Monday, October 17, 2005

# Posted 5:01 PM by Patrick Belton  

GET PEOPLE LAID -> BIGGER BUDGET! It's scribbled somewhere on an upper management chalkboard at Broadcasting House. Q.v. here, and here.
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# Posted 4:40 PM by Patrick Belton  

THAT'S WHAT THEY SAID ABOUT GRAD SCHOOL GETTING TENURE: In 1993, the FBI was assisting in a health care fraud case which involved seizure of a large number of records from the Southwood Psychiatric Hospital in Chula Vista. The records turned out to be more voluminous than had been expected, and to feed his workers the agent in charge attempted to order pizza, making the folowing telephone call.
Agent: "Hello. I would like to order 19 large pizzas and 67 cans of soda."
Pizza Man: "And where would you like them delivered?"
Agent: "We're over at the psychiatric hospital."
Pizza Man: "To the psychiatric hospital?"
Agent: "That's right. I'm an FBI agent."
Pizza Man: "You're an FBI agent?"
Agent: "That's correct. Just about everybody here is."
Pizza Man: "And you're at the psychiatric hospital?"
Agent: "That's correct. And make sure you don't go through the front doors. We have them locked. You will have to go around the back to the service entrance to deliver the pizzas."
Pizza Man: "And you say you're all FBI agents?"
Agent: "That's right. How soon can you have them here?"
Pizza Man: "And everyone at the psychiatric hospital is an FBI agent?"
Agent: "That's right. We've been here all day, and we're starving."
Pizza Man: "How are you going to pay for all of this?"
Agent: "I have my checkbook right here."
Pizza Man: "And you're all FBI agents?"
Agent: "That's right. Everyone here is an FBI agent. Can you remember to bring the pizzas and sodas to the service entrance in the rear? We have the front doors locked."
Pizza Man: "I don't think so."
Via Snopes.
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# Posted 11:46 AM by Patrick Belton  

KNOCKDOWN ARGUMENTS: Yaël Ronen, an Israeli student at Cambridge, summarises the governing legal arguments on the demolition of Israeli synagogues in the Gaza Strip:
A final benchmark for examining the demolition of the synagogues, by either Israel (had it been carried out) or the Palestinians, is supplied by the general standards of religious tolerance required under international law. Most of these standards appear in instruments that are not formally binding under international law, but they nevertheless have normative content and are widely accepted. The dissenting judge of the Israeli High Court of Justice quoted UN General Assembly Resolution 55/254 of 11 June 2001, in which the General Assembly “condemns all acts or threats of violence, destruction, damage or endangerment, directed against religious sites as such, that continue to occur in the world.” This Resolution, adopted in response to the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas, extends beyond its immediate circumstances, and reflects general standards concerning religious tolerance. These standards have been elaborated in the 1981 Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief, in the 1993 World Conference on Human Rights,[25] in the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action[26] and in UN action. Resolution 2003/54 of the Commission on Human Rights on the Elimination of all forms of religious intolerance,[27] for example, calls on all States “to exert the utmost efforts, in accordance with their national legislation and in conformity with international human rights standards, to ensure that religious places, sites and shrines are fully respected and protected and to take additional measures in cases where they are vulnerable to desecration or destruction.”[28]

[25] Adopted 25 June 1993, UN Doc. A/CONF.157/23, Part II, paragraph 22 (12 July 1993).
[26]Report of the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance Durban, 31 August - 8 September 2001, UN Doc. A/CONF./189.12.
[27] 24 April 2003, UN Doc. E/CN.4/2003/L.11/Add.5.
[28] Paragraph 4(3).
So perhaps not formally speaking illegal, but at any rate still a fairly nasty thing to do.

