should avoid unnecessary involvement, particularly personal involvement, with their leaders."
Mind you, Kennan's statement has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that he was a lifelong Democrat and that, these days, democracy promotion is a Republican agenda item. I can make this assertion with such confidence because Kennan's statement above is from 1999.

Yet while the Post deserves credit for recognizing the anti-democratic elements of Kennan's thinking (including his reactionary sexism and racism -- also ignored by the NYT), its provision of a quote from 1999 fails to inform readers that Kennan's opposition to promoting democracy was a six decade-long affair.

When asked to propose a US strategy for Latin America in the late 1940s, Kennan insisted that the United States must abandon its aversion to establishing firm alliances with right-wing dictators both because they were anti-communists and because the people of Latin America weren't ready for democracy.

The purpose of pointing all this out is not to expose the flaws of an otherwise great man. Rather, the purpose is to point out that these often-ignored aspects of Kennan's thinking were integral to everything that stood for. Because Kennan was a "realist".

Amazingly, neither the Times nor the Post describes Kennan as such. Yet it is this label that best identifies the intellectual movement to which Kennan belonged and to which he contributed so much. Although labels tend to oversimplify, it is very meaningful to say that George Kennan, Hans Morgenthau and Henry Kissinger were realists, whereas Harry Truman, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan were not. They were idealists.

Realists believe that violent conflict is an inevitable aspect of international relations. That is a sensible thing to believe. Realists also believe that the best way to avoid violence is to recognize and respect the sovereign authority of foreign governments, provided that they acknowledge the sovereignty of others as inviolable.

Thus, no matter how cruel or authoritarian a government is, serious realists such as Kennan insist that the United States should not attempt to reform it. Certain idealists might respond to such an argument that it is immoral. And it is.

But the far greater flaw of this sort of realist analysis is its failure to recognize how often the United States can best enhance its national security by also promoting its values. Even though the occupations of Germany and Japan demonstrated that point quite conclusively in the 1940s, Kennan was unable to grasp this simple fact.

Today, we are learning once again in Iraq, in Afghanistan and in Lebanon that our values are not an albatross around our necks but rather the greatest weapon in our arsenal.

For all his flaws, I recognize George Kennan as a great thinker and a great American. Yet at this critical moment, we cannot afford to let the celebration of his life prevent us from remembering the price of being "realistic".
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Thursday, March 17, 2005

# Posted 4:58 AM by Patrick Belton  

THE NAKED IRISH CHEF: You asked for recipes. We provide.

Rosemary lamb stew
Ingredients: 2 tablespoons corn oil, 12 white onions, peeled, 4 pounds neck and shank of lamb, cut into 2- or 3-inch pieces (with bones), 1 teaspoon finely minced garlic, 3 tablespoons flour, 1/2 cup dry white wine, 2 cups peeled, cubed tomatoes, 2 large sprigs fresh rosemary, or 2 teaspoons dried, 2 carrots, halved and cut into 1-inch lengths, 1 pound potatoes, peeled and cut in half or quartered, depending on size (about 16 pieces), 1 cup string beans cut into 2-inch lengths, freshly ground black pepper to taste, 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

Heat oil in a large casserole and add onions. Cook, stirring often, until the onions are browned to roughly the colour of a middle-aged rugby playing Dubliner on one of those cheap Ryanair vacations to Spain, except with less fat and alcohol. Remove the onions with a slotted spoon. Add the meat to the casserole and cook, turning the pieces and stirring, for about 10 minutes. Pour off all the fat from the meat. Sprinkle the meat with garlic and flour, stirring to distribute the flour over the pieces of meat. Add the wine and stir to blend. Add tomatoes and rosemary. Not that Rosemary. Cover closely and let simmer merrily for 1 hour. As meat cooks, put carrots and praties in a saucepan and add cold water to cover. Bring to the boil and simmer for 1 minute. Drain. When lamb has cooked for 1 hour, add the onions. Cook for 15 minutes and add the carrots, potatoes and beans. Cover and cook for 15 minutes, or until the potatoes and carrots are tender. Stir in a generous grinding of pepper. Serve sprinkled with chopped parsley. Yield: 6 servings

