Saturday, September 30, 2006
# Posted 9:13 PM by Taylor Owen
# Posted 8:42 AM by Patrick Belton
Friday, September 29, 2006
# Posted 6:18 PM by Patrick Porter
But some questions for Oxblog readers, based on reading the views of one defender of certain 'harsh methods', (via Andrew Sullivan):
Waterboardingis fleeting in duration with the actual discomfort lasting seldom more than a couple of minutes. And since a man can be safely deprived of oxygen for at least twice as long, there is almost no risk of long-term harm.Discomfort? Waterboarding, as I understand it, is designed to make the captive fear that they are drowning.
Genuine question: how is that not torture?
How someone who experienced it would not be left with lasting psychological harm is also beyond me.
And, how do we know that the person being interrogated is in fact guilty in the first place?
Also, there seems to be an Orwellian abuse of language here. The very process of 'relabelling' torture by playing with words and empty euphemisms is degrading. (46) opinions -- Add your opinion
Thursday, September 28, 2006
# Posted 3:34 PM by Patrick Porter
But take a step back and be proud: this is a changed countryBut the Tories weren't the only ones to change their policies as a result of failure and election defeats. Later in his speech, he observed:
In the 1980s some things done were necessary for the country. That's the truth. Saying it doesn't make you a Tory.There's a slight double standard here: the Tories' policy shifts are to be mocked as insincere and ridiculous, while Labour's policy shifts are a solemn recognition of the national interest.
If Blair gets to scorn his opponents for copying Labour policies, they might do the same.
To stop losing elections, Britain's Labour Party dismantled significant parts of its platform, such as tnationalisation and high taxation, (and a recurrent commitment to unilateral nuclear disarmament, amongst other things).
It accepted important parts of the Thatcherist legacy, such as privatisation, deregulation and an end to trade union militancy, not to mention a strong reaffirmation of the Atlantic alliance.
So its easy to mock the Tories for awkwardly accepting Labour policies which they once opposed.
But its a natural dynamic in electoral politics, and New Labour, New Britain and Blairism would have been impossible without it.
In other ways, it was a visionary speech. But the urge to 'package' things in a facile way has never entirely abandoned Blair.
# Posted 9:25 AM by Patrick Belton
I may be somewhat stuck in London, but if any of our Oxford-based readers would like to go cover his Union appearance for us, we'd be very happy to hear from you! (3) opinions -- Add your opinion
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
# Posted 10:20 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Partisanship is the lifeblood of democratic politics. There is no accountability without partisanship. Although anything bi-partisan tends to get good press in today's political culture, The Federalist Papers were right to say that setting ambition against ambition is what makes democracy work.
Of course partisanship can go too far. But at last night's panel on partisanship sponsored by Pajamas Media, there was a strong consensus that partisanship is neither a flaw to be overcome nor a necessary evil, but rather a positive good.
Going further, it's important to recognize that sometimes bipartisanship can be a very bad thing. Bipartisanship often rests on lowest-common-denominator, low-content politics.
But bipartisanship can also be a very good thing. As the Instamoderator pointed out, the signing of the Accountability and Transparency Act yesterday morning at the White House was the result of a bipartisan effort. Somehow, Tom Coburn and Barack Obama and Instapundit and TalkingPointsMemo all got themselves together in the name of a good cause. Not by looking for the lowest common denominator, but by discovering principles that cut across partisan and ideological lines.
So what has partisanship done for us lately? In fact, how do you even separate the good partisanship from the bad? That was a question the panel struggled with mightily. According to panelist Tom Bevan of RCP,
There is a difference between "smart partisanship" and a much less attractive alternative that relies on invective rather than argument and employs the widespread use of insults and obscenities.Insults and obscenities aren't too hard to filter out, but what counts as invective? I'm guessing Tom's next sentence would strike a lot of liberal readers as an example of it:
This is a problem the left continues to struggle with given that the new media revolution (to use a pretentious phrase) has taken place almost entirely in the last five years under the tenure of George W. Bush and given voice to a core of the most active liberal partisans.So bad, un-smart partisanship is a problem mainly of the left? There was a fairly strong consensus on that point among the panelists. Of course, the panel was weighted fairly heavy toward conservatives (or to be more precise, anti-liberals.)
If you weighted the panel toward the left end of the blogosphere, I think you would hear the same thing. Partisanship is good and there is a difference between good partisanship and bad. And it's conservatives who tend to be bad.
One way to resolve this dilemma is to return to the old chestnut that if everyone thinks their own partisanship is good and everyone else's is bad, then the real problem is partisanship itself. But I'm still not buying it. When you ask anti-partisans what their ideal policies are, the answer often sounds fairly partisan.
After the discussion was over, I went over to Tom and made the following suggestion. Smart partisanship is partisanship that keeps the interest of the other side. Smart partisanship is something you disagree with, but feel that you have to read because you want to know what the best argument is for the other side.
That's the ideal I keep in my head when I blog. When I write, I keep an imaginary not-me on my shoulder that has the opposite opinion about everything. My goal isn't to get him to agree with me, but to prevent him for saying "This is a waste of time."
Of course, this method hasn't prevented lots of dumb partisanship from showing up on this blog. But I do believe that this ideal has helped make OxBlog a site that attempts to engage its critics rather than one that vents its authors' spleen.
Now, smart partisanship isn't the same as effective partisanship. You rarely mobilize the faithful and win elections with smart partisanship. But after the dust has settled and it's time to govern, I think smart partisanship helps make good policy. I hope. (17) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 9:39 AM by Patrick Porter
# Posted 5:01 AM by Patrick Belton
'a slightly plump but attractive blond, with full lips and heavy makeup.'
