IT'S OUR FIFTH ANNIVERSARY! CLICK HERE TO MAKE A DONATION. Friday, October 31, 2003 CORRECTION: Last night, I wrote that "both the New York Times and the Washington Post do their best to bury and downplay the news [ about economic growth]." I was going by the web editions in the early morning. Both actual papers do front the news big today in the print editions. I withdraw the comment. - 12:47:07 PM EMAIL OF THE DAY: "I just got back from the memorial service. This soldier had served 18 years in the Army, most of that in Special Forces. He did all the hard jobs, and spent years in desolate miserable places, helping people he didnt' know, try to improve their lives. He was a father of two young boys, a husband, and clearly a friend of many. He did more to alleviate suffering in this world than was his burden to do, more, I'd dare venture, than all of the people put together who wrote to the Democratic Underground to call for the death of more soldiers like him in Iraq. I fly up to DC tonight to be with my wife and children. We are stationed apart, she is a doctor at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and I am a simple soldier in the Third Army, "Patton's Own". My kids will likely fall asleep in their Haloween costumes so that I can see them all dressed up, since I won't be there until sometime after 11:00 pm. I pray every day that they understand that what their Mother and I do for work is not just a hardship on them, but a way to protect them, and others, for many years to come. Others will have to make this same sacrifice in the future, but it's a burden I and others share right now. I've lived in Saudi Arabia, and I've seen what Islamic fundamentalism can do to personal freedom. I will gladly fight to keep that away from my children. And I will work to keep those who think like the writers to the Democratic Underground out of power. My promise on that is as good as my 20 year promise to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. I will never forget." - 12:40:12 PM "LESS IMMINENT": Here's the new phrase for critics of Bush's Iraq policy:
They argue that the threat from Hussein was "less imminent than the administration claimed and that the United States should have done much more to win international backing and better prepare for postwar reconstruction."
Well, it's an improvement. But it makes as much sense as "less pregnant." The general argument E.J. lays out, though, is a good one for the Dems. If I were running as a Democrat this year (ha ha ha), here's what I'd say: "President Bush, thank you for taking the first bold steps in the war on terror. But you have become too polarizing a figure at home, and especially abroad, to win the battle we now wage for the hearts and minds of the world, especially the young Arab world. We intend to make even more of an effort to bring Iraq into the normal ranks of nations, but we also want to mend fences with our friends in Europe, and move the country forward. You have made too many tactical mistakes, even though we do not question your good will and courage. To pay for the Iraq project, we are going to rescind the tax cuts for the very richest Americans. Blah blah blah." See what I mean? This would have been the perfect Clark argument. But he had to pander to the base and so destroyed his centrist credibility. Alas, that also applies to almost everyone else. And the likeliest nominee, Howard Dean, would be able to make this case with the least persuasiveness. Bush-hatred, far from wounding the president, has, I think, deeply wounded the Democrats. Just as Clinton-hatred (I plead guilty, in part) wounded Republicans. We never learn, do we? - 12:15:15 PM
Thursday, October 30, 2003 KRUGMAN SQUIRMS: Even he has to concede the economic tidings are basically good. Money quote:
My purpose is not to denigrate the impressive estimated 7.2 percent growth rate for the third quarter of 2003. It is, rather, to stress the obvious: we've had our hopes dashed in the past, and it remains to be seen whether this is just another one-hit wonder.
Meeoooowwww!! Still, both the New York Times and the Washington Post do their best to bury and downplay the news. - 11:50:05 PM GEORGE ON GEORGE: Stephanopoulos predicts a likely Bush win in 2004.
COLEMAN REPUBLICANS: Another term for Jewish "eagles," I'd say. Interesting and long overdue development.
THE U.N. DELUSION: The current position of many Democrats is that the U.S. should leave Iraq to the auspices of the United Nations. Yet the U.N. is leaving at the slightest whiff of danger. Shouldn't the press ask the Democrats what they'd do now? Or are they just flailing as usual?
THE O'REILLY/LUSKIN SYNDROME: Fox News nearly sued Fox TV over the Simpsons! Or so says Matt Groening.
EMAIL OF THE DAY: "I submitted my nonfiction prose to Gender Genie. I was told I was male and when I submitted my true gender, I was described as some "butch chick." Imagine my surprise. As a 52 year old, delightfully married for 29+ years, mother of four,(two of whom were adopted), born-again Christian, politically liberal to moderate except concerning abortion, female, I have decided that perhaps their methodology needs a bit more tweaking." - more feedback on the liveliest Letters Page on the web.
THE DEMOCRATS' DELUSION: A belated but heart-felt link to my boss's latest TRB column on the Democrats and the war. It's devastating and right. Is this the time to congratulate him on his marriage as well? Mazel Tov, Peter, on both counts. - 11:26:42 PM THE LEFT DEBATES: On the Democratic Underground site, various far- lefties debate whether it's legitimate for Baathists to kill and attack American soldiers. Many think it is. My favorite comment from the centrists:
regardless of right or wrong. we dont want to be associated with supporting the killing of our own troops. that would be political suicide... we dont want to be associated with "supporting" Iraqi resistance. something like that would make us (dems, libs, progs, whoever) look terrible and just give the opposition fuel.
Good to see their consciences at work.
DERBYSHIRE BANNED?: Or so he says. So a word of support from this quarter. I think even writers like Derbyshire should be free to talk at whatever college they wish to on any matter at hand. His views deserve an airing. Views like this:
Jewishness, open and proud, is a subversive force — subversive, that is, of any institution in which it becomes entrenched... There is no reason why an individual Jew might not be a good and honorable person, any more than there is any reason why an individual gentile might not be a liar and a thief. In matters social and organizational, though, the sum is often greater than the parts, and it is not the one we should focus on, but the many. This, unfortunately, is a very difficult thing to get people to do in a highly individualistic culture like ours. "What about Joe? He's Jewish, but a finer human being you could never wish to meet." Sure, we all know Joe; but his case tells us nothing about the probable behavior of an organization whose higher levels are 30, or 50, or 60 percent Jewish... Long-time readers of National Review may recall Robert Conquest's three laws of politics, of which the second was: "Any organization not explicitly and constitutionally right-wing will sooner or later become left-wing." (Conquest actually offered the Church of England as an example of this law in action.) I should like to hypothesize a fourth law, which I am going to call Derbyshire's Law. Any organization that admits frank and open Jews into its higher levels will sooner or later abandon its original purpose and give itself over to propagating and celebrating the Jewish ethos, and to excluding gentiles and denigrating Christianity.
Now do you think that someone who had written this would still be writing for national publications? But substitute gay references for Jewish ones and you have exactly a piece written by Derbyshire for National Review (I substituted the two terms). The anti-semitic and anti-gay tropes in this instance are interchangeable: the secrecy of Jews/gays, their capacity to exclude others, their ulterior motives, their clannishness, their alleged persecution of those outside the fold, their infiltration and take-over of previously upright institutions, and on and on. And the point of his argument is to defend discriminating against individual gays, regardless of their merits, solely on the basis of their homosexuality. Derbyshire then argues in defense of his right to speak at a college:
Curious to explore the meaning of the word "extreme" as it is understood in the minds of tenured academics at U.S. universities, I asked my intermediary for the names of some speakers who had been welcomed at that campus without incident. He named, among others, Angela Davis. Are you getting this? Derb — extreme. Angela Davis — mainstream.
The truth is that Derbyshire is no more extreme than Davis. But he is no less extreme either. Both indulge in the politics of hatred - she of the far left, he of the far right. And both deserve free speech.
- 11:25:30 PM LUSKIN OVER-REACHES: He's threatening to sue a blogger. Puh-lease. Lay off. - 3:49:59 PM FINALLY SEEING THROUGH MOORE: I wondered how long it would take some sane lefties to realize what a fraud Michael Moore is. Here's a refreshing editorial from the San Francisco Chronicle. Money quote:
Moore recently touched down in California as part of his national book tour. He's traveling in style -- in a private jet provided by Time Warner, and in SUVs courtesy of his publisher, Warner Books. The company also threw in some bodyguards -- as we know from his movies, America is a pretty darn dangerous place. For his part, Moore sees no contradiction between his private life and his public image, suggesting that the only reason he's feeding at the corporate trough is because it's there. "I would never pay for this,'' Moore told the Los Angeles Times, adding that the irony is not lost on him. When you make your living bashing malicious corporate CEOs, it's best not to remind people that you're using giant media companies to carry your message.
News break: Moore is a capitalist millionaire, getting rich off left-wing suckers. - 2:53:55 PM HOWARD'S WIFE: She's a "sixties model" called Sandra Paul. Tom Brennan has done some research. - 11:41:25 AM OKAY, HE'S WELSH: And technically, Disraeli converted to Anglicanism. But Michael Howard is still a fresh development. Fresher, actually.
7.2 PERCENT: Yes, think of the hope that people will get jobs. But also think of how miserable Paul Krugman is today. - 11:31:28 AM
Wednesday, October 29, 2003 NOT SINCE DISRAELI...: ... Has there been an English Jew running the Tory party. Here's a useful - if a little fawning - primer on the almost inevitable new leader: Michael Howard.
THE BUSH BOOM? Here's liberal economic writer Daniel Gross on the prospect of a serious economic boom under president Bush:
The Bush boom may or may not be a reality. I'd settle for several quarters of consistent growth, with job creation and GDP expansion at rates remotely close to those of the '90s. But that doesn't make for a particularly sexy book title, or for a compelling re-election slogan.
I'll take that any day. So would any incumbent president, already at 55 percent approval rating. This is bad, bad news for the Democrats. But the really bad news is that their main policy right now is hoping for bad news. - 11:20:42 PM GENDER GENIE: Thanks to Glenn Reynolds, who directed me to Gender Genie, a computer program that says it can tell whether you're male or female by the content of your prose. Fascinating. I ran four of my most recent pieces through the grinder - and a blog item or two. My average score is over 2-1 male, and the blog is the malest - much less metrosexual than even the Insta-man. And I'm a big fag. It would indeed be interesting to see whether gay male writers end up being more or less reliably identified as male by this program. My own hunch suggests that gender is a far more profound determinant of human behavior than sexual orientation. Hey, I'm writing my next book as we speak ... While I'm at it, here's Chip McGrath's take; and more details on the methodology. - 11:20:27 PM HE TOLD US IT WOULD BE EASY: Here's another fast-accelerating meme: the president led the American public to believe that the post-war reconstruction of Iraq would be easy, he never anticipated these problems, and can only blame himself for not lowering expectations. The one true aspect of this seems to me to be the gratuitous symbolism of the USS Lincoln landing and that hubristic banner: "Mission Accomplished." I think I've been proved right about the over-reach there. But rhetorically, it's fair for the White House to point out that the president did indeed warn about the post-war. Here are some extracts sent to me from the president's speeches in the last year:
We have difficult work to do in Iraq. We're bringing order to parts of that country that remain dangerous. We're pursuing and finding leaders of the old regime, who will be held to account for their crimes. We've begun the search for hidden chemical and biological weapons and already know of hundreds of sites that will be investigated. We're helping to rebuild Iraq, where the dictator built palaces for himself, instead of hospitals and schools. And we will stand with the new leaders of Iraq as they establish a government of, by, and for the Iraqi people. The transition from dictatorship to democracy will take time, but it is worth every effort. Our coalition will stay until our work is done.
