Monday, October 24, 2005

# Posted 11:49 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

AN EXTRAORDINARY EXCHANGE: Last Wednesday, ex-SEAL Matthew Heidt of Froggy Ruminations posted an extensive critique of a PBS Frontline broadcast about acts of torture committed by American soldiers. Much of the Frontline report rested on allegations made by Spc. Anthony Lagouranis, a military interrogator who served at Abu Ghraib. (Hat tip: Blackfive)

Surprisingly, even though Heidt accused Lagouranis of "buddy f*cking his own" among other things, Lagouranis decided to respond in the comments section of Heidt's post. Moreover, Lagouranis didn't just respond once, but engaged in an extended debate with numerous critics who continually attacked him in a very personal manner. Good for him. That takes courage.

The issues at play involve a level of military detail far beyond my ken, so I won't venture to say which side got the better of the debate. However, what I would ask is whether, before there was a blogosphere, it would ever have been possible for audience members to cross-examine someone who had appeared on television. Moreover, not just run-of-the-mill audience members, but those with considerable expertise in the same line of work.

Score one for accountability (with an assist from the blogosphere).
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# Posted 11:18 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ADVICE FOR A BUDDING OMBUDSMAN: On Sunday, Deborah Howell published the first column of her tenure as the WaPo's new ombudsman, replacing.

Howell brings to her post more than four decades of experience as an editor and correspondent. I'm not sure that this kind of one-dimensional background provides the best education for an ombudsman, however.

Although extensive experience as a journalist is necessary to ensure that an ombudsman understands journalism from the inside out and can speak with authority to the WaPo staff members she must criticize, I would prefer to have an ombudsman who has also been on the receiving end of the journalistic profession.

Someone, perhaps, who has worked as a congressional staffer or for a state government. Because in order to be an effective ombudsman, I think one should know first-hand what it is like to be misrepresented and misquoted.

But Ms. Howell can't change her past, so my objections are purely academic. Thus my advice to her is as follows: read a lot of blogs. Blogs from the left and blogs from the right.

In her inaugural column, Ms. Howell says that she reads three different newspapers a day, sometimes more. But newspapers tend to teach you as much about media criticism as White House briefings teach you about candor. By reading multiple newspapers, journalists tend to reinforce their own perception of their profession as one of noble Davids battling the politicians' Goliath.

By entering the blogosphere, Ms. Howell will discover a world where journalists benefit from no presumption of intelligence, good faith and competence. Naturally, bloggers are often unfair to their cousins in the print trades.

But the unpleasant truth is that only when journalists see themselves being treated unfairly by bloggers, do they begin to understand how the subjects of their coverage feel about them.
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# Posted 10:27 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

VIETNAM ALWAYS GOOD FOR A LAUGH: The lead story in Monday morning's WaPo is entitled Enemy Body Counts Revived. Here are the first two sentences:
Eager to demonstrate success in Iraq, the U.S. military has abandoned its previous refusal to publicize enemy body counts and now cites such numbers periodically to show the impact of some counterinsurgency operations.

The revival of body counts, a practice discredited during the Vietnam War, has apparently come without formal guidance from the Pentagon's leadership.
These opening sentences are rather misleading, since no one in the military, "eager" or not, made a decision to release body counts as part of public relations strategy. Rather, commanders have occasionally decided to release body counts in order to illustrate the size of certain engagements.

How this story made it onto the front page, I have no idea. It provides some information worth knowing, but goes far out of its way to make the Army seem ignorant of its historical experiences. If anything, this should have been an "analysis" column somewhere inside the A section. Or perhaps an op-ed. Or even just a post on some moderately popular blog.

I think the real lesson of this article is that journalists are unable to comprehend Iraq except through the prism of Vietnam.
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# Posted 6:48 PM by Patrick Belton  

JUST CURIOUS: Incidentally, is there a good reason why googling 'women' returns, say, the website of the National Organisation for Women, while googling '(ethnic group) + women' (black women, for instance, or latinas) generally returns a much higher proportion of sites one might not want to access at a place of work, or even one of worship for that matter? (Justification for knowing this: I was looking for websites in 'Latina', by the way. See following.)
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# Posted 6:14 PM by Patrick Belton  

CUTTING-EDGE JOURNALISM OF THE DAY: Courtesy of the Times, 'ever fewer people outside the Vatican understand Latin.' Non, illa non potest essere! (Tomorrow's headline, sneak preview: Anglo-Saxon native fluency dwindling; remedy sought in schools.) Latvian cardinal Janis Pujats is the last stalwart to speak only in Latin at episcopal synods, leading JP2 to quip, 'Paupera lingua latina, ultimum refugium habet in Riga.' The new pope should have them read Wikipedia in Latinam. Nunc 3,715 articuli sunt. Iei! Urei! Et tu quoque adiuvare potes!
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# Posted 5:46 PM by Patrick Belton  

THE NAKED IRISH CHEF RETURNS: Today's themes are Italian, and hell. Open with creamy zuchini soup, with Italian deviled eggs as a side or atop the soup. Main is prawns fra diavolo over pasta, with a dry white. Top it off with lemon ice cream and strawberries in a white wine sauce. And watch where you point that thing.
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# Posted 4:08 AM by Patrick Belton  

'NOW THAT I'M TRENDY, WHAT THE HECK DO I DO WITH THIS IPOD' OxTip of the Day: Though it looks like an ill designed porn site and has with somewhat endearing inexplicability badly rendered clip art festooned atop of a kalishnikov and Imperial Storm Trooper (or is it a welder's?) helmet, a plug here for AudioBooksforFree.com. I've already downloaded from there a huge number of Wilde and Saki short stories, along with some Swift, Nietzsche, Borges and Wodehouse, and not to mention Kipling's Man Who Would be King, Conrad's Secret Agent, the Rime of the Ancient Mariner, and the Communist Manifesto (perhaps I was getting a bit carried away at the end.) Though the website is poorly designed and the copy resolutely pitched along the low brow (not to mention my copy of Dorian Gray is by 'Oscar Wild'), the reader's accent is intelligible, inoffensive estuary, and the holdings are both copious and wonderfully free. Do go visit.
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Sunday, October 23, 2005

# Posted 6:03 AM by Patrick Belton  

GONE CLIMBIN' PAINTIN': One of the pleasant rewards of painting house in the alps is seeing Swiss German speakers in mountain gear clambering up and down side walls wearing harness and rope. Another pleasant reward is pumpkin soup.

An open letter to the Most Rev the Lord Archbishop of York, bashed out with painted fingers after reading that this truly heroic man, a former Ugandan dissident opponent to Idi Amin turned Midlands C of E cleric, has been receiving racist mail, to include letters smeared with excrement, after announcement of his appointment to Bishopthorpe Palace.
21 October 2005
Wengen, Switzerland

The Most Rev the Lord Archbishop of York
Bishopthorpe Palace
York YO23 2GE

Dear Archbishop Sentamu,

After reading of your election and recent news coverage, and writing as someone for whom Britain has as well become an adopted home, I had wanted humbly to offer my warmest congratulations and prayers in the period before your inauguration. I have for some time found considerable inspiration in your life as a Ugandan liberal dissident turned socially activist Midlands cleric, and I believe in that regard I speak also for the readers of a small publication I co-edit, OxBlog.

I was wondering if I might note in passing that a fellow doctoral student at Oxford and I shall be editing a volume on racial integration in Britain and the United States later in the year. It would be our great honour if we might contact you when the project is slightly closer at hand both for your advice, and perhaps also to ask if you might consider contributing prefatory remarks.

I repeat my humble congratulations and prayers for an archepiscopate which I trust will prove quite a strong inspiration to your people.

Yours sincerely,

Patrick Belton
Do your own, just sign your own name, because that would be a bit odd.
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# Posted 1:58 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DANIEL DREZNER IMPISHLY ASKS whether the convergence of left- and right-wing opponents of the war in Iraq under the banner of "realism" can possibly survive the vicissitudes of, well, reality.

Dan's case in point is Azerbaijan, where the Bush administration has so far been highly content to praise a regressive pro-American dictatorship flush with oil. Presumably, conservative realists have no qualms about this sort of behavior. But as Dan implies, liberal realists just don't have the stomach to get behind this such a ruthless pursuit of narrow, national self-interest. As Henry Farrell warned some time ago,
But leftwingers who rush too quickly to embrace their new friends on the right should meditate upon the malign example of Henry Kissinger, and the implications of Realpolitik for the causes and issues that they’re committed to.
Henry's right. (Farrell, I mean, not Kissinger.) All I can add to his point is a bit of historical perspective. Much of the incoherence at the heart of Jimmy Carter's foreign policy reflected an inability to reconcile realist anti-interventionism with an idealist commitment to human rights. Today we tend to think of Carter as exclusively a dove and an idealist, but his strongest supporters included liberal realists such as Harvard's Stanley Hoffmann.

When Reagan embarked on a crusade against communist Nicaragua, his liberal critics often invoked the realist principle of respecting state sovereignty as a justification for leaving the Nicaraguans alone. Yet the exact same liberals eviscerated Reagan for supporting a brutal right-wing dictatorship in nearby El Salvador.

What the Democrats have constantly been searching for is a synthesis of realism and idealism, a proverbial Third Way that would allow them to anchor their situational preferences in a coherent and consistent doctrine. My sense is that they are no closer to finding this golden mean than they were when Jimmy Carter was in the White House.
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# Posted 12:21 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHAT DEMOCRATS BELIEVE: Earlier this week I participated in a sort of focus group for Democratic activists designed to clarify the party's core beliefs. Not that I am a Democratic activist, but I took part because the participants in the focus group consisted specifically of moderate/DLC types committed to restoring the party's credibility on national security issues.

Liberal commentators, including OxBlog favorites such as Kevin Drum and Matt Yglesias , often observe that Democrats, unlike Republicans, don't have a simple set of core beliefs that can be summarized in an "elevator pitch", i.e. a 30 second speech that you could give to someone while riding in an elevator.

With this shortcoming in mind, the leader of our focus group asked the ten or so participants to write down in three sentences or less what the Democratic party stands for. A few months ago, Kos wrote:
Ask 10 people what the Democrats stand for, and you'll get 10 different answers. Ask me what the Democrats stand for, and I'll stare back speechless.
Yet in our focus group, almost every answer was exactly the same. The purpose of the Democratic party is to help the poor and the disadvantaged.

Most participants added that the federal government is the Democrats' preferred mechanism for helping the disadvantaged. More than one participant justified this focus on the disadvantaged by arguing that the free market structure of American society ensures that there will always be a significant numebr of Americans who are disadvantaged.

The organizer's response to this unexpected consensus was both sympathetic and devastating. On the one hand, this consensus suggested that there is a foundational commitment on which Democrats can build. On the other hand, if the purpose of the Democratic party is to help the disadvantaged, what can the party possibly offer to the overwhelming majority of Americans who see themeslves as middle class?

Adding insult to injury, I said that no one at the table had listed either national security or defending the United States as one of the core purposes of the Democratic party. Thus, how could anyone expect undecided voters to think of the Democrats as the party strongest on security issues if even the most committed Democrats don't define security as one of the party's most important missions?

(To be fair, one or two participants sought to extend the principle of helping the disadvantaged to the international arena. Of course, calling for more foreign aid is hardly the way to win middle class votes.)

After identifying why the party's core message failed to resonate with more voters, the discussion turned to the question of whether the answer to this problem is to "frame" its agenda differently or whether the substance of the party's agenda had to change. On this point, there wasn't much of a consensus.

Take the issue of being pro-market, for example. Not one person at the table listed a commitment to either entrepreneurs or free markets as a core part of the Democratic agenda. Yet everyone at the table was basically pro-market and pro-business BUT believed that America must pay more attention to those left behind by markets and businesses.

Given that Republicans always identify themselves as the party of markets and entrepreneurs, could Democrats make any headway with this kind of "yes, but" approach to the subject? But if framing isn't enough, how can Democrats alter the substance of their agenda without simply becoming more like Republicans?

In the final analysis, there was no answer to this question. Even a table full of Ivy League-educated Democratic activists couldn't come up with an answer to the question of what the Democrats want to offer America as a whole, and not just the disadvantaged. But the question itself is important, because it has the potential to force the Democrats to approach every major policy debate from a fresh perspective.
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Saturday, October 22, 2005

# Posted 2:14 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OXBLOG FILM CLASSICS: REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE. A few days ago, for the first time, I saw the immortal James Dean play Jim Stark in Rebel Without a Cause (RWaC). RWaC is one of those films that just seems so bizarre to the modern eye that one almost begins to wonder whether the entire thing is a parody.

One might describe RWaC as an accidental cocktail of Beverly Hills 90210, Freudian psychoanalysis, and morbid existentialism with just a dash of Boyz N the Hood. These days, we think of juvenile delinquency as the result of broken homes and economic deprivation. Yet poor Jim Stark has grown up in a two parent, Ozzie & Harriet home where his mother cooks him bacon and eggs for breakfast on school days.

In order to explain the breakdown of this suburban fantasy, the film invokes the good Dr. Freud. Jim, it seems, is prone to violence because he has to compensate somehow for growing up with a domineering mother and emasculated father. Of course, based on what we see in the film, one might describe his father as mildly hen-pecked and his mother a tad overbearing, but in no way would one consider either condition to be pathological.

Even so, poor Jim is so distraught that he has to defend his delicate masculinity by partaking in knife fights and playing chicken with stolen cars. Meanwhile, Jim and love interest Judy (Natalie Wood) speculate about whether life is worth living since it is inherently meaningless.

This point gets driven home by the most surreal moment in the entire film, in which Jim's school goes on a field trip to a planetarium where the students watch a film narrated by a spooky old man who tells the kids that the earth will one day be destroyed by fiery explosions, thus renering pointless the existence of all mankind. Perhaps things had changed by the 1980s, but when I was a kid, most planetarium shows tried to be a little more uplifting.

Oh, and did I mention the homoerotic subtext to the film, primarily involving the relationship between Jim and his sidekick Plato? Jim's dad also gets thrown into the mix during an extended scene that involves him wearing his wife's frilly apron.

All in all, RWaC is so bizarre that I find it impossible to imagine what contemporary audiences thought of the film. Was it daring and subversive? Or was it a mostly unremarkable depiction of suburban life in the 50s? Given James Dean's status as icon, I wouldn't be surprised if there is an extensive literature, both popular and academic, that addresses such questions.

In fact, if you do an Amazon search for "James Dean biography" you get a very, very long list of results. Sadly, OxBlog does not have either the time or energy to undertake a detailed exploration of popular culture in the 1950s. However, if any of you saw RWaC when it first came out, I would be glad to post your reminiscences about what kind of reactions it provoked.

UPDATE: The veritable methuselah known as MD writes that:
Suffice to say I and my classmates in high school thought this was one of the more ridiculous stories ever told regarding us. Of course, the girls went to see Dean, and we guys went to see Natalie. Steve McQueen and the kids in "The Blob" were more believable as teenagers than anyone in RwaC.
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# Posted 2:11 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ALI G. IN DA NBA: Check it! New commercials for da NBA wit Ali G., featuring Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash.
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Friday, October 21, 2005

# Posted 11:49 AM by Patrick Belton  

I WANT MORE OF THE OXBLOGGERS, BUT DON'T KNOW HOW TO GET IT: We sympathise. So, you could either stalk us, or you could join one of two lists we run, on racial integration and democracy assistance and democratisation. Or you could do both. Decisions.
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# Posted 8:33 AM by Patrick Belton  

TWO NEW HEANEY POEMS: In Guardian Books , courtesy of the excellent NI blogger Slugger O'Toole.
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# Posted 8:12 AM by Patrick Belton  

WAR BLOGS WATCH: GlobalSecurity has a list of bloggers writing from Iraq, and one or two other theatres. My personal favourite of the moment: Never heard of this place till now!!!, at cantbelieveivolunteeredforthis.blogspot.com. ('I am about to begin a journey to Uzbekistan Afghanistan. If you don't know where that is at. Join the club.')
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# Posted 8:02 AM by Patrick Belton  

WHAT A PALESTINIAN WANTS, WHAT A PALESTINIAN NEEDS: Pollster Khalil Shikaki looks at Palestinian public opinion in the wake of the Gaza pullout. Survey says: prior to the Gaza withdrawal, Palestinians gave 'ending the occupation' as their top priority. Now, 'for the first time, after the Gaza disengagement, we have economics coming on top…And the second one is in fact a virtual tie between fighting corruption and fighting occupation. The gap between the first, which is improving economic conditions, and the second, which is corruption and ending occupation, is wide. It’s 15 percent.'

On another note, Yossi Beilin says we should ditch the Road Map, because with no party having fulfilled its commitments, it's traversed the security corridor dividing reality based diplomacy from fiction.
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# Posted 6:46 AM by Patrick Belton  

IT’S BROUGHT ME NOTHING BUT TROUBLE; I’M JUST GOING TO CUT IT RIGHT OFF, AND THROW IT OUT THE WINDOW: But before I send PowerBook down the alp, a few notes about things that struck me as worth reading:

Brummies come last in a UK courtesy poll. Ah gerrot, shut yer cake hole.

Harriet Miers launches a blog. ('JUST THOUGHT OF SOMETHING: Does anyone have any good recommendations of general books on Constitutional Law, history of the Supreme Court, etc? THANX!!!') Talk of the Town interviews her via IM.
Dallasharriet44: Do I get to see the story early? I PROMISE I won’t blog it.
TOTT: In a word, no.
Dallasharriet44: O.K., then I won’t tell you how I’m going to rule in cases that come before the Court.
• Via Galley Slaves, 'when it comes to the future most Russian women are voting with their foetus: 70 per cent of pregnancies are aborted. [...] It has the fastest-growing rate of HIV infection in the world...at least 1 per cent of the population. [...] Most of the big international problems operate within certain geographic constraints: Africa has Aids, the Middle East has Islamists, North Korea has nukes. But Russia’s got the lot: an African-level Aids crisis and an Islamist separatist movement sitting on top of the biggest pile of nukes on the planet'. Though I believe Mark Steyn might be underestimating the strength of Russian nationalism or the domestic revanchist lobby if he believes Russia will sell Eastern Siberia to China, irrespective of how bad the AIDS crisis gets.

• Remember Haiti? Randy Paul points out it's still there, and surveys other goings-on in Latin America while he's at it. (Remember to back up? If not, let Randy be a lesson to you about bad things that can happen to nice people. Um, we do all the time.)

Nathan points to a new blog from Uzbekistan, and to Ariel Cohen's summary of Condi's Central Asian trip. Also, the Beeb's Jenny Norton has been barred from Uzbekistan for her reporting on Andijan.

• Over at Volokh, David Bernstein asks why we insist upon Marx's Jewishness if his parents converted and he was raised as a Christian - apart from serving the interests both of those who care to perjoratively trace socialism to yids, or those who care to, um, give credit for socialism to yids.

Kevin, insightful always, comments on Matt and Sam Rosenfeld's TAP article attacking liberal hawks who argue that the Iraq War was a good idea prosecuted badly . ('Because Sam and Matt's arguments against democracy building are technical, they beg a question: what if we corrected the problems they allude to? After all, it's not impossible to have a bigger army, or to have an army that's better at policing and counterinsurgency')

Kieran, enjoyable as always, catches out Leon Kass being particularly grumpy. (LK: 'For why would a man court a woman for marriage when she may be sexually enjoyed, and regularly, without it?' KH: 'Well, it’s not as if I’m going to make my own pot roast, now is it?')
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# Posted 3:53 AM by Patrick Belton  


Thank God, I have done my duty. Kiss me, Hardy.
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Thursday, October 20, 2005

# Posted 1:13 PM by Patrick Belton  

NON-SPAM WEBSITE OF THE DAY: The 30-Second Bunnies Repertory Theatre, wherein a troupe of bunnies re-enact a collection of films in 30 seconds a half minute - lexical variety - ed.. My particular favourites are Titanic and It's a Wonderful Life, though housemates preferred to watch Pulp Fiction or The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Fun for hours 30-seconds, but infinitely repeatable!
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# Posted 6:55 AM by Patrick Belton  

SPAM MAIL OF THE DAY AWARD, coveted prize that (judging mostly from the number of entrants) goes to this one inviting the OxBloggers to try for the Doyles footie side in Dublin. Ethnically appropriate and unusual, four stars!
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# Posted 4:57 AM by Patrick Belton  

Meanwhile, several constitutional law scholars said they were surprised and puzzled by Miers's response to the committee's request for information on cases she has handled dealing with constitutional issues. In describing one matter on the Dallas City Council, Miers referred to "the proportional representation requirement of the Equal Protection Clause" as it relates to the Voting Rights Act.

"There is no proportional representation requirement in the Equal Protection Clause," said Cass R. Sunstein, a constitutional law professor at the University of Chicago. He and several other scholars said it appeared that Miers was confusing proportional representation -- which typically deals with ethnic groups having members on elected bodies [ed.: actually, it typically deals with political parties having members on elected bodies, but who's counting] -- with the one-man, one-vote Supreme Court ruling that requires, for example, legislative districts to have equal populations.

(WaPo, also confused over what proportional representation means.)
Also, Will and the Crescat kids have some crazy good posts up on the Miers nomination, including this precious quote from Judge Kozinski:
[A]ll arguments that intensive questioning violate judicial independence confuse cause and effect or derive from other fallacies.... Or, as Judge Kozinski once put it, "Well, what the hell are you supposed to ask? Who do you like to sleep with? Girls? Boys? Will you sleep with me? Of course you'll ask them how they'd rule!"
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Wednesday, October 19, 2005

# Posted 2:28 PM by Patrick Belton  

NAOMI WOLF NEEDS TO GET OUT MORE. Even if she did show very good taste in doing stints eating both pizza and kebab during her educational career. See Scott Burgess:
In her Guardian article, Ms. Wolf seems to imply that, were it not for a TV show "that can acclimatise Americans to a woman in power" (this just after a sole, parenthetical mention of Condoleezza Rice), a Clinton candidacy would be doomed by the inability of the unacclimatised to accept a female President. In her eagerness to credit the TV show with an unlikely importance (it "... could change US politics for ever", as the subhead hyperbolically puts it), she paints herself as out of touch with current political reality - in fact, a May poll found a majority "likely" to vote for Sen. Clinton, even before being instructed to by the producers of Commander-in-Chief. And a more recent poll indicated that 79% of Americans "felt comfortable with a female president".

Ms. Wolf's perspective provides an amusing glimpse into the attitudes of the liberal would-be elite - in this case, that the masses acting on their own are too backward to do something as progressive as to vote for a female presidential candidate, and therefore must be educated by dramas presented via television and film - "where political change takes place and political momentum solidified". Readers are left wondering just which Hollywood dramas effected the changes in the political landscape that brought the Republicans to power.
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# Posted 12:58 PM by Patrick Belton  

THE OTHER A. SULLIVAN in the blogosphere points out Egypt is about to build a fence around Sharm El Sheik as an anti-terrorist measure; when it was pointed out that bedouin would be cut off from their places of work, a security official told the AFP news agency the fence was 'not meant to stop any particular group of people but prevent terrorist attacks.' Bloody copycats.
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# Posted 12:01 PM by Patrick Belton  

PREGAME AT RICE UNIVERSITY: The Backbencher's dreams apparently feature a President Rice, decked in leather (if, you know, she wanted), fairly less than this blog's. Nonetheless, the hon. scrivener surveys the 'Draft Condi' movement in this week's newsletter:
The thought of a woman in the White House has naturally captured the
Backbencher's imagination in recent days. Hell, why not let Harriet Miers run? And even though the Condistas aren't doing themselves any favours (http://www.rice2008.com/), the success of Arnold Schwarzenegger in California surely proves that acquiring a reputation for single-minded destruction can only boost one's electability. With Condi refusing to admit she wants the job, however, her supporters have been forced to threaten her with the draft (http://www.americansforrice.com) unless she runs in 2008. You
can buy the usual T-shirts and baseball caps here (http://www.americansforrice.com/Apparel.htm), unless you're Canadian: "We regret that we cannot ship to Canada due to multiple unexplained returns by the Canadian Postal Service." Odd, that. "Also, while everyone's taste is different, and we all show our support in our own way, our respect for Dr Rice prevents us from carrying any 'bobbleheads' or undergarments."

Frankly, this was disappointing. (Bobbleheads, by the way, are ceramic dolls that nod, like toy dogs in cars, at their owner.) Who wouldn't love a pair of Condi knickers? The captioning possibilities are endless. "That's Ms President"? "Is that a weapon of mass destruction, or are you just planning to invade Iraq?"
This from the same anonymous backbench MP whose 17 November newsletter carried the title 'For Fawkes' Sake'.
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# Posted 8:30 AM by Patrick Belton  

AND MORE* IRA BLOGGING: Anthony McIntyre, who did 17 years in the Maze for being an IRA operative, gives advice to the Blair government on penetrating terrorist organisations after 7/7.

* Actually, Dessie's in the INLA, as someone kindly pointed out.
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# Posted 6:41 AM by Patrick Belton  

MORE GOOGLE. I also note that we seem to be getting a rather large number of hits from people googling Dessie O'Hare, for whom on some searches we seem to be the first result. I just wanted to clarify, for the purposes of any IRA folk out there on their keyboards, that we think he's just a grand lad. Any suspicions to the contrary were wholly due to lousy editing. By my coauthor. In fact, he's welcome to come skiing anytime. The address is: 59 Calle P O'Neill, Buenos Aires, Argentina.
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Tuesday, October 18, 2005

# Posted 10:46 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WRONG WEBSITE, BUDDY: On Yahoo! Search, OxBlog is one of the top ten websites that come up if you enter "salma hayek sucking". What really baffles me, though, is why anyone would actually click on the link to our website when the other nine results seem to promise so much more of what one is presumably looking for.

On a related note, OxBlog is the first (yup, first) website that comes up if you Yahoo! Search "is harry potter circumcise". I had hoped that our readers would have better grammar.
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# Posted 10:30 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MORE HE SAID/SHE SAID JOURNALISM: In theory, journalists give unwarranted credibility to those who are wrong and/or ignorant by quoting them along side those who are right and well-informed, because there must be two sides to every story. This alleged phenomenon is known as he said/she said journalism, and liberals rely on it to explain how liberal journalists unintentionally do the bidding of conservative Republicans.

Anyhow, this theory came to mind when I read the first paragraphs of the top story in today's WaPo, entitled Iraqis Say Airstrikes Kill Civilians:
BAGHDAD, Oct. 17 -- A U.S. fighter jet bombed a crowd gathered around a burned Humvee on the edge of a provincial capital in western Iraq, killing 25 people, including 18 children, hospital officials and family members said Monday. The military said the Sunday raid targeted insurgents planting a bomb for new attacks...

The U.S. military said it killed a total of 70 insurgents in Sunday's airstrikes and, in a statement, said it knew of no civilian deaths.

At Ramadi hospital, distraught and grieving families fought over body parts severed by the airstrikes, staking rival claims to what they believed to be pieces of their loved ones. [Emphasis added. Duh!]
In theory, this is an example of he said/she said journalism. But you'd have to pretty thick not notice the Post's hints that the Iraqis, and not the US military, are telling the truth.

As WaPo correspondent Mike Allen once observed in a moment of accidental candor, journalists shade their coverage so that "discerning readers" know who to believe and who is lying. Now in this instance, the Post may very well have put the correct spin on the story. I mean, you'd think families would know if their children were killed. But my purpose here isn't to challenge the facts of a specific story. It's just to demonstrate that liberal journalists know how to get their message across without breaking the rules of the game.
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# Posted 10:04 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHAT THE ARMY WANTS YOU TO READ: Since army officers have lots of free time, the Chief of Staff (currently Gen. Peter Schoomaker) maintains a Professional Reading List on the Army's homepage. The list is divided into four sections, according to rank, from cadet all the way up to general.

The list for cadets includes classics such as John Keegan's Face of Battle, which I must admit to having not read, although it is very high on my 'to read list'. Yet the list for generals starts of with some trendy bits of pundit-puff such as The Clash of Civilizations and The Lexus and the Olive Tree.

(Sorry, Tom, you're a great columnist and a friendly guy, but that book just got on my nerves. Not that you care. You're rich and famous, so you can wear floral-print Hawaiian shirts in public or even have a kooky haircut.)

On the bright side, the generals' reading list does gets much better as it goes along. The highlight, of course, is Donald Kagan's account of the Peloponnesian War. If only our generals had time to read the original four-volume edition...
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# Posted 9:48 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ONLY MILLIONAIRES CAN AFFORD KOOKY HAIRCUTS: One of the great things about being rich (not that I would know) is that you can be eccentric without worrying about the cost of being mocked. For example, see below for what kind of haircut multi-millionaire Malcolm Gladwell currently sports. And then see if you can recognize the man in the photo to the left.

Yup, that's also Malcom Gladwell, except before he was rich and famous. So watch out: as soon OxBlog gets rich and famous, the Jewfro will become inevitable. Actually, I don't have the hair for it. But in high school I did have a ponytail for a while. So you might say that what being a millionaire really lets you do is relive your adolescence, except without parents there to prevent you from doing anything really stupid.
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# Posted 9:22 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

AND YOU THOUGHT THE GUYS AT OXBLOG WERE NAIVE OPTIMISTS: The haircut alone says that Malcolm Gladwell is an optimist. But it's hard to beat this quotation, from a roundtable on technology in the current issue of Time:
One of the big trends in American society is the transformation of the evangelical movement and the rise of a more mature, sophisticated, culturally open evangelical church.

Ten years from now, I don't think we're going to have the kinds of arguments about religion that we have today. Even the fight over intelligent design, to me, is a harbinger of a trend, which is that the religious world is increasingly willing to put its issues on the table and discuss them in the context of the secular world.
Go back to Gladwell's first sentence for a moment. How often do you hear a Blue State intellectual use the words 'mature', 'sophisticated' and 'open' in the same sentence as 'evangelical'?

On the other hand, what Gladwell's saying is that right now, all of the trouble America has with religion is because evangelicals are immature, unsophisticated and culturally closed. That sort of condescending generalization almost makes me wonder whether secular Americans might in some small way be responsible for the conficts we have about religion.

Anyhow, let me counter Gladwell's optimism with some of my own: I predict that there will fewer arguments about religion ten years from now because secularists will become increasingly respectful, patient and socially generous. Cool, huh?
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# Posted 6:42 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IN MEMORIAM: PENN KEMBLE. I first met Penn almost two years ago while conducting research for my doctoral dissertation. In order to develop a better understanding of US-Central American relations in the Reagan era, I sought to interview those who were closely involved the policymaking process.

Certainly, Penn had more important things to do with his time than give interviews to graduate students. Yet he was always generous with his time. Less than twelve months ago, after Penn had already begun his struggle against brain cancer, he suggested that I conduct my follow-up interview over dinner at his home in Georgetown.

Over a home-cooked meal, Penn spent more than an hour passionately recounting the battles of old, even though his surgery was so recent that the scars on his head were still visible. It was that kind of living passion that nourished my interest in a facet of American politics and diplomacy that has few students left today, in spite of its historic importance.

For a more detailed account of Penn's life and accomplishments, I strongly recommend reading the obituaries published by the Washington Times and the New York Sun. Although one might infer from the names of those papers that Penn was an arch-conservative, he was, in fact, a life-long Democrat appointed to high offices by Bill Clinton and Madeleine Albright. Yet Penn never hesitated to challenge his party and support the other when he believed that it the GOP was doing more to promote democracy across the globe.

Thus, Penn always led an uncomfortable existence in the center, preferring principle to partisanship. It is a position with which I can certainly empathize. But more importantly, Penn's tremendous success in life suggests that one may achieve the most by staying true to oneself.

I wish all the comfort in the world to his wife, Marie-Louise, in her time of loss.
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# Posted 10:05 AM by Patrick Belton  

I’M SINGING THIS WHOLE THING WRONG BECAUSE I GOT HIGH DEPARTMENT: Part n + 2(rope length) of a series. I spent a lovely weekend up between 7,000 and 8,500 feet, overnighting in a small alpine refuge with a wood stove where I made some soup and a refreshing cup of tea (Oxford breakfast), and did a spot of work on a book review by candlelight. Oddly, cinema may not in retrospect be the best preparation for life in the actual world. For instance, I spent an entire night in an unlocked desolate cabin on top of an alp, and never once encountered a psychiatric patient with a chainsaw, or even a ski mask. He could have come; there was plenty of tea.

the plane, the plane!

this would have been even lovelier had it not been from an icy ridge in twlight whilst encircled by a pack of wild marmots.

and you really thought all this time I was making the goat up.

New readers

You would think…um, wood…would be easier to set fire to.

Sefinenfurgge, 8500 ft. and in ice, for the greater glory of the blogosphere. And other things mum wouldn’t approve of

On the descent, my knees formally gave notice that they would be seceding from the rest of my body, and would in the future quite like to be referred to by international bodies as FKOPB.

One hand, fine for showing off. Zero hands, maybe a little less so.

And my dear housemates and professors in alpinism, who have helped me over many an Everest - Barbara Bader and Dominic Blaettler, quite certifiably the sweetest people in the world:

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# Posted 8:28 AM by Patrick Belton  

BIRTH OF A NATION, OXBLOG VERSION: The scene, Wessex, c. 700 a.d..
First speaks Lear, wearing the horns of office. All right lads, so listen; we’ve got 800 years to get to run the world. Can someone help me roll over the next slide? I had a late night reinventing the wheel for these. Now, as some of you might have noticed, we’re here, wearing animal skins, and they’re over... here, developing calculus. So we’ve got some catching up to do. My suggestion – first, we’re going to need some boats to go with the sailing songs Worthy Brother Edmund came up for us last week; Edmund, well done. Then, we import some members of the opposite sex from the tribe of the Thongii, the ones whose midriffs and underwear stick out. You all remember that one down at the pub last Thursday. (Witena gemot nod in approval.)

Next we’ve got to decide how to make a body of law, to run the world with. My suggestion is that we always just do what we did last time; then we can lose all our decisions in the mists of time, which is, basically, now. As far as strategy, I say first we go left, over here, and secure our Guinness supply lines. Then, we go over here (drawing a line) and pick up some chicken curry; intelligence reports from that chap Brendan the Navigator suggest it goes down well with the Guinness. Finally, we keep going around here (continues line) and make a stop for cigarettes to go with the alcohol. (‘That’s a grand strategy!’ ‘Shut up, Alfred, you kiss-up’).
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# Posted 7:42 AM by Patrick Belton  

DEPARTMENT OF INTERBLOG CORRESPONDENCE: So we were engaging in amicable diplomatic correspondence with another blog whose name I won't drag into the mud except to note that it prominently features Chicagoans-turned-Yalies, and has a funny name. I relate the following exchange.
PB: (after several pages wherein he complains about the paucity of goats to be had above 8,500 feet)) Also, after my TLS article i seem to be a one-man european muslims industry these days, which really cracks me up given that i don't know any, although i came really close to getting one's number at a bar once.

INTERLOCUTOR: Bars, yes, always the best place to meet European Muslims.
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# Posted 5:17 AM by Patrick Belton  

SEN ON INDIA: Taking on his natal country in a new collection of essays, Amartya Sen defends India as an assimilative nation marked principally by its heterogeneity and openness. For Sen, therefore, the Hindutva movement has entered into a confrontation with the idea of India itself. See reviews by Shashi Tharoor, Pankaj Mishra, Pavan Varma, Salil Tripathi, and NPR author interview.
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# Posted 5:10 AM by Patrick Belton  

SEX, PHILOSOPHY, AND READING GLASSES: At least they're writing about Sartre and Simone rather than Brad and Angelie.
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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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