Sunday, October 31, 2004

# Posted 10:50 PM by Patrick Belton  

HAPPY SAMHAIN: A very happy Oíche Shamhna to all of our readers and friends!

In traditional Ireland, Samhain was the harvest festival marking the end of one year and beginning of the next. The two years wouldn't fully align, though, so for a short bit, time would quite literally be out of joint (thus the Celtic origins of the phrase from Macbeth.) Thus faeries would get lost, wander up around the world of men, and generally not know what they were about - so if you were kindly enough, you'd dress yourself up like a faery and go about, so when they ran into you, they'd run straightaways back to the faery world, and a big fright on them. Hence the original custom, which I've always found much nicer than its contemporary descendant. So a very happy maith Oíche Shamhna ort from OxBlog.

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# Posted 8:11 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

"DEMOCRATS RALLY FOR KERRY, WEED": That's an actual headline from the UVA Cavalier Daily. You see, Al Weed is the Democratic candidate for Congress in the 5th District of Virginia. His signs and buttons are very popular in Charlottesville.

One middle-aged woman complained to a friend of mine that malicious Republicans had stolen the "Weed for Congress" sign from her front lawn. My friend explained that this was very unlikely.

Weed's opponent is incumbent Virgil H. Goode. I had personally hoped that Al and Virgil would run together on a "Goode-Weed" ticket, but the candidates have dashed my hopes and reverted to the adversarial relationship common among Democrats and Republians...which means that I have to figure out who I'm going to vote for.

So, check back here in a little while and I'll have some answers for you.

UPDATE: This Al Weed press release is priceless. It provides a detailed discussion of how "Weed for Congress" signs have been stolen all across the district, but can't bring itself to admit the real reason why.

One woman says that she has caught college students stealing her signs at 11:30 or midnight, but since the last sign was stolen at 4:00 AM, it must have been the Republicans. (Or perhaps college students who realized that they would caught if they kept stealing the signs before people were asleep.)

In another "bizarre case",
a large sign was stolen sometime Thursday night and a deer carcass was thrown over a fence into the yard where the sign had been removed, as if to send a message of intimidation.
Or perhaps a message of "we are really drunk, so we're going to steal 'Weed' signs and play a few rounds of Toss the Carcass.

UDPATE: I'm voting for Weed. He's a real left-winger with a bad position on Iraq, but Goode really doesn't have much going for him. In fact, neither his campaign site nor his government homepage contain much information at all. I even looked for his speeches in the Congressional Record, but couldn't find anything substantial.

In the House, Goode's main accomplishment seems to have been the introduction of a bill establishing English as the official language of the United States. I presume that this effort is an extension of Goode's position on immigration, which is
We need to stop illegal immigration. I am opposed to granting amnesty to those persons who come into this country illegally.
In other words, Goode has no real ideas on this subject, but will waste everyone's time in the middle of a war on stupid symbolic gestures.

On the usual range of domestic issues that I care about, Goode is on the other side. For tax cuts, anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage, etc. Even on the issues where I prefer the Republican stance, Goode is on the wrong side. In addition to being a protectionist, Goode actually voted agains the No Child Left Behind act.

So what about Al Weed? The thing that I like most about him is that he has an impressive record as a business owner and entrepreneur. He won't be your typical anti-business, anti-market liberal Democrat.

Weed also has a good military record, including a tour of duty and bronze medal in Vietnam, where he was a green beret. He also served in the reserves for almost forty years, including ten months of active duty in Bosnia. Given the importance of Special Forces and the National Guard in our current situation, Weed's experiences should prove beneficial.

The weak point is his position on Iraq, which is a little bit hard to make out. The short version is
With no weapons of mass destruction found in Iraq and Saddam's regime gone, [Al Weed] thinks it is time for our allies to assume a greater role and for the U.S. to bring our troops home.
Talk about delusional. He says there's no point to staying in Iraq but expects our allies to take over the occupation. Anyhow, the long version of Weed's stance on Iraq is rather different
We owe it to our troops to bring them home when the job is done. [Emphasis added. --ed.]...

Hopefully, we have set the stage for the development of a free, democratic, and pluralistic Iraqi society.

If the new Iraqi government and the people of Iraq want our troops to stay and help rebuild their country, we should oblige. If they want us to leave, we should oblige that wish as well...

There is no risk to our military credibility if we withdraw on an American timetable....

To stay indefinitely puts us at risk of being dragged into a guerilla war without a foreseeable end and cost us dearly in lives and resources. As a veteran of the Vietnam War, I speak from experience when I say that this is a possibility that we must carefully avoid.
Still pretty bad, but at least he understands that democracy is the outcome we are working towards and that we should stay if the people of Iraq want us to (although I'm guessing he assumes that they don't.)

Not that any of this offers much consolation. But my vote for Congress is more about domestic policy, so what I want is to get rid of the Republican majority. By the way, did I mention that Weed is a protectionist who favors single-payer universal health care? So he's not the kind of moderate Democrat I like. But there isn't much future for Weed's ideas in the current political environment, so I'm not too worried.
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Saturday, October 30, 2004

# Posted 3:21 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

JOIN THE CLUB at KerryHatersForKerry.com. (Hat tip: SYYC)
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# Posted 11:37 AM by Patrick Belton  

GLAD TIDINGS FOR MAC USERS IN BRITAIN: Recent studies have shown that two out of three OxBloggers use Macs. In that connection, and for all of our friends in the UK who are also Mac users, the first Apple store in Europe is opening in London on 20 November, at Regent Street. Given that local shills have been charging top dollar (er, pound) for the sorts of small useful services that the staff in North American Apple stores would provide for free, for all Mac users in Britain, this is very good news indeed.
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# Posted 9:32 AM by Patrick Belton  

IN MEMORIAM, Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester, at 102.

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# Posted 2:54 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

UNDECIDEDS BREAK FOR THE CHALLENGER? BOLLOCKS! This in-depth debunking has been all over the blogosphere.
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# Posted 2:35 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHAT EVERY KERRY ENDORSEMENT HAS IN COMMON: Riffing on The Economist, Kaus observes that
It's always a shaky moment in these non-peacenik endorsements when the writer tries to convince himself or herself that Kerry won't bail out on Iraq prematurely, isn't it? (Kerry has been "forthright about the need to win in Iraq," but do you trust him and if so why? Because Andrew Sullivan's blogging will keep him honest?)
As Homer Simpson might say, it's funny because it's true. It's certainly true about my endorsement of Kerry. But I still prefers the risks of John Kerry to the risks of George Bush.

And here's something for all you Bush supporters to ponder: If Kerry wins, how much commitment will congressional Republicans show to promoting democracy in Iraq? Do they share Bush's vision? Or will they revert to type and embrace the inward-looking mercantilism of the GOP in the Clinton years?
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# Posted 2:13 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BIN LADEN CAUGHT ON FILM WITH PARIS HILTON: Why do you think she was filmed in the dark? Who is more likely to have friends with night-vision goggles -- a dimbulb heiress or a terrorist mastermind?

For more on the Bin Laden tape, see TMV's uber-comprehensive round-up.
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# Posted 1:55 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DOUBLE REIHAN! The eminence gris behind David Brooks shares some of his thoughts in a two part series in TNR.
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# Posted 1:52 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SPEAKING THEIR LANGUAGE: Mike McCurry is a master of spin because
He couches the campaign's message in the horserace and tactical language upon which reporters thrive. He understands the press's obsession with political process, and he dishes it out with relish.
In other words, mimic their neuroses and they'll think you're a genius.
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# Posted 1:47 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CIVILIAN CASUALTIES UPDATE: For the second day in a row, the WaPo casualty count for Iraq has excluded the IBC data which provoked OxBlog's protest last Sunday. Then along came The Lancet and shunted aside that entire debate by insisting that there have been 100,000 civilian casualties in Iraq.

I just came across the WaPo story on the Lancet study and thought it was rather interesting. In order to provide balance, the Post plays off The Lancet against a military expert at Human Rights Watch who describes The Lancet's figure as "inflated" and "a reach". Now how often do you get someone from Human Rights Watch telling you that civilian casualtiy figures have been exaggerated?

On the other hand, The Lancet's higher figure has given accidental credibility to IBC by suggesting that it's methods and conclusions are reasonable. Thus, the Post reports that
Previous independent estimates of civilian deaths in Iraq were far lower, never exceeding 16,000.
Actually, the Iraqi Human Rights Organization has been throwing around a 30,000 figure for a while, which got mentioned in the WaPo world opinion roundup. But that number will also pick up some credibility thanks to The Lancet. And the truth? Damned if I know.

UPDATE: Well, Fred Kaplan seems to know. (Hat tip: MF) He says The Lancet's figure is not just completely unreliable, but that the authors of the study have basically lied through their teeth to get publicity for their work.

So, you might ask, is Fred Kaplan biased? Of course he is. Here's what he has to say about whom he'll vote for next Tuesday:
Bush has done too much damage to America's reputation in the world. His view of the world is naive and, too often, wrong. His victory would mean a victory for the most cynical politics practiced by any president in my memory.
The one drawback to Kaplan's analysis of The Lancet study is his lavish praise of IBC. It looks like someone will be getting an e-mail from OxBlog...

