IT'S OUR FIFTH ANNIVERSARY! CLICK HERE TO MAKE A DONATION. Thursday, November 28, 2002 A THANKSGIVING POST: My old colleague, the legendary British journalist and drunk Henry Fairlie, had a favourite story about his long, lascivious love affair with America. He was walking down a suburban street one afternoon in a suit and tie, passing familiar rows of detached middle-American dwellings and lush, green Washington lawns. In the distance a small boy - aged perhaps six or seven - was riding his bicycle towards him.
And in a few minutes, as their paths crossed on the pavement, the small boy looked up at Henry and said, with no hesitation or particular affectation: "Hi." As Henry told it, he was so taken aback by this unexpected outburst of familiarity that he found it hard to say anything particularly coherent in return. And by the time he did, the boy was already trundling past him into the distance.
In that exchange, Henry used to reminisce, so much of America was summed up. That distinctive form of American manners, for one thing: a strong blend of careful politeness and easy informality. But beneath that, something far more impressive. It never occurred to that little American boy that he should be silent, or know his place, or defer to his elder. In America, a six-year-old cyclist and a 55-year-old journalist were equals. The democratic essence of America was present there on a quiet street on a lazy summer afternoon.
Henry couldn't have imagined that exchange happening in England - or Europe, for that matter. Perhaps now, as European - and especially British - society has shed some of its more rigid hierarchies, it could. But what thrilled him about that exchange is still a critical part of what makes America an enduringly liberating place. And why so many of us who have come to live here find, perhaps more than most native Americans, a reason to give thanks this Thanksgiving.
When I tuck into the turkey on Thursday, I'll have three things in particular in mind. First, the country's pathological obsession with the present. America is still a country where the past is anathema. Even when Americans are nostalgic, they are nostalgic for a myth of the future. What matters for Americans, in small ways and large, is never where you have come from - but where you are going, what you are doing now, or what you are about to become. In all the years I have lived in America - almost a decade and a half now - it never ceases to amaze me that almost nobody has ever demanded to know by what right I belong here. Almost nobody has asked what school I went to, what my family is like, or what my past contains. (In Britain I was asked those questions on a daily, almost hourly, basis.) Even when I took it on myself to be part of the American debate, nobody ever questioned my credentials for doing so. I don't think that could ever happen in a European context (when there's a gay American editor of The Spectator, let me know). If Europeans ever need to know why Ronald Reagan captured such a deep part of the American imagination, this is surely part of the answer. It was his reckless futurism (remember star wars and supply-side economics?) and his instinctive, personal generosity.
Second, I'm thankful for the American talent for contradiction. The country that sustained slavery for longer than any other civilised country is also the country that has perhaps struggled more honestly for the notion of racial equality than any other. The country that has a genuine public ethic of classlessness also has the most extreme economic inequality in the developed world. The country that is most obsessed with pressing the edge of modernity also has the oldest intact constitution in the world. The country that still contains a powerful religious right has also pushed the equality of homosexuals further than ever before in history. A country that cannot officially celebrate Christmas (it would erase the boundary between church and state) is also one of the most deeply religious nations on the planet. Americans have learnt how to reconcile the necessary contradictions not simply because their country is physically big enough to contain them, but because it is spiritually big enough to contain them. Americans have learnt how to reconcile the necessary contradictions of modern life with a verve and a serenity few others can muster. It is a deeply reassuring achievement.
Third, I'm thankful because America is, above all, a country of primary colours. Sometimes the pictures Americans paint are therefore not as subtle, or as elegant, or even as brilliant as masterpieces elsewhere. But they have a vigour and a simplicity that is often more viscerally alive. Other nations may have become bored with the Enlightenment, or comfortable in post-modern ennui. Americans find such postures irrelevant. Here the advertisements are cruel, the battles are stark and the sermons are terrifying. And here, more than anywhere else, the most vital of arguments still go on. Does God exist? Are the races equal? Can the genders get along? Americans believe that these debates can never get tired, and that their resolution still matters, because what happens in America still matters in the broader world. At its worst, this can bespeak a kind of arrogance and crudeness. But at its best, it reflects a resilient belief that the great questions can always be reinvented and that the answers are always relevant. In the end, I have come to appreciate this kind of naivety as a deeper form of sophistication. Even the subtlest of hues, after all, are merely primary colours mixed.
At the end of November each year this restless, contradictory and simple country finds a way to celebrate itself. The British, as befits a people at ease with themselves, do not have a national day. When the French do, their insecurity shows. Even America, on the fourth of July, displays a slightly neurotic excess of patriotism. But on Thanksgiving, the Americans resolve the nationalist dilemma. They don't celebrate themselves, they celebrate their good fortune. And every November, as I reflect on a country that can make even an opinionated Englishman feel at home, I know exactly how they feel.
"My America," first published November 24, 1996, Sunday Times of London - 3:16:05 PM
Tuesday, November 26, 2002 A WINTER'S TALE: I guess I passed a milestone this week. As the winter closes in, Provincetown gets a little bleaker each day. It's truly odd living in a resort town. From 50,000 inhabitants in the summer to 3,000 or so in the winter, it almost becomes a different town as autumn ends. The cafes close down; the stores shut; there are times when I almost feel as if I'm on Survivor, as each friend or acquaintance gets kicked off the island. To add to the weirdness, they're currently constructing the town's first real sewer - so much of the main street is dug up, with sand and soil in heaps and tracks all over town. Squint your eyes and the winding, uneven, muddied street could be of a century ago. But the solitude is also intoxicating. As I write this, I'm looking out at the dark bay, a lighthouse blinking in the distance, in my room on a wharf which has just had its water supply turned off to keep the pipes from freezing over. The boyfriend, beagle and I now live in a friend's house nearby, with water and a fireplace. I make a short walk each morning to the water's edge to begin the work day. It's simple living - but I am extraordinarily lucky to be able to live and work this way. And after twelve years of continuous living in Washington, it's healthy to take a break, to get some distance. When January comes, even the boyfriend will have to leave and we'll resume the long-distance thing. But I've decided to try and stick it out here by myself. I have a few friends still around, a dog, a fireplace, more books than I could possibly read, and cable television and DSL. More and more people are living here in the winter and I don't feel like a true townie in any sense until I've lost my Ptown winter virginity and stayed through the dark months. Besides, I'm going to be forty next year (gulp) and some solitude - which is different than loneliness - can only do me good. With the blog, it's also impossible to feel that lonely. Which is why, today, I'd like to say thanks to all of you for making this whole enterprise possible and coming back day after day to check in. Have a great Thanksgiving.
JOE CONASON AND CHARLIE BROWN: Reading the pristine partisanship of Joe Conason is always an enjoyable experience. But reading him yesterday called to mind the old Charlie Brown and Lucy cartoon strip. Charlie Brown knows Lucy's going to snatch the ball away at the last moment but he still kicks. Same with Conason and the other members of the cocoon left. He still doesn't know why Bush is popular. He's even reverted to the "he's just a nice guy" theory that bedeviled the Left under Reagan:
Where have we heard this all before? When Ronald Reagan was president and then won a landslide reelection, the voters felt a similar ambivalence: liked the man, disliked his ideology and agenda. A reader explained this recurring, baffling phenomenon: "Americans usually vote for the friendly guy - Ike vs. the intellectual Stevenson, Truman over Dewey, gush Bush not bore Gore, Reagan over naggin', JFK over Nixon, Carter over Ford.... It is a bit like those high school class [presidential] elections - the vote goes to the nice, social type, not the socialist ..."
Memo to Joe: don't you think it might have a teensy-weensy bit to do with the fact that the country is at war and most voters approve of Bush's handling of it? And don't you think it might also have something to do with the fecklessness of the opposition (as you've admitted before) and even, God help us, the tax cut which Democrats want to take away from people? Oh well. Worth a try. Beside this, what does it say about some liberals' view of ordinary voters that they honestly think people vote for someone's personality alone? Such condescension toward the electorate is a big part of their problem. You'd expect the Left to get over this after Adlai Stevenson, but they just can't seem to do it.
WWJD: It seems that parts of a reader's letter I posted on the question of "What Would Jesus Drive?" were lifted from this site, OffKilter. True credit goes to Roy Rivenburg of the Los Angeles Times and Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle. I had no idea; and apologize for inadvertently running their material without credit. - 11:10:25 PM SONTAG AWARD NOMINEE: "As far as I’m concerned it’s equally disrespectful and abusive to have women prancing around a stage in bathing suits for cash or walking the streets shrouded in burkas in order to survive." - Jill Nelson, MSNBC. - 4:22:43 PM TIMES WATCH: "In a measure of additional concern for Democrats, Al Gore, who is the best-known Democrat who might run for president in 2004, is viewed unfavorably today by a ratio of almost two to one.... Just 19 percent said they held a favorable view of the former vice president, compared with 43 percent who had an unfavorable view." - New York Times today. Almost?
SLATE ON RAINES: Jack Shafer says no one would accuse Howell Raines of being a demagogue. I would. But Jack does an excellent job limning the now almost comic hyping of non-news stories to fit Raines's paleo-liberal agenda, specifically on the Augusta National Golf Club. As Jack points out, Raines is morphing the Times into a daily blog. The Mickster has sharper comments. And I've also noticed how Alessandra Stanley has eagerly become Raines' dutiful copy-slave. - 2:05:52 PM FROM SONTAG'S TRASH: A strange tale of rescued photography from Susan Sontag's out-tray.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Wayne Denson, 75, a Democrat and retired optician from Kansas City, Mo., said: 'I voted for [Gore] to start with but now that Bush got elected, I'd rather vote for Bush than Gore. Bush has got more intelligence.'" - the New York Times today. - 12:22:40 PM
Monday, November 25, 2002 SONTAG AWARD NOMINEE: "I abhor the targeting of civilians in any armed conflict, though why those who rain bombs on defenceless people should be allowed to lecture anyone on terrorism beats me. If there is a war, then Britain, given the complicity of Blair, could become a prime terrorist target. He is thereby potentially a bigger danger to our country than Saddam ever was." - Jimmy Reid, The Scotsman.
THE DEATH OF RAWLS: Perhaps the most self-effacing but influential American political philosopher of recent times, John Rawls, died Sunday. Jacob Levy has a generous appreciation and some links to further reading. I agree with Levy. Although Rawls's writing never, to my mind, plumbed the psychological, spiritual and moral depths of the great political philosophers, his bold attempt to re-think liberalism from first premises reinvigorated political theory in the 1970s and became the basis for much valuable and intricate criticism - a model for what philosophy can do.
THE ISRAELI VICTIMS: Five documented names should suffice: Haggai Sheffi, Shai Levinhar and Leon Lebor in the towers; and Danny Lewin and Alona Abraham in the planes. Dozens of Jewish-Americans also perished. It sickens me I even have to report on this easily accessible information and that a professor at a major university, with the same facts at his fingertips, chose to perpetrate an evil lie instead. One reader also had a fitting response:
My standard response to the "No Jews died at the World Trade Center" slander is "I went to David M. Weiss' memorial service. He was Jewish. So are his kids. I've met them. If you don't believe me, ask the surviving members of Rescue 1, FDNY. But stand far enough back when you ask."
THE PURGE BEGINS: A gay seminarian kicked out not for sex but for outspokenness. The Church hierarchy believes that the way to solve this difficult question is to enforce silence on anyone who might know something about it. They keep impressing with their wisdom, don't they?
IN THE MIDST OF WAR: The Israelis decide to translate the Federalist Papers into Hebrew and have a major conference about them. Somehow, I don't think they used to do that in South Africa.
REPRESSION OR OPENNESS: Dan Drezner has some challenging points about which kinds of societies are most endangered by HIV and AIDS. He says those that cannot allow open debate about sexuality; those who restrict freedom of speech and open-ended scientific research; and those that can separate church and state. The alternative, he argues, is far more fragile:
Some, like [Phyllis] Schlafly, may argue that there is another option - a fundamentalist regime that actually gets its citizens to practice sexual abstinence. This could work in theory, but it's a much less robust strategy. Once AIDS occurs in these societies, it's impossible to stop, since the state can't admit its existence without admitting its founding principles are being violated. Any discussion would have to admit the possibility of illicit sex and drug use. In fact, the spread of AIDS in totalitarian societies is likely to be much faster because of the state's reluctance to ever publicly broach the topic.
I would also add a free market in pharmaceuticals. Alas, on that score, we're headed in the opposite direction. - 9:55:04 PM A KINSLEY CLASSIC: This is why, when he's on, no-one beats Mike Kinsley for making you smile in exactly the right way:
Though hardly scientific, this tended to confirm my suspicion that people like buying books more than they like reading them. And of course, in the famous formulation (credited to Gloria Steinem, among others), writers don't like writing—they like having written. They like having written under the impression that this means they will be read. The whole book thing is thus based on mutual misunderstanding.
- 2:26:51 PM ANTI-SEMITISM WATCH I: In France, the major publisher, Flammarion, has just published a children's book called "Dreaming of Palestine." According to the paper, Proche-Orient, the book is, in effect,
under the guise of fiction based on real events, a lethal provocation to hatred, violence and jihad against Israelis and Jews. A book, that in the French social-political context, can only encourage anti-Semitic acts.
Not content with fostering hatred of Jews among the childern of the Arab world, the campaign is now spreading to Europe.
ANTI-SEMITISM WATCH II: "Osama's" reference to Benjamin Franklin passed me by, I have to say. It turns out it was a reference to a very old and hoary anti-Semitic chestnut - that Benjamin Franklin allegedly warned Americans about Jewish immigrants at the Constitutional Convention in 1787. Here's the ADL's take on that particular story. How depressing that these kinds of paranoid conspiracy tales, which were once the province of Europe, have now been taken up by an Arab world that lived with Jews for centuries without this kind of pathology.
AN ISRAELI VICTIM: A reader corrects another slander:
While reading your Daily Dish just now, I noted the oft-repeated statement that no Israelis (it used to be no Jews) died in the Sept. 11 attacks. As a matter of fact, the first person killed, on the first plane, before it hit the North Tower, was an Israeli civilian, male. He stood up to the hijackers and was stabbed, as was reported by the flight attendant during her call. Investigators later matched his name to his seat number.
