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Friday, February 28, 2003

Requiem For "The Donahue Show"

I thought I posted this last November, but I can't find it, so I scraped it off a hard drive. A friend of mine appeared on "The Donahue Show", and, lacking a train wreck to gawk at, I tuned in. A review is offered below:

From Dusk To Donahue

Phil Donahue and big time comic Kevin Meaney battle three Comedy Vampires intent on sucking the humor out of every segment of "The Donahue Show".

This Friday night, Phil Donahue either advanced the frontiers of subtlety with a brilliant parody of every awful talk show ever aired, or set a new standard in unwatchability. Phil's guests included professional comedian Kevin Meaney, and three faceless, nameless drones who could neither smile nor shut up.

An early segment was devoted to the lawsuit against McDonald's brought by three obese teenagers. Donahue smiles as he introduces it. There is lightness in the air, and in his mood. However, any hopes for an amusing segment are quickly dashed by the guest who delivers a three minute monologue on beef fat, cooking oil, French fries, Hindu customs, and strict Vegan dieting practices. Fortunately, viewers at home get a comic payoff when the camera scans the studio audience. Folks out there are desperately grabbing for their remote controls, and the looks on their faces as they realize that THIS IS LIVE AND THERE IS NO ESCAPE make the preceding minutes of pain worthwhile.

A now-somber Donahue is desperate to get Kevin Meaney, designated funnyman, involved, so he introduces the next segment:

"Our following piece covers the tragic death of 200 people in riots connected to the Miss World pageant. This is a terrible, terrible incident. There is nothing at all funny about this - two hundred people are dead. Two hundred. Dead. Terrible. Unimaginable. Your thoughts, Kevin?

Kevin was probably wondering whether he should expand his resume to say "comedian and grief counselor", but he bravely offered a non-quip, and the Comedy Vampires took over. Sexism! Racism! Exploitation! One woman in the studio audience slumped forward from boredom and hit her head, so we watched her receive medical treatment - she seemed to be gesturing for a general anesthetic and wisely resisted all attempts to restore her to full consciousness. Cut to a commercial.

Finally, the big finish. Phil introduces a new guest, and she is the shapely Victoria Sinclair of Naked News, evidently a pioneer in broadcast journalism. With degrees in law and journalism (or something) and a model's hot bod, this young lady's claim to fame is her Canadian show where she reads the news and presents video clips while undressing. [Totally safe link here] And why not? That's Entertainment!

She walks on the Donahue set, tastefully attired in a Chanel suit and matching scarf, and Phil introduces, by video hook-up, yet another guest, evidently meant to reinforce the efforts of the Comedy Vampires.

This new guest is a classic big-haired bimbo from a lost corner of television "journalism", and she is screaming at Miss Naked News! "Do you have any idea how hard we work to develop our credibility! We train for years, and struggle to overcome the stereotype that we are just a bunch of pretty faces! Sexism! Exploitation! The horror!"

Gee, and I am sitting at home wondering whether Victoria Sinclair is even as hot as any of the news bunnies on MSNBC, not to mention the many news-babes that clearly are in front of the camera due to something more than their doctorate in International Relations. I tune back in to the screaming: apparently, Ms. Sinclair has recently come out of retirement.

"You quit because you were ashamed of your so-called work! Why not admit it?"

And Kevin Meaney joins in. "I don't know if we should make that assumption. She was filming in Canada - maybe she just got cold."

Laughter from the audience! Hope at home. The Comedy Vampires are at bay!

But only briefly. The candle of hope flickers and dies, and the drones regain control.

So, could a show be this memorably awful by accident, or is it a clever post-modern deconstruction of all that is wrong with broadcast "talking head" shows? Beats me. But I have a hard time believing that there is a steady market for this.

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That Was The Month That Was

I introduce what might become a regular feature if I maintain any discipline at all. I hope to jot down the most unforgettable blog moments of the month. Then, at the end of the year, after I have forgotten most of them, I will have reminders available before I decide on Grand Prizes.

I am already a month late, of course, but here we go:


Big Media Blooper: The "Now You See It, Now You Don't" Jefferson Davis wreath story, brought to us by Time Magazine.

Blogosphere Breakthrough: "Axis of Weasels"

I'll Be Damned (sort of a "I've never seen that" award): Mary Rosh, the John Lott sock puppet


Give In To The Dark Side: "Four Horsemen of the Ablogalypse"; BigWig The Evil Telemarketer.

LOL Pieces (and I am wide open for suggestions): Jesse on Drugs

OK, time will pass, the list will grow, but this is it, so far.

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Bury The Lede

Glenn links to a story about the problem a newspaper has requiring registration. Yeah, yeah, get to the point - the lede is the new coinage for Big Journalism: BigJoSphere!

So far, zero Google hits on that word. But the future is now!

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TAPPED Out on Economists

When the link to "The Onion" is slow, there is always "TAPPED". And how do they bring a wry smile to our weary visage today? Not satisfied with putting out a first class blog, they have decided to determine just who in this great wide world can claim the title of "economist":

...We finally found a link to the White House press release, titled "250 Economists Endorse President Bush's Jobs and Growth Plan". We could point out that they only have 250 economists to the 450 that are opposed to Bush's plan, but it's more interesting to look at what, exactly, the meaning of the word "economist" is.

There follows a long bit "exposing" the absence of credentials amongst many of the signers, before we get to the payoff:

Now, one needn't be a credentialed economist to have an opinion on the Bush budget. But traditionally, you don't get to call yourself an economist without that sheepskin.

Although it is always delightful to hear a forward looking liberal invoke "tradition", my immediate response is "Says who?" Donald Luskin dances all over this point, but I am not so easily satisfied. Off I went to the website of the American Economic Association, and checked their job openings.

The phrase "barrel fishing" came to mind. Checking the commercial openings hardly seemed to be necessary - those capitalist whores will hand a paycheck and a fancy title to any charlatan that can help them make a buck. However, I had hopes that the US Government might be stodgy, unimaginative, and strict in their standards. Wrong! After one hit on a job requiring a PhD in Economics, my next two were here and here.

So what's up with this:

"Candidates should have the ability to write for a general audience. Experience working at a research institution and graduate training in economics or public policy are preferred." and

"Qualifications include advanced degree--Ph.D. or Master's degree in economics, policy analysis or related discipline with a strong quantitative background and at least two years of experience in health policy.

TOTALLY non-traditional! A mere Master's Degree? My Goodness, Jane Galt could declare herself to be an economist, and the US Gov't would agree!

Well, the shock was a bit much, so I retreated to the academic sector, where I felt confident that reason, right, and traditional values would be upheld. But what now?

"Qualifications include a Ph.D. in economics, mathematics, statistics, or a related field (mathematical economics)";

"The successful candidate will: have an outstanding research record and an international reputation in the field of real estate finance; have demonstrated a potential for leadership through publication in internationally recognized journals, external fund raising, and leadership of a research group."
[Oh, man, they want an ex-Wall Streeter, and that is at Cambridge!]

"Candidates should have a Ph.D. in economics or finance"; Ooops, TAPPED said this: "Emile J. Brinkmann of the Mortgage Bankers Association of America has a Ph.D. -- in finance, not economics.

Well, I lost interest at that point, although I would love to find a graceful segue to mathematician John Maynard Keynes.

However, another point still troubles me. Is it a tradition in journalism that reporters go to journalism school? TAPPED does a lot of reporting - I hope their staff are all properly credentialed, and not simple talented but untrained cross-over types.

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Thursday, February 27, 2003

Bush Defends His Dad

Why, oh why didn't we get Saddam in 1991?

"The mission in the early 1990s was to liberate Kuwait and the United States achieved that mission," Bush said. "

Well, the Economist has a bit more:

After the last Gulf war, his father used America's increased prestige to convene the Madrid conference, which led to the Oslo peace process.

OK, not much. But the point is, we made promises to our allies in 1991, which Bush I honored. As a result, from 1991 to about 1998, we had Iraq disarming under UN supervision, and a peace process in Palestine. It looked like a plan! Things have not worked out quite so well, but hindsight is 50/50, as a friend of mine once said.

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The Daily Kos: Firmly Committed To Principle

And that principle is victory.

So maybe we can cool it on the high-minded rhetoric about racism in the GOP. As one example from the site, how about:

GOP mocks the "party of Lincoln"
... it boggles the mind how badly the Republicans have botched the race issue over the past month.

After Lott's ouster, many Republicans crowed about exorcising their heritage of racial intolerance. The spin (eagerly lapped up by the media) was that a new generation of Republicans (the neocons) had asserted themselves over the Old Guard (the paleocons). Lott had to resign in disgrace, and a new, more tolerant Republican Party had arisen like a phoenix from the ashes of the GOP's Dixie heritage.

...It's been said a million times, but bears repeating: The GOP may or may not be racist, but that's not really the issue. Its Southern base will respond to coded appeals to racist impulses -- be they Confederate flags or talk of "quotas" at the University of Michigan.

May or not be racist. Do let us know.

Meanwhile, today, we have this on the subject of Democratic chances in three Southern state elections in 2003:

...Democrats in Mississippi are in interesting breed -- far to the right of the national party. As such, there's a tendency amongst many who visit this site to dismiss them (and other Southern Dems) as DINOs (like Landrieu).

...It doesn't matter whether these southern Democrats are your "type" of Democrat. We must win these races to improve our chances in 2004.

Fine. Then maybe it doesn't matter that some of these Southerners are not "my" type of Republican.

Newspaper reports suggest that in Georgia, rural whites who normally vote Democratic switched over on the prospect of a referendum on the Confederate flag. Were these acceptable Democrats until last November? And are there no rural whites in Mississippi with similar views? Is it the Democratic strategy to rely on the support of secret racists? Please.

I'm in the "educate and fumigate" school - drag this stupid flag issue out in the open, and let the people speak. They may surprise us. And if they end up appalling us, well, repeat the "educate" cycle. But the cram-down back room deal that changed the Georgia flag last time obviously did not satisfy.

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Nathan Newman Has A Fascinating Post

No description would do it justice. He's making phone calls, breaking news, and, we hope, getting results.

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I Now Solve Big Problems In Little Time

First, school reform: require all Congressfolks, the President, and the Vice-President to send their kids to the DC public schools. Congress funds the District, but no one ever lost an election in Ohio because schools were shabby in DC. Fine, we need a SHORT phase-in, or current Congresspeople will faint. Also, future Congressional candidates will tend to be older, younger, more childless, or gayer than the current crop. So what? The DC schools will be improved, and the rest of will learn from the experience.

More Snappy Answers To Silly Questions: Can A Liberal Succeed In Talk Radio?

Rush is not competing with NPR. His competition is sports talk radio, where people indulge their tribal instincts by booing the Yankees and cheering the Mets, or whatever hapless also-rans the rest of you root for. Rush is an entertainer, politics is a team sport!

Sorry, that does not exactly tell you who will succeed. But it does suggest that policy wonks are out. Mario Cuomo may be smart and engaging, but on radio, who cares? Yay, Dems! Boo, Repubs! Or vice versa. Not brain surgery, here.

Now, if you are worried about the decline of civil discourse and the boom in shock jock political talk, a la Michael Savage, well, good point. But why are we worried now, when Jerry Springer and Howard Stern have been working their magic for years? We may be finding the political equivalent of pornography, and now what? Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public, unfortunately.

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I Reject "Guilt By Non-Association"

Bold, huh? Here we have an interesting post by Atrios about McCarthyism, which I slyly excerpt:


Jonah Goldberg is a fan. Glenn Reynolds is a fan.

CalPundit nicely tries to explain it to them, but .... I think it's hopeless, Kevin. Reynolds has expressed his support of collective racial guilt in the past, and he's tarred anti-war protesters with loose associations they're hardly aware of - you know, red-baiting - both of which demonstrate a clear fondness for the tactics of that old drunk.

Sorry, that wasn't sly excerpting at all, that is pretty much it. But imputing "guilt by association" seems to be a bad thing, at least in the context of anti-war protests.

What, then, to make of this post, also by Atrios, roughly seven hours later:

Protest Savage on MSNBC

This is one I think most of my conservative pals would want to join in with. After all, he'll be representing you every Saturday afternoon, not me.

Emphasis added.

Well, now. I have never listened to Mr. Savage, I do not know if his radio show is available in my market, and he evidently has a book out which I have not read. Despite my near-perfect ignorance of the man and his views, I can say this with confidence - he does not hold elective office either nationally or in my region.

Consequently, there is no meaningful basis for describing him as my representative, and I reject this attempt at guilt by non-association.

Here is the MSNBC announcement. Matthew Yglesias comments. Here is the Salon article M Yglesias links to. A FAIR press release.

OK, the guy is a jerk. But not my jerk, thank you.

UPDATE: Atrios has a reply in his comments section:

I didn't say conservatives are responsible for savage, what I meant was he will be representing the "conservative viewpoint." Like, I'd be pissed off if they put Joseph Stalin up there to represent the "liberal viewpoint."

Hmm, a possible clue to his secret identity? Actually, this answer is consistent with his earlier post on the subject, which I have finally found.

Well, I see the point. I will admit that if a noted liberal news outlet such as the NY Times hired Old Joe, I am sure I would join in pointing the mocking finger. If a news organization with a conservative tilt such as Fox hired this Savage chap (presuming him to be all he is cracked up to be), then I would have to concede a dimunition in their credibility.

But MSNBC is just flailing about, turning over rocks and hoping something telegenic crawls out. So I don't think the presence of Savage on the roster represents conservatives - I think he represents himself, and his fans. If Republican politicos start making nice with him, then we will see.

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Wednesday, February 26, 2003

The Era Of Euro-Bashing Is Over

Fun is fun, but now it is ended. From today's Times:

Senator Chuck Hagel, a Nebraska Republican who has himself criticized the Bush administration for being too inclined to go it alone in world affairs, was another of the officials who met with Dr. Merkel.

"Obviously, she's the leader of the opposition party, but I do think the real objective here is to put back together and repair the damage that's been done between these two countries," Mr. Hagel said. "Don't allow America to define Germany by what the chancellor said, or don't allow Germany to define America by using anti-American sentiments for political purposes."

"I have said that we on our side of the Atlantic should be careful, too," he continued. "I don't think America enhances its position with its allies by condescending, glancing-blow comments like those made by the secretary of defense and others."

The CalPundit and Patrick Ruffini agree. Now, someone tell Ms. Dowd to lighten up on the Bulgarians - she sounds like an ugly Upper East side snob.

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Guilty Pleasures

VH1 just did a rundown of the songs you hate to admit you love. The top five were, from the bottom, "YMCA" by the Village People, "Do A Liitle Dance" by KC and the Sunshine Band, "Karma Chameleon" by Boy George, "Mandy" by Barry Manilow, and "Dancing Queen" by ABBA.

Drop "Karma Chameleon", add something by the Bee Gees, and we are all set. Assuming that "Key Largo" by Bertie Higgins is beyond the pale.

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I Have Read His Lips, And My Jaw Has Dropped

Andrew Sullivan has a piece about the Iraq and the culture wars which contains this shocker: some Bush tax cuts should be rescinded to pay for the rebuilding of post-war Iraq.

"But I do think that an opportunity exists for Bush to neutralize and even co-opt some of these people [on the Left] by his conduct in the post-war settlement. He must commit real resources, real troops, real money to reconstructing Iraq and to building the beginnings of democracy there. No friendly new dictator; no cut-and-run; no change of the subject. He has to show the essentially progressive nature of the war against Islamist terror and its state sponsors - not just for the security of the West but for the future of the Arab world. Rescinding some future tax cuts to help pay for this may well be prudent - and even popular.

Emphasis added, but no exclamation points. Sullivan taking the "No" out of "No New Taxes"? Tear out the front page. Someone sedate Paul Krugman before he hurts himself laughing. And speaking strictly for myself, I am woefully confused. I thought that the Horsemen of the Ablogalypse included Death and War, not Death and Taxes.

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Put This On The List Of Things That Won't Happen

The Man Sans Q wants to repeal the corporate income tax. Set aside his arguments about increased economic efficiency, and a redeployment of creative minds towards truly productive ends. Repealing the corporate income tax is a great idea which won't happen because it totally violates the Russell Long formula for Painless Revenue Raising: "Don't tax you, and don't tax me; tax that fellow behind the tree".

The problem is, as much as earnest lefties might like to pretend otherwise, the corporate income tax is not paid by a cigar smoking Mr Exxon living high on a hill. The tax is paid by some combination of shareholders, bondholders, and the suppliers, employees and customers of a corporation. Hair pulling micro-economic analysis would be needed to estimate, industry by industry and company by company, just who was actually paying the tax through reduced corporate income, riskier debt, lower wages, higher prices, reduced output, and reduced employment.

With no clear winners, and screaming (albeit simplistic) opponents, a proposed repeal of the corporate income tax would be DOA. Darn.

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People Hate "The Bell Curve", So How Do They Like This?

Lots of links to the "Bell Curve" blogathon, and an odd discussion here. Well, if Thomas Sowell is unhappy, I am unhappy.

Now, what about sex based differences in intelligence? The simplified argument is that, because of their XY chromosome, men as a group have a greater variability in everything, including intelligence. Consequently, men will be over-represented amongst both the village idiots and the geniuses of the age.

Fascinating if true, since equality of opportunity for elite spots requiring "top percentile" ability will never be met with equality of gender outcome. Setting aside any physical requirements or cultural barriers, one would still predict that astronauts, PhD's, concert pianists, brilliant politicians, writers, mathematicians, nuclear physicists, and even top bloggers would be predominantly male. Weird. Or, is it?

Anyway, I have linked to one paper, but have no idea how this thesis has stood up to academic review. Help?

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Andrew Sullivan Discovers Al Sharpton

I hate to describe his column as "insight-free", so let's say that if you don't like surprises, you will like this. And in fairness, it was written for the Sunday Times in London, so perhaps it advances the discussion over there.

Now, for comparison, I had a brilliant post worked up on Al Sharpton. It was on the old hard drive right next to my laymen's proof that a^n + b^n can never equal c^n when all the variables are integers and "n" exceeds two. Regrettably, both are now gone. Blame Bill Gates!

So, soundbite - if the Dems deal with Sharpton by attacking and marginalizing him, he will remember in November, and to repay he will stay away. Just let him be one more candidate, encourage him to run as a mainstream anti-war lefty, and things will be fine. Well, if not "fine", then tolerable. Force Al to gain relevance by appealing to the radical elements of his base, and Al will raise issues that the Democrats find hopelessly troublesome and divisive.

Do we really want to hear each Democratic candidate take a position on slavery reparations before a national television audience? Actually, I do, but only because not since "Your Show of Shows" will we have seen so much live comedy and tap-dancing on TV. Also, because I have an evil heart.

How to deal with Al? Co-opt by cooperation. Might work. Marginalize Louis Farrakhan.

UPDATE: And TNR went to a pay per view format! Set the truth free, baby!

Anyway, my link to their piece deploring the Lieberman-Farrakhan meeting is gone.

UPDATE 2: Eric the Red steers us to this WaPo guest piece on Al and Carol Moseley-Braun. I hope the author, Jonetta Rose Barras, is wearing an asbestos suit, because this paragraph is too hot to touch:

What should trouble African Americans, who are desperate to get a stronger foothold in national politics and have been fielding presidential candidates since the 1970s -- including former U.S. representative Shirley Chisholm and the omnipresent Jesse Jackson -- isn't the name-recognition-money woes but rather the quality of candidates. Brazile, who has dedicated herself to reviving the party's traditional base -- women, blacks, left-wing liberals and gays -- may want to fling open the doors for all sorts of riffraff, but blacks who are serious about winning may want to be a bit more deliberative.

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Tuesday, February 25, 2003

An Early St. Paddy's Day From The Mans Sans Q

I figure anyone who calls me a dumb Mick knows me well enough to know I'm Irish, but not well enough to know that "Really dumb, and insensitive too" is more likely to get my Irish up.

But on behalf of dumb Micks everywhere, the Man polishes a small pebble into a gem.

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The Moral Equivalence Watch Never Sleeps

We may put you to sleep... never mind! While educating myself as to Ms. Sarandon's position of Iraq, I came across this gem:

Susan Sarandon says: "Let us resist this war. Let us hate war in all its forms, whether the weapon used is a missile or an airplane."

I see that I am late to this party. Jay Nordlinger takes a shot at Sarandon, as does Mean Mr. Mustard and an American with a mind. But here is a fan.

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In Which I Puzzle Over "Fox News" And "The Old Crow"...

...without actually concluding anything.

The Hammer falls on Janeane Garofalo, an earnest Hollywood anti-war activist who appeared on "Fox News Sunday". Henry Hanks delivers a scathing review of her performance, but troubles me with this:

SNOW: Well, perhaps let me change the question, then. Why wasn't there an organized anti-war movement under Bill Clinton?
GAROFALO: Oh, there was, and Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins were at the forefront.

According to a Lexis-Nexis search by Newsmax, they weren't. In fact, there is no record of them protesting Desert Fox at all.

Well, I can not refute that. One might also wonder about our air war in Kosovo, conducted without authorization from the UN or the US Congress. Various Google searches do not reveal a public stand by Ms. Sarandon on that intervention, although, to her credit, Ms. Sarandon was involved in the rebuilding of Kosovo.

However, I did stagger across this:

Lift the Sanctions on Iraq: An Ad in the New York Times, July 28, 2000

[The following advertizement was placed in the New York Times on July 28, 2000 by the Fellowship of Reconciliation. John Dear and Susan Sarandon contacted nationally recognized people to speak out against the economic sanctions on Iraq; those listed each contributed significantly to making the ad possible.]


Ten years ago, on August 6, 1990, the U.S. imposed economic sanctions on Iraq. Since then, over one million Iraqis, mostly children under five, have died.

Ten years is enough! The military sanctions on Iraq should continue, but the economic sanctions not only do not work, they are killing innocent Iraqi children.

We say, the time has come to stop killing Iraqi children.


Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins, Martin Sheen, Rosie O'Donnell, Sr. Helen Prejean, Bonnie Raitt, Mike Farrell...

So she evidently had a position on Iraq which preceded Bush's presence in the White House. And a subtle position it is - maintain military sanctions, but lift economic ones. Dual use goods are treated how, in a modern industrialized economy? Computers, communications equipment, industrial tools and chemicals - I don't know enough about it to know how big a problem this is, but I suspect it is significant. Well, let's press on, I promised to drag "Fox News" into this.

Susan Sarandon and Mike Farell discussed the situation in Iraq with Rich Lowry (of NRO) on "Face The Nation". Fox News describes the encounter thusly:

The conventional wisdom among some pundits is that President Bush hasn't made "the case" for a war against Iraq. But the Sunday shows demonstrated anti-war forces don't make a particularly compelling case, either.

When the questioning gets tough, "peace" advocates change the subject. Someone else in the world is as bad as Saddam, a war will cost too much or a war will spawn new terrorist attacks.

The Hollywood anti-war faction got plenty of face time: Comedienne Janeane Garofalo appeared on Fox News Sunday, while actress Susan Sarandon and actor Mike Farrell were paired off against National Review's Rich Lowry on Face the Nation. Lowry joked he did not have enough Hollywood or TV credits to be in the debate.

Garofalo refused to concede there ever could be a "just war" and claimed sanctions were responsible for "mass murders" in Iraq. Sarandon and Farrell, with a slightly different set of talking points, argued, "Sanctions work, war doesn't."

Sanctions work!?!? This would be a bit of a newsmaker, rivaling the laugh-out loud switch of Dennis Kucinich. The new Democratic candidate for President seems to have a new-found entusiasm for killing babies, born or otherwise, as Taranto observes.

But here it comes - I promised a non-point, and I deliver! Reading the "Face the Nation" transcript carefully does not confirm the notion that Sarandon and Farrell have also flip-flopped on sanctions. The questioners did not really take the conversation in that direction, and the closest quote is this:

FARRELL: Well, I don't think the issue is trust, nor should it be.

Saddam Hussein, as far as I'm concerned, is a war criminal, Bob. But Mr. Lowry has made a number of misstatements I'd like to try to correct.

But with regard to what Mr. Blix is saying, the inspectors are on the ground there. They don't have to trust Saddam Hussein. They have terrific technological ability to determine whether or not the charges that are made by the United States are correct. And they have so far determined that they are not correct.

And if need be, we can enhance both the size of the inspections regime and the length of time in which they have to do their job. And that's exactly what we should be doing. Our argument is, inspections work, war doesn't.

Emphasis added.

So, their current position on sanctions is presumably unchanged. The mechanism which led to the current inspections process, and led to the failure of the previous inspection process, is given short shrift. Lowry provides a hint, however, with this line:

"...look, we tried containment in the '90s, and it didn't work. As soon as Saddam realized there wasn't a serious military threat against him, he kicked out the inspectors..."

Oh my, the notorious "Saddam kicked out the inspectors canard"! Farrell pounces: "Beyond that, as was suggested, Saddam Hussein didn't chase the inspectors out in 1998. They were withdrawn by President Clinton."

Tony Blair himself defended the "Saddam kicked them out" phrasing. The gist of his argument is, Sadam made it impossible for the inspectors to do their job. Rather than sit in their hotel rooms, they left Iraq, so as to avoid being in harm's way while Blair and Clinton bombed Iraq. Having been bombed, Saddam declined to re-admit them. Hair-splitting.

So, careless reporting by Fox News. The Old Crow seems to be right about Desert Fox, but has overlooked Ms. Sarandon's later involvement with Iraq. Lowry and Schieffer did a poor job of raising some interesting points. And I doubt any minds were changed.

