Tuesday, February 28, 2006
# Posted 11:28 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Yes, there are still some good segments, especially with Terry Moran. But the trash is there too. On the February 17th broadcast [transcript for sale here] the show began with an in-depth report on the rise of cellphone pornography. What classic lowbrow reporting. Alleged news as the pretext for letting millions of viewers listen to ring tones that consist of a porn star moaning.
Although there are millions of web sites devoted to porn, there are very few serious news shows left on network television. If Ted Koppel were still around, I don't think Ron Jeremy would be getting airtime on Nightline. (4) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:35 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Despite Iran’s very real support for terrorism today, I contend that it is not likely to transfer chemical, biological, nuclear, or radiological weapons to terrorists.The issue here isn't, of course, that the ruling clerics have any regard for international norms or the value of human life. It is simply that they fear Western, principally American retaliation.
In short, Iran has been deterred. Whereas Al Qaeda has no state, no government and nothing to lose, the Iranian dictatorship is desperate to maintain control of its armed forces, its oil wealth and its ever more desperate population.
Byman points out that Teheran's terrorist agenda was much more agressive in the late 1980s and early to mid-1990s, when its bombers slaughtered Jews in distant places such as Buenos Aires while, closer to home, its agents bombed the US military facility the encompassed Khobar Towers. However,
Iran’s use of terrorism has changed dramatically since the 1980s. Most importantly, Iran appears not to target Americans directly, though it still retains the capability to do so. Iran instead uses terrorism as a form of deterrence, "casing" U.S. Embassies and other facilities to give it a response should the United States step up pressureNonetheless, the State Department still identifies Iran as "the most active state sponsor of terrorism" today, principally because ot its support for Hezbollah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
Yet perhaps most disturbing is Teheran's uncertain relationship with Al Qaeda. Although it has occasionally cooperated with American efforts to stamp out Sunni jihadism, Teheran
Has allowed several very senior al-Qa’ida figures, such as Saif al-Adel, Saad Bin Ladin, and Abu Hafs the Mauritanian, to remain in Iran. Although Iran supposedly monitors individuals linked to al-Qa’ida, some reports indicate they played a major role in the May 2003 attacks in Saudi Arabia – suggesting Iran is not exercising true control over them. Iran claims it has subsequently clamped down on those suspected of links to the Saudi attacks, but its long-term intentions with regard to al-Qa’ida are still unclear and its past actions in this regard are cause for concern.When it comes to setting policy for today, Byman states firmly -- perhaps a little too firmly for my taste -- that Iran fears a united US-European diplomatic far more than it fears simple American power. Mind you, Byman testified in September, the month after the election of Mahmoud Ahmedinejad.
Certainly, Iran would be more concerned about a united front than it would be about a fragmented one, my sense is that even the anti-Ahmedinejad faction sees nuclear weapons as the only real protection there is from the United States of America.
To be sure, a united front is both necessary for the moment as well as offering the best prospect of preventing further proliferation. There are limits, however, to how much we should sacrifice for the sake of diplomatic unity. (2) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 5:20 AM by Patrick Belton
Monday, February 27, 2006
# Posted 11:05 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Meanwhile, the NY Post reports that Suzanne's co-blogger and former Clinton speech writer Heather Hurlburt has signed onto to Hillary's campaign. Although the Post spins Hurlburt as "hawkish", I agree with Paul Glastris that she just isn't. Heather is very serious about security and often criticizes her own party for its failures on that account, but that is plenty different from being hawkish. (2) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:22 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
But what if Sistani is waiting for the Americans to withdraw before reaching out, lest we take credit for the initiative and decide to continue with a now-less-bloody occupation? That's not an unreasonable concern, yet nothing is more likely to bring our soldiers home than clear signs of reconciliation. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:48 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Peter King: B+. He's on the wrong side of the port issue, but his arguments have been getting more reasonable as the week goes along.Even though this whole brouhaha about the ports has demonstrated for the second time in two weeks how a non-story can dominate the Washington agenda, I think there has been a surprising degree of moderation on both sides after the initial fisticuffs. I think this explains why it looks like we're headed for a reasonable compromise on the issue.
And now for the hosts:
Tim Russert: B-. Russert cross-examined John Warner, who was for the ports deal and threw softball after softball at Peter King, who's against it. It really seemed like Russert had bought into the hysteria. But since I don't know for sure, I won't go lower than a B-.See ya next week. (6) opinions -- Add your opinion
Sunday, February 26, 2006
# Posted 8:03 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
The difficulty of traveling freely and openly around the country leaves most American journalists dependent for their survival on the goodwill of others--either friendly Iraqis or the U.S. military.Kaplan's essay is mostly descriptive and, perhaps for good reason, never tackles the really tough question of how such dependence influences American journalists' coverage of Iraq. After all, how would Kaplan or any other American journalist really know what they're missing if they're missing it?
One easy hypothesis to throw out there is that journalists will absorb the perspective of those on whom they are dependent. But that doesn't seem to be the case. Their perspective on Iraq doesn't remotely resemble that of the military. Nor does it seem to resemble that of Iraqis with a positive attitude toward the American presence.
Another relatively easy hypothesis to throw out there is that when journalists have limited access to their surroundings, they project more of their own preconceived notions about the world on to the subject they've decided to cover. Conservative critics of the MSM may well agree with that notion, since it suggests why journalists allegedly insist on treating Iraq as Vietnam. I have some sympathy for that hypothesis, although I am reluctant to commit to any sort of interpretation since I, like Kaplan, really have no idea what American journalists can't see.
Of course, there are a few exceptions to the rule that American journalists in Iraq are helpless. For example, freelancer (and OxFriend) Nir Rosen, who has written for the New Yorker, the Atlantic Monthly, NYT Magazine and others, learned Iraqi Arabic and travels mostly on his own.
Amazingly, he spent an extended amount of time in Fallujah while it was occupied by insurgents and jihadists. Fluent in the local dialect, Nir has been able to see first hand precisely how others' dependence on translators makes them extraordinarily vulnerable to misinformation.
FYI, Nir's book about his time in Iraq, entitled In the Belly of the Green Bird: The Triumph of the Martyrs in Iraq, is going to be published by Simon & Schuster's Free Press this coming May.
As I have argued while eating Lombardi's pizza with Nir during his visits stateside, I still think that his perspective on Iraq is profoundly influenced by his politics and his ideology (just like mine). When only a very few Americans have that kind of access, it's very hard to tell whether what they discover reflects their access more than their preconceived notions. In other words, until a significant number of American journalists learn Arabic and get out into the field, they won't overcome the limitations of dependence.
Perhaps for the moment, one way around this problem is to learn as much as possible from Iraqi and other Arab journalists. It does seems that a lot of major newspaper articles have italicized notes at the end informing readers of the contribution made by irregular correspondents with Arabic sounding names. Are those irregulars Iraqis? Other Arabs? And how were they hired. Until the papers tell us, we won't really know.