Mama Belton's Soda Bread
Ingredients: 3 cups all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 cup white sugar, 1 1/2 cups buttermilk, 1/2 cup raisins, 2 eggs, 1 tablespoon caraway seed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F / 175 C. Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Beat eggs with buttermilk. Add the eggs and buttermilk into the flour mixture; stir in raisins. Pour dough onto lightly floured board. Shape into a round loaf, symbolising the trinity or somesuch. Add flour if necessary, symbolising something you make bread out of. Place in a lightly greased springform pan. Sprinkle top with caraway seeds if desired. Bake at 350 degrees F / 175 C for one hour or until the bottom of the loaf makes an eerily disconcerting hollow sound when tapped.

Salmon salad
Ingredients: Salmon. A salad.
Directions: Insert salmon into salad.

Guinness brownies
Ingredients: 4 eggs, 3/4 cup superfine sugar, 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped, 4 ounces white chocolate, chopped, 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, 3/4 cup cocoa, 1 1/4 cups Guinness stout, confectioners' sugar for dusting.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F / 175 degrees C. Butter an 8-inch-square pan. Combine eggs and sugar. Beat until light and fluffy. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the bittersweet chocolate, white chocolate and butter, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat and beat into the egg mixture. Sift flour and cocoa together and beat into the chocolate mixture. Whisk in Guinness. Do be careful not to spill any. Pour into pan and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack. To serve, dust the cake with confectioners' sugar and cut into squares. Serves 8 to 10.

Colcannon
Ingredients: 3 cups finely shredded green cabbage, 1 onion, finely chopped, 1/4 cup water, 6 cooked potatoes, mashed, 1/4 cup milk, 1/4 cup butter. salt and pepper to taste

Put cabbage, onion, and water in saucepan, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to simmer, cover, and cook for about 8 minutes or until tender, not mushy, although that fits in well with our national cuisine too. Add mashed potatoes, milk, butter or margarine, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well to blend and heat through. Serve colcannon warm, as an unloved side dish keeping the table warm next to meat, chicken, or fish. Yield: 4 to 6 servings, if anyone eats it at all.
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Wednesday, March 16, 2005

# Posted 1:14 PM by Patrick Belton  

(SAINT) PATRICK'S ARTICLE: So my annual St Patrick's Day piece is out, for those of our readers who might enjoy reading it. The Emigrant, a diasporic newspaper based in Galway which has been kind enough to take some of my writing on Irish themes in the past, this time let me develop my thoughts on green beer, St Patrick as contested symbol, and the conflicted relationship that we Irish have with stage Irish roles and personas.

And on that last note, readers in Oxford are warmly welcome to come by Thursday evening for drowning the shamrock. OxBlog UK bureau headquarters will be well stocked in lamb stew, colcannon, salmon, guinness brownies, and a fair bit of porter and Jameson's besides.
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Monday, March 14, 2005

# Posted 11:50 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SHE DOTH PROTEST TOO MUCH, METHINKS: The eminent Ms. Dowd writes that:
I'm often asked how I can be so "mean" - a question that Tom Friedman, who writes plenty of tough columns, doesn't get.
Let me take a stab at that one: Is it because Tom Friedman writes columns are substantive and coherent (if sometimes a little kooky)?