That's from the Lincoln speech. Then there's this:
The work ahead is demanding. It will be difficult to help freedom take hold in a country that has known three decades of dictatorship, secret police, internal divisions, and war. It will be difficult to cultivate liberty and peace in the Middle East, after so many generations of strife. Yet, the security of our nation and the hope of millions depend on us, and Americans do not turn away from duties because they are hard. We have met great tests in other times, and we will meet the tests of our time.
That was February 26, before the war. This was on April 15:
Our victory in Iraq is certain, but it is not complete. Centralized power of the dictator has ended -- yet, in parts of Iraq, desperate and dangerous elements remain. Forces of our coalition will engage these enemies until they surrender or until they're destroyed. We have waged this war with determination and with clarity of purpose. And we will see it through until the job is done. As we press on to liberate every corner of Iraq, we are beginning the difficult work of helping Iraqis to build a free and stable country.
This was a day later:
American and coalition forces still face serious risks in Iraq. Scattered enemy is still capable of doing harm to our forces and to the innocent. But we'll stay focused. We will finish what we've begun. We will press on until our mission is finished and victory is complete… With all the hardships of this transition, the lives of the Iraqi people will be better than anything they have known for generations. The journey from a totalitarian, brutal dictatorship to a free society is not easy. It will take time to build the institutions of democracy and the habits of freedom.
I could go on. The bottom line: this enormous effort in Iraq will take a long time - years, maybe. Doing it is the only profound measure taken in years to turn the growing threat of Middle Eastern radicalization around. It is a good in itself. It will make us more secure. It has the potential to revolutionize the Arab world. We cannot relent or buckle or show weakness. The real test of this war, as we've known from its inception, will be the years ahead when the memory of 9/11 recedes and the forces of appeasement and amnesia seek to undermine our resolve. - 11:20:07 PM FRANCE'S LONG FAILURE: Oliver Kamm looks at the history of French idiocy in foreign affairs - back to Napoleon III. They learn nothing, do they?
CLARK ON THE WAR: A useful summary of complete incoherence.
THE RISE OF SINGLES: I didn't know this:
Last month the Census Bureau reported that 132 members of the House of Representatives have districts in which the majority of households are headed by unmarried adults.
Here's a useful primer on the implications. - 11:18:08 PM HE GONE: The British Tories have ousted their leader. 90 votes against - 75 for. - 2:10:34 PM THE ONION ON IRAQ: Over to administration spokesman, Lawrence Pettibone. Actually, he has a point.
- 12:56:04 PM QUOTE FOR THE DAY: "I don't know whether we'll win the postwar if Congress approves the money Bush asked for. But I know we'll lose it if Congress doesn't. That's what happens when a nation at war starts to think like the Wes Clark of 2003. Just ask the Wes Clark of 1999." - Will Saletan, in a perceptive piece on the opportunism of Wesley Clark. - 12:48:43 PM THE FRENCH AND AMERICAN CASUALTIES: Some in Paris are ecstatically happy at the thought of dead Americans. - 12:37:03 PM MORE SLIMING OF NETHERCUTT: The Seattle Post-Intelligencer has now upped the ante. Rather than conceding that they deliberately distorted his quote to attack Congressman Nethercutt, they now run this cartoon about him. Shameless. (Hat-tip: Stefan Scharansky.) - 11:57:53 AM FIFTY-ONE WORDS: "The Federal Marriage Amendment wouldn't simply ban equality in civil marriage, a right that is now guaranteed to murderers, child abusers, dead-beat dads, multiple divorcees and foreigners - but not to gay citizens. It would also make it unconstitutional for a state or federal law to give any benefits whatsoever to gay couples. Where do I glean that? From the words "or the legal incidents thereof." Even the weakest forms of domestic partnerships contain benefits, i.e. "legal incidents," that are also part of marriage, like hospital visitation, shared wills, etc. This amendment would make every such benefit subject to abolition through the courts. Some say that because the amendment says that no law should be "construed" to grant the "legal incidents" of marriage, it's directed only at courts, not legislatures - so a legislature could enact equal marriage rights and pass the Constitutional test. But anything called marriage or equivalent to marriage would be banned under the first part of the amendment. And any benefits in a lesser version could be challenged by the far right in the courts under the second part - and no court could constitutionally uphold them." My call to arms to the gay community to come together to fight the direst threat to gay civil rights in history can be found opposite. - 11:45:23 AM A BUSH-RICE MEME: Great to see I'm not the only one who sees the genius of this mix.
THE TORIES PUT THE BOOT IN: It looks increasingly likely that the British Conservative Party is about to switch leaders. This is a good thing. Blair needs a real opposition and his domestic policies are reverting to the left's mean: more taxes and more spending. But look at the reasons for the leader's decline:
The Times says plans are under way for a "lightning contest" to replace Mr Duncan Smith and thus minimise the damage to the party, if, as expected, he fails to secure the 83 votes required to win this afternoon's vote of confidence in him by Tory MPs. The paper's Michael Gove identifies three major defects that sealed Mr Duncan Smith's fate: his inability to manage his team, as evinced by his harsh treatment of now-rival David Davis; his poor communication skills, as revealed during lack-lustre performances at PMQs and party conference; and his poor judgment, displayed over issues such as his opposition to gay adoption.
Yep. Opposition to gay adoption has helped sink a conservative leader. There lies the future. - 11:16:42 AM PAGLIA ON CLARK: "What a phony! What a bunch of crap this Clark boom is. Clark reminds me of Keir Dullea in "2001: A Space Odyssey" -- a blank, vacant expression, detached and affectless. There's something sexually neutered about Dullea in that film -- a physical passivity necessitated by cramped space travel -- that I also find in Clark. And the astronaut Dullea plays is sometimes indistinguishable from the crazed computer, HAL -- which I find in Clark's smug, computerized vocal delivery... Doesn't anyone know how to "read" TV? The guy's an android! He gives me the creeps. And don't they realize how short he is? He's a slick, boudoir, salon military type who rubbed plenty of colleagues the wrong way. Clark is not a natural man's man. And he's no Eisenhower, who was a genial, charismatic leader with a genius for collaboration and organization." Her take on the war seems wrong to me - she seems more concerned about educating the public about the glories of Middle Eastern culture (not a bad idea in itself) than tackling the frightening rise of Islamism. And she doesn't get Washington. She seems to think that State Department-Pentagon infighting is somehow Rumsfeld's doing! But when she's good, she's great. This was how she felt about Rush Limbaugh's woes:
For me, it was almost like when Diana had her accident or when Natalie Wood was found drowned off Santa Catalina. That's the level of deep emotional upset that admirers of Rush had -- not because his private life contradicted his public code but because of the revelation of the desperate, agonizing subterfuges to which he had been driven by his addiction.
Paglia is the only person on the planet who could go on to compare Rush Limbaugh with Judy Garland. For that alone, she deserves to be celebrated. Oh, and she's dead right about the genius of Drudge. Incomparable. - 12:46:18 AM WAHHABISM IN AMERICA: Another mosque linked to defenders of murder and terror. And it will be built in Boston.
TORY DAY OF TRUTH: The lack-luster British Tories, finally united on policy, will meet today to decide whether to dump their uninspired leader, Iain Duncan-Smith. One way of figuring out what could happen is reading the editorial in today's Daily Telegraph, the bastion of Toryism. There was no ringing endorsement of IDS, and a subtle argument that the process of replacing him could be swifter and more decisive than some believe. Others are urging a coup. I'd say he's finished. The Tories are a ruthless party; and another massive election defeat could cripple them. Survival is what matters now; and my guess is they'll seize the chance.
How does a) the number of innocent people who will be executed under death penalty procedures compare with b) the number of innocent, live patients who will be killed under a tendentious diagnosis of PVS? I'd guess the ratio is probably one to 100, maybe 1 to 1,000. But the American left makes a huge (and legitimate) fuss about the former while it actually promotes the latter.
But couldn't the same thing be said about many on the religious right in reverse? They are going doolally over this case; but many support the death penalty with glee. For my part, I would favor keeping poor Terri Schiavo alive and oppose the death penalty in all cases. But I don't think the Schiavo case is an easy call. And I don't believe maintaining someone in that nightmare forever is an unmixed blessing. And one qualm I have about the case is the fanaticism of the people supporting her. Speaking of which ... - 12:45:44 AM IT DIDN'T TAKE LONG: Amy Welborn is mightily ticked off that I dared to quote the Catechism about Terri Schiavo. Since I am now in her mind not a Catholic, how can I refer to such a text? One of her Catholic readers goes even further: "Reading Andrew Sullivan making arguments from the catechism is like hearing Adolf Hitler give an exegesis on a passage from the Talmud." Now that's the voice of Christian dialogue. Mark Shea, a man who also claims to represent Catholicism in its orthodox form, emotes:
T'aint complicated. Everything--I mean *everything*--in Andrew's world is ordered toward the defense, protection and promotion of One Little Thing. This was just one more opportunity to take a swipe at the thing that poses the biggest threat to that. His task here is not to teach Catholic ethics, but to obfuscate, confuse, blur and denigrate. A day or two ago he was trying to somehow construe the defense of Terri's life in support of gay marriage. It's all about l'il willie for Andrew.
That last quote is a wonderful insight into the minds of the Ratzingerites. The legal right of a husband to determine the future of his incapacitated wife, and the difficult balance between keeping someone alive who is in a vegetative state for decades and letting them die with dignity: this is all really about my penis. Puh-lease. Again, I'd give the benefit of the doubt to keeping Schiavo alive. But the extremism and absolutism of her advocates is unnerving. All I was trying to do by quoting the Catechism is to show that even under Ratzinger, there is an understanding of a balance here. It isn't life-at-all-costs, which is how some of these people are sounding. I also find it odd that Welborn seems to believe that someone who does not subscribe to Cardinal Ratzinger's sexual ethics (i.e. a huge majority of American Catholics) is thereby ruled inadmissable in any debate about Catholic ethics on life and death. Here's how she puts it:
But really, if you reject the whole of the Church's teaching on sexuality (and he does - remember his defenses of Arnold Schwarzenegger's past sexual outrages?) - don't, and I mean DON'T come at me quoting the Catechism. Just don't.