For the moment, I guess the take away from all this is that the posture of detached omniscience that characterizes American news reports, regardless of whether they are filed from Topeka or Baghdad, should be taken with a sizable grain of salt when the correspondents don't even speak the local language. (10) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:54 PM by Patrick Belton
Saturday, February 25, 2006
# Posted 10:09 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 3:47 PM by Patrick Belton
In other news, a Hamas spokesman said today his group would accept a 'long term, transitional solution' involving a truce on the Palestinian side and an Israeli withdrawal to 1967 boundaries; he gave no further details. My own friends close to the talks say that various formulas are being floated in search of acceptability both to Israel and to Hamas; acceptance, for instance, of UN security council resolutions, or the relevant sections of international law. Also, Khaled Abu Toameh is reporting that Salam Fayyad is 'seriously considering' an offer to join the Hamas-led cabinet. Qurei and some other Fateh leaders have indicated a possibility of their participation in government as well.
There is early talk of Zahar as foreign minister, but numerous names were floated for PM before the portfolio finally rested with Haniyeh. The Independent, for its part, reports Abu Mazen is threatening to resign if Hamas's position is not 'compatible with international policies,' but he is also calling for the west to give Hamas time to change rather than 'pushing it into a corner', and praising Haniyeh as 'flexible and diplomatic.' The WaPo interviews Haniyeh, quoting the prime minister in waiting as saying 'We do not wish to throw them into the sea.' He has also pledged to reduce his own salary, during Friday prayers in Khan Yunis. For its part, the EU is preparing a cash lifeline to prevent failure of the PA and Palestinian inability to pay the security services - whose loyalty to the new government, particularly in Gaza, will in the best of situations be in doubt. And in the first statesmanlike act yet from Washington, Assistant Secretary Welch said that US ngo-directed aid flows would continue, although it is unclear whether this will aid the security situation and maintenance of security-service paychecks. (6) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:34 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 9:17 AM by Patrick Belton
Still, well done the mobs in O'Connell Street for getting my homeland back in the news just when the peace process was in such danger of dropping out of the headlines and being taken over by those Middle Eastern upstarts. 5-2 odds on someone silly on telly tonight denying Bloody Sunday or calling for Irish relocation, orange or green, to the Western Sahara. (15) opinions -- Add your opinion
Friday, February 24, 2006
# Posted 6:41 PM by Patrick Belton
Whew, just in time. I was just about to post mine on OxBlog. (2) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 3:13 PM by Patrick Belton
Sudan man forced to 'marry' goat (BBC)Swift thinking - well done! (2) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 3:08 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 11:43 AM by Patrick Belton
Patrick Deneen. Democratic Faith. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 2005. Bibliography, index. $45.00 (cloth), ISBN 0-6911-1871-X.
Reviewed by Mark Huberty, European Studies, Johns Hopkins University for Advanced International Studies
Published by H-Democracy, at h-net.msu.edu (February 2006)
The Ultimate Faith-Based Initiative?
Through his new book, Patrick Deneen makes the argument that, while superficially ascendant in the world, democracy is fundamentally at a state of crisis born not of its perceived legitimacy, but by its undeniable failure to achieve all that it has promised in the realm of human improvement, individual liberty, and civic cohesiveness. This crisis is borne of the implicit role of faith in engaging men in the democratic project, and the shaky ground on which that faith has been constructed. Only by rethinking our faith in democracy, argues Deneen, and rebuilding it on grounds at once more realistic about man's nature and more supporting of man's dignity, can democracy hope to approach this crisis effectively.
Deneen begins his argument with a survey of the major proponents of democracy, European and American, and shows that behind the rational arguments for the democratic structure of government, there is an implicit admission of faith in the democratic project and faith in the behavior of man. This faith originates from the gulf that separates "men as they are," who may not be capable of democracy, from "men as they can be." By assuming this faith, Deneen points out that democracy's supporters are able to embrace a vision that transforms man into a creature capable of democratic greatness.
The key components of this faith are ultimately reactive. Democracy expects man to be a rational actor, but he does not demonstrate this in practice; therefore, faith supports a kind of elite paternalism that strives to transform him. Democracy expects man at once to be self-interested and public-spirited, but it is not clear how these two opposing behaviors are synthesized; therefore, faith envisions a means by which participation in the democratic institutions makes this synthesis possible. Democracy expects man to accept the rule of his fellow man, but he does not always do so; therefore, the legitimacy of this rule must be supported by means of religious attachment (either explicitly through religion, or through civil religion as a substitute for divine religion, or through the attachment of democratic authority to faith in the goodness of scientific progress).
Deneen argues that such a faith lies at the core of the democratic crisis, not because it is faith, per se, but because the objects of faith are inconsistent with the human soul. Thus, believers in such a faith will be in a continual state of crisis, as they attempt to correct for the failings of democracy by applying more democracy, inadvertently making the gulf between intention and accomplishment wider all the time and worsening the crisis of their faith.
Arrayed against this faith are four major sources: Plato, and the concept and path to a just soul; Tocqueville, and the role of
religion in democracy; and the democratic critiques of Reinold Niebuhr and Christopher Lasch. While each make different points in support of a transformed view of democratic faith, their goals are the same: to develop a view of a political system that is more compatible with the human soul, and to show how such a system will ultimately lead to a more fulfilling democracy for humanity.
Deneen's reformed democratic faith has components of each of these critics: Socrates's optimism about the completeness and trainability of the human soul as shown in Republic and Meno replace the dissatisfaction with human nature expressed in the transformative arguments of the democratic faithful. Tocqueville's conception of the proper (antagonistic) relationship of religion and government replace the reliance on a civil religion for the containment of democracy's excesses. And the humility about the human condition and hope for its amelioration found in Niebuhr and Lasch replace the reliance on self-interest and materialism.
Deneen's prescription, then, for a reformed democratic faith, could be described thus: we must believe that humanity has within it the seeds of democratic greatness; that these seeds can be self-cultivated to achieve virtue and justice in the soul, and civic virtue in the democracy; that religion, properly conceived, can help to correct for the nihilism and self-absorption that democracy tends to fashion by means of its focus on individualism and self-interest; and that, above all, the democratic project requires a unity not based on human perfectionism but on a shared sense of human equality because of human incompleteness--that democracy is undertaken as a monument to our shared interdependency coupled with our essential individual dignity, rather than as a compromise mandated by our self-interested avoidance of Hobbes's war of all against all.
Unfortunately, on reaching the end Democratic Faith Deneen has not gone as far as one might have hoped. He begins the book by stating that, "Against the growing (and related) tendencies toward democratic "faith" and democratic "cynicism," I would like to recommend instead a form of "democratic realism" (p. 8). But when one reaches the end, one finds instead a kind of altered democratic faith. He admits this possibility, too, in his introduction, saying that, "Undoubtedly, some will see my variety of democratic "realism" as a form of democratic "faith" by another name ... it is a duly modified label I am willing to accept" (p. 10). While that faith is more realistic than its predecessor, in that it is based on a sense of humility about the imperfection of mankind and buttressed with a sense of hope about mankind's prospects, it is still faith, and still liable to turn to cynicism should reality not coincide with the expectations of the faithful. What we hold out hope for is a democratic argument that can stand on its own. Perhaps that is our own faith, our own belief without proof that such an argument exists.
