Monday, October 10, 2005

# Posted 8:45 PM by Patrick Belton  

TERRORISM READING OF THE DAY: The Saban Center at Brookings hosted a symposium on new directions for both counterterrorism and Al Qaeda. Something for everybody.
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# Posted 8:40 PM by Patrick Belton  

TNR BEGINS A 'Today in Despotism' series - go read.
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# Posted 8:28 PM by Patrick Belton  

HAPPINESS IS A JOHN BANVILLE BOOKER: His crystalline prose and wry humour have long made him one of my favourite novelists; I am glad it's now made him one of the Booker panelists' favourites, as well. The official announcement is here.
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# Posted 8:24 PM by Patrick Belton  

OUR LOVELY ARTSY FARTSY correspondent, the fetching Máire Greaney, motivates a link for Arts Ireland, a monthly newsletter the latest edition of which has just appeared.
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# Posted 12:48 PM by Patrick Belton  

OXBLOG'S NEW SWISS MILE-HIGH-CLUB CORRESPONDENT, Monsieur Alain Juillerat sends us in this photograph from his cockpit over Greenland from Moscow to Washington. Merci viumau, Alain - das isch ja krass!

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Sunday, October 09, 2005

# Posted 6:29 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

STUDENTS FOR GLOBAL DEMOCRACY: A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, a couple of OxBloggers expressed that the hope that there would someday be a student movement committed to spreading democracy across the globe.

Thus, I am extremely gratified to report that Students for Global Democracy (SGD), founded by Charlie Szrom at Indiana University, has already organized chapters at twelve different universities in six different countries, including, remarkably enough, Nepal.

SGD's signature effort is its BELL campaign, whose purpose is to support the non-violent democratic movement struggling to push out Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenka, aka "Europe's last dictator". (Photo above)

Next Saturday, SGD will lead a Worldwide Walk for Democracy in Belarus. It purpose is to raise awareness of repression in Belarus as well as to raise funds to help the opposition. As part of the event, SGD chapters across the globe will lead 12-kilometer walks, one kilometer for each year Lukashenka has been in power.

If you are a student and you want to do something that really matters, get involved with SGD. See if there's a chapter near you. If not, start your own.

If you're not a student, why not send a few dollars to SGD so that they can keep up the good work? I'll be sending them $50 as soon as I'm done with this post.

If you're a blogger, go to SGD's website, read about the organization, and then post about it, because they deserve to be better known.

Oh, and in case your're wondering whether SGD is effective, Lukashenka's thugs have already started to harass SGD's friends in Belarus.
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# Posted 6:23 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

EARTHQUAKE ROUND-UP: Including lots of first hand accounts from local bloggers, via Joe Gandelman.
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Saturday, October 08, 2005

# Posted 6:15 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

TODAY'S NAVEL GAZE: IS BLOGGING JOURNALISM? An undergraduate majoring in communications sent me an e-mail on Wednesday asking if blogging is journalism. Here's what I had to say:
I think that most political blogging falls into the category of opinion journalism. Although not regimented into 800-word columns, blogging resembles very closely what one sees on the editorial page of America's major newspapers. It consists of analysis based on facts compiled by others.

So, one might ask, are Tom Friedman and Jim Hoagland still journalists? Or did they stop being journalists once they became commentators? It's hard to say, since no one really has official control of who is considered a journalist. What most bloggers certainly are not is correspondents. Few of us provide first-hand reports from places where news is happening.

Then again, sometimes we do. OxBlog recently covered the anti-war protests at the White House and last year it covered the anti-war protests at the GOP convention, as well as the convention itself. More signficantly, there are many bloggers who regularly provide first-hand reports from far-flung places such as Lebanon, Iraq and elsehwhere.

What bloggers almost never do is simulate the authoritative, detached voice of most professional correspondents. We have no intrest in writing just-the-facts-ma'am reports that attempt to provide information without offending the reader. Why not? Well, one reason is that we instinctively distrust full-time journalists' pretensions of non-partisanship and objectivity. Another is that we usually have pretty strong opinions and no incentive to hide them.