UPDATE: A reader questions whether the removal of the Torah scrolls prior to the Israeli withdrawal may have effectively deconsecrated the synagogues under the texts quoted above. Anyone?
I believe that the UN Resolution refers to buildings functioning as religious venues. My understanding was that once the Torahs were out of the building it was just a building, i.e., like a deconsecrated church. What one does with the building afterwards has no meaning, except in this case as an example of self-damaging spite. The Palestinians could have turned the buildings into schools, clinics, community centers, or the like; instead they trashed them.
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# Posted 10:57 AM by Patrick Belton  

WRITING IN THE PAGES OF COMMENTARY, Bruce Thornton deftly takes apart the cult of 'therapism' which is at odds with each nobler virtue - 'self-reliance, stoicism, courage in the face of adversity, and the valorization of excellence.' For him and for the authors he reviews, post-tramautic stress syndrome, and its treatment through self-preoccupation and psychic release, has become archetypal for the experience of adversity in western cultures - with the precise effect of marginalising ways those who suffer can find sustaining meaning in heartbreak through reliance on classical, sterner virtues, and ultimately, and ironically, quite skillfully disempowering them.
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# Posted 9:09 AM by Patrick Belton  

OH, E: The Beeb looks at the trajectory of a public school education in British politics. It seems to be making a comeback; get up to speed on your wall game.
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# Posted 12:38 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BLOGGING AND TENURE: Daniel Drezner reflects on what has been going through his mind this past week, after learning that he won't be staying at Chicago. One has to wonder about a profession that treats its extraordinary young talents in such a capricious manner.

In the private sector or even in most government jobs, the idea of letting go a proven performer would be considered absurd. I think the entire tenure system is flawed.
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# Posted 12:25 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

JUDITH MILLER/PLAME-GATE ROUNDUP: Joe Gandelman is comprehensive and balanced as usual. Kevin Drum parses the details here, here and here.

Personally, I'm appalled by this entire circus.
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Sunday, October 16, 2005

# Posted 11:28 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHAT ARE THE SUNNIS REALLY THINKING? Initial returns suggest that Sunni voters overwhelmingly rejected the constitution -- by a margin of 8 or 9 to 1 -- in two of Iraq's eighteen provinces. In provinces with mixed populations, Sunni opinion was harder to discern. The question is whether the Sunni vote tells us anything about how Sunnis will react now that the constitution seems to have passed.

News analysis columns in both the NYT and WaPo focused much more on how the referendum will play in Washington rather than Iraq. Still, the respective expectations of the optimists and the pessimists are fairly clear. The White House asserts that
"increased participation by Sunni Arabs will draw them into the political process."
Critics, represented in this instance by Ken Pollack's quote in the NYT, respond that
"The theory that democracy is the antidote to insurgency gets disproven on the ground every day."
I would argue that neither the results of the referendum nor the fact of extraordinary Sunni participation tells us much at all. What we need to understand is how the Sunnis understood the meaning of their vote.

Although we have no systematic knowledge of Sunni motivations, I think that American journalists' spot interviews of Sunni voters emerging from the polls provide some very important clues. What the White House would want to hear from such voters is that they believe the poltical process is giving them a fair chance to make their voice heard. It would've been nice, but that's not what they said.

If the critics are right, Sunnis should've explained their "no" vote as an act of resistance against the US occupation and the Shi'ite dominated government. But that didn't happen either. As Anthony Shadid emphasized in his dispatch from Baghdad, Sunni voters kept saying again and again that they were voting "no" in order to preserve Iraq as a unified state.

One might consider such talk of unity to simply be a code for the restoration of Sunni dominance. But why bother talking in code to an American journalist? Typical dispatches from both Sunni and Shi'ite regions of Iraq often include quotes from named individuals saying horribly nasty things about both the United States and other Iraqis. If Sunnis wanted to say that this was a vote against America, they could have. And some of them did. Instead, many of them said things like:
"I had to vote," [Mehdi] said, "to prove that we're still one nation -- Sunni and Shiite."...

"We can't underestimate the value of Iraq. We want it to stay one, united," said Ibtihaj Ismail...

"As Iraqis, as people of Adhamiyah, we are united, we have one word, one voice. As Iraqi people, we can't recognize this document. There are so many mistakes in the constitution. There are paragraphs in it that will destroy Iraq."
Of course, some Sunni voters said what one might expect:
"Do we vote for the [American] massacres of Fallujah, for the massacres of Qaim?"...

"This is to the constitution and to the people who drafted the constitution," [Ali] said, raising [his ink-stained middle finger] in the air.
So, then, what does it mean that so many Sunnis seemed to think of their vote in terms of preserving a unified Iraq rather than in terms of giving the Americans the finger?

