Tuesday, May 31, 2005

# Posted 9:07 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A DEFENSE OF THE LEG MAN: In response to my praise of the airborne soldier as the best of the best, army vet DA reminds us all that the leg infantry sometimes had it tougher than their "elite" brethren:
In defense of leg infantry, my father's division was in the line for approximately seven months. The only break was moving from Holland out of the British Army's command, to the Third Army farther south. A military road march on trucks was a "break" only if the alternative was worse--which, of course, it was.

The Airborne units had hard fights. They also had a good deal of time at the rear. They did return to England after D-Day, only not as soon as they had thought they would. The leg outfits didn't return, nor had anybody planned that they should. They would stay in the line until the war was over, unless circumstances made that impossible. The paratroopers made their rush to Bastogne from a rear-area encampment.

The dirty little secret about "elite" units is that they don't fight all that much. When they do, they usually have advantages.The British outfit that took Pegasus bridge trained for years. (Hard training, but safer than fighting in North Africa or Italy.) After they completed their coup, they stayed in the line and eventually became as run-down as any other outfit. When commandos do a raid, they know everything including the enemy sentry's mother's maiden name. The Infantry simply advances, looking for the enemy who generally announces his presence by killing some of your people. The commandos go on a full stomach and expect more of the same in a couple of days, along with showers and a real bunk. The grunts are living in the mud, being attrited by enemy snipers and artillery, in between real fights.

My father was a platoon leader, frequently filling in for company commanders as they were killed. He thinks the American Infantryman is God's noblest creation. They never quit, he's said several times, nor has he mentioned any difficulty getting them to follow him east.

His division, the 104th Infantry Division (Timberwolves) was known for accomplishing its missions with relatively few casualties. I believe the OIF's casualties only recently exceeded those of the Timberwolves. Now, were the OIF guys--or the paratroopers--to swap horror stories, they could try the Fourth ID which had, I believe, 250% casualties in WW II. That probably considers only the line battalions.Anyway, the paratroopers think well of themselves, which they've earned. But that does not mean the less-self-promoting units had any less courage and perseverance.
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# Posted 2:17 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

RISKY BLOGNESS: This post will be a lot shorter than the one below it, because it talks about a film with much less substance. The post below is about Band of Brothers. This one is about is a film known primarily for a young Tom Cruise dancing around the house in his underwear -- Risky Business.

Believe it or not, I found myself compelled to watch Risky Business because I am writing a dissertation about the Reagan era. As some of you will no doubt remember, Ron Reagan Jr. did his own version of the underwear dance when he hosted Saturday Night Live in 1986. This embarrassed his conservative father to a certain extent, althoug not as much as Iran-Contra did later that fall.

Anyhow, in case you were thinking of watching Risky Business after reading about it on OxBlog, I have one word for you: Don't. (Unless you are a big Sopranos fan and absolutely must see every film in which Joe Pantoliano plays an Italian gangster.)
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# Posted 12:45 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BOOK VS. MOVIE -- BAND OF BROTHERS RECONSIDERED: When I first wrote about Band of Brothers (BoB for short), I did my best to navigate the perils of writing about the cinematic version of a book I hadn't read. Because I liked the film so much, I took the print version out of my friendly neighborhood library and started reading it over lunch today.

Although there are lots of good reasons not to write about a book until you've finished reading, I was so surprised by the first chapter of BoB that I feel I have to write about it, if only to make sure I don't forget my first impressions.

The conventional wisdom about BoB the film is that it is an extremely loyal adaptation of BoB the book. Thus, you won't be surprised to hear that while reading that first chapter, I kept coming across paragraphs and sentences that seemed to correspond perfectly with the images I'd seen on film.

However, from a more analytical perspective, I felt that I was reading about a very different Easy Company than the one brought to life by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg. Hanks & Spielberg want Easy Company to serve as a metaphor for the millions of Americans who served in uniform during World War II. The courage, fortitude and good humor of their Easy Company is supposed to stand in for the courage, fortitude and good humor of an entire generation -- of The Greatest Generation.

As I noted in an earlier post that was critical of BoB the film, I have had it up to here with the mindless nostalgia that pervades almost every discussion of The Greatest Generation (or TGG for short, because even typing out that silly name gets on my nerves).

Initially, the overall strengh of BoB the film prevented me from caring all that much about its nostalgic presentation of TGG. However, Ambrose's book makes it clear from the very beginning that Easy Company was in no way representative of the generation that fought the war.

It is true that Easy Company was comprised of "citizen soldiers" (p. 13) who were rich and poor, urban and rural, Catholic and Protestant. At the same time, Easy Company and the whole of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment consisted of the toughest soldiers in the entire United States Army.

These soldiers were put through an exceptionally brutal training regimen. The small percentage of those that made it through training earned the right to wear their wings. According to Ambrose, only 1800 of the 5300 enlisted men who volunteered for the 506th made it through training. Of 500 officers who volunteered, only 148 made it through.

Since more than a month has passed since I saw the first episode of BoB the film, I cannot say categorically that Hanks & Spielberg ignore this issue entirely. I do remember a few stray comments about the airborne being a very tough branch of the service. But there you get no sense from the film that 2/3 of the men couldn't even make it through training.

Another fascinating piece of information that I don't recall being in the film has to do with the Non-Commissioned Officers (or NCOs, mostly sergeants) in Easy Company. Because the 506th was an "experimental outfit" (p. 16) that hadn't existed before the war, it had to draw all of its NCOs from more established units. Gradually, those NCOs all quit "as the training grew more intense".

From comic books or documentaries, almost every pop culture portrayal of the NCO is that of the grizzled old sergeant who is ten times tougher than all of the kids half his age. Although the sergeants in BoB the film don't seem particularly old, Hanks & Spielberg do provide them with the same halo of greatness that has become a Hollywood cliche. But if you read Ambrose, you realize that the NCOs in Easy Company were not run-of-the-mill members of TGG or even run-of-the-mill NCOs. Rather, they were the best of the best, the chosen few among the chosen few who had survived airborne training.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the execellence of the 506th inspired a certain condescension toward the undifferentiated mass of soldiers that made up most of the American armed forces. Ambrose writes that the men of Easy Company
"knew they were going into combat, and they did not want to go in with poorly trained, poorly conditioned, poorly motivated draftees on either side of them." (p. 14)
That makes perfect sense to me. But if you just watched BoB the film, you'd never know that there were any poorly trained, conditioned or motivated soldiers in the US Army. In fact, you'd probably just assume that the Army was full of soldiers who could suffer through the most brutal weather and the bloodiest confrontations with the Wehrmacht and still have the same unflinching desire to march forward and serve their country. (And don't disagree with me by bringing up Episode Three and Pvt. Blithe. He may be afraid, but he becomes a hero by the end, too.)

In closing, let me say that I mean no disrespect for those who served, whether in the most humble unit or with the select few of the 506th. But as I scholar, I must stand opposed, as I said before, to
Unthinking nostalgia that makes it very hard to think about the present in a realistic manner. In the same way that our glorification of the Founding Fathers makes us lament the intense partisanship of today, our glorification of The Greatest Generation does the same. Yet like the Founding Fathers, The Greatest Generation often found itself riven by partisan and ideological conflicts.

I don't know if the early 21st century will some day be considered a landmark period of triumph in American history, but I am fairly confident that even bitter deliberations are vital to the success of our democracy today, no less than they were in 1776 or 1945.
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Saturday, May 28, 2005

# Posted 2:24 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE CLASS OF 9/11: This week, both Time and the WaPo have published profiles of the most recent graduates of our nation's military academies. The Class of 2005 will have a special place in history because it was both the final class accepted to the academies before 9/11 as well as the first to spend all four of its years at the academy during the War on Terror.

I found the most fascinating aspect of both profiles to be their description of how moral and practical reasoning is taught at the academies. According to Time, whose profile focuses on West Point's Class of 2005,
Captain Chris McKinney, who led an infantry company during the first months of the Iraq invasion, had been brought to West Point to teach Fundamentals of Tactics...

He is a walking album of case studies: You're leading a platoon, he tells his cadets, and one of your men is lying wounded in the middle of a minefield.

You go meet with a local farmer, who knows how to lead his herds safely through the field, so he could help rescue your comrade. But he won't talk; if he's seen collaborating with the Americans, he and his family could be killed. What do you do?

Many cadets' first reflex, he says, is to hold a pistol to the farmer's head. McKinney challenges them: Well, are you willing to pull the trigger, then? And wouldn't that endanger the lives of some of your men if the farmer's tribe wanted revenge? If he still refuses and you don't pull the trigger now, will you have lost credibility with your team?

Others suggest offering the farmer protection, an idea that McKinney rips apart even more quickly. Never promise these people anything you can't deliver, he says. They remember those things.

Finally, McKinney gives the answer to the case study: There is no answer. Not one single answer, anyhow. It's all just guesses, and McKinney's guess is that you should leverage the strong Iraqi aversion to having a death on one's conscience. Tell the farmer that the soldier lying out there is a human being and that his death would be on the farmer's head. In other words, use your judgment, considering everything you have learned about the place and the culture and human nature.
I certainly couldn't have provided much in the way of an answer to Capt. McKinney's question. I doubt many civilians could. I think McKinney's sensitive and creative thinking go a long way toward explaining why American soldiers have adapted to the social and cultural challenges of occupation so much better than many observers expected.

