Monday, October 03, 2005

# Posted 8:03 PM by Patrick Belton  

MIERS NOMINATION: I'm sure she's quite nice. But have we made it impossible for anyone with any judicial record at all, or discernible past espousal of any opinion, to join the highest court?
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 7:45 PM by Patrick Belton  

THE DUBLIN FRINGE FESTIVAL came to an end today. It was noteworthy, among other things, for including for the first time a play written and produced by prisoners. Which I support, actually - it's taking away precisely these sorts of things that drive rates of recidivism up. (Participants in prisoner education programmes, for instance, have a recidivism rate that is 29 percent lower than nonparticipants.)

We would have sent our brand new west of Ireland artsy fartsy correspondent, but she's oddly on the wrong end of the country. Máire did file by 'phone this evening, however, to tip Charlie Byrne's to take over Kenny's mantle as bibliophile must-see site when in Galway. (Very very unrelated word of the day in her honour: 'jailteacht,' to describe IRA prisoners' autodidacticism of Irish in H-Block and elsewhere.)
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 7:09 PM by Patrick Belton  

ODD POLITICAL WEBSITE OF THE DAY: www.pimpmyparty.co.uk, engaging you meaningfully in the political process by permitting you to place your choice of racer stripes on a car meant to represent the Tory party. The Guardian calls the site excruciating. I'm inclined to agree, but I gave it a go anyway. (My selections: a green Morris Minor, with Lady Thatcher at the wheel and a 'Land of Hope and Glory' bumper sticker. Better than William Hague cranking up the ignition after fourteen pints.)

Elsewhere, at the convention today Francis Maude said the party must change or die, frontrunner David Davis seemed to disagree (oops), Rifkind made a call for one-nation conservatism, q.v., and Ken Clarke, whom I happen to quite like and who is as close to a Heathian Tory as there is out there at the moment, had to reassure party members that he really didn't like Europe all that much; actually, it was more of a fling, really.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 6:57 PM by Patrick Belton  

WE HAVE REACHED AGREEMENT. INSHALLAH, WE ARE DEPARTING FOR LUXEMBOURG: Thus FM Abdullah Gul announcing his country's having reached a deal with EU counterparts over the start of accession talks. Austria withdrew its obtuse call for invention of a second-tier status for Turkey within the EU after the Turkish government threatened to stay home if the latter option were on the table. Quote of the day, from a (judging, probably UK) diplomat: 'To have negotiations, you really have to have someone to negotiate with.'

'When Clinton did it, it looked about like this...'
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 6:47 PM by Patrick Belton  

BBC WEBSITE QUOTE OF THE DAY: 'I know someone who ate an apple a day. The acid has eroded his front teeth down to stubs.' Comment to an article arguing junk food is a myth.
(1) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 4:52 PM by Patrick Belton  

INCIDENTALLY, L'SHANAH TOVAH TO ALL of our friends and readers today celebrating a beginning to a New Year! For those who know me personally, the Tevye speech from Lebowski comes to mind.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 1:24 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE RABBI READS OXBLOG: I am in NYC with my family to celebrate Rosh Hashana. If you are in NYC and have nowhere to attend services tomorrow morning, may I recommend Ohel Ayalah?

It is a free service designed specifically for those who don't have plans to go elsewhere. There are 100 places available for walk-ins. Tell the folks at the door that OxBlog sent you and you'll get a smile.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 12:21 PM by Patrick Belton  


Also at CFR today, Ambassador Sestanovich looks to who's in position to succeed Putin. (Hat tip: Yabloko and the Union of Right Forces have announced an anti-Kremlin alliance, starting with Moscow city council elections this autumn. Putin for his part looks to step down to influence from 'the ranks', a la Lee Kuan Yew or Deng Xiaoping from the Central Military Commission, though not Jiang Zemin)

And finally, Charlie Kupchan says Europe is having quite a bad hair day: the pace of integration and economic growth will be further slowed by a weak government in Berlin, and the demise he foresees for Turkey's accession prospects (occulted under a facade of hollow negotiations) will cultivate nationalism there.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 8:44 AM by Patrick Belton  

REWRITING THE BEATLES, PART I: If the KJV can be modernised, nothing in the English canon is safe. Not today, and not Yesterday:
All those backups seemed a waste of day.
Now my chapters have all gone away.
Oh I believe in yesterday.

I...pushed...something wrong
What it was I could not say.
Now my thesis is gone
and I long for yesterday-ay-ay-ay.

There’s not half the files there used to be,
And there’s a deadline hanging over me.
Office crashed so suddenly.

The need for back-ups seemed so far away.
I knew my thesis was all here to stay,
Now I believe in yesterday.
Gotta give credit where credit is due: Jerry Pournelle (minor degradations mine)
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

Sunday, October 02, 2005

# Posted 9:02 AM by Patrick Belton  

TURKEY ON THE TABLE: The beastly Austrians are pushing a proposal tonight that Turkey settle for something less than full membership in talks scheduled to begin tomorrow. Taoiseach says, correctly, EU must stick by its word, given of course under his watch. Solana tells Bild am Sonntag this morning that he's confident there will be a last-minute agreement, saying 'decisions that involve Turkey were always reached at the last minute in the past' (the Germans don't note the presence or absence of humour in that last comment).

I'm quite for Turkish membership, promoting Europe as an example of diverse peoples living under liberal democracy, and taking at European level a principled stand against the populist rhetoric surrounding discussion of Turkish membership in Austria, Germany and France. Turkey would provide a sharply greying Europe with a massive infusion of cheap, young labour which it desperately needs, and with subsidies from Brussels probably having peaked following the recent round of enlargement, it (unlike France) is unlikely to siphon off much from European treasuries in the form of structural aid and other subsidies. And this is a sharp moment in Turkey's own political evolution, determining whether its recent political, economic, legal and civil rights reforms will be rewarded or spurned by neighbours whose moral legitimacy turns not on their being a club of prosperous white Christians, but on upholding precisely those sorts of reforms and rights.

So here's one for hoping that meeting tonight in Luxembourg, EU foreign ministers do the right thing.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 8:21 AM by Patrick Belton  

DON'T TRY THIS IN NEW YORK WATCH: 'In the former Soviet Union, during the worst shortages of the 1980s, shoe polish sandwiches were used as a cheap way to get intoxicated, due to the shortage of alcohol. The method was mainly used by young men. Cheap shoe polish would be spread on a slice of bread and allowed to remain on there overnight. The next day, the polish would be scraped off, but the bread would have absorbed much of the alcohol and toxins. This would then be eaten. Three slices would produce a suitably intoxicating effect.' (from Wikipedia)
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 7:02 AM by Patrick Belton  

IN: SLAVS. (Out: Brazilians. Sorry, lads.) And it's not only the style desk of the NYT who have lately developed Volga fever - the staff of the Wall Street Journal in this at least are in firm agreement, meaning Russians have conquered New York in a way in which Vova and Nikita could only have dreamed.

Elsewhere in the papers:

The New Criterion notes the NYT's cultural coverage is really rotten while meanwhile in Britain, intellectuals beat up men of letters. Christopher Andrew has a lovely charming piece on spies and Indira. Frequent TLS contributor Ronald Aronson opines gimme that old-style atheism, while Carlos Fuentes, developing further some material I heard him lecture with in London, looks to nominative uncertainty within Don Quijote for wellsprings of the novel as democratic polyforum, the public square where everyone has a right to be heard but no one has the right to exclusive speech. ("Religion is dogmatic. Politics is ideological. Reason must be logical. But literature has the privilege of being equivocal. The quality of doubt in a novel is perhaps a manner of telling us that since authorship (and thus authority) are uncertain and susceptible of many explanations, so it goes with the world itself.") And finally, Rebecca Saxe, a lovely brainy lady who studies brains, examines the potentialities of cognitive science to offer descriptive theories of universal moral reasoning.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

Saturday, October 01, 2005

# Posted 12:03 PM by Patrick Belton  

QUOTE OF THE DAY: 'My grandfather had a very nice phrase about your grandfather,' former Conservative MP (and prime ministerial grandson) Winston Churchill told Stalin's grandson (and former Soviet colonel) Yevgeny Dzhugashvili today. 'He said he was like a crocodile. You never knew whether he was trying to smile or preparing to swallow you up.'
(1) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 11:32 AM by Patrick Belton  

TLS EDITOR PETER STOTHARD launches a blog on the Times's website. He posts, so far, on Nelson scholarship, the sport of statue-toppling, and the sexual lives of Spartan girls.

