Tuesday, November 15, 2005
# Posted 11:52 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Last month, Cindy Sheehan, the bereaved mother crusading against the Iraq war, posted an open letter on the website of left-wing filmmaker Michael Moore. Her latest target wasn't the man she staked out last summer--George W. Bush--but the new villain of the antiwar left: Hillary Clinton. Sheehan's letter excoriated Clinton for backing the Iraq war and for her refusal to call for a speedy withdrawal of U.S. troops. "That sounds like Rush Limbaugh to me. That doesn't sound like an opposition party leader speaking," Sheehan wrote. "I think [Clinton] is a political animal who believes she has to be a war hawk to keep up with the big boys."...(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 11:49 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Monday, November 14, 2005
# Posted 9:27 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Painting as unpatriotic those individuals who change their opinions simply for political reasons is wholly appropriate, and that is what Glenn stated. Reynolds is not, as Kevin Drum would have you believe, simply calling anyone against the war or anyone who believes that the the reasons used to go to war were inaccurate ‘unpatriotic.’It is wrong and offensive to argue that simply changing one's opinion is unpatriotic, regardless of the motive.
Let's assume for the sake of argument that most Democrats have come out against the invasion only because of the polls. This fact may demonstrate that the Democrats have no ideas of their own about foreign policy, but it isn't immoral. Public opinion has a democratic legitimacy of its own. Therefore, it is in no way unpatriotic for elected representatives to change sides in order to satisfy their constituents.
In democratic systems, there is an enternal tension between representation in terms of doing what the people want and representation in terms of doing what one believes is right. The role of politicians is to balance these competing demands on their allegiance.
This argument does not, however, contradict my assertion below that if the Democrats are consciously lying about the origins of the war, then one may consider them unpatriotic. The right to change positions does not entail a right to lie in order to defend that change of positions.
The reason, I think, that Kevin and Glenn are getting so angry at one another is that they are conflating these two arguments. Kevin paraphrases Glenn as saying that
Democrats who claim that George Bush misled us into war are being unpatriotic.At times, Glenn makes it clear that it is not the Democrats' claim per se that is unpatriotic, but rather the fact that it is false. Yet Glenn is also responsible in part for the confusion, since his initial post simply said that
The White House needs to go on the offensive here in a big way -- and Bush needs to be very plain that this is all about Democratic politicans pandering to the antiwar base, that it's deeply dishonest, and that it hurts our troops abroad.So what's wrong here? The pandering? The effect on the troops? Or the dishonesty? I hope that my efforts to explicate the differences between these arguments has shed some light on a very important debate. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:26 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
I believe there is a substantial difference between "Your false charges are undermining the troops" and "Your criticism is undermining our troops".I agree with this argument in the abstract, although I don't think that it justifies what George Bush said. For Bush to be in the right, it should be transparently clear that his opponents are lying. I would argue that while the Democrats may not be telling the truth, it is not intentional. Instead, they have succumbed to confusion, short-sightedness, and unthinking resentment of the President.
Now I recognize that numerous conservatives see the case against the Democrats as black and white. Even according to Kevin Drum, who has lashed out at Glenn for slandering the Democrats' patriotism,
Liberals, for their part, need to accept the obvious: in 2002, virtually everybody believed Iraq had an active WMD program. The CIA believed it, as their October NIE made clear:Kevin adds that Bush lied in order to make his argument more persuasive, but that is secondary (and debatable). The key point is that leading Democrats supported the war because the evidence said Saddam had WMD. As Kevin pointed out long ago in an excellent post, opponents of the war argued that invading Iraq was a bad idea in spite of Saddam's possesion of WMD. For the Democrats to argue now that they supported the war because they were tricked is disingenuous at best.Baghdad has chemical and biological weapons....Iraq has maintained its chemical weapons effort, energized its missile program, and invested more heavily in biological weapons....has largely rebuilt missile and biological weapons facilities.... has begun renewed production of mustard, sarin, GF (cyclosarin), and VX....most elements are larger and more advanced than they were before the Gulf war.The British believed the same thing. The Germans and French believed it. Former Clinton administration officials believed it. Lots of Democratic members of congress believed it. They were all wrong, it turned out, but they weren't lying. The simple fact is that virtually everyone who had access to the full range of classified intelligence at that point in time thought Iraq had an active WMD program.
Even Dana Milbank and Walter Pincus, the WaPo correspondents whose "Analysis" column distorted the President's statments, admit in that selfsame column that
The administration's overarching point is true: Intelligence agencies overwhelmingly believed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, and very few members of Congress from either party were skeptical about this belief before the war began in 2003. Indeed, top lawmakers in both parties were emphatic and certain in their public statements.So what am I holding out against? When not just conclude that the Democrats are lying and therefore unpatriotic? I guess it turns on the Democrats' precise words. John Edwards wrote in yesterday's WaPo that
The intelligence was deeply flawed and, in some cases, manipulated to fit a political agenda...Going back to another post from Kevin, I think it's fair to suggest that the administration may have withheld certain information and/or misrepresented it. This missing information wouldn't have done much to disrupt the overwhelming consensus that Saddam had WMD, but it justifies saying that we didn't have the "whole story".
So what Edwards is doing here isn't lying, but rather relying on rhetorical sleight-of-hand. He points to the missing information, but totally ignores the overwhelming evidence which suggested Saddam had WMD and which was the basis of his support for the war.