A possible road to this argument makes a brief appearance during discussions of John Dewey's democratic optimism; in the role science can play in democracy. Deneen specifically notes the emphasis of Francis Bacon on the value of scientific skepticism due to its motivating power for man, preventing him from becoming complacent in his natural environment. Such admonishment is similar to that of Socrates in Meno, where he holds out the possibility to humanity of self-improvement in pursuit of the just soul. Unlike Socrates's faith in the ability of humans to learn virtue, however, science requires no such faith. Its methodology does not tolerate the essence of faith, belief in the absence of proof; rather, it explicitly sets up a method by which claims of truth can be tested and verified or rejected.
Furthermore, amidst Deneen's search for a "realist" foundation for human equality, he need look no further than science. It takes no faith to know the state of human equality from science: empirical proof, building each day, provides ample support. This universal equality, which by its nature says we are all equal at birth, suggests a profound equality deeper that our human needfulness": it suggests a depth of commonality in origin, history, and human nature that transcends the unequal abilities we may develop in our individual lives. It also suggests a degree of humility about our origins, unique as we are in the world for our sentience and power. Deneen is right to suspect science on the basis that science has in itself no morality; but it can provide a valuable fact-based foundation from which to build this new realism.
Despite this, Democratic Faith is valuable for its careful description and criticism of the foundations of democratic thought active in the world today, and for pointing the way towards resolving the contradictions that currently lead democracy and its citizens towards a sense of despair about the prospects for self-governance.
Democratic Aid in Eastern Europe
Maren Roth. Erziehung zur Demokratie? Amerikanische Demokratisierungshilfe im postsozialistischen Bulgarien. Muenster: Waxmann, 2005. 316 pp. EUR 29.90 (paper), ISBN 3-8309-1310-9.
Reviewed by Ulrich Schnakenberg, Universität Kassel
When politicians or researchers discuss the positive effects of promotion of democracy and a free market economy, they almost inevitably refer to the U.S.-led democratization of Germany and Japan in the aftermath of World War II. In her doctoral dissertation "Erziehung zur Demokratie?" Maren Roth asks the question to what an extent such an analogy is justified. What are the parallels and differences between "reeducation then and "promotion of democracy" today? Her main focus, however, lies on the concepts and reality of democratic aid in Eastern Europe. Especially on these aspects she provides welcome insights.
First of all, Roth agrees that a comparison between post-war Germany and post-Communist Bulgaria can be drawn, in spite of all the discrepancies in terms of socio-economic background and political culture and in spite of the fact that Germany was occupied when the transformation took place and Bulgaria was not. The author stresses that the two cases have several things in common: In both countries, Western governments spent considerable amounts of money and energy on democratization to achieve institutional change as well as a change of mind. In both countries, America and her allies did not impose "reeducation." Instead, they relied to a very large extent on persuasion, moral and financial support and on providing a positive example. Moreover, not only the means but also the aims were similar: the ultimate goal of the sponsors of democracy was to create politically mature and economically prosperous civil societies (p. 44). Both after 1945 and after 1989, the USA put special emphasis on the education sector and on the younger generation, and so does Roth in her study.
After providing an overview of the "reeducation" policy in post-war Germany, Roth quickly turns to the U.S.-sponsored post-1989 strengthening of democracy in Bulgaria. On the basis of three case studies, she tries to demonstrate the impact of and the reaction to international and especially American "democratic aid" in Bulgaria. As the first case study which portrays George Soros's Open Society Institute shows, Roth does not limit her focus to governmental action but includes the efforts of NGOs. In the following two chapters, the author illustrates in some detail how projects such as the Open Education Centre and the American University in Bulgaria were established and how they work. In spite of being rather short, this section makes up the centrepiece of the book and convincingly highlights some of the successes as well as the many shortcomings of American democratic aid.
Methodologically, Roth's studies are founded on a formidable array of primary sources, the most valuable being a collection of more than 75 interviews conducted in 1998/1999. Regrettable, though, is her decision not to give the full names of interview partners. Understandably enough, some interviewees spoke only under the condition of anonymity, but then she even refuses to disclose the name of somebody as prominent as the deputy education minister and founder of the Open Education Centre (p. 197). The reader has to do his own research to find out that Roth was talking to Rumen Valcek.
One of Roth's major aims is to evaluate the achievements or rather the deficiencies of the Bulgarian transformation process. But just how do you measure success and failure, respectively? In her conclusion, the author differentiates between "hard facts" (economic data, statistics on election turn-out, and election results, etc.) and "socio-cultural facts," which are far more difficult to assess. The author's main thesis is that "socio-cultural facts" play a major role in explaining Bulgaria's problems to adapt to Western constitutional and economic models.
Initial hopes for a speedy transformation have largely been destroyed. While most authors would agree with this conclusion, many explain Bulgaria's difficulties to cope with the western example with the country's fourty-five-year Communist rule. Roth, however, stresses that also the decades, and indeed, centuries before 1944 have to be taken into consideration when explaining Bulgaria's current struggle to overcome her backwardness. In her view, this struggle is severely handicapped by a persistence of traditional "cultural patterns" (p. 274). Many of her examples demonstrate that Bulgarians founded Western-sponsored NGOs just because there was money available, that they adopted all too flexibly to priorities set by the donors and that they spent money on the basis of personal friendships rather than according to the quality of the proposed project.
What can we learn from this book? Roth agrees that assistance from the outside can help in establishing and consolidating democracy (p. 107), but she doubts whether political and economic liberalization can be realized at the same time (p. 98). The author also shows much scepticism towards easy solutions and explains that NGOs do not necessarily do a better job in promoting democracy than do governments. She argues, e.g., that George Soros's Open Society Institute is even more vulnerable to corruption than most programmes established by the U.S. government because Soros relies heavily on local staff. On the other hand, Roth also criticizes a "lack of cultural awareness and sensibility" among non-Bulgarian personnel of international agencies (p. 278). All in all, Roth does not propose revolutionary theses. The real importance of the work lies in the myriad sources which are the product of time-consuming oral history research. To sum it up, her study supports views already voiced by many researchers with reliable evidence.
. Of course this is not uncharted land. An important study was written by Kevin Quigley, _For Democracy's Sake. Foundations and Democratic Assistance in Central Europe_ (Washington, D.C.: Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 1997).
. Compare Janine Wedel, _Collision and Collusion. The Strange Case of Western Aid to Eastern Europe 1989-1998_ (Basingstoke: Macmillian, 1998); and Claus Offe, "Cultural Aspects of Consolidation: A Note on the Peculiarities of Postcommunist Transformations," _East European Constitutional Review_ 6, no. 4 (1997): p. 64ff.
Citation: Ulrich Schnakenberg. 'Review of Maren Roth, Erziehung zur Demokratie? Amerikanische Demokratisierungshilfe im postsozialistischen Bulgarien,' H-Democracy, H-Net Reviews, February, 2006.
Published by H-Democracy, at h-net.msu.edu (February 2006)
Copyright (c) 2006 by H-Net, all rights reserved. H-Net permits
the redistribution and reprinting of this work for nonprofit,
educational purposes, with full and accurate attribution to the
author, web location, date of publication, originating list, and
H-Net: Humanities & Social Sciences Online. For other uses
contact the Reviews editorial staff: hbooks at mail.h-net.msu.edu.
Want to review books for us? Want to read and write and not get paid for it, just like an OxBlogger, solely for the glory, the love and the attention of the opposite sex?* Want not to have to pay for your books? Get in touch!