Moving on, Ms. Dowd is also unhappy with the Freudian connotations attached to her columns:
Even the metaphors used to describe my column play into the castration theme: my scalpel, my cutting barbs, razor-sharp hatchet, Clinton-skewering and Bush-whacking.
I think I'm going to have to send MoDo a dollar so she can buy herself a clue. I mean, just consider the first sentence of this selfsame column in which she complains about being subjected to sexist cliches:
When I need to work up my nerve to write a tough column, I try to think of myself as Emma Peel in a black leather catsuit, giving a kung fu kick to any diabolical mastermind who merits it.
You see, Maureen, Tom and Bill and all those other men you work with have kindly spared us the image of themselves in fetish gear. The problem here isn't sexism. It's you.
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# Posted 10:36 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BOBOS IN PARADISE -- THE FIFTH ANNIVERSARY EDITION: It has been five years now since David Brooks made a latte-flavored splash with his first-ever book, a work of "comic sociology" entitled Bobos in Paradise. Although Brooks had a distinguished career before the publication of "Bobos", that book's success endowed him with the sort of national renown that won him a place in the inner sanctum of opinion journalism, i.e. the NY Times op-ed page.

For the benefit of the uninitiated, "Bobos" is short for "Bourgeois Bohemians", the name Brooks gives to the highly-educated, militantly non-conformist, increasingly-middle-aged upper-middle-class that has redefined the meaning of success in America.

Since Brooks' work is so well-known, there is no point in putting together one more run-of-the-mill book review. Rather, I want to ask how the passage of time has or may change our perceptions of the significance and enduring worth that "Bobos" has.

Five years later, I think it is fair to say that 95% of what Brooks had to say back then is still extremely valuable right now. Thus, naturally, what I'm going to write about is the other 5%.

Even though Brooks is a top-notch political journalist, the content of "Bobos" is almost entirely apolitical with the exception of its brief and final chapter. To a considerable extent, I think that this apolitical approach is responsible for the book's success.

The target audience for "Bobos" is the same highly-educated upper-middle-class that the book often satires. Although satire sometimes offends, this satire is the work of a loving insider who identifies himself as a Bobo in the very first pages of the book.

Had Brooks placed a greater emphasis on politics, his book might have failed to win over much of its target audience. Although Brooks often insists that there are many conservative Bobos as well, his work clearly describes a Blue State lifestyle. Had Brooks confronted his audience on political grounds, I doubt his readers would have been so receptive to a satire that cuts so deep regardless of its friendly demeanor.

This bit of speculation should not be taken as criticism of "Bobos", however, since one important purpose of the book is to argue, however subtly, that culture is becoming more important than politics.

To be continued...
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# Posted 10:04 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OXBLOG GOES GREEN: First up, we have Nick Kristof's column bashing environmentalists. Can't say I know the first thing about the issues at stake, but you've gotta figure that Kristof is going to make a lot of enemies on the left by writing things like this:
Environmental groups are too often alarmists. They have an awful track record, so they've lost credibility with the public. Some do great work, but others can be the left's equivalents of the neocons: brimming with moral clarity and ideological zeal, but empty of nuance.
Talk about hitting below the belt. Comparing environmentalists to Paul Wolfowitz! Then again, with things the way they are in the Middle East, it's sort of a strange moment to be taking potshots at neo-cons. Regardless, I'm sure the environmentalists Kristof wants to criticize will be duly insulted. Now here's the evidence that serves as the foundation for Kristof's charges:
In the 1970's, the environmental movement was convinced that the Alaska oil pipeline would devastate the Central Arctic caribou herd. Since then, it has quintupled.

When I first began to worry about climate change, global cooling and nuclear winter seemed the main risks. As Newsweek said in 1975: "Meteorologists disagree about the cause and extent of the cooling trend ... but they are almost unanimous in the view that the trend will reduce agricultural productivity for the rest of the century."

This record should teach environmentalists some humility. The problems are real, but so is the uncertainty. Environmentalists were right about DDT's threat to bald eagles, for example, but blocking all spraying in the third world has led to hundreds of thousands of malaria deaths. [Link added, just so you know what Kristof is referring to. --ed.]
Ronald Reagan may not have been right about trees causing pollution, but I guess environmentalists really can kill. Anyhow, lest you think that Kristof has really gone off the reservation, he does still insist that the current President has an environmental agenda "that will disgrace us before our grandchildren."

