OxBlog

Monday, December 13, 2004

# Posted 10:26 AM by Patrick Belton  

FREE STUFF, FREE STUFF! And no, we're not purveying tin Lubavitcher menorahs here on OxBlog either. If you ever (1) need to do statistical analysis, (2) are a cheapskate, and/or (3) don't have the seven hundred dollars to shell out on your own copy of SPSS, but also (4) can't be bothered to go to your college's computing cluster, where (5) the IT officer is a dodgy convicted felon - then boy, do we have the offer for you. I've just come across Statcrunch.com, which is a free, on-line, web-based statistical platform which handles multiple linear regressions, ANOVA, nonparametrics, 2-tailed T tests, and lots of other things that sound equally unintelligible and impressive when you drop them in academic papers. From my several minutes of trying to regress my dissertation data onto it, and not really knowing a bloody thing about statistics, it seems to work quite well.

UPDATE: Our friend Zach Mears recommends R, as his preferred free stuff for statistics.
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# Posted 9:10 AM by Patrick Belton  

400 SPIES IN A BUNKER UNDER NAPOLEON'S TOMB: This and other family jewels from French intelligence being spilt in the course of an investigation into abuse of the powers of the presidency under Mitterand.
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# Posted 1:43 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A FUNDAMENTALIST IS A FUNDAMENTALIST IS A FUNDAMENTALIST: What's the difference between evangelical Christians and Muslim extremists? Not much, according to Garry Trudeau. [LINK FIXED]
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# Posted 12:22 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ACCOUNTABILITY: Both the previous post and one from earlier today were pretty hard on journalists. So now let's turn to our own failures. CBS News reports that
Two leading South Dakota blogs – websites full of informal analysis, opinions and links – were authored by paid advisers to [Senator-elect John] Thune’s campaign.

The Sioux Falls Argus Leader and the National Journal first cited Federal Election Commission documents showing that Jon Lauck, of Daschle v Thune, and Jason Van Beek, of South Dakota Politics, were advisers to the Thune campaign.

The documents, also obtained by CBS News, show that in June and October the Thune campaign paid Lauck $27,000 and Van Beek $8,000. Lauck had also worked on Thune’s 2002 congressional race.

Both blogs favored Thune, but neither gave any disclaimer during the election that the authors were on the payroll of the Republican andidate.
Lauck responds to the CBS story here. Van Beek comments here. Power Line says
My instinct is that the bloggers' relationship with the Thune campaign should have been disclosed on the blogs (as it apparently was, but obscurely, in FEC filings).
I agree. Prof. Lauck and I had a number of exchanges via e-mail, which got me interested in his blog and resulted in my praising his work without reservation. Now I feel deceived. I would have evaluated Prof. Lauck's work very differently if I knew he were being supported by the Thune campaign.

Now the quesiton is, do I -- and all those who linked to Daschle v Thune -- owe our readers an apology? Should we have a system in place for vetting the websites we link to?

I don't know the answer to that question. There isn't much you can do to protect yourself from someone who is being intentionally deceptive -- especially when such individuals are peddling opinions rather than facts. Before going to air, CBS had an obligation to verify the accusations it levelled at George W. Bush. But you can't verify an opinion.

On the other hand, shouldn't bloggers make some effort to assess the credibility of the sources? Should we have a formal code of ethics that would at least deter some deception? Again, I don't know. But I'm open to ideas.
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Sunday, December 12, 2004

# Posted 11:27 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NO "COLLABORATIVE RELATIONSHIP" BETWEEN CHRIST, APOSTLES: This headline is a masterpiece of meta-politics: "Bush's References to God Defended by Speechwriter". The speechwriter in question, Michael Gerson, defended his work at an off-the-record meeting with reporters that Gerson subsequently decided was partially on-the-record.

While we are all familiar with the accepted (but still questionable) practice of providing national security information on background or off-the-record, it seems quite strange for theological debates to be withheld from the public -- especially when the subject of debate is the President's public statments.

Then again, religion is such an explosive political issue that perhaps it should be handled with such extreme care. Yet once again, as in the case of national security coverage, there is an unacknowledged trade-off between public education and professional objectivity.

For example, consider the cover story [subscription required] from last week's issue of Time Magazine. It's title is "Secrets of the Nativity". Naturally, the folks at Time aren't going to tell you that there was no actual news about the Nativity last week, but that they are hoping to capitalize on the relentless merchandizing of the holiday season.

That may seem like a cheapshot, but there's a serious point I'm trying to make. Feature stories about religion are meant to boost sales and you can't do that by antagonizing your customers. On the other hand, journalists don't want to compromise their objectivity. So what you wind up with is a strange sort of hybrid coverage that never makes it own premises explicit.

Imagine for just a second that journalists treated the messages that come from America's pulpits the same way they treat the messages that come from our White House. Instead of emphasizing the beauty and wonder of the Nativity (a la Time), journalists would embark on a wholesale effort to expose the lack of historical evidence for the events described in the Bible. The result would be headlines such as "No 'Collaborative Relationship" Between Christ, Apostles".

Of course, the polarizing effects of such coverage would outweigh any positive value it might have. But since religion is so important in American life, how exactly should journalists describe it?

Time's cover story by David Van Biema resolves this conflict by presenting a highly critical take on the Gospels with an upbeat, pro-religious attitude. The opening paragraphs of Van Biema's cover story are set in a Presbyterian church where
As if on cue, from a Sunday-school classroom upstairs wafts the sound of 70 angelic young voices rendering a still shaky but clearly heartfelt version of Away in a Manger.

Across the U.S., similar scenes are unfolding, as small children progress from incomprehension to playtime participation to the beginnings of actual Christmas understanding.
The literal content of these sentences in no way suggests that there is any inherent validity to the Christmas story or the Christian faith. While some might suggest that the use of the word "angelic" is a little much, the heavy lifting here is being done by the words 'progress', 'participation' and 'understanding'.

Ostensibly neutral, each of these words has a positive connotation in the American political lexicon. Participation and understanding are the prerequisites of democratic deliberation. 'Progress' describes the success of enlightened policymaking. In contrast, when evil individuals, e.g. Iraqi insurgents, achieve success, we tend to describe it as 'sophistication'.

Van Biema balances such positive descriptions by observing that no Christmas pageant
Will be precisely like the New Testament Gospel accounts...a fact that causes concern to almost no one.
As we all know, journalists only pay attention to a fact that causes concern to almost no one only when the jouranalists themselves believe that such facts should cause tremendous concern to just about everyone. Once again, the literal meaning of the sentence is neutral. Yet within the context of journalistic convention, its connotation self-evident.

Shortly after offering up this bit of heresy, Van Biema protects himself by writing that
In the debates over the literal truth of the Gospels, just about everyone acknowledges that major conclusions about Jesus' life are not based on forensic clues.
Van Biema further protects himself by quoting numerous scholars from prestigious seminaries and universities, all of whom have a fairly upbeat (or least diplomatic) attitude toward the Gospels. The one scholar who breaks from this pattern gets introduced to the reader as an "iconclastic feminist critic". And nowhere in this very long cover story do we hear from those who see religion as a dangerous set of myths that promote intolerance and threaten democracy.

Nonetheless, Van Biema still senses the need to put a positive spin on some of his interlocutors already positive quotations. For example,
What jumps out at close readers," [Prof. White] says, "is Matthew's and Luke's different roads to performing the vital theological task of their age: fitting key themes and symbols from Christianity's parent tradition, Judaism, into an emerging belief in Jesus and also working in ideas familiar to the Roman culture that surrounded them." Thus the Nativity stories provide a fascinating look at how each of the two men who agreed on so much—that Jesus was the Christ come among us and was crucified and resurrected and took away sin—could be inspired to begin his story in similar, yet hardly identical ways.
A "close reader" might notice that Prof. White is carefully suggesting that Matthew and Luke were far more concerned about winning converts than they were about the (Gospel) truth. To prevent this point from becoming too obvious, Van Biema reminds us again how much Matthew and Luke did agree on.

This strategy of broaching a heretical suggestion then insisting that it has no such implications characterizes the whole of Time's cover story. Perhaps that isn't a bad thing. Time's cover story accomplishes the important task of introducing readers to a broad range of modern scholarship about the Gospels. I have to admit, I myself found the article tremendously informative.

And yet there is something condescending and disingenuous about the whole approach. Putting on the kid gloves suggests that Christians aren't really ready to grapple with the complexities of their own faith.

Now, I don't pretend to know exactly how journalists should balance the imperatives of candor and tact. Yet I can't help but conclude that the best way to resolve this question is to be open about it and to engage the reader, rather than crafting an unstable and silent compromise. You might say that my philosophy of journalism comes down to just one word: accountability.
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# Posted 8:54 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HOW TO START YOUR OWN BLOG: A somewhat pedestrian guide from the WaPo However, I consider it a victory when they don't say anything nasty about us.

In addition to the guide, today's WaPo also has a long round-up of travel blogs, emphasizing their limited utility. Sample quote:
You may happen upon a nugget of wisdom after only a few minutes' search, but you may also feel like you've fallen into a bottomless, inane abyss where someone blathers in less-than-fascinating detail about how hung over she was in Barcelona -- without even revealing which of the latest hip bars she visited to contract the condition.
Sort of sounds like a MoDo column, doesn't it?
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# Posted 7:36 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LEAKS, TAPS AND PLANTS: Why is the US tapping Mohammed El Baradei's phone? Perhaps more importantly, who told the Washington Post about it?

The information in this morning's front-pager is attributed to "three U.S. government officials". It's pretty reasonable to assume that they weren't all leaking the same information, either individually or in concert. But one of them may have leaked the information to the Post, which then contacted the other two for confirmation.

Since this whole story is pretty embarrassing for the Bush administration, there isn't much reason to believe that the story was planted. Unless, of course, it was a pre-emptive plant meant to head off more embarrassing revelations from unauthorized sources.

One of the interesting things about this story is the way in which it illustrates how the journalistic imperative to educate the public clashes with the imperative of objectivity. As is so often the case with stories about national security, correspondents know far more about the situation than they are allowed to tell their readers. Moreover, they sometimes label their sources in a deceptive manner in order to prevent public identification of those sources.

The issue here isn't ideological bias but rather the intentional confusion of the public. Although written like any other regular news story, the WaPo front-pager about El Baradei omits the information that is most important for anyone who truly wants to assess its significance.

Now, I am hardly the first person to point out how a reliance on anonymous sources threatens objectivity. But I think I am one of the few to note how the presentation of such confusing material is done in exactly the same manner as the presentation of a run-of-the-mill news story.

Thus, the overwhelming majority of WaPo readers don't know that they have to read this kind of story far more carefully than the would any other. And even those of us familiar with the relevant journalistic devices have no way to judge the accuracy of what's being reported.

What it all comes down to is the same issue responsible for so many problmes with the mass media: a total lack of accountability. What I wish I knew was how to introduce some sort of accountability without ensuring a cut off of the valuable information that unofficial sources provide.

Anyhow, getting back to El Baradei, the Post suggests that the US wiretap is part of a vindictive and heavy-handed effort by the White House to get back at El Baradei for being uncooperative first on Iraq and now on Iran. My instincts says that that assessment is just about right. But I prefer evidence to instincts.

If we are trying to bully El Baradei, I think its a bad idea. As the article points out, there isn't much available in the way of replacements. And what exactly could a better IAEA director do to resolve the situation with Iran? Going after El Baradei seems like a particularly self-destructive way of ignoring the message and killing the messenger.
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# Posted 1:27 PM by Patrick Belton  

TODAY IS THE BIRTHDAY of a friend of mine who is no longer alive, Mother Presentation Murphy, a Kildare woman and nun of the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary, who taught me as a child. She had an indispensable (and ever more massive) canine companion, Snowball Murphy, whose deed to his doghouse I wrote, cribbing that of my parents. She was an extraordinary woman, and a credit to her habit, profession, and county. Her birthday of 12/12/12 is a fairly unforgettable mnemonic, and always draws her to my mind this time of year. Happy birthday, Prez.
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Saturday, December 11, 2004

# Posted 10:46 PM by Patrick Belton  

A NEW academic conference for our postmodern third: pervert studies. Leave it to the Canadians.
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# Posted 3:02 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OXBLOG'S BIG TENT POLITICS: In a bold effort to reach out to those with opinions minimally different from my own, I had dinner last night with Matt Yglesias (as well as JO, who doesn't figure in this story but generously let me crash at his place on Thursday night.)

Without hesitation, I can say that Matt up came with the best dis of OxBlog I've ever heard. I can't remember the exact words, but it went like this: "You people make no sense. You spend 364 days a year trashing liberals and defending the Bush administration. Then, come election day, it's all, 'Oh no, I couldn't vote for Bush. I mean, he's just not a good president.'"

I didn't have a comeback ready for that one last night, but 15 hours later, here it is: All presidential election years are leap years. Therefore, OxBlog spends 365 days a year trashing liberals, not 364, before coming out for Kerry at the polls.

Choke on that, sucka!

CORRECTION: Reader TD from MIT points out that neither 1800 nor 1900 was a presidential election leap [CORRECTION TO THE CORRECTION: Obviously, there were presidential elections in both 1800 and 1900. Perhaps my Federalist instincts led me to erase John Adams' tragic defeat from our collective historical consciousness.] year, since those years evenly divisible by 100 but not by 400 are not leap years. JK makes the same point and adds that OxBlog better have a new comeback ready for Yglesias by 2100.
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# Posted 2:56 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IS SANTA ON DEATH ROW? So what if Aaron McGruder is a left-wing nut? He's a really funny left-wing nut.
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# Posted 2:53 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

'OY' IS JUST 'YO' SPELLED BACKWARDS: OxBlog wishes you a funky Chanukah. Turn up the volume! (Hat tip: Dr. Dreidel)
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# Posted 2:49 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DOESN'T RUMSFELD KNOW HE'S JUST ASKING FOR IT? It's a Jon Stewart clip, but well worth watching.
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# Posted 5:32 AM by Patrick Belton  

WHO KNEW THE NIGERIANS WERE SO PRO-PALESTINIAN? Suha Arafat, who was immortably memorialised by the New York Post as the 'Arafat Lady' (Sings), has now attained a second existence as a Nigerian spammer:
Dear Sir/madam,

This mail may not be surprising to you if you have been following current events in the international media with reference to the Middle East and Palestine in particular.

I am Mrs.Suha Daoud Arafat, the wife of YASSER ARAFAT, the Palestinian leader who died recently in Paris. Since his death and even prior to the announcement, I have been thrown into a state of antagonism, confusion, humiliation, frustration and hopelessness by the present leadership of the Palestinian Liberation Organization and the new Prime Minister. and who said Nigerian spammers weren't well read in world politics? I have even been subjected to physical and psychological torture. As a widow that is so traumatized, I have lost confidence with everybody in the country at the moment.

You must have heard over the media reports and the Internet on the discovery of some fund in my husband's secret bank account and companies and the allegations of some huge sums of money deposited by my husband in my name of which I have refused to disclose or give up to the corrupt Palestine Government. In fact the total sum allegedly discovered by the Government so far is in the tune of about $300 million. And they are not relenting on their effort to make me poor for life. As you know, the Muslim community has no regards for women, hence my desire for a foreign assistance.

I have deposited the sum of $18.5million dollars with a presidential finance house abroad whose name is withheld for now until we open communication. I shall be grateful if you could receive this fund into your bank account for safe keeping and any Inves>tment opportunity. This arrangement will be known to you and my personal Assistant because if i get an attorney,there is every possibility that the informations might be exposed unlike, say, what your husband died of? and with an unknown person in the society who is well furnished and educated,this transaction will be 100% successful if you follow our guidelines i assure you of that fact because with his assistance,no one will have an idea of what i am doing provided you keep this business strictly to yourself. He might be dealing with you directly for security reasons as the case may be.

In view of the above, if you are willing to assist for our mutual benefits, we will have to negotiate on your Percentage share of the $20,000,000 that will be kept in your position for a while and invested in your name for my trust pending when my Daughter, Zahwa, will come of age and take full responsibility of her Family Estate/inheritance. but is she cute? Please note that this is a golden opportunity that comes once in life time and more so, if you are honest, I am going to entrust more funds in your care as this is one of the legacy we keep for our children.

In case you don't accept please do not let me out to the security and international media ah, nobody reads blogs anyway as I am giving you this information in total trust and confidence I will greatly appreciate if you accept my proposal in good faith.
Please expedite action and reply to: Email: suhaarafat@europe.com.
Yours sincerely,
Suha Arafat
So typical for Suha. She doesn't even have a Palestinian email address.
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Friday, December 10, 2004

# Posted 6:45 PM by Patrick Belton  

WE HAVE A CONFERENCE FOR DAVID: Because he's interested in postmodernism. See, OxBloggers look out for each other.
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# Posted 1:05 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NATALIE PORTMAN: Jon Last has decided to rant about Princess Amidala and America's obsession with "pedophilia chic". Jon says it wasn't Britney or the Olsen twins who started it all, but Natalie (with an assist from Brooke Shields.)

I got two words for ya, Jonny boy: Jodie Foster. Inspired by Foster's turn as a child prostitute in Taxi Driver, John Hinckley decided to kill President Reagan in the hopes of impressing Ms. Foster.

You see, the degradation of our culture and our family values really is a threat to our democracy and the American way of life. Or if you have a slightly different opinion of Reagan and the GOP, then you may think pedophila chic is the Democrats best hope, alongside sterilization.
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# Posted 5:36 AM by Patrick Belton  

MORE FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE'S RESIDENT NYC CARPETBAGGER: And you should see what the TSA does to carpetbags these days. There's a rather intriguing lunch briefing sponsored by the UN Democracy Caucus at the UN on December 16. Not only is there the perennial advantage of free food, but the Community of Democracies movement is a very interesting push, sponsored in the Clinton administration by Secretary Albright and in the current administration by Under Secretary Dobriansky, to make the UN cohere more closely to the Wilsonian vision of a democratic assembly of democracies, by rendering the democratic members into a coherent voting bloc. If anyone goes, please email around and let us know what you find out.
The Council for a Community of Democracies, the United Nations Association-USA, the Democracy Coalition Project, Freedom House, and the Transnational Radical Party will sponsor a luncheon briefing on the United Nations Democracy Caucus at the UN headquarters in New York City on December 16, 2005. At its founding conference in Warsaw in June 2000, the Community of Democracies (CD) endorsed the creation of a caucus of nations sharing common democratic values at the United Nations. On September 22, 2004, the UN Democracy Caucus, composed of member states of the CD, formally met for the first time at the foreign ministers level at the UN General Assembly. The December 16 event will explore how the UN Democracy Caucus can coordinate common positions at the UN to advance the principles of democracy and human rights.

For information, contact Amy Phillips at Freedom House, at this email.
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Thursday, December 09, 2004

# Posted 5:09 PM by Patrick Belton  

IRAN AND NORTH KOREA NOT JUST FIGMENTS OF BUSH'S IMAGINATION: A producer for a television newsmagazine was kind enough to ask my opinion about a common British perception that Iran and North Korea present no threat to the west or the world, and are only figments of a feverish Texas imagination. (I'd hate to see what they'd think about the Twins.) I drew together a few thoughts, and since we haven't written that much lately about either country here, I thought I might share a redacted version here.
A point I frequently find myself having to make to friends in this country is that, occasionally, some things are true even if Bush believes them. There are threats emanating from both North Korea and Iran at the moment, even if it isn't as clear what ought to be done in response to those threats. You mention the demographic of twenty and thirty year olds; in my experience, young members of the Foreign Office and other national security services have roughly the same appraisal of threat in those two cases as their American generational and occupational counterparts. I think in both nations, there is a segment of liberals with the most noble of political beliefs who impute the same to the leaders of Pyongyang and Tehran, and who overestimate dangerously the rationality, morality, and bona fides of foreign dictators. The Chamberlain tradition is alive and well on both sides of the Atlantic, but there are also political liberals in both nations with more sophisticated understandings of the world, who do not expect negotiation and international law to resolve all political difficulties involving illiberal leaders as in the best of worlds. Traditions of pacificism and Quakerism are admirable as signpoints toward a better world, but the reins of state in our imperfect times have never been entrusted to their adherents. So I think the journalistic tradition of transatlantic division is generally overstated, as is reflected by the public opinion research; New Yorkers are not far removed from Londoners and Oxbridge students, and religious, nationalist West Country Tories have more than a thing or two in common with Middle Americans, though the thought might discomfit some here.

Iran has acceded (in 2003) to the non-proliferation treaty - unlike India and Pakistan, which when they exploded nuclear weapons in May 1998 were under no treaty commitment not to acquire a nuclear capacity. (North Korea pledged in 1994 not to pursue nuclear weapons, in an Agreed Framework agreement which it promptly violated; it was also an NPT signatory from 1985 until 2003, when it withdrew.) Compared with Libya's cooperation with the IAEA about its undeclared nuclear programme since December 2003, Iranian officials have not been especially forthcoming about the extent or activities of their nuclear programme. Inspections have revealed its failure to report importation of uranium from China in 1991, as well as the existence of undeclared uranium and the existence of more sophisticated centrifuge designs and a laser enrichment programme. Two centrifuge enrichment plants at Natanz are partially underground, making them less transparent to observers and inspectors. The IAEA has stated that Iran has not met all of its NPT obligations, but it has not yet declared Iran in violation of the NPT; this is sure to happen shortly, raising the question of what the western response will be.

These will almost certainly take the form of an enhanced, more intrusive, and inevitably imperfect inspections regime, ideally implemented with a strong degree of political commitment from Europeans and Americans as well as other involved nations. Predominant thinking in the foreign policy community in Washington is that the principal downsides to any military intervention in Iran aimed at preventing Iran from arriving at a nuclear capability are that Iran has to this point not done as much as it could to foment Shi'a opposition to U.S. and Iraqi forces in Iraq; it would be difficult to strike all proliferation sites, many of which being closely held secrets we have not penetrated; and Iran's ability to retaliate, with its massive intelligence apparatus worldwide and depending on the state of its technological attainment, may well extend to include a dirty bomb placed in the San Francisco Bay or New York's East River. Further, the populace of Iran, though the Iranian government has becoming increasingly authoritarian and repressive toward its dissidents, is fairly pro-American, pro-democratic, and anti-regime. While it is difficult to foresee a peaceful transition of power to a democratic form of government, an eventual democratic government in Iran may likely prove a stabilising force and significant regional ally for the United States and Britain. Though North Korea harbours less rosy long-term prospects, though it is unable to sustain a long-fought war with its military's chronic fuel shortages, its ability to exact reprisals for a preemptive strike is also persuasive: North Korea has for the last several years been building up specific elements of its military forces to present as much of an artillery and rocket threat to Seoul as possible; Seoul is only 25 miles from the DMZ; Pyongyang may also attempt to launch one of its ballistic missiles under development, such as the Ro-dong medium-range missile or an improved Taepo-Dong 2, a three-stage experimental intercontinental missile capable of striking North America with a nuclear warhead. In addition, North Korean agents frequently and easily infiltrate their southern neighbour across the de-militarised zone, and saboteurs are widely expected to be stationed in places to wreak havok upon South Korean civilian life and infrastructure in the event of a war; a scenario discussed by western intelligence agencies has it attempting to secretly emplace an experimental nuclear bomb within Seoul, with its population of 10.3 million. In the recent six-party discussions, North Korea has been eccentric, pulling back from initially agreed agreements brokered by a helpful Beijing; its past record of compliance with nuclear agreements is unblemished: it has broken each one, generally in bids to blackmail western payments, but often more quietly by engaging in proliferation purchases from Pakistan and other purveying nations.

We may have no other option in the end than to reconcile ourselves to a nuclear Iran and North Korea. There is the touching notion that both countries will adopt the Indian model, and become duly responsible nuclear and regional powers. Unlike India, though, neither country is liberal, democratic, or within the international system; both have ties to international criminal and terrorist networks seeking different parts of the nuclear puzzle (such as the uranium enrichment centrifuges sold by Pakistan to Iran, and other enrichment technologies which it sold to North Korea and Libya). There is the danger, then, that either country or both might not follow the Indian model; and what would we do then?

Either country selling plutonium to terrorists would lead predictably to the daily elevated danger of dirty bombs in European and American cities, possibly rendering Mayfair or Upper Manhattan uninhabitable for generations; nuclear blasts by any terrorist organisation which obtains nuclear technology would kill civilians on a scale making the horrific bombing of the Second World War seem quaint by comparison; nuclear blackmail will neutralise America's controversial military might and give regional adventurers such as future Saddams or Slobodan Milosevics a free hand in pursuing whatever territorial aggressions or genocides toward their own people or others they may wish to attempt. The picture is not a pleasant one.

There is furthermore a rather dangerous supposition, often voiced by officers within the State Department's Near East Bureau, that the current Iranian government represents a workable Middle Eastern democracy, and left to its own devices, will blossom into an exemplary Islamic democracy. In fact, rather the opposite is true: human rights violations within Iran equal any of the world's most authoritarian regimes, and the trends at the moment are not toward greater democracy but toward greater marginalisation of reformers, who have lost their only seat of power in the assembly, and may have even more to lose in the future than that. (q.v.: peaceful Tehran University student protesters from 1999 remain in prison; secret squads operating under the authority of the Iranian judiciary have tortured internet journalists and civil society activists to write incriminatory 'confession letters'; see Human Rights Watch reports from Nov. 8 and Dec. 6). It is also a regime which, together with Syria, heavily finances terrorist and military activities by the Hezbollah organisation, which contrary to a frequent misconception, is not a fuzzy charity and has kidnapped western civilians (including British journalist John McCarthy, the Archbishop of Canterbury's special envoy Terry Waite, American journalist Terry Anderson, and Irish citizen Brian Keenan), and attacked civilians in the Western Hemisphere (bombing the Israeli Embassy in Argentina in 1992, killing 29, and an Argentine Jewish community centre in 1994, killing 95). If one is to be truly for liberal government and social democracy, then you must be for these things abroad as well as at home. The tradition of 19th century liberalism did not limit itself to parliamentary or Corn Law reform in Britain or constitutionalism on the Continent, but believed quite strongly that the right to live under enlightened, liberal government extended to all people. We could do worse than to live up to this tradition.

I'm eager to be of help however else I can - please do just let know. with all best wishes,
Patrick
I'd be grateful for any thoughts on either side of this debate, or links to posts or other online resources on the subject, and will share ones that seem particularly useful. I haven't been thinking that much about either country lately, and am eager to. (Although, in the 'coming attractions for early next year' category, I have been thinking a bit about French Muslims and Indian foreign policy....) (Those are separate pieces.)

Not that this is as scintillating a conversation, of course, as whether David or I will lose our virginianity first. But they can't all be.
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# Posted 10:43 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

GEOGRAPHY LESSON: Patrick, I am more than willing to admit, as a postmodernist would, that "North" and "South" are relative concepts. But until the Mason-Dixon line migrates south to Richmond, you will not be a "northeastern" hawk.

One might object that being northeastern is not a geographical fact, but a state of mind. But I still think that all those who have met Patrick would agree that his laid-back, gentlemanly charm is disntinctly Southern.

I am the bagel. Dr. Chafetz is the lox. But you, Mr. Belton, are the okra & grits.

UPDATE TO PATRICK'S UPDATE: Mr. Belton, you seem to be taking geographic postmodernism to new heights. How can you "formally immigrate" to New York while living in the United Kingdom? Are you the blogospheric equivalent of Hillary Clinton?

But, yes, you have divined my inner motive: I now am good ol' Virginia boy (wearing a cowboy hat as I type this post) and I want us to have a state in common, although I may have to settle for a state of mind.
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# Posted 6:58 AM by Patrick Belton  

THE. MOST TROUBLING. THING. I'VE READ. THIS. YEAR. (No, this isn't a link to David's 'grits' post.)
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# Posted 5:22 AM by Patrick Belton  

FROM ONE NORTHEASTERN HAWK TO ANOTHER: Hang in there, Pale Male; this blog is pulling for you.


(NOTE: David, playing nativist gatekeeper, disputes my ability to formally immigrate to New York. Ever. Incidentally, I've kept all of my receipts, for absentee ballots cast, statesside time spent, and Woody Allen movies watched. Then again, David is a Virginia good ol' boy now, so maybe he just wants us to have a state in common. Awww.)
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Wednesday, December 08, 2004

# Posted 5:13 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DEAD HORSE BEATEN: I may not be the first person to complain about the jargon-laden surrealism of "post-modern" scholars, but complain I will because I have spent far too many hours over the past couple weeks grappling with such patent absurdity. Here's a sample of it for you, from Imperial Encounters by Prof. R.L. Doty:
When US troops march into Grenada, this is certainly "real", though the march of troops across a piece of geographic space is in itself singularly uninteresting and socially irrelevant outside of the representations that produce that meaning. It is only when "American" is attached to the troops and "Grenada" to the geographic space that meaning is created. (Page 5)
I will hazard a guess that such events, in and of themselves, were neither uninteresting nor irrelevant from the perspective of the "American", "Cuban" and "Grenadian" soldiers who were "shot" and "killed" during the "battle". Alas, they might have been saved if only Foucault had been on the scene to inform them that "death" is a social construction and a product of false consciousness!
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# Posted 1:34 PM by Patrick Belton  

CHAG SAMEACH to all of our readers and friends! Incidentally, I play a pretty mean dreidel, if any of our readers would like to make the trip out to Oxford.

I also just had a lovely piece of cake given to me by a man standing beside a just-lit menorah in city centre who I stopped to say hello to. It wasn't until after I finished eating that it occurred to me that, should anyone happen to want to get rid of most of the Jews and Semitophiles around Oxford, one of the more efficient ways to go about it would probably be precisely .... to procure a just-lit menorah, make some cyanide-laced chocolate cake, and start giving it out to anyone who stops to say hello. Fortunately, however, this was not the case. So it's a happy Chanukkah!
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# Posted 6:54 AM by Patrick Belton  

THIS BLOG* LIKES MEXICO. This blog also likes New York city. So when there's a several week long festival celebrating New York's quickly growing Mexican community, it sounds like the sort of thing we would link to.

(*Or at least this third of it.)

Blogger woes update: This blog also likes things that are international, but was still somewhat taken aback when blogger's homepage came up in Japanese just now.
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Tuesday, December 07, 2004

# Posted 10:53 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE LATEST CONSPIRACY: Anti-globalization celebrity Naomi Klein argues that the US military has decided to kill off, arrest or intimidate those doctors, journalists and clerics who publicize civilian casualties in Iraq.

On a more amusing note, Klein has noticed how some Americans are outraged about the sudden prominence of James Blake Miller, the infamous cigarette-smoking marine of Falluja. One troubled woman asked the Dallas Morning News, "Are there no photos of non-smoking soldiers?" Klein observes:
Yes, that's right: letter writers from across the nation are united in their outrage - not that the steely-eyed, smoking soldier makes mass killing look cool, but that the laudable act of mass killing makes the grave crime of smoking look cool.
The "mass killing'" that concerns Klein is the insidious American plan to kill off the entire population of Iraq with second-hand smoke. If our boys have learned anything from the insurgents, it's that beheading simply isn't efficient. Even suicide car bombs can't take out more than a few dozen civilians. If you want to take out thousands at a time, you need WMD -- Weapons of Marlboro Destruction.
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# Posted 10:48 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OBSCURE FACT OF THE DAY: Canada is the only country that allows Americans to apply for refugee status. Sometimes, this information can come in handy. [Subscription required, related article here.]
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# Posted 10:29 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NEWS YOU CAN USE: Hooters has opened its first restaurant in Croatia. According to
John Weber, Executive Vice President of Operations for Hooters, "English is very common in Croatia, and the citizens are very excited about bringing American concepts into the country, such as Hooters."
I'm as patriotic as the next guy, but somehow I don't think that the appeal of Hooters rests on the fact that it is American.
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# Posted 6:13 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MANDATORY STERLIZATION CAN SAVE THE DEMOCRATS: That's the lesson I've decided to take away from Jonah Goldberg's response to David Brooks' latest column.
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# Posted 5:58 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE SECRET OF SUCCESS? DROP DEAD! Ray Charles has picked up seven Grammy nominations for "Genius Loves Company", the best selling album of his entire career. (No disrespect is meant toward the incredibly talented Mr. Charles -- I just think that this sudden burst of recognition emphasizes that all of us, both experts and common men alike, have a very superficial notion of taste.)

In other Grammy news, Green Day picked up six nominations for 'American Idiot', its very catchy effort to provide a rock 'n' roll equivalent to Fahrenheit 9/11. Billy Joe and the boys deserve credit for creating songs that make almost impossible not to sing along, but somehow I suspect that Green Day's six nominations are a result of lyrics like these:
Well maybe I'm the faggot America.
I'm not a part of a redneck agenda.
Now everybody do the propaganda.
And sing along in the age of paranoia...

Don't wanna be an American idiot.
One nation controlled by the media.
Information age of hysteria.
It's calling out to idiot America.
Sacre bleu!
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# Posted 9:59 AM by Patrick Belton  

AS THE CIA WOMAN SAYS TO THE PROFESSOR AT THE OPENING OF NORTH BY NORTHWEST, I know I shouldn't find this so funny, but I do.
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# Posted 8:49 AM by Patrick Belton  

A PIECE I'D LIKE TO READ, IF SOMEONE'D LIKE TO WRITE IT: Sickened as I was like other observers by the scenes which appeared over the summer from Abu Ghraib, I'm left by the onset of Charles Graner's trial by court-martial in Fort Hood, Texas with a sense that there ought to be more coverage in the press on the reflection Abu Ghraib casts on American prisons at home. The Washington Post's profile of Spc. Graner (June 5, David Finkel and Christian Davenport) touched on the fact that Graner's day job in Pennsylvania was, actually, as a prison guard, and that images from the Fayette County Prison and State Correctional Institution-Greene rang eerily familiar to the images of Abu Ghraib; but I'm not aware of any further journalistic coverage of the point since. On the broader subject of execrable, and illegal, violations of inmates' rights in prisons, Human Rights Watch has written a report on the subject, and Slate touched once on prison rape (Oct. 1, 2003, Robert Weisberg and David Mills), but my impression is that the subject is generally not given due attention, and the Graner trial seems like it might provide an appropriate moment.

Note to editors: the piece that I have in mind would probe a bit deeper into the stateside penal institutions Graner served in, by tracking down prisoners and guards from Graner's time there for interview; review the evidence to hand about abuse in prisons in general and assess competing possibilities, and past attempts, of reform; and argue prison abuse in America doesn't receive necessary attention - whether because of notions prisoners deserve what comes to them, reluctance of civil rights organisations to associate themselves with prisoners' causes, or simpler problems of lack of resources.

Speaking as a liberal hawk, whose cautious support for American and British war aims in Iraq has been closely premised on their humanitarian rationale, it's not clear that we can separate the reformist impulse for a public order of human dignity at home from its counterpart abroad. Abu Ghraib makes it painfully clear that on both counts, there's much more to be done.


P.S. Low posting due to blogger being down. (i.e., the program, not me.)
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Monday, December 06, 2004

# Posted 6:32 AM by Patrick Belton  

FRENCH POLICE PLACE PLASTIC EXPLOSIVES IN UNSUSPECTING PASSENGERS' LUGGAGE: Ahem, you know, guys, maybe your government's taking the whole 'subcontractor for the terrorists of the world' thing a bit far....
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# Posted 1:31 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LOW-HANGING FRUIT: Yglesias bashes The Nation.
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# Posted 1:30 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IF KERRY WON, THIS PHOTO WOULD'VE BEEN HILARIOIUS.
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Sunday, December 05, 2004

# Posted 11:20 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WaPo CELEBRATES MEDIA-BASHING BLOGGER: If it sounds to good to be true, that's because it is. The blogger in question is "Hugh Upton", a 26-year old from Manhattan and and the pseudonymous author of Iraq in Pictures, hosted on blogspot. Compared to Mr. Upton, Michael Moore is an exemplar of probity and non-partisanship.

The correspondent responsible for celebrating Mr. Upton's accomplishments is Thomas Ricks, who contrasts Mr. Upton's forthright work with the disingenuous propaganda emanating from the Defense Department. Ricks reports that
The military's presentation depicts the fight for Fallujah as a liberation of a city from the insurgents. The Web log posts far more graphic wire service and other photos, and tends to point the finger of blame for civilian suffering at the military.

Judging by the reaction of several soldiers and military experts, a comparison of the two presentations shows, among other things, how the might of the U.S. military can be matched by a single blogger working part time.
To Mr. Ricks' credit, he describes the DoD presentation on Falluja both accurately and in detail. [If you don't have Power Point, you can download a free Power Point reader directly from Microsoft.] It is also to Mr. Ricks' credit that he gives some indication of Mr. Upton's style of argumentation. For example,
In the version of the Web site that was up last week, the first image on the site showed a malnourished Iraqi baby, wide-eyed and screaming in pain, under the sarcastic headline, "another grateful Iraqi civilian."
Yet for reasons unknown, Mr. Ricks avoids reporting on the more inflammatory -- as well as more representative -- aspects of Mr. Upton's website. For example, one post from November 17th is entitled "What exactly do you mean when you use the word genocide?" Apparently, what Mr. Upton means is not the wholesale slaughter of civlians a la Bosnia or Rwanda. Rather, his definition of genocide refers to the American killing of Sunni insurgents, or as Mr. Upton prefers to call them "resistors".

That's right -- insurgents, not civlians. Perhaps, perhaps I could understand if Mr. Upton described the death of Iraqi civlians as a form of genocide. Yet none of the captions under the photos in the November 17th even mentions civilians. Two of the photographs depict "resistors" while the rest depict unidentified corpses that also seem to belong to insurgents.

But let's stay focused on civlians. There are many photographs on Mr. Upton's site of suffering civlians. In numerous instances, the captions identify these civilians as the victims of American attacks. Yet none of the photographs depict the hundreds and perhaps thousands of civlians who have been killed by suicide bombings, IEDs, and other reckless attacks by the insurgents.

On occasion, Mr. Upton includes photos of Iraqis "found murdered" or killed by "unknown gunmen". There is even one photos of an Iraqi policemen "injured in attack by resistors". Injured, not killed. Because only Americans kill.

Of course, Mr. Upton is entitled to his opinions. But it is incumbent upon Mr. Ricks, a professional correspondent, to describe Mr. Upton's opinions with a certain measure of accuracy. However, this is the passage that Mr. Ricks chooses to excerpt from Mr. Upton's writing on the Iraq in Pictures website:
"This is not an antiwar site. You can visit this site and appreciate what it's doing and still support the war. . . . We need the whole story." He added that those wanting to see "the other side" of the story should "Go to Fox News, CNN, USA Today, WSJ, the Washington Post, or any of the other outlets that has these pictures and doesn't show them."
Yes, you can visit the website and still support the war. I did and I do. Yet Mr. Ricks leaves us with the very false impression that Mr. Upton's primary interest is education, rather than advocacy of his radical anti-American views.

Even though Mr. Ricks is smart enough not to express his opinion about Mr. Upton website explicitly, he clearly suggests that Mr. Upton's work is far more persuasive than that of the public relations officers at the Pentagon. After quoting one retired officer who provides lukewarm praise for his colleagues at the Pentagon, Mr. Ricks writes that
"As far as the blog site, this is information operations at its finest," said one Marine officer who has served in Iraq. "IO is about influence, and this piece tries to influence people by depicting the human cost of war."

An Army soldier who fought in the Sunni Triangle last year and maintains a blog himself agreed. "The winner has to be the blog," he said. "There's something all too visceral about seeing the pictures of the dead and wounded, on both sides, which overwhelms static displays of weaponry" in the military presentation.
With all due respect to the servicemen in question, Mr. Upton's site is not primarily concerned with "the human cost of war". Yet just in case these officers' comments weren't persuasive enough, Mr. Ricks closes out his article by citing the judgment of an "expert in Iraqi affairs" well known to those of us in the blogosphere:
Juan Cole, a University of Michigan expert on Iraqi affairs who has a blog called "Informed Comment" (http://www.juancole.com/), came to a similar but broader conclusion: "What the two presentations show us is that the U.S. military is full of brave and skilled warriors who can defeat their foes, but is still no good at counterinsurgency operations, and is wretched at winning hearts and minds."
How impressive. A left liberal professor who insists that the US military is incapable of winning hearts and minds because a 26-year old leftist in Manhattan is against the war. (Of course, Mr. Ricks doesn't tell you anything about Prof. Cole's politics. He simply describes Prof. Cole as an "expert".)

Even though it is hard to understand how Mr. Ricks could provide such a deceptive impression of Mr. Upton's a website, one may infer a certain motivation from something that Mr. Ricks wrote not long ago in the Post. In article about a new exhibit at the Smithsonian, Mr. Ricks wrote that
Some might be put off by the loaded title, "The Price of Freedom: Americans at War." But behind that red-state rubric is a well-balanced show, with enough combat gear to please the warriors, enough emphasis on casualties and Indians and blacks and women to comfort the loyal opposition, and enough balance to satisfy most historians.
If Mr. Ricks believes that an emphasis on casualties (inflicted or sustained by our side) as the essence of "balance" and "loyal opposition", than perhaps Mr. Ricks sought to promote such balance and opposition by lavishing praise on Mr. Upton.

Perhaps Mr. Ricks decision to misrepresent Mr. Upton's website was only subconscious. According to Phil Carter, who knows more about the military than anyone else I have ever met, Mr. Ricks is "the best defense reporter out there." Be that as it may, I still think that Mr. Ricks has a lot to learn.
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# Posted 7:53 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHAT'S DUMBER THAN A 1,800 HARVARD STUDENTS? Absolutely nothing.
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# Posted 7:41 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FOR SALE: You never know what you'll find for sale on the UVA maillist. For example:
I have for sale a WW2 German K98 Mauser rifle.
Nice condition
Very collectable
$250.00
$300.00 with bayonnette
So if someone buys the rifle without the bayonette, will this guy put up the bayonette for sale by itself? I think I would buy and give it to Patrick as a Chanukah present.

And now here's my favorite ad from the UVA list:
VW Jetta For Sale
97GL, auto, black, 120k
Featured: moonroof, cd changer, alloy wheel, security system, new tires and timing belt
Very clean and in good condition, sale price: 4300
So what's the big deal about that? Well, let me provide you with some context. This same ad has been running for over two months. Back when I was looking for a car, I test drove this Jetta. The price back then was $4800.

I asked the owner if there was a reason he was asking for 20% above Blue Book (which was already more than the car was worth). He said he was just charging what the market would bear. I knew back then that he was out of his mind, and dropped a hint to that effect.

In addition, the car's moonroof is broken and this guy still isn't honest enough to mention that in his ad. So, one of my favorite things about the UVA maillist is that I can get my recommended daily allowance of schadenfreude by seeing this ad run again and again.

The question is, how much further will the price drop before it gets sold? And will I test drive it again just to make sure Mr. Jetta gets the point?

Nah, that's rude.
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# Posted 3:22 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WWW.PRISON.BLOGSPOT.COM: Yeah, I know that you can get thrown in jail for anything in Iran. Still, it's just bizarre to think of us pajama-clad folks as being dangerous.
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# Posted 3:01 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ELEPHANTS BREEDING LIKE RABBITS: Republicans have more babies. Thus, it is imperative "for Democrats to return to a worldview centered around the baby-making electorate." Sounds like a Bill Clinton demographic.
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# Posted 2:49 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IT MAY BE FREE, BUT YOU CAN'T JUST TAKE IT: Someone has stolen all 2,400 copies of the most recent issue of the Yale Free Press, a student-run libertarian/conservative paper. I have a special place in my heart for the YFP, since it once skewered me as a soft-on-crime, guilt-laden liberal hack. These days, I have to pay people to write stuff like that about me.
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# Posted 2:21 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

2004 WEBLOG AWARDS: Lots of categories, lots of choices. Here are a few select endorsements from this third of OxBlog:

Best Liberal Blog: Matt Yglesias
Best Election Coverage: Real Clear Politics
Best of the Top 100: Dan Drezner
Best Blog Ranked Below 2500: The Moderate Voice.
Best Group Blog: Volokh (...although we won't hold it against you if you vote for OxBlog.)
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# Posted 2:18 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

GOOD COP, BAD COP: Phil Carter says Bernard Kerik is the right man to replace Tom Ridge. Fred Kaplan says Kerik is just another White House errand boy. They both make good points. I guess Kerik is a reasonably good choice given the political constraints on this situation.
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# Posted 2:03 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

INEFFECTIVE SELF-OBSESSESED PROTESTERS: The Economist and the WSJ Online have added their voices of protest to George Will and others (e.g. OxBlog) who are up in arms about the kneejerk liberalism of American universities.

In other words, all the usual suspects have spoken up and no one else is really interested in this issue. And why should anyone care if they don't have a personal or ideological stake in this fight?

Compared to journalists, professors inhabit a world that is far more distant from the daily life of American politics and far more impervious to change. Thus, most conservatives can spend their time more productively on other issues while liberals have no incentive to defend the professoriate.

In closing, let me just say that I cannot wait to finish my dissertation.

UPDATE: Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby has joined our little chorus.
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Saturday, December 04, 2004

# Posted 11:51 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

YOU WON'T SEE THIS IN THE NYT: Consider as a whole the four columns that appeared on the WaPo op-ed page this past Friday morning. One of them is the Henry Kissinger column mentioned below. The rest were written by columnists on the WaPo stuff.

Two of the three columns were written by staunch liberals -- EJ Dionne and David Ignatius. Both of them know how to think outside the box in a way that Dowd, Krugman and Herbert simply can't.

Dionne's column is a response to the 3rd Circuit decision that allows law schools to expel military recruiters from campus without risking their access to federal funds. Like Dionne, I fully support the open integration of homosexuals into the United States military.

Yet Dionne argues that law schools should voluntarily allow the recruiters back on campus because
Liberals especially should be worried about the growing divide between the armed forces and many parts of our society. They should acknowledge that if liberals stay out of the military, their chances of influencing the military culture are reduced to close to zero...

The best way to change the military and to create greater fairness in sharing the burdens of defending our country is to embrace the call to service, not reject it. By opening their doors to recruiters, our universities can strengthen our democracy.
I agree.

Ignatius' column consists of a description rather than argument, yet is also demonstrates an impressive ability to transcend the conventional wisdom of the liberal left. The subject of Ignatius' column is the tremendous but unheralded success of our military logistics officers in Iraq, who have kept our frontline soliders in the field in spite of constant attacks on our supply chain.

Finally, there is this column by Charles Krauthammer. Unsurprisingly, it contains the expected measure of Europe-bashing that one might expect from certain neo-conservatives (although not necessarily Robert Kagan). Yet Krauthammer also asks that we "all join hands in praise of the young people braving the cold in the streets of Kiev."

That sort of identification with a popular revolts is not your everday brand of conservatism. Now that David Brooks has replaced William Safire as the voice of the right at the NYT, Krauthammer may not be alone. The question is, when will Bill Keller decide that the liberal dinosaurs on his staff should go the way of their conservative colleague?
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# Posted 11:25 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A WEIRD DAY FOR OXBLOG: First, we decided to praise Henry Kissinger. Now we're going to say some nice things about George Will. It's as if OxBlog decided to betray everything it ever stood.

Anyhow, Will does have a good column up about the unmitigated liberalism of the American professoriate. In his column, Will reports on some interesting findings
about professors registered with the two major parties or with liberal or conservative minor parties:

Cornell: 166 liberals, 6 conservatives.
Stanford: 151 liberals, 17 conservatives.
Colorado: 116 liberals, 5 conservatives.
UCLA: 141 liberals, 9 conservatives.

The nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics reports that in 2004, of the top five institutions in terms of employee per capita contributions to presidential candidates, the third, fourth and fifth were Time Warner, Goldman Sachs and Microsoft. The top two were the University of California system and Harvard, both of which gave about 19 times more money to John Kerry than to George W. Bush.
In the second half of his column, Will goes a bit too far when he argues that the death of intellectual diversity on America's campuses is the product of liberal professors' overt antagonism toward anything conservative.

Will's argument draws heavily on a recent article by Mark Bauerlein in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Even though I have no reason to dispute any of the anecdotes that Bauerlein recounts, I think that he ignores the degree to which the conservatives' departure from the ivory tower is an elective response to the unpleasantness of being in such a rigid intellectual environment.

I think that Bauerlein should also pay more attention to an important phenomenon that provides evidence to support his main argument, namely conservatives' voluntary suppression of their own dissent in what they perceive to be a hostile environment.

For example, I once had a colleague to whom I suggested publishing an article in the Weekly Standard. He immediately responded that doing so was unthinkable because it would severely damage his prospects for professional advancement.

At first, I was somewhat dismayed by his decision not to speak out as a matter of principle. Yet because I have no interest in becoming a tenured professor and no family to support, I put nothing on the line when I publish in the Standard.

More importantly, my colleague's patient discipline will ensure that there is one more moderate voice that may play some role in restoring a sense of balance to America's campuses. As the leftists of the last generation might have said, it is wiser to embark on a "long march through the institutions" instead of simply turning one's back on them.
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# Posted 5:10 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHOUDA THUNKIT? This may be this first time that OxBlog has had anything good to say about Henry Kissinger. It may also be the last.

Regardless, I'd recommend taking a minute or two out of your day to read old Henry's essay on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in yesterday's WaPo. [No permalink -- due to copyright issues it is only available in the print edition.]

The one point on which I'd take issue with Kissinger is exactly the one you might expect: democracy in the PA. To be fair, Kissinger is actually quite good on this point. His essays speaks out forcefully against corruption and lawlessness while recognizing that transparent institutions (his words, not mine) are critical to the success of a viable (and peaceful) Palestinian state.

The lesser point on which I disagree with Dr. Kissinger is his suggestion that Israel
Must not insist on postponing the beginning of the peace process until democratization on the West Bank is complete. But it has every right to demand the acceptance of genuine coexistence and the disavowal of terrorism before it agrees to move tens of thousands of its settlers from the West Bank.
First of all, I don't believe that Israel has made such a demand. More importantly, as the situation in Iraq illustrates, democratic reforms may actually be considerably easier to achieve than a disavowal of terrorism. Whereas disavowing terrorism represents an outright concession to the Israelis in the West Bank and the Americans in Iraq, democracy is something of a win-win proposition.

Speaking more broadly, Kissinger seems to be making the same conceptual error that damaged John Kerry's proposals for Iraq, i.e. the proposition that stability can be achieved without democratization. This proposition, of course, is an extension of the classic Realist doctrine that the relationship between foreign policy and regime type is tenuous at best.

Yet as Bob Kagan has argued quite persuasively (with OxBlog's hearty endorsement), democratization is the most plausible road to achieving stability, even if its accomplishments so far are less than impressive. Kagan's column was about Iraq, but I think the same lesson applies to the PA.

Since Arafat's legitimacy rested on reputation as anti-Israeli figher, he could not make peace without risking his leadership of the Palestinian movement. In contrast, a Palestinian leader with a popular mandate can make peace without sacrificing his own ambitions.

Naturally, the inherent risk in the election process in the PA is that it may result in the election of a President (e.g. Marwan Barghouti) who refuses to disavow anti-Israeli terrorism. Yet the election of a figure such as Barghouti would at least force the Palestinians to take responsibility for their decisions. After five more years of war, they may well vote for a pro-peace candidate.

Five years is a long time to wait, but what is it compared to the last decade of chaos under Arafat? Throughout that time, Palestinians could blame Israel both for the persistence of conflict as well as the failure of internal reform within the PA.

Barghouti might even turn out to be something of as Sharon -- elected on a hard-line platform only to recognize its futility and then initiate the pursuit of peace. Or perhaps that is only pipe-dream. Even so, the bottom line is that the peace process cannot move forward until Palestinians take joint respoinsibility for its outcome.

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Friday, December 03, 2004

# Posted 2:18 PM by Patrick Belton  

SMOKING CRACK: A HOW-TO GUIDE FOR TEENS, and other new Microsoft-hosted blogs.
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# Posted 8:43 AM by Patrick Belton  

A FATEFUL YEAR FOR UKRAINE: We're grateful to have a piece today on the Ukrainian elections from the Carnegie Endowment's Anders Åslund, who directs Carnegie's Russia and Eurasia programme. Dr. Åslund, a former Swedish diplomat who has advised the Ukrainian government on economic matters, writes this to us from Kiev.
“I am looking at the next year with fear. Everybody agrees that the [October 2004 presidential] elections will be the scariest and dirtiest ever,” said Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma recently, and he should know, because he is widely perceived as the main threat to democracy in the country.

These elections are truly fateful. They can bring about a definitive democratic breakthrough or lead to its collapse. Ukraine’s geopolitical orientation is also up for grabs.

The latest opinion poll gave Kuchma 6 percent support to compare with 29 percent for Viktor Yushchenko, the leader of the democratic opposition and a respected former Prime Minister and Chairman of the Central Bank. Even so, Kuchma appears to be considering running for a third term. The current Constitution does not permit that, but, since Kuchma controls the Constitutional Court, he is likely to overturn that provision.

At the same time, Kuchma is trying to swiftly amend the constitution by hook and crook to reduce the presidential powers, showing that he is truly worried that Yushchenko may win.

Behind Kuchma stands a few big business clans, or oligarchs, who dominate government, parliament, media and security services. Their concern is that a new regime will undertake a redistribution of the considerable property they have amassed and prosecute them for crimes committed. The Ukrainian communists are marginalized but still form a third force.

The outcome of this struggle is no foregone conclusion. The prospects for democracy appear much more promising in Ukraine than in Russia. Power has not been consolidated in the security services, and competition prevails among the leading business groups. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian democratic opposition is much stronger and better organized than in Russia, primarily in Our Ukraine, a moderate center-right bloc.

Unlike Russians, Ukrainians are neither passive nor resigned. In the March 2002 parliamentary elections 70 percent of the voters participated, and 70 percent voted for parties opposing President Kuchma. Even so, the elections resulted in a hung parliament because half the seats are allocated in one-man constituencies, often purchased by rich businessmen. The joke is that two-thirds of the Ukrainian parliamentarians are millionaires, and that is probably not far from the truth.

Accidentally, the Ukrainian elections are scheduled for October 31, just two days prior to the US presidential elections. If anything goes awry in the Ukrainian elections, it will haunt the US administration. As heavy Russian interference is expected, Ukraine is set to be a major bone of contention between the US and Russia in 2004.

The US and Russia are bound to disagree upon most things in Ukraine. Russia will support Kuchma or whatever candidate he puts up, while the US will favor Yushchenko. While the US advocates democracy, the Russian leadership prefers a more authoritarian regime.

Aggressive nationalism is reasserting itself in Russia. Many nationalists entering the new Russian Duma do not conceal their contempt for Ukrainian independence. They advocate Ukraine’s union with Russia, ultimately eliminating Ukrainian sovereignty. The Russian government offers Ukraine with a “Common Economic Space” with Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan in place of the World Trade Organization. The democratic opposition, by contrast, favors closer ties with the West, including Ukraine’s entry into NATO and the European Union.

With the roaring revival of the Russian economy, Russian corporations are swiftly expanding abroad, notably in Ukraine. The most contentious Russian economic interests involve energy, notably the ownership of pipelines and power utilities in Ukraine.

The US has a big presence in Ukraine, and it can play a major role. The Ukrainian opposition’s desire is to have election observers at all of Ukraine’s 33,000 polling stations. The Ukrainian diaspora in North America could mobilize that many volunteers, needing only the seal of approval from the Organization of Cooperation and Security in Europe (OSCE).

The opposition also hopes for more media support. Radio Liberty/Radio Free Europe and Voice of America are as important as in the past. They need more, not less, resources. The opposition’s dream is a daily election newspaper. Foreign financing of such an undertaking is both legal and desirable.

Semi-democratic Ukraine can turn truly democratic or authoritarian, and the US can influence its fate. President George W. Bush will be either praised or blamed for the fortune of Ukraine, and rightly so.

The writer is Director of the Russian and Eurasian Program at the Carnegie for International Peace. He served as an economic advisor to the Ukrainian government from 1994 to 1997.
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Thursday, December 02, 2004

# Posted 9:24 AM by Patrick Belton  

OXBLOG AT THE MOVIES: Oh dear. Oliver Stone, having already botched the story of Alexander, is now planning to do the same for Baroness Thatcher. This seems like precisely the sort of thing that a peerage might in earlier times have protected against.

If you want a better Colin Farrell flick than Alexander (and you should, if for no other reason than I'm biased by sharing a birthweek as well as a genome with the boy from Castleknock...), go rent Intermission, possibly the best Irish film to come out in recent years, and one which riffs playfully on a number of stereotypes (lovable roguish thieves/coppers with a Celtic heart, &c) while ultimately stepping past them to knit together a rather nice love story out of a credible pastiche of characters. Second OxBlog movie recommendation: it got panned by reviewers who rather prize, say, Polanski's loving paeans in Chinatown to the camera shots in the Maltese Falcon, but if your tastes run a bit more toward continental philosophers and eccentric humour (and you are reading this blog...), then you might give I Heart Huckabees a try, which I found, in spite of its reviews, the sleeper surprise of the season.

We're happy to accept any reviewer perks the cinema houses would like to dish out on us, by the way. As long as it doesn't involve needing to go see Bridget Jones.
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# Posted 6:26 AM by Patrick Belton  

HEAR, HEAR: Thus Peter Beinart on the need for a liberalism which is as forceful an advocate of freedom and human dignity abroad as it is at home:
In sharp contrast to the first years of the cold war, post-September 11 liberalism has produced leaders and institutions--most notably Michael Moore and MoveOn--that do not put the struggle against America's new totalitarian foe at the center of their hopes for a better world. As a result, the Democratic Party boasts a fairly hawkish foreign policy establishment and a cadre of politicians and strategists eager to look tough. But, below this small elite sits a Wallacite grassroots that views America's new struggle as a distraction, if not a mirage. Two elections, and two defeats, into the September 11 era, American liberalism still has not had its meeting at the Willard Hotel. And the hour is getting late.
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# Posted 5:28 AM by Patrick Belton  

DICTIONARY COMPANY MERRIAM WEBSTER names 'blog' its word of the year. BBC helpfully points out that 'the number of people reading even the most influential blogs is tiny. Statistics by web influence ranking firm HitWise reveal that the most popular political blog racks up only 0.0051% of all net visits per day.' Oddly, though, that would make the BBC only more irrelevant, since its most read story garnered only 234,000 page views yesterday - almost exactly the number of page views Instapundit had.
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# Posted 1:45 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NEWS IS STYLE AND STYLE IS NEWS: One of the things I can't figure out about the WaPo is why most of its commentary on the media appears in the Style section. That's usually where Howard Kurtz's column shows up, not to mention this extraordinary inside account of a White House press conference.

When I say 'extraordinary', I don't necessarily mean it in a complimentary manner. Presumably without the intention of doing so, Mike Allen's essay demonstrates how transparent the fiction of journalistic objectivity really is.

In rhetorical terms, a George Bush press conference is a particularly vicious sort of trench warfare. Allen makes it very clear that the raison d'etre of the White House press corps is to trick, trap and otherwise embarrass the President, while the President's objective to say as little as possible about what he believes or how he is running the country.

In spite of most journalists' preference for nuance, Allen describes the ordeal of the press conference with a significant degree of moral clarity. He writes that

These sessions are a contest between Bush's desire to repeat his previously articulated views ("sticking a tape in the VCR," as one frequent Bush questioner puts it), and the reporters' quest to elicit something that will contribute to democracy, not to mention getting them on television or the front page.
How generous of Allen to admit that personal ambition sometimes influences journalists' behavior. Otherwise we would assume that journalists' only desire to defend our freedom from the depredations of the President.

Not surprisingly, Allen never considers the possibility that Bush is so maddeningly evasive precisely because he knows that journalists want nothing more than to put his misstatements on the next morning's front page.

Now, I'll be the first to admit that Bush is not just a poor speaker, but one whose unscripted performances are often disturbing to watch even when one agrees with what the President is saying. But since Bush can't magically transform himself into Cicero or Pericles, the logical thing for him to do is to avoid confrontations with hostile audiences.

It is also quite interesting to note what Allen and other journalists consider to be the best, i.e. most embarrassing questions that the President has been asked. The first question is
Do you believe that Ariel Sharon is a man of peace, and are you satisfied with his and his government's assurances that there was no massacre in Jenin?
Bush responded that "I do believe Ariel Sharon is a man of peace." Other memorable questions include
Whether Muslims worship the same Almighty as Christians. (Bush said they did, prompting a stir among some evangelicals.)
Finally, there is this:
In April, [John] Dickerson [of Time] asked one of the most famous questions of Bush's presidency: "In the last campaign, you were asked a question about the biggest mistake you'd made in your life, and you used to like to joke that it was trading Sammy Sosa. You've looked back before 9/11 for what mistakes might have been made. After 9/11, what would your biggest mistake be, would you say, and what lessons have you learned from it?"

Bush did not have a tape ready to stick into his VCR and he struggled to improvise. "I wish you would have given me this written question ahead of time, so I could plan for it," Bush said. He went on to say he could not think of a mistake he had made, providing months of fodder for his critics.
Again, I'll be the first to admit that Bush did a terrible job of answering this question. But think of what he was being asked to do -- he was being asked to provide the Democrats with admissions of fault that they could throw back in his face for the rest of the campaign.

Even though this post has entailed a defense of the President from Mike Allen's misleading accusations, I don't want to leave the impression that I am satisfied with the way that this administration treats either the press or the voting public.

Right now, neither side wants to give an inch lest it be taken advantage of. Yet the only way to raise the level of public debate is for the President to be more candid and for the press to challenge him on substantive matters, rather than forcing him to walk through a rhetorical minefield.

How, you might ask, can we build up the sort of trust necessary to reach this more civilized state of affairs? Frankly, I have no idea. But we certainly won't get there by pretending that either the President or the media is entirely responsible for the current stalemate.




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# Posted 1:38 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

EVEN ESPECIALLY THE LIBERAL NEW REPUBLIC loves to skewer other liberals' pretentious hypocrisy. (And Tom Ridge.)
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Wednesday, December 01, 2004

# Posted 2:43 PM by Patrick Belton  

OXBLOG FAVOURITE Timothy Garton Ash writes in the Guardian about how the West must come to the help of Ukrainian democrats in the latest of Eastern Europe's Velvet revolutions. He knows whereof he writes.
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# Posted 1:31 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THIS IS A RESPONSE from Prof. Colleen Shogan to a recent post on OxBlog. The response has not been edited.
I’m grateful for the opportunity to respond to Mr. Adesnik’s critique of my working paper on anti-intellectualism and Republican presidents. While I do not question Mr. Adesnik’s right to criticize my paper, I believe his characterizations of my research and my own integrity as a scholar are severely misconstrued.

First, Mr. Adesnik selected quotations from my paper completely out of context. Several readers of Oxblog actually went to the Miller Center website, read the entire paper, and contacted me to dispute Mr. Adesnik’s depiction. For example, Mr. Adesnik implies that I disparage Reagan for his anti-intellectualism. This is simply incorrect. In fact, I argue that Reagan’s firm ideological beliefs provided him with the political skills needed to succeed in the presidency. In the paper, I discuss an anecdote provided to me, courtesy of interviews I conducted with Ed Meese and Martin Anderson, about Reagan’s desire to keep his intellectual pursuits hidden from the public’s eye. Reagan understood the political value of anti-intellectualism. In my mind, that doesn’t make Reagan a naïve simpleton; on the contrary, it makes him a sophisticated, savvy politician. The same can be said for George W. Bush, who I argue is the most skilled operator of anti-intellectualism. Bush’s anti-intellectualism allows him to rebuff political opposition and disarm his opponents—a very shrewd tactic in today’s polarized Beltway climate.

Mr. Adesnik’s commentary neglects the driving force of my thesis: anti-intellectualism is an effective political strategy because it enables presidents to demonstrate forceful independence. In my paper, the section on Bush makes this point very clear. Bush’s ability to demonstrate this forceful independence generates an aura of confidence surrounding his leadership that is difficult, if not impossible, to neutralize. As my dissertation adviser Stephen Skowronek wrote in The Politics Presidents Make, the presidency is an “order-shattering” institution which thrives on independent leadership. It is my contention that Bush uses anti-intellectualism as one resource for demonstrating that charged independence. This is the crux of my paper, yet Mr. Adesnik never mentions it. This is what presidential scholars are interested in—how political strategies affect the essence of executive power and the institution of the presidency itself.

This is not to say that my paper is perfect. It is a work in progress. In my opening remarks at the Miller Center, I explained that while I was reasonably satisfied with the case studies (Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan, Bush) in the paper, I needed to work on the causal explanations of Republican anti-intellectualism. The most instructive comments in this regard were not provided to me by Mr. Adesnik, who seemed overly concerned with my supposed liberal bias, but from Professor Brian Balogh, who co-directs the Miller Center American Political Development project. Professor Balogh observed that I need to pay attention to how intellectuals have changed since World War II. Whereas Richard Hofstadter used to write history books for the masses, now our most prominent scholars are not widely read. A gap between the academy and the public has grown, which may also explain the rise in popularity of anti-intellectual appeals.

Lastly, I want to address Mr. Adesnik’s characterization of my own political beliefs and their alleged effect on my scholarship. For me, this is the most distressing part of Mr. Adesnik’s public remarks. Although he had never met me, Mr. Adesnik assumed that I was part of some left-wing academic conspiracy that aims to discredit all Republicans as stupid morons. This is perhaps the best example of an academic bias and arrogance—the willingness to assign a label to someone without any corroborating evidence.

After Mr. Adesnik accused me at the Miller Center forum of a liberal bias, two individuals in the room, Professor Sid Milkis (co-director of the American Political Development project) and Russell Riley (Project Leader of the Presidential Oral History Project at the Miller Center) both vouched publicly that Mr. Adesnik’s comments about my scholarly integrity were inaccurate and misplaced. In particular, Mr. Riley assured Mr. Adesnik that he would have never selected me to conduct interviews with former White House staffers (both Republicans and Democrats) for the Presidential Oral History Project if he detected any hint of a political bias that impeded my work. Quite conveniently, Mr. Adesnik did not include the remarks of Mr. Riley and Professor Milkis in his Oxblog entry. Apparently, Mr. Adesnik felt he knew more about my intellectual motivations than two senior scholars I have worked with for most of my professional career. Clearly, I am not the one who suffers from intellectual arrogance.

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# Posted 3:29 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ANOTHER OXBLOG? While browsing the comments section over at MY's website, I happened to come across the opinion of a certain Chris Brooke. It's a fairly generic name, but it caught my eye because my academic adviser at Oxford (not to be confused with my dissertation adviser) is none other than Dr. Christopher Brooke.

And so it turns out that Dr. Brooke has a blog. Since Dr. Brooke's archives extend all the way back to May of 2001, one might even say that his was the original OxBlog. Then again, who knows what other Ox-blog I may discover if I continue to explore the blogosphere?

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# Posted 3:09 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

EVIL AMERICANS CONSPIRE TO PROMOTE DEMOCRACY: Bob McGrew points to this bizarre column in The Guardian that attributes unrest in the Ukraine to an American master plan.

Dan Drezner has lots more on this subject. I agree with him that the US has played an important role in building up Ukrainian, Georgian and Serbian opposition movements, but that America has played the role of facilitator rather than puppet master. If the peoples of Eastern Europe didn't actually want democracy, there is no way America could get them to pour into the streets to protest on democracy's behalf.

Matt Yglesias adds the valid point that one fair election doth not a democracy make. But then he makes the rather strange point that
Realpolitik plays a large role in explaining the level of Western interest in and commit[ment] to reform in Ukraine...[because] democracy-promotion and mild nationalism have proven to be an effective tool for advancing American and Western European interests [in Eastern Europe] over the past 25 years
I can only imagine what Matt would have said if George Bush had decided to pander to his good friend Vladimir Putin by ignoring Ukraine instead of supporting its democratic opposition. It seems to me that the application of realist principles to Ukraine would result in a policy of doing as little as possible to offend Russia, our supposedly valuable great power ally in the War on Terror.

Which is not to say that supporting democracy in the Ukraine damages our national interest. Rather, there are many different conceptions of the national interest, each of which entails a different set of policy initiatives. A Wilsonian idealist sees democracy promotion as the foundation of national security. A Kissingerian realist would disagree.

As I have so often found in my research on democracy promotion during the Cold War, the critical question for the United States is not whether there is a conflict between democracy promotion and the national interest, but whether we define the national interest in a way that is conducive to democracy promotion.


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Tuesday, November 30, 2004

# Posted 8:53 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OH, HOW THE MIGHTY HAVE FALLEN: After winning seventy-four consecutive matches and more than $2.5 million, Ken Jennings met his match on Jeopardy!

If you are also a Ken Jennings fan, or simply in awe of how much he knows about almost everything, you can catch an interview with the man himself tonight on Letterman. At the exact same time on ABC, Nightline will be devoting an entire show to Jeopardy!

Finally, it's time for a shout out to my good friend PF, who won $5,000 in the Jeopardy! Teen Tournament. But that was a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away when PF still had a full head of hair.
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# Posted 5:19 AM by Patrick Belton  

DUBLIN LITERARY LANDMARK Bewley's cafe, a haunt of students, shoppers, and pen-wielders since Joyce, to close its doors for the last time this evening in the face of the smoking ban, soaring Dublin rents, and competition from Starbucks.
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Monday, November 29, 2004

# Posted 2:42 PM by Patrick Belton  

HARVARD SUCKS: The photographic evidence.

(Note: this doesn't indicate in any way that I wouldn't accept a lectureship at the Kennedy School, however.)
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# Posted 1:45 PM by Patrick Belton  

TRUMAN DEMOCRATS ON DEMOCRACY IN THE UKRAINE: Our friend, and sometime classmate, Matt Spence has an op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Times on democracy promotion and the Ukrainian elections. Not only is Matt a grand person and a Truman Democrat besides, but he happens to have just completed a dissertation here at Oxford on democracy assistance programmes and the Ukraine. So go read.

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Sunday, November 28, 2004

# Posted 1:02 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A TRAGIC MURDER: There is a sobering report in the WaPo on the death of Iman Hams, a 13 year old Palestinian girl shot for no apparent reason by Israeli soldiers. An initial investigation by the Israeli military reported no wrongdoing, but the independent work of print and broadcast journalists forced the military to re-open the investigation and take responsibility for what was, in essence, a murder.

On the WaPo homepage, the headline for this story reads "A Chilling Death in Gaza". Underneath it is a sub-headline that reads: "Israeli army concedes failure in the shooting of a young girl."

Of course, when Hamas and Al Aqsa murder Israeli children, they describe it as a tremendous success.
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# Posted 6:40 AM by Patrick Belton  

1234567 WATCH: Our warm congratulations to Kevin Brogle, who was our 1234567th reader, and wins something English and Christmas-related. (Kevin: 'I would just like to thank all three of you for the fine work you are doing. It is always thought provoking. Except, maybe, discussions on psychadelic purple shirts.') Also, Jack Brounstein wins the runner-up prize (presumably something Cornish or Manx and Christmas-related).
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Saturday, November 27, 2004

# Posted 8:00 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

YGLESIAS FLIP-FLOPS ON TEEN LUST: Methinks that Yglesias' earlier position on the subject represents a defense of his aspirations rather than his practices. Meanwhile, Prof. Drezner indulges in a bit of brilliantly ribald satire.
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# Posted 7:50 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE DeLAY DELAY: Time for him to move on, no? David Brooks says the majority leader is vulnerable. Tom Friedman is apoplectic.
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# Posted 7:39 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

STILL INTERESTED IN VENEZUELA? It's not front-page news, but the Bush administration's unprincipled decision to endorse a military coup in April of 2002 is one of the most important indications that the President isn't 100% committed to democracy promotion.

Two years ago, the administration denied that it had any advance warning of the coup. Turns out, that simply wasn't true. (Hat tip: KD)
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# Posted 7:31 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DON'T THINK OF AN ELEPHANT! Kevin Drum reviews George Lakoff's surprise bestseller. Go read the interview, even if there's no reason to buy the book.
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# Posted 7:06 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HOPE IN UKRAINE? In the short term, the most effective (although immoral) response to a massive, peaceful protest is extreme violence. The longer such a protest remains peaceful, the less reversible it becomes. Thus, I am hopeful about the prospects for democracy in Ukraine.

Reuters reports that the Ukrainian parliament has issued a non-binding resolution declaring the election to be invalid. In other news, negotiations between the government and opposition have begun. Opposition leader Viktor Yuschenko has declared that
"We will only hold talks on staging a new vote," Yushchenko declared after the talks to supporters in Independence Square. "If there is no decision within one or two days, it means Yanukovych cannot hear you."
I also consider the following detail to be quite interesting:
Yushchenko appeared to be drawing support from some members of key organs of government in the capital -- the security services, the prosecutor's office, state television journalists and government workers.

In a symbolic but potent example of that shift, cadets from the country's Interior Ministry academy marched in uniform Friday morning to a spot where riot police were protecting the offices of the president. The cadets called on the riot police to cross over and join them. None did.
Without firm control of the security forces, violence may not be a viable option for the government.

On the international front, there is also good news. Vaclav Havel has forcefully stated that democracy is non-negotiable. Lech Walesa has also lent support to the opposition.

The WaPo has characterized President Bush's first direct response to the crisis as dangerously ambivalent. According to correspondent Mike Allen,
Bush's comments appeared to allow for the possibility that the Moscow-backed candidate's victory will stand, despite charges of fraud, and that the administration will have to work with him instead of his Western-leaning opponent.
What Bush said was that
There's just a lot of allegations of vote fraud that placed their election -- the validity of their elections in doubt. The international community is watching very carefully. People are paying very close attention to this, and hopefully it will be resolved in a way that brings credit and confidence to the Ukrainian government.
Even though Allen is correct to point out that the President's comments were less forthright than those of the Secretary of State, it seems strange to suggest that the President indicated any tolerance for fraud. In contrast, NY Times correspondent CJ Chivers portrays the President's remarks as fully consistent with other strong statements issued by the United States government.

For the latest updates and in-depth commentary on the situation in the Ukraine, head over to the ever-informative website of the incomparable Dan Drezner.
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