Monday, July 25, 2005

# Posted 3:45 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CAPT. CARTER CHECKS IN: Phil posts a brief report about his pre-deployment training in Indiana. And in FP, Phil defends his modest proposal that we should embed reporters at Guantanamo.
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# Posted 3:22 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BUT WHAT ABOUT JEB? Matt Yglesias writes that
This seem[s] like a good time to mention an all-too-obvious fact that oftentimes seems to elude liberals -- George W. Bush can't ever be elected President again no matter what.
That quote sounds pretty funny out of context, but what Matt's actually trying to say is that if the Democrats spend the next three years running against Bush instead of coming up with a clear definition of the party's agenda and values, it will do just as badly in '08 as it did in '04.
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# Posted 1:40 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OXBLOG TOO HARSH ON THE NYT? A plausible accusation, and Erik Jaffe makes a good case. In a recent post about John Roberts (and generously publicized by Andrew Sullivan), I denounced the following bit of commentary from the Times as a condescending misunderestimation of our president:

"Well, I told him I ran three and a half miles a day," Judge Wilkinson recalled in a telephone interview on Wednesday. "And I said my doctor recommends a lot of cross-training, but I said I didn't want to do the elliptical and the bike and the treadmill." The president, Judge Wilkinson said, "took umbrage at that," and told his potential nominee that he should do the cross-training his doctor suggested.

"He thought I was well on my way to busting my knees," said Judge Wilkinson, 60. "He warned me of impending doom."

Judge Wilkinson's conversation with the president about exercise and other personal matters in an interview for a job on the highest court in the land was typical of how Mr. Bush went about picking his eventual nominee, Judge John G. Roberts, White House officials and Republicans said. Mr. Bush, they said, looked extensively into the backgrounds of the five finalists he interviewed, but in the end relied as much on chemistry and intuition as on policy and legal intellect.

Eric responds that:
[NYT White House correspondent Elisabeth] Bumiller is an easy target, because so much of her reporting is obsequious and, frankly, unsophisticated. But what Adesnik characterizes as "condescending," is in fact simply a paraphrase of quotes from senior administration officials. Why, exactly, do we have "every reason to believe" that Bush "carefully chose" Roberts as a candidate because of substantive reasons, as Adesnik writes? That would seem to directly contradict what Bush's own officials say.
Eric is 100% correct that everything Bumiller wrote was a paraphrase of statments made by White House officials or other pro-Bush individuals. But take another look at Bumiller's prose and I think you'll see how its curious presentation of those paraphrased remarks makes it sound like Bush's own allies are testifying to the superificiality of the president's intellect.

Bumiller begins by having Judge Wilkinson recount Bush's idiosyncratic criticism of the Judge's exercise regimen. Then, without sayng so explicitly, Bumiller suggests that Bush's criticism of Wilkinson's exercise habits actually influenced the president's decision to nominate John Roberts instead. Specifically, Bumiller writes that Bush's conversation with Wilkinson about jogging "was typical of how Mr. Bush went about picking his eventual nominee, Judge John G. Roberts, White House officials and Republicans said."

Now, did those "White House officials and Republicans" mean to say that Bush actually considered personal habits such as exercise and diet to be relevant criteria for the selection of a Supreme Court justice? Or did they mean to say that the president tried to establish a certain rapport with his potential nominees by asking them about what they do outside of work? Although the latter is far more plausible, Bumiller's phrasing clearly suggests the former.

Now consider how Bumiller's final sentence reinforces that interpretation:
Mr. Bush, they said, looked extensively into the backgrounds of the five finalists he interviewed, but in the end relied as much on chemistry and intuition as on policy and legal intellect.
By juxtaposing this sentence with Judge Wilkinson's anecdote about jogging, Bumiller suggests that the president's reliance on "chemistry and intution" belongs in the same category as Nancy Reagan's infamous reliance on astrologers.

But say what they will about his intelligence, even the president's harshest critics admit that he has remarkable charisma in one-on-one settings. What I would suggest is that Bush wisely relied on small talk in order to make Wilkinson and the other candidates more comfortable -- and therefore more candid -- during their interviews in the Oval Office.

Now, for the benefit of those liberals who have read this far without throwing their hands up into the air and wondering whether OxBlog thinks that there is even a liberal bias to the NYT's weather reports, I say this:

Sometimes, you can read too much into the newspaper. Impending deadlines do sometimes force journalists to prioritize speed over precision. And I don't think for a minute that Elisabeth Bumiller intentionally sought to twist the words of Judge Wilkinson and others into an attack on the president's intelligence.

My best guess is simply that Bumiller heard what she wanted to hear. Her article most probably presents the evidence exactly as it seemed to her. In other words, Bumiller didn't have to spend much time figuring out how to make Bush look foolish, because her instincts already presented the available evidence in that light.

But the far more important question is whether anyone should care about the subtle tilt of Bumiller's coverage. If it takes nine paragraphs to debate two sentences in the NY Times, perhaps the whole question of bias is irrelevant.

I disagree. Although it may take nine paragraphs to explain precisely how Bumiller's language manages to cast aspersion on the president's intellect, I think that even fairly casual readers will come away from Bumiller's article thinking to themselves "Oh my God, this country is being run by a simpleton."

In fact, I would argue that the subtlety of Bumiller's language is precisely what makes it so effective, since intelligent audiences would react very negatively to bias that was more overt. Thus, while ensuring a certain degree of fairness and balance, the informal code of conduct that governs American journalism also has the unintended effect of cloaking bias in the guise of objectivity.
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# Posted 1:02 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

UNBORKABILITY UPDATE: E-mailer JK reports that:
"unBorkable" was used in 1990 by the Wall Street Journal in reference to David Souter. The article's name is "Rule of David Souter, Bush's UnBorkable Nominee". It's by L. Gordon Crovitz and was published on 25 July 1990 on page A13.

The word is also used in the article: "President Bush may well have found an unBorkable nominee. Judge Souter has apparently never written a law-review article or given a memorable speech."
I once heard Souter give a speech. The occasione was quite memorable mainly because of the nap I took. Anyhow, if Roberts turns out to be another Souter, I think that would be the ultimate vindication of the Democrats' decision to play hardball with Bork back in '87.
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Saturday, July 23, 2005

# Posted 11:09 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S BLOG: If you love Shakespeare and happen to find yourself anywhere near central Virginia, I passionately recommend paying a visit to the Barboursville Vineyards in order to enjoy an outdoor performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Before the show starts, you are encouraged to have a picnic dinner on the Barboursville grounds. There are also wines for sale from the vineyard. The show itself takes place amidst the ruins of the Barbour mansion, designed by Thomas Jefferson for Virginia Gov. and Sen. James Barbour.

But enough about the setting. As Shakespeare might have said, the play's the thing. And it is a wonderful production. The acting was superb. The ruins provide an intimate performance space and the actors fully engaged the audience. The laughter continued throughout the play.

Some of that laughter is to the credit of the playwright. But I think that the players themselves (and the director) deserve it even more, since they truly brought Shakespeare alive. One might say that it was a production of Shakespeare in the spirit of Groucho Marx. Although it is often hard for modern audiences to the humor in 16th century vintage iambic pentameter, this production brings out the best.

How? Much of the answer is physical. Shakespeare may have left us brilliant plays, but this production uses constantly innovative body language to bring out the meaning of the text. And the comic timing of the actors is superb. Yet in spite of this innovation, I found the players to be wholly true to the spirit of the play.

As I said, if you find yourself anywhere near central Virginia on Friday, Saturday or Sunday evening, go see this play!
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Friday, July 22, 2005

# Posted 2:22 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

STICK YOUR THUMB IN THE EYE OF DIVERSITY: In response to the nomination of John Roberts as her successor, Justice O'Connor remarked that "He's good in every way, except he's not a woman."

I would have been much happier if O'Connor said that she can't stand John Roberts, but that what's between his ears matters far more than what's between his legs. If there is one institution in this country that should be protected from affirmative action, then the Supreme Court is it.

Moreover, I think that liberals should embrace this argument just as wholeheartedly as libertarians or conservatives. Consider the case of Clarence Thomas. Thomas is living proof that skin color is only, well, skin deep. What has defined Thomas as a justice are his ideas -- which is exactly as it should be.

For affirmative action to have any meaning with regard to the Supreme Court, then minority justices must somehow "represent" the racial, ethnic or gendered constituency to which they belong. I think we can all agree that Thomas hardly represents the political interests of black America. For liberals, that is a point of frustration. For color-blind conservatives, it should be a point of pride.

The issue here is not whether you or I are opposed to affirmative action in principle, but whether it is any way productive to apply the concept of affirmative action to an institution composed of nine individuals appointed for life. What Thomas' appointment demonstrates is that both liberals and conservatives will always, if necessary, be able to find someone who fits both the demographic and ideological criteria necessary to satisfy the letter of affirmative action but not its spirit.

Why? Because nine is such a small number. Even in relatively small bodies such as the Senate and House of Representatives, Republicans have a very hard time diversifying their delegations. When they try to come up with the right color candidate, the result may be a fiasco such as Alan Keyes.