(Disclaimer: I write occasionally for Sir Peter's publication, but receive no remuneration for plugging his blog. But I am inadverse to being remunerated, and in fact would consider it quite nice, actually.)
(1) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 10:47 AM by Patrick Belton  

POEM OF THE DAY: We've just received this from OxBlog's new west of Ireland artsy fartsy correspondent, from whom we hope to hear a great deal more on this blog. This by Scottish poet Norman MacCaig (q.v.):

I look across the table and think
(fiery with love)
Ask me, go on, ask me
to do something impossible,
something freakishly useless,
something unimaginable and inimitable
like making a finger break into blossom
or walking for half an hour in twenty minutes
or remembering tomorrow.

I will you to ask it.
But all you say is
Will you give me a cigarette, please?
And I smile and,
Returning to the marvellous world
of possibility,
I give you one
With a hand that trembles
With a human trembling

(From The White Bird, 1973)
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 8:09 AM by Patrick Belton  

BO DOES MULTINATIONALITY; OXBLOG DOES CASEWORK. OxBlog's good friend and drinking buddy BritPundit is going to the States, and wonders where he can find marmite. As I happen to be nibbling on marmite on my Swiss cheese as I write, I can attest to its abilities to render the most extravagant foreign dish much more pleasant to the British palate; a little known fact is that the early formal dinners of the East India Company were actually festooned by marmite curry and marmite masala. The first step is always to check with the local British consulate; they're reputed to keep emergency stores in reserve. If those prove depleted, there is a secret network of expatriate Brits always willing to lend a helping hand, in the Blitz spirit, in a true moment of marmite need along the dark lonely streets of, say, Saint Germain des Pres or Broadway. In New York, this underground culinary resistance is led by Myers of Keswick at 634 Hudson in Greenwich Village. There also is a cybernetwork, BritNet, offering more resources as well as instant late-night fixes of 'Conkers in the playground, listening with Mother, Sunday roasts after the pub, winning the world cup'. (As you see, they also have a taste for British fiction.) Use in good health!
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 7:06 AM by Patrick Belton  

OCTOBER TRIVIA: In Irish, the month is Deireadh Fómhair, the end of harvest-time. Whereas in the Turkic languages, it's Ekim, the sowing of wheat. But the 'Octo' comes from eight, which is paradoxical (c.f. Sept, Novo, Deco) only when you don't begin counting from Martius, the vernal equinox. The month of Janus, god of doorways and gateways, began to come first only later as consuls were chosen then.

As to the first day of the month, it's the Kalends, origin of calendar, and the day on which debts come due.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 7:01 AM by Patrick Belton  

LONELY HEARTS CHAT-UP LINE OF THE DAY AWARD ... would need to go to 'Arsonist seeks match.' Hey, it's not a political science pick-up line, but we can't all aim so high.

Also, one of the side benefits of being a blog that's been around for a bit, of which Dan Rather can only be jealous, is that after a while you inevitably come to be one of the top google hits for monstrous tits. (David, not me.) More humbling, we're also the top hit for misinterprets. (That one'd be me.)
(1) opinions -- Add your opinion

Friday, September 30, 2005

# Posted 1:29 PM by Patrick Belton  

SOMEONE DUMPED A JAR OF INVERTED COMMAS ON BROADCASTING HOUSE and now they're showing up randomly on the website. At the moment, news.bbc.co.uk's leading story reads 19 women rescued from 'brothel'. It then notes below that Trafficking hits 'alarming' level. But, you know, that's just, like, your opinion, man.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 10:28 AM by Patrick Belton  

THE INDIAN LEFT PARTIES are striking, to protest privatisation of para-statals, rising FDI in the telecoms sector, and what it sees as Congress's abandonment of the Common Minimum Programme, which binds the UPA coalition together with the left parties who support it in confidence votes in the Lok.

Thus Ramananda Sengupta:
To me this is much more personal. My father died unattended because the goddamned doctors had gone on strike in Calcutta.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 10:25 AM by Patrick Belton  

SALMA QURESHI, of Ealing, has the ambition of becoming one of the UK's first female imams.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 10:17 AM by Patrick Belton  

MICHAEL LIND, WRITING IN PROSPECT, OFFERS a stirring defence of the humanistic university and its social usefulness in fostering a mandarinate intelligentsia to defend liberal values, as opposed to a class of technocratic specialists powerless to withstand the pull of the populisms of the left and right.

I quibble with whether the ideal he describes is quite so much in decline: I've certainly come across it quite strongly at Oxford, and earlier at Yale as well. My personal impression might be that technocratic specialisation is more inculcated by the British former polytechnics and American state universities to create niches in which their graduates can compete with those of the grander sounding unis. The question is rather whether liberal humanistic education has then become a luxuriant preserve of graduates who can coast on the names of their universities in the labour market, a state of affairs which has its unsettling aspects as well.

But it's nonetheless an ideal quite worth defending and expanding (who ever writes pieces, or posts, arguing for ditching liberal education?), and I find the way he goes about doing so to be quite resonant.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 10:08 AM by Patrick Belton  

HEY, IT DOESN'T FLOAT EVERYBODY'S BOAT but it does mine: Uzbek-glossary.com. There's also an Uzbek-English online dictionary here, some vocabularly lists here, and this lad's cyberyurt has a, erm, horde of resources on various Turkic languages as well.

In response to repeated reader requests, we'll soon switch all our blogging over to Irish and Uzbek. But not for a few weeks yet.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

Thursday, September 29, 2005

# Posted 9:01 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  


David Ignatius: We're winning the war in 2/3 of Iraq, but that other 1/3 is killing us.
Jim Hoagland: Bush won't listen to reason. How about to an old college buddy?
David Broder: Here's a list of Republicans who can tell Bush how to deal with Katrina.
Leon Kass: Americans refuse to admit that getting old means getting frail.
Robert Novak [print only]: There are a few Republicans left who don't want to spend like Democrats.

Editorial 1: Tom Delay is a big jerk, but he may be innocent.
Editorial 2: The GOP Congress wants innocent people to get the death penalty.
Editorial 3: Virginia pols don't have the guts to raise taxes, so the highways are f****d.

Today's must read? Ignatius, hands down. Reporting from the front lines in Iraq, he writes:
It's a war in which U.S. troops remain upbeat, even as support deteriorates back home; in which the appearance of stability in much of Iraq is shattered by spasms of hideous violence; in which U.S. military strategy is confounded by Iraq's political disarray...

The Shiite areas to the south are fairly calm; Iraqi military and police units, nearly all Shiite, are increasingly effective in keeping the peace there. Najaf, for example, is protected by six checkpoints manned by Iraqi police. Lt. Col. James Oliver, who has responsibility for these areas, says that he hopes to be able to turn over Karbala and Najaf provinces entirely to Iraqi control by the end of October...

There is no effective Iraqi army or police presence in these Sunni areas. Nor is there a Sunni militia that might maintain a rough peace...

Before the Mississippi Rifles go back home at year-end, the Iraqis will hold another election. If the new government doesn't reflect a Sunni-Shiite alliance that can begin to restore order, sending a new team of Americans to Kalsu Base won't make much sense.
I don't agree with that last point. There isn't much reason to think that Sunni politicians -- let along the insurgents -- will be worn down enough by the end of the year to play a constructive role in government. Set an early deadline, and we are asking for chaos.

Nonetheless, great reporting from Ignatius. Also of note, Jim Hoagland suggests that the GOP can get around its aversion to tax hikes by just asking for a one-time, one-percent-of-your-income "surcharge" to help pay for Katrina. Here's my idea: pass a one percent surcharge, but allow people to divert as much of it as they want to Katrina-related charities.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 11:40 AM by Patrick Belton  

WHILE OXBLOG POSTS LEWD PICTURES OF CHERIE BLAIR (and that's a phrase certain to bring in the web traffic), some bloggers actually are out there covering a political convention. Samizdata and Bloggers4Labour are noteworthy; Guardian also has its own MSM blogging operation set up, with the Telegraph outsourcing its to Labour MPs David Wright and Barbara Keeley.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 11:26 AM by Patrick Belton  

NO, I'M A BLAIRITE, REALLY, WATCH, PART ONE: At a sidestall at the Brighton Labour conference, Cherie offers a cameraman what I believe for the purposes of this blog I might euphemestically refer to as a French letter. Whoever said British politicians weren't sufficiently intimate with the press? Though I suppose a different interpretation might see this as a recommendation that members of the press not reproduce, always a valid view.