I think its extremely important not to think of blogging and journalism as competitors or polar opposites. A lot of early coverage seemed to suggest that blogging aspired to replace journalism. This angle seemed plausible because so many bloggers, myself included, are almost obsessed with the mistakes, misperceptions and alleged bias of the "mainstream media".

In truth, blogging is a medium whereas journalism is an activity. Thus, in the final analysis it will always be misleading to ask if one is the other and vice versa. Some bloggers have no interest in politics or current events. They use their blogs to trade recipes or write about their boyfriends and girlfriends. Some journalists consider blogging to be a good way to cover their subjects.

But if the question is inherently misleading, why is it asked so often? Again, this comes back to bloggers' habit of criticizing journalists. If you argue that bloggers are not journalists, then you are suggesting that bloggers aren't qualified to criticize journalists, just as patients aren't qualified to criticize doctors.

If one could make a persuasive argument that journalism is a well-defined profession, such as medicine or the law, perhaps I would be inclined to criticize it less. But from where I stand, journalism seems to consist of little more than common sense, which is often quite uncommon even among journalists.

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# Posted 5:34 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

RED MAN IN A BLUE HOUSE: Jamie Kirchick describes John Bolton's recent visit to the Yale Political Union. In response to a question about Abu Ghraib, Bolton said that the United States can investigate and punish its own war crimes. The predictable hissing that followed this response
prompted Bolton to inquire, “I'm just curious, those of you who are hissing, who do you think will judge better than us?”
Canada, presumably.
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# Posted 6:55 AM by Patrick Belton  

NOW LANDSMEN ALL, WHOEVER YOU MAY BE, IF YOU WANT TO RISE TO THE TOP OF THE TREE WATCH: My participation in the United States and Britain consists of serious professional and academic work as a, well, perhaps 'Anglo-American foreign policy intellectual' isn't sufficiently pretentious, but I'll think of something; and anyhow it's what I scribble about, and together with a handful of friends I run a think tank dedicated to emerging issues in British and American foreign policy.

My participation in Irish society consists, conversely, mostly of bad jokes.

Quick quiz of the day: which is more likely to elicit an invitation to an ambassador's residence shortly after arriving in Switzerland?

Answer: another guiness brownie, excellency?
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# Posted 6:13 AM by Patrick Belton  

GONE CLIMBIN'. Be back this evening tomorrow eventually, with photographs to share of Männlichen and environs.

Also, my housemate Barbara has just made a machine that makes mooing noises, a useful invention for a heavily bovine rural area.
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Friday, October 07, 2005

# Posted 1:19 PM by Patrick Belton  

I KNEW I WAS MISGUIDED. I also knew that several parts of my anatomy were apparently abnormally large. But not until I checked google lately did I know that one of us, and therefore David, is the cleverest man on earth! But he's taken, ladies.
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# Posted 9:38 AM by Patrick Belton  

THE STORY BEHIND AN IMAGE: Thus photographer Charlie Cole, describing how he captured an image of a man with a shopping bag standing down a column of tanks:

'[W]hen the moment came his character defined the moment rather than the moment defining him. He made the image, I just took the picture. I felt honoured to be there.'

The man in the image has been named as Wang Wei Lin, though without certainty. He has never been heard from again.

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# Posted 8:09 AM by Patrick Belton  

WANT TO FIND OUT WHO WILL BE THE NEXT TORY LEADER? GO ASK A DUBLIN BOOKMAKER! Paddy Power gives David Cameron 5-6 odds, David Davis 13-8, Ken Clarke 9-2, Liam Fox 12-1, and noble Malcolm Rifkind, god love him, 80-1. After watching the speeches, I'll use my Irish Single Transferable Vote to jump on to the David Cameron bandwagon, for my second choice after Ken Clarke.

Why? Mark me down alongside the fetching Camilla Cavendish,
By the time I got to Blackpool on Monday I was wondering how difficult it would be to start a new party. That weekend a Populus poll had found that 49 per cent of voters agreed with the statement “British politics would be better off if the Conservative Party was replaced by a new right-of-centre party” — a palpable level of frustration that is the very reverse of apathy.

