Monday, May 31, 2004
# Posted 11:56 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
While bloggers may argue about whether journalists listen, Rachel Smolkin actually went out there and asked a whole lot of actual journalists whether they make time for blogs. Most of the answers are pretty non-committal. The most interesting comes from NYT correspondent Jodi Wilgoren, who showed some interest in Wilgoren Watch. However, her critics
"typically did not reflect much knowledge about or understanding of mainstream journalism," Wilgoren says, and often came from passionate Dean supporters. "I got many, many letters accusing me of being a tool of the Republican administration or trying to destroy Howard Dean."I think Wilgoren is throwing the baby out with the bath water. Certainly, some of her critics are mindless leftists. But even OxBlog thought that her coverage of Dean was harsh and unfair.
Now, the irony here is that Wilgoren is quite liberal herself, as one can tell from her efforts to whitewash the crimes of David Gilbert and Kathy Boudin. While Wilgoren deserves credit for at least looking at blogs, I think that her reaction may become typical for mainstream journalists, i.e. find a few online critics you can label as ignorant and use their prejudice to justify ignoring the blogosphere as a whole. According to NYT ombudsman Daniel Okrent,
"In some instances, some [blogs] are so partisan -- even though they're right in many instances -- they're immediately discredited within the newsroom because of their partisanship," [Okrent said]. "If the comment comes from someone who isn't identified as a partisan, they take it much more seriously."This Okrent quote comes from an excellent column by Marc Glaser which addresses many of the same issues that Smolkin's essay does. Whereas Smolkin looks at the issue more broadly, Glaser focuses on a specific incident in which National Debate editor Robert Cox forced NYT editorial page editor Gail Collins to make an official policy change that imposed tougher standards on her columnists.
Now, it's hard to say whether Cox got a response from the Times because he was a blogger or because he was right. After all, non-blogging readers sometimes get responses as well if they're right. However, the fact that Cox got the Times' attention by posting a parody of their website -- thus provoking the threat of the lawsuit -- suggests that his medium played an important.
The Cox case provides an interesting contrast with the Trent Lott affair, which Rachel Smolkin covers quite nicely. As I see it, the difference between the two is that Cox was directly challenging the competence and authority of professional jouralists, while Josh Marshall and others helped bring down Trent Lott by converting journalists to the anti-Lott cause.
I think both sorts of influence are quite significant, although the Cox variety is somewhat more interesting because it demonstrates that when bloggers go head to head with the pros, they can still come out on top.
Now, last but not least, we come to Dan Drezner and Henry Farrell's effort to conduct a systematic survey of which blogs journalists actually read. I think that their approach is important since Smolkin's essay is rather anecdotal and Glaser's focuses only bloggers' success.
The results of Dan and Henry's survey aren't exactly a surprise. Journalists read the same blogs that bloggers read: Sullivan, Reynolds, Marshall, etc. But that is still a very significant finding because it demonstrates that journalists have developed a surprisingly similar sense of who is worth reading in the blogosphere. (Sadly, OxBlog didn't make the Top 10. Oh well.)
If there is one thing I'd add to all of these worthwhile contributions, it's that we still need to develop a better idea, in our own minds at least, of what role(s) blogs are supposed to play. Smolkin tends to suggest that blogs set themselves up as an alternative to mainstream, reportorial journalism. But I like Jay Rosen's take better:
Almost all of the op-ed writing in America used to be on op-ed pages. That is no longer true. Weblogs have taken over part of that territory. And while the best of them may have 'opinion clout,' the simple fact that they have some territory alongside Big Media is significant.Bloggers are never going to replace correspondents. But we may be able to knock off Maureen Dowd. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 11:14 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
That being the case, it's very hard to imagine how the abuse could have taken place without some sort of green light from either military intelligence or superior officers. Yes, it is possible that these few soldiers were so sadistic that they leapt at the opportunity to commit human rights violations. But the alternative is too compelling to be ruled out. (2) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 1:48 PM by Patrick Belton
Part I: Arrival
(3) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 6:02 AM by Patrick Belton
PBS has a tribute. The White House Commission on Remembrance encourages the observance of one minute of silence at three o'clock in recognition of the nation's war dead.
They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old:(1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 5:14 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 12:37 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Sunday, May 30, 2004
# Posted 10:39 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
With regard to Iraq, Clark has two big ideas -- one new and one old. The old idea is that if we're nice to Europe, it will send its soldiers over to Iraq to die for our cause. Given that the French have already said that their soldiers will never, ever serve in Iraq, that approach probably won't work. Clark's new idea is that the United States must
involve regional governments in Iraq's reconstruction, giving them a seat at the table in that country's development so they understand that they are not the next targets of regime change.By regional governments, Clark actually does mean Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, etc. Of course, has to wonder how we can help Iraq become more democratic by involving some of the world's most repressive dictatorships in its reconstruction. The closest Clark comes to answering this question is when he writes that
Of course, the United States will likely differ sharply with the positions some of these states take, but it is better to hash out such issues at the negotiating table than in vitriolic exchanges via the media.Actually, I prefer vitriolic exchanges via the media. Compromising with Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia about the future of Iraq means selling out the Iraqis we supposedly liberated.