This is playing dirty, but not lying. Or am I just splitting hairs? I guess where I come down on this whole issue is that attacking an opponent's patriotism is so serious that it shouldn't be done unless the case for the prosecution is open and shut. Period. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:55 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Well aware of how provocative his message was, Bush prefaced it by saying that "it's perfectly legitimate to criticize my decision or the conduct of the war." He nonetheless concluded that
The stakes in the global war on terror are too high, and the national interest is too important, for politicians to throw out false charges. These baseless attacks send the wrong signal to our troops and to an enemy that is questioning America's will.The first thing Bush should have known was that these two sentences would become the next day's headlines, overshadowing all of the other important messages in his long (50 minutes) and otherwise well-crafted speech.
The next thing Bush should have known is that the media instinctively side with those who have their patriotism questioned. It doesn't matter that Bush avoided using harsh words such as 'treasonous' or 'unpatriotic'. He was setting himself up for a fall.
If the President had been wiser, he would've focused on a simple and straightforward message: that the Democrats are lying. Bush was in a very good position to claim the moral high ground in spite of lesser flaws in the administration's case for war, such as the aluminum tubes debate.
But now the discussion has become about whether Bush went too far instead of about whether the Democrats are lying. The strongest point in Bush's favor is, of course, the Democrats' own lavish statements about the threat Saddam Hussein presented because of his weapons of mass destruction.
In his speech, Bush quoted John Kerry' statement that
"When I vote to give the President of the United States the authority to use force, if necessary, to disarm Saddam Hussein, it is because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a threat, and a grave threat, to our security."In its major story on the speech, the WaPo at least noted this critical aspect of Bush's argument and republished half of the quote from Kerry. In contrast, the NYT made no mention of the Kerry quote, although it did report with consummate detachment that
Mr. Bush asserted that Democrats as well as Republicans believed before the invasion in 2003 that Saddam Hussein possessed banned weapons.As if it were only an "assertion" that the Democrats believed Saddam had WMD. But this is what happens when a president attacks his opponents' patriotism. The substance of his arguments gets ignored.
Often, the substance of a president's argument gets ignored even when he comports himself with greater decorum. But this time the president had a strong hand to play, and he could've thrown the Democrats back on the defensive if he hadn't let his anger get the better of him. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 6:12 PM by Patrick Belton
My first banlieue article hits the press today. Please let me know what you think! (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:57 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
(And, no, I'm not cherry-picking. I got this photo from the Washington Post website 20 minutes ago. Click here and go to photo #9.) (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:31 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
[BOB] SCHIEFFER: Senator, if there's anybody in this country that's an expert on prisoners of war -- I mean you spent about five years in that hotel run by the Vietnamese in Hanoi. Why do you feel so strongly about [torture]?Even though I am a very, very, very big fan of McCain, there's really no excuse for this kind of pandering. It's not as if Bob Schieffer and Elisabeth Bumiller don't know how to ask tough questions. They do it all the time. But McCain gets a pass.
One reason for that pass is that journalists like to use McCain as a foil for Bush. They bring him on the show or do an interview because all they really want is for a popular Republican to contradict the president. In other words, they're not interested in taking a careful look at exactly what McCain thinks and why.
But you also have to consider McCain's reputation as a straight-shooter. He makes journalists feel that he'll give them the truth even if they don't ask tough questions or lay elaborate traps, a la Tim Russert. In addition, McCain cultivates an aura of self-awareness that journalists' value tremendously. Consider this:
Ms. BUMILLER: Senator, let me ask you about a recent poll that shows you neck and neck with former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani for the Republican nomination, and you're just edging out Hillary Clinton for the presidency. When are you going to make a decision and what is your thinking right now about a campaign?A lot of scholars have observed that Ronald Reagan made journalists like him by being self-deprecating. But McCain takes this a very important step further by being self-aware, for example talking about his own ego.
In an earlier post about spin doctors, I argued that self-awareness is the attribute that journalists value most highly. One might object that the cost of being that honest is greater than the benefits. After all, look at what journalists did to Howard Dean after "the scream".
However, McCain's success demonstrates that you can be a media darling for years on end if you know how to play your cards right. What I really want to know is whether McCain will keep getting the kid glove treatment once he is actually running against a Democrat for president.
In the primaries, I'd say it's a foregone conclusion that McCain will get better press coverage than any of his opponents. But in a general election, journalists will begin to realize -- subconsciously, in most cases -- that giving McCain good coverage may actually result in the Republicans holding onto the White House.
Until now, lionizing McCain has had minimal costs. I can't wait to see what happens when the rubber hits the road. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:01 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
I think Dean did a better job of seeming honest because he often really is. But I also began to get the sense that Dean has become too comfortable with the Beltway regimen of giving talking points instead of answers. Like Mehlman, Dean sometimes rushed to reel off what sounded like a clever answer instead of taking Russert's questions seriously.
I guess Dean has found himself between a rock and a hard place. The media adored him at first then punished him for being too forthcoming. Now he may be too well-prepared and not spontaneous enough. Then again, what politician has discovered the Golden Mean of both disarming candor and message discipline? Answer: John McCain.
Anyhow, what I wanted to do in this post is look at one specific answer that Dean gave to Russert:
MR. RUSSERT: The other issue that the Republicans still have the upper hand with Democrats, strong moral values; 35 percent see the Republicans are better on that issue. Only 18 percent of Democrats. And maybe that's why we're hearing radio ads like this that the Tim Kaine, Democratic gubernatorial candidate and governor-elect in Virginia, ran for his campaign. Let's listen.That was a cute answer about Jewish Democrats not embracing Christ. But it is also an indication of how most Democrats' immediate response to religious rhetoric is to start worrying about who it excludes.(Audiotape, Tim Kaine for governor advertisement):MR. RUSSERT: And then John Kerry, last week, talking about the budget, said it was immoral; "There is not anywhere in the three-year ministry of Jesus Christ, anything that remotely suggests--not one miracle, not one parable, not one utterance--that says you ought to cut children's health care or take money from the poorest people in our nation to give it to the wealthiest people in our nation."