CHIRAC ON THE BALL: The leader of that great and lustrous power, la France, caught goofing off at the NATO summit. - 2:18:27 PM
Sunday, November 24, 2002 THIS IS A RELIGIOUS WAR: The Observer in London yesterday published what they argue is a new letter from Osama bin Laden. It emerged on a website previously used by al Qaeda to communicate messages and is being circulated on the web and among British Islamists. The Observer hedges its bets by saying that "although there is no way to confirm the authenticity of the letter beyond all doubt, senior Arab journalists in the Middle Eastern media believe the letter is from bin Laden. 'It is an extraordinary glimpse into his mind,' one told The Observer." Who knows? But in some respects, the authenticity of the letter as Osama is less interesting than the fact that even if produced by another Islamist figure or entity, it conveys a very lucid account of what the enemy believes. The "Letter To America" is part Islamist pep-talk, part warning. The author is fighting for the imposition of Islamic law throughout the world. At one point, he addresses America directly:
What are we calling you to, and what do we want from you? (1) The first thing that we are calling you to is Islam. (a) The religion of the Unification of God; of freedom from associating partners with Him, and rejection of this; of complete love of Him, the Exalted; of complete submission to His Laws; and of the discarding of all the opinions, orders, theories and religions which contradict with the religion He sent down to His Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Islam is the religion of all the prophets, and makes no distinction between them - peace be upon them all.
Complete submission to Sharia law. Got that? He is therefore fighting any constitutional arrangement anywhere that provides for freedom of conscience, freedom of speech, separation of Church and state or indeed anything that is not approved by a clerical elite. So that's why they have such an issue with the Constitution of the United States.
SEIN KAMPF: But the other obvious facet of this letter is its Hitlerian anti-Semitism. Palestine is the first issue raised:
The creation and continuation of Israel is one of the greatest crimes, and you are the leaders of its criminals... The creation of Israel is a crime which must be erased. Each and every person whose hands have become polluted in the contribution towards this crime must pay its price, and pay for it heavily.
He means American citizens who, by virtue of living in a democracy, are held personally accountable for the actions of their government in every respect. (I wonder if this means that subjects of Islamic tyrannies are protected from terrorism.) But, of course, America is but a cipher for the real power-brokers. Drum roll, please:
Your law is the law of the rich and wealthy people, who hold sway in their political parties, and fund their election campaigns with their gifts. Behind them stand the Jews, who control your policies, media and economy.
And then there's this spectacular medievalism:
You are the nation that permits Usury, which has been forbidden by all the religions. Yet you build your economy and investments on Usury. As a result of this, in all its different forms and guises, the Jews have taken control of your economy, through which they have then taken control of your media, and now control all aspects of your life making you their servants and achieving their aims at your expense; precisely what Benjamin Franklin warned you against.
As a kicker, there's this assertion: "The people of Palestine are pure Arabs and original Semites." So we have a policy designed to provide living space for "pure Arabs," while exterminating the Jews. Hitler should sue these guys for plagiarism.
KULTURKAMPF: And then there's the indictment of America on the grounds already laid out by Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. We are a moral sewer. Sexual freedom, in particular, is anathema, as it is anathema to most political authoritarians. The way in which free human beings can explore their lives and identities in the private realm of sexual interaction is always threatening to tyrants. Orwell saw the attempt to kill love and sex as central to the totalitarian experiment. The Islamists are no exception. They make our religious scolds look like New Age therapists. What they would do to women who live sexual lives of their own choosing or gay men who do not live in fear or shame is obvious: we would be exterminated. Got that? That's why it's simply incredible to me that socially liberal Americans do not find this war to be of paramount concern. The theocratic right can at least agree with some of what bin Laden says. The following, for example, could easily have been said by Pat Robertson:
Who can forget your President Clinton's immoral acts committed in the official Oval office? After that you did not even bring him to account, other than that he 'made a mistake', after which everything passed with no punishment. Is there a worse kind of event for which your name will go down in history and remembered by nations?... You are a nation that practices the trade of sex in all its forms, directly and indirectly. Giant corporations and establishments are established on this, under the name of art, entertainment, tourism and freedom, and other deceptive names you attribute to it... And because of all this, you have been described in history as a nation that spreads diseases that were unknown to man in the past. Go ahead and boast to the nations of man, that you brought them AIDS as a Satanic American Invention.
If a domestic member of the Christian right had said this, the Left would be all over them. But when Islamists say it, we look the other way.
KILLING FORTUYN: We now know the motive. It wasn't animal rights. It was opposition to Pim Fortuyn's criticism of unassimilated Islamic immigrants. It was an assassination made possible by the fusion of the multi-culti left and the medieval religious right - a fusion that threatens the very future of a free and democratic Europe.
SAN FRANCISCO VALUES: "I would argue that all cultures and civilizations need a force of change, liberalism, and a force of stability, conservatism, to continue to grow. We San Franciscans are innovators in the world of business, culture and yes politics. Like any experimental lab some of the things we create fail to work in the practical day-to-day world. However every country needs such places where new ideas are tested and the edges of personal freedom and social accountability are explored. A San Francisco Democrat" is not a pejorative phrase to me. My "San Francisco values" are not those of the knee-jerk far left, they are of innovation, social and political creativity and personal freedom. I hope Nancy Pelosi will instill some of those ideas in the Democratic party." - this, the case against Ahnold, why "eagles" are inadequate, and more on the Letters Page.
CAMPUS ANTI-SEMITISM WATCH: "Eighty-one countries are represented among the dead and missing in the September 11 disaster. So far, not one Israeli citizen has been listed among the victims. Is it possible that the complex of buildings housing the global center of international business, banking and commerce contained no Israeli citizens on September 11, on a working day morning? ... Under these circumstances the probability that the Israeli Mossad learned of the September 11 attack prior to September 11 looms large The fact that no Israeli citizen was a victim of the Towers’ disaster and the report that Israeli citizens were forewarned looms even larger. This probability diminishes the charge of direct Israeli responsibility for the attack and the racist assumption that Arabs are not intelligent enough or clever enough or technically equipped enough to have executed the very intricate plan with such accuracy. But this probability does raise the very serious question that if the Israeli Mossad knew of the plan and considered it serious enough to warn Israeli citizens to stay away from the Towers on September 11, why were U.S. officials not informed? Or, were they?" - David Graham Du Bois, professor of Afro-American studies at UMass, Amherst. Via Bill Herbert. Hey, Harvard's English Department! Give that guy a job!
NEW YORK TIMES CORRECTION WATCH: Another beaut yesterday:
The Slough Journal article yesterday, about Princess Anne's guilty plea to charges of having lost control of her dog, which bit two children, misstated the timing of what historians say was the most recent previous criminal conviction of a senior member of the royal family. In that case, Charles I was beheaded in 1649 — after the English Civil War, not on the eve of it.
If Charles I had been beheaded before the Civil War, wouldn't that have made the war a little, er, superfluous? Again: high-school history.
Friday, November 22, 2002 THE CHURCH'S HUSH MONEY: How do you prevent the victims of child abuse from telling their stories? By giving them hush money. That's what the Cathiolic Church did in England. The Times of London reports that
The Times has obtained a copy of the agreement that victims had to sign before they were compensated and a leading lawyer said last night: "This is a gagging clause and it would have been taken as such." Some of the agreements relate to the time when Cardinal Murphy O’Connor was Bishop of Arundel and Brighton. Father Hill [a pedophile] was employed as a priest at Gatwick.
First abuse. Then bribes for silence. This church is dying - from the inside out.
THE TIMES VERSUS ISRAEL: I pointed out in my New York Sun and Washington Times column today that a New York Times story yesterday reported the capital of Israel as Tel Aviv. Here's the official correction:
An article yesterday about a man accused of having tried to hijack an El Al plane en route to Istanbul from Tel Aviv on Sunday referred incorrectly to Tel Aviv. It is not the capital of Israel; Jerusalem is.
Two things to note. If the Times' editors need to, they can make a correction within a day. So why do they delay for weeks sometimes on factual matters that are just as simple? Second: how did someone make this mistake? This isn't very sophisticated fact-checking. There are two explanations: the Times doesn't even have basic reporting skills any more or ideological aversion to Israel was a part of the problem. Or both. And to think this was once the paper of record.
KRUGMAN'S NEW LOW: If you want a good example of the sheer partisan degeneracy that now marks Paul Krugman's New York Times columns, check out today's. It's about the rise of nepotism in America's political system. It's a worthwhile point, and one I've made myself on several occasions. But Krugman manages to make it an entirely partisan issue. Every example of nepotism he gives is Republican or conservative, implying a seamless connnection between family favors and his increasingly unhinged idea that America is now in the grip of a brutal plutocracy. He doesn't mention Al Gore or Nancy Pelosi, for example, two of the most prominent Democrats whose families were already in the business. Not to mention the Browns of California. When it comes to obvious examples of liberal aristocrats - the Kennedys, the Roosevelts, the Sulzbergers - he lets them off the hook because they're, er, liberals. The brown-nosing of Sulzberger was particularly egregious. For Krugman, it seems, non-liberal aristocrats are by definition repulsive, since all non-liberals are by definition selfish and cruel and heartless. If you don't believe that the government should be the primary means for helping others, you're immoral. This guy used to have a brain. Now he only seems to have bile.
- 3:05:04 PM LEFTWING DEPRAVITY WATCH: Washington's City Paper just put the following images on its cover: one of John Allen Muhammad, the Washington sniper-terrorist, and Prince William County prosecutor Paul Ebert, who's in charge of the case. The headline? "Alleged Killer, Proven Killer." Guess who's the "proven killer"? And this in the city Muhammad terrorized. Every time you think parts of the left couldn't get any more depraved, they go and do something like this. - 1:44:57 PM
Thursday, November 21, 2002 GORE'S GREAT TIMING: Two headlines from the Washington Post today:
"Gore: Bush Loses Terror Focus 2000 Rival Says Focus on Iraq Aided GOP but Not Nation"
"U.S. Identifies Captured Al Qaeda Official Suspected Head of USS Cole Bombing Caught Earlier This Month"
Still got that winning touch, hasn't he?
A MODEST PROPOSAL: So Harvard is going to re-invite the anti-Semitic poet, Tom Paulin, so he can exercize his right to free speech, (while the Law School considers a new code to prevent its own students from speaking freely). And Wellesley, after much trauma, is going to invite anti-Semitic poet, Amiri Baraka, to speak there as well. (The compromise at Wellesley: Baraka won't be getting an honorarium.) Here's a suggestion: why don't the Ivy League colleges pool their resources and organize a special conference entirely for Jew-haters and anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists? All in the cause of free speech, you understand.
THE BBC SPINS FOR HAMAS: Here's the key paragraph from the BBC's news story on the latest Hamas terrorist attck, killing many children in a bus bombing:
Hamas, whose immediate aim is to secure an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, has claimed responsibility for the majority of attacks against Israeli targets since the Palestinian uprising against occupation began two years ago.
"Immediate aim?" Since when has Hamas made such fine distinctions? Hamas has one aim: the destruction of the state of Israel, the murder of all Jews, and the establishment of an Islamo-fascist state in Palestine. Why would the BBC seek to soften this reality in the wake of another horrifying attack? Stupid question, I suppose.
HAIRIER THAN THOU: When I first saw the headline, I feared Jonah Goldberg had been at the Jagermeister again. Mercifully, he's innocent. But this story about a duel over hairy bottoms strikes me as a new low in Maxim culture. Or maybe it's just the beginning of a new reality television show.
A DUBIOUS ZOGBY POLL: The Human Rights Campaign, the leading gay rights group, has just sponsored a poll to find out how gays voted in the last election. I don't buy the results. The headline number - the percentage of voters who are gay - seems plausible. At 5 percent of the electorate, it's at the high range of previous studies, but not excessively so. The breakdown of voting, though, seems highly implausible. HRC, which, despite a few token Republicans on its board, is essentially an extension of the Democratic Party establishment, puts the gay GOP vote this year at a mere 19 percent. This would be an astonishing reversal of recent trends. Every VNS exit poll of the last ten years or so has shown gays' support for Republican Congressional candidates to be somewhere in the region of 25 to 35 percent. In 2000, it was at its highest - 35 percent - and no election in the 1990s saw a decline in gay GOP support. So why a decline of almost 50 percent in one election? Add to this the fact that clearly there was a GOP swing this time around, and the 19 percent is preposterous on its face. The methodology is probably at fault; the sample size is a mere 412 people - far far fewer than the samples culled from exit polls. I don't think HRC or Zogby would rig the results. But this poll strikes me as essentially worthless. I wonder how much money HRC poured into it.
ISLAM MEANS PEACE II: Now they're gunning down missionaries helping pregnant women.
THE CHURCH'S MORAL AUTHORITY: Remind me why I should give a damn what Cardinal Law says about the morality of war against Iraq. Or why I should take him seriously when he says my relationship is an intrinsic evil. Loving another man is forbidden; but abusing children can be overlooked. The Guardian's Hugo Young put it well:
There are many ironies and contradictions in its position. For most Catholics none will strike with such exquisite and even risible pain as the spectacle of an institution, the Vatican, that has done so much damage over so many years by telling people, on pain of mortal sin, how they should lead their sexual lives, itself now demanding that the sexual perversion of priests should be forgiven and forgotten.
Young forgets. There's one Catholic morality for the clergy; and another for everyone else.
EMINEM, REALIST: Forget Richard Goldstein's sad rants. Here's an article that actually makes some sense to me, in linking Eminem's success to a broader cultural trend. Crispin Sartwell calls it the "new realism." He has a point:
That’s what Eminem’s whole career has been: an absolute commitment to parade his demons and his flaws publicly, an absolute determination to say what no one else will say, to tell his own truth. This entails that what he says is, at times, horrible. And we see his bigotries as well as his creativity, his stupidities and blindness as well as his intense intelligence and courage. Eminem is wrong about homosexuality and wrong about women (though so right about race). But that very wrongness is part of what makes him true, because he says it. I predict that we have seen almost the last of Britney Spears and Al Gore, and are in for some real moments.