At first glance it may almost seem nonsensical, or even the height of chutzpah. How could the supporters of a sectarian insurgency say with a straight face that what they value is national unity?

One might speculate that Iraqi Sunnis are so used to thinking of Iraq as theirs that they can't distinguish between true unity and Sunni domination. But I consider that degree of self-deception to be implausible. I think Sunnis know quite well that Iraq is in the midst of a low-intensity sectarian war.

Thus, I am inclined to intepret Sunni talk of national unity as an indication of their desire -- almost certainly hesitant -- for some sort of national reconciliation. Will that desire translate into less support for the insurgents? Probably not anytime soon.

But I do now expect the Sunnis to turn out for the national elections in December. More broadly, I expect the Sunnis to try and get what they can from the political process without abandoning the insurgents. Some might consider this a cynical exercise to get concessions from the Shi'ites and the Americans by pretending to buy into the political process.

In contrast, I think the Sunnis have decided that they should give the political process a chance in order to see whether it produces better results than the insurgency -- while using the insurgency to improve their position at the bargaining table, just as Arafat used suicide bombings as an adjunct to the negotiating process rather than a substitute for it.

Of course, Arafat was never willing to abandon violence no matter how many concessions he secured. Yet for Arafat, peace represented a serious threat to his mini-dictatorship. Arafat was also able to draw on a major reserve of international support, both political and financial.

In contrast, the Sunnis control nothing and get only few shreds of support from Syria, et al. They have a lot more to gain from peace.
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# Posted 1:53 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHAT THE GERMAN ELECTION MEANT: A superb essay by Timothy Garton Ash, via Andrew Sullivan.
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# Posted 1:44 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

About a half-dozen polling centers came under attack; one of them was in the predominately Sunni town of Abu Ghraib, west of Baghdad, where insurgents attacked a polling center and stole a ballot box...

On Jan. 30, when more than eight million Iraqis went to the polls to choose the Shiite-led transitional government that led the drafting of the constitution, American military commanders reported nearly 350 insurgent attacks, including numerous suicide bombings, the highest level of violence for any day of the war.
It seems safe to infer that the insurgents no longer feel as confident as they once did about opposing elections.

One might argue that their acceptance of the vote is merely tactical. Of course it is. One might argue that the insurgents consider the referendum to be a win-win proposition; either the constitution fails, or it passes in spite of Sunni opposition, which demonstrates that democracy cannot serve Sunni interests.

But even that kind of thinking is far different from the blithe confidence required to slaughter prospective voters, as the insurgents did in January.
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# Posted 1:20 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WaPo VS. NYT: WHAT HAPPENED TODAY IN IRAQ? Was turnout high or low? Were the voters subdued or celebrating? It's hard to figure out even that much if you read both the NYT and WaPo. Under the headline Turnout Is Mixed as Iraqis Cast Votes on Constitution, the NYT reported the following:
Turnout appeared to be highest in Shiite and Kurdish areas, although in many places, including Baghdad, it seemed not to approach the levels seen in January...

The mood on the streets of many Iraqi cities, even in Shiite areas, appeared markedly less enthusiastic than on Jan. 30, when millions of Iraqis braved an onslaught of violence to cast ballots and celebrate in a vast outpouring of pro-democratic sentiment.
In contrast, the WaPo reports the following in articles entitled On the Streets of Iraq, Scenes of Joy and Determination, In a Sunni Quarter, A Day of Emotion, and Sunni Turnout Is High In Vote on Iraqi Charter:
Through the day, the referendum unleashed paroxysms of emotion among many in the Sunni Arab community...

In Baghdad's heavily Shiite, middle-class Karrada district, thousands of children spilled out onto the streets, bicycling and wobbling on roller skates down deserted thoroughfares...

Voting en masse for the first time since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, Sunni Arabs cast ballots in large numbers, according to electoral officials and witnesses. Turnout in areas populated by the country's Shiite majority and ethnic Kurds, whose political leaders drafted the proposed constitution, was described by officials as low.
I guess the answer to my confusion is obvious: only read one newspaper, and then the world will seem like a much more orderly and rational place.
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Saturday, October 15, 2005

# Posted 3:13 AM by Patrick Belton  

GONE CLIMBIN' (What, again?) Hey, gotta make use of the weather while it lasts. Photographs Sunday, unless I fall off a ridge and am eaten by a cow with a bell on its neck, in which case enjoy David!