Then on Tuesday, I watched David Cameron. And I started to think that maybe the Tories could skip a generation and get away with it. Cameron was, frankly, inspirational. He did not drone on about Labour failures, nor did he exaggerate them. He filled the room with hope: with a picture of Britain as a compassionate place that does not have to put up with failing schools, ever-higher taxes, rampant crime and fraying social cohesion. He spoke about education with a fury and a determination that we have not heard since the early days of new Labour. For only by freeing and improving education can we recreate opportunity. And Labour’s passion has ebbed away.

For too long the Conservatives were carried away by an obsession with individualism that implied that there was only one remedy for all problems: the free market in larger and larger doses. That made them sound lunatic on health, for example, and completely unable to address subjects like social cohesion or climate change. It left them looking like half a party, and meant that even humane and intelligent free-market ideas were derided as cheapskate capitalism. The Conservatives talked a lot about aspiration, but seemed unable to grasp that people do not just aspire to material wealth. The new generation understands instinctively that many of us also aspire to leave a better world behind us. As the mood shifts away from consumerism and individualism, Mr Cameron is offering ways to strengthen society and reverse dwindling social mobility and social cohesion. And he is doing it with conviction.
Hear, hear. Mercifully the right flank's banner-bearer David Davis self-destructed after giving delegates a sense of what they could have watched during PMQs for five years. Another parliamentary bumbler far to the right of the nation would have given Labour too easy a ride, and politics would have (continued to have) been the poorer. Cameron's take on One Nationism leaves one hoping he might offer Britain what it hasn't had for ages - a credible Opposition for Her Majesty which promises for the UK what in 1998 a candidate Schröder long past had once portended for Germany, a new debating partner and a new middle.
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# Posted 2:58 AM by Patrick Belton  

THE LEFT PRESS is having a field day with Bush's purported 'I'm on a mission from God' comment; entirely neglected is the more important journalistic question of whether or not he said it with the appropriate accent.
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Thursday, October 06, 2005

# Posted 11:16 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HE SAID IT MUCH BETTER THAN I DID: Henry Farrell has a superb article in The Chronicle of Higher Education on the value-added that blogging has for scholars. I agree, but lack anything to compare with Henry's eloquence.
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# Posted 6:56 PM by Patrick Belton  

MY KIND OF TORY. Sir George Sinclair, imperial administrator, skilled parliamentarian, and progressive reformer, in pace.
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# Posted 6:32 PM by Patrick Belton  

HAPPY INTERNATIONAL POETRY DAY! Go out and hug a poet. Being, as we try to be, a poetry-friendly blog, we have another Norman MacCaig poem chosen for us for the occasion by Máire, our artsy fartsy west of Ireland correspondent:
Aunt Julia

Aunt Julia spoke Gaelic
very loud and very fast.
I could not answer her-
I could not understand her.

She wore men’s boots when she wore any.
-I can see her strong foot,
stained with peat,
paddling with the treadle of the spinningwheel
while her right hand drew yarn
marvellously out of the air.

Hers was the only house
where I’ve lain at night
in the absolute darkness
of a box bed, listening to
crickets being friendly.

She was buckets
and water flouncing into them.
She was winds pouring wetly
round house-ends.
She was brown eggs, black skirts
and a keeper of threepennybits
in a teapot

Aunt Julia spoke Gaelic
very loud and very fast.
By the time I had learned
a little, she lay
silence in the absolute black
of a sandy grave
at Luskentyre
But I hear her still, welcoming me
with a seagull’s voice
across a hundred yards
of peatscrapes and lazybeds
and getting angry, getting angry
with so many questions

(Rings on a Tree 1968)
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# Posted 7:08 AM by Patrick Belton  

YOU'RE MY HEROIN WATCH: From the Department of Fun Maps, the BBC has a list of drug source and transhipment routes for your drug of choice, if you're planning your next vacation to Colombia. (If your tastes lie more toward buying a dodgy passport, Sunday Times is your man. The Bulgarian vintages are reputed quite good these days, carrying a subtle hint of Russian flavours.)
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# Posted 12:14 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

AS BLOGGING BECOMES RESPECTABLE: The University of Chicago Law School now has an official faculty blog. Although individual professors have taken a leading role in the blogosphere since the very beginning, my own experience has been that American universities, as institutions, have been very reluctant to take blogging seriously.