I think that gets at something in the culture right now. We're tired of phoniness. Eminem, South Park, the blogosphere: they're real, man. - 10:26:27 PM ISLAM MEANS PEACE: Another example of sectarian violence by religious extremists in Nigeria. A newspaper dared run a quote that ran afoul of the Islamofascists. So they rioted. Oh yes, and "jihad" means internal, peaceful struggle against temptation. That's when it doesn't mean stabbing, burning and dumping other human beings on the streets. UPDATE: Now fifty are feared dead in the rioting. - 1:47:55 PM A SYMPOSIUM: What do you do when your emails are better than anything you could write yourself? Shamelessly pilfer them! A readers' symposium on the whole question of gay-straight male interaction is posted here. From the showers to the bunkers, from women and straight men and gay men - in the military and outside it - the emails came pouring in. Peruse at will. - 12:08:12 PM
Wednesday, November 20, 2002 IMMIGRANTS FOR WAR: Could "Eagle" immigrants derail the Democrats? Why Fox News is simply better than CNN, regardless of issues of bias, and more. All on the Letters Page. - 10:19:26 PM IN BRITAIN TOO: The Catholic church has been covering up the abuse of children in Britain as well. Here's yet another harrowing story about a pedophile priest, protected by those who run the Church. This one is even more distressing because two of this monster's victims - aged between 10 and 14 - were disabled. One was in a wheelchair and the other had cerebral palsy. This evil just beggars belief. But the men in charge, who knew of this and did nothing, remain protected by the Vatican. Of course they are. At this point, protecting and defending evil seems to be a Church priority. Anything but surrender ecclesiastical power.
THE REAL KURT COBAIN: "I like to make incisions into the belly of infants then fuck the incisions until the child dies." This is in Kurt Cobain's diaries. And there's a lot where that came from. Yes, he was a heroin addict. Yes these are just sexual or other kinds of fantasies. But why did Newsweek bury this? I guess you don't mess with the image of a cover-worthy pop-idol. That would be journalism.
ANOTHER MOORE LIE? The Canadian government is investigating whether Michael Moore, the leftist hate-monger, fabricated part of his movie, "Bowling for Columbine." In the movie, Moore buys ammunition from a Wal-Mart in Canada. He just walks in, plonks some cash down and gets bullets. The National Post reports:
David Austin, a spokesman for the Department of Justice, says, "You would have to show some ID ... What is unfortunate is there is misinformation out there - not only for viewers who see the movie in Canada but the rest of the world - that it is relatively easy to buy ammunition in Canada, and that is not the case."
So did Moore edit out that part? Or did Wal-Mart break the law? Moore won't respond.
END THE BAN: Only W could do this. And he should. The Washington Post - now the most authoritative editorial board in the country - lays it on the line. The Daily Show had a more amusing take on the firing of gay Arab linguists in the military:
Kudos to top Army's brass for intercepting this axis of fabulousness before it could do any real damage. Yes, we're in a war on terror. Yes, intelligence is the key to winning this war. Yes, Arabic translating is the key to intelligence. But they're gay. ... They make kissy with their own kind. Is that really the kind of person you want with you in wartime translating situation? Would you really be comfortable side by side with a gay person hunkered down in a fox hole or cubicle, office park, really would you?
Yuk. Who cares about terrorism when we have our own scapegoats to hound?
CAMPUS ANTI-SEMITISM WATCH: The Lebanon Daily Star reports on the comments of one Hisham Sharabi, a professor of Arab Culture at Georgetown University. He was speaking at Balamand University. His view: "Jews are getting ready to take control of us and the Americans have entered the region to possess the oil resources and redraw the geopolitical map of the Arab world ... However, in the long run, neither the Jews nor Americans will be able to subdue us for we are not (Native Americans)." This anti-American Jew-hater is on the faculty of a major American university. One question: why?
- 10:04:11 PM MAN OF THE PEOPLE: How does Fidel Castro live in the land of Communist equality? For the first time, in a stolen videotape from a girlfriend of his son, we have a clue. The video has been running on Univision:
Monday's episode showed Mr Castro dressed casually before a banquet, inspecting the elaborate dinnerware on the dinner table, his grandchildren playing with relatives and Antonio zooming along the patio on an electric scooter. It pictures the spacious compound and carefully landscaped garden and reveals that many of the family are wearing designer clothes. The house is decorated with wooden chests and Cuban handicrafts. A large-screen television monitors foreign news channels.
Read "Animal Farm" lately?
RICE ON RACE: "The fact of the matter is, race matters in America. It has, it always has ... It is not that I mind being associated with the group. I am African-American and proud of it. I wouldn't have it any other way. And it has shaped who I am and it will continue to shape who I am. I do not believe it has limited who I am or what I can become. And that's because I had parents who, while telling me what it meant to be African-American and exposing me to that, also allowed me to develop as an individual to be who I wanted to be." - Condi Rice, quoted in Derrick Z. Jackson's column in the Boston Globe today. - 11:59:58 AM OUT ON A LIMB: When the New York Times editor and publisher decide to get out of their Manhattan liberal cocoon and face their critics, where do they go? Berkeley. The only place in the solar system where they think the Times is biased to the right. - 12:43:59 AM BEGALA AWARD NOMINEE: "The legacy of Harry Potter in popular culture remains to be seen - those who'd burn the books as demonic are encouraged to get library cards pronto - but at present, despite its sophomoric awkwardness, the film of Chamber of Secrets is a welcome delivery of childlike wonder for a planet of ever-increasing ugliness. We've accidentally allowed a retarded monkey to rule America, but otherwise it's not such a whimsical place. Perhaps works like this can help set that to rights." - Gregory Weinkauf, Dallas Observer. What must it feel like to lose an election to a retarded monkey?
AHNOLD THE EAGLE: Schwarzenegger is surely the Eagle candidate par excellence. He claims that he's very socially liberal, backs legalized abortion, some gun control measures and gay adoption. But he's a foreign policy hawk and a small government conservative. Wouldn't it be wonderful if the real Kennedy comeback was via an Austrian steroidal import?
ARE YOU HOT? A new sign of where television is headed: a TV version of the online "Am I Hot or Not?". One suggestion to the producers. Can you add a gay man and a lesbian to your panels of judges? It would enliven the show, add new perspectives, and help show straight men, for example, that it's not so terrifying to be viewed as a sexually attractive human being by another guy. (By the way: I've been overwhelmed with some eye-opening emails on gays-and-straights in the military. I'm putting together a piece tying them together. I hope to post it soon. Thanks for your candor.)
THE YOUNG AND WAR: I've been impressed by George W. Bush's support among the young. Maybe it's not as anomalous as I thought. Here's a study by blogger Jim Miller that shows how the young were consistently more supportive of the Vietnam War than their elders - throughout the conflict.
SONTAG AWARD NOMINEE: "The nation is faced with 'a fascist takeover of the American government,' Stahl says. The Bush administration is colluding with corporations to use the war to hold its grip on power, Stahl says. 'It's a way to keep the citizenry repressed,' he says." - professor Frank Stahl of the University of Oregon, quoted in the Eugene Weekly. Stahl, by the way, won one of the coveted "leftist genius" awards from the MacArthur Foundation.
WHAT CONSERVATIVES MISS TODAY: My Bradley lecture, given earlier this month, has just been transcribed by the American Enterprise Institute. It's posted here. It's about the relevance of Michael Oakeshott to contemporary conservatism. A couple of caveats: especially in the question and answer section, this is obviously not a vetted scholarly text. My only notes - apart from quotes - were scribbled on a postcard. I hope to nail it down and turn it into a real essay this winter. Until then, please treat the lecture as an extemporaneous work-in-progress. And forgive occasional grammatical (and other) errors. Here's a pull-quote:
What I think modern conservatives sometimes miss in their legitimate calls for morality and the need for human beings as personalities and as people to live up to certain moral norms is also the joy of character, or personality, of the things that make us love another person. We don't always love another person because he or she is virtuous. We sometimes love another person because of their faults. We love them because of their idiosyncracies. And yet it takes, often, until the memorial service before we actually acknowledge this particular reality. And Oakeshott saw that love of humanity in all its difference as one of the critical projects of a liberal political order. He looked around at people and saw them as things to be cherished, in contrast to those who would look at human beings and see them as something to be corrected or corralled or instructed or uplifted or informed. This is the real conservative definition of diversity ... the joyous variety of humankind, the beautiful difference that exists in our culture and the ability to cherish difference without being panicked by the possibility of inequality.
MOORE'S LIES: A Spinsanity take-down of Michael Moore that's well worth absorbing. The usually sober authors describe Moore as someone who "uses lies, distortions, and nonsensical arguments to mask cheap attacks and promote his own political agenda." Not exactly news, of course.
WHAT WOULD JESUS DRIVE? I asked for it. One reader posited that Jesus favored a certain Eastern bloc auto. As in John 8:11, where Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn Yugo." Others found evidence of Old Testament bias in favor of an old Hudson Hornet: "I will send Hornets before you," God promised in Exodus 23:28. Then there was this effort:
Moses drove an Acura which he kept in excellent condition, since when he died, "his sight was unimpaired and his Vigor had not abated." It is clear that Pharaoh did not keep his Dodge in the garage during bad weather, for after his famous dreams, "in the morning his Spirit was troubled." Dodges were very popular among the entire populace in ancient Egypt, since when Moses asked the Israelites to pack into their car and leave Egypt, "they would not listen to Moses because of their broken Spirit." The Dodge continued to be the car of the upper class right through turn of the century Jerusalem, when the priests and scribes "conspired to arrest Jesus by Stealth." The apostles could not afford Dodges, however, and had to make due with Hyundais, as evidenced by the fact that Peter was identified as a follower of Jesus when the bystanders said to him, "Certainly you are also one of them, for your Accent betrays you." God himself likes to give Mazdas as gifts, proof of which is that in Numbers 31, "Moses gave the Tribute, the offerring for the Lord, to Eleazar the priest, as the Lord had commanded." For his own wheels, God drives a Plymouth when he wages war, as the prophet Zechariah proclaimed, "Then the Lord will appear over them, and his Arrow will go forth like lightning." But there can be no doubt that when God is in the mood for a nice leisurely drive, nothing but a Rolls Royce Silver Dawn will suffice, which makes him the envy of world leaders as Isaiah makes quite clear when he says of the Lord, "Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your Dawn."
Tuesday, November 19, 2002 WHAT WOULD JESUS DRIVE?: Here's a suggestion:
One theory is that Jesus would tool around in an old Plymouth because "the Bible says God drove Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden in a Fury." But in Psalm 83, the Almighty clearly owns a Pontiac and a Geo. The passage urges the Lord to "pursue your enemies with your Tempest and terrify them with your Storm." Perhaps God favors Dodge pickup trucks, because Moses' followers are warned not to go up a mountain "until the Ram's horn sounds a long blast." Some scholars insist that Jesus drove a Honda but didn't like to talk about it. As proof, they cite a verse in St. John's gospel where Christ tells the crowd. "For I did not speak of my own Accord..." Meanwhile, Moses rode an old British motorcycle, as evidenced by a Bible passage declaring that "the roar of Moses' Triumph is heard in the hills." Joshua drove a Triumph sports car with a hole in its muffler: "Joshua's Triumph was heard throughout the land." And, following the Master's lead, the Apostles car pooled in a Honda... "The Apostles were in one Accord."
More bad puns on this theme are hereby eagerly solicited. - 12:36:09 PM THE AILES MEMO: Mr Raines had a heyday. Two full stories about a Washington Post scoop? Well, it's forgivable. I'll say it here loud and proud: Fox News is obviously biased toward the right. It's simply loopy to pretend otherwise. Ailes' attempt to deny the bleeding obvious is just pathetic. It's like listening to O'Reilly pretend he's in a no-spin zone. It's embarrassing, and undermines their credibility on everything else. But I see no difference between Fox's bias and, say, the New York Times'. And if you want evidence for that, then today's two-story gloat is Exhibit A. (Good Raines suck-up, by the way, Alessandra. But to get MoDo's op-ed space, we need more conspiracy theories.) In fact, I think the Times is marginally more skewed toward the left - to the extent of literally censoring the news, ignoring or rigging polls, making errors based on ideological bias, and generally turning the paper into a crib-sheet for Democratic activists - than Fox is to the right. But it's a close call. Why doesn't Fox just admit this and make a virtue out of it? "The Antidote to Liberal Bias" would be a good slogan. Then we'd all be able to stop laughing when the Foxies pretend to be neutral. - 12:11:57 PM WHAT WOULD JESUS DRIVE? I'd say a camel, if he were lucky. Wouldn't you? - 12:16:59 AM PELOSI AS CONSERVATIVE CATHOLIC: One indication might be her position on abortion. But a perusal of her record shows her to have voted for any type of abortion anywhere any time for anyone. She even supports partial birth abortion. Conservative Catholic? If you have any data supporting this assertion of hers, please let me know. I've put a call in to her office asking for details. When I get any, I'll report back.
WAS IT WORTH IT? Are you kidding? Here's an account from the Guardian - yes, the Guardian - hailing American intervention in Afghanistan as a signal achievement against the forces of human darkness. Good for liberal Polly Toynbee for seeing what we eagles have long argued: that American military power is overwhelmingly a force for moral good in the world, and we should stop pretending otherwise. Here's a typical paragraph:
At the Woman to Woman centre, 20 women of all ages were sitting on the floor, all them with burkas left hanging on pegs by the door. Despite the absence of outward change, were things getting better for them now that the Taliban had gone? There was a spontanteous chorus of cries, hands raised in the air, laughter, sighing, exclamations - my translator could not keep up with their energetic assertions that life had changed beyond recognition. This relative liberation - freedom to walk outside for many who had never left their one room in years - was hard to imagine. "I never saw the light of day in five years!" one widow said.
We need to remember one important thing: much of the anti-war left wanted to do nothing in Afghanistan. They were rightly ignored then. The same people need to be treated with extreme skepticism now.
THEOCONS VERSUS THE CHURCH: I tend to agree with this essay by George Weigel, defending war against Iraq within the Catholic Church's just war tradition. He even argues that some clerics may not be the best candidates for figuring out questions of public morality:
There is a charism or gift of political discernment unique to the vocation of public service. That charism is not shared by bishops, moderators, rabbis, imams or inter-religious agencies. Moral clarity in a time of war demands moral seriousness from public officials. It also demands a measure of political modesty from religious leaders and public intellectuals, in the give-and-take of democratic deliberation.
Couldn't agree more. But isn't this a pretty flagrant dissent from Church teaching? And isn't Weigel one of the key intellectual supporters of enforcing Church orthodoxy on everyone, especially in the academy, who dare to question official Church teachings? That's one of my beefs with the theocons. They want strict orthodoxy on practical issues that have no deep moral meaning, like a celibate priesthood, but feel free to dissent openly on war, economics and social justice. Am I the only one to find their position just a little bit too easy?