That's how Ratzinger sees it, of course. He is the sole guardian of truth; debate is pointless; all that is required is obedience; and those who are disobedient are barred from even speaking in the Catholic conversation. But to see this rigidity echoed among some lay-people shows the extent to which anti-intellectualism truly has taken hold. (For the record, I did not defend Schwarzenegger's alleged sexual gropings. I called them gross and wrong. I merely defended his consensual past sex life and opposed the campaign to use his sexual past to prevent his election.) - 12:45:22 AM DOWD AWARD NOMINEE: This one goes to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer for deliberately mangling a quote from Congressman George Nethercutt. He'd just returned from a tour of Iraq and, like so many others, reported a much more optimistic scenario than many in the media have been reporting. He gave a talk in which he said,
"So the story is better than we might be led to believe – I'm – just – indicting the news people – but it's a bigger and better and more important story than losing a couple of soldiers every day which, which, heaven forbid, is awful."
The Seattle P-I chopped off the quote so that it said in its subhead: "It's a better ... story than losing a couple of soldiers every day." They added in their own words: "He added that he did not want any more soldiers to be killed." But that is not an accurate rendition of the full quote. It's a device to protect themselves in what is clearly a hit-job. Nethercutt complained, "I requested that the Post-Intelligencer correct the record. They refused. And they even refused to at least run my full quote. But the P-I didn't stop there. They then wrote an editorial condemning me, repeated the quote they had deliberately distorted, and put my 'quote' next to the name of one of our fallen soldiers. To do so was completely heartless." But not unexpected. Here's how the Seattle P-I responded:
"It's a better and more important story than losing a couple of soldiers every day," the would-be senator gaffed at a gathering Monday. The family of Pfc. Kerry Scott of Concrete, who buried their young hero Tuesday, likely would not share Nethercutt's news judgment.
Charming, huh? What they implied with their first story is now explicit in their editorial: that Nethercutt doesn't give a damn about the military casualties that have taken place. And once the quote is in the database, you can't escape it. Guess what? Maureen Dowd ran with it! Dowd's insinuation is particularly unfair. She wrote:
On Monday, Representative George Nethercutt Jr., a Republican from Washington State who visited Iraq, chimed in to help the White House: 'The story of what we've done in the postwar period is remarkable. It is a better and more important story than losing a couple of soldiers every day.' The congressman puts the casual back in casualty.
Well, he would have put the casual back in casualty if he hadn't added, "which, which, heaven forbid, is awful." Doesn't that elision completely undermine Dowd's cheap shot? Dowd is not personally guilty of deliberately distorting the quote; the Seattle P-I is. But it behooves Dowd and the NYT to run a correction exonerating Nethercutt from the charge of insensitivity to the troops. - 12:44:00 AM A VOICE OF SANITY: From a reader who understands the issue better than Amy Welborn:
On a personal note, living in Florida, this Shiavo situation is really a tough one. My mother lost her battle to Alzheimer's just shy of her 86th. from 80 on it was obvious that she was failing little by little. First it was her memory started to get holes in it, then halting speech, wandering away from her caregivers...eventually into a nursing home where she deteriorated over a couple of years until she lost the ability to swallow. Feeding tube recommended by the doctors were refused by my sister who along with me had the final say, due, thank God to my mom's living will. She passed peacefully, I hope, in about a week after contracting pneumonia, due in part to her weakened condition. She was a vibrant, self educated person, full of spunk all her life, and one of the first people I can remember to be a real woman's libber, long before it was at all fashionable, a real progressive who never backed down from anyone, or anything. I know she would have pulled the plug herself if she had been able to at the end. My heart goes out to all those affected by this. I'm not sure there is a right and wrong so much as there is an inevitability that we all must live with ourselves and the decisions we make in these situations. I agree with you that I'm not so sure it is humane to not let nature take it's course.
QUOTE FOR THE DAY: "Some say let's choose another route and give gay folks some legal rights but call it something other than marriage. We have been down that road before in this country. Separate is not equal. The rights to liberty and happiness belong to each of us and on the same terms, without regard to either skin color or sexual orientation. Some say they are uncomfortable with the thought of gays and lesbians marrying. But our rights as Americans do not depend on the approval of others. Our rights depend on us being Americans. Sometimes it takes courts to remind us of these basic principles. In 1948, when I was 8 years old, 30 states had bans on interracial marriage, courts had upheld the bans many times, and 90 percent of the public disapproved of those marriages, saying they were against the definition of marriage, against God's law. But that year, the California Supreme Court became the first court in America to strike down such a ban. Thank goodness some court finally had the courage to say that equal means equal, and others rightly followed, including the US Supreme Court 19 years later. Some stand on the ground of religion, either demonizing gay people or suggesting that civil marriage is beyond the Constitution. But religious rites and civil rights are two separate entities. What's at stake here is legal marriage, not the freedom of every religion to decide on its own religious views and ceremonies." - John Lewis, civil rights giant, standing up in today's great civil rights battle. - 12:42:55 AM
Tuesday, October 28, 2003 PITY THE CHILDREN: Where far right becomes far left: the fag-hating, America-hating offspring of Fred Phelps. More pro-Saddam posters here. (Hat tip: Glenn.) - 5:34:28 PM NOW, TAIWAN: Marriage is legalized in Taiwan for all citizens, gay and straight. (Hat tip: Michael Demmons.) - 5:06:23 PM SOUTH PARK REPUBLICAN WATCH: From an interview in a left-liberal arts mag in California, Newtopia:
Newtopia: As a resident of Los Angeles, how do you feel about the California recall election? Mat: Fuck yeah. It is funny how the spin doctors tried to make what was democracy in action seem reactionary because it did not conform to their narrow ideals. Too many Democrats are shrill, hopeless, undersexed squares. It will be funny if the Republicans are hip all of a sudden and the left is suddenly me, you and our high school English teachers lecturing about the triumph of the 60s. That is what is happening here, the Republicans are hijacking culture. And the Democrats are a bunch of squares in suits saying tsk-tsk-tsk. It is funny. I lost any hope in politics after what Clinton did to Jerry Brown in the 1992 primaries. The first issue of Coagula was a pamphleteering plea to elect Jerry Brown. Clinton was a hopeless square and now that is coming home to roost. The true intellects and creative forces in the Democratic party have been marginalized in favor of Centrist conformists, and now the Republicans are saying "Hey let's party!" and the true strengths of the Democrats are seen as fringe, risky strategies by the Democratic leaders, and the Republicans seem like visionaries, but a monkey in a fez would seem like a leader and visionary standing next to Bustamante or Davis!
Yep, Clinton was such a square. Still is. A Rhodie, remember?
HOME NEWS: 75,000 visits yesterday. Thanks. - 12:18:28 PM BAATHIST BROADCASTING CORPORATION: Check out how the BBC spins the anti-Israeli bias of a British professor who refused to admit an Israeli student to his doctoral program because - as he put it himself - "I have a huge problem with the way that the Israelis take the moral high ground from their appalling treatment in the Holocaust, and then inflict gross human rights abuses on the Palestinians because they [the Palestinians] wish to live in their own country." Here's the BBC version:
A professor who rejected a student's application because he had been in the Israeli army has been suspended by Oxford University. Professor Andrew Wilkie, Nuffield professor of pathology, emailed the student saying he would not enrol "someone who had served in the Israeli army".
Yes, the Beeb offers some routine boilerplate on how the professor emoted about the plight of the Palestinians. But it seriously minimizes the real content of the professor's animus. You could over-look this, I guess. But coming from the BBC, whose visceral hostility toward Israel teeters on the edge of anti-Semitism, it's worrying. Besides, don't almost all Israelis have to serve at some point in the military? - 11:55:31 AM SONTAG AND THE KILLERS: This just in from the AP:
New York-born writer and human rights activist Susan Sontag on Tuesday criticized U.S. President George W. Bush for not admitting that the U.S invasion in Iraq was wrong and that the Arab country is being driven into chaos. "You can't expect the government of President Bush to say, 'We made a mistake by invading Iraq,'" said Sontag. "He (Bush) says they (the bombers) are just criminals, amateurs, they are enemies of the Iraqis, we (Americans) are friends of the Iraqis". "This type of propaganda is not going to change, and if they (the U.S. military) eventually leave Iraq, the message will always say: 'We've won the war.'"
I think what Sontag is saying is that the murderers of the last week are actually the true friends of the Iraqis, and that the Americans are the enemy. I think what she is saying is that Saddam Hussein and his murdering goons are preferable to a democratic and pluralist Iraq. I think what she is saying is that she wants to see the United States defeated by Baathist terrorists. If you ever had any doubts where the far left is headed, listen to Sontag. Before long they will be forced to the logical conclusion of their current hatred of the U.S.: open support for Islamist terror. - 11:46:45 AM YESTERDAY IN IRAQ: There's not much point in sugar-coating what happened. It was a great victory for the Baathists and international terror. If they can keep this up, the chances of a peaceful reconstruction in Iraq look more remote than they did last week. Why? Not because this was that sophisticated an attack, but because it was relatively unsophisticated. Not so much because the Baathists can win, but because they don't have to. All they have to do is prevent the coalition from winning, which keeps Iraq in limbo, and tilts American public opinion against the war. I'm not an expert but obviously we need a more successful military strategy to defeat these insurgents. This might mean, as Tom Donnelly and Gary Schmitt argue in the Weekly Standard, more manpower and more intensity:
[A] real counterinsurgency campaign in Iraq entails risks. It would concentrate forces in the Sunni regions that are the hot spots. Rather than reducing the U.S. presence, it might require putting an even greater American face on the war in those places. That could mean that, in the short term, the Pentagon might have to put on hold its plans to reduce the number of troops in Iraq to lessen the burden on the Army. The Marine Corps also might need to send fresh units back into Iraq. A successful counterinsurgency campaign also would require American ground forces to carry out tasks and operations that today's "transforming" military, which increasingly is trading manpower for precision firepower, finds hard to perform. As one Army colonel in Iraq recently said to a New York Times reporter: "We are not trained to fight a war like this. We're training to fight an army face to face, to engage in direct combat, an enemy we can see." But that's not the kind of enemy we now face in Iraq.
It's obviously an extremely difficult task. But we have no alternative. This is indeed the frontline in the war against terror and tyranny. And that war is still in its infancy.