One mountain goat to another, in a classic New Yorker cartoon: 'They're climbing it because it's there. But why are we climbing it?'

OxBlog: providing base camp since 2002!
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Friday, October 14, 2005

# Posted 8:57 PM by Patrick Belton  

WAPO REPORTS THAT In the District of Columbia, a driver can be arrested with as little as .01 blood content. Lushes. Victorino Matus wonders if church wine counts...
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# Posted 8:47 PM by Patrick Belton  

CORPULENT AUSSIE has bashed out a few thesis chapters and is now bashing down the voices of inanity with the righteous fury of a wounded, unusually ethnoreligious kangaroo set loose on the fields of Flanders. (You'd have to read his thesis.) A taste:
Incidentally, apparently President Bush said "And now, again, I feel God's words coming to me, 'Go get the Palestinians their state and get the Israelis their security, and get peace in the Middle East'. And, by God, I'm gonna do it."

There is some doubt about whether he actually used these words. But if he did, good on him. Unlike many 'progressives' in US politics he has openly called for a Palestinian state in public, which is no small thing, though the death of Arafat probably accelerated it.

There will probably be the usual sniggering and sniping against people in politics who have strong religious backgrounds. And glib statements about how invariably toxic religion is in public life. Yeah sure. Just take Lech Walesa, Desmond Tutu, Gandi, Martin Luther King, Bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo and Oscar Romero. Foam-flecked murdering god-botherers to a man.
Personally, I'm rather fond of the idea of a Blues Brothers president.
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# Posted 7:51 PM by Patrick Belton  

BROOKINGS'S KENNETH POLLACK testifies before Congress on Iran:
'As President Ahmedi-Nejad's recent speech at the United Nations made clear, key Iranian leaders remain hostile to the United States and to the West; they have refused to embrace the norms of the international community; they are determined to overturn the status quo; and we must be prepared for them to pursue all of these goals with the same mix of rhetoric, diplomacy, bullying, subversion, and terrorism that they employed throughout the 1980s and '90s.

[I]f Iran acquires a nuclear deterrent, it will believe that it is no longer vulnerable to external (that is, American or Israeli) conventional military retaliation and so can revert back to the aggressive, anti-status quo foreign policy it pursued in the early 1990s.

Because many countries fear that once Iran acquires nuclear weapons it will pursue an aggressive foreign policy, if and when Tehran crosses the nuclear threshold, other Middle Eastern countries, particularly Saudi Arabia, might decide to follow suit to deter an Iranian attack.'
Of course, we could always ignore it and see if it might go away.
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# Posted 7:49 PM by Patrick Belton  

THUS RAND: 'To continue to attract high-quality personnel, recruits could be given the option to attend college without the risk of being activated with their Reserve units.'
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# Posted 7:09 PM by Patrick Belton  

AND, SATIRE OF THE DAY: This time, of iProduct: '"I buy Apple products. It just makes me feel special." - Fipi Lele, ethnic looking clip-art model.'
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# Posted 7:02 PM by Patrick Belton  

POLITICAL WRITING QUOTE OF THE DAY: From the Times's birthday tribute to Baroness Thatcher - 'Talleyrand said: “I am more afraid of a hundred sheep led by a lion than a hundred lions led by a sheep.” Conservatives in the 1980s were, in fairness, more than simple sheep. Their leader was, though, an awesome lion.'
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# Posted 5:36 PM by Patrick Belton  

FOGGY BOTTOM WATCH: From today's State Department Press Briefing.
QUESTION: Change the subject? There's a report in The Post today that there's a whole shipment of British MREs that's sort of languishing in a warehouse because of fears of mad cow and I think the State Department is supposed to be making some efforts to dispatch them. Can you describe to where?