WHY GAYS SHOULD STAY SILENT: An email from a rank and file soldier on the military gay ban. It speaks for itself. I'm sure the guy's being honest; and I'm equally sure that antipathy toward gay men and a pathological fear of being "looked at" by them is common among military recruits. Here's his email:
I'm afraid I must disagree with the separated gay officer. When he said that "the rank-and-file" had no problem with gay personnel, he was exercising in some wishful thinking. Perhaps, as an officer, he had blinders on. It is a definite truth that our officers are in many ways unaware of aspects of the enlisted culture. I am the Navy "rank-and-file", an E-5 with nine years of service. And, just so you don't think I'm some kind of troublemaker, I also outrank my peers on ALL of my performance evaluations since I entered service. I'm not saying it's right, but most of my peers have a definite and obvious dislike of male homosexuals. Openly gay personnel would have a negative effect on good order and discipline and some of them would get HURT. Most personnel I have met and worked with seem generally satisfied with current Navy policy (though some would surely like to see a return to openly violent attitudes against gays). Many people say that gays are "alright", AS LONG AS THEY KEEP IT TO THEMSELVES. Then the discussions degenerate into descriptions of the retaliation they would visit on any gay member who dared to make overtures or even look at them crossways. I have a gay friend who was outed by a drunken boyfriend two years ago. We decided to just keep it amongst our "clique." But you would not believe the sense of crisis it created when it first came out. There were arguments, recriminations ... total chaos in our circle of friends. Sadly, two of my other friends simply refused to continue any relationship with our gay friend. If he came to my home or one of our hangouts, they made a big show of leaving. The only reason things did not become far worse is because this is a guy we FOUGHT beside. When I was behind on rent, he was there with his checkbook. When I got jumped in a foreign port, he was wading into the fray. Had he been a little less close or a little less brave and generous, he would probably be out of friends. I am not gay. I do not want to serve with the openly gay, since it would cause a great disruption of accusations, harassment, and possible violence. And let me make this clear ... I am not projecting my own opinions onto my fellows. We have been discussing this since I walked onboard my first ship. We may put a PC face on things, but when all the masks finally come off, the consensus is...DON'T ASK, DON'T TELL.
A couple of comments. How is this different from racial hatred once common, now clearly forbidden in the military? Notice the problem is not gay conduct, but merely the fact that someone is gay. So the behavior issue of gays doesn't really come into play. And you can strongly forbid sexual behavior among the ranks, and I'd have no problem throwing anyone out who disobeyed this rule. Nope. This is pure hatred of the other; and it's so prevalent that the military has decided that hating homosexuals is a critical cohesive element in America's armed services. That's the reality; and we might as well face it. The military actually endorses this kind of hate; and certainly wouldn't protect gay soldiers from the vengeance of their violent peers. That's why soldiers have actually been killed on base. By American soldiers.
IN THE SHOWERS: But the issue that genuinely perplexes me is the fear and panic that many straight men display when they think another man might find them attractive. I can understand why they might find this awkward or unwelcome - but I don't understand the violent emotions this kind of thing triggers. When a woman finds me attractive, I'm flattered, even though there's always a little discomfort. But I don't want to beat her up or kill her. So why is that so often the reaction among straight men toward gay men? Is it because they're afraid of being raped? C'mon. Assuming all gay men - or even any - are potential rapists is completely loopy. (And the same people who make this bizarre argument would scoff at a woman who screamed rape if a man looked at her in a sexually interested way.) Nevertheless, big, brawny straight guys - in the military no less! - scream like six year olds the minute they suspect a gay guy might find them sexy. I don't understand it. Are straight guys that insecure? Again, it doesn't strike me as an aversion to intimate contact between men as such. That happens all the time. Some football crazies just shoved a Sharpie pen up one of their team-member's butt. What straight guys do on submarines on long trips makes Provincetown look positively repressed. No, it's something deeper than that. These guys are not afraid of Saddam Hussein; they fight terrible wars; they've gone through rigorous training. But they're terrified of fags. Could someone please tell me why this isn't absurd.
THOSE CRUDE BRITS: A reader sends me a Lionel Trilling quote about the impolite English, as an early observation of what I was writing about here. It's from Trilling's introduction to Orwell's "Homage to Catalonia:
Whatever the the legend to the contrary, the English character is more strongly marked than ours, less reserved, less ironic, more open in its expression of willfulness and eccentricity and cantakerousness. Its manners are cruder and bolder. It is a demonstrative character - it shows itself, even shows off. Santayana, when he visisted England, quite gave up the common notion that Dickens' characters are caricatures. One can still meet an English snob so thunderingly shameless in his worship of the aristocracy, so explicit and demonstrative in his adoration, that a careful, modest ironic American snob would be quite bewildered by him.
Even crass in their snobbery. What rubes and provincials the British often are.
BEGALA AWARD NOMINEE: "It's a rhetorical question with no response required ... Suppose there was such a thing as a time machine. Suppose all the bad-guy Germans of the 1930s and 1940s - the Gestapo, the Brownshirts, the Blackshirts - were fed into the time machine and emerged as modern-day Americans. Suppose they all still held the beliefs they had when they died. So my question is, Which political party would they support now, Democratic or Republican? Just wondering." - Harley Sorenson, San Francisco liberal. - 12:16:11 AM
Monday, November 18, 2002 CONSERVATIVES AGAINST THE GAY BAN: Finally, National Review sees the light. By maintaining Bill Clinton's failed 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, president Bush is directly weakening our war on terror. - 4:16:32 PM SCARY KITTEN WATCH: This brightened my day.
ANOTHER NYT CORRECTION: This time, a thoroughly dishonest one.
SAN FRANCISCO DEMOCRATS: A reader nails it:
All you need to know about the reason people hate San Francisco values is hanging from the roof at The City Lights Book Store on Broadway and Columbus. A series of huge banners each with a picture and a word. The old banner "Dissent is not un-American" apparently lost its appeal. The new one "Resist War and War Makers" has the burning World Trade Centers photo on the banner with the word War and Bush's photo on the one with the word "Makers". Moral equivalency at its most sickening.
And they wonder why they lost the election. - 4:06:12 PM HOW SICK WAS JFK? I can see why Bill Safire is a little pissed. There’s no question now that president John F. Kennedy was an extremely sick man when he was president. The sheer mood swings that are inevitably accompanied by massive amphetamine addiction, testosterone injections, sleeping pills, and any number of other painkillers would render most of us difficult to live with (I have my moments on HIV medication), let alone give someone the steady judgment required for being president of the United States. I guess we won’t know for a while just how incapacitated President Kennedy was. Much of the telling archive material is still protected by a phalanx of Kennedy stalwarts who make the Vatican and the old Soviet Politburo look forthcoming. But it matters. The full extent of Kennedy’s physical impairment and the deception, lies and diversions it required are surely an important part of the historical record. I just don’t buy the idea that this level of medication had no effect on the government of the country. It must have. The question now for historians is: how much? And what difference did it specifically make?
POWELL'S BURDEN OF PROOF: The secretary of state clearly has a responsibility now. He must ensure that the U.N. inspections regime is a real one; that it isn't just another exercise in the world's pretending to do something while actually doing nothing to defang Saddam. The signs are not good. I think I have as much confidence in Hans Blix as I do in Jimmy Carter. At the same time, I can see why the administration has decided to go the U.N. route. It helps legitimize the police action; and calls the bluff of those who profess to believe in international security but have no intention of enforcing it. But if we find no weapons of mass destruction by February, if sanctions are then lifted, and another terrorist strike occurs with Iraqi-purloined weapons, Colin Powell will bear some of the responsibility for letting it happen. He must know this. Which is why he has to exercise maximum pressure on the inspectors for their work to be real and tough and genuine. This is not, in Tom Friedman's fatuous phrase, a "war of choice." It's a war of necessity - to protect Western citizens from weapons of mass destruction wielded by religious fanatics and their governmental enablers. That's why avoiding it without solving the underlying problem of Saddam's weapons will actually make war more likely in the long run, and far, far more dangerous.
PELOSI A CONSERVATIVE CATHOLIC? That's what she's claiming. Can someone ask her exactly how conservative she is? Does she oppose women priests? Does she oppose married priests? Does she favor allowing gay priests to serve openly and chastely? These are all good questions - and I'm befuddled why no one has asked them. Unless, of course, this is transparent spin and she's fibbing. But Democratic leaders don't do that, do they?
SAN FRANCISCO DEMOCRAT: Several liberal commentators have voiced concern that the phrase "San Francisco Democrat" is a not-too-subtle piece of anti-gay smearing. Here's my take: they have a smidgen of a point. There's no question that if you use the words "San Francisco Anything," some people will immediately think of homosexuals. But the phrase and the city also surely have connotations far beyond that. I find "San Francisco Democrats" as a phrase truly horrifying, for example, and I'm not thinking of gay equality. In my mind, the phrase conjures up all the illiberalism, puritanism, groupthink, and humor-free incompetence that has made San Francisco unlivable for many people. And I don't think I'm anti-gay. (Richard Goldstein obviously disagrees.) Plenty of gay residents of San Francisco feel the same way about their hyper-liberal metropolis. Others, like this reader, see the issue more broadly:
I was born (in 1956) and raised in San Francisco and my family still lives there. I still commute to work there daily. The term "San Francisco Democrat" refers to the Burton Machine and what it has done to the City. Once Burton, Brown, Feinstein, Boxer, Pelosi are through, perhaps Shelley, Newsom and other native sons and daughters, from the Castro and the other districts, will make the City great again.
Not much homophobia there. To me, Jeanne Kirkpatrick's use of the phrase was also primarily about foreign policy and the Democratic Party Convention there. And it's the isolationist, blame-America-first attitude of the parts of the Left that mainly gives the phrase its meaning. That's why Nancy Pelosi deserves the label. She is simply not someone you can trust with the national security of this country. I'm grateful for some of my colleagues' squeamishness about this. But I think they're protesting a mite too much.
BEGALA AWARD NOMINEE: "That is why the cheerleaders of the new imperialism — The Weekly Standard, The Washington Times, The Wall Street Journal editorial page — are uneasy. They worry that Mr. Bush has been Blixed. They may be right. But is that such a bad thing?" - Bill Keller, New York Times. Keller knows better than this. He wrote a great Times magazine cover-story on the danger posed by weapons of mass destruction. Removing the threat of their getting into the hands of terrorists is not a function of a "new imperialism," it's a function of an old idea, namely self-defense. You may disagree with it and think that we have nothing to worry about from a future (or currrent) al Qaeda-Saddam alliance, but equating Baghdad regime change with imperialism is a cheap shot, a sop to the Raines orthodoxy and below Keller's usual high standards. (By the way, have you noticed how MoDo hasn't mentioned the "Boy Emperor" since the election? Instead, we've been treated to silly digressions about royal butlers and Saudi drivers. She's not waving, she's drowning.)
USEFUL IDIOT WATCH: No, this is not a parody of West Marin country. Or San Francisco Democrats.
THE CLYMER CORRECTION: "An article last Sunday about the Bush family's political successes reversed the relationship between Presidents William Henry Harrison and Benjamin Harrison. Benjamin Harrison was William Henry Harrison's grandson. The article also referred incorrectly to the political failures of Franklin D. Roosevelt's sons. While two of them — Franklin Jr. and James — indeed lost statewide elections, both served in Congress." - the New York Times, Sunday.
THE JANOVSKY CORRECTION: "An article on Thursday about comments on the midterm elections made at a political forum by Karl Rove, the Bush administration's chief political strategist, misstated the question to which he responded, "I'm more concerned about the 3,000 who died on 9/11." The questioner had asked whether he was concerned about 200,000 people who she said marched in Washington against a war with Iraq — not about concerns that 200,000 innocent Iraqis might die in an American-led invasion." - the New York Times, Saturday. Here's the original: "The audience included several dozen protesters who held signs critical of various issues, including war against Iraq. But they were largely quiet and respectful. In the question-and-answer session, a woman politely asked Mr. Rove if the administration was concerned over the possibility that 200,000 innocent Iraqis might die in an American-led invasion. Mr. Rove responded, 'I'm more concerned about the 3,000 who died on 9/11.'" Now this was simple notebook reporting. Was reporter Michael Janovsky there? If he was, how on earth did he hear something that simply wasn't asked? Some of these Times liberals don't just have blinders on, they wear ear-plugs.
ANOTHER VICTORY FOR PREJUDICE: An email from a gay former serviceman:
I served in the Navy as a surface warfare officer and nuclear engineer for almost 8 years. As a gay man, I left the Navy once my obligation was complete since I was not personally comfortable with the military policy nor would I - as a Naval officer - feel that I could enforce that policy towards my subordinates without sacrificing my personal integrity. The rank and file and young officer leadership did not have issue with gay servicemembers, even in the close confines of shipboard and submarine life. It seems that the anti-gay policies and enforcement thereof reside within the senior military and civilian leadership, even among so-called "liberal" officers. Within some smaller communities of the military, being openly gay is perfectly acceptable at first glance, then with an unfortunate chain of events a crackdown occurs - just like what happened at the Defense Language Institute. The bottom line is that the military is losing some of its best and brightest. In my case, most of my superiors requested that I remain in the service, having been consistently ranked above my peers, and that I had the command of a ship and perhaps flag rank in my future. But I left, and of course I could not tell them the real reason why. Don't ask, don't tell....
Saturday, November 16, 2002 IDIOCY OF THE WEEK: It's about Eminem and it's up at Salon.
FIRING WHITES: A British R & B atrist is being pressured to drop his white guitarist in order to placate black fans in the U.S. Can you imagine this even being considered, let alone aired this way, if the races were reversed? Good for the singer for resisting.
IS THE TIMES GETTING FAIRER? Blogger Tacitus notes new balance in a story today. Here's the sentence:
Paul C. Light, an expert on the federal bureaucracy at New York University and the Brookings Institution, the liberal-leaning research group, called the administration's policy "an aggressive and a dramatic extension" of the effort by both parties at all levels of government to save money and improve the quality of public services.
Credit where it's due. Is the blogosphere making a difference? - 2:56:28 PM
Friday, November 15, 2002 BEGALA AWARD NOMINEE: "[Bush's] selection as President by the Supreme Court in 2000 was a presidential and judicial coup. Progressives may believe this coup stains his Administration as illegitimate, but apparently he and his inner group take it as leave to cast aside the Bill of Rights and international law. Now the President is out of control and threatens American democracy and the peace of the world. At home, there is mounting evidence that we are living in a land ruled by a crypto-fascist government: The FBI spies on law-abiding political organizations and churches, citizens are deputized to spy and inform on one another, an underground parallel executive government has been activated, lawyer-client consultations are bugged, the government keeps citizens locked up without lawyers or hearings and talks of using the military to police the United States, and the Pentagon is making a vast database of the American people. We are being cudgeled into agreeing to wars of aggression, to make first use of nuclear weapons and to put weapons in outer space." - Ronnie Dugger, the Nation.