*Same is fine too. Just please, no cowboy hats, is all we ask. (3) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:49 AM by Patrick Belton
In pace. (3) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:15 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Thursday, February 23, 2006
# Posted 11:53 PM by Patrick Belton
(c.f. 'I want to hold your hand,' below.) (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 11:49 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
First, Pollack sums up the evidence that Iran has a nuclear program because it wants nuclear weapons. Although Pollack writes that "Iranian involvement in international terrorism...appears to be a manageable threat to the United States", (p.4) the threat of military retaliation is essential to keeping Iranian terrorism in check.
If the hardliners got a hold of nuclear weapons, there is good reason to believe that they would feel invulnerable and return to the methods of the mid-90s, such as the attack on Khobar Towers.
One of the most interesting points Pollack makes, and one that wouldn't expect to hear from a supposed hawk, is that Iran's implicit cooperation has been an essential reason why the situation in Iraq hasn't gotten much worse. Put differently,
If the Iranians had wanted to cause chaos in Iraq, they could have easily done so in the darkest days after the war, and the United States was fortunate that they did not. (p.6)While building up a very strong intelligence operation in Iraq, Iran has not sought to undermine the new government because it sees a Shi'a-led Iraq as one of the best of outcomes it could hope for. Perhaps because his focus in on Iran and not Iraq, Pollack doesn't comment on whether a Shi'a-led Iraq is therefore inimical to US interests.
Another critical (and related) point made by Pollack is that the Iranian regime is in a very precarious situation at home because of its failures on the economic front:
Given that Iran’s economy continues to flounder even with $60+ per barrel oil prices and its populace has been growing ever more unhappy with its economic plight, Tehran does not need any more instability imported from a chaotic Iraq. (p.7)Thus, the bottom line for Western policymakers is that they can punish Iran economically and that it will hurt.
Currently, the Iranian economy is generating roughly 400,000 new jobs a year, but more than 1 million new workers are entering the workforce every year. The ensuing rapid rise in unemployment has fed unrest with the regime, and the technocrats who manage Iran’s economy have warned that only massive, foreign investment (to the tune of $20 billion a year for theThus Pollack recommends a carefully calibrated carrot-and-stick approach that will force the Iranian theocracy to make a clear choice between having nuclear weapons and having a functional economy. Easier said than done, but the core point stands: An robust Western commitment to sanctions can make a difference in Iran. (4) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 11:46 PM by Patrick Belton
British heavy metal band Judas Priest was sued over a 1985 suicide pact made by two Nevada schoolboys. One of the two boys survived, and the lawsuit by their families claimed that a 1978 Judas Priest album contained hidden messages. The words "Do it" were allegedly audible when the record was played backwards, and the letters S U I (supposedly for "suicide") are in the sleeve artwork. The case was dismissed .... Judas Priest members also commented that if they wanted to insert subliminal commands in their music, killing their fans would be counterproductive, and they would prefer to insert the command "Buy more of our records."(2) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 9:02 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 8:56 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 8:00 AM by Patrick Belton
I find listening to the German pop version of 'I want to hold your hand' often to purge those feelings, personally. (4) opinions -- Add your opinion
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
# Posted 9:18 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
I'm still open to argument on the Dubai port deal, but this is looking more and more like a mindless feeding frenzy to me. So far, I've only heard a couple of arguments against the deal that are even colorable...If the first 20 comments are any indication, Kevin's readers agree with him on the merits but feel that Bush should be bashed regardless.
Moving over to the conservative side of things, Andrew Sullivan endorses Jim Glassman's statement that
Dubai - I don't have to tell you - is an Arab nation. Yes, two of the 9/11 hijackers were citizens of the UAE, but, then again, as Ivan Eland of the Independent Institute notes, Richard Reid, the attempted "shoe bomber," was a British citizen, and Jose Padilla, among others, is an American citizen (as was Timothy McVeigh). The UAE has been a staunch ally in the war on terror, training security forces in Iraq and helping to cut off the flow of money to al Qaeda.In short, I feel I'm on pretty safe ground here. (6) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:20 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
To their credit, some of the only ones who got this story right were brand-name MSM journalists. Without hesitation, the WaPo editorial board denounced all of the false accusations that the administratio had decided to "outsource" homeland security.
The bottom line is that the Coast Guard is still responsible for security. In addition, the administration thoroughly vetted the company that will take over management responsibilities. And on top of that, the UAE is one of our better allies in the war on terror and a long-time host of American military installations in the Middle East.
For a sample of the hot air being blown around on this subject, you can take a look at Chris Matthews' interviews last night with Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.
But what I find a lot more interesting than how wrong our elected officials were is how wrong so many bloggers got this story, a point made very effectively by Jim Geraghty of NRO, who slams Glenn Reynolds, Michelle Malkin, Kos and others.
But now Glenn admits he was wrong and has decided, along with Geraghty, to blame "Big Media" for starting all of the confusion. First of all, Glenn deserves credit for keeping an open-mind, which he has done on numerous issues. But I think it's hard to pin this one on the media. After all, it is not as if Glenn and Michelle usually believe what they read in the NYT.
Speaker of which, a NYT editorial this morning declared the port sale to be unsound on the grounds that the UAE's "record in the war on terror is mixed." No evidence on that point is presented, nor does the Times address the WaPo's main point that the US will still have ultimate authority over security issues.
But at least the NYT editorial is clearly labeled as opinion. In contrast, the Times' front-page story on the sale editorialized below the fold that:
Dubai's record is hardly unblemished. Two of the hijackers in the Sept. 11 attacks came from the United Arab Emirates and laundered some of their money through its banking system.Well, the UK's record isn't "unblemished" either, given its citizens' record of bombing the Underground and joining the Taliban, but everyone knows that Parliament had nothing to do with that.
Not that the Times can be expected to understand such a nuanced point. An article posted today on its website (and presumably in tomorrow's paper) once again editorializes that
Dubai's record is hardly unblemished. Two of the hijackers in the Sept. 11 attacks came from the United Arab Emirates and laundered some of their money through its banking system.Can't the Times at least come up with a new adjective? How about 'flawless'? Or 'unmarred'? Or 'unsullied', 'untarnished', 'spotless' or 'immaculate'? I demand variety in my reckless journalism! (6) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 9:05 AM by Patrick Belton
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
# Posted 11:59 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 11:54 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 11:49 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 11:08 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Chertoff on NBC: A-. But the grade is provisional. I never followed the Katrina debate very closely, so I don't have too much confidence in my assessment here. But Chertoff candidly acknowledged a lot of failures, answered questions directly and stood his ground when he had a point to make.(3) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:47 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 8:26 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
PARADISE REGAINED: After six miles of hard biking, we arrived at the shores of Zoni Beach on the northeastern coast of Culebra. The palm trees and other tropical foliage ambled right up to the edge of the gentle, off-white sand.
The beach stretched out for a half-mile along the coast, with no more than two dozen visitors relaxing on the long stretch of sand. The water was cool at first touch but warm once your whole body was immersed. The water was so clear that you could see your shadow on the sand at the bottom.
Small, uninhabited islands floated offshore and St. Thomas lay just over the horizon. I think my girlfriend picked the perfect word to describe our visit to Zoni: magical.