Now consider the following:
[Maj. Jason Amerine] manages to pack a war's worth of heresy against Army doctrine into a 50-min. class. He presses cadets to enunciate a meaningful difference between insurgent leader Abu Mousab al-Zarqawi and West Point icon and Revolutionary War hero Thaddeus Kosciuszko, a Pole who was the foreign fighter of his era.

What is a terrorist? Amerine asks. Someone who flies planes into buildings, says a cadet. The Japanese did basically that, says Amerine. Someone who kills civilians, says another. The U.S. did that in Dresden, Amerine replies. He is the tireless devil's advocate, forcing cadets into deeper analysis and dense moral ground.

His faith in the essential goodness of the Army, the justness of the cause, he says, informs even his most piercing criticisms. It's delicate detente that all of West Point nurses—how to create well-informed junior officers without their giving in to cynicism.

"I'm hoping to produce cadets who, after having lived through all the blood, all the horrors, will still absolutely believe in what they're doing," says Amerine.
What Maj. Amerine is teaching may be "heresy", but the fact that is he is an instructor at West Point suggests that the United States Army understands the value of unorthodox thinking. One might even say that this sort of devil's advocacy is the best sort of training that officers can have for the challenge of promoting democracy in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

The WaPo's profile of the Naval Academy Class of 2005 suggests that instructors at Annapolis also emphasize the moral complexity of warfare:
Scandals such as Abu Ghraib have forced the schools to stress ethical and moral leadership. [My impression was that the service academies have always emphasized ethical and moral leadership, but whatever.]

Midshipmen are run through day-long seminars in which they are placed in small teams and confronted with moral dilemmas they might face as junior officers...

In one such scenario, midshipmen are asked what they would do if, moments before launching a Tomahawk missile, they learn that their "high value" target sits next to a church and a boarding school. A strike would save the lives of U.S. troops but also could kill women and children.

Do they assume that the staff that selected the target knew about the "collateral" buildings? If they tell their superior and he does not bring it up to the captain, are they absolved of responsibility for the children?

If they launch, how do they defend their actions?

"We're trying to help them in their thinking process, not give them a cookbook set of solutions," said Vice Adm. Rodney Rempt, the academy superintendent. "Because, frankly, we don't know what they're going to face."
I can only hope that students also get this kind of education on our nation's civlians campuses.
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# Posted 2:21 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HAM SOLO AND CHEWBROCCOLI? I hesitate to distribute left-wing propaganda via OxBlog, but this Star Wars parody is so extraordinarily funny that I dare you not enjoy it.
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# Posted 2:10 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SHARP COLUMN IN THE BLADE: James Kirchick argues that banning military recruiters from campus damages American security while doing nothing to promote gay rights. I would only add that the best way to change the climate of opinion within the military is to ensure that it can recruit as many officers as possible from America's top colleges and law schools.
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Thursday, May 26, 2005

# Posted 4:44 PM by Patrick Belton  

IISS RUMINATES ON changing US strategy in East Asia. Several snippets:
If anything, the centrality of Japan in US strategy will be reinforced, especially in the anticipated transfer of the command functions of the US Army I Corps from Washington State to Japan and a parallel proposal to integrate the command activities of the 13th Air Force based in Guam with those of the 5th Air Force at Yokota Air Force Base.

South Korean defence planners [are] doubly uneasy: firstly, because American forces would be increasingly geared toward non-peninsular missions; and secondly, because many in South Korea believe that the US is seeking to envelop Seoul in contingency planning against China, which is deemed contrary to South Korea’s strategic interests. In the eyes of South Korean policymakers, this growing divergence in alliance goals is eroding the strategic underpinnings of the alliance.

A new defence policy, to be enshrined in the forthcoming Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), scheduled for completion in February 2006, will postulate the need for far more flexible, rapidly deployable forces capable of surging in response to diverse threats, with a pronounced emphasis on the Asia-Pacific region. Administration officials have asserted a simultaneous need to augment US regional capabilities to counter potential challenges posed by an ascendant China, directed against Taiwan or elsewhere.
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# Posted 4:37 PM by Patrick Belton  

THERE'S A NEW ISSUE OUT of the Arab Reform Bulletin, with pieces worth reading on Shi'a political development across the region, the death of Jordanian constitutionalism, and wrangling preceding the Palestinian legislative council elections. There's also a new section synopsising opinion pieces appearing in the Arab media.
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# Posted 3:11 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MILLIONS DEAD BY ANALOGY: In a bold effort to destroy any pretense of her own detachment or objectivity, the the head of Amnesty International has described the US prison at Guantanamo Bay as "the gulag of our times".

Although the editors of the WaPo have made the right decision to single out this absurd comparison as the dumbest and most offensive remark made by AI's Secretary General, Irene Khan, this single outrage should not obscure how thoroughly offensive her entire speech was.

The purpose of Khan's speech was to introduce and summarize AI's annual report on human rights. Before getting into what Khan did say, it is far important to observe what she didn't say, namely anything about North Korea, let alone Cuba or Syria. This sort of calculated ignorance constitutes nothing less than a betrayal of the millions and millions who suffer at the hands of the world's most reactionary dictatorships.

I say "calculated" because I presume that Khan's emphasis on the US (and the UK), reflects her knowledge that exerting pressure on the world's greatest democracies may actually result in a change of behavior, whereas Kim Jong Il and Fidel Castro couldn't care less about what Amnesty International thinks of their behavior.

This, however, is no excuse for Khan's behavior, because there are many, many nations that are susceptible to pressure and which commit atrocities far worse than anything that happened at Abu Ghraib. Let's start with Syria. Just a few months ago, I might have ignorantly said that Bashar would never listen to foreign critics. But now he has no choice, and Amnesty should recognize how much good it might accomplish by emphasizing Syrian brutality.

Of course, there is a chapter on Syria in AI's annual report. The same is true of Cuba and North Korea. But when the head of the organization singles out the US and UK for criticism, she lets the Cubans, Syrians and North Koreans know that they are not her biggest concern. It's exactly the same as when Bush singles out Egypt for criticism but lets Pakistan and Saudi Arabia slide.

At least Bush can say in his own defense that the Saudis and Pakistanis are helping us fight the war on terror. Amnesty could never say that the Cubans, Syrians, or North Koreans are doing anything to make the world a better place.
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# Posted 10:29 AM by Patrick Belton  

OVERHEARD: 'YAR!' (from stage left, at the beginning of Star Wars n+5, following the antipiracy announcement)
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# Posted 8:34 AM by Patrick Belton  

RICOEUR, EXEGETE AND PHILOSOPHER OF METAPHOR, has died. Stanford's Encyclopedia of Philosophy has one of the most well-written electronic synopses of his thought and work. Our friends at Crooked Timber also have an interesting conversation for their part in their comments section.
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# Posted 8:28 AM by Patrick Belton  

AMNESTY HAS RELEASED ITS ANNUAL REPORT on human rights in the world, as always well-researched if not necessarily spiriting reading. Most countries come in for criticism.
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# Posted 8:13 AM by Patrick Belton  

'I'M REALLY QUITE FASCINATED BY PALESTINIAN POLITICS' WATCH: It's probably mildly less salubrious a habit than, say, crack or dating Brittney Spears*, but hey, that's what mid-life crises do for you. Abu Mazen is in Washington for a three-day visit; CNN reports the administration plans to break with Arafat-era precedent and give substantial aid directly to the Palestinian Finance Ministry rather than to non-governmental organisations operating in the territories. Dennis Ross contends in an op-ed that Abbas suffers principally among his constituents for not having delivered economic improvement; on his argument, Hamas's growing appeal comes from delivering services rather than from its Islamic programme. He adds, 'Last December, donor nations pledged $1.2 billion to the Palestinians. Six months later, less than 10 percent of the money has materialized. ... Per-capita income in the West Bank and Gaza was $1,800 a year in 2000 and is down to $1,000. Jobs are urgently needed; labor-intensive projects must be financed and launched now.' He goes on to criticise Gulf oil states for not providing aid on the order of $1 billion for the Palestinian economy.

* ah, the google hits we'll get today.
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# Posted 8:00 AM by Patrick Belton  

WOULD IT BE POSSIBLE FOR JUST ONCE, as a favour to me, for a major news organisation to write a story about Irish politics without use of phrases such as 'the Emerald Isle'?

(And as to whether posting will remain rather more truculent than normal until any hypothetical birthday hangover subsides, I maintain scrupulously no comment.)
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Wednesday, May 25, 2005

# Posted 9:31 AM by Patrick Belton  

BIRTHDAY CAKE IS ALSO GOOD FOR YOU: For any of our readers and friends who would like to partake in some Over The Hill Minus One birthday cake tonight at OxBlog U.K. headquarters, you're most welcome to come by at 8 or thereafter to celebrate the onset of your humble correspondent's final year before the onset of the middle ages, with dentures and worrisomely ill-fitting incontinance pants and everything else along those lines, some of which will be left up to your imaginations. This is an attempt to console myself for being the sort of age at which one might give some thought to finishing up a d.phil. and doing other things in life before it ends. And for those of our readers who might otherwise be scared away, I'll behave much better than I did on my name day and not pass out drunkenly at all until all of our guests are gone. Or 2 am, whichever comes earlier. There are after all certain ethnic stereotypes which I don't feel like challenging at just the moment.
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# Posted 8:04 AM by Patrick Belton  

THE END OF THE COLD WAR IS GOOD FOR YOU: Greg Easterbrook reviews scholarship suggesting that ethnic conflict has actually gone down since the end of the Cold War. Part of this is the spread of democracy; part is the drying up of outside arms supplies; part's an increased amount each year spent on peacekeeping, which is a good return on the dollar, or euro.

UPDATE: Daniel Drezner, always one of my favourite bloggers, adds what Easterbrook left out: the role of the United States as hegemon enforcing a pax americana, principally.
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# Posted 8:00 AM by Patrick Belton  

AL QUDS AL ARABI IS ANNOUNCING that Abu Mazen and Hamas have agreed to postpone Palestinian parliamentary elections to November.
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Tuesday, May 24, 2005

# Posted 10:48 AM by Patrick Belton  

CARNEGIE'S NATHAN BROWN takes a look at the Palestinian institutions and proposes changes in the political parties, judiciary, security services, and press.
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# Posted 10:07 AM by Patrick Belton  

INTERNATIONAL UNDERSTANDING.COM: This English-to-American dictionary is one of the most entertaining reads I've come across in ages. It's also helpful for knowing exactly what insult you're being called when, in Commonwealthspeak - for instance, I was once called an anorak on cable television by a Kiwi and had rather the impression I'd been mistaken for a sort of moose.
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# Posted 6:51 AM by Patrick Belton  

MAIL BAGS: Our fastidious readership has pointed out that in our posts over the weekend, we'd neglected to mention the following episode of Jerry Springer which featured Darth Vader; also, Hitch took some more speed. (Though one of our deep throats informs us it's more frequently a pint of the ould stuff with dinner. Hey, don't mix your meds.)
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Sunday, May 22, 2005

# Posted 8:03 AM by Patrick Belton  

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS IS ON SPEED. That's the only remaining logical explanation for how he gets to write so much more than the rest of us. This week, he takes on sibling rivalries, including his own, in the pages of Vanity Fair, asks and answers in Slate why the NYT refers to Iraq's jihadists as 'insurgents' (his answer: because they never devastated Manhattan island, simply), takes on literary theory in the New York Times, and has it out with the member for Bethnal Green and Bow in the Weekly Standard.

Um, I'll have what he's having?
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# Posted 7:59 AM by Patrick Belton  

HUSSEIN AGHA AND ROBERT MALLEY look forward to this summer's Palestinian Legislative Council elections.
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# Posted 7:49 AM by Patrick Belton  

FINTAN O'TOOLE of the Irish Times reviews the latest book of one of my favourite novelists and coethnics, John Banville. Also, Bartle Bull takes an interesting look at Iraq's Sadris as a case study of a rebel movement tentatively embracing democracy. And Daniel Johnson looks at the post-Cold War future of chess.
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# Posted 6:51 AM by Patrick Belton  

JOIN ME, JEDI. THE FUTURE IS ORANGE. So Josh and David have made note here of their favourite Star Wars parodies. Mine to the moment is probably from the self-same mobile company that brought you the Northern Ireland advertising campaign 'the future is bright, the future is orange.' Here in better garb, Darth Vader pitches the Orange execs for a spin-off film.
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# Posted 6:36 AM by Patrick Belton  

SPOOK AND TELL: CS Monitor reviews a new genre, that of contemporary clandestine ops tell-alls.
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# Posted 6:03 AM by Patrick Belton  

MAKING THE ROUNDS ON THE INTERNET: If anyone knows who wrote this, considerations of plagiarism and honesty aside, I'm not quite sure I'd exactly want to be regarded as its author.....

This Time on Jeremy Springer: Catfighting Political Theorists

Crowd: Jer-ry! Jer-ry! Jer-ry!

Jerry: Today's guests are here because they can't agree on fundamental principles of epistemology and ontology. I'd like to welcome Todd to the show.

Todd enters from backstage.

Jerry: Hello, Todd.

Todd: Hi, Jerry.

Jerry: (reading from card) So, Todd, you're here to tell your girlfriend something. What is it?

Todd: Well, Jerry, my girlfriend Ursula and I have been going out for three years now. We did everything together. We were really inseparable. But then she discovered post-Marxist political and literary theory, and it's been nothing but fighting ever since.

Jerry: Why is that?

Todd: You see, Jerry, I'm a traditional Cartesian rationalist. I believe that the individual self, the "I" or ego is the foundation of all metaphysics. She, on the other hand, believes that the contemporary self is a socially constructed, multi-faceted subjectivity reflecting the political and economic realities of late capitalist consumerist discourse.

Crowd: Ooooohhhh!

Todd: I know! I know! Is that infantile, or what?

Jerry: So what do you want to tell her today?

Todd: I want to tell her that unless she ditches the post-modernism, we're through. I just can't go on having a relationship with a woman who doesn't believe I exist.

Jerry: Well, you're going to get your chance. Here's Ursula!

Ursula storms onstage and charges up to Todd.

Ursula: Patriarchal colonizer!

She slaps him viciously. Todd leaps up, but the security guys pull them apart before things can go any further.

Ursula: Don't listen to him! Logic is a male hysteria! Rationality equals oppression and the silencing of marginalized voices!

Todd: The classical methodology of rational dialectic is our only road to truth! Don't try to deny it!

Ursula: You and your dialectic! That's how it's been through our whole relationship, Jerry. Mindless repetition of the post-Enlightenment meta-narrative. "You have to start with radical doubt, Ursula." "Post-structuralism is just classical sceptical thought re-cast in the language of semiotics, Ursula."

Crowd: Booo! Booo!

Jerry: Well, Ursula, come on. Don't you agree that the roots of contemporary neo-Leftism simply have to be sought in Enlightenment political philosophy?

Ursula: History is the discourse of powerful centrally located voices marginalizing and de-scribing the sub-altern!

Todd: See what I have to put up with? Do you know what it's like living with someone who sees sex as a metaphoric demonstration of the anti-feminist violence implicit in the discourse of the dominant power structure? It's terrible. She just lies there and thinks of Andrea Dworkin. That's why we never do it any more.

Crowd: Wooooo!

Ursula: You liar! Why don't you tell them how you haven't been able to get it up for the past three months because you couldn't decide if your penis truly had essential Being, or was simply a manifestation of Mind?

Todd: Wait a minute! Wait a minute!

Ursula: It's true!

Jerry: Well, I don't think we're going to solve this one right away. Our next guests are Louis and Tina. And Tina has a little confession to make!

Louis and Tina come onstage. Todd and Ursula continue bickering in the background.

Jerry: Tina, you are... (reads cards) ... an existentialist, is that right?

Tina: That's right, Jerry. And Louis is, too.

Jerry: And what did you want to tell Louis today?

Tina: Jerry, today I want to tell him...

Jerry: Talk to Louis. Talk to him.

Crowd hushes.

Tina: Louis... I've loved you for a long time...

Louis: I love you, too, Tina.

Tina: Louis, you know I agree with you that existence precedes essence, but... well, I just want to tell you I've been reading Nietzsche lately, and I don't think I can agree with your egalitarian politics any more.

Crowd: Wooooo! Woooooo!

Louis: (shocked and disbelieving) Tina, this is crazy. You know that Sartre clarified all this way back in the 40's.

Tina: But he didn't take into account Nietzsche's radical critique of democratic morality, Louis. I'm sorry. I can't ignore the contradiction any longer!

Louis: You got these ideas from Victor, didn't you? Didn't you?

Tina: Don't you bring up Victor! I only turned to him when I saw you were seeing that dominatrix! I needed a real man! An Uber-man!

Louis: (sobbing) I couldn't help it. It was my burden of freedom. It was too much!

Jerry: We've got someone here who might have something to add. Bring out... Victor!

Victor enters. He walks up to Louis and sticks a finger in his face.

Victor: Louis, you're a classic post-Christian intellectual. Weak to the core!

Louis: (through tears) You can kiss my Marxist ass, Reactionary Boy!

Victor: Herd animal!

Louis: Lackey!

Louis throws a chair at Victor; they lock horns and wrestle. The crowd goes wild. After a long struggle, the security guys pry them apart.

Jerry: Okay, okay. It's time for questions from the audience. Go ahead, sir.

Audience member: Okay, this is for Tina. Tina, I just wanna know how you can call yourself an existentialist, and still agree with Nietzsche's doctrine of the Ubermensch. Doesn't that imply a belief in intrinsic essences that is in direct contradiction with with the fundamental principles of existentialism?

Tina: No! No! It doesn't. We can be equal in potential, without being equal in eventual personal quality. It's a question of Becoming, not Being.

Audience member: That's just disguised essentialism! You're no existentialist!

Tina: I am so!

Audience member: You're no existentialist!

Tina: I am so an existentialist, bitch!

Ursula stands and interjects.

Ursula: What does it [bleep] matter? Existentialism is just a cover for late capitalist anti-feminism! Look at how Sartre treated Simone de Beauvoir!

Women in the crowd cheer and stomp.

Tina: [Bleep] you! Fat-ass Foucaultian ho!

Ursula: You only wish you were smart enough to understand Foucault, bitch!

Tina: You the bitch!

Ursula: No, you the bitch!

Tina: Whatever! Whatever!

Jerry: We'll be right back with a final thought! Stay with us!

Commercial break for debt-consolidation loans, ITT Technical Institute, and Psychic Alliance Hotline.

Jerry: Hi! Welcome back. I just want to thank all our guests for being here, and say that I hope you're able to work through your differences and find happiness, if indeed happiness can be extracted from the dismal miasma of warring primal hormonal impulses we call human relationship.

(turns to the camera)

Well, we all think philosophy is just fun and games. Semiotics, deconstruction, Lacanian post-Freudian psychoanalysis, it all seems like good, clean fun. But when the heart gets involved, all our painfully acquired metaphysical insights go right out the window, and we're reduced to battling it out like rutting chimpanzees. It's not pretty. If you're in a relationship, and differences over the fundamental principles of your respective subjectivities are making things difficult, maybe it's time to move on. Find someone new, someone who will accept you and the way your laughably limited human intelligence chooses to codify and rationalize the chaos of existence. After all, in the absence of a clear, unquestionable revelation from God, that's all we're all doing anyway. So remember: take care of yourselves - and each other.

Announcer: Be sure to tune in next time, when KKK strippers battle it out with transvestite omnisexual porn stars! Tomorrow on Springer!
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# Posted 1:58 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SPEAK UP, GEORGE: The Weekly Standard says it's time for the President to tell Islam Karimov, the very un-Islamic dictator of Uzbekistan, that he can no longer trample on his people's rights. Amen.
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# Posted 12:56 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SO I SAID TO HIM, "YEAH, RIGHT -- AND MY NAME'S OLIVER NORTH!" You definitely meet some interesting people in Washington. This evening, I attended a publication party for two recent books: Timothy Naftali's Blind Spot: The Secret History of American Counterterrorism and Ronald & Allis Radosh's Red Star Over Hollywood: The Film Colony's Long Romance With the Left.

Not having been to any pundit-parties before, I was a little nervous when I got there. In those rare instances when I have in the presence of Washington celebrity types, I've discovered that the best thing to do is to stay far away from them, because they are surrounded by people who want to talk to them only because they are famous.

However, I've also discovered that if there happens to be a celebrity or two afoot, then there also tends to be a good number of un-famous, unpretentious and extremely interesting people around. Moreover, retired folks are often the most interesting to talk to because they have simply lived through so much.

So, earlier this evening, when I arrived at the upscale Bethesda home where the party was being held, I didn't see anyone I recognized, so I introduced my self to a kindly-looking and very well-groomed older gentleman. I said, "Hi, my name is David Adesnik." He said, "I'm John Poindexter."

That threw me for a loop. I couldn't decide if I should be on my best behavior or if I should say something like "Broken any laws today, Admiral?" Or was this not even the John Poindexter?

As it turned out, it was him. I found out that Prof. Naftali had spoken to him extensively about the Reagan administration's counter-terrorism initiatives. The admiral seemed nice enough, although by no means talkative.

I decided stay firmly within the bounds of polite cocktail party banter, even if I was thoroughly tempted to start asking questions about Iran-Contra. After all, Prof. Naftali (also a Charlottesville man) had been nice enough to invite me, so I figured that discretion was the better part of valor.

It turned out that the rest of the party was also filled with neo-con gliterati, such as Jeane Kirkpatrick, Joshua Muravchik, Stephen Schwartz and Ken Pollack (who is probably more of a realist, leaving aside his anti-Saddam activism). And our host for the evening was Allen Weinstein, the newly appointed Archivist of the United States.

At this point, I must confess that I technically compromised my celebrity avoidance doctrine. I spoke to Josh Muravchik because I am friends with his daughter and son-in-law. I spoke to Stephen Schwartz because he saw the Argentine flag pin on my lapel and started asking me questions in Spanish.

On the buffet line, Amb. Kirkpatrick asked me to identify one of the main dishes. Being the nice Jewish boy that I am, I told her it was pork. Now, I was just a little bit hurt that she didn't recognize me, since it was only four months ago that I spent an hour and a half interviewing her for my dissertation. But she is in her eighties now, so I won't hold it against her.

In closing, I would like to say two things. First, I haven't read either of the books the party was thrown to celebrate, since they are new. Second, I did meet one extremely interesting person who was un-famous, unpretentious and an accomplished scholar in her own right. As it turns out, Prof. H is an acquaintance of Mr. Chafetz as well as an occasional reader of this blog. She was even willing to forgive me for voting for a Democrat for president.
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Saturday, May 21, 2005

# Posted 8:46 PM by Patrick Belton  

WORTH READING: Writing in Foreign Affairs, Fouad Ajami places the Lebanese achievement of self-governance (the kibbeh revolution?) in greater context for the nation.
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# Posted 8:26 PM by Patrick Belton  

AND I THOUGHT GUAR WAS A HAS-BEEN PUNK GROUP: In the 'Things That Wouldn't Make It Onto An American Grocery Product Label' division for the night, a reading from off my Onken Summer Biopot Raspberry Yogurt produces: 'Onken Rasberry yogurt is made from wholemilk and Bio cultures. The cultures consist of Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium longum and Streptococcus thermophilus that combine to give a mild, fresh, creamy flavour.' Yup, that mild, fresh, creamy Streptococcus, bifidobacterium longum (are they just making these names up?) flavour.
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# Posted 6:05 PM by Patrick Belton  

ACADEMICS, WRITERS, WITS? Nah, when it comes down to it apparently we're just a trio of nineteenth century whores.

Bugger, come to think of it, that makes us fairly old whores, doesn't it? I'll at least call dibs on being still resident at Oxford to be the high-class escort, and let my coauthors sort out amongst themselves who gets to be the New Haven whore and the media whore.
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# Posted 10:02 AM by Patrick Belton  

SOFTWARE PLUG: Note, I do not get any money for these. This is not voluntary. If anyone would like to send me money for these, please email money to whisky_fund@patrickbelton.com.

Lately, I've discovered I'm not only a geek (what, this is new? you're a blogger!), but a geek whose friends move to inconvenient countries like UAE and Bangladesh (motto: literally the most corrupt place in the world!). So I've begun relying on instant messenger to keep in touch with them all, especially the nice ones in Nigeria who are trying to give me money. (And for those of you who didn't know just how much fun you can have with your Nigerian spammer, go read Lads of Lagos immediately.) Except that, and in distinct defiance of the predictions of game theory, there are a number of instant messaging programs and having them all open at the same time makes me feel ... well, just a little too geeky. Fortunately, there's a multi-protocol IM client called Fire for Mac users which permits you to only have one window open, to talk to all your Nigerian spammers and Russian ex-girlfriends at once. *This, you see, is called progress.

* This also gets around the OS X / MSN Messenger 4.0 compatibility issues.
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Friday, May 20, 2005

# Posted 7:16 AM by Patrick Belton  

THE SUN makes Saddam their page three girl. Circulation plummets.
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# Posted 12:13 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

(GALACTIC) IMPERIALIST: Apropo of my speculations about the true nature of the Dark Side, Dan Simon recommends this apologia for the Empire by Jon Last, from way back in 2002. Although wary of reading too much into Jon's humorous observations, I find it interesting that the foundation of his argument for the Empire is that
The Empire doesn't want slaves or destruction or "evil." It wants order.
Moreover, Jon says,
Palpatine is a dictator--but a relatively benign one, like Pinochet.
I wouldn't exactly call Pinochet benign, but the real point is here is that, these days, no one at the Weekly Standard would ever defend the prioritization of order over justice or of dictatorship over even the most ineffectual republic. As someone or other once said, America's most important "attempt to sacrifice freedom for the sake of stability left a continent divided and unstable."

UPDATE: After mentioning Jon Last, I figured I should go over and check out whether there is any Star Wars commentary up on Galley Slaves. The answer is yes. First of all, Jon's Star Wars retrospective/review of Episode III is now online at the Standard.

In addition, Jon was kind enough to link to my previous speculations about the Dark Side. Given Jon's prediction that
By the time the HD DVD versions of the movies are released, championing the Empire will be a respected vein of thought,
I take it as a complement that he describes the Imperial officers in Episode III as being "dressed smartly in gray and all have the look of Oxbridge men."

Finally, Jon has revised and updated his 2002 defense of the Empire. This time he makes sure to blast the Jedi for being "oligarchs" who do nothing to defend democracy. Moreover, he asks how a supposedly good Republic could tolerate legalized slavery on planets such as Tatooine. Jon still makes his point about order, but I'd say this is very much a post-Iraq, more purely neo-con defense of the Empire. Not that there's anything wrong with that!
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Wednesday, May 18, 2005

# Posted 3:54 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NEWSWEEK -- MY FIRST CUT: OxBlog always roots for the underdog, so I've decided to start my search for an opinion about the Newsweek debacle by heading over to the liberal side of the blogosphere. Until now, I've mostly just read what the WaPo has to say about the story, and its material seems to confirm the conservative story line that reckless American journalists provoked unjustified riots in Afghanistan. For example, a front-pager from this morning reported that:

The report last week that U.S. military interrogators had desecrated the Koran has now been retracted by Newsweek magazine after five days of violent protests in Afghanistan that left 15 dead.
Although the Post is careful not to say flat out that the report caused the riots, this article and many others seem pretty confident that there was a direct relationship. The standard liberal response to this point is that Gen. Richard Myers, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that our commander in the ground in Afghanistan thought that the rioting "was not at all tied to the reporting in the magazine." Brian Montopoli of CJR Daily thinks that Myers' statement pretty decisively clears Newsweek of responsibility for the riots. Josh Marshall seems to concur. But Kevin Drum disagrees. He says of Myers' comments that:

That was five days ago, back when the Army itself still thought the charges of Koran desecration at Guantanamo were plausible enough to merit further investigation. At the time, when they were afraid the charges might be true, they were eager to claim that the riots were entirely unrelated. Now that the charges appear to be false, they're equally eager to pretend that the blood of Afghanistan is on Newsweek's hands.

[CORRECTION: I totally missed the fact that Kevin was trying to be sarcastic, something that he informed me of via e-mail. Strange how something Kevin assumed was patently ridiculous made perfect sense to me. After all, the Army really did have every reason to deny that the Koran incident caused the riots until it discovered that the incident was an apparent fabrication.]

I guess what I'm looking for now are reports from Pakistan and Afghanistan which look at what actually happened on the ground rather than relying on statements from the Pentagon.

Moving, one point that has turned out to be at least as contentious as the facts is the question of its signifiance. The most compelling version of the liberal argument on this point is made by Anne Applebaum in her column from this morning entitled "Blaming the Messenger". In addition to its logic, what makes Applebaum's argument compelling is the credibility of the author. If you follow her work, you know that Applebaum never hesitates to deconstruct liberal shibboleths, such as the moral integrity of the United Nations. Anyhow, the crux of Applebaum's argument about the Newsweek issue is that

The larger point is not the story itself but that it was so eminently plausible, in Pakistan, Afghanistan and everywhere else. And it was plausible precisely because interrogation techniques designed to be offensive to Muslims were used in Iraq and Guantanamo, as administration and military officials have also confirmed.
That is a very hard point to rebut. As bad as Newsweek screwed up, the Koran incident pales in comparison to Abu Ghraib, et al.

In contrast, some of the other liberal arguments about the significance of this case seem tendentious and overblown. Josh Marshall, who is certainly no stranger to high dudgeon, says that he sees
A clear pattern -- a White House trying to decapitate another news organization. The parallels with CBS are obvious...CBS brought the Rather-gate avalanche down upon itself with some very sloppy journalism, but the White House quickly saw the opportunity and grabbed it, effectively taming an entire news organization.
I'm not sure how much evidence there is that CBS has been tamed or, if it has, how long it will stay that way, but Josh goes on to observe that
What I see here is an effort by the White House to set an entirely different standard when it comes to reportage that in any way reflects critically on the White House." [Emphasis in original]
I'm not sure how Josh gets to that conclusion either. Hasn't the White House -- both this one and all of its predecessors -- always lashed out at journalists whose work it doesn't like? Somehow, Josh makes it seem that because the White House now has an actual reason to be pissed off at journalists, its criticism is less legitimate than ever.

While I agree that the White House seems somewhat oblivious to its effort to call the kettle black, journalists tend to be equally oblivious to their own shortcomings. So as far as I'm considered, this is just another round of bickering in the well-established love-hate relationship between the press and the White House.

On the bright side, I am always grateful for any scandal du jour that gets Josh Marshall interested in foreign policy, since he always stands four-square behind the principle of democracy promotion, even if he only seems to write about when things are looking bad for this administration.
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# Posted 3:16 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IS IT FAIR TO SAY THAT LIBERALS WERE BORN YESTERDAY? Tomorrow is my birthday. Today is Matt Yglesias' birthday. You do the math. (And happy birthday, Matt!)
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# Posted 6:28 AM by Patrick Belton  

A SILK ROAD REVOLUTION? Paul Reynolds is sceptical. So is EurasiaNet. Both point to the absence of any organised political opposition in Uzbekistan, as contrasted with Ukraine and Georgia. My personal feelings coincide with Ahmed Rashid: the Andijan massacre represents a sterling and obligatory moment for the United States to reassess their policy of close security coordination with the repressive Tashkent regime, which makes a mockery of America's broader, and more important, ambitions to be seen as a force for freedom and liberty in the world.
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# Posted 5:42 AM by Patrick Belton  

BY NO MEANS do we intend to dedicate most of OxBlog this week to Star Wars parodies (like this one). But even if we did, it'd be better than gratuitously linking to lists of crap British jokes.
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# Posted 3:27 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

AN OPINION, AN OPINION, MY KINGDOM FOR AN OPINION! I was very much hoping to avoid this whole Newsweek business, but the blogosphere seems to be getting so polarized so fast that pleading the Fifth no longer seems like an acceptable option. So expect something later today. But don't expect an opinion. Just some analysis, perhaps. I'm going to handle this one like the bomb squad handles suspicious packages.
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# Posted 2:22 AM by Patrick Belton  

AND PEOPLE SAY THERE'S NO SUCH THING AS PROGRESS: WaPo: 'A shifting population means baseball diamonds are becoming soccer pitches and cricket ovals.' Bloody brilliant, is what I say. (And the next step in progress is for WaPo headline writers to realise the word 'pitch' goes next to the one 'cricket'....)
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Tuesday, May 17, 2005

# Posted 10:19 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NEWSWEEK ROUND-UP: Joe Gandelman provides the extensive analysis and links we've all come to expect.
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# Posted 9:36 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

VADER: COMMUNIST OR NEO-CON? Arthur Chrenkoff is up in arms about George Lucas' comparison of Bush's America to the Galactic Empire. I have mixed feelings about Arthur's indignation. On the one hand, I am way past the point where I am willing to get worked up about moderately dumb statements made by Hollywood liberals. On the other hand, Arthur has a very compelling reason to care about the political integrity of Star Wars:
I most fondly remember watching the first trilogy in the late 1970s and the early 80s at the movies, when I was a boy living in the then communist Poland...

We simply couldn't escape the conclusion that the militaristic and freedom-crushing Empire with its legions of stormtroopers is a futuristic version of the Soviet Empire, which had conquered and enslaved hundreds of millions of people like myself...we too cheered when the Death Star was destroyed (twice), but whereas for our counterparts in the Free World this was just a great cinematic climax, for us it embodied the hope ("A New Hope", if you pardon the pun) that one day the specter of totalitarianism will vanish and we will be free again.
I'm not sure, but I've never even come close to thinking of Star Wars as an anti-Communist allegory. Perhaps Lucas' references to the Roman republic/empire and Weimar/Nazi Germany were so overwhelming that I didn't even consider other parallels.

But for a young boy in Communist Poland, what could be more natural than to interpret the films as Arthur did? Now that I think about it, Vader's corrupt existence as half-man and half-machine is the perfect metaphor for Communism's perversion of the soul.

Then again, a committed Communist might say that Vader's condition is an apt metaphor for capitalism's perversion of the soul. But speaking more broadly a Communist reading of the film doesn't work very well because of Lucas' emphasis on individual liberty. The Rebel Alliance's only ideology is freedom.

Toward the end of his open letter to George Lucas, I think Arthur goes a little bit over the top by suggesting that Lucas somehow thinks that Fidel and Mao and Brezhnev were on the right side of history. But what if...what if the entire six-film saga really is just Rebel propaganda?

In the 1960s, the lack of reliable information about domestic affairs in China facilitated the efforts of the European and American left to construct elaborate fantasies about the PRC being the true worker's paradise, as opposed to the corrupt and imperialist Soviet Union.

Now, I think it's fair to say that these days, there is a lack of reliable information about Coruscant, Alderaan, Tatooine and the other planets supposedly under the sway of (or obliterated by) the Galactic "Empire". As such, I think it's entirely probable that Lucas is totally confused about who the good guys and who the bad guys are in that galaxy, far, far away.

Exhibit A is Han Solo. Even Lucas admits that Solo is an amoral, self-centered smuggler. I wouldn't be surprised if the real Han Solo is some sort of organized crime lord or narcotics kingpin.

If the Rebels are really on the up and up, why do they associate with criminals like Solo? For that matter, why is Ben Kenobi so familiar with the inner workings of Mos Eisley, which even Lucas describes as a "wretched hive of scum and villainy"?

Now we come to Luke and Leia. They may have good intentions, but the bottom line is that they are just convenient figureheads for a Rebel leadership about which never learn all that much in any of the six films. Leia especially strikes me as the classic example of a child of wealth and privilege who runs off to join the guerrillas because her parents never taught her the value of hard work.

Finally, there is Vader. Why must the black man always be the villain? Moreover, is it any way appropriate in this day and age to suggest that someone is evil because of his physical disabilities? My sense is that the real Vader may be something of a cross between Martin Luther King Jr. and Stephen Hawking.

But alas we shall never know the truth, until Fox News opens up a bureau on Coruscant in order to provide us with a fair and balanced look at the universe.
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# Posted 3:27 PM by Patrick Belton  

HEY PSSST, YOU WANNA PROCRASTINATE? He is doubtless in the running for the worst spook Oxford and Britain have ever produced, but Richard Tomlinson's memoir makes for entertaining reading - particularly when he sticks to his early operational career and before he goes off the deep end with his theories about, say, the Princess of Wales's assassination.
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# Posted 3:24 PM by Patrick Belton  

OVERHEARD: This is why i sip mojitos whenever i can. Because you never know when you can use a little mojo.
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Monday, May 16, 2005

# Posted 6:25 AM by Patrick Belton  

THIS, incidentally, is how we met David: we found him soaking wet and amnesiac on the side of the road in a pair of pyjamas, and when we set him before a keyboard, he wowed us all by delivering a virtuoso performance of dissecting implicit reportorial perspective in the NYT.
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# Posted 4:41 AM by Patrick Belton  

MY ONE PROBLEM with the Star Wars media frenzy isn't the WaPo's breathless coverage (q.v.: 'Excited about 'Sith' or living in fear of another disappointment? Discuss in our message board!' and 'Mike Kurtz, founder of the DC Metro Area 'Star Wars' Collectors Club, will answer your questions on the subject of 'getting a life'), but rather that there hasn't been nearly enough mention of Star Wars Gangsta Rap.
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Sunday, May 15, 2005

# Posted 11:26 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HATH EVIL NO DIGNITY? It was bad enough when Bob Dole started plugging Viagra. But Darth Vader doing spots for Burger King, M&M's and Orange cellphones? This is truly a sad day for all of us on the Dark Side of the blogosphere.
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# Posted 11:11 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ELECTIONS IN ETHIOPIA: It's still not to clear to what degree the polling was fair. However, turnout was extremely high and the campaign was far more competitive than before in Ethiopia.

At the moment, Prime Minister (and sometime dictator) Meles Zenawi seems to have won a third term of office. Whether he really won is hard to say. But a good rule of thumb is that real democratization doesn't happen until the dictators are thrown out office, hopefully in a peaceful manner. Dictators often allow liberalization -- enough to even threaten their hold on power -- but for as long as they stay in office, the government cannot be expected to behave in a democratic manner.
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# Posted 11:03 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DEADWOOD -- SEASON ONE: I find it amusing that so much of what I rent at the video store consists of repackaged television programs. But I refuse to pay for cable (let alone HBO), so instead I have to wait until it all comes out on DVD. That may not sound economical, but now that TiVo and the like have put so much pressure on video stores, I can rent as many discs as I want for just $9.99/month, which is much less than cable (let alone HBO).

The price I pay for this roundabout approach to entertainment is that I see all of my favorite programs long after the MBA-having, BMW-driving, HBO-waching elite has digested them and spit them out. So please forgive me for reviewing the first season of Deadwood, which those of you with MBA's, BMW's and HBO will have seen long ago.

The bottom line about Deadwood is this: It is extraordinary. HBO continues to produce television shows that are far more sophisticated than 95% of what comes out of Hollywood.

FYI, Deadwood was an actual 19th century mining camp in the Black Hills. At the time, the Black Hills belonged to the Sioux, so Deadwood was not part of the United States of America and therefore had no laws, since all of its inhabitants were trespassing on Sioux territory.

The great strength of Deadwood is that it is a show about an entire world. Television is full of doctor shows and cop shows and political shows and romance shows and cowboy shows, but Deadwood integrates all of them into a single vision. By crossing over incessantly from genre to genre, Deadwood smashes the cliches that often make other shows so boring. Instead, it explores relationships that are so rarely portrayed on television.

The character who best represents this crossing and subversion of genres is Doc Cochran, the town's physician. In one of the show's first episodes, Cochran cares for an immigrant orphan whose family was murdered by highwaymen. Whereas most doctor shows just tell you what is wrong with the patients, Cochran jealously guards such information and regularly mispresents the orphan's condition to others in town.

Why? Because Cochran suspects that the highwaymen who murdered the orphan's family are in the employ of saloon owner/crime lord Al Swearengen. If Swearengen expects the child to die, he won't try to have her killed because of her potential to identify his thugs.

The situation becomes more complicated because Cochran earns a good amount of his income from Swearengen, who pays Cochran to be the gynecologist for the whores in his brothel. Because whores in a 19th century mining town are subject to considerable abuse and isolation, Cochran knows that he is often the only one with a sincere interest in the girls' welfare. Yet because of that humanitarian mission, it is dangerous for Cochran to lie to Swearengen about the orphan, since it may prevent him taking care of the whores (and being paid for it).

That is just a sample of the complex relationships in which Cochran is involved. Thus, the wealth of detail provided in the previous three paragraphs just begins to suggest the degree of narrative complexity favored by the creators of Deadwood. As Steven Johnson might rush to point out, watching Deadwood is good for you because it forces to engage in sophisticated intellectual analysis.

At the same time, Deadwood revels in its ability to take televised (or any other kind of) profanity to unprecedented heights. Above all, the screenwriters for Deadwood fetishize the word "cocksucker", which is used to describe just about every male resident of the town, in the way that you and I might describe someone as a "guy".

[NB: Although I make a habit of putting asterisks in words such as "f***" and "s***", that won't exactly work with "cocksucker", since "c***sucker" doesn't accomplish enough and "c*********" would simply be confusing.]

Frankly, I find this obsession with profanity off-putting and gratuitious. In one of the mini-documentaries that comes packaged with the DVD, the show's creator, David Milch, suggests that the use of profanity is integral to the characters' realism. To remove it would compromise the characters' emotional authenticity and thereby prevent the audience from truly understanding them.

First of all, I wonder whether 19th century Americans even used the word "cocksucker" as often as Deadwood suggests. However, I am going to trust Milch on this one since he used to be a lecturer in the English department at Yale. Nonetheless, in spite of the show's admirable devotion to recreating the costumes and architecture of the American frontier, it takes so many liberties with other aspects of realism that toning down the profanity would hardly damage the show's historical mission.

For example, what do you think the odds are that all of the most important people in the real Deadwood mining camp were extremely good-looking? Not high, to say the least. However, Milch doesn't seem to mind giving in to the Hollywood convention that actors must be good looking.

One detail that really hammered home this sort of un-realism was when, in the final episode of season one, we discover that heroic ex-lawman Seth Bullock has perfectly shaven chest. Now, history does suggest that the real Seth Bullock was a heroic ex-lawman. But I seriously doubt whether his pecs were that frikkin' smooth.

I raise this point because Bullock is a character who seems to test the show's commitment to moral and narrative realism. He is simply too perfect. As chance would have it, the most ethical man in town is also the most strikingly good looking. Moreover, Bullock has 21st century attitudes toward gender and race despite living in one of the most racist and sexist parts of 19th century America. (Then again, Bullock is himself an immigrant from Canada, so perhaps that is why he is so enlightened.)

In the course of Season One, Bullock relentlessly antagonizes all of the powerful but morally deficient men in town, regardless of the threat this might present to his own safety. He also rescues and watches over the most beautiful damsel in distress, ultimately bedding her (at which point we discover his shaven chest).

This is where things may get interesting. Bullock is married, and his wife and child are set to arrive on the scene in Season Two. On the other hand, Bullock only married his brother's widow and adopted his child as a gesture of good will, so we know he isn't "really" cheating. So, will the screenwriters find an easy way out for Bullock that allows him to keep both his damsel and his reputation, or will Bullock suddenly turn out to be somewhat human?

Even if the screenwriters make the wrong choice about Bullock, however, this would hardly take away from their superb achievements so far, as well as I what I expect to be an extraordinary sophomore outing.
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# Posted 7:35 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHAT MOTIVATES THE TERRORISTS INSURGENTS? This morning's WaPo has a front page story about the overwhelming Saudi presence among suicide bombers in Iraq. Now, it isn't exactly surprising that the nation that gave us Osama bin Laden as well as most of the September 11th hijackers is also providing the manpower for the slaughter of Iraqi civilians. But this article does stand out for taking a closer look at the evidence available for a Saudi presence, much of it consisting of radical Islamist websites.

One of the things I found striking about the article was its opening paragraphs:
Before Hadi bin Mubarak Qahtani exploded himself into an anonymous fireball, he was young and interested only in "fooling around."

Like many Saudis, he was said to have experienced a religious awakening after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States and dedicated himself to Allah, inspired by "the holy attack that demolished the foolish infidel Americans and caused many young men to awaken from their deep sleep," according to a posting on a jihadist Web site.
Notice that the apparent motive for Qahtani's suicide assault was not the invasion of Afghanistan, the invasion of Iraq or any other act of American aggression. Rather, it was the spectacularly brutal assault on American territory on September 11th.

Perhaps the WaPo's correspondent was trying to hint at this observation in a very subtle manner. Or perhaps not. Regardless, what matters is this telling bit of evidence that American weakness rather than American power is what motivates the foreign fighters in Iraq.

In contrast, I would argue that it is American power (and Shi'ite power) that motivates the local resistance. The men who once ruled Iraq were thrown out of power and now want to take it back. That is what the insurgency is about, although the insurgents seem terribly afraid to admit it.

One point that the WaPo article makes very clearly is that the suicide bombers in Iraq fit a sociological profile that isn't all that surprising:
In a paper published in March, Reuven Paz, an Israeli expert on terrorism, analyzed the lists of jihadi dead. He found 154 Arabs killed over the previous six months in Iraq, 61 percent of them from Saudi Arabia...Many of the bombers were married, well educated and in their late twenties, according to postings...

Paz said his list -- assembled from monitoring a dozen Islamic extremist Web forums -- now had more than 200 names. "Many are students or from wealthy families -- the same sociological characteristics as the Sept. 11 hijackers," he said.
So in casy any of our friends on the left are still clinging to the "root causes" hypothesis, i.e. that poverty and desperation are the primary motives for terrorism, they can forget about it. If there is such a thing as a root cause, it is the misguided belief that Islam sanctions the murder of innocents.

With regard to the reliability of the evidence from which such conclusions are drawn, I found the following anecdote to be telling:
Evan F. Kohlmann, a researcher who monitors Islamic extremist Web sites, has compiled a list of more than 235 names of Iraqi dead gleaned from the Internet since last summer, with more than 50 percent on his tally from Saudi Arabia...

Some of the Web postings also include phone numbers so fellow Islamists can call a dead fighter's family and congratulate them. Kohlmann called several of the numbers. "I have lists and lists of foreign fighters, and it's no joke. Their sons went and blew themselves up in Iraq," he said.
Those must be some pretty interesting conversations that Kohlmann has when he calls up the bombers' families.

On a tangentially related note, I wonder if any of the suicide bombers blog on a regular basis during the months before they become martyrs. That would be one heckuva publicity gimmick (not that I want to give the bad guys any good ideas, but I'm sure they could've come up with this one on their own.)

What I can say for sure is that there is at least one bad guy out there who thinks that blogging is a good way to keep in touch with his fans...
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Saturday, May 14, 2005

# Posted 11:32 AM by Patrick Belton  

AND WHO KNEW YOU COULD BE TRITE AND FALSE AT THE SAME TIME? From CNN: 'Almost 30 years since the first film, the enduring appeal of the "Star Wars" franchise is undiminished.'
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# Posted 11:27 AM by Patrick Belton  

'THANK GOD I'M NOT ON VACATION' QUOTE OF THE DAY: 'The problem really came to light a couple of days into the cruise when people realised they couldn't flush their loos properly.' (Rachel O'Reilly, head of public relations, Thomson Cruise Line)
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# Posted 12:59 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

YES, I ACTUALLY DO HAVE A DAY JOB: This morning I delivered a paper at the Miller Center's annual conference on American political development.

FYI, "American political development", or APD for short, refers to the idea that history is an important part of American politics and that politics is an important part of American history. That may sound obvious, but professional scholars have a marvelous ability to ignore the obvious.

Anyhow, I gave a paper on American efforts to promote democracy in the Philippines in the 1980s. The paper is available as a PDF, but you may want to read the first couple of paragraphs before committing to something so soporific:

Reagan Entrapped: Promoting Democracy in the Philippines

“If Reagan stood for anything, it was standing up for old, anti-Communist friends.”
– S. Burton, correspondent for Time

Although loyalty is a virtue, the tenacity with which Reagan defended his old friends, such as Filipino dictator Ferdinand Marcos, brought the president’s actions directly into conflict with his unmitigated pledge to promote democracy across the globe. In the mid-1980s, the stark contrast between Reagan’s rhetoric and Reagan’s behavior seemed to vindicate the conventional wisdom that the purpose of those idealistic pronouncements that emanate from the White House is to mask the unsavory character of so much that is done in the name of national security. Yet in 1986, the United States instructed Marcos to step down from office, which he did.

If not for the massive protests led by the democratic opposition in the Philippines, these instructions from Washington would have had only a minimal effect or perhaps none at all. Yet for the purposes of this paper, the more interesting question is why the Reagan administration, after supporting Marcos and other right-wing dictators so consistently and for so long, suddenly decided to place its weight on the opposite side of the political scales. This paper will argue that although Reagan never abandoned his sentimental attachment to either Marcos or his other anti-Communist friends, Reagan became entangled in his idealistic, pro-democracy rhetoric to the point where he felt compelled to act on its revolutionary premises...

The Philippines was a former American colony and longtime American ally. More importantly, it played host to the American naval base at Subic Bay and the American air base at Clark Field, both of which the United States considered vital to preventing the expansion of Soviet influence in Asia and the Pacific. In addition, Marcos found himself threatened by a rapidly growing Communist guerrilla force. Thus, when the Filipino dictatorship began to crumble, the United States had to confront a fundamental dilemma of Cold War politics: Should it support a pro-American dictator or should it accept the risk of Communist forces occupying a strategic position in the Third World?

There is a strong consensus among realist scholars of international relations that great powers, including the United States, will not hesitate to compromise their principles in order protect their strategic interests. There is also a consensus among historians of American foreign relations that the United States consistently compromised its democratic principles in order to advance its strategic interests during the Cold War. In certain instances, however, America’s Cold Warriors sought to bring down dictatorships and promote democracy abroad on the grounds that democracy was the best antidote to Communism. Yet according to both scholars and journalists, Reagan demonstrated little to no concern about his allies’ democratic credentials.

Such arguments are correct insofar as Reagan took office in 1981 determined to repair the United States’ alliances with those right-wing dictatorships denigrated by the Carter administration. Yet Reagan’s attitude toward pro-American dictatorships evolved dramatically over time. This paper will argue that Reagan’s decision to break with Marcos represented the turning point at which Reagan began to fulfill his rhetorical commitment to oppose not just the dictatorships of the left, but also of the right.

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Friday, May 13, 2005

# Posted 11:33 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHO DA BADDEST GANGSTA IN POLITICAL SCIENCE? Us academic folks write a lot about violence, but how many of us can pick up a Tek-9 and put a bullet hole in a terrorist's head from 200 yards?

I only know one scholar who fits that description. His initials are JW. If I told you his full name, I'd have to kill you. Back in the old days, J used to conduct "investigations" for a "government agency". But J got tired of being a productive member of society and decided to finish his Ph.D. instead.

These days, J's idea of fun is being written about on OxBlog. He said to me that he wants to see himself mentioned on this site before sunrise tomorrow. I don't usually let people tell me what I'm supposed to write about on OxBlog, but in this situation, my personal safety has to come before my commitment to journalistic principle.
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# Posted 5:58 AM by Patrick Belton  

WHAT WE'RE READING QUOTE OF THE DAY: Concerning love, I had best be brief and say that when I read Bertrand Russell on this matter as an adolescent, and understood him to write with perfect gravity that a moment of such emotion was worth the whole of the rest of life, I devoutly hoped that this would be true in my own case. And so it has proved, and so to that extent I can regard the death I otherwise rather resent as laughable and impotent. Christopher Hitchens, quickly becoming with Weiseltier quoted below one of my favourite essayists, who also recently has this to say about Abu Ghraib.
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Thursday, May 12, 2005

# Posted 7:53 PM by Patrick Belton  

UNCLE SAM (AND STEP-UNCLE HAMID) NEED YOU WATCH : This just in from, as ever, the wires,
The Department of Defense announced today the establishment of an Internet site to support recruiting efforts for civilians to work in the Afghanistan Reconstruction Group, a joint program with the State Department that assists officials at the highest levels of the Afghan government.
The Afghanistan Reconstruction Group (ARG) is presently recruiting for a number of critical senior advisor and staff positions based in the American Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, to help in the ongoing reconstruction and stabilization of Afghanistan. The establishment of the ARG recruiting Web site broadens the reach of an ongoing recruitment program.
The Department of Defense oversees the recruitment program, which is led by former Army Secretary Martin Hoffmann.
"We seek and are attracting senior advisors from the private sector," said Hoffmann. "Although these are compensated positions, we are tapping into the vein of volunteerism in America: people want to serve. They know the cause is important. We are finding individuals willing to go where their skills and experiences have great impact, helping to improve the lives of the Afghan people. ARG participants represent the finest American tradition of reaching out to serve in a faraway land."
The ARG recruiting Web site is located at http://www.dod.gov/afghanistan/. The Web site lists position openings, full position descriptions, and application procedures.
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# Posted 7:00 PM by Patrick Belton  

HURRA HURRA: The Transnational Broadcasting Journal's Summer Said takes a look at what Cairo residents have to say about Al Hurra, the American-funded network in the Middle East. Responses fall over a range, with some points recurring - criticism of its announcers' Arabic and its professionalism and flash compared with the commercial networks, comments about reportorial blandness in comparison with the BBC and Al Jazeera, interspersed with praise for its airing of political debate and opposition politicians.
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# Posted 5:51 PM by Patrick Belton  

FROM THE ARCHIVES QUOTE OF THE DAY: On my flight to New York, moreover, I had read Tom Wolfe's "literary manifesto for the new social novel" in Harper's and, because we lingered interminably in the indifferent clouds, had opened Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum. And so I was testy, as I tramped through the little lakes of Broadway, and worried over the problem of cultural theodicy, or why the vulgar prosper. Leon Weiseltier, 27 November 1989
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# Posted 2:11 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SUPREME COURT TO HEAR SOLOMON AMENDMENT CASE: Phil Carter wants homosexuals to able to serve openly in the military. He just think that the way to achieve greater tolerance is to bring more Ivy Leaguers into the military rather than kicking military recruiters off campus. (Hat tip: Uncle Jimbo, who puts in his own two cents about "don't ask, don't tell".)
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# Posted 1:54 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

EGYPTIAN SEX SYMBOLS...promoting democracy?
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# Posted 1:40 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THREE CHEERS FOR THE LUMPENPROLETARIAT! I admit it. I am irrationally disposed to linking to any article or post that uses the word lumpenproletariat. But if it's written by Reihan Salam, how can you go wrong?
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# Posted 1:02 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

REMEMBER HAITI? Not long ago, Haitians revolted against their local dictator in a manner reminiscient of their counterparts in Ukraine, Lebanon and Kyrgyzstan. But rather than a democratic success story, Haiti has become (better: remained) a violent mess.

In light of how little attention the American media has been paying to events in Haiti, Randy Paul deserves considerable praise for his continuing efforts to keep us apprised of what is going in Port-au-Prince. To go directly to his long string of posts about Haiti, click here.

Recent concerns about the situation in Haiti include the pardoning of convicted human rights violators, the imprisonment of former ministers on political grounds, and reports of police brutality.

Randy also has plenty of harsh words for the Bush administration (no surprise there), which seems to be taking a somewhat lackadaisical approach to the situation. The Brazilian president, Mr. DaSilva, is also taking a lot of heat since Brazil is in charge of the UN peacekeeping force that is on the ground but apparently not accomplishing much. Really? An incompetent UN peacekeeping mission? Say it ain't so!

In light of how little I know about the situation in Haiti, I don't dare make any suggestions about what the US or any other foreign government should do. All I really can do is keep my fingers crossed.
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Monday, May 09, 2005

# Posted 1:15 PM by Patrick Belton  

JOURNALISM DEEP THOUGHT OF THE DAY: If an article is what results from a pitch, does that make it a son of a pitch?
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# Posted 7:03 AM by Patrick Belton  

IF YOU LIKE JAZZ, DON'T READ THIS: The rest of you can go listen to the long-undiscovered Louis Armstrong original of Brittney Spears' 'Oops, I Did it Again', unearthed by the same enterprising people who brought you 'the world's worst Jewish rap.'
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# Posted 6:53 AM by Patrick Belton  

IRSHAD MANJI AT OXFORD: Author Irshad Manji, a fairly prolific and broadly known feminist Muslim, will be speaking on Tuesday at Somerville at 5:30pm, for our Oxford readership - the title of her talk will be "Confessions of a Muslim Dissident: Why I Fight for Women, Jews, Gays...and Allah." This is part of her book tour for this book, which if you read Arabic or Urdu you can read for free on her website rather than buying. Now whoever said languages never paid?
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# Posted 12:36 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHOA! Eugene Volokh also has some harsh words for the new sex-ed curriculum in Maryland's Montgomery county. When I suggested that the WaPo underplayed just how overtly theological the curriculum is, I didn't know the half of it.

On a related note, take a look at Gene's defense of allowing open homosexuals to serve in the military. It demonstrates that you can argue for tolerance on rational grounds without smearing your opponents as bigots.
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Sunday, May 08, 2005

# Posted 11:23 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHEN IT ISN'T HE SAID/SHE SAID JOURNALISM: As you may have noticed, OxBlog enjoys every salvo fired in the debate about he said/she said journalism, i.e. mechanically reporting on the arguments made by both sides in any given debate without giving any sense of which side is telling the truth.

The purpose of this post is to put of a bit of a twist in the he said/she said hypothesis by pointing out that journalists often discard the norm of balance almost entirely. This is not necessarily a bad thing. I am not going to argue that journalists dispense with the norm of balance by ignoring the conservative side of the debate (an approach that is not unknown).

Rather, I want to point out that journalists consider it entirely appropriate to write articles that focus almost entirely on one side of the debate provided that the articles leave a balanced impression about the merits of that side of the case. In fact, journalists are even willing to focus almost entirely on the conservative side of a debate.

Take for example, the front page article in today's WaPo about Baptist minister Rick Scarborough, architect of some of the most visible opposition to the Democratic filibuster threat. At the very end of this relatively long article, there are two brief quotations provided by Scarboroughs critics. But that's not balance. Rather, it's the way that the WaPo correspondent describes Scarborough that provides balance. The first two sentences of the article run as follows:
In his home town of Pearland, Tex., Baptist minister Rick Scarborough was tireless in promoting his conservative Christian way of thinking.

He attacked high school sex education courses, experimental medical treatments and transsexuals trying to change their gender identification.
"Tireless" is better than lazy, but it's a pretty neutral description. "Attack" suggests that Scarborough tries to win arguments by volume rather than reason, but it's pretty reasonable to describe a staunch partisan as a attacking his opponents.

Shortly thereafter, the WaPo tells us that the filibuster debate
Provides a fiery new front in the culture war. And Scarborough is emblematic of the Christian right leaders who have been drawn to the fray.
This is an interesting pair of sentences. I'd suggest that "fiery fronts" and "culture wars" carry some strong negative connotations. Almost everyone, and especially newspapers, idealize cool, rational debate about substantive policy proposals. References to fire and war suggest that Scarborough deviates from that norm. Nonetheles, he was "drawn" to this debate rather than igniting it.

The first time we hear directly from Scarborough, this is how it goes:
"One of my goals in life is to give the Republican Party courage," Scarborough said in a recent interview. "We have a lot of gutless wonders who wear the tag conservative Republican. Anytime there's any amount of fire, they crater."
Here we have a Republican criticizing other Republicans, so you can't say the article is unfair to Democrats. Yet forgive me for suggesting that this quote made it into the article in order to demonstrate how radical Scarborough is, since journalists almost never describe the GOP as the more timid of the two parties.

The next time we hear directly from Scarborough, it is when the WaPo says of the leadership of the Christian right that
Their real power rests in their unique access to millions of voters "who happen to go to church," as Scarborough puts it. "It's straight to the heart of people from men and women they trust," he said.
In this instance, Scarborough is analyzing politics rather than making the case for his point of view. Thus, the exclusion of his opponents from the narrative makes little difference. I would suggest, however, that this passage hints at the danger of dictating politics from the pulpit. Along with idealizing cool and rational debate, we tend to condemn theological interventions in politics, since they divide audiences according to faith. Thus one might say that what's really happening here is that the Post is giving Scarborough just enough rope to hang himself.

The third time we hear from Scarborough, the minister comes off looking good. In the second half of the article, we learn that
Scarborough, 55, started preaching while a student at Stephen F. Austin State University. His other preoccupation was football; one teammate was future Redskins star kicker Mark Moseley. "I hiked every ball he kicked in college," Scarborough says.
Go Skins! There's always next year! Anyhow, this bit of puff coverage just sets the Post up for his finisher:
[Scarborough's] first foray into politics came two years later, when he attended a local high school assembly on AIDS awareness, and was appalled at the frank talk about condoms and "various sex acts." He read the transcript from the pulpit one Sunday morning and took his complaints -- and at least 400 parishioners -- to the school board. Eventually, the high-school principal was replaced by a supporter of abstinence-based sex education.
So is this an instance of positive grassroots action, or the unforgiving purge of a principal who refused to toe the party line? The Post's description only consists of facts. But the selection of facts is just as important as whether or not they are true. And even the truest facts have connotations.

Now perhaps the situation with regard to that principal was exactly what the Post suggests: an ideological purge. I have no reason to think otherwise except that I am generally suspicious of whatever the Post says about Christian activists. If it was an ideological purge, than readers should have that information available when forming their opinions about Scarborough.

But remember what this post is trying to show: that even by focusing exclusively on one half of the debate, one does not necessarily disadvantage the other side. In subtle ways, a purely factual focus on just one side can be even more effective than splitting the column inches between both.

Since this post is getting long, let's just consider one final quotation from Scarborough. According to the next-to-last paragraph of the article,
Scarborough insists that his broad goal is simply to put in place "constitutionally minded judges."
'Insists' is a fascinating word. One doesn't have to 'insist' about facts. No one insists that the capital of Virginia is Richmond. (Although I guess if someone told you that the capital of Kentucky is Lexington, you might have to insist that it is Frankfurt.)

The use of 'insists' in this article is expecially intersting, since we find Scarborough insisting that his stated opinion is his actual opinion. From that, one should infer that the good minister is not to be fully trusted, even on the subject of his own motives.

Strangely, the article never tells exactly what sort of opinion that Scarborough might be hiding. The answer is obvious, of course: the opinion that the real litmus test for judges is not whether they are "consitutionally minded" but whether their theology resembles that of Scarborough.

So what we have here is a case in which only Scarborough is quoted and he is defending own his opinion, but the article still isn't unfair to the missing side of the debate.

Now, if you're still reading this post, either because you hate it or because you are procrastinating, let me predict that the biggest criticism of this post will be that it reads far too much into the language of correspondents who are constantly trying to meet deadlines and don't have the time to think about the subtle connotations of every one of their words.

As a pre-emptive response to that objection, let me remind you of an observation made by Mike Allen, one of the Post's top political correspondents. Allen told an audience at a public discussion of the US media that
News writers are trying to present both sides' points-of-view, hence the "he said, she said" quality to [their work], but that they're trying to present these points-of-view in such a way so that a discerning reader can tell who's right based on reading the story. [NB: This is a paraphrase, not a direct quote, provided by one of Allen's fellow panelists.]
I certainly have enough confidence in the WaPo to believe that its correspondents are fully capable of filling their work with interpretive hints, even when they are under deadline pressue. I just wish they would be a little more forthright about their opinions.
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# Posted 11:11 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

COMPROMISE ON THE FILIBUSTER? That's what David Broder and the editors of the WaPo are recommending. It seems like such an obvious and reasonable solution. On procedural matters, it makes no sense for ideology to come into play, especially since the Senate is so closely divided that the beneficiaries of any rule change may quickly become its victims.
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# Posted 10:14 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

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# Posted 7:35 AM by Patrick Belton  

OVERHEARD: 'Being a social scientist - is that like being a social drinker?'
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# Posted 3:09 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A PRELIMINARY MEA CULPA: How ironic. I criticize a journalist for seeking mea culpas from supporters of the invasion of Iraq, only to find myself compelled to offer a mea culpa of my own as a result of my premature and poorly-informed criticism.

I intentionally suggested that Jeffrey Goldberg was a liberal journalist with an axe to grind. But according to a well-informed reader, Goldberg was an avid supporter of the invasion of Iraq and a darling of the neo-cons. For example, Goldberg wrote (and the New Yorker published) this in-depth account of Saddam's mass murder of the Iraqi Kurds. In that same article, Goldberg tantalized his readers with hearsay evidence to the effect that Saddam and Al Qaeda enjoyed (what we might now call) a collaborative relationship.

So, the only preliminary thing about my mea culpa is that it may not entail sufficient recognition of how extremely wrong I was. In the next few days, I intend to read more of Goldberg's writing in order to gain a little more perspective on my own folly.

In the meantime, you may savor the irony of how this inveterate critic of liberal media bias exposed his own bias in such an extraordinary manner.
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