Wednesday, November 29, 2006
# Posted 11:36 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
It's nice that liberals win elections now and then, but I’m not sure they should be allowed to make movies.Those are the words of New Yorker film critic David Denby, who adds that:
Both “Bobby” and “Fast Food Nation” were conceived at a moment, perhaps, when liberals were unable to tell stories, so deep was their despair. Looking at these screwed-up movies, even a conservative might say that it’s time for liberals to pull themselves together and begin their narrative anew.“Actually, I disagree. If liberals didn't make movies, what would we watch? Now, in the interest of public enlightenment, I might consider a ban on political documentaries from the autuers of the left.
But hold your horses there, First Amendment fans. I said "consider", not "support". In truth, I prefer to have Michael Moore & Co. around as rhetorical punching bags. (7) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 11:12 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
How did the Times justify this bold decision? What exacting standards did they apply to determine when to confront the President and his spokesmen? Last night on PBS, foreign editor Marjorie Miller had a chance to explain the paper's logic. Moderator Jeffrey Brown asked Ms. Miller the following question, among others:
JEFFREY BROWN: But in defining [civil war], in using this term, is there a clear definition, or is this more of a "we know it when we see it" situation?Brown hinted pretty clearly that the correct answer to his question was a "clear definition", but I guess that Miller was too inexperienced to pretend that she had one. That kind of candor is actually sort of charming. Although it still means that the LA Times needs to learn a little bit more about self-awareness, because "I know it when I see it" is a recipe for translating personal opinions into newsprint. And it's no secret what those opinions are.
To be fair, Miller did throw out a number of attributes that are relevant to the definition of civil war, even if they should not be mistaken for one. She observed that, in Iraq:
You have one country divided into armed factions that are engaged in combat. They're using heavy weaponry. They're using bombs, mortars, rocket-propelled grenades. They're using machine guns mounted on the back of vehicles.With the exception of the specific death toll, all of that was true three years ago just as much as it is today. So I guess the Times deserves credit for waiting three years to let its personal opinions spill over onto Page One.
Finally, there a question I will ask but will not answer. At least not at this moment. What is the definition of a civil war, as opposed to an insurgency or sectarian violence?
If I am going to criticize the answers of others, perhaps I ought provide an answer of my own. Of course, your answers are welcome in the comment section below. (19) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 3:55 PM by Taylor Owen
PS. Dean is the convention keynote tonight...argh...
UPDATE: It actually wasn't bad. Boiler plate feel good stuff. But his french impressed. (7) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:18 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 12:07 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Hmmm. I'd be glad if the cost of recovery were only $50 billion to $100 billion. Compared to either the cost of the war or the size of the federal budget, that is very much a cost we can bear. So if Wilkerson is right about the numbers, he's wrong about their significance. (7) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:02 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
# Posted 11:54 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
For having the guts to take on the problem of underinsurance--he gets one gold star from me for taking on an issue that frankly, only a handful of people in the GOP seem to care aboutLiz also has a few choice words for Bill O'Reilly, with regard to the War on Christmas. (5) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:18 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
So what have I discovered now that I watch the same news program as approximately 10 million other Americans?
First of all, the producers will sometimes go to Onion-esque lengths to provide some sort of image along with their story. Last Friday night, Brian Williams soberly reported that Shi'ite militias had dragged six Sunni men out of a Baghdad mosque, doused them in gasoline and burned them alive.
Rather than having Williams just speak into a camera, NBC broadcast stock footage of men walking out of a mosque. Then, the image of flames appeared as an overlay on the screen, gradually becoming brighter and more intense until the men could no longer be seen. I guess that's news.
Another noteworty attribute of Friday night's broadcast was the absence of any "he said-she said" journalism in the long opening segment on Iraq. Bowing to current convention, NBC still titled its report "Civil War?" rather than "Civil War". But the answer to "Civil War?" was pretty much "Yes".
There was no soundbite from the president or any other administration spokesman. Instead, Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution and NBC analyst Bernard Trainor (author of Cobra II) delivered brooding, unpleasant assessments of the war. I think their comments were justified, but they certainly didn't represent an effort to seek out opposing perspectives.
In addition, NBC's correspondent at the Pentagon offered his own assessment of what conditions would lead the administration to admit that Iraq is in the midst of a civl war. I thought his commentary was actually insightful, but the point again is that NBC offered a perspective not a two-sides to every story report.
I'm curious to see if this approach persists over time, or if it is only possible because Iraq is an issue where optimism has so worn out its welcome that NBC doesn't have to bother with opposing perspectives. (6) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:25 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
By the way, CBS political correspondent Gloria Barger sat in for Bob Schieffer. Her energy and persistence were a major improvement. It's time for Schieffer to go. (15) opinions -- Add your opinion
Monday, November 27, 2006
# Posted 8:20 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 8:33 AM by Patrick Porter
This is no doubt atypical of the behaviour of most men and women serving in Iraq. Which is one reason exactly why it is so damaging. Given the power of media images, there is now the dangerous ability to taint unfairly the reputation of the armed forces as a whole. (7) opinions -- Add your opinion
Sunday, November 26, 2006
# Posted 11:51 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Now that the Democrats have prevailed in an election that was all about foreign policy, will the party stop asking whether its losses in 2002 and 2004 reflected a profound confusion about how to approach national security? In his book The Good Fight, Peter Beinart anticipates his party's potential for overconfidence. He writes that:
The elections of 2006 and 2008 could resemble the elections of 1974 and 1976, when foreign policy exhaustion, and Republican scandal, propelled Democrats to big gains...Beinart is well-suited to play the role of his party's Cassandra. In Chapter Seven of his book, he recounts the history of the party's recent failures in a way that comes perilously close to echoing Republican criticism. (For commentary on previous chapters, see here.)