Now what about Clark's cover essay in the Washington Monthly? It's supposed to be the big think-piece in which he demonstrates that he can apply the lessons of history to solve those problems that ignorant neo-cons just don't understand. (Translation: "Please, please Mr. Kerry, make me your Secretary of State!") Of course, to apply the lessons of history, you actually have to know some history first. Let's start with the last two sentences of Clark's essay:
If the events of the last year tell us anything, it is that democracy in the Middle East is unlikely to come at the point of our gun. And Ronald Reagan would have known better than to try.Actually, promoting democracy at gunpoint was exactly what Reagan was all about. Remember Nicaragua? You know, the country where the United States sent guns to brutal right-wing guerrillas in the hope that they would promote democracy?
Bizarrely enough, that strategy worked despite its appalling cost in terms of Nicaraguan blood. A similar strategy, perhaps even bloodier, did the trick in El Salvador. Unfortunately, things in Afghanistan didn't turn out as well. Now, Clark has gone on the record saying that he voted for Reagan. As far as I can tell, he must've confused Reagan with Mondale.
Getting back to the point, the big lesson that Clark draws from our experience in the Cold War is that cultural engagement is the secret to victory. He writes that
During the 1950s and 1960s, containment...[entailed] holding the line against Soviet expansion with U.S. military buildups while quietly advancing a simultaneous program of cultural engagement with citizens and dissidents in countries under the Soviet thumb...Unless Clark is talking about China, I really can't think of any Communist state whose command economy even came close to being "ensnared" by Western corporations. As for Western media, the West Germans were pretty much the only ones who reached a Communist audience, but not in the Soviet Union. And as for the 1950s and 1960s, there were really no "cultural engagement" programs of any significance. In short, Clark's history of the Cold War is basically imaginary.
So there. I've now spent far too much time criticizing someone whom Democratic voters (except in Oklahoma) decided wasn't good enough to be their candidate for President. But when you're a graduate student, you feel compelled to expose the ignorance of anyone who tramples on your area of expertise. How demented. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 10:19 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 10:02 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
For most of America, the conservative-liberal divide focuses on Iraq, both the invasion and its aftermath. Yet in spite of my relative optimism about both, I share Kevin and Matt's sense that all of the big decisions have been close calls and that a strong case exists for both sides. So why has the issue of media bias become so divisive? My best guess is that because bloggers depend so much on mainstream journalists, even the slightest differences in our perception of their work become greatly magnified. But again, that's just a guess. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 5:46 PM by Patrick Belton
On the other hand, the INA's English pages consistently spell his name 'Allawi', suggesting that it's probably the more appropriate English spelling. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 4:55 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
On a related note, there seems to be persistent disagreement about whether to spell the Prime Minister's name "Alawi" or "Allawi". I haven't seen the PM's name spelled out in Arabic, but I'm guessing that the relevant issue is whether or not there is a pronunciation marker known as a "shadda" over the 'L' in Allawi's name. The role of the shadda is to double the sound of a consonant, so it would turn 'L' into 'LL'. (2) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 4:42 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Guy Kemp, 85, a former Navy Seabee who served in the Pacific, found himself jitterbugging to "Chattanooga Choo-Choo" with a woman he didn't know.Hey, I hope I'm that energetic at 85. Here at OxBlog, we've only got respect for the millions who served in the War. We just think they need a little ribbing, too. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:55 PM by Patrick Belton
A recent post on our blog about whether any of the situations in the Alanis Morrisette Song “Ironic” were, in fact, ironic, has garnered unexpected interest. I looked at the lyrics more carefully, and I think perhaps half could be said to qualify in an extended sense, that is, they seem like dramatic irony. So: “rain on your wedding day” is unquestionably not ironic, it’s just somewhat unfortunate. But I’ll give her “death-row pardon two minutes late”, I guess, if we accept a certain notion of irony I outline below.(1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:48 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 8:38 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 8:01 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 2:12 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 2:02 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Saturday, May 29, 2004
# Posted 8:03 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
So, what did Kerry actually say? The first sentence in the WaPo account reads:
Sen. John F. Kerry indicated that as president he would play down the promotion of democracy as a leading goal in dealing with Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, China and Russia, instead focusing on other objectives that he said are more central to the United States' security.Not what I'd like to hear, but not an unreasonable position either. After all, how much has Bush done for democracy in any of those countries? One might even say that the President's lofty rhetoric and minimal follow-through have reinforced certain dictators' suspicions that the US only cares about Al Qaeda.