As such, I find it quite remarkable that the top item right now on the UC law school homepage is an announcement of the faculty blog's existence. Earlier this year, a research center with which I was affiliated briefly entertained a proposal to start a blog for the faculty and graduate students. The idea went nowhere, I think, because even those who liked it didn't really believe that enough people would take the idea seriously.

What the issue comes down to, I think, is the perception that blogging is inherently unbecoming of a scholar. Posts are brief and rapid-fire. But what I hope that more faculties are beginning to discover is that blogging can serve as an important complement to the traditional forums for scholarship.

No one thinks that blogging should replace books or journal articles. But I think it can serve as an invaluable means of allowing scholars to apply their knowledge to current situations without having first to write a 30 or 300 page manuscript. Thus, I wish the UC faculty bloggers all the best and hope that their example will demonstrate that blogging is anything but the academic equivalent of lese majeste.
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Wednesday, October 05, 2005

# Posted 11:15 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG'S NEW JACK CITY: This morning, I read an article in the Times that began as follows:
New York City's police force has fewer officers, less money and more work than it did four years ago. Yet, by almost any measure, the city is safer today than it was before Michael R. Bloomberg became mayor in January 2002.

If that sounds like grist for a campaign commercial, it is. Public safety has emerged as Mr. Bloomberg's not-so-secret weapon as he goes about pressing his case for re-election.
This afternoon, I watched New Jack City, a film best described as Scarface set in Harlem, starring Wesley Snipes instead of Al Pacino. Although mostly a primitive shoot-'em-up, New Jack City (NJC, for short) also has pretensions of serving as a commentary on Reaganomics' responsibility for the urban crime wave of the 1980s.

The strange thing about watching NJC in hindsight is trying to empathize with the pervasive fear of drugs and street crime that once made living in New York so emotionally draining. Even as a child at the time -- or perhaps precisely because I was a child at the time -- I had a very sharp perception of my middle-class, family-centered way of life being under siege.

And most disturbing thing of all was the knowledge that the situation could never get better, only worse. There had once been a golden age for New York City, but I knew that it never would return. (By the same token, sophisticated intellectuals in the 1980s believed that America's golden age was dead and gone, never to return. See Kennedy, Paul.)

Now I certainly don't give Giuliani or Bloomberg all of the credit for stamping out crime in New York. But my point here isn't about who deserves credit. It is about the changed mindset made possible by a safer New York.

According to this morning's Times, crime is down 20% since 2001, with murders down from 714 in Giuliani's last year to 572 in 2004. But what has happened in New York over the past decade and a half transcends statistics. It is about living in a city which you are proud of, in which one feels that public spaces truly belong to the public and not to the threat of criminal violence.

The crime wave of the 1980s gave rise to an entire genre of black, urban crime stories: New Jack City (1991), Colors (1988), Juice (1992), Boyz N The Hood (1991), Menace II Society (1993). Although, unlike NJC, some of those films were excellent, I think that they were all made possible by a cultural moment in which Americans felt that they were losing control of the cities they lived in.

Of course, gangsta culture hasn't disappeared. It continues to inspire an unending array of million-selling albums purchased by kids in the suburbs. But the success of these albums doesn't depend on their threatening the listener, the way the films mentioned above threatened their audience. In this sense, gangsta culture has become more tame, even as it glorifies the mindless self-destruction of young black Americans.
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# Posted 5:00 PM by Patrick Belton  

SIGH. Protestants....
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# Posted 4:34 PM by Patrick Belton  

VICIPÉID AS GAELIGE: Cuir iontas ar do chuid cairde! Cuir mearbhall ar na comharsana! Measaim go bhfuil sé go hiontach.
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# Posted 12:50 PM by Patrick Belton  

MURDER INC: UK officials have indicated that Iran was behind the deaths of all eight British soldiers killed in Iraq this year. According to this dislosure, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards have been providing explosive technology to radical Shi'a militants based in the country's south, including cleric Moqtada Sadr's Mehdi army, by way of Hezbollah in Lebanon. See Times, and the Weekly Standard for more on the Revolutionary Guards, truly a nasty bunch of chaps.

For more nasty chaps, see this WSJ piece on al-Manar, the Hezbollah telly network which is your first stop on cable for unbiased trustworthy information on Jewish ritual child murder, the underrated joys of jihad and DIY martyrdom in Iraq in five easy steps. Nissan and Tefal advertise on the network; for shame.
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# Posted 11:39 AM by Patrick Belton  

BAGHDAD BROADCASTING CORPORATION takes on Tehran: Frances Harrison, a lovely intelligent journalist from Cambridge and presently the Beeb's correspondent in Tehran, recounts what it's like on her beat in an account not lacking for either humour or wit - it's available as the latest in the World Service's From our Foreign Correspondent series of podcasts. In general, Auntie along with NPR are at the forefront (unlike, ahem, some) of making intelligent, supremely listenable content available in podcast form for convenient listening on the way up to visit the goat. Or, treadmill, for those of you who live in the real world. Or for other reasons haven't got a goat to visit.

Also worth listening to in podcast form - BBC's recent series on the future prospects and promises of the larger developing countries, Brazil, Russia, India and China, the so-called BRIC nations. Though personally, and perhaps it's because it's roundabouts lunchtime, I prefer the BLT nations of Brazil, Lebanon, and Turkey.
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# Posted 6:54 AM by Patrick Belton  

'THROW SOME WATER ON THIS MAN, HE'S ON FIRE!' WATCH: Bruce Reed, having newly set up shop over at Slate, reminds us all just how it's done. Though if he ever wants to get back to his roots, he's always welcome to come blog here at OxBlog. (Have him bring the big guy!)
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# Posted 12:17 AM by Patrick Belton  


There's something strangely British about this hottie, which we haven't been able to quite put our fingers on. But that doesn't mean you'll be able to keep yours off: this stiff upper lip has got the slyest hint of a pout, and if there's reserve on the outside, I think you'll find things heat up quite a bit underneath. We hope this hottie comes over to warm up our dark, wet, dank, dreary, influenzal countryside nights. Sob. Mother?
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Tuesday, October 04, 2005

# Posted 5:34 PM by Patrick Belton  

MIERS BRIGGS, PART DEUX: She has a perfectly valid law degree from Southern Methodist University, and served for three years on the Dallas City Council. I think it's fairly intuitive she only had one step left for her in her career: the Supreme Court.
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# Posted 5:13 PM by Patrick Belton  

GREENSPAN TO RETIRE: Bush tipped to pick Dallas corner store owner, whom he met at church once and 'had a good feeling about.'
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# Posted 5:01 PM by Patrick Belton  

I LIKE (TORY, NOT RED) KEN: (Barbie available separately.) And this for the same reason I endorse Lieberman candidacies whenever they briefly exist and I have the chance: Ken Clarke strikes me as a man of intellect and moderation, likely to instil a politics of ideas and reasoned debate; he also is the only candidate for Tory leadership who looks even roughly like a Dublin publican, an even greater virtue. When 80 per cent of British voters feel that the Conservative Party is to the right of them, it is high time for the Tories to reinvent themselves or hock the place and go out of business - and an intelligent man at the political centre who promises no spin and straight talking may just be the one to do it. Proxime accessit: Sir Malcolm Rifkind. Shame he's out of the running watch: David Willetts. Favourite opposing view: David Aaronovitch, for fellow David David Cameron, but don't read if you're somewhere you can't afford to be heard laughing uproariously. Anybody but: Liam Fox, David Davis.
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# Posted 5:00 PM by Patrick Belton  

I WAS GOING TO MAKE FUN OF JUDITH MILLER, UNFORTUNATELY BACK OUT ON THE STREETS: but Dan Froomkin does it for me. And he writes for the WaPo, here quite justifiably ribbing on the grey lady's grey lady herself. It's just delicious.
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# Posted 4:56 PM by Patrick Belton  

BE ON OXBLOG! EAT CHOCOLATE! Swiss chocolates and fame immemorial through mention in this space to the adroit and intrepid reader who can tell us what colour automotive touch-up paint matches the (inside, principally, but I think it's much of a muchness) trim on an aluminium PowerBook G4. TiPaint didn't quite do it for me - not a very good colour match, I found - no chocolate for them.