According to Beinart, his party ran away from national security in 2002:
With the midterm elections looming, party strategists yearned to remove foreign policy from the campaign. And the only way to do tht was to agree with President Bush on Iraq and then change the subject...Beinart's history of 2002 includes the obligatory references to nasty GOP commercials that targeted Max Cleland and to the President's "McCarthyite" rhetoric. But he rejects the idea that Democrats could've prevailed if only they responded more forcefully to such attacks.
Ultimately, the party suffered because it had no clear and strong beliefs about foreign policy. Some sort of ideology compelled those with safe seats to vote against the war. But whatever that ideology was, it wasn't persuasive enough to get vulnerable incumbents and aspiring presidents to go along for the ride. In other words, those who were actually concerned about what the voters thought rejected the party line and imitated their adversaries.
This deviation provoked considerable anger among the base, fueling Howard Dean's challenge to a field of candidates that uniformly voted for the war. Why didn't Dean prevail? Because, Beinart says, the base thought Kerry could win:
For the most part, liberal voters weren't supporting Kerry because he had served in Vietnam. They were supporting him because they believed other, more hawkish, voters would support him because he had served in Vietnam.Much as the base resented the party establishment for going wobbly, it did exactly the same thing. Lacking confidence in its own beliefs, it nominated a candidate who seemed to represent what other people believed. But this confused approach ultimately caved in on itself.
Did you know that, in 1997, John Kerry wrote a book about foreign policy called The New War? I certainly didn't. In it, Kerry described terrorism as the "fraternal twin" of organized crime. He wrote that "Our new enemies attack not by ideology or military might, but by the manipulation of of human weakness, greed and despair." (Quoted in Beinart, p. 181) Appropiately, Kerry felt that the United States' most important foreign policy objective was to negotiate treaties to facilitate international investigations and legal proceedings. A war on terror this was not.
Beinart's re-discovery of Kerry's book is a good example of his ability to add new and compelling detail to a story that has already been told many times before. So is Beinart's observation that in one two-hour interview during the campaign, Kerry used the word 'effective' 18 times. Like Dukakis, Kerry emphasized his competence while avoiding the subject of vision. In contrast, Bush kept invoking words such as 'freedom', 'democracy' and 'liberty'. He used those words 45 times during 2004's first televised debate. Kerry used them only six times.
Presumably, critics from the left would reject such anecdotes out of hand as irrelevant. What mattered in 2004, they would say, was the swift-boating of a genuine war hero. What does Beinart have to say about that? Beinart's inventive answer to this question is that the Swift Boat ads were effective because Kerry had no ideas to defend himself with:
Once again, liberals were vulnerable because they had no national greatness vision of their own. (p.183)Personally, I don't think the Swift Boat ads, despicable as were, had much effect on the election's outcome. But I agree with Beinart that Kerry was vulnerable because all he had was a biography, not a set of principles.
(Friends of the Swift Vets may rebut my charge of despicability below.)
So where to now for the Democrats? Beinart cites the results of a 2005 poll which asked liberals and conservatives to "rate their top two foreign policy goals":
Conservatives were 29 points more likely to mention destroying Al Qaeda, 26 points more likely to mention denying nuclear weapons to hostile groups or nations, and 24 points more likely to mention capturing Osama bin Laden...Beinart says that looking at such numbers, as well as at the activism of the liberal blogosphere or MoveOn.org, that "you could easily think liberals have no enemies more threatening, or more illiberal, than George W. Bush." (p.188)
A man of the left might respond that bringing troops home from Iraq and building closer relationship with our allies are integral to the war on terror. But I think Beinart is right that the Democrats' only hope for restoring their credibility on security issues to demonstrate a passion for going on the offensive against the enemies of freedom. And that passion can only come from commitment to a strong set of principles. (6) opinions -- Add your opinion
Thursday, November 23, 2006
# Posted 10:21 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
# Posted 8:34 AM by Patrick Belton
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
# Posted 11:31 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
I was sort of turned off by Webb's dire warnings of class division and class conflict in the United States.That comment provoked a heated response from dignam, who asks:
Why do Webb's points about American economic inequality and class division "turn you off"? Is it because he is saying something untrue?Well I don't know that OxBlog has ever identified itself with the economic philosophy of C. Montgomery Burns, but...
Webb produced a spectacular, and very well-written, opinion piece in the WSJ, of all places, talking about income inequality. So I'd like to know exactly why this very important issue is unimportant to you.If it were unimportant, I wouldn't have registered my disagreement in the first place. But what I can tell you, dig, is that Webb's penchant for exaggeration, is, as you put it, "spectacular". Here's the opening graf from his column in the Journal:
The most important--and unfortunately the least debated--issue in politics today is our society's steady drift toward a class-based system, the likes of which we have not seen since the 19th century. America's top tier has grown infinitely richer and more removed over the past 25 years. It is not unfair to say that they are literally living in a different country.Ahh, the 19th century. When union-busting involved baseball bats. When industrial accidents often cost workers an arm and a leg (literally) and there were no disability checks from the government to cover the costs. I could go on, but my supply of puns is temporarily exhausted.
And the rich live "in a different country"? Is Webb saying that they're un-American? Funny, I thought that only conservatives were allowed to suggest that liberals are un-American, not vice versa.
Anyhow, here's another bit of wisdom from Webb:
Workers' ability to negotiate their futures has been eviscerated by the twin threats of modern corporate America: If they complain too loudly, their jobs might either be outsourced overseas or given to illegal immigrants.Hmmm. Is the primary rationale for outsourcing that it dramatically lowers the cost of production, or that it is an effective way to punish unruly workers? As for illegal immigrants, they take the jobs that we don't want. Or does Webb think that native-born Americans have a secret desire to work as gardeners, busboys, maids and lettuce-pickers?