Of course, just because Kerry's position is reasonable doesn't mean the NYT should've ignored it. The NYT piece is almost entirely about Kerry's comments on North Korea and his belief that the Bush administration is excessively preoccupied with Iraq.
Now, it's probably worth mentioning that a WaPo correspondent conducted the interview with Kerry. Thus, that paper has an incentive to turn it into big news while the NYT has an incentive to play it down. Still, I would've appreciated at least one sentence describing Kerry's demotion of democracy to a secondary United States objective.
While it's sort of inevitable that different papers provide different accounts of the same event, the difference here seems to have ideological connotations. After all, it was just three days ago that a NYT news analysis column declared that Kerry and Bush had almost identical positions on Iraq -- totally disregarding Kerry's demotion of democracy to a secondary objective there.
Of course, one could turn this whole analysis around and say that the WaPo is promoting its own agenda which just happens to resemble the one that we favor here on OxBlog. But given that one of the unspoken principles of campaign coverage is that journalists have an obligation to point out significant differences between the candidates, it's hard to understand how the Times could ignore remarks made by Kerry that are so completely at odd with the positions taken by Bush. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 3:25 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 3:23 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 3:16 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 12:28 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 5:47 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 12:54 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Then the news gets even better: 40% of Iraqis identify democracy as the best form of government for Iraq, with only 12% preferring an Iranian model. 50% think that five years from now Iraq will be a democracy, with no other form of government getting more than 12 percent. (Imagine asking Americans the same question!) Finally, and almost unbelievably, an overwhelming majority of Iraqis favor constitutional provisions protecting freedom of religion (73%), freedom of assembly (77%), and freedom of speech (94%).
Now here's the bad news: The CPA approval rating is just 23%, with 46% against it. The split for the US as a whole is 23-55. The UN split is 33-23 with 37 undecided. 50% say the US isn't serious about establishing a democratic system, while 37% say it is. 55% say the US won't leave unless it is forced out. When it comes to occupation forces, 45% want them gone after June 30th while another 45% don't.
By the way, don't forget to adjust all of these numbers about 15% in the unhappy direction, since the Kurds are cheerleaders for the Bush-Cheney re-election effort. For example, 96% of them see the US favorably and 98% believe it wants to promote democracy in Iraq.
So, what can one say about numbers like this? First of all, despite the apparent contradictions, I think the numbers are probably sound since an ABC News poll in February got very similar results. According to ABC, Iraqis are happy with how things are, think they're getting better, but want the US out. 49% want democracy and only 21% want an Islamic state (but 28% want a strong leader "for life". Also, another finding that I could only believe after reading it in both polls was that a strong majority of Iraqis have favorable opinions of the new police and armed forces.
Albeit hesitantly, I'm going to describe these polls as good news. It would be almost unthinkable for Iraqis to still have a positive opinion of an occupying power this long after the initial invasion. But the Iraqis' optimism about the future and faith in democracy suggest that the country may really have a chance. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:51 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 12:48 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 12:34 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Sudanese peasants will be naming their sons "George Bush" because he scored a humanitarian victory this week that could be a momentous event around the globe — although almost nobody noticed. It was Bush administration diplomacy that led to an accord to end a 20-year civil war between Sudan's north and south after two million deaths.Not exactly what you expect from Nick Kristof, is it? As Kristof points out, there still a long way to go in Sudan:
While Mr. Bush has done far too little, he has at least issued a written statement, sent aides to speak forcefully at the U.N. and raised the matter with Sudan's leaders. That's more than the Europeans or the U.N. has done. Where are Tony Blair and Jacques Chirac? Where are African leaders, like Nelson Mandela? Why isn't John Kerry speaking out forcefully? And why are ordinary Americans silent?I just don't understand the guy. Three days ago, he was telling us that "Our embrace of Mr. Sharon hobbles us in Iraq even more than those photos from Abu Ghraib." Well, this much I can say: radical mood swings are a Kristof hallmark. Plus, Nick has really cute kids. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
Friday, May 28, 2004
# Posted 11:57 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 11:50 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
One implication of Allawi's selection is that the US won't have to deal with a hypothetical request to pull its soldiers out of Iraq. Given Sistani's tolerant approach to the American presence and Allawi's own relationship with the US, it's hard to see why he would play the nationalist card unless he were completely desperate for support.
But with Sistani's backing, there is little chance that he will ever be that deseprate. (Unless he did something really stupid like spying for the Iranian government...)
UPDATE: The NYT tells quite a different story. They're calling Alawi "a choice for prime minister certain to be seen more as an American candidate than one of the United Nations or the Iraqis themselves." (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 2:11 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
The film is an artistic triumph in every respect. Its narrative is compelling. Both Robert DeNiro and Jeremy Irons give evocative performances. But above all, it is the cinematography that will take your breath away. Even though any amateur with a video camera can make the lush canyons of South America look stunning, The Mission not only provides awesome footage of the landscape that no amateur could shoot, but also integrates the landscape into the narrative, thus adding tremendous emotional depth to both the characters and their natural environment.