THE MURDERERS' ALLIES: Michael Totten notes that the main group behind the anti-war protests, ANSWER, is now openly supporting the Baathists, Islamists and Qaeda terrorists in Iraq. I said they were fascists before the war. Now we know they are. - 12:02:04 AM SCHIAVO AGAIN: Thanks for all your outraged emails. For the record, I think the benefit of the doubt in this case should go to keeping Schiavo nourished. But keeping a vegetative person nourished for decades in order to placate that person's relatives - even when she has virtually no chance of reviving, and when her nearest kin opposes it - does not strike me as indisputably humane. And allowing someone to die a natural death is not the same as killing them. Here's the Catholic Catechism on exactly that point:
Discontinuing medical procedures that are burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary or disproportionate to the expected outcome can be legitimate; it is the refusal of 'overzealous' treatment. Here one does not will to cause death; one's inability to impede it is merely accepted. The decisions should be made by the patient if he is competent and able or, if not, by those legally entitled to act for the patient, whose reasonable and legitimate interests must always be respected.
The current papacy, in its extreme innovations with respect to the absolute primacy of life in all circumstances, strikes me as somewhat unbalanced. The message of Christ, after all, was that life begins in all its real glory after death. The extreme defense of keeping people on earth at all costs seems an odd priority for a Christian church. That is not to say that we should support euthanasia or abortion, but that we should also understand that for many people, death is not a catastrophe; it is a release. There is balance to be found here. But the Wojtila-adherents disagree. (More feedback on the Letters Page.)
WHAT ATTACK ADS? Will Saletan and Jake Weisberg helpfully debunk a Kerry-Gephardt meme that Howard Dean has gone negative in his latest ads. TNR's blog also usefully debunks another piece of conventional campaign wisdom - based on a dubious Iowa poll. - 12:01:47 AM WHY I'D STILL BET ON BUSH: The economy may do for 43 what it failed to do for 41: re-elect a Bush.
AZNAR RISES: The Spanish premier recovers from his stance on the Iraq war. Just as Schroder sinks. Hehe.
"IGNORING" AFGHANISTAN: Another batch of Qaeda terrorists killed near the Pakistan border. The long, hard slog continues ... - 12:01:25 AM BEGALA AWARD NOMINEE: "Fear breeds hatred, and Bush's policies create a lot of both. U.S. citizens like Jose Padilla and Yasser Hamdi disappear into the night, never to be heard from again. A concentration camp rises at Guantánamo. Stasi-like spies tap our phones and read our mail; thanks to the ironically-named Patriot Act, these thugs don't even need a warrant. As individual rights are trampled, corporate profits are sacrosanct. An aggressive, expansionist military invades other nations "preemptively" to eliminate the threat of non-existent weapons, and American troops die to enrich a company that buys off the Vice President." - Ted Rall, proud Bush-hater.
THE WEEKLY FISK: I take on Clark and Kerry in Sunday's depressing Democratic debate.
Monday, October 27, 2003 WHEN MARRIAGE DOESN'T COUNT: An emailer makes a point that had already occurred to me. The Schiavo case is one in which the religious right are attacking the rights of traditional marriage:
There is an aspect of the case, however, that I have not seen discussed. It seems to me that in attacking the husband's decision, the religious right has also attacked one of the key aspects of marriage. Part of marriage is that our spouse is supposed to be able to speak for us in medical and other areas when we are not able. It is one of the rights that gay and lesbian couples so justly demand. Clearly, if there were indications of wrong doing or illegal activities the spouse could and should be challenged, but there ares are no such indications in this case that I know of. It does not appear that she created a legal document giving someone other than her husband the power to make these decisions. Where is the outrage from the religious right on this attack on marriage?
I guess the answer is that life trumps marriage. But their complete insouciance toward Schiavo's husband's rights is telling, I think. Their defense of heterosexual marriage is far more connected to their loathing of homosexuality than with their concern for marriage as such. It's essentially a negative, exclusionary impulse at heart. That's why they're not proposing a Constitutional Amendment to ban divorce, or forbid civil marriage. - 12:26:10 PM A "FRAUDULENT" COALITION: The alliance that John Kerry decried last night was very close to the alliance that landed at Normandy. Was that coalition fraudulent? - 12:07:07 PM SOUTH PARK REPUBLICANISM: It's all part of a new wave in the culture wars in which conservative ideas are making real headway. From Fox to blogs to Cartman, it's a phenomenon, according to Brian Anderson in the new City Journal. It's a long, complex piece, but here's one money-quote:
Talk to right-leaning college students, and it’s clear that Sullivan is onto something. Arizona State undergrad Eric Spratling says the definition fits him and his Republican pals perfectly. "The label is really about rejecting the image of conservatives as uptight squares—crusty old men or nerdy kids in blue blazers. We might have long hair, smoke cigarettes, get drunk on weekends, have sex before marriage, watch R-rated movies, cuss like sailors—and also happen to be conservative, or at least libertarian." Recent Stanford grad Craig Albrecht says most of his young Bush-supporter friends "absolutely cherish" South Park–style comedy "for its illumination of hypocrisy and stupidity in all spheres of life." It just so happens, he adds, "that most hypocrisy and stupidity take place within the liberal camp."
Further supporting Sullivan’s contention, Gavin McInnes, co-founder of Vice—a "punk-rock-capitalist" entertainment corporation that publishes the hipster bible Vice magazine, produces CDs and films, runs clothing stores, and claims (plausibly) to have been "deep inside the heads of 18–30s for the past 10 years"—spots "a new trend of young people tired of being lied to for the sake of the 'greater good.'" Especially on military matters, McInnes believes, many twenty-somethings are disgusted with the Left. The knee-jerk Left's days "are numbered," McInnes tells The American Conservative. "They are slowly but surely being replaced with a new breed of kid that isn't afraid to embrace conservatism."
But not the humorless, puritanical conservatism of the religious right. - 11:53:08 AM OUCH: The Washington Post's ombudsman offers a verdict on Tina Brown's first column: "This precious, egocentric piece was about the worst and most irrelevant thing I've read in my three years on the job." He added that he was "embarassed for the paper and also for the Web site." Hey, I'm sure Sally loved it. - 11:44:55 AM GET SADDAM: This new wave of terrorist violence only underscores how the war is unfinished. It makes it all the more important that we find and kill Saddam Hussein; and that we aim more lethally at the Islamist forces that are desperate to prevent democracy of any kind coming to the Arab world. This is no reason to retreat. It's reason to intensify. These people are testing our will. We have to test their survival skills. - 11:30:50 AM THE ROCKETS WERE FRENCH: Not exactly a surprise - but is this the first time that French-made munitions have been used in an attempt to murder a member of the U.S. government? - 12:20:38 AM ORWELL ON WAR CRITICS: "It is, I think, true to say that the intelligentsia have been more wrong about the progress of the war than the common people, and that they were more swayed by partisan feelings. The average intellectual of the Left believed, for instance, that the war was lost in 1940, that the Germans were bound to overrun Egypt in 1942, that the Japanese would never be driven out of the lands they had conquered, and that the Anglo-American bombing offensive was making no impression on Germany. He could believe these things because his hatred for the British ruling class forbade him to admit that British plans could succeed. There is no limit to the follies that can be swallowed if one is under the influence of feelings of this kind. I have heard it confidently stated, for instance, that the American troops had been brought to Europe not to fight the Germans but to crush an English revolution. One has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that: no ordinary man could be such a fool." - from Notes on Nationalism. It's a helpful quote when slogging through yet another left-liberal column on why we can't win in Iraq.
KERRY ON THE BRITS: They're part of a "fraudulent" coalition, according to the Senator from Massachusetts last night:
This president has done it wrong every step of the way. He promised that he would have a real coalition. He has a fraudulent coalition. He promised he would go through the United Nations and honor the inspections process. He did not. He promised he would go to war as a last resort, words that mean something to me as a veteran. He did not.
Some questions. How was the coalition "fraudulent"? Is going to the U.N., getting a resolution and trying extremely hard for a second resolution not going through the U.N.? Are twelve years of inspections not respecting the inspections process? Is John Kerry a serious candidate for the presidency of the United States?
"IMMINENT THREAT" WATCH: Wesley Clark used it at least twice last night. Grrr. - 12:11:40 AM SPEAKING OF FOOLS: There were so few "anti-war" demonstrators in DC this weekend that I barely noticed any. I had one amusing exchange with a stereotypical aging hippie couple who were both wearing 'Free Iraq" t-shirts. As I walked past them with the beagle, I pointed at their t-shirts and said, "We just did." They scowled. The BBC did its best to pump up the demonstrations, of course:
The march was thought to be smaller than the mass demonstrations before and during the war. But the BBC's Jon Leyne, who was at the Washington rally, said it was probably more in tune with the mood of Americans, who are increasingly concerned at the president's policy in Iraq.
Notice the scientific reporting: the march "was thought" to be smaller than the pre-war ones (it was obviously not even in the same ball-park). And the rally - which was full of the usual anti-globalization Luddites and bitter anti-Semites - was "probably" in tune with American public opinion. They don't even make stuff up with real confidence any more.
SO WHY CARE? So why bother with these extremists? Because it seems to me that the far left anti-war message, misguided before the war, is close to obscene today, and tells us something about what we're up against. Before the war, these people claimed they weren't pro-Saddam; they were just pro-peace. But now that the Iraqi people have the first chance in living memory to have a decent, pluralist and democratic country, these demonstrators want to abandon them to chaos, terror, civil war and a possible new dictatorship. The only connective thread in this movement is hatred of the United States. (Oh, and Israel. Some posters openly called for the eradication of the Jewish state.) They assail one of the biggest humanitarian efforts in recent history while Iranian Qaeda surrogates are busy locating synagogues in Britain for terrorist attacks; and while Iran itself may be preparing to become the nuclear-armed vanguard of Islamo-fascism. They march under these banners when polling suggests most Iraqis want to construct a viable democracy; and when even the New York Times concedes that Iraqis view their present as far preferable to their past. It's now that we can see what really lay behind the activist core of the "peace movement": not peace but hatred of the West; not democracy, but alliance with dictators, terrorists and Islamo-fascism. Here's a prediction: the fledgling links now forged between left-wing anti-war campaigners and Islamo-fascism will get stronger in the years ahead. The anti-globalization far left has nowhere else to go. Fanatical political Islam provides them with an over-arching structure for the loathing of the West. Now that Marxism is dead and post-modernism has shown itself inept as a basis for a real political movement, Islam will fill the void. - 12:10:51 AM SCHIAVO: I haven't commented because I feel nothing but conflicted feelings about this case. From everything I've read, it seems extremely unlikely that Terri Schiavo will ever function as a human being again. She is alive entirely as a function of modern technology. Maintaining that life indefinitely seems to me a debatable goal. Certainly if I were in her shoes, I'd want to be allowed to die without the elaborate paraphernalia keeping my bodily functions intact. To my mind, that is not the same as killing someone. That said, I agree with Mickey Kaus that some of the elite reporting on this has been bizarrely one-sided (NPR wins the contest as usual!) and the motives of the husband are not clear-cut. If key family members divide, if there's no living will, and if there's some small chance of survival, I guess I'd have to favor keeping the feeding tube attached. But forgive me for not joining in the religious right's euphoria at this result. There is a difference between the celebration and defense of life and its fetishization. I see no victory in this poor woman's continued reliance on life-support for years and decades to come. This unlived life can be a trauma to everyone involved.