(And if you want, you can drive to the beach instead of biking. We just wanted to earn our share of paradise.)
Culebra is mostly a tourist destination, with just 2000 locals year-round and hundreds of visitors or more arriving and departing every day. In other words, it is still a backwater in the landscape of Caribbean tourism. There are no large resorts, just dozens of small guest houses and hotels, most with only a handful of rooms.
There is only one small town on the island, with a handful of restaurants and bars, where you will see many of the same visitors as before if you go back a second time. But even if you had to eat every meal at Mamacita's, you would enjoy it. Just order whatever fresh fish or seafood is on the menu that day, or some barbecued ribs if you're feeling like a carnivore. And don't forget the frozen drinks.
If you're going to Mamacita's for dinner, get there before seven, since the waiting list for the night is often full by then. If you get turned away, try the Dinghy Dock, which also has fresh frish, grilled to perfection. The service at the Dock isn't great, however. Our waitress clearly wanted to be relaxing on the beach instead of waiting on tables.
In fact, the service ethic didn't seem to be much of a priority for anyone on Culebra, except for some of the expats who've opened businesses there. In other words, Culebra is a destination for those who just want to enjoy the peace and quiet outdoors, not those looking to be pampered at a high-end resort.
Everyone was friendly and wanted to be helpful, but had no interest in setting their clocks to the tourists needs. In fact, as my girlfriend sharply observed, there wasn't a single clock we saw on the island that even had the right time, or anything close to it.
But this laid back ethic is actually a good thing, since locals seem to have a fairly positive attitude toward visitors, instead of seeing them as an imperial class they serve at the behest of the almighty dollar.
To make the best of this situation, self-reliance is the way to go. As a vacation planner, my biggest mistake was relying on taxis instead of renting a car. With a taxi, you never know when it will show up, especially at night. One morning, we called Migel, our usual taxi driver, for a ride into town an he said he'd be there in 15 minutes.
After 45 minutes, a different driver showed up to pick up some other guests and said our driver wasn't coming, but he would take us into town on his next run. When we got into town and went to Mamacita's for lunch, who did we see in a little captain's hat getting ready to take a cruise from the nearby dock? That's right, Migel. [Who really does spell his name without a 'u'.]
Looking at the big picture, that small frustration made no difference. But it would've been better to avoid it.
Finally, if you're looking for a place to stay on Culebra, try www.allvacationplanners.com, which lists availability at more than a dozen small guest houses and hotels. The site was invented by Mike, a refugee from Cleveland, whom we met at the bar in the Bahia Marina hotel, where we were staying.
The Bahia Marina has a stunning view from its mountain-top perch. It is also clean and spacious and, for a Caribbean hotel, reasonably priced. But skip the restaurant.
So that is my little write-up of Culebra. (4) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 6:42 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 2:50 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 2:42 PM by Patrick Belton
The skeptical stance toward ambitious social engineering — which in earlier years had been applied mostly to domestic policies like affirmative action, busing and welfare — suggested a cautious approach toward remaking the world and an awareness that ambitious initiatives always have unanticipated consequences. The belief in the potential moral uses of American power, on the other hand, implied that American activism could reshape the structure of global politics.Yet lest you think Taylor is the only excellent Canadian blogger at Oxford, Milan Ilnyckyj is always worth reading as well. And staying within the Oxford BlogCommonwealth, see also Dr Red Mist, who this week looks at the history of humanitarian war aims in the Iraq conflict, and for his advocacy against genocide in Darfur. ('At least when I gasp out my last corpulent breath, there won't be a quiet voice saying 'you did fuck* all.' Use that middle-class guilt and come along if you can.')
* Here at least it's after the watershed. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 5:35 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 5:10 AM by Patrick Belton
(Courtesy of the Times.) (3) opinions -- Add your opinion
Monday, February 20, 2006
# Posted 8:26 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 8:19 AM by Patrick Belton
(if you're curious, on February 20, 1990, President George H.W. Bush meets with President Vaclav Havel of Czechoslovakia.)
Compare with the Foreign Office's roster of former Foreign Secretaries:
Lord Hawkesbury, 1801-1804, evidently not a successful Secretary of State; 'He lacked imagination and was of so nervous a temperament that Huskisson referred to him as the grand figitatis'.(6) opinions -- Add your opinion
Sunday, February 19, 2006
# Posted 11:48 PM by Patrick Belton
Today's article on Christian Science:
Keeping your hand in God's
previous CS articles... (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 3:58 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 9:45 AM by Patrick Belton
Thursday, February 16, 2006
# Posted 1:01 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 12:21 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
I'm assuming, of course, that none of the more interesting conspiracy theories out there turns out to be true. A safe bet, I think.
Now, it's often said that politicians get punished far more often and more severely for their cover-ups than for their crimes. What better illustration of this principle than the punishment that the administration is now taking for delaying the release of information that apparently incriminates no one?
Frankly, I'm sort of amazed at how bitter the relationship between the administration and the press has become as a result of this non-issue. Consider, for example, this exchange at yesterday's White House press briefing:
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think that I've expressed my views, and we went through this yesterday.If you get a chance to listen to this exchange instead of just reading it, the tone of the voices conveys quite effectively just how bitter it was. In fact, it was bitter enough to get replayed on Tuesday's Nightly News, with a commentary from Brian Williams about how unusual such bitterness is. (Of course, it was NBC's David Gregory who was arguing with McClellan.)
I think an important part of what's going on here is that Dick Cheney -- and not George Bush -- is at the heart of this controversy. Last night on Hardball, the WaPo's Jim VandeHei agreed with Chris Matthews that the President himself would never be so resistant to media coverage. Then VandeHei said that
[Cheney's] never going to come out publicly and talk about this. In your clip before, you‘ve shown, he shows he has absolute disdain for the media, particularly the national media, he doesn‘t give a hill of beans what you and I think about him, so he‘s going to handle this the way he wants to handle it.In other words, this is a grudge match that has very little to do with the actual situation at hand.
My final comment is this. Some people may think that this whole episode demonstrates that the media has it in for Republicans. Not by a longshot.
Rather, it demonstrates how profoundly journalists resent being kept away from the story, regardless of what it is. The Clinton administration didn't understand this either and was punished severely. It just happens to be the Republicans' turn now because they're in the White House. (17) opinions -- Add your opinion
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
# Posted 11:11 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Yet I will reserve my judgment in part, because all of the pieces of this puzzle have not emerged just yet. According to a report by the NYT's Steven Erlanger,
The United States and Israel are discussing ways to destabilize the Palestinian government so that newly elected Hamas officials will fail and elections will be called again, according to Israeli officials and Western diplomats.As usual, a reliance on anonymous sources complicates thing tremendously. Both Erlanger's report and the editorial that accompanies it seems to take these anonymous sources at face value. But what is their agenda?
I see three basic possibilities. First is the possibility that Erlanger's sources are whistleblowers. They are opposed to this very foolish idea and are using the media to ensure that the idea gets shot down.
The second possibility is that his sources are floating a trial balloon. They sense the strength of international opposition to Hamas and want to see how far it can be pushed.
The third possibility is that the sources are disaffected hardliners frustrated with the reluctance of the US and Israeli government to punish Hamas more aggressively.