Now, I admit that responding to absurdity with mockery is not the way to foster a sophisticated debate about the American standard of living. But what I wanted to do in this post is demonstrate why I found Webb's rhetoric to be a turn off.
Inequality, low wages and a lack of healthcare are all important issues. But if Webb wants to do something about the problem instead of just shouting about it, he may find it useful to put aside his exaggerations and put some good policies on the table. (24) opinions -- Add your opinion
Monday, November 20, 2006
# Posted 11:09 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Jim Webb: B-. The usual Democratic line on Iraq. Have a big conference with Iran and Syria. But at least that is a concrete proposal. Otherwise, Webb stuck with the usual approach of insisting that Democrats want a change of direction but evading the fact that they have no direction to offer. You'd think a former Secretary of the Navy would know better. Also, I was sort of turned off by Webb's dire warnings of class division and class conflict in the United States.By the way, it is well worth noting that Meet the Press is now available as a video podcast, not just an audio stream. Sometimes, it really is important to see the look on someone's face when they say what they're saying.
For example, take Jon Tester's words from above, "Well, I mean, possibly." If you are reluctant to see those words as an admission that the Democrats don't have a plan for Iraq, you can say that they are just generic space-fillers from a brand new Senator without much experience. They mean nothing.
But if you listen to the audio track, you can hear Tester stumbling over "well" and "I mean", then saying in a much more certain and direct voice: "Possibly." And if you have the video track, you can see Tester stumble over "well" and "I mean", then lift an eyebrow and grin on "possibly", as if he'd were a well-meaning kid caught-red handed by an old pro like Tim Russert.
See ya in seven. (14) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 5:28 AM by Patrick Porter
General William Westmoreland, testifying before President Nixon's Commission on an All-Volunteer [Military] Force, denounced the idea, saying that he did not want to command an army of mercenaries.Mercenary professor? Gives us baby academics a frisson of menace. (11) opinions -- Add your opinion
Saturday, November 18, 2006
# Posted 11:34 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
In the introduction to his recent book, The Good Fight, Beinart writes that:
I supported the war because I considered it the only remaining way to prevent Saddam Hussein from obtaining a nuclear bomb. I also believed it could produce a decent, pluralistic Iraqi regime...On both counts, I was wrong. (pages xii-xiii)Really, a nuclear bomb? I know that the President and others made ominous references to a mushroom cloud, but I also remember that almost all Democrats and almost all analysts rejected out of hand the possibility that Iraq had, or would soon have, a bomb.
What I remember was an intense debate about whether it was worth going to war if Saddam only had chem-bio weapons and if the UN refused to support the invasion. Yet Beinart addresses those subjects in passing or not at all in the sixth chapter of his book, where he expands on the brief comments in his introduction. (For my comments on the first five chapters, see here.)
Entitled "Iraq", it must have been a very hard to chapter to write. In it, one expects Beinart to provide a rationale for the invasion compelling enough to command the support of well-informed liberals circa 2003, but flawed enough to be soundly rejected in hindsight. I don't think Beinart comes close to meeting that expectation.
Instead, he reviews the arguments for war made by the administration then rejects them as misguided or deceptive. The problem is, those arguments provoked exactly the same criticism from the left when they were first made, well before the invasion. Presumably, Beinart was familiar at the time with the contents of The Nation and the NYT editorial and op-ed pages.
Beinart's expansion on the issue of Saddam's nuclear program is indicative. He notes that in 2001, the CIA dismissed the possibility that Saddam has any sort of meaningful nuclear program. Yet the CIA's October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) asserted that "most analysts assess Iraq is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program."
Beinart then reminds us that CIA's "only concrete evidence" of an Iraqi weapons program was discredited by UN inspectors in February 2003. That evidence consisted of aluminum tubes that were supposedly for use in a nuclear program. The inspectors said they weren't.
Furthermore, the inspectors rejected the Preisdent's that Saddam had sought to purchase uranium in Africa. Finally, on March 7, they declared they had found no indication of a nuclear program in Iraq.
If concerns about an Iraqi nuclear program led Beinart to support the war, why didn't the inspectors' assertions change his mind? Curiously, Beinart observes that
In mainstream political and journalistic circles, these revelations didn't receive the attention they deserved -- because many people in Washington had already made up their minds on the war. (p.152)Beinart seems to imply that he was one of those close-minded individuals. I don't buy it. No editor of the New Republic would have failed to notice what the inspectors were saying. No issue was more important than Iraq in early 2003. Appropriately, every move the inspectors made was covered on the front-pages of US and European newspapers.
What I am willing to believe is that three years after the fact, an editor of the New Republic might have hazy memories of precisely why he supported a war. In order to make his chapter persuasive, Beinart should've gone back to the best liberal arguments on behalf of the war and evaluated their merits. His own writings would have been a good place to start. Also well-known is Ken Pollack's book, The Threatening Storm, which Beinart cites in his chapter. Or Beinart could look at why so many Democratic legislators continued to support the war.
What I had most hoped to see in Beinart's chapter on Iraq was a detailed discussion of how much influence the United Nations and the international community should have over important American decisions. I think this was the real crux of the debate over the war in Iraq as well as the most important theoretical divide between liberals and conservatives in the realm of national security.
In earlier chapters, Beinart himself assails conservatives for rejecting international institutions and their ability to legitimize American power. Yet as Beinart's commentary on the Kosovo war indicates, he also knows that waiting for the green light from the UN can be a "recipe for inaction", which is why he rejects the left-liberal embrace of the UN as the answer to every question.