Worth 12 years in solitary confinement - to get away from? (5) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 4:46 AM by Patrick Belton
One former fusilier claimed that 75 men from his company, some 60% of its strength, regularly took cocaine, ecstasy or marijuana. “There’s guys who have to have two or three lines of coke before they can operate,” he said.(4) opinions -- Add your opinion
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
# Posted 10:24 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Also, I got to see Tom Bevan of RCP and Kevin Aylward of Wizbang! for the first time since the GOP convention in NYC. That was cool. But you probably want to know about the substance of the discussion. However that's going to have to wait until I'm less tired. But there may be a video feed up soon on the Pajamas site, since the event was filmed.
For the moment, enjoy the following observation from Glenn [rough transcript from memory]:
Just because you're not liberal and you're not conservative doesn't mean you're moderate. I'm an extremist at both ends of the spectrum. My idea of an ideal world is one in which happily married gay couples have closets full of automatic weapons.(4) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 9:58 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Clinton: B-. Something was very wrong here. Russert seemed to be intentionally throwing the ex-Prez only softballs. For his part, Clinton tossed out a few liberal cliches but stayed away from any tough campaign-season rhetoric. This was a fix.See you next week. (6) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 4:18 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 2:37 PM by Patrick Belton
Yesterday, I went along to see Gordon Corera, a BBC security correspondent whose book Shopping for Bombs (OUP in the States and Hurst in Britain), which I'll be reviewing in other pages, treats with the A.Q. Khan network. The interesting bits of his talk were the interesting bits of his book, leading me to want to say to him, show me just what Corera brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman. But then I thought better of it.
So instead, I thought I'd focus on bits and bobs which didn't quite make their way into the book. One is just how rarely western businessmen serving as intermediaries of the proliferation process were successfully prosecuted; and how light the sentences were for the ones who were. If nuclear calculations are about deterrent, its factor here is low. They say generally they thought they were funding oil research; proving them liars is dicey.
Few nuclear states did it without some form of external aid. Israel, South Africa, even Britain relied on external help at some juncture or another. South Korea and Brazil could build a bomb tomorrow, Argentina and Japan could have developed a nuclear capacity had they so chosen. Saudi Arabia (with Libya) were suspected of funding the Pakistani nuclear programme, with Riyadh pushing for the test, offering even oil subsidies to set off cuts in American aid which would result. When western analysts became aware that Pakistan was helping Libya with its bomb, it shaved eight years off their estimates, centrifuges being the tricky, incredibly precise things that they are. (Which is also why Corera thinks the terrorist bomb would be more a matter of organisations getting fissile material from a state, whether from largesse or nicking poorly guarded material out of the former Soviet Union, than DIY.)
What about after Khan? Corera thinks North Korea may fit into Pakistan's role. It's already sold its missile technology quite broadly, and some hexafluoride material passed to Libya seems to have come from Pyongyang. From the perspective of Khan's nuclear club for men, North Korea seems to have been in the role of a partner, not just a customer. It's easy, anyway, for another actor to move into the niche Khan created; supply wasn't just increased by his network, so was demand, to include cascading proliferation effects (ie, once one country gets it, all its neighbours will want it too, just like Dualit espresso makers).
Interestingly, there's a rumour (which I don't think makes it into Corera book, but is juicy and perhaps untrue and so I'll put it on my blog...) that Khan's daughters, who hold British nationality and live in London, have gobs of incriminating documents demonstrating the extent of presidential involvement in Pakistani proliferation activities; they're meant further to have instructions to send them to the press if Khan disappears into the night, which has something tidy and strategic about that, for someone whose life both revolved around nuclear issues but who sought, as he saw it, to democratise the bomb. £5 to anyone who can get one of those girls to take them home. (4) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:55 AM by Patrick Belton
See in particular Dr McCargo's description of the coup:
The analogy for me is, you have this absolutely excruciating toothache, and you're nowhere near a dentist, and you just find some guy by the side of the road who offers to pull the tooth out with a pair of pliers. So the pain is gone. But a few days later, it occurs to you that there's a huge hole in your mouth. And you realize that if you'd actually been able to get to a dentist, you could have done some surgery on that. You wouldn't be left with this irreparable damage.(1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:13 AM by Patrick Belton
Is Darfur best conceptualised as genocide or civil war? And would UN troops stop the killing?
This blog's dear friend and director of the Foreign Policy Society's Middle East programme Laura James will be speaking on a panel on Thursday to address these questions. We'll of course synopsise the event here but as I'm less a synoptic and more a johanine, you'd best go in person.
The event will take place on Thursday at 7.30-9 pm, at the Frontline Club Forum room (13 Norfolk Place W2, 2nd floor; map from Paddington tube stop). Other panelists include Julie Flint (a journalist and filmmaker who recently coauthored Darfur: a Short History of a Long War with Alex de Waal, and has written elsewhere on Darfur for the Daily Star and Human Rights Watch), Sudan-born British journalist Nima Elbagir and the International Crisis Group's Andrew Strohlein. SOAS's Christopher Cramer will moderate.
There is more on the Frontline Club's website. I believe there's a £5 cover, but if you're an OxBlog reader and come you can have a pint on the blog after. (2) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 5:42 AM by Patrick Porter
He argues that the web is not just a site for sabotage and systems disruption, the fear that dominates governments when they think about cyber-terrorism.
The web is also used in other ways by jihadists, to co-ordinate and mobilise as a place of communication.
But this offers opportunities as well as threats:
The very resilience of terrorists' propaganda networks can be turned in Washington's favour. Since it would be nearly impossible to identify and disable every jihadist news forum on the Internet given the substantial legal and technical hurdles involved, it would make more sense to leave those Web sites online but watch them carefully. These sites may work as online recruiting stations, but they also offer Western governments unprecedented insight into terrorists' ideology and motivations.(1) opinions -- Add your opinion
Monday, September 25, 2006
# Posted 11:16 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
"I TOLD YOU SO" WATCH: The time has come for those who had faith in American war plans to mock those who didn't. All I add is a note of caution, lest those who now mock become overconfident and leave themselves open to having the tables turned.So have the tables turned? Well, if the issue is the initial invasion plan for Iraq, then no. Being right about that may not be worth much anymore, but it still is worth remembering Andrew Sullivan's list of prominent liberals who predicted the invasion itself would be a disaster.