Now let's shift gears a bit. What I've been arguing up to this point is that it is extraordinarily hard, perhaps even impossible to apply the concept of affirmative action to the composition of the Supreme Court. What I want to argue now is that subjecting the court to the politics of affirmative action is both ethically suspect and bad for democracy.

One of the most important purposes of an elected, legislative body such as Congress is to fight over who gets how much from our government. Tax cuts or federal funding for healthcare? Fire houses in Baghdad or fire houses in Ohio? Subsidies for farms or subsidies for inner-city enterprise zones?

In order for such a distributive process to function, the demands of every constituency must be brought to the table. Thus if there are black congressmen who see themsleves as representing black interests, that is a good thing. But we can't have a Supreme Court that functions that way.

The purpose of the high court is not to respond to the demands of different constitutencies. If demands begin to dictate who gets on the Supreme Court, then we may eventually find ourself saddled with judges who have a very narrow and particularistic view of constitutional jurisprudence.

Admittedly, there are problems with this argument. First of all, if I've already argued that pressure for diversity on the court results in the appointment of judges such as Clarence Thomas, why am I concerned that further responsiveness to pressure for diversity will result in the appointment of judges whose skin color matters more than their ideas? Fair enough, but we may not be so fortunate next time.

A more substantive objection is that the court is already a fundamentally political body, so why not let pressure for diversity play a role? I may insist that constituents' demands should have no place on the court, but doesn't the appointment of justices on the basis of their political alignment accomplish exactly the same thing?

I have to admit, I don't have a solid answer to that question. As I've said before, law is hardly my area of expertise, so I'm still trying to figure out what I believe. Ultimately, I may be forced to fall back on my general intuition that the principle of affirmative action is problematic, rather than the more persuasive argument that the specific functions of the Supreme Court are especially threatened by calls for "diversity".

At bottom, I simply find it unacceptable for a democratic nation to judge its public officials, even in part, by the color of their skin or their possession of a Y chromosome.
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Thursday, July 21, 2005

# Posted 1:29 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DUMBLEDORE APPOINTED TO SUPREME COURT OF WIZARDRY: More than one reader (two, in fact) e-mailed to express their disappointment/anger at my inconsiderate revelation that Hermione is pregnant and that Voldemort may be the father.

Of course, I completely made up the whole thing. I assumed that my little joke was so ridiculous that no one would assume that this is what actually happens in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Then again, JK Rowling keeps telling us that her series will become progressively darker as it approaches its climax, so perhaps it isn't so unreasonable to believe that Voldemort would impregnate Hermione.

Actually, come to think of it, given some of the bizarre Freudian imagery in the earliest works from the Rowling opus, perhaps teenage pregnancy isn't all that far-fetched.

But come on folks, we're talking about Hermione here -- one of the most talented wizards of her generation. Surely as part of her studies of Defense Against the Dark Arts she has perfected the incantation of spells such as Putonsome Latexia, Ingesta Pillium, or (if worst comes to worst) Withdrawum Prematurum.
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# Posted 1:17 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

"UNBORKABLE": We're going to be hearing that word a lot, methinks. In fact, the word was already being used at least one month ago by AmbivaBlog.

Nonetheless, a Google search for "unborkable" only turns up 12 results, three of which refer back to AmbivaBlog. Another three refer to a musical concept that I don't understand. Five links refer to pages that use "unborkable" in the context of computer programming.

Which leaves one reference to a dead-link from a newspaper in St. Paul, MN. Which means that I'll have to go into the office tomorrow and use LexisNexis to figure out who really was the first to coin the phrase "unborkable".

Although I know I'm not the first, it would still be sort of cool to be second or third, huh?

UPDATE: Reader JD went to the music sites mentioned above and determined that "unborkable" was most probably just a typo.
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# Posted 12:55 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

JOHN ROBERTS, THE ANTI-BUSH? I don't know heads or tails about constiutional law, so I'll have to focus on the politics of John Roberts' nomination. And what I know so far is that 'liberal' journalists are falling all over themselves to see who can praise Roberts more.

Why? Because Roberts is the opposite of everything they hate about Bush. Consider this mash note from the NYT:
[Roberts] was always conservative, but not doctrinaire. He was raised and remains a practicing Roman Catholic who declines, friends say, to wear his faith on his sleeve...

John G. Roberts is an erudite, Harvard-trained, Republican corporate-lawyer-turned-judge, with a punctilious, pragmatic view of the law.
Mind you, that's a straight news article I'm quoting, not an editorial or even a "news analysis" column. Liberal activists must be fuming -- positive coverage from the NYT, WaPo, etc. is turning Roberts' confirmation into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Technically, the editorial boards at the Times and the Post are insisting that we must all reserve judgment until the Senate has conducted a thorough and substantive examination of Roberts' merit as a judge. But who're they kidding?

When the WaPo is running headlines such as "Democrats Say Nominee Will Be Hard to Defeat" , there is simply no way to portray Roberts as the sort of "extreme ideologue with an agenda of stripping away important rights" that the NYT says is unacceptable on the nation's highest court.

Now why has the media decided to give John Roberts the kid glove treatment? It's not because he went to Harvard College and Harvard Law. After all, Bush has degrees from Harvard and Yale. What matters a lot more is that Roberts graduated summa cum laude and was the managing editor of law review. He's not just an Ivy Leaguer -- he's the kind of Ivy Leaguer that journalists and pundits wish their children could be.

In other words, Roberts is supposedly the kind of Ivy Leaguer who thinks in a way that fellow Ivy Leaguers readily understand and heartily praise -- whereas Bush doesn't. Consider how the NYT's Elisabeth Bumiller describes Bush's decision to nominate Roberts rather than Harvie Wilkinson:
"Well, I told him I ran three and a half miles a day," Judge Wilkinson recalled in a telephone interview on Wednesday. "And I said my doctor recommends a lot of cross-training, but I said I didn't want to do the elliptical and the bike and the treadmill." The president, Judge Wilkinson said, "took umbrage at that," and told his potential nominee that he should do the cross-training his doctor suggested.

"He thought I was well on my way to busting my knees," said Judge Wilkinson, 60. "He warned me of impending doom."

Judge Wilkinson's conversation with the president about exercise and other personal matters in an interview for a job on the highest court in the land was typical of how Mr. Bush went about picking his eventual nominee, Judge John G. Roberts, White House officials and Republicans said. Mr. Bush, they said, looked extensively into the backgrounds of the five finalists he interviewed, but in the end relied as much on chemistry and intuition as on policy and legal intellect.
I would say that the often-condescending Ms. Bumiller has thoroughly misunderestimated the president. While I'm sure that Bush asked Wilkinson about his exercise habits, we have every reason to believe that Bush carefully chose himself a candidate with both strong conservative beliefs and an incomparable ability to persuade Democratic senators to support his nomination.

In fact, it is precisely because Bumiller and others perpetuate such hackneyed stereotypes about Bush's intellect that John "summa cum laude and law review" Roberts has established himself so rapidly as an unborkable candidate.
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Wednesday, July 20, 2005

# Posted 3:14 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

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# Posted 2:27 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DOES THE MEDIA STILL BELIEVE JOE WILSON IS A SAINT? What matters now is whether or not someone in the White House committed a crime by exposing Valerie Plame as a covert CIA operative. Nonetheless, it is important to remember that this whole affair began when Plame's husband, Joseph Wilson accused President Bush of telling brazen lies to the American public.

More than twelve months after Wilson made his initial allegations, a report from the Senate Intelligence Committee exposed Wilson, not Bush, as the real brazen liar. For a devastating summary of the report, head over to Matthew Continetti's article about it in the Weekly Standard.

After the release of the report, even staunch liberals such as Kevin Drum felt compelled to admit that Wilson's
Credibility as a source is definitely tattered, but perhaps not quite as thoroughly demolished as his enemies are claiming.
If you are a liberal yourself, I strongly recommend reading the entirety of Kevin's post, which explains exactly why Wilson's accusations were so indefensible.

But all of that is ancient history, right? Who cares now whether Wilson was right or wrong? Well, I do, because it seems that certain journalists' lingering sympathy for Wilson has led them to treat Karl Rove as guilty until proven innocent when it comes to the Plame affair. My two cases in point are the cover stories in this week's editions of Time and Newsweek.

Here's the opening graf from the Newsweek cover story:
Karl Rove is a hunter. His favorite quarry in Texas is quail; in Washington, it's foes of George W. Bush or Vice President Dick Cheney. Rove was focused intently, with a touch of anger, on his prey. It was Monday, July 7, 2003, the day after Joe Wilson, a veteran diplomat, had launched a damaging public assault on a central administration rationale for the war in Iraq: that Saddam Hussein had been trying to buy yellowcake uranium in Niger. In a New York Times op-ed piece and a companion appearance on "Meet the Press," Wilson said he had been dispatched to the African country in 2002 by the CIA, at the behest of Cheney, to check out the yellowcake claim—and had found it flimsy at best.
That summary of the situation is "flimsy at best". Nowhere in the rest of its very long article does Newsweek even mention that Wilson's allegations were later proven to be patent falsehoods. Yet even though such facts are curiously missing, Newsweek's Howard Fineman did find plenty of time to write nasty things about Rove such as:
In the World According to Karl Rove, you take the offensive, and stay there. You create a narrative that glosses over complex, mitigating facts to divide the world into friends and enemies, light and darkness, good and bad, Bush versus Saddam. You are loyal to a fault to your friends, merciless to your enemies...