DEPUTY DEPT SPOKESMAN ADAM ERELI: Well, let me -- again, in the interest of clarity, see if I can't make some points to help you look at this issue. First of all, fears of -- it's not an issue of fear of mad cow. It's an application of U.S. law. There are legal requirements that dictate how we treat this material. So we are bound by U.S. law governing British beef imports. And so that's point one. There's sort of an objective criteria here that we have a statutory obligation to follow. Now, in the wake of Katrina, there was a worldwide appeal for assistance, based on a request from the Foreign Emergency Management Agency, which we sent out. As you know, the response was overwhelming and very moving for the United States. Among the offers of aid were MREs from a number of countries, including Britain. The State Department's role was to coordinate the reception and handling of the foreign aid, which we did. We received these MREs, some of them based on needs that were communicated to us by FEMA, were distributed to people in need. Others, because of U.S. legal restrictions, were not distributed; they remain in a warehouse, and we would certainly hope that other countries in need or other needy populations would be able to make use of them. And we certainly invite any countries that see a need to contact us. Meanwhile we will do what we can to see if we can't find deserving recipients of this stuff.

QUESTION: But not recipients in this country?

MR. ERELI: I mean there's no need in this country. I mean, let me put it this way, the need for MREs, as a result of Hurricane Katrina, was met in the first few days. And unfortunately, supply exceeded demand in this regard. And now we have an excess of supply that we're going to try to dispose of in a responsible way, giving it to people who need it. But again, there are legal restrictions as to our ability to distribute it in the United States.

QUESTION: Can I have one?

MR. ERELI: Yeah, sure.
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# Posted 3:37 PM by Patrick Belton  

SUNSET, 7,000 FEET: From a Japanese chemist I met while climbing last weekend, who sends this in from that evening by email.

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# Posted 11:58 AM by Patrick Belton  

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BARONESS. Without you, we would lack among other things for frozen ice cream, which I think people from across the political spectrum can join me in agreeing is a good thing.
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# Posted 10:06 AM by Patrick Belton  

FILM WATCH: Isaac Baranoff live-blogs Birth of a Nation, amusingly. Excerpt: '7 minutes and 50 seconds into the film: another shot of the damn dogs. Okay, we get it. Southerners own animals AS WELL as Africans. ... (several minutes later:) We get the picture! You're racist, okay?'
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# Posted 7:48 AM by Patrick Belton  

FOREIGN POLICY SOCIETY WATCH: Our foreign policy society has a new paper out on the Franklin espionage case, by Stéphane Lefebvre in our intelligence studies programme. We also have a large number of other working papers out on our website, and we'd love to hear your comments about any of them.
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# Posted 7:33 AM by Patrick Belton  

GOODNESS, I SUPPOSE I REALLY LIVE ON THE CONTINENT WATCH: I'd already accustomed myself quite well, thank you, to the neatly autoparodic language, the somewhat greater prevalences of body hair (I refer to the females of the species only), and being regarded askance for my troglodyte upright urinatory tendencies. But somehow, I still retained some anglophone shock left to register this morning when I looked down and realised the shampoo in my hands read 'douche energy for men.' Perhaps I should just quickly have a go at reading that label a bit more closely....

suspiciously enthusiastic...
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Thursday, October 13, 2005

# Posted 11:32 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A SUPERB BATMAN PAPERBACK: While we're in pop culture mode here on OxBlog, let me recommend the Batman comics collection entitled As The Crow Flies. Although I refuse to pay for comic books on the grounds that each one provides only 10 minutes of entertainment, I do enjoy going to B&N or Borders, taking Batman or Superman off the shelf and finding a comfortable chair.

Although comic books tend to be thought of as childish, As The Crow Flies is far more sophisticated -- psychologically, artistically and emotionally -- than Hollywood's mediocre Batman Begins, which millions of certified adults had no reservations about paying ten dollars to see.

Of course, if you're comics fan, it will hardly come as a surpise to find out that superheros are much more sophisticated on the printed page than on the silver screen. But even if you are a fan, As The Crow Flies is well worth a read.

Above all, the collection stands out because of the extraordinarily unusual relationship between Batman's enemies du jour, the Penguin and the Scarecrow. Instead of gleefully teaming up on the Dark Knight as supervillians are wont to do, Penguin and Scarecrow wrestle psychologically with one another while physically assaulting the Batman.