As Beinart explains in his opening chapter, the search for a middle ground is the essence of his project. He wants to rebuild his party's credibility on national security by staking out a principled position that commands the center of the political spectrum. That is the right objective, but it seems to be a good ways off.
UPDATE: Kevin Drum illustrates how Peter Beinart's memory may be more accurate than my own. (17) opinions -- Add your opinion
Friday, November 17, 2006
# Posted 10:14 PM by Patrick Belton
May cause drowsiness.If so, may one take it back? (3) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 5:39 AM by Patrick Porter
It raises a question I've had for a while: What is the difference between 'neo-liberalism' and traditional economic liberalism of the Adam Smith kind?
Is 'neo' just tacked on as a 'shudder' word, to depict people with those opinions as somehow sinister? Or is there a substantive difference? (12) opinions -- Add your opinion
Thursday, November 16, 2006
# Posted 10:11 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
According to Chesa's Nation bio:
Chesa Boudin is a co-author of The Venezuelan Revolution: 100 Questions--100 Answers. In 2005 he worked as an intern on President Chávez's foreign policy team, doing research for a master's degree in Latin American public policy at Oxford University on a Rhodes Scholarship.I guess the next step up the ladder would be an internship with Chavez's hero and mentor, Fidel Castro. (5) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:03 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 9:40 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 9:11 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
LESSONS OF KOSOVO: Paul Wolfowitz seems to agree with OxBlog that ethnic violence will not present a serious threat to postwar Iraq, despite its devastating effects in Kosovo. As Wolfowitz told the NYT, Iraq's "ethnic groups have not had decades of slaughtering one another as happened in the Balkans. The problem in Iraq is a regime that slaughters everybody, it's equal opportunity repression,' he said." Sounds sorta like an evil version of the 14th amendment...I'm not going to try to back out of that one or pretend I didn't say what I clearly said. I never thought that Sunnis would support an insurgency whose essential strategy is to slaughter as many innocent Shi'ites as possible in order to provoke a civil war. I never thought that Arab Muslims would behave in such a brutal manner toward other Arab Muslims. Slaughtering Jews in Israel or black Muslims in Darfur is one thing. But I never expected this kind of genocidal hatred across the Sunni-Shi'a divide.
There is also the question of misunderstanding Iraq as a one-man dictatorship as oppoosed to an ethnic dictatorship. As the post above indicates, I clearly saw Iraq as Saddam's regime, not a Sunni regime. I'm still not sure to what extent it was one or the other.
Clearly, one can argue that Sunnis support the insurgency because they were conditioned for decades to see politics in Iraq as ethnic warfare. But if memory serves, there were also tens of thousands of Sunni victims of the regime as well, so its ethnic identity far from self-evident.
By the way, I owe a significant debt to my brother M for finding the post cited above, all on his own initiative. He just wanted to know how well certain pundits anticipated what was to come in Iraq.
And before I go, one more error to cite. If you click on the words "ethnic violence" above, you will arrive at a post from February 23, 2003 in which I ask:
Will postwar Iraq descend into a maelstrom of ethnic, communal[,] religious violence? Looking for answers, I came across this article by Ted Gurr, a professor at the University of Maryland...Clearly, an aggressive push for democracy has not prevented the slaughter in Iraq. Why did I expect it would? Because I never expected the minority in Iraq to intentionally provoke a vicious civil war. In my post I cited the examples of Kosovo, Sudan and East Timor, where minorities were the principal victims of ethnic cleansing or civil war.
Even now, I don't understand how the Sunni minority expects to prevail. After a long interval of Shi'ite restraint, the death squads have emerged. If the Americans go, the Shi'ites will almost certainly prevail, thanks to both their militia and their American-trained army.
We have been familiar with suicide bombing for quite a while, but what we may be watching now is the first suicide of an entire ethnicity. (14) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:46 PM by Patrick Porter
How odd that today we admire Ronald Reagan whose coattails never could translate into a House majority, who was nearly destroyed by Iran-Contra, and who left office in uncertainty over whether he had really changed much the Cold War calculus. Harry Truman finished with about a 25% approval rating, winning no credit for the birth of containment. After his crankiness, the Democrats wanted a more “thoughtful” liberal like Adlai Stevenson as their leader.
I guess we'll see, but I suspect this Presidency will go down in collective memory as a bit of a disaster.
Granted, Bush's ideas and vision offered, as Andrew Sullivan said, 'clarity, purpose and a vision for a proportionate response' after 9/11, and his rhetoric at times has been inspiring in identifying the need to defend liberal society from militant Islam. And some of his gestures have been welcome, appointing more African-Americans to high office than any past President (or at least most), and he has at least mentioned 'Palestinian' and 'state' in the same sentence.
And from this side of the Atlantic, people are too quick to indulge in a sniggering anti-Americanism with Bush as their lazy example, an attitude rooted often in ignorance, irritation at being dependent on the US, and in old Tory imperial resentment.
But things would have to unfold in a dramatically unexpected and miraculous way to save his reputation in posterity.
Bush hasn't really 'won two wars.' He won the opening phases of conventional war in Aghanistan and Iraq. Disastrous decisions, maladministration, failure to plan properly, cabalistic decision-making within a small elite, and general inattention to detail and operational execution has thrown into crisis his mission to introduce a democratic alternative into the Middle East and Central Asia. It is possible to say this while still being sympathetic with his strategic vision of a democratic middle east and the overthrow of Baathism.