[NB: I just discovered that link to Sullivan's list is no longer functional as a result of his website's new URL. But his April 2003 archives are here and make fascinating reading.]
The more embarrassing part of my old post is this one:
Moderation aside, I have almost no sympathy for those who predicted an indifferent or even hostile response to Coalition forces by the people of Iraq. Believing that an entire population would prefer Saddam's brutality to a foreign occupation is unjustifiable.Yes, it would seem we have an encountered a wee bit of hostility since then. But I guess I still am curious about the fact that even the Sunni regions of Iraq were so passive during the first few months of the occupation. Did we truly have a window of opportunity during which it would have been possible to head off an insurgency? Alas, it a question that will never be answered any more than whether a sound strategy could have won the war in Vietnam.
Interestingly, I discovered via Google that this is the second time a reader has written in to remind me of that specific post from April 2003. That first time, in May 2004, my self-defense was much more confident. I said that the Kurds and Shi'ites, or 80% of Iraq still saw us as liberators.
Even now, thugs like Moqtada al-Sadr order the death of countless Sunnis but sullenly accept the presence of American soldiers. Even so, Sadr's brutality may undermine what prospects remain for a stable, democratic Iraq.
So where do we go from here? I don't really know. Regardless, thanks to all those who spend their time going through the archives to keep me honest. (7) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 11:07 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 10:09 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
After a number of readers objected to this description, Mirengoff posted a defense of the phrase, which was seconded by John Hinderaker. I believe Paul and John are arguing in good faith, so I will take their position seriously. Here is what I take to be Paul's central argument:
As short-hand descriptions go, "terrorist rights" gets it just about right. For that is precisely McCain and company have been pushing for -- the right of terrorists to more judicial process than they initially were granted; the right of terrorists to avoid aggressive interrogation techniques that the administration successfully has used to obtain important information from them; the right of terrorists to find out more about the evidence that will be used against them than the administration was willing to have disclosed in certain cases, and so forth. The term "terrorist rights" is no more unfair as applied to these advocates than the term "gay rights" is for advocates of gay marriage, legalizaion of gay sexual practices, etc.I want to begin with Paul's analogy to the question of gay rights. I think it is fair to say that advocates of gay rights believe that homosexuals, at minimum, should be entitled to the exact same rights as other citizens. Not just more rights than they have now, but equal rights.
I also think it is fair to say that advocates of gay rights believe that homosexuality is the moral equivalent of heterosexuality. My point being that it is appropriate to refer to someone as an advocate of "terrorist rights" if they argue that terrorism is morally acceptable and that terrorists deserve the same rights as others.
Now let me broaden my argument a bit, since I want it to rest on more than one analogy. In general, when we speak of someone as an advocate of a certain group's rights, what do we mean?
Consider the following terms: women's rights, minority rights, workers' rights, and prisoners' rights. I think that the phrases "women's rights" and "minority rights" entail assumptions very similar to the term "gay rights". Both of them assert that the group in question are moral equivalents of a preferred group and therefore deserve equal rights.
Workers' rights is a different kind of concept. It usually refers to the belief that workers deserve a specified set of benefits and protections, not that they deserve the same rights as employers. In that sense, there is a rough analogy to what McCain et. al. want for terrorists, which is a limited set of protections. However, no advocate of workers' rights sees being a worker as something inherently evil.
What about prisoners' rights? Leaving aside the issue of rights for those who may have been wrongly convicted, prisoners' rights refers to a set of benefits and protections for those who have been incarcerated as a result of a committing a crime. In addition, there is a negative moral status attached to being a prisoner, but really that status is attached to being a criminal, not to being in prison.
Criminals are bad from the moment they commit their crime (or perhaps earlier). Their badness has nothing to do with whether or not they have already been caught and sent to prison.
Nonetheless, it is worth reflecting for a moment on the phrase "criminals' rights", because that is how the advocates of rougher justice describe the cause of those who speak out on behalf of prisoners. Just as McCain, regardless of his intentions, defends the rights of terrorists, the ACLU and others defend the rights of criminals.
But the critical point to recognize is that the ACLU etc. aren't petitioning for such rights because they believe that committing a crime entitles one to certian protections, but rather that there are limits to how a democratic government can punish those in its custody.
By extension, there is nothing wrong with describing John McCain or Lindsey Graham or John Warner or OxBlog as an advocate of detainee rights. Those detained by our government still have certain rights, even if they are terrorists. But if that same terrorist were not in US custody but in the crosshairs of a US army sniper, we damn sure would want his head blown off. That is why it is flat out wrong to call us advocates of terorrist rights. (28) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:23 PM by Patrick Belton
In other news, they sure do grow up quick these days. (2) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 9:05 AM by Patrick Belton
Two recommendations, who can now add to their warrants 'Purveyor of caffeine products to OxBloggers'. Both are lovely, lovely stores, run by lovely people whose knowledge in their craft is a remant of a delightful prelapsarian age, before Starbucks, when all was bright-crema'd espresso. Each are in London, but serve a broader catchment through post.
For teas, Postcard Teas is run by a delightful man named Timothy d'Offay, who as some measure of his dedication to his craft spent last month's summer holidays picking tea in Sri Lanka and northeast India. His list of wares is, touchingly, interspersed with photographs he took from his travels, of people working in the tea industry and their methods and environs. I had a brilliant Golden Assam off him at his store off New Bond Street with this blog's cherished friend, submitted-d.phil.-turned-food-critic Shira Schnitzer; he told me he was planning a tea tasting for London customers at some point this month, where he will describe different varietals and relevant aspects of their production to help chaiophiles find more to enjoy in their leaves. Do email him on his website if you might like to join in.