- 5:02:33 PM THE REPUBLICAN SWEEP: The Onion's people-on-the-street respond. i especially like speech pathologist Elaine Dorner's answer. - 3:17:10 PM BLOCK THOSE METAPHORS: "Someone has to fight back to relieve the consumer as the one-armed economist holding up GDP. The Fed's pushing on an interest-rate string may be able to keep households buying new cars with zero financing and redoing their kitchens with home equity loans. But business spending won't get off the dime so long as Washington keeps giving business good reasons for lying down and not getting up." - Wall Street Journal, today. - 1:56:06 PM AL GORE, SOCIALIST: The final move in Al Gore's shift to the left came last week, according to ABCNews.com's The Note. He has now formally abandoned his earlier centrist position on healthcare and plumped for a Canadian single-payer system of the kind specifically avoided by Clinton. It's good to know that this is the new Gore: statist, populist, and the most left-wing member of the current group of Democratic contenders. Maybe he should take a look at yet another story from Britain's vaunted National Health Service. Here's a testimony from a man who is still attached to the idea of collectivist healthcare, but who saw what it means when it mattered most. He needed urgent radiotherapy for a brain tumor. Nuh-huh:
[T]he best estimate I could get from the NHS was a six week wait. I have medical insurance through my employer and I am lucky enough to now have started privately arranged treatment on Wednesday, less than two weeks after my diagnosis. There are thousands of cases like mine every year in this country and most will not have that option.
Notice that in Britain, if you actually need good care, you have to both pay higher taxes and get private insurance - for healthcare inferior to much that is available here. This is what Al Gore wants to bring to America. At least now we know.
THE MILITARY'S GIFT TO TERRORISTS: A case study in how anti-gay prejudice is undermining the war on terror. Meanwhile, an email from a younger generation shows how dated this bigotry is:
An anecdote from a service academy. A majority of the upperclassmen that I've talked to here at the Naval Academy have no problem with openly gay service members. (Many of the freshmen, or plebes, who've just been through a full summer of intense physical training and indoctrination, are not yet so open to the idea.) This being my first semester here, the sample of my students is statistically meaningless, of course, but it still surprised the hell out of me. These kids seem to understand a few things that their superiors don't.
And that's without any guidance as to integrating gay soldiers. The real question is: how much more damage will we do to our national defense by hanging on to what Dick Cheney called an "old chestnut" a long decade ago?
UH-OH: Slate's Chris Suellentrop on Nancy Pelosi: "While it's true that Pelosi's views, particularly on war and foreign policy, are out of step with much of the American public's, they're right in the mainstream of what House Democrats believe." Okay. I feel better now.
LOSERS' HALL OF FAME: Time's Matt Cooper emails to point out that George McGovern briefly ran for president in 1984 and lost in the Massachusetts Democratic primary. He'd already lost the 49 other states in 1972. I'm not sure primaries count. So Mondale gets an edge. But it's close!
AN ONION CLASSIC: This is roughly how I feel when the p.c. police tell us not to jump to any rash conclusions about anti-American Islamic converts who shoot up innocents in suburbs. Who's to say they're terrorists, after all?
MORE BUTS: A reader notices some other lacunae in Saddam's deranged letter to the U.N.:
I think you've missed another key indication in the letter of Saddam's true intentions. Many times when the letter mentions allowing the inspectors into Iraq it includes language referring to international law. For example: "We are eager to see them perform their duties in accordance with the international law," and "let the inspectors come to Baghdad to carry out their duties in accordance with the law." The key to understanding these references, I think, is in the last substantive paragraph of the letter, in which the writer promises "to forward another letter to you on a later date, in which I shall state our observations the measures and procedures, contained in SCR 1441 that are contrary to international law . . . ." It seems clear to me that the letter is designed to build into the "acceptance" of the inspectors an escape hatch, whereby if the inspectors actually demand the access that the U.N. Resolution requires, Iraq can refuse on the ground that the demands are inconsistent with "international law." All in all, the letter looks like another in a long line of Iraq's pattern of loudly proclaiming "yes" while quietly adding conditions that make it really a "no."
Thursday, November 14, 2002 BUT, BUT, BUT: Absorbing the Iraqi letter to the U.N. is a surreal experience. It reads a little like those notes from the Washington snipers. No eighth grader would be proud of its syntax or even its spelling. Whatever else it is, it surely isn't the product of a serious government with actual policies and actual members. It's the note that might be wriiten by a psychopath - full of inane self-grandeur, stupid threats, excessive Unabomber-style rhetoric and any number of Nazi-like references to the "Zionist entity." If you got a letter like this in the mail, you'd call the cops. My favorite piece of rhetorical weirdness: "We shall see when remorse will not do any good for those who bite on their fingers." Ohhhhh-kay. I point this out because some people insist on arguing that we are dealing with an actual state, a legitimate government, or an erratic but familiar kind of leader. We're not. We're dealing with a psychopathic megalomaniac. Which is why we have to assume that everything he says is a lie; and yet we also have to assume that amid these pathological lies there might by a smidgen of truth. We need criminal psychologists, not diplomats.
THE BOTTOM LINE: I count three essential "buts" in the "letter." Here's the first:
But we will not forget, nor should others do, that safeguarding our people's dignity, security, independence, and protecting our country, its sovereignty and sublime values, is as a sacred duty in our leadership's and government's agenda.
This is not encouraging. The U.N. is demanding any access any time anywhere in Iraq. Essentially, the resolution demands that Iraq give up its sovereignty and independence to the inspectors. The rant argues that Saddam shouldn't and won't do any of these things. Then there's this big old but:
But if the whims of the American administration, the Zionist desires, their followers, intelligence services, threats, and foul temptation, were given the chance to play and tamper with the inspection teams or some of their members, the colors would be then confused and the resulting commotion will distort the facts and push the situation into dangerous directions which is something fair-minded people do not wish for, as well as the people who, including my government, want to bring forward the facts as they are.
Translation: don't push it. Correct response: screw you. Likely scenario: war. (Notice by the way the continual obsession with the "Zionist entity" and "Zionist desires." Goebbels anyone? Elsewhere in the deranged document, Saddam argues that the U.N. should also enforce a new resolution "to put an end to the Zionist occupation of Palestine." I think that means the abolition of Israel. Don't expect the media to play this one up. Virulently anti-Semitic documents like the one submitted to Kofi Annan are routinely downplayed.) The final but is at the end of the diatribe:
Therefore, we hope, that you will, Mr. Secretary General, advise the ignorants not to push things to the precipice, in the implementation, because the people of Iraq will not choose to live at the price of their dignity, country, freedom or sanctities, and they would rather make their lives the price if that was the only way before them to safeguard what they must safeguard.
What they must safeguard. Now what do you think he can mean by that?
WAR IS NOW MORE LIKELY: My inference from this letter is therefore a simple one: Saddam has no intention of alowing U.N. inspectors to find, detect or destroy any of his weapons of mass destruction. He has already declared in this letter that he has none, although we are now forced to wait 30 days while he formally decides to say the same thing. (Simple question: why can't we now declare those 30 days over and move the schedule up? His declaration to the U.N. is surely a formal statement that he has no WMDs. And time now is of the essence.) Saddam has clearly decided that his main hope is in allowing the inspectors in and being ingenious enough to keep hidden from view any WMDs until such time as the spring comes. Then he has another year to play footsie and get his hands on the key materials for nuclear invulnerability. He will press his p.r. advantage any way he can, and his allies in the West, especially in the "anti-war" movement, can be relied on to spin Saddam's line mercilessly. This means we need to give Blix more resources. We need to quadruple the number of inspectors and send them everywhere we can. Otherwise, we have as much chance of finding what Saddam "must safeguard" as DC cops did of finding Chandra Levy's body. And it also means that "zero tolerance" of any Saddamite shenanigans must mean "zero tolerance." At this point, I find myself oscillating between hoping for a peaceful outcome while knowing that any peaceful but phony outcome now will only make a future war bloodier and more terrifying. So I'm hoping - yes, hoping - for war soon. And I think we can see from this deranged letter why we have no essential choice.
BEGALA AWARD NOMINEE: "And the reptilism trickles down further, to the weaker minds listening to talk radio or silly enough to spend too much time watching cable television news -- people who buy the lies, who are simply suckered into forking over their own political best interests to the con artists who attempt to pick their pockets at the same moment they are pointing out others who, they say, are the real trouble makers. About 25 percent of our people are susceptible to this kind of con, and they then give us problems by standing against any reasonable reforms. They have been spiritually twisted by the cheap poison of a hundred Rush Limbaughs into the angry, unthinking agents of the superrich." - Doris Haddock, Alternet. If you want to see what some leftists really believe about the American people, you can't get a much better example than this article. On the other hand, I'm prepared to forgive someone called Doris Haddock almost anything.
EAGLES SOARING: Just a couple emails reflecting the tidal wave I got today from nascent "eagles":
Thank you! This describes my political ideology perfectly, especially the fear of the Republican's alignment with the Christian right and what that means for the future of gays and lesbians (especially with the new shift in the political paradigm). Democrats have dropped the ball, and Republicans are still very scary. I'm a fiscally conservative, socially liberal, Christian right fearing independent (former Democrat), and I don't think I'm alone.
And this one:
I'm 34 and have voted in every election since I was 18. I've never voted Republican for a major political office, but found myself voting for Bill Simon out of utter contempt for Davis and the Democratic party.
I think we're onto something here. One reader argued that eagles were simply libertarians. But most libertarians are strictly isolationist in foreign policy. Brink Lindsay is one who isn't. Here's an Eagle Manifesto of a sort. Geitner Simmons concurs. There you have it, eagles. You may be politically homeless, but on this site, you're certainly not alone. And one reason the blogosphere is doing so well is that it's also full of eagles' nests.
Wednesday, November 13, 2002 THE EAGLES: I'm tired of this hawk-dove paradigm. And we all know how tired left and right are as useful labels. (Yes, I know I use them, but sometimes, you gotta.) More revealing, perhaps, is the fiscal-conservative-social-liberal category, in which I think I'd probably be counted. (The roster of categories is therefore: social and fiscal libs; social and fiscal conservatives; socially liberal but fiscally conservative independents; and socially conservative and fiscally liberal independents.) But the war changes the matrix again, I think. There's a new group of people out there who are socially liberal but also foreign policy realists, especially among those who have been awakened to political engagement by September 11. Some of these used to be Scoop Jackson Democrats, but today's breed doesn't buy into the big government liberalism of the 1960s and 1970s either. Some are neocons who don't love the social right. Others are just Generation X and Y, who simply accept the social diversity of modern culture and want to see it defended against theocratic barbarians. These people are not comfortable with the Republicans' flirtation with the religious right, or their prosecution of the drug war or mixing of church and state; and they're not impressed by the Democrats' lack of seriousness in foreign policy or enmeshment with public sector interest groups. They're politically homeless, these people - but were probably key swing voters in the last election. Instead of hawks and doves, call these people "eagles." I think they'll play a key part in shaping the politics and culture of the next few years. Are you one?
FORGET THE DEMOGRAPHICS: The Judis-Teixera thesis about the future strength of the Democrats makes a simple error. What if the Republicans succeed in winning over exactly those groups that until now have been trending Democrat? Or rather: what if the Democrats lose them? David Broder today sees the short-term future of the Dems - and it's clearly leftward. Who, after all, is going to pull the party to the center? The general loathing of Bush, Gore's disavowal of Clintonian centrism, Edwards' reliance on Bob Shrum, Pelosi's ascension to House leadership - all these play into Republicans' hands. (How, I wonder, can the Democrats elect a House leader who voted against war against Iraq? Are they serious?) The liberal intelligentsia - epitomized by the New York Times editorial page - shows no sign of rethinking and is actually urging more strenuous leftism, not accommodation or new directions. If the war goes well, and if the economy revives, it's therefore hard to see anything but Democratic collapse under this new leadership. (And it's never good for a political party to be pinning its hopes on military failure or recession.) I guess I'd vote for Harold Ford.
NEPOTISM WATCH: More evidence that America is as much an aristocracy as a democracy. Forget the Bush dynasty. Both candidates for the Democratic House Minority leadership post are essentially scions of well-established political dynasties. A reader points out:
Pelosi's father was a Congressman for a decade, then mayor of Baltimore for a dozen years while she was growing up. Her brother later was elected mayor of Baltimore. She graduated from Trinity College in Washington, DC, which was established as a finishing school for Catholic girls. Ford's father, Harold Ford, Sr., was elected to Congress from Memphis in 1974 and the youngster spent most of his time in Washington. He attended the tony St. Albans prep school on the grounds of the Episcopal National Cathedral, then went on to the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Michigan Law School. He took over his father's seat when the elder decided not to seek reelection.
Not exactly a populist alternative, eh?
A PALESTINIAN AGAINST BIGOTRY: An Arab resident of Ramallah bemoans the Arab satellite television mini-series based on the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion." Hope springs eternal.
THE NEXT 'DIVERSITY' PUSH: It's no longer enough to admit students on the basis of their skin color to American colleges and universities. The students now have to socialize with other individuals of different races. The New York Times, in breathlessly uncritical tones, hails the move. One quote truly gave me the creeps:
Theodore R. Mitchell, president of Occidental College in Los Angeles, said, "It is our job as educators to construct conscious communities in which students and others spend time, work and play with people unlike themselves — ethnically, ideologically, politically."
"Conscious communities"? Blech. How about letting people get into college on the basis of their academic achievements? How about letting students interact privately with whomever they want in a free society? And how about some real diversity - i.e. intellectual diversity - among college faculty? Yeah, I know the chances are next to zero. But every now and again, you have to ask the bleeding obvious, don't you?
BLACK AND WHITE: It's a good sign when I get loads of emails complaining about the website colors. (It often means new readers.) If you hate the white on dark blue, you can change it. There's a button at the top of the Dish that says: "Black and White." Click on it and the colors are reversed. And if you click on the "INFO" button on the top left, you'll also get a rundown of what the various awards mean. Cheers.
AS.COM GETS RESULTS: Well, I wasn't the only one to complain. But that Tom Paulin lecture at Harvard has apparently been canceled. Inviting a man who wished American Jewish settlers in Israel and the West Bank would be shot dead caused "widespread consternation." I wonder why.