I'm told, however, by credible informants that the pink balloons pictured slightly to the northeast of Mrs Blair's head do not, in fact, represent a choice of headgear.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 11:16 AM by Patrick Belton  

NUMBER 10 HAS ANNOUNCED a new director for the Joint Intelligence Committee. Career civil servant Sir Richard Mottram bests diplomat and GCHQ director Sir Francis Richards, who had been tipped for the job. Sir Richard is known as a confident Whitehall operator, and has contributed to the UK political lexicon the memorable speech, 'We're all f**ed. I'm f**ed. You're f**ed. The whole department's f**ed. It's been the biggest cock-up ever and we're all completely f**ed.' Which has, incidentally, a certain lyrical eloquence to it which still awaits musical setting by a Sex Pistols revivalist.
(1) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 4:16 AM by Patrick Belton  

BEASTLY AMERICANS, first they insist upon being rich, and now they release Flipper the Commando Dolphin into international waters. Notes Guardian,
Dolphins have been trained in attack-and-kill missions since the Cold War.
But don't just trust the Guardian. Trust the U.S. military instead. Take it from NSCT-1: if it has an acronym, after all, it must exist.

As the SPAWAR web page notes, there are five 'marine mammal systems' utilised in operations by U.S. Naval Special Clearance Team-One. There are MK 4, MK 7, and MK 8, which use dolphins to retrieve mines and lost objects; MK 5, which uses sea lions, and MK 6, which uses both sea lions and dolphins, but not Seals, which are apparently different. (But wait, the dolphins are attacking and killing...mines? ed: Perhaps the Guardian thought they said mimes.) Dolphins are better at working underwater than humans, controversially claimed Mike Fedak, a marine mammal biologist at the University of St. Andrews and apologist for American empire. They also apparently require less shore leave. So if you join Naval special operations, you might end up swimming with the fishes mammals? Not necessarily; you might conceivably end up driving a zamboni instead. As one blogger wrote in loving tribute, so long and thanks for all the mines. ed.: Next: OxBlog investigates what frog men work with!

Going commando
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

# Posted 6:07 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  


Robert Samuelson: The Japanese and Germans aren't concerned enough about making profits.
Harold Meyerson: Why must American corporations be so damn concerned about making profits?
Anne Applebaum: Louisiana pols prefer pork to profits.
Stephan Haggard & Marcus Noland: North Korea prefers starvation to profits.

Editorial 1: Bush's record on torture is appalling.
Editorial 2: Bush now wants us to conserve oil? He sounds like Jimmy Carter.
Editorial 3: Thank God the US airline industry is in dire straits.

Also, in connection with Editorial 1, the Post has reprinted a letter from Army Capt. Ian Fishback to Sen. John McCain describing his futile effort to get guidance from his superiors about how to treat prisoners in Afghanistan and Iraq. Fishback's letter shows that the armed forces have recklessly ignored the issue of torture and that their civilian superiors have displayed an even more disturbing brand of apathy.
(1) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 4:55 PM by Patrick Belton  

NOT DOGGING OR BLOGGING BUT possibly somewhere in the middle, the newly-reformed (with Shane MacGowan back) Pogues have a blog of their Japanese tour appearances, and they will be playing a series of shows in December with stops in Cardiff, Glasgow, Newcastle, Brummieland, London and Dublin. Since they won't be playing until then, perhaps Shane will have some time to get into the blogosphere.

While we're waiting for our blogroll, you can see here for a detailed review of the extant academic literature on Shane's teeth:
Shane MacGowan is somewhat famous for his teeth, or lack thereof. Many of his teeth are missing; the remainder are rotten, crooked and resemble cigarette butts.

For this reason, MacGowan's teeth are generally considered to be in bad condition. In his autobiography, A Drink With Shane MacGowan, MacGowan comments that the poor state of his oral health is due to several contributing factors:

• Lack of brushing
• Drunken fights in which he has been on the losing side
• Police brutality in the late 1970s
• The use of recreational drugs such as crack and crystal meth

In an article written by MacGowan's then girlfriend Victoria Clarke [fn 1], it was claimed that Shane had further damaged his teeth by eating a copy of the Beach Boys 'Greatest Hits vol. 3' LP whilst under the influence of LSD.

MacGowan was quoted in the UK's Sunday Mirror newspaper [fn 2] as commenting that his teeth were rotten due to the effects of sugar in the many alcoholic drinks he had consumed.
As an excuse to insert another Hibernocentric comment here, research has indicated that the only women interested to date Irish males are apparently American.
(1) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 7:39 AM by Patrick Belton  

DOGGING MORE POPULAR IN BRITAIN THAN BLOGGING: We take wholehearted responsibility for this. After all, we at OxBlog like dogs.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 5:53 AM by Patrick Belton  

WITTY JOURNAL ARTICLE TITLE OF THE DAY: Adam Meyerson, 'Ready, Fire, Aim: Clinton's Left-Footed Foreign Policy', Policy Review, 1994.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 3:39 AM by Patrick Belton  

SO THE SPIRITING NEWS OF THE MORNING is that the alien world conspirators over at the Council on Foreign Relations stepped out of their environment pods long enough to link to OxBlog from the CFR's website. The less spiriting news is that the aliens over at the Council can't spell.

(I should note that back when the Jews, Skull and Bonesmen and Freemasons were running the world, we spelt quite well, thank you.)

hugs and kisses, Zokor-5 (formerly Shmuelly Throckmorton III).
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 2:53 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THEN SAN FRANCISCO IS SURELY DOOMED. According to an Al Qaeda anchorman, President Bush was
"Completely humiliated by his obvious incapacity to face the wrath of God, who battered New Orleans, city of homosexuals."
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 2:50 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

Prosecutors had sought 74,000 years apiece in prison for [conspirators] Yarkas, Chebli and Ghayoun, representing 25 years for each of the almost 3,000 people killed in the Sept. 11 attacks.
Yarkas got 27 years a piece instead, the other defendants. I guess we won't find out about the virgins. Plus, commentary from Capt. Ed.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

# Posted 3:59 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  


George Will: Dianne Feinstein is a bleeding-heart liberal.
Richard Cohen: Why isn't John Roberts a bleeding-heart liberal?
Ira Katznelson: We should all be bleeding-heart liberals.
E.J. Dionne: Democrats aren't sure whether they should be bleeding-heart liberals.
Eugene Robinson: Protests are groovy.

Editorial 1: The worst looters in Louisiana are the congressmen.
Editorial 2: There is a tiny chance that diplomacy could work with Iran.
Editorial 3: Bureaucracy killed a small child.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 6:27 AM by Patrick Belton  

BLOGS REVEAL MARGINALISED VOICES WATCH: Zarqawi blogs the weekend's protests over at IowaHawk. A sampling:
"But... are these what the virgins in paradise will look like, effendi?"
Dear Mr. and Mrs. _AL-DURRA____:

Please find enclosed a Ziploc containing the remains of your martyr  _TARIQ____. Though he is now frollicking in Paradise, his comrades and I will always remember him for his ___POKEMON COLLECTION____. Thanks to his holy sacrifice, we are one step closer to __EXTERMINATING THE JEWS___.

Yours in Sharia,
Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi

(1) opinions -- Add your opinion

Monday, September 26, 2005

# Posted 11:59 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  


David Ignatius: Our generals really, really, really want Iraqi soldiers to fight harder.
Jackson Diehl: Imagine if Fidel Castro had lots of oil. That's Hugo Chavez.
Sebastian Mallaby: If America doesn't stop borrowing, it will qualify as Latin.
William Raspberry: Poor people fantasize about money instead of earning it.
Robert Novak [print only]: The GOP is addicted to pork. Bush, too.

Editorial 1: Please nominate another justice with no opinions, Mr. President.
Editorial 2: Beltway traffic sucks.
Editorial 3: Jack Abramoff is hurting Bush, not just DeLay.

Best article? Jackson Diehl, hands down.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 2:10 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHAT ARE LEFT-WING BLOGGERS SAYING ABOUT THE PROTESTS? The further left you go, the more positive and optimistic the coverage gets. Oliver Willis asks:
Seriously, folks, can we get back to the real work of spreading the progressive message and end these useless noisefests?
Lorelei Kelly asks,
[Is] ANSWER working for Karl Rove?
Only Deep Throat knows for sure. Btw, it is worth noting that Lorelei found the protest itself "hugely gratifying". In contrast, Matt Yglesias is
Beset with deep-seated doubts about the efficay of this sort of endeavor,
although he reports that the rock concert afterward was hugely gratifying. If I hadn't been zonked after the protest, I might've also stayed to watch Le Tigre at midnight.

Moving on to the real positives, Max Sawicky celebrates the "diversity" of the protest, while lashing out at "jingoists" who try to subvert the anti-war movement by pointing to the role of ANSWER in organizing the protests.