I guess all there is to do now is wait and see. Anything less than a denial from the White House would seem to validate Erlanger's story. But even a full denial may be more or less persuasive.
What I want is a statement from the President himself that America punishes no one for the outcome of free and fair elections. And that such punishment would subvert the strategy of democracy promotion on which this administration's entire foreign policy rests. (18) opinions -- Add your opinion
Monday, February 13, 2006
# Posted 10:27 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 9:13 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Now here's how it all started. In the Feb. 8 edition of the New York "Behind a Firewall" Times, gender pundit Judith Warner wrote in her tribute to Betty Friedan that recently she
...went through a pile of boxes and dug up my old copy of Ms. Friedan's book. This time, as it had for many of the homemakers who read it when it was published in 1963, "The Feminine Mystique" felt horribly familiar. Looking back convinced me that we needed to start working toward a different future...Sensing an imminent rant against the "patriarchy", John Podhoretz ungraciously summed up Warner's argument as follows:
Judith Warner sez: I am a robot housewife drudge just like Betty Friedan's suburban housewife of 1963 -- even though I write books that get on the cover of Newsweek and get a blog on the New York Times website and publish op-eds on the Times editorial page like this one today!Like a sensitive knight in shining armor, Matt Yglesias then rode to the rescue with a denunciation of J.Pod's condescension and miscomprehension. Yet surprisingly, Sir Matthew was lanced from behind by some of his own readers.
Then, in a charming reversal of gender roles, Belle Waring rode to Matt's rescue by fisking the commentary thread attached to Matt's post. Always gracious, Matt blew a kiss in Belle's direction as his way of saying 'thank you'.
With an eye toward restoring domestic tranquility in blogland, I hope to show that each side in this joust represents one side in a classical debate about political theory, a debate that often divides liberals from conservatives.
The broader issue at stake is the degree to which individuals are responsible for their own behavior. The specific manifestation of this timeless dilemma is the degree to which women, as opposed to entrenched social norms, are responsible for the disproportionate share of housework they must shoulder even in this progressive day and age.
Although housework itself is somewhat trivial, the burden of such labor may have a profound impact on a woman's prospects for professional success. Thus, I think that this issue is well worth engaging.
In his initial response to J.Pod, Sir Matthew writes that
A deeply entrenched set of social expectations winds up assigning a disproportionate share of the housework to mothers. Specifically because this set of social expectations is deeply entrenched, most women find conforming to those expectations to be the rational thing to do given the options available which serves to further entrench them and to give the unequal outcomes a veneer of having been freely chosen.From where I stand, this dismissal of choice as a veneer -- even in the absence of any form of overt coercion -- is the critical turn in Matt's argument. As we all know, social expectation, no matter how entrenched, cannot literally assign a disproportionate share of the housework to anyone. Rather, it must invisibly and subconsciously infiltrate the negotations responsible for the division of housework in any given household.
The challenge for Matt and Belle is to demonstrate that this invisible force can be held responsible for the social outcomes they condemn. Hence Matt's argument that it is rational for women to conform to entrenched social expectations.
I find this statement somewhat curious. How can it be rational to do something so inimical to one's own interests? In the short term, conformism may have the potential to preserve domestic tranquility. Yet surely the smart and savvy women of today understand that there is a long-term price to pay for such short-term gains?
Some years ago, while reading some extraordinarily esoteric essays about the influence of culture on politics, I came to the provisional conclusion that culture has its greatest impact on politics when the inhabitants of that culture are unaware of its influence. Thus, what made male domination viable for so long, to a considerable extent, was a set of expectations that made it impossible to think that society could be organized any other way.
Of course, this is a much harder argument to sustain nowadays, when every educated woman in America is aware of her potential for equality. At the same time, it is hard to deny that the habit of so many women of accepting the lead role at home and/or sacrificing their careers for the benefit of their husband's reduces the social cost for each additional woman who considers doing so.
Consider the following thought experiment: What would prevent a man with an Ivy League degree from deciding to take five or ten years off to raise the kids? As the holder of such a degree, let me take a stab at that quesiton.
I could never give up five or ten years of my working life. I believe in the importance of family, but I would feel unacceptably reduced as a person if I had to break away from my career just as I am about to enter my prime. It would be an assault on my self-image, my self-esteem and even my masculinity. I would be ashamed.
Yet it would not be an assault on a woman's femininity. Only the most overzealous feminist would impose the punishment of shame on a woman who decided to take time out from her career to devote to her children.
Now imagine a professional couple, both with impressive degrees, who believe it is necessary for one parent to stay home with the children, at least for a few years. In theory, each parent has a fully equal say in this decision. From a conservative/libertarian perspective, the playing field here is balanced. Yet as Matt counters,
Liberals are not normally in the habit of saying that the fact that some state of affairs is in some sense attributable to individual choices puts either the state of affairs or the choices that led to it beyond criticism.In other words, if the outcome is unjust, it is impossible to conclude that the process is just.
This argument seems to leave us at a crossroads. If conservatives assign moral significance to process whereas liberals assign such status to outcomes, how it is possible to adjudicate between the two?
I'm not sure that it is. Of course, there is one way out of this dilemma that Judith Warner notes in passing in her op-ed: pay for a nanny and a babysitter. This really is an ideal sort of free-market solution to the problem at hand, although not terribly plausible except for the upper-middle class.
So then what? Perhaps one might propose a compromise. Men should recognize the tough decisions women must confront and help them work out better solutions. Women (and Matt) should recognize that they have a responsibility to overcome history rather than blaming it.
Is it realistic to hope for such compromise? I believe that the answer is yes. With Iran and North Korea, the odds aren't good. But on the homefront, where we all want the best, I don't think it's wrong to have some faith this Valentine's Day in the power of love. (10) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 6:59 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 6:32 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
On NBC, there was a roundtable Tom Daschle, Jane Harman, Pat Roberts and Peter Hoekstra. On CBS, Face the Nation had Condi and Howard Dean. On ABC, Condi again, Joe Biden and Lynn Swann. Here goes:
Tom Daschle & Jane Harman: B and A-. Daschle was pretty ho-hum. Harman struck me as much more candid than most talk show pols, especially on the politically sensitive issue of how well she was briefed about the wiretapping program in 2003 and 2004. Harman was also firm in her insistence that the program is a valuable one and should continue.And now for the hosts:
Tim Russert: B+. It's not easy to keep four legislators under control. But no particularly good shots.See you next week. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 6:25 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 6:21 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 6:15 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 1:09 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 1:02 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 12:39 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Once again, the civilized world has forgotten its sacred commitment: Never again. (4) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:20 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Sunday, February 12, 2006
# Posted 9:28 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 8:37 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Anyhow, the real reason for this post is to review two pro-wrestling DVD packages that I've recently had the pleasure to watch. First up is the three-disc compilation of Ric Flair's greatest matches known, appropriately enough, as The Ultimate Ric Flair Collection.
'Ultimate' is bascially a compilation of Flair's best-known matches, each preceded by a few minutes of commentary from the Nature Boy himself, now in his mid-50s. Two of the matches -- both against Ricky 'The Dragon' Steamboat -- were instant classics that are simply among the best matches of all time. Even today, more than 15 years later, they seem fresh and innovative.