ANTI-WAR ANTI-SEMITISM WATCH: Read what happened when a pro-Israel group on its weekly demo on a Los Angeles street had to share the street with an anti-war rally. Some highlights:
When they saw us they started cursing. Without first saying hello, or anything, a young Latino man told us to "f—- off." He began yelling at one of our older Russian Jewish supporters, Isaac, "You are Zionist Nazi pigs. You are Nazis!" It was surreal... One woman who videotaped me yelled that she could do what she wanted to because she had First Amendment rights. I told her that she lacked grace. She turned around and said, "Well you lacked grace when you slaughtered my people." She was referring to Native Americans. Again, I thought this was about President Bush and Iraq.
Well, it is about President Bush and Iraq. But it's about a lot of other things as well.
A QUESTION FOR THE AGES: In losing the Minnesota Senate race, Walter Mondale succeeded in losing an election in every single state in the country. I wonder: is he really the first? Has anyone else been such a stellar loser?
AMENDMENT: I wrote in "Boy Emperor Wins!" that "No sitting Republican governor lost." I should have said "No sitting elected Republican governor lost." Scott McCallum, the Republican governor of Wisconsin, lost to Democrat Jim Doyle. McCallum was not elected governor; rather, he was lieutenant governor when Tommy Thompson became HHS Secretary.
Tuesday, November 12, 2002 IS IT OVER II? Great and simple response from a reader: "It'll be over when every last al Qaeda recruit is dead." Amen.
HUBRIS WATCH: I said last week that I found Trent Lott's immediate offensive in the culture wars - on partial birth abortion - to be dumb. Glad to see the White House agrees with me. And that's not because I'm against the measure. It's because the White House can see a truly stupid piece of politics and Trent Lott never has.
MORE CLYMER ERRORS: Tim Noah emails yet another error in Adam Clymer's recent piece on the Bush dynasty:
"Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, whose loss in the race for governor of Maryland on Tuesday was the family's first general election defeat since John F. (Honey Fitz) Fitzgerald, her great-grandfather, was beaten in a race for governor of Massachusetts in 1922." Wrong. Townsend herself suffered a general election defeat in 1986, when she ran for Congress. (I was her issues director.) She lost in the general to the Republican incumbent, Helen Delich Bentley.
Monday, November 11, 2002 IS IT OVER? Since September 11, this blog has been galvanized by the need to fight the battle of ideas over the war against Islamo-fascism. That means exposing the vacuous nihilism of the academic left, the poisonous isolationism of the anti-war right, the thinly veiled anti-Semitism of some parts of the anti-war movement, the incoherence of the Democrats, and the p.c. delusions of much of the media. That's also what has propelled the blogosphere into stardom - voicing what most people really think, sentiments and arguments that are routinely absent in many mainstream media outlets. But after last week, things have changed, haven't they? A reader makes the following points:
I have been a very avid reader of your column in the Sunday Times for a number of years now, and for the past few months I have also read your Website daily. I am a huge fan, and applaud your hard work and diligent presentation. However, since last Wednesday, I have lost a bit of interest. The reason for this is nothing to do with your efforts, which have not diminished at all. Rather, the situation has changed dramatically, and I think you need to take account of this. WE HAVE WON. We won the mid-term elections ... and we even won in the UN (quite how, I cannot imagine). We are now the majority, in control, and no longer victims of a left/liberal conspiracy to suppress the will of the American people through the imposition of an establishment elite's left of centre viewpoint. Yes, the media is genarally biased, but in a nation where the Right is generally in control this is less of a worry than before - indeed it may even be a good thing. I am reminded of the last time I actually enjoyed reading the Village Voice. This was the early 1980's, when Reagan was in power (because I along with so many others voted for him) and the conservative agenda dominated. Now the liberals are useful as gadflys - and you need to think about redefining your role.
I agree with this reader to some extent. It's certainly clear to me that those of us who have been consistently anti-terror and anti-Saddam have scored a huge victory. I'd say the academic left and the left-liberal consensus in the media and Washington have been largely routed by events. But that doesn't mean that many of these misguided individuals have genuinely seen the light. If and when war comes, they will still try to turn it against the West, spin every military victory as a defeat, and do all they can to undermine the Bush administration's difficult job in this war. If another terrorist attack occurs, they will blame it on Bush and the West. There is a lull now, while the anti-war camp regroups. That's predictable and understandable. Not only have they seen the American people vote decisively against them, they've even had to watch while Syria backs the U.S.'s new U.N. resolution. That must hurt. But they'll be back. I don't intend to go away.
RAINESPEAK: "The Parliament speaker, Saadoun Hammadi, also concluded that the assembly would leave it up to Mr. Hussein what to do." - Neil MacFarquar, New York Times. Translation: "The appointed head of Saddam Hussein's appointed rubber-stamp body of cronies, Saadoun Hammadi, confirmed that anything Saddam Hussein decided about anything would be fine by him, especially since he'd be shot dead and his family tortured and killed if he said anything else." Readers are invited to contribute to a new and irregular feature, translating sentences in the New York Times into non-Orwellian English.
CLYMER WATCH: A reader points out even more elementary errors of fact in Adam Clymer's piece on the Bush dynasty:
He's even more ignorant than you make out. He claims that none of FDR's sons attained even state office. In fact, two of them served in Congress--FDR Jr. for three terms from New York, James for five terms from California. And FDR was a fourth cousin once removed of TR, not a fifth cousin. And since WH Harrison died a month after taking office, the mot juste for his term is probably not "undistinguished" but "brief."
Let's just see how long it takes for the Times to post several corrections.
THE CHESHIRE SNIPER: A nightmare finally ends in violence. Time now to take on the real threat: ferrets.
KILLER SQUIRREL WATCH: This ad looks prescient now.
SONTAG AWARD NOMINEE: "You are a disgrace to this country and I am furious you would even think I would support you and your aggressive baby-killing tactics of collateral damage. Help you recruit. Who, top guns to reign [sic] death and destruction upon nonwhite peoples throughout the world? Are you serious sir? Resign your commission and serve your country with honour. No war, no air force cowards who bomb countries with AAA, without possibility of retaliation. You are worse than the snipers. You are imperialists who are turning the whole damn world against us. September 11 can be blamed in part for what you and your cohorts have done to Palestinians, the VC, the Serbs, a retreating army at Basra. You are unworthy of my support." - Peter Kirstein, professor at Saint Xavier University, in response to an email from a cadet asking for help advertizing a political science assembly.
THE MINNESOTA RACE: Here's the best retrospective you'll find, with some wonderful new details. In retrospect, a political classic. It's particularly telling that the Mondale campaign didn't immediately grasp what a debacle the Wellstone memorial service was:
Mondale was merely a spectator Tuesday night, they reason. How can people blame him? Before they adjourn the press conference rehearsal, Ted asks what his father should say if he's asked about Tuesday night. The sentiment in the room is that with Blodgett making a public apology and taking responsibility earlier in the day, that should take most of the heat off Mondale. As they meet, DFL pollster Paul Harstad is completing an overnight survey. Harstad finds that 73 percent of those interviewed agree that the memorial service went overboard -- and 52 percent agree strongly. Furthermore, they are taking it out on Mondale. Mondale, who led Coleman by 52-39 percent in Harstad's Sunday night poll, is tied 43-43 on Wednesday night. The percentage who feel positively toward Mondale has dropped 10 points, to 51 percent. And the percentage who say they feel positively toward Coleman has risen six points, to 50.
It really was that memorial rally that killed Mondale's candidacy. - 10:22:51 PM THOSE IRAQI "LAWMAKERS": The AP surely knows better than running a headline like this. What laws? What makers? These guys are captives and stooges.
Sunday, November 10, 2002 NOW THE HARD STUFF: It's hard not to feel dread when Saddam seems to be moving toward "compliance" with the latest U.N. resolution. I don't mean, of course, that we should dread actually disarming him; merely that we should dread his trapping the U.S. and the rest of the world in yet another sandpit of confusion and obfuscation. That's why it seems to me that we should be publicly mobilizing for war right away. There are some signs that this is happening already. I was reassured by Colin Powell's statement on CNN yesterday that, "I can assure you if he doesn't comply this time we are going to ask the UN to give authorisation for all necessary means, and if the UN isn't willing to do that, the United States with like-minded nations will go and disarm him forcefully." Powell is the right man to m ake such a statement. Yesterday, Tom Friedman called on the secretary of state to keep undermining the hawks in the Bush administration. It seems to me that Friedman has it exactly the wrong way round. The next few weeks are the ones in which Powell has to prove himself. If the U.N. route becomes yet another way to keep Saddam's tyranny and weapons of mass destruction intact, then Powell has some explaining to do. Equally, if Hans Blix wants to go home a hero for peace after ineffective inspections, then Powell will have effectively made matters far worse for the U.S. and the civilized world. I'm a skeptic about whether inspections can ever truly work. But if they do, it will only because of a massive invasion force poised to attack immediately after the first violation. Hence: mobilize. The display of military might and readiness makes peace and compliance more likely - whether the weaponry is used or not.
WELFARE REFORM AGAIN: What else explains the sudden jump in teen marriages in the 1990s? And for some reason, the arrival of gay marriage as an issue, and the establishment of civil unions in one state, doesn't seem to have deterred straight teens from getting hitched. Who would have thought it? Bill Bennett, call your office.
CAMPUS ANTI-SEMITISM WATCH: When the Egyptian paper, al Ahram, asked for British poet Tom Paulin's opinions on the Middle East, they knew what they were looking for. His remarks even shocked a Guardian columnist:
Among other things, he opined that the US-born Jewish settlers should be shot dead. "They are Nazis, racists," he said, adding - unnecessarily, you might argue - "I feel nothing but hatred for them." He also pronounced that the state of Israel had no right to exist, that Tony Blair's government was "Zionist", and that the suicide bombers were an expression of "deep injustice and tragedy".
Typical leftist anti-Semitism. So why is Harvard laying out the red carpet for a man who feels "nothing but hatred" for American Jewish settlers in Israel and the West Bank? Didn't president Summers warn about a new anti-Semitism on campus?
GLOATIN' GOIN' DOWN: "My other POV is that the surge was a metaphor of starting a fire with lots of pine needles. Little tiny incidents of dry leaves kept piling one atop the other: Wellstone, the hate Jeb and George W campaign, the Clintons, Leahy stopping the judges, the trashing of the cars outside the rally in Mass, the appearances every night of Begala and Carville as Dem spokesmen (ugly guys are as bad as ugly women), Belafonte trashing Powell, Barbra blaming Republicans for the Wellstone plane crash, the voter fraud around the country, and hundres of other little things created the fuel for a fire under the Republican base and lots of Independents. GWB came along with his blow torch campaigning and set that fuel off. And the press media didn't hurt either. So how do all those smart Dems like getting trashed by a moron?" - from the Letters Page, on the election.
"CANCER ON HUMANITY": Check out this placard from the Florence pro-Saddam march. This is one face of the "anti-war" movement. And it's ugly in a very old-fashioned way. (Via James Morrow.)
MORE LEFTWING SMEARS: No one should expect Garrison Keillor to like Norm Coleman. Keillor only supports left-liberal Democrats and was brutal toward Jesse Ventura. But his column in Salon went further. Check out this paragraph:
Norm got a free ride from the press. St. Paul is a small town and anybody who hangs around the St. Paul Grill knows about Norm's habits. Everyone knows that his family situation is, shall we say, very interesting, but nobody bothered to ask about it, least of all the religious people in the Republican Party. They made their peace with hypocrisy long ago. So this false knight made his way as an all-purpose feel-good candidate, standing for vaguely Republican values, supporting the president.
There's a word for this: it's a smear. Keillor won't give evidence; he parlays underhand gossip; he is exploiting someone's private life to hurt him politically. Every aspect of this paragraph stinks to high heaven. But that in itself is instructive. This kind of bile helped the Dems lose the last election. And yet they keep on hating.
MAJOR LEAGUE MISTAKE: Adam Clymer wrote yesterday about "the undistinguished terms of Benjamin Harrison and his grandson William Henry Harrison." As any high-school textbook (or Google) will tell you, Benjamin was William Henry's grandson. Then there's this simple statement of fact: "Edward M. Kennedy's durable liberalism has changed the nation more than his brothers did." There you have it: decades of adding entitlements to the national budget and pursuing every agenda item of the current liberal conventional wisdom has changed the nation more than JFK and RFK combined. If you want to know why the Times got almost everything about the last election embarrassingly wrong, peer through the blinkers of a man like Clymer.
FULLY COVERED: As someone who grew up in a country with socialized medicine, I'm more than aware of what it really means: the rationing of bad healthcare. Here's a story from Canada that shows where that can lead you.
OUR WAR TOO: An independent gay writer and activist fights back against the left on Iraq.
BEGALA AWARD NOMINEE: Bush's "mandate"
includes using the taxing power to transfer wealth from working people to the rich. It includes giving corporations a free hand to eviscerate the environment and control the regulatory agencies meant to hold them accountable. And it includes secrecy on a scale you cannot imagine. Above all, it means judges with a political agenda appointed for life. If you liked the Supreme Court that put George W. Bush in the White House, you will swoon over what's coming. And if you like God in government, get ready for the Rapture. These folks don't even mind you referring to the GOP as the party of God. Why else would the new House Majority Leader say that the Almighty is using him to promote 'a Biblical worldview' in American politics? So it is a heady time in Washington — a heady time for piety, profits, and military power, all joined at the hip by ideology and money.
- Bill Moyers, paid for in part by your tax dollars, on PBS.
MODO GROWS UP: A brief interaction with Saudi Arabia's vice police and Maureen Dowd misses John Ashcroft:
After the men argued for 15 minutes, I fretted that I was in one of those movies where an American makes one mistake in a repressive country and ends up rotting in a dungeon. I missed John Ashcroft desperately.