On a related note, the NYT ran a masthead editorial on Saturday announcing the good news that a Senate committee has pretty much killed the Bush's Clear Skies Initiative. Again, I'm not familiar with the issues at stake. At this point in time, all I really have to fall back on are the liberal instincts I developed before I discovered that the black-and-white moral clarity of my liberal upbringing had papered over the nuances of modern conservatism.

So, because of those instincts, I'm glad that whatever Bush was proposing didn't get approved. But I have to admit I'm curious: If a Senate committee killed the Clear Skies Initiative and the GOP controls the Senate, how did the Times manage to avoid giving any credit whatsoever to the Senators who opposed the President, some of whom must have been Republicans?

As it turns out, there is a legitimate answer to that question: Lincoln Chafee took the Democrats' side, turning their 10-to-8 deficit into a 9-to-9 tie. It may seem unfair to deny the GOP credit for what one of its Senators did, but, frankly, I don't think there are all that many Republicans who would even want to take credit for Chafee's accomplishments.
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# Posted 9:42 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DiCAPRIO TO PLAY BEINART IN "TNR -- THE MOVIE": No, not really. But last night, CBS premiered "Saving Milly", based on a memoir by longtime TNR stalwart Morton Kondracke. Kondracke will be played by the Bruce Greenwood, his wife by Madeleine Stowe.

And speaking of TNR movies, is it really fair that the blackened name of Stephen Glass is now associated with the boyish good looks of Hayden Christensen? I'm beginning to think that my only of ever becoming known as good looking is to work at TNR until my fictional self gets captured on film.

Of course, if Patrick were to work at TNR, he would have to be portrayed by none other than Patrick Belton, star of It Happened in a Bungalow, Under the Bus and other fine films.
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Sunday, March 13, 2005

# Posted 8:29 PM by Patrick Belton  

OXBLOG'S GUIDE TO NATIONAL MEDIA, REDUX: (Come on, do you really expect us to be posting on anything serious on the weekends?) Numerous readers have written in to kindly trace the intellectual history of our list from yesterday to a sequence from Yes, Minister. BritBlogger Anthony Cormack (motto: 'A Few Adequate Men') helpfully provides the transcript (there's also an audio clip here):
Jim Hacker: "I know exactly who reads the papers. The Daily Mirror is read by people who think they run the country. The Times is read by people who actually run the country. The Guardian is read by people who know they don't run the country but think they ought to. The Daily Mail is read by the wives of the people who run the country. The Financial Times is read by people who own the country. The Morning Star is read by people who think the country ought to be run by another country and the Daily Telegraph is read by people who think it is."

Sir Humphrey: "What about the people who read the Sun?"

Bernard: "They don't care who runs the country as long as she's got big [ahem, this is a family blog]."
A helpful reader, whom I note in passing writes from a Harvard email account, writes that a version of this list appeared in Playboy in 2001 or 2002. He further kindly offers to look it up for us, since he reads the articles, anyway.

One final note: it's anybody's guess, as blogger Tom Proebsting asks via email, what blog-reading signifies. My personal guess is that Oxblog is read by charming, physically attractive people of intellect, taste and unmistakable sexual charisma, but that's just a guess....
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Saturday, March 12, 2005

# Posted 6:48 PM by Patrick Belton  

POETRY CORNER: This for the advent of St Patrick's day, by the early mediaeval Irish poet Fearchar Ó Maoilchiaráin.

In a cloak, that bright breast of yours
it should not be the blackthorn brooch;
for you it is, sweet redmouthed Mór,
the one brooch of gold in Éire. 

In your cloak, the proper instrument is
only a brooch of noble finndruinna
or a wondrous brooch made of gold,
sweetworded redmouthed Mór. 

Oh, soft hair the colour of amber,
oh, furrow in the dapplegold cloak,
oh, resolute hero who may never betray a man,
a brooch of blackthorn is not fitting. 