A lot of the other material is disappointing. The low-point is the hour-long battle royal in which Flair first won the WWF title. Like most battle royals, it is an over-hyped brawl. The match with Terry Funk is also underwhelming.
The commentary from Flair is quite informative, but has two major drawbacks. First, the WWF/WWE continues to insist that its DVD retrospectives maintain the illusion that wrestling is real. Although this illusion plays a critical role in the weekly drama of pro-wrestling, it serves no purpose when looking at history.
In other words, Flair is never allowed to explain either the theatrical or economic rationale for his decisions inside the ring and out. For example, why and when did Flair decide to invent the egomaniacal, materialistic persona responsible for so much of his success?
Did Flair have to prove his pull at the box office to ensure that he would win the belt back time and again, or did management simply trust him?
Instead of finding out, we are simply treated to a strange narrative in which Flair pretends that he didn't cheoreograph his matches or even know the outcome in advance. Yet at the same time, Flair talks about his opponents as good friends as describes many of them as a pleasure to "work with". This half-illusion serves no purpose.
The second problem with the commentary is that it is all from Flair himself. Impressively humble, Flair doesn't explain what made him one of the greatest performer of all time. Instead, we should've heard from all of the other legends against whom Flair fought. However, it seems pretty clear that the WWE simply wanted to sell copies of a compilation rather than investing the effort necessary to produce a real tribute to the Nature Boy.
In contrast, The Rise and Fall of ECW does a fantastic job of telling a story about the wrestling business and what makes it so exciting. The first disc in the set contains a two and a half hour documentary about Paul Heyman and the ECW. The second disc contains six or seven well-known ECW matches.
The documentary is quite impressive because it is a story woven together from interviews with dozens of wrestlers and executives involved with Extreme Championship Wrestling. Although strongly inclined to sugar coat its own past, this time the WWE lets Paul Heyman, Vince MacMahon, Eric Bischoff and others describe their business rivalry quite frankly. The documentary also lets numerous wrestlers give their unvarnished opinions about their bosses and their bosses' egos. After you've watched it, you'll know what made ECW revolutionary.
Even so, the docuementary is still held-back by the usual insistence on maintaining the illusion of wrestling as real. This is especially unfortunate given how ECW changed the business by making it far bloodier. Thus, we never hear from the wrestlers why they decided to let themselves be cut open and/or regularly hit with chairs, tables and street signs. Was it about business? Was it a creative decision? Or just an attitude problem?
Now we come to the matches on disk two, which are a mixed bag. Rob Van Dam vs. Jerry Lynn may be the greatest match of all time, but therefore it is available on lots of other discs as well. The finale of the Raven vs. Dreamer feud is vintage ECW. Taz vs. Bam Bam is worth watching, but Taz fought many more interesting matches.
I guess the real moral of the story here is that with Netflix you can't lose. You watch the good stuff and ignore the rest. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:38 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
According to skeptical authors such as Fareed Zakaria and Jack Snyder & Ed Mansfield, successful efforts at democratization almost always depend on the presence of strong institutions that uphold law and order even in the face of violent passions. In the presence of such institutions, elections promote freedom. In their absence, they promote chaos.
Now, there have been occasional nods in this direction. Dan Drezner writes that
There's a difference between a democracy and a liberal democracy, and it's clear that the Muslims exercised by this cartoon do not distinguish between the two at all.Over at the Huffington Post, Gabriel Rotello writes that
It's been a banner week for Samuel Huntington. His thesis about an inevitable "clash of civilizations" between Islam and the West was an idea many progressives loved to hate, me included. But the so-called 'cartoon crisis' is forcing a lot of people to give his dire warnings a second look.I would agree that the idea of free speech is most surely under-appreciated and under-understood in the Arab world. From that premise, it isn't hard to build a plausible argument that an electoral system would quickly degenerate into chaos and violence.
But then we return to the present situation, in which crumbling and brutal dictatorships aren't doing much better at preventing violence and chaos in the Arab world. If anything, such dictatorships desperate efforts to shore up their own legitimacy with the most vile anti-Semitic and anti-American propaganda are responsible for so much of the intolerance that resulted in the anti-cartoon jihad.
In other words, neither democracy nor dictatorship may be equipped to address the crisis at hand.
According to Snyder & Mansfield, the wisest course of action in the midst of such a terrible situation is to slowly promote the sort of stable institutions capable of supporting a true democratic order. Although Snyder & Mansfield often talk about puncturing the naive idealism of the democracy promoters who believe that elections are the handmaiden of stability and peace, their alternative strikes me as even less realistic and even more dreamlike.
At the moment, admirable efforts are underway in numerous fledging democracies to train honest judges, honest cops and honest bureaucrats -- the human infrastructure on which stable institutions depend. Those efforts often produce minimal results.
Now imagine how much harder it would be to promote stronger institutions in dictatorships such as Egypt, Pakistan or Saudi Arabia. Strong institutions serve as a check on the absolute power of the executive, so what dictators would make a serious commitment to building them?
Unfortunate as it is, the best hope of building strong institutions is to put in place an electoral system that forces all sides to reckon with the inevitability of being out of power at some point in time. Confronted with their own vulnerability, political actors will have an incentive to create institutions that uphold the rule of law and individual rights.
To be sure, this makes it sound far easier than it really would be to travel the distance from just elections to real democracy. And travelling that distance in the midst of those passions responsible for the cartoon jihad will be very, very ugly.
Events in Iraq and in the Palestinian territories may let us know just how hard and how ugly that journey will be. Will a Hamas in government be more moderate than Hamas in opposition? Will it collect the garbage and the taxes in a way that Fatah couldn't?
Will Sunni participation in Iraq's elections lead to a real compromise with the Shi'ites and Kurds? Or is participation just another means of advancing the armed struggle?
At the moment, I think there are enough shreds of hope to justify full support for electoral systems, rather than a reversion to either supporting dictatorships or insisting that elections achieve nothing in the absence of already-stable institutions. (4) opinions -- Add your opinion
Saturday, February 11, 2006
# Posted 10:35 AM by Patrick Belton
I passed on the way here your campaign poster, but now you are a lawmaker, not a candidate. Is it difficult to make the transition?
A lot of work the past days. In coming days, there is more work too. You know now, we are negotiating among us to set up a government. This subject takes our time.
We have seen outrage on the streets of Gaza and Nablus over the cartoons published in Denmark, and elsewhere in Europe. What is Hamas's position on these cartoons of the Prophet?
We Muslims, we don't make a bad picture of any religion, or any prophet, because in our religion we have to believe in all the prophets. We believe in Ibrahim, Issa [Jesus], Mohammed. Within our religion, if a person says a bad thing about any prophet, whether the prophet is Ibrahim or Issa or Mohammed, then he is no Muslim. So, we like others to respect our Prophet; we don't force anyone to believe in our religion, but at least he has to respect our religion like we respect his. So when this person makes this cartoon, he bothers Muslims all over the world.