SCHRODER SINKS: His anti-Americanism isn't working any more. Yay! And Britain's Tory leader may not be leader by the end of this week. - 12:10:15 AM HEADLINE WEIRDNESS: Frank Rich's column, which argues that the Bush administration - shock! horror! - tries to massage the news coverage is titled, "Why Are We Back In Vietnam?" In the last paragraph, we find that, in Rich's view, "[a]t the tender age of six months, the war in Iraq is not remotely a Vietnam." If you find similar examples of headlines declaring things that the body of the piece denies, please send them in.
STALIN IN THE 1930S: No one knew what was going on? That's the New York Times' recent excuse for Western communists in the 1930s. Here's what Churchill had to say in 1924: "Judged by every standard which history has applied to Governments, the Soviet Government of Russia is one of the worst tyrannies that has ever existed in the world. It accords no political rights. It rules by terror. It punishes political opinions. It suppresses free speech. It tolerates no newspapers but its own. It persecutes Christianity with a zeal and a cunning never equalled since the times of the Roman Emperors. It is engaged at this moment in trampling down the peoples of Georgia and executing their leaders by hundreds."
A NEW IRAQ BLOG: From a U.S. soldier with bad spelling. But it's interesting, nonetheless. His depressing thought:
For so many years America has always cut and run when its soldiers die, pathetic weak leaders we have. Despite many many resistance cells and fedayeen cells that get uncovered and arrested or killed, which we find these cells all the time, despite all the successes (you never hear about in the news) we've had in cracking down on these guys, they still manage to hit us. We can make this Iraq a great place, but it is going to take patience and time, and sadly, the American people I dont believe have the will to do it, we aren't the great generation like in WW2, it makes me sick.
He shouldn't be so downhearted. This president isn't so easily cowed. And the media isn't so insulated from criticism any more. - 12:08:21 AM
Saturday, October 25, 2003 ANOTHER IRAQ BLOG: From a Democratic congresswoman.
BEGALA AWARD NOMINEE: Check out the rhetoric of Katrina vanden Heuvel on a variety of president Bush's policies or nominations. The title says it all: "Bush's Assaults on Women - Updated." Assaults? Does vanden Heuvel think it helps women who have been actually assaulted to have their plight equated with some controversial (or not-so-controversial) policy decisions?
Friday, October 24, 2003 THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: "For some reason or another, a series of enormously important issues — the future of the Middle East, the credibility of the United States as both a strong and a moral power, the war against the Islamic fundamentalists, the future of the U.N. and NATO, our own politics here at home — now hinge on America's efforts at creating a democracy out of chaos in Iraq. That is why so many politicians — in the U.N., the EU, Germany, France, the corrupt Middle East governments, and a host of others — are so strident in their criticism, so terrified that in a postmodern world the United States can still recognize evil, express moral outrage, and then sacrifice money and lives to eliminate something like Saddam Hussein and leave things far better after the fire and smoke clear. People, much less states, are not supposed to do that anymore in a world where good is a relative construct, force is a thing of the past, and the easy life is too precious to be even momentarily interrupted. We may expect that, a year from now, the last desperate card in the hands of the anti-Americanists will be not that Iraq is democratic, but that it is democratic solely through the agency of the United States — a fate worse than remaining indigenously murderous and totalitarian." - Victor Davis Hanson, on a roll.
- 1:40:55 PM THE INEVITABLE: Get your Ann Coulter doll now. And a few pins. - 1:27:51 PM NYT WEIRDNESS: Two oddities leaped out at me this morning, reading the (much improved) New York Times. The first was the Machiavellian assertion that Donald Rumsfeld leaked his own memo. here's the editorial:
Mr. Rumsfeld is a canny player who knows exactly what he is doing when he drafts internal memos and makes them public.
This would be big news. So what evidence does the NYT have for it? The original leak was to USA Today. Does the NYT know something about USA Today's source? Or is this just made up? Then there was this nugget in Alessandra Stanley's review of the pro-Stalin BBC miniseries romanticizing the treachery of various British Communist spies in the 1930s and after:
The script barely mentions what was really happening in Stalin's Soviet Union at that time. (The one heads-up: the K.G.B. handler Otto is recalled to Moscow and lets Philby know it is a death sentence.) But given the fact that during the purges of the 1930's neither they nor almost anyone else in the West really knew, or wanted to know, it is perhaps understandable.
This is absurd. Several honest reporters revealed the extent of Stalin's butchery at the time; Walter Duranty knew about it but lied; the brilliant Cambridge traitors have no excuse whatever for supporting totalitarian despotism when it was right in front of their eyes. Stanley also has a throw-away line that awareness of the horrors of mass starvation, gulags and millions of deaths is somehow a function of mere "neocon indignation," and that fashion now countenances anti-anti-Stalin nostalgia. The glibness is sickening. Can you imagine a New York Times reviewer being so sanguine about a movie that romanticized spies for Nazi Germany? Or explained horror at the Holocaust as a function of "neocon indignation"? How about human indignation? How about human horror? - 1:16:57 PM IN DEFENSE OF ISRAEL: Nelson Ascher takes on Tony Judt. - 2:18:04 AM IRONY OVERLOAD: Lightning hits Mel Gibson's movie about the Passion - again. Hmmm.
THE SEARCH FOR THE LEAKER: It's getting serious, according to the Onion.
AN ANSWER: Here's a genuine response to the question I asked in my Wall Street Journal piece. A leading Catholic bishop endorses some civil benefits to protect the children of gay couples. Not enough, in my view, but a humane and civil alternative. So David Frum is now more anti-gay than a Catholic bishop.
FEMALE HELL: The awful and apparently growing phenomenon of gang-rape in France's immigrant enclaves.
KRUGMAN RE-GROUPS: You can tell he's worried that the economy is picking up and that his predictions of complete catastrophe might seem a little extreme in retrospect. So he's spinning the future. I guess it's better than distorting the past. - 2:01:05 AM WAR-SPINNING: Slate's Fred Kaplan has sadly become the Krugman of the anti-war brigade. His weirdest claim is that Rummy's memo puts the lie to the notion of progress in Iraq. Huh? The memo was designed to look as critically as possible at general progress in the war on terror. In no way does it deny progress in Iraq toward stabilization and democratization. In classic Rummy fashion, it simply tries to prod his bureaucracy out of complacency. That's his style. You only have to spend a few minutes debating him to see that. To argue that the memo
reads eerily like some internal mid-'60s document from The Pentagon Papers that spelled out how badly things were going in Vietnam (just as President Lyndon B. Johnson and his defense secretary, Robert McNamara, were publicly proclaiming tunnel light and victories).
gets it exactly the wrong way round. It's this kind of tough self-questioning that makes this unlike Vietnam. And the notion that this is the first time that Rumsfeld has asked such questions strikes me as fantasy. Rumsfeld has been asking questions from the day he became secretary of defense. And his assessment, after invading two countries, that "we have not yet made truly bold moves" against terrorism is extremely encouraging. He knows we have to find many, many more of these thugs and kill them. In Iraq, we're finally getting a chance. (There's a great email on the Letters Page making a similar point today. Don't miss it.)
EMAIL OF THE DAY: "At Cambridge University, where I attended law school in England, the Jews exist in a state of perpetual vigilance and, often, fear of personal harm. As an American Jew I was used to wearing a kipa (yarmulke, beanie, skullcap, bowl-o'-soup, whatever) walking around town. Wearing a kipa in public anywhere is mentally exhausting; one is always conscious of people watching you, treating you like a stranger, making jokes as soon as they think you are out of earshot. Even in New York, where Jews of all kinds are everywhere, you feel people look at you and treating you differently than, for instance, if you wear a baseball hat. But in Cambridge it was like I had a bullseye on my head. Not a week went by that something didn't happen - curses from a group of Middle-Eastern looking "blokes" on the street, laughing references about the "cross you have to bear" from other students, white hot abuse about being a "Zionist Nazi" from a middle-aged white woman boycotting Sainsbury's. Once, memorably, I got hit with a piece of raw potato and turned just in time to hear the sniggers of "shalom!" as the window of a restaurant kitchen banged shut. At first I thought it must just be the townies, local "yobs" who resent the privileged, snooty University students and would often try to make themselves as unpleasant as possible. But, as more and more of these little happenings piled up, it became clear that Jew harrassment was one of the few entertainments in Cambridge that was not defined by class or educational background. When I discussed this with my friends in the Jewish Society (JSOC), they were completely nonchalant. I was stunned to hear that every single one had, at one time or another in their youth, been chased, threatened or beaten for being Jewish in the towns where they grew up. In one memorable case, a kid had been stabbed with a butcher knife, when he was 15 years old, by a man on a bus in Manchester." Can you imagine what they have to deal with in France? More feedback on the Letters Page.
Thursday, October 23, 2003 TINA CLASSIC: This one-liner from her Washington Post online chat:
Brooklyn, N.Y.: Tina: Could you please explain the difference between "hot" and "v-hot?" Do you think that in this current phase of your career you're v-hot or hot, or are you always v-hot? Tina Brown: Steaming, darling.
Brown and steaming? Darling? I liked this exchange as well:
New York, N.Y.: Hi Tina: Congratulations and best of luck with the new endeavours. Q: In a recent interview President Bush said something like he doesn't read newspapers or watch TV news because he has people do that and report to him. Do you think it's a little dangerous to have the man in charge having his news put through the only-good-news-for-the-president filter? Tina Brown: Maybe he spends his day reading bloggs
And maybe he doesn't. - 2:02:28 PM THE POWER OF THE BLOG: Guess what? I just got an email from Priceline! Here it is:
Dear ANDREW SULLIVAN, A refund has been placed on the credit card you provided to us upon submitting your request. Your refund for a total of 4 out of 5 night(s) will be posted by your credit card company within the next 15 business days. Please remember, this refund has been a one-time exception and priceline reservations cannot be cancelled, changed or refunded in the future. Thank you, priceline.com Customer Service
To all of you who may have written about this or sent an email or generally kicked up a fuss, I'm most grateful. And Priceline gets points as well. - 1:50:31 PM FEMINISM AGAINST ITSELF: A sharp little piece by Katie Roiphe in Slate both skewers Susan Estrich and praises her. The journey from the Anita Hill hearings to the Schwarzenegger election is indeed a revealing one for feminism in America. During that period, and especially during the Clinton wars, I gradually realized that my early support for sexual harassment laws was too crude, and that the consequences of such laws - the legal asault on privacy - were far worse than the evil they were trying to prevent or ameliorate. By that time, of course, I loathed Clinton, but I realized a limited defense of his sexual privacy (if not his perjury) was actually a truly conservative position. We all learned something in that decade, I think. Roiphe's best point, however, is her last:
What the evolution of Estrich's views does tell us though, is that the kind of burning melodrama that surrounds sexual issues vanishes as quickly as it appears; that a woman who can write passionately about "women's silence" one minute can later take a man's side. It is precisely the opinions that seem the most rigid, absolute, and emotional that are subject to the whims of fashion.