Saturday, November 09, 2002 JFK AND GWB: Michael Barone develops a thesis I first floated three years ago. Is W a re-run of JFK? Money graf:
Kennedy in 1962 and Mr. Bush in 2002 marginally increased their parties' share of the vote--very much against precedent--and greatly strengthened their parties' leverage in a closely divided Congress. Within two years, Kennedy's Democrats won by huge majorities, often wrongly attributed to Lyndon Johnson's appeal to voters who would never have voted for Kennedy Democrats. But if you look at the regional breakdowns in the September and October 1963 Gallup polls, taken just before Kennedy was assassinated, it is clear that he was heading to a victory very much like Johnson's in 1964. He was winning the East and Midwest and much of the West by margins far larger than Franklin Roosevelt's; his job rating fell in 1963 only among white Southerners after he supported what became the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
THE POLLS WERE RIGHT: A reader pollster rebuts the notion that this year, the polls failed to predict what was going on. They predicted it well, but people like the editors of the New York Times refused to believe them. He also rebuts the notion that polls are getting less reliable, because of cellphones, caller i.d. and so on. Over to my correspondent:
I counted up the margin of victory for all Senate elections from 1992 to 1996, and then looked at how far off the polls were in projecting those margins. Then I looked at this year. (I used the polls listed in Hotline in both instances and only looked at polls conducted the final three weeks of the campaign.) Here's what I found: from 1992-1996, 21 percent of polls missed the margin of victory by 10 points or more. In 2002, 16 percent of polls missed the margin of victory by 10 points or more. From 1992-1996, 55 percent of polls missed the margin of victory by five points or more. In 2002, 43 percent of polls missed the margin of victory by five points or more.
So the polls this year were actually more accurate than in the past.
THE WIN WAS BIG: And in case you're impressed by an apparent 53-47 split, check out the UPI tally of votes cast for either Dems or Republicans. Of those votes, the GOP won by 4.4 points in all Senate races and by 5.6 points in gubernatorial races. Of all votes cast, the GOP won 51.6 percent, compared to 45 percent for the Democrats - a 6.6 percent lead. That's bigger than Clinton's margin in 1992 and bigger than the Democrats' victory in the House in 1992 (which netted them a majority of 82). Take out the gerrymandering, have competitive districts across the country, and the real sweep would have been huge - only a smidgen less than the Gingrich revolution in 1994. - 3:25:01 PM
Friday, November 08, 2002 THE ARMY'S BIGOTRY AND STUPIDITY: This one has to be read to be believed. The military, which is having severe shortages of personnel who speak Arabic, is actually firing Arabic speakers because they're gay. The New Republic will have a story online soon about this scandal. I'll link as soon as it's up. Geitner Simmons provides the crucial and damning background to this insanity. The anti-gay policy makes no sense anyway. No other civilized country engages in such bigotry. No other country at war would put discrimination against its own people above the need to fight a deadly enemy. This targeting of Arabic speakers is, of course, only the tiniest part of it. Each year, the military throws away hundreds of good servicemembers, wastes millions of dollars, to pursue a policy that is not only unconscionable as a moral issue, but dumb as a practical matter. And now they're jeopardizing the war on terror as well. When will what Dick Cheney once described as an "old chestnut" of a policy finally be abolished? UPDATE: Here's a link to the TNR story. It's superb. Read it and weep about our misplaced priorities.
LEFTWING DEPRAVITY WATCH: Check out Steve Bell's vile cartoon in the Guardian yesterday. It says everything you need to know about why the Left has become so rancid and bitter.
BEGALA AWARD NOMINEE: "Give the Republicans credit. They know what they stand for. Tax cuts. Guns. Bombs. Oil. Big business. Old boy networks. Privatization. Plundering the earth. Pillorying and padlocking the poor. Party-line votes." - Derrick Jackson, the Boston Globe.
THE PRODUCTIVITY NEWS: "For the 12-month period ending in September, productivity grew at a rate of 5.3 percent, the strongest gain since the third quarter of 1983." - the New York Times today. This must be a good sign for the long-term health of the economy.
NEWSWEEK ON THE WAR: At Yale, senior editor Michael Hirsh gives an insight into the way Newsweek is covering world events. "The war policy is a crock," Hirsh opined. "This is a hugely risky operation for potential gains that probably won't justify the risk." Just passing on information about the views of those who control the mainstream news.
Thursday, November 07, 2002 ZZZZZZZZ: Early to bed so the Dish will appear later today. I have to get up roughly at the time I usually go to bed for C-SPAN. Don't blame me if I look like death. Check in later for the usual.
SLUM CLEARANCE: More solid liberal arguments for ridding the world of Saddam. - 4:27:11 PM PERFECT PITCH: The president has played the post-election game extremely well too. Bush was wise to stay low-key yesterday and give a press conference today that focussed on Iraq and Homeland Security. As I argued this morning, his main priority is the war on terror, which must include the disarmament of Iraq. I couldn't think opf a smarter message than: "The election may be over but the terrorist threat is still real." It's not just good politics; it's right. It looks as if we may have a workable U.N. resolution by Monday at the latest. Then we need to mobilize for war, ready for action within days of any Iraqi quibbles about inspection. I'm still leery of sending inspectors, but U.N. support is helpful in our campaign for greater international security. Bush gets this. And he gets the need for caution and prudence in the wake of this victory. My heart sinks at the thought of Trent Lott's political instincts guiding the new majority. But so far, at least, it looks as if this result will give Bush essential control. And his instincts remain sound. Phew.
HEADS UP AGAIN: Tomorrow, from 8 am till 10 am EST, Hitchens and I will be taking calls on C-SPAN. - 4:20:16 PM 53-47 AMERICA: The totals are in. I think we can finally say that the election of 2000 is now over. - 1:32:40 AM NOW WIN THE WAR: I've been reading with some disbelief all sorts of proposals for president Bush's next two years. Here's the only one that matters: win the war. If we can rid the world of Saddam Hussein and see Iran's dictators pushed to the brink, then an entirely new set of circumstances prevails in the world. What the president needs to focus on now is disarming Saddam. This election wasn't a mandate for tax simplification or welfare reform (however important those two things are). It was a vote of support for victory. If Bush lets Saddam wriggle through the gaping U.N. net, and lets al Qaeda off the hook, then he will deserve to be defeated in 2004. Getting the war right is paramount. Everything else will follow. Nothing else, in comparison, matters.
CNN'S "COUP D'ETAT": "Around 1:30 a.m., White House spokesman Ari Fleischer announced that for the first time in U.S. history the president's party gained seats in the House during the administration's first midterm elections. He also noted that the same Republican coup d'etat was accomplished in the Senate." - John King, CNN. But Saddam Hussein was elected.
SONTAG AWARD NOMINEE: "Even as the bullets ricochet, it should be said there are some problems with this approach to international peacekeeping. For a start, it is illegal. The Yemen attack violates basic rules of sovereignty. It is an act of war where no war has been declared." - the Guardian on the U.S.'s successful attack on al Qaeda leadership in the Yemen. No war has been declared? Were they alive on September 11, 2001?
THEY EVEN SPIN THE MAPS: Check out this New York Times map of the Governor's races. It looks pretty good for the Democrats. But, as a liberal reader regrets to point out, there are five - count them - five errors. Georgia is simply left white, as if there had been no gubernatorial election. And Vermont, Maryland, New Hampshire and Minnesota are all colored as "wins" for the GOP, when they should be colored as "gains." Now most of this is obviously just sloppy, as you'd expect from the Times these days. But it's also true that every single error makes the Democrats look as if they did better than they did. Somehow, I'm not surprised. (I've got a saved copy of the map if they fix it by the time you read this.)
BOB SOLDIERS ON: Poor Bob Herbert. His column degenerates today into a final whimsical lament for the days of Lyndon Johnson. Before that, he argued that the Democrats need to be less timid, more full of hell-fire, less careful, or they face more losses. Then his first example of excessive timidity is the Wellstone rally. Huh?
Wednesday, November 06, 2002 NOT SO BAD: As an after-note, I didn't do too badly in the predictions stakes. I got 11 out of 13 right. I was too optimistic about Bowles and Shaheen.
THE BEST LEFT POST-MORTEM: For honesty, clarity and smarts, the award goes to the Nation's David Corn. - 4:38:09 PM RIORDAN WOULD HAVE WON: Can anyone doubt that now? Bush would have a friendly governor in California in 2004 if the California Republican party hadn't allowed itself to become captive to the hard right. The Dems are not the only people to learn lessons from last night. The Republicans need to internalize the fact that religious right conservatism, especially in places like California, is poison. - 3:36:52 PM BEGALA AWARD NOMINEE: "Only the filibuster now stands between the nation and the unchecked rule of the most rightwing, xenophobic and belligerent administration in the nation's history." - Harold Meyerson, the American Prospect. They still don't get it, do they? - 3:30:37 PM VIRTUALLY NORM: Well, justice actually is served.
VON HOFFMAN AWARD NOMINEE I: "Why is Bush in free fall? * Support for an invasion of Iraq has dropped from 72 percent to 62 percent in the past 14 days. Bush and his folks are so distracted by their diplomatic dance with France and Russia that they have fallen down on the job of convincing the American people that an invasion is needed. * Bush has been hit with a continuous six-month fall in his ratings on "managing the economy" - from 64 percent approval on April 30 to 55 percent on July 2 48 percent on Oct. 22. * By campaigning for Republican candidates around the nation, Bush seems to be undermining the case for a military emergency requiring immediate action against Iraq." - Dick Morris, New York Post.
VON HOFFMAN AWARD NOMINEE II: "[T]hat question, known as a generic ballot question, is a measure of national sentiment, and does not necessarily reflect how Americans will vote in the governor's races around the country and in the handful of close Senate and House races that will ultimately determine the control of Congress." - The New York Times, spinning their 47 - 40 Republican-Democrat poll of last weekend. - 11:24:18 AM BUSH'S TRIUMPH: I should have trusted my gut. We all should have believed the late polls. We don't have the full results yet, but it seems clear, as I write, that the Republicans will gain in the House and win back the Senate. For a first term president who didn't win a plurality to win in a mid-term election with a deeply troubled economy is, quite simply, an astonishing victory. I guess I'd been too busy telling others not to under-estimate Bush that I under-estimated him myself. Yes, local issues mattered. But the swing is too uniform to be interpreted solely by particulars. This was a vote for Bush, for prosecuting the war on terror, for the tax cut. More important, it was a vote against the hollow negativism, cowardice and mediocrity of the current Democratic Party. They have nothing to say; and that matters. Their predicament is deeper than this result suggests. Since Bush passed his tax cut and since September 11, the Democrats have been cornered. A purely defensive strategy - taking both issues off the table - led them to this result. An offensive strategy - against war and for raising taxes - would have delivered an even worse one. Or they could have come up with a tough but different anti-terror plan and a positive economic message. But they didn't. So they lost. One other factor is the blandness and decrepitude of their leaders. Daschle and Gephardt are pathetic. McAuliffe is a nightmare. When the Dems needed new blood, they found Mondale and Lautenberg. This is not a party with self-confidence or much of a short-term future. Bush, because of what he did and what the Democrats did not do, now has a remarkable mastery over the polity. He has enormous leverage against Iraq; and this vote will deeply strengthen his position abroad. I hope he uses that mandate wisely and bravely. I also believe that that is part of the reason the Republicans did so well. People know we're at war. They trust the president. They wanted to show him support. Many factors contributed to tonight's historically rare event. But the president's conduct of the war was surely the central one, as it will be for the foreseeable future.
NO MORE EXIT POLLS: Man, I loved their absence. Now we even have to think about why people voted the way they did. And election night itself was so much more enjoyable (even though I seem to be getting some sort of flu).
SEE? I told you Dick Morris always gets it wrong.
ODDS AND ENDS: I have to say I found the way that Chambliss defeated Cleland and Baucus bested Taylor to be dispiriting events. On the bright side, Mitt Romney was clearly the better candidate in Massachusetts; and voters in that liberal state also voted to support English immersion and came extremely close to abolishing the state income tax. Very encouraging. Townsend and Forrester were both terrible candidates who deserved to lose. I'm pleased the oleaginous Hutchinson in Arkansas got done in as well. I guess I'll have to sleep some more before I hear about Mondale. But I'm still hoping ...
THEY JUST DON'T GET IT, DO THEY? More embarrassment for the New York Times. The Johnny Apple piece of "news analysis" this morning is a classic of windy stupidity. The real news from yesterday will surely be the historic achievement of a Republican president seeing his own party gain seats in both the House and Senate. But for Mr Apple, it was all just depressing, listless, uninspired, boring. Of course it was:
Two years after the most bizarre presidential election in American history was decided by the Supreme Court, 14 months after the unspeakable horror of terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, the nation voted yesterday in a mood of disenchantment and curious disconnection from the political system. The American public may be faced with a series of potentially life-altering issues, including the prospect of war with Iraq, the possibility of further assaults on national security at home, the reality of a prolonged slump in the stock market and the uncertainty of the economic outlook. But the campaign that led up to the balloting was notably lifeless and cheerless, with pep rallies devoid of pep and stump speeches that stirred few voters.
Just how can you be this out of touch? This follows the Times' complete botch of their own poll, which predicted a clear Republican drift in the last days of the campaign. The Times buried their scoop, killing the news, in favor of their own partisan pabulum. If this is what the Democrats read in that political cocoon of theirs, no wonder they didn't see what was coming. I'm beginning to think that Howell Raines is secretly part of Karl Rove's masterplan.
KRISTOF CHANNELS SULLY: Eventually, the mindless bitterness that makes up the columns of Maureen Dowd and Paul Krugman would have to appal even their fellow Democratic partisans. Nick Kristof's column yesterday reads like a potage de Sullivan. Now what Kristof has to understand is that it's exactly that shrill, dumb, negative leftism that helped Bush to such an historic victory. Just don't count on it. - 1:27:53 AM
Tuesday, November 05, 2002 DATA: The latest Zogby polls. - 2:05:56 AM THE POINT: Believe it or not, but Joe Conason nails it on the head. He's wrong about Minnesota (I think Coleman will win) but right about the Democrats in general. Here's what he says:
But there is no Democratic leadership willing to do more than look for weaknesses on the other side. If Tom Daschle and Dick Gephardt have an alternative economic program, they have kept it well hidden throughout this campaign. What they have, at the moment, is a program of opposition. They are the opposition, so that's fine. Such a program may sustain them through this election. But it won't get them far over the next two years, when a new leader will emerge in the struggle for the Democratic presidential nomination. The old saying that you can't beat somebody with nobody applies to policy as well. You can't beat something with nothing - although you may be able to hold your own.
Of course, I think Conason understates the Democratic problem. The reason they will likely not win the House today is quite simply because they have provided almost no reason whatever to vote for them. On the war, they're all over the map, with the center of gravity being an attempt to appear pro-war while privately being against it. On the economy, they have no clear program. They're against the Bush tax cut, but they are not for reversing it. Then there's warmed-over, Mondale soup - comforting but hardly exciting. What remains is simply a defense of certain entrenched interests - mainly the elderly and African-Americans. I'm not saying the Republicans are a whole lot better. I wish they had more imaginative economic proposals, more courage in their attempt to reform social security, more gonads in resisting the creeping socialization of America's healthcare system. But at least we know they're pro-war, pro-Bush, and anti-tax. That's far clearer than the Democrats. Which is to say that, whatever happens, neither the Democrats nor the Republicans actually deserve to win. But the Democrats actively deserve to lose.