Notice how Dean immediately recast Kaine and Kerry's embrace of Christ as an embrace "of tolerance and of inclusion." Dean seems to be missing the much bigger point that excessive talk about tolerance and inclusion is precisely what's responsible for making it seem that the Democrats have no fixed values.
Also notice how, in the second half of his answer, Dean equates a concern for values with school lunch programs and health care policy. Yes, there is a moral element to providing food and medicine for the needy. But what the Democrats never seem to get is that voters with an interest in values are concerned precisely about those issues that can't be resolved by spending more money.
When Democrats translate values into money, it reinforces their image as the party that ignores the spiritual dimension of life and responds to every challenge it faces with a reflexive desire to tax and spend.
Now, I do appreciate the Democratic dilemma here. If the party wants to establish itself as the party of values, it can't really do that by touting its pro-choice and pro-gay rights agenda, because "values voters" tend to be pro-life and uncomfortable with gay rights.
I won't pretend that I have a good answer for the Democrats. But I would say that the party needs to think long and hard about its core values, so it doesn't have to fall back on economic answers to ethical questions. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
Sunday, November 13, 2005
# Posted 11:29 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
If you just read the transcript, I don't think you'll get a good sense of just how defensive and disingenuous Mehlman sounded -- and this is coming from someone who agrees with almost everything Mehlman said.
Some of the best advice I've gotten about job interviews is to pause before answering every question. The point is to show the person doing the interview that you're really thinking about the substance of their question. In fact, it is a good idea to take advantage of that pause to really think about the question and how to be most responsive to it before firing off your preferred answer.
Mehlman did exactly the opposite. He rushed to answer every question Russert threw at him but evaded the questions' actual substance. For example:
MR. RUSSERT: But isn't there a cloud over the Bush presidency because of Iraq? The administration said he was reconstituting his nuclear program. Not true. It said there would be vast stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. Not true. He said we'd be greeted as liberators. Not true. Isn't Iraq a political problem for this president?If I were going to write a how-to manual for spin doctors ("Spin Doctoring for Dummies?") its first principle would be that journalists value self-awareness above all else. Journalists see themselves as being the only profession committed to exposing the manipulation inherent in everything about politics. Thus, they tend to show the most respect to those who are also willing to talk about politics as a game. Conversely, journalists resent most those who play the game without admitting what it is.
When you get a question like the one Russert asked Mehlman above, the first thing to do is acknowledge the question's premise: "Yes, Tim. I can see how someone might think that the absence of WMD in Iraq lends credibility to the Democrats' accusations. But if you take a closer look, you'll see that..."
Journalists think of themselves as committed to carefully weighing all of the evidence for and against everything. Therefore, politicians and their spokesman must, at minimum, go through the motions of showing uncertainty and weighing the evidence.
At times, the journalist's brand of uncertainty can border on the pathological. George Bush could never have discovered the importance of moral clarity by taking lessons from journalists. But I firmly believe that even if he advocated the exact same policies, Bush could get much better coverage from journalists if he presented his arguments in the style with which journalists are comfortable. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 9:10 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Instead of asking Abdullah why he continues to rule with an iron fist while democracy awakens in Lebanon and Iraq, Russert instead tried to force the king to admit that he was much more pro-American than his subjects.
Well, obviously. But the real question is, what should Abdullah and America do about it? George Bush argues consistently but controversially that bringing democracy to the Muslim/Arab world will transform its peoples' attitudes towards the United States of America.
Bush's critics that the liberalization of Muslim/Arab dictatorships may accomplish nothing more than bringing jihadist regimes to power. I disagree, but it is a very important point to discuss in detail.
And what better case in point than Jordan? Russert could've challenged Abdullah to give his people the freedom they deserve. Or he could've asked Abdullah whether the only alternative to his rule is a jihadist republic. Either way, Russert missed a critical opportunity. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:58 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Saturday, November 12, 2005
# Posted 5:49 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Although I can connect to the Internet thanks to my trusted Linksys G wireless card, the connection fails every few seconds. And then returns. And then fails. And then returns. And so on and so forth.
On the bright side, I can check my e-mail and do other basic tasks. But any program that requires sustained connectivity -- iTunes, for example -- is now semi-functional at best.
Just now, I spent an hour and forty-five minutes on the phone with Microsoft technical support. I must admit, I'm very impressed that the technical rep kept up a positive attitude for the entire time I was talking to her. But I think I would've accepted a lesser attitude in exchange for a solution to my problem.
On the off chance that any of you have endured a similar problem while upgrading to XP, please let me know. Until then, I will attempt to maintain my sanity via the continuous consumption of alcohol. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 3:35 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 3:00 PM by Patrick Belton
OxBlog (in Mandarin): very nice music, isn't it
Panhandler (in French): money, please
Helpful Pausing Postman: this gentleman is wondering if you happened to have a euro.
OxBlog: it's a very intriguing proposition, but I'm not yet convinced.