The Manichaean politics that Rove had perfected over three decades now threaten to engulf him, or at least render him as something less than what he has been to Bush: the mastermind of Republican hegemony...

It's unlikely that any White House officials considered that they were doing anything illegal in going after Joe Wilson. Indeed, the line between national security and politics had long since been all but erased by the Bush administration.
What next? Will Fineman tell us that Rove shot JFK?

Moving on, this week's covery story in Time is slightly better with regard to Wilson. On the one hand, it tells us that
When Joe Wilson emerged in July 2003 as a well-credentialed critic of the Administration's case for going to war, he placed himself squarely in Rove's sights.

Here was a former ambassador, an Africa expert, who could flaunt his pictures with past Presidents, Democrats and Republicans alike--including one with President George H.W. Bush, who had called Wilson a hero for his service as charge d'affaires in Baghdad before the first Gulf War. When Wilson wrote in the New York Times on July 6, 2003, nearly four months after the war began, that "intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat," it represented the most damaging charge yet against the Administration's handling of prewar intelligence.
Wilson was certainly well-credentialed and his allegations were damaging, but it might be useful for Time to let us know that the allegations were also false.

To its credit, Time does cast some doubt on Wilson's credibility by observing that
Wilson was also shading the story: "Valerie had nothing to do with the matter," he wrote in his 2004 book The Politics of Truth. "She definitely had not proposed that I make the trip." When asked last week by TIME if he still denies that she was the origin of his involvement in the trip, he avoided answering. But he has maintained all along that Administration officials conducted a "smear job" on him and outed his wife in revenge.
Albeit important, this bit of evidence hardly makes the point that Wilson's allegations were false. Even so, it's better than nothing.

One question worth asking about all of this misleading coverage is why the media can't get it's story straight about Wilson. Although some will simply say that the answer is "liberal bias", the issue is more complex.

First of all, the media loves whistleblowers. They see themselves as brave whistleblowers struggling to expose the truth. Thus, when they get their hands on a potential whistleblower, they tend to be as uncritical his allegations as they often are of their own. It think this is true regardless of whether there is a Democrat or Republican in the White House.

By the same token, this fawning love of whistleblowers explains why the media devoted such extensive coverage to Wilson's initial allegations but only minimal coverage to the subsequent exposure of Wilson as a brazen liar.

Perhaps when there is a Democrat in the White House, we can figure out whether the media goes softer on his or her statements about national security (as opposed to say, nubile interns).

Of course, all of this talk about Joe Wilson shouldn't divert our attention from the fact that George Bush did go public in his 2003 State of the Union address with some very dodgy allegations about Saddam Hussein's nuclear weapons program.

Ultimately, that kind of statement coming from a president is far more disconcerting that than the lies of a second-tier operative and partisan hack such as Joe Wilson. But the media seems to cover the inaccuracies of George Bush's statements quite well, leaving it to us bloggers to expose the small fry like Joe Wilson.
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# Posted 1:48 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

COVER STORY OR NO STORY? Karl Rove doesn't look like a powerful man. He looks like a middle-aged middle-manager from Middle America. If you look at the photo of Rove on the cover of Time magazine, you can't even tell what he's feeling. Is he about to smile? About to cry? Sedated? Waiting to attack? It's hard to believe that a man whose head melts so unthreateningly into his neck could be at the center of such a firestorm.

But appearances are often deceiving. Had anyone other than Karl Rove been identified as the key figure in DoJ's investigation of the Valerie Plame affair, I have to wonder whether they would have made it onto the cover of both Time (and Newsweek). But Rove is the supposed mastermind withing the Bush White House, the supposed engineer of two stunning victories for a candidate considered by the experts to be thoroughly subpar. Personally, I'd say that those kind of judgments tell you more about the experts than they do about Karl Rove or George W. Bush. Nonetheless, they do explain why a scandal about which we still have extraordinarily little information has become such a sensation.

What we do know is summarized quite well by Time correspondent Matt Cooper, who testified before a grand jury after Rove released him from his initial commitment to protecting Rove's identity. Here's what Cooper writes in the current issue of Time:
So did Rove leak Plame's name to me, or tell me she was covert? No. Was it through my conversation with Rove that I learned for the first time that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA and may have been responsible for sending him? Yes. Did Rove say that she worked at the "agency" on "WMD"? Yes. When he said things would be declassified soon, was that itself impermissible? I don't know. Is any of this a crime? Beats me. At this point, I'm as curious as anyone else to see what Patrick Fitzgerald has.
I suspect that Rove allowed Cooper to break his commitment to confidentiality because Rove knew very well that he hadn't said anything inappropriate to Cooper. Which still doesn't really tell us whether Rove did anything inappropriate. Perhaps he wanted Cooper to testify in order to clear his name. Or perhaps he wanted Cooper's inconclusive evidence to make him seem innocent, whereas some other journalist may have more damaging information about Rove. Paging Robert Novak...
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Tuesday, July 19, 2005

# Posted 1:17 PM by Patrick Belton  

ARTHUR CROOK, former editor of the TLS.
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Sunday, July 17, 2005

# Posted 10:24 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHY DOESN'T THE NORTH HAVE A FLAG? My brief post on this subject provoked lots of responses. As a number of readers pointed out, often with indignation, the North does have a flag, which is the Stars & Stripes.

Yes, I know that. Nor am I really serious about my proposal that the North or Northeast or Northwest should have a flag. I just find it amusing and anomalous that only one region of our country has such a flag. Surely in the name of equality we all should have a flag!

(Or is that too much of a welfare-state sentiment? Perhaps we should all just have an equal opportunity to design regional flags.)

On a related note, how come straight people don't have a flag? The LGBT community has that lovely rainbow banner, which conveniently confirms all of those stereortypes about gay men having better taste than the rest of us. So how about a straight flag? Or a metrosexual flag?

Now switching gears a bit from the hypothetical to the real, both BC and NH point out that there is already a notional republic of Cascadia (comprising Oregon, Washington and British Columbia) which has its own flag, seen below. Apparently, the citizens of Cascadia have secessionist ambitions, which confirms the unfortunate precdent set by the Confederate States of America, i.e. that you only get your own flag when you turn your back on the Union.

Frankly, I would hope that regional pride could be expressed in a manner more compatible with the Constitution.

On a moderately related note, I should observe that multiple Cascadians expressed their dissatisfaction with my proposal that the Northwestern flag should consist of a Starbucks logo on a field of green, when in fact true Northwesterners prefer independent coffee shops to corporate conglomerate.

I must admit, I am not persuaded by this point. I would argue that the Starbucks-on-green logo perfectly captures the non-conformist pretensions of Cascadian culture. Cascadian rhetoric may glorify the independent provider of caffeination, but when given the opportunity to transform that small business into a global coffee empire, certain Cascadian businessmen set about doing so with few reservations.

Perhaps they were just emulating the methods of that most famous of Cascadian entrepreneurs, Bill Gates...
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Friday, July 15, 2005

# Posted 7:43 AM by Patrick Belton  

AT THE MOVIES WITH OXBLOG: Yesterday, I went to see War of the Worlds with OxBlog's friend, Taylor Owen. This was originally meant to involve a double date, but oddly enough, feminine company trickled off and we ended up watching alone this science-fiction film involving the destruction of earth by really big machines. Afterward, stunned and moved, I leaned over and asked my moviegoing partner:

PB: Tell me, did that film have any redeeming feature whatsoever?
TO: Um. No, it didn't.
PB: So in other words, we've just managed to accomplish two hours of completely remorseless indolence?
TO (laughing): Yes, I guess we did.
PB: So mission accomplished.

We then marveled on three phenomena, which as a social scientist I thought I would note here: (1) the relative imperviousness of fetching, clever blonde ladies to science fiction, even if in other contexts their tastes extend equally to such other pinnacles of human achievement as the classical Hellenic corpus and biochemistry; (2) the marvels of a single-product economy, which by providing on the supply side only one film the entire summer, has registered our faint desire to eat popcorn, sit in air-conditioned comfortable chairs, and make silly jokes at the expense of Tom Cruise as a vote for this lovely film; (3) the possibility that the first draft was full of Stoppardian wit, Sartrean moral ambiguity and dilemma, and Hamlettian soliloquoys, before a Hollywood market designer went through with a red pen and scribbled 'no, scratch this, insert really big machine. yeah, and scratch this. insert another really big machine.'
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# Posted 7:39 AM by Patrick Belton  

AIR CONDITIONER: What they call Pantene Pro-X in east London.
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Thursday, July 14, 2005

# Posted 11:01 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ON THE ROAD: Back Monday.
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Wednesday, July 13, 2005

# Posted 9:53 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

REAGAN'S INTELLECT: Once again, well-read citizens have been confronted with a deluge of new books about the 40th president. Just this spring, we have seen the publiction of John Ehrman's The Eighties, Gil Troy's Morning in America and Paul Lettow's Ronald Reagan and His Quest to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. In additon, John Gaddis has published a revised edition of his classic treatise Strategies of Containment, distinguished from its predecessor mainly by a brand new chapter on Ronald Reagan.