You should sow, my heart's nut,
in your many-yellowed checked cloak
your red cheeks a hard-run prize
only a difficult brooch by the faery smith Goibhniu.

Crimson cheek that haunts me,
without a gold pin, only this hour of mine
for the length of an hour, oh pure hand
for the green cloak of your soul. 

- Fearchar Ó Maoilchiaráin, 811 A.D. (Maureen O'Brien, trans.)

I mbrat an bhrollaigh ghil-se
ní bhiadh an dealg droighin-se
dá mbeith, a Mhór bhéildearg bhinn,
an éindealg d'ór i nÉirinn. 

San mbrat-sa níor chóir do chur
acht dealg d'fhionndruine uasal,
nó dealg iongantach d'ór cheard,
a Mhór bhionnfhoclach bhéildearg. 

A fholt lag ar lí an ómra,
a chur id bhrat bhreacórdha
a stuaigh chobhsaidh nár chealg fear,
nior chosmhail dealg don droighean. 

Níor churtha a chnú mo chroidhe,
id bhrat eangach iolbhuidhe,
a ghruaidh dhearg do-ghéabhadh geall,
acht dealg do-ghéanadh Gaibhneann.

A ghruadh chorcra do char mé,
gan dealg óir acht an uair-se
ar feadh na huaire, a ghlac ghlan,
do bhrat uaine do b'annamh. 
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# Posted 4:25 PM by Patrick Belton  

THE OXBLOG GUIDE TO THE NATIONAL MEDIA:*

1. The Wall Street Journal is read by the people who run the country.

2. The Washington Post is read by people who think they run the country.

3. The New York Times is read by people who think they should run the country and who are very good at crossword puzzles.

4. USA Today is read by people who think they ought to run the country but don't really understand The New York Times. They do, however, like the statistics shown in pie charts.

5. The Los Angeles Times is read by people who wouldn't mind running the country -- if they could find the time -- and if they didn't have to leave Southern California to do it.

6. The Boston Globe is read by people whose parents used to run the country and did a far superior job of it, thank you.

7. The New York Daily News is read by people who aren't too sure who's running the country and don't really care as long as they can get a seat on the train.

8. The New York Post is read by people who don't care who's running the country as long as they do something really scandalous, preferably while intoxicated.

9. The Miami Herald is read by people who are running another country but need the baseball scores.

10. The San Francisco Chronicle is read by people who aren't sure there is a country ... or that anyone is running it; but if so, they oppose all that they stand for.

11. The National Enquirer is read by people trapped in line at the grocery store.

* Courtesy of our friend Paul Domjan. Actual author unknown, though if you happen to have written this, please let us know.
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Friday, March 11, 2005

# Posted 5:41 AM by Patrick Belton  

FUN WITH TYPOS: What the House of Representatives Armed Services subcommittee meant to write was that the United States had conducted nuclear tests in Sedan, Nevada, between 1962 and 1970. What it actually wrote was that it had conducted tests in Sudan. Sudan, meanwhile, came across the report while googling itself one evening. It then summoned the American chargé, who told it their relationship was fine and to go back to sleep. Meanwhile, those drunken headline-writers at the WaPo amused themselves between jello shots by running with 'That '62 Sedan Was a Real Bomb'. Which is the least funny part of the story.
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# Posted 2:15 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A HEROIC UNITED NATIONS? The headline reads: Top UN Envoy to Present Syria With Ultimatum. There seems to be no dissent from the anti-Assad consensus that has brought together the US, Europe and numerous Arab states. In spite of the massive Hezbollah protests on Tuesday, I think this is a very good sign.

And an important reminder of how much principled multilateralism can accomplish. I haven't seen much in the way of commentary on this subject, but I want to know more about why the US and France have been able to cooperate so flawlessly in their diplomatic offensive against Assad.

But all of you multilateralists shouldn't get too excited. The impressive transatlantic cooperation of the moment also demonstrates just how short-sighted the president's critics were when they denounced the invasion of Iraq for destroying that great multilateralist shibboleth, the "postwar international order". (Some of us predicted otherwise.)