Algerian Secretary then exited from the crowd to join this interesting conversation and perhaps offer Arabic translation services. It was, after all, a Friday in Paris, and no one seemed terribly eager to make the subway connection to leave it and go home. So, I suggested to the Postman and the Secretary that we go out for a drink, not solely because it seemed like the sort of random and aesthetic thing one does in Paris. As we wondered through the rues of the northern 8eme, the Secretary then shared her ambition to become a jazz singer and started demonstrating by singing us jazz standards, as we walked out toward adventure, fraternité and the Guinness which upon learning my name my comrades fretted I must instantly be given as a matter of the greatest urgency, or likely death would result. We paused by the nice gentleman speaking about Jesus so the Secretary could share that as an entirely assimilated Algerian, she didn't like the Qur'an at all on literary grounds, and much preferred the Bible of the Christianity to which she converted so that as a better assimilated Frenchwoman, she would instead have it as the religion she didn't believe in.
After much adventure, the scene ended up as follows.
parisienne: you're depressed. i can see it in your eyes.
oxblog: no. it's just 4 am, it's cold and raining on the champs, and i'm in shirt sleeves.
parisienne: tell me about all this pain of yours. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Friday, November 11, 2005
# Posted 2:46 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
But what would it sound like for a Democrat to talk about religion in a positive and persuasive manner? All too often, calculated efforts to talk positively about religion come across as just that -- calcuated. (For example, take a look at Hillary Clinton's ostentatious but maddeningly vague references to religious values in her autobiography.)
But a few days ago, I was listening to Brian Williams talk to Jimmy Carter on C-SPAN. The subject was Carter's new book, Our Endangered Values. While talking about the separation between church and state, Carter referred in passing to "Jesus Christ, whom I worship."
Carter's total comfort and sincerity with these words is what Democrats are searching for. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 2:34 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
For example, Tom Coburn talked to Tim Russert just after the end of Russert's discussion with Ted Kennedy. Russert immediately tripped up the Oklahoma Republican by pointing out his promise to oppose any Supreme Court nominee who refused to outlaw partial-birth abortion. But then after Alito was nominated, Coburn declared his opposition to any single-issue litmus test.
If I felt like it, there's plenty more in the Coburn interview to poke fun at. But what it comes down to is that Kennedy has a reputation as a man of principle and a deep thinker, whereas the media tends to portray Coburn as a not-all-there extremist (except when Coburn criticizes the Bush's profligate spending).
All I can promise is that if the media starts heralding Coburn as a genius, OxBlog will be the first to expose his idiocy. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 1:30 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Thanks to the magic of podcasting, I got to listen to West even though I missed the original broadcast. (The URL for the After Words podcast is: <http://www.c-span.org/podcast/aw_feed.xml>. For a full list of C-Span podcasts, click here.)
West describes the intensity of the battles for Fallujah in a way that makes you tense and angry just listening to him. In urban combat, there is no choice but to go house to house, fighting at almost point-blank range. Each house is a darkened maze that renders every soldier in it vulnerable to brutal surprise. As West wrote last month in the WaPo,
Fallujah first leaped to national attention last November when it became the scene of the fiercest urban combat in the past 35 years. During that battle, 100 Marine squads engaged in more than 200 firefights inside small, dark cement rooms against suicidal jihadists. A single such ferocious gunfight between police and gangs anywhere in America would receive overwhelming and immediate press attention. The Marines did that 200 times in one week in Fallujah.But the courage and competence of the US Marines gets little attention because it is so commonplace. We faithfully count the number of soldiers killed in Iraq, but give little recognition to their incredible heroism and bravery. Perhaps that would be a better way to honor their sacrifice. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 1:19 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Ladles out plenty of blame but largely defends what she still considers a fair piece of reporting, although an independent panel accused CBS of having "failed miserably" to authenticate the documents before rushing the story to air.Now, if you follow Kurtz's story to its end on page C12, you will notice that there is a second, entirely separate discussion of Mapes' book by Paul Farhi, who writes that:
It's entirely possible that Mapes was wrong -- very wrong -- about Bush's military record. But that's still only theoretical...Now back to Kurtz:
Linda Mason, a CBS News senior vice president, said Mapes was fired because "her basic reporting was faulty. She relied on documents that could not be authenticated -- you could never authenticate a Xeroxed copy. She led others who trusted her down the wrong road." ...Personally, I trust Kurtz's account more than Farhi's. Kurtz covered this story from the beginning and constantly provides first-rate coverage of the media. Plus, my own knowledge of the situation suggests that Kurtz is right. But some people will believe Farhi, because he is also a WaPo staff writer who covers the media.
The bottom line here is that journalists have a habit of presenting their own subjective, sometimes wild, interpretations as the unvarnished truth. It is precisely that habit that got Mary Mapes into so much trouble. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:45 PM by Patrick Belton
DEPT OF ARS SCRIPTORIA AFFAIRS UPDATE: When I said, incidentally, that my favourite cafe wasn't intolerably touristic, I should perhaps append a corollary for Friday nights: on Friday nights, it is often possible to find someone in my favourite cafe who speaks French. We on OxBlog like to look on the bright side of things. So, here it is that on Friday nights, by going here you can feel really awfully fluent in French! (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 11:47 AM by Patrick Belton
Hi Patrick,(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 11:11 AM by Patrick Belton
They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
Thursday, November 10, 2005
# Posted 2:57 PM by Patrick Belton
This from the mail bag, and David Harbottle.