In due time, scholars will respond to the specific arguments that each of these four authors make about the specific aspects of Reagan's legacy on which they focus their research. But to focus on such specifics is to mistake the forest for the trees, since their is a powerful interpretive thread that unites all of these new works. That thread is the appraisal of Reagan's intellect.

The question of Reagan's intellect is so important because it is the skeleton key that unlocks the riddle of whether America's great triumphs in the 1980s are better described as a fortunate accident or as the direct result of Reagan's controversial policies, both foreign and domestic.

Unsurprisingly, liberals prefer the former interpretation while conservatives prefer the latter. However, this partisan divide tends to obscure the fact that not all that long ago, the relevant question was not whether Reagan deserved credit for the triumphs of his decade, but whether Reagan's profligate spending had eviscerated the American way of life, or whether things were destined to get better.

As late as 1992, WaPo correspondent and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Haynes Johnson argued in his bestselling account of the Reagan era that while Reagan may have contributed something to the end of the Cold War, what he left behind was a dangerously debilitated America that might never regain its strength after the traumatic decades of the Cold War.

As one might expect, Johnson's book does cast aspersion on Reagan's intellect, often in a harsh and condescending manner. Yet the question of Reagan's intellect is not integral to Johnson's argument because the evidence of Reagan's alleged failure is the visible, tangible, concrete and material decline of American society.

A decade and a half later, all of the vital signs of American life indicate that the Reagan era was a time of triumph, not failure. Thus, the question has become to what degree the president once held responsible for the nation's decline was actually the author of its almost totally unexpected success.

Although John Gaddis doesn't argue (a la Dinesh D'Souza) that Reagan compelled the Soviet Union to surrender, he does argue that Reagan understood, long before Gorbachev came to power, that the United States could spend the Soviets into submission. Although almost all Americans recognized that the Soviet Union's planned economy was a major liability, most of them (including Jimmy Carter) insisted that an arms race was inherently unwinnable.

In contrast, there is evidence that Reagan favored a military build-up precisely because he recognized its potential to bankrupt the Soviet Union. The question is, how much evidence? Although Gaddis presents the evidence as fairly robust, I was not persuaded. Undoubtedly, Reagan argued on occasion that the United States could and should win an arms race. But this idea never became a part of Reagan's cannon. Instead, the 40th president (and most certainly all of his advisers) expended a much greater effort on explaining to the American public why liberals such as Carter were so committed to underestimating the Soviet threat.

To a certain degree, these arguments are not mutually exclusive. One might say that what Reagan and his advisers were insisting upon was the underestimated malevolence of a declining Soviet Union.

If one has as much faith in Reagan's intellect as Gaddis implies, then it makes sense to interpret his limited statements about Soviet vulnerability as foundational tenets of his grand strategy for winning the Cold War. But before accepting such a speculative interpretation, I think we will need to see much more evidence emerge from the Reagan archives.

Although I have considerable respect for Reagan's intellect, I would resist any effort to describe Reagan's many pronouncments as expressions of an underlying and coherent policy agenda. Although there was a strong ideological and philosophical core to Reagan's politics, there floated around this core numerous ideas that were not fully developed and often contradicted one another.

To be continued...
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Monday, July 11, 2005

# Posted 2:28 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WOW. THIS NYT EDITORIAL ACTUALLY IMPRESSED ME: Even an inveterate critic such as myself considers the NYT, as a newspaper and a cultural institution, to be impressive. But almost never would I say that about its endlessly recycled anti-Bush editorials. Yet today, I am impressed.

Yesterday morning, the NYT called for the expansion of the US army by 100,000 men. Of course, the editorial began with the usual litany of accusations about Bush's incompetence, etc. But when it comes down to nuts and bolts, supporting this kind of ambitious, expensive and (in my opinion) necessary objective suggests that the Times doesn't want to resolve the struggle in Iraq or in the broader Middle East via disengagement or via an unquestioned reliance on international institutions.

Instead, the Times seems to understand that no matter how much value there is to be had from international cooperation and from the forthright consideration of America's numerous flaws, the successful waging of the war on terror must rest on a foundation of incomparable military power.
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# Posted 2:26 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

AND SPEAKING OF THE CONFEDERATE FLAG, WHY DOESN'T THE NORTH HAVE A FLAG? If I want to express my pride as a Northener born and raised, what symbol can I invoke? If I were from the Northwest, perhaps just a Starbucks logo on a field of green. But what about the Northeast? Any ideas?

(Hat tip to my brother MA for suggesting this question.)
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Sunday, July 10, 2005

# Posted 7:53 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHY DOES THE CONFEDERATE FLAG LOOK ORANGE? Officially, the flag is red. My brother and I visited the Jefferson Davis mansion in Richmond today (often referred to as The Confederate White House), where I asked our tour guide whether the flag is red or orange. He confidently stated that it is red, a fact verified by a scholarly tome in the museum's gift shop as well as on website's like this one.

Yet in that same gift shop, depictions of the Confederate flag (more precisely, the Confederate battle flag) side by side with the American flag clearly show that either the American flag is more red or the Confederate flag is more orange. By the same token, my brother and I went to a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert in Norfolk last night, where one of the backdrops for the stage was half of an American flag with half of a Confederate flag next to it. The colors were clearly different.

So, if any of you happen to know what the precise hue of the Confederate flag is, please let me know. Is it a specific kind of red that has some orange in it? Was it always that way? I'm curious.
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Friday, July 08, 2005

# Posted 5:42 AM by Patrick Belton  

THUS ALLAN MASSIE in today’s Indy (p. 30):
Sometimes, you think, we are becoming soft, far more ready to give way to sloppy self-indulgent emotionalism than our parents and grandparents were; that the upper lip is more often wobbly than stiff. And then you get something like this.

I was in my study, looking out over the green tranquil country of the Scottish Borders, sheep grazing in the field below the woods, when my daughter telephoned to tell me bombs were going off all over London. I turned on the television, and one of the first things I saw was a man with the left side of his face all cut and bloody being interviewed.

I can’t remember just what he said, but his tone was familiar, immediately recognizable. He was, I suppose, in his forties, maybe a little younger, certainly of a comfortably post-war generation. He was calm, relaxed, self-deprecating; it might have been John Mills or Jack Warner telling Hitler: ‘London can take it, Britain can take it.’ It was moving, comforting, and, yes, inspiring.

I had another call later in the day, this time from a girl in my publisher’s publicity department. She was ringing to ask if I could go on a book festival on a date in January. That, too, is an example of the spirit of the Blitz. It might, she admitted, be difficult for her to get home that evening; but work goes on.

London has been through it before. The Blitz destroyed great parts of the city. … And even when victory was at last in sight, came the rockets – the V1 and the V2 – bringing death without warning. Londoners shrugged their shoulders and called them ‘doodlebugs.’ … But then, in years of peace, came the IRA bombing campaign, and Londoners bore that too without flinching. Most remarkable, the terrorists then were regarded with contempt rather than hatred.

We are the same people we were 60 years ago, capable of the same stoicism. London can take it, and it can do so because its stoicism is laced as it always has been with humour.

Orwell again: ‘A lot of bombs in Greenwich, one of them while I was talking to E over the phone. A sudden pause in the conversation and a tinkling sound:
I: ‘What’s that?’
E: ‘Only the window falling in.’

Business as usual.
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# Posted 4:36 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SO WHAT DOES LONDON MEAN? No, I don't have an answer to that question. Yes, I have opinions about the answers offered by others. First of all, Kevin Drum has simply responded with the sober image of a British flag at half mast. It is a message of condolence and solidarity. Kevin adds:
If I could have one small wish for today, it would be for the blogosphere on both left and right to refrain from political point scoring over the London attacks. Just for a day. Isn't tomorrow soon enough to return to our usual arguments?
I wish there more bloggers people like Kevin, although I guess even Kevin would admit he's being a bit naive. Not surprisingly, Josh Marshall has taken the occasion of the London attacks to remind us that
President Bush has created a great running wound on the whole country in the form of the mess he's created in Iraq -- a wound bleeding blood, treasure and a scourge of national division which is now impossible to ignore but which we can ill-afford.
From the other end of the spectrum, Belmont Club writes that
The tragedy is that Al Qaeda's perception [of Western cowardice] is perfectly correct when applied to the Left, for whom no position is too supine, no degradation too shameful to endure; but incorrect for the vast majority of humans, in whom the instinct for self-preservation has not yet been extinguished.
Yeah, that's pretty apalling. I expect better from a highly intelligent analyst such as Wretchard.

In the same post, Wretchard also argues that yesterday morning's attack is a sign of Al Qaeda's weakness. He then specifies that this weakness stems from the fact that
Thousands of Al Qaeda fighters, the cream of their rancid crop, is fighting to expel the American infidel from the Land Between the Rivers [i.e. Iraq]. A moment's reflection will show that if they are there they cannot be elsewhere -- in London, Paris, Rome or Boston -- sowing bombs on buses and trains.
I disagree with both of Wretchard's points. His stronger point is the first, i.e. that the relatively low human cost of yesterday's attack is a sign of Al Qaeda's weakness. The same point has been made by Andrew Sullivan (citing The Economist) and, in a somewhat different way, by Anne-Marie Slaughter.