Ah, yes. But only if they haven't been thought through. Sometimes, absolute and emotional responses are legitimate and right, as long as they are also intelligent. If they're not, they're just a secular form of fundamentalism.
THE RUMMY MEMO: It's the most reassuring statement on the terror war I've yet read. The important thing about any administration in its third year is that it not be complacent, that it not be in denial, and that it ask tough questions of itself. Rumsfeld sure is no McNamara. And if I were a terrorist, I'd be alarmed at how earnest the U.S. government now is about tackling the threat. Of course, a MoDo column ridiculing this is now inevitable. Which is more indication that it's an encouraging sign.
ANTI-SEMITISM WATCH: Right here, in the U.S. This story alarmed me, I have to say:
One of my friends is a guy I met in grad school a few years ago. He's a lawyer that practices IP law and was pursuing a MS in Computer Science to further his knowledge of programming. He is brilliant. Went to U of Chicago undergrad, then Northwestern University Law. He works for one of the biggest law firms in the world...
And, according to this blog, at least, he has Mahathir-like views. For the rest of the story, click here. - 12:07:26 AM NEVER AGAIN?: Claudia Rossett outlines the horrors of Kim Jong Il's totalitarian concentration camps:
The report presents the grim individual stories of 30 defectors interviewed by Mr. Hawk in-depth, and culled from these, to further clarify the customs of the camps, is a long list of the tortures described. "Worst of all," as the report puts it, is a roster of stories detailing the routine murder of babies born to prisoners, as told by eight separate eyewitnesses. One common denominator is that when pregnant women are forcibly repatriated after fleeing to China, it is policy to murder their newborns, because they might have been fathered by Chinese men. One account describes babies tossed on the ground to die, with their mothers forced to watch. In another interview, a former prisoner, a 66-year-old grandmother, identified as "Detainee #24" to protect relatives still perhaps alive in North Korea, describes being assigned to help in the delivery of babies who were thrown immediately into a plastic-lined box to die in bulk lots. The report notes: "The interviewer had difficulty finding words to describe the sadness in this grandmother's eyes and the anguish on her face as she recounted her experience as a midwife at the detention center in South Sinuiju"--one of the sites shown in detail in the accompanying satellite photos.
One of the lessons I drew from Iraq is that, when push comes to shove, there are some regimes that, regardless of any other factors, should be destroyed, if we can, purely because of their unmitigated evil. North Korea is one of them. Yes, I know that its ambiguous nuclear capacity makes military action all but impossible. But the horrors of its system beggar belief. I'm suspicious of any and all attempts to placate Pyongyang. But I don't have any brighter ideas either. You can download the report on NoKo's gulag here. I found reading it to be a horrifying and shaming experience.
FRUM ON GAYS: You can judge for yourself whether his response to my response adds up. But let me puzzle the final point he makes. I asked why he seems to offer no positive measures for gay people in their relationships, why he is opposed to civil unions and marriage, and why the needs of gay citizens seem irrelevant to him. He replied:
3. This call for 'asides' to 'nod toward' gay concerns surprises me. It would seem to me impertinent and improper to start administering pats on the head to people who have their own lives to lead and their own choices to make. My vision of a good society is that of the Prophet Micah: "But they shall sit every man under his vine and fig tree, and none shall make them afraid." Every man - and woman too.
What does he mean? No one is asking him to provide marital advice to gay people. I was asking why a social conservative - defined as someone who believes that laws and morals shape behavior and that the state has a role in encouraging socially beneficial behavior and discouraging bad - should have no public policy toward a group of its citizens. If Frum is genuinely saying he doesn't believe government should be doing such a thing, then fine. But why is he encouraging civil marriage for straights? Indeed, why have civil marriage at all? But here's one thing Frum has now done: established that he will never criticize gay culture in the future. That would surely be "impertinent."
- 12:06:27 AM QUOTE FOR THE DAY: "I just want to repeat something somebody said earlier, which I thought was brilliant, which is what they do in Hollywood is they soften up their subject like Ronald Reagan. They show some nice pictures. They say some nice things about them that they can't deny saying nice about them. They do it to soften them up, and they'll put the dagger in. And this is what they did in the movie "Nixon." They softened him up in a sentimental way and then stuck the knife right in: he’s a drunk; he’s a bum; he’s a bad guy, a crook. That's what they always do out there. There is a prejudice that they don't know out there in Hollywood. And I think in this kind of case it's too bad you can’t sue the bastards. Because what is happening here is clearly, these are late hits." - Chris Matthews, Hardball, October 21. The notion that Reagan was homophobic - peddled in the biopic - is not substantiated by any historians or contemporary sources. As Martin Anderson said on the same show:
What Lou says is absolutely correct. I remember once in early 1980 on the campaign plane with the issue about what do we do about gay groups that want to see him and demanding things. And he sat us down and he said, "Now, look. First of all," he said, "I know a lot of gays. I was in Hollywood." And then he reminded us, “You know how many of them there are?” And then he said, "Look, leave them alone." And that was his policy.
Yes, he should have said more about AIDS. He shouldn't be let off the hook. But to cast him as a homophobe lets real homophobes off the hook.
THE PALESTINIANS: A new poll suggests that a majority wants to keep fighting Israel even if there's a political settlement and a Palestinian state. Just as discouraging:
Ninety-six percent of Israeli Jews say the people who piloted the planes on September 11 were terrorists, while 37 percent of Palestinians share that view. Slightly more than one in four - 26 percent - of Palestinians believe Israelis planned the 9-11 attacks. Forty-two percent of Palestinians and 61 percent of Israeli-Arabs stated that they support the people who are attacking Americans in Iraq. Zero percent of Israeli Jews said they did.
More grist for Sharon, I'd say. And, of course, Arafat. - 12:05:10 AM QUICKIE BLOGGEES: An interesting study on how long people read blogs. The average length of time anyone spends on a blog is around 96 seconds. I'm not included in the list because I'm not on the site-meter. But my own stats monitor shows my readers hang out for on average 2 - 3 minutes. Maybe I write more. Or maybe they read more slowly. - 12:04:32 AM
Wednesday, October 22, 2003 CLARK ON HIMSELF: Adam Kushner skewers Wesley Clark for the following outburst:
How do you think I could have succeeded in the military if everybody didn't like me? It's impossible... Do you realize I was the first person promoted to full colonel in my entire year group of 2,000 officers? I was the only one selected. Do you realize that? ... Do you realize I was the only one of my West Point class picked to command a brigade when I was picked? ... I was the first person picked for brigadier general. You have to balance this out. ... A lot of people love me.
The other day at the Pierre Hotel, Mikhail Gorbachev, the man who ended the Cold War, was in an elevator..."
Yes, and the United States had nothing to do with it. - 11:20:01 AM THE DEMS AND TERRORISM: A very striking finding in a recent poll on Democratic party activists in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. Given a list of issues and asked to say which ones they cared about most, almost none said terrorism. In Iowa a full one percent said they wre concerned about terrorism - less than three years since 9/11. The base wanted a candidate with credibility on national security - but didn't seem to care about the issue as such. A combination of cynicism and amnesia. I'm not a Republican. But polls like these make me realize I'm even less of a Democrat.
THE GEPHARDT BOOMLET: He's the candidate Karl Rove has always said was the most under-rated. But now there seems to be a genuine Gephardt boomlet. Some of it may be due to press boredom at the possibility of a Dean walk-over. But there are other factors. It seems that Dean has peaked in Iowa and that Gephardt is making inroads. The WaPo picks up the story here, and touts Gephardt's labor roots, Midwest clout and hawkishness. Some Congressional candidates in marginal seats are getting nervous about a left-liberal national campaign. And the "theme story" is a contest between the "wine track" and the "beer track" among Democratic voters. It does seem to me that the class divide within the Democratic party is a pretty major fissure and could widen under a Dean insurgency. At the same time, Gephardt still strikes me as a terrible candidate. He seems too political, too Washington, too familiar and not distinctive enough to become president. Another veep potential? Dean will need someone from the South or the Midwest to avoid the "Starbucks candidate" label, and maybe Gephardt could assist. But what all this speculation amounts to, I think, is that it still looks very tough for any of the current crop of Dems to win against Bush. Gephardt's real strength is that he hasn't gone wobbly on terrorism. But that's a weakness with the Democratic base, of course, which puts him back almost where he started.
BARBOUR HANGS TOUGH: He condemns some of his supporters' "indefensible" racism, but stays chummy nonetheless. - 12:16:48 AM FREE PALESTINE: Some video of a recent rally at Rutgers. Illuminating. (Hat-tip: Jonah).
THE REAGAN PIC: My view: judging by the script, a depressing attempt by one bitter faction to malign a former president. The misguided notion that he was an anti-gay fanatic who rejoiced at the AIDS epidemic has become a staple of left-liberal discourse; but the best students of the period accuse him of negligence not malice. There's a difference. Virginia gets it just about right.
THE MULLAHS RESPOND: More evidence that the Nobel Committee did right. And here's more evidence of some slender but real measures of progress in the Middle East. - 12:15:51 AM EMAIL OF THE DAY: "As I read your editorial in the Sunday New York Times, I could hardly contain my emotions. You see, Michael & I were the subjects. Our wedding was a simple but glorious event. Never could we have imagined what has come because of it. Neither of us will ever regret getting married. We have received nothing but positive support (much of it from total strangers) since this entire story erupted. We both want to thank you for your eloquently written editorial. You have expressed how we both feel. Having had a door unceremoniously slammed in our faces, we will move on to a home that has greater compassion for all humanity. We will continue to believe that our marriage demands respect and to stand up for our civil right to marry. - Robert Voorheis & Michael Sabatino." Thanks for the literally hundreds of emails following my NYT piece on the Church. I wish I could respond personally to each; and I've tried. But here's a general thank-you for the concern, intelligence and empathy of your missives. There's more feedback on many other issues on the Letters Page.
MAHATHIR AND KRUGMAN: The ADL objects to his glibness. A reader makes a sharp point:
How is it, I wonder, that one can identify anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism (both of which have existed in the Islamic world for decades and centuries, respectively) along with the brand spanking new phenomenon of Islamic political self-criticism, and draw the conclusion that the former was caused by the 25 month old policies of an administration, while completely ignoring those same, new policies as a possible cause of the new phenomenon? I don't know which is more astounding - the level of Krugman's intellectual dishonesty, or the fact that he no longer even seems to care to hide it.