Patrick,More soon, elsewhere but will link from here. But I must pause to defend a haunt, Sartre's Café de Flore, from vicious charges it's grown intolerably touristic. I defend my loves bitterly; like much of Saint Germain it has free wireless internet, and without the horrid need to procure WiFi cards each 15 minutes, as per Parisian tradition; and though a café crème is 5.50 rather than, i.e., the Bastille's dominant 3.50, you're actually getting a bit over two cups of coffee, by volume, when you take into account the beaker in which it's served you. And among the tourists you're likely to get also some of life's interesting people, such as the hare krishna fellow who just paused to tell me a story about how at the Mac Expo at La Defense several years ago, they killed twenty apple trees for the advertising of a computer. After the hatred and fear of the young rioters of Aulnay, it's rather nice to be around couples embarassing their flower peddler with their displays of affection. I would have taken a photograph. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
# Posted 12:57 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 3:34 AM by Patrick Belton
I'd arrived at Aulnay-sous-Bois yesterday expecting a seething cauldron on just the point of boiling over. What I found was quite different, and surprised me. Aulnay has seen the worst violence of any of the banlieues to date, but its housing projects had their windows open, laundry hung out to dry, music and laughter spilling out from within; the streets were filled with children playing. The only odd inkling this was a neighbourhood whose violence this week featured in the news of every newspaper in the world was the procession of the odd burnt car being towed away like a discarded effigy; or, in the case of the Hertz station which lay inconveniently by the Cité de l'Europe, a whole parking lot of them. Someone clearly had a bad experience the last time renting.
To back up a moment, two things take place at the RER-B stop immediately before Aulnay's. One, the graffiti stops; and two, all the white people get off. But on exiting the station one could be forgiven an unsettling feeling you'd accidentally got off at the wrong dodgy banlieu. In the vieux pays and the area about the gare - southern Aulnay - the only indication that you're not in another well-heeled metropolitan suburb anywhere in the world is the awfully well-reinforced steel walls setting apart the houses, replete with their gardens and long driveways, from the street. This is a quarter with hotels: the cars on the streets are BMWs. It's only when you go north from there, up toward the Citroën plant and the R.N. 2 which bisects the banlieu, that you encounter the fields of high-rise housing projects, the famous cités. When the first of these were erected in the aftermath of the second world war, they were considered rather nice places to live - they had running water and en suite toilets inside, not by any means a given within the périphérique, where the postwar chaos was such to create the lasting impression on the other side of the Channel that the French were a naturally malodorous lot. It fit in Houssmanian traditions of rationalisation in Parisian city planning, and the aesthetic tendencies of Courbusier. It wasn't until the 1970s, the Algerian civil war and the onset of massive labour migration to Paris from the maghreb, that the acquired the reputation as a no-go zone that they retain today.
Go and talk to their residents, and you're struck that they're actually rather nice to you once you say hello. As assiduously as I donned turtleneck and leather jacket to simulate a Frenchman and, it was hoped, a not too out of place banluisard, I still perhaps didn't quite fit in, whatever diversified portfolio of national identities in which I might traffic, French maghrebian being decidedly not among them. Fairly tough lads, though, will still chat with you quite amiably once you talk to them; at any rate, they didn't seem too eager to engage in busting up any cars while I was there with my notebook and camera, however much I tried to indicate they really should pretend I wasn't there, make themselves at home and just carry on with what they were doing. Most residents of the cités where I spent the day behaved in a way that's quite familiar from housing projects across the world; they queued to pick up their playing children from school, they dropped off teenagers by car in the late evening, and a handful of them engaged in the time-honoured pursuit of sitting about outside with a cigarette or two trying their best to look ominous. Talk to them, and to admit selection bias I haven't yet caught up with anyone with a sledgehammer, and they express intense fury at the rioters, who they feel will quite neatly worsen the lot of the banlieu residents and people of north African descent, playing perfectly into the worst suspicions held about them and mitigating any chance for improving their lot. (This may not be the case, entirely: De Villepin is announcing a ferry of equality-of-opportunity initiatives, to include curiously lowering the age of school-leaving from 16 to 14 for children seeking out an apprenticeship. But social sentiment, and the often expressed feeling that a c.v. bearing the name of Ahmed and not Alain will quickly end up in the bed, is less likely to be so sympathetic.) Shopkeepers are peculiarly angry; they've had to lose business from early closings, and fear for their plate glass. In a sense, then, it is a neighbourhood stricken by fury - but this aimed inward at the rioters and not outward at France, quite to my surprise, really.