You know, this is not the first time. George Bush, when he made war against Afghanistan, Iraq, he said it was a Crusade. Afterward, Mr Berlusconi says there is a war between two civilisations, between a western civilisation that is best and an Islamic one that is bad. After, a general in the Pentagon made some bad comment about Muslims. First, the Pentagon said it was a war against terrorism and not Islam. Now, Muslims around the world begin to see the real picture, they see it is a war against Muslims. We hope to begin things in a different way, we believe in dialogue between civilisations. We don't want to go on to religious war, it is not good for us, not good for them. We hope the U.S., the countries that make these cartoons, they will stop these actions against the Muslims. They say it is democracy, therefore they can do these things in the newspaper. But democracy does not mean freedom to make bad things about one-fifth of the world. We see when the man in France said the Germans didn't kill six million people, they killed some count less than six million, the courts judged him, they made him pay a fine, it was a big fine; so we want democracy to deal in same way with us. If you say you are a democracy, we say you are wrong, you wouldn't bother the faith of another people. We do not bother people of different faiths in the Middle East.
We don't accept what happened to the embassies, in Lebanon, in Syria. I think this is not the right way to make your opinion about these cartoons. So we do not accept bothering any guest here in the Arab world, if he is Danish or some other country.
After the attack by crowds upon the EU office in Gaza, will it be difficult for the Palestinian Authority to have relations with the EU?
Europe has to understand this reaction from Arab world. It is not easy to accept these cartoons. We don't want relations between us and European Union to go the bad way, you know. At the same time, we will not accept any bad thing about our religion, our Prophet.
Yet these crowds were not Hamas, these crowds were Al Aqsa. Is Al Aqsa attempting to outmanoeuvre Hamas, to show they will better defend religion, and seize a ground of purer resistance?
Al Aqsa, they are Muslims too. They are Muslims, they cannot accept what happened to our Prophet. Maybe some of the resistance in this way, we don't agree with these actions, but we think it is the right of any Muslims to protest.
Many have said Hamas has kept quiet during these protests. Has it?
Who said that? In Hamas, we had a rally last Friday. But you know, it is not our way to burn the building, or to kidnap the foreigner. We just walk on the street, we carry the signs, we think that is the right way to make your opinion known.
What are your relations like with Al Aqsa?
With Fateh, then.
You know the night of the elections, some of them, they came here to say congratulations to us. We are discussing now to Mr Mahmoud Abbas, the president. We keep in touch, we ask them to share with us the rising government. Until now, they don't give us an answer about this matter. Maybe some leaders believe, they say they will not - but there has been no answer from Fateh until now.
These discussions are taking place in Cairo. The truce last year between Palestinian factions, the truce which led to these elections, was also negotiated in Cairo, with help from intelligence director Omar Suleiman. What is Egypt's role now?
Egypt used always to give help to Palestinian people. Now they work to make Hamas and Fateh keep close. They will talk to Fateh to share with Hamas the rising govrenment. They promise to recognise the new govrenment, and do what Egypt can do to help the new government.
But Egypt has not dealt fairly with its own Muslim Brotherhood, where Hamas originates. Does this complicate your dealings with Egypt?
Our relationship with Arab countries is not to put our hand inside their politics. We are an Islamic movement, but we are a local movement. We cannot deal with domestic politics of any other countries, we cannot take the side of the parties against the government, or government against the parties. We try to stick to the middle way.
What about relations with the EU? Are they worse after the incident in Gaza, and does this make it difficult to talk about aid?
You know, the E.U. is not talking with one tongue. There is some difference between countries. Some European countries meet our leaders, they say to us different things than what the Europeans say to the media. So we hope Europeans think a thousand times before cutting aid to us. We are a people who stay under occupation for sixty years. The British government is responsible for part of our tragedy before then, they helped Jewish people come here from other countries, gave them arms, helped them to deport six million people out of Palestine. This is a crime from the British against our people. Now they are going to make a new crime, they make our people starve. We made a resistance when Britain occupied our land, we made it when Israel occupied our land, we will not recognise occupation. We ask Britain and European Union to help us, stand with our people one time, do the right thing this one time, we are the last people who stay under occupation until now. If they want to be fair with us, the European Union and United States, they have to ask the occupying state to give us our rights, use their aid to Israel to give us our rights, they have to not leave us hungry when we are killed every day with weapons the Americans give to the Israelis, while we are the people whose houses they destroy. Yesterday, they demolished ten houses in a village near Ramallah. We wonder why the world is willing to cut aid to Palestine, while giving aid to the occupying Israelis. This is why we say it is right when people say the U.S. is enemy of the Arab world. The European Union have not to follow the U.S. example. The E.U. are different, they think different about us because they were here. They have a different view of the Islamic people.
If Europe cuts off its aid, will the Palestinian Authority turn to Iran?
Iran is an Islamic government. We recognise Iran like any other Muslim government, they are our brother. The Islamic world will not let us go hungry, we will not die if US and European Union cut our aid, but we will have the Arabic and Islamic world to turn to. I think this is the last action the US, European Union makes against us. After that, I suspect Islamic world will say enough, we will not stay looking at the Palestinian people starving. Everybody has to expect a big explosion in this area. No one can expect that not to come after this. We have to ask the US, the EU to deal fairly with us. The majority of the Islamic world is against terrorism. But if this happens, many people in the Islamic world will be with people who make terrorist actions. We don't want this to happen in the Islamic world, so we ask them to think before they take our rights. So if they want this area to remain quiet, they should force Israel to give us our rights. We have support from our people and we will make them give us our rights.
If the tahdi'a [the calming of military conflict with Israel] breaks down, will you be able to work together with other militant groups? You have spoken of uniting the factions into a Palestinian army.
It is clear from the Hamas programme that the resistance will stay until the occupation is gone. So Hamas will not stand against the resistance of other resistance parties like Al Aqsa or Al Jihad or the others. If it is possible to make a unity among resistance parties, this will be favoured by Hamas. It is preferred to have the resistance parties united. But this depends on the opinion of the other parties.
In the West Bank, Marwan Barghouthi has very warm relations with Hamas, and you frequently fought together in the intifada. But in Gaza, there is a wide space between Mohammed Dahlan and your movement, and your leaders such as Mohammed Deif. Will you be able to work together with Al Aqsa in Gaza?
There are some groups, they name themselves resistance parties, but they are not. Maybe they call themselves Al Aqsa, but they are not. They try to make resistance against the real resistance parties. The real Al Aqsa, relationships between them and Hamas are very good. You know, some groups follow someone who is not Fateh, who makes power for himself. Even within the real Al Aqsa party, there are those who work against the Al Aqsa party. Sometimes they follow people who are agents of Israeli or Palestinian security.
How does Hamas establish calm in Gaza, with so many there who fight Palestinians, not the occupation?
Hamas will be the government in Gaza and in the West Bank. Hamas will work to make quiet in Palestinian society. Hamas will put the law at the base, protect the law. Everybody will be under the law. If any group does not respect the law then there is the power which is turned through the law that will be turned against those people.
But not at first, we will talk to these people, we will negotiate with them, to make them respect the law in a way that doesn't violate the law. But if they don't respect the law, then we will make them respect the law in a way that is not outside the law.
Thank you for making time amid your new duties to talk with us, Mr Mubarak.
You are very welcome. Many journalists come here, they take a sentence or a word and use it to give a meaning that is not the true meaning. I hope you will give the whole and not just a several words, so the people have a true idea about what we are saying. (5) opinions -- Add your opinion