For coffee, it's difficult to do better than H.R. Higgins, who hold the royal warrant as coffee merchants, and perhaps an indication more wont to impress, supply the bean to the Italian embassy (sorry Ma'am, but we all know Windsor-Montbattens are meant to drink tea). Like Postcard Teas, if you go to their store on Duke Street, their proprietors and counter staff will set aside their work for massive amounts of time of telling you intricate details of coffee beans and their roasting. I've been very much enjoying their After-Dinner Blend; I believe HE Ambasciatore is partial to Vienna Blend.
I'm reminded in closing this post and nodding back to the Dualit of OxBlog's second-favourite Hungarian (optionally named Paul) Paul Erdös, who referred to a mathematician as a machine for converting coffee into theorems. And who also, touchingly, journeyed - with the Hungarian passport and socks which were his possessions - from mathematicians' houses to others, announcing at each 'my brain is open', collaborating with them on whatever projects came to mind, then asking to whom he should move on. After mastering Hungarian, maths apparently came a cinch. A demitasse to you, Erdös úr. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 6:38 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 12:17 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 12:07 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 12:01 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Sunday, September 24, 2006
# Posted 1:14 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 12:39 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
There is no consensus on whether the compromise does or does not permit waterboarding of detainees to continue.The same post includes messages from three former US military pilots who describe how they experienced waterboarding as part of their training.
Byron York (NRO):
The White House Won — and So Did McCainAndrew Sullivan:
Two days after the Senate compromise, it appears pretty clear that few know exactly what it prohibits, allows or changes.More from Andrew here.
The President certainly appears to have given up more than he got.Jed Babbin:
A near-total win for the White House. But the fight is a long way from endingClearly, not much consensus on the conservative side of the aisle. (2) opinions -- Add your opinion
Saturday, September 23, 2006
# Posted 10:15 PM by Patrick Belton
And for an organisation made up of ordinary British Muslims and British Jews seeking humbly to forge ties and understanding between their two communities, please see Alif Aleph. (2) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:06 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
McCain, Warner, and Graham sold out.The NYT:
The deal does next to nothing to stop the president from reinterpreting the Geneva Conventions.Kevin Drum:
At this point it looks like the three Republican "moderates" gave in completelyJuliette Kayyem of TPM:
I'm eating my words; Marty is right -- McCain is a tragic figure now.Marty is Marty Lederman of law-blog Balkinization, whose analysis is quoted approvingly by Kevin and Matt in addition to Juliette:
It only takes 30 seconds or so to see that the Senators have capitulated entirely, that the U.S. will hereafter violate the Geneva ConventionsYour opinions welcome. (16) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:34 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Adding insult to injury, Kevin doesn't just slash up the latest pronouncement from Howard Dean [subscribers only]. No, instead Kevin approvingly quoted the commentary of conservative blogger Tom Bevan (whom I also like very much):
Kevin adds to that:
Snark aside, this is sadly accurate. Dean's piece is here, and it contains only one short, fuzzy paragraph about national security at the very end. Essentially, he just ignored the whole issue. That's very, very dumb.I agree, but what's dumb and what isn't will probably be judged by what happens on election day. And even this kind of dumbness may not prevent a major Democratic in '06. But '08 is a very different story. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:15 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
In short, it's hard to credit the statement by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) yesterday that "there's no doubt that the integrity and letter and spirit of the Geneva Conventions have been preserved." In effect, the agreement means that U.S. violations of international human rights law can continue as long as Mr. Bush is president, with Congress's tacit assent.I still have plenty of reading to do on the subject, but so far the deal sounds more like a truce than a cave-in. The law won't authorize abusive interrogation tactics, but Bush can do so on his own authority. Right now, no one is being subjected to such tactics. If Bush tries to subect any prisoners to such tactics, Congress has the right to reconsider.
Sounds to me like the issue has just been postponed. Although, on the bright side, Rep. Pelosi apparently thinks the Senate bested the White House:
JIM LEHRER: Just based on just the rough knowledge that we all have of this, it looks to you, at least, as if the president and the White House blinked on this?Situation developing... (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 6:51 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Rep. Pelosi sat down for an interview with Jim Lehrer on PBS Thursday night. Here is an exchange from their discussion of the upcoming election:
JIM LEHRER: [Republicans] say, "Do you really want to turn the House of Representatives over to a liberal Democrat from San Francisco?" How do you respond to that sort of thing?If I were from San Francisco, I might've been angry at Pelosi for not saying something like "San Francisco is a proud American city that is home to 750,000 patriotic citizens." Hey, that might even help persaude people that liberals are patriotric.
Also, certain feminists might be appalled that Pelosi tried to establish her professional legitimacy by advertising her ability to reproduce. Aren't a woman's ideas supposed to be what determines her credibility as a politician?
But most importantly of all, Pelosi wouldn't say she was a liberal. And this was no accident, since Lehrer followed up by asking the same question again in a different format:
JIM LEHRER: But just in shorthand terms, it is correct to say, is it not, that if the Democrats do take control of House, whether you're speaker or not, it's going to be a more liberal House of Representatives than there is now, correct?Now, one could argue that this is good strategy. Polls consistently show that there aren't enough self-identified liberals to put the Democrats over the top.
But if the Kos-Dean-Lamont message is that Democrats must get tough, can they do so while rejecting a label in public that almost all of them would in private? Can you be assertive if you don't have a clear identity? Or is putting on a different face for the cameras just part of being tough?
In a midterm election, I think that not being the incumbent may well be enough. As Newt Gingrich suggested a while back, the Democrats' slogan should just be "Had enough?"