Max's full explanation of the jingoists' tactics is here. In it, he observes that
There is little that is offensive in the ANSWER positions per se, from a mainline radical standpoint.
Or as OxBlog might say, there is little that is offensive in Pat Robertson's positions per se, from a mainline reactionary standpoint. Also, Max blasts the Democratic Party and the "so-called liberal blogosphere" for being AWOL at the protests. On that point, OxBlog is compelled to agree that the Dems were absent. Score one for Max.

Over at EzraKlein.com, Shakes is touting the 500,000 turnout figure provided by some. As someone who attended the anti-war protests in NYC in 2004, which apparently had an actual attendance of 500,000, my thoroughly inexpert opinion is that yesterday's march had 15 to 30 percent of that.

Also, Shakes blasts the MSM for only covering the "nutzoid radicals" instead of the mainstream protesters. I think she must be talking about the NYT.

On a similiar note, BradBlog is angry about the MSM's insufficient coverage of the protests, especially those networks who didn't send camera crews. When it comes to the numbers game, Brad cites 100,000 as the absolute minimum and 600,000 as the upper limit.

Finally, Nicholas Beaudrot argues that insufficient or biased press coverage may not matter, since today's anti-war movement has become much more influential much more rapidly than the anti-war movement in the days of Vietnam.

I would add that not too many Democrats jumped onto that bandwagon all that early in the game, either. You might say that Kerry '04 is our Humphrey '68. The question is, who will play George McGovern?
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

Sunday, September 25, 2005

# Posted 8:27 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

COVERING THE COUNTERPROTESTS: Beautiful, buxom women are delightful to behold. But posting pictures of them does not constitute coverage of yesterday's counterprotests. Thus, in spite of some good photo-blogging, the puff-posts put up by conservative bloggers don't provide much in the way of information (let alone thoughtful analysis) about the counterprotests.

Given most conservatives commitment to teaching the MSM a thing or two about fairness, I think it would be a beneficial thing for them to engage in slightly more self-criticism, even if they don't have pretensions of being neutral or objective.

To its credit, the WaPo did a reasonable job of covering the counterprotests, although its account leaves out enough important things for the subject to merit a post of its own here on OxBlog. What's good about the WaPo article is that tells you both about the dignified presence of soldiers' families as well as the nastiness of some of the counterprotesters' counterattacks:
Debbie Ellsworth of Wolverine, Mich., had a framed photo of her son Justin, who was killed Nov. 13, 2004, in Al Anbar province, Iraq. "I know what kind of grief Cindy Sheehan must have because of the death of her son. I feel that same grief for my son," Ellsworth said, "but remember that she does not speak for me."...

Follow the stench down the street," [Betsy] Deming said to [the protesters] as they passed. "Follow the stench of urine and burning American flags. That's where your rally is."
What the Post fails to report is that the protesters directed that kind of remark and much worse at their counterparts. During the 30 minutes or so I spent along the line of police officers and metal fencers separating the rival groups, I constantly heard the protesters tell the counterprotesters they were Nazis and fascists.

One red-faced men even responded to a large poster that read "Duty, Honor, Country" by saying "Hitler would have loved that! Pflicht, Ehre, Land!" The man, whose prowess at translation I admire, then went around screaming "Heil Hitler!"

Another disturbingly common response by protesters was giving their critics the finger. I even saw one guy marching back in forth with his hands in the air, one with the middle-finger raised, the other with a two-fingered peace sign.

In contrast, there were some protesters who did their best to take the high road. At one point, around ten or so women locked arms and began to sing a very sweet rendition of "We Shall Overcome". (Overcome what? The insurgents' car bombs?)

One thing I didn't do that I probably should have is cover the counterprotest from its side of the metal fencing, rather than the from the protesters' side, where I was. Had I done that, I might be able to provide some better examples of offensive things that conservatives said.

But even if some of the comments were drowned out by the noise, I could read the signs, which tended to be moderate and patriotic. Among scores of signs that showed pictures of Iraqis voting and whatnot, there were a few that said things like "Hippies smell" and one bizarre poster that read "Rad fems = Neo-Marxists". What were these guys criticizing? A graduate seminar in the Harvard English department?

But the worst thing I saw was the huge banner put up by counter-protesters, according to which ANSWER coordinator "Brian Becker is a Commie". The assertion may be true, since the ANSWER leadership is filled with members of the Workers World Party, and other fringe groups.

Nonetheless, both the language of the banner and its emphasis on discrediting a specific individual bring to mind the worst sort of red-baiting from a bygone era. I think conservatives would only do themselves a favor by emphasizing ANSWER's perverse support for left-wing dictaors.

Apart from all of these specifics, I think it's important to give a better sense of the atmosphere at the counteprotest, which occupied the long block on the north side of Pennsylvania Ave. NW between 9th St. and 10th St. By the time I got there, the central mass of the protest march had long since gone by and there was just a more relaxed flow of protesters down Penn Ave.

What happened, though, was that the protesters had begun to cluster together in knots just across from the counterprotesters. The center of each knot tended to consist of one particularly loud screaming match that had drawn the attention of those on both sides. In between the knots there were smaller, more personalized confrontations, along with occasional unoccupied spaces. (Imagine the scene in the photograph above multipied along the length of a football field.)

The composition of most of the shouting knots changed slowly, as both the participants and observers on the anti-war side of the fence continued to march along the official protest route. The police also did their part to encourage forward movement, in order to prevent any of the confrontations from getting to heated.

I don't think one can really say that there was much substantive debate going on along the counterprotest block. Rather, there was a mix of condescension and lost tempers on both sides of the fence. One thing that struck me about the chants that went back forth, was how quickly they all returned to the chickenhawk debate.

One of the most popular protester responses to just about everything coming from the other side was "How come you're not in Iraq?" or "Why don't you enlist?" The general response was for the counterprotesters to point out or pull over the soldiers on their side of the fence or, alternately, the families of soldiers.

On occasion, the protesters challenged some of the soldiers to go back to Iraq if they supported the war. Once, there was even a chant of "Re-enlist! Re-enlist! Re-enlist!" Equally nonsensical was the demand of one counterprotester to know why, if the protesters cared so much about peace, they weren't in the Peace Corps.

But leaving aside such strange arguments, I think the prevalence of the chickenhawk argument does say something important the anti-war movment, namely that the only story it can tell itself about those who support the war is that they are very selfish or very naive. If this war is about blood for oil and profits for Halliburton, how could anyone support it if they aren't selfish or naive?

In contrast, mainstream Democrats know that promoting democracy is a good objective and that pulling out of Iraq may be very dangerous, even if they are 100% sure that we have already lost the war thanks to Bush's incompetence. But that kind of intellectual opposition to the war doesn't get people out in the streets.

Cindy Sheehan overcame such reluctance to a certain degree by infusing liberal arguments against the war with emotional content. But with soldiers and their families still coming out for the mission much more often than against it, Democrats can't get as outraged as they were a generation ago, when our government was forcing young men to fight and die in Vietnam. That is the invisible strength of an army of volunteers.
(1) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 6:53 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DEMOCRATIC PARTY M.I.A. AT THE PROTESTS: There are two basic staples of conservative bloggers' protest coverage. The first is to expose MSM coverage of the protests as hollow and one-sided. This is important, and OxBlog has no reservations about joining the chorus, but it shouldn't be the only story covered.

The second staple of conservative protest coverage is mocking the protesters, a la Michelle Malkin. In a limited sense, this sort of coverage also serves as a form of a media criticism, since the MSM have become so proficient at pretending the "moonbats" don't exist. Nonetheless, a fair amount of this coverage just crosses the line into being tasteless and spiteful.

So what can bloggers do to overcome this kind of entrenched habit? I'm not exactly sure, but I do want to focus in this post on one point that seems to have eluded the both the big papers and the bloggers completely: The Democratic Party, both in terms of official organizations and major politicians, stayed away from yesterday's protests like the plague.

There were a number of fringe Democrats on the speakers list, such as Jesse Jackson and Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-GA). But the closest thing I saw to official Democratic represenation was a number of protesters wearing t-shirts advertising the College Democrats. (Their timeless slogan: "Have you ever heard of a good piece of elephant?")

The closest thing I saw to a Dem-affiliated organization I saw was a delegation from SEIU, a service workers union. The SEIU brigade stood out both because of their purple t-shirts and because of their being almost exclusively black at a very, very white protest.