I'd say the way in which Krugman's blind hatred of the president has made him immune even to the real sources of bigotry.
EURO-ANTI-SEMITISM WATCH: This time, a very disturbing report from Sweden.
BLOGGING DOWN UNDER: The new medium picks up momentum.
Tuesday, October 21, 2003 BLOG WARS: My outage at the weekend may not have been an accident. Various warblogs are now down - including Instapundit and Little Green Footballs. It looks like a coordinated cyber-attack. Here's some detail. - 4:53:31 PM THE WEEKLY FISK: I've agreed to write a weekly fisk of something or other for the New Republic. It will appear on Tuesdays. Today's is on a rather confused op-ed by Bill Bennett on marriage rights. If you see anything that cries out for a righteous fisking, please send it in. - 1:16:58 PM EURO-ANTI-SEMITISM WATCH: The brush-fire is spreading in Europe. More danger-signs here. - 1:11:26 PM SONTAG AWARD NOMINEE: "Perhaps the most important source of the new (and not so new) American radicalism is what used to be viewed as a source of conservative values: namely, religion. Many commentators have noted that perhaps the biggest difference between the United States and most European countries (old as well as new in the current American distinction) is that in the United States religion still plays a central role in society and public language. But this is religion American style: namely, more the idea of religion than religion itself. True, when, during George Bush's run for president in 2000, a journalist was inspired to ask the candidate to name his "favourite philosopher", the well-received answer - one that would make a candidate for high office from any centrist party in any European country a laughing stock - was "Jesus Christ". But, of course, Bush didn't mean, and was not understood to mean, that, if elected, his administration would feel bound to any of the precepts or social programmes actually expounded by Jesus." - Susan Sontag, in the Guardian. This is a classic. Notice the assumption of the idiocy of America not to laugh out loud at a politician's invocation of Jesus. Notice also the idea that Jesus actually expounded on various "social programmes." So instead of the Sermon on the Mount, we have the Sermon on Medicare. Or Social Security. Or the Clean Air Act. How ignorant can Sontag be of Christianity to make such crude and stupid claims?
KRUGMAN AND ANTI-SEMITISM: Almost self-parody this morning. The point about Mahathir's critique of Islamic backwardness is a decent one - and one I made yesterday. But the notion that he is forced into anti-Semitism by Bush is astonishing. Here's the money quote:
Not long ago Washington was talking about Malaysia as an important partner in the war on terror. Now Mr. Mahathir thinks that to cover his domestic flank, he must insert hateful words into a speech mainly about Muslim reform. That tells you, more accurately than any poll, just how strong the rising tide of anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism among Muslims in Southeast Asia has become. Thanks to its war in Iraq and its unconditional support for Ariel Sharon, Washington has squandered post-9/11 sympathy and brought relations with the Muslim world to a new low.
Is everything Bush's fault? Even the hate that the president this morning actively condemned? The deeper theme here is a refusal to see that the enemies of George W. Bush - just because they are his enemies - are not therefore good. For Krugman to find a way to excuse virulent anti-Semitism for domestic political points shows how low the opposition has now gotten. (For a terrific analysis of Krugman's Bush-hatred, check this column out from a Naderite.) - 1:00:18 PM IT'S GETTING BETTER: Here's another version of the case for optimism in Iraq. And, on the scene, a great new blog is gathering steam, called "Healing in Iraq." There's a very helpful discussion of what exactly American casualties are being caused by:
[T]his resistance the Americans are facing is not ascribed to one group. There are already about 20 of them we hear about daily. Jaish Mohammad, Saraya Al-Faruq, Saraya Al-Jihad, Kataib Al-Hussein, Kataib Ali, Ashab Alrayat Alsud, Ashab Alrayat Albidh,...etc. Notice the similarity of some of the names with Palestinian militant groups, they have obviously took it upon themselves to make Iraq another Palestine. And of course we have fingerprints of Al-Qaeda: The Jordanian Embassy and the UN compound bombings, and lately Baghdad Hotel's attack. So it's an unpleasant mix we're dealing with here. One thing is certain. The attacks are less frequent than say two months ago. The attacks lately have been harming more Iraqis than Americans. Mortar shells in Ba'quba three weeks ago took 12 innocent lives at a grocery market. A bomb planted beside the sidewalk in Adhamiya exploded when a bus stopped next to it killing 7 people. This has made people very bitter and critical whenever they hear about attacks. More and more people are informing against others they know involved with attacks. Large numbers of Arab infiltrators have been arrested. Of course they came from Syria, and Saudi Arabia.
Then there's this fascinating account of a bombing the guy witnessed:
One afternoon I had just got back from work and was going to change my clothes when suddenly *BOOM* The windows shattered all around me in pieces, there was a smell of something like gunpowder. I looked out but there was dust everywhere. I remembered that my brother was outside. I carefully opened the door, and to my surprise found 4 American soldiers in our garden, they were knocking on my grandmother's house door, I worriedly asked them what happened. They told me to stay away. I offered to open the door for them, which I did. They entered and went upstairs all the way to the roof, I stood in the hall with one of them who informed me that a bomb exploded behind their humvee just in front of the house, no one was hurt. They were suspecting someone attacked them from this house. The others came down, apologized to me and my grandmother (who didn't understand what was going on anyway) then left the house. I went out to find a crater in front of the house. My god that was close. By a miracle nobody in the street was hurt. The idiots who planted that bomb were dumb enough to put it inside a sewers drainage which absorbed the shock of the blast. The only damage was the sound it made. Most of our windows were shattered. After a while the soldiers left the place. Suddenly a reporter and a cameraman from Al-Arabiyah station appeared, they were so fast. I crossed the street to take a look. They were talking to some bearded guy who I hadn't seen before in the neighbourhood. He was enthusiastically talking about the humvee that flew in the air, and the 4 injured soldiers. I didn't see any of that. I was bewildered. Someone next to me told me that nothing like that happened at all. My brother and a couple of friends of his started to chant in front of the camera: LIAR, LIAR,... Everyone laughed at this, but the bearded guy started to swear by Allah. Someone pointed out that the bearded guy wasn't even in the area when the bomb exploded. Uh oh, I thought, he seemed to know about it before it happened. The cameraman violently shoved my brother and his friend aside telling them to shut up. I stepped forward and gave him a push from behind. He almost fell over. I warned him that the camera he was holding would be in a thousand pieces if he dared touch my brother again. He backed up. A neighbour of ours hollered them to come and see the damage in their house. They refused to do so and left. In the evening, Al-Arabiyah reported the following: 3 Americans badly injured and one Jeep damaged at .... in Baghdad. They showed the bearded guy talking and edited the rest of it. That's the way media in present day Iraq works.
And not just in Iraq, buddy. You should listen to NPR sometimes. - 2:01:50 AM QUOTE OF THE DAY: "You know, a lot of our guys in Iraq carry around pieces of the World Trade Center. The chattering classes are talking about the relationship between Saddam Hussein and 9/11. These guys are under no illusions. It's all part of the same war." - Richard Perle, in a worthwhile interview in the Jersualem Post. My favorite aphorism: "Syria is a terrorist organization."
THE RUSSIAN GAMBIT: With Iraqi oil in the, er, distant pipeline, and the Russian markets beginning to pop, maybe Dubya's grand energy strategy isn't looking so foolish after all.
WITCOVER WON'T BUDGE: He stands by his use of the term "imminent threat." - 2:00:30 AM SUPERHUMAN POLS: I guess it doesn't surprise me that Tony Blair had to be hospitalized over the weekend with an irregular heartbeat. It would be difficult to think of anyone who has had a tougher political year. But even in the best of times, our major politicians lead punishing lives. The endless travel, the constant stress, the collapse of privacy: all these are terrible for the health. Is there some way we can tell these guys to take it easier? Far from believing, as some seem to, that president Bush's predilection for long vacations at his ranch, attendance to sleep, and regular exercise, are forms of worrying idleness, I'd say his regimen shows an extremely shrewd understanding of what it now takes to be a public figure. Blair should take note. - 2:00:06 AM
Monday, October 20, 2003 L'AFFAIRE GREGG: TNR's editors pen a statement that strikes the right note, I'd say. Mickey is razor-sharp as always. - 3:31:39 PM TAXES ARE SO INSIGNIFICANT: A classic limo-lib comment from Joan Didion, former prose master, now, sadly, another generational scold:
Salon: When you remember your mother, more than 50 years ago, saying that California was too regulated, too taxed and too expensive, isn't that exactly the same emotion that led to the recall?
Didion: Exactly. That's what people thought in 1978 when they voted for Prop. 13. I mean, I was amazed this time. I hadn't been out there for a while and I really hadn't gauged the depth of the anger. I didn't think all the people who had signed the petitions would show up at the polls. I just thought they were walking through the parking lot on the way to the car and they thought they could send a message. It was amazing to me that the actual recall happened. Somehow I thought there would be a separation between signing the petition and actually voting. I mean, the car tax. I did not know what the car tax was. I had never heard of the car tax. Finally someone explained to me: It's the vehicle registration fee! It's just so insignificant.