But when the White House is on the line and there is only one candidate instead of hundreds, it is hard to persuade the electorate of your integrity if you don't know who you are. (19) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:34 PM by Patrick Belton
The more the sheriffs' renders were made in cash [in 1129-30 with the monetarisation of annual renders made by sheriffs to the treasury, heretofore, pre-Conquest, paid in kind], the greater the need for an easily followed but quick method of making calculations in pounds, shillings and pence. Thus the chequered table cloth (from which the word exchequer is derived) served as a simplified abacus on which the king's calculator did sums by moving counters from square to square like a croupier. The earliest reference to the exchequer dates from 1100.The implication for Mr Brown and New Labour is clear. (Actually, it isn't, but it's a neat fact nonetheless.) (3) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:31 AM by Taylor Owen
CLINTON: OK, let’s talk about it. I will answer all of those things on the merits but I want to talk about the context of which this…arises. I’m being asked this on the FOX network…ABC just had a right wing conservative on the Path to 9/11 falsely claim that it was based on the 911 commission report with three things asserted against me that are directly contradicted by the 9/11 commission report. I think it’s very interesting that all the conservative Republicans who now say that I didn’t do enough, claimed that I was obsessed with Bin Laden. All of President Bush’s neocons claimed that I was too obsessed with finding Bin Laden when they didn’t have a single meeting about Bin Laden for the nine months after I left office. All the right wingers who now say that I didn’t do enough said that I did too much. Same people.This is interesting though:
CLINTON: I authorized the CIA to get groups together to try to kill him. The CIA was run by George Tenet who President Bush gave the medal of freedom to and said he did a good job.. The country never had a comprehensive anti terror operation until I came to office. If you can criticize me for one thing, you can criticize me for this, after the Cole I had battle plans drawn to go into Afghanistan, overthrow the Taliban, and launch a full scale attack search for Bin Laden. But we needed baseing rights in Uzbekistan which we got after 9/11. The CIA and the FBI refused to certify that Bin Laden was responsible while I was there. They refused to certify. So that meant I would have had to send a few hundred special forces in helicopters and refuel at night. Even the 9/11 Commission didn’t do that. Now the 9/11 Commission was a political document too. All I’m asking is if anybody wants to say I didn’t do enough, you read Richard Clarke’s book.Then it's back on the attack:
Ok, one more:
CLINTON: What did I do? I worked hard to try and kill him. I authorized a finding for the CIA to kill him. We contracted with people to kill him. I got closer to killing him than anybody has gotten since. And if I were still president we’d have more than 20,000 troops there trying to kill him. Now I never criticized President Bush and I don’t think this is useful. But you know we do have a government that think Afghanistan is 1/7 as important as Iraq. And you ask me about terror and Al Qaeda with that sort of dismissive theme when all you have to do is read Richard Clarke’s book to look at what we did in a comprehensive systematic way to try to protect the country against terror. And you’ve got that little smirk on your face. It looks like you’re so clever…Check out the whole thing, if you're into Clinton porn, it's really quite something. (11) opinions -- Add your opinion
Friday, September 22, 2006
# Posted 10:52 AM by Patrick Belton
Of all the brain problems this could possibly indicate, I hope it's the hypergraphia someone attributed to Kierkegaard in relation to the girth of his corpus (compare Stalin's micrographia, or my own undoubted hypographia). That would be useful roundabout now. c.f., Donal Henehan in the NYT:
A physician in Boston, for instance, has proposed that Van Gogh's prolific output of paintings as well as his aggressiveness and other strange habits resulted from a disturbance of the brain. That in itself is hardly news. Undisturbed people do not usually cut off their own ears, for one thing. In the past, doctors have speculated that Van Gogh's problem was schizophrenia, digitalis poisoning or terminal color blindness. However, Dr. Shahram Khoshbin of Harvard Medical School contends that the painter suffered from personality disorder as a result of (I hope I have this right) temporal lobe epilepsy. The ailment apparently triggered something known in psychiatric circles as hypographia, which is defined as a tendency to produce voluminous and compulsive writing, music composition and painting. So said the article in my favorite supermarket tabloid.Just think of all the beastly stuff we'd need to listen to if it weren't for Freud; and all the literary criticism we now wouldn't have. Isn't that a feeling of relief tingling its way down your spign? (3) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 9:52 AM by Patrick Porter
Of course, they can think what they want, the NATO strategy in Afgahistan has made some serious errors, and my reaction will hardly worry the union much.
But I can't quite agree to pay any money out of my vast academic salary to support the military abandonment of a country that would lead to the return of the Taleban, a movement that historically smashed Buddhist statues and smashed up the national museum, that banned women from schools and jobs and subjected them to draconian laws, executed homosexuals, and so terrorised the country that millions fled. Not to mention providing sanctuary to Al Qaeda.
It seems to follow a familiar pattern: opposition to what they see as American Imperialism, and allegiance with any regime at all which resists it, has led some progressives into very dark places.
PS: Needless to say, conservatives or rightists have made comparable errors in the past. But this is an instance of people who think of themselves as progressives supporting profoundly reactionary causes, it seems. (8) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 9:05 AM by Patrick Belton
Second, I'd like to see where this goes. 18 Doughty Street, billing itself as Britain's first political internet TV channel, is giving 100 camcorders away to citizen journalist reporters to
And OxBlog's drinking buddy BritPundit is picking on BoJo again. Meanie. :) He also weighs in on our Clinton-Remnick debate here on OxBlog, saying 'A vast chunk of the article deals with Clinton's post-Presidential role fighting the spead of AIDS (it's actually more critical than you'd think), and this gets no mention at all.' Clearly preparing the ground for a postdoctoral guest bloggership on OxBlog, I'd say. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
Thursday, September 21, 2006
# Posted 11:43 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 11:41 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 10:48 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Western politicians, writers, thinkers and speakers should stop apologizing -- and start uniting...Not exactly joining that chorus is Kevin Drum, who writes that:
I finally got around to reading Pope Benedict's recent remarks on reason and faith, and I was appalled. The reference to Islam near the beginning of the speech was entirely gratuitous and disingenuous, as were Benedict's subsequent crocodile tears over the idea that anyone could have taken offense at his remarks. For the record, here's the nickel version of what he said:Hmmm. I have a lot confidence in and respect for Kevin. The same applies to Anne Applebaum. Yet she argues that the only reason for the current outrage in the Muslim world is because:Mohammed was a violent man. Violence is unreasonable. God loves reason. Draw your own conclusions.
Benedict XVI, speaking at the University of Regensburg, quoted a Byzantine emperor who, more than 600 years ago, called Islam a faith "spread by the sword."And so the mystery deepens. Surely, I thought, public television would help me figure out what's going on. So I listened to a segment from PBS Newshour entitled "Pope's Comments on Islam Incite Outrage and Protest."
Well, you can sort of tell from the title what their spin on the matter is, but there was a very good discussion with Benedict biographer George Weigel and Islamic scholar Nihad Awad. Here is how Weigel summarized the Pope's message:
In a religious dialogue, genuine dialogue between people of different religious convictions must be based on reason. It can't be based on passion.Finally, according to Awad, the Pope
said that Muhammad commanded his followers to spread the faith by the sword. This [has] never happened.As Awad explained, Muslims were offended by this historical inaccuracy.
So, then, what did the Pope say? First, of all, I should warn you that 90% of what the Pope said concerns esoteric debates within the Christian tradition about the relationship between reason and faith. I found them very, very interesting, but won't pretend that I really understand them.
From a narrower political perspective, the "key graf" of the Pope's lecture is this one:
In the seventh conversation [between the Byzantine emperor and his Persian interlocutor] the emperor touches on the theme of the holy war. The emperor must have known that surah 2, 256 reads: "There is no compulsion in religion". According to the experts, this is one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threat. But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Qur'an, concerning holy war.I think it's fair to say that the Pope's words were not politically correct. Then again, I'm no fan of political correctness.
As I read the Pope's lecture, I expected him to include an explicit refutation of the Byzantine emperor's characterization of Mohammed's teachings as "evil and inhuman", lest anyone misunderstand the meaning of his lecture. Yet Benedict did observe that the emperor expressed him "forcefully" and with "startling brusqueness". Clearly, the Pope wanted his audience to know that he appreciated the controversial nature of the emperor's words. Yet he did not explicitly refute them.
What are we to make of this? I like George Weigel's suggestion that the Pope's words were a challenge. Let Muslim scholars and clergymen demonstrate that they are willing to conduct an interfaith dialogue based on reason. With rare exceptions, it is not the clergymen of Europe or the United States who call for violence in the name of religion. Thus the burden lies on the students of Islam to demonstrate that they will take responsibility for eradicating the extremists in their midst.
This is not necessarily a friendly message. This is not how one conducts a touchy-feely interfaith dialogue. But it is also far from being the crude anti-Islamic propaganda I expected after reading Kevin's post. I also disagree with Kevin's characterization of the pope's apology as "crocodile tears".
In fact, I wouldn't even describe it as an apology. Rather, the Pope states for the record, once again, that he has tremendous respect for Islam and does not share the view of the emperor he quoted. But he does not retract his challenge.
Some might say this challenge isn't wise. Enraged Muslims are not ready for a spirited debate in which Christians fail to show exquisite deference to their sensitivities. But if bombing churches and burning the Pope in effigy is the most visible response of the Muslim world, I'm not sure that sensitivity and political correctness will do much good. Perhaps, as Anne Appelbaum suggests, a united front in defense of free speech is what the situation deserves. (11) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 1:07 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 11:45 AM by Patrick Belton
(1) opinions -- Add your opinion
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
# Posted 11:00 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
This is an especially relevant point with regard to Bush. In 1992, liberals saw him as the embodiment of everything they'd fought against for the past twelve years. Nor had they forgotten his vicious campaign in 1988 against Michael Dukaksis.
At the same time, conservatives profoundly resented Bush for being a weak president defeated by an upstart Arkansan. Yet after eight years of Arkansan government, conservatives had begun to remember the Bush years as a golden age. Many said they wished he was running against Gore instead of his son.
And now, after six years of his son, liberals constantly praise the judiciousness and moderation of Bush pere. Memory, you see, is a very tricky thing.
Or perhaps in Canada they do it better? (22) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:41 PM by Taylor Owen
# Posted 10:37 PM by Taylor Owen
To put 2,756,941 tons into perspective, the Allies dropped just over 2 million tons of bombs during all of World War II. Cambodia may be the most heavily bombed country in history.
UPDATE: The article is available here, if you give an email address. I'll link a pdf in a couple of weeks. (12) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:36 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Rwanda was the worst foreign-policy mistake of his administration.Malkin responds: "How big of him."
The art of the apology is certainly something that Clinton has mastered. He could give lessons to the likes of Trent Lott, George Allen and the current president. But why is it that Clinton seems so good at apologizing but so bad at avoiding things he must apologize for?
Were I a liberal partisan, I would defend Clinton from Malkin by suggesting (correctly, I think) that conservatives demonstrated even less concern about Rwanda than liberals. How ironic for them to criticize him now. As numerous Rwandans apparently told Clinton, it mattered to them that he apologized because he was the only one who did.
But what interests me more than the point scoring is what Clinton thinks he should have done. An air campaign like Kosovo? If that didn't work, send in the Marines? Or would a UN resolution be necessary?
Unfortunately, either Clinton didn't pursue that line of reasoning or Remnick didn't report it. By the same token, there is nothing in the article about Darfur, which is quite surprising given that Remnick accompanied Clinton on a tour of a half-dozen nations in Africa.
The purpose of the tour was to promote Clinton's campaign against AIDS. It's hard to imagine that Clinton said nothing about Africans being slaughtered in Darfur while trying to save Africans elsewhere.