Another remarkable aspect of the film is its decision to cast the Waunana tribe of Colombia as the Guarani people embraced by the Jesuits. For those with access to the most recent DVD version of the film, I highly recommend the documentary that comes along with it. In it, director Roland Joffe, best known for The Killing Fields, explains how it was possible to win the trust and hire hundreds of actors belonging to an impoverished Colombian tribe. Although barely familiar with modern technology and often exploited by pale-skinned outsiders, the Waunana traveled over 1000 miles on buses and planes in order to live for more than two months in a special village constructed to resemble their home in the Cauca region of Colombia. With this in mind, their impressive performance in the film becomes all the more spectacular.
Finally, I think it is important to comment on the spiritual dimension of the film. In the popular mind, there are few heroes associated with the European arrival in the Western hemisphere. Often, one thinks of Catholicism as a justification for the brutal repression of the hemisphere's natives. Yet the history of the Jesuits reminds us that there was an entire order devoted to the highest ideals of a humane Christianity. For those of us who are not Christians, I think that this aspect of The Mission does far more to explain the power of the Christian than does the unremitting violence of a film like The Passion.
UPDATE: SM reminds me to mention that The Mission also has an incredible score. And she's absolutely right. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 2:00 PM by Patrick Belton
In their weekly newsletter, after applauding Kerry's Seattle speech for resisting pressure in his party to cut and run, the DLC suggests several further steps for Kerry to take on Iraq. In the Seattle speech, saying that "the day is late and the situation in Iraq is grim," Kerry had called on Bush to use the upcoming NATO summit in Istanbul to convince Europeans to accept Iraq as an alliance mission; to work at the G-8 summit in Georgia next month, to expand international support for training Iraq's security forces; and to propose the creation of an International High Commissioner, Bosnia-style, to work with Iraqis in organising elections, drafting a constitution, and coordinating reconstruction. While the use of Bosnia's international governance structure as a model might raise a few eyebrows from people with experience in Bosnian reconstruction, that Kerry is even speaking along these lines shows the merciful ascendence of Democratic hawks such as Rand Beers within the broad tent that is the Kerry campaign.
The DLC goes on to suggest sending additional troops as necessary, doing everything consistent with security to transfer governing authority to the sovereign caretaker government on June 30, and accelerate an investigation into the Abu Ghirab prisoner abuses. Most controversially, they also call for a perfunctory expression of American penitence that 'mistakes were made' in the run-up to the Iraq war, as a sop to court closer allied cooperation in the post-war period. This might give heartburn to some...but their other stuff sounds so good, you almost want to give it to them.
For more on the moderate DLC's role in a presidential campaign when politics is increasingly coming to be played out between ideological extremes, see this piece:
When the once-mighty Democratic Leadership Council holds its annual "national conversation" Friday and Saturday in Phoenix, the highlight is unlikely to be the seminars about new ways of running government or the showcasing of centrist candidates.Other past startling DLC ideas of the week include improving charter schools, making state procurement more efficient, simplifying the tax code, introducing smaller, more rigorous high schools into the inner city, and finishing the job on welfare reform. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 1:51 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
While the Onion's missive gives an occasional nod to the reality of British condescension, its real message is that Americans are vulgar and that it is the United States which is actually guilty of treating other nations in an arrogant and childish manner. As for vulgarity, one might consider the following observation about British undergarments, one which fits quite nicely with my own observations as an erstwhile UK resident. And with regard to diplomacy, one might consider the following bit of correspondence from an advice column in the Spectator (via BG):
Q. Some mega-rich American bankers bought the house opposite and have outraged the neighbourhood with two solid years of construction work — endless daily noise from a circular mechanical digger gouging out a second basement, thick dust, meaning endless trips to an expensive carwash, endless window-cleaning, blocked street, lost car parking, and rude and aggressive builders — without a hint of an apology at any time. The traditional form here is to send a charming note apologising in advance or wine (relating to height of inconvenience) in retrospect.Gotta love that special relationship. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:09 AM by Patrick Belton
Ginni figures are from the CIA world factbook, and are presented here.
Obesity rates are from the International Association for the Study of Obesity, and are presented here. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:10 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 7:00 AM by Patrick Belton
Thursday, May 27, 2004
# Posted 9:27 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 8:59 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
My main responsibility was to interview refugees and act as their advocates to secure them refugee status in the United States.With that experience in mind, Greg meditates on the significance of Abu Ghraib. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:49 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
By extension, I think it's fair to say that I, as an undecided/not-liberal/not-conservative blogger have an unrestricted right to give the Bush daughters a hard time. At the moment, I have nothing bad to say about Jenna & Barbara. However, I think that their father could break all existing records for political fundraising if the Bush twins took on the Olsen twins in a mud-wrestling match broadcast live on the web.