MY PREDICTIONS: This is a fool's game. But I'm sure it will give enormous pleasure to many people if I am shown to be clueless. In 2000, I predicted a much more substantive Bush win than the final result. I also lamely predicted Hillary would lose. So I tried to resist my gut feeling this time (that we will soon have a Republican House and Senate) and gave Josh Marshall the following guesses: AR: Pryor D; MN: Coleman R; SC: Graham R; CO: Allard R; MO: Talent R; SD: Johnson D; GA: Chambliss R; TN: Alexander R; IA: Harkin D; TX: Cornyn R; LA: Landrieu (w/ runoff) D; NC: Bowles D; NH: Shaheen D. You do the math, since I always get it wrong, but I think that means no change in the Senate.
BAA BAA: Gay sheep have different-looking brains than straight sheep. And they have fabulous horns.
THE JESUITS RESIST: Good news from America Magazine, the journal for American Jesuits. The editorial in the upcoming issue (not online) firmly supports the continued ordination of gay priests. America recently published a debate on the matter in its own pages, but now has taken a stand of its own:
Ensuring that the church ordains only psychologically healthy priests is one answer to the sexual abuse crisis. Scapegoating healthy and celibate gay priests is not. Historically, the ministry of gay priests has represented a significant contribution to the Catholic Church. Preventing the ordination of gay men would deprive the church of many productive, hard-working and dedicated ministers and would, moreover, ignore the promptings of the Holy Spirit, who has called these men to holy orders.
Exactly. America has no ecclesiastical authority, but it is a good sign of where the Jesuits and other religious orders stand in this country. If the Vatican attempts to impose a purging of gay priests and/or seminarians, then the American church may well resist - or simply, quietly disobey. - 1:48:48 AM
Monday, November 04, 2002 NOONAN ON MINNESOTA: She thinks Coleman won. Money quote: "The entire debate will come down to a handful of sound bites on the news in Minnesota tonight. I think the impression voters will come away with is this: Shaky and irritable old lion tries to cuff rising young tiger; young tiger respectfully stands his ground without resorting to viciousness." - 4:46:47 PM BAD NEWS FOR THE DEMS: Dick Morris thinks they're going to do well in the Senate. Given Morris' track record in Congressional predictions, this is not a good sign for Tom Daschle. - 3:46:28 PM RAINES ANTIDOTE: USA Today gets exactly the same result as the New York Times in their latest Congressional generic poll - a sudden shift toward the Republicans. The difference is: USA Today's editors aren't so biased as to bury their story. - 3:35:18 PM LEO GETS IT: U.S. News' John Leo sees the issue behind the sniper profiling. And he adds something I'd missed:
Even after John Muhammad and John Lee Malvo were identified, the New York Times said authorities were exploring their possible connection to "skinhead militias." (This was deleted after the early editions of October 24, perhaps when some alert Times editor figured out that black men are not likely to join skinhead groups.)
I don't know whether to laugh or cry. - 12:10:18 PM SONTAG AWARD NOMINEE: "I do not like fundamentalism of any kind. Let us find a way to resist and fight fundamentalism that leads to violence - fundamentalism of all kinds, in al-Qaeda and within our own government. Our resistance to this war should be our resistance to profit at the cost of human life because that is what these drums beating over Iraq are really all about." - Tim Robbins, speaking at an anti-war rally in Boston.
RAINES AWARD NOMINEE: "North Korea, in a series of statements issued to the New York Times, last week said it was open to negotiation with the US. Ambassador Han Song-ryol told the newspaper North Korea was willing to shut down the alleged enriched uranium programme and to allow international inspections of its uranium facilities. 'There must be a continuing dialogue. If both sides sit together, the matter can be resolved peacefully and quickly,' he said." - BBC News again. Wouldn't Orwell be amused by a totalitarian willingness to shut down an alleged uranium program? More forgiving of totalitarianism than the North Koreans - that's our BBC! (By the way, a reader points out that in the BBC's other Raines Award nomination today, there was another error. The alleged "massacre" at Jenin took place in April, not March. March was the month when over 120 Israelis were killed in suicide attacks.)
MORONIC CONVERGENCE: Streisand signs on to the Ted Rall conspiracy theory about Paul Wellstone.
Sunday, November 03, 2002 PERFIDIOUS PARIS: This is crunch week - and I'm not talking about the elections. At some point very soon, the administration is going to have to make a hard decision about the U.N. Do we keep talking even as Chirac subtly but powerfully undermines international security for the sake of France's Great Power aspirations and lots of lucre? Or do we force a resolution, even if it's one we don't want. I say: stop letting the French drag us around by our noses. France's delaying tactics, as Bob Kagan pointed out yesterday, have now gone beyond a diplomatic dance. They are designed to achieve one thing: a reprieve for Saddam and a humiliation of the United States. That's why it's past time we put an end to them. Besides, if we go on like this much longer, the delay will be fatal. I've long believed that some kind of U.N. mandate would be very helpful in waging what will be a difficult and unpredictable war and occupation. I even think that inspectors aren't completely useless, as long as they are genuinely allowed to operate without conditions and we can interrogate Iraqi scientists outside the country and give their families amnesty to protect them. Perhaps we'll have such inspections at the same time as the U.S. and the allies prepare for invasion: the best of both worlds. But it seems vitally important to me not to give Saddam another year for weak inspections, and then plan on war in 2004. In that scenario, we seem weak; we lose momentum; we invite a counter-attack; and Saddam has even more time to play defense shrewdly and well. The Iraqi dictator knows the game. He even knows that his best friends in maintaining his brutal rule are the anti-war members of Anglo-American left and far right. And he understands that time is on his side. We need to reverse that equation soon - or more lives will be lost to the dictates of the terrorists.
THE MORE WE KNOW: The big, unsettling, unavoidable issue of the next few decades is going to be how we reconcile what we want to be true with what science ineluctably shows us. At some point, we will know much, much more about the complex biology of sexual difference, for example, which is bound to have a huge impact on the debate about sexual equality and/or equivalence. And we'll find out about the biological and genetic components of intelligence, in ways that will undermine notions about educational policy and technique and the roots of social inequality. And then we will simply have the emotional impact of seeing images such as these, which show what it is we abort. Given what we've found out in the last decade from science, it seems to me inevitable that our current notions on a whole range of issues will require radical re-thinking. The question is simply whether our culture will be open-minded and, in the best sense, liberal enough to rethink at all.
HEAVEN: A new New York Times poll. These are always great articles because you actually get to see the editors wrestling with real data. Sometimes the data actually conflicts with the editors' left-liberal beliefs (even though they've done their best to avoid that by loading the questions). So the Rainester either a) ignores the data; b) invents the data; or c) spins the data. Sunday's poll seems to be a case of a) and c). I agree with Mickey that the headline and lede are almost laughably Rainesian. There are two statistics that leap out from the poll: the Republicans are reported to have a 47 - 40 percent lead in the generic Congressional question, with a margin of error of 5 points. That's much bigger than anything I've seen elsewhere (and I'm not sure I believe it). When you read the actual poll results, you find an even more striking story: in the first week of October, the generic question led to 43 percent Republican - 46 percent Democratic split. So a 3-point Democratic lead has reversed into a 7 point Republican lead in a month. That's big news to me. But it's buried. Why? Wouldn't that be a racier headline than a Lehrer-esque thumbsucker about everyone being worried about everything and no-one really loving either party? The Times writers even seem to recognize this aspect of the bleeding obvious. Never fear, dear reader:
[T]hat question, known as a generic ballot question, is a measure of national sentiment, and does not necessarily reflect how Americans will vote in the governor's races around the country and in the handful of close Senate and House races that will ultimately determine the control of Congress.
Phew, says the confused Times reader. And that's true as far as it goes. But doesn't a sudden big lead by one party after a neck-and-neck race for months tell you something?
ONE MORE THING: Here's a hilarious "Times-ism" from the poll story. It's the headline: "In Poll, Americans Say Both Parties Lack Clear Vision". For the sake of argument, lets say that a sudden lead by Republicans in the Times generic Congressional poll isn't that interesting. What's the actual evidence for the actual headline? The question asked was "Do the Republicans/Democrats have a clear plan for the country if they regain the Congress?" In the case of Republicans, 42 percent said yes, with 39 percent saying no. In the case of Democrats, 31 percent said yes, and almost half said no. So one party has a net positive rating of 3 and one has a net negative rating of 18. Would that lead you to infer that both parties are equally panned? Call me crazy, but if you were looking at this poll and asking genuine, open questions, wouldn't you infer that a) the Republicans seem to have jumped ahead and b) there's a clear gap between GOP and Dems on whether they've made a clear case or not? Don't get me wrong: I'm not sure I buy this poll. But that's irrelevant. Polls can sometimes be wrong; sometimes right. But the spin endures.
RAINES AWARD NOMINEE: "In March, 2002, General Mofaz sent thousands of troops into the West Bank, repeating the exercise three months later after a spate of deadly suicide attacks by Palestinian militants. As chief-of-staff, General Mofaz directed some of Israel's most controversial military operations. These included: The March 2002 assault on Jenin, where Palestinians claim a massacre took place - though UN officials later denied this." - BBC News, in an article on the new Israeli Defense Minister, Shaul Mofaz. Check out the classic avoidance of journalism. Did the "massacre" take place? No reputable authority says it did; even the U.N. denies it happened. So why the absurd formulation? Except, er, as pure pandering.
GAY AWAY: You have a homophobic uncle? Here's the perfect Christmas present. (SORRY: Somehow, I left the link off this last night.)
THE McAULIFFE PARTY: Two polls from Minnesota show clear anti-Dem backlash in Minnesota. The most encouraging poll for Mondale, in the Star-Tribune, gives him a 5 point edge. But that very poll has some disturbing news as well:
Poll results show the backlash from the service, which was broadcast live on radio and TV, may make its mark on the election's outcome. Nearly a quarter of the 929 likely voters said the service made them more likely to vote for Coleman, while 16 percent said it made them more likely to vote for Mondale. An additional 53 percent said the service will make no difference in how they vote.
For a quarter of the voters to be swayed this way is big news in a very tight race. The St Paul Pioneer-Press and Minnesota Public Radio poll shows a Coleman lead of 6 points. The rally, it seems, wasn't only gross; it was dumb. I can't think of two better adjectives for the sleazeball now running the Democrats, Terry McAuliffe. With this race, he may finally have done himself in. Which in the long term, paradoxically enough, is bad for Bush. - 11:22:01 PM
Saturday, November 02, 2002 LAST CALL FOR HITCHENS: "Orwell always described himself as a socialist, never as a liberal. He disliked the Tory Party and the class system and the empire. His rationalism has been described (by me) as "Protestant Atheism". That is, he had a great respect for scripture and for the hymnal, and employed their images and rhythms in his own prose. His favorite line of justification was a line from John Milton - "By the known rules of ancient liberty.." This expressed the conviction that there was a common and innate understanding of freedom, which would outlive all ideologies." - the conversation about Orwell concludes on the Book Club Page. Thanks for all your emails. Next Friday, Hichens and I will be reprising our C-SPAN duet, live in D.C., from 8 - 10 am, ET. - 12:14:00 PM
Friday, November 01, 2002 PERFIDIOUS PARIS: Charles Krauthammer sends exactly the right signal to the president. - 2:22:41 PM MONDALE ON THE WAR: James Lileks, as usual, has the ex-veep's number.
GOOD FOR BARNEY: Congressman Frank criticizes another Democrat. The Stonewall Democrats' Chad Johnson also does the honorable thing. But then Johnson (an old friend) is an honorable guy.
THANKS: Last month was our biggest ever. We broke through the 1 million visit mark easily - with 1.13 million visits from 273,000 unique visitors. - 2:15:55 PM THE PRODUCTIVITY MIRACLE: Brad DeLong, with whom I often disagree but who's invariably worth reading, points out some interesting data in the latest economic report. Bottom line:
Take the 7.6% [productivity] growth rate of the last quarter of 2001, the 8.3% growth rate of the first quarter of 2002, the 1.7% growth rate of the second quarter, and now the third quarter's 4.0%, and realize that over the past four quarters America's measured economic productivity has grown by 5.4%. This is an amazing performance for a time over which total hours worked have been falling.
As readers know, I'm no trained economist, but it strikes me that the huge productivity gains of recent times are extremely good news for all of us. There was much in the boom that was dumb, much in the bubble that was ludicrous, but much underneath that may one day be seen as a big leap forward for the American economy.
HITCHENS ON REGRETS: "I think that regret is for those you didn't sleep with, while remorse is for those with whom you did. There are some past battles where I wish I had done more for the cause, and very few moments over which I feel embarrassment. (I was fifty-two, since you ask, on 11 September 2001.) It was a clarifying day all right, but the thing began for me on 14 February 1989, when Khomeini issued his "fatwah" against Salman Rushdie. I have been denouncing "under-reaction" to Islamic theocratic violence ever since, and it begins to look like steady work." - more reader and Hitchens to-and-fro on the Book Club Page.
THE GOODS ON LAW: Did he once tell this guy to keep quiet about sexual abuse? At this point, you can't rule it out. Can anyone tell me why Cardinal Law hasn't resigned yet?
THE GOODS ON THE FBI: Heather Mac Donald examines how the Clinton administration kept the FBI ham-strung in the run-up to 9/11.
SIMON PANDERS: Yep, it's not just the Dems that gay-bait, of course. The hopeless Republican candidate in California has been trying to use anti-gay themes in his outreach to Latinos. Isn't this exactly what's wrong with the Republican Party? There's a whole new constituency out there to woo and win, i.e. Hispanics. So why do you have to scapegoat and smear another group to do it? Got nothing else to say?
WELLSTONE ON GAYS: Not what you might have imagined. Wellstone eagerly voted for the "Defense of Marriage Act," sponsored by the religious right and signed by Bill Clinton. The Judd Brothers have more, including a particularly brutal piece about Wellstone's alleged attitude toward gays in something called 'The Progressive Review." First time I knew of this. I guess none of Wellstone's radical supporters would bring it up, would they? - 1:17:47 AM