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# Posted 9:48 AM by Patrick Belton  

Thought you might be interested in learning a little bit more about the Guardian's expert on the killer dolphins.

George Walser
I still think it was a damned good caption.
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# Posted 9:45 AM by Patrick Belton  

Mr. Belton, (regarding Michael Lind in Prospect. ah, go on - all my friends call me 'm'lord' - ed.)

Have you ever read "The Big Test" (ed: review, review) by Nicholas Lemann? What he points out is that the ideals of service, of graduates of places like Yale ending up as intelligentsia, aren't necessarily commensurable with a meritocracy: that if you are poor and suddenly get a good education, you'll want to make money; whereas if you come from old money and get a good education you'll be happy to go into service. This is not a crippling objection, but it certainly calls into question simplistic battle cries for a liberal arts educated elite. We had that kind of elite because of specific social circumstances, which no longer entirely hold. Plus, I'm not entirely sure that technocrats are entirely ignorant of the pulls of populism. But that is a separate argument.

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# Posted 9:08 AM by Patrick Belton  

MAIL BAG 2 - PATRICK VOCÊ PERU: OxBlog's friend and fiendishly clever Latin America blogger Randy Paul, who frequently restores me to sanity whenever I temporarily lose command of my wits, points out that to the truly cool, Brazil will never go out of style.
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# Posted 8:54 AM by Patrick Belton  

MAIL BAG 1 - PATRICK, YOU TURKEY: I've been eager to support the accession of Turkey to the EU on this blog, believing it as I do to be the correct course for reasons both of principle (viz, taking a stand Europe is more about liberal democracy than it is about either race or religion; rewarding and encouraging a speedily reforming Muslim-majority democracy which passes the 'Roman ruins test') and pragmatic considerations of policy (e.g., Turkish contributions to the labour markets and pension funds of a greying Europe). A friend and reader of ours, Mathieu Vasseur, a bonafide Frenchie, writes in with a witty and well-rendered set of counterarguments to represent the other side of the question. I still hold to my support for Turkey, but yield for equal time to my right honourable friend from la France:
Hello Patrick

Tu quoque, you are jumping on the Turkey-in-Europe bandwagon!

I find it extraordinary that, 3 months after our political leaders admirably faked humility and said, for the umpteenth time that, from now on, "we have to listen to the people, we cannot make Europe against their will" etc., they go on with a policy that is fervently opposed by an overwhelming majority of the Europeans. And nobody can pretend that it is "too difficult to be properly understood by the people", this time, since the question is quite simple. A great gift to Eursoskeptics I must say.

The EU is a club. Any club can choose its members. Nobody has offered to sponsor me for membership of the Rotary Club, so I am not a member of it. That is their right. Likewise, France is not a member of the Commonwealth. That is OK too. On the other side, the UK has not been offered membership of "la Francophonie". Fine. If you want to start a silk-painting group, you will choose who may belong to it. So what is wrong with telling Turkey: "sorry, you are very nice, but we don't think that you would quite fit in"? That would make us a "Christian club"? OK, so what? I am not allowed to visit the Mecca, since I am not a Muslim, and I completely respect that.

As for the argument that "Turkey would provide a sharply greying Europe with a massive infusion of cheap, young labour which it desperately needs": frankly, let's be honest, I don't think that a massive Muslim immigration would be quite advisable, do you? Try polling the French, the Germans, the Dutch or the Belgians and ask them if they want it, and prepare to be pelted with tomatoes. A great gift for all European Le Pens out there. Anyway, if we do want mass Muslim immigration, we can get it very easily, we don't need to have Turkey in Europe. As a Frenchman, I am quite sure that France could easily get 3 or 4 million immigrants per year just by opening its borders, if that is what we want (we don't!!!). Moroccans died recently, because they were desperately trying to get into Spain. There is no shortage of willing candidates, don't you worry. Anyway, if mass immigration is what our leaders want, let them say so! Come on, Mr Chirac, please go on TV and say it!