But ask yourself the following question: What if those attacks had taken place in Chicago, New York or Los Angeles? After almost four years of apparent immunity from terror, it would have seemed that Al Qaeda had finally recovered from its initial setbacks enough to breach the citadel once again. If those attacks had taken place on American soil, this administration's record on homeland security would immediately have become the foremost subject of debate.

But yet we treat the attack differently because it was in London. That is not wholly wrong, given that British membership in Europe entails vulnerability to a very different set of threats than those we face in the United States. For example, it will be interesting to see how many of those who carried out the bombings were either residents or citizens of the EU.

Nonetheless, I am profoundly discomforted by the fact that terrorists have been able to carry out such a well-coordinated attack on a Western nation. Moreover, given that the target was Britain, it seems implausible to suggest that its government was in any way less concerned about the prospect of terrorism than our own. And if Al Qaeda can breach Britain's defense's (or Spain's) then can we really consider an attack on the United States out of the question?

Again, it comes down to the question of to what degree Europe is vulnerable to a different set of threats than the United States. Thus, given that we know so little at the moment about the origins of the attack, I think it is very premature to suggest that this was a sign of Al Qaeda's weakness.

Now, with regard to Wretchard's argument that the war in Iraq has diverted Al Qaeda from the West, I raise the following questions: How do we know that Al Qaeda hasn't reserved its best operatives for attacks against Europe and the United States while sending its foot soldiers into the trenches in Iraq? And how do we know that Iraq doesn't serve as an effective training ground for Al Qaeda, where those who survive gain the ability to operate in much less supportive enivornments, such as London or New York?

In a limited sense, the "flypaper theory" is most certainly right; the war in Iraq is chewing up a lot of jihadist manpower. But is it chewing up enough to ensure that there aren't 19 more terrorists ready and able to carry out another 9/11?

UPDATE: If I'd known that Matt Yglesias were mocking the advocates of the flypaper theory, maybe I would've found some more good things to say about it.
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# Posted 4:02 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CAPT. CARTER CAPTURES THE DEAD TREE MEDIA: Publishing an op-ed in the NY Times is still the gold standard of punditry, so congratulations to Phil Carter for his persuasive argument that President Bush must take a more actively role in helping the armed forces recruit the next generation of American soldiers.

Unfortunately, an unidentified editor at the Times took some rather extraordinary liberties with Phil's argument, which the paper has now explained as follows:
The Op-Ed page in some copies yesterday carried an incorrect version of an article about military recruitment. The writer, an Army reserve officer, did not say, "Imagine my surprise the other day when I received orders to report to Fort Campbell, Ky., next Sunday," nor did he characterize his recent call-up to active duty as the precursor to a "surprise tour of Iraq." That language was added by an editor and was to have been removed before the article was published. Because of a production error, it was not. The Times regrets the error.
Those additions are so inflammatory and so at odds with the tone of Phil's column that they almost defy explanations. The unidentified editor's political motives may be rather transparent, but I have no idea how a professional editor could behave in such an unprofessional manner.

Michael Barone, also an editor by trade, says that the editor responsible for the additions should be fired. I am not ruthless enough to make such a suggestion, but I do think the editor involved should have the courage to admit what he did rather than hiding behind an anonymous "Editor's Note".
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Thursday, July 07, 2005

# Posted 1:53 PM by Patrick Belton  

SO NOW AL QA'EDA HAS ATTACKED THIS COUNTRY. Perhaps now is therefore not the most inappropriate moment to do something which under ordinary circumstances would be decidedly un-English; viz, to express my real affection for the country in which I have chosen to live. It has become, in a way I never expected it to, home. And where the virtues of other countries fetishise a Romantic, Wagnerian heroism, those of England are unassuming: decency, carrying on, and in direr hours humour, stiff upper lips, and the ironic, benevolent wit of fellow-sufferers talking to one another. These are adult virtues, by comparison to which the others seem adolescent; by them one might live a daily rather than a cinematic life, share pints with friends, and when public duties call, do what they require with quiet steely determination and self-effacing humour. In unglad moments, these are sterner stuff. On this point I find Andrew is quite apposite: ‘Right now, a million kettles are boiling. Stoicism is not an American virtue. Apart from a sense of humor, it is the ultimate British one.’

The numbers were mercifully smaller, though by a certain logic of perception it was 9/11 all over again; the same day of thoughtful and concerned telephone calls to friends, from friends, an eerily familiar difficulty with the mobile network over the metropole. These numbers are currently 33 (the number of confirmed deaths) and four (the roster of confirmed attacks: a tunnel near Liverpool Street metro station; a tunnel between Russell Square and King's Cross stations; an Underground train at Edgware Road station; and the bus near Russell Square) Perhaps the more gratifying aspect is that thanks to the members of the security services, they were not higher, and it all hadn’t happened long before: a security source who briefed The Economist last year gave details of several attempted terrorist attacks on the capital that had been foiled before fruition. (Economist). To each of them, then: well done, you.
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# Posted 5:45 AM by Patrick Belton  

THERE WAS AN apparent terrorist attack on London this morning, with explosions on the Underground at the Aldgate, and apparently also Liverpool Street and Edgeware Road, tube stations and a double-decker bus filled with passengers diverted from the Underground destroyed in Russell Square and a second attacked in Tavistock Place. This blog has a number of friends who commute daily on these routes; they and all Londoners are painfully in our thoughts.

UPDATE: Transport Police are currently describing incidents as having taken place at the Aldgate, Edgware Road, King's Cross, Old Street and Russell Square stations. There are also reports of two trains colliding near King's Cross. The first waves of speculation have connected the attacks to yesterday's announcement awarding the city the 2012 Olympics. A caller to BBC Five described the Russell Square bus as ripped open like a can of sardines and bodies everywhere".

The Prime Minister has left the G-8 summit in Gleneagles to return to London. His statement: 'It's particularly barbaric that this has happened on a day when people are meeting to try to help the problems of poverty in Africa and the long-term problems of climate change and the environment. Just as it is reasonably clear that this is a terrorist attack or a series of terrorist attacks, it is also reasonably clear that it is designed and aimed to coincide with the opening of the G8. ... It's important however that those engaged in terrorism realise that our determination to defend our values and our way of life is greater than their determination to cause death and destruction to innocent people in a desire to impose extremism on the world. Whatever they do, it is our determination that they will never succeed in destroying what we hold dear in this country and in other civilised nations throughout the world. (Full statement).

Laura Matthews, a press officer at Universities UK, which has offices in Tavistock Square, told the Guardian she had seen bodies lying around the bus explosion, some of them without arms or legs. A passenger on the train that exploded at Edgware Road also was quoted, by the Press Asssociation, as saying he had seen several bodies in the wreckage. (Guardian story).

The London Underground system has been shut down entirely, in a move thought to be unprecedented. The FTSE 100 index has plunged this morning by over 200 points. (Times) In government response, the Cobra committee of senior civil emergency ministers has met, and a Commons statement is expected later today. Cobra has met on only four previous occasions; it receives its name from the room in Downing Street where its meetings take place, Cabinet Office Briefing Room A. The committee can call on any minister or senior civil servant to take part, as well as fire, police and ambulance chiefs, military commanders and the heads of the security and intelligence services MI5 and MI6; it is supported by a permanent Civil Contingencies Secretariat in the Cabinet Office; and it acts as a centre of expertise for emergency planning, produces regular assessments of potential crises and runs exercises to test the authorities' readiness to respond. (BBC)

CNN is reporting that the emergency services have successfully removed all survivors from Kings Cross tube stop, leaving a number of dead below ground "in the double digits." (CNN) Police have found traces of explosives in one of the six presently confirmed blast locations. Home Secretary Charles Clarke is identifying six explosion sites at the moment: at the Edgware Road, Moorgate, King's Cross, Liverpool Street and Russell Square stations; and on a double-decker No 59 bus near Russell Square outside the Tavistock Hotel. The first blast was on a train at Aldgate East at 8.49am. (Times)

I'm quite struck by the strategic cynicism of attacking public transportation, and then after an interval, the crowded bus lines once commuters had been diverted to them. But several friends I spoke with this morning who have lived in Israel say that this pattern - an initial attack, followed by a staggered attack on emergency services once they'd arrived - isn't at all uncommon. (My friends living abroad are kindly texting to see if i have all of my relevant body parts, attached in the appropriate fashion.) I find that such an attack on commuting civilians completely unengaged with the machinery of government, war, or administration is striking me as stomach-turning and revolting in a way I could not have previously imagined.

A friend has kindly pointed out I might perhaps justifiably acquire a bit of paranoia; on 11 September, I'd just arrived in Washington, from New York (and spent the day with David in the Carnegie Endowment building); now, notes my friend, they're coming after me in Britain. (Another friend helpfully opines, 'I'm sure it's not personal'.)
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Wednesday, July 06, 2005

# Posted 4:58 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LIVE BLOGGING THE CARNIVAL OF PROTEST: The multi-talented Charmaine Yoest is in Scotland, following events at the G8 summit. I especially like her post about Richard Branson's casual attitude toward corruption. (For the background story on Charmaine's trip, see here and here.)
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# Posted 3:53 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SO TELL ME AGAIN WHY GIVING AID TO CORRUPT DICTATORSHIPS IS A GOOD IDEA: I'm against global poverty. Who isn't? But those who demand that Western governments increase their aid programs by billions of dollars per year have to demonstrate that throwing money at the problem really is the right answer. As Sebastian Mallaby points out, some pretty smart people think that aid has negligible or even negative effects on developing economies.