PS OxBlog regrets any sexist connotations that such an event might have. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:21 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
While the tone of the WaPo's coverage is fairly pessimistic, I think it may underestimate the degree to which high school students have to try on ideas for size before discovering which ones fit with their lived experience. While Tanya Levina may describe fascism and communism as "systems of genius", how will she feel when she confront a teacher or other authority figure who tries to shove their values down her throat? Then, perhaps, she will remember the democrat, Ms. Suvolokina, who even let Stalin's advocates have their say. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 4:59 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 1:21 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
The most stunning finding of both surveys is that almost half of TPM (46%) and Sullivan (50%) readers have a graduate degree. Another 35%, or 85% of the total, have undergraduate degrees. The national figures for graduate and bachelor's degrees are 9% and 24% respectively.
On a related note, 70% of TPM and Sullivan readers have an income of over $50,000 per year, with half of those 70% earning over $100,000 per year. (National income figures are here, but refer to households rather than individuals.)
I'm not sure what to make of all this. Are blog readers the best and brightest of their generation? Or is their lack of diversity apalling? (By the way, both sites have an 80% male readership.)
While one might hope for an ideal world in which factory workers and secretaries demonstrate just as much interest in the news as do those they work for, I take some comfort in the fact that Josh and Andrew cater to identical demographics with radically opposing viewpoints. At minimum, we can expect a high-level debate.
UPDATE: DS writes
"I just want you to know that I, a lowly secretary, do read blogs… many times both both Andrew Sullivan and TPM to get a broader viewpoint – not to mention “Oxblog” … I find the tone of your little missive condescending and elitist… but, hey, why am I not surprised…"(1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:42 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
The abuse of the prisoners at Abu Ghraib flowed directly from the abuse of the truth that characterized the Administration's march to war and the abuse of the trust that had been placed in President Bush by the American people in the aftermath of September 11th...I'm going to let all of that go without comment. What really struck me was Gore's observation that
David Kay concluded his search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq with the famous verdict: "we were all wrong." And for many Americans, Kay's statement seemed to symbolize the awful collision between reality and all of the false and fading impressions President Bush had fostered in building support for his policy of going to war.It's as if Gore had completely forgotten how the administration he served as Vice President has insisted time and again that Saddam Hussein had a substantial arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. While Gore seems to include himself in the "we" who were all wrong, he suggests that only the current President misled the nation. Anyhow, Maureen Dowd liked the speech. (3) opinions -- Add your opinion
Wednesday, May 26, 2004
# Posted 11:49 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 7:24 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
While Josh Marshall thinks it's just a matter of Beltway politics, Kevin thinks that Big Media got the story right that Chalabi was caught red-handed selling us out to the Iranians. Incidentally, TPM's hypothesis matches up with that of Chalabi booster Michael Ledeen, who still suspects that Chalabi was a victim of politics, not of his own crimes. Kevin, however, thinks Michael is grasping at straws.
One interesting side effect of Chalabi-gate is that it has forced the NY Times to issue a lengthy and detailed public apology for its breathless reporting about Iraqi WMD programs. As Jack Shafer points out, almost everything the Times got wrong was the fault of correspondent Judith Miller. It is certainly quite remarkable that such a bulwark of anti-war sentiment would be taken in by shoddy anti-Saddam propaganda.
One might say that this is red-flag evidence of conservative media bias. My sense, however, is that the NYT fell prey to the consensus across the spectrum that Saddam really did have major stockpiles of WMD. With no one out there saying otherwise, why should the Times question the work of its own correspondent? And if the anti-war editors at the Times were unable to think critically about WMD, is it really surprising that Cheney and Rumsfeld had similar problems?
Anyhow, getting back to Chalabi, all OxBlog has to say is good riddance to bad rubbish. As time passes there is more and more evidence that Chalabi sold the US a bill of goods -- intentionally. WMD aside, it still reflects very poorly on Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz placed so much faith in someone with so many black marks on his resume. As we said almost eight months ago, "there is good reason to only expect the worst from Chalabi." (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 5:57 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
In a speech last month, Mr. Kerry said the goal of the United States should be to bring about "a stable, free Iraq with a representative government, secure in its borders." That position is broadly indistinguishable from that of Mr. Bush.Amazingly, the Times make no reference whatsoever to Kerry's statement (last month, of course) that
I have always said from day one that the goal here...is a stable Iraq, not whether or not that's a full democracy [...] I can't tell you what it's going to be, but a stable Iraq. And that stability can take several different forms.Perhaps because it benefits from the 3-hour time difference between New York and California, the LA Times headline on the morning after Kerry's remarks read: "Kerry Places Stability in Iraq Above a Democracy". But, hey, that was last month. Give Kerry a few weeks and he'll come up with something new. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 5:26 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Our embrace of Mr. Sharon hobbles us in Iraq even more than those photos from Abu Ghraib.Kristof is probably right that "Iraqis (in contrast with, say, Kuwaitis) genuinely sympathize with the Palestinians." But does American support for yet another Israeli prime minister in anyway compare to the rampant abuse and humiliation of Iraqi prisoners, most of whom were never charged with crimes?