Policing is an interesting drama to observe here, and fits this reading of the banlieu riots as the handiwork of determined criminal gangs rather than a spontaneous, Francophone uprising of the oppressed to gladden the hearts of Trotskyists. (So does incidentally the pattern of violence - it dances about from banlieu to banlieu, staying one step ahead of increased policing in a cat-and-mouse strategic tango.) Go to the tourist core, the Champs and Arc de Triomphe, and you will see quite visible policing in spodes. It's policing intended not only to deter, but also to be visible, to comfort tourists and native Parisians that their city is intact. I've noted already the busloads of gendarmes, painted blue and bearing 'gendarmerie' in white letters on the side, and the tens of cars and wagons from the police nationale parked alongside the Champs metro station. But go to Aulnay and a quite different pattern emerges. At first, I'd thought that it was minimally policed if at all; only the periodic patrol car from the well-heeled southern police annexe protecting the respectable cars of the besieged comparably affluent, and the northern annexe situated alongside the projects which is there for quite a different reason. But look closer, and there are signs that here there indeed is a war being fought by the French state, not by massive billeting of troops to quell an uprise and reassert the temporarily abeyed sovereignty of the state and the monopoly of leviathan on force, but a more secret war, being fought by the security services against determined hardened criminal networks, clandestinely and quietly selecting its targets, and in the shadows so as not to alienate a broader and possibly tendentious populace. Look carefully at the cars going by, and there are not only those occupied by project residents and the southern quarter's shopmen, but ones bearing in each seat beefy short-coiffured men clearly only recently out of the forces, if at that, with more than a bit of technological wizardry inside to boot. There is a bus of gendarmes here as well, but this one does not bear the title 'gendarmerie' on the side to comfort those whom it protects and serves; it has its lights out, and is parked at an out-of-the-way stop a few roads removed from a project to effectively simulate an off-duty bus. Peer closer into its darkened windows and it is a hive of activity. The French state is here too; it has not given up on these of its neighbourhoods; it merely joins the battle on its terms, and against its selected enemies. Partially this may reflect the units under the control of the Minister of the Interior, whose remit includes the security services but not the armed ones (these last controlled by a resolute Chiracien at the MOD.) But one hopes that the French state is not so wholly riven by its succession struggle that it is incapable of strategic action; and these instruments would fit that reading of the situation nicely. A state defeats riotous masses with brigades and divisions; but one counters lightly mobile criminal gangs with a tradecraft determinedly more old-school, quiet, hardened and effective.
The banlieues slept quietly last night, the fireworks heading instead on the road to Toulouse; at 5, my drinking buddy from NPR, borrowing quickly my map of Aulnay to scribble down the mosque before heading to meet a bravely non-Francophone parachuter, was summoned to a southern banlieu where, the mobile phone-mediated reportorial meme machine reported, the night's action was to be. (It wasn't; but I'm promised interesting stories nonetheless over our next impromptu stringers' brigade alcohol tasting party à tête.) It's raining, which may just dampen things a bit tonight. I'm headed to the Aulnay mosque to make friends and try and file a lengthier piece from there, being as it is the site of the most resolute violence still. It's hugely ugly weather. I was able to shoot off a memory card of film of images of the Aulnay projects; I'll share them here as soon as I prove technologically capable. The sunset was a striking image, rising red over the banlieues and stamped bright with the white partial moon of the huntress.
(Incidentally, for those of you who hadn't read it already, perhaps the internet censors will permit me to dredge up this piece the TLS kindly ran over the summer about the banlieues. Or, if you're our reader in Mexico, you can wait for the Spanish-language edition which I'm told by my TLS editor is coming out this weekend in the literary supplement of Madrid's newspaper ABC. OxBlog: multilingual since next Sunday.) (40) opinions -- Add your opinion
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
# Posted 3:58 AM by Patrick Belton
There is, in speaking with its people at its cafes and on its streetcorners, a sense of malaise these days in Paris, which I think you could probe further by juxtaposing the despair of the banlieu rioters with the stories of the increasing numbers of graduates of Paris's leading business schools who go to Britain upon graduation, or those of postgraduate degree holders working as postmen. All have in their way given up on the French dream, a comfortable lifestyle sheltered by an extensive and humane welfare state. The Dalrympean take, I suppose, would be to say that in both cases it's the unproductivity of the French economy that's partially to blame, particularly after the massive explosion in the size of the state during the early Mitterand years. People who during their days at Science Po took easily for granted the superiority of the French model, with its educated technocracy and comfortable standards of living, now despair over it. The operatic trio of Chirac (who, in the one sentence all American schoolchildren are taught in school, is un ver), Sarkozy (not only his former political son but, as his daughter's one-time lover, nearly his one by marriage as well), and Villepin may make for lovely libretto, but not for conspicuously good governance: Chirac's eerie absence from the airwaves until Sunday night led commentators to suspect that perhaps he and his preferred successor Villepin wouldn't mind too terribly much if it took a few more days for this to quiet down when the weather turns disagreeable, and the blame were deposited solidly on Sarko's door.
The police presence of the French state is everywhere: if not in Clichy and Aulnay, then at very least along the Champs and by the Place de la Concorde. Last night I was surprised to count ten police cars by the Elysee metro station (in a row, to cite a song from the wrong side of the Channel), then by the American embassy two entire large buses of Gendarmerie (painted blue, no police light on top though, however cool though that might have been) and the odd plainclothes unit (they being the ones who look like cops in suits, rather than French people in suits.)
Commentators have compared the loi sur la voile to the Dreyfus affair, manufactured by the French political class without necessity to reflect the fact the Republic regards some of its citoyens with suspicion. That it doesn't is clear enough: unemployment is high among all sectors of the French economy, but holding constant for education and age, it doubles among France's Muslims, the Algerian and Moroccan descendants who are in this regard the converse of the more professional, and more Levantine, American Muslim community who in educational attainment, salary, and employment rate exceed America's non-Muslims.
Paris is burning. It has done so before. Those of 1848 were the street riots of modernism, heralding enlightenment and republicanism versus the restoration of the ancien regime. The soixante-huitards's were those of postmodernity, seeking to resituate the individual and power at the centre of a discourse which modernity and liberalism's had to their view hidden. One is tempted to see in 2005 the riots of the atavistic, but that would be overdrawing the issue - they are the riots of Newark, Watts, and Brixton come to Paris. Those residents of the banlieues who are religious, even Islamist, are not the ones who are throwing stones or assaulting the Marais's Jews (whatever international activity some of their number may get up to to the side). Contra one recent meme of commentary, the problem of the banleieus in a sense is not that its inhabitants are Muslim, but that they are not.