One way around such demands is to have celebrities pull at our collective heartstrings until we feel guilty enough to demand that our governments give more. OxBlog may not be susceptible to that sort of emotional manipulation, but we here do recognize that it can be quite effective.

Another way around such objections -- one that is preferred by smart liberal policymakers -- is to argue that fighting poverty is integral to our national security. In other words, we shouldn't care about poverty because we are good people; we should care about poverty because we are selfish.

This argument has quite a long pedigree. To a certain extent, it provided the basic rationale for the Marshall Plan. (Which worked.) Unquestionably, it represented the foundation of the Kennedy administration's strategy for fighting Communism in the developing world. (Which didn't.)

And now, once again, top-flight thinkers in the Democratic Party such as Susan Rice have begun to apply this argument to the war on terror. And yet I remain unconvinced. Rice argues in the WaPo that
For a rare moment, global poverty reduction is near the top of the international agenda. It's hip. It's moral. And it's smart policy...

Clearly, the most important ingredients for reducing poverty are improved economic policies and responsible governance in developing countries. But far greater support from rich countries is essential.
Which is sort of like saying that the most important way to stop organized crime is to persuade mobsters that their behavior is unethical, but that it is also essential to finance job training programs for Tony Soprano and Michael Corleone.

Sure, job training programs are a good idea. But they are a total waste of money as long as the mobsters prefer the status quo. In addition to spicing up this post with colorful reference to pop culture, this analogy has a point: Most of the governments who would benefit from increased Western aid bear at least as much resemblance to sophisticated protection rackets as they do to what Europeans or North Americans might describe as a government.

Anyhow, Rice goes on to observe that:
The president also claims to have "tripled" aid to Africa over the past four years; in fact, total U.S. assistance to Africa has not even doubled. It has increased 56 percent in real dollars from fiscal 2000 to 2004, the last completed fiscal year. More than half of that increase is emergency food aid -- not assistance that alleviates poverty.
Bush should be more precise about what he says, but it strikes me as sort of odd that Rice is complaining about a conservative Republican president who hasn't increased foreign aid as much as she would hope. After all, Rice was assistant secretary of state for Africa during Clinton's second term. If foreign aid is such a good idea, why didn't the uber-intelligent Clinton do more about it during his eight years in office?

Of course, Clinton's indolence doesn't bear directly on the merit of Rice's main argument, which is that
Numerous studies show that poverty fuels conflict...When per capita income reaches $1,000, the risk drops dramatically, and at $5,000 it is less than 1 percent...

Al Qaeda established training camps in conflict-ridden Afghanistan, purchased diamonds from Sierra Leone, raised recruits in Chechnya and targeted American soldiers in Somalia (and now Iraq).
My first question is, does poverty fuel conflict, or does conflict fuel poverty? To a certain extent, the answer is probably both. But Rice doesn't even acknowledge that conflict-prone societies may just burn their aid on the battlefied.

Second of all, and more importantly, the second half of Rice's argument breaks down into the old "root causes" cliche. It's not as if all poor countries are likely to produce terrorists. Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa seem to produce very few of them, while the Middle East -- including the rich oil nations -- have produced quite a few. And of course, the terrorists themselves seem to come from wealthy and educated backgrounds.

So, would Rice advocate that we only direct our aid toward countries likely to produce terrorists (since poverty is a contributing cause even in the Middle East)? Or would that kind of strict emphasis on national security be too much for her?

When it comes to fighting poverty, I tend to approach the issue the same way as Anne Applebaum:
Each European cow costs taxpayers $2.20 a day, while half the world's population lives on less than $2 a day. Withdraw the subsidies for the cows, and Africans might even be able to make competitive cheese.
Eliminating subsidies is a win-win proposition, and it doesn't depend on the good will of corrupt dictatorships with a very poor record of distributing donated Western largesse.
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Tuesday, July 05, 2005

# Posted 8:55 AM by Patrick Belton  

NEW LISTSERV: I seem, rather accidentally, to have started up a listserv. Given that I have, you're very welcome to join it. The listserv is called H-Democracy, and will deal principally with democratisation and democracy assistance, and will try to share new research, spread word about conferences and edited volumes, and unify the several research and practitioner communities, and also provide some space for polite, rigorous, scholastically-inflected conversation about the subject. The only real ground rule for contributions to the list is that they be academic or technocratic and, as a result, nonpolitical - it wouldn't really be the best place to debate the Iraq war on political grounds, for instance, but might be a decent place to argue normative cases about broader rationales or problems with the notion of democracy assistance, and not a bad place at all to engage in technocratic conversation about the effectiveness of particular forms of policies directed toward democracy assistance, so long as the tone is pretty firmly based around policy and not politics. Bread-and-butter academic posts about democratisation as a topic in comparative politics or regional studies are positively bloody encouraged. I'll try to get some introductory welcome notes out on the list soon, as well as do some desperate pleading for book reviewers (note: boondoggle opportunity for free books!) and additional editors, particularly ones who carry some regional expertise with them. But in the meantime, please feel free to sign up and look at the pretty and inspiring pictures we have on our website.
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# Posted 8:34 AM by Patrick Belton  

BOOK PITCH: For any publishers who happen to be hovering around, I have decided I will be very happy upon application to produce a volume called ‘When Smart People Do Stupid Things: Limericks and Lavatory Humour at Oxford.’

I have even committed one this morning. Having unwisely entered into a limerick war via text message with a friend who is a PPEist at Dr Chafetz's college (and moonlights at a local noodle bar), my latest contribution was the unremarkable 'There was a young lady from Merton / Whose penchant for noodles was certain / A noodle a day / Keeps the doctor away / But good god how her stomach was hurtin'. This produced the riposte 'You might have replied / I'd rather have died / Than needin' a noodlin' sermon.' This also just goes to show the paucity of the limerick genre when deprived of the ability to trend anatomical, and engage, say, certain parts of my gentle interlocutor's frame with a curtain.

Note supplemental addressed to parties interested in the progress of my dissertation: my statistics chapter, which I really am writing as we speak and which will shortly be ready for inspection, is composed entirely in limerick form.

UPDATE: There once was a man from the stix,
Who liked to compose limmericks,
But he failed at the sport,
'Cause he wrote them too short
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Sunday, July 03, 2005

# Posted 2:14 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IS EVERYBODY IN IRAQ INSANE (EXCEPT FOR THE INSURGENTS)? I found this buried in an op-ed by Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution:
According to the latest surveys, more than 60 percent of Iraqis say their country is moving in the right direction, more than 70 percent expect life to get better for themselves in the future and 90 percent consider violence illegitimate for any political purpose. Most have confidence in the nascent Iraqi security forces and expect them to keep getting better.
What are those Iraqis smoking? What's the last time 60 percent of Americans thought their country was moving in the right direction? If only those god***n Iraqis would pick up a newspaper they would realize that their lives are a godforsaken, crime-ridden, car-bomb saturated, no-electrity-and no-running-water mess? What the hell are they optimistic about? Democracy?

Of course, one possibility is that the polls O'Hanlon cites are simply inaccurate. According to OxBlog's personal gadfly, WAB,

Ten days ago the Boston Globe [no link] reported: "a recent internal poll conducted for the US-led coalition found that nearly 45 percent of the population supported the insurgent attacks, making accurate intelligence difficult to obtain. Only 15 percent of those polled said they strongly supported the US-led coalition." Now, I'm not saying this is correct -- and in fact I regard this form of reporting poll results as highly irresponsible...

But if you look over the whole range of results of polling in Iraq over the last two years, you'll see a great deal of inconsistency and volatility. The truth is that the Iraqi population as a whole is full of diverse tendencies, ambivalence, mixed feelings, uncertainty -- very largely "uncrystallized".

In this kind of context, you tell me what you want a poll to show and I will design a sample, a questionnaire, and an interviewer protocol that will produce those results -- in fact, I could design two simultaneous polls of the same population that would produce highly disparate results -- all without grossly violating the standards of practice that are in fact being used.

It certainly worth keeping in mind all the problems presented by polling in a warzone like Iraq. But the results O'Hanlon cites are so astounding that I don't see how any methodological issues could be responsible for the results. Even if you knocked 20% off of O'Hanlon's numbers, wouldn't it still be astonishing to know that 40% of Iraqi think that Iraq is headed in the right direction and that 50% expect their own lives to get better?