UPDATE: ChicagoBoyz has more on The Lancet's primitive methodology. (Hat tip: LH) Um, so if the problems with this study are so obvious, how the hell did it get into a peer reviewed journal?
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# Posted 1:37 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ADVICE FOR THE INSURGENTS: I'm not you asking guys to be nice to the Americans or even to stop gunning down your fellow Iraqis. But please stop killing journalists. It's for your own good.

If you read this diary kept by a WSJ correspondent, you'll realize how hard it is for reporters to do their job in Iraq. Now, why should you care about whether American reporters do their job? Because they might turn out to be the best friends you have.

I'm guessing you guys haven't studied much American history. Most Americans haven't either. But I've been reading a lot about US intervention in El Salvador and Nicaragua in the 1980s. The guerrillas in those countries were smart, because they actively encouraged American reporters to travel with them and see how they really lived. The press coverage they got was invaluable.

Now, it's true that American journalists are also going to tell everyone about it if you kill people. But, hey, they already report about that all the time, so you've got nothing to lose.

(PS If there are any actual insurgents reading this, please ignore my advice. I'm glad that everyone here to the right of Michael Moore thinks you're a bunch of cold-blooded murderers.)

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# Posted 1:29 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

RESPONDING TO MY PARENTHETICAL QUERY, Matt has posted some of his thoughts on Kerry's approach to democracy promotion. Matt describes his position as a "not a very hearty endorsement of Kerry on democracy grounds.
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Friday, October 29, 2004

# Posted 1:10 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE NEW MASS-MURDER IN IRAQ: A study just published in the Lancet, a prestigious journal of medicine, uses statistical methods to demonstrate that the United States is guilty of mass murder in Iraq. The article estimates that 100,000 Iraqis have been killed since the beginning of the war and that upwards of 80,000 died as a result of US airstrikes.

No, those aren't typos. The numbers are 100,000 and 80,000 respectively. Gilbert Burnham, one of the authors of the study, has provided some detailed comments about his methodology in an interview with Spencer Ackerman of The New Republic. (Hat tip: WAB)

Burnham's methods seem logical enough, although I have to admit that I am deeply, deeply skeptical of his results. Historically, only out-and-out carpet bombing, as in WWII or Vietnam, tends to have this kind of result. And one has to wonder how Western journalists failed to notice this alleged scale of destruction in Iraq. (NB: If you follow that link, make sure to read the comment by TM, which the second one down from the top.)

Rough estimates of bombing casualties from the first Gulf War, Kosovo war, and Afghan invasion are on the order of 3,000, 500 and 1,200 respectively. Of course, if this new study has any merit to it, we should probably revise those figures upwards by an order of magnitude.

That's all I have to say in the meantime. I guess we'll only know for sure that this story is bogus when Michael Moore starts to tell it.
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Thursday, October 28, 2004

# Posted 10:25 PM by Patrick Belton  

IRISH CORNER: NYT pans the Abbey Theatre's centenary Playboy of the Western World, in New York for a few days, but go see it anyway. It features, incidentally, a lovely Galway actress by the name of Cathy Belton.
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# Posted 5:00 PM by Patrick Belton  

ANTHONY DANIELS fact-checks the Motorcycle Diaries and their deeply illiberal protagonist.

Incidentally, congratulations, Josh! Our readers should know he cut a fine figure in subfusc on his way to his viva.
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# Posted 9:52 AM by Patrick Belton  

ELECTORAL VOTE WATCH: It's tipped again, this time toward Kerry, with swinging Pennsylvania and Ohio falling his way (by 3 and 1 per cent, respectively), and Florida toward Bush (by 2, all numbers Zogby, 27 October).

Still haven't received my postal ballot from New Haven, incidentally, so I guess I'll be filling out one of these - which unfortunately doesn't give me the option of voting against Mayor DeStefano, for not sending me an absentee ballot.
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# Posted 1:55 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IBC FOLLOW UP: This post will take a detailed look at some of the reports of civilian casualties in the IBC database. It will compare the description of the incidents provided by IBC (in the categories labeled 'Targets', 'Weapons' and 'Min'/'Max' [Casualties]) with the descriptions provided by the newspaper articles they cite as evidence. For purposes of clarity, this post will identify each incident according to the 'Incident code' assigned by IBC.

Incident: k471 Date: 15 Oct 2004 IBC: Police patrol/car bomb; 10/10 dead.
AP: A vehicle bomb reported Friday by the U.S. military blasted near a police station in southwest Baghdad, killing 10 civilians - including a family of four who were driving by at the time of the blast. (16 Oct 2004)

Incident: k467 Date: 16 Oct 2004 IBC: Police returning from Jordan to Karbala/gunife; 9/9 dead.
AP: A militant group claimed responsibility for the killing of nine Iraqi policemen returning from training in Jordan, criticizing in a statement Monday the role Jordan is playing in building what it called "the traitor Iraqi police force." (18 Oct 2004)

Incident: k445 Date: 10 Oct 2004 IBC: Possibly police academy/suicide minibus bomb; 9/17 dead. AP: Two car bombs shook the capital in quick succession Sunday, killing at least 11 people, including an American soldier...A suicide attacker detonated a minibus packed with explosives near an eastern Baghdad police academy, police Cap. Ali Ayez said at the scene...The nearby Kindi Hospital received 10 bodies and treated five wounded from the blast, said Dr. Ali Ghazi...Iraq's most feared terror group, Tawhid and Jihad, claimed responsibility for both attacks. (10 Oct 2004)
Reuters: A suspected suicide car bomb killed up to 17 people near Baghdad's Oil Ministry and a nearby police academy on Sunday, a spokesman for the ministry said...The Interior Ministry official put the death toll at six. Police sources said they believed it had been a suicide car bombing and said they could confirm nine dead.

Incident: k444 Date: 8 Oct 2004 IBC: Suspected al Zarqawi safehouse/US airstrike; 11/13.
AP: American warplanes struck a building where the U.S. command said leaders of al-Zarqawi's network were meeting early Friday. Residents said the house was full of people who had gathered for a wedding. The attack killed 13 people, including the groom, said Dr. Ahmed Saeed at the city hospital. Seventeen others were wounded, including the bride, he said. (8 Oct 2004)
Reuters: A U.S. air raid, aimed at foreign fighters led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, killed 11 people and wounded 17 after a wedding party in the rebel-held Iraqi city of Falluja on Friday, residents and doctors said...At the hospital, where blood pooled on the floor, a doctor named Rafah al-Hayat said 11 people had been killed and 17 wounded. One of his colleagues, Khaled Nasser, said nine females aged between 5 and 50 were among the wounded.

Incident: k437 Date: 06 Oct 2004 IBC: Iraq National Guard recruits/suicide car bomb; 15/16 dead.
AP: Dr. Waleed Jawad Qamar of the Anah health clinic said his facility recorded 13 dead and 25 injured. Another hospital in nearby Hadithah reported three dead and five injured. U.S. officials said no Americans were killed or wounded but had no report of Iraqi casualties. (6 Oct 2004)
Reuters: Local doctors said 16 people had been killed and 24 wounded. Witnesses said they saw a car hurtling towards the National Guard centre on the edge of town just before the explosion. (6 Oct 2004)

Incident: k433 Date: 4 Oct 2004 IBC: Suspected al Zarqawi supporters/US airstrikes; 11/11 dead.
AP: The military, which regularly accuses hospitals of inflating casualty figures, said the strikes targeted followers of Jordanian terror mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and their associates.
A strike in the central al-Jumhuriyah area killed nine people, including three women and four children, said Dr. Adil Khamis of Fallujah General Hospital...A second strike in the city's southern Al-Shuhada neighborhood killed two more people, Khamis said. (04 Oct 2004)

Incident: k429 Date: 4 Oct 2004 IBC: Army or police recruiting station/car bomb, possibly suicide; 14/14 dead.
AP: Yarmouk Hospital received 15 bodies and 81 wounded from the explosion, said Sabah Aboud, the facility's chief registration official. (4 Oct 2004)

This is just an informal sample of the incidents in the IBC database. I basically chose the incidents because they all occurred in the past month and resulted in approximately 10 deaths, which was above average.

If you total up the casualty figures, you get 57-66 dead from five insurgent attacks and 22-24 dead from two sets of US airstrikes. The credibility of these reports seems to rest on the reports of doctors and hospital officials, who are generally quoted by name.

The motives to exaggerate such casualty figures are obvious. I wouldn't be surprised if doctors in insurgent-held territory are intimidated into revising their estimates upwards. Moreover, there is no local press there to hold anyone accountable.

The situation may not be all that different in government held territory. The Allawi government may bribe doctors to revise their estimates upwards, even if the United States prefers otherwise. There is a nascent press in Iraq, but I have no idea whether it focuses on such issues as the accuracy of casualty counts.