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Ablogalypse... Later

Hmm, we talk about "The Four Horsemen of the Ablogalypse", and this guy comes up with, well, four jockeys. And a possible spot for Jane G. Not very scary, though. And shouldn't they be lefties?

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Opportunity Lost

A live debate between George Bush and Saddam Hussein? Man, this could outdraw "Joe Millionaire"! And is the debate team that prepped Al Gore for his three fascinating and varied performances against Bush ready to volunteer to serve their country one more time? If they could fly to Baghdad to "help" Saddam, well, it looks like peace in our time.

MORE: Both CNN and some other news show had segments on this. One CNN viewer wrote in with, roughly, the following question: Considering how much troublew we haev translating "Bushisms" into English, how will they ever be translated into Arabic? Good point! And a poor translation could trigger WWIII... but don't feel any pressure.

Another CNN viewer preferred a quiz show format, where the winner gets to keep his WMDs.

On the other show (Today?) Chris Matthews made some sensible points. Asked whether Saddam is winning the PR battle with Bush, he mentioned a Lee Atwater quip - after all these years, David is still getting good press for beating Goliath. As to the debates, the idea of Saddam proposing and Bush refusing actually makes Saddam look reasonable and Bush intransigent. Was it a serious proposal? Well, Saddam can't leave Iraq, and Bush is not going to Baghdad, so not really. Matthews' final point - Saddam appearing on the same stage with Bush gives them equal stature. Some may look into their hearts and decide that this represents an upgrade for Bush. However, Matthews suggested (right wing media bias?) that Saddam would gain stature in a joint appearance with the President of the US.

Now, to my own extrapolation (unless Matthews said it and I missed it, in which case credit him): The idea of a debate is absurd, but the White House still managed to blow it. Agree immediately, suggest as a venue the UN in NYC (as if!) or a site in Geneva, and watch the chips fall. If Saddam leaves Iraq there will quite probably be a coup (Matthews' point). If Saddam refuses to leave, then he is the one who appears unreasonable and unreliable. At least the US gets a PR stand-off.

Opportunity lost.

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Nuclear Incident At Grand Central Station

A frined of mine, who for purposes of this stroy will be called Susan,had dinner last night with "Mark". Mark had an interesting story to tell: just that afternoon he was had been having a bowl of soup with John in Grand Central Station. Suddenly, four policemen a two national Guardsmen surrounded them. "Uhh, is there a problem, officer?"

Apparently, the police had detected a suspicious level of radioactivity, and wanted to chat with the two of them for an explanation, which was promptly forthcoming: John had received a CAT scan that morning, and part of the procedure had invloved injection with a radioactive tracer.

There have been reports that the NYC police are using radioactive detectors. Evidently, they are quite sensitive.

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Monday, February 24, 2003

Beware The Ides Of March

What mysterious thoughts are lurking within Diane E. at "Letters From Gotham"? She offers this:

STUPID PREDICTION. I believe that Saddam will be history on March 18, 2003. Ask me why I believe this on March 19, 2003, when I will have egg all over my face. For now, I prefer to keep my reasons secret and oh-so-mysterious.

OK, March 18 is the anniversary of the founding of NATO, the anniversary of the first post Cold War elections in East Germany, Neville Chamberlain's birthday, the anniversary of the announcement of the hydrogen bomb, and the first US national election.

But I doubt any of these are the explanation. As good a guess would be to expect Saddam to be swept out as part of the post-St. Patrick's Day clean-up.

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You Will Feel A Lot Smarter After Reading This

But don't let your kids get ahold of it.

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Sunday, February 23, 2003

Thoughts On The Boycott Of All Things French

If it is any help, what we call "French toast" is known in England as "eggy toast". Perhaps even better, "French fries" are "chips". Show solidarity with Tony Blair AND preserve your "diet"! George Will, possibly suffering from an Ivins backlash, has more.

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Can You Shoot An Intruder With An Unlicensed Gun?

Yes and no. We were originally following the Ron Dixon story, but the list of similar stories in the NYC area is now four. The latest:

An armed burglar in search of a Queens woman's lottery winnings was fatally shot by the woman's son, who now faces gun charges, police said.

Manuel Falquez, 22, who is on leave from the Air Force, used an unlicensed 9-mm handgun to shoot the man who shimmied up three stories and used a knife to pry open a sliding glass door on the balcony of Gracia Gutierrez's Corona home Tuesday. Gutierrez, who was not home when the shooting occurred, recently won a $100,000 Win 4 jackpot.

Police said the burglar, who was carrying identification they believe is fake and was still unidentified last night, had his own unlicensed .38-caliber gun, which was recovered in the apartment.

Officials at the Queens district attorney's office said Falquez, an airman based at Maguire Air Force Base in New Jersey, was charged with criminal possession of a weapon, a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail.

From the prior link, “it’s highly unlikely Falquez will do any jail time for this,” a law enforcement source added.

And what about Mr. Dixon?

...on Dec. 14, Ronald Dixon, 27, wounded Ivan Thompson, 40, a longtime criminal, after Thompson broke into Dixon’s home and was heading toward the room of Dixon’s 2-year-old son, police said. The Navy veteran also used an unlicensed handgun. He was charged with illegal possession of a firearm.

Prosecutors offered Dixon a plea deal, which he rejected.

In a statement released through his spokesman Wednesday, Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes said: “We’re not disputing that Mr. Dixon had a right to shoot the person who broke into his house. But he had no right to have that gun.”

The case is pending.

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I Have Seen The Mountain Top

The "Four Horsemen of the Ablogalypse"! That is as good as it gets. Huge props to Max Sawicky, who seems to have made the day of Glenn, Steven den Beste, and, I am sure, others. And let's nod to Ivy's Blogenspiel AKA Ablogalypse Now, which is the only earlier cite Google is offering me for "Ablogalypse".

Now, here is a cool photo, and the relevant chapter of "Revelations", since I know you are curious.

And a special bonus for Clint Eastwood fans:

And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him.

"Pale Rider", baby! Different version, though.

UPDATE: Oh, if I had coined that phrase, I would never let anyone forget it. Damn, I would carve it on my tombstone! Sadly, Max S. seems to wish the whole thing never happened. C'mon, buddy, you came up HUGE!

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Saturday, February 22, 2003

Oh, Man, I Missed The Memo

"Name profiling" at airports, for common Islamo-terrorist names like Abdullah. Is this a subtle attempt to engage in ethnic profiling by another, uhh, name?

I knew about the "nationality profiling" initiated last fall. But this new policy is directed at American citizens.

Well, leave it to the NY Times Sports section to break this news. Break it to me and Rip van Winkle, anyway.

UPDATE: OK, here is a story mentioning the "No-Fly lists" that have reportedly clipped the wings of some protestors. Must be a right-wing site, because I see a lot of anger and name-calling. But why are they so upset about the election?

The wrong party lost the national election and the forces of corporate, jingoistic oppression prevailed...

These are dangerous and idiotic people we are being lead by....

These are mentally unbalanced people that are destroying our future.

Because of weak-minded Democrats our country now belongs to those that would jail us for criticizing them. Take a close look at The Patriot Act and the “No Fly" lists that have kept activists from getting on airplanes. Expect further demonstrations to get increasingly contentious. Don’t be surprised at the coming wave of civil unrest.

It is not an exaggeration to say that in exactly the same way the Nazis used fear and paranoia to get themselves voted legally into power, we have handed the guns over to the Goerrings, Himmlers and Hitlers of our day...."

I am confused. Well, more on Himmler and the no-fly lists.

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Let's Pencil Her In As "Undecided"

Evidently one can be an earnest lefty but not an earnest Democrat. Ms. Goldman Sachs (NOT her real name, hello!) seems not to have found Prince or Princess Charming amongst the Dem presidential candidates.

Hmm, maybe she can attend a candidate cattle call wearing a "Not in My Name" t-shirt.

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More French Bashing

OK, we had fun with the earnest attempt by Ms. Ivins to defend the military prowess of the French. But now, a bit of French-bashing from an unexpected source:

And... an unwitting French President Jacques Chirac: "As far as I'm concerned, war always means failure."

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You Do The Math

George Steinbrenner admits that Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter is focused on success, but is he focused enough?

"He always gives 100 percent," Steinbrenner said today. "I need 110 percent. Let's put it this way."

And how does one do that, wonders Yankee manager Joe Torre?

As for Steinbrenner's mandate that Jeter give 110 percent, Torre was skeptical.

"As soon as you find out how to do that, let me know," Torre said. "I sort of shake my head when I hear people say 150 percent or 110 percent. I'm not sure there is more than 100 percent."

C'MON, Joe, you're the manager, you figure it out! After all, 90 percent of this game is half mental!

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Friday, February 21, 2003

All Molly Ivins

The InstAssassin pounces on a ludicrous Molly Ivins column, and finds links to others who laugh out loud at it. Our heroine, Ms. Ivins, is engaged in a fervent but contra-historical defense of French military valor in WWII.

One reader points out that her statement that the French had fewer tanks than the Germans is false. She misquotes George Will, as we note in the update. And another chap declares it "The Worst Column Ever". However, he is being kind, since he skates past this howler by Ms. Ivins:

"For 18 months after that execrable defeat [France, May 1940], the United States of America continued to have cordial diplomatic relations with Nazi Germany."

We did? Then why have I read so often that FDR, whose history might be familiar to Ms. Ivins, was determined to lead us into war? Does she imagine that Lend-Lease was the act of a truly neutral nation, and that the Germans did not object? Perhaps when a US destroyer attacked a German U-boat, the Germans raised their glasses in good cheer? A few too many excerpts highlighting our "cordial" relations:


July 10 - Battle of Britian begins

Aug. 27 - FDR executive order traded destroyers for bases - also allowed British pilots to train in U.S., British ships to be repaired in U.S. ports, Flight Ferry Command, Eagle Squadron

Dec. 17 - lend-lease proposed at press conference - passed Congress and signed by FDR March 11


Mar. 24 - FDR froze $50M Yugoslavian assets when Prince Paul signed Tripartite Pact, but Mar. 27 Gen. Simovic overthrows Markovic - Hitler invades Apr. 6 - FDR pledges "all material aid possible"

Mar. 27 - Congress approved initial $7B lend-lease appropriation

Mar. 30 - Coast Guard siezed 64 Axis ships in U.S. ports for lend-lease convoys

Apr. 2 - FDR transfers 10 Coast Guard ships to England, allowed Royal Navy to use U.S. ports for repair and refueling

Apr. 10 - Security Zone extended to 26° longitude including Greenland and Azores - also Red Sea; removed from list of forbidden combat zones, allowing lend-lease to British in Mideast

Apr. 11 - U.S. destroyer Niblack fired 3 depth charges at German U-boat - began undeclared naval war

Apr. 24 - Navy ordered to begin observation patrols in Security Zone

Apr. 28 - FDR froze $50M Greek assets after Greece fell to Hitler

May 26 - German battleship Bismarck located by US-built PBY with US pilot

May 27 - FDR declared "unlimited national emergency" - need to build ships, help British

June 14 - FDR froze Axis funds in U.S.

June 16 - FDR ordered German consulates closed, expels diplomats
- ordered secret occupation of Iceland

June 20 - U.S. battleship Texas enters combat zone near England & tracked by U-boat

June 21 - Hitler ordered U-boats to avoid all U.S. warships

June 22 - Hitler invaded Russia

June 24 - U.S. released $39 million Soviet funds previously frozen

June 25 - FDR did not invoke Neutrality Act with Russia, sent Hopkins to Moscow in July and Averill Harriman in September, and Congress approved lend-lease appropriation of $1B in October

July 7 - FDR made public the arrival of 4000 Marines in Iceland, extended Security Zone and Navy patrols to Iceland - Gallup poll showed 61% approved

Aug. 9-13 - Atlantic Conference at Placentia Bay with Churchill, FDR and their staffs - decided to follow Plan Dog, make public declaration of liberal war aims, affirmed secret guarantees to defend British possessions, start search-and-destroy security patrols, provoke and incident

Sept. 4 - U.S. destroyer Greer attacked U-652, eluded 2 torpedos

"Cordial" relations. Quel joke.

Perhaps a "Marshall Plan" for Ms. Ivins would be helpful - something, anything, to help her marshal her facts.

UPDATE: Writing in the annoying Wall Street Journal (pledge of first-born required), James Woolsey, ex-CIA, defends France and Germany and manages to make sense. He tosses this in as an aside, which relates to a recent George Will gibe:

To take only one case, Internet messages mocking French courage and denying that the French have ever successfully defended Paris should not only be beneath us but are quite false -- the drafters of this nonsense should consult, among other things, the history of the Battle of the Marne in September 1914. Gen. Gallieni's mobilization of the taxis of Paris to rush reinforcements to the front and save the city is as famous in France as Washington's crossing the Delaware is to Americans.

Now, this ties in nicely to Ms. Ivins column for a couple of reasons. First, it illustrates her own ignorance of French history, which complements her ignorance of American history. Secondly, it gives us an excuse to highlight her misquote of George Will.

What she said:

George Will saw fit to include in his latest Newsweek column this joke: "How many Frenchmen does it take to defend Paris? No one knows, it's never been tried."

Well, here is what he wrote:

...(A joke going around: How many French soldiers does it take to defend Paris? No one knows because it has not been tried for so long.)

Quite possibly she was thinking of Fred Barnes, another irksome middle aged white guy on the right. Well, with this Ms. Ivins column, I think we can take for granted that her name is spelled correctly in the byline. After that, you are on your own.

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Thursday, February 20, 2003

The New York Times Salutes The Confederate Flag!

And I am not just whistling Dixie. The publicists for the upcoming film "Gods and Generals" staged a publicity event at Central Park, using determined hobbyists and an intrepid Times reporter to re-enact a Civil War battle.

The conversation drifted to the question of why someone would want to portray a Southern soldier:

...later between drills on our snowy battlefield, I had time to ask the inevitable question of my fellow Confederate soldiers: Why? Why take part in battles like this one, and why be on the Southern side?

...Some simply like lost causes or, as George S. Bateman, the company's captain, put it, "fighting for the underdog, I guess." He does not mind being a Rodney Dangerfield of re-enactment. "We get booed and hissed upon quite often," he said. "People feel that flag represents slavery and hatred, which it doesn't."

In fact, this company says it is politically correct. "You won't find any racists in this group," said Bill Helmstetter, a high school history teacher from Plainfield, N.J. "We run them out. We don't want them."

David L. Goliger of Baldwin, N.Y., echoed this in describing an incident on the way home from a re-enactment in Maryland. He was pulled over by a man who had noticed a bumper sticker with a Confederate flag on Mr. Goliger's car.

"He invites me to a cross-burning," Mr. Goliger said. "Little does he know, for starters, that I'm Jewish. I went ballistic, yelling, `Who do you think you people are? What gives you the right to steal a piece of American history and mold it to your values?' "

And then there are those in the company who draw a distinction between the cause that the Confederates fought for and the way the conducted themselves in battle. "I'm not standing up for slavery, I'm standing up for the Southern army, which fought honorably," Mr. Hernandez said.

Whoa, where is the balancing quote explaining that the Confederate flag does, in fact, stand for slavery, racism, and oppression? Surely the Times cannot let these assertions stand unchallenged. I Boldly Predict we will have to wait for some strongly worded Letters to the Editor.

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Sunday, February 16, 2003

Cold Grips NorthEast (cont.)

The Sunday ski report - it was colder than a vodka-tonic out there today. However, I led a coalition of the willing (and unwitting) out for a day on the slopes. No songs from the kids today, so I will steal this verse:

Home is the sailor
Home from the sea

And the skier
Home from the hill

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Saturday, February 15, 2003

Cold Grips Northeast

It must have been a long day on the ski slopes for my daughter, who composed this (you'll guess the tune):

Get me off of this mountain,
Get me out of this cold.

My eyeballs have frozen, I think they will crack
I don't care if I never come back.

So it's root, root, root for a heat wave.
If things don't warm up there's no hope.

For it's one, two, three below zero
At the old ski slope.

Hmm. Was it the cold, or too much hot chocolate?

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Jesse Is Hooked On Drugs

Good luck with the baby, guy.

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Friday, February 14, 2003

I Am Giving In To Terror

Call me gutless, but I live just outside of Manhattan, and my nerves have snapped. I know I am letting Osama herd me like a sheep, but I am fleeing with my family to Vermont on Friday morning. Yes, I know, on the one hand, if I can't stand tall in my own (duct-taped) home, the terrorists win. On the other hand, I can beat the traffic and go skiing Friday afternoon.

Score one for Osama. Carpe skiem!

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Free Miguel!

Jay Caruso is arm-wrestling with various commentators who think that the Dems under Leahy were not obstructionist with Bush nominees.

Oh, if I had time and knowledge, I would rally up some cool tables proving all sorts of things. Hey, next time!

Meanwhile, here is a DOJ website which links to this cool chart showing judges confirmed in the first two years of Presidents going back to Carter. As a companion, here are the nominees returned. You will need to remind yourself that Bush I and Bush II were the only two facing a Senate controlled by the opposite party in their first two years.

Now, here is an American Prospect article describing the Democrat strategy of delay. A bit dated, but the wisdom is timeless.

Finally, a Federalist Society site with many links.

From all this, I will extract just a few numbers:

Approval Rate for Nominees

Carter : 100% Circuit / 91% District
Reagan: 95% / 100%
Bush I: 96% / 94%
Clinton: 86% / 91%

Bush II: 53% / 84%

Does anything stand out in that table?

Now, we don't have Clinton for 1999-2000, but that is sort of a faux comparison, since we expect a late term stall by the other party while hoping for a change in control. So we would like to see Clinton 1997-1998, from the Leahy table. However, this gives us the number confirmed, but not total nominees. Bother. Info on vacancies might also be useful, although possibly confusing - if vacancies occur late in the Congressional term, the President may not have time to nominate replacements.

Well, I am not convinced that the Dems were as good as we are being told. Slug it out, gents!

UPDATE: Despite his deplorable lack of ethnic sensitivity, Michael Kinsley seems to make a good point about judges declining to disclose their casual, unstudied views. Is there a devastating rebuttal out there?

My casual attempt would be to take this snippet from Estrada's testimony and say, look - if a nominee expresses his/her non-fully informed opinion, people will howl if he later takes in more evidence and delivers a "surprise" ruling.

OK, snippet from Josh Marshall; scroll down the comments here for a rebuttal to Marshall's post. Thank the Hammer.

SEN. FEINSTEIN: Do you believe that Roe was correctly decided?

MR. ESTRADA: I have -- my view of the judicial function, Senator Feinstein, does not allow me to answer that question. I have a personal view on the subject of -- of abortion, as I think you know. And -- but I have not done what I think the judicial function would require me to do in order to ascertain whether the court got it right as an original matter. I haven't listened to parties. I haven't come to an actual case of controversy with an open mind. I haven't gone back and run down everything that they have cited. And the reason I haven't done any of those things is that I view our system of law as one in which both me as an advocate, and possibly if I am confirmed as a judge, have a job of building on the wall that is already there and not to call it into question. I have had no particular reason to go back and look at whether it was right or wrong as a matter of law, as I would if I were a judge that was hearing the case for the first time. It is there. It is the law as it has subsequently refined by the Casey case, and I will follow it (italics added).

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Thursday, February 13, 2003

Let Me Find My Reading Glasses

Sen. Carl Levin, in today's WaPo, is not happy with the level of cooperation between the CIA and the UN inspectors in Iraq:

CIA Director George J. Tenet, meanwhile, faced a storm of criticism from Democrats on the Senate Armed Services Committee who charged that the administration has sabotaged the U.N. weapons inspections by not fully cooperating with the United Nations. They also accused Tenet of misleading them about the intelligence on Iraqi weapons that the CIA had turned over to the inspections teams.

In testimony before the Senate intelligence committee on Tuesday, Tenet surprised senators by saying that the agency had given U.N. inspectors all the information it had on weapons sites of "high" and "moderate" interest, meaning those sites that are likely to contain weapons or remnants of weapons. Today, Tenet told the Senate defense panel that he had been wrong. In fact, he said, there are "one handful of sites which may not have been known" to the U.N. inspectors.

Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, have pressed the Bush administration to provide timely and accurate intelligence on Iraqi chemical, biological and nuclear weapons sites. U.S. officials maintain that they have, although the inspectors have raised questions about the quality of some of the U.S. intelligence.

Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.) challenged Tenet's statements in an interview after the testimony, saying the CIA director continued to mislead lawmakers on the extent of the agency's cooperation. Levin cited classified letters from the CIA dated Jan. 24 and Jan. 28 in which the CIA said it had not shared information about what he characterized as "a large number of sites" of "significant" value. Levin said the CIA informed him on Tuesday that it planned to hand over more information within the next few days. "When they've taken the position that inspections are useless, they are bound to fail," Levin said. "We have undermined the inspectors since the beginning."

I suppose I ought to read UN Resolution 1441 again. But I have the apparently silly idea that it was Saddam that was meant to disclose his weapons to the UN.

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Just Blogging Out Loud, Here

Indulge me, if you will, and let me work up to my point. First, who do you suppose said this, in a recent State of the Union address:

...Keep in mind, the same technological advances that have shrunk cell phones to fit in the palms of our hands can also make weapons of terror easier to conceal and easier to use. We must meet this threat by making effective agreements to restrain nuclear and missile programs in North Korea, curbing the flow of lethal technology to Iran, preventing Iraq from threatening its neighbors...

NO, it was not the Axis of Evil speech! It was Bill Clinton, in his 2000 SoTU.

Oh, we are rolling now! Who said this:

I also want to say that America must help more nations to break the bonds of disease. Last year in Africa, 10 times as many people died from AIDS as were killed in wars--10 times. The budget I give you invests $150 million more in the fight against this and other infectious killers. And today I propose a tax credit to speed the development of vaccines for diseases like malaria, TB, and AIDS. I ask the private sector and our partners around the world to join us in embracing this cause. We can save millions of lives together, and we ought to do it.

C'mon, it was CLINTON AGAIN! Get the wax out of your ears, Richard Gere!

Oh, we are having fun now. But what prompts this stroll down memory lane? Well, Mickey linked to a wide-ranging Katie Couric interview with Mr. Clinton. Media bias is covered (the Right owns talk radio, so that settles that question), but what caught my evil eye was the following:

Couric: “When it comes to terrorism, do you ever kick yourself for not doing more about Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden while you were in office?”

Former President Bill Clinton: “I don’t know what else I could have done. I did everything I thought I could. And if you talk to our people we talked about bin Laden four out of every five days for the last three years I was president. It’s interesting, that some of the people say I should have done more, now, were ridiculing me for doing too much then, and saying I was obsessed with bin Laden. I had the same level of obsession with bin Laden that I think a lot of the current administration has with Saddam Hussein. And I thought then, and I think now, that Al Qaeda’s the number one security problem in the world.”

Oh, you know I added that emphasis, and why would I not believe him? Evidently, however, the State of the Union address consistently fell on the fifth day, when the "Enough with Osama, already" blackout was imposed. I have done a word search for "Osama" and "Laden" for his SotU speeches from 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2000, and come up with a grand goose-egg. With this many strikeouts, it's like watching Mariano!

Oh, don't start - I know that "Osama Bin Laden - Alive?" seems to have become an anagram for "Lord Voldemort", aka, "He Who Is Not Named" in the Bush White House, at least until this week. Still, this must have been one of Clinton's many secret obsessions.

UPDATE: It's ancient history, but here is an article filled with links to stories about Clinton's obsession. And here is one of the links, to a 1998 Sudan story.

MUCH LATER: Groan. Here is "Usama bin Ladin", appearing in 1999:

As we work for peace, we must also meet threats to our Nation's security, including increased dangers from outlaw nations and terrorism. We will defend our security wherever we are threatened, as we did this summer when we struck at Usama bin Ladin's network of terror. The bombing of our Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania reminds us again of the risks faced every day by those who represent America to the world. So let's give them the support they need, the safest possible workplaces, and the resources they must have so America can continue to lead.
We must work to keep terrorists from disrupting computer networks. We must work to prepare local communities for biological and chemical emergenices, to support research into vaccines and treatments.
We must increase our efforts to restrain the spread of nuclear weapons and missiles, from Korea to India and Pakistan. We must expand our work with Russia, Ukraine, and other former Soviet nations to safeguard nuclear materials and technology so they never fall into the wrong hands. Our balanced budget will increase funding for these critical efforts by almost two-thirds over the next 5 years.

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Well, Well - Someone Else Has An Evil Excerpter

The CalPunster says this:

WARTIME LOYALTIES....Chris Bertram has a terrific post today about wartime loyalties. The bottom line? During the Falklands War America's support was tepid at best, while in many ways "Mitterrand and the French were our greatest allies."

Our petulant demands that everyone support our wars wholeheartedly would be a little more credible if we were willing to do the same for our allies. But we aren't, are we?

OK, following the links takes me to Junius, who has this on offer:

"...it was helpful, then, to remind US readers of an important recent episode in transatlantic relations, the Falklands war. Where were the neocons back then, and where were the French? The British Secretary of State for Defence at the time reminds us:

[Begin Excerpt] So, the Americans gave every assistance to the United Nations and every other mediator - Brazilian, Mexican and the rest - to bring about a negotiated settlement, on terms which would have been seen as a surrender in the United Kingdom. Then, in the closing stages of the conflict, when we had already lost many ships and men, they leant heavily on us - aided by telephone calls from Reagan to Thatcher - to find some way of saving Galtieri's face. "Magnanimity before victory" became their watch-phrase.

In many ways, Mitterrand and the French were our greatest allies. They had supplied the Argentines with Mirage and Super Etendard aircraft in the earlier years; but, as soon as the conflict began, Mitterrand's defence minister got in touch with me to make some of these available so that our Harrier pilots could train against them before setting off for the South Atlantic. The French also supplied us with detailed technical information on the Exocet, showing us how to tamper with the missiles. "
[End Excerpt]

Hmm, I don't quite remember it that way. And, continuing to follow the links, I see that the former British Defence Minister Sir John Nott also said this:

Margaret Thatcher had, I believe, made up her mind at the outset that the only way we could regain our national honour and prestige was by inflicting a military defeat on Argentina. [Note: from reading the full piece, the Minister clearly did not, at least initially, share this view] But this did not prevent the painful and endless negotiations for a diplomatic settlement - led by Al Haig, the American Secretary of State.

These negotiations not only produced personal clashes within the Cabinet but also strained Britain's relationship with the United States. At least they filled a horrible vacuum while the task force made its long, long voyage towards Antarctica.

The issue of America's involvement in the crisis is a crucial one. Certain Americans, of course, such as Casper Weinberger, the US Defence Secretary, were splendid from the outset.

But the State Department, at this time, was dominated by Latinos who saw President Reagan's Latin American policy going down the drain....

It took weeks of determined diplomacy by Sir Nicholas Henderson, our ambassador in Washington, before the White House was prepared to declare itself on the side of the British. Moreover, it did so, I suspect, only because Congress and American public opinion had come down heavily on our side. By doing so, it destroyed the support of the South American dictators for Reagan's anti-communist crusade in Central America.

As the Falklands conflict developed, America stopped arms sales to Argentina, but was unwilling to take more effective economic measures. Nicholas Henderson reported that the Americans were not prepared to "tilt" too heavily against Argentina; to do so, they said, would deprive them of their influence in Buenos Aires.

They did not want the Argentine dictator General Leopoldi Galtieri to fall - whereas we saw him as an outright fascist and aggressor. For the Americans, he was a central pillar of resistance to communism in South and Central America - and all the efforts of Reagan and the State Department were concentrated on the crisis in El Salvador.

The United States, it seemed, did not wish to choose between Britain and their interests in Latin America. Indeed, apart from Weinberger and the Pentagon, the Americans were very, very far from being on our side.

If Washington had been in the hands of the East Coast Wasps (White Anglo-Saxon Protestants) instead of the West Coast Americans, with their overriding concern for the Americas, things might have been different.

But the State Department, the White House security staff and the president himself were, privately, never wholly committed to our cause. For all Margaret Thatcher's friendship with Ronald Reagan, he remained a West Coast American looking south to Latin America and west to the Pacific. Sometimes, I wondered if he even knew or cared where Europe was.

Emphasis added. And I suspect that, by the end of the 80's, even Sir John may have had some confidence that Reagan could find Europe on a map, since so much of it was newly-liberated.

Now, as part of the public, I remember public opinion being strongly pro-British, in contrast with the prevailing sentiment in Britain or France today with respect to America. In fact, I recall one of the classic Newsweek covers showing a photo of the British fleet with the headline "The Empire Strikes Back".

I also can pitch in this review of the John Nott's book by this Tory backbencher, link provided from an old Nielsen Hayden blog. This fellow was also surprised by how limited the US assistance was, and how obstructive our State Department was.

Now, here is a tidbit on US intelligence cooperation during the Falklands:

Many Britons point to the Falklands war as an example of how, when the chip are down, the Americans can be counted on to help Britain. It is certainly true that Britain would have found it much harder to re-conquer the Falklands without American intelligence. Yet it is often forgotten that for a month after the Argentine invasion of March 2 , 1982, while a diplomatic solution seemed possible, American help was limited.

During that month, according to a former British DIS officer, America did no pass on high-quality satellite photos. "The Americans said there were 'technical' problems with the satellites, during Al Haig's shuttle diplomacy, " recalls the officer. General Haig tried to negotiate a compromise package that would have allowed the Argentines to withdraw in a face-saving manner. "The US gave us the good photos only after Argentina rejected Haig's compromise. If Argentina had accepted that compromise, and Britain had rejected it, I doubt the Americans would have wanted to help us. In the final analysis they will always do what is good for the US - and therein lies the core of the UK's problem."

This article says good things about French help for the Brits during the Falklands, as well.

So, my point - we were not nearly as unreliable an ally as that excerpt, or the full article, makes us appear. The Brits had problems with the US State Department? Gee whiz, our own Pentagon has problems with the State Department, which has only recently swung to a hawkish stance on Iraq, if we believe Powell's late conversion. The idea that US diplomats would defer to British admirals in an affair involving South America seems hopelessly over-optimistic, and Sir John himself seems to have been initially skeptical about the military option. Yet, at crunch time, we seem to have made ourselves useful, and public support for the British was unquestioned.

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More Fun With Eric Alterman

More from his GREAT interview with the CalPundit:

CalPundit: "...People like Falwell, Robertson, and Ann Coulter aren’t even taken very seriously by conservatives, and yet they end up on TV. How does that happen?"

Alterman: "Well, I spent a lot of time in the book on Coulter. I used to work with her and I don’t like her. We were both hired to be pundits on MSNBC when it first began. We were both there the very first day it was on the air, and the stuff that was coming out of her mouth, I couldn’t believe my ears.

But MSNBC kept her back then, simply because she was good looking, and she was a woman, and she was conservative, and they loved the idea that a woman was conservative, just like they love the idea that they had all these black conservatives...."

Let's see. For a conservative commentator to get on television, they need to be black, or a hot blond, but in either case, shrill and eccentric. But that does not strike Mr. Alterman as demonstrating the least bit of media bias?

Oh, whatever. The interview also includes a fascinating, but regrettably brief, bit of history:

Alterman: "...I’d say the turning point was probably 1978, midway through the Carter administration. That’s when conservatives got the upper hand in both politics and media."

CalPundit: "What caused that? Why 1978?"

Alterman: "A couple of things caused it. One is that the conservatives invested an enormous amount of money in an infrastructure of ideas beginning in 1964, when Richard Mellon Scaife figured out that they couldn’t win just by putting up a candidate. I think that investment in the intellectual superstructure started to pay off 14 years later.

I also think the world became more conservative. Vietnam was a catastrophe and it was a liberal catastrophe, and the war on poverty was a catastrophe, and that was a liberal catastrophe, and even though it’s kind of unfair to blame liberals in both cases, everybody did.

And then the Soviets got much more adventurous around that time, and the whole civil rights movement, the whole “We Shall Overcome” period in American history became transformed into the black power moment of history, and that black power moment of history didn’t really work for anyone, particularly liberals. So liberalism was kind of exhausted by that period, it didn’t have any answers, and the conservatives were ascendant and self confident, and journalism just picked up on it."

OK, toss in the collapse of the Soviet Empire under Reagan and Bush, and the ludicrous inability of the quasi-socialist European states to provide for their own defense, create jobs, absorb immigrants, or invest in health care such as pharamaceutical research and development, and we have a glimmering as to why the left is just a little bit discredited.

Regrettably, the unasked question is this: Just when did the left go through an intellectual re-vitalization and emerge with a coherent political vision? Take away identity politics, abortion rights, and a commitment to a batch of failed Euro-policies on labor, taxes, and health care, and what remains on the Democratic side?

But my question also reflects my own ignorance - as to the timing of the Democratic renewal, I was out to dinner last night - maybe I missed it.

UPDATE: For one reader of Alterman's book, it was deja vu all over again. Who borrowed a Jackson Browne lyric and set the left half of the blogosphere atwitter? Some chick Andrew Sullivan digs, darn, I can't remember. Name has an "N" in it. Someone will remember.

OK, Norah Vincent.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Who is on first? And who is "Cranky Media Guy", who has the same stats on Drudge as the other two?

MORE: OK, from timestamps it seems to appear that "What" is on second along with "Cranky Media Guy", leaving G Beato as the man.

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Wednesday, February 12, 2003

My Evil Excerpter Is In The Red Zone

Far be it from me to characterize Ereic Alterman on the basis of his interview with the Calpundit. However, the Altered One seems to be surprised to learn that on television appearances, discussions are often oversimplified, and sound-bites rule. If we had a front page, I would tear it out.

But that is not what nearly blew up my Evil Excerpter. No, it was this quote from Alterman, which I think ought to be put on the head of his blog:

"I don’t even really believe in the idea of facts..."

Oh, how great is that! And how convenient for me - if he doesn't believe in facts, then I don't believe I will bother to rebut whatever fantasy he is presenting in his book debunking the myth of a liberal media.

Nag, nag, nag. OK, let's put in context. Surprisingly, it spoils my fun less than you might think:

"CalPundit: Some people think that we should just give up on the whole idea of an objective media, go to the European model....

Alterman: Yeah, I said that in Sound & Fury. I still believe that. I don’t even really believe in the idea of facts or opinions. I believe in context. I believe there are certain things you need to know to understand the story, and they’re not necessarily factual and they’re not necessarily opinion, but they could be either one.

To tell you the truth, I think Fox does a better job of covering the news than CNN or MSNBC, because they have a context, it’s understandable, it makes some sense, whereas at MSNBC and CNN the news just comes at you as if from outer space, it’s news from nowhere. I don’t watch cable news, but if I did I would watch Fox. Assuming there was nobody with a context that I share.

News as competing storylines. Fine.

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Bunning Pitches, And Its Ball One

Pitchers report, but Bunning does not bring his stuff. Jesse explains, as only he can.

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Pitchers And Catchers Report

To Legends Field in Tampa. We are all Yankee fans now.

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Beyond Mere Mortal: Ken

Dr. Manhattan reads the NY Times story about Ken Lay and sets the blogosphere on fire. Ken Lay not a dastardly, deceitful villain? Mickey, Andrew, and Donald Luskin concentrate on the suspect reporting at the NY Times. In fact, Mr. Luskin points us to a NY Times story describing the "margin loan" defense that was published just three days after the Times first aired its suspicions about Mr. Lay's stock sales. The Man Without Qualities reprises P Krugman's greatest hits on Enron, in this post and this follow up.

So, is Ken Lay innocent? In the oft-repeated words of Gene Hackman, innocent of what? I am not a securities lawyer, so let me offer you my opinion about securities law. There seem to be two separate issues here - did Ken Lay lie to the public, and did he believe his own lies? Suppose, as the the Times reports, Mr. Lay never wavered in his confidence in the long run prospects for Enron. He might still have tolerated a bit of financial chicancery to ease the company past a temporary glitch, or what he might have perceived as a brief soft spot in the financial markets. However, I don't believe that securities law allows for a "white lie" defense: "Hey, I was sure the shares would recover eventually, I knew you would thank me later, so I lied to you now".

This Business Week article mentions Ken lay's legal challenges without any reference to his own sale of stock, which certainly suggests that the public statements and his personal stock sales are separate issues.

Now, his personal stock trading pattern may be indicative of a state of mind, and lend support to the position that he did not know about the accounting situation at Enron. Certainly, a prosecution would be easier if Mr. Lay had been selling shares frantically, rather than reluctantly. A case against Mr. Lay was always going to be problematic, since he could point to legal and accounting opinions validating the various corporate transactions in question. Take away the notion that this was a scheme designed for his personal enrichment, and what is left? But his pattern of stock sales is not definitive proof that Mr. Lay believed that nothing was wrong at Enron - it may simply demonstrate his belief that the problems would eventually be overcome. If ham sandwiches can be indicted by a motivated prosecutor, why not Lay's potato chips?

Incredibly, it seems, from the examples cited, the Krugman may be able to skate over this thin ice to claim vindication. Groan. From the Krugman examples offered at the "Man Without Qualities":

Time magazine's persons of the year are three whistle-blowers: Sherron Watkins of Enron, Cynthia Cooper of WorldCom and Coleen Rowley of the F.B.I. They deserve to be celebrated. After all, thanks to Ms. Watkins ... Ken Lay .... ha[s] been indicted.... Oh, I'm sorry. None of that actually happened. ... Time seems to be celebrating what should have been, not what was.

This is priceless - so often I find myself asking, is this true, or did Krugman just read it in Time? However, an eventual indictment, as noted, may be based on evidence other than his stock sales.

This followed:

Enron executives may have deluded and defrauded their shareholders without actually breaking the law. ... [T]he absence of Enron indictments, demonstrates just how much self-enrichment corporate insiders can get away with while staying within the letter of the law."

And again, time will tell.

Last example:

[T]he use of "split-premium" life insurance policies ... give[s] executives largely tax-free compensation (you don't want to know the details) — is an even sweeter deal for executives of companies that go belly up: it shields their wealth from creditors, and even from lawsuits. Sure enough, reports The Wall Street Journal, former Enron C.E.O.'s Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling both had large split-premium policies.

Same argument.

OK, I'm back for a day and defending Krugman against both The Man Sans Q and Andrew Sullivan. Fortunately, I am due for another vacation soon.

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Tuesday, February 11, 2003

That's What I'm Saying

A Yahoo search found me as the number two site for the phrase "Just be a man about it". Exactly!

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Whither NATO?

Or is it "Wither, NATO." The recent turmoil over NATO aid to Turkey leaves me wondering if this might be the end of NATO, and whether that is the French intent.

In my unlikely role as French Strategist and Deep Thinker (you don't suppose there is a language requirement? Non? C'est bien!), I would offer the following motivations:

1. Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven. NATO is a military alliance with many new entrants that do not remember Germany fondly from WWII, and do not remember France as the nation that liberated them from the Soviet Empire. France can influence NATO, but never lead it.

2. Re-shuffle the deck: The US has blessed the creation of the Rapid Reaction Force, provided it is not simply a shuffling of NATO assets. Hmm, new troops, new equipment, new money? No way. If the RRF is vital to creating a European military capability that can give them their own voice, then ending NATO may be the cheapest way to create it. France will be one of the big fish in this puddle.

3. Let's talk Turkey: Turkey will never be admitted to the EU, which has no desire to add to its unassimilated Muslim population. Still, Turkey keeps offering the tired arguemnt that they have been a loyal member of NATO for fifty years. Well, let's end NATO and end this discussion.

That's it - three strikes, and we're out! Ooops, sorry, that is very American.

UPDATE: CNN analysis.

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Now He's Stormin' Norman

Retired General Schwarzkopf created a bit of a stir prior to the State of the Union address with a WaPo interview that was widely taken as "give peace a chance". However, as we suggested would happen in this space, he has since rejoined the Bush team, based on his "Meet The Press" appearance:

MR. RUSSERT: General Schwarzkopf, let me show you what you had said to The Washington Post two weeks ago and get the sense of your current thinking. “Norman Schwarzkopf wants to give peace a chance. The general who commanded U.S. forces in the 1991 Gulf War says he hasn’t seen enough evidence to convince him that his old comrades Dick Cheney, Colin Powell and Paul Wolfowitz are correct in moving toward a new war now. He thinks U.N. inspections are still the proper course to follow. He’s worried about the cockiness of the U.S. war plan, and even more by the potential human and financial costs of occupying Iraq.” Is that still your current thinking?

GEN. NORMAN SCHWARZKOPF: No, I don’t any so, not anymore. I think that given the information that’s come forward, particularly Colin’s presentation to the Security Council, I am sort of with the other 72 percent of the American people that said that I found it very compelling and I found it a very, very good rationale.

Peggy Noonan continues to hold out.

UPDATE: NO, she has converted!

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Parallel Justice

The story of Ronald Dixon has been covered. Rachel Lucas has links, and Clyde Haberman of the NY Times recently had a column on it.

Briefly, Dixon, a 27 year old ex-Navy computer technician, shot and wounded an intruder at 2 AM on the second floor of his residence in Brooklyn. The intruder has a criminal record, but now Dixon is in trouble as well - the gun he used for self-defense was not registered in NY. Dixon faces possible jail time on a plea deal, but his attorney seems to be relying on public pressure and a sensible jury to free his client. Jury nullification - we want to come back to that.

So, parallel justice - here is a story about a homeowner in Queens. Two would-be intruders rang the front door bell of the Santos home at 9:50 AM. When no one answered, they walked around to the side of the house and used a crowbar to force their way in. But, surprise! Mr. Santos, alerted by his wife, was waiting for them with a handgun. He chased them into the front yard, one of them stopped and raised what seemed to be a pistol, and Mr. Santos, a former air marshall, fired and killed him.

Well, so he says. The second intruder drove off, and no gun was recovered at the scene. Police are still investigating, but, fortunately, Mr. Santos has a permit for his gun. At this point, all seems well, and no charges are contemplated.

Now, I am not sure that this was a proper deadly force incident - the intruders were fleeing, so chasing them may have been a bit overzealous for a civilian. However, I have had friends do stranger things, so we will let that pass.

But something is not right here - Santos killed a guy who was, broadly speaking, in retreat. (I presume that the fellow was not shot in the back, and I suppose he could have circled around and returned for a second attempt, but still, Santos did not seem to face an immediate threat other than of his own making.) Dixon shot a man who was rushing towards him in his own hallway (so he says, but no one disputes it). So, Santos is OK, but Dixon goes to jail? Wrong answer.

UPDATE: Brooklyn, Queens, and now the Bronx: during a hold-up attempt, an employee grabs an unlicensed gun and shoots the would-be burglar. The DA is going to pass this to a grand jury, which will almost surely not indict.

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