He has vastly overspent. Like a big-state Christian socialist, arguably. He has appointed cronies at times, and been called on it. He, along with other levels of government, reacted too slowly to avert the costs and damage of Hurrican Katrina. His administration has continued and intensified Clinton's toleration of torture, rendition, and other human rights violations. And overall, his promising rhetoric has been failed by incompetence. Grand rhetoric alone doesn't get you a mantle of public affection like Churchill.
Who knows, maybe in a decade he will be sainted. But I doubt it.
# Posted 9:05 AM by Patrick Porter
The Pacific war between Imperial Japan and the Allies is often cast as a race war, a story of racist brutality and mutual cultural antagonism. While there is much to this, some historians go to the extent of morally relativising the American and Japanese causes and campaigns.
But as Gilmore argues, the 'race war' debate isn't the whole story. She demonstrates, with some neglected sources, that Australian and American psychological operations were effective even against an enemy widely assumed to be radically different, partly because PSYOP personnel overcame crude stereotypes. They recognised that only a small minority of Japanese combatants had the psychological profile of samurai fanatics. Based on the belief that their propagandist literature could penetrate the psychology of their opponents, their operations demoralised significant sections of the target audience and overcame Japanese military indoctrination, contributing to surging cases of indiscipline, desertions, surrenders, demoralisation and a growing sense of fatalism, while surrendering Japanese soldiers yielded valuable intelligence about Japanese operations.
Gilmore tries to explain this: they were increasingly successful because they avoided attacking the Emperor, who remained an unshakeable figure of trust for most soldier-diarists. They told the truth about combat and conditions, so that Japanese’ own experiences seemed to confirm what Allied propaganda told them, giving the propaganda credibility. And they organised their propaganda around the tempo and timing of Allied military victories. The impact was suggested by record of Japanese diarists and efforts of Japanese High Command to insulate troops from ‘dangerous thoughts.’
In other words, they succeeded partly because they overcame the assumption that Japanese combatants were psychologically impenetrable and shielded from external influences beyond their political and national loyalties. Its worth a read.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
# Posted 10:00 PM by Patrick Belton
I can't go on, I'll go on. (As, of course, Michael Jackson said last night.) (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 5:51 AM by Patrick Porter
Praise for the Taleban, whom we musn't 'demonise.' Which seems now to mean criticise, complain about, object to, get angry with, or any other shudder word for objecting to their crimes.
And now, nostalgia for Saddam and a general defence of dictatorships. Some choice quotes:
The people of China seem in no rush to jettison a regime that holds out the prospect of prosperity at the expense only of liberty.Only of liberty? And as long as the majority are happy, who cares about that Chinese minority, (and the malcontent Tibetans), who are less patient with the one-party state?
What's more, tyranny is good for the soul:
Living under tyranny may not be ideal, but it is not impossible. In the Soviet Union, life took on a character of its own, in which the human spirit managed to flourish in spite of the political constraints.Bet that cheered them up in the gulag. Or in the famine-devastated regions. Or the areas on the brunt of Stalin's ethnic cleansing.
And literally, living under tyranny is now almost impossible in North Korea. Its also very dangerous for anyone, or their family, to try and leave.
And then this, David Cox's aesthetic case for totalitarianism:
The literature generated in those conditions can still inspire us.One of the defences of Soviet communism, the 'eggs/omelettes' defence, was that the suffering of some was ultimately justified by the long-term goal of building a utopian workers paradise.
David Cox has lowered the bar a little. Now its justified by the writing of fine books.
Guardian Unlimited. Indeed. (27) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:01 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Formerly a judge, Hastings was impeached for taking bribes. In contrast, Harman established a very solid record of expertise and bipartisanship as the Committee's ranking member.
Second of all, Kevin, wants to know whether there's really any good reason for Pelosi to support John Murtha instead of Steny Hoyer for Majority Leader. Murtha still be the president's most furious critic, but he is pro-gun and anti-abortion. He even got a 0% rating from NARAL.
Well, I would savor the irony of Murtha losing out because he is insufficiently liberal, but I still prefer to have him as a Majority Leader in order to demonstrate how irrationality and incoherence are welcomed into the Democratic fold.
Of course, Kevin hasn't given up on criticizing the GOP. Unequivocally, he bashes
the idea that we can surge in another 20,000 troops or so and end the Iraqi violence once and for all. John McCain is one of many running this idea up the flagpole, but it's a suggestion so puerile and reckless it boggles the mind. It's unlikely that 20,000 troops would have made a difference three years ago, let alone now, and he knows it."Puerile and reckless"? We don't have enough troops now and 20,000 would certainly help, even if it isn't enough to win. But Kevin's criticism of McCain does balance out his equally harsh criticism of the Democrats, who
...have their own bit of truth they'd just as soon avoid: namely that conservatives are correct when they say that a U.S. pullout would be a disaster for Iraq. War supporters may have only themselves to blame for this state of affairs, but that doesn't make them any less right:I agree. I just wish Kevin and I had something more cheerful to agree about. (6) opinions -- Add your opinion
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
# Posted 10:44 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
See ya in seven. (3) opinions -- Add your opinion
Monday, November 13, 2006
# Posted 11:25 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 11:16 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 10:41 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Take the [Baker Group's] four subordinate expert working groups: Baker and Hamilton gerrymandered these advisory panels to ratify predetermined recommendations. While bipartisan, the groups are anything but representative of the policy debate. I personally withdrew from an expert working group after concluding that I was meant to contribute token diversity rather than my substantive views.The agenda being advanced by the Baker Group is the gun-shy realism of its namesake. Rubin reminds us that Baker negotiated the 1989 Taif Accord, which ended the Lebanese civil war by turning Lebanon over to Syrian military rule. Rubin also reminds us that Baker did nothing to stop Saddam from gunning down the Kurdish and Shi'ite rebels that President Bush 41 had encouraged to overthrow Saddam.