Kristof's fundamental problem is that he demonizes Sharon and Bush while whitewashing their predecessors. According to Kristof, the Israeli's wall around the West Bank is no different from the East Germans wall around West Berlin. Yet if memory serves, very few West Germans strapped dynamite to themselves before riding East German buses. With regard to Bush, Kristof writes that
American presidents have always tried to be honest brokers in the Middle East. Truman, Johnson and Reagan were a bit more pro-Israeli, while Eisenhower, Carter and George H. W. Bush were a bit cooler, but all aimed for balance.Wow. That sounds like revisionist history from the National Review. Reagan and Bush I as "balanced"? If the people of Iraq agreed with that assessment, they might, just might consider Abu Ghraib to be the lesser of Bush's evils.
Anyhow, I haven't gotten to the actual point of Kristof's column, which is that John Kerry's position on Israel is no less extreme than that of George W. Bush. On that point I agree with Mr. Kristof, and am glad that the Senator from Massachusetts has displayed a modicum of common sense. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 2:30 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 4:56 AM by Patrick Belton
The down side was that strong Palestinian majorities opposed settlements while strong Israeli majorities opposed the right of return. But in any event, the efforts of Lubetzky and Darawshe and their organisation OneVoice have demonstrated that there exists substantial broad agreement among the ordinary people of Israel and Palestine about what the contours of a final status agreement should look like - and hearteningly, that 'strong rejectionists' on both sides, even in the current dark days, number definitively as a comparatively small minority. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 1:28 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Each day it seems like another group in the coalition that helped election him in the nail-biting election against Al Gore is dropping away.I hope Joe intended that chopped liver remark as a compliment, since a bowl of frozen chopped liver has the potential to become a delicious bowl of warm chopped liver. And if you've ever been to New York's 2nd Ave. Deli, you know how good chopped liver can be. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
Tuesday, May 25, 2004
# Posted 10:06 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Bush laid out the path to that new Iraq. His speech capped a remarkable day that gave Americans the full measure of their president's determination to empower Iraqis.But the real award for optimism goes to Ron Brownstein at the LA Times, who thinks that
President Bush offered Monday the most detailed explanation of his plan for moving Iraq from chaos to independence, increasing the pressure on his Democratic rival, Sen. John F. Kerry, to fill in an alternative vision for stabilizing the troubled country.But if almost 60% of Americans believe that Bush has no plan for Iraq and that he is doing a bad job of handling the situation, why should Kerry feel any pressure? A more realistic take on the situation comes from John Podhoretz, who writes that
Bush is a high-stakes player, a political gambler. And last night he took a fantastically bold gamble: In the teeth of bad polls, an atmosphere of panic in his own party and the barely concealed glee of his rivals . . . he has decided to stand pat.That assessment dovetails with both the opinion of David Brooks and yours truly. When Bush was running for President the first time around, he promised that he would govern on the basis of firm principles, not the latest numbers from the polls. That argument may not work this time around because now we know its true. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 9:30 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Iraqis won't be fooled by [the promise of sovereignty], but for that reason they aren't going to be disappointed either. Americans, however, are going to be fooled by it, and that's all Bush cares about. A hundred million people are going to hear that we're handing over "full sovereignty," and maybe 1% of them will read or hear an explanation of why that's not true. So it's a win for Bush.On a similar note, Matt Yglesias writes that "To the grossly ignorant American public, this sort of tripe can be extremely convincing." Matt thinks, however, that if Bush follows through on his plan to give a speech about Iraq every week, even our ignorant fellow Americans will see through it.
The problem with this kind of cynicism is that it flies directly in the face of numerous opinion polls, the most recent of which reports that 58% of Americans think that Bush has no clear plan for Iraq. The same 58% disapprove of how Bush is handling the situation in Iraq. Moreover, both numbers have risen over the past months.
As the WaPo points out, Bush's lower approval ratings, both for Iraq and for overall job performance, reflect the fact that even Republicans are losing faith in the President. So perhaps most Americans won't be able to explain the difference between full and limited sovereignty for Iraq. But Kevin and Matt should be celebrating the fact that even the President's partisans are beginning to take a Democratic view of Iraq's future. The only question in my mind is whether the Democratic view is actually democratic. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 6:57 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
# Posted 6:42 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
In case you haven't heard, C2 has half the carbs and half the calories of Coke Classic. Bascially, it's a soft drink for the Atkins diet. Will anyone buy it? I guess that really depends on how it tastes. I drink a lot of Diet Coke but would drink regular Coke any day if I weren't concerned about the calories. If C2 really tastes like the real thing, I'll give it a try.
But I'm not optimistic. All three of the recent Coke innovations: Vanilla Coke, Lemon Coke, and Lime Coke, were a waste of time. I tried them each for a few weeks and came to a pretty simple conclusion: If you want citrus-flavored cola, buy a frikkin' lemon at the grocery and put it in the soda yourself. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 6:17 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
In spite of the cancellation, I think it's extremely surprising that a top-flight international superstar would identify herself so publicly with the Jewish state. Moreover, Madonna had intended to mark the third anniversary of the September 11th attacks with a special televised concert in Tel Aviv.
So why hasn't Madonna bought into the anti-war, pro-Palestinian Hollywood consensus? I don't really know, but one has to wonder whether her intense attachment to the Jewish mystical tradition known as Kabbala has something to do with it. On the other hand, some (so-called) experts are suggesting that rabbinicial condemnations of Kabbala were responsible for the cancelled tour stop:
“Kabbalah, as it’s practiced by Madonna, is held in great scorn by rabbinical leaders in Israel,” says cult expert Rick Ross. “People in Israel are not reticent about expressing their religious beliefs. If you’re the number one missionary in the world for that form of Kabbalah — which Madonna is — a concert there could be, shall we say, messy."That actually sounds pretty far-fetched to me. Tel Aviv is the personification of Israeli secularism, and a visit from Madonna hardly merits a commotion on the religious right. Now, if the Material Girl gave a concert in the Old City of Jerusalem, that might provoke a confrontation. But I just don't see busloads of blackhatted haredim descending on Tel Aviv in order to protest.
On a related note, I'm not sure what it means to "practice" Kabbala. I haven't studied it much, but at least in the mainstream, there is no such thing as Kabbalistic Judaism. For those of you familiar with the legend of the Golem, you may remember that the Maharal of Prague, the Golem's creator, was a practitioner of Kabbala. If Madonna has figured out how to animate lumbering giants made out of clay, then more power to her. In the meantime, I'm happy to let Madonna introduce Britney Spears, Posh Spice and David Beckham to the wonders of medieval Judaism.
UPDATE: Sasha Castel has a very informative post on the centuries-old Christian tradition of embracing Kabbala. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:37 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Bush disclosed few new details of the scheduled June 30 handover of limited sovereignty to Iraqis, declining to name the Iraqis who will take power or to clearly define the future U.S. military presence in Iraq.The article then reinforces that point by reporting that
Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.), the president's Democratic challenger, said in a statement that Bush "laid out general principles tonight, most of which we've heard before." He added: "What's most important now is to turn these words into action by offering presidential leadership to the nation and to the world."Finally, for those who needs thing spelled out for them, the WaPo has a news analysis column entitled "A Speech Meant to Rally Public Support Doesn't Answer Key Questions".
Pretty much, Bush is getting what he deserves. The repackaging of the administration's strategy for Iraq as a five-point plan is hardly persuasive. Already, the NYT is putting scare quotes around the words "five-point plan", as if to warn that it may contain only four points or even just three. But from where I stand, the real problem is that the speech created false expectations about what the June 30th handover will accomplish. In the final analysis, that is much more dangerous than being vague.
On the other hand, the implicit suggestion that Bush should have unveiled a revolutionary and detailed plan for bringing stability to Iraq is somewhat absurd. It is the kind of suggestion that exists only in order to create impossible standards that cannot be met. The overall strategy for Iraq has been the same for quite some time now: hold things together until the Iraqis can elect their own government.
It might just work. Or, as the NYT readily suggests, it might just fail. Either way, it is a strategy, and a strategy that distinguishes the President from those such as John Kerry who have begun to suggest that the people of Iraq cannot expect the United States to give them freedom, but instead only stability.
As suggested below, the real news value of the President's speech is the way in which it solidified his commitment to stay the course in Iraq, come hell (falling approval ratings) or high water (more American casualties).
Although indirectly, this point sometimes comes across in the newspapers. For example, the WaPo's first graf describes Bush's commitment to promote democracy in Iraq as a "vow". Still, there is very little sense that Bush is holding fast to a risk-laden but idealistic strategy even as the November election approaches. Stubborn perhaps. Even foolish. But very idealistic.
UPDATE: David Brooks makes exactly the same point.
Also, the NYT editorial on the speech is now up. Can you guess what it wanted Bush to say about Iraq? The same as always, of course: drop the problem on someone else. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
Monday, May 24, 2004
# Posted 11:56 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
The purpose of this speech was to chart a course for the future of America in Iraq. As expected, Bush placed considerable emphasis on the June 30th handover date. Too much emphasis:
On June 30th, the Coalition Provisional Authority will cease to exist and will not be replaced. The occupation will end and Iraqis will govern their own affairs.The suggestion that a nation will govern itself with 150,000 foreign soldiers on its soil and without an elected government is simply not credible. While most critics emphasize the first of those two points, I think the latter is just as important. The fact is, interim governments don't truly govern. Their purpose is to dissolve themselves and pave the way for an elected, constitutional authority.
By raising expectation of what the June 30th handover will accomplish, Bush is only hurting himself. From what I can tell, few Iraqis expect much to change on that date. What I expect is an updating of the artificial consensus that produced the current Governing Council. Once again, the US -- this time along with the UN -- is trying to provide Iraq with a government that won't offend anyone.
But governments that don't offend anyone are governments that don't govern. Without the mandate provided by an election, no Iraqi government can make the controversial decisions that will have to be made during the process of reconstruction. And if Iraqis can't make those decisions, then Americans and UN officials will. That is why it is thoroughly disingenuous for Bush to describe Negroponte's post as just another embassy.
Now on to the good parts of the speech. First and foremost, I was overwhelmed by the President's unabashed Wilsonianism. Even Reagan's most idealistic speeches never went this far, either in terms of emphasis or specificity. On far too many occasions, Reagan embedded his democratic aspirations in vague formulas that had few practical implications.
In contrast, Bush has now lain out a very clear schedule for the transition to electoral democracy in Iraq. His remarks announced specific deadlines for elections to the constitutional assembly, for a referendum on the draft constitution and for general elections. He has invested his America's prestige -- and perhaps the survival of his administration -- in this process.
He is also investing American soldiers. With Bush's approval ratings in the midst of an extended plunge, critics have suggested that the President was getting ready to cut and run. But now he has explicity promised to hold the size of the occupation force steady at 138,000 or even increase it if necessary. While Bush held "the commanders" responsible for estimating that only 115,000 troops would be necessary at this point, he did admit that the American effort to create self-sufficient Iraqi security force has resuled in failures.
Finally, Abu Ghraib. It will be razed. To be sure, Bush refused to admit that the abuses there went beyond the actions of a "few American troops who dishonored our country and disregarded our values". Yet, in this instance, actions may ultimately speak louder than words. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 9:30 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
However, I would argue that focusing more on the failures of the domestic prison and mental health systems provides a proper context for understanding how American soldiers committed such brutal and hypocritical acts at Abu Ghraib. Our domestic failures reproduce themselves abroad.
This fact in no way mitigates the guilt or responsibility of those who violated the human rights of Iraqi prisoners. It simply points to the fact that we may not be able to set the standards we want abroad until we commit ourselves to setting them at home as well. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 9:05 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Although deprived of sleep, I am quite well-rested intellectually. I am actually excited to start working on my dissertation again. But I am a little apprehensive about blogging. Dissertation research behaves itself while you're away. When you come back, it is exactly where you left it.
But the blogosphere goes wild. How can I possibly catch up on hundreds of news articles and thousands of blog posts? How can I say anything without exposing myself to withering criticism from those who are now better informed than myself?
Yet strangely, I didn't feel at all disconnected from the world when I wasn't blogging. I threw an occasional glance at the headlines, but nothing seemed all that important. My life went on exactly as it had been going. No one I talked to seemed all that concerned about the news. What really mattered was that one of my closest friends ever, someone I lived with for four life-changing years, was entering into a life-long relationship with the woman he loves.
For someone who spends hours a day reading about, thinking about the news, this break served as an important reminder that very few of us inhabit the insulated reality known as the blogosphere. By the same token, it served as an important reminder that neither journalists nor politicians, no matter how important, play a prominent in the lives of most Americans.
One might argue that Americans should be more publicly-minded and better informed. But how much information is enough? At what point would the experts agree that American citizens know enough?
Of course, I am hardly the first one to consider the implications of such questions. Two hundred twenty-five years ago, the Founders sought to strike the right balance between creating a democracy and creating a republic. To what degree must elected representatives obey the will of the voters and to what degree must they act in what they believe to be the voters' best interests?
I have no new answers to these questions. I am simply glad that taking some time away from OxBlog enabled me to confront the real-life conditions that give rise to these eternal dilemmas. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
Saturday, May 22, 2004
# Posted 11:19 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 8:00 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 7:00 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 6:50 AM by Patrick Belton
Friday, May 21, 2004
# Posted 10:49 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 9:58 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 9:47 AM by Patrick Belton
Britain is the only country to require the deletion of the offending breastfeeding scene, which contravene long-standing British social standards that breasts are to be used to sell newspapers rather than feed young Britons. French censors are uncomfortable about a brief shot of a stern-looking female judge receiving a jury verdict. Ireland has reportedly decided not to screen the advert at all. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 4:57 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 4:49 AM by Patrick Belton
Wednesday, May 19, 2004
# Posted 9:22 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 5:06 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 5:01 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 4:06 PM by Patrick Belton
Dear Patrick,Thanks, Antara! (1) opinions -- Add your opinion