Plus, there is a priceless sequence of events where Robin dresses up in drag and gets hit on by men. What more do you want?
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# Posted 11:16 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OXBLOG FILM CLASSICS: I just saw The Dirty Dozen for the very first time. Even though it was made in 1967, I think it compares favorably with most of the action films that benefit today from super-high-tech special effects.

This comparision of The Dirty Dozen to today's action films, rather than military films such Band of Brothers and We Were Soldiers, is intentional. In terms of authenticity, it isn't in the same league. But I'm not sure it's supposed to be.

The premise of The Dirty Dozen is that it's just before D-Day and the Army needs twelve men to go on a sabotage mission so dangerous that it's only fit for criminals, who would risk anthying to avoid life in prison or death on the gallows.

As you can probably tell, plausibility isn't the main concern here. Instead, The Dirty Dozen puts its own clever spin on the classic Hollywood tale of raw recruits whipped into shape by a tough-as-nails officer. The script is solid, the acting is solid, and the film never loses its momentum.

Prepare to be entertained.
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# Posted 10:53 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE CLARION CALL OF CENTRISM: In-the-know Democrats are buzzing about this major report by William Galston & Elaine Kamarck, which calls for a return to the center, including a more positive attitude toward religion and getting tough on national security.

Kevin Drum yawned at the obviousness of this advice, only to find himself under heavy attack from his left for selling out Democratic ideals. Although David Broder is on Kevin's side, I'm not either one is going to be on the winning side on this one.

But even if the Democrats did unanimously decide that they need to get tough on national security, do they even have the slightest idea of what that would entail? The party's hawks, not to mention its doves, find Bush's version of getting tough to be anathema. But if there's a Third Way for getting tough about security, no one seems to know what it is.

UPDATE: And if all this weren't enough to get Mr. Drum in trouble with the Democratic base, he has also taken it upon himself to contradict his own guest bloggers, a pair of liberal scholars who insist that the GOP is extreme even on domestic politics.
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# Posted 10:13 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN AN IRAQI ARMY THAT CAN'T FIGHT is an Iraqi army that can. Drawing on this report by an American journalist who patrolled with Iraq's best soldiers, Kevin Drum argues that Iraq's US-trained, Shi'ite-dominated forces are simply biding their time until they can take their bloody revenge on Iraqi Sunnis.

I'd say that the report provides some very clear indications that the new Iraqi army is, in many respects, a Shi'ite political force. But I would caution Kevin not to underestimate the tolerance of the Shi'ites. Both their religious and political leaders have a strong record of moderation in spite of the horrific slaughter of Shi'ite civlians by Sunni terrorists.
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# Posted 9:52 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A LIBERAL HAWK SORT OF, ALMOST, PARTIALLY REPENTS: In the LA Times, George Packer regrets being pro-war while saying that those who were fully anti-war from the beginning were even more wrong. That is a position whose nuances could only be matched by the junior senator from Massachusetts.

Packer also insists that in spite of all the bad that has come of the occupation, the Iraqi people deserve our support, although he refuses to come out four-square against the bring-them-home crowd. In another Kerryesque turn of phrase, Packer writes that
There can be no phased withdrawal from the future of Iraq.
Being a liberal hawk ain't easy. If you truly consider other Democrats to be your peer group, then you will find yourself, like Packer, consistently under siege.

I once thought of "liberal hawk" as the label that came closest to fitting my own political profile. But with liberals showing so little concern for the people of Iraq, I have a hard time identifying with the label any more. Of course, I'm still a big fan of George Packer.
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# Posted 8:05 PM by Patrick Belton  

WHILE BEING BOOKY, just curious why Routledge file 'Irish politics' as a subcategory under 'British politics'. Just asking. If Routledge want to expiate this categorical disimperative, they could, for instance, give me a contract and advance for The Epistemology of Bad Jokes, things Patrick finds interesting series, vol. 6.
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# Posted 7:57 PM by Patrick Belton  

Bouncers: Violence and Governance in the Night-Time Economy. by Dick Hobbs, Philip Hadfield, Stuart Lister, and Simon Winlow, all of whom quite large and willing to frisk you for side arms. Standing outside a door of OUP 2005.
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Wednesday, October 12, 2005

# Posted 6:23 AM by Patrick Belton  

GETTING HIGH REDUX: I'm off to take a tour of Novartis, one of the larger Swiss biotechnology firms, courtesy of OxBlog's Mad German Scientist correspondent. Novartis's claim to fame, among others I'm sure, is that its parent company Sandoz was the first synthesiser of LSD in 1938, churning it out as a psychiatric miracle cure from 1947 until the Establishment started using it to control the minds of British rockers and thereby rule the world. ( was I not meant to say that - yes, I'll take it right down.) Basel chemist Albert Hofmann had been looking for alkaloid derivatives, and only found out he'd made something interesting five years later when he accidentally ingested a bit of it on the workbench. History records that he did quite a bit of further investigation of his results. Just to be on the safe side.
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Tuesday, October 11, 2005

# Posted 11:36 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MEANWHILE IN AFGHANISTAN: From correspondent Peter Baker's column in WaPo Outlook:
The last time I saw Hakim Taniwal, I thought he was a dead man walking.

A slight, aging sociology professor with gentle manners, Taniwal returned to his homeland from exile in Australia after the fall of the Taliban to help build a new Afghanistan. When I ran across him in the spring of 2002, he had been dispatched by Hamid Karzai, the new Afghan president, to the untamed frontier to take over as governor and dislodge a brutal local warlord who ruled over these parts. Taniwal had no guns, no army and seemingly no chance. It seemed like a suicide mission.

When I saw him again here two weeks ago, he was sitting in the provincial governor's office and the warlord was somewhere in the countryside, out of power, his militia largely disbanded. I reminded Taniwal of our first meeting, when he could not even get into the governor's house because it was occupied by the warlord's family and dozens of his thuggish guerrillas, bristling with Kalashnikovs and grenade launchers.

Taniwal looked at me and smiled. "Things have changed," he said with satisfaction.
Wow. Again: Wow. And don't forget to read the rest of Baker's article, which includes a half-dozen other success stories that are almost as stunning.

Sometimes, I think of Afghanistan as what Iraq would be without powerful insurgents. For all of its persistent maladies, Afghanistan as it now stands is living proof that American armed forces often are the heralds of true liberation.

Nonetheless, it would be impossible not to temper with caution this sort of optimisim. Baker himself fills the remainder of his article with a multitude of caveats:
Even the most optimistic Americans here acknowledge that the job of stabilizing Afghanistan is nowhere near finished, and they worry that it might come unraveled again if a distracted Washington averts its attention too soon...

Most Afghans still grind out the same subsistence lives they did under the Taliban, living in mud houses, growing their own food, maybe selling soap or shoes in the bazaar. Poppy harvesting and the drug trafficking it spawns still account for roughly half of the Afghan economy. Corruption is endemic...

In fact, beyond the hotel and mall, most of Kabul looks no different than it did under the Taliban, a sometimes apocalyptic streetscape. The crumbled sections of town laid waste by fratricidal shelling between warlords in the 1990s are still little more than rubble.
What is most amazing about Afghanistan in a certain way is that no one can attribute its success to the genius of American planning. American officials such as Zalmay Khalilzad may have done quite a lot for the occupation, but Washington certainly never prepared for the task of nation-building.

In spite of its negative sound, that statement doesn't carry much in the way of partisan connotations because no one could have expect the Bush Administration to do much planning in the two months between September 11 and the fall of the Taliban.

But how, then, could Afghanistan have succeeded? After all, isn't Bush & Rumsfeld's total lack of planning the principal cause of the ongoing chaos in Iraq?

Yes and no. I think the relative success of Afghanistan demonstrates just how much influence unexpected circumstances have had on both occupation efforts. If you had asked the experts before 9/11 whether it would be harder to occupy and democratize either Iraq or Afghanistan, the experts would have declared both to be impossible, with one, perhaps, being more impossible than the other.
But the importance of luck hardly exonerates the White House for what's going on in Iraq (even if I am more optimistic about the situation there than most). What the relative success of Afghanistan demonstrates, I think, is that serious planning might, just might, have made a major difference in Iraq. Or not.

But given the potential for success, the failure to plan is profoundly regrettable.

UPDATE: In contrast, Josh Marshall agrees with Matt Yglesias that there was probably never any chance of things going right in Iraq at all.
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# Posted 11:14 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHAT I WANT IS TO BE COMPLETELY WRONG: I never saw much virtue in amending Iraq's draft constitution in order to enhance Sunni support. I never thought that any of the Sunni political organizations were looking for anything more than a pretext to destory the state-building process -- either because they opposed it or because they were afraid of the insurgents.

But today's news suggests that an enduring compromise may have been brokered. The precise nature of the compromise is not yet apparent, but the most important Sunni organization are indicating that they will endorse the constitution once the Shi'ite parliament ratifies the deal.

Until now, I have thought of Iraq' s constitutional referendum as necessary, but as not able to provide any more democratic legitimacy for the government than the January elections already gave it. But if some or even most Sunni voters ratify the constitution, it could change the entire ballgame. As Robert Worth, a NYT correspondent in Baghad, asserts in his latest dispatch,
The [Sunnis'] new support is likely to undercut the widespread notion that the constitution was being forced on an almost uniformly hostile Sunni Arab population.
Thus, I think Worth is absolutely right to describe the new deal as "a major victory for American officials" (even if that kind of editorializing doesn't exactly belong in a straight-news column).

It's possible that the constitution will fail in spite of the Sunni endorsement. Sunni public opinion may simply be against it. Or those who support the constitution may be afraid to vote, while those against it may have less to fear from Ba'athist insurgents (although not the foreign fighters).

But now I have my fingers crossed. The insurgency may find it much harder to operate without even the pretense of Sunni support.

UPDATE: The optimistic Publius says he knew it all along. Glenn Reynolds says he almost knew it.
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# Posted 6:01 AM by Patrick Belton  

WHERE WERE YOU WHEN WE WERE GETTING HIGH DEPARTMENT: So I just climbed two 7,000 ft ridges and hiked 30 miles, and boy, are my legs tired. (Hey, that's kind of like a joke, except it's not funny. It has the formal structure of a joke while lacking the substantive, funny, character of a joke.) As a special web exclusive, I thought you all might like to come along, for a behind-the-scenes tour of what the back lot of OxBlog Sound-of-Music Bureau looks like.

Mind the gap.

I live on the back of a chocolate wrapper, so what of it?

Where's Waldo?

Couldn't I sell this as a poster if I were to put 'success' or 'chastity' or something along those lines at the bottom?

Hey, I'm a Victorian. What did you expect?

'filial piety'

Eiger North Wall for fun and profit. It's the new Bikram Yoga!

Really lads, I've got my thesis in here, so let's at another one

My camera ran out there, so you all get off easy and don't have to come the rest of the way. Slogan for the t-shirt: 'at 1 am solo on the Eiger glacier with an expiring torch, no one can hear you sobbing inarticulately for mother.'

Hottie of the day honours: though not technically a hot water bottle, these would have to go to my thermos, thanks to which I had a refreshing cuppa of Darjeeling at the top of the first ridge, to which I invited a cluster of nice new goaty friends.

There's no joke there. Stop looking for it.

Until I have a ph.d., all of our readers have a chalet in the Swiss alps. It's absolutely brilliant up in the mountains, and I can't wait to get up there again, even if shortly after the photographs stop and the sun went down the soundtrack in my head did gradually shift from the first of the Enigma Variations to Dylan's 'Take a load off fanny' (v. imp. n.b.: Am., not Br. Eng.). (Relevant favourite quote from mountaineer Joe Simpson, stranded on Siula Grande: 'Bloody hell, I'm going to die to Boney M.') I summitted at sunset, hiked to the Eiger glacier by starlight and then down to Grindelwald for the night by 1:30 am, and then up Kleine Scheiddeg and through Biglenalp on the way back to Wengen in the morning. En route, I met OxBlog's new Mad German Scientist correspondent (chiefly Ir. Eng., but not exclusively), whose name is Margit and does outlandish things to mice. My friends had bubbly waiting for me when I got back, being of course incredible and annoyingly perfect sweethearts, and I fell asleep to Evelyn Waugh and dreams which seem to have featured sheep.

UPDATE: My Swiss friends accuse me of making a clever pun on Wald within the Where's Waldo caption. I must protest I did no such thing.
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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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