But perhaps one of the most important indications of the Democratic Party being MIA was what the protesters' signs were saying and what clothes they were wearing. I'd expected to see at least some leftover Kerry/Edwards paraphrenalia. Maybe I saw one or two items during my five hours at the protest.

In contrast, it was very easy to find folks wearing items such as the popular "International Terrorist" t-shirt, featuring a black-and-white portrait of President Bush. Naturally, I'm sure that almost everyone wearing those kind of t-shirts voted for Kerry last fall because they felt they had no choice. But their fashion preferences provide a good indication of just how far outside the Democratic mainstream most protesters are.

It is simple: If any Democratic senator or presidential candidate described Bush as a terrorist, they would destroy their own reputations. Imagine if Kerry had called Bush a terrorist. It would have made the reaction to Dick Durbin's "gulag" remarks seem tame.

If you read the WaPo or NYT, you get no sense of how far outside the Democratic mainstream the protesters are. And if you read conservative blogs, very few authors acknowledge that there are dramatic differences between the protesters and other liberals. (Although Glenn did point out that even some of Kos' bloggers found the protests distasteful.)

At the extreme of the protester spectrum are those who rare few who hold up posters of Bush and Hitler or superimpose a swastika on the American flag. But the description of Bush as a terrorist was common place. According to one chant I heard, "Who is a terrorist? Bush is a terrorist!" (Wash, rinse, repeat.)

The other major thread of protester sentiment that is totally anathema to the Democratic mainstream is the pervasive blood-for-oil slogan. Sample chant: "George Bush, corporate whore -- we don't want your oil war!"

On the rare occasions when protesters did refer explicitly Democrats, their comments were critical. One sign I saw compared today's Dems to LBJ. And there were at least as many of those sorts of signs as there were pro-Democratic ones.

Perhaps the closest thing I saw to real, active passionate support of the Democratic party was when Ralph Nader took the stage at the Ellipse and someone behind me screamed "F*** you, Ralph!" Al Gore would be proud.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 6:19 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NYT PRETENDS THAT A.N.S.W.E.R. IS "PROGRESSIVE": According to today's report:
The protests [in Washington DC] and elsewhere were largely sponsored by two groups, the Answer Coalition, which embodies a wide range of progressive political objectives, and United for Peace and Justice, which has a more narrow, antiwar focus.
"Progressive" is a hard word to define, but I'm pretty damn sure that it has nothing to do with serving as an apologist for Fidel Castro, Kim Jong Il and other left-wing dictators. In fact, that is the exact opposite of progressive -- it is reactionary.

As for UPJ, it is somewhat misleading to define it as having a "narrow, anti-war focus". Tactically speaking, that is not inaccurate, although UPJ itself advertises its interest in the Palestinian issue, "corporate globalization", and nuclear disarmament. (Amusingly, the latter emphasizes that "It is time to disarm America!", rather than, say, North Korea or Iran.)

But getting back to my point, UPJ's ideology in no way has a narrow, anti-war focus. It's purpose is to stop the "relentless drive for U.S. empire". Here's the key graf from UPJ's Unity Statement, its organizational manifesto:
It is now clear the war on Iraq was the leading edge of a relentless drive for U.S. empire. Exploiting the tragedy of September 11, 2001, the Bush administration has sought to use aggressive military action to pursue a long-term agenda: to forcibly dominate the world and impose right-wing policies at home under the cover of fighting terrorism.

This military strategy brutally reinforces the empire-building agenda of corporate globalization, which uses “free trade” policies to concentrate power and wealth in the hands of a few by attacking labor and environmental protections, reducing governments’ control over their country’s economies, and slashing public services. This reckless pursuit of empire is endangering the lives and rights of people abroad and at home.
You know, you'd think that UPJ would give Bush more credit for being good at imperialism. I mean, look at what happened to the Russians and the British when they tried to take Afghanistan. And if Bush can pull our chestnuts out of the fire, then he really deserves an Oscar for imperialism.
(1) opinions -- Add your opinion

Saturday, September 24, 2005

# Posted 4:44 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

UNITED FOR PEACE AND JUSTICE (UFPJ) is, from what I understand, the second major sponsor of tomorrow's protests. While covering the GOP convention (and related protests) in New York last year, I heard from some UFPJ folks that their organization represents an effort to correct the extremism of ANSWER, which hurt the anti-war movement.

So good for UFPJ, even if it is still well to the left of the Nation and can't stop itself from talking about the struggle against America's "global empire". More importantly, UFPJ seems to believe in transparency, a concept that ANSWER doesn't even begin to understand. For example, the UFPJ website lists all of the members of its administrative and steering committees, as well as providing financial reports for the past two years.

Sure, it's amusing that a member of the Communist Party -- USA is on both committees. But what matters more is that UFPJ operates (it seems) like a democratic organization and not like a communist party.
(2) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 4:00 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OXBLOG TO DISTRIBUTE FREE CHOCOLATE: Not to you, of course. But I thought it might be fun to offer some of the protesters free chocolate tomorrow in exchange for taking a five-question "Quagmire Quiz" about the war.

Why give out free chocolate? Because no one likes taking pop quizzes. And because then I can eat the leftovers myself. Buwahahahaha!

Anyhow, I want the quiz to be easy enough that anyone who reads a newspaper on a regular basis should get most or all of the questions right. If there are just a few space cadets who don't know the answers, that's what I'll report. But thanks to Evan Coyne Maloney, I think the results may be a little more interesting than that.

At the moment, here are the five questions I intend to use:
1. George Bush's middle initial is W. What does it stand for?

2. Approximately how many American soliders have been killed in Iraq?

3. One of the main organizers of this protest is ANSWER. What do the letters of "ANSWER" stand for?

4. Who is the prime minister of Iraq?

5. Who is the president of Afghanistan?
The question about ANSWER is the only one that's a little obscure, but I think that if you're at a protest organized by ANSWER it's a reasonable question to ask. Results forthcoming...
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 3:48 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE WISDOM OF CROWDS, GOOGLIFIED: Check out what Bo Cowgill is up to. It's pretty cool.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 3:22 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ANOTHER REASON THE WASHINGTON POST IS AWESOME: You probably already know this, but WaPo.com has a fantastic new feature called "Who's Blogging" that, with the help of Technorati, lets you go with one click from any of the Post's articles to a page with links to all of the bloggers who have written about it.

I think the decision to do this demonstrates the Post's understanding that the blogosphere and the MSM have far more to gain by working with each other rather than pretending that they are competitors. Moreover, it takes a lot of guts for the Post to provide links to numerous blogs that will almost certainly be critical of it. But I think the Post understands that giving its critics a chance to voice their opinions can only make the Post stronger.

If any other newspapers have done the same sort of thing, please let me know about it and I will put up a list here on OxBlog.

UPDATE: I just checked out the "Who's Blogging" links for the article about the protests I quoted below. It seems that this lovely feature has already exposed some of the MSM's ridiculous naivete about the anti-war protesters. Stop the Bleating has the scoop.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 3:15 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

"ANTIWAR RALLY WILL BE A FIRST FOR MANY": That's the headline from Friday morning's Metro section in the WaPo. The article's opening sentences are classic:
The seasoned protesters who organized tomorrow's antiwar demonstration are well-versed in many other causes. They have marched and rallied against police brutality, racism, colonialism and the policies of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

But their message on the Mall tomorrow will be singular: "End the war in Iraq."

Because of that sharp focus, they will be joined by novice protesters such as Patrice Cuddy, 56...
Translation: Sure, the far left may have organized this protest, but most people there will be plain, old mainstream Americans.

As far as media coverage of anti-war protests go, this article is relatively good. At least it acknowledges that the people in charge are on the far left, even if it doesn't let you know that some of their main concerns include apologizing for dictators such as Fidel Castro and Kim Jong Il.

What I'm curious about is whether most people at the protest are actually middle-of-the-road Democrats, or whether what we're basically looking at are the Kucinich voters and the left-wing of the Howard Dean express.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 2:35 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OXBLOG WILL PROTEST THE WAR TOMORROW! Well, to be more precise, OxBlog will attend the anti-war protest at the White House tomorrow in order to conduct interviews with the protesters and possibly write an article about the whole affair.

Now, I mentioned earlier this week that pointing out the dumbest arguments made by extremists on the other side of the political divide is neither an enriching nor an intellectually substantive activity. However, since ANSWER is one of the main organizers of the protest tomorrow, I figure I should provide all y'all with some information about what the group believes.

One of the first things I learned from ANSWER (courtesy of Ten Reasons Why We Oppose the War) was that "Iraq had no nuclear weapons or weapons of mass destruction -- and Bush knew it."