Well, at least she recognizes her cocoon. But a big hike in a car tax is, for most people, not exactly "insignificant." On a $30,000 car, the difference is between $195 before the hike and $600 after. On cheaper cars, the tax doubled as well. When you have to fork this out, on most wages, it hurts. - 3:19:59 PM SONTAG AWARD NOMINEE: "I think 9/11 gave this generation an identity, and its identity is potentially fascist. My skin crawls when I think of the first week after 9/11. I was looking out of the window and there were people marching down the street carrying flags. It reminded me of spontaneous, angry Nazis and I thought, 'Oh, man, we are in a lot of trouble'. There's a whole bunch of people who have flags hanging from their cars and who are mistaking fascism for patriotism." - Rickie Lee Jones, in the Guardian. Later in the interview, she is asked whether she would consider murdering the president, a new theme of sorts in the Guardian. "I guess the question is, would I kill anyone? And the answer is, no. But would I feel sorry if someone killed him? No, I wouldn't. It would depend on who killed him, I guess." - 9:36:35 AM EMAIL OF THE DAY II: "I find it sad that you value your homosexuality more than your Catholic faith. You write that you "cannot participate" in the Church any longer, which I take to mean you are forsaking the sacraments. You are staging a spiritual hunger strike, starving yourself of the grace that you need to save your soul. This is tragic, and I pray that time will soothe your anger and change your mind. I believe that your rage is a symptom of a deep realization that Catholic teaching may be right about homosexuality, and that the Church and Christ embrace you nonetheless. We all have our crosses to bear, and I hope that you will not stumble under yours. As for your slam at the Church and the parish that dismissed a pair of homosexuals from the choir, stop whining! The parish tolerated both of them for many years, and they repaid that tolerance by publicly defying Church teaching in a mockery of a marriage ceremony, a sort of Canadian charade that the Church has expressly condemned. And it turns out that both of them are not just innocent choir singers, but outspoken advocates of desecrating the institution and sacrament of marriage. I find it instructive that the New York Times, which had barred your writing for many months, decided to restore you to the newspaper's bigoted graces, to accommodate your anti-Catholic homily." - 9:22:06 AM EMAIL OF THE DAY: "You've articulated the conclusion I came to about 3 years ago, and it's that same conclusion that I wrestle with every day since. I'm considering sending it to my parents, since they ask me so frequently and unintentionally patronizingly, "Couldn't you just go to mass?" No. Because there is no such thing as "JUST going to mass." It's the swell of hatred, fear, disbelief, and violent solitude that makes "going to mass" the exercise in emotional upheaval I now must avoid. The avoidance is not laziness (for I still feel those emotions strongly, just not so viciously like I do in church), but rather the understanding and perspective I now have that maintaining my sanity and my joy is a very important task if I at all want to live in gratitude to my Creator." - 9:18:47 AM THE DEMS AND IRAQ: It would be hard to beat David Brooks' excellent summary of the different factions among the Democrats when it came to fulfilling this country's responsibilities to the people of Iraq. But the New York Times editors ask the right questions today:
The candidates also need to tell Americans where they stand on the larger issue of preventive war. The prewar intelligence failures in Iraq and the failure, so far, to find threatening unconventional weapons strike at the basic premises of Mr. Bush's alarmingly novel strategic doctrines. What alternative ideas do the Democratic contenders have for handling threats like North Korean, and possibly Iranian, nuclear weapons programs and for dealing with countries that give aid and sanctuary to international terrorist groups? And what would they do to keep Afghanistan, the scene of America's first post-9/11 war, from falling back into chaos with a revived Taliban? It is in the nature of modern campaigns to offer sound bites rather than substance. But voters have a right to ask for more and to press the Democratic candidates to present real alternatives to Mr. Bush's policies in Iraq and beyond.
This applies also to the post-war debate about the pre-war. It is relatively easy to criticize the Iraq war, the intelligence behind it, and the post-war reconstruction. It's another thing to say what you would have done instead. Memories are astonishingly short, but the notion that 9/11 did not and should not have impacted our entire defense doctrines is absurd. How we pro-actively tackle the problem of Islamist terrorism, and the morass of the Middle East from which it comes, is an urgent question. So far, very few of the Democratic leaders (with the honorable exceptions of Lieberman and Gephardt) seem to be prepared to risk a real answer rather than simply another partisan critique. As the election approaches, the need for a credible response to the threats we still face will have to be provided. Or not.
BLANK SLATE RE-WIPED: More evidence of the profound impact of our biological hard-wiring when it comes to gender and sexual identity. And yes, that goes for homosexuality as well. It is every bit as natural as heterosexuality. - 12:32:47 AM MAHATHIR RE-READ: I'm glad I posted Mahathir Mohamad's anti-Semitic diatribe in full. As some readers have impressed on me, it's more interesting than the display of bigotry. It suggests that a leading Muslim sees exactly the problem with the Muslim world - its inability to adapt, its insulation from intellectual discourse, even religious discourse, its isolation from modernity and science. Through the hate and bile, this is actually somewhat encouraging, no? It suggests that some people are finally grappling with reality. One of the as-yet unexplored dimensions of the Iraq liberation is that Iraq's long-deferred entry into the global market, the new porousness of its media, and the dynamism of its emerging market will all help expose the backwardness of other Islamic states. And that might indeed spur the move toward reform, which is our only long-term hope in the fight against Islamist terror. It may well already be occurring in Iran. These things take time. They require patience. In the short term, as Bush is discovering, they might lead to political costs. But they are infinitely better than the status quo ante, or than most of the alternatives.
"INSTANT THOUGHT": I should really respond to Leon Wieseltier's diatribe against blogging, voiced in the Los Angeles Times. Here's what he said about his colleague, Gregg Easterbrook. He ascribed Gregg's mistake as something due to
the hubris of this whole blogging enterprise. There is no such thing as instant thought, which is why reflection and editing are part of serious writing and thinking, as Gregg has now discovered.
Hubris? I think it would be hubris if one believed that somehow blogging is a superior form of writing to all others, or somehow revealing of the truth in ways that other writing isn't. But I know of no bloggers who would argue that. It's a different way of writing, one that acknowledges that it is imperfect and provisional and subject to revision. In that sense, it makes far fewer claims than, say, a lengthy essay published in the literary press. But, by acknowledging its limitations, it is also, I'd argue, sometimes more honest than other forms of writing, in which the writer pretends to finality, to studied perfection, to considered and re-considered nuance or argument, when he is often winging it nonetheless. Someone can say nothing in 10,000 words; and someone can also say something in ten. It simply depends on the quality of the writing. The truth is: every written word is provisional. The question is one of degree. But there is nothing less "serious" about a blogged idea just because it is blogged and not produced after fifteen edits by Cambridge University Press. As the philosopher once said, everything is true as long as it is never taken to be more than it is. Blogging is now a part of literature. And it deserves to be understood rather than simply dismissed. (By the way, there's now an online petition to defend Easterbrook here.) - 12:31:13 AM DEAN-CLARK; BUSH-RICE? My dream tickets for 2004, explored opposite.
WHAT ARE THEY FOR? Conservatives and homosexuality, my Wall Street Journal piece, is now posted.
LOSING A CHURCH: But keeping the faith. My anguished attempt to remain a Catholic is articulated opposite. - 12:30:50 AM
Sunday, October 19, 2003 WHAT ANTI-SEMITISM REALLY IS: Here's the full text of Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad's recent anti-Semitic diatribe. The quotes in the media don't do full justice to its bile. Thanks to Meryl Yourish for posting it in full.
BEHIND THE BBC: A fascinating story that shows the pressure the BBC is now under. In a radio interview with the Archbishop of Canterbury, there was a prior agreement that the question of the Iraq war would not be raised. But John Humphrys, a major opponent of the Iraq war, was the interviewer and broke the deal. The BBC then agreed not to broadcast the relevant section. Not a huge deal, but I do think the excised exchange is revealing:
John Humphrys: Can I turn this conversation to Iraq? Before you were enthroned as Archbishop of Canterbury, you said, you signed a statement published in the Tablet, that said the war was immoral. Is that still your view?
Rowan Williams: At the time of course when I signed that statement there was no war. We were considering what might happen. Since that time I have commented on the possible risks of going to war before war broke out.
I have attempted during the period of the war to respect what's going on and not to make idle or armchair pontifications about it. Since the war has drawn to a close of military operations, I have been reflecting on where we are now, and my view is still that there are major questions about that enterprise.
JH: Was it immoral?
(A 12-second pause)
RW: It seems to me that the action in Iraq was one around which there were so many questions about long-term results, about legal justification that I would find it very hard to give unqualified support to the rightness of that decision.
JH: You hesitated a very long time before you answered that, Archbishop.
RW: Immoral is a short word for a very, very long discussion.
JH: As Archbishop, do you not have an absolute responsibility as spiritual leader of this country to say very clearly, if we go to war, whether you believe that war is moral or not, and do you not have the sense that you are hedging a little here?
RW: No I don't, because I don't believe that the moral contribution that can be made by any spiritual leader is ever a matter of simply handing down something like the 10 commandments.
It's a matter of trying to understand more deeply what sort of moral choices others are having to face, assisting with all the resource that I can bring to that and of course trying to live with the decisions that they make.
You can see what's going on. The BBC interviewer wants another anti-war headline from the archbishop, who doesn't want to go there. So he persists. The campaign by the leading media to distort and denigrate the liberation of Iraq continues. Even non-stories are now getting massive play to keep the pressure up.
MORE REASON: For Wesley Clark to become Howard Dean's running-mate. It would be a great, centrist Democrat-Republican ticket.
A tour of the beaten-up cities of Europe six months after victory is a mighty sobering experience for anyone. Europeans. Friend and foe alike, look you accusingly in the face and tell you how bitterly they are disappointed in you as an American. They cite the evolution of the word “liberation.” Before the Normandy landings it meant to be freed from the tyranny of the Nazis. Now it stands in the minds of the civilians for one thing, looting. You try to explain to these Europeans that they expected too much. They answer that they had a right to, that after the last was America was the hope of the world. They talk about the Hoover relief, the work of the Quakers, the speeches of Woodrow Wilson. They don’t blame us for the fading of that hope. But they blame us now. Never has American prestige in Europe been lower.
Saturday, October 18, 2003 FIGHTING FOR GREGG: Easterbrook has now been fired from ESPN. His comments, which his colleague Leon Wieseltier has now described as "objectively anti-Semitic," were not written for ESPN; he has never written anything but superb commentary for ESPN; and yet he's now without a job. Slate should pick his football column up again. You can tell ESPN what you think here. - 8:06:05 PM APOLOGIES: The site went down earlier today. Don't know why yet.
I agree with the listeners who complained about the tone of the interview: Her questions were pointed from the beginning. She went after O'Reilly using critical quotes from the Franken book and a New York Times book review. That put O'Reilly at his most prickly and defensive mode, and Gross was never able to get him back into the interview in an effective way. This was surprising because Terry Gross is, in my opinion, one of the best interviewers anywhere in American journalism. Although O'Reilly frequently resorts to bluster and bullying on his own show, he seemed unable to take her tough questions. He became angrier as the interview went along. But by coming across as a pro-Franken partisan rather than a neutral and curious journalist, Gross did almost nothing that might have allowed the interview to develop. By the time the interview was about halfway through, it felt as though Terry Gross was indeed "carrying Al Franken's water," as some listeners say. It was not about O'Reilly's ideas, or his attitudes or even about his book. It was about O'Reilly as political media phenomenon. That's a legitimate subject for discussion, but in this case, it was an interview that was, in the end, unfair to O'Reilly. Finally, an aspect of the interview that I found particularly disturbing: It happened when Terry Gross was about to read a criticism of Bill O'Reilly's book from People magazine. Before Gross could read it to him for his reaction, O'Reilly ended the interview and walked out of the studio. She read the quote anyway. That was wrong. O'Reilly was not there to respond. It's known in broadcasting as the "empty chair" interview, and it is considered an unethical technique and should not be used on NPR. I believe the listeners were not well served by this interview. It may have illustrated the "cultural wars" that seem to be flaring in the country. Unfortunately, the interview only served to confirm the belief, held by some, in NPR's liberal media bias.
Held by some? - 1:51:34 PM THE WAR AGAINST GREGG: The New Republic's Gