IT'S OUR FIFTH ANNIVERSARY! CLICK HERE TO MAKE A DONATION. Thursday, October 31, 2002 ON THE FRITZ: The New Republic's blog does a handy little job on Mondale's acceptance speech. - 4:09:41 PM RAINES WATCH:
"Economy Races Ahead at 3.1 Annual Rate in Summer," - Associated Press headline on the AP website.
"Economy Grows at 3.1 percent. Consumer spending on big-ticket items fuels third quarter surge." - Washington Post.
"Economy Grew at 3.1% in 3rd Quarter, Slower Than Expected" - New York Times. - 1:37:35 PM WRAP THEM IN PIGSKIN?: When Michael Ledeen first suggested this, I thought he was joking. But it makes a twisted sort of sense as a deterrent, doesn't it? - 1:03:52 PM SYMBOLISM: One of my acquaintances here in Provincetown said something arresting yesterday. We're friendly, although he's about as perfect an example of a New York lefty, with Wellstonian touches, that I've ever met. He disagrees with almost everything I say, naturally, was against the war in Afghanistan, let alone Iraq, thinks Bush is a corporate crony cipher, etc. etc. etc. The first thing he brought up when we bumped into each other was the Wellstone memorial service. It really bugged him. He felt the pure partisanship, the jeering and cheering, the fanaticism almost, just after a family has been killed, was about as unseemly a spectacle as anything one could imagine. As I've seen the clips, I can't help but agree. What on earth could they have been thinking? That picture of Clinton and Mondale yucking it up, for example. Sure, there are times at political wakes when such outbursts of hilarity are appropriate. But shouldn't an ex-president and an ex-vice-president be aware of what that would look like in such a context? I have a feeling that the Wellstone rally-cum-memorial-service will shortly become a symbol of something: the pre-eminence of political values over humane ones. This is what a lot of people hate about politics. And you can't blame them. This attitude is not the exclusive province of either party, of course. But one of the reasons Bush is popular, I think, is precisely because he doesn't seem at all times motivated by such values, however much his critics try to prove the contrary. There's a decency there that was sadly lacking Tuesday night. And it's that contrast that so many find instructive.
SOME OTHER BONES: "I'll accept compliments from the Right when they agree that Henry Kissinger belongs in the dock, and when they admit that this failure on their part is also sheltering Saddam Hussein from an indictment for war crimes and crimes against humanity, and when they acknowledge that their trashing of the International Criminal Court is a betrayal of the whole ethos of "regime change". And after that, I have some other bones to pick with them..." - Christopher Hitchens lets it rip on the Book Club Page, as the email chat continues.
Wednesday, October 30, 2002 SPINNING A GRAVE: Will Saletan writes this of the Wellstone "memorial service:"
"Politics is not about winning for the sake of winning," Wellstone declares in a videotaped speech shown on the overhead screens. "Politics is about improving people's lives." But as the evening's speakers proceed, it becomes clear that to them, honoring Wellstone's legacy is all about winning the election. Repeating the words of Wellstone's son, the assembly shouts, "We will win! We will win!" Rick Kahn, a friend of Wellstone's, urges everyone to "set aside the partisan bickering," but in the next breath he challenges several Republican senators in attendance to "honor your friend" by helping to "win this election for Paul Wellstone." What can he be thinking?
My feelings entirely. Is there a chance that this kind of spectacle will actually persuade voters not to vote for Mondale? I guess not. - 1:08:30 PM IDIOCY OF THE WEEK: Ah, yes, one Ted Rall again. - 12:46:35 PM MORE DEMOCRATIC GAY-BAITING: This time in Hawaii. Somehow, I'm not surprised any more. - 12:04:05 PM HOW TO READ PRAVDA II: Richard Goldstein eulogizes one of the founders of the gay rights movement today in the Times. The theme of his op-ed is how we need to get better acquainted with gay history, a very worthy cause. But Goldstein, of course, is not a reliable guide. His op-ed today, for example, ignores some obviously vital facts about Harry Hay. Goldstein calls Hay "a Marxist who proudly called himself a sissy." True enough. But Hay was more than a Marxist; he was a proud Communist, who defended the Soviet Union's murderous dictatorship till his dying days. As the Times obituary pointed out, Hay maintained his allegiance to Communism, even after the homophobic Communist Party kicked him out. In fact, even recently, he declared that he lamented the demise of the Soviet Union. He was also a supporter of the sexual abuse of children, fervently supporting the vile organization, NAMBLA, and lobbying to make it a part of the gay rights movement. (Both Goldstein and the Times obit have erased this part of Hay's life as well.) These facts are simply part of the historical record, and should surely be included in any eulogy of the man. But like the Stalinists themselves, Goldstein simply air-brushes these facts from history. Why? Isn't Goldstein proud of the fact that Hay was a Communist? If he isn't, why does he euphemize it? If he is, shouldn't this be a part of his assessment? Again, try the counterfactual: if Hay had been a member of the Nazi Party in the 1930s, and if he had refused to renounce his support of Nazism right up to his death, if he had said recently that he lamented the passing of the Nazi state, wouldn't this have been the lead sentence of any obituary? And if he'd been a Nazi supporter of child-abuse, would the Times have even dreamed of running an op-ed eulogizing his death and omitting these facts? Of course not. And people wonder why Orwell still matters. - 11:56:49 AM HOW TO READ PRAVDA: The coverage of the sniper attacks is getting comical. Especially, of course, in the hyper-p.c. New York Times. The reporting is still there, mercifully. But the tippy-toeing around the bleeding obvious is just hilarious. We now know, for example, that the Chevy Caprice was sighted, noted and suspected by cops, a total of eleven times before the alleged murderers were detained. On three occasions, the cops actually talked to the sniper and his accomplice. The reasons for not detaining or further questioining Muhammad and Malvo given by the New York Times are:
Federal, state and local officials all said there was nothing in the database to suggest that the car had been stolen or that Mr. Muhammad, one of its owners, was wanted for any crime. As a result, the officers had no reason to detain Mr. Muhammad or Mr. Malvo. Investigators also said that officers were so focused on seeking white vans and trucks that it was easy to overlook the old Caprice.
That's fair enough. But isn't there something missing? A senior police official has already told the Washington Post that the race of the men was a factor in letting them go. Shouldn't this at least be investigated or even mentioned in the Times story? If the cops are now denying that they used racial profiling, that's important. If they confirm it, that's also important. So why won't the Times even mention this question, let alone report on it? I think it qualifies as news that's unfit to provide their readers. In liberal journalism today, some questions simply cannot be asked, let alone answered.
A HATE CRIME: Ditto the story by Dean Murphy, about Muhammad's shooting of a synagogue. Remember the hue and cry over alleged white racist church burnings which turned out to be a complete crock? In most cases, the Times will call someone sneezing a hate crime if any racial or religious motivation is involved. but when a black muslim is involved, you have to tread very, very carefully. The evidence, however, is mounting:
The shooting at Temple Beth El also raises the question of whether the men, if they did the shooting, were motivated at least in part by religious intolerance. Rabbi Glickman said he was reluctant to characterize the shooting here as a hate crime, but he was troubled by Mr. Muhammad's association with the Nation of Islam, whose leadership has been accused of anti-Semitism. A former friend of Mr. Muhammad and Mr. Malvo in Bellingham, Wash., where the two men were known to have stayed this year, said Mr. Muhammad sometimes spoke disparagingly about Christians and Jews. The friend, Harjeet Singh, suggested that it was perhaps not coincidental that none of the victims in the sniper attacks were obviously Muslim, for example women wearing traditional head scarves. "In his mind, even black people were no good if they stood with whites or Christians," said the friend, Mr. Singh, a Sikh from India, who added that Mr. Muhammad always greeted him with a traditional Muslim salutation in Arabic.
Hmmm. I wonder what his motivation was. Any idea? I particularly like the p.c. description of the Nation of Islam, a virulently anti-Semitic organization in every respect. According to the Times, only the Nation of Islam's "leadership has been accused of anti-Semitism." Notice the weasel words. There is no doubt whatever that the leadership of the Nation of Islam is anti-Semitic. None. Out of bizarre political correctness, the Times is even now - as it did in the 1930s - refusing to report on anti-Semitism candidly, clearly and relevantly. They should be ashamed. - 11:37:16 AM
Tuesday, October 29, 2002 NOVEMBER SURPRISE? It seems to me completely possible that president Bush will have to make a critical decision in the next week or so on the U.N. and Iraq. Colin Powell said yesterday with respect to the ongoing diplomacy: "We're getting close to a point where we'll have to see whether or not we can bridge these remaining differences in the very near future. I don't want to give you days or a week, but it certainly isn't much longer than that." That time-line places the president's announcement of a U.N. decision and the U.S. response smack bang in line with the Congressional elections. The timing isn't Bush's fault. Russia and France are the culprits for dragging their feet for so long. But think of two possible scenarios: the U.S. secures a diplomatic victory and gets U.N. support for its Iraq strategy or the president tells the country we're going to put together the kind of non-U.N.-sponsored coalition that made the Kosovo intervention possible. Either way, it's huge news. I'd say it could be enough to swing the election. If Bush gives the U.N. till Friday and the war news dominates the weekend, then we'll have a highly volatile final day or two. This may not happen of course. But in some ways, I think Bush ought to wrap this up before November 5. The war on terror is a critical issue in the country - I'd argue far and away the most critical issue right now - and the voters should know what the executive branch plans before they vote for the legislature. Maybe it will help Republicans. Maybe it will strengthen the argument for divided government, in order to temper a White House going to war. But either way, any decision will knock everything else out of the news cycle. Won't it?
TRASH PICK-UP: Check out The New Republic's cover-story this week on the tawdry British exports now transforming American culture. It's written by a tawdry British export ... well, I thought I'd say it before Eric Alterman does.
YESTERDAY'S LILEKS: A corker. Not only does he praise the Pet Shop Boys, whose last album, Release, is firmly embedded in my iPod as a lyrical Xanax, but he burrows in on arguably the worst presidential candidate in recent memory, Walter Mondale. My fave passage:
In doing some research for today’s Mondale column, I reread his speech at the 1984 Democratic convention. Here’s a real time-capsule moment for you: 'When we speak of change, the words are Gary Hart's. When we speak of hope, the fire is Jesse Jackson's. When we speak of caring, the spirit is Ted Kennedy's. When we speak of the future, the message is Geraldine Ferraro.' Well, at least one out of four didn’t cheat on his wife. What a snapshot of 1984: a time when Gary Hart was the 845th blurry photocopy of JFK to be handed around, when Jesse Jackson was regarded as a bulwark of righteous enlightenment instead of a self-aggrandizing shakedown artist; when Ted Kennedy was a big pickled Care Bear, and Geraldine Ferraro was the future, not a footnote-to-be. I was a hardcore Democrat at the time, and I remember watching the speech and thinking: we are going to lose. We are going to lose 51 states. Puerto Rico will demand statehood just for the chance not to vote for this guy.
And I keep remembering Dana Carvey's SNL sketch on the guy. Wellstone's death is indeed a tragedy. But why compound it by voting for this misguided relic?
"DEAR LENIN, (I never thought I would end up addressing an email in this manner...) Nice to meet a fellow buff. Orwell more than once said that he doubted things in the USSR would have been much better if Trotsky had won over Stalin, but he did have a slight sympathy with the Left Opposition and a close friendship with some of its intellectual diaspora, and would never have thought of the accusation "Trotskyist" as a damning one. He had, I think, the same ambivalence about Lenin that you indicate..." Hitchens spars with readers in the latest Book Club installment. Don't miss it.
MY SPECIAL RIGHTS: "Indeed, Mr. Sullivan, I am sure you do not like to hear this, but you get the attention you get because you are a gay conservative. If you were a liberal, you would have to compete with many other thinkers, many of whom write better than you, are more intelligent than you are, and produce work that is much deeper than reflexive support for the Bush administration that you pass off as work." A reader objects to my objection to Harry Belafonte, why the Dems don't gay-bait, why the anti-war movement is right to single out Israel, and other viewpoints on the Letters Page, edited by Reihan Salam. - 9:45:18 PM HITCHENS RESPONDS: "Orwell learned, at Eton and in the colonial police, that the worst offense was to 'let down the side', or to be indiscreet in front of the servants or the natives, or to manifest any form of disloyalty. Thus, he was inured to the spurious appeals of group-think while still a Tory. Obviously, he wasn't going to listen, later on, to the same public-school or regimental trash when it was uttered in party-line form by some Communist hack. I don't think that this observation has been made before." - from the Book Club Page. Your first batch of emails will be posted this afternoon. - 11:54:40 AM
Monday, October 28, 2002 MUHAMMAD AND THE JEWS: Somehow I knew more of this would emerge. The Associated Press is reporting that "Muhammad also is linked to a shooting last spring at a Tacoma synagogue in which no one was injured, Tacoma police said." So he was a terrorist, a Muslim, a member of the fanatical anti-Semitic group the Nation of Islam and someone who shot up a synagogue. Who'd have thought it? As I've been saying for days now, connect the dots... Because the mainstream media will do all they can to avoid it.
IN DEFENSE OF PUTIN: Maybe he'll stop prevaricating on the Security Council now, especially since the weapons inspectors have put themselves behind the U.S-U.K. position. The loss of civilian life in the Moscow theater is, of course, a terrible event. But Putin's gut instinct - to fight the terrorists with all the means at his disposal - was and is the right one. We don't yet know the type of gas used, and clearly something went badly, badly wrong. But the idea of using such a device to stun and paralyze hostage-taking terrorists is not a crazy one. This is a war, guys. Above all, it must be stressed that the people really responsible for these civilian deaths are the terrorists themselves. And their global reach is widening. We've had outbreaks of terrorism in Bali, Jordan, Moscow and Washington, D.C. in the last couple of weeks. Every single one has some kind of Islamic extremist connection. Although the nuances differ, and the groups may not be identical and the specific motives diverse, Islamism is the thread that connects them all.
THE ANTIDOTE TO MSN: Yep, the parodies were inevitable.
THE NATION'S SMEAR ATTEMPT: I don't think I've read such a thorough demolition of a hatchet job in a very long time. It's about the Nation's Jon Wiener's attempt to smear critics of the work of "historian" Michael Bellesiles. If you've been following this controversy, this is a must-read.
In a mind-boggling act of vandalism, the posterboard memorial to 14 Israelis killed in a car bomb explosion displayed during a Yale Friends of Israel vigil Tuesday night was torn and scattered across the lawn early the next morning. This is not a sign that dissent has devolved to graffiti on campus - that was last week's defamation of an anti-divestment petition in the Law School. This is not a political objection to the Israeli government's treatment of Palestinians gone awry - that was the removal of most of the signs advertising former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak's visit two weeks ago. This is anti-Semitism. Plain and simple.
Amen. But how deeply disturbing that anyone on a campus today, let alone one the most distinguished in the country, would behave in this manner. How depraved have we become?
LEFTWING NEGATIVISM WATCH: Check out Salon's Michelle Goldberg on the anti-war rally in D.C. Goldberg is more than wobbly about the war but she is at least prepared to wrestle with the fact that refusing to disarm Saddam means sustaining a vicious dictator in power. She saw little such intellectual honesty in the crowds:
[I]t was hard to find a coherent ethical worldview to back that [anti-war] position up, save for a kind of masochistic isolationism. At its worst, the lack of a clear message gave way to moral emptiness, demonstrated in sickening exchanges between the handful of pro-war Iraqi dissidents who held their own rally near the Washington Monument and the antiwar marchers who responded to their tales of murder, torture and oppression with glib slogans and, occasionally, outright mockery.
That's what some on the left are now reduced to: mocking people whose relatives were murdered in a gulag.
CHIRAC'S GAME: A terrific piece blasting Chirac in the Times of London. The best line is as follows:
The notion that a struggle with Iraq represents some sort of “distraction” from the War on Terror is almost comical. It is like asserting that the search for a cure for cancer diverts energy from the search for perfect cosmetic surgery.
Take that, Al Gore.
VIDAL, BUSH, AND FDR: How adolescent is Gore Vidal? It is, of course, obscene that his opposition to the war on terror should now invoke the loopiest of conspiracy theories. But it is also completely predictable. This is his M.O. He has long believed, for example, that FDR was aware of Pearl Harbor ahead of time. His loopy, paranoid hatred of the American government isn't therefore restricted to Republicans. He's one of those literary dinosaurs whose audience is composed mainly of foreign America-haters, Guardian-readers and writers who puff his stature up in order to enjoy the alleged "shock" of his remarks even more. But these remarks aren't shocking. They're stale, exhausted, paranoid, bitter cliches. The only appropriate thing to do with regard to Vidal at this point is: ignore him. (For my review of Vidal's most recent novel, where he accuses FDR of treason, click here.)
MICKEY'S CHALLENGE: My friend Mickey Kaus called on his readers last week to flush out my alleged "hypocrisy" on the matter of racial profiling. He now tells me the pickings turned out to be slim. I once criticized the New York Times for not reporting on a study that showed that racial profiling in New Jersey was based on valid statistical inferences. And that's about it. My point in that instance was that newspapers shouldn't be protecting their readers from the facts of race and crime for political reasons. My position on the broader matter of racial profiling is a little tortured, I confess. I think I'd be a fool not to acknowledge that in certain crimes, for example, racial disparities abound. That's simply an empirical and statistical matter. Ditto the fact that most Islamist terrorists are not, by and large, over 60, female and a member of a religious order. At the same time, I feel pretty horrified by the notion of the state using its police power to detain or arrest (or let go) someone on the grounds of race. I think the government should be as color-blind as it possibly can. That's why I'm against affirmative action. It seems a little difficult - although not impossible - to be against affirmative action and in favor of racial profiling by the cops. But I'm against both. It's not hard to see why. If I were black and suspected in this way, I'd be mad as hell. And my basic solidarity has to go with those law-abiding African-American citizens who are subjected to this kind of scrutiny day after day. It saps the very democratic basis of the republic. It's humiliating, enraging and wrong. In fact, the inference of possible guilt on the grounds merely of skin color is about as close as you can get to a definition of injustice. So is it crazy to believe that racial profiling may be statistically valid but not morally defensible? I hope not, although I concede that as a practical matter it's not always that easy. P.S.: In the Washington terror-sniper case, there wasn't even a statistical basis for the profiling. It was statistically invalid and morally wrong. P.P.S. In the case of a credible eye-witness report of a suspect's race, my objections are obviously diluted. P.P.P.S.: Even if I were guilty as charged, the word "hypocrisy" would still not be applicable. I'm not saying one thing and doing another, which is what hypocrisy is. The right word for what I'm charged with is inconsistency. But I hope I've been able to explain that I'm also reasonably consistent on this. I say "reasonably" because no writer or honest person is always and everywhere consistent. But you can try and apply basic principles (of, say, color-blindness) as far as possible. - 11:02:26 PM ORWELL AND THE LEFT: The Book Club conversation begins.
BELAFONTE, BIGOT: The reverse racism of some on the Left - and others' acquiescence.
- 5:31:32 PM SPIN CONTROL: Just in case you might have thought that extreme Islamism might be worth looking into as a possible motive for the Washington sniper terrorist, the Boston Globe gets out in front. - 4:02:17 PM MICROSOFT HELL: Is there anything more annoying/creepy/ugly than the MSN campaign with that guy who looks like Jeff Goldblum from the remake of "The Fly"? Did they coincide it with Halloween on purpose? - 3:38:29 PM DEMS AND GAY-BASHING: Another Democratic Senate candidate uses anti-gay rhetoric to score political points. Democrat Alex Sanders had this to say in a spirited debate:
Sanders said Graham was the one running a TV endorsement from Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York City. "He's an ultra-liberal," Sanders said. "His wife kicked him out and he moved in with two gay men and a Shih Tzu. Is that South Carolina values? I don't think so."
And doesn't he know that Rudy has also worn a dress? That's not the way we do business in Montana, I mean, South Carolina. Again, this isn't the worst thing in the world. It's cheap, not vile. But if a Republican had said it, there would be hell to pay. - 3:30:02 PM
Sunday, October 27, 2002 THE ORWELL DEBATE: Sadly, it was mobbed. The hall was far too small to accommodate the crowds and many were turned away. I can't believe NYU doesn't have a larger hall than one that sits a couple hundred at most. But once it got under way, the event was great. Hitch was splendid - half after-dinner jokester, half passionate moralist. He made one point in particular that resonated. On the way there, we were confronted with protestors with "No War On Iraq" posters. Hitch noticed the Orwellian resonance of this slogan. The slogan, strictly speaking, is a lie, one of many promoted by the anti-war left and right. There is no possibility of a war with "Iraq." Half the country - inhabited by the Kurds and Shia Muslims is already protected from Saddam's murderous designs by British and American air-power. The remaining rump is not a country as such; it's a population terrorized by a police state run by a sadistic maniac. We are not therefore at war with the country or people of Iraq; and by equating Saddam with Iraq, these so-called "peace-protestors" are de facto parties to his vile propaganda, the notion that Iraq is Saddam and Saddam is Iraq. That lie was recently displayed in the humiliating spectacle of grown human beings not simply being required to vote for Saddam, as Hitch observed, but actually to dance in the streets to celebrate him, to humiliate themselves out of terror. This disgusting spectacle wasn't like "1984." It was "1984." And this is what the anti-war movement now finds itself defending. I watched part of the anti-war rally in DC on C-SPAN this weekend. Not a single speaker even addressed the evil in Baghdad. In their attempt to derail any attempt to disarm Saddam, and in their facile equation of Saddam with Iraq, they show the empty, bitter center of their alleged morality. (Check in later today for the first installment of my email chat with Hitch on his new book, "Why Orwell Matters," on the Book Club page. We both hope you'll join in as soon as you feel like it.)
MUST-READ: One of the books that first persuaded me I should write a book about the politics of homosexuality was Shelby Steele's "The Content of Our Character." He's written much since, but I don't think I've read anything of his as searingly beautiful and unflinching as his current piece in Harper's. It's amazing that it appears in that magazine, which has become a largely unread litany of bitter leftism under Lewis Lapham's dyspeptic leadership. But Steele's essay truly is a must-read. Steele shows brilliantly how the goal of black liberation - liberation toward an individuality unsullied by the poison of racism - has transformed itself into a humiliating attachment to black victimization and failure. The piece shocks the reader with its honesty. At one point, fo example, Steele recounts an exchange shown on C-SPAN between a black student and Ward Connerly at a Harvard debate. The student is withering toward Connerly's anti-race preference message, and he is naturally supported by his peers and the Harvard establishment. This is Steele's reflection on the young black student, insisting on the permanent oppression of his race:
[C]onsider what this Harvard student is called upon by his racial identity to argue in the year 2002. All that is creative and imaginative in him must be rallied to argue the essential weakness of his own people. Only their weakness justifies the racial preferences they receive decades after any trace of anti-black racism in college admissions. The young man must not show faith in the power of his people to overcome against any odds; he must show faith in their inability to overcome without help. As Mr. Connerly points to far less racism and far more freedom and opportunity for blacks, the young man must find a way, against all the mounting facts, to argue that black Americans cannot compete without preferences. If his own forebears seized freedom in a long and arduous struggle for civil rights, he must argue that his own generation is unable to compete on paper-and-pencil standadized tests.
Steele doesn't mince words - because he sees how a powerful faction of liberalism, the central meaning of which should be about freedom, has become indistinguishable in some quarters from a reactionary and racist ideology that is the biggest obstacle to the advancement of African-American equality and progress today.
VON HOFFMAN AWARD NOMINEE: "An illuminating piece on [Paul] Wolfowitz, 'The Sunshine Warrior' by Bill Keller ... gave a sympathetic view of [Wolfowitz's] belief that the assertion of American power can turn Iraq into a democracy and help transform the entire Middle East. I was moved by his optimism, as I read, but I kept thinking of one thing: Vietnam. Here, as in Vietnam, the advocates are sure that American power can prevail - and sure that the result will be a happy one. But here, as in Vietnam, so many things could go wrong. Iraq is a large, modern, heavily urbanized country. If we bomb it apart, are we going to be wise enough to put it back together? Have Mr. Wolfowitz and his fellow sunshine warriors calculated the effects of an American war on feelings among Arabs and other Muslims? What would follow Saddam? The nature of a post-Saddam government in Iraq is a crucial concern for Iran, Turkey, Syria, and others; but the Bush administration has shown no sign of having an answer to that question." - Anthony Lewis, the current New York Review of Books.
"If all this means what it says - war [with Iraq] - then George Bush is taking his country and the world into a tragedy of appalling dimensions. It would be a war with enormous casualties and with destabilizing effects beyond calculation... Listening to the President talk to the Marines, one might think that a war with Iraq would be quick and easy. Mr. Bush might have been giving a pep talk before a game. But it would almost certainly not be quick or easy. And not beneficently simple in its results. A war with Iraq could devastate a huge area of the Middle East. It could arouse many Arabs, even those critical of Saddam Hussein, against the United States." - Anthony Lewis, November 23, 1990, The New York Times.
MELISSA RULES: A small but wonderful landmark in last night's game. I thought Melissa Etheridge's rendition of the national anthem was superb. I felt proud as a gay man that an open lesbian sang so beautifully and powerfully at the final game of the World Series. A simple, undemonstrative moment of actual integration. May more follow.
EMAIL OF THE DAY:
As a former daily newspaper reporter, I am struck that everything we thought we knew about the Washington "sniper" was wrong: 1. He was not an "angry white male" or "right-wing gun nut." 2. He was not acting alone. 3. He was not using a "white box truck." 4. He was not in a "white van with ladder racks on top." 5. He was not "watching television coverage and reacting to it" since he was living in his car. 6. He was not a "delivery guy familiar with the area who knows all the back alleys and escape routes." 7. He was not a guy "going to work each day like a normal person" and killing in his "off hours." 8. His choice of the Washington, D.C., area as his killing ground was not coincidental. He had to cross a continent to get there.
Friday, October 25, 2002 WELLSTONE: In New York today, I just heard of Senator Wellstone's death, and that of his wife, daughter and colleagues. I disagreed with a huge amount of what he believed in, but he was one of the most sincere, passionate and genuine people in American politics today. This is terrible news for all of us who value diversity of opinion and liveliness of debate in a democratic society. May he and all who died with him rest in peace.
SUSPECTED OF TERRORISM: Read this piece from the Bellingham Herald. The dots may be getting connected. - 7:42:22 PM ISLAMIC TERROR?: Of course, the first thing to say is that the news yesterday about the capture of the sniper and his accomplice was wonderful. My hometown can breathe a sigh of relief. And our hearts go out to the victims, their families and friends and to those many, many others who have been terrified day in day out. But it also seems to me important to ask the hard questions about what this event meant and means. Reading the newspapers in the early hours, I'm a little stunned. I'm aware that we still don't know much about the precise motives of the sniper killer and his accomplice. But we do know the following: he was a convert to Islam, he changed his name recently, he harbored "strong anti-American feelings and had publicly praised the terrorist attacks of September 11," he actively supported the Nation of Islam, and the New Jersey plates for the car were bought on the first anniversary of September 11, immediately after which a bomb scare emptied the DMV building. Call me crazy, but isn't that a striking series of coincidences? To read the papers this morning is like looking at several massive dots with no-one daring to connect them. So allow me. It seems to me that this guy is clearly a disturbed and dangerous person, period. Perhaps he was simply a bad guy and a criminal. But, as I wrote a while back, the attacks were clearly not the usual pattern of a serial killer or a conventional sniper. Here's what I posited eleven days ago in the Dish -
"[W]hat the D.C. sniper is now doing is terrorism. I don't mean he's a member of any specific group necessarily or even a person who might call himself a terrorist. I mean someone - a criminal - whose goal, whose purpose, is purely terror. I can see no other pattern to the shootings."
So we have a Muslim convert, sympathetic to the murderers of 9/11, terrorizing the nation's capital, and coming close to shutting its daily life down. I don't see that it matters whether he was formally a member of al Qaeda or some other group. In fact, it's more disturbing if he is not.
THE FRUITS OF RACIAL PROFILING: Now imagine the following scenario. A sniper was terrorizing the capital city. Police came across a white guy in a car whom they suspected. They took his name, but they didn't arrest him, because they were looking for a black man. The guy subsequently went on to kill several more people. Wouldn't this be the basis for uproar? Wouldn't the cops involved be fired? Wouldn't there be a massive investigation into how such racial profiling could have happened? I would think so. But this may have been exactly what happened in this case! According to the Washington Post yesterday, the cops stopped the Chevy Caprice on October 8. Here's how the Washington Post describes what happened:
The blue Caprice discovered today was believed to have been approached in Baltimore by police who found Muhammad sleeping on Oct. 8, the day after a 13-year-old boy in Bowie was wounded as the eighth victim of the sniper, the sources said. The car was spotted in a parking lot off 28th Street, near the exit ramp to Interstate 83. Muhammad was allowed to go, although his name was put into an information data bank in Baltimore, the sources said. "Everyone was looking for a white car with white people," said one high-ranking police source. Muhammad and Malvo are black males.
I'm a little suspicious about the wording here: "... was believed to have been approached ..." But I see no refutation of this incident in today's papers. And then there's the stunning quote: "Everyone was looking for a white car with white people." Get that? There's a word for this: racial profiling. It's wrong in itself but it's simply astounding that this profiling by the police was also followed by the deaths of several more people. Why isn't this a scandal? The only reason the cops - not "everyone," in the weasel words of the "high-ranking police source" - were looking for a white guy was allegedly because only white guys are serial killers or snipers. First off, this is no excuse for racial profiling. Second, we already knew that this was not a typical serial killer or sniper. Thirdly, in the words of the New York Times,
According to a database compiled by James Alan Fox, a criminologist at Northeastern University and one of the most widely quoted profilers, 55 percent of sniper killers are white.
In other words, the whole notion of racial profiling in this case was hooey in the first place. Even if he had been a typical sniper killer, there was close to a 50 percent chance of his being non-white. And yet the cops let a man go because of his race.
THE P.C. MEDIA: So the question becomes: why aren't these obvious questions being raised in the major papers this morning? Part of it is legitimate caution in speculating about things we don't know fully yet. That's completely defensible. Part of it may be waiting for the shock to wear off. But, as I've shown, everything I've written here is from the papers themselves. So they're not disguising or concealing any facts. I think the first reason for the reticence is an understandable reluctance to draw the link between domestic extreme Islam and terrorism. But this possibility is real; we've seen American citizens acting as foot-soldiers for al Qaeda; and we've seen them act as sympathizers. It may be grim to contemplate it, but these are times to look reality in the face. And I think the second reason for the reticence is that there's a double-standard in which racial profiling against whites is fine, but racial profiling against blacks is wrong. In my view, any kind of racial profiling is always wrong. And if the cops had not been making reverse racist assumptions in this case, there's a chance a few more people would be alive today. That alone should be enough for the people responsible for this profiling to be investigated. But somehow, I think they'll get away with barely any criticism at all. Relief will dispel responsibility. It shouldn't.
Thursday, October 24, 2002 KUDOS: To Michelle Malkin, who was among the first to raise questions about the assumption that the killer was white. (Via Seth Gitell.)
- 4:39:18 PM WHAT BUSH SHOULDN'T DO: I have barely offered a word about the Washington sniper story, because I can't see much to say, except it's appalling, and I hope they catch this monster soon. If you watch the television, you will have heard all that you need to. And much, much more. But I have to say I disagree with Howard Fineman's notion that the president has been delinquent in not being more outspoken. One difference bwteen this president and the last is that Bush doesn't feel the need to be the country's permanent emotional counselor, or to involve himself in every issue or event. Yesterday he made brief but sensible comments and showed that the feds were doing what they could to help. Beyond that, this is a police job. Period. Then there's this observation by Fineman:
The macro reason [for Bush's reticence] I sense from talking with one of the president’s top political aides. Karl Rove & Co. sort of like the way things are going in the congressional races right now: All the Iraq talk has had the effect of fragmenting the electoral season’s thematics, with no single topic around which to unify the opposition to the president. His cautious political advisers don’t want to do anything to change that dynamic. Why risk getting more deeply involved in a case that might still take days, weeks or months to solve?
I guess there may be some people in the White House cynical enough to take this view. But Bush's relative restraint signals to me rather that he has a good sense of the boundaries of his job, respects delegation to others, and doesn't feel the need to mouth off constantly about something that needs patience and diligence rather than talk. I wish more of the media would follow his example.
SAFIRE GETS IT: "The world must not allow Iraq to gain the level of destructive power that appeasement and misplaced trust permitted North Korea to achieve." Amen. I'd forgotten the damning Jimmy Carter quote of the time, likening his "breakthrough" with the murderers in Pyongyang as a "miracle." Here's what I want to know: why hasn't anyone in the press asked Carter and Clinton what they now think of their legacy in North Korea? Why are these people never ever called to account?
ANIMAL FARM: I just re-read the Orwell classic on the plane to and from Ohio. I'm prepping for the NYU panel tonight. Two re-inforced impressions, which have certainly occurred to many others before. One key shift toward totalitarianism in the novel comes when the old hymn "Beasts of England" gets replaced by Napoleon (the chief pig and Stalin figure) to a more generic song praising "Animal Farm." Orwell's point, I think, is that patriotism is, for all its faults, far more humane and progressive than its opposite. Today's left would do well to remember that, I think. I was also struck by the sense that the apotheosis of Animal Farm makes it no worse than its human-run neighbors. Orwell's distrust of capitalism was as intense as his loathing of Stalinism. I think he was wrong there - and guilty of moral equivalence. But I also think that it does no justice to him, as Hitchens argues, to ignore this and co-opt him for the right - even the neo-liberal right of today. Just some random thoughts on the plane. I'll be talking briefly tonight about how "Homage To Catalonia" was inspiration for my own far less accomplished writing about the AIDS epidemic.
RAINES AWARD NOMINEE: "The conflict in Israel has sparked serious debate and inflamed tension on America's college campuses, and Harvard University is no exception. Tensions among faculty and students have reached new boiling points since over two hundred professors petitioned to have the university sever its financial ties to Israel. Pro-Israel groups have accused colleagues and schoolmates of anti-Semitism, and many agree that the freedom to speak out at Harvard is in jeopardy. Geneive Abdo reports. (7:19)" - NPR's online synopsis of a Morning Edition segment.
SOUTH KOREA SHIFTS: More signs that Bush's approach is gaining favor in the Korean peninsula.
YOUNGER SIBLING ISSUES: Is it blasphemous to find this somewhat amusing?
Wednesday, October 23, 2002 SONTAG AWARD NOMINEE: "But as we barrel down the road to war with Iraq, maybe we ought to quiz our unilateralist president about why it is necessary for us to bomb, invade and occupy Iraq while North Korea gets the striped-pants treatment. Is it because North Korea has a million men under arms? Is it because Kim Jong Il never threatened to kill Bush's father, or because he has no oil, or is not a Muslim?" - Mary McGrory, Washington Post.
EMAIL OF THE DAY: "Keep up the pressure on Paul K. I have known him for more than twenty years and, as I told you in an email sent a year or so ago, once regarded him as a Nobel Prize possibility. Alas, his politics and ego have become truly insufferable. Can you imagine an economist of his gifts falling back on the argument that the increasing relative compensation of CEOs has been a result of a change in the public's willingness to tolerate inequality in income distribution? If one of his doctoral students tried this, he quick response would be, "well that is an interesting hypothesis, but how do you propose that we might submit it to testing?" Indeed, Paul is smart enough to see the obvious circularity in the whole argument. To wit: since we have more income inequality, it must follow that people are willing to tolerate inequality, and vice versa. As for Krugman's argument that the increase in CEOs relative "take" results from the fact that they "appoint" board members, all I can say is that having served on boards of public companies for three decades and having looked at board composition from, say, the 1950s, it is demonstrably the case that boards were more "CEO picked" 40 to 50 years ago than they are now. In the "old days," interlocking directorates and the like were the rule not the exception." - 4:13:12 PM A FEW DECENT POINTS?? An email provides some balance to my link to Dana Milbank's Washington Post article yesterday about president Bush's sloppiness with facts:
Good dish . . . with the notable exception of touting Milbank's article. Although he accuses the President of lying (6 times by my count), his evidence is less than compelling. His main thrust, that knowingly false statements were proffered, center on three statements concerning RPVs, Iraqi nuclear capabilities, and union obstructionism over homeland security: "And all three statements were dubious, if not wrong. Further information revealed that the aircraft lack the range to reach the United States; there was no such report by the IAEA; and the customs dispute over the detectors was resolved long ago. Only an idiot would think an RPV had the range to hit the US mainland--obviously the President referred to US assets in the Persian Gulf region (or terrorist applications assuming other transport); Milbank later quotes the "no such" report by the IAEA--which states that Iraq was 6-24 months away from nukes at the start of the Gulf War (and Bush mangled less than Milbank did); and the union's silly dispute over radiation detectors was in fact indicative of why the proposed department of homeland security could do without union. Milbank's statements are, if anything, more dubious than the President's. Then he goes on to make some basic logical errors. In the first, he quotes the President's assertions that a terrorist received medical attention in Iraq, then suggests there is no evidence the government knew about it (a point both unlikely and irrelevant). Then he quotes a statement that Iraq "could" provide terrorists with nukes, and claims it contradicts a CIA report suggesting they "wouldn't." Finally, he closes with a basic error in arithmetic: "Other times, the president's assertions simply outpace the facts. In New Hampshire earlier this month, he said his education legislation made "the biggest increase in education spending in a long, long time." "In fact, the 15.8 percent increase in Department of Education discretionary spending for fiscal year 2002 (the figures the White House supplied when asked about Bush's statement) was below the 18.5 percent increase under Clinton the previous year. . ." In fact, a 15.8 % increase is "bigger" than a previous year's 18.5 % increase (115.8 x 118.5 = 137.22; 137.22 - 118.5 = 18.72% ). Dana might wish to define an "increase" as a multiplicative factor, but dictionaries, math books, and common usage all refer to addition. God knows this isn't the most eloquent president we've ever had, and his tendency to mangle common English makes for some non-sequiturs. But as far as I can tell, the outright prevarication level has dropped precipitously since the last administration. Milbank's selective quotes make it difficult to determine if there is any justice to his claims, but he has failed abysmally in his attempt to make a cogent case. And if this is the best available argument that Bush is a liar, he must be pretty darn truthful.
A worthwhile amendment, I think. I'm in Indiana today, talking to students. Hope to check in late in the afternoon. - 11:20:44 AM IS SADDAM CRUMBLING? It's too much to hope for, I know. But I can't help feeling that this mass amnesty is a truly epochal event. John Burns, living proof that greatness still exists in the New York Times, has been writing riveting accounts of what's going on. This passage staggered me:
Iraqis said they knew of no previous occasion, in Baghdad, when people had taken to the streets to march on a government building, and then had persisted in protests even after secret police fired automatic rifles into the air, as they did today.
Some who attended a protest at a secret police headquarters on the outskirts of Baghdad on Monday said there were at least 700 people taking part who for some time defied orders that they disperse. "Where is my son? I demand to know where is my son!" one middle-aged woman in a black cloak cried, as she huddled with a group of women at the head of 150 protesters who staged a noisy rally today outside the Ministry of Information beside the Tigris River in central Baghdad.
Similar cries went up from other women desperate to know what had become of long-lost husbands and sons and brothers, in some cases sisters and daughters, who disappeared into the vast network of prisons and detention centers as long as 20 years ago. The details that stuttered out as the women told their tales were like episodes from the nightmares of Soviet Russia: Men and women, and even teenage children, picked up by anonymous enforcers, usually in unmarked cars, and never heard from again. As officials pushed reporters back, ordered security guards to fire warning shots into the air, and pleaded with the women to still their cries, the women's accounts of their wrenching doorstep partings, and of the dates198019871991199219971999 rang out like the tolling of a sexton's bell.
The Journal yesterday wondered whether we have another Ceausescu on our hands. Right now, it's wishful thinking. The deeper point, though, is that once this kind of regime relaxes its grip even slightly, the unraveling could come quickly. Remember the last evil empire? The main fear is that chaos would follow and terrorist elements might loot or use some of the most lethal weapons in Saddam's arsenal. Which means we must be ready to go in sooner rather than later. But all of this must, broadly speaking, be an encouraging sign. Bush's hard line is already paying dividends. We can only pray we can disarm Saddam and liberate Iraq without war.
WHEN BUSH COMES TO SHOVE: The Koreans, North and South, understand what the current administration is all about. I loved this quote in the Financial Times:
Paik Jin-hyun, professor of international relations at Seoul National University, said the North was using nuclear weapons to "blackmail" the US into supporting its crumbling economy. "North Korea seems to misunderstand the nature of the Bush administration," Mr Paik said. "What may have worked with [President Bill] Clinton will not work with [President George W.] Bush. Trying to use nuclear weapons to blackmail this US government. .. is the worst possible tactic."
Telling, isn't it? Claudia Rosett sees the bigger picture today as well.
YES, I KNOW: This Dilbert poll of the weaseliest people, institutions, religions, countries, etc. is highly unscientific. But I also thought it was dead on. Enjoy, if you haven't already.
HE'S BACK: If you live in Montana, and care about fighting back against the kind of sleaze that Max Baucus has engaged in for years, for goodness' sake, vote for him.
CAMPUS ANTI-SEMITISM WATCH: Please send me pieces in college newspapers equating Israelis with Nazis and the like. Here's a recent piece in the University of Cincinnati News Record. A sample paragraph:
These inhumane acts of violence are justified as God's Divine law. Moses received the Ten Commandments to guide the Jews in their new freedom. The first divine commandment is "You shall not kill," although it has been changed to, "You shall not kill a Jew."
As I said, keep me posted.
AT LAST, MODERATE MUSLIMS: Good news from Indonesia.
WHAT GAY IS: I tend to concur with this analysis by Julie Burchill, denigrating all those too-easy magazine Most Powerful Men in America lists and the like:
The Power Lists are really gay, but in a bad way. They're not gay like most of my male friends are, which means they read loads of books, take loads of drugs, make great jokes and have nice boyfriends. No, Power List strivers fit the teen-slang meaning of gay, which is "tragic straight" - that is, they spend more on a suit than a family of four would on a holiday, use moisturiser and carry handbags but still demand the right to call the sexes "equal but different".
I don't buy into all of Burchill's definition of feminism. But I like her celebration of gayness. In fact, it's one of the first short descriptions of the current gay male world that makes it sound like something you'd want to be a part of.
Tuesday, October 22, 2002 LETTERMAN ON BABAWAWA: I caught this via Jay Nordlinger's always worthwhile column, "Impromptus." After John McCain's hilarious dig at Barbra Streisand on SNL last Saturday night, this is another sign that our comedians get it. It's Letterman's take on Barbara Walters' nauseatingly sycophantic interview with the murderous thug and dictator, Fidel Castro:
TOP TEN SIGNS BARBARA WALTERS IS IN LOVE WITH FIDEL CASTRO
10. Her first question: "How'd you get so dreamy?" 9. Squeals like a schoolgirl every time he tortures a dissident. 8. She's wearing his varsity dictator jacket. 7. Re-named her newsmagazine "Veinte/Veinte." 6. Told him, "You have led a violent overthrow of my heart." 5. Has same look Diane Sawyer had when she and Khomeini were dating. 4. Breakfast, lunch and dinner: pulled pork. 3. New sign-off line on "The View": "Socialism or death". 2. When asking him about Camp X-Ray, she accidentally called it "Guantana-marry me." 1. The long, mangy beard hairs on her blouse
Cheered me up, anyway.
ANTI-WAR BIGOTRY WATCH: "What is 'self-evidently bizarre,' however, is that Sullivan seems to be publicly losing his mind. It happens to a lot of people with AIDS. Dementia sets in, eventually, and, no matter how many drug cocktails they take, in the end virtually all succumb to mania and mental deterioration." - gay Buchananite polemicist Justin Raimondo, Anti-War.com, setting a new level of discourse for the anti-war movement.
KRUGMAN IN HIS OWN WORDS: "While hired guns do not flourish at Harvard or the University of Chicago, however, in Washington they roam in packs. Portrait of a hired gun: He or she is usually a mediocre economist -- someone whose work, if it didn't have an ideological edge, might have been published but wouldn't have had many readers. He has, however, found a receptive audience for work that does have an ideological edge. In particular, he has learned that pretty good jobs in think tanks, or on the staffs of magazines with a distinct political agenda, are available for people who know enough economics to produce plausible-sounding arguments on behalf of the party line. Ask him whether he is a political hack and he will deny it; he probably does not admit it to himself. But somehow everything he says or writes serves the interests of his backers. Most of these hired guns work on behalf of right-wing causes: it's a funny thing, but organizations that promote the interests of rich people seem to be better financed than those that don't. Still, the left has enough resources to front a quorum of its own hacks. And anyway, love of money is only the root of some evil. Love of the limelight, love of the feeling of being part of a Movement, even love of the idea of oneself as a bold rebel against the Evil Empire can be equally corrupting of one's intellectual integrity. How can you tell the hacks from the serious analysts? One answer is to do a little homework. Hack jobs often involve surprisingly raw, transparent misrepresentations of fact: in these days of search engines and online databases you don't need a staff of research assistants to catch 'em with their hands in the cookie jar. But there is another telltale clue: if a person, or especially an organization, always sings the same tune, watch out." - Paul Krugman, two years ago. - 12:13:08 PM
Monday, October 21, 2002 BUSH'S GORE-LIKE EMBELLISHMENTS: I think Dana Milbank scores a few decent points against the president in this piece. Nothing terrible, but still sloppy.
SONTAG AWARD NOMINEE: "We have a major national security problem on our hands. There's a man -- a deceitful man -- who has consistently lied to the world, jeopardizing the safety of Americans. As long as he stays in power, we are at a greater risk of terrorist attack. As long as he continues to disregard the truth, spouting lies into the air, this international bully will threaten our safety. This man must be stopped: George Bush." - from the Daily Pennsylvanian.
A DEFENSE OF GRIDLOCK: I love Jack Shafer when he's this ornery.
HOW DUMB ARE THE BRITS? They make Mary McGrory look informed. Barely any knows who's in the cabinet; and only a quarter can recognize Saddam Hussein. A useful antidote to Anglophilia.
RIGHT-WING HOMOPHOBIA WATCH: It especially applies to gay Republicans.
CLINTON'S SHOCK: A cartoon on the North Korea news.
THE ORWELL PANEL: More details: 7 pm this Thursday night at Jurow Hall, Main Building 100 Washington Square East New York University.
A GAY MAN AND HIS CHURCH: An email that says it all:
I must say that I am absolutely horrified by the story from the Sunday Herald. I am a young gay man considering a vocation with the Society of Jesus. Ever since I was 14, I have heard the call of the Lord to his holy priesthood and I have wanted to do nothing more than serve the Church. After puberty and the realization of my sexual orientation, I was deeply depressed and I knew the Church would never accept my as a gay priest. I vowed to hide my sexuality for the rest of my life and I have remained chaste and closeted for all of my 21 years.
Two years ago, I picked up your book "Love Undetectable" and was totally enthralled. Your frankness and honestly about your own struggles with homosexuality and the Church parallel some of my struggles even to today.
After the sex-abuse scandals erupted last year, I was shaken to my core all over again. I just knew there would be a witch-hunt against gay priests and all those horrible experiences I faced at 14 came back to me. I fear what will happen to me now. I am scheduled to begin the application process to the Jesuits next year and I am very scared. What happened to my Church? All I wish to do is serve God and his flock as faithfully as Jesus did and now I am faced with being probed and examined to be "outed" by a hierarchy obsessed with expelling all remnants of homosexuality. I feel so lost and so alienated from the Church in these times. The worst part is the fact that I cannot share my pain with my parish priest or my vocation spiritual director for fear of rejection from the only life I have ever passionately desired.
Ask yourself: how can anyone defend a policy of routine discrimination against men such as these? I am grateful for your many emails about this; and I'll continue to hope that this horror won't come to pass.
KRUGMAN IN HIS OWN WORDS: "Economists also did their bit to legitimize previously unthinkable levels of executive pay. During the 1980's and 1990's a torrent of academic papers -- popularized in business magazines and incorporated into consultants' recommendations -- argued that Gordon Gekko was right: greed is good; greed works. In order to get the best performance out of executives, these papers argued, it was necessary to align their interests with those of stockholders. And the way to do that was with large grants of stock or stock options.
It's hard to escape the suspicion that these new intellectual justifications for soaring executive pay were as much effect as cause. I'm not suggesting that management theorists and economists were personally corrupt. It would have been a subtle, unconscious process: the ideas that were taken up by business schools, that led to nice speaking and consulting fees, tended to be the ones that ratified an existing trend, and thereby gave it legitimacy." - Paul Krugman, criticizing the subtle, unconscious corruption of academic economists being paid nice speaking and consulting fees, October 20, 2002.
"My critics seem to think that there was something odd about Enron's willingness to pay a mere college professor that much money. But such sums are not unusual for academic economists whose expertise is relevant to current events... Remember that this was 1999: Asia was in crisis, the world was a mess. And justifiably or not, I was regarded as an authority on that mess. I invented currency crises as an academic field, way back in 1979; anyone who wants a sense of my academic credentials should look at the Handbook of International Economics, vol. 3, and check the index...
I mention all this not as a matter of self-puffery, but to point out that I was not an unknown college professor. On the contrary, I was a hot property, very much in demand as a speaker to business audiences: I was routinely offered as much as $50,000 to speak to investment banks and consulting firms. They thought I might tell them something useful... The point is that the money Enron offered wasn't out of line with what companies with no interest in influence-buying were offering me. You may think I was overpaid, but the market - not Enron - set those pay rates." - Paul Krugman, January 21, defending his getting paid $50,000 for a two-day weekend Enron Advisory Board meeting because the market set the fees.
"More broadly, Sullivan (and Virginia Postrel, who I did read) seem to believe that successful academics are poor mousy types who live in ivory towers, who never receive offers to be paid to talk about what they know. That's not the way it is. Academic economists who have established international reputations in policy-relevant fields are constantly called by governments and companies, seeking their services - and yes, offering to pay for them. Think about it: how could it be otherwise? ...
By 1999, 22 years after I got my Ph.D., having published 15 scholarly monographs and around 150 professional papers, I was certainly in the circle of Those Who Get Money Calls (though I didn't get there until around 1995). So the Enron offer didn't come as a surprise, and it certainly didn't corrupt me - as my articles about them surely prove.
So where are we? Ms. Postrel says that I should have known that something was wrong because I was offered far more than someone in my position should expect; in saying this, she only shows that she doesn't know anything either about the modern academic world, or about what corporate consultants are paid. Mr. Sullivan thinks that I misled readers by not reminding them that corporations invariably pay their boards; it would never have occurred to me that people didn't know that. And he claims that I was an Enron crony. Maybe he should look up "crony" in the dictionary. Doesn't being a crony mean that you (a) know people well and (b) do them favors? I didn't, and I didn't. What's left here is a crazed determination to find something wrong with my behavior when I did exactly what I was supposed to do. Vast right-wing conspiracy, anyone? Or is it just green-eyed envy?" - Paul Krugman, lambasting critics of his $50,000 sinecure from Enron's "advisory board" as being "green-eyed with envy," January 23, 2002. Unlike some other Enron beneficiaries, Krugman kept his money.
- 11:37:00 PM THE LEFT'S NEGATIVISM: "Ask the average leftist today what he is for, and you will not get a particularly eloquent response. Ask him what he is against, and the rhetorical floodgates open. That tells you something. Similarly, ask the average anti-war activist what she is for with regard to Iraq, what exactly she thinks we should constructively do, and the stammering and stuttering begins. Do we just leave Saddam alone? Do we send Jimmy Carter to sign the kind of deal he made with North Korea eight years ago? Will pressuring the Israelis remove the nerve gas and potential nukes Saddam has in his possession? Will ceding the West Bank to people who cheered the destruction of the World Trade Center help defang al Qaeda? They don't say and don't know. But what they do know is what they are against: American power, Israeli human rights abuses, British neo-imperialism, the "racist" war on Afghanistan, and on and on. Get them started on their hatreds, and the words pour out. No wonder some have started selling the Protocols of the Elders of Zion in Central Park." - from my latest Sunday Times piece on the anti-Semitism hijacking the anti-war movement. - 12:45:12 PM IS SADDAM CRACKING? What on earth is going on in Iraq? I have no way of knowing what Saddam's strategy is behind the sudden release of so many prisoners. Its probably a desperate plea for support. But we know from history that the moment a tyrant begins to relax his grip, forces are unleashed that he can find hard to control. The superb New York Times reporter, John Burns, has been writing peerless reports from Iraq (they make Nick Kristof look like a college stringer), and he delivers these two paragraphs today:
A 68-year-old retired high school mathematics teacher, who gave her first name as Samiya, said she heard of the amnesty while driving across Baghdad, and headed straight for Abu Ghraib in the hope that her 59-year-old brother, a chemical engineer serving a 30-year prison term, would be freed. When asked if her brother was a political prisoner, the white-haired woman turned away, then said he was the victim of denunciation by a "jealous colleague" at work. Then, she launched into an encomium for Mr. Hussein. "We love our president because he forgives the mistakes of his people," she said. Once the prison gates collapsed, the mood changed. Seeing watchtowers abandoned and the prison guards standing passively by or actively supporting them as they charged into the cell blocks, the crowd seemed to realize that they were experiencing, if only briefly, a new Iraq, where the people, not the government, was sovereign. Chants of "Down Bush! Down Sharon!" referring to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel, faded. In one cell block, a guard smiled broadly at an American photographer, raised his thumb, and said, "Bush! Bush!" Elsewhere, guards offered an English word almost never heard in Iraq. "Free!" they said. "Free!"
Ah that war-monger Bush. No wonder Iraqis hate him. - 11:44:46 AM
Sunday, October 20, 2002 NORTH KOREA AND IRAQ: The argument that immediately surfaced in the media following the North Korean revelation about their nukes has been: See? Why shouldn't we invade North Korea now? The Bushies are sooo inconsistent. They just want to invade Iraq for oil/empire/the hell of it/the mid-term elections, or fill in the latest Dowdian allegation. But the difference between North Korea and Iraq is so simple it's astonishing some people don't see it. So let's put this as clearly as we can: North Korea has a nuke; Iraq, so far, doesn't. Got that? When a rogue state succeeds in getting weapons of mass destruction, our options are severely limited. The question with Iraq is simple: in trying to stop Saddam getting a nuke, do we follow the same policies as Clinton and Carter in 1994 with North Korea, or do we try something else? Amazingly, large swathes of apparently intelligent people seem to think we should try the Carter/Clinton approach to Iraq. My view is simple: if we do not disarm Saddam now, we never will. And if we don't, a full-scale nuclear, biological and chemical war is inevitable in the Middle East; and that war, with the help of terror groups like al Qaeda, will soon come to LA and New York and London and Washington. So the choice is a dangerous war now; or a much more destructive war later. I know democracies don't like to hear these as the two options; democracies rightly, understandably hate to go to war. But these choices, in my view, are the only ones we actually have. So what's it gonna be? Or do we still want to change the subject?
ONE AT A TIME? Then there's the latest anti-Iraq war argument. The old line was that we have to go after al Qaeda, not Iraq, because al Qaeda is the bigger threat. We can't do both. But the obvious response is: why on earth not? The military says it can be done as a practical matter. As a political matter, a victory against Iraq would, in my view, likely help the war on al Qaeda, opening a trove of intelligence, demoralizing anti-American forces in the region, and acting as a model for a post-tyrannical Middle East. So we're left with the next argument. Defanging Iraq will so inflame the Muslim "street" that other Muslim countries will stop cooperating with us in the war on terror. Tony Judt yesterday cited Indonesia and Pakistan as evidence for this. The trouble with this argument, it seems to me, is that the Indonesian government wasn't cooperating much at all until the Bali massacre. Are they going to cooperate less now? Or less if another wave of terrorism hits in the wake of Iraq? If anything, the record suggests that they'll only crack down when faced with a real threat.
AND PAKISTAN? As for Pakistan, it seems to me that Judt's case is stronger. Musharraf has indeed been walking a tightrope. But if our policy is to fight terror without in any way pissing off the "Arab street," we might as well pack up and go home. Ideologically, most of Arab public opinion, shielded by the police states most Arabs live in, hates the U.S. regardless of what we do. What we've learned is that although this hatred is constant, their respect for us isn't. Under Clinton, they held us in contempt. Hence the steady rise of al Qaeda and the growing belligerence on the West Bank in the 1990s. Under Bush since 9/11, they're far more circumspect, as well they should be. The Afghanistan campaign was therefore the best argument against Islamic extremism the Arab world has heard in a long, long time. Besides, Musharraf is a realist. If America takes Tony Judt's advice and simply lets Saddam continue to develop nukes, poison gas, and smallpox, then Musharraf really would have an incentive to placate the extremists. After all, America's biggest enemy in the region would now be invulnerable and have any number of weapons of mass destruction to wreak havoc. But a successful war against Iraq would do the opposite. It would give Musharraf the momentum to keep going. That's why this is not the time to lose our nerve. In fact, it's time to steel ourselves and press on. Our problem right now is our passivity. We need to take this war to the enemy sooner rather than later. Or they will bring it back to us. In fact, they already are.
PEDOPHILES MAYBE; GAY MEN NEVER: Rome, it seems, is unwilling to back the zero-tolerance policy toward child-abuse endorsed by the American bishops. No surprise, I suppose. This is a bureaucracy that defends its own. The children are now and always have been secondary to this instinct for self-preservation. Besides, the Vatican would argue, zero-tolerance doesn't do full justice to the variety of incidents involved. But there is an area where the church is moving toward zero-tolerance: not against those who rape and molest children, but against any gay priest, celibate or otherwise. The word is that the Vatican is slowly moving toward a massive purge of gay people, people who for centuries have served the church diligently, faithfully and well. The Vatican cares not whether these priests or would-be priests are chaste, whether they love and serve God, whether they are brilliant preachers, or compassionate pastors. They're gay and therefore they must go. My heart breaks. To see a church I love enact a policy so devoid of even the slightest humanity and fairness - in order to deflect attention from its own terrible responsibility for permitting the abuse of the young - is just a soul-destroying experience. The people who told me I was a fool to stay in the church, to trust in its better nature, the people who have long viewed the Church as quite simply the enemy of gay people - I'm afraid they may have been right all along. I find myself, in the face of this inhumanity, unable to go to mass any more. I haven't left the church in my head or my soul. But I can't go right now. It's too painful. I just pray the purge won't actually happen. What else can I do?
AGAINST KRUGMAN'S CLASS WAR: "The importance of incentives to innovate comes up in evaluating Krugman's comparions between the U.S. and countries like Canada and Sweden. Comparing the bottom decile in America to the bottom decile in Sweden is interesting, but fundamentally it cannot tell us what would happen if public policy in America took a hint from the Scandinavians. That's because America--more accurately, the existence of an enormous, relatively free marketplace for new products--has been responsible for much of the innovation that has made living standards elsewhere so high. The median Swede might lose some of her wealth and longevity if it weren't for America's big-winner system producing new computers, software, pharmeceuticals, and other technology that make an hour of work buy a lot more stuff today than it did, say, in 1970. Even if some of those gains come from the minds of non-Americans, we have to ask how many of them we would have seen if it hadn't been possible to sell beneficial new products in such a great big market." - more on Krugman's desire to punish talent, why I'm no Orwell, why Jeb Bush will win in Florida, and the emergence of "Dildo Republicans." All on the best Letters Page on the web.
HEADS UP: I'll be on the road mid-week, speaking on the Catholic crisis at Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana, on Wednesday at 1 pm. On Thursday night, I'll be in New York City, on a panel on Orwell at New York University at 7 pm. My fellow panelists are Christopher Hitchens, Michael Walzer and Vivian Gornick. You're all welcome, natch.
THE CONSEQUENCES OF CLINTON: I agree with every word Max Boot writes here. No, it's not some kind of anti-Clinton obsession. It's a vital and important part of understanding our world to understand how we came to be in this awful predicament - in a world war with no apparent end in sight and much horror still to come. It's my judgment that president Bill Clinton's policies - not his person or his private life or anything else - but his policies left the world a far more dangerous place than when he took office. History will judge him brutally for what he has done to damage world peace. He may have meant well; but we must live with the consequences.
AND THANKS: Another record: 245,000 unique visits last week. We might break a million this month. - 11:36:24 PM A BLOG CHALLENGE: Here's an idea. Maybe OxBlog could do it. Someone out there in blogland should take a look at Ann Coulter's recent columns and Maureen Dowd's. Using strict criteria - personal smears, rhetorical hyperbole, unprovable accusations of ill-will, bigotry (towards a class or race or group of people), unsubstantiated claims, and so on, see how the two stack up. It's not worth criticizing Dowd any more. She's beyond criticism. But it would be interesting to see how the prize columnist at the Times compares with a writer now deemed beyond the pale by large sections of the media. One your marks, get set ... I'll link to the best.
KRUGMAN'S CLASS HATRED: Wow. Barely a single original thought in Paul Krugman's Times magazine cover-story, a piece that reads like Howell Raines just ordered it into what was once a pretty independent place. Growing inequality in America? Whodathunk it? For anyone wanting an intelligent liberal attempt to deal with this issue and actually come up with some honest solutions, go read Mickey Kaus's superb, "The End of Equality." It was written over a decade ago. It's still fresher than Krugman's rant.
VON HOFFMAN AWARD NOMINEE: "In his years out of office, [former president Jimmy Carter] has avidly pursued the mission of what he calls 'waging peace.' He had some successes in trying to resolve a dispute between Ethiopia and the Eritrean rebels, negotiating a four-month cease-fire in Bosnia and brokering a deal between longtime enemies Sudan and Uganda. But at times he has also encountered stiff criticism. In 1994, a few weeks before North Korean President Kim Il Sung died, he invited Carter to visit Pyongyang in an effort to calm tensions with South Korea and the United States over his nuclear weapons program. That meeting led to a thaw in Pyongyang's relationship with Washington although former President Bill Clinton at first rejected the overture and the State Department, never appreciative of outside help, viewed the Carter visit as meddling. Eventually, Clinton wised up and tried to pursue Carter's approach.' - Helen Thomas, October 17. Thomas now has a clear lead. - 2:57:58 PM
Saturday, October 19, 2002 RAINES WATCH: The Times predictably ran an op-ed on North Korea today that essentially ignored the question of which policies led to North Korea getting a nuke (with U.S. help). Instead, the op-ed all but defends the 1994 accords and sees them as the basis for new diplomacy. I guess this is a fair position - the notion that people who have supported a failed policy should actually explain their failure seems, in the world of Raines propaganda, hopelessly utopian. But look who they got to write the op-ed: the guy who was, in Jake Tapper's words, "a State Department official responsible for implementing a 1994 agreement with North Korea that was to have ended the country's processing of plutonium at a factory suspected to be manufacturing nuclear weapons." Joel S. Wit. Here's his CSIS bio:
He was most recently the coordinator for the 1994 U.S.-North Korea Agreed Framework and was responsible for U.S. policy related to the implementation of that agreement. From 1993 to 1995, Mr. Wit served as senior adviser to Robert L. Gallucci, ambassador-at-large in charge of policy towards North Korea, where he worked on U.S. strategy to resolve the 1994 nuclear crisis, was in charge of the interagency sanctions working group, and led the U.S. effort to establish a new international organization, KEDO, to implement the Agreed Framework.
Again, that's fair enough. But shouldn't the Times have at least identified the man as such? Isn't it relevant that the guy now defending the failed 1994 accords on the New York Times op-ed page was actually the person in the Clinton team responsible for enforcing them? Raines law says otherwise. Keep the readers in the dark, and keep spinning, spinning, spinning.
THE WESTERN DISEASE: This astonishing moment of clarity in the Independent, no less. Maybe Bali has changed minds in the world, after all:
Ditto those who blew apart the however many hundreds of kids dancing the last of their lives away in Bali. It behoves us to stay out of their motives. Utterly obscene, the narrative of guilty causation which now waits on every fresh atrocity – "What else are the dissatisfied to do but kill?" etc – as though dissatisfaction were an automatic detonator, as though Cain were the creation of Abel's will. Obscene in its haste. Obscene in its self-righteousness, mentally permitting others to pay the price of our self-loathing. Obscene in its ignorance – for we should know now how Selbsthass operates, encouraging those who hate us only to hate us more, since we concur in their conviction of our detestableness.
Here is our decadence: not the nightclubs, not the beaches and the sex and the drugs, but our incapacity to believe we have been wronged. Our lack of self-worth.
SORRY, DOLLY: Whitney Houston's hit, "I Will Always Love You," was written by Dolly Parton. If anyone gets the royalties, it should be Parton. - 1:23:44 PM
Friday, October 18, 2002 VON HOFFMAN AWARD NOMINEE: Alas, it goes to my friend Jake Tapper, who penned a classic early Bush administration piece in March of 2001 that mocked Bush for blurting out the crass, stupid, know-nothing comment: "Part of the problem in dealing with North Korea [is] there's not very much transparency. We're not certain as to whether or not they're keeping all terms of all agreements." Jake then cites plenty of experts mocking Bush's gaffe. One such anonymous foreign policy expert was asked by Tapper if he had any suggestions for Bush. The expert replied: "Not really. He said a really stupid thing. It seems obvious that he shouldn't say stupid things in the future." Jake makes some good points about Colin Powell getting ahead of the president and some early disarray in the foreign policy establishment. He also quotes Frank Gaffney for fairness. But the underlying tone of the piece is that we have this moronic president who doesn't know what he's talking about. We now know that we had a pretty smart president who saw what the foreign policy machers couldn't. In Powell's words at the time, "The president has made it clear that he understands the nature of regime in Pyongyang and will not be fooled by the nature of that regime and will view it in a very, very realistic, realistic way." When will Bush's critics begin to realize that they're not smarter than he is; and they ocasionally say some really stupid things? It seems obvious that they shouldn't say stupid things in the future. - 4:51:27 PM SADDAM AND WHITNEY: Yep, her song, "I Will Always Love You," was picked by Saddam as the theme song for his recent "referendum." I hope she got some royalties. - 11:30:43 AM THE ENEMY SPEAKS: "Abu Bakar Bashir is the elderly cleric Western intelligence has identified as the man most likely to have organised Saturday night's Kuta slaughter... Asked if there was anything he wanted to say to families who lost relatives in the bomb blast, he said: 'My message to the families is please convert to Islam as soon as possible.' Mr Bashir offered no sympathy for those who died; just his belief that by converting to Islam, the survivors could ensure they would avoid the fate of those non-Muslims who died and went to hell." - The Age, Australia, today.