I'm especially interested because I want to know if Clinton now has a clear set of ideas about how to conduct American foreign relations. His party is desperate for a coherent doctrine and would benefit from any lessons the president has to share. (9) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:28 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Almost as crazy as a b****** from an intern. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:03 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
I described the article to my girlfriend as "Clinton porn", self-consciously enjoying the irony of the phrase. Why, I asked, does the world need yet another long profile of the president it has known more intimately than any other? The issue, however, isn't need, but want.
As the war in Iraq grinds on and our current president remains as folksily ineloquent as ever, those who subscribe to the New Yorker yearn for the good old days when there was a worldly intellectual orator in the White House. (Personally, I don't mind Bush's style so much precisely because it infuriates brainy liberals. If it didn't, I'd prefer a change.)
Reading twenty-four pages about Clinton, filled with the president's perorations about every subject from soccer to monkeys, delivers a powerful fantasy regarding what one desperately wants but can never have.
But if I don't have that fantasy, why was I reading the article? Well, I'm curious about Clinton. I was a conscious young adult while he was president, but I feel I know nothing about him. I have clear memories of all the major events of the Clinton presidency, but I never paid close enough attention to any them to have much confidence in what I know.
Sure, I read the papers. But now I know how easy it is to come away with the wrong ideas as a casual consumer of political information.
That said, consider the next few posts, all about Remnick's profile, to be a set of open questions I have about what Clinton meant for the Democrats and for America. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 6:13 PM by Patrick Porter
In May this year, Bin Laden named China as another front in his global struggle.
In June, authorities thwarted a group 'inspired by Al Qaeda' plotted to carry out an attack in Canada.
In September, there was a failed attempt to blow up two German trains, by two men who were radicalised within Germany via Al Qaeda propaganda on the web.
France, China, Canada, Germany. What does this say about who they choose to direct their hostilities towards?
Is the new importance of the web to their operations actually changing their conception of who is their enemy?
If the web has replaced the training camp as the new training ground and the new place of rhetorical incitement, are they more tempted now to see decadence, corruption and persecution all around them?
Instead of seeing the enemy as a series of countries, is their foe now defined in the virtual sphere as something that can be as easily attacked on a train in Germany, a shopping mall in Canada or a bus in France?
If Prussia was an army in search of a state, are Islamists now loosely related armies everywhere in search of enemies anywhere?
Or will Sweden always be safe? (3) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:48 AM by Taylor Owen
Monday, September 18, 2006
# Posted 10:13 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 9:20 PM by Patrick Belton
(5) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:11 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Allen: B-. Knows his talking points. Still insists "macaca" was something he made up on the spot.Finally, much praise goes to George Stephanopoulos, who was at least as tough on John McCain as he was on Steve Hadley. When a Republican goes against his party and takes a position approved by the media, he can usually expect softballs.
As a McCain supporter, I don't want my man getting complacement. The media will get a lot rougher during campaign season. (8) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 2:20 PM by Patrick Porter
Or did it? A new book by David Potts argues that, actually, poverty wasn't the universal experience of the Depression. Unemployment peaked at 25%. Wages kept their value.
And even those who suffered materially from the Depression survived, and even found a purpose in the crisis that made life bracing and meaningful.
I haven't read the book yet. Its price might make me poor. So there's a risk that I am misrepresenting his views.
But I find something viscerally distasteful in the suggestion that we should celebrate historical poverty itself as ennobling, or destitution as somehow redemptive.
One important distinction: we can and should celebrate people's heroic efforts to battle against it. From the very first moment of British settlement, when the newcomers couldn't farm alien terrain, they had to tough it out until relief ships arrived.
And its hard to deny that people could and did find meaning and value in it.
Or that the suffering was not distributed equally.
But Potts seems to stretch to callous extremes, arguing that not only were they heroic, but they had a rollicking good time being battered into desperate need. Families looking for berries or mushrooms in the bush had a nice time, and unemployed men who went looking for gold liked the scenery. Meanwhile,
those reduced to selling door-to-door could find themselves transformed into successful small businessmen.Selling door-to-door when you were once a clerk or a miner probably was a difficult adjustment. People do feel their own sense of status and self-worth, and a highly skilled worker might not enjoy being 'transformed' into a less skilled position.
And even when things got really bad, well hey, it didn't really hurt:
going without food intermittently for two or three days, or five or 10, or even a degree of persistent hunger, does not damage the body or health"Where to begin with a pitiless statement like that?
One might wonder under what circumstances Potts might admit that it was grinding misery and that it hurt people?
Finally, he uses oral history, stressing that people remember the experience more ambivalently, often recalling the dog days with warmth, nostalgia and pride.
As indeed they would. That would be a mechanism of surviving and retaining your self-worth.
Oral histories recorded forty or more years after the event can tell us much about how people remember things. They are less reliable, however, in telling us what they thought at the time. Oral history is notorious for the fact that the stories often change over time.
I'll have to get my hands on the book somehow. But I'll need convincing that the Depression wasn't bloody awful for lots of people, who hated what it did to them before it was softened by the comfort of memory. (4) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 2:13 PM by Patrick Porter
Sunday, September 17, 2006
# Posted 10:40 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
I'm not sure the analogy to Lieberman holds. Lamont supporters didn't have to worry about their man facing a credible GOP challenger in the general election. There was simply no way the GOP was going to take Lieberman's seat in the Senate.
But when GOP primary voters pick up their ballots, they will know that the price of rejecting McCain may be a Democratic victory in November. And if Hillary is still the frontrunner when primary season begins, a Democratic victory will be a very scary prospect.
So what about the senate curse? Can a candidate without executive experience prevail? Unless being First Lady counts as executive experience, being a senator won't hurt McCain in a showdown with Hillary.