France's Muslim population is, at 5 million, the largest in Europe. (Germany's comes next at 2 million, and the United Kingdom at 1.5 mn.) I'm off to talk to some of them. I spoke this morning with someone whom I asked, if I wanted to get to the banlieues, which was the best route. His response was to take issue with the premise of my question. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
Monday, November 07, 2005
# Posted 11:50 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 11:36 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
This passage is just a brief aside in article that focuses mainly on the tragic death of Sgt. Robbie McNary, crushed during battle by his own unit's American humvee. But it drew my attention because those of us who still believe in victory in Iraq often point to our soldiers' commitment as evidence of the fact that this war very much is a noble cause.
Although I don't have much choice but to give Fainaru the benefit of the doubt, the NYT's highly selective (and now infamous) editing of Cpl. Starr's final message to his family and girlfriend leaves me wondering whether communication between soldiers and journalists has become entirely dysfunctional.
UPDATE: Noel Shepard is frustrated with this article for a different reason. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 11:28 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 11:17 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 10:41 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
MR. RUSSERT: Samuel Alito, the president's new nominee -- let me take you back when he was appointed to the Court of Appeals, 3rd Circuit. Here's Ted Kennedy. [Sound of Kennedy's voice, c. 1990 -ed.]:That's pretty funny. Kennedy is an experienced member of the Judiciary Committee, but he's suggesting that Christian conservatives know more about Alito than he does. Now that's what I call oversight. Anyhow:"Well, I just join in the commendation. You have obviously had a very distinguished record, and I certainly commend you for long service in the public interest. I think it is a very commendable career and I am sure you will have a successful one as a judge. ...We are glad to have you here and we will look forward to supporting you and voting for you."
MR. RUSSERT: It's interesting, Senator, though, the way the Senate has changed and I think maybe you have changed in the way you approach Supreme Court nominees. When you first came to the Senate, you said this. "I want to state that it is our responsibility as members of the committee ...in advising and consenting, that we are challenged to ascertain the qualifications and the training and the experience and the judgment of a nominee, and that it is not our responsibility to test out the nominee's particular philosophy; whether we agree or disagree ..."And continue he does, but let's fast forward a bit:
MR. RUSSERT: Let me ask you this: When there was a Democratic president, Bill Clinton, he nominated Ruth Bader Ginsburg. And at that time, "In her confirmation hearings, [Ginsburg] promised not to bring an ideological bias to the court but expressed opinions on several issues that put her at odds with some of her conservative colleagues. She acknowledged support for a woman's right to choose, praised the failed equal rights amendment and criticized discrimination against homosexuals."Ah, yes. Here we go again with the "ideology". The good Senator claims that he is tolerant of all judicial philosophies, but will reject candidates who have an ideology. Apparently, the definition of "ideology" is "a judicial philosophy significantly different from my own."
Now, if you've had enough of Ted Kennedy and stop reading this post right here, you are forgiven. But Russert got in two more great shots that deserve to be posted. On the subject of White House personnel, Tim Russert asked:
MR. RUSSERT: Who should leave? Who should leave?Remember, Kennedy serves on the Judiciary Committee.
Finally, we come to a set up that I found to be completely transparent, but that Kennedy fell for hook, line and sinker:
MR. RUSSERT: You talked about Iraq. There's a big debate now about whether or not the data, the intelligence data, was misleading and manipulated in order to encourage public opinion support for the war. Let me give you a statement that was talked about during the war.In a word: Ouch! (0) opinions -- Add your opinion"We know [Iraq is] developing unmanned vehicles capable of delivering chemical and biological warfare agents...all U.S. intelligence experts agree they are seek nuclear weapons. There's little question that Saddam Hussein wants to develop them. ... In the wake of September 11th, who among us can say with any certainty to anybody that those weapons might not be used against our troops, against allies in the region? Who can say that this master of miscalculation will not develop a weapon of mass destruction even greater--a nuclear weapon. ..."Are those the statements that you're concerned about?
# Posted 10:29 AM by Patrick Belton
Okay, that's it for now; more from this end once I get myself into some trouble for purposes of writing about it! (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 1:24 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 12:25 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
On a similar note, MoDo's meditations on feminism in last week's NYT Magazine (full text here) won't do much to change her reputation as a pampered prima donna.
What it really all comes down to is that no one will ever tell you more about MoDo in fewer words than Josh Chafetz did in The Immutable Laws of Dowd. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:21 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Sunday, November 06, 2005
# Posted 11:55 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Taken in by Apple's clever presentation of itself as the anti-Microsoft and by clever advertising that shamelessly exploits the legacy of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, journalists provide Apple with an extraordinary amount of free publicity. In exchange, Apple has often given the consumer little more than forgettable gewgaws such as the Newton.
Now, there's no question that press coverage of the video iPod has been pretty shameless. But I have to take issue with Shafer's suggestion that those, like myself, who buy the new iPod are just as naive as the cheerleader journalists. According to Shafer, the video iPod is a
Deliberately crippled by copy protection, low-res, underpowered video appliance that is merely Apple's first try in the emerging market of video players.Perhaps my standards are too low, but I think the picture on my iPod is superb, and so do most of the people I show it too. Whether the iPod is crippled by copy protection, I don't know. In the next few days, I hope to play around with Videora, which may dramatically expand the range of visual content for my iPod. And I concede that the battery life could be better, although 2-3 hours is more than enough for my daily commute. (NB: If you only use the videoPod for sound, the batterly life is 15-20 hours.)
Regardless, it's never a bad thing to take media hype with a grain of salt. And if you want to laugh while you're at it, check out this parody of all things iPod. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 11:10 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Although Part I seems to have been lost in the sands of time, Parts II, III & IV provide excellent coverage of religious trends in Indonesia, Malaysia, Turkey and Morocco. The Indonesian marriage of democracy and Islam is truly inspiring. This marriage may seem natural, since Southeast Asia has a distinctive heritage of toleration and enlightenment within Islam.
Yet the freedom that democracy has brought to Indonesia since 1997 is strengthening its heritage of enlightenment in unexpected. For example, is there any Arab Islamic nation in which truly open theological debates are broadcast on public television?
I don't know the answer to that question for sure, but I strongly suspect it is 'no'.
One can only hope that the freedom of Indonesian religious discourse has a catalytic effect throughout the Muslim world.
In contrast, the Malaysian government relies on propaganda to promote its program of religious toleration. Although the government's objective is praiseworthy, one has to wonder whether Malaysian fundamentalists will gain support because of their ability to portray themselves as noble, even pro-democratic dissidents.
In light of Malaysia's tradition of tolerance, I think it would be far wiser to have a truly open debate about Islam. Yet it is hard for a quasi-dictatorship such as Malaysia to let the people speak their mind in one forum, since they would surely demand the right to speak their minds in another and another.
The one major shortcoming of "The Soul Within Islam" is its unmitigated secular bias. Instead of attempting to understand those who resist moderation and tolerance within Islam, it simply brands them as fundamentalists, conservatives and worse. For the most part, their perspectives are entirely excluded from the documentary.
The real danger here is that "The Soul Within Islam" does nothing to separate the conservative Muslims who oppose women's rights from the even more conservative Muslims who question democracy from the terrorists who murder in the name of the Koran.
In the process of fighting the war on terror, it will be necessary to align ourselves with democratic conservatives against authoritarians and terrorists. And when Muslims who are ambivalent about democracy speak out against terrorism, we must recognize them as well.
I'm not talking here about the Mubaraks, the Assads or the other nominally Muslim dictators that plague the Middle East. Rather, I am talking about various religious organizations and individuals that may remain skeptical of the American agenda of democratization, but still firmly oppose the murderousness of Al Qaeda.
We should not compromise the project of democratization in order to placate the ambivalent, but we should do all that we can to persuade the ambivalent that America has much more to offer them than Al Qaeda. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 4:08 PM by Patrick Belton
Saturday, November 05, 2005
# Posted 9:53 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 5:11 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 4:43 PM by Patrick Belton
This courtesy the Times, Britan's most respected tabloid. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:13 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 11:52 AM by Patrick Belton
From Flanders to Iraq. OxBlog is happy to wear its poppy. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 4:56 AM by Patrick Belton
But no fear. Nowadays for his point of view, Guy has a blog. (Remember, remember, the 5th of November, gunpowder, reason, and blogs.) (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 4:28 AM by Patrick Belton
Friday, November 04, 2005
# Posted 4:24 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 10:06 AM by Patrick Belton
And they say we're technologically astute apologists for (Anglo-)American power. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:33 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 6:40 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 4:18 AM by Patrick Belton
Thursday, November 03, 2005
# Posted 8:41 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 8:40 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 5:09 AM by Patrick Belton
(Unlike Ms Gandhi's knickers. David, you can have them back now.) (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
# Posted 8:09 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
PANDACASTING: Sure, you could read about Tai Shan, the baby panda at the National Zoo. Or you could enjoy the very cute photo of him to the left. But really, nothing beats seeing little Tai Shan actually trying to walk or nuzzling with his mom, Mei Xiang. And for that you need a video podcast, courtesy of the WaPo. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:34 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Well, I still don't know what Breyer is talking about. Whenever Stephanopoulos asked Breyer anything, the justice was careful to hedge his remarks by saying that his answer only applied to certain cases. While it is admirable for Breyer not to overstate the value of his theory, I was really left with no sense at all of how to separate those cases to which it applied from those to which it didn't.
And I still don't understand the theory itself. What Breyer says he wants is for the court to take into consideration the Founders' desire to promote active participation in government. But by whom? Citizens? Legislatures? And what exactly counts as participation?
Perhaps the fault here is mine. My knowledge of constitutional logic and history is clearly deficient. And I clearly need to read Breyer's book. But I still get the sense that Breyer should be able to explain his ideas better.
It's not as if I'm asking for a soundbite or an elevator pitch. Breyer had almost 15 minutes on ABC. Not enough to convert a skeptic, but certainly enough to clarify his stance. Which makes me wonder: Is Breyer's maddening subtletly an inherent part of early 21st centuryAmerican liberalism?
Certainly, John Kerry got into plenty of trouble because he couldn't reduce his message to a soundbite. And here's another example: Last night, Chris Matthews had Howard Dean as a guest on Hardball. Take a look at their exchange about abortion:
DEAN: ...all these abortion cases, that's a family's personal business. That's not the government's business. And we'd like to keep the government out of people's private, personal lives.I guess Dean should've said something like "Safe, legal and rare." But I think it's significant that Dean attempted to ground his position in a broad philsophical principle, i.e. the exclusion of government from family life, only then to back off from the logical application of that principle to the issue of abortion.
One might say that Dean's position is admirable. He is trying to return tolerance and civility to an issue plagued by divisiveness and resentment. Yet as a result, he comes of looking confused and/or disingenuous.
This is the Democrats' dilemma. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion