Sunday, November 30, 2003

# Posted 2:42 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A REAL DOWN-TO-EARTH KIND OF GUY: In about ten minutes I'm going to head out to Penn Station in order to catch the 4:05 train to Washington. I'll be there for a week, conducting research interviews with former US government officials and independent experts on US-Central American relations. Depending on what kind of internet access I wind up with, I either will or won't be blogging.

Anyhow, before going down, I decided to get in touch with my friend Max from Oxford, who spent last year as a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near Eastern Policy (WINEP).

Max is a good guy, and he often sends me interesting stuff about the Israeli-Palestinian situation, some of which I've put up on OxBlog. I always sort of figured he led the same work-a-day sort of research life that I did. But then I go to the WINEP website to get his e-mail address, and here's what I find in his profile [no permalink, just click on "Staff" and scroll down to "Associates"]:
Mr. Abrahms has published numerous articles in Ha'aretz (English), Jerusalem Post, Los Angeles Times, Middle East Intelligence Bulletin, Middle East Quarterly, and National Review Online, and has appeared as a commentator on ABC, al-Arabiyya, al-Jazeera, BBC1, BBC 24, CBS, CNN, CNN Financial, CTV (Canada Television), FOX, NPR, PBS, Radio Free Europe, SKY News, and Voice of America.
Holy Schnikes! And Max didn't say a word about it. Talk about humility. A lot of people in Washington could learn from this guy.

And let me tell you, the humility is real. Max was always one of the most down-to-earth people in an Oxford IR program filled with loudmouths and hotshots (I'm mostly thinking of myself, but Urman wasn't much better.) So here's to Max: someone we should all remember when we get too high on ourselves.
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# Posted 3:10 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

"THE TURKEY HAS LANDED": That was the headline run by the London Independent about Bush's visit to Iraq. Robert Tagorda and Kevin Drum think it was pretty tasteless.

But you know what? I laughed. Sure, Kevin is right that no serious broadsheet should run a headline like that. But from where I stand, it's nice to see that the Independent can admit that it's foreign affairs coverage is a joke.

Now, for some real commentary on Bush's visit, head over to Dan Drezner's website.

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# Posted 2:51 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PEJMAN'S WAYWARD YOUTH: I'd like to believe that Pejman was a KISS fan. But if he was, he should know that the guy with the tongue was Gene Simmons. Reed Richards was the leader of Marvel Comics' Fantastic Four.

Presumably, Richards' rubber-like body would have enabled him to stretch his tongue out to Simmons-esque proportions, had he wished to do so.
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# Posted 1:42 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HALF-RIGHT: Matt Yglesias writes:
I think it's fair to say that Howard Dean, and many other liberals-but-not-pacifists, who opposed the war allowed their detestation for the Bush administration to blind them to the merits of the arguments in favor of the war. At the same time, those of us who were more open to military action appear to have allowed our appreciation for the merits of the pro-war arguments to blind us to the utterly despicable nature of the Bush administration.
Call me stubborn, but I'm not about to spend my time going through Matt archives looking for posts in which he gave the benefit of the doubt to the Bush Administrations.

Interestingly, Kevin Drum has also engaged in a subtle bit of personal revisionism. Today, Kevin writes that he briefly supported the war but then became convinced that Bush & Co. weren't serious about rebuilding Iraq.

Note, however, a subtle difference in the meaning of the word "serious". Today's post equates revision with competence. Yet Kevin's original post from March argues that Bush isn't even committed to rebuilding Iraq, competence aside.

Why does this sort of trifling semantic difference matter? After all, you can't expect bloggers to consult the Oxford English Dictionary before publishing every post. However, these small differences matter because they say something about the mindset of their authors.

Kevin misses how his cynicism regarding Bush's motives has been transformed into a resentment of Bush's incompetence. In a President, both flaws are dangerous. But on a moral plane, sinister motives are far worse.

Matt wants to believe that he only could've supported the war (however briefly) by blinding himself to the Bush administration's "utterly despicable nature". Yet Matt goes on to say that what's wrong with the Bush Administration is not that it's evil, but that it's incompetent. (UPDATE: In this post, Matt says the administration is still evil because it's lying about it's commitment to democracy in Iraq.)

In the end, both Matt and Kevin are left pondering the same question: How could the Bush administration ever have believed that the reconstruction of Iraq would go smoothly despite a total absence of planning?

In isolation, that question makes a lot of sense. But it is important to put that question in context. Planning for the occupation was going on at the same time that the Bush Administration had to face down critics who thought that it was evil because of its decision to invade Iraq. The White House was consumed with responding to criticism of its motives, not its abilities.

Does this excuse its negligent planning for the occupation? Hell no. I've blasted the administration's negligence on the planning front since long before the invasion. But OxBlog did recognize after Bush's February speech on democracy promotion that the President had invested his reputation in the reconstruction of Iraq.

Before the February speech, however, OxBlog joined both liberal and conservative advocates of democracy promotion in questioning the President's commitment to that objective.

The bottom line here is that liberals like Matt and Kevin did not (briefly) support the war because of momentary ignorance. They supported it because it was the right thing to do. And they stopped supporting it because they underestimated the President's idealism. That matters, because the President's idealism is the only thing that may compensate for his incompetence.

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# Posted 1:30 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

RIYADH, HOME OF TERROR: A dissident speaks. Will America listen?
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# Posted 1:24 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE HYPOCRISY OF VICTORY: David Brooks is right. The Republicans have learned to govern by buying off the electorate with expensive entitlements.

Brooks thinks that this will make the Republicans as unbeatable as the Democrats once were in the House and Senate. But Brooks forgets something: When the Democrats created the welfare state, they were being true to their ideals.

If the Republicans persist in behaving like Democrats, they will either have to abandon their small government philosophy or face a barrage of unanswerable criticism. And then things will get really interesting.
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# Posted 1:10 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

JUST THE BAD NEWS, PLEASE: The headline says: "Once World Leader in Traffic Safety, US Drops to No. 9." That is a fact, plain and simple.

It is also a fact that traffic safety in the US had improved more than 40% since 1985 -- 70% since 1970 -- in terms of accidents per mile driven. However, the gains in other industrialized nations have been even more dramatic, often because they started off with a higher accident rate.

Now, you might ask, is the US far behind it's competitors? In the US, there are 1.52 deaths per 100 million miles driven. World leader Britain has a score of 1.21, #2 Norway, 1.33. Germany comes in at #10 with a score of 1.81.

To be sure, each hundredth of a point represents 278 American lives lost on the road. I hope we can do better. The answer? Wear seatbelts.
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# Posted 12:40 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A SALUTE TO FALLEN COMRADES: America honors the Spanish soldiers and Japanese diplomats who gave their lives earlier today in the struggle against dictatorship in Iraq.

Fortunately, if current trends persist, there will be fewer sacrifices made in the name of freedom. The US military reports that
attacks on American soldiers across Iraq had dropped by almost a third in the last two weeks. [Gen. Sanchez] said those attacks, which as recently as two weeks ago were averaging 35 a day, had dropped to a daily average of about 22.

The general said the drop in attacks on American soldiers was being accompanied by an increase in attacks on Iraqis. Yet even when such attacks were included, he said, the activity on the part of the guerrillas had dropped sharply.

The general suggested that the insurgents were beginning to feel the pressure brought to bear by the sustained operations of the American military. He said their activity had declined most sharply in the areas where American military operations have been most intense. In Baghdad, for instance, where the First Armored Division has mounted a number of large raids in recent weeks, the number of attacks on American soldiers has declined by 70 percent.
Perhaps this is only the calm before the storm. Perhaps not.
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Saturday, November 29, 2003

# Posted 7:32 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHO IS AYATOLLAH SISTANI? Both Thursday's lead story in the NYT and a front page news analysis column from today focus on the tension between American plans for installing a semi-elected government and the Shi'ite cleric's preference for a full-fledged democratic process.

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, there is a glaring omission in all these stories about the Shi'ite vote. We hear again and again that Ayatollah Sistani wants the new Iraqi state to have "a clear role for Islam" and that he wants to translate the Shi'ites demographic dominance into political power.

But what does Sistani believe about democracy as a political system? Will he endorse democracy as a way of life rather than a transitional process?

Another problem with these articles is their constant repetition of the American argument that elections are impossible before a census is taken. Is that just a stalling point designed throw off Sistani, or do Bremer and the White House really believe what they're saying?

Frankly, I'm suspicious. El Salvador climbed out of its own civil war by holding its first free elections before a census could be taken. The Reagan administration backed that effort enthusiastically and the result was validated by impartial monitors. There were some charges of corruption, but they were directed at the officials responsible for tabulating the votes by computer, not at the problem of having unidentified voters.

At the moment, it seems rather hypocritical for the US to be resisting Shi'ite demands for real elections -- provided that they are sincere. Memo to Bill Keller: Get your correspondents to find out what Sistani believes, instead of assuming that they know.
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# Posted 7:14 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PALESTINIANS KILLING PALESTINIANS: It was nice to see the NYT run a front-page article on the murder of Palestinians who cooperate with Israeli authorities. According to the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group, there have been 70 such murders over the past three years, not to mention those collaborators executed by kangaroo courts run by the PA.

During the first intifada, hundreds of collaborators were murdered in the streets. Of course, the press focused on those Palestinains who were killed by Israelis, even though such killings were often a matter of self-defense, rather than cold-blooded murder.

Interestingly, the European Union complained about the PA's executions of Palestinian collaborators (on what charge? obstruction of injustice?) and, in response, Arafat stopped them. Instead, Arafat had Al Aksa take care of the killings, shall we say, extra-judicially.

Frankly I'm quite curious about this Palestinian human rights group. Who allows it to operate? Are its casualty estimates low? What do Amnesty and Human Rights Watch say about it? More to come...
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Friday, November 28, 2003

# Posted 11:05 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

INJUSTICE ON THANKSGIVING: While there would never be moments of celebrations if we constantly contemplated the injustices of the world, I do want to take this moment to tell you about a great miscarraige of justice that has done harm to a friend.

Nitin Gopal Jutka, a leading contributor to Hawken Blog recently posted about the way that his family has been victimized by ruthless malpractice lawyers.

Nitin's mother is a doctor, and when she was accused unjustly of malpractice she decided to fight rather than settle out of court. Yet thanks to the unpredictability of juries and rhetoric of malpractice lawyers, the plaintiff was awarded a $5.2 million settlement.

Nitin's mother may never practive medicine again. This is a personal and professional blow to her and her entire family. It is an injustice that I hope is soon corrected. Yet victory always comes at a price, both emotional and financial. So at a time when I have much to be thankful for, I want to remember that many others must struggle for what is rightly theirs.
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Thursday, November 27, 2003

# Posted 7:46 AM by Patrick Belton  

'EID MUBARAK: A very blessed 'Eid-ul-Fitr to all of our Muslim brothers and sisters, at this the end of the month of Ramadan. We are one today with all Muslims of good will, especially those struggling for the values of humanity against advocates of hate, despair, and terror. Particularly worthy of support are the Islamic Supreme Council of America (who have spawned the hopeful ngo Muslims Against Terrorism), its head Shaykh Kabbani and executive director Hedieh Mirahamadi, and all other Muslims who seek to remain true, even in these days, to the humanistic and moderate values within the Islamic tradition.

Ramadan is a time of hard striving and purification, enjoining good, forbidding evil, and heightening the consciousness of Allah's presence, or Taqwa. Taqwa is a protection both against the schemes of evil and the suffering of the world: "Whoever keeps his duty to Allah [has taqwa], He ordains a way out for him and gives him sustenance from where he imagines not." (Qur'an, 65:2) Our thoughts are with all of those who strive hard this 'Eid to purify one of the world's great humanistic religions against that determined minority who would reduce it to an ideological apology for terror and hatred, and who strive to restore it to its proper great stature as a great faith of tolerance, brotherhood, and peace. 'Eid mubarak to you all.
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Wednesday, November 26, 2003

# Posted 8:43 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LIEBERMAN-MCCAIN '04: Why the hell not? Senator Joe has already said he wants McCain as his SecDef (because another arrogant loudmouth is just what we need at the Pentagon.) And his latest commercial in New Hampshire consists of McCain voters saying they'll vote for Joe.

All that would be missing is the support of the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.

PS: For a solid round-up of the latest batch of campaign commercials, click here.
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# Posted 8:34 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NOT EXACTLY FOR THE, WELL, SORT OF MAYBE FOR THE...war. Who? Howard Dean. After battering his opponents for signing the blank check that let Bush go to war, Dean now has to face the fact that he endorsed a slightly different version of the blank check that Sens. Biden & Lugar hoped to substitute for the actual one. In the end, of course, Dean came out against the invasion. But that may have been a new position for him, rather than an old one.

Does this matter? Optimists might see it as evidence that Dean isn't so dovish. Pessimists will see it as evidence that Dean has neither the backbone nor the integrity to take on the Bush war machine.
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# Posted 12:33 PM by Patrick Belton  

MATT YGLESIAS IS GRACIOUS in the wake of Saturday's football result:
How do you like them apples? Sadly, however, unless Wesley Clark manages to stop Dean in the primaries, Yale's reign of terror in the White House is guaranteed to continue. If only Gore had run again. Schumer '08?
Hmm, but I thought the Democrats had already pencilled in Hillary (YLS '72) for '08?
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# Posted 9:04 AM by Patrick Belton  

ELECTIONS TODAY IN NORTHERN IRELAND: Analysts are predicting a low turnout, thanks to execrable weather and disillusionment on the part of voters. This, in turn, is predicted to favour the more extreme parties, Sinn Fein and Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionists Party. (The latter party has refused to negotiate with Sinn Fein, and has promised to review the Good Friday Agreements if it wins a majority in Stormont. Its head, furthermore, is a lunatic who rants in political speeches that the Pope will come to Northern Ireland to govern if the Catholics are permitted to have their way.) The Northern Ireland assembly has been suspended since last October, after allegations of IRA spying. Two thousand additional officers are being deployed in the province to deter threatened attacks by paramilitaries of both sides. See appeals by PMs Blair and Ahern, coverage by Telegraph, CNN.
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# Posted 7:59 AM by Patrick Belton  

THE US ROLE IN GEORGIA'S 'ROSE REVOLUTION': This piece in today's CS Monitor makes clear the effect the US can have when it acts to promote democracy - as it has done in Georgia over the last decade, giving over $1 billion and substantial diplomatic support to support democratization in that nation:
From Paris to Pakistan, Americans have grown used to television footage of American flags going up in flames or being trampled under foot by angry crowds.

But in Georgia, a handful of American flags have been held high among the sea of opposition banners that protesters used to usher in their revolution - waved in gratitude for Washington's role in facilitating democratic change here....

Senior US officials pushed diplomatic buttons before and throughout the crisis - in concert with Russia and others - making clear to all sides the dangers of a forceful crackdown or street violence. But untidy as the opposition's seizure of power has been, analysts say that billions in Western aid - and steady prodemocracy brow-beating - proved a key to regime change, one achieved without a shot being fired.

"The US government has gone to great lengths to back a [democratic] process and institutions, and to be very careful - amid big pressure from both sides - not to back certain individuals," says Mark Mullen, head of the Georgia office of the National Democratic Institute (NDI), funded by the US government, which has engaged in democracy training here since the mid-1990s.
More, please.
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# Posted 7:44 AM by Patrick Belton  

THE QUEEN'S SPEECH was today: bills to be introduced by the government in the coming year will include ones aimed at traffic disruption, asylum reform, and moves to abolish the remaining hereditary peers and the Lord Chancellor, and create a Supreme Court. This last measure, though a fairly massive constitutional change, has not received much public deliberation before being announced, leading to criticism for being hasty and ill thought out.

The full text of the Queen's Speech is here.
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# Posted 6:54 AM by Patrick Belton  

"Senator Kit Bond does Rumsfeld one better, wishing the fight to commence in Baghdad, 'rather than Boston or Boise or Baldwin, Missouri, or (emphasis added) Belton, Missouri.'" (Via Weekly Standard)
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# Posted 2:28 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OXBLOG SPIRTITUALLY SECURE: David Brooks writes that
"anybody who has several sexual partners in a year is committing spiritual suicide."
I don't know what the opposite of spiritual suicide is, but for the last twelve months I have most certainly been committing it. Still, I have some questions about Brooks' claim. First of all, do you have to go all the way with several partners, or is third base enough? How about third base with one partner and all the way with another? Or second base with four partners?

Furthermore, which definition of "several" does Brooks rely on? Merriam-Webster lists it as meaning both "more than one" and "more than two but fewer than many". If Brooks meant "more than one" why didn't he just say that? Does he have something to hide?

Also, when Brooks refers to several partners in a year, is he referring to a single year or a lifetime average? Do my many years of chastity mean that I can get with multiple honeys this year without endangering my spiritual well-being? If I get with too many honeys this year (an unlikely event), can I make up for it by being chaste later on? Or is spiritual suicide irreversible?

Next up, what about someone who gets divorced and married in the same twelve month period? Wouldn't it be OK for him or her to have more than one sexual partner?

And what about cultural diveristy? Can Muslims have sex with a new partner after 354 days because their years are shorter? Do Jews have to wait 13 months during lunar leap years?

Finally, what will happen when human beings begin to live on other planets? Can residents of Mercury have sex with someone new every 88 days? Do residents of Jupiter have to wait for 11.86 years? (I don't even want to think about Uranus.)

Anyhow, go read Brooks column. It offers a compelling conservative defense of gay marriage. My criticism of it is entirely tangential.

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# Posted 1:47 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

UNRESERVED: The Army has announced a shortfall in its recruitment of reservists. Phil Carter provides some thoughtful commentary. Plus, Phil draws on his own experience as an MP to assess the role of female MPs in the line of fire in Iraq. As usual, great stuff.

Sadly, however, Phil will not be sharing his thoughts on Michael Jackson (the pop star, not the British general).
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# Posted 1:35 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

"WE ARE ONE STRESSED OUT RESERVIST AWAY FROM A MASSACRE": This column [free registration required] is on the alarmist side, but it may point to a problem worth considering. It would also help if the author pointed out that American forces in Iraq have shown tremendous restraint and respect for human rights despite considerable provocations from war-criminal Ba'athist insurgents. (Hat tip to NR)

UPDATE: Here's a striking example of US Army humanitarianism -- from 1945.
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# Posted 1:16 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LETTER FROM BAGHDAD: Usually a solid thinker, Les Gelb has packed more bad and misleading ideas into a single op-ed column than any author I've seen in a long time. In short, he thinks the US should divide Iraq into three ethnic states so that it can end the occupation ASAP.

Rather than respond myself to Gelb's argument, I thought I'd post some excerpts from a response drafted by a friend of mine who is a correspondent in Iraq. With any luck, the Times will run my friend's article in the next couple of days. For now, here are some of the highlights:
Iraq is unique in the Muslim world as a country where Sunnis and Shias, both secular and religious leaders, have often collaborated against internal oppression and external aggression, and have not engaged in the vicious sectarian bloodshed seen in Pakistan, or the Wahabbi view of Shias as heretics and polytheists. Shia Ayatollahs supported Sunni opposition movements, and a radical Shia movement like the Da’wa party had a Sunni membership of ten percent...

Iraq’s Sunnis and Shias are related by common history and often common tribal relations, since Iraq only became a majority Shia state after Sunni tribes converted to Shiism in the 18th century. Even the most extreme Iraqi Shias are Iraqi nationalists and view Iran with suspicion. Iraqi Shias believe their country is the rightful leader of the Shia world, since Shiism began in Iraq, most sacred Shia sites are in Iraq and the Hawza, or Shia clerical academy of Najaf, dominated Shia thought until recently. Iran is a rival for them. Iraqi nationalism and unity were proven when all members of the Iraqi Governing Council unanimously rejected the American proposal to introduce Turkish peacekeepers into the country...

Kurdish leaders from all political parties have called for inclusion in the new Iraq, and while many may dream of an eventual Kurdish state, all recognize that it is quixotic at this juncture. There is only a light American presence in Kurdistan anyway, and it is not the reason troops are meeting resistance elsewhere. A Kurdistan without US troops is the greatest
fear of most Kurds today who live under the ominous shadow of their Turkish, Iranian, and even Syrian neighbors. There is no clear border for Kurdistan. Kurds covet Mosul and Kirkuk, where many Arabs, Assyrians and Turkmen would violently oppose secession...

Gelb’s proposal is the singularly least democratic suggestion offered to solve the Iraq crisis to date. Moreover, no neighboring country would accept the idea of dividing Iraq. How many small, artificial and unviable countries (like Jordan and the Gulf countries) does the west wish to create in repetition of its post Ottoman errors? Unlike Yugoslavia, Iraq’s different
groups have no history of separate existence and they have no history of mutual slaughter. It is true that Iraq was to a certain extent an invention. But all states begin as an imagined idea. A state succeeds if its people believe in it. Iraqis believe in Iraq. If anything, the American occupation is only uniting Iraqis in resentment of the foreigners and non Muslims who
rule them, and increasing their desire to be “free, independent and democratic” as the graffiti says on walls throughout the country. Iraqis believe in Baghdad, an extremely diverse capital city, where Shias, Sunnis and Kurds live together and even intermarry.
So those are the good parts. If the Times decided to run the whole article, you'll get to see the not-so-good parts as well...and I will fisk them.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2003

# Posted 9:29 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE MUD HAS BEEN SLUNG: Via TPM, I came across this NYT article on an RNC commercial for Bush that will start running in Iowa. According to the NYT, the new commerical
shows Mr. Bush, during the last State of the Union address, warning of continued threats to the nation: "Our war against terror is a contest of will, in which perseverance is power," he says after the screen flashes the words, "Some are now attacking the president for attacking the terrorists."
That is low, misleading and flat-out wrong. Unsurprisingly, the White House has tried to distance itself from the commerical and say that the RNC was in charge. But how credible a defense is that?

If this is what we can expect from the Bush campaign, count me out.
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# Posted 9:06 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BOOOORING: Dan Drezner has an excellent post on the new Medicare bill which begins with Matt Yglesias' statement that bloggers (including himself) should learn to pay attention to critical issues such as Medicare no matter how boring they are.

That's why I'm putting up this link to Dan's post. We can't pretend that foreign policy and the war on terror are separate from domestic issues. If Medicare and Social Security and tax policy keep us in the red, we won't be able to devote the necessary resources to fighting terror. It's not a choice of butter vs. guns. It's a challenge to be reponsible and efficient in our consumption of both so that choices don't have to be made.

Anyhow, when reading Dan's post, do you know which link was the only one I followed? This one. So much for practicing what I preach...
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# Posted 8:57 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

@#$*%&! In a pre-Thanksgiving display of blogospheric love, Dan Drezner is cursing out James Lileks for cursing out Salam Pax. The whole thing started because Salam said some pretty dumb things in the Guardian, to which Lileks responded with some good points that were pre-empted by stupid insults. Rather than bring everyone back to the substantive side of things, Dan lost his temper and decided to chew Lileks out for being a jerk.

As far as the bad blood goes, I think it should be water under the bridge. Salam, Lileks and Dan have contributed so much to the blogosphere that no one should hold it against them if they lose it once in a while.

However, I would like to respond to what Salam said, since I think it deserves a serious response. At the core of SP's open letter to George Bush is his sarcastic frustration with the US-led reconstruction effort:
To tell you the truth, I am glad that someone is doing the cleaning up, and thank you for getting rid of that scary guy with the hideous moustache that we had for president. But I have to say that the advertisements you were dropping from your B52s before the bombs fell promised a much more efficient and speedy service. We are a bit disappointed. So would you please, pretty please, with sugar on top, get your act together and stop telling people you have Iraq all figured out when you are giving us the trial-and-error approach?
Given that Salam lost numerous friends and relatives to Saddam's brutality, it is surprising to see him triviliaze the value of liberation. Moreover, as Lileks suggests, it would be nice to see some recognition on Salam's part that American soldiers are giving their lives day in, day out, to prevent a Ba'athist resurgence and facilitate the reconstruction.

But leaving all that aside, let's look at what Salam is really asking for: a more credible guarantee that the United States will not cut and run, but rather stay in Iraq as long as is necessary to ensure prosperity and freedom. The hesitant and sarcastic way in which Salam gets this message across reminds of something that Tom Friedman said a while back [no permalink]. Friedman reminded us how dependent and helpless it must feel for the people of Iraq have the United States army liberate them and supervise their recovery from three decades of dictatorship.

Thus, it should come as no surprise that Salam puts up an aggressive and critical facade to mask his desire for cooperation. Moreover, the United States has a compelling interest in learning to distinguish between constructive critics and corrupt subversives. We have to be 'big' enough to get our emotional satisfaction elsewhere while rebuilding Iraq.

If we do our job right, than twenty or thirty years down the line, Iraqis will think of the occupation the way the Germans and Japanese think of theirs. It won't become an excuse for wholesale submission to everything the US wants, but it will establish an unbreakable bond that lets citizens of both nations know that they are on the same side regardless of how fiercely they disagree.
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# Posted 8:51 PM by Patrick Belton  

A BAD MAN GOES TO JAIL: Mohammed Hamdi al-Ahdal, a senior Al Qaeda leader who was involved in the terror attack of the USS Cole, was arrested today by Yemeni security forces. (CNN) Al-Ahdal had been reported to be in hiding in the Marib province of Yemen, perhaps under the protection of armed local tribesmen. The previous deputy to Al Qaeda's director of operations in Yemen, Abu Al-Harithi (also known as Abu Ali), Al-Ahdal took over the organization's operations in Yemen when the CIA successfully detonated two Predator-launched Hellfire missiles into Abu Ali's convoy in November, removing the chief operative and several other leaders from the scene. (ABC)

Online Islamist sources indicate that Al-Ahdal was among the first Mujahideen to enter Bosnia, fighting in the Battle of Tishin (August 1992) against the Serb army and losing one leg and use of an arm in that battle. After making Hajj in 1998, he was arrested by the Saudi government in Makkah on suspicion of plotting against the government, and was interrogated by the Saudis in the Ar-Ruwais Concentration Camp, Jeddah. On support for Al Qaeda in the Yemeni hinterlands, see BBC and EurasiaNet.
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# Posted 2:21 PM by Patrick Belton  

DAVID BROOKS AT THANKSGIVING: Warming up for the holiday in which we celebrate the Puritan and Kemalist legacies, David Brooks argues that American exceptionalism has been reborn, and it is a good thing:
The American work ethic shifted, so that the average American now works 350 hours a year — 9 or 10 weeks — longer than the average European. ...Economically, the comparisons are trickier, but here too there is divergence. The gap between American and European G.D.P. per capita has widened over the past two decades, and at the moment American productivity rates are surging roughly 5 percent a year.
While I'm not sure my French friends would let me live down giving thanks this week for a longer workweek, Brooks then goes on to some trends that we can all feel some measure of gratitude for:
In fact, we may look back on the period beginning in the middle of the 1980's as the Great Rejuvenation. American life has improved in almost every measurable way, and far from regressing toward the mean, the U.S. has become a more exceptional nation.

The drop in crime rates over the past decade is nothing short of a miracle. Teenage pregnancy and abortion rates rose in the early 1970's and 1980's, then leveled off and now are dropping. Child poverty rates have declined since the welfare reform of the mid-1990's. The black poverty rate dropped "to the lowest rate ever recorded," according to a 2002 study by the National Urban League. The barren South Bronx neighborhood that Ronald Reagan visited in 1980 to illustrate urban blight is now a thriving area, with, inevitably, a Starbucks.

The U.S. economy has enjoyed two long booms in the past two decades, interrupted by two shallow recessions, and perhaps now we're at the start of a third boom. More nations have become democratic in the past two decades than at any other time in history.
Even more heartening, Brooks attributes much of this to new, ambitious, talented young blood from the rest of the world:
The biggest difference is that over the past two decades the United States has absorbed roughly 20 million immigrants. This influx of people has led, in the short term, to widening inequality and higher welfare costs as the immigrants are absorbed, but it also means that the U.S. will be, through our lifetimes, young, ambitious and energetic.
Amen, brother. Pass the cranberries.
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# Posted 1:02 PM by Patrick Belton  

An American woman has been left with a British accent after having a stroke. This is despite the fact that Tiffany Roberts, 61, has never been to Britain. Her accent is a mixture of English cockney and West Country. (via BBC)
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# Posted 12:56 PM by Patrick Belton  


(Okay, a healthy one).
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# Posted 7:49 AM by Patrick Belton  

MEDICARE PRESCRIPTION DRUG BENEFIT TO PASS TODAY: And hardly anyone seems too terribly happy about it. The left, c.f. Senator Kennedy, is worried that the introduction of competitive mechanisms will pave the wave for the privatization of social security. The right perhaps might not think that would be such a terribly bad thing, but is concerned that we've just created a quite large entitlement without really thinking about how to pay for it. On these lines, the WaPo was opposed to the bill, arguing principally that the cost-control provisions to be passed along with the new pricey drug benefit were not powerful enough - but also because an extremely important, 1,100-page bill with profound effect on the nation's fiscal and physical health was brought up for a House vote only one day after it was finished in largely secretive conference, making it impossible for legislators to have any real idea of what they were voting for or against. TNR's Jonathan Cohn criticizes the bill for giving unduly sweet deals to the large-contributing insurance and pharmaceutical industries, while including a competitive mechanism (Senator Breaux's) which he argues costs the government more than it saves. Equally critical is The Economist, which calls it "At a price-tag of $400 billion over the next ten years (and far more thereafter)...an extremely expensive way to buy votes."
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# Posted 7:27 AM by Patrick Belton  

A HECKOFA LONG TIME TO EAT PEANUTS: Okay, I'm personally very fond of Singapore as a country. But Singapore Airlines is advertising at the moment to win free tickets on its new, 18.5 hour long-haul nonstop flight from Singapore to Los Angeles. 18 hours - think about it, that's a whole day squeezed into a airplane seat, eating airplane food, and being subjected to that very unique form of authoritarian governance known more commonly as the flight attendant system. If that isn't far enough for you to go without getting out of your seat, lucky you - this will be followed in several months by a non-stop Singapore to New York route. (And if you like airline food, hey, on the internet there's a page for every sort of kinky obscene taste nowadays ....)
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Monday, November 24, 2003

# Posted 10:06 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A NOVEL EXPLANATION FOR NYT MEDIOCRITY: Matt Yglesias and Kevin Drum think that the 800-word limit on NYT biweekly columns stifles creativity and prevents some authors from putting their foot forward.

My response: Huh? There is an almost endless supply of 800-word columns out there that contain both new information and original ideas. Granted, most of those columns are in the WaPo. But that just goes to show that format isn't what's holding the NYT back.

Moreover, I think Kevin & Matt would grant that what's wrong with Bill Safire or David Brooks is their ideas, not their format. By the same token, you won't find me complaining about the format of Dowd & Krugman's columns (or Safire's for that matter).

Now, Kevin does raise an interesting point about the NYT constantly hiring columnists who have no experience in the genre. Why not, he suggests, recruit the best columnists from leading regional papers? I agree. But I think the problem with unproven columnists is not that they have trouble adjusting to the format, but rather that they don't have a demonstrated ability to bring new ideas into play on a biweekly basis. As a former bimonthly columnist myself, I'd say that the challenge of op-ed writing is finding something worthwhile to say, not figuring out how to say it in 800 words.

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# Posted 9:44 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

GRASSROOTS DEMOCRACY IN IRAQ: The WaPo has an excellent report.
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# Posted 9:39 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

UNITED AGAINST IRAN? The US and Europe have taken a big step closer to confronting Iranian nuclear ambitions togehter.
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# Posted 9:35 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

"THEIR BREASTS ARE SO LARGE THAT THEY ARE UNABLE TO WALK OR EVEN HAVE SEX": Plastic surgery gone awry? Nope. Just your typical factory-farmed turkey.
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# Posted 9:24 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE PEOPLE HAVE SPOKEN: The citizens of Hong Kong want more democracy. And they want it ASAP. (Note to Singapore: What "Asian Values"?)
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# Posted 3:34 PM by Patrick Belton  

WORRIED THAT YOUR ENGLISH IS TOO COMPREHENSIBLE? Not to fear, OxBlog is here. This fun list will provide you with many amusing ways to worsen your English, and fit in more in (say) English text messaging communities, or American teenage chat rooms. (Note: OxBlog actively does not endorse picking up teenagers. Particularly by our readers at http://www.clintonpresidentialcenter.com; you know who you are. This is with the possible exception of in Idaho, where that sort of thing seems to be legal.)

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# Posted 11:50 AM by Patrick Belton  

AMY CHUA ON DEMOCRACY AND MARKET-DOMINANT MINORITIES: Young Yale Law professor Amy Chua has a beautifully written piece in Prospect Magazine (UK), on the possibility that social changes accompanying democratization will unleash forces of resentment against market-dominant ethnic minorities. Amy Chua's subject is close not only to her research interests but also to her personal experience from an ethnic Chinese family in the Philippines. Of course, Chua chooses not to stress that market-successful ethnic minorities are prone to scapegoating under authoritarian states, too, which generally seek ways to deflect popular discontent from themselves - think Stalin (or, for that matter, Putin) and Jews. However, Chua's argument is well-presented, and her prose style is remarkable, as here in her opening paragraph:
In many poor countries, markets concentrate wealth in the hands of prosperous ethnic minorities. In these places, democracy can be an engine of vengeance.
One morning in September 1994, I received a call from my mother in California. In a hushed voice, she told me that my Aunt Leona, my father's twin sister, had been murdered in her home in the Philippines, her throat slit by her chauffeur. My mother broke the news to me in our Hokkien Chinese dialect. But the word "murder" she said in English, as if to wall off the act from the family through language.
The murder of a relative is horrible for anyone, anywhere. My father's grief was impenetrable; to this day, he has not broken his silence on the subject. For the rest of the family, though, there was an added element of disgrace. For the Chinese, luck is a moral attribute, and a lucky person would never be murdered. Like having a birth defect, or marrying a Filipino, being murdered is shameful.
I find Chua's writing to be some of the best-written prose, if nothing else, coming out of the academy at the moment. If the Bulldogs lost the Yale-Harvard matchup on the football field last Saturday, then we certainly won with regard to luring Chua away from Cambridge. I'll look forward to reading much more from her in the future. And her final note is more optimistic with regard to ways in which market-dominant minorities may be ultimately reconciled with their broader societies - i.e., by being seen to be "significant and visible" contributors to those societies:
The University of Nairobi, for example, owes its existence to wealthy Indians in Kenya. The Madhvani family, owners of the largest industrial group in east Africa, provide education, healthcare and housing for their African employees, and also employ Africans in top management. In Russia, there is the unusual case of the Jewish billionaire Roman Abramovich, whose philanthropy won him election as governor of the poverty-stricken Chukotka region in the Russian far east. More typically, however, building ethnic goodwill requires collective action through ethnic chambers of commerce, clan associations, and so on.
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# Posted 11:36 AM by Patrick Belton  

WHITHER CONTINENTAL DRIFT? Our foreign policy society's DC chapter took up the theme of Euro-American relations last night; here are the notes. We discussed the topic here in Oxford too, just a couple of weeks ago.
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# Posted 11:26 AM by Patrick Belton  

ITALIAN NATIONAL ALLIANCE LEADER GOES TO JERUSALEM to apologize for Mussolini's misdeeds, and is received by Israel. Deputy Minister Fini, wearing a skullcap, paid a visit today to Yad Vashem and is being received later in the week by Sharon, Shimon Peres, FM Shalom, and President Katsav in what's being perceived as the culmination of Fini's decade-long campaign to haul his National Alliance out of its post-fascist fringes and into the mainstream. Ha'aretz writes favorably of his trip, citing sources as saying, "apart from converting he has made every possible step to get closer to us and to Italy's Jews."
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# Posted 11:23 AM by Patrick Belton  

SNIPER TO BE EXECUTED: The sentence has just been handed down by the Prince William County jury, subject to Circuit Court Judge Millette's ratification on February 12th. More when more is available....

UPDATE: WaPo has more.
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# Posted 9:26 AM by Patrick Belton  

TWO GOOD PIECES in the Weekly Standard today: The first is on why the U.S. military requires staying power, and more divisions, for theaters such as Iraq, rather than Secretary Rumsfeld's dream of a lighter, faster, leaner army. The second, by Bob Kagan and Bill Kristol, beautifully praises the President's pro-democracy rhetoric during his trip to London, and hopes that it is the President who wins in the councils of his advisors:
There can no longer be any doubt that whatever Republican "realist" inclinations the president may have inherited from his father and his father's advisers when he took office, he has now abandoned that failed and narrow view and raised the torch previously held high by Ronald Reagan--and before that by John F. Kennedy and Harry Truman.

In this respect, Bush has broken from the mainstream of his party and become a neoconservative in the true meaning of the term. For if there is a single principle that today divides neoconservatism from traditional American conservatism, it is the conviction that the promotion of liberal democracy abroad is both a moral imperative and a profound national interest. This is a view of America's role in the world that has found little favor in the Republican party since the days of Theodore Roosevelt. Reagan was a modern exception--the product, no doubt, of his own roots as a Truman Democrat--but this aspect of Reaganism was largely abandoned by Republicans after 1989. And so we are not surprised to see traditional Republican conservatives, of whom there is no more esteemed intellectual spokesman than George Will, now denouncing the supposed folly of such ambitious ventures. Nor are we surprised that in Bush's own cabinet, neither his secretary of state nor his secretary of defense shares the president's commitment to liberal democracy, either in Iraq or in the Middle East more generally. Indeed, the only thing that surprises us, a little, is the failure of American liberals--and European liberals--to embrace a cause that ought to be close to their hearts.
If the President would like to earn a place in the ranks of TR, JFK, Truman and Reagan by promoting a principled policy of national strength in the service of democracy, this Scoop Jackson Democrat, for one, will not be minding in the least.
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Sunday, November 23, 2003

# Posted 7:11 PM by Patrick Belton  

UPDATE ON GEORGIA: Shevardnadze has resigned power.
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Saturday, November 22, 2003

# Posted 1:38 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BULLDOG! BULLDOG! At The Game. No blogging today either.
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Friday, November 21, 2003

# Posted 1:34 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CASE UN/CLOSED: Newsweek rebuts Stephen Hayes. Hayes responds. Newsweek gets one good shot in (which Hayes acknowledges), but also seems to have made quite a few mistakes.
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# Posted 1:08 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NOT ENOUGH PROTESTS IN LONDON: George Bush gets a villain's welcome. But Jiang Zemin, Vladimir Putin, Bashar Assad and Robert Mugabe get left a lone by the protesting masses. Why? Greg Djerejian explains.

And while you're at it, take a look at Greg's extended fisking of some of the letters from prominent intellectuals that the Guardian published in honor of George Bush's visit.

Finally, if you enjoy nothing more than mocking misguided demonstrators, than head over to this Instapost and scroll down for plenty more.
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# Posted 1:03 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OXBLOG SLANDERS SOUTH & MIDWEST: When you blog, everything you write gets put under the microscope. Sometimes I wish it weren't so. But at the end of the day, it is precisely this sort of challenge that makes this a rewarding experience.

For example, I randomly decided to put up a post on this list of America's 10 most dangerous intersections. It turns out to be a pretty flawed list. In my original post, I wrote that "It's hard to believe that none of [the 10 interesections] are in Boston or New York." Yet as MG points out, State Farm's "national" list only includes information on those states where it sells insurance. Had I paid closer I attention, I would've noticed that neither New York nor Massachusetts is one of those states.

Next up, DB points out that State Farm's "danger index" only takes into account the number of accidents at an intersection, not the amount of traffic that goes through it. Furthermore, DB went looking for aerial photos of the intersections on the list and discovered that that most of them are really, really big. In other words, the frequency of accidents at those intersections may not be exceptionally high, but sheer size catapults them to the top of the list. (For a photo of the number one intersection, click here.)

All in all, I'd say that this is a pretty good demonstration of how the blogosphere forces all of us to think more seriously about everything we say. Without hundreds of writers and thousands of readers, the system wouldn't work. The end result? My apologies to the South & Midwest for naively accepting groundless assertions that their drivers are worse than our own up here in the North. I guess OxBlog won't be getting the votes of anyone with a Confederate flag on the back of their truck...

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Thursday, November 20, 2003

# Posted 8:07 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

TOO POPULAR FOR THEIR OWN GOOD: Crescat Sententia was down yesterday because of insufficient bandwidth. But now they're back and better than ever with an upgraded account, an interesting post on homosexuality and the bone marrow donation process, and 20 Questions for Stuart Buck.
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# Posted 5:39 AM by Patrick Belton  

A SAD DAY IN ISTANBUL: Between three and five coordinated explosions have struck the Turkish city this morning, and our thoughts are with the many victims of these latest senseless outrages against human decency. (CNN, NYT, BBC). Their perpetrators are murderers, and must be treated as such.

UPDATE: The press is now reporting that HM Consul General in Istanbul, Roger Short, was assassinated in the day's attack. A lifelong diplomat since his graduation from our university, Short was remembered by the Archbishop of Canterbury as a 'kind and caring' diplomat. (His obituary) Fluent in the nation's language, Turkey was his the site of his first and last posting. He is survived by a wife and three children; Basiniz sag olsun.
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# Posted 3:11 AM by Patrick Belton  

TIME FOR THE WORLD'S MOST UNUSUAL SPORT: That being the Eton Wall Game, played (in the version that counts, anyway) annually on the Saturday before St Andrew's Day. (Which also happens this year to be the date of another important academic sporting event in Britain's daughter country.) Thus Economist:
The wall game is played on only one ground in the world, at Eton College, a few miles west of London; and even there, only by a select few of the school's 70 “collegers”, or scholarship-holders, plus a small number of “oppidans”, the fee-payers who comprise most of the school's roughly 1,300 pupils. Add a few former (or unsuspecting) players invited to make up the occasional visiting side, and you have the wall game community of the planet.
Eton helpfully provides the rules of the game (the inspiration of rugby as well as Harry Potter's Quidditch), as well as a brief explanation of something which, to many O.E.s as well as bystanders, seems perennially to defy explanation.

The Collegers v Oppidans match takes place this Saturday at the Wall, at 11.10.
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# Posted 12:13 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CRIMSON SOLIPSISM: Ah, the Internet. I live and work in Cambridge, MA but had to find out from Steve Sachs in Oxford, England that the editors of the Harvard Crimson are up in arms about a supposed plan to reinstate the draft.

While Josh did link to Steve's post about the Crimson last week, I thought that my reliance on Steve to find out what's in the Crimson substantiates what Steve has said more recently about the Internet having the potential to unite those divided by long distances and divide those united by short ones. On an even more fascinating note, Steve cites the work of legendary historian Marc Bloch, who observed that information flows in medieval Europe had the same tendency to unite the distant and divide the promixate.

Anyhow, in case you haven't read Steve's post on the reinstatement of the draft, it turns out that the whole thing was cooked up by a far-left hack who got the Guardian and others to play along. Exposing this fact promptly resulted in Steve being denounced as a shill for the Bush administration.

Bottom line: The Crimson editorial got played big time. So much for Harvard having the smartest undergraduates. And come Saturday, it should become painfully clear that their football team sucks, too. Go Bulldogs!
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Wednesday, November 19, 2003

# Posted 11:09 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FRENCH DEMOCRACY PROMOTION: This TNR piece says French troops are accomplishing nothing in Cote D'Ivoire, but it seems to me like they're doing their best to promote peace and democracy. It isn't easy, you know.
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# Posted 11:02 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MORE BUREAUCRA-SPEAK: Stephen Hayes puts the DoD's press release under the microscope and finds it to be vague and misleading -- half-way, that is, between a denial and a non-denial.
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# Posted 10:52 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ASTROTURF BLOGGING: TAPPED's Nick Confessiore has an article up exposing TechCentralStation as a front for corporate lobbyists. Glenn Reynolds thinks this is ridiculous, since no one ever tells him what to write in his TCS columns. Dan Drezner says pretty much the same thing.

Reading the article, what struck as most interesting is that TCS seems to devote a lot more coverage to issues that affect its corporate sponsors. Then again, TCS founder James Glassman tells Confessiore that "We're an advocacy group. There's no doubt about that. I don't think we ever had pretenses of being an academic think tank." Not exactly stonewalling, is he?

UDPATE: Matt Yglesias also notes that he was never told what to write for TCS. The difference between Matt's post and the ones put up by Glenn and Dan is that Matt's post is an actual effort to apologize for his association with TCS, which he seems to be sort of embarrassed about.
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# Posted 10:09 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HAL TADRUS AL-ARABIYYA? American students' interest in Arabic language courses has spiralled since 9/11. More than 10,000 students are studying Arabic right now, out of a total of 1.4 million students studying some foreign language.

According to the State Department, Arabic is a "super-hard" language to learn, a classification shared by Chinese, Japanese and Korean. Even so attrition rates in Arabic programs have been lower than expected.

Here at Harvard, the department is struggling to find enough teachers and assistants to staff the Arabic courses. Personally, I have had the great good fortune to be taught by the illustrious Mostafa Atamnia. My aspiration is to have OxBlog become the official blog of Al-Jazeera.

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# Posted 1:13 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

EATING IT UP: Liberals, even my fellow hawks at TNR, are extremely pleased with Bob Kagan's recent column that declares Howard Dean's foreign policy safe for the mainstream. The folks at &c. are even projecting that Dean will run against Bush from the right on foreign policy.

While I can accept Kagan's basic premise that Dean is no McGovern (granting for the moment that McGovern was a McGovern), there still seems to be good reason to belive that Dean's foreign policy would be both excessively multilateralist and insufficiently committed to democracy promotion. Of course, you could probably say the same about Kerry, Clark and Edwards.

Personally, I still can't get over Dean's statement that the fall of Saddam Hussein might have been a good thing. It's very hard for me to dismiss that as just a gaffe. From where I stand, it is an indication of Dean's instincts.

On the other hand, I'm probably going to find myself apalled at the cheapshots that the GOP will take at Dean's dovishness if he gets elected. They'll try to blur the line between being against the war in Iraq and being against the war on terror. And so it will come down to the lesser of two evils. Sigh.

UPDATE: There go those instincts again.
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# Posted 12:47 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CONSERVATIVE WOLF IN LIBERAL SHEEP'S CLOTHING: Matt Yglesias has an interesting column up about Peter Boyer, author of a recent hatchet job on Wesley Clark that somehow made it's way into the liberal New Yorker. As both Matt and Fred Kaplan argue, there isn't much substance to Boyer's case that Clark shouldn't be taken seriously when it comes to foreign policy. But why worry about what Boyer says, when Clark is doing such a good job of demonstrating his own incompetence?
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Tuesday, November 18, 2003

# Posted 9:59 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

UNPROCESSED INTELLIGENCE: Glenn links to a whole bunch of sites that are trying to put together as much raw infomation as possible about the occupation.
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# Posted 9:57 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CROSSING INTO MODO-LAND: Lately, David Brooks has been spending his time reading fashion magazines. Halfway through Brooks' column, I thought to myself, "Oh my God, he's becoming another Dowd." Yet by the end, Brooks had made a reasonably intelligent and coherent point about the magazines' socio-political significance. Think he'll give Maureen some lessons on how to do it?
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# Posted 9:45 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ROOT CAUSES: France has decided to combat anti-Semitism by spending $8 billion on urban renewal in rough neighboorhoods with heavily Muslim populations. The package also includes tougher policing and prosecution measures. My gut says that the latter initiatives are far more important. But let's give the French a chance to prove that carrots have a more lasting effect than sticks.

Alternately, the French could let the Turks into the EU and ask them to share some of their remarkable tolerance for Judaism with their French counterparts.
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# Posted 9:22 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ONLY IN ISRAEL: Where the army is filled with guilt-laden doves.
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# Posted 9:06 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MUCH ADU ABOUT SOMETHING: 14-year old Ghanaian-American soccer phenom Freddy Adu has signed a six-year deal with DC United after turning down offers from Man United and Chelsea. The future of American soccer may already be here.
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# Posted 9:02 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A SHORT, EASY SLOG: Phil Carter says Rumsfeld's new warfighting plans blatantly disregard the lessons of recent history.
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Monday, November 17, 2003

# Posted 11:26 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HOWARD'S TOP 10: It's turns out that Howard and I both have the same favorite recording artist: Wyclef Jean. Andrew Sullivan likes Dean's taste in music since Wyclef is known for appreciating the rewards that the free market brings.

I would not be so sanguine, however. If you listen to The Score or The Carnival, you might figure out why Howard Dean thinks all Southerners have the Stars & Bars in their pickups.

One of Wyclef's big messages is that the black man must wear a mask of respectability until he is powerful enough to overthrow the white order. Needless to say, I appreciate Wyclef for his talents as a musician and storyteller, not his advice on social policy.

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# Posted 11:12 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BELIEVE IT OR NOT: In the space of 27 hours, Matt Yglesias has both admitted that he is too poor to get laid and praised an OxBlog post without resorting to a single backhanded compliment or snide remark.
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# Posted 11:05 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE TIMES' SALVATION: John Burns alone makes the NYT worth reading. (Via Instapundit)
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# Posted 10:58 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BIZARRE: BBC reports that Italian anti-war activists are raising money for Ba'ath aligned insurgents in Iraq.
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# Posted 10:29 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE BIGGER THE MOUTH, THE BIGGER THE SHOE: Wes Clark is doing an uncannily good job of undermining his credentials as the serious foreign policy candidate. The place to turn for the best accounts of his foot-in-mouth performances in TNR. In the TNR primary, we get to hear about how Wes Clark thinks that "engaging" Eastern Europe (via Citibank) won the Cold War, how working more closely with the Saudis dictatorship is the way to stop Al Qaeda, and how it was OK to go fight Milosevic without a UN resolution -- but not Saddam -- because Milosevic had abused Kosovar human rights.

When Clark finally decided to show some foresight by saying that it's time to lift the embargo on Cuba, he quickly backed off the statement and hypocritically added that candidates shouldn't make "foreign policy announcements" in the middle of a campaign (except on such important subjects as the giving the UN control of Iraq.)

On the bright side, it turns out that Clark may not be as arrogant as we all once thought. Then again, walking around with one's foot in one's mouth is conducive to humility.

Clark also seems to get in shape rhetorically when facing off against the right. Yet even Clark supporter Kevin Drum, who proudly asserts that Clark knows more about foreign policy than both Glenn Reynolds and Kevin's cat, admits that the General has a habit of saying some very stupid things about foreign and domestic affairs.
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# Posted 1:12 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MIRACLE ON 44TH STREET: Kevin Drum reports that the NYT has decided that bloggers can now post real permalinks to its content, not just semi-permalinks that disappear once the content goes behind the NYT firewall.

As a result of this new policy, Kevin has decided to declare the NYT more blog-friendly than either the WaPo or LAT, since both of them move their content behind a firewall after a fixed period of time. However, I think the WaPo deserves a lot more credit than Kevin is giving it. If you go to the WaPo webpage for any given topic or country, you can usually access 100 recent stories about it, sometimes going back more than a year. That's a tremendous amount of information that you can't get out of the NYT.
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# Posted 12:51 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE SHI'ITE VOTE: Take a look at this somewhat better than usual article on Shi'ite attitudes toward democracy. It has some interesting information about Ayatollah Sistani and the way he expresses his official opinions.

What I don't about like the article is the way it argues by implication that Iraqi Shi'ites just want power and don't understand and/or care about democracy as a system of government. For example, WaPo correspondent Anthony Shadid describes some pro-Iranian graffiti outside the office of Sistani's spokesman before letting us hear the spokesman's endorsement of constitutional government.

Is this supposed to be a tip off that Iraqi Shi'ites want an Islamic state? If so, why not just ask Sistani's spokesman about Iran? Why not ask him whether he sees democracy as a permanent system or just a transitional process? And ask those same questions to all the other man-in-the-street types whose opinions fill out the second half of all these articles.

We've known since day one that the Shi'ites have a lot of incentives to support democracy just long enough for them to take control of postwar Iraq. Now it is time for the media to stop repeating that fact endlessly and figure out whether the Shi'ite leadership means what it says about democracy or whether it just talks about democracy to advance its own interests.

By the same token, the American occupation authorities should be hammering away at a similar point when talking to the Shi'ite leadership: The more of a commitment that you show to democracy as an institution, the faster we can transfer power to an elected government in which your representatives will have a majority.
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Sunday, November 16, 2003

# Posted 5:56 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DETOUR RECOMMENDED: Here's a list of the 10 most dangerous intersections in the United States. It's hard to believe that none of them are in Boston or New York.
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# Posted 12:35 PM by Patrick Belton  

RICHLY-DESERVED PLUG: One of the best choral ensembles currently around working with the polyphonic Renaissance repertory, the Tallis Scholars, will be touring around the United States and Britain in December. Here are their tour dates - if they're in your city, you should go!
Tuesday 2 December - Oberlin, OH
Wednesday 3 December - Kansas City, MO
Friday 5 December - Seattle, WA
Saturday 6 December - Vancouver, BC
Sunday 7 December - Los Angeles, CA
Tuesday 9 December - Portland, OR
Wednesday 10 December - Berkeley, CA
Friday 12 December - Boston, MA
Saturday 13 December - New York, NY
Sunday 14 December - Daytona Beach, FL
Saturday 20 December 2003 at 7.30pm (Hazard Chase Christmas Festival, St John's, Smith Square, London, call for tickets)
Apart from London, I'm not sure where they're performing in each city, but their publicists'll know.
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# Posted 2:53 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PARSING THE BUREAUCRA-SPEAK: While the meaning of this DoD press release isn't exactly clear, it seems like a repudiation of the Saddam-Al Qaeda memo published in the Weekly Standard. Is the DoD denial more credible than the original report? I don't know. But it does seem fairly clear that there is a bureaucratic scuffle going on inside the executive branch, perhaps inside the Pentagon.
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Saturday, November 15, 2003

# Posted 5:42 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

JESSICA LYNCH AND WOMEN IN COMBAT: The National Review says that the capture of Jessica Lynch demonstrates the heavy price paid by female soldiers as a result of feminists' efforts to force them into front-line roles. Phil Carter responds to this charge point-by-point and shows that it is based on an apalling amount of distortion and ignorance.
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# Posted 5:30 PM by Patrick Belton  

ROUND-UP OF THE NEWS ON THE ISTANBUL TRAGEDY: At the moment, Turkish officials are placing the number of causalties at 23 dead and 302 wounded. While the Iran-backed Great Eastern Islamic Raiders' Front, also known as IBDA-C (info, more), immediately claimed responsibility in a telephone call to the Anatolia News Agency (Guardian), Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul blamed international terrorist organizations for being principally responsible (Zaman, Turkey). Similarly, Israeli officials are saying that they had never heard of the group before Saturday, and are blaming Al Qaeda rather than Hezbullah (Haaretz), while Prof. Gabriel Ben-Dor of Haifa's National Security Studies Centre argues that indigenous Turkish Islamists could not have carried out the attacks unaided by external networks: "These were fairly sophisticated terrorist attacks, carried out almost simultaneously, that would have required quite a good deal of planning, intelligence, logistic support, and so forth," he said in an interview. (Jerusalem Post). Israel has sent Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom to Istanbul, as well as a police forensic unit. CNN reports on three arrests in connection with the bombings.

Turkey's Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Haleva said he had warned Turkish police before that car traffic posed a threat to the two synagogues (News 24, South Africa). Mossad had also passed warnings about threats to the two synagogues onto Turkish intelligence on two occasions in the preceding months. (AP) One blast, in Neve Shalom synagogue, took place during a Bar Mitzvah (Guardian). Reuters includes a history of the Sephardic community in Istanbul.

Eli malei rachamim sho-khein bam'romim, hammtzei m'nukhah n'khonah al kanfei hash'khinah.
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# Posted 5:27 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

COLLIN MAY IS BACK at Innocents Abroad. His first post is on the crisis of confidence that has emerged in France despite Marianne's apparent vindication in Iraq.
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# Posted 2:04 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

TRAGEDY IN ISTANBUL: Wherever our people lives, it is the target of vicious hatred. Our thoughts go out to the families of the dead and injured.

Of course, our thougths also go out to the families of the non-Jews killed and injured in the attack. Initial reports suggest that there were 14 passesrby and 6 synagogue-goers killed. In Istanbul, those passersbys were most probably Muslism. And so the irony of September 11th recurs: in an effort to slaughter the Zionists and their American allies, innocent Muslims lives are taken.
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# Posted 1:53 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WAITING FOR THE OTHER SHOE TO DROP: I just read the Weekly Standard article on the Saddam-Osama connection which Patrick mentioned earlier. I'd like to believe that such a connection existed, but for the moment I'm not buying it.

Something just seems wrong. Why has the information turned up now? Why would the White House sit on information that would vindicate its decision to invade Iraq? The Standard article says the information was compiled in response to a request by the Senate Intelligence Committee. Why the heck would the administration wait until the Senate showed an interest before doing some serious research on the Saddam-Osama connection? I thought that was the kind of research that they'd been doing all along.

Another set of concerns are raised by Matt Yglesias. The information in question is contained in a memo from Doug Feith's office at the Pentagon. Given Feith's connection to the controversial Office of Special Plans (OSP), one has to wonder. Even if you don't accept Matt's premise that the OSP is an operations center for partisan hacks intent on distorting the intelligence process, it is fair to ask why this memo didn't come from a source with greater public credibility.

In short, I think we are waiting for the other shoe to drop. My guess is that someone in the government feels very strongly about this report, and is trying to get the White House to stand behind it by indirectly going public. But if the case can't be made on its own merits within the government, then something may be very wrong. We'll find out exactly what that is when the Washington press corps gets a hold of the story and starts telling us far more than the Weekly Standard's source wants us to know.

PS: How convenient is it that this information is coming out now, at a moment when Howard Dean is threatening to wrap up the Democratic nomination? A proven Saddam-Al Qaeda link would blow his campaign out of the water.
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# Posted 1:04 PM by Patrick Belton  

MORE ON IRAQ-AL QAEDA COOPERATION: The Weekly Standard's website is down at the moment, so Little Green Footballs is mirroring a piece by Steve Hayes which details in great depth newly uncovered instances of alleged operational cooperation between Iraqi intelligence and Al Qaeda, beginning in 1990 and continuing through mid-March of this year. Definitely worth a read.
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# Posted 12:18 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

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# Posted 12:10 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PNAC VS. BUSH: The issue is China.
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# Posted 12:03 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FAIR AND BALANCED: Since the previous post was pretty harsh on JMM, I thought I'd link to one of the many good and informative posts on TPM. This one is about some CPA documents that fell (how exactly?) into Josh's hands. The documents make the case that the US would be better off curtailing its search for non-existent WMD in Iraq and focus instead on locating the scientists who worked for Saddam's WMD program but may now migrate to Syria or worse, Al Qaeda. While it's hard to know just how much effort should be put into the WMD search, it is certainly is worth tracking down the brains behind the WMD operation.
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Friday, November 14, 2003

# Posted 11:48 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

JOSH MARSHALL IN FOREIGN AFFAIRS: It looks like Generation X is taking over the foreign policy establishment. Too bad FA doesn't print author photos, otherwise Josh's oh-too-stylish headshot from the TPM website could have livened up the pages of that august publication. Anyhow, what's going on in is that FA has published Josh's review of Ivo Daalder and James Lindsay's "America Unbound", a mildly critical account of the Bush administration's foreign policy by a pair of scholars at the Brookings Institution.

While endorsing the standard multilateralist critique that Daalder and Lindsay advocate, Marshall takes them to task for underestimating the neo-con influence on Bush's foreign policy. As Marshall writes,
The "neocons," they say -- referring to them as "democratic imperialists" -- may be powerful at magazines such as The Weekly Standard and think tanks such as the American Enterprise Institute, but key movement figures such as Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and Pentagon adviser Richard Perle actually missed out on the top appointments. Those plums went to people such as Cheney, Rice, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who the authors claim are more properly classified as "assertive nationalists."
I think "assertive nationalists" is a pretty good way to describe them, with the exception of Rice, who is a dyed-in-the-wool realist. While Marshall shares that assessment of Cheney, Rumsfeld, et al., he counters that
The defining characteristic of the Bush administration's foreign policy, in fact, has been the way the neocons in and out of office have been able to win so many of the key battles -- if not on the first go-round, then on the second or the third...

At the Pentagon, for example, Rumsfeld may have played the key part in internal debates over defense transformation, but on foreign policy issues, his neocon lieutenants, Wolfowitz and Feith, were decisive, and managed to secure nearly total control of all aspects of policy surrounding the war and the subsequent occupation.
And what is it that differentiates a neo-conservative policy from an assertive nationalist one? Marshall's answer is that,
Although it is the sworn enemy of realism, neoconservatism has never been and is not now limited to one particular foreign policy school. It is a protean construct centering on a belief in the righteousness of American power, the wonder-working qualities of bold gestures, and an unwillingness to muddle through.
Righteous power? Bold gestures? That sounds like....assertive nationalism. According to the conventional wisdom on both sides of the aisle, what separates neo-conservatism from assertive nationalism is its hopeful vision of a global democratic revolution. Yet Marshall dismisses this distinction on the grounds that too many neo-conservatives showed too much sympathy for too many right-wing Third World dictators back in the 1980s.

That point is a fair one. Yet it completely ignores the transformation -- better, purification -- of neo-conservatism that began during Reagan's second term and accelerated during the aftermath of the Cold War. Moreover, it prevents Marshall from emphasizing the best evidence for his theory of neo-con dominance, i.e. the ideologically-charged occupation of Iraq.

Strangely, Marshall insists on
the essential continuity of the administration's policy before and after September 11, 2001. The attacks on that day allowed President Bush to refashion American foreign policy in a far bolder and more audacious fashion than otherwise would have been possible, the authors argue, but in fact the administration's essential goals, premises, and assumptions changed very little.
But what about the pronounced aversion to nation-building that defined Bush's foreign policy on the campaign trail? Surely the simplest explanation for his about face on this issue is the influence of the neo-conservatives.

Ultimately, Marshall's hands are tied by his unwillingness to acknowledge that intellectually dishonest neo-conservatives could be the driving force behind a morally progressive international agenda such as global democracy promotion. While there is no direct evidence of this in Marshall's review of America Unbound, it is a point that will be familiar to those who have read "Practive to Deceive" Marshall's anti-neo-con polemic in the Washington Monthly or to those who visit his website on a regular basis.

When it comes down it, Marshall is right that the neo-cons credibility is on the line in Iraq and that its success or failure will have a tremendous impact on their reputation. Yet that suggestion only makes sense if one gives the neo-cons credit for giving the occupation of Iraq its moral foundation, regardless of whether the implementation of their vision was competent enough to ensure its fruition.
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# Posted 10:55 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHO IS SUSAN SACHS? All I know is that she won't be working at the NYT much longer if she keeps writing such ridiculously optimistic stories about Baghdad like this one. It's about the new major crimes unit of the Baghdad police and reads like a 1950s profile of J. Edgar Hoover's righteous crusade against Communists. And it's supposed to be a news story.

Apparently, the headline writers think Sachs has to be reined in, since they took her 99% positive story and titled it "Joy, and Jeers, as New Police Patrol Baghdad." The jeer referred to in the title comes from one citizen who asks the new Baghdad cops, "What took you so long?" Of course, that is just about the last question anyone would ask when Saddam's uniformed thugs came knocking at the door. But why should OxBlog point that out when Sachs does it herself?! As she writes,
Such a happy scene would have been unimaginable a year ago. The Iraqi police force was as tainted as the rest of Saddam Hussein's security forces, feared for its casual brutality and powers to spy, residents said.
It can't be long before she's working for Fox.
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# Posted 10:43 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ENTERTAINMENT MEDIA BIAS: I don't usually read movie reviews, but since I'm a really big Russell Crowe fan, I thought I'd see what the WaPo has to say about Master & Commander. According to Desson Howe, the film
isn't just a fabulous seagoing spectacle. It's one for the ages. Not only does Peter Weir's film give you an atmospheric feel for the agony and ecstasy of early 19th-century sea warfare, it's a rollicking good story.
On the other hand, Stephen Hunter says the film
feels weirdly overstuffed, as stories keep stumbling into and over one another or are buried beneath the arrival of other stories. The worst example is the film's narrative framework...
While film reviews are obviously a matter of taste, it's a little strange to hear two-highly paid professionals disagree about virtually every aspect of a film (except the opening battle sequence, which they both think is great.)

Sadly, I must admit that my impulse is to distrust the positive review. In other words, I'm an optimist when it comes to Iraq, but not when it comes to Hollywood. There is something of the beret-clad art-house critic in me, so I tend to believe that there really is such a thing as taste in film and that most of what comes out of Hollywood is recycled trash.

On the other hand, I love Jet Li and Jackie Chan and all sorts of far-out action flicks that don't pretend to offer you anything but a good time. So while I tend to trust bad movie reviews, I was also taught at a young age how the permanent presence of a stick in most film critics' hindquarters (especially at the NYT, my adolescent paper of choice) means that they will poo-poo any film which offer its viewers a good time rather than a sobering intellectual odyssey.

Speaking of which, what does the NYT have to say about Master & Commander? According to A.O. Scott,
This stupendously entertaining movie, directed by Peter Weir and adapted from two of the novels in Patrick O'Brian's 20-volume series on Aubrey's naval exploits, celebrates an idea of England that might have seemed a bit corny even in 1805, when the action takes place.
Hmmm, so you start out thinking it's a compliment but then it turns out to be somewhat backhanded. Later on, Scott tells us that
The Napoleonic wars that followed the French Revolution gave birth, among other things, to British conservatism, and "Master and Commander," making no concessions to modern, egalitarian sensibilities, is among the most thoroughly and proudly conservative movies ever made. It imagines the Surprise as a coherent society in which stability is underwritten by custom and every man knows his duty and his place. I would not have been surprised to see Edmund Burke's name in the credits.
So is this a good thing or a bad thing? Burke: Intellectual and European. But also conservative. Cleverly, Scott also points out that the date of the action in the film has been moved back a few years from 1812 to avoid the unpleasant fact that at the time, the Anglo-American special relationship was not all that special. At least they don't let Krugman do movie reviews...
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# Posted 5:28 AM by Patrick Belton  

SOME INTERESTING READING TO GO WITH YOUR COFFEE: And you can even read these if you don't drink coffee. In the Middle East, Sharon indicated he would meet with Palestinian PM Qurei, though he may backtrack now that Arafat has triumphed in a struggle with Qurei over control of the Palestinian security apparatus. Hezbollah leader Sheikh Nasrallah is negotiating with a German intermediary over a prisoner exchange with Israel. Some commentators argue that the prisoner swap will elevate Hezbollah's stature in Lebanon at a time it has been declining. And Bremer has been dispatched back to Iraq with instructions to accelerate the political transition to self-governance, as Operation Iron Hammer continues.

Central Asia Analyst has an interesting analysis of Uzbekistan's repression of its outlawed opposition parties (which the analyst argues has grown milder since the U.S. presence began; the opposition parties enjoy widespread domestic support). The site also analyzes Kyrgyzstan's antiterrorist units and their commander's strategy of seeking security assistance from any neighbor who would offer it. Georgian parliamentary elections drew stunning participation, and represented a strong rebuke for the governing party. In the Moscow Times, India is setting up bases in Tajikistan.

In the Americas, Columbia's AUC is beginning to disarm, unrest brews in the Dominican Republic, and Mexico is complaining of a relationship of "convenience and subordination" with its northern neighbor on the eve of the cabinet-level Binational Commission's meeting. (And incidentally, joining us later in the afternoon in the OxBlog studios will be our ex-girlfriends, to speak further on this theme of relationships of convenience and brutal subordination.)

In East Asia, reporting has centered on China's sexual revolution (the most shocking finding: "half of the urban males in their thirties say they have had more than one sexual partner." ed: oooooooh. half of urban males in graduate school haven't had more than one sexual partner), and the party is making limited gains in attempting to coopt Chinese entrepreneurs. China is also indicating it will shortly take up a more hawkish policy toward Taiwan. (And in OxBlog's consular affairs department, check your credit card receipts next time you're in Hong Kong.)
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