Anyhow, my intentions for the near future are to fact-check all of the October 2004 incidents in the IBC database. I am curious whether the overall ratio of casualties from government and insurgents attacks will be much different from the 2.5:1 ration in my little unscientific sample. Either way, I will defintely let you know.
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Wednesday, October 27, 2004

# Posted 11:43 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ENDORSEMENTS THAT MAY ACTUALLY MATTER: The Orlando Sentinel has switched from Bush in 2000 to Kerry in '04. The Cleveland Plain Dealer and Tampa Tribune have gone from Bush in 2000 to 'no endorse' today.
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# Posted 11:29 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

GETTING READY FOR THE RECOUNT(S): An AP poll reports that six out of ten voters don't expect there to be a clear winner by the morning after the election. (Hat tip: Megan-guest-blogging-for-Glenn)

This seems to me like a classic example of the human tendency to predict the future on the basis of the very recent past. Four years ago, no one said to themselves: "A close election? I hope it doesn't turn into another 1876!"

But now, you can open the paper any morning and read about legal battles in a dozen different states, with accusations of dishonesty flying on both sides. These stories are important and they should be covered in considerable detail. Nonetheless, they have the cumulative effect of creating misperceptions among the voting public. It's an inevitable process, but one we should think about more often in a broader set of contexts.
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# Posted 11:08 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

INSTAHIPPIE: This, from Glenn's TCS column:
We were all dancing in abandoned warehouses, under the radar of the authorities, and there was lots of PLUR-talk (Peace Love Unity and Respect)
Can you say 'acid flashback' (to the mid-1990s)?

But even if Glenn is in an altered state, he does make some good observations about the future of the blogosphere:

Over the next few years, blogs will grow both more and less significant. They'll grow more significant because more people will be reading them, and -- at least as important -- more people will be writing them. That will expand their impact considerably. On the other hand, they'll grow less significant, in a way, because they'll grow more ordinary. Like other communications media, from newspapers to email, they'll just become part of the background, and their particular thread of impact will be less noticeable.

And that will make a lot of journalists very happy.
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# Posted 11:07 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE END BEGINNING OF MAJOR COMBAT OPERATIONS? The NYT reports that a major assault on Falluja and Ramadi is inevitable in the coming weeks.
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# Posted 10:48 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IS IT TOO EARLY TO CELEBRATE? The Cards are down by 3 with two innings to go. It reminds me of the night eight years ago when the Yankees won the World Series for the first time in 18 years.

Eighteen isn't eighty-six, but I had spent my entire childhood desperately rooting for a team that just couldn't win in September. In contrast, all of my friends were Mets fans, who got to celebrate in 1986.

(Boston now has men on 2nd and 3rd with nobody out in the 8th.)

After eight years of near-invincibility it's hard to remember how close the Yankees came to losing it all in 1996. The Braves won the first two games of the series in New York and took a solid lead in Game 3 in Atlanta. Then the Yankees came out of nowhere to win four games in a row.

By sheer luck, I happened to be home from New Haven and having dinner with my family the night of Game 6. It was Rosh Hashana. [CORRECTION: My mother points out Rosh Hashana took place far too early to coincide with the World Series. My mother says that my false recollection of this detail indicates that my memory is no more reliable than that of certain presidential candidates who insist that they were in Cambodia on Christmas Eve.] At the beginning of the ninth, my whole family got up and went to watch the game on my parents' television.

I can still remember Charlie Hayes catching that fly ball just outside the third base line. A single moment made up for two decades of disappointment. I want every Red Sox fan to feel that way tonight.

UPDATE: The curse has been reversed!
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# Posted 1:21 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

TOTALLY UNSURPRISING ENDORSEMENTS: At least Matt Yglesias has a sense of humor about his decision to endorse John Kerry in a formal manner (or at least what passes for formal in the blogosphere; it's not like any of us got up at a press conference with Kerry himself and said, "Dude! This guy is the man!")

On the other hand, the New Yorker has broken with its eight-decade tradition of non-partisanship and come up with an extremely bland and formulaic denouncement of Bush with some praise for John Kerry tacked on at the end.

Frankly, I'm sort of curious about whom the editors hoped to persuade with its endorsement. Isn't the entire magazine sort of an implicit endorsement of Kerry in the first place?

But much more importantly, I'm disturbed by the fact that the New Yorker, like its (what the hell -- "our") candidate betrays absolutely no concern about promoting democracy in Iraq. (Matt was pretty weak on this point as well, but his whole endorsement was sort off-the-cuff.)

Moreover, David Remnick and his fellow editors even describe Iraq as one of this issues on which
Kerry offers a clear, corrective alternative to Bush’s curious blend of smugness, radicalism, and demagoguery.
Huh? You'd think that Remnick & Co. would have at least tried to demonstrate their high-minded concern for balance and self-awareness by pointing that Kerry's plan to bring in the French and the Germans is patently ridiculous.

You know, if the New Yorker really wanted to be clever, it could've just reprinted The Nation's endorsement of John Kerry -- under the heading of science-fiction.
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# Posted 1:04 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

I remain totally unimpressed by John Kerry. Outside of his opposition to the death penalty, I've never seen him demonstrate any real political courage. His baby steps in the direction of reform liberalism during the 1990s were all followed by hasty retreats. His Senate vote against the 1991 Gulf War demonstrates an instinctive aversion to the use of American force, even when it's clearly justified. Kerry's major policy proposals in this campaign range from implausible to ill-conceived. He has no real idea what to do differently in Iraq. His health-care plan costs too much to be practical and conflicts with his commitment to reducing the deficit. At a personal level, he strikes me as the kind of windbag that can only emerge when a naturally pompous and self-regarding person marinates for two decades inside the U.S. Senate. If elected, Kerry would probably be a mediocre, unloved president on the order of Jimmy Carter. And I won't have a second's regret about voting for him.
More importantly, Weisberg explains why Slate's official policy is to ask each of its staff members to explain in public whom they're voting for and why:
News organizations that, for understandable reasons, are less open about the political views of their staff may have a harder time with the challenge of being fair to both sides. Repressed politics, like repressed sexuality, tends to find an outlet of one kind or another. This may explain how Dan Rather and other conscientious journalists at 60 Minutes ended up promoting some sloppily forged documents thought to be damaging to President Bush's re-election effort. Conservatives were right to point out that an equally flawed story harmful to Kerry almost certainly would not have aired. What if CBS reporters and producers openly acknowledged that the vast majority of them prefer Kerry and the Democrats? Perhaps in openly expressing their political leanings, they would be forced to try harder to be fair to the other side, lest they be dismissed as biased.

The case most commonly made against fuller disclosure of opinion at "straight" news organizations like CBS—as opposed to journals of opinion like Slate—is that the information would be misused by media critics on the right. Movement conservatives would seize on the revelation that most journalists vote Democratic to discredit professionals who are doing their conscientious best to be fair. But wait—conservatives already dismiss the press as biased against them, on the well-supported assumption that most journalists at national news organizations are liberal. Is denying a cheap shot to critics really a good enough reason to withhold information that many news consumers would deem not only interesting, but useful and relevant?
Hat tip: Phil Carter (a Slate contributor who'll be voting for Kerry)
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Tuesday, October 26, 2004

# Posted 11:19 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE CURSE REVERSED? The Red Sox are about to go up 3-0 in the World Series. What are the chances of anyone coming back from three games down? Even as an Yankee fan, I want nothing more than for the Red Sox to redeem themselves after a century of disappointment.

I think my uncle put it quite well in his letter to the NYT last Friday:
The "monumental collapse" (Sports, Oct. 21) of the Yankees to the Boston Red Sox has rekindled memories of my youth, when I was a devout Brooklyn Dodgers fan and spent many wonderful days rooting for them at Ebbets Field.

I remember the decades of Brooklyn's archrivalry with the Yankees and the glorious moment in 1955 when Brooklyn finally won the World Series.

I was heartbroken when the Dodgers moved away, and I refused to seek refuge in any other team until my three nephews, who were growing up to be ardent Yankee fans, persuaded me to convert.

Boston's victory evokes memories of my first love (the Dodgers) and the ecstasy of overcoming seeming insurmountable obstacles.

I applaud the Red Sox victory! Maybe it's time to bring the Dodgers back to Brooklyn.

New York, Oct. 21 1984

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# Posted 9:43 PM by Patrick Belton  

HE'S FAR too nice a guy to mention it himself, so we'll have to do it for him - OxBlog's friend Josh Cherniss has a stunning entry on Isaiah Berlin up on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy now, which is quite simply the best introduction to his thought I've yet come across. And when you've got one of our favourite writers Michael Ignatieff beat on that score, that's really quite an accomplishment.
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# Posted 6:04 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FINALLY: Sullivan endorses Kerry.
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# Posted 5:56 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ACHOO! In TNR, Jonathan Cohn takes a look at the flu vaccine fiasco. It's an informative article, although I think Cohn pushes his evidence to far when he says the debacle is a reason to vote against Bush.
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# Posted 11:27 AM by Patrick Belton  

AS BIG a fan as I am of geeky things you can do with technology, I steadfastly refuse to vote for any officeseeker who ever comes to my door riding one of these.
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Sunday, October 24, 2004

# Posted 9:47 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

"A MAGAZINE OPENED TO REVEAL A PICTURE OF THE PRESIDENTIAL BALLS...FBI forensic testing would later confirm the balls' authenticity."

That is an actual quote from today's WaPo Magazine. It has nothing to do with Bill Clinton. Rather, it concerns the theft of four spherical sporting objects bearing the autographs of Presidents Taft, Wilson, Harding and Coolidge.
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# Posted 8:47 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BAD ROLE MODELS: I wasn't going to write about this story, but it upset my Chinese roommates so much that I figured it must be big news.

So, it turns out that Liu Xiang, China's surprise gold medalist in the 110m hurdles, has signed an endorsement deal with China's #1 cigarette maker.

But hold off before you criticize Liu, because I smell a rat. It turns out that
The official government-backed Track and Field Association has sole right to negotiate product endorsements for the country's athletes, with income split between athletes and the group.
Sounds to me like some bureaucrat is trying to cash in on this national hero's reputation. On a less important but more amusing note, check out this Orwellian statement about the endorsement deal from the CEO of the cigarette manufacturer:
Everyone likes Liu Xiang and hopes he will 'soar' higher and faster, and maintain his sunny, healthy, progressive image.
Sort of like Joe Camel in gym shorts.

UPDATE: Reader DM points out that Baisha, China's #1 cigarette maker, also makes other products. His comment led me to re-read the two articles I linked to above, neither of which explicitly says that Liu Xiang will be endorsing cigarettes.

Instead, Liu will serve as an "image ambassador" for Baisha, which both AP and the BBC describe as China's biggest cigarette maker, with no mention of other products. Moreover, the headline of the BBC article is "Hurdler Xiang to Back Cigaretttes". So did the Beeb confuse its own headline writers, or does it know more about Baisha than it's letting on? (And isn't the guy's surname 'Liu'?)
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# Posted 7:18 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PROFOUND OBSERVATION ABOUT 60 MINUTES: Ed Bradley should not have an earring. If he is going wear one anyhow, it should be stud, not a hoop.

And notice how Bradley's headshot on the 60 Minutes website is a three-quarters profile that thrusts forward his unpierced lobe while hiding its bejeweled counterpart.
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# Posted 7:05 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

JON STEWART ON CBS: The 60 Minutes profile of Big Jon should be on in around 20 minutes. The CBS internet summary, as well as the commericals I've seen, suggest their going to play Stewart as an equal opportunity critic fed up by American journalists' failures to expose politicians' (read: Bush's) lies. In short, it's the he-said/she-said hypotheis (recently elevated to the status of meme.)

For a better look at Stewart, head on over to Howard Kurtz's profile in Saturday's WaPo. With the help of Ted Koppel and Wonkette, Kurtz pigeonholes Stewart with impressive precision. Wonkette says that Stewart
To say his is just a comedy show is a cop-out in a way. He's gotten so much power. So many people look to him that you can't really be the kid in the back throwing spitballs
Koppel adds:
[Stewart] is to television news what a really great editorial cartoonist is to a newspaper...

A satirist gets to poke and prod and make fun of other people, and when you say, 'What about you, dummy?,' he says, 'I'm just a satirist.'
Naturally, I like Kurtz's message because it's exactly what I've been saying about Stewart for quite some time now. He is gut-wrenchingly funny, but has to stop pretending that his is a noble effort to restore balance to the American political agenda. At least for the past four months, Stewart has been active Kerry partisan who uses his influence to reinforce negative stereotypes about Bush.

That's all fine, it just means that what Stewart deserves is a roasting from his comedic colleagues for adopting as his own the pious ambiguities of the politicians he so loves to mock.

"We don't have an agenda to change the political system. We have a more selfish agenda, to entertain ourselves. We feel a frustration with the way politics are handled and the way politics are handled within the media," Stewart says. Yeah, right.


7:37 PM: Stewart resorts to the "I'm just a fake journalist" cop-out.

7:39 PM: Footage of Stewart making fun of Kerry, helping him do the bi-partisan spin.

7:41 PM: Another CBS pairing of Stewart making fun of the GOP, then Stewart making fun of Kerry.

7:42 PM: "Stewart expects to vote for John Kerry, but that's not an endorsement."

7:46 PM: Great clip of Stewart trashing CBS because of the Dan Rather memo f***-up.

Then Stewart asks why Rathergate is the big scandal but no one cares about Halliburton or the missing WMD. Can you say "he-said/she-said journalism"?

7:48 PM: Clip of Stewart wrangling with Tucker Carlson, bashing cable media for its yelling idiot vs. yelling idiot he-said/she-said journalism.

7:50 PM: CBS is really playing this brilliantly. They defuse charges of liberal bias on their part by letting Jon Stewart subtly argue for the unintentional pro-conservative bias of the mainstream media.

To top it all off, they let the liberal Stewart trash CBS's incompetence as if to make it seem that Memogate was just a little accident that had nothing to do with Dan Rather's politics.

7:55 PM: How come no one told me Mickey Andy Rooney was so funny? (In that laughting-at-him-not-laughing-with-him sort of way.)
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# Posted 6:57 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OXBLOG ENDORSES LAROUCHE as idiotarian menace of the year. I got used to the LaRouche activists in Harvard Square, so I just figured that they weren't all that different from the rest of the left-wing kooks who hang out there. Except maybe a little more anti-Semitic.

But this report in the Washington Post magazine demonstrates that LaRouche is a lot more than a failed politician. He is a paranoid cult leader who ruins the lives of countless young men and women. One of them died on a highway is central Germany, hit by multiple cars just minutes after he called his mother in the UK, begging for help.

LaRouche is also a convicted criminal who spent much of the late 1980s and early 1990s in prison for extensive fraud. When the eight-time presidential candidate tells you that fascist Jews have sent zombie assassins to murder LaRouche and that they, not Al Qaeda are responsible for 9/11, it's really the least of what's wrong with him.
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# Posted 6:55 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SUPERBOWL QUALITY FOOTBALL: The final seconds are ticking off the clock as the Jets go down to defeat and New England extends its mind-blowing records of 21 consecutive victories. Amazing.
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# Posted 4:11 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHAT ARE IBC'S STANDARDS? The most appropriate benchmark for measuring the veracity of IBC's information is the standards that it elaborates on its website. According to IBC:
This database includes all deaths which the Occupying Authority has a binding responsibility to prevent under the Geneva Conventions and Hague Regulations. This includes civilian deaths resulting from the breakdown in law and order, and deaths due to inadequate health care or sanitation.
Casualty figures are derived from a comprehensive survey of online media reports and eyewitness accounts. Where these sources report differing figures, the range (a minimum and a maximum) are given.
The test for us remains whether the bullet (or equivalent) is attributed to a piece of weaponry where the trigger was pulled by a US or allied finger, or is due to "collateral damage" by either side (with the burden of responsibility falling squarely on the shoulders of those who initiate war without UN Security Council authorization). We agree that deaths from any deliberate source are an equal outrage, but in this project we want to only record those deaths to which we can unambiguously hold our own leaders to account. In short, we record all civilians deaths attributed to our military intervention in Iraq. [Emphasis in original --ed.]
The ambiguity of this last paragraph is striking. It asserts that collateral damage caused by either side is the result of "our" , i.e. US-UK, intervention in Iraq.

The application of this standard is even more striking. It includes not just those civilians killed by insurgents' bullets and bombs in the heat of battle, but civlians deliberately murdered by suicide bombers affiliated with the insurgents. This is a total perversion of the concept of moral reponsibility.

In order to understand the method behind this madness, one ought to consult the most recent IBC press release, which explains the political significance of its work:
So far, in the "war on terror" initiated since 9-11, the USA and its allies have been responsible for over 13,000 civilian deaths, not only the 10,000+ in Iraq, but also 3,000+ civilian deaths in Afghanistan, another death toll that continues to rise long after the world's attention has moved on.

Elsewhere in the world over the same period, paramilitary forces hostile to the USA have killed 408 civilians in 18 attacks worldwide (see Table 1). Adding the official 9-11 death toll (as of October 29th 2003) brings the total to just under 3500...

For each civilian killed by "terrorists" on and since 9-11, the USA and its allies have brought about almost four non-combatant, civilian deaths in return...

The claim that a strategy which produces 14,000 civilian deaths is the expression of a "philosophy of tolerance and freedom" is a claim which we find incomprehensible. Our incomprehension is shared, we believe, by the majority of the world's people.
The hypocrisy of this statement is stunning. IBC seeks to demonstrate that the United States is more dangerous than its terrorist opponents by blaming the United States for acts of premeditated murder that those same terrorists have perpetrated.

This is why we must work together to reverese the unthinking embrace of IBC's statistics by the Washington Post and other leading publications.
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# Posted 4:01 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MORE BODY COUNTS: The credibility and integrity of iraqbodycount.net (IBC for short), rest on the information contained in its publicly available data base of civilian casualties. For the reasons described in my previous post, I believe that the time has come for a thoroughgoing investigation and potential repudiation of IBC's data.

This past summer, my investigation of a limited number of the incidents described in the IBC database exposed major factual and interpretive errors. Even though no individual can fact check such a massive data base, the distributed power of the blogosphere can be brought to bear on this task.

What I propose is a coordinated effort to parcel out all of the incidents in the IBC data base to volunteers willing to check IBC's claims against the publicly available news accounts cited as the source of its information.

I'm not sure exactly how to coordinate this effort, so your suggestions are welcome. But I believe that it can and should be done.
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# Posted 2:33 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FLOOD THE ZONE! FLOOD THE ZONE! Each day, the Washington Post performs an admirable service by updating the number of American soldiers killed and wounded in Iraq, while also providing the names of those fallen soldiers identified by the Pentagon.

This morning, however, the Washington Post committed a grave error by including estimates of Iraqi civlian casualties provided by iraqbodycount.net (IBC for short). The Post deceptively states that the figures are provided by Reuters and IBC. Yet Reuters itself states that the figures for civilian casualties come from IBC alone.

(NB: The Post provides the IBC figures on page A18 of Saturday morning's print edition. I have not been able to locate the figures online.)

In the past, OxBlog has demonstrated conclusively that IBC relies on fraudluent data and that its flagrant dishonesty reflects its lleft-wing extremist agenda.
Principal flaws of the IBC count include:

1) Counting the victims of suicide bombings as victims of American intervention.

2) Counting victims of common crime as victims of American intervention.

3) Claiming false knowledge of the names of such victims.
As my partner Josh Chafetz documented in the Weekly Standard in April 2003, IBC's has a long history of blatant deception. As both Josh and I have shown, mainstream publications have a disturbing habit of citing IBC as a reliable source.

However, the Post's decision to rely on IBC for its daily count brings unprecedented prestige and credibility to a malicious organization. Therefore I ask you that join me in contacting Washington Post ombudsman Michael Getler to demand that the Post repudiate the IBC count, investigate why it use was approved in the first place, and issue an apology for this failure to maintain professional standards of reporting.

If you are a blogger, I ask that you encourage your readers to contact Mr. Getler. His e-mail address, provided by the Washington Post, is:ombudsman@washpost.com.

I ask you to join me in this effort first of all in the name of truth. But this particular truth matters because IBC's falsehoods unfairly blacken the reputation of the United States and its armed forces, which have made extraordinary efforts to minimize the number of civilian casualties inflicted during this war.
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# Posted 2:20 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IT ALL COMES DOWN TO ACCOUNTABILITY: Dan Drezner, Ambivablog and The Washington Post have all come out for John Kerry and all for the same reason, more or less.
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Saturday, October 23, 2004

# Posted 8:46 PM by Patrick Belton  

TODAY'S READING: Woody Allen in the New York Times on George S. Kaufman.
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# Posted 1:48 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE NATION ENDORSES KERRY: Hey, you're not supposed to judge people (or blogs) by the company they keep. Here are some highlights:
The gift of a true electoral mandate now to this previously unelected President would give fresh legitimacy and momentum to all his disastrous policies. And that new momentum could in turn place our constitutional system itself at risk.
Wait, so if the American people actually chose Bush it would put the Constitution more at risk than if the Supreme Court installed him in office?
We believed that the invasion of Iraq was "the wrong war, in the wrong place, at the wrong time" (as he now describes it) before the war was ever launched; he has come to that conclusion only recently, having voted to authorize the war.
Wait, so The Nation is accusing Kerry of being a flip-flopper?
[Bush] has pandered to a "base" of religious fanatics, many of whom are looking forward to a day of "rapture" when Jesus returns to earth and kills everyone but them.
Instead of ex-felons, why not purge those with unsound theology from the voter rolls!
Yet it is so far only the government that has asserted global imperial ambition, waged aggressive war on false pretexts, condoned torture, strengthened corporate influence over politics, turned its back on the natural environment and spurned global public opinion. If Bush is now elected, then a national majority -- a far weightier thing -- will stand behind these things.
No! Not a majority! Let's turn over the government to a vanguard party instead!
A systemic crisis -- a threat to the Constitution of the United States -- has taken shape. At the end of this road is an implied vision of a different system: a world run by the United States and a United States run permanently by the Republican Party, which is to say imperial rule abroad, one-party rule at home.
To hell with the vanguard party. Bush is already making us more like the Soviet Union every day! (But if Canada tries to invade liberate us, The Nation will insist on absolute respect for American sovereignty.)

The most important reason to vote for John Kerry in November is to safeguard democracy in America.

Kerry's election would not necessarily save, and Bush's election would not necessarily destroy, democratic government in the United States. Even as President, even "in power," Kerry might well find himself "in opposition." In that case, he would need all the help from ordinary people he could get, and there's good reason to believe it would be forthcoming...

For all its importance, the election is only one episode in a longer popular struggle, whether Bush or Kerry is President. Either way, The Nation will devote itself to the fight.

We must take to the streets! We must take to the mountains! Viva la revolucion!
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# Posted 1:19 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DAMN INTOLERANT CHRISTIAN FUNDAMENTALIST LIBERALS: I'm pretty sure this isn't joke. If it were a joke, it wouldn't be funny. I got a press release today with the headline:
United Methodists Call on George W. Bush and Richard Cheney to Repent
It goes on to explain that
United Methodist Church members and clergy are bringing charges against President George W. Bush and Vice-President Richard Cheney.

"Our hope," says Rev. Courtney Ball, "is that President George W. Bush andVice-President Richard Cheney will recognize the sinfulness of their actions, sincerely repent, and move on to change their ways."

Organizers of the website TheyMustRepent.com, Courtney Ball and Josh Steward, are taking action as Christians and United Methodists who are desperate to hold two of their own accountable for their actions in starting an unjust war in Iraq. [Ball & Steward were presumably "desperate" to hold Saddam Hussein accountable for mass murder circa March 2003, but they couldn't, because he is neither a Christian nor a United Methodist. --Ed.]

A letter of complaint at TheyMustRepent.com outlines the justification for bringing charges.
Go read the letter of complaint. The best part is when they accuse Bush of politicizing Christianity.
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Friday, October 22, 2004

# Posted 1:47 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

KERRYMANDERING: All of the responses to yesterday's post about reforming the electoral college focused on the issue of gerrymandering. My original post built on the analysis of Joshua Spivak in USA Today, and Joshua was kind enough to write in with his comments on my post.

Joshua makes two points. First, gerrymandering has already resulted in the polarization of Congress. Handing out electoral votes by congressional district might have the same effect on presidential politics.

Second, the Maine-Nebraska method is just as likely as the winner-take-all approach to hand the election to the candidate with fewer popular votes. For example, Nixon won a majority of congressional districts in 1960.

Now, as DS points out, one way around the gerrymandering problem is for more states to follow the Iowa precedent of appointing a non-partisan commission to divide the state up into congressional districts.

But what're the odds of that happening, right? As SK points out, adopting the Maine-Nebraska approach without getting rid of gerrymandering ensures that
All the distrcits out there which are "safe" house seats, become "safe" electoral votes.
Such an outcome is possible, but not definite. As part of my thesis research, I've been focusing on a group of about 30 Democratic congressmen, mostly from the South, who supported Reagan's foreign policy. Their critics asserted that this decision wasn't a matter of principle, but just a reflection of their fear that opposing the President would cost them the upcoming election.

Even though I haven't finished my research yet, I have noticed that a lot of these congressmen were re-elected with more than 60% of the vote in 1984 in spite of the fact that Reagan won 60% or even 70% of the popular vote in their districts.

Obviously, this is just one counter-example, and I wouldn't want to adopt the Maine-Nebraksa method without carefully considering its impact. But perhaps that method is worth a serious look.
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Thursday, October 21, 2004

# Posted 11:46 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

EVEN THE LIBERAL NEW REPUBLIC is supporting John Kerry. Here's my favorite anti-Kerry point from the article:
Building "firehouses in Baghdad"--a notion Kerry has repeatedly mocked--is not only something we owe the Iraqi people, it stems from the fundamentally liberal premise that social development can help defeat fanaticism. Abandoning that principle under pressure from Howard Dean is the most disturbing thing Kerry has done in this campaign.
Ouch. But here's the crux of TNR's argument against Bush:
The common thread is ideological certainty untroubled by empirical evidence, intellectual curiosity, or open debate. The ideology that guides this president's war on terrorism is more appealing than the corporate cronyism that guides his domestic policy. But it has been pursued with the same sectarian, thuggish, and ultimately self-defeating spirit.
Even though my endorsement of John Kerry focused on his prospective policy for Iraq, I should also have mentioned how strong my instinctive discomfort is with a President who betrays absolutely no desire to measure the actual impact of his policy choices against his initial expectations.

The obvious counterpoint to this argument is that John Kerry's Clinton-esque obsession with processing ever more information results in exactly the sort of paralysis that the United States cannot afford in the midst of its War on Terror.

My preferred counterpoint to this argument is that John Kerry's inconsistent approach to critical issues such as the war in Iraq reflects a lack of firm principles much more than it does an inability to make decisions. Kerry has made decisions -- he simply made them in response to the pressure generated by Howard Dean and then remade them in response to the pressure generated George W. Bush rather than focusing all along on the pressure generated by the situation on the ground in Iraq.

While this sort of inconsistency is an obvious source of concern, my wager on Kerry reflects my belief that it would be in Kerry's own self-interest as President to "finish the job" in Iraq.

But that's not what I wanted to write about (again). I want to focus on the instinctive discomfort with George Bush's policymaking habits that so many hesitant Kerry supporters have. I think that Dan Drezner is talking about essentially the same thing when he talks about preferring a solid process to solid principles/instincts.

As a professional researcher, I think I simply find it almost impossible to trust someone whose thought process is apparently so different from my own.

In theory, I am sure that Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld all believe in evaluating the relevant data and adjusting their decisions to reflect reality. Thus, when I say that I object to the way that this administration makes decisions, I am saying that I do not believe that it has lived up to the intellectual standard it presumably accepts.

So, if my preference for Kerry reflects my general intellectual style, am I engaging in an idiosyncratic sort of identity politics? Perhaps. In my own mind, I am making an empirical judgment about George Bush's ability to adapt to new information and new situations. But I also firmly believe that I have to defend that proposition instead of taking it for granted.
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# Posted 11:30 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DAMNED IVY LEAGUE CONSERVATIVES: The first time I voted for President I was an undergraduate at Yale. At our polling station, Dole just barely won more votes than the Green Party candidate, while Clinton took home a solid majority.

Yet as Bob Musil points out, an informal poll of the Yale football team shows that 62 players are supporting Bush but only 27 are backing Kerry. I'm half-surprised and half not. There's no specific reason to think that athletes would vote Republican.

On the other hand, if you play the liberal free association game, you'd come up with a result something like this: Football = fraternity = conformist = anti-intellectual = arch-capitalist = Republican. On the other hand, support for Bush may just reflect the fact that he was chapter president of DKE, one Yale's most athletic fraternities.

The real question is, who will get the Skull & Bones vote?
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# Posted 5:54 PM by Patrick Belton  

BLEG MAKES SUCH A NICE SOUND IF YOU SAY IT FAST: If any of our area hand friends happen to (1) have a sense of how Bush and Kerry foreign policy would differ toward their area of specialisation, or even more particularly (2) how foreign policy hands in that capital view the likely results for their country of a Bush or Kerry victory, and (3) would like to be in a magazine article which I've just been given with a super-short turnaround, please do drop me a line! Thanks!
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# Posted 2:40 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IMPECCABLE LOGIC: If the Red Sox can beat the Yankees, why does promoting democracy in Iraq seem so improbable? Or is the Yankees blowing a massive lead an apt metaphor for the situation in Iraq?
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# Posted 2:37 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

VERY FUNNY: Cheney Vows to Attack U.S. if Kerry Elected.
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# Posted 2:25 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ENDORSING KERRY may have provoked a lot of critical responses, but it also resulted in a whole bunch of traffic, since uber-undecided Andrew Sullivan decided to mention my post.

Andrew also had an article in TNR last week which argues that the situations in Iran, Iraq and North Korea will force either Kerry or Bush to respond in a similar manner. I think he's more right about Iran and North Korea than he is about Iraq, but my his argument there isn't much different from my own.

And in another important blogospheric development, Matt Yglesias completely agrees with something I wrote in defense of Bush -- and that was before I endorsed Kerry!
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# Posted 1:57 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

RANDOM THOUGHT: What if Kerry loses the popular vote and wins in the electoral college? I don't think that anyone has made this point explicitly, but people seem to assume that only the reverse could happen.

(UPDATE: Dan beat me to it.)

But consider this: The WaPo tracking poll has given Bush the lead quite consistently. But the latest polls from the states indicate that Kerry may be on the rise. RCP has Bush ahead 227-206, with the rest of the votes being a toss-up. Electoral-Vote.com has Kerry ahead 291-247.

The big change, of course, is in Florida, where Kerry has pulled ahead in two of the last three polls. Kerry is also doing very well in Ohio, a state that once favored Bush.

Relying on his gut, Kevin Drum says Bush will win Florida and Kerry will take Ohio and Wisconsin, which means Kerry will be the next President. And the popular vote? Kevin doesn't say.

UPDATE: Matt Glassman has some very imaginative thoughts about what might happen if there were a tie in the electoral college.
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# Posted 1:30 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BRIGHT (ELECTORAL) COLLEGE YEARS: There's a referendum on the ballot in Colorado that would divide up the states' nine electoral votes on a proportional basis instead of winner-take-all. Josh Spivak says that's a bad idea, especially because the referendum would affect the current election. In a close race, the Colorado referendum might even cost Bush the White House.

As always, Josh's logic is sound and his historical examples are compelling. But what if every state changed its method of distributing electoral votes? And what if all fifty states made that change in a non-election year?

I'm against a proportional division of votes, but I am tentatively in favor of applying the Maine-Nebraska method to all fifty states. Why not give one electoral vote to the candidate with the most votes in each congressional district (plus two electoral votes for the state-wide front-runner)?

The problem with a proportional system is that it would lead the candidates to ignore the small states almost completely. A district-based system would also represent a major reorientation of the system toward the larger states, but that happens to be the only way to enfranchise California Republicans and Texas Democrats whose votes are worthless right now.
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# Posted 1:17 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BLAST FROM THE RECENT PAST: Wizbang has just posted an exclusive interview with Swift Vet #1 John O'Neill. O'Neill insists that his book tells the whole truth and nothing but the truth and that the media just doesn't get it.
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# Posted 1:06 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SEEK AND THOUGH SHALT FIND: I asked how many troops the French and Germans could send to Iraq if that's what they actually wanted. Todd Bass points out that The Economist answered my question a long time ago:
As it happens, neither France nor Germany are in a position to provide much in the way of men or money. Both countries would struggle to come up with more than 5,000 troops each, compared with some 140,000 American soldiers currently on the ground, backed up by 10,000 from Britain and a 9,000-strong Polish-led force which was deployed this week in central Iraq.
On a related note, a friend of mine who served in Afghanistan said that numbers are misleading because the fighting ability of non-American NATO soldiers is so much less than that of our own. Perhaps that kind of difference won't matter as much during an occupation (as opposed to an invasion), but it still means that our soldiers will have to do most of the fighting and dying in Iraq.
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Wednesday, October 20, 2004

# Posted 7:05 PM by Patrick Belton  

JESUS, THIS IS GOOD BASEBALL. I mean, my heart beats for the Yankees, but rooting for them has something of the flavour of rooting for the Roman legions against the Gauls: if you’re reading Latin and not Celtic in middle school (n.b. I did both), then they’re clearly your team, but it’s hard to take too much pleasure out of seeing them beat up on the little guy. If the boys from Boston can pull this one off, more power to ‘em.

UPDATE: I seem to be watching a baseball game on a website. Red Sox up 2-0 after the first.
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# Posted 12:54 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IT'S A MEME! Suddenly, everyone is writing about whether balanced journalism is actually balanced. Today, everyone includes Howard Kurtz.

In Tuesday's morning's paper, Kurtz devoted his Media Notes column to that subject. In this morning's paper, Kurtz offers his own take on whether or Bush or Kerry has gone further when it comes to stretching the truth.

In the former, Kurtz comes down on the side of those big name journalists who think that Bush has shown considerably less respect for the facts. But in the latter, Kurtz bashes Kerry for his misleading statements about the draft and Social Security. The WaPo editorial board also hits Kerry hard for his comments about Social Security and the draft.

The one major omission in Kurtz's two-day round-up is any criticism of Kerry for his indefensible assertion that he can persuade our allies to commit a significant number of troops to Iraq.

The French have already said that a deployment is out of the question, although the German are beginning to suggest that they may be more amenable. Even so, how many troops will they send?

Kerry often talks about the United States bearing 90% of the occupation's costs and suffering 90% of the casualties. Leaving aside the fact that it is Iraqis who are suffering most of the casualties, I doubt that any further commitment of allied troops will bring Kerry's magic number down below 70 or 80 percent.
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# Posted 11:05 AM by Patrick Belton  


(Extra points, incidentally, for counting each time CNN in its story managed stupefyingly to refer to it as a 'gay novel,' such as in the poll question 'Do you plan to read the gay novel that won this year's Booker Prize?', or in the headline 'Gay novel wins Booker prize.' I happen to believe, rather strongly actually, that there's no such thing as a Black novel, or a Woman's novel, or a Ex-Seminarian Who Gets Drunk at a Brothel and Urinates with a Jew novel, only novels, which are written by humans, with particular overlaying sets of experiences and attributes, which they then happen to draw upon. In general, I feel that any use of the phrase 'X novel' is demeaning to X; it has something of the flavour of 'rather good shot, that is, for a girl.' Still, I imagine it's vaguely preferable to 'literary sodomite,' or 'decent enough chap, shame really about him ending up in the fifth circle of hell.')
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# Posted 8:43 AM by Patrick Belton  

WHEREVER YOU FALL AS REGARDS the neo-conservative vision in foreign policy, it's difficult to dispute that it's one of the more ascendant and significant of intellectual strains in contemporary American political life, and also one of the less well studied - the preponderance of writers taking up the subject quickly succumbing into mouth-foaming tirades linking shadowy power with that bête noir, 'Jews.' Well, one of the deeper thinkers behind that vision, who happens also to be a friend of this blog, will be speaking here at Oxford in the Isaiah Berlin lectures. Next Thursday, Michael Ledeen will be presenting the Isaiah Berlin lecture at 5 pm, in Exam Schools. Do come, wherever you fall on the neo-conservative vision and its drawbacks - he's a sensitive thinker, a gifted raconteur, and an interesting window into an important intellectual strain in the United States at present.
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# Posted 7:59 AM by Patrick Belton  

No sooner do you set foot upon American ground, than you are stunned by a kind of tumult. . . . Almost the only pleasure which an American knows is to take a part in the government, and to discuss its measures. To give but one example of this enthusiasm, at a great outdoor gathering at Auburn, New York, Senator Rivers of Virginia addressed the audience for three and a half hours! After the crowd took a brief stretch, Senator Legarè of South Carolina went on for another two and a half hours!
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# Posted 7:43 AM by Patrick Belton  

KISS ME, I'VE JUST VOTED: No, not in the U.S. presidential elections, for the council of the American Political Science Association. I was very happy to give my meagre support to the 'Perestroika' ticket standing for the cause of methodological diversity and for not neglecting historical, sociological, philosophical, and other non-quantitative methodologies in the study of politics. This even though my own personal research at the moment draws heavily on both rational choice and statistical analysis - I wouldn't want those perspectives to become hegemonic within the discipline, or for the Balinese cock fights or influence within the New Haven Board of Aldermen of the future to go unresearched. Que viva la revolución.

(On the other hand, as they say in the rational choice literature, voting rules….)
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# Posted 1:39 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OXBLOG READERS FOR BUSH: The response was overwhelming. I explained why I will (almost definitely) be voting for John Kerry and a whole lot of you wrote in to tell me why I shouldn't.

The best response I got was not a response to OxBlog at all, but a post from Beldar addressed to his thoughtful, patriotic, "non-moonbat" friends who also happen to be Democrats. (Hat tip: BM) Beldar's argument is forceful and well-grounded. Beldar asks how John Kerry, as President, would be able to resist tremendous pressure from the Democratic left to fight the war on terror their way.

Beldar focuses primarily on the disturbing potential for a high-risk withdrawal from Iraq. While I share his concern, I don't think that the Democratic left will be able to win that debate. There is a remarkable consensus right now on the importance of not letting Iraq become a failed state and terrorist haven. (We used to say that we didn't want Iraq to become another Afghanistan, but now we do want Iraq to become another Afghanistan!)

Even though Democrats are much more likely than Republicans to refer to Iraq as a quagmire, it is the Democrats themselves whose arguments embody the logic of the quagmire. Whereas Republicans (and OxBlog) still believe that our exit strategy in Iraq is democracy, Democrats argue that the situation now borders on the hopeless. At the same time, they argue that we dare not withdraw, lest Iraq descend into total chaos.

That is the very definition of a quagmire -- when you know you're losing but you still believe that if you withdraw things will only get worse.

This brings us to the second important point made by several of those who responded to yesterday's post. They describe my essential argument for Kerry as being the hope that Kerry, as President, will do the exact opposite of what he says on the campaign trail.

To a certain extent, that is true. I am hoping that Kerry will become an advocate of promoting democracy in Iraq even though he has studiously avoided that subject on the campaign trail.

On the other hand, Kerry insistence that he will "get the job done" in Iraq is a step in the right direction. While Kerry often insists that he is best equipped to bring the troops home, he has very carefully avoided making any firm commitment on that point.

One interpretation of such rhetoric is that Kerry is a sheep in wolf's clothing; once the election is over, his inner dove will emerge. Another interpretation is that Kerry recognizes (and regrets) the degree to which the Bush administration has committed the United States to a specific strategy for dealing with Iraq. Now he has no choice but to make the best of that situation.

As I said before, decisions about voting often reflect a considerable degree of speculation. Thus, I have settled on the line of speculation that I believe to the most plausible. If I am wrong about Kerry, you can be sure that I will not hesitate to admit it.
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Tuesday, October 19, 2004

# Posted 5:28 PM by Patrick Belton  

GONE FISHING (FOR A DISSERTATION...) So go over to the New Yorker to read the best bit of writing, on ketchup, ever.
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# Posted 12:41 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MAKING THE DECISION: There are a precious few of us left who still haven't decided to whom we'll be giving our votes. But Greg Djerejian has decided. His lengthy commentary demonstrates that one can be profoundly aware of how grave the situation is in Iraq -- and of how much the Bush administration had contributed to that gravity -- yet still believe that Bush is better prepared than Kerry to handle the crisis.

In contrast, Daniel Drezner demonstrates that one can be profoundly troubled by Kerry's naive faith in multilateral diplomacy, yet still believe that he can wage our war on terror more effectively than George W. Bush. Thus, Dan now estimates that there is a 70% likelihood that he will be voting for Kerry.

So where do I stand in all of this? Yesterday afternoon, while waiting for the 4:50 PM showing of Team America to start, I told a couple of my liberal friends from UVA Law that there was a 60% chance I'd vote for Kerry. Concerned, one of them said to me, "Don't think, man, just vote for Kerry."

I responded: "Don't think? I thought that was your problem with Bush."

When I got home from the theater, I began to ask myself what could persuade me to vote for Bush if I'm already leaning toward Kerry and there are only twelve or so days left before the election. I still don't have an answer to that question, which means that the probability I will vote for Kerry is actually much higher than 60%.

They say that undecideds break for the challenger. Am I falling into that typical pattern of behavior? If I were confident enough in Bush to want him back in office, I should have recognized that long ago. Thus, the question becomes: Am I so afraid of what Kerry might accomplish as President that I prefer to have Bush remain in office?

In contrast to Dan & Greg, my most profound concern about Kerry is his naivete with regard to multilateral diplomacy. Rather, it is his total resistance to making about any positive statement about the importance of ensuring a democratic outcome in Iraq. Even though things are not going well on the ground, I believe that a true opportunity for democratization still exists. But that opportunity will amount to nothing in the absence of an all-out American effort to take advantage of it.

Like Greg, I am well aware of how the implementation of Bush's plans has not lived up to his soaring rhetoric. And like Dan, I believe that the heart of the problem is the closed-mindedness that prevents the Bush administration from adapting in response to its own failures.

Yet if I expect the Kerry administration to be more competent, shouldn't I expect it to be more competent at achieving precisely the objective I opppose, i.e. the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq before there is a democratic order in place?

My answer to that question is 'no'. Ironically, I believe that it is Bush's uncompromising commitment to promoting democracy in Iraq and throughout the Middle East that will tie Kerry's hands.

In a more abstract sense, I also believe that the values embedded in American political culture will limit Kerry's options. When America occupies a foreign nation, it cannot withdraw before establishing some semblance of a democratic order.

Sadly, most of our occupations have left behind only a democratic facade that crumbled shortly after the last troops came home. Often, the weankess of that facade reflected the United States' prioritization of withdrawal over democratic reform.

Yet it is extremely rare for the United States to become as invested in an occupation as it is now in Iraq. It was much simpler to pull a few thousand troops out of Haiti, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic, as we did in the 1920s and 1930s. While the conditions on the ground in Iraq may not resemble those of postwar Germany or postwar Japan, the commitment of American prestige and centrality of American interests is similar.

Finally, I believe there is an ethical core to Kerry's foreign policy that can be put into the service of democratization. In the 1980s, Kerry's concern for human rights led him to denounce Reagan's support for anti-Communist rebels in Nicaragua known as 'contras'.

Like his fellow Democrats, Kerry failed to recognize that the price of abandoning the contras was the destruction of any hope for democratic reform in Nicaragua. On a fundamental level, liberal Democrats opposed American intervention in other nations' domestic affairs, even if those nations were being held hostage by Communists.

This broad commitment to anti-interventionism on the left is the legacy of the Vietnam war. I believe that this same anti-interventionism led Kerry to oppose the first Gulf War as well as (to some degree) the second.

But the choice America's faces in Iraq is not one of intervention. We are already there. Our soldiers are already dying. Some might suggest that Kerry would rather save the lives of a few hundreds thane he would ensure the success of Iraq's transition.

I disagree. I believe that Kerry recognizes the danger of withdrawing from Iraq before it is stabilized. And I don't believe that Kerry could accept (let alone achieve) a process of stabilization that isn't democratic.

This doesn't mean that I expect Kerry to consistently make the right decisions about democracy in Iraq. In fact, I fully expect there to be a major struggle within the Democratic Party to define Kerry's agenda should he become President. I will simply do my best to play my small part in that struggle and to persuade as many Democrats as I can that democracy is the answer for Iraq.

Ultimately, I recognize that the arguments made above reflect a considerable degree of speculation about Kerry's motives. Thus, I will not hold it against anyone if they vote for Bush because their subjective assessment of the candidates' motives is different from my own.

Moreover, I do not believe that it is possible to make a decision in this election that doesn't rest on a considerable degree of speculation. In our political system, as in most, running for office entails strategic position-hiding as much as it does strategic position-taking.

Perhaps something will happen in these last few days that will change my perceptions of the candidates. If not, I will be voting for John Kerry.
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Monday, October 18, 2004

# Posted 11:53 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ACTUALLY, JOSH, I had the post ready to go before Kent stepped up to the plate. With Beltran on second, I just knew that something good was going to happen.
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# Posted 11:20 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BOTTOM OF THE 9TH: Sweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet!
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# Posted 4:56 PM by Patrick Belton  

MORE BUBBIE: In one of the few truly entertaining sidenotes of this campaign (err, not involving bloggers or friendly members of the press, that is...), a friend of ours at the NJDC has just released episode two in the Little Jewish Grandmother v. Bush series. In the interests of equal time, we should take pains to note that a 'Bubbie is full of lies' page has quickly appeared, pointing out the obvious forgeries and discontinuities in the Bubbie memo, I mean, movie. Q.v.: (1) It doesn't take her ten minutes to find something in her purse. (2) She doesn't then stop and say "Oy, it's in my other purse.", (3) At no point does she break her hip, (4) Not a single word about education. Without education, her son would have never become a doctor, or her other son the lawyer, or her daughter the doctor, or her grandson at Brandeis studying to be a doctor, or the two grandaughters at Vassar, oh, she's so proud of them; (there are several more, but equal time's just run out...).
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# Posted 2:56 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

"AMERICA, F*** YEAH!" Trey Parker and Matt Stone couldn't have chosen a better theme song for their latest film, Team America: World Police. The film critics, however, can't seem to figure out exactly what the title song means or what the movie is all about.

In the Weekly Standard, Jon Last warns his fellow critics not to pretend that this film is mostly about politics. Above all, what Parker & Stone want is to satirize the formulaic blockbusters that Hollywood churns out on a regular basis.

Last's instinct has been confirmed by Matt Stone himself, who told the WaPo that
"People are saying that [Team America is] about politics...It's a
satire of movies."
Somehow, the Post's film critics didn't get the message. Demonstrating an incomparable penchant for condescension and ignorance, Hank Stuever writes that:
Stunned by all the fun, I am almost moved to salute Parker and Stone for their nuanced and careful takedown of American jingoism and the seemingly disastrous foreign policy that Team America stands for.

Only that isn't quite how it played to an audience on Tuesday night, at one of those free-ticket radio station giveaway previews in a packed cineplex in Northwest Washington. The biggest laughs came when "Team America" assaulted any and all concepts of ethnicity, or when the joke was on gays, Michael Moore or a vast left-wing idiocy.

The movie feels like an elaborate inside joke on the very Americans laughing hardest at its easiest gags, oblivious to the sly, allegorical digs at a USA brand of bravado. What I took as a lampoon of Bushworld seemed to be received, in the seats around me, as a triumph of Bushworld. Pollsters and campaign workers, take note: "Team America" will only further confound your election-year data.
Fellow WaPo critic Desson Thomson applauds the film for it's merciless take-down of
Plain old couch-potato us and our perception of the post-9/11 world thanks to a composite prism of fear, cultural ignorance and government spin. Filmmakers Trey Parker and Matt Stone, creators of "South Park," are holding up a mirror to our worst sides and making us laugh hysterically for the privilege.
Ironically, liberal critics such as Stuever & Thomson are actually the butt of Parker & Stone's toughest jokes. As the very-liberal-but-much-less-ignorant A.O. Scott points out in the NY Times, Parker & Stone
Expend most of their spoofy energy sending up action-movie conventions and over-the-top patriotic bluster, reserving their real satiric venom for self-righteous Hollywood liberals (with special attention to Alec Baldwin)
It seems likely, though, that their emphases and omissions reflect a particular point of view. "South Park," with its class-clown libertarianism and proudly juvenile disdain for authority, has always been hard to place ideologically, but a number of commentators have discerned a pronounced conservative streak amid the anarchy, a hypothesis that "Team America" to some extent confirms.
The victims of Team America's satire seem to have gotten the message. Sean Penn -- one of Kim Jong Il's principal collaborators in the film -- denounced Team America for
"Encourag[ing] irresponsibility that will ultimately lead to the disembowelment, mutilation, exploitation, and death of innocent people throughout the world."
As far as I can tell, Penn's comments are sincere and not a self-deprecating parody of his left-wing views.

Even though Jon Last is right to insist that Team America is more about Hollywood than it is about Washington, I think that A.O. Scott just happens to be right when he says that the climactic speech at the end of the film represents
One of the more cogent — and, dare I say it, more nuanced — defenses of American military power that I have heard recently.
I would tell you what that cogent defense is, but I don't want to ruin the surprise for those of you who haven't seen the film. I'll just say that for those of you who enjoy both South Park and foreign policy, ten bucks is a bargain for the entertainment that Team America provides.
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# Posted 8:29 AM by Patrick Belton  

GOOD STUFF FROM THE LRB'S 25TH ANNIVERSARY ISSUE, on class in Britain and the long-standing jousting match between Anglo-American and Continental philosophy. In the latter, Anglo-American philosopher Jerry Fodor writes: 'The place on the [Borders] shelf where my stuff would be if they had it (but they don't) is just to the left of Foucault, of which there is always yards and yards. I'm huffy about that; I wish I had his royalties. Royalties aside, what have they got that we haven't? It's not the texture of their prose I shouldn't think, since most of us write better than most of them. Anyhow, our arguments are better than theirs.' So why the declining fortunes of Anglo-American relative to Continental philosophy, at least in the readership of nonphilosophers? Problem one: 'Whereas it used to be said that philosophy is about, for example, Goodness or Existence or Reality or How the Mind Works, or whether there is a Cat on the Mat, [now] it's not the Good, the True or the Beautiful that a philosopher tries to understand, it's the corresponding concepts of "good" "beautiful" and '"true".' Problems two and three are then titled 'Quine' and 'Kripke'. Well worth a read.
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# Posted 7:58 AM by Patrick Belton  

INSPIRATIONAL THESIS QUOTES FROM ENGLISH CHILDREN'S LITERATURE, NO. 5:  PETER gave himself up for lost, and shed big tears; but his sobs were overheard by some friendly sparrows, who flew to him in great excitement, and implored him to exert himself.
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Sunday, October 17, 2004

# Posted 10:34 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SHAMEFUL: Wearing a Kerry shirt at a Bush campaign event? Expect to be thrown out.
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# Posted 10:20 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE KILLING CONTINUES: In Darfur. Sadly, the coincidence of genocide in the Sudan with a presidential election in the United States has only benefitted the murderers.

I expect that within a matter of months, both Republicans and Democrats will look back and wonder how they did so little to prevent an impending disaster. Of course, if Europe wanted, it could take advantage of this golden opportunity to demonstrate that multilateralism is not just a codeword for amoral passivity.
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# Posted 10:15 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HE-SAID/SHE-SAID HEADLINES: The WaPo Ombudsman tackles one of OxBlog's favorite subjects. He concludes that Bush and Cheney have benefited from excessively balanced headlines attached to articles that are far more critical of the President and Vice-President than they are of John Kerry and John Edwards.
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# Posted 10:07 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PUTIN BEHAVING BADLY: Russia's aspiring dictator claims that he is the victim of a double standard that condemns him for punishing terrorists while praising others who do the same. Yet Stephen Sestanovich, the respected scholar and diplomat, documents how the United States and its allies have held Russia to a far lower standard than they have held themselves.
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# Posted 3:11 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE POLLS: I don't know much about the reliability of state-level polls, but I think it's interesting to compare electoral college vote projections. My first stop while poll-hunting is always RealClearPolitics. It's a great site and co-editor Tom Bevan happens to be a really nice guy.

Right now, RCP has Bush ahead in Florida and Wisconsin but says that Iowa and Ohio are toss-ups. RCP's judgements reflect an average of statewide polls in each of the battleground states.

Next up is Electoral-Vote.com, which is calling Ohio and Wisconsin for Bush but says that Florida and Iowa are toss-ups.

The outlier among the poll-watchers is Pollkatz, which has Bush ahead in both Ohio and Florida, but mysteriously has Kerry winning in Arkansas and Missouri not to mention Iowa and Wisconsin. I think that these differences seems are a reflection of PK's methodology, which he explains here.

Finally, we come to Rasmussen, which is very liberal about describing states as toss-ups. In addition to the usual four, Rasmussen has a list that includes Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, and Pennsylvania.
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# Posted 3:04 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OH NO! NOT ANOTHER DEBATE! My old high school has invited me back to participate in a mock debate on election day. As things now stand, I will be representing Bush, although I told the teacher in charge that I don't have much in common with the GOP when it comes to domestic politics. If I'm lucky, she'll find someone to represent Bush and then I can represent the undecideds!
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# Posted 2:56 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FUZZY MATH: Jon Chait dismantles George Bush's indefensible assertion that John Kerry voted to raise taxes 98 times.
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# Posted 2:46 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ONE FLU OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST: Kevin explains why there is a shortage of flu vaccine in the US right now.
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