But the real treasure trove of strange delusions and apologias for the worlds' dictatorships is this eight page brochure that you can download as a PDF from the ANSWER website. Here are some highlights:
The global anti-war movement must be a movement of international solidarity against the U.S. empire. (Page 2)

The Iraqi people have a fundamental right to determine their own destiny...Since 1958 when a mass uprising overthrew the British-imposed king, Iraq has been a genuinely sovereign country. (Page 2) [I wonder of the sovereign Iraqi government committed any human rights violations after 1958. Unfortunately, the brochure doesn't say!]

The US kidnapping of President Aristide follows more than a century of U.S. intervention in Haiti...Since the election of Aristide to a second term in late 2000, with 92% of the vote, Washington has maintained economic sanctions against the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. (Page 3)[Wow, 92%. I bet ANSWER provided all of the elections monitors!]

From its inception in 1948, Israel has been a colonial state based on "ethnic cleansing"...[Israel] launched devastating wars against Egypt, Syria and Jordan. (Page 4)[That surprise attack on Yom Kippur in 1973 really took a lot of chutzpah!]

[The Cuban] revolution remains strong and is a source of inspiration for people throughout the hemisphere. (Page 6)

Korea has been punished ever since [1953] with economic sanctions and the occupation of the southern half of the country by 37,000 US soldiers. (Page 6) [Fortunately, the anti-US insurgency in South Korea hasn't inflicted too many casualties on our force.]

The [Bush] administration has launched a domestic war at home against the people of the United States that complements its global war for empire. (Page 7)[A war at home? Send the troops abroad now!]
Well there you have it folks. ANSWER in a nutshell. And don't forget to free Mumia!
(2) opinions -- Add your opinion

Friday, September 23, 2005

# Posted 9:43 PM by Patrick Belton  

JEDI LIBRARY LOCATED AT TRINITY COLLEGE, DUBLIN: Courtesy ArchEire.com. So maybe the Empire really was the Empire.... (Luke Skywalker as Robert Emmet, perhaps?):

(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 10:55 AM by Patrick Belton  

We need to remember there is a reason these terrorists inflicted this on the state of Bangladesh. Instead of describing these acts simplistically as 'evil', we need to understand the 'root cause' of this anger, to account for the hatred people around the world feel for Bangladesh. Bangladesh needs to revise all the policies which have resulted in the legitimate grievances of these terrorists, including Bangladesh's occupation of Iraq, its massive military and financial support for the apartheid state of Israel, its refusal to sign the Kyoto treaty and its imperialist arrogance on the world stage. Only once Bangladesh stops trying to project global power and agrees to enter dialogue with the understandably inflamed opinion of jihadists will this cycle of violence abate. After all, if someone hates you in a murderous way, you must have done something to deserve it.
And also here:
What's officially the most violent developed nation? And which country's government reacted negligently to a recent natural disaster, despite warnings from experts?
Well blogged, mate.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 10:02 AM by Patrick Belton  

WHY I DON'T DO GOOD AT SCHOOL: British teachers confess an anti-Liam bias. (Though they rather like Seans, so I suppose there goes my celtophobia hypothesis.)
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

Thursday, September 22, 2005

# Posted 6:30 PM by Patrick Belton  

FUN WITH E-BAY'S LATEST ACQUISITION: Firstly, I downloaded Skype.

Then, while perfunctorily filling out my profile, I briefly amused myself by entering 'Abkhazian' under my language, as it was first in the list, and then promptly forgot all about Abkhazia.*

Then, this morning, to indicate to a friend that I wasn't going to ignore her any more, I changed my status to 'skype me'.

Then, out of nowhere, this undoubtedly quite nice Abkhazian lady began calling me, who didn't speak any English, but was happy to have another Abkhazian to talk to. I was very sorry to let her down.

I've heard the Georgian Riviera is quite nice; maybe I ought meet more Abkhazians until I have collected a sufficient quantity that some invite me to visit. You could drive there from here....

* Let my right hand lose its cunning.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 5:37 PM by Patrick Belton  

WHY WE FIGHT: So Afghans can listen to The Archers.

(Other reasons, too. Those mostly below.)
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 11:28 AM by Patrick Belton  

BOOS, CATCALLS, AND TO INCLUDE (WITH GUILTY APOLOGIES TO KEVIN) THE THROWING OF ACTUAL CATS: From the SPD, the party which brought you Chancellor Schröder's beasty posturings of victory on the night of an election which he, as well as Angela Merkel, lost, he even more so: now his party has made the quite absurd allegation, which apparently never quite occured to it in the preceding sixty years of Bundesrepublik political history, that Merkel is not the leader of the largest Bundestag faction, because under the just-discovered Schröder's Law, the CDU and its Bavarian coordinate, the CSU, constitute two separate parties. Therefore the CDU can never (what, never? well, hardly ever) overtake the SPD in the future; and most likely should never have done in the past. Well done, lads: with thinking like that, you can't lose!

The SPD apparently thought it necessary, in their last days in power, to demonstrate once more to the world precisely the level of political thought they had been bringing to German politics since 1998.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 1:54 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

"SEPT. 11 WAS NOT AN UNPROVOKED, GRATUITOUS ACT": My younger brother once made the very astute observation that both liberals and conservatives tend to motivate themselves by pointing out the most absurd and outrageous things said by their opponents, rather than confronting those opponents' strongest arguments.

In that spirit, OxBlog tries to say what it is for and not just what it is against. But sometimes, when experts with sterling credentials start to say things that are offensive and dangerous, they have to be exposed. Today's case in point is Dr. Mohammad-Mahmoud Ould Mohamedou, associate director of Harvard's Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research (HPCR) .

Last week, Dr. Mohamedou published an op-ed in the Boston Globe entitled "Time to Talk to Al Qaeda?" (Hat tip: Power Line) Here is a typical passage from the column:
Sept. 11 was not an unprovoked, gratuitous act. It was a military operation researched and planned since at least 1996 and conducted by a trained commando in the context of a war that had twice been declared officially and publicly.
There you have it folks. An expert on the payroll of the world's greatest university telling us that hijacking airplanes and flying them into skyscrapers really isn't all that bad as long as you tell everyone in advance what you're going to do. But don't forget, this rule only applies to "trained commando". If you're an amateur terrorist, forget about it!

By the way, may I point out the sad irony of the fact that Dr. Mohamedou is the associate director of a center for humanitarian policy. We should be grateful that he isn't director of a center for disease control, otherwise he'd be telling us that there's nothing wrong with malaria.

By the way, you may be interested to know that in addition to Harvard, the two major sponsor of Dr. Mohamedou's program are the Executive Office of the United Nations Secretary-General and the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. As everyone knows, both the Swiss and the UN have an impressive record of confronting evil in the world rather than retreating into relativism.

On a personal note, what's all the more disturbing about Dr. Mohamedou and is program is that its offices are in the very same building where I had my office when I spent the year at the Olin Institute at Harvard. In fact, a good friend of mine worked for the HPCR. I assumed it was just another program.

Anyhow, I'm still clinging to the hope that this whole op-ed is a hoax. Perhaps someone from ANSWER signed Dr. Mohamedou's name to the article and sent it in to the Globe. But if it's for real, then perhaps one has to wonder just how many other apologists for murder are posing as scholars on America's campuses.

UPDATE: According to Google, Dr. Mohamedou's op-ed has actually gotten a fair amount of attention from the right-wing of the blogosphere, including WizBang, Free Republic, Jihad Watch, LGF, and Best of the Web. On the left, Common Dreams and Info Clearing House have both reposted Dr. Mohamedou's column, with no apparent reservation about its contents.
(2) opinions -- Add your opinion

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

# Posted 8:41 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PROFOUND THOUGHTS ABOUT BLOGGING: Perhaps that is a contradiction in terms. Anyhow, this past weekend Daniel Drezner played host to an academic mini-conference on the political power of blogging.

Ethan Zuckerman has summarized three of the papers presented there. Jay Rosen of NYU and Press Think presented an extended defense of the he said/she said hypothesis, which OxBlog feels compelled to dispute approximately every six weeks.

Cass Sunstein presented a rather pessimistic sounding paper on how the blogosphere may serve as an amplifier of ignorance rather than a conduit for the collection and dissemination of our collective knowledge. Actually, I guess if you are a pro-MSM critic of the blogosphere, than Sunstein's paper might be thought of as optimistic.

Finally, Eszter Hargittai sought to measure the degree of partisan insularity in the blogosphere. She did so by trying to measure not just how often liberals link to conservatives and vice versa, but how often liberals link to conservatives approvingly and vice versa. (You can read a more detailed account of Eszter's paper on her own blog.)

Not too surprisingly, Eszter found that bloggers link to their ideological bedfellows far more often than they do to their adversaries and that an overwhelming number of posts to one's adversaries tend to be critical, even to the point of being straw-man attacks.

Nonetheless, as Eszter herself points out, "people from both groups are certainly reading across the ideological divide to some extent." I'm also interested in seeing what happens when Eszter looks at blogs that don't fall neatly into categories of right and left.

Dare I speculate that websites such DanielDrezner.com, The Moderate Voice, The American Scene and (yes) OxBlog actually engage in the supposedly ideal behavior of carefully reading and considering arguments presented by both sides?

Yes, that was a rhetorical question meant to advertise my own alleged open-mindedness and "centrism". Off hand, I'd say that I don't refer to myself as a centrist nearly as often as I once did. I find those on the right as well as those on the left tend to resent self-identified centrists for having a holier-than-thou attitude.

Hmmm. Maybe they're right. And this post is evidence of how right they are.

Anyhow, there are political advantages to claiming the mantle of centrism. But I'm not running for office. And if you want to build up a five-figure daily readership in the blogosphere, you pretty much have to provide enough red meat for one half of the political spectrum. But that is not my aspiration for the moment. I still have a Ph.D. to finish.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 7:45 PM by Patrick Belton  

FROM DER SPIEGEL: 'The country seems to be waking up from its post-election hang-over realizing it has caught the flu.'
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 5:52 PM by Patrick Belton  

A television presenter on a new Dutch talk show plans to take heroin and other illegal drugs on air in a program intended to reach young audiences on topics that touch their lives, producers said Wednesday. I.e., I get my work to pay for my drugs, then show all my friends how I did. Good job, this being Dutch.

[Filemon] Wesselink and another presenter will carry out in-the-field experiments with sex and drugs. Isn't that just...being Dutch? Except on the telly.

In other segments of the show, Wesselink plans to go on a drinking binge in a series of pubs. He also will try LSD -- on his couch under the supervision of his mother. ... Um, we'll just let that one stand on its own.

"The actual taking of drugs is a health problem, not a criminal act, though it's obviously hard to take drugs without possessing them first," [Justice Ministry spokesman Ivo] Hommes said. Sherlockian! Mark my words, this bloke has a strong future in deductive police work. "In any case it's not something we endorse." And the strong moral commitment of the man! Forget police work, run him for PM!

"It's not our intention to create an outcry," said a spokeswoman for the network. Nah, of course not.
Sometimes, you really, really, really can't make this stuff up.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 5:43 PM by Patrick Belton  

ADDIE STAN and a few friends blog from Louisiana.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 5:37 PM by Patrick Belton  

WITTIEST POST OF THE DAY award goes to Kieran at CT:
In passing the other day, I mentioned the Moondoggle. This is the idea floated early last year that NASA might return to the moon and build a base there, for no particular reason.


Nasa Administrator Mike Griffin said [...] 'Think of it as Apollo on steroids.” This is an appropriate comparison, because it makes clear that the new project will be bloated, prone to fights, and, when it comes to producing anything of lasting scientific value, probably impotent.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 11:47 AM by Patrick Belton  

A SAD DAY FOR IRISH LETTERS: A literary landmark and a book showroom I personally frequent, Kennys Bookshop is closing down its famed store on Galway High Street.

Kennys books move from office space to cyberspace

Lorna Siggins, Western Correspondent
Irish Times

Brendan Behan, Alan Ginsberg and Roald Dahl have crossed its threshold, along with hundreds of artists and writers from all over the world.

However, one of the west's best-known bookshops is to close its doors in Galway's city centre early in the new year as part of a radical relocation.

"You have got to move with the times," Maureen Kenny, founder of Kennys Bookshop and Gallery, said yesterday as the family confirmed the move to cyberspace and Galway's docks respectively.

The High Street and Middle Street premises owned by the company is to be leased out and all books will now be sold online, while the gallery is re-opening at Galway's dock gate.

As her son Tom Kenny explains, the family has strong emotional ties to the High Street building, dating back some 65 years, but was also "passionate about the business".

The company now sells more books online than through the retail unit, with much lower overheads.

Increasing competition in sales of new books means that there are many more outlets and the trend towards bulk-buying by supermarket chains means that independent booksellers are being undercut all the time, Mr Kenny says.

The company has noted that regular customers in Galway are buying books from it through amazon.com on the internet.

Kennys moved into cyberspace very early on, being only the second bookshop in the world to do so in 1994, and it now works with other major players such as amazon.com, abe.com and alibris.

Kennys is regarded as one of the best online resources in the world for material of Irish interest. It has developed customer bases with libraries and universities in north America, Japan and China since it began producing book catalogues in the 1950s and 1960s.

The bookshop was first opened by Maureen and Des Kenny in 1940, and the couple lived behind the shop in High Street for the first four years of their marriage.

Mrs Kenny retired earlier this year after 65 years behind the counter. She noted that some of her most memorable moments included watching her children and grandchildren going into the business, opening the first art gallery in the west with an exhibition by Seán Keating, receiving visits from the likes of Brendan Behan and launching Breandán Ó hEithir's classic, Over the Bar, live on radio.

It was in Kennys bookshop that the best-seller by John O'Donohue, Anam Cara, was launched, and John McGahern opened the renovated premises which won an RIAI architectural award in 1996.

The gallery was first opened in the couple's home in Salthill. The new 2,200 sq ft premises will stage a series of exhibitions by Irish and international artists.

Kennys has more than 200,000 books on amazon.com and other portals. Its own site - www.kennys.ie - is one of the best online resources for material of Irish interest in the world.

Kennys will combine all bookselling operations at its Liosbán export centre in Galway.
(1) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 8:04 AM by Patrick Belton  

NEW BOOK TITLE OF THE DAY AWARD....goes to Dam!: Water, Power, Politics, and Preservation in Hetch Hetchy and Yosemite National Park, by John Warfield Simpson, Random House. (Hey, I made no claims about the subtitle.) Proxime accessit honours to The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One: How Corporate Executives and Politicians Looted the S&L Industry, by William Black, University of Texas Press. [Ed.: You just like the conjunction of bad jokes and politics, don't you.] What, OxBlog? Never. Though 'the conjunction of bad jokes and politics' does have a catchy ring as a moniker.

(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 3:27 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 3:08 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NORTH KOREA AFTERTHOUGHT: If anything comes of all this, the real winner is Condi. Her hawkish credentials are solid, but if North Korea disarms, she'll be known as the Republican who isn't just soft moderate like Colin Powell, but who can get results through diplomacy that even Democrats couldn't. Perhaps a visit to Iowa is in order?
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 1:32 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

JUST WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON IN NORTH KOREA? I'll be the first to admit that I have no idea. It's all but impossible to interpret North Korean behavior since no one outside of Pyongyang has any real idea of what the NoKo regime sees as its national interest. It's also all but impossible for anyone except the diplomats involved to know what really happened at the recent negotiations responsible for the NoKo pledge to abandon its nuclear program.

What's especially interesting about the latest developments in Beijing is that, as Kevin Drum ably pointed out, the partisan implications of Monday's deal are anything but clear. Should liberals celebrate Bush's embrace of a Clinton-esque policy of engagement at the price of admitting that Bush deserves credit for this apparent breakthrough? And should conservatives attempt to take credit for this apparent breakthrough at the cost of admitting that Clinton was right about engagement in the first place?

To a certain extent, Kevin himself has sought to square the cirlce by explaining how the recent deal can be both a good idea and a failure for the Bush administration. After calling out Instapundit, Power Line, Michelle Malkin and Hugh Hewitt for their silence on the subject of North Korea, Kevin argues (drawingly heavily on this NYT report) that the Bush administration gave in to North Korean demands it once rejected because the combination of Iraq, Katrina and Chinese pressure weakened its resolve.

Although I'd be surprised if Iraq and Katrina influenced Bush's decision to accept the deal, Kevin's interpretation is plausible enough given the available evidence. However, I think Kevin goes a step too far with his sarcastic observation that
After all, the North Koreans got nothing out of this deal except for every single thing they've ever asked for. [Emphasis in original]
Given that both sides have promised a lot and delivered nothing as of yet, it's hard to argue that Bush got suckered. However, Kevin may be pushing the envelope because of Capt. Ed's brazen argument that Bush's steely resolve intimidated NoKo into submission. According to the Captain,
After testing the Bush administration several times and finding it unwilling to waver, even after a number of Bush's political opponents (such as John Kerry) fell for his tricks, Kim knows that Bush has him diplomatically isolated and left with no choice but compliance or war.
I'm going to have to side with Kevin on this one and guess that even a total whackjob like Kim Jong Il doesn't think that the United States can to go war against North Korea anytime soon.