And even at this upward looking moment for Lebanon, no one should forget the shameful inaction of the United Nations, Europe and even the United States with regard to Darfur.
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# Posted 2:12 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

"LIBERAL" MEDIA GOES GA-GA FOR BUSH: I was going to do a post about how almost every major print media outlet has run the same formulaic round-up of recent events in the Middle East. Even though I was pretty rough on some liberal bloggers for seeing events in Lebanon through a partisan prism, recent coverage has been so kind to the President that it raises questions about whether journalists' critical instincts have begun to malfunction.

As I said, I was going to a post about that subject until I saw this quote from Jon Stewart (in the WaPo's formulaic round-up of recent events in the Middle East):
"This is the most difficult thing for me, because I don't care for the tactics," he said, "but I've got to say I've never seen results like this ever in that region."
If someone as charmingly vicious as Jon Stewart has lost his critical edge, then what hope is there for the average journalist? The moral of the story here is that the media's short-term mindset and susceptibility to euphoria sometimes overpowers every other influence on its coverage, although I'm not sure we've seen anything like this since 1989.

Anyhow, there's no need to worry. Things will eventually take a turn for the worse in the Middle East, at least for a little while, and the media will go back to being its old cynical. Of course, it is precisely the low expectations of that old cynical self that are responsible for the euphoria that emerges when world events take a surprising turn for the better.
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Thursday, March 10, 2005

# Posted 2:07 PM by Patrick Belton  

NATHAN HALE BOONDOGGLE IN WASHINGTON: For our friends in the lovely federal city, our Washington chapter is co-hosting an event with SAIS tonight from 6:30 to 8:30. Our guest is Professor Ilan Berman, who will speak on the challenges Iran raises to the United States and the international community. He'll be speaking in Room 806 of SAIS's Rome Building, at 1619 Massachusetts Avenue. We'd love to have you along, if you might like to join us! For questions, or just to hear about all kinds of good, clean chaperoned fun we'll be getting up to in the future, please email our Washington chapter president and national director, Justin Abold, at this address.

UPDATE - BOONDOGGLE BOONDOGGLE: Due to a momentary bug in our favourite Japanese-speaking blog hosting site, this announcement was briefly up four times. Or, for those of our readers who prefer to think it, we were just that excited.
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# Posted 1:20 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BANKRUPTCY BOONDOGGLE: I haven't followed the debate about the new bankruptcy bill at all, but if Noam Scheiber says that moderate Democrats handing the party over to the left by supporting this "truly contemptible piece of legislation" then I figure something must be up. And if you're really fascinated by the bill, TPM has an entire sub-blog devoted to it.
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# Posted 1:12 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE NEXT TEST FOR BUSH: Citing this round-up from Abu Aardvark, Matt Yglesias says its time for the administration to get serious about Jordan if it wants to present itself as a friend of democracy in the Middle East. As Abu points out, King Abdullah will meet with Bush in Washington next Monday, so Bush will have one helluva chance to remind the king that absolute monarchies are oh so very 18th century.
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# Posted 12:56 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OBJECTIVE PROOF OF MEDIA BIAS: I quite like this post from Kevin Drum. It sets up a systematic test of media bias on a specific issue. Naturally, what Kevin is looking for is evidence of the media bending over backwards to accommodate the preferred White House spin on private/personal retirement accounts.

But so what? Kevin has set up a pretty rigorous experiment that allows for clear falsification of his prediction. His post is an example of creative blogging that others should emulate.

PS: Also check out Kevin's post on the new tax cuts proposed by the Texas GOP. According to headlines in five of the most important newspapers in Texas, the Republicans' plan is a boondoggle for the rich. I guess those newspapers aren't bending over for the GOP...
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# Posted 12:46 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OBJECTIVE PROOF THAT OXBLOG IS CENTRIST: When someone says that they are a centrist, they are basically bragging. They are saying that their political views transcend partisanship. On the other hand, being a centrist sometimes just means that you don't have the guts to take sides.

Anyhow, with that in mind, I thought I'd link to an interesting post from Kevin Drum that recaps a new study of cross-partisan linkage in the blogosphere. It basically shows what you migth expect: that conservative and liberal blogs don't link to each other very much.

However, if you apply the study's linkage criteria to OxBlog, it turns out we have strong links to those on both sides of the partisan divide. I wonder how many sites can say that? I'm guessing Dan Drezner could and maybe Joe Gandelman.

It sure is lonely here in the center.
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# Posted 12:37 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PIZZA SHOUT OUTS: The NYT has some nice profiles up of America's greatest pizza chefs. Especially well-deserved is the profile of Flo Consiglio, matriarch of the immortal Sally's in New Haven. There is also a picture of Flo along with the caption:
Flo Consiglio of Sally's in New Haven is an artisan who says speed is not important when it comes to a perfect pie.
Flo Consiglio is also an artisan who says speed is not important when it comes to table service. And I say that with much love. I worship the pizza at Sally's. On the night before the Game in November 2003, I waited an hour and a half to get a table at Sally's. You'd think someone would try to make you feel better by quickly taking your order and bringing you your drinks, but oh no...
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Wednesday, March 09, 2005

# Posted 4:23 PM by Patrick Belton  

NEAT FACT OF THE DAY: The BBC's annual budget, £5 billion ($10 billion U.S.), is greater than the gross domestic product of more than half the world's nations, and ranks behind the it's lies, it's all lies!combined government military budgets of only the twelve wealthiest nations on the planet. (Via Wikipedia and then the CDI and this BritBlogger for correcting it)
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# Posted 10:03 AM by Patrick Belton  

I'M BACK: Perspicacious readers of this site will have doubtless noted my comparative absence from its lines over the past two months. I'm afraid in the intervening period I suffered a rather unexpected personal loss, which necessitated spending a bit of time on finding my feet again. But at length I realised I couldn't let Josh and David go on having all the fun without me, so I'm here to pick up my keyboard again with pluck and carry on posting.

I plan to be unconscionably indulgent in the coming weeks, by devoting a bit of space to a handful of topics I'm at the moment particularly keen to explore. Being the month in which my name day habitually falls, I'd like to do a few interviews toward the end of March with several emerging young writers and artists in both the Republic of Ireland and in Northern Ireland. I'm also rather eager to have a handful of conversations in this space with a few other people I'm just simply interested in speaking with - for starters, politicians and strategists from both Israel and the Palestinian Authority; (comparatively) newly elected assembly members in Iraq and Afghanistan; and Iranian bloggers - each about their own perspectives and insights into their respective situations. Over at Nathan Hale (our non-partisan, foreign policy think tank made up of young academics and foreign policy professionals), we'll be launching a research listserv shortly on democratisation (sneak peek) - we've also recently started up a working papers series with much kind industry from our fellows and above all from our Director of Studies Bob Kokta, with resulting reports up for your viewing pleasure on democratisation in the Muslim world, Sistani and Iraqi democratisation, Iraqi views on US and UK policy, and how best to promote both liberalism and democracy in Saudi Arabia, among other topics. (We're always happy to take a look at submissions, too!) In my own corner, I'll have - separate, incidentally - pulpy publications out shortly on French Muslims, Indian foreign policy under Congress, and Paddy's Day, so I'll warn our readers when they fall stillborn from the press, so you can safely avoid the thud. And that along with the usual daily dose of whatever interesting, intellectually provocative, or unintellectually silly and amusing comes my way.

And if I might be forgiven a personal observation, I've rather missed you all, both our readers and fellow bloggers. I'm quite looking forward to being back.

p.s. I've also incidentally returned to find blogger speaking, apparently, monolingual Japanese. It's so quaintly 1980s.
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