Then you hear the argument that "Turkey has made great progress, it is liberal and secular" etc. Great, until you hear the same people warning you darkly that "if we turn our backs on Turkey, they risk becoming preys to Muslim fundamentalism". So, not so liberal after all, if all that keeps them on the "right" path is the EU carrot, as opposed to their own inclination? Or we hear that they made such efforts to liberalise and democratise, it would be unfair to spurn them now. If liberalism and democracy are such a burden for them, then I am worried. Freedom should be its own reward, if the EU has helped them reaching it already, they should be grateful to us, not consider that we "owe" them somehow.

When Erdogan proposed to criminalize adultery, he was apparently supported by 80% of the population. Well, can you imagine France without adultery? The economy is gloomy enough, please let us retain a few pleasures!

I am all in favour of free trade and good relationships with Turkey, but sharing supranationality with it, which means accepting that they will have a say in our internal matters (especially since they will be the biggest member), quite frankly, no. Would Americans accept to pool sovereignty with Mexico? E.g. 3 out of 9 Supremes would be named by Mexico [does that mean I'd get Gonazales? put me down for that one! sorry, i'm interrupting my right honourable friend, i yield back - ed.], social law would have to be decided in common, foreign policy would be pooled etc.? So why can't they bloody well let us, Europeans, decide who we want to pool sovereignty with?

Turkey's accession to the negotiating table is a perfect example of the cowardliness and the dodging of accountability that comes from committee decision. Everybody hopes that the negotiations will fail, politicians make commitments on the basis that it is their successors who will have to honour them, by which time of course these successors will claim that it is too late to renege, the people seethe with anger, democracy is trampled upon and Europe falls into contempt. And all the time, the self-proclaimed elite arrogantly proclaims, based on spurious and half-baked arguments, that they represent reason and enlightenment, and all their opponents are "populists" who rely upon "fear" and "ignorance".

As Maggie once said, in a different context: "No, no, no".
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# Posted 8:51 AM by Patrick Belton  

NOT A PROTEST SONG BUT:* As a chicken-hawk, my impression of aircraft is generally this: they are slow, sluggish machines which are inside filled with bad food and evilly tiny portions of alcohol. However, then I moved to a writer's dacha in Switzerland, that hotbed of military muscle and home of acolytial Top Guns wearing flightsuits purportedly designed by Michelangelo. Switzerland, like many countries who watched Top Gun in the 80s, maintains an air force. Switzerland, like Singapore, maintains an air force which spend most of their time turning. One advantage, then, of being in das rural Berner Oberland is that one wakes each morning to flight shows of aircraft bursting through sonic booms, and performing manoeuvres of an unlikeliness of speed and deftness of turn that seem to approach physical impossibility, if not miracle. Must check expedia for a seat on one of those next time I head to Heathrow....

* Dylan reference. For Dylangate, incidentally, see here for underwhelment of the left and here for the underwhelment of the right with Scorsese's latest.
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# Posted 6:11 AM by Patrick Belton  


OxBlog's answer to page 3.
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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?
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# 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.)
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# 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.
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# 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...'
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# 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.
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# 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.
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# 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.
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# 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.
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# 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)
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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.
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# 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)
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# 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.
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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.'
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# 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.)
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# 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)
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# 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!
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# 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.
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# 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.)
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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.
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# 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.
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# Posted 10:25 AM by Patrick Belton  

SALMA QURESHI, of Ealing, has the ambition of becoming one of the UK's first female imams.
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# 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.
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# 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.
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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.
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# 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.
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# 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.
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# 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.
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# 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
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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.
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# 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.
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# 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.
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# 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.
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# 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).
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# 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."
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# 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.
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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.
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# 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

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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.
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# 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?
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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.
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# 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.
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# 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.
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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.
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# 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...
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# 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.
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# 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.
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# 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.
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# 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!
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