But what if McCain faces Mark Warner or some equally inoffensive Democrat? Although I think executive experience is worth something at the polls, I doubt it's decisive. John Kerry lost because had no clear position on big security issues. Bob Dole lost, among other reasons, because national security didn't matter in 1996. But McCain has impeccable credentials when it comes to national security.
It's also worth noting that Democrats with executive experience -- think Mondale, Dukakis and Gore -- don't exactly have a great record at the polls.
Finally, might a lack of executive experience cost McCain the primary? I doubt it. Frum mentions that Giuliani and Mitt Romney have strong executive resumes, but I just can't imagine how voters who think McCain is too conservative will choose one of them instead. (11) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:27 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
In order to avoid that unpleasant fate, they've come up with a tough editorial blasting Republicans:
We don't want moderate Republicans to disappear, right? Surely we don't want Congress to descend irrevocably into bitter partisanship, do we? Actually, yes, we do. This November, it's time for voters to wipe out the remnants of the GOP's moderate wing--and without regrets.Now why would TNR want that? The editors explain that:
When GOP moderates appeal to the spirit of bipartisanship or claim they can influence their leadership, they are recalling a bygone era...That's a tough argument to make, unless the editors are prepared to argue that Sens. McCain, Graham, Warner and Collins are only pretending to oppose the White House position on torture. (4) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 9:40 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
What I don't understand is why the White House didn't see this confrontation coming. As David Brooks perceptively observed:
John McCain does not want to be bucking his president when he wants to run for president himself and face Republican primary voters. George Bush doesn't want this, because they all want to be unified against the Democrats. So why is this happening?Brooks argues that both McCain and Bush have dug in hard because both of them believe strongly in their own position. That is correct, but it doesn't explain the White House's failure on the public relations front.
When Bush first came out with his demand for a bill approving of military trials and rough interrogation methods, a lot of liberals got scared. In the New Yorker, George Packer blasted Bush for his "distortions" and "lies", but grudgingly gave him credit for :
flummoxing a newly confident opposition...[Bush] forced the Democrats into an agonizingly familiar position: the preëlection defensive crouch...Packer didn't express much confidence in McCain and his allies, writing that they:
Will either stand up to their party leaders or find a way to declare technical victory while caving in.Yet McCain & Co. continue to hold strong. Why didn't the White House recognize that Republican senators would undermine what liberals feared was a political masterstroke?
I don't have a real answer, but my best guess is that the White House was thinking in election mode, where the only salient difference is between Democrats and Republicans.
Now what about the Democrats? Where are they on this issue now that the headlines have focused on GOP infighting? In conversation with David Brooks, Mark Shields praised the strategy of his comrades-in-arms:
With uncharacteristic discipline, the Democrats have gone mute. They've let this argument and this debate occur between the White House, and the president, and several of his supporters on Capitol Hill.Consensual silence may be an achievement for the Democrats, but why haven't they figured out how to launch a concerted attack on Bush at the same time that he has to deal with McCain & Co.?
The Democrats are in a tough position. Like John Kerry in '04, they seem mortally afraid of coming out strongly against POW abuse. Given how strongly Democrats claim to feel about torture this seems like a somewhat cowardly position, but perhaps it is simply a recognition of political reality.
Even, so this pragmatism has a cost. Every time John McCain claims the mantle of leadership on an issue of national importance, he comes that much closer to winning the White House. Moreover, since McCain's greatest liability as a general election candidate may be his association with Bush, the chance to challenge the President so publicly while the Democrats remain silent helps demonstrate McCain's independence.
That's bad for the Democrats, but I'm not going to shed any tears. (33) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 3:28 PM by Patrick Belton
Whatever, Muslims seems to grasp at anything to get frothy at the mouth about.(5) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:37 PM by Patrick Belton
But what stopped me in the midst of my hot cocoa (courtesy my £1.20 Dualit espresso maker's milk frother, the gift that keeps on giving) wasn't so much Robert Hughes's decrying of monumental architecture. (Though he does, and it did; while I agree with him on the Bibliothèque Nationale, which turned out terribly suited in its window design for its basic purpose of archival preservation of books, I think it's a bit much to disavow the whole project. For no other reason than 95 per cent of things done in any avenue of culture are a bit rubbish anyway, but it's the 5 per cent that matter). It had more to do with a falling twin towers colliding against several Land Rovers transiting eastwardly across my screen. What I'm more curious about today is the reorientation of the commercial economy of newspapers toward online advertisement.
As everyone knows, the New York Times is meant to lose money on straightforward sales from each print impression. Where they recoup is on adverts, and there the marginal added sale provides them with a basis for charging more from advert purchases. So far, so likely to keep the world in grey. With internet readership now displacing print, newspapers have turned to dubious ideas such as Times Select, watching an advert voluntarily as with Salon (or unobtrusively as with, say, the Washington Post), or - the proximate cause of my hot milk growing colder as we speak* - the Sunday Times's rather obtrusive use of automobiles chasing you around the screen, requiring you to click on their moving target several times in a way likely to provoke nostalgic memories of Space Invaders, but perhaps not pleasant sentiments toward Land Rover. This is the point I'm hung up on - is obtrusive advertising really likely to stir readers to enhanced chances of buying a product, or favourability toward its brand; or is it not as wont to provoke revenge selection of a product which has not been touted as loudly or with as poor manners. Somewhat in the way we're all more likely to buy our curry from the store without the tout outside, ceteris being paribus.
Just a thought. Readers, please correct me where I'm wrong. There have got to be people who know this market much, much, much better than I do.
* For the lacteal formal cause instead, see the Allen Ginsburg restatement of the laws of thermodynamics:
First law of thermodynamics - 'You can't win.'
Second law of thermodynamics - 'You can't break even.'
Third law of thermodynamics -'You can't quit.' (Because you can never get to absolute zero.) (5) opinions -- Add your opinion