I'm going to keep an open mind about the Baker Group until I know, but I am certainly suspicious of Baker's brand of realism. Yet the fact remains that both Democrats as well as numerous Republicans are becoming increasingly amenable to solutions that get the United States out of Iraq regardless of what price the Iraqi people will have to pay.
For a more positive view of the Baker Group, take a look at Ryan Lizza's cover story in TNR [subscription only]. Lizza writes that:
With little fanfare, Baker has become America's shadow secretary of state, boasting an Iraq portfolio broader than that of anyone actually serving in the administration...In light of TNR's well-known idealism, it's somewhat surprising that Baker's record as Secretary of State gets so airbrushed. If nothing else, TNR should remind its readers of Baker's insistence that the United States had no interest in preventing mass slaughter and ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia.
But Lizza doesn't go soft on Baker, subjecting him to psychoanalysis rather than policy analysis:
Loyalty and ideology are only part of the Baker DNA. What he really craves is respect. The Bushes set Baker on his path to power, helping him become White House chief of staff, secretary of the Treasury, and secretary of state; but they have, at other times, undercut Baker's vainglorious self-image by dragging him into what he regarded as gutter-level political assignments--most recently, during the 2000 Florida recount, in which he successfully managed Bush's victory.So what does all of this mean for the Study Group? Lizza writes:
[Baker] has repeatedly criticized the "stay the course" option associated with Bush. What's left are probably two options more associated with the center-left foreign policy establishment. The first is a modified version of the withdrawal plan proposed by the Center for American Progress's Lawrence Korb, which the Baker Commission refers to as "Redeploy and Contain." Troops would be moved into neighboring countries, where they would only be used for quick strikes against terrorists in Iraq, and the administration would concentrate on international diplomacy, including talks with Iran and Syria, to solve Iraq's political problems.I'm curious to hear more about the options. The first one sounds like a retreat with a bit of tough language cover, but perhaps it will pave the way to something that is actually new. The second options sounds hopeless, unless additional US troops keep the rest of Iraq under control during the struggle for Baghdad.
I guess we'll see soon enough where all of this is headed. (6) opinions -- Add your opinion
Sunday, November 12, 2006
# Posted 11:07 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
When I was on BBC radio last Tuesday to talk about the elections, another one of the guests on the show was American journalist Greg Palast. Although I didn't get a chance to interact with Palast directly, I took advantage of being a guest on the BBC's liveblog to flatly contradict his assertion Americans don't see illegal efforts to rig the outcome of US elections as wrong or disturbing.
However, because I didn't have the facts at my fingertips, I did not attempt to contradict Palast's assertion that millions of votes (mostly from the left) are deliberately lost or discarded for no reason whatsoever in every US election. Palast got a respectful hearing from the show's host and is often a guest on the BBC.
Yet in Nicholas Lemann's recent attack on post-9/11 conspiracy journalism Palast is one of the main targets. (Lemann's essay was published in the Oct. 16 issue of the New Yorker, but not online.)
I figure that Lemann's attack on Palast is pretty credible, since Lemann himself is a card-carrying member of the condescending intellectual left. As Stephen Colbert might say, Lemann is a factinista.
Anyhow, here's what Lemann has to say about Palast:
Now as any good logician would know, one cannot infer from Palast's strange writings about the war in Iraq that there is necessarily any flaw in his work on rampant fraud in US elections. But my working hypothesis is definitely that someone out there has or will expose how the rest of Palast's polemics also fail to "operate at a courtroom evidentiary standard." (5) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:59 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
A mid-nineteenth-century English newspaper report described cholera victims who were “one minute warm, palpitating, human organisms—the next a sort of galvanized corpse, with icy breath, stopped pulse, and blood congealed—blue, shrivelled up, convulsed.” Through it all, and until the very last stages, is the added horror of full consciousness. You are aware of what’s happening: “the mind within remains untouched and clear,—shining strangely through the glazed eyes . . . a spirit, looking out in terror from a corpse.”That passage is from the New Yorker's excellent review of Steven Johnson's book "The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic -- and How It Changed Science, Cities and the Modern World."
The history of science and medicine is a wonderful but underappreciated discipline. (It also tends to have the added benefit of being equally attractive to all political persuasions.) Enjoy. (2) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:46 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
For Americans who only associate Murdoch with Fox News or the New York Post, the question may seem absurd. But for our British readers, the question will seem perfectly logical. Murdoch was a proud Thatcherite but swung the weight of his media empire behind Tony Blair in 1997, helping Labour return to power after almost 18 years in the wildnerness.
According to John Cassiday, Murdoch may be laying the foundations for a surprise turn in favor of Hillary come 2008:
[Murdoch's] fund-raiser for Hillary Clinton took place on July 17th, at News Corp.’s midtown tower, which houses the Post and Fox News. Among the News Corp. executives who attended were Roger Ailes, the veteran Republican operative who runs Fox News, and Col Allan, the pugnacious, Australian-born editor of the Post. Clinton spoke for about twenty minutes, and then took questions. The breakfast raised more than sixty thousand dollars for Clinton’s senatorial re-election campaign—neither Ailes nor Allan contributed any money—and it led to speculation that Murdoch was preparing to endorse Hillary in the 2008 Presidential campaign.I was hoping for a little more elaboration on that final point. It seems to me that Murdoch does not simply want to keep people guessing, but that he wants to make sure that no one takes him for granted. If he ultimately supports the GOP, he wants to make sure the party knows that Murdoch had a choice, and that if it doesn't pay him his due respects, he can go elsewhere.
Cassidy doesn't venture a prediction about where Murdoch will head, but it will almost certainly be an interesting journey to watch. (4) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:25 AM by Patrick Porter
Wait for me, and I'll return(10) opinions -- Add your opinion
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
# Posted 11:50 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
If President Bush had done this two, three, four months ago would yesterday have been different?I dunno. But it might've been worth a few thousand votes in Montana or Virginia. Then again, OxBlog won't miss either Conrad Burns or George Allen. (21) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 11:30 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Together with Vice President Cheney, [Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Perle] were the principal architects of this venture, in pursuit of which they have deceived the American people, misled US soldiers whose lives are at risk, scorned the United Nations and defied international law...I'm not so sure about the proliferation. Iran and North Korea were pretty determined to develop nuclear weapons well before 2003. Also note that there is no mention of chemical or biological weapons, either here or in the full text of the editorial. Dare one say that even The Nation expected the WMD to be found? Or were they, too, deceived by the same president they called a liar?
While carefully avoiding any reckless comments himself, Rumsfeld unleashed his subordinates and advisers to publicly make the case that the fight would be easy and the troops welcomed. Perle, for example, explained flippantly that "the Iraqi opposition is kind of like an MRE [meals ready to eat, a freeze-dried Army ration]. The ingredients are there and you just have to add water, in this case US support."That's a pretty embarrassing quote. I guess it got overshadowed by "Mission Accomplished".
Rumsfeld and his coterie now dare to complain that Saddam is violating the laws of war and does not fight fair. But the "asymmetrical" tactics of the Iraqis should come as no surprise. The Vietcong did not wear uniforms either; they too hid among civilian villagers. "We are invading their country," Chief Warrant Officer Glen Woodard observes. "I'd be by my window with a shotgun too."A potent reminder of how the war's opponents, drawing on their memories of Vietnam, expected a nationalist resistance movement to emerge in Iraq, directed at the US occupation. Instead, we have a sectarian war.
The central question in the minds of many millions around the world is whether the United States, in violation of the UN Charter and long-established terms of international law, is waging an illegal war. The brutality of that war becomes more apparent by the day, as the US military wreaks more death and destruction on Baghdad and other cities and the humanitarian crisis threatens to spiral out of control.Ah yes, American brutality. And not a word about Saddam's atrocities.
Our indictment is ultimately not about logistics or tactics. Even if US military power prevails in Iraq, what must be ended is a failed foreign policy many of whose key proponents are in the Pentagon.In the end, I'd have to say that the egg is still on the face of those of us who supported the war. Yet it is important to remember how the war's most vocal critics opposed it for reasons that were misguided and would have had little value in terms of avoiding the perilous situation we are in now. (10) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 11:13 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
I said that it is only natural for politicians to shy away from unpopular programs that party loyalty once forced them to support. For example, Bush pere sought to distance himself as a candidate from Iran-Contra and Reagan's hard line on Nicaragua.
On the other hand, we've been hearing since early 2004 that Bush and Rove would never let their party go into an election with the albatross of Iraq hanging from their necks. First we heard that Bush would never risk his own re-election by keeping 120,000+ soldiers in Iraq during the campaign. This spring we heard that he and Rove would be sure to engineer a substantial withdrawal before November. And now we will hear that a withdrawal is inevitable before the election 2008.
And here was the damning part: I said that the only thing more common than predictions of an imminent withdrawal from Iraq are predictions of the imminent resignation of Donald Rumsfeld.
Not that I am unhappy about being overtaken by events. (5) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 6:17 PM by Patrick Belton
Except that it was.
(Must remember to write off a cheque in the morning to Obama, and hope. Perhaps ones to McCain and Condi's personal bank account for good measure.)
In other boxes, I'll be very curious about ramifications of Lieberman's new status in the Senate as an independent caucusing with the Democrats. The last analogue of whom I'm aware is Vermont Socialist Bernard Sanders in the House, who also caucused with the Democrats; given his position to the left of the party one might expect his voting record to be fairly indistinguishable from the ordinary Democratic member, but with Lieberman, perceived to be situated between the two parties, it will be tantalising to see if he unfolds as more of an electoral free agent. My impression is that the precedent of Sanders is for the member freely to associate with the party whip in leadership votes (and in return be considered a member of that party in committee assignment), but otherwise is not held to be binding. There's also the question of to what extent elective party governs party affiliation within a chamber - members can cross the aisle, and though some have then submitted themselves to byelection, this gentlemanly nod to the constituency is somewhat rare and antique. I'd be interested to be informed by our readers on this point. Lieberman as TR in his Bull Moose incarnation is a pleasant thought, if not terribly fraught with prospects for his political influence.
Finally, an unnamed but cute legal source predicts that the marriage amendment resolution within Virginia is vulnerable to challenge in the federal courts. As a state constitutional amendment, I'm not sure I see how the federal judiciary has standing (apart from under guaranteeing republican government in the states?), but on the other hand, the legislation to implement the amendment might conceivably be. The ACLU is tipped to bring a test case, perhaps under partner benefits. I certainly wish them luck, as I bear that wretched amendment no love. Any legal scholars caring to weigh in on this point, the comments section is yours. (8) opinions -- Add your opinion
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
# Posted 8:13 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 12:16 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
I'll be heading over to the studio at 7:30pm EST, although I'm not sure at exactly what time I'll be going on the air, so check back here for an update.