And in case you're wondering, partisan politics are not responsible for O'Hanlon's results. He is a Democrat who has never hesitated to criticize Bush. In fact, most of his op-ed does just that. Also, O'Hanlon is a very, very smart guy and would not use any partisan results prodcuced by Republican operations in Iraq. He is a serious scholar and I have always found him to take great care with his research.
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# Posted 1:31 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MY TWO CENTS ABOUT KARL ROVE: Here's what Ryan Lizza wrote in TNR:
Rove sparked a polarizing debate with a purposefully disingenuous attack on how "liberals" responded to September 11. Next, Democrats dutifully took the bait and spent a week in a defensive crouch howling that they are not wusses on national security.
I'm not so sure that Rove was being disingenuous. But Ryan's description of the Democratic response is dead on.
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# Posted 2:20 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

"24" IS NOT LIBERAL PROPAGANDA! Objections to my post abound. MV says:
For what it's worth, on his radio show, Rush Limbaugh has spoken numerous times about how great the show is (he watches them on DVD over and over, as well), and recently, he said he was invited by the cast and crew to sit in on the taping of this past season's final episode. He said the "24" crew loved him and his radio show, and a great time was had by all. If these are the same people with "pure contempt for Red State America," why is El Rushbo hanging out with them?

Now, I'm not a big fan of the show - I've seen only a few episodes, but from what I've watched, it seemed like a pretty patriotic, post-9/11, Red State-friendly show. Hunt down the terrorists and save America; that sorta thing.
In addition, the august Kevin Drum (via e-mail) provides
A cautionary note from a longtime 24 fan: the show is *all* over the map. You definitely shouldn't make too much out of that one scene, which was probably just a throwaway from a writer looking for a good way to put a blonde girl in jeopardy yet again. (An ongoing theme, as I'm sure you've noticed.) I remember that episode a bit, and my recollection is that they had written themselves into a corner, and obviously needed something really stupid in order to lose the microchip once again.

At any rate, before you write too much about 24 and political correctness, you should definitely check out season 4. It's not on DVD yet, but it was definitely kickass stuff. In fact, it was so kickass that Fox got bullied into having Kiefer Sutherland narrate a public service spot in which he told the audience that, you know, despite every single thing they were portraying in the actual TV show, Muslims are OK people and you shouldn't go out on the streets and kill them.

I truly think that 24 is about the best evidence there is that Hollywood *isn't* as liberal as people think. That is, the people are liberal, of course, but when it comes to the shows, business is business. Do whatever it takes to draw a crowd. If some PC bullshit draws a crowd, great. If kicking Arab ass draws a crowd, great. Whatever.
GP makes the same point as Kevin about Season 4 albeit from a slightly different perspective:
The good news, I think, is that the show has gotten progressively less progressive in each season, culminating in the season just finished, which might be the best yet. So just get the season 4 DVD when it comes out and enjoy the writers moving the plot closer to America’s real enemies than ever before. It’s definitely one of the greatest shows ever, regardless of politics.
So here's my situation: I've watched all 48 episodes that comprise the first two seasons of 24. So I can't respond directly to the point about Season 4, but I think that any reasonable viewer (that means you, Kevin Drum) would admit that Season 1 has strong liberal underpinnings and that the entire premise of Season 2 is drawn directly from the pages of The Nation and Common Dreams.

I will now explain precisely what I mean, but warn you all that I will be giving away all of the secret plots twists from the first two seasons. So if you haven't seen them and plan on doing so, you should stop reading right now. Anyway, here goes:

The greatest difference between reality as we know and the "reality" of the first two seasons of 24 is that in the latter, the greatest threats to American national security come from American citizens, not hostile foreigners.

In Season Two, a nuclear bomb explodes on American soil. How did it get there? At first, we learn that Arab terrorists are involved. Then we learn that rogue elements within the Pentagon and NSA allowed the terrorists to bring the bomb onto American soil.

Why would American citizens do something so evil and unpatriotic? Well, some of them want to bring down President David Palmer (played by Dennis Haysbert), and don't mind risking the lives of millions of Americans in the process. Others want to start a major war so that the Palmer, an African-American Democrat, will have to support major increases in the defense budget.

Then, later in the season, we learn that evil executives from a major international oil corporation want to start a war in order to force the price of oil skywards. Whereas the folks at the Pentagon and NSA wanted to stop the terrorists before they detonated the bomb, the oil executives actually want the bomb to go off in Los Angeles proper.

Thanks to heroic federal agent Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland), the bomb goes off in the far and unpopulated reaches of the Mojave desert. But so what? The basic message is that the US military and its corporate overlords are the real threat to American security.

What's especially interesting about Season Two is that it is the first one to be written and filmed after 9/11. Although Season One debuted after 9/11, it was finished before. As a result, Season One provides an interesting window into how the creators of the show thought about global politics in the good old days when Bush's only crusades were against taxes and environmentalists.

The villians from Season One are genocidal Serbian terrorists. They want to assassinate both Jack Bauer and Senator (not yet President) David Palmer, because Palmer authorized a covert military strike against Victor Drazen, the Serbian terrorist godfather. And Bauer led the special operations task force that carried out the attack.

But what enraged Drazen is not that Bauer and Palmer wanted him to die, but that the attack resulted in the accidental death of his wife and daughter. So, one the hand, Drazen is totally evil even according to liberal standards, because he is a vicious human rights violator. But his animus against the United States is a result of American's own massacre of the innocent, albeit unintentional.

But Drazen & Co. aren't the only villians in Season One. Their efforts to assasinate Bauer and Palmer only succeed because there are multiple traitors within Bauer's own agency, the mythical Counter-Terrorist Unit, or "CTU"). Once again, the foreign threat only becomes possible of American accomplishes within the government.

The main difference between the American villains in Season One and Season Two is that the former have ambitions that are much more prosaic. The villians in the former function mostly as individuals who seek six- or seven-figure payoffs, not hundreds of billions of dollars. The villians in Season One are also murderous, even facilitating or instigating the murder of their own colleagues, but they never risk anything like a nuclear explosion in the middle of Los Angeles.

So, the bottom line here, to borrow a phrase from Walt Kelly, is that we have met the enemy and he is us. At the same time, there is enough patriotic material in 24 in order to support an interpretation of the "text" as pro-American. The hero of the show is a selfless and courageous federal agent. His greatest ally is a noble and selfless politician who ultimately rises to become president. According to 24, there is definitely some great good in the American character. But that shouldn't be news to anyone.

However, the suggestion that traitors from within present a far greater threat to the American people than murderers from abroad, that is something new. Or at least it is something new in 21st century. Back in the 20th century, we just called it McCarthyism.

Yes, I know that 24 is just a fantasy and that McCarthyism was real. But the message is still dangerous, even if this time it liberal Hollywood who is attacking the conservative politicians and not vice versa.
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# Posted 1:35 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LETTER FROM A VICTIM OF STARBUCKS: It's been a while since my full frontal of fisking of the WaPo's anti-Starbucks slander, but I think that the following letter from a honest-to-goodness Starbucks worker bee has some enduring value:
Hello David,

Being a Barista myself, I really enjoyed reading your post about Starbucks. As a Barista, I serve coffee for legions and legions of latte-cappuccino addicts, who cannot say "enough," and start their day without our coffee. Starbucks has (and is!) the greatest job I had so far. I got to know great people, and because Starbucks requiers harder work than Mc Donalds (more responsibility, more "style"...) and gives good health insurance for workers, it naturally attracts many college students and adults (40 and over) as a part time job and a source of benefits. But let's talk about our customers, I think it is more relevant:

[W]e have our regulars, which get huge discounts, if not free drinks. As a shift superior, there is no such thing as charging full price from a poor "addict." [A]regular costumer knows us by our names and our personal stories; they share their stories with us as well. If a regular customer comes in and ask[s] for a venti Latte, I am not going to charge him full price for it: might ring up as a tall latte or even a regular coffee...Just a few words about the Starbucks environment.

I also, like you, don't see where is the problem with Starbucks. This is a free country, and no one brainwashes students to buy coffee. They are well aware of how much of their own money (or their parents, often enough) they spend, and if they don't, you know what - they will learn quick when it's time to pay the bills. If I like to drive to school, I have to pay for car insurance. If I don't feel like paying, I can take the bus. It's my choice, and I am not calling up my insurance company, yelling at them for using me... and car insurance costs way more than a cup of coffee.

Seriously, I think that [WaPo correspondent] Blaine [Harden] has something against Starbucks...you know the no-corporation, yay noLogo (it's a book) kind of people. I did hope though that Starbucks would comment, but maybe no comment is all the comment such an article deserves. As a reporter and an editor in chief (my other job besides being a student), I know how bias can get into a story, and what's newsworthy... It's sad that this reporter wasted so much of her energy (and her paper's money) on this article.

Well, this letter is long enough. Oxblog looks like a good read and I will give it a look every now and than. My own blog should be online soon enough...Take care, and keep posting!

I don't think I could've said it better myself and look forward to reading Shay's website. "Starblogs", perhaps? However, I did get some other interesting comments about my past which I also thought I would share. The following is from DI, who knows about grad school budgeting first hand:
I'm now an underpaid prof at a state U, but 15 or so years ago I was a (middle-aged) lowly grad student at a similar U. I drank cheap beer and cheaper coffee, but I borrowed a total of only $11,000 to get a PhD. And, believe me, no one, even [U. Seattle law School career services director] Erika Lim types have any damn right to tell me how to spend the money...

My wife and I went out once a week to have a hamburger and drink cheap beer with our friends. Without this I don't think either one of us would have finished. (We managed not to borrow any money for her MS andABD. She's got a better job than mine, too.) Not only that, but one year I spent my most of my loan money on our Honeymoon. I wouldn't have graduated without her, and it's the only vacation we got for 10 years. One week in Jamaica in November.

Not only that, but we paid "student fees" (almost $400/yr each) for stuff we *never* used. Perhaps Ms. Lim could see if she could get the law students' student fees dropped. That might pay for their coffee, and the coffee is much more useful than the crap you typically get out of student fees. (I admit that undergrads frequently get their money's worth.)...

I could go on, but were I at her school, I would forgo a latte on any day I could get Ms. Lim to take a hearty cup full of STFU.
Not just a hearty cup full of STFU, but a venti methinks.

Next up, blogger Charmaine Yoest points out that Republicans have a very good reason to boycott Starbucks: it's gives all of its political donations to Democrats. In fact, Starbucks even hired a former Clinton administration official to be its Washington lobbyist.

Now, I'm not a card-carrying member of either party, but thanks to Charmaine, I will take exquisite pleasure in the irony of seeing masked anarchists and other anti-globalization types vandalize Starbucks in the name of resisting nefarious captialist imperialism. Maybe I'll even join the next riot and steal myself a Frapuccino maker.

Finally, we're going to hear from one actual critic of my post, that cantankerous blogivore Mike D., who writes:
What you all seem to be justifying is the spending of $3.50 a day, or more,of somebody else's money on coffee?!!

As student loans seem to be defaulted upon at a much higher percentage than other loans this seems to be even more egregious. Especially as a superior product could be had for both a lesser dollar expenditure and, even more important, time expenditure. Especially as concerns the almost totally citizen/taxpayer supported law student of the 21st Century. Of course, this comment is coming from an annoying old guy whose college years not only pre-dated Starbucks, but even Mr. Coffee.
Wow. That must be almost forty years ago. Back when students spent their precious funds on truly important things like marijuana and love beads... (Sorry, Mike, I couldn't resist.)
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Saturday, July 02, 2005

# Posted 7:35 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF, CAPT. CARTER: Earlier this week, Phil Carter announced that he will be shipping out for Iraq along with the legendary 101st Airborne. I have tremendous respect for Phil and am already impatient to have him return home to the United States safe and sound.

As Phil explains, the Intel Dump will begin making the transition from a single author to group blog in order to adjust to Phil's active service. With any luck, Phil will be able to contribute on occasion from Iraq, although his mission and his soldiers will obviously take priority.

In light of Phil's coming deployment, this is a particularly good moment to consider two of the excellent (as always) posts on his blog, both of which address the ongoing manpower crisis in the United States Army.

In one post, Phil addresses the question of whether the manpower crisis will force the United States to draw down its forces in Iraq before the military and political situation on the ground merits such a decision. Whereas some Americans were once afraid that an elected Iraqi government would demand that our troops return home, that kind of demands is now exactly what the Pentagon is hoping for.

All I would add to Phil's analysis is that we may find ourselves in the bizarre situation in which we want the Iraqis to kick us out but they are desperate to have us stay and protect them from the insurgents. You might call it imperialism in reverse or even Vietnam in reverse. It would be an unfortunate situation, but one that would provide an ironic vindication of our democratic ideals.

Phil's second post concerns Max Boot's proposal for an American foreign legion. While not unsympathetic, Phil raises three important objections to Boot's proposal: First, we need educated soldiers. Second, uneducated soldiers are a threat to themselves. Third, having non-citizens serve may attentuate the democratic legitimacy of our armed forces.

I will add a fourth objection: That it is absolutely critical for our soldiers to be committed to American ideals if they are given incredibly complex missions such as nation-building in Iraq.

Yet I believe that all of these objections, while valid, can be overcome. We do not need to throw open the door to every immigrant. In light of just how much demand there would presumably be to serve in the armed forces in exchange for citizenship, it may be possible to recruit some very talented soldiers. Moreover, we may very well be able to recruit them from other democratic nations where the citizens are no less committed to democratic ideals.

I greatly regret that once Phil ships out for Iraq, we will no longer be able to depend on his always sharp analysis. But I also know that our regret pales in comparison the 101st's great good fortune to have such a good man commanding its soldiers in Iraq. Take care, Phil.
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# Posted 1:46 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NAVEL-GAZING: I just answered a few questions for the National Journal's Blogometer and figured it wouldn't hurt to post my answers here on OxBlog (my favorite one is #14):
1. What is your full name?
--Ariel David Hauptman Adesnik. (I go by 'David' to minimize the gender confusion.)

2. What is your age?

3. Where did you grow up?
--Greenwich Village, Manhattan. (Not far from Matt Yglesias, although I never met him until two years ago.)

4. Where do you live now?
--Charlottesville, VA. I'm just finishing up a year as a fellow at UVA's Miller Center of Public Affairs and will be moving to Washington at the end of the summer.

5. What is your occupation? Have you ever worked on a political campaign or for the mainstream media?
--I will be a full time graduate student for a few more months, but am looking for jobs right now. If you want to offer me one, please contact me at oxblog@yahoo.com.

When I was fifteen, I spent two weeks working on a Senate campaign in New York. In college, I wrote a twice-a-month column for the daily student paper.

6. When did you start blogging and why?
--In September 2002, because I realized how little I knew about current events even though (or precisely because) I was getting a Ph.D. in international relations. After 9/11, that didn't seem like an acceptable state of affairs.

7. What has been your favorite post, or favorite story to write about, in that time?
--I rarely write about my personal life, but I did post a tribute to my mother after her ordination as a rabbi just over two years ago. That will always be my favorite post.

8. Describe your typical blogging schedule. And what is your average output?
--In general, I only blog after finishing my day's work on my dissertation. I'd say I put in around ten hours a week on the blog, although that has fallen somewhat as I approach the final stages of my dissertation. My output is unpredictable. Even I don't know what my instincts will tell me to write.

9. Who is your favorite political blogger? Favorite non-political blogger?
--The answer to the first part of that question is a tie between Dan Drezner and Phil Carter (who will be joining the 101st Airborne and shipping out for Iraq in just a few weeks -- I wish him all the best.) As for non-political blogs, I don't read'em.

10. Who is your favorite mainstream media columnist?
--Jackson Diehl at the WaPo. He understands democracy promotion as an idea and as a policy better than anyone else I've read.

11. What is your favorite television news program, either network or cable?
--I don't have cable and I only watch the networks because they show reruns of The Simpsons and Seinfeld. But my mom has a huge crush on Jon Stewart, so I'll say The Daily Show.

12. What MSM-produced websites (i.e. newspapers, magazines) do you visit on a daily basis?
--My homepage is http://www.washingtonpost.com/. I usually give the Times a look, as well. Then I read blogs.

13. What non-MSM websites (i.e. blogs) do you visit on a daily basis?
--My top three are Glenn Reynolds, Kevin Drum and Matt Yglesias.

14. How often, or do you ever, read a newspaper in its dead-tree (i.e. print) form?
--I have a subscription to the Washington Post because you can't rest a bowl of cereal on a website.

15. How do you see the new media and old media affecting and influencing each other in the next five years? I believe in convergence. The first thing is always tell people (especially journalists) is that the blogosphere is not trying to replace or overthrow the established media. With a few exceptions, bloggers provide opinion and analysis, not original coverage. The blogosphere is basically a virtual op-ed page.

Nonetheless, the blogosphere is a threat to the MSM, but only because we insist that it live up to its self-professed standards of objectivity and impartiality. However, I think journalists are pretty open-minded (especially compared to politicians) and have begun to integrate new media approaches into their own work. I expect that this convergence will only increase in coming years. Of course, I may be totally, catastrophically wrong about that. (It wouldn't be a first.)
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# Posted 10:49 AM by Patrick Belton  

NOT THAT OXBLOG READS PERSONALS, but, um, these from the LRB went out and found us.
Nihilist seeks nothing.

Male LRB readers. Drawing little faces on your thumbs, getting them to order meals, then shouting at them for not being able to pay is no way to win a woman. You know who you are. F, 35. Box no. 12/12

If I was a gambling man, I'd bet you'd be blonde, 30, passionate, impetuous and writing poetry. If I trusted my instinct, you'd be brunette, 35, a little cynical, preparing for that year-out sabbatical and writing that first novel. If I left it to fate, you'd be 67, bald and a man with sclerotic arteries. The intuition my mother handed down and my collection of county court judgments suggest that placing an ad in this column puts you firmly in the last category. Resigned M. (52, Colchester), finally embracing defeat and anything else that comes along at box no. 12/09

Attractive well-shrunk writer F (early 50s) seeks amiable philosophic M to 65. Box no. 12/05

The only item you'll find in my fridge is soup. Forty litres of the stuff. Beat that. M. 46. Box no. 12/13

I'll see you at the LRB singles night. I'll be the one breathing heavily and stroking my thighs by the art books. Asthmatic, varicosed F (93) seeks M to 30 with enough puff in him to push me uphill to the post-office. This is not a euphemism. Box no. 12/08

Despite listing 34 French erotic novels as your favourite reads, I liked you. Then you went and ruined everything by spending an hour ordering continental ales in the voice of Yoda. Woman, 35, seriously considering going gay unless the standard of replies from this column improves. Box no. 13/08

Beneath this hostile museum curator’s exterior lies a hostile museum curator’s interior. F, 38. Box no. 13/07
Still much better than the personals adverts in the other literary magazines.
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