In contrast to Capt. Ed, some conservatives, like James Robbins over at NRO, are standing by their traditional argument that any deal with North Korea is useless since the regime simply can't be trusted. Although Matt Yglesias taunts Robbins for his remarkable ability to "oppose sensible policy even when George W. Bush is implementing it," the fact remains that even thoughtful Democratic analysts like Derek Chollet think the latest deal may be worthless.

But even before we can figure out whether Pyongyang is at all serious about abandoning its weapons programs, it pays to consider Suzanne Nossel's argument that the agreement is already falling apart, albeit for reasons unknown. As Suzanne points out, NoKo spokesman have been so vitriolic in the few days since the agreement was signed that something seems to have gone terribly wrong.

But FYI, even though Suzanne and Derek are staunch Democrats, there doesn't seem to be a party line on this issue. For instance, the NYT attempts to endorse the agreement while giving Bush as little credit as possible by writing that
The Bush administration, which has spent more than four years discounting the importance of international agreements, has rediscovered the safeguards and rewards of peaceful international diplomacy in general and this vital treaty in particular.
Although the Times headges its confidence with a lone reference to the importance of the agreement's "details", I am still rather disturbed by the editors' blithe confidence in negotiating with otherworldly dictators.

That's all I have to say for now. I still have no idea what's really going on so I can't give a moral to this story. But I can leave you all with this bizarre quote from Fred Kaplan (via One Free Korea):
It's a significant breakthrough. But it could easily have been accomplished two and a half years ago, had President George W. Bush been willing. It is also nothing like an actual agreement, just a preliminary step before the real negotiations—where, if history holds, North Korea will frustrate us with tricks and backtracking, and we just have to hang on tight.
OFK comments:
Translation: Bush could have had an equally emphemeral, transitory, and meaningless deal with a shelf life of less then one day two whole years ago if he's only listened to Fred Kaplan.
Ouch. But no one ever said that being a pundit is easy, so I think a little mercy is in order (if only because I'll want it next time I screw up).
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

# Posted 12:24 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CONGRATULATIONS, SHAUN! Tomorrow night, Subject2Dicussion and its host Shaun Daily will be celebrating their anniversary on the air. You can listen in at 6pm Pacific/9pm Eastern by going to the LVrocks.com homepage and clicking on 'Listen' and on 'Cam/Chat'.

The headline guest on tomorrow night's show will be none other than Joe Gandelman of The Moderate Voice. FYI, you can also listen to the show as a podcast. (See instructions on the S2D homepage.)

All three OxBloggers have been guests on Shaun's show and enjoyed it tremendously. So check it out!
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 9:54 AM by Patrick Belton  

BLOGOSPHERE UNITED: It sounds like a footie team. Remind me to stick with the big fellas.

Bloggers from left to right are agreed that the New York Times's decision to fence off its op-eds from free public consumption, and debate, represents - to put it precisely - A Bad Thing. But then came Amygdala, and all was light. Gary Farber purports to have found a rather straightforward hack, or workaround, or other miscellaneous miscreancy to permit us to continue to read each day, say, our daily Krugman and Friedman. (That sound you're hearing is the roar of enthusiasm from these quarters.) He also suspects, in whispered tones, that some member of staff or broader level of Nice Grey Auntie might have made this so simple on purpose.

Devious buggers, restricting public debate to those who can pay and those who can hack? Has the Straussian conspiracy reached yet so far?

Nah. At least, that's what they told me to say.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

Monday, September 19, 2005

# Posted 6:51 PM by Patrick Belton  

I DON'T KNOW WHY YOU SAY GOODBYE I SAY HELLO, DEPARTMENT: One of this blog's very close friends, about to sojourn for a quick spell in an American as opposed to his accustomed British university, has begun a blog devoted to British politics, Brit Pundit. So we at OxBlog send our warmest welcomes to the blogosphere to a good lad with a great deal to say and a blissful sense of humour, whose profile usefully notes he 'when drunk, will describe himself to anyone willing to listen as an "outdoorsman"', 'is always right, but often changes his mind' and furthermore rather 'convinced that TV, sports and hangovers are getting worse with age'.

Another Brit pundit, and OxBlog knockoff, making white-gloved debut in the blogosphere as a result of the Conservative leadership race is Dr Liam Fox's FoxBlog; though personally, in the 'imitation, flattery, &c department,' and this despite my tendency to support baseball underdogs and sport teams hailing from Gotham, I must confess a certain lingering fondness for SoxBlog.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 8:09 AM by Patrick Belton  

OTHER MEDIA WATCH: Here at OxBlog we're always suckers for pieces comparing Americans and Britons. But not as much as we are for any piece with the title 'The Lonely Life of the Visiting Dictator - How Will Belarus's President Spend His Time in New York?
(1) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 4:45 AM by Patrick Belton  

RUN, MADAME SECRETARY, RUN: If you did, hey, I'd work for you. But you should nonetheless.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

Sunday, September 18, 2005

# Posted 10:49 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ROBERTS THE UNSTOPPABLE: Joe Gandelman rounds up the onset of moderate Democrats' recognition that JR deserves to lead the High Court.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 10:27 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CONDI TO PREVAIL IN IOWA CAUCAUSES? The Quad City Times reports that Condi racked up 30.3% in a trial heat for the 2008 GOP caucus in Iowa. McCain and Giuliani followed with about 15% apiece.

Although I think there's no way Condi will run, I think that kind of result says a tremendous amount about her public image as smart, tough and dignified. In a word: presidential. Or in 2008, perhaps vice-presidential. (Hat tip: MS via TMV)
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 8:02 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NO, THAT POSTER ISN'T SUPPOSED TO BE IRONIC: Recently, there have been a disturbing number of racist incidents at my former home, the University of Virginia. Thus, I am very glad that UVA students have mobilized in the name of racial equality.

But the slogan displayed on the right is pure nonsense. It is a contradiction in terms. If only intolerance is wrong, than how dare we not tolerate it! Although there has long been a shortage of moral clarity on America's campuses, it shouldn't be hard to say "We will not tolerate racism. Racism is wrong. Period."
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 7:15 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WaPo TURNS ON A DIME: In spite of Friday's deferential coverage of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, today's WaPo casts the Iranian president as an irascible enemy of the West.

Whereas Friday's coverage quoted Ahmadinejad extensively while ignoring his critics, today's includes mostly paraphrased remarks by the Iranian president, followed by commentary from Western diplomats that makes Ahmadinejad look either foolish or belligerent. For example:
In a defiant speech, peppered with anti-American rhetoric and veiled threats, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told world leaders at the United Nations on Saturday that his country will never give up its nuclear enrichment program...

U.S. and European diplomats greeted the speech and comments the president made at a news conference afterward with deep disappointment, saying they fell far short of expectations.
Why the new spin from the WaPo? First of all, today's dispatch was by Dafna Linzer, Friday's by Glenn Kessler. If a single correspondent had turned around like that overnight, it would be very surprising.

Second, and perhaps more importantly, I don't think American journalists have clear standards for covering foreign leaders, especially from non-democratic nations. Sometimes their coverage is deferential for no apparent reason. At other times it is far more harsh and one-sided than the coverage to which an American politician would be subjected, presumably since foreign leaders have no constituency to speak up on their behalf.

The recent coverage of Ahmadinejad sort of reminds me of the coverage of Fidel Castro during the 1980s. Sometimes, Fidel would get quoted uncritically when talking about the importance of peace and of Reagan's threat to it. At other times, journalists would point out that Fidel ruled by force and habitually towed the Moscow party line.

To a certain extent, the treatment of foreign leaders serves as an implicit barometer of journalists' attitude toward American foreign policy. Since Ahmadinejad's remarks on Saturday were so belligerent that even the Europeans expressed considerable disappointment, it's not surprising that the WaPo's coverage of the Iranian president was less favorable.

Although the malleability of such coverage is frustrating, I think it is here to stay. Coverage of American politics is much more (but not fully) balanced because journalists have to persuade both liberal and conservative readers of their relative detachment. In contrast, audiences know less and care less about foreign leaders. Therefore, they aren't as demanding.

POSTSCRIPT: It is also worth comparing the NYT's coverage of Ahmadinejad from Friday as opposed to today. The contrast isn't as stark as in the WaPo, but you can clearly see a more critical turn after the Iranian president's confrontational speech to the UN.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion