Wednesday, March 31, 2004

I'm out for a couple of days . . . Frank said he'd try to stop by now and then to provide you with all the latest reactionary Bush-apologist hair-splitting hair-tearing-out ill-thought-out and ill-conceived neoconservative trash . . . heh. We'll see how he does. Enjoy . . .
Village Voice columnist George Smith wrote an article over a year ago about Richard Clarke, which goes mostly unnoticed until Drudge links to it last week. Hilarity ensues:

"There was no nuance—or recognition of anything other than good or wicked—anywhere. I was supposedly the proper expert arrived just in the nick of time, someone who took Richard Clarke 'to task for having the audacity to write a book critical of the President's anti-terrorism efforts.' Or I was a GOP mouthpiece, a 'loyal shameless Bush Apologist and Academic Hit Man.' Reality didn't fit what the howling mobs wanted."

(Original link found here.)
Four U.S. Civilians Killed in Iraq.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Or, you're probably not helping and you really shouldn't have bothered in the first place! Howard Dean in the Democracy for America blog: "I guarantee you if you vote for Kerry you will be disappointed." I'm taking it out of context, but not by much! (Original link found here.)
People say that he's the reason the Bush Administration is the most political ever, and that he controls the political agenda, etc., etc. If that's true, why the hell would you be so dumb as to piss him off by descending on his house with placards and demonstrators? That's supposed to somehow help get a bill passed?


Oh wait -- I get it -- it's meant to stir up publicity for the issue, which is . . . huh . . . I just forgot what it was.
If you like conspiracy theories for the sheer entertainment of conspiracy theories, then this latest installment regarding the unanswered questions surrounding the Oklahoma City bombing will be right up your alley. After reading a couple of these I still can't decide whether there's anything to it, and now that it's become a political thing vis a vis Iraq and terrorism (Bush apologists say there's a link while Bush non-apologists deny it), I wonder if we'll ever know the truth. (Original link found here.)
The strange thing about poll numbers like this is that Bush hasn't seem to have taken a hit with all this Richard Clarke stuff floating around.

And something else occurs to me along the lines of "staying on message," or at least making sure the message is crafted to one's strength -- the Richard Clarke stuff, by pushing terrorism and the Iraq war into the spotlight again has the (I'm assuming unintended) unintended consequence of further shaping election issues to Bush's strengths.

Have we not been consumed with pre-9/11 intelligence and post-9/11 responses for the last week or so? Have you read one story about the economy? Has John Kerry been in the news at all? He's been skiing and all, and the Bush campaign's ads "defining" Kerry have been continuing to air during all this. And the poll numbers show Kerry's "unfavorables" increasing.

As you scratch your head about Bush's presumably ill-advised strategy of smearing Clarke and those seemingly tone-deaf 9/11 ads, keep in mind this larger idea of shaping a message. It's what it's all about.

UPDATE: Here's a small note about this idea, along the same lines . . .
As a Bush apologist, I find what David Frum says about the whole Richard Clarke 9/11 accusations thing compelling.
Alistair Cooke has passed away at the age of 95. Here's a nice blog eulogy, with pertinent links.

If you haven't already read it, Alistair Cooke's America is brilliant stuff, especially the final chapters which dovetail with his personal experiences in America.

Monday, March 29, 2004

I suppose this means that the Administration's supposedly myopic view of geopolitical strategy shouldn't be shelved just yet: there's more work to do on that missile defense shield now that the Soviets, er, Russians have developed this.
I suppose this means that the Administration's supposedly myopic view of geopolitical strategy shouldn't be shelved just yet: there's more work to do on that missile defense shield now that the Soviets, er, Russians have developed this.
. . . from spook-porn meisters Debka, even if little, or none, is verifiable, or even true!
Another great Gregg Easterbrook post cleaves right down the middle and speaks a buttload of sense, especially something that I've been quietly wondering about for a while now -- how, exactly, have we been "distracted" in fighting Al Qaeda?

"It is equally futile and silly for Democrats to assert that Al Qaeda has benefited by George W. Bush's action against Iraq. What resource, precisely, have field commanders hunting for Al Qaeda been denied? The United States has thousands of its very best soldiers in Afghanistan, has built new military facilities all over Afghanistan and its border states, has bombers standing by to hit any target that can be identified. Maybe the battle of Tora Bora was mismanaged in December 2001, but that was a full year before the Iraq buildup was a factor. Since September 11, U.S. forces have pursued Al Qaeda every place it has been physically possible to locate elements of the organization, using every weapon the United States possesses except for nuclear weapons. What is it that could be done against Al Qaeda that is not being done? Drop nuclear bombs on Afghanistan? On Spain? The Democratic side in the recriminations derby never names any specific military thing that could be done against Al Qaeda that's not already being done."
Those who think I'm a big Bush apologist will be happy to know that I believe the White House spin that the newest non-issue -- Condoleezza Rice testifying under oath in public in front of the 9/11 Commission -- is a matter of principle.

Peter Sarsgaard, er, Charles Lane of the Washington Post details the issues, in case you're interested: "Whatever their political or other motivations may have been, presidents have generally cited the separation of powers, and the need for confidential and candid executive deliberations, in explaining their resistance to testimony by those White House staff members who, like Rice, serve the president and are not confirmed by the Senate."
The Times had a revealing story yesterday about Karen Hughes, who epitomizes the compassionate part of Bush's "compassionate conservatism" and who is set to return to the Bush camp in a more formal arrangement in the lead-up to the elections. ABC's The Note notes a Hughes quote that goes a long way in getting the Bush campaign back on message:

"As for Dick Clarke's book and testimony last week, Hughes [said] . . . 'I was sickened by it.'

"'The only people responsible for the terror attacks on Sept. 11 were al-Qaeda — not the government, not the Bush administration or the Clinton administration. It was al-Qaeda,' she said."

That is the message they need to put out. (It could be though that, taken in tandem with the attacks on Clarke, may be the two-pronged approach that will be deadly.)

Point being: Karen Hughes is smart as shit, and her arrival back on the scene will make it tough for Kerry.

Friday, March 26, 2004

Gregg Easterbrook lays out why Moveon.org's new ad accusing Bush of allowing more arsenic in our drinking water is full of shit. Again, I expect this, to a certain extent, from Bush or Kerry as they smack each other down. But Moveon.org, which is theoretically supposed to bridge the "disconnect" between the grassroots and public policy, doesn't help itself by being this dishonest.

Too often I hear Bush is bad, but nothing ever seems as bad as people make it seem. That's a problem.
Psych! This post is not about Richard Clarke but rather Sting!
In case you missed this, it is a huge deal -- an oil tanker carrying 9,000 gallons of oil exploded on I-95 near Bridgeport, CT last night. The flames and heat caused structural damage to the road and now probably the busiest transportation link in the U.S. may be closed for two weeks.

Let me repeat that -- Interstate 95 may be closed for two weeks. That's crazy . . .
"Report: Orbach may leave Law & Order" . . . he'll still be on one of the ten Dick Wolf spin-offs, but still . . .
Great editorial about recent events in Israel, including one of the stupidest moves of the year, this time on the part of Palestinian terrorists (emphasis added):

"Sheik Yassin yearned for death and martyrdom, and he got them. George Khoury did not yearn for either. But, last week, Arafat's Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade gave him both nonetheless. Khoury was a 20-year-old Israeli Arab studying international relations at the Hebrew University. Last Friday evening, he was jogging from the campus through the adjoining neighborhood of French Hill when he was felled in a drive-by shooting. His father is a lawyer who has defended many Palestinians in Israeli courts. His grandfather was killed in a bombing by another of Arafat's bands in Jerusalem's Zion Square in the summer of 1975, two bookends of a family destroyed by one man. That 1975 bombing was one of the first mass atrocities of emergent Palestine. I was in the city with my young son back then, and I still remember the shock that coursed the populace. There is no longer shock. But the grief has not become routine. My Jerusalem friends wept for young Khoury. His family was not appeased when Al Aqsa, finding that they had not murdered a Jew as planned but a Christian, apologized and dispatched him to heaven, also as a 'martyr' just like Yassin. Khoury is the latest victim of Palestinian nationalism. I doubt he will be the last."
Yeah, right. (Original link found here.)
Disregard the silly comments below, but this makes a lot of sense!

Thursday, March 25, 2004

This may come as a shock, but I've come across a website that holds everyone's passport details. The bad thing is that anyone can access other people's personal information. I've removed my information . . . you might want to do the same.
When I said Richard Clarke was being a pain in the ass, I meant that he was being disingenuous, as Jeff Jarvis explains:

"When I first heard Clarke's apology and the start of his testimony, I thought there might be something to listen to here. I haven't said much about Clarke because I haven't yet decided what I think of what he's saying. But I have to say that as his apologize sat on the stomach like a bad burrito and came up this morning like a burp, I came to think that his apology was disingenous, melodramatic, and ultimately divisive."

I don't know about the "bad burrito" analogy, but it took me a while to figure out that it was a weird thing, too.
In other words, you either believe that Iraq was linked to the larger issue of terrorism or you don't (original link found here). Many people don't see the immediate link, as in a smoking gun-type of link, and since it's a fairly nuanced connection, it's a wildcard as to whether the voters will see it in November.

Which is, incidentally, why I found/find the arguments against going to war in Iraq or the subsequent fallout from the failure to find large stockpiles of WMD so tedious. In making the case for Iraq, the Bush administration had to rely on the kind of arguments that every citizen could understand -- and understand in a soundbite kind of way: WMDs, terror, etc. Everyone with any sort of nuanced understanding of the situation, from casual observers to foreign policy professionals to armchair statesmen, knew that it was more nuanced than that, but that's what we're stuck with -- and that's what we'll always be stuck with. So when these reasons fall apart, it's just so unbearable to hear the administration's critics engage in the "gotcha" afterwards. Tedious. Unbearable. Unhelpful -- a lot like listening to high school debate club.

People should come clean here -- you either agree with the Bush strategy or you don't -- because it's becoming awfully tiring to engage the debate on the level it's at right now.
Fred Kaplan writes about Clarke's (relatively) tersse apology to the country for failing them while the New York Times editorial board picks up on that meme. The Bush administration must have been thinking "What a pain in the ass." He comes off as a grandstanding pain-in-the-ass, too, which goes back to David Frum's comments from yesterday:

"It’s a general rule of management that you never demote anybody important: You fire them, and fast, or else they will sabotage your organization. If Bush wanted to retain Clarke’s services, he should have kept him in his old job. Failing that, he should have pushed him out the door on the Monday after Inauguration day.

"That didn’t happen, for pardonable reasons and not so pardonable. The pardonable reason was the shortness of time: Bush had less than six weeks to complete his transition – the recount plus the ever-increasing sclerosis of the clearing and confirmation process meant that he did not have his own people up and ready to go until the second half of 2001. The not so pardonable reason was a phenomenon I noted in The Right Man: a reluctance to use the hiring and firing power to shape the NSC in favor of the president’s policies. For almost a year, Bush and Condoleezza Rice tried to use Clinton holdovers to carry out Bush’s policies. Unsurprisingly, the experiment has not been a happy one."

Clarke's main salient point is that Iraq has distracted the U.S. from getting bin Laden. I think there are a lot of people who see the two connected, and some people don't. But since it's more nuanced than Howard Dean's contention that Saddam's capture has not made the U.S. any safer, and because it's hard to cram the idea of democratizing the Middle East into a glib soundbite, grandstanders like Clarke will get the best press.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Sending a retarded 16-year-old boy to blow himself up is fucking depraved. And fuck anyone who tries to excuse it.
Clarke was actually asked about the seemingly contradictory background briefing during his 9/11 Commission testimony and he explained that he was spinning for his bosses. Uh, yeah. Josh Marshall picks up on this, too. I find this all pretty lame.
David Frum finished reading Richard Clarke's book and writes about it -- candidly in some ways, and an interesting take. He quotes this passage, which isn't about Bush but is chilling (emphasis added):

"On a brisk October day in 2000, [Army Special Forces colonel Mike] Sheehan stood with me on West Executive Avenue and watch[ed] as the limousines left the White House meeting on the Cole attack to go back to the Pentagon. 'What’s it gonna take, Dick?' Sheehan demanded. 'Who the shit do they think attacked the Cole, fuckin' Martians? The Pentagon brass won't let Delta go get bin Laden. Hell, they won't even let the Air Force bomb the place. Does al Qaeda have to attack the Pentagon to get their attention.'"

Why yes, yes they do . . .
I guess that shadowy, sketchy organization threatening France's rail system wasn't bluffing after all.
Yes, I know it's terribly biased because it's Rupert Murdoch's big, bad Fox News, but doesn't this transcript of (apparently) a background briefing (ouch) by Richard Clarke kind of undercut his arguments? I totally don't get it.
I generally trust that the government does what it can to keep us safe. Furthermore, I don't believe that either Bush or Clinton personally "dropped the ball" or that the failure was anything more than systemic.

That said, I entirely agree with (I believe it was) Sen. Kerrey; he just expressed a forceful sentiment that the FAA should have said something to the airlines about the potential of a threat. This has been my one complaint about 9/11, in fact.

If there was some indication that planes might be hijacked, and that they could be used as missiles -- and before 9/11 this was a possibility (in particular there was the plot -- 1995? -- to explode airliners over the Pacific Ocean) -- then pilots should have been instructed to take preventative measures to at least attempt to block hijackers from taking control of a plane. They didn't even have to spend any money to do this -- all they had to do was tell a pilot to descend rapidly or even depressurize the cabin -- something small to prevent the planes from being used as missiles.

I agree with Kerrey about this. He seemed upset, too.
A note that the big "spring offensive" in Afghanistan is apparently underway. Most people know that I am deeply skeptical of any, all or most conspiracy theories, but I would like to posit this one without taking credit for believing any of it: the "right" time to capture bin Laden isn't in October, before the election, but rather right now. Right now, as in right now as I'm listening to live coverage of the 9/11 Commission and waiting to hear Richard Clarke in particular. How's that for timing?
The best rundown (with links) seems to be here, in case you're interested.
His column yesterday was so dumb that I completely missed him repeating the "Americans should watch what they say, watch what they do" Ari Fleischer line.

In the letters section today, Ari Fleischer defends himself:

"In 'Lifting the Shroud' (column, March 23), Paul Krugman alleges that at my White House press briefing on Sept. 26, 2001, I 'ominously warned' Americans to 'watch what they say, watch what they do.' He accuses me of telling citizens 'to accept the administration's version of events, not ask awkward questions.'

"At that briefing two weeks after Sept. 11, I was asked about a racist comment made by a Republican congressman from Louisiana who said that if he saw a Sikh-American with a towel wrapped around his head, he would tell the Sikh to get out of his state.

"I said, 'It's important for all Americans to remember the traditions of our country that make us so strong and so free, our tolerance and openness and acceptance.' The president, I said, was disturbed by Representative John Cooksey's remarks.

"Moments later, I was asked about Bill Maher's statement that the members of our armed forces who fire missiles are cowards while terrorists who crashed planes into buildings are not cowards.

"I answered: 'It's a terrible thing to say, and it's unfortunate. And that's why — there was an earlier question about has the president said anything to people in his own party — they're reminders to all Americans that they need to watch what they say, watch what they do.'

"My remarks urged tolerance and openness and were addressed to those who made statements and threatened actions against Muslims or Sikhs in America."

More often than not, Paul Krugman sounds like some guy at the pub down the street spouting barstool theories -- in fact, I'm fairly certain I've had some of these conversations! I'd like a little more out of the Times op-ed page, though.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Things in Israel may be, er, blowing up: "Army Chief: Arafat in Israel Crosshairs."
I was waiting for the backlash from the African-American community about linking gay marriage with the African-American civil rights struggle: "Black Clergy Rally Against Gay Marriage."

Quotes like this about "the homosexual" seem unseemly: "'When the homosexual compares himself to the black community, he doesn't know what suffering is,' said the Rev. Clarence James, an African-American studies professor at Temple University."
I love it -- someone has taken it upon himself to do a week-long feature on just how partisan the tedious Paul Krugman is! How partisan? Apparetnly worse than Ann Coulter! (Original link found here.)
I don't want to say that Scandanavians are pussies -- especially with sketchy (terror?) stories like this -- but shouldn't they execute someone who assassinates a government official instead of putting him in some cushy jail for life? And the defense is even considering appealing even though the guy admitted stabbing her? I know I'm blood-thirsty, but isn't this a little, well . . . strange?
You probably won't believe me when I say it, but I sort of believe the White House spin about the Richard Clarke stuff. I just have a hard time believing that someone publishing a book in an election year is simply "telling the truth" (as Tedious Krugman claims today, for example). There are obvious reasons to exaggerate one's claims, not the least of which being to sell more books! Is he really saying anything that new? But, I guess it depends what Clarke is saying -- if there's something wildly outrageous, fine, but for now this just seems lame, lame, lame.
Ottawa Citizen: "Whether yesterday's assassination of Hamas founder Ahmed Yassin was a good thing depends on the answer to two questions: 1) Is the world better off without Sheik Yassin? and 2) Was it in Israel's strategic interest to kill him? In both cases, the answer is yes."

And it seems like Hamas has been decimated by the Israelis, which shows that the "cycle of violence" that everyone frets about might actually be doing its job.

Monday, March 22, 2004

David Frum has some interesting takes on the Richard Clarke thing (stuff that is more constructive than Drudging around for old quotes), and ties together a couple of strands that put things in perspective.
Bruno & the Mad Professor are set to go on the air tonight, as they usually do (Mondays, 6 p.m. to 7 or 7:30 p.m. PST). I'm guessing they'll harp on the Richard Clarke story. The National Review people are going nuts, trying to come to terms with the story. I know Bruno will have digested Josh Marshall's Talking Points in time for the show, but let's see if he also talks about the insidery stuff at NRO . . .
So the Pakistanis didn't nab him. Perhaps he escaped to safety via a mile-long secret tunnel. Let's hope he doesn't have those suitcase nukes handy.
The question is whether it's increasing "individualisation" that discourages civil responsibility or a quasi-socialist nanny-state environment that lets people assume that someone or something else will take care of the problem. Read this Danish story, for example:

"According to an article in Politiken, both the police and researchers say that Danes are becoming less and less inclined to get involved when they are witness to violence and vandalism.

"The passing off of civil responsibility has become so noticeable that the Crime Protection Council is launching a new campaign aimed at getting particularly the young to think about how they should react when they are witness to both petty and major crime.

"Head of the secretariat at the Crime Prevention Council, Anna Karina Nickelsen, told the newspaper that the rising lack of civil responsibility goes hand in hand with individualisation, which is a growing phenomenon in today’s society."

Has anyone researched this phenomenon?
Nice. Real nice . . .
Hamas leader Sheik Yassin's death is a big, big deal.

Friday, March 19, 2004

Then there's this Debka report: "Pakistan red-faced on discovering 'high value' terrorist target its troops surrounded in Waziristan was not bin Laden’s No. 2 Zuwahiri but chief of Pushtun Ahmadi tribal federation. DEBKA sources estimate that any harm to Pushtun chief would spark wholesale tribal war offensive against Pakistan." Whoops! We'll see what happens . . .
Actually, put this in the category of definitely not helping: the nutty former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, notable for his frequent anti-semetic comments, is endorsing Kerry.
I really hope they get this motherfucker. The fact that he's a trained surgeon is just obscene. What about the Hippocratic Oath?
Paul Krugman is being tedious again.
Republican Senator from Arizona John McCain doesn't really want to be John Kerry's Vice President, but he has had some trouble staying on message lately.
There's a great piece in Slate by Wendell Steavenson about graffiti seen around Baghdad. It runs the gamut from sincere to profane to sincerely profane, from pro-U.S. to anti-U.S. to pro-Saddam to anti-Saddam. Good stuff.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Long ago, I worried that ultra-cool record store clerks would somehow judge my purchases as they rung me up. It was important, I recognized, to balance a guilty-pleasure purchase (like Paula Abdul or Cheap Trick) with something "literate" (like Can or The Fall). ABC's The Note notes that John Kerry has elevated the concept of the self-conscious purchase to an artform:

"On Comedy Central's 'Daily Show' Tuesday, host Jon Stewart mocked Kerry's pre-vacation television-covered errands saying, 'Among his stops: a Borders book store where he showed just like all Americans by pretending to be interested in books, using the bathroom, and then leaving without buying anything.'

"While The Note hesitates to tangle with an excellent punch line, for the record, Kerry might peruse any one the following $155.62 worth of Boston Borders pre-vacation purchases:

"'Benjamin Franklin: An American Life' by Walter Isaacson 'Perfectly Legal' by David Cay Johnston 'The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time, and the Texture of Reality' by Brian Greene 'One Hundred Years of Solitude' by Gabriel Garcia Marquez 'Middlesex' by Jeffrey Eugenides 'Undaunted Courage: Meriweather Lewis, Thomas Jefferson and the Opening of the American West' by Stephen Ambrose 'Charlie Wilson's War: The Extraordinary Story of the Largest Covert Operation in History' [by] George Crile . . ."

You mean to tell us that an intellectual heavyweight like Kerry hasn't already read "100 Years of Solitude?" Come on! That's the counterbalance right there! (I love the list . . . must rehash Bush's 2000 campaign choices when I get a chance.)

Then there's this: "Mr. Stewart also rightly pointed out that during that same outing, '(Kerry) bought a jockstrap shopping with his daughter in front of a camera crew.'"

Yuck. I don't like it. At all. Bring it on? I think not!
Scheiber puts a finger on what Mickey Kaus is always talking about regarding Kerry. Four pertinent points: 1) "Assuming the two candidates are equally likely to commit gaffes, the fallout from Kerry's gaffes is going to be more damaging"; 2) "[Kerry's] rapid response apparatus has capitalized on the Bush campaign's early mistakes . . . [but] this machinery has proved less effective on defense"; 3) "[Kerry's] reputation for being both a liberal and a flip-flopper is a combustible combination: Whatever you do to rebut one charge just confirms the other"; and 4) "[N]othing beats good old-fashioned hard money when it comes to waging a presidential campaign," and Bush has a lot of it to coordinate a message with (as opposed to independent 527s).

I was particularly interested in the first deficiency. In particular, Scheiber writes about Bush's "Bring it on" gaffe, and Kerry's repeating/co-opting of it: "When [Bush] lets slip what he's really thinking--like his ill-advised 'bring it on' comment from last year--and that comment gets repeated by political opponents, it probably alienates half the country, but it galvanizes the other half and ends up a wash."

Now follow me here . . . it has been said that Bush's use of the 9/11 imagery in his television ads -- and especially the subsequent fallout -- works to reinforce his image as a wartime President. The subsequent fallout amounts to free air time to reinforce the message.

I wonder if Kerry's use of "Bring it on" actually works the same way -- if you ask me, for example, who I most associate with that phrase, it's Bush. Kerry, by repeating it (and the subsequent repeating of it in news clips about Kerry's use of the phrase), only firms up in my mind that connection with Bush. He probably needs a different line to erase "Bring it on" from my memory (like "Where's the Beef?"!).

Things I'm most interested in, from here on out, include this idea of crafting an image or a message -- the base-level gut reaction to a candidate, since as I've said before, I think Presidential elections play out at this visceral level -- less issues than psychology.
He's a joker, I tell you:

"The Republican attack machine has now gone so far as to have Senator Kerry say memorably mockable things like:

"'I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it.'

"They will stop at nothing, I tell you. At least the Democrats have a candidate smart enough to avoid playing into the public's just-forming impression of him as a straddler and positioner. That's why he's so electable!"
Thomas Friedman calls attention to the Spanish-led Axis of Appeasement, but (as usual) tempers it with criticism of the opposite side.

I understood the Rumsfeldian light, quick and small forces idea, but I wonder if history will show that they overreached here -- in this case, trying to overthrow Saddam and in the process proving it could be done more efficiently. If this bit of hubris ultimately affects the outcome, then Friedman will have been right: "From the outset, the Bush Pentagon has treated Iraq as a lab test to prove that it can win a war with a small, mobile high-tech Army. Well, maybe you can defeat Saddam that way, but you can't build a new Iraq — and control its borders to prevent foreign terrorists from coming in — with so few troops, especially when you disband the Iraqi Army on top of it." (I know that Phil Carter has written about this, too -- especially in the first days of the war when it appeared the troops were stalled.)

But in the end, Friedman really wants to express something about the Spanish decision to pull out troops, which is what makes him a successful op-ed columnist -- he's even-handed to the point of being sneaky about it; had he written a whole column on Spanish appeasement, it wouldn't have resonated like it does when it's balanced with a seeming opposite counterpoint:

"The notion that Spain can separate itself from Al Qaeda's onslaught on Western civilization by pulling its troops from Iraq is a fantasy. Bin Laden has said that Spain was once Muslim and he wants it restored that way. As a friend in Cairo e-mailed me, a Spanish pullout from Iraq would only bring to mind Churchill's remark after Chamberlain returned from signing the Munich pact with Hitler: 'You were given the choice between war and dishonor. You chose dishonor and you will have war.'"

He's a smart guy; that's why he's always on the News Hour!

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

True or false: Mel Gibson now wants to make a movie relating the story of the Jewish Maccabee warriors and the holiday of Hannukah.

Answer: True.

"The Maccabees family stood up, and they made war, they stuck by their guns, and they came out winning," [Gibson explained]. "It's like a Western."
Should the U.S. make a "grand bargain" with Iran to normalize relations and resolve that Axis of Evil member's nuclear issues? Apparently Iran offered a deal last May (hmm . . . what was going on back then I wonder?) and the hardliners in the Bush Administration have so far rejected it. Fascinating issues in play . . . (Original link found here.)
This Mark Kleiman post gets at something I was trying to describe yesterday about Paul Krugman. He writes about partisan blogging, and the need to remain intellectually honest, remarking that "as [one's] 'batting average' for toeing the party line approaches .900 he and his readers ought to start to worry."

And on the off chance I happen to read a Paul Krugman column, that's generally what I think -- before you even begin, you know how he's spinning stuff and who he's spinning it for. Surprise us once in a while! I might start reading it again! (Original link found here.)
Let's all do our part to convince Al Qaeda that it's not helpful to stage terror attacks in order to manipulate elections. Mickey Kaus kicks it off: "Has Al Qaeda already helped Bush? Even if Al Qaeda does not launch Madrid-style attacks in the U.S. right before the November election, isn't it now likely that widespread worry about the possibility of attacks--with constant alerts and an intense police presence in the days before the election--will itself have an effect on the results? It's hard to believe that this effect won't be to help Bush, by putting terrorism (and not jobs or health care) in the forefront of voters' minds."

Maybe if we all say it enough, they'll get the point and our soft targets will stay safe . . .
A gentle reminder why Howard Dean wasn't the best choice, this in spite of his squishy cupcakes: "Former Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean said yesterday that President Bush's decision to send troops to Iraq appears to have contributed to the bombing deaths of 201 people in Spain."

Kerry's campaign is distancing itself from the remarks . . .

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Christopher Hitchens: "The nutty logic that says Spain provoked Islamist terrorism."

"It is tedious to relate the story of ETA's degeneration into a gangster organization that itself proclaims a fascist ideology of Basque racial uniqueness, and anyway one doesn't need to bother, since nobody any longer argues that there is a 'root cause' of ETA's atrocities. In the face of this kind of subhuman nihilism, people know without having to be told that the only response is a quiet, steady hatred and contempt, and a cold determination to outlast the perpetrators while remorselessly tracking them down.

"However, it seems that some Spaniards, and some non-Spanish commentators, would change on a dime if last week's mass murder in Madrid could be attributed to the Bin-Ladenists. In that case not only would there be a root cause—the deployment of 1,300 Spanish soldiers in the reconstruction of Iraq—but there would also be a culpable person, namely Spain's retiring prime minister. By this logic, terrorism would also have a cure—the withdrawal of those Spanish soldiers from a country where al-Qaida emphatically does not desire them to be."
I realized why reading Paul Krugman is so tedious: op-eds like "Weak on Terror" read like a Democratic candidate's stump speech; short on meaningful discussion, long on unsubstantive talking points. I don't know that any of the Times' other regular op-ed columnists offer so little in the way of probing commentary, Maureen Dowd included.
And David Brooks would probably find lacking my contention that the best conclusion to draw from the Spanish elections is that you can't draw a conclusion: "Al Qaeda's Wish List."
Doesn't really subscribe to my idea that the best conclusion to draw from the Spanish elections is not to draw a conclusion: "The Spanish dishonoured their dead."

Monday, March 15, 2004

The notion that turnout may have been higher in Spain because of the terror attacks seems to make sense -- it's important to rally around democracy, after all. So maybe turnout was higher, perhaps there were more first-time voters, and perhaps these people always would have been more likely to vote for the Socialist candidate.

In fact, voter turnout was much higher: nearly 78 percent as opposed to 69 percent in the last Parliamentary elections in 2000. . .

(In other words, there are more Democrats in the U.S., but they don't vote as much as Republicans do -- but in the aftermath of a tragic event, perhaps they would.)
Intense editorial today in TNR by Economist writer Robert Lane Greene: "By no stretch is it a good thing for the integrity of democracy when an elected government publicly announces that it will renege on one of its central campaign planks immediately after taking office. But if ever there was a moment that required a government to do exactly that, it has now arrived in Spain. . . . It is still not too late for the incoming Socialist government to deny Al Qaeda an election victory: The Socialists must under no circumstances pull Spanish troops out of Iraq by the summer, as they said they might do during the campaign. If they do not break this promise, they will be allowing Al Qaeda to dictate policy outcomes in a democratic country--which will surely encourage further attacks in democratic countries, especially those that were part of the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq. The Socialists have a right to their views on the war. But they also have an obligation to the community of free nations, all of which will suffer the consequences if Al Qaeda believes it can use bombs to play electoral politics. For the moment, that obligation trumps the promise the Socialists made to Spanish voters."
More on the phenomenological slant here: "Andalusia -- Spain -- is in the Islamist sights and has been for quite some time now. Involvement in Afghanistan raised its profile. Involvement in Iraq raised its profile. But absent that, it would still be a target. This is what the infantile chanters of the loathesome 'Your war, our dead' fail to understand. Spain is a target because Spain -- Christian Spain, secular Spain -- is occupying the territory of the glorious, mourned, civilizational fountainhead al-Andalus. Spain is frontline because of what Spain is. Spain won't escape al Qaeda cells on its territory if Zapatero withdraws from Iraq; Spain won't escape attacks on its symbols and representatives if it stops chasing al Qaeda in Afghanistan; Spain won't see the end of massacres in Madrid if it appeases every fanatic from Pamplona to Mecca. Spain is frontline. That is the reality, and no electoral or ideological denial is going to change that. One might think that the Spanish would have to deal with this existential foe sooner or later. And indeed, perhaps they shall. But then, they have a luxury that western Europeans have enjoyed for fifty-nine years: if they don't, we almost certainly will."
Well put, from Mark Steyn: "If Islamic terrorism were as rational as Irish or Basque terrorism, it would be easier. But Hussein Massawi, former leader of Hezbollah, summed it up very pithily: 'We are not fighting so that you will offer us something. We are fighting to eliminate you.' You can be pro-America (Spain, Australia) or anti-America (France, Canada), but if you broke into the head cave in the Hindu Kush and checked out the hit list you'd be on it either way."
. . . but not necessarily because they supported the U.S. in the Iraq War. This Debka analysis is well worth reading. Maybe it's true that Al Qaeda could give a shit about the Iraq War! This sort of phenomenological perspective is important -- especially when it's so tempting to "read the tea leaves" from a purely Western point of view.
Here are a bunch more links on this topic, by the way . . .
The Spanish electorate's response on Sunday to “11-M” is discouraging to say the least. (Although at this point, it’s still hard to tell whether voters were more upset at the Conservatives supposedly covering up and blaming ETA or provoking Islamists; aren’t there exit polls in Spain?)

If they feel that last Thursday’s terrorist attack, which by Sunday was more clearly linked to Al Qaeda, was a provoked response to Spain’s involvement in Iraq, then it plays right into Al Qaeda’s strategy to destabilize Western Europe. The attacks were not only meant to inflict death and destruction but also to provoke doubt and fear. It worked.

Western Europe was due for an Al Qaeda attack. The fact that it happened Madrid, and that Spain supported the U.S. during the Iraq War, was just a pretext. It worked. This morning, Europe is in doubt.

How do you know it’s a pretext? Evaluate this statement: By opposing the Iraq War, France, Germany and Russia immunized themselves from an Al Qaeda attack. It’s absurd to think that, just as it would be absurd to think that Michigan is somehow safer than New York; the U.S. is what’s being attacked. To Al Qaeda, Europe is Europe. And people like Robert Fisk will gloat, thinking that it’s all somehow a rational, political response. Appeasement never works; just ask the Saudis . . .

You can’t blame voters for voting the way they did. I’m just sad that they responded the way they did to Al Qaeda’s manipulation. And if this is a prelude to what might happen in the U.S. in November, then we are in trouble.

Friday, March 12, 2004

Well, maybe they're not so much behind the scenes as right out in front of it: "Homeland Security Issues Transit Alert."
The word "separatist" conjures up romantic notions of linguistic (those quirky "X" words!) and cultural autonomy, a la those funny Quebecois nationalists, but this Guardian article just makes them seem like ruthless amoral motherfuckers. Maybe there's an Al Qaeda link after all . . . (Original link found here.)
Is El Mundo seriously asking the unanswerable "Why do they hate us?" question?

"Spanish papers united in their condemnation of 'Our September 11' and said establishing blame would now be a critical factor in Sunday's general election.

"'The important thing is to ... bring all the evidence to light so that Spaniards can go to the ballot box knowing who is the author of this massacre,' El Mundo said in an editorial.

"The ruling center-right Popular Party (PP) had campaigned on its hardline stance against ETA. But if the attacks were the work of Islamic militants, it could be viewed as the price for Spain's backing of the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

"'If the hell unleashed which burned the whole of Madrid on Thursday is the result of Islamic fanaticism, we must look at Spain's role in the Iraq war: an involvement which our citizens rejected, a personal decision by the prime minister beyond the wishes of the majority,' commentator Antonio Gala said."

A peculiar sort of European response if there ever was one . . . nice way of politicizing the grief, too.
With the caveat that I don't actually have a clue what I'm talking about, I will note this in response to this report that the Department of Homeland Security "will probe to see if there is any specific threat to trains in response to the deadly bomb attacks in Madrid, but it has no plans to raise the color-coded threat level": it sure feels like Orange Level in New York today. I know they say that NYC is always at Orange, but I hear a bunch of helicopters buzzing around, the subway seems like it's being picked over and I heard the mayor on the radio saying that it's part of a plan to have a greater police presence on the subway.

Which brings me to my point: maybe, quietly, the Department of Homeland Security is working behind the scenes to raise the threat level without being flashy about it -- and if so, that's an improvement over before, when all municipalities were forced to spend a lot of money in overtime for their police departments.
"[W]hat might the bush admin have to gain from this?" (Original link found here.)
"The country is Sweden and the shipment was 328 tons of explosives." (Original link found here.)
"Madrid became Manhattan."
The "so-called Cheeseburger Bill".
Johnny Ramone is a right-wing nut.
H.R. 3687. (Original link found here.)

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Here's an idea I want to float: I heard speculation that the point of Bush's 9/11 ads was to cement the connection in voters' minds between Bush and 9/11, and no matter what the fallout was in terms of tastefulness, the ads did their job; can the same thing be said for the Democrats' use of the "GOP Attack Dog" message? You just have to bear down for a while on it and it becomes true, despite the facts . . .
Maybe John Ellis was right: CNN is reporting that a "new line of Madrid blast investigation opened after police find van with detonators and Arabic-language tapes." I'm assuming the tapes went beyond the usual Berlitz-type of stuff . . .
Which is to say, who needs to bother smearing the Democrats when stuff like this spy case comes out? Unseemly. And not good for the image of the Democratic Party, I'd say, which could negate their advantage in the domestic arena.
John Ellis thinks it was Al Qaeda in Spain, not the ETA, and contrasts Kerry in early 2004 with Clinton's Democratic nomination acceptance speech in 1996.
After his new album is released, George Michael says he's planning to make his future output free for the downloading, in effect "retiring" from the music industry. In return, users will donate money to GM-approved charities. I'm serious that this makes him heroic; I feel strongly about this.
I woke up this morning feeling skeptical that this Presidential campaign would be the dirtiest of all time. After all, it's conventional wisdom that it will be, because Karl Rove is just that kind of guy -- you know, McCain push polling, illegitimate black babies, Max Cleland, yadda yadda, et al., etc.

But then I got to thinking, and I'm now skeptical that this will acutally happen. Then James Lileks starts in. I think he's right, actually. I just don't see it. If I'm wrong, then I'm wrong, but since the conventional wisdom on Bush has failed for me so far, I'm wondering if this piece of CW will, too.
John McCain is not going to be John Kerry's running mate. The idea that Democrats are so angry at Bush that they will go as far as choosing a Republican for VP is just insane.

Let me repeat: The idea that Democrats are so angry at Bush that they will go as far as choosing a Republican for VP is CATEGORICALLY INSANE.

And the idea that there are "good" Republicans like McCain and Colin Powell who can be converted that easily is equally delusional.

Then again, maybe it's part of an elaborate Republican disinformation campaign.
This actually makes me feel a little better about Kerry: Socialist Worker Online calls him a sellout. Moderates in the U.S. are safe; this despite Kerry's (Ted) Kennedyesque liberal voting record. BRING! IT! ON!
Were today's horrific train bombings in Madrid related to ETA/Basque Separatists or something much worse? Here's a timeline of ETA terrorist activity; you be the judge (I think it's probably ETA).

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Not that I've seen, or will plan to see, the film, but you might like to hear how Mel is quite the aficionado of anal sex jokes.
I have an rule about actors, rock stars, athletes and the like: Like children, they are best seen, not heard. Tim Robbins takes time out to prove this rule.
Andrew Sullivan lays out what the election is about: "As 9/11 recedes, I'm not even sure this is a vote-winner for Bush; but it strikes me as essential that he make it the central issue in the campaign and that Kerry be forced to tell us why he believes it is not a war, and how he believes we can defeat terror while returning to the 'law enforcement' policies of the 1990s."

I agree with this, just so you know, but keep track of this idea as the election gets on.

It's not a new concept, but I took notice when the idea was rehashed in a Weekly Standard piece in late January (released before the State of the Union, although the published date is a few days afterwards) about the missed opportunities to catch UBL in the 1990s using Special Forces troops.

The theme of differentiating Bush's war on terror with a criminal action was repeated by Bush himself during the State of the Union a few days later: "I know that some people question if America is really in a war at all. They view terrorism more as a crime, a problem to be solved mainly with law enforcement and indictments."

Finally, David Frum/Richard Perle wrote an op-ed in the New York Times the next day along the same lines: "When President Bush said on 9/11 that we would not distinguish between the terrorists and the states that harbor them, he changed a longstanding American policy of treating terrorism as a criminal act best dealt with by the institutions of law enforcement." (And it's not like Frum and Perle waited until after the SOTU to write the piece; it's a pretty clear indication that this is a key part of the Republican strategy.)

At the time I thought it was meant to put Bush on a continuum to the right of the more hawkish Democratic candidates -- you heard Clark almost talking in terms of "police actions" as it relates to terrorism and not "war." You got a sense that it would come up again.

Kerry, unfortunately, seems to be falling into this trap. If he continues to say the wrong things about the war on terror, expect this clear distinction between those who see it as a police action versus those who see it as a war become stronger.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Is Bush's profilgate spending worse than Nixon's? It's close, but not quite, as this Foreign Policy article by Kenneth Rogoff explains. And historically, it's better than other countries' election-year spending sprees -- I told you, the Italians are worse! Bruno, take it away; you guys eat up this stuff. (Original link found here.)
Bruno was giving conservative and former Georgia congressman Bob Barr a hard time for authoring the Defense of Marriage Act with three divorces under his belt. Thought he'd might like to see that Barr has come out (heh, I love puns) against the proposed Constitutional amendment against gay marriage.
I need to stop thinking about Kerry, so I might as well let others do the dirty work for me: James Lileks, today.
John Kerry, responding to Dick Cheney's contention that "indecision kills": "Let me tell you something Mr. Cheney and let me tell you Mr. Bush: Bad rush decisions kill too."

There's a motto: Nuance Saves Lives. I'm not impressed -- am I supposed to be?
The city is cracking down on the shisha establishments on Steinway Street in what is known as Little Egypt. Since the New York's smoking ban went into effect they have been mostly overlooked, but that has been changing, threatening the hookah way of life.

The city's stringent anti-smoking regulations provide a loophole for cigar bars that serve alcohol, but since the shisha establishments' clientele is mostly Muslim, they have been unable to apply for an exemption.

See also the New York Times.
Copenhagen's famed "free city" may be phased out, forcing hundreds of thousands of tourists to return to the mainland and get their pot in the Netherlands.

Monday, March 08, 2004

What was it that I read in the Sunday paper that made my blood boil? Something about Kerry grandstanding on Haiti? Oh yeah, that's what it was.
John Tierney's a smart guy, and not just because I agree with his "Best of . . ." and "Worst Of . . ." primary moments.
Why are Indian Muslims not flying planes into buildings, even as militant Hindus massacre them? Krishnadev Calamur explains why.
Tom Brokaw. Why not? It might legitimize Kerry. (Side note: "Veepstakes" sounds gross; must retire phrase, and fast, though I guess it won't be long now . . .)
First, Andrew Sullivan on Kerry's, er, appreciation that life is not always simple. Then, Mickey Kaus on the Unified Kerry Theory, which is emerging as this: Kerry flip-flops alright, but he flops when he should have flipped.
Today I feel: Like voting for Bush.
Reason: Check the head-to-head in this CNN article.
Relevant Excerpt:

"Kerry's fellow senator from Massachusetts, Ted Kennedy, told CNN's 'Late Edition' that Kerry voted in favor of the 2002 resolution on Iraq only after hearing 'distortion' and 'misrepresentation' from the administration about the threat from Saddam Hussein's regime.

"If Kerry had been president, Kennedy said, 'we never would have gone to war. We would have mobilized the international community. We would have isolated and contained Saddam Hussein.'

"Kerry spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter told CNN's 'Inside Politics' that Kerry 'would have been happy to vote for' the $87 billion in supplemental funding for Iraq 'if, A, we could have paid for it, and, B, we had a responsible policy in Iraq.'"

Wrong answers, guys! But let's just pick it apart here: Ted, the idea that John Kerry needs a case to be made by the administration to make a reasoned decision about whether or not to go to war is pretty absurd. And feel free not to try to make me believe that "isolation" and "containment" would have worked. Stephanie, fuck the spin, it's not working. Of course we can pay $87 billion for reconstructing Iraq and Afghanistan. And "responsible policy"? Fuck that. Like I said, wrong message; it makes me not want to vote for Kerry.
I know faulting the intelligence before the Iraq War is a big thing, but I don't believe this guy at all.

Friday, March 05, 2004

The North Koreans are giving John Kerry positive press: "[T]he North Korean media is a constituency Mr Kerry could do without. Second only to the warm words Mr Kerry has enjoyed from Jane Fonda, the actress and antiwar liberal who is still a bugbear of the American right, a signal of support from the Dear Leader will delight conservative talk-show hosts and Republicans eager to paint Mr Kerry as soft on national security."

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Fascinating story of the day in the Times about how authorities track down terrorists through their cell phones and the cooperation between countries in doing so.
"Student-Athlete" shouldn't be an oxymoron, and Jim Harrick, Jr.'s Coaching Principles and Strategies of Basketball class at the University of Georgia doesn't do anything to convince us that it's not. Make sure you read the full final exam.

Sample question on the final exam: "How many points does a 3-point field goal account for in a Basketball Game?"

Salient quote from a student-athlete found in the article: "'A lot of times Harrick Junior would not come to class towards the end so I do not remember any study sessions for the final. I think I did well on the final.'"

The instructor, Jim Harrick, Jr. was an assistant coach for the team and the son of head coach Jim Harrick. The contracts for both coaches were not renewed. The father and son have sued the university for defamation.
Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun's papers have been released and they're fascinating. Blackmun was most notable for authoring the original Roe v. Wade opinion in 1973.

UPDATE: If you have a bunch of time, read the transcript to all of NPR reporter Nina Totenberg's stories about the Blackmun papers. I think I heard this morning that she was one of the few reporters to get to see the papers in advance of their release.
Now it emerges that the authors of two rival worms may be fighting with each other in a cyber-turf war:

"The three most recent variants of the Netsky worm are designed to remove two rival worms, Bagle and MyDoom, from infected computers. The latest version of the Bagle worm, known as Bagle J, contains abusive messages aimed at the author of Netsky. Bagle J contains the missive: Hey, NetSky, [expletives removed], don't ruine our business (sic), wanna start a war?."

It's like Bloods vs. Crips! Sharks vs. Jets! Yankees vs. Dodgers! Dead Rabbits vs. Bowery Boys!

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Sean Penn may be sure there weren't any WMD, but Douglas Hanson, who worked under the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, writes about what the Iraqi Survey Group may have missed. (Original link here.)
Another important Seymour Hersh article explains how the issue of professional Pakistani nuclear proliferator A.Q. Khan is linked to the open speculation that the U.S. is on the verge of apprehending UBL in Pakistani tribal areas. And how the Libya thing contributed to it. Also, some chilling facts about the "globalization of the nuclear world," and why non-state nuclear powers pose a gigantic threat to the world, and what the IAEA can't do about it.
Scary, Unsettling, and Not Buying It.
Yup, it's set in. The only question now is who will be Vice President. Ryan Lizza, for example, sets the stage, but I'm officially not interested in this topic -- the elections -- anymore.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

I can't remember the difference between a worm and a virus, but our office system has been getting a bunch of E-mails with virus attachments lately, which is unusual. Here's a really pernicious virus, though.
Her obituary begins: "Marge Schott, the tough-talking, chain-smoking owner of the Cincinnati Reds who won a World Series but was repeatedly suspended for offensive remarks, died Tuesday, a hospital spokeswoman said. She was 75."

But this sums it up: "The Reds had no immediate comment on her death."
Another important story to read, this time in the New Yorker (there was another good one in the New York Times Sunday Magazine a couple of weeks ago), about soldiers who suffered severe injuries while serving. Writer Dan Baum follows Michael Cain, a very young (22) soldier who had his right leg amputated below his knee.

It makes you want to do something to show your gratitude. I want to put him up in New York for the weekend. I wonder if people around the country would be willing to do the same thing. Alistair Cooke wrote and reported so eloquently about the U.S. and traveling around the U.S. These people deserve something beyond just monetary compensation, although that is obviously important, too.
It's a DeskJockey Kerryfest on his big day. Mark Steyn in the London Telegraph: "I'm sure there are millions of Kerry supporters who'd like to take a tough Kerry-like stand this November. The best way to do that, in the spirit of his war votes, is to vote for Bush and then spend the next 10 years solemnly explaining that that was your bold courageous way of expressing your opposition to Bush."
And when I say maybe executive experience at the state level is important and that maybe Dean was better than we thought, I didn't really mean to say "Dean" but rather a governor like how Dean was a governor . . . or something like that.

Anyway, Howard Kurtz' Washington Post article dissects the Dean campaign, and it's not pretty.

Salient excerpt: "In different conversations and in different ways, according to several people who worked with him, Dean said at the peak of his popularity late last year that he never expected to rise so high, that he didn't like the intense scrutiny, that he had just wanted to make a difference. 'I don't care about being president,' he said. Months earlier, as his candidacy was taking off, he told a colleague: 'The problem is, I'm now afraid I might win.'"

[blatant revisionism]Actually, he seems like a good guy . . . ![/blatant revisionism]

Another choice cut: "Kate O'Connor knew about the Al Gore endorsement. Joe Trippi didn't. He blamed O'Connor. He also blamed Howard Dean. . . . Dean and Gore had agreed to keep quiet about the former vice president's plan to announce his support within days, fearing a premature leak. Trippi grew suspicious when staffers were asked to charter a large plane to Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He asked Dean, who said someone would be endorsing him but he couldn't tell Trippi who it was. Trippi reminded him that he was the campaign manager. But Dean wouldn't budge." [Emphasis added]
Alistair Cooke, at 95, is retiring and will no longer be doing the excellent "Letter from America" on the BBC. (Here's his final letter.)
Keep your eye on the big news later that there is/was water on Mars: "'There are lots of geologists out there who are looking at these pictures and they are starting to drool,' [MER Deputy Project Scientist Albert] Haldeman said."

UPDATE: Here's the story: ""NASA launched the Mars Exploration Rover mission specifically to check whether at least one part of Mars had a persistently wet environment that could possibly have been hospitable to life,' James Garvin, a lead NASA scientist, said in a statement. 'Today we have strong evidence for an exciting answer: Yes.'"
I don't get it. Isn't the Social Security Trust Fund not part of the general budget? Why is Paul Krugman blowing Alan Greenspan's comments on social security out of proportion? Did Bush jimmy off the lock on the lock box? Isn't there a lock box? What are the facts here?

Or is Krugman lying, taking liberty with facts and generally demagoguing in order to turn public opinion against George Bush?
Read Mickey Kaus' I Told You So before Kerry sews up the nomination. I think I'm coming around to the idea that executive experience, especially at the state level, is more important than Washington experience. In the end, would Dean have been a better choice?

Monday, March 01, 2004

Sunday's debate in New York was kind of insane. Salient points:

Including Sharpton and Kucinich was a waste of time; especially when Sharpton derided the media, through Dan Rather, for making it a two-man contest. To retaliate, Rather should have asked Sharpton about the Federal Reserve Bank again. Dennis Kucinich should become a writer for some publication like the Nation; he's pretty smart. I just don't think he's contributing very much to the debate other than freaking out moderates by calling on a full withdrawal from Iraq, the WTO and NAFTA and establishing a Cabinet-level "Department of Peace."

If Howard Dean had spilled his water instead of John Edwards it would have become one of those symbols. Edwards was cool though as the puddle moved across the table.

John Kerry's answer at the end to the silly question about whether god was on the side of the U.S. was lame. Edwards -- who was third to answer -- had time to think about it, and came up with a nice Abraham Lincoln quote.

Representative excerpt:

[New York Times White House Correspondent Elisabeth] BUMILLER: Senator Kerry, let me...

KERRY: No, no, I insist on being able to finish.

BUMILLER: I want to ask a really important question.

KERRY: This is important.


SHARPTON: If we're going to have a discussion just between two -- in your arrogance (ph), you can try that, but that's one of the reasons we're going to have delegates, so that you can't just limit the discussion.

And I think that your attempt to do this is blatant, and I'm going to call you out on it, because I'm not going to sit here and be window dressing.

BUMILLER: Well, I'm not going to be addressed like this.

SHARPTON: Well, then, let all of us speak.


SHARPTON: I want us to be able to respond, or then tell us you want a two-way debate.

[Dan] RATHER: Here's where the thing is. We certainly want to hear, I think you will agree, the voters have spoken.

SHARPTON: No, the voters have not spoken. We've only had -- he's won one primary. He's come in fourth seven times.

BUMILLER: How many delegates...

SHARPTON: What you're trying to do is trying to decide for the voters how we go forward. The voters need to hear this morning from four candidates, or say the media now is going to select candidates.

RATHER: Reverend, we've heard from you, we're going to hear from you. I don't understand what the argument is.

SHARPTON: I had to fight to speak on Haiti, I had to fight to speak on trade. You got a guy with one primary that you're pretending he's -- Gary Hart won more primaries than Mondale.

Let's have an open debate and go into Super Tuesday, or say that you guys want to decide the nominee.

RATHER: Reverend, debate them, not me.

SHARPTON: If I get time, I would love to do that.

RATHER: You've been on, but the clock's been running on you. I wanted to hear what you had to say...

KERRY: Can I just finish?

RATHER: Finish what you have to say, Senator, then we're going to go to Reverend Sharpton.
My tally of Oscar winners: 15 out of 24. The rundown:

Sean Penn MYSTIC RIVER (I said Johnny Depp, thinking Bill Murray would split the pro-Penn vote)

Tim Robbins MYSTIC RIVER (one point)

Charlize Theron MONSTER (one point)

Renée Zellweger COLD MOUNTAIN (one point)

FINDING NEMO (one point)





THE FOG OF WAR (I said Friedmans; I thought I chose Fog of War, though -- and what did I say about narcissism? Did you hear that acceptance speech? Spider Hole this!)

CHERNOBYL HEART (I said Ferry Tales -- I was rooting for the Staten Island Ferry)


THE BARBARIAN INVASIONS (one point; one of my Super SWAGs)


THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING (I said “Big Fish,” for no particular reason -- I should have stuck to my landslide formula, which is that the best picture usually gets the lesser awards, too, just out of sheer laziness/ignorance of the Academy voters)

THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING "Into the West" (I said Sting because Sting always wins, and I forgot that this song is actually pretty catchy)


HARVIE KRUMPET (I guessed Destino because of that Sunday Times article about Roy Disney)

TWO SOLDIERS (my other Super SWAG; I missed)



Jim Rygiel, Joe Letteri, Randall William Cook and Alex Funke


LOST IN TRANSLATION (one point, and I wasn’t happy about it, either; totally overrated)

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