SONTAG AWARD NOMINEE: "For many they are brute macho breathtaking reassurance that America is still fighting some sort of good fight, still kickass and badass and hoo boy watch out here come the Good Guys, that our tax-dollar trillions in bloated military expenditures can at least provide a nice afternoon air show in the park, whew. But of course these exact jets are also, for millions of others, the bringers of death. These very same aircraft are awesome machines of violent destruction sent by Cheney and Dubya and Rummy to blast already destitute and deeply oppressed foreign countries into submission so that Bush & Co. can lay some pipe and their oil crony pals can stop salivating at the prospect of a newly gutted Iraq and actually get in there and make some billions. This is the true reality." - Mark Morford, SFGate.com. - 11:21:48 AM
Thursday, October 17, 2002 WORDS TO REMEMBER: "North Korea cannot be allowed to develop a nuclear bomb. We have to be very firm about it." - Bill Clinton, "Meet the Press," Nov. 7, 1993.
VON HOFFMAN AWARD NOMINEE I: "Diplomacy with North Korea has scored a resounding triumph. Monday's draft agreement freezing and then dismantling North Korea's nuclear program should bring to an end two years of international anxiety and put to rest widespread fears that an unpredictable nation might provoke nuclear disaster. The U.S. negotiator Robert Gallucci and his North Korean interlocutors have drawn up a detailed road map of reciprocal steps that both sides accepted despite deep mutual suspicion. In so doing they have defied impatient hawks and other skeptics who accused the Clinton Administration of gullibility and urged swifter, stronger action. The North has agreed first to freeze its nuclear program in return for U.S. diplomatic recognition and oil from Japan and other countries to meet its energy needs. Pyongyang will then begin to roll back that program as an American-led consortium replaces the North's nuclear reactors with two new ones that are much less able to be used for bomb-making. At that time, the North will also allow special inspections of its nuclear waste sites, which could help determine how much plutonium it had extracted from spent fuel in the past." - The New York Times, wrong yet again, October 19, 1994. (The Von Hoffman Award is named after famed commentator Nick von Hoffman who boldly predicted the collapse of the Afghan campaign the week Kabul fell. It's for truly bad judgment or prediction among the punditocracy.)
ZERO ACCOUNTABILITY: Now check the Times' editorial today. Not even a hint of their previous misjudgment. Just another piece of pabulum calling for more diplomacy. No criticism whatsoever of those who negotiated this deal and helped bring another nuclear rogue state into being. They even say this gives some ammunition to the Iraq "doves," who "will say this gives the lie to the administration's argument that Iraq is uniquely dangerous." Please. Don't the Times' editorialists owe their readers some kind of argument as to why they were wrong when this deal was originally signed? Hey, guys. We have Nexis now.
VON HOFFMAN AWARD NOMINEE II: Here's what the Clinton administration's top negotiator with North Korea told Jim Lehrer last January about president Bush's policy toward North Korea:
JIM LEHRER: What about the idea that the President laying the law down to them, calling them and putting them in the same league with Iraq and Iran and calling them part of this axis of evil helps the situation or hurts it? Do you feel like it helps?
WENDY SHERMAN: I don't think it was particularly helpful.
JIM LEHRER: Why not?
WENDY SHERMAN: It was very understandable as a rhetorical device to rally the American people to cause against terrorism and to the cause against weapons of mass destruction, which none of us want. What I think was wrong about it in terms of North Korea is North Korea has negotiated successfully with us. We have a 1994 framework agreement that stops the production of fissile material, which is the plutonium, the kind of plutonium needed to build nuclear weapons. They agreed to that framework agreement. They have principally kept to that agreement and taken the steps that were necessary for it to take. It's not finished yet. We still have a ways to go, but they do and can follow through. We need to hold them to it. Our agreements have to be verifiable. They need to be tough but it can be done.
"They do and can follow through." Says it all, doesn't it?
ON THE OTHER HAND: There were some people who clearly saw the scam that was the Carter-engineered, Clinton-signed group-hug with the North Koreans. Here's John McCain, the same day the Times came out hailing the Clinton deal:
On at least eight previous occasions, North Korea has lied to the Clinton Administration. With this agreement, Administration officials have willingly acquiesced in Pyongyang's almost certain further deception. Yet again, the Administration has mistaken resolving the North Korean nuclear crisis with merely postponing its apogee. ...I suspect that the Administration's willlingness to delay the resolution of this crisis is premised on their presumption that the bankrupt North Korean economy will force the regime's collapse before they violate the agreement. Unfortunately, their economy may be salvaged during the interim period by the hallf a billion tons of oil they will receive annually, the opening of trade relations with the U.S., and greater trade with its Asian neighbors, which the agreement [provides for]. Thus, the Administration has accomplished the remarkable feat of allowing the North Koreans to have their carrot cake and eat it too.
Hmmm. And what does McCain say about Iraq today?
"DANGEROUSLY WEAK": This is clearly a suck-up to my friend Charles Krauthammer. But, hey, he deserves it. This is what he said about Clinton's North Korea deal at the time:
(1) The NPT is dead. North Korea broke it and got a huge payoff from the United States not for returning to it but for pretending to. Its nuclear program proceeds unmolested. In Tehran and Tripoli and Baghdad the message is received: Nonproliferation means nothing. (2) The IAEA, if it goes along with this sham, is corrupted beyond redemption. It is supposed to be an impartial referee blowing the whistle on proliferators. Yet if Washington does not want to hear the whistle, the IAEA can be bullied into silence. (3) American credibility - not very high after Clinton's about-faces in Bosnia, Somalia and Haiti - sinks to a new low. This is a president easily cowed and dangerously weak. Said one government official to the New York Times, "It's one of these cases where the administration was huffing and puffing and backed down." Better though, said another, than "falling on our own sword over phony principle." If nonproliferation, so earnestly trumpeted by this president, is a phony principle, then where do we look for this president's real principles? This administration would not recognize a foreign policy principle, phony or otherwise, if it tripped over one in the street. The State Department, mixing cravenness with cynicism, calls this capitulation "very good news." For Kim Il Sung, certainly. For us, the deal is worse than dangerous. It is shameful.
Man, was he right. And what is his position today on Iraq?
- 11:08:18 PM BARTLETT'S BIAS: You'd think something as innocuous as Bartlett's quotations wouldn't be spoiled by leftist bias. But it has been. Is this my paranoid reading - just because president Reagan wasn't included until now? Nope. Finally, the editor, Justin Kaplan has come clean. According to USA Today:
After the last edition, Kaplan was criticized for ignoring President Reagan. "I admit I was carried away by prejudice. Mischievously, I did him dirt," he says. He has added six Reagan quotes, including "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall," which Kaplan calls "one of the greatest moments in Western history."
I wonder if, in a few years' time, Howell Raines will admit the same about Bush. - 1:37:05 PM OUCH: The Washington Capitals hockey team no less are currently flogging a new piece of merchandise. They should come up with a better idea than a sniper fitted cap. - 1:00:52 PM BROADCASTING FOR SADDAM: Frank Foer has a devastating piece in the latest New Republic. I never knew that most major Western journalists work in the same building as Saddam's Ministry of Information. Then there's this:
"There's a quid pro quo for being there," says Peter Arnett, who worked the Iraq beat for CNN for a decade. "You go in and they control what you do. ... So you have no option other than to report the opinion of the government of Iraq." In other words, the Western media's presence in the Ministry of Information describes more than just a physical reality.
These developments--a Republican administration recognizing that support for dictators in Third World countries is a losing proposition; a commitment to post-WWII-style nation-building in Iraq--are terrific news for people who care about human rights, freedom, and democracy. They also represent an enormous moral victory for the American left, which has long argued that our support for "friendly" dictators around the world was immoral. (Saddam used to be one of those "friendly" dictators.) After 9/11, the left argued that our support for brutal dictatorships in the Middle East helped create anti-American hatred. Apparently the Bush administration now agrees--so why isn't the American left claiming this victory?
Because, Dan, these people hate Bush more than they care about the fate of the oppressed people they pretend to care about. Or because they have deeper suspicions about the U.S. than about Saddam's Iraq. Yep, they're that depraved and out of it. - 12:22:48 PM HOW EVIL IS "EVIL'? Geitner Simmons compares Ellen Goodman's sincere, if misguided liberalism, with Mike Kinsley's anti-anti-anti-anti-war forensics. I think Geitner is onto something. What does Mike think we should do about Iraq? Funny that I still don't have a clue. Except that if Bill Bennett is for it, Mike's against it.
Wednesday, October 16, 2002 CONDI ON THE OFFENSIVE: Once again, she's a key voice for the U.S. in Europe. Check out also the Nick Lemann profile in the current New Yorker. I love her visceral disdain for identity politics, her genuine pride in her own achievements, her discipline, and tenacity. I know Cheney wants to hang on, but Bush has an amazing chance to remake his party if he asks her to be his veep nominee in 2004.
THEY LIED: Another victory for Clinton's foreign policy. He opened up a dialogue with the murderous thugs who run North Korea, and they promised only to use nuclear power for peaceful purposes. They lied, of course. And we're stuck, once again, with the consequences of trusting them.
RAINES AWARD NOMINEE: Just take a look at this "story" from ABCNews.com, headlined: "War Worries: Support for Attacking Iraq Begins to Wane Across the U.S." You'll notice that the line between reporting and advocacy in this piece is non-existent. There is no data to support the headline or the thesis. There is, in fact, nothing but anecdotes sought out to prove the thesis of the article. Not a single pro-war voice is included. And the tone of the piece is quite clearly designed to counter the day when president Bush won Congressional support for the war. The piece ends: "Contrary to what the president says, when it comes to war, Americans do not speak with one voice. A national day of protest has been scheduled for Oct. 26." I'm not sure if they broadcast this. But it's quite simply an anti-war opinion piece.
SONTAG AWARD NOMINEE: "When asked by worried friends and acquaintances whether the President was borrowing his geopolitical theory from the diaries of Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler, I assured them that the President didn’t have the patience to read more than two or three pages of a Tom Clancy novel." - Lewis Lapham, editor of Harper's, in the print edition of the October issue (discovered by the More Than Zero blog.)
BAUCUS' FLYER: A group called Montanans for Clean Campaigns have put up on their website another piece of the Montana Democratic Party's anti-Taylor literature. This one was even sent out even after Taylor quit the race. The flyer shows a woman (or it could be a drag queen) with bright red hair (or a wig) grinning at the camera, with what looks like a fur pink boa around her neck. That image is reprinted three times on the flyer. It's supplemented by the student loan accusations and the video-still that shows Taylor with his fingers running through a male model's hair. It's part of the same campaign as the now-notorious television ad. The slogan is: "At Mike Taylor's Hair Care Schools, Someone Apart From the Customer Got Clipped." I think this is valid supplementary evidence of what this campaign was trying to achieve. Too sissy for Montana. And the national Democrats still won't apologize. Barney Frank's silence is particularly deafening.
SELF-ESTEEM WATCH: More data worrying about self-esteem - from the American Psychological Association. I love the headline.
THE NYT ONLINE:Henry Copeland has amended his description of the New York Times' online readership: the typical reader of the print edition is 45, and 56 percent of the print readers are out of the New York area.
HE LINKED! It turns out Jim Romenesko actually linked to a piece criticizing the newly leftward spin of the New York Times. I under-estimated him. Let me know the next time he does, will you? - 10:16:30 PM MUST-READ: Clive James is a very smart and funny man, but I never knew he was this clear-headed as well. In the Guardian, yes, the Guardian, he lays into the Fisks and the Pilgers and Australia's allegedly liberal media honchos for just not getting it. His epiphany is yet another milestone on the gradual and perhaps accelerating maturation of the left:
The consensus will die hard in Australia, just as it is dying hard here in Britain. On Monday morning, the Independent carried an editorial headed: "Unless there is more justice in the world, Bali will be repeated." Towards the end of the editorial, it was explained that the chief injustice was "the failure of the US to use its influence to secure a fair settlement between Israelis and Palestinians." I count the editor of the Independent as a friend, so the main reason I hesitate to say that he is out to lunch on this issue is that I was out to dinner with him last night. But after hesitating, say it I must, and add a sharper criticism: that his editorial writer sounds like an unreconstructed Australian intellectual, one who can still believe, even after his prepared text was charred in the nightclub, that the militant fundamentalists are students of history. But surely the reverse is true: they are students of the opposite of history, which is theocratic fanaticism. Especially, they are dedicated to knowing as little as possible about the history of the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians. A typical terrorist expert on the subject believes that Hitler had the right idea, that The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is a true story, and that the obliteration of the state of Israel is a religious requirement. In furthering that end, the sufferings of the Palestinians are instrumental, and thus better exacerbated than diminished. To the extent that they are concerned with the matter at all, the terrorists epitomise the extremist pressure that had been so sadly effective in ensuring the continued efforts of the Arab states to persuade the Palestinians against accepting any settlement, no matter how good, that recognises Israel's right to exist. But one is free to doubt by now - forced to doubt by now - that Palestine is the main concern.
Hope springs again. - 1:19:33 PM TERRORISM: I've been reluctant to say this till now, but it's my belief that what the D.C. sniper is now doing is terrorism. I don't mean he's a member of any specific group necessarily or even a person who might call himself a terrorist. I mean someone - a criminal - whose goal, whose purpose, is purely terror. I can see no other pattern to the shootings. The crazy Tarot card business and the fact that the sniper seems to be getting bolder point in the direction of a more typical serial killer. But other things don't. I'm struck by how these killings are public murders. They're designed to make the citizenry feel unsafe in its outdoor activities, its public life. I'm also struck by the lack of pattern. In fact, I think the pattern is that there is no pattern. No one is therefore safe. Isn't that what terrorists rather than crooks try to accomplish? And then there are things like this:
One difference this time was the added touch of cruelty of shooting Ms. Franklin as her husband was a step away, unseeing and powerless to help. They were in a mundane, off-guard moment — another of the sniper's now-clear preferences — putting purchases in their red convertible, shelving to be used in a move they were planning this month from the Washington area.
That's an attack on our simple normality, the ease in even the most harrried life, the snatches of freedom that we all enjoy in a free society. That's his target; that's what he wants to kill. Again, I'm not saying we have al Qaeda or some other group here. I have no idea. I mean merely that the method is terrorism. The motive could be nihilism, or craziness or fanaticism. It could be some new hybrid of a serial killer mimicking terrorists. But its method is terror nonetheless. And it's aimed directly at all of us. - 1:02:36 AM THE BALI EFFECT: In Britain, a big surge in pro-war sentiment: up ten points in a week. Here's what the Guardian says:
The Guardian/ICM poll shows that 41% of voters agree with the prime minister that it is not a choice between fighting either Iraq or al-Qaida. Fewer - 35% - disagreed and said they believed the United States had "taken its eye off the ball". The level of support for a military attack on Iraq is now at its highest level since the Guardian started a weekly tracker poll on the question in August. Opposition to a war against Iraq reached a peak in the last week of August when it touched 50% and has now fallen to its lowest level at 37%. Support for a war against Iraq is strongest amongst men - 51% approve as opposed to only 34% of women - and among 25- 34-year-olds who approve by 52% to 25%. Opposition to war is strongest among women - 41% of whom disapprove compared with 33% of men.
I'm fascinated by the generation-gap. The big difference between the anti-war movement during Vietnam and now is that this time, the young are pro-war. Or rather today's anti-war movement is essentially your father's: it's the same boomer peaceniks, unable to let go. I've long believed that 9/11 could reshape an entire generation's attitude toward foreign policy. Slowly, the polls are supporting that possibility.
AUSSIE SONTAGS: Yep, they exist there as well, and are guaranteed special placement in the letters pages of the major liberal broadsheet newspapers. Here's a selection. Try not to be drinking coffee as you read this extract from The Age:
I distinctly remember both John Howard and Alexander Downer being warned that their policies in support of America in Afghanistan and Iraq were likely to endanger Australian lives and lead to direct attacks that would kill innocent Australian citizens. And they tritely brushed these warnings aside because they didn't fit their myopic policies. Now it has happened, and I explicitly place the responsibility at the feet of Howard and Downer. They may as well have pushed the button themselves. Carlo Canteri, Northcote
We are paying in blood for John Howard's arse-licking, ignorance and xenophobic bigotry. The Governor-General should sack him and ask a less tainted figure - Costello, Downer, Beazley, Rudd - to head a government of national emergency sworn in for, say, six months. Someone of some civilised understanding of human difference. Someone less likely to lead us, yawning and prattling vacuously, into the bloodstained front line of an unwinnable world war and conscript our children to fight in it. Bob Ellis, Palm Beach, NSW
John Howard's enthusiastic running as a lapdog of the US, promoting George Bush's strategic interests on the other side of the planet, has brought terrorism to our doorstep, as sensible thinkers have been warning it would. So, not only do we have to anticipate combat troops returning in body bags - but suffer the present reality of innocent civilians being slaughtered anywhere. Where next - the Australian mainland? Prime Minister, I blame you. Judith Maher, Elwood
These are obviously not the only letters; and they do not seem to represent anything but a fringe of Australian opinion. But the logic of Fisk and Pilger is quite clear. Either the West surrenders now - or worse will follow.
GOVERNORS AND DEMS: John Ellis (friend and donor) thinks his cousin, Jeb, is in trouble. And if the governorships keep going to the Dems, so is W in 2004.
FISKING MCGRORY: (Try singing that to the tune of "Waltzing, Matilda.") I didn't think it was worth the effort. But Volokh takes just a few sentences to illuminate, well, the abyss below. (By the way, she was vacationing in Florence not Venice. My bad.)
A REPORTING NOSE-DIVE: So says yet another critical piece about the Times' new management. Don't expect Romenesko to link. Meanwhile an insignificant but still funny correction a few days ago: "A chart yesterday showing the European Union's steps to expand by 10 nations in 2004 and by two more in 2007 misstated the current population of member nations. It is 378.7 million, not billion." 400 billion, 7 degrees Fahrenheit: we get their point, don't we?
THE IRONY OF APPEASEMENT: Responding to my latest Salon "Idiocy Of The Week", a few have alleged that I completely mistook the meaning of Harold Meyerson's recent piece on why we shouldn't go to war with Iraq. They claim he didn't mean that Reagan's policy toward the Soviet Union was actually containment and appeasement (although he used both those words), he was just kidding! What Meyerson really meant, they argue, was that Reagan's policy toward the Soviets was the same as the left's policy toward Iraq today and that if we call that Iraq policy containment and appeasement, we have to say the same thing about Reagan. If I missed that ironic pirouette, I can't have been the only one. But even reading his word use that way, I think my argument just got stronger. What distinguished Reagan's policy - what differentiated it from Nixon Republicans and Carter Democrats and most of the foreign policy establishment of the time - was that he broke from containment, let alone appeasement. As I summarized his policy in Salon, it included
a rhetorical and diplomatic break in 1980 with the detente of the 1970s; a huge and costly defense buildup; financing and military support of counter-Soviet insurgencies from Nicaragua to Afghanistan; the pursuit of Star Wars; the refusal at Reykjavik to accept any deceleration in space defense spending; the description in London of the Soviet Union as destined for the "ash-heap of history"; the call on Gorbachev in Berlin to "tear down this wall"; the insistence on autonomy for the member states of the Soviet empire (yes, that one was an empire); the establishment of a united Germany in NATO; NATO membership all the way to Russia's borders; and on and on.
I'm sorry but I fail to see how anyone can construe that as containment, let alone appeasement, which is why Meyerson didn't support it at the time. Sure, we didn't actually try to invade the Soviet Union the way we are with Iraq. But guess why not? They had nukes! That's precisely what we're trying to prevent in Iraq. And the prevention is not simply to stop Saddam using such weapons against his neighbors, but his funneling such weapons to pliant terrorists from the inviolable security of a nuclear-protected terrorist state. It seems to me that in those circumstances, even a Nixonian like Kissinger would shift position, as indeed he has. Meyerson's piece may or may not have been in parts ironic. But, on any reading, it was still idiotic. - 12:25:53 AM
Tuesday, October 15, 2002 REUTERS STILL UNSURE: Amazing sentence in a new Reuters story: "The Sept. 11, 2001, attacks were blamed by Washington on Saudi-born militant Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda group." Has Reuters seen the tape of Osama boasting about his crime? Or even now are they tryng to deflect blame away from the terrorists?
RAINES AWARD NOMINEE: "His personal magnetism is still powerful, his presence is still commanding. Fidel Castro at 76 is a force to be reckoned with: the leader of Cuba for 43 years, he is one of the longest-reigning heads of government in the world... Although Cuba is still struggling to recover from the collapse of the Soviet Union, Castro insists socialism is working. But things are changing. The U.S. dollar is no longer illegal, and some Americans are defying the U.S. travel ban to enjoy the dollar's power here. Private restaurants are now allowed. Budding capitalists are opening shops and bars. Education is Castro's mantra for the new Cuba. For Castro, freedom starts with education. If literacy alone were the yardstick, Cuba would be among the most liberated nations on Earth. Cuba's literacy rate hovers around an impressive 96 percent, and university students pay no tuition." - ABCnews.com. Throughout the piece, Castro is referred to as a legitimate head of government, his system a "socialist" one as if it were a democratic social democracy, and there's not a single quote from an opponent. The piece even spins the Elian saga Castro's way. (First noticed by Carthaginian Peace.)
NOW THE BEAGLE IS PISSED: The mullahs crack down on doggies. - 1:24:52 PM FACING REALITY: Here's a picture of two parents whose 19 year-old daughter was just murdered by Islamists. This story from the Sydney Morning Herald makes for more gut-wrenching reading:
At 2pm yesterday, Craig Salvatori put his two young daughters on a plane at Bali airport, telling them he had to stay "to look for mummy". Three hours later he found her body in a morgue. Kathy, who would have turned 38 yesterday, was barely recognisable, except for some jewellery, her body so badly charred, her blonde hair blackened... The president of the Maroubra Lions rugby league club, John Costa, said seven families had immediate members missing. "We look like we've lost five mothers, a father and two children ... missing this long after the event, it's not looking good."
Read the story. This is Australia's September 11. Meanwhile, we're told to debate whether we should go to war. This isn't war? (Found via Tim Blair, who is must-reading right now.)
THE CASE FOR WAR: Thank God (and Marty Peretz, Roger Hertog and Michael Steinhardt) for the New Republic. No I'm not just sucking up. The maintenance of a robust domestic liberalism with foreign policy toughness and moralism is a public service. I say this as someone who dissents from some of their redistributionist economic policy. In this tradition, Jon Chait - one of the magazine's most impassioned opponents of George Bush's domestic agenda - seems to me to have nailed a couple of vital weaknesses in the liberal case against war. First, the notion that this war is somehow uniquely unilateralist or threatening to international law. On the contrary, Chait argues:
The more persuasive justification for war is that Iraq has violated a series of U.N. resolutions requiring its disarmament and compliance with weapons inspections. Yes, lots of countries violate U.N. resolutions. What makes Iraq's violation a casus belli is that it agreed to disarm as a condition of ending the Gulf war. War with Iraq does not require trashing international law. Just the opposite: Sustaining international law is central to its very rationale.
Put like that, it's obvious. Besides, do you recall all these internationalists getting uptight about the bombing of Kosovo, done despite no U.N. approval? But Chait's better point is the way in which Bush's threat of force has made inspections more rather than less viable:
If forced to choose between tough inspections and nothing, the allies have shown they prefer nothing. If forced to choose between tough inspections and unilateral war, it now looks as though they will choose inspections. Had Bush foresworn unilateral action, as liberals have implored, the prospects for the tough U.N. inspections they now urge would be nonexistent.
I wish Jon hadn't engaged in some gratuitous Bush-bashing in the piece. But maybe it's as well he did. He proves that you can be a Bush-hater and still support the war. Would that more liberals had the courage to overlook their dislike of the president and get to the point.
ANTI-WAR MOMENTUM?: What to believe - Evelyn Nieves' breathless, Rainesian poem to resistance in the Washington Post; or this more sober account from the Chicago Tribune? One obvious point, noticed by Glenn Reynolds, is that the Post piece relies entirely on the anti-war movement's own assessment of its numbers and strength.
MUST-READ: Alas, it's not online, but Jeffrey Goldberg's report on Hezbollah in the current New Yorker is yet another superb piece of reporting from him. It left me with an even grimmer feeling in my stomach than usual: and certainly the expectation that a new war in Lebanon will likely soon follow war on Iraq. I think what Jeffrey has seen with his own eyes - which is what has led him to take a robust pro-war stance - is the emergence of another Nazi-like ideology in the Middle East. Here's how he puts it in the online interview on the New Yorker site:
[S]omething new is happening in the Arab world—namely, the melding of Arab nationalist-based anti-Zionism, anti-Jewish rhetoric from the Koran, and, most disturbingly, the antique anti-Semitic beliefs and conspiracy theories of European Fascism. Add Holocaust denial, which is also becoming popular in the Arab world, and you have a dangerous new ideology, an ideology that Hezbollah, despite its assertions that it has nothing against Jews as Jews, propounds quite vigorously.
Reading the article, I'm even more convinced that these fanatics interpret any weakness or conciliation on the part of the West as an invitation for more terror. That's why they have to be defeated. And sooner rather than later.
NEED A SMOKE? Here's a place where it's still legal.
Monday, October 14, 2002 BUCHANAN AND GORE - TOGETHER AT LAST: I wonder what Glenda Gilmore thinks when she absorbs the fact that her nativist, isolationist "Blame-America-First" ideology now has a new magazine. And it's edited by Pat Buchanan! Ron Radosh has a typically astute piece in Alex Star's Ideas Section at the Boston Globe on the new red-brown coalition. Of course, the critical glue uniting far left and right these days is anti-Semitism. My favorite moment in "The American Conservative" is Pat Buchanan's support for what he calls Albert M. Nixon. I think the Gore-Nixon comparison is closer than others might think. But then I've long loathed Nixon. - 1:32:18 PM THE TERROR SPIN: If you were the p.r. spokesman for al Qaeda, what would you have to say about the Bali massacre? I think you'd say it was payback for Australians' support for president Bush's war on terror. Funny, that's just what Robert Fisk has just written. Fisk goes on to warn the Brits that they're next, among others, if they don't stop backing Bush:
Our support for the United States – an infinitely closer alliance than any support from France – makes Britain the most likely candidate for attack after the US. Then there are the small, more vulnerable nations that give quiet assistance to the American military; Belgium, which hosts Nato HQ; Canada, whose special forces have also been operating in Afghanistan; Ireland, which allows US military aircraft to refuel at Shannon.
Dear Osama. Don't forget to murder the Irish. They've been nice to the Great Satan. (I found this excrescence via Tim Blair's superb blog from Australia. Don't miss it in the coming days.) This turn in Fisk's argument was perhaps inevitable. Fisk bemoaned the massacre of September 11, but now that the West has responded, he will interpret every terrorist attack as self-defense on their part, and every ally of the United States as a sucker for more punishment. He'll express sadness. And after every new atrocity, he'll say he told us so. - 12:34:53 PM
Sunday, October 13, 2002 THE BELL TOLLS AGAIN: I've been to Bali, with my old friend Max Kennedy, almost fifteen years ago. It's a blessed little place - about as quiet and secluded and out of it as any place on earth. A mixture of Hindu culture, ancient animism, stoners from Australia, and skinny, pale Euro-hikers, it was a little bohemia all its own. Now these monsters have struck again, incinerating innocents in their murderous religious rage. There is no good here. And although Mike Kinsley will scoff at me for saying it, there is much evil. The target is not accidental. Having fun, mixing cultures, partying till dawn are all wonderful human activities that these dour murderers loathe. They hope that by targeting the "sinful," they might even be excused by less extreme Muslims. The only good news is that Indonesia may now better understand what it's up against; and the full inclusion of a moderate Muslim country against these Islamofascists will help greatly. The Brits and Australians, who were again among the dead, have already been spectacular in the war on terror. But perhaps now that more Germans have been murdered, Chancellor Schroder will rethink his hostility to confronting Saddam and his terrorist allies.
THE ANTI-WAR SPIN: Yes, the spin from the anti-war crowd will be that this event means we have to forget about pressuring Saddam. We're losing "focus," they'll cry. Hooey. The administration has been urging Indonesia to crack down for months. Even the Guardian conceded this morning that "there was no immediate evidence that the Bush administration's current concentration on Iraq had diminished its efforts against al-Qaida and its supporters in Indonesia. During a visit to Jakarta in August, the US secretary of state, Colin Powell, announced the renewal of US military assistance, a $50m package over three years." More may well be needed. In fact, I think the "focus on al Qaeda" argument gets it exactly the wrong way round. It's partly because we're aiming at Iraq that the Islamists will try to wrest our attention away. They tried in Israel in the spring. They will throw more at us in the coming weeks and months. They know that a nuclear Iraq could be their safe and inviolable haven for decades in waging a terror war on the West; and they therefore understand the long-term stakes in the next few months. So, mercifully, does president Bush.
A FATHER'S LAMENT: The chicken-hawk argument - this time a defensible form, from the Palestinian father of a boy who killed himself under the influence of the terrorist death cult. It's not an easy piece to read:
I ask, on my behalf and on behalf of every father and mother informed that their son has blown himself up: 'By what right do these leaders send the young people, even young boys in the flower of their youth, to their deaths?' Who gave them religious or any other legitimacy to tempt our children and urge them to their deaths?" Yes, I say 'death,' not 'martyrdom.' Changing and beautifying the term, or paying a few thousand dollars to the family of the young man who has gone and will never return, does not ease the shock or alter the irrevocable end. The sums of money [paid] to the martyrs' families cause pain more than they heal; they make the families feel that they are being rewarded for the lives of their children. Do the children's lives have a price? Has death become the only way to restore the rights and liberate the land? And if this be the case, why doesn't a single one of all the sheikhs who compete amongst themselves in issuing fiery religious rulings, send his son?
Wrenching. There is and will be a silent majority of Palestinians and Arabs who will eventually turn against their manipulative despots and terrorist mob-bosses. Iraq will be the first opportunity to prove this. Others will surely follow.
FRIEDMAN'S PANDERING: Just what was Tom Friedman trying to say yesterday? Here's his peroration: "Frankly, I don't want to hear another word about Iraq right now. I want to hear that my president and my Congress are taking the real steps needed in this country - starting with sane gun control and sane economic policy - to stop this slide into over here becoming like over there." Huh? Has he suddenly morphed into Bill O'Reilly? Does Friedman really think that gun control would have stopped the DC sniper - a man so skilled he could easily have gotten a license in any state, and killed in a state, Maryland, with some of the strictest gun laws in the country? Does he really think we should stop discussing Iraq? And what does he mean by a "sane" economic policy? This is just populist grandstanding. That's the thing with Tom's columns. He makes so much sense and then he plays to the Upper East Side choir. How disappointing.
THE MIRROR CRACKS: Remember the British tabloid that runs John Pilger on the cover, lionizes Bill Clinton and has largely given itself over to an anti-American anti-war agenda? The good news is that the Daily Mirror has seen its circulation drop 6.2 percent since last September, while its chief rival, Rupert Murdoch's The Sun has seen a gain of 4.7 percent. The anti-war left makes a lot of noise, but that doesn't mean it's all that popular. Even in Europe. Even on the left.
THE CASE AGAINST WAR: It could spoil Mary McGrory's Venice vacations. No, this column is not a parody.
ANTI-SEMITISM WATCH: Reading through the Yale Daily News can be a truly eye-opening experience. An article by a freshman concerned about rising anti-Semitism in the world and on campus prompted some responses I honestly thought I'd never read on a college website. Yes, I know all sorts of loonies can log on and post things on a free-floating comment board, and there's no way to know who's behind some of the comments. But who would be reading the Yale Daily News so closely in the first place? Anyway, make your own mind up by clicking on the comment section. Here's one response from a Lissa Russo:
I recently attended a forum focusing on the Israeli/Palestinian issue. Both sides made very valid points but there was a moment of heated exchange when the pro-Israel side initiated the "anti-semite" slur and completely ended it for me. I am sick and tired of Jewish people always smearing those that merely disagree with their views as "evil". I never thought I'd say this but alot of what the so-called "white supremacists" are saying are proving to be more accurate than I feel comfortable admitting.
Agreement with white supremacists? At Yale? Then there's this:
I guess so many people are anti-semitic because the charge *anti-semitism* has been used so often it's no longer considered as horrid as it once was - I mean, even Billy Graham wasn't safe! I think *anti-semitism* isn't so much a term for *people who hate Jews* as much as it's come to mean *someone whom Jews hate*.
Nice touch that. Then this:
... [E]very day, more of the world is made aware of JEWISH manipulation of politics, money markets and media and deflecting criticism by shrilling about 'anti- Semitism' is beginning to get old. We see how influential Jews have gotten the mere criticism of the so-called 'Holocaust' turned into a felony crime in Europe. We see how the politician who merely HINTS at easing foreign aid to Israel losing all hope of re-election. Every nation that opens its doors to Jews invariably finds themselves wracked with a tribe that works tirelessly to legitimize homosexuality, race-mixing, the importation of Third World immigrants and similar filth inherent in the Jewish agenda. And as usual, when discovered they run behind their Star of David and screech that we don't like them because of their RELIGION!!! HAH!! It's not working anymore, James!
These are posted on the Yale Daily news site. They should be. They tell us what's out there - even at the most elite universities. or perhaps I should say especially at the most elite universities.
AT THE BARBER'S: Brent Staples gets the "Barber Shop" controversy exactly right.
SOUTH DAKOTA SHENANIGANS: Josh Marshall doesn't think the Taylor ad was homophobic; and he doesn't think that the Democrats are up to no good in South Dakota. "Absent more evidence of anything really widespread," Josh writes, "this looks to me like a Republican effort to snuff out or throw a wet blanket over the Democrats' effort to register a lot of new voters. They have a long history of this." I guess he hasn't read about the forging of voter registration cards yet. Democrats wouldn't do anything like that, would they? They're the good guys.
THE SAINTLY INQUISITOR: "Escriva’s motto was ‘compelle intrare’: ‘force them to enter’. In my experience, and in the experience of many others, that might just as appropriately be translated as ‘trick ’em into joining’ — and, in some cases, ‘terrify ’em into staying’. He and his followers believe that they are forcing people to be saved, pursuing the highest of motives with all the means at their disposal." - a man who nearly got sucked into Opus Dei recounts his experiences.
- 11:17:39 PM BAUCUS DEFENDS GAY-BAITING AD: Not even an apology if people perceived it to be anti-gay, the usual formula for an embarrassed pol. Put this together with the gay groups' insouciance, and you've just given Republicans carte blanche to gay-bait opponents at any opportunity. Still not a peep from the far-left National Gay Lesbian Task Force or from GLAAD, the gay thought-police. I just found a first edition of "Animal Farm." Never felt more relevant.
EMAIL OF THE DAY: Worth passing along, I think:
Just a short note of thanks. Christopher Hitchens' unswerving dedication to his conscience reinvigorated my own sense of purpose, long dormant through disillusionment. Thanks for honoring, if not the specifics of his stand, the courage he displayed in severing ties with The Nation. I served as a weapons specialist, of sorts, in the US Navy during Desert Storm/Shield. At the time, I truly believed in what we were doing; it seemed we could only be right. Then, as we returned to the States, and the post-deployment culture shock only further alienated us from our families and friends, we found, to our horror, that the war effort wasn't so monolithically supported as we'd thought. We'd had no clue that, while we were fighting, and some of our friends were dying, others picketed and rallied against us. At least it seemed they were against us. It was our blood, wasn't it? I first heard the phrase, "Blood for oil," after I'd already served my time in the Gulf. And as attrition and time chipped away my certainty, I began to lose that spark of patriotism that had been my impetus for serving my country at all. The last three years of my six year enlistment were hell. I didn't have anything to prop me up when things got hairy. America, and especially American politicians, just didn't seem worth dying for. I didn't want to bleed for oil anymore. I received my Honorable discharge in 1996. I'm sure my supervisors, not the same men who knew me during the Gulf War, breathed a deep sigh of relief and wrote me off as another one-hitch loser. Fine by me. I started a business. I raised a family. I stayed away from politics. Then came September, 11th 2001. Fanatical men shattered what small buffer of ignorant bliss I'd managed to maintain around myself and my family. Men no different than those we'd fought and beaten ten years earlier. And I once again felt I had to do something. I'm now in the hiring pools for both the Federal Air Marshal program and the Transportation Safety Administration's Airport Security Screener. That's my stand, and people like Hitchens remind me why I took it then, and why I do it now. Thanks.
Dear Mr. Sullivan, I am delighted to accept the Sontag Award. I have disagreed with you since you were a boy wonder. In fact, I cancelled my subscription to The New Republic when you hijacked it, and I have watched your downwardly mobile career path with interest. Are you a U.S. citizen yet? Thank you for bringing a small part of my essay to a larger audience. Glenda Gilmore
Charming, isn't she? Meanwhile, check out the website where her vacuous essay was first printed. Click on the link to the responses. They're amazing. My favorite is as below:
Daily Dish Readers: Welcome to American Studies at Yale---check your brain at the door Posted at: 10/12/02 5:18:29 AM Posted by: HGS Dissident (as entered by poster)
What you have seen on display here in this article are the consequences of letting race-and-gender airheads infiltrate and then eventually take over a once a stellar department. Can you imagine what it is like for a graduate student like myself, who labored for seven years in a remote part of the world to learn a non-Indo-European language, to find himself under the thumb of parochial know-nothings like Glenda Gilmore? Yale History has unfortunately become the province of such America Studies apparatchiks and their partisan agendas. These so-called scholars are a profoundly petty, unworldly and intellectually average lot. Though they preen themselves with a fashionable thirdworldism, few if any have seriously ventured beyond the confines of comfy academic settings in America and Western Europe. They have risen to where they are by figuring out, way back during their undergraduate days, that honors and riches are available to those who can make themselves adept at uncovering yet more evidence confirming how our dastardly American society at one time in its past failed to live up to the standards of egaliltarian utopianism (that no society from time immemorial has ever lived up to these unrealizable ideals is not up for discussion...). This ongoing activity of unearthing fresh layers of American evil sets the boundaries of their intellectual universe. They are absolutely unable and unwilling to entertain the possibility that there have been or could be non-white, non-male, non-heterosexual perpetrators of violence and oppression.
When they are confronted with scholarship like my own, which concentrates on the imperial history of a non-Western power, their response is either knee-jerk moral equivalence which changes the topic to American crimes against underprivileged groups, or the contrivance of contorted causal chains which attempt to blame anything and everything that goes wrong in any part of the world on Washington or corporate America. They simply will not acknowledge that someone like Saddam or Bin Laden is possible. The only truly bad people on this planet are Christian Conservatives---and oil men. Gilmore's article is the worst example I have seen yet of this moral and intellectual myopia at Yale.
The news is not all bad however. For the past several semesters I have worked as a teacher's assistant and, what do you know, but the message is not taking. Most undergrads are savvy enough to have figured out that their profs are people who could not handle life in the real world---and they are simply waiting them out. It comes as a profound shock to these students when, after a few weeks in my section, they discover that I share their contempt for the naive, hyperbolic posturings of the faculty. The fact that Gilmore included in her piece a plea to Yalies to stand up to Bush shows how out of touch many professors are with the student body. Sorry, Glenda, but your students actually approve of the job the president is doing (wish I could say the same for your teaching....). They prefer his sober reckoning with geopolitical realities to your melodramatic verbage. The only way in which this situation resembles your vaunted sixties is that the young people are rebelling against authority---which at today's Yale means rejecting the nihilistic rantings of tenured hyenas in favor of a level-headed appreciation of America's security needs.
Get that person a blog!
A TASTE OF SADDAM: John Burns, a superb New York Times reporter, gets the run-around from Saddam:
But whatever Al Furat may be these days, the Iraqis certainly knew that the tour for at least 200 scrambling, sweating reporters would not settle the matter conclusively, and not just because none of the visitors were experts in nuclear physics. The tour left no time to visit all of the dozen or more buildings on the site, and no opportunity to descend into the underground bunkers that appeared to be accessible from steel-sided entranceways with rusting doorways that were dotted about. The result, mostly, was confusion and befuddlement — whether that was the intention of the tour's organizers in the Ministry of Military Industrialization, or an inevitability given the complexity of the issue and the chaotic circumstances. What was certain, however, was that tours like these for reporters are unlikely to add very much to the world's knowledge of what Iraq's secretive leadership has been up to.
And you think inspectors would fare much better?
DATA: Here are two stills from the ad for those of without internet connections. Judge for yourself. The reach for the guy's crotch at the end of the ad is particularly subtle.
Saturday, October 12, 2002 NOT IN WHOSE NAME? A useful primer on some of the people behind the "Not In Our Name" anti-war petition.
MORE DIRTY TRICKS: The Dems in South Dakota are vying with the Montanans in sleaze. - 4:40:17 PM FUNDED ENTIRELY BY NATIONAL DEMOCRATS: Insight magazine has some interesting follow-up on the gay-baiting ad in Montana. It was funded entirely by the national Democrats. The relevant part of an interview with Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Communications Director Tovah Ravitz-Meehan is as follows:
Insight: The ad campaign was $100,000 TRM: I don't know that. I can find out for you Insight: I'd be interested in how much of it came from the DSCC. TRM: I'm certain that all of it did.
The other detail from the Insight report is interesting: "Ken Miller, chairman of the Montana Republican Party, tells Insight that in fact internal party polls showed Taylor, within the margin of error, in a statistical tie with Baucus as recently as three weeks ago." That makes more sense to me. Insight repeats the dumb and offensive idea that being called a homosexual is some sort of unforgivable slur. But what was infuriating about this kind of ad is that it doesn't even do this. It plays on stereotypes and works by insinuation and pandering. In many ways, it's the cowardice of the ad that makes it all the more reprehensible. - 3:20:40 PM TERROR AGAINST EUROPEANS: It's unclear who the perpetrator was, but if he's connected with Islamism, Europe could begin to experience the fruits of what Pim Fortuyn warned against. The French have just taken a hit too. Paris is already realigning quite solidly with the U.S. against Berlin, and this might accelerate the shift even further. Memo to Europe: wake up. It's your war too.
ISN'T IT RICH, CTD: Many of Frank Rich's points about the abdication of the Democrats on matters of war and economics are well taken. The Dems don't offer any credible alternatives to the Bush administration's policies right now. But does Rich? Has he proposed a real alternative? He wants no war with Iraq, but has no proposal for dealing with Saddam's weapons of mass destruction, except a blizzard of potshots at John Ashcroft. Sure, he can't wait to raise taxes. But has he thought for a moment what a big tax hike would do to an economy already beleaguered by soft demand? Rich, like the Democrats, has presented nothing credible as a solution to our problems. He just whines and preens; and then criticizes those who whine and preen. He's part of the problem, as is his newspaper.
ROMENESKO WATCH, CTD: A reader notices another weird lapse in Jim Romenesko's coverage of the media:
I'm a regular reader of MediaNews and couldn't agree more that it is blatantly biased. One story that I was looking for there and never saw was the incident when NRO Columnist Joel Mowbray was briefing detained in July and not allowed to leave the State Department. The incident itself was minor and short, but a federal government agency wouldn't allow a reporter to leave? Think that would have been big news if he worked for The NY Times? The Washington Post? The Cleveland Free Times (MediaNews loves the liberal alt-weeklies)? It was an especially obvious omission when you look at some of the other stories that are highlighted. By the way, one of my reasons for reading it is amazement at the self-absorbed and self-righteous attitudes of so many of the writers - especially on the Letters page!! If there is any one place I would recommend someone go to see in action the insulated world of liberal journalism and the egos involved, it's the MediaNews letters page. Catty; nitpicking; conservative-bashing; anti-business; whining about being underpaid; flailing at anyone who gets off the reservation; jealous of each other's success; it's like Melrose place, only less friendly... I like to read it and remind myself that these are the people who say conservatives are mean and have no sense of humor.
Friday, October 11, 2002 FINALLY: After the news cycle is over and the story has disappeared, the Human Rights Campaign, the biggest gay political group in the country, almost does the right thing. But why isn't the condemnation of such tactics from executive director Elizabeth Birch's lips? And why the deference to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee's transparent spin? Notice also how HRC doesn't come out and say that this was a homophobic ad. That might offend their Democratic allies. Here's the quote:
"HRC deplores any attempt to make a political issue of a candidate's real or perceived sexual orientation," said HRC Political Director Winnie Stachelberg. "This type of ad has no place in politics, it is an affront to gay people and we hope we have seen the last of this campaign tactic."
Notice the weasel word "any attempt," leaving the possibility open that this ad was a genuine and non-homophobic one. Indeed, this press release artfully gets HRC off the hook, but never takes on the issue at hand: was this or was this not an anti-gay ad. And it provides a way for the DSCC to get its message out there. They're smart over there. And cowardly. - 6:54:47 PM SONTAG AWARD NOMINEE: "It is not enough for Bush to be President of the United States, he must become the Emperor of the World. This unclothed emperor is, as they say in Texas, all hat and no brains. In the years before us, I fear there will be causes worth dying for. There will be tyrants so unstoppable that we will have to fight them to preserve our own freedom. But that is not the case now. Instead of standing up against tyranny, we are bringing it to our own doorstep. We have met the enemy, and it is us." - Glenda Gilmore, professor of history, Yale University.
UPDATE: From a Texas reader: "'This unclothed emperor is, as they say in Texas, all hat and no brains.' We don't say that. We say: all hat and no cattle. She can't even quote the average Texan right." From another Texas reader: "In Texas, we say, 'All hat and no ranch.' Never heard it put that other way. Ever." - 2:55:54 PM I'M SORRY: I can't blog about Carter's Nobel Prize. It's too predictable, too depressing and too easy. All I can say is: some of the nastiest and most vicious dictators in the world must be very happy right now. Their best buddy is a hero.
- 1:20:24 PM DICK NAILS HILLARY: It's a slam-dunk. - 1:09:54 PM WHAT THE GAY GROUPS REALLY THINK: I got an email this morning that channels what the big gay organizations really feel about the gay-baiting Montana Democratic ad:
I think you're coming across pretty partisan on this one, Andrew. Baucus is a co-sponsor of ENDA and has a 57 percent pro-gay voting record which is quite impressive given that he's from Montana. The only Republican west of the Mississippi to equal his score is Gordon Smith ... from Oregon, of course. After him, there isn't a remotely close second. If this ad helps put the last nail on the coffin (which was practically sealed shut to begin with) for Mike Taylor (who is another social conservative a la Grassley or Brownback) then it should be celebrated. This is why HRC/NGLTF, etc. isn't saying anything. And it's obvious to anyone that Republicans would practically foam at the mouth for such juicy footage if it existed. The ad was not a mischaracterization of Taylor (not all hairdressers are gay, if that's what poor, poor Republicans want to infer, then that's much more revealing, doncha think?), and Baucus is hardly on an anti-gay tirade. It's politics as usual.
Notice that my position that gay-baiting is wrong, period, is described as "pretty partisan." Notice how running a gay-baiting ad is okay if it helps elect people who support some aspects of the gay organizations' agenda. Actually, it's not just ok - it's to be "celebrated." Still no word from HRC or NGLTF. This confirms their status as front-operations for the Democrats, even when it means condoning anti-gay bigotry. But how can HRC still criticize Jeb Bush for his ugly comments lately when they don't object if a Democrat does far worse? One group has actually taken a principled stand, the Stonewall Democrats. Their executive director, a decent man called Chad Johnson, said the following: "Any gay-baiting tactic is contrary to the fundamental principals [sic] of the Democratic Party. As gay Democrats, we are required to hold all levels of our party accountable regarding gay and lesbian equality." Hey, Chad, I'm afraid you forgot which party you're in. Meanwhile, for every sleazebag bigot who wants to smear an opponent, the sluice gates have just been opened - wide. - 12:57:35 PM MORE BUSH VICTORIES: A solid win in the House and almost certainly an emphatic one in the Senate. More interestingly, the polls show that Americans get the president's arguments about Iraq in a post-9/11 world. According to a Pew Center poll, reported by ABCNews,
86 percent of those surveyed believed Saddam had nuclear weapons or was close to acquiring them, and 66 percent believed he was involved in the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States. Bush cites the attacks as demonstrating the need to act against Saddam, and has linked his campaign against Iraq to the "war on terrorism" he launched last fall, but he has not established a direct link between Sept. 11 and Iraq. Bush has also warned that Iraq could build a nuclear weapon within a year if it can get enriched uranium. "Clearly, the president's major arguments in favor of taking military action against Iraq are resonating with the public," the Pew center said in its report on the poll. Furthermore, 85 percent of those surveyed believed that the Saddam must be ousted - rather than simply disarmed - to deal with the threat posed by Iraq.
Meanwhile, a Fox News poll finds that 48 percent of Americans believe they would be less safe if Al Gore were president. I think that voters have listened carefully to both Bush and Gore these last two weeks. And they have drawn their own conclusions.
THAT AD: I'm unimpressed by some of your attempts to justify it. I refer to the political ad that prompted state senator Mike Taylor to withdraw from the Montana U.S. Senate race yesterday. Yes, there was some kind of legitimate argument about diversion of school loan money, but the issue was pathetically tiny. As the Billings Gazette noted,
Taylor denies wrongdoing and pointed to a 1999 settlement with the U.S. Education Department in which no violations were admitted and he paid a total of $27,250 to the federal government and the state of Colorado.
I'm also unimpressed by the notion that Taylor's own apparent homophobia somehow detracts from the attempted smear. Yes, it's offensive that Taylor thinks that being called gay is a "loathesome" accusation. But that doesn't mean that the ad wasn't a clear attempt to use homophobia to attack another candidate. I've watched the ad now a few times. The music is really central - it sounds like a '70s porn video. The clips show Taylor with limp wrists fussing over a male model. The final shot is Taylor touching up the cosmetics under the guy's eyes. Please. Acording to Taylor, plenty of such clips exist showing him fussing over a woman. So why did the Dems choose this one? The final sentence was also hardly subtle: "That's not how we do business here in Montana." I'm sorry, but this was gay-baiting. The real story, then, is how Democrats have responded and will respond. If they do nothing, if they do not condemn the ad, then the next time some know-nothing bigot tries a similar tactic on a Democrat, what are the Dems going to say? More depressing, but absolutely typical, is the non-response of the gay organizations. If this had been a Republican ad, can you imagine the outcry? So far, nothing on the website of the Human Rights Campaign or the National Gay Lesbian Task Force. HRC does have an item condemning Governor Jeb Bush for an ugly joke in Florida - but that merely confirms their double-standards. The locals aren't much better. According to the AP:
Karl Olson, executive director of PRIDE, a Helena gay rights organization, said he believes the ad was an attempt to suggest Taylor is gay. He said he was bothered more by Taylor's reaction. "To me, what's more of a problem is that an adult, an intelligent person, is going to flee from that and not just stand up and say, `You know, OK, so I looked like a gay hairdresser. What's wrong with looking like a gay hairdresser? Let's get on with the campaign,'" he said.
This is a transparent attempt to blame the victim. I repeat: If this ad had been run by a Republican against a Democrat, then it would be front page news in the New York Times and the subject of denunciations from gay rights "leaders." But because it's a Democratic ad, it's a non-story. That tells you a huge amount about groups like HRC and the Democratic Party.
HELLISH TECH DAY: No sooner do I get my Powerbook working again, than the DSL line goes down. Grrr. I lost several hours today just trying to do the basics. This technology is wonderful if it works, isn't it?
SIGN OF THE TIMES: Riding through Commercial Street tonight, I saw something new. Around the entrances to various bars, there were mounds of strewn cigarette butts. They banned smoking in bars here a week or so ago. I wonder if these piles of debris, all gathered in one place around exits and entrances to buildings will one day be deemed the hallmark of this particular time. And what people in the future will think of that.
DEPT OF AMPLIFICATIONS: My reader who commented on the Weekly Standard screw-up on the Buzzcocks got it slightly wrong. The story wasn't made up; it was heard third hand and the name of the group was wrong. Everything else pans out, as this gracious correction shows. (Hey, Krugman, take a leaf from this guy's book!)
DERBYSHIRE AWARD NOMINEE: "As Flanders & Swann said: "Examine the Irishman, Welshman, or Scot / You'll find he's a stinker as likely as not..." Certainly no responsible person should give a moment's thought to these Celtic fringes, vegetating in their aboriginal squalor." - John Derbyshire, National Review Online. - 1:33:50 AM
Thursday, October 10, 2002 THE DEMOCRATS' GAY-BAITING: Another Senate candidate has dropped out. This time, it's state senator, Mike Taylor, a Montana Republican, because, in part, his Democratic opponents dug up an ancient television show in which he is seen
applying lotions to the face of a man siting in the barber chair and discussing techniques. The ad shows Taylor, then slender, sporting a full beard. He is wearing a tight-fitting, three piece suit, with a big-collared open shirt ala John Travolta in "Saturday Night Fever." Taylor's top two or three shirt buttons are unbuttoned, exposing some bare chest and a number of gold chains. "I cannot believe they would stoop to that level," Taylor said.
This is a classic - destroying a candidate, who once ran a business selling hair-care products, by playing on the cheesiest anti-gay imagery. And now it's being used by the Democrats. I say: get Racicot to replace him. But only if the electoral law allows it. And let's see what the national gay groups say. If the Republicans had done this, there would be hell to pay. - 1:39:35 PM THE DEMOCRAT TRAP: Tom Edsall pens a gloomy piece about the impact of the war on the Democrats. Hardcore Democratic donors - Streisand et al - are demoralized by the party leadership's final acquiescence to the Bush administration. So funding is down; and the anti-Bush base may not show up in November. So far, very few Dems have pandered to this base mercilessly: Gore and Kennedy are the obvious exceptions to the rule. The broader implication is an interesting one: the more successful Bush is as a war president, the more generally popular he will be, but the more reviled he will become among the hard-core Dems. So the Dems lose money and votes. I'm not predicting anything. I still think this Congressional election is way too close to call. But the dynamics Edsall illustrates would have me very depressed for the medium term if I were a Dem.
ROMENESKO'S BLINDERS: A reader points out:
[Romenesko's] boycott of "conservative" sites is so complete that it causes him to miss stories he'd otherwise be all over. Like The Weekly Standard yanking a small story about what exactly happened at a Buzzcocks concert, a story that turned out to be made up, as far as anyone can tell. Wednesday's Opinionjournal, having linked to the story the day before, noted the apparent retraction. No sign on media"news" though.
To be fair to Romenesko, "boycott" strikes me as too strong a word. He links occasionally to the Journal and has my site up as one of many media links. It's just that he has blind spots and tends to believe that non-liberal journalists aren't real ones. And he loves the new hyper-lib Times. - 1:17:34 PM
Wednesday, October 09, 2002 MAC'S BACK: Delivered to Ptown today completely fixed. A wonderful Machead friend, who saved my hard drive, reinstalled all my data. I feel restored. Great service: a few days, urgent delivery and all seems well.
THOUGHT POLICE IN BRITAIN: A man has been convicted of "hate speech" and may face jail time because he got into an argument with some Muslims in which he said things he probably shouldn't have. Notice that the Muslims, who opined, in the argument, that September 11's victims "deserved to die" face no such state-enforced sanctions. After all, they weren't insulting anyone's religion! Britain is now a country where free speech doesn't really exist. With no First Amendment, the anti-hate do-gooders have complete license to intimidate and jail people whose views they find objectionable. The same characters are doing all they can to achieve the same result here. In Provincetown, for example, people are being encouraged by the cops to report not just hate crimes, but "hate incidents" in which politically incorrect speech can be monitored by the authorities. Chilling - especially in a place where free speech has traditionally been upheld.
THOUGHT POLICE IN FRANCE: Writers are not immune either. Oriana Fallaci is now facing criminal charges for speaking her mind against extreme Islamism. Her lawyer is the exquisitely named Christophe Bigot.
MORE CATHOLIC CORRUPTION: Jimmy Breslin has a great, tabloid column on a very spoilt New York bishop. Hey, but at least he's not gay!
FRENCH ANTI-AMERICANISM: Really interesting review of some recent books in France analysing the role anti-Americanism plays in French culture and politics. It's from the Herald Tribune and includes this quote from Philippe Roger's "L'ennemi americain":
At the highest point of discord in a divided France (in 1898), anti-Americanism is the only 'French passion' that calms the other passions, effaces antagonisms and reconciles the harshest adversaries. Patching things up at the expense of the United States or, at the least, halting hostilities between French factions in the face of a supposed common enemy will remain a constant of political and intellectual life.
In other words, the tide may be turning a little, at least among some self-aware elites.
ROMENESKO WATCH: Jim Romenesko's MediaNews blog is probably the most-read journalism blog on the web. He covers every minor story out there on the media and most major ones. So why won't he link to stories criticizing the new slant of the New York Times? This week, for example, major pieces in the Weekly Standard and the New York Post, not to mention Kausfiles and this site, all alerted readers to what seems like extraordinary bias in the presentation (yet again) of a New York Times poll. Romenesko won't touch the story. Previous mentions of criticism of the Times get filed in small print as a the whinings of a bunch of right-wing loonies. Romenesko is free to link to whatever he wants. But he has an agenda for the left and pretends he doesn't. Of course, that's precisely what endears him to the New York Times.
NO WONDER HE'S SO OUT OF IT: Leftist brontosaurus Lewis Lapham of Harpers' doesn't have a computer. Figures.
CLINTON'S LOOT: No it's not a huge scandal. And they've donated their loot to the Presidential Library. But what's amazing about the gifts showered on the Clintons by criminals, influence peddlars and occasional statesmen is that the givers obviously thought they could try it on. In Denise Rich's case, it was a gift that kept on giving.
RACE MATTERS: Fascinating science story in the Times Monday, which a reader alerted me to. It tells a disturbing story of the possible distortion of science to ensure that racial differences be understood entirely in terms of environment, rather than having anything to do with genes.To those of us who have witnessed first hand the brutal intolerance displayed by some social constructionists on the matter of racial and ethnic differences, the pressure for this kind of scientific sleight of hand is no surprise. But the latest discovery of earlier fudging shows how deep this politicization of science has gone:
The new report raises the issue of whether an earlier generation's efforts to play down the role of genetics in fields like behavior and racial variation may not have been carried to extremes. Dr. Steven Pinker, who assigns a larger role to genetics in shaping behavior in his new book, "The Blank Slate," said it was not Boas but his disciples, including the anthropologists Ruth Benedict, Margaret Mead and Ashley Montagu, who "helped establish the blank-slate, social-constructionist, antibiology mindset of the social sciences." Dr. Thomas said that "once we anthropologists said race doesn't exist, we have ignored it since then." In that context, the reanalysis of Boas's data "really does have far-reaching ramifications," he said.
In some ways, I pity these researchers. Disturbing the doctrines of the left means payback, big time. I hope they're ready for the backlash.
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: "Foremost among the attitudes which affect the making of our policy is American empiricism and its quest for certainty: nothing is 'true' unless it is 'objective,' and it is not 'objective' unless it is part of experience. This makes for the absence of dogmatism and for the ease of social relations. But it has pernicious consequences in the conduct of policy. Policy is the art of weighing probabilities; mastery of it lies in grasping the nuances of possibilities. To attempt to conduct it as a science must lead to rigidity. For only the risks are certain; the opportunities are conjectural. One cannot be 'sure' about the implications of events until they have happened and when they have occurred it is too late to do anything about them. Empricism in foreign policy leads to a penchant for ad hoc solutions. The rejection of dogmatism inclines our policy-makers to postpone committing themselves until thee facts are in; but by the time the facts are in, a crisis has usually developed or an opportunitiy has passed. Our policy is, therefore, geared to dealing with emergencies; it finds difficulty in developing the long-range program that might forestall them." - Henry Kissinger, "The Need for Doctrine," from the book "Nuclear Weapons And Foreign Policy" (New York: Harper & Row, 1957), pg. 424.
ONE IN FIVE? Gallup has just released a poll that finds that Americans believe that one out of five people is homosexual. What to make of this bizarre finding? Even the most desperate boosters of gay rights place the upper limit at around 10 percent; for what it's worth, I incline more to the 2 - 3 percent figure, but no one knows for sure. So why the exaggeration? I think it's part of the phenomenon whereby straight people say that gay people keep talking about the subject. We don't. It's just that straights are still uncomfortable and notice very clearly when the subject comes up. When I was editing The New Republic, for example, we made an effort to include gay stories the same way we'd include any newsworthy or controversial subjects. But some readers thought that by mere inclusion of gays at all, we'd become a gay magazine. I remember being told by another journalist that TNR had run four gay cover-stories in a year. We'd run one. The exaggeration of the size and power of tiny minorities - mainly gays and Jews - is, in fact, a common feature of social and psychological fear of the other. That's what we're picking up in this poll. And it's as disturbing as it's out of touch.
- 11:26:57 PM HANNIBAL? Maybe it was seeing Red Dragon last night, but I was struck by the similarity between the D.C. sniper's note "Dear policeman, I am God" and dialogue from the movie where Hannibal Lecter describes the serial killer as someone motivated by the desire to become God. Is there a possible clue here? Just asking ... (By the way, the movie was fun but formulaic. And the script was beyond awful.) - 3:56:26 PM MUST READ: "The point is, all empires commit crimes; in the past century, ours were by far the lesser of evils. But this sedulous denial of even the possibility of misjudgment in the hierarchy of evils protects and insulates this wing of the Left from an inconvenient reconsideration of whether America actually is the worst force on the planet. This blind spot, this stunning lack of historical perspective, robs much of the American Left of intellectual credibility. And makes it easy for idiocies large and small to be uttered reflexively. " -Ron Rosenbaum, in a wonderfully purgative essay in the New York Observer. - 1:43:16 PM THE PURGE BEGINS: The Vatican acts glacially, but it seems clear to me the direction that it may well now go. This story in the Catholic News Service is a sign of the coming purge of gay people from the priesthood and the Church itself. First, a subtle change was introduced into the Catechism. As CNS notes,
[t]he wording in the catechism that describes the homosexual inclination as "objectively disordered" was added when the definitive Latin text of the catechism was released in 1997. Earlier editions of the catechism said homosexual acts were intrinsically disordered and said homosexual tendencies represented a trial for most people.
This is the difference between saying that some people can do immoral things and saying that some people, because of whom they love, are morally sick in themselves. It's a subtle move but a critical one as part of the process of undoing the progressive stand of the Church in the 1970s and 1980s in defending the dignity of homosexual persons. A while ago, surveying the tensions in Catholic teaching between an abhorrence of any gay sexuality and a defense of gay people as human beings, I posited two directions the Church could take. It could reverse itself away from a respect for homosexual persons, call them irredeemably sick, and purge them from the priesthood and the pews, or it could go further and integrate gay Catholics and their sexuality into Church teaching. The latter was always a very long shot; but the recent scandals in the Church has given some the opportunity to take the more obvious route. If and when this new policy is formalized, many of us Catholics will therefore face an excruciating choice: do we stay or do we leave? Can we actually attend a Church that has gone from tentative outreach to gay people to a formal theological position that describes them as sick? Can we in good conscience attend a church that blithely ignored the abuse of children, but cannot tolerate even a chaste and holy priest who also happens to be gay, a Church that keeps Cardinal Law in office but would have prevented someone like Father Mychal Judge from being the priest he was? Some will dismiss this as a minor issue. I don't think so. When a church scapegoats a group of people for its own moral lapses, when it describes, as totalitarian regimes do, a person's love as a sickness, when it purges priests regardless of their abilities, then it seems to me the entire moral credibility of the institution is at stake.
CHICKENING IN: I think in his heart of hearts that Tom Friedman has a grudging respect for the Bush administration. Apart from Bill Safire, he's the only Times columnist who doesn't actively hate the president. But perhaps because of his audience or bosses or habit, Friedman's always veering just this side of agreeing with the White House. This morning's argument is a classic. Friedman gets the game of chicken that Bush is playing with Saddam. It rests on a very basic principle: only if Saddam actually believes that an invasion is imminent will he agree to disarm; and only if an invasion is imminent will he believe the threat. This bluff requires that Saddam truly believes Bush will invade Iraq, if he absolutely, positively can, and that this isn't some elaborate game in order for the U.S. to avoid war. That's where Friedman doesn't get it. It's precisely Bush's cowboy image - the perception that he may just invade anyway - that alone can bring about a peaceful solution. And it's because part of that image is actually genuine that the gambit can work. (That's why Clinton never stood a chance of disarming Iraq or deposing Saddam. Everyone knew Clinton wasn't a cowboy or could be talked out of any military course of action if needs be.) Bush is different, and the more his opponents portray him as a reckless, terroristic Caesar-wanna-be, the more they will be strengthening his hand. Like Reagan versus the Soviets, it often helps to have the enemy afraid of the president. The sterling consistency of Bush, and the tough talk of his aides, is therefore paradoxically our best insurance against war. So far, with a new sheriff behaving firmly but also aggressively, we've had more movement from Saddam than in years. Now let's ratchet the pressure up some more, shall we? How about it, Mr Daschle?
PAGING ORWELL I: Delegates at an anti-racism conference in Barbados have just decided to expel all non-blacks from certain discussions. (I mentioned they were considering it last week.) It is a fact that many organizations now devoted to "anti-racism" are themselves racist. But it's rare you get such a clear-cut case. Enjoy.
PAGING ORWELL II: As I write, the Hitch book on Orwell is ranked # 3 on Amazon. I'm really glad that so many of you are going to get a read of this book. And I hope you'll be following the discussion and taking part later this month. If you still haven't ordered the book, click here. Thanks again.
DERBYSHIRE AWARD NOMINEE:"It's an election year. Turn the bums out. Stir the pot. Make political history. Cause a revolution. Don't do it because the Republicans represent a great alternative - because they don't. Do it because the Democrats - far too many of them - are evil, pure and simple. They have no redeeming social value. They are outright traitors themselves or apologists for treasonous behavior. They are enemies of the American people and the American way of life." - Joseph Farah, WorldNetDaily. (For a brief explanation of our various awards, click here.)
DASCHLE'S OPPORTUNISM: I'm grateful to a reader for directing me to Tim Russert's dissection of Tom Daschle last weekend. What Russert did was confront Daschle with his rationale for supporting the threat of military force against Saddam in 1998:
SEN. DASCHLE: Well, I think that we often cite the '98 resolution as our precedent for this action. That's exactly what we did in the '98 resolution. We tied it down to the use of force. We weren't as broad as this resolution now implies, and so I think that it's appropriate to go back to that precedent and to work with the administration to ensure that that's their understanding, as well as ours.
MR. RUSSERT: You raised the '98 resolution. There was a resolution back in January of '98, which you know well and I'll put it on the screen. These were the words: "Resolved by the Senate...That Congress...urges the President to take all necessary and appropriate actions to respond to the threat posed by Iraq's refusal to end its weapons of mass destruction programs..." And you'll see that's one Tom Daschle from January 28. But you also went on, Senator-and this is quite striking. These are words you uttered in February of 1998. And let me show you and our viewers. You were talking about the Clinton administration: "The administration has said, 'Look, we have exhausted virtually our diplomatic effort to get the Iraqis to comply with their own agreements and with international law. Given that, what other option is there but to force them to do so?' That's what they're saying. This is the key question. And the answer is we don't have another option. We have got to force them to comply, and we are doing so militarily." The Bush White House will suggest that you were trying to give President Clinton more support when he was taking on Saddam Hussein in 1998 than you're willing to give a Republican president in the year 2002.
Nice work, Tim. Daschle had no credible response to this. He still doesn't have one. So he'll give in, once it seems in his direct political interest to do so. Trust these guys with national security? You've got to be kidding. - 1:22:38 AM
Tuesday, October 08, 2002 NUMBER 8!: The power of you guys - Hitch's book just went from # 1,074 to # 8. In less than 15 hours. UPDATE: The book has now reached # 3 on Amazon. - 4:07:17 PM THISCLOSE: Ipsos-Reid finds the Congressional race a dead heat. - 3:50:31 PM RAINES WATCH UPDATE: Dick Morris also weighs in this morning on the Times poll. In his words: "The phrasing of the questions is so slanted and biased that it amounts to journalistic "push polling" - the use of polling to generate pre-determined answers to vindicate a specific point of view. It was just such polling that led the Democratic Party astray over the summer and played an important role in catalyzing their criticism of Bush over Iraq."
OVERNIGHT: The Hitchens book on Orwell, which is our current Book Club pick, just leaped from 1,074 on Amazon to 76 overnight. Don't forget to get the book, "Why Orwell Matters", and join the conversation later this month. UPDATE: The book has now reached # 9 on Amazon. - 11:10:37 AM RAINES WATCH I: Check out David Tell's devastating review of the New York Times' Sunday poll, purporting to argue that most Americans believe the economy should be a more urgent priority than Iraq. Tell points out that there is simply no evidence for this in the Times' own poll. Polls are always the most direct measurement of Howell Raines' disinformation campaign against the Bush administration, because he can rig the questions, spin the analysis and bury the data, in the hopes that no one will bother checking. The result, this time, in Tell's words, is "an outright fraud, a falsehood, a work of fiction." He's right. Check it out.
RAINES WATCH II: Why didn't the networks carry president Bush's critical speech last night? Because the White House didn't ask them politely enough! That's this morning's spin from the Times. I guess Fox was just sucking up. Herewith an almost classic insight into how, whatever happens, in the mind of the New York Times, it's always Bush's fault.
- 10:57:13 AM MAKING THE CASE: It seems to me that the critical part of President Bush's elegantly constructed speech last night was his rebuttal of the only credible and responsible line of criticism from the Democrats:
Some have argued that confronting the threat from Iraq could detract from the war against terror. To the contrary, confronting the threat posed by Iraq is crucial to winning the war on terror ... Terror cells and outlaw regimes building weapons of mass destruction are different faces of the same evil. Our security requires that we confront both. And the United States military is capable of confronting both.
As brief as this discussion is, it's persuasive. When anti-war Democrats argue that we cannot "focus" on both Al Qaeda and Iraq, they make no sense at all. Philosophically, pre-empting terrorists from getting weapons of mass destruction must logically include preventing the allies of terrorists from harboring such weapons. And practically, I've yet to read a single, credible military account of why we cannot both disarm and remove Saddam and keep up the pressure on Al Qaeda at home and abroad. The whole "focus" issue is as fake as the whole "delay" issue, as Charles Krauthammer deftly pointed out yesterday. If Saddam has weapons, if he won't give them up, and if such weapons are a threat to the region and to the U.S., what possible reason is there for delaying? These "arguments" aren't really arguments, of course; they're desperate rhetorical roadblocks thrown up by some Democrats terrified to face their responsibilities in a time of war. The last phony anti-war argument was that President Bush had yet to "make the case" for war against Iraq, as if grown-ups didn't have the capacity to make their own minds up on the issue without constant guidance from the commander-in-chief. But that surely must now be in tatters as a point, since the president has made speech after speech in the last year clearly laying out the rationale for the war on terror, a rationale that has always included defanging Saddam. And now he's gone and laid it out in full, at length and in detail in prime time. And what did the networks do, the same networks that routinely feature talking heads bravely pronouncing that the president hasn't made his case? They ignored him. Of course they did. What losers and sophists.
SULLIVAN, HITCHENS AND ORWELL: Well, in the end we couldn't resist. I've just finished reading Christopher Hitchens' lively, witty and oddly moving defense of the life and work of George Orwell: "Why Orwell Matters." If you've read all of Orwell (and I'm getting close) or have barely read him at all, the book is both a wonderful introduction to the man's work and a stimulating overview of all the issues he raises. Orwell's ability to confound both right and left, his tenacious honesty, his pellucid prose, his power of moral reasoning, his ability to distinguish between an argument and a feeling - all these come through loud and clear in this little book. Buy it and read it and then join Hitch and me for a weeklong conversation at the end of the month about what Orwell means, and why his example still shines, perhaps more brightly than ever, in an era of war and ideological conflict. Buying the book through this site also helps support us financially, so enrich your mind and support this blog by getting the book today. Click here to purchase.
AIDS SCAM, CTD: We've already seen how the attack on the pharmaceutical companies' intellectual property rights has led to a stark deceleration in HIV research. Now comes news of yet another unintended consequence of well-meant anti-AIDS measures. When you give large numbers of anti-HIV meds to Africa, where most cannot be dispensed effectively in the first place, it's not surprising that others might find a better use for the pills. Why not re-export them to Europe for a tidy profit? That's what's happening now, as this story indicates. So we've hurt AIDS research, barely helped any significant numbers of Africans, and now given criminals a whole new career in drug trafficking. Good work, no?
McDERMOTT WATCH: Here he is, marching in front of a poster that has the word "terrorist" plastered over President Bush's face. Nice to know that his kowtowing to Baghdad's tyranny is also reflected in a complete moral equivalence about the difference between Saddam and Bush. This is one face of the anti-war left. And it's depraved.
A BLUE-PRINT: One of the clearest plans for post-Saddam Iraq I've yet read.
MORE ISLAMIST DEATH-THREATS: Yet another person daring to criticize the backwardness of Islamism with regard to women, gays and individual freedom in general has received a death-threat. This time it's a Somali immigrant woman in Holland, and she has just had to go into hiding to protect herself. "This is nothing new - just think of Salman Rushdie," Secil Arda, the head of a Turkish women's group, told Radio Netherlands. "Some people have the courage to say something, to give their opinion. I consider our fight a milestone in the process of emancipation. Without this quest we would never have change." After Fortuyn's murder and Delanoe's stabbing, this takes courage. Why aren't these brave liberals more firmly defended by the Western left? I guess we know the answer to that, don't we?
ANTI-CATHOLICISM WATCH:"Sexual abuse is disgusting, but it's not as harmful as the grievous mental harm of bringing children up Catholic in the first place." - Richard Dawkins, as transcribed in the Dubliner.
ROTH AND NARCISSISM: A reader nails it:
"I finally stayed several months in New York, where I kept a studio. For me New York had become interesting again because it was a town in crisis, particularly in the weeks that followed when everyone was expecting another attack. It was a strange time and the first time for years that New York interested me." - Philip Roth. Who is this guy to accuse ANYONE of narcissism? I just plowed through "The Human Stain", which was a piece of crap. This windbag can't stomach people singing "God Bless America" in honor of firemen and cops who gave their lives in the 9/11 attack (which, mercifully, didn't interrupt Roth's swim time), but he'll devote an entire novel to justifying Clinton's tryst with Monica Lewinsky?
Ah, yes. Roth reminds me of all those New Yorkers who spent the summer of 2001 lamenting that the city had lost its "edge" under Giuliani. Well, I'm just sorry 3,000 people had to die for Roth to find the city "interesting" again.
AH, THOSE STEREOTYPES: At the Eagle in New York City on Saturday night, I bumped into a man I’d previously met in Provincetown and came to ask him what he’s doing these days. He laughed. “Well, actually, I’m producing a new series for PBS on the history of the Broadway musical.?Can anyone beat that?
MEA MAXIMA CULPA: For the record, there have been three, not two, presidents elected without a plurality of the popular vote in American history: John Quincy Adams, with a mere 31 percent of the popular vote in 1824, Hayes with 48 percent in 1876 and Harrison's 1888 squeaker with 47.8 percent. Thanks for your relentless and voluminous capacity for fact-checking my ass.
Monday, October 07, 2002 ALL RIGHT, ALREADY: Mea culpa on the sentence in my latest column for the Sunday Times that reads as follows: “[Bush is] the first president who never had a majority of the popular vote." A lot of presidents have not had a majority. What I meant was that he didn't win a "plurality," something that has happened twice before in America. I'm sure most of you know what I meant, but for the rest, my apologies. - 2:50:41 PM SOUTH PARK REPUBLICANS: Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think I coined that phrase. Good to see the meme is beginning to propagate:
South Park Republicans are true Republicans, though they do not look or act like Pat Robertson. They believe in liberty, not conformity. They can enjoy watching The Sopranos even if they are New Jersey Italians. They can appreciate the tight abs of Britney Spears or Brad Pitt without worrying about the nation's decaying moral fiber. They strongly believe in liberty, personal responsibility, limited government, and free markets. However, they do not live by the edicts of political correctness.
This kid is onto something.
RIGHT-WING ENVY WATCH: Methinks Tom Tomorrow is jealous. - 2:37:41 PM GOOD NEWS FROM USSC: They won’t hear the New Jersey case and they won’t say why. Great call. Now the Republicans need to get on with the real task of persuading the voters to back Forrester. Not too hard a task.
KRUGMAN’S SECOND SCREW-UP: Having published an email as proof that Army secretary Thomas White was a “corporate evildoer,” without any firm evidence that the email was genuine, Paul Krugman has now gone one step further. He has violated the confidentiality of his source:
[A]lthough Leopold provided the e-mail on condition that his source, the former Enron executive, not be named, the Times published the name Friday after Krugman passed a copy to a colleague with the name only partially scratched out. "I am sick to my stomach … I have screwed up very seriously," Krugman told Leopold by e-mail. Says Leopold: "The Times broke its promise to me… I felt like the Times news division sold me out."
How many basic rules of journalism can you break in one story?
- 2:25:29 PM STILL MASSIVE SUPPORT: The Times does its best to spin their poll this morning. But the critical number is the 67 percent support for war against Iraq, despite the intense and relentless campaign by the elites at the Times and elsewhere to turn that number around. They have failed. Now they will try to change the subject.
EDWARDS VS. GORE: A smarter tack from the smarter candidate. Edwards' criticism of Bush's foreign policy strikes me as fatuous stuff. But by supporting the Iraq war so intently, Edwards has carved out a position of a far more credibility than the increasingly bitter Gore. And so his speech today should be seen less as a serious attack on Bush than as a statement that he is the true inheritor of Gore's previous centrism in the Democratic Party. He's wily, this guy. And flagging the speech to the Washington Post beforehand is worthy of Blair. - 1:29:29 AM ANOTHER ATTACK: The mayor of Paris was the target of a murder attempt over the weekend. His assailant was a disgruntled young man, who was also a Muslim who objected to homosexuality. After the assassination of Pim Fortuyn, it seems that Europe's gay leaders are becoming highly vulnerable to public violence. Fortuyn, of course, was murdered by a far leftist; mayor Delanoe was targeted by an anti-gay Muslim. But I wonder if these events will in any way cause the gay rights movement in Europe and here to re-think its proximity to the left and to multi-culturalism. It's still almost taboo for gay people to publicly criticize Islamic hostility to homosexuals; in fact, it's far more common to hear critics of Islamism being decried as racists among gay activists than to hear Islamic bigots being criticized for homophobia. Perhaps that will now begin to change, as it should. Can you imagine the fuss if an evangelical or fundamentalist Christian had tried to kill an openly gay politician? So why the double standard for the other religious right - among Muslims?
2000 FOR EVER?: With a knife-edge election, appeals to the Supreme Court, and Al Gore in yet more costume changes, has the 2000 election ever really stopped? Here's my take.
SONTAG AWARD NOMINEE: "Language is always a lie; above all, public language. McCarthy used a certain language to hunt communists. That which was used against Clinton is a bit more sophisticated. As for Bush, it's ventriloquists who make him speak." - Philip Roth, speaking to the Daily Telegraph.
USEFUL IDIOT WATCH: "I left the lunch impressed with Fidel. He seems to me like a kind man who is more amiable and friendly than most politicians." Yep, this twelve year-old could one day grow up to be another Nick Kristof.
THE UNECONOMIC BLOGOSPHERE: This little piece struck me as extremely persuasive - in fact, so persuasive I wish I hadn't read it. It's about how the Internet, for all its joys, has yet to show how it can possibly make money:
This destruction of value is what makes weblogs so important. We want a world where global publishing is effortless. We want a world where you don't have to ask for help or permission to write out loud. However, when we get that world we face the paradox of oxygen and gold. Oxygen is more vital to human life than gold, but because air is abundant, oxygen is free. Weblogs make writing as abundant as air, with the same effect on price. Prior to the web, people paid for most of the words they read. Now, for a large and growing number of us, most of the words we read cost us nothing.
Read the entire article - at no cost.
MRS DUISENBERG, CTD: The wife of the European Central Bank president, Wim Duisenberg, and a passionate defender of the Palestinians, made a "six million" joke on radio. I noted her explosion last week. She's now being sued for it. More evidence of what is wrong with Europe: a society in which anti-Semitism is increasingly common and an illiberal polity that makes its expression illegal.
THE MULLAHS' NIGHTMARE: A report from the other Iran:
Down in the basement, a man with an uncanny resemblance to the Sgt Pepper period John Lennon is recording a CD. With him, in the hot, stuffy studio, is a bassist dressed in black, a drummer and a 10-year-old Afghan boy playing small tambour drums. Behind the glass, a sound engineer is flicking switches and twiddling knobs. A girl in jeans, T-shirt and trainers is slouched on a sofa with a young man. Two other girls are watching the session. Not having visited the underground before, I am taken aback. The girls are not wearing the full, officially decreed women's dress code. This includes covering one's hair for fear of "stimulating" any man who might see it.
And how much sooner will this revolution happen if we remove Saddam's tyranny first.
THE SHIFTING CONSENSUS: One reason, I think, that president Bush hasn't been blamed as badly as he might for the faltering economy is that most people don't think his administration caused the recession; and that few Democrats have really offered a major alternative to his current policy. That's the catch with Paul Krugman's constant complaint about the tax cut: wouldn't revoking it hurt weakened demand even further? The Washington Post's editorial on Al Gore's latest piece of opportunism is a straw in the wind, I think. Here's the key section:
But President Bush's main economic policy -- the large tax cut of last year -- was not responsible for any of the current damage. Indeed, given the twin shocks of 9/11 and the post-Enron stock market decline, the short-term stimulus created by the tax cuts has turned out to be fortuitously well timed. To be sure, parts of the tax cut that have yet to be implemented, especially the repeal of the estate tax, are unaffordable and ought to be repealed. It's also true that the administration's response to Latin America's financial woes has been confused. But to blame the weak American economy on Mr. Bush is nonsense.
Seems irrefutable to me. And I agree with the Post about the estate tax. - 1:14:12 AM
Saturday, October 05, 2002 THE TIMES AND IRAQ: A reader sends in the following mea culpa from former New York Times editorial muckety-muck Max Frankel about the Times’ Osirak editorial. It’s from Frankel’s memoir, “The Times of My Life and My Life with the Times:”
Among my major mistakes I also list a 1981 editorial denouncing Israel for its 'surgical' air strike against an Iraqi laboratory working on nuclear weapons. I have never felt comfortable about the effort of the so-called major powers -- meaning China, Russia, France, Britain, and the United States -- to monopolize the world's supply of nuclear arms; if they have behaved more responsibly than some lesser powers, it is precisely because they possess those weapons and have good reason to fear their use. When Israel, an unacknowledged nuclear power, staged a surprise attack on Iraq to disrupt Saddam Hussein's nuclear program, it seemed to me to be invoking an impermissibly aggressive right of 'self-defense.' Should a Pakistani attack on India have been similarly tolerated and celebrated? My principle was sound but also piously unrealistic, as Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and unprovoked missile attacks against Israel demonstrated ten years later. As I should have remembered from reading E. B. White in high school, it is folly to hold nations to a standard of 'law' in an anarchic world. Better to acknowledge the jungle until we reach a higher stage of civilization, or at least a world government.
You see? People do live and learn. It’s just powerful institutions like the Times that don’t.
HOW CLEAN IS KRUGMAN? You guys are tougher on him than I am. But this email makes some solid points:
To have truly "come clean" Krugman would have had to admit that the gist of his September 17 column was almost entirely lacking factual support. When he concedes ONLY that he "erred by citing" a spurious email, Krugman admits ONLY that a single piece of evidence supporting his allegations against White was dubious, and he leaves the implication that his allegations are sufficiently supported by other evidence. But the nonexistent email was, in fact, THE crucial piece of evidence underlying every one of the several damning charges he made against White in the September 17 column. Therefore, Krugman's acknowledging the unreliability of that crucial piece of evidence - while leaving the allegations themselves unretracted - is actually WORSE than Krugman's original error, for which he could at least claim to have relied upon evidence he honestly believed at the time to be credible. Now that Krugman knows that the crucial evidence his charges relied upon was not credible, if he had any journalistic integrity, he would have retracted all those charges including the allegation that White, "fully aware of what his division was up to," was "intimately involved" in the "biggest of several deals that allowed Mr. White to 'hide the loss'" and the allegation that by "maintaining the illusion of success," White was "able to sell [his] stock at good prices to naïve victims." These allegations hinged on the validity of the infamous email.
All of which is to say, you can argue that it's not fair to allow Democrats to sub in Frank Lautenberg at this late date. You can argue that it violates some cherished abstract principle like rule of law. But, please, spare us the gloom-and-doom talk about what future elections holds if this precedent stands. The answer is nothing appreciably different from the present.
Friday, October 04, 2002 THE TERROR-MASTERS: Michael Ledeen's final response to his critics and fans is now up on the Book Club page. - 7:08:02 PM THE NEW YORK TIMES ON PRE-EMPTION: The invaluable Jeffrey Goldberg presents what is to my mind an unarguable case for removing Saddam from power in Slate. But his real discovery is a New York Times editorial of June 9, 1981. It concerned the Israelis' pre-emptive strike against Saddam's Osirak nuclear plant. Under the headline, "Israel's Illusion," the Times declared:
Israel's sneak attack on a French-built nuclear reactor near Baghdad was an act of inexcusable and short-sighted aggression. Even assuming that Iraq was hellbent to divert enriched uranium for the manufacture of nuclear weapons, it would have been working toward a capacity that Israel itself acquired long ago.
There you have it: the moral equivalence, the short-sightedness, the moral preening, all disguising a fantastic error of judgment. If Saddam had had that nuclear capacity, there would have been no Gulf War, or one with disastrous consequences. The Times, of course, never learns. But this time, the security of the United States is at stake. We cannot let ourselves be led by the deluded and the defeatist any more. - 7:01:14 PM MAC ATTACK: Okay, so my beloved Powerbook crashed for the second time today. After backing up all my files, I took it down to the Apple store in Soho, New York City. Actually, "store" doesn't capture what that place is like. It's a church. The clean, spare lines, the vaulted glass ceiling, the large posters of Martin Luther King Jr and John Lennon, the illuminated perspex stairs that ascend toward the tabernacle ... and the reverent hush of the trendoids who bustle there. I almost found myself reflexively genuflecting. I took my frayed laptop - not even a year old - to the "Genius" desk and had a very helpful guy review my case. It's hopeless. The hard drive seems completely screwed and it has to be replaced entirely. It makes strange whirring and clicking sounds all the time. I won't see it again for ten days. There's nothing I can do in the meantime but use my friends' computers to update the Dish and do all the work I usually do on a Thursday, my busiest day of the week, on the hotel p.c. Am I complaining as a relatively public switcher from p.c.s to a Mac? Not entirely. I'm sure all sorts of computers break down like this (although I never had a p.c. that did). Maybe it was the dank air in Provincetown that did it in; or my ceaseless use of iTunes. But it's a little embarrassing for Apple to have such a high-profile "switch" ad campaign going on and have one of their most enthusiastic switchers see his computer collapse from mechanical problems within a few months.
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: "With regimes like the Iraqi one, there will be no peace in the Middle East. You cannot contain a regime like Saddam Hussein's. That was a mistake of the West. So the question is: Is America ready to face up to the mistakes it made in '91 and in the '80s? Are the Americans ready to support democracy? Because people like Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden grew out of the Middle East. They are not products of Afghanistan." - Thomas von der Osten-Sacken, a leading German expert and activist on Iraq. This interview is persuasive and riveting, and also puts the lie to the notion that there is a single, unified "German" view on Iraq. It also highlights, I think, one of the weirdnesses of the current debate. That weirdness is that the anti-war Left's partly justified argument that the U.S. has been implicated in the past in Saddam's disgusting regime leads them nevertheless to argue that we should do nothing today to rectify that. Why not? Aren't we, in particular, responsible? Shouldn't we, in particular, set it right? It's a telling feature of the anti-war left that they never use their criticism of American foreign policy in the past to advocate a more aggressive and progressive American foreign policy for today. Which leads to the question of whether their horror of tyranny and evil abroad is what really motivates them - or whether hatred of America and what it stands for is their unifying thread.
KRUGMAN COMES CLEAN: On the Thomas White email. And good for him. Maybe he'll temper his anti-Bush dyspepsia in future. Yeah, right. By the way, I agree with almost all his column today. What I don't understand is why an argument advocating boosting government spending and reflating the economy in a dangerously deflationary time should include reversing planned tax cuts. Isn't that self-negating? I'd be in favor of more government rebates for lower income people today, as Krugman recommends, but I see no reason, in a period where deflation is a potential problem, why we shouldn't have tax cuts as well. Perhaps Krugman's hatred of Bush's tax cut has blinded him to the fact that so far, it has clearly helped us avoid a deeper recession and, if expanded, could head off deflation as well.
WHAT THE ARABS REALLY THINK: "It is no secret that Washington's Arab allies have assured it in private that, as long as a diplomatic fig leaf is provided by the United Nations, they would do nothing to oppose military action against Saddam Hussein. Jordan has adopted its own version of diplomatic duplicity. It has issued appeals to Washington not to attack Iraq but is playing host to American troops in the context of military exercises clearly related to any future action against Saddam Hussein. Prince Hassan, King Abdallah's uncle, has emerged as an active supporter of the Iraqi exile opposition groups, and even attended their conference in London last July." - from another must-read, clear-eyed assessment of Arab political culture by Amir Taheri.
USEFUL IDIOT WATCH: Nick Kristof goes to Baghdad and finds people ready to attack the U.S. Quelle surprise! In a police state where the tiniest dissent on the tiniest matter can have you disappeared and tortured, Kristof deduces no support for a U.S. invasion. Let's check in and see what happens if we do invade, shall we? We have long memories in the blogosphere, Nick. And little pity.
DERBYSHIRE AWARD NOMINEE: "I think Muhammed was a terrorist" - Jerry Falwell, dumb and crass as ever.
HEADLINE OF THE WEEK: "Some at racism conference urge reversal of decision to exclude non-blacks." No, as Dave Barry might say, I'm not making this up.
AS.COM GETS RESULTS: Uh oh. Remember that military blog I referred you to? After I mentioned it, they got so swamped with emails of support they had to shut the site down. Sorry, guys. But you can still send them emails.
GORE'S LIES, CONTINUED: A devastating little dissection of his recent opportunism and deception from the centrist writers at Spinsanity.
JEB BUSH'S SENSE OF HUMOR: What to make of this story:
Florida Gov. Jeb Bush told a delegation of lawmakers that he had "some juicy details" about the sexual orientation of a missing Miami girl's caretakers. During a meeting Wednesday, Bush implied that the two women, who had just been charged with fraud stemming from the investigation into Rilya Wilson's disappearance, were lesbians. "As (Pamela Graham) was being arrested, she told her co-workers, 'Tell my wife I've been arrested.' The wife is the grandmother, and the aunt is the husband," Bush explained, using his fingers to indicate quotation marks to emphasize the word "grandmother." "Bet you don't get that in Pensacola," Bush told his guests, a group of lawmakers from Florida's Panhandle.
Here's what I make of it. Bush is pandering to a bunch of good ol' boys whom he assumes are homophobes. I don't believe Bush is a homophobe himself - but that only makes the pandering worse. I'd love to see him crack the same joke in the same room as Mary Cheney, the vice-president's daughter. Maybe that would help him realize what a know-nothing bigot he sounds like. He still doesn't get it, does he? - 1:52:07 AM
Thursday, October 03, 2002 TINA ON A ROLL: I think this column may go head to head with Dominick Dunne for sheer name-dropping. But it's mesmerizing nonetheless. Amazing email sent by Robert Hughes, burly Time art critic, to AOLTimeWarner macher Gerry Levin, quoted by Tina:
How can I convey to you the disgust which your name awakens in me begins Hughes to LevinThe merger with Warner was a catastrophe. But the hitherto unimagined stupidity, the blind arrogance of your deal with Case simply beggars description. How can you face yourself knowing how much history, value and savings you have thrown away on your mad, ignorant attempt to merge with a wretched dial-up ISP? . . . I dot know what advice you have to offer, but I have some for you. Buy some rope, go out the back, find a tree and hang yourself. If you had any honour you would.
Tell us how you really feel, Bob. - 2:33:58 PM AMERICA'S SWEETHEART, HILLARY ROSEN: The Onion captures the essence of the mega-bucks lobbyist for the recording industry.
EURO-ANTI-SEMITISM WATCH: The wife of the European Central Bank president has started a group dedicated to ending the "occupation" of Palestine. She's organizing a petition on those grounds. Michiel Visser has the details:
Mrs Duisenberg was asked in a radio program how many signatures she was hoping to collect for her petition. She said: "Oh, perhaps six million" and started laughing loudly, in an apparent reference to the six million Jews who perished in the War.
Ha ha ha. So sophisticated these Europeans, no? - 1:48:15 PM ANOTHER FLORIDA: Here we go again. We have the plain meaning of the law: "In the event of a vacancy, howsoever caused, among candidates nominated at primaries, which vacancy shall occur not later than the 51st day before the general election." And we have the desire of one party to get around the plain meaning of the law, by appealing to the Courts. I'm indebted to Jonathan Adler for filling me in on the slender reed whereby New Jersey's Supreme Court got to put Frank Lautenberg's name on the ballot. It's Catania v. Haberle 588 A.2d 374 (1990), where the Court ruled that "providing the public with a choice between candidates is one of the most important objectives of our election laws." The small print: "[t]he general rule applied to the interpretation of our election laws is that absent some public interest sufficiently strong to permit the conclusion that the Legislature intended strict enforcement, statutes providing requirements for a candidate's name to appear on the ballot will not be construed so as to deprive the voters of the opportunity to make a choice." On these grounds, the Court ruled that if voters went into a polling station and found Torricelli's name still on the ballot, and no other Democrat's, they would have no reasonable choice. I have two obvious problems with this. The first is the reason for Torricelli's absence. He didn't withdraw because he was sick, or because he had a change of heart, or because of family reasons. He withdrew entirely because he couldn't win. More accurately, he withdrew because his loss would ensure his party might not win. So this absence on the ballot has been deliberately contrived by one of the parties for reasons that are far larger even than New Jersey. By acceding to it, the Court seems to me to have invited any number of possible future abuses by either party: if you're losing, withdraw and get a new candidate. Imagine if every election cycle, the national parties get to yank one or two candidates from around the country at the last minute if they think it will give them an edge. The result would be many opportunities for chicanery, chaos and confusion.
MAJOR PARTY PRIVILEGE: My second objection is equally obvious: there is still a choice without the Torch. There are other minor party candidates for whom non-Forrester supporters could vote. And there's a write-in possibility that could be used by the Democrats. The Court ruling seems to me to assume that the only valid choice is between Democrats and Republicans as printed on a ballot, a preposterous idea that insults other parties, other views and the voters' intelligence. At the same time, I'm not sure it's wise for the GOP to take this legal battle further. The decay of judicial reasoning that this ruling again shows cannot be rectified by going to the Supreme Court, which has been damaged enough by being dragged into partisan disputes. Forrester should instead make this a part of his election message: an end to the abuse of judicial authority, and the ruthlessness of the Democrats in trying to keep power even if it means bending the law. Besides, the Democrats are already about to pounce on any Supreme Court ruling that might go against them by using it to whip up the hysteria among minorities that they exploited in Florida. I trust the voters of New Jersey to see what the game is here. They should vote for Forrester, if that's what they want, for the same reason now as before: to punish those who break or twist the law for the pursuit of power. That should be the principled Republican position: take it to the voters. And let the Court's expansive reasoning discredit itself.
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: "[M]y disagreement with the peace-at-any-price men, the ultrapacifists, is not in the least because they favor peace. I object to them, first, because they have proved themselves futile and impotent in working for peace, and second, because they commit what is not merely the capital error but the crime against morality of failing to uphold righteousness as the all-important end toward which we should strive ... I have as little sympathy for them as they have for the men who deify mere brutal force, who insist that power justifies wrongdoing, and who declare that there is no such thing as international morality. But the ultra-pacifists really play into the hands of these men. To condemn equally might which backs right and might which overthrows right is to render positive service to wrong-doers ... To denounce the nation that wages war in self-defense, or from a generous desire to relieve the oppressed, in the same terms in which we denounce war waged in a spirit of greed or wanton folly stands on a par with denouncing equally a murderer and the policeman who, at peril of his life and by force of arms, arrests the murderer. In each case the denunciation denotes not loftiness of soul but weakness both of mind and morals." - Theodore Roosevelt, anticipating Jim McDermott, from TR's "America and the World War." (With thanks to an alert reader.) Maybe Barbra should read the book.
BEGALA APOLOGIZES: Paul Begala has now changed his views on Paul Krugman. Last Friday, he said on Crossfire, when challenged about Krugman's citation of an alleged email from Army secretary Thomas White: "Well, you ask me to judge the credibility between Paul Krugman, a professor of economics at Princeton and a distinguished columnist for "The New York Times," and Thomas White, an executive for disgraced Enron, I know who I'm going with." Last night, Begala changed his tune: "I'm very sorry if I cited something that turns out to be factually false." So Salon has come clean - honorably. Even Paul Begala has come clean. But Krugman is still silent. Notice that what matters here is not whether the email is genuine. I have no idea. What matters is whether a responsible journalist can know or can ever have known whether it's genuine. Paul Krugman didn't know. He published anyway - a column that was far less measured, careful and circumspect than Salon's. He called Thomas White an "evildoer" on those grounds. I think that merits unimpeachable evidence, don't you?
PAGING DR FREUD: "When the Prime Minister spoke yesterday I thought to myself, "I hope I'll be able to give a speech like that when I grow up" - Bill Clinton, at the Labour Party Conference yesterday.
The Administration doesn't need to "politicize" the war. They're for it. So are the American people. The Democrats have had since the liberation of Kabul 10 months ago to work out a viable position. Instead, they seem to have run the various options past the focus-groups, identified the half-dozen least popular, and plumped for all of them.
Wednesday, October 02, 2002 HAVING IT EVERY WHICH WAY: The Torricelli bait-and-switch with Lautenberg is almost a leitmotif of the current Democratic Party. So what if we fully backed a guy we knew was a crook when we thought he could win? Now he can't win! So .... The same heads-we-win tails-you-lose posture is evident on the budget ("the tax cut is the problem - but we won't reverse it, in case the voters punish us") and the war ("we're against it in reality, but we're for it formally, in case the voters punish us"). But tonight I heard the first enunciation of what's in store if and when war erupts in Iraq. Any terrorist attack now or soon - by Saddam, his proxies or his allies - will be blamed by some Democrats on Bush. See, they'll say. His war-talk provoked this. But if no attack happens in the next few months, they will use that in turn to argue that war is unnecessary, that Saddam is no real threat, and so on. Similarly, if the war goes well, they are busy setting things up so that they can claim they were in favor of it. But if it goes badly, or casualties mount, they will milk it for all it's worth politically. On almost every issue, they're doing all they can to ensure they can't lose. The only thing they haven't done is stand up for any principle, contribute much that's constructive to the national dialogue, or show even a rote display of leadership or credibility. The fact that they behave this way at a time of war sickens. But, alas, it no longer surprises.
PLAYING THE RACE CARD AGAIN: Another sign of how low some current Democrats can sink. Here's a sentence that just evoked a gag from yours truly, in a bed and breakfast in the dark night of Michigan:
But Mr. McGreevey and Democrats argue that the issue is a simple matter of giving voters the chance to choose.
Isn't that exactly what Torricelli and the Democrats are trying to deny voters? It's clearly a new line because Daschle reiterated it again today:
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., said that by objecting to Torricelli's request, Republicans were "denying the people of New Jersey a choice" in the election.
But the point is subtler, you see. If Daschle and McGreevey and Lautenberg can make this race about preventing voters from "having a choice," and if they resurrect the same slogans they exploited in Florida, then they have a chance to increase the black vote, which was extremely ambivalent about Torricelli, and essential to winning. So watch the rhetoric. If they can't break the law, they're going to claim it's a violation of civil rights. You just watch. And take some dramamine.
KRUGMAN WATCH: Salon had a pretty devastating but honest correction yesterday. They have removed a story written by one Jason Leopold about Enron and Army secretary Thomas White. A key passage from the correction:
We took this unusual step because we have come to the conclusion that we can no longer stand by the story in its entirety. Though we have corroborated most of the reporting in the article, some unanswered questions remain. Specifically, we have been unable to independently confirm the authenticity of an e-mail from former Enron executive and current Army Secretary Thomas White that was quoted in the article.
Hmmmm. That rings a bell. Could that be the same email that Paul "Enron Advisory Board" Krugman used in a recent column excoriating White? The same email that was exposed last Friday on Crossfire by Robert Novak? Here's Krugman's lead paragraph of September 17:
In February 2001 Enron presented an imposing facade, but insiders knew better: they were desperately struggling to keep their Ponzi scheme going. When one top executive learned of millions in further losses, his e-mailed response summed up the whole strategy: "Close a bigger deal. Hide the loss before the 1Q." The strategy worked. Enron collapsed, but not before insiders made off with nearly $1 billion. The sender of that blunt e-mail sold $12 million in stocks just before they became worthless. And now he's secretary of the Army.
White subsequently wrote to the New York Times claiming that he had no memory of such an email. Salon now supports White, and acknowledges that its freelance source also seems to have plagiarized a large chunk of the story from the Financial Times. Krugman graciously acknowledged that Leopold was his source for his smearing of White as well:
Jason Leopold, a reporter writing a book about California's crisis, has acquired Enron documents that show Mr. White fully aware of what his division was up to. Mr. Leopold reported his findings in the online magazine Salon, and has graciously shared his evidence with me. It's quite damning.
Not quite as damning as Salon's apology, White's denial and Krugman's continuing silence.
UPDATE: Leopold responds on the Letters Page.
A READER WRITES: Another mini-classic:
If Pres. Bush delivered the kind of rhetorical mess that Mr. Torricelli did yesterday, the press would be all over him. Did you catch this beauty?: "I fought for everything I believed in, with all the fiber in my body." I don't know about you, but I love that - sounds like an ad for Metamucil.
BEGALA AWARD NOMINEE: "It is quite another [thing] to take on the infinitely more daunting challenge of saying warm and fuzzy things about a globally recognized lout - a through and through despicable human being about whom any effort at thoughtful compliment must strike the ear as either jarringly insincere (to the point of satire), or as some Koreshian echo of delusion. Such a man now takes his ease in the Oval Office or may be found squinting into the middle distance on his dude ranch, in the favored home state where so many of his domestic victims met their untimely end. Hitchens - much in the style of OJ's defense team apparently figures - 'if I can get THIS creep off the hook, my rhetorical skills are truly unlimited!" That he fails prodigiously at the task of absolving our vermin-in-chief, is hardly a surprise (though something of a disappointment to us - his once-devoted fans). Even the best high jumper can not leap over a building - let alone the moon, (a more appropriate metaphor in this case)." - Richard Harth, predictably sticking the leftist boot into Christopher Hitchens, at the venomous website, CounterPunch.
SELF-ESTEEM HOOEY: Interesting piece by Erica Goode in the Times yesterday on the waning fortunes of the concept of "self-esteem." It does not appear, it seems, as if low self-esteem is a primary cause for anti-social behavior or failure in life in general. In fact, many criminals seem to have quite healthy self-esteem; and narcissism - excessive self-love combined with a sense of one's own superiority - is a far bigger culprit for poor social conduct than its opposite. I'm glad the tide seems to be belatedly turning on this. Friends who teach undergraduates these days are constantly complaining that the problems of their students come not from low self-esteem, but from the reverse. The students object to any grades that seem beneath them; they fail to see why they need to work harder; when they don't do well, their first recourse is to blame the teacher, not seek the reasons in their own work. I also get tired of hearing that, for example, gay men's willingness to have condom-free sex or multiple sex partners is also a function of "low self-esteem." Is it not more credible that such behavior is due to the fact that sex without condoms or with more people is actually more pleasurable than the alternative? In fact, I think the crutch of "low self-esteem" may be the latest analytic tool to infantilize people and groups of people, by denying them full self-determination. It empowers the care-givers and social engineers, and disempowers those deemed to be low in self-love.
HOW SICK IS KING FAHD? "Ledeen claims that Fahd suffers from a "debilitating disease" and "suffered a stroke," implying that he's incapacitated. Newspapers routinely describe him as "ailing". I was travelling through Turkey last spring and during part of my tour I shared a bus with a young Canadian woman who was King Fahd's personal physical therapist. She regaled us with fascinating stories about life with him, but she also says, "He's not sick. He's fine. He's just old. He does his exercises with me every morning." And she would know." - the debate continues in the Book Club.
SONTAG AWARD NOMINEE: "Every human calamity is different, so there is no point in trying to look for equivalence between one and the other. But it is certainly true that one universal truth about the Holocaust is not only that it should never again happen to Jews, but that as a cruel and tragic collective punishment, it should not happen to any people at all. But if there is no point in looking for equivalence, there is a value in seeing analogies and perhaps hidden similarities, even as we preserve a sense of proportion. Quite apart from his actual history of mistakes and misrule, Yasser Arafat is now being made to feel like a hunted Jew by the state of the Jews. There is no gainsaying the fact that the greatest irony of his siege by the Israeli army in his ruined Ramallah compound, is that his ordeal has been planned and carried out by a psychopathic leader who claims to represent the Jewish people. I do not want to press the analogy too far, but it is true to say that Palestinians under Israeli occupation today are as powerless as Jews were in the 1940s." - Edward Said, once again comparing Israelis to Nazis. - 12:29:14 AM
Tuesday, October 01, 2002 THE GRAND TOTAL: There were 99 uses of the word "I" in Torricelli's farewell speech. 99. - 9:04:28 AM TORRICELLI, COWARD: Wasn't it perfect that Senator Bob Torricelli recently invoked Bill Clinton as a model of tenacity before he resigned yesterday? Like Clinton, Torricelli still refuses to acknowledge that he did things that were simply wrong, period. His farewell speech was nauseatingly full of self-congratulation, martyrdom, spin and absurdity:
"It is the most painful thing I have done in my life," Torricelli said [about his withdrawal from the race]. In what he called "a strange irony of life," he acknowledged that the Democratic majority in the Senate was in peril in part because his once-comfortable lead over little-known Republican challenger Doug Forrester has evaporated. Mentioning only in passing that his own "mistakes" caused his support to plummet, Torricelli then laid blame on the larger society. "When did we become such an unforgiving people?" he asked. "How did we become a society where a person can build credibility their entire life and have it questioned by someone who has none?"
Get that? It's our fault, not his. He was in the Senate for power; and he left for the same reason - not because he believed he had disgraced himself, but because his "mistakes" might mean the end of power for his Democratic buddies in the Senate. Classic Clinton: no responsibility assumed or taken, power maximized at all costs. Remember, as blogger John Cole did today, that Torricelli's Democratic friends in high places also did all they could recently to overlook the actual ethics involved. Only last week, Senate Majority leader, Tom Daschle, according to the New York Times,
urged New Jerseyans today to look beyond Mr. Torricelli's ethical problems,... because he said the stakes of the election were so steep. "What America looks like in the years ahead will depend on the battles we fight right there on the Senate floor," Mr. Daschle said. "And we have never had a race in which there was more at stake than what is happening right now."
Above all, Torricelli's exit unfairly denies the voters a chance to punish him. Such votes are a critical part of the political system. They help cleanse the electoral palate, they allow the body politic to make a formal statement about what matters, and they drive the point home by humiliating the ethically challenged. Torricelli's final, cynical move is of a piece with his entire career. It's a scam and a duck. This time, surely New Jersey's courts shouldn't let him get away with it.
THE BRILLIANCE OF AL GORE: A defense of the speech - and much, much more on the Letters Page.
TWO STORIES: I'm reeling from two stories sent to me recently by a reader in Jerusalem. The first is a wonderful human interest tale about the classic Jewish mother. Her son, Ari, was fighting in Nablus in the army, was stranded and told her on the phone that he and his fellow soldiers were hungry:
She asked what she could do, but her son said there was nothing to do. "I had one more question: How many are you? He said 35, and with that I hung up." Off she went walking down Rehov Ahuza, the main drag in Ra'anana, wondering what to do. Suddenly she came upon Kippa Aduma, the shwarma hangout she knows Ari loves. "I went to the manager of the store, Roni, and said, 'My son is in Nablus. He's stuck in some hellhole with no fridge, and he's hungry.' He interrupted my sentence and asked the same question I did: 'How many are there?' I told him 35, and he said, 'What time do you need it?'"
She then went through several shops and markets in town until she had assembled a mighty feast for 35 soldiers and somehow managed to get it delivered. The impact was not inconsiderable:
"An hour later I got a phone call from Ari, with peals of laughter and screaming in the background. Not only was he king of the day, but I have 34 new boyfriends," she laughed. "Soldiers were grabbing the phone saying, 'Geveret Weiss, at lo yada'at ma at aseet lanu' (Mrs. Weiss, you have no idea what you have done for us)." For Ari, it was all about the pride of a proud son.
According to today's New York Times, "Democratic congressmen who are visiting Iraq this week stirred up anger among some Republicans when they questioned the reasons President Bush has used to justify possible military action against Iraq." Some Republicans??? I'm a Democrat, I live in McDermott's district, and I'm outraged!
THAT BAD TIMES LINK: Funny how that page I linked to on the New York Times forum on Maureen Dowd mysteriously disappeared shortly after I put it up. But I think it's reappeared now here. I've no idea why. It doesn't look like my mistake. Anyway, in case it gets lost again, here's the passage I was referring to:
wharrison2 - 06:12pm Sep 27, 2002 EST (# 30450 of 30463) kate_nyt 9/27/02 5:48pm Kate I, for one, don't hate the Times but do not have a lot of respect for Howell as an editor of the "news" sections of the paper. I have a friend here in town, Phil Clapp, who runs the leftwing National Environmental Trust. He's socially quite friendly with both Howell and Sulzberger, Jr. He told me straight from his own lips that both of them confirmed to him at a luncheon that under Howell's leadership they intended to use the news sections to attack the Bush administration. Howell didn't see any problem with this as part of deciding what's "news" is editorial judgments on what pieces to run and how to couch them. Now that's just the plain unvarnished truth whether The American Prospect wants to admit it or not. The Washington Times is an unvarnished paper of the right that doesn't mince words in advertising its partisanship. Almost all of the British and European press is run that way too. I see nothing wrong with the Times representing liberal thinking in this country as well but just be honest enough about it to admit it.
Now why would anyone remove that from the Times' site?
IN TRANSIT: In New York City tonight. My first trip out of Ptown since July - and my first Number 2 meal in a while. Heaven. Off to Alma College in Michigan today to talk about Catholicism's crisis. I'll do what I can to keep things posted on a timely basis today and tomorrow. But it's difficult on a plane. - 12:14:17 AM