The easiest way to listen to the show is to vist the FiveLive homepage and click on the ListenLive button in the upper right-hand corner. I'll also be live blogging the election on the Pods and Blogs blog. (4) opinions -- Add your opinion
Monday, November 06, 2006
# Posted 10:48 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Patrick suggests that premonitions of a Democratic tidal wave are the product of partisan analysis. However, RealClearPolitics now projects a pick up of six in the Senate, handing control over to the Democrats. Not surprisingly, RCP's numbers suggest the House will go as well. (3) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:35 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 10:28 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
(3) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:05 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Schumer: B+. A consistent performer. He delivers the party line with more elan than most.Look at those grades. High marks for the Democrats. Low and worse for the Republicans. And I'm one of them! What an embarrassment. (4) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 2:43 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 12:19 PM by Patrick Porter
Open thread: what's the most annoying jargon in your workplace? (6) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:41 AM by Patrick Porter
Cubans created the best education and health care system anywhere in the Third World and they've done that in the face of an incredible blockade - quite an illegal blockade - by America.
Cuba's education system is indeed impressive. Literacy rates are so high that everyone can read the restricted literature approved by the one-party state.
Of course, you need to be careful when using your literacy skills, or this might happen to you.
And its health system is indeed admirable, but I would expect a decent standard of public healthcare too if I lived in a prison:
Cubans are well educated, but they cannot speak their minds. Castro does not allow other political parties, rallies or free elections. Those who voice opinions he does not agree with are driven from the country or thrown into jail.
Way to go, Ken. (4) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 6:04 AM by Taylor Owen
Nothing but class, that Galloway. He does, however, bring Oxbloggers (and I suspect an increasing percentage of the civilized world) into common cause - so really, he is a uniter not a divider... (4) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 6:01 AM by Taylor Owen
Sunday, November 05, 2006
# Posted 9:34 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Wright is profiled in this week's New Yorker, since his next big game, Spore, is set to debut in the near future. The profile contained the following example of Wright's innovative thinking, which demonstrates the power of the soft touch to prevail over brute strength:
[Wright] led me into the house through a short hallway that was full of oddly shaped pieces of machined steel. Wright explained that these were left over from the days when he competed in gladiatorial robot contests called BattleBots, in which engineers attempt to build the most destructive remote-control robot vehicles possible. These ferocious machines fight in large Plexiglas boxes, ramming into each other at high speeds, trying to disable their opponents by flipping them over; the tournaments are like geek cockfights.(2) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 9:28 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
When Greene was a kid, in Brentwood, he and some of the boys on his street played a game they called Gestapo. Two boys, impersonating prison-camp escapees, would run off separately into the hills, and the others would give chase, with a bloodhound. "It was terrifying," Greene told me. He suspects that, despite being the only Jewish boy in the group, he was the one who came up with the game.(4) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 5:06 AM by Patrick Porter
Whatever you think of the death penalty, I suspect many Iraqis will see justice in this tyrannicide. Even as their country is being ripped open by sectarian violence, crime and anarchy, they might see in Saddam's execution at least the end of one terrible chapter in their country's history. (5) opinions -- Add your opinion
Friday, November 03, 2006
# Posted 8:12 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
But for the moment, it is the primary contests that may be most interesting. George Will weighed in with a column this week arguing that George Allen's fall from grace benefits no one more than Mitt Romney. Will' s logic runs as follows: McCain is the big dog in this race and wants to have multiple candidates divide up the rest of the field, so that no one challenger can gather up all of the remaining votes. Without Allen in the race, Romney may be able to do that.
But what about Gingrich? And Giuliani? Or possibly even Dick Armey? Dan McKivergan thinks Will should be paying much more attention to Gingrich, who scores well in early polls and still excites the base. In contrast, Giuliani doesn't seem to have gotten his campaign machinery moving just yet. As Dan observed even before Will's column came out, Gingrich could do a very effective job of making life hard for Romney. (12) opinions -- Add your opinion
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
# Posted 11:39 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Speaking to an audience in California on Monday, Kerry said: "Education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. And if you don't, you get stuck in Iraq."Call me naive -- YOU'RE NAIVE! -- but I think Kerry is actually telling the truth about what happened. After all, he's a flip-flopper, not a liar. Kerry's excuse reminds me of Clinton saying that he didn't inhale. It's an excuse so preposterous you wouldn't bother making it unless it were true.
So how did Kerry manage to mangle his own scripted humor in such a self-destructive manner? I don't really know, but this is the same man who said "I voted for the bill before I voted against it."
Getting back to the WaPo, I thought it was interesting what got mentioned in the eight paragraphs before the relevant quotation from Kerry. Paragraph Two began as follows:
The White House and Republican allies orchestrated a cascade of denunciations throughout the day to keep the once and possibly future presidential candidate on the defensive and force other Democrats to distance themselves.Only in Paragraphs Fourteen and Fifteen do we finally get to hear Harold Ford and Hillary Clinton condemn Kerry's remarks (although there was an oblique mention earlier of Democratic pressure to apologize).
Anyhow, my favorite paragraph in the whole article is #3, which consists of the following sentence:
Republican strategists appeared almost gleeful over the contretemps because it revived a favorite target at a time they need to motivate core supporters to vote in Tuesday's midterm elections.Who are these unnamed strategists? The correspondents for the Post never tell us. How can a factual news article report that a group of individuals "appeared almost gleeful"? Is this an assessment of their collective facial expressions?
To be fair, this sentence is probably based on good reporting, ridiculous as it sounds. The Post's correspondents probably spoke to some actual GOP strategists and found them in a thinly-veiled celebratory mood. Perhaps one of those strategists even suggested the phrase "almost gleeful" to describe himself.
Nonetheless, it is sort of strange that you have to be familiar with an unspoken code in order to decipher what's on the front page of the WaPo. I'd prefer a more direct approach. (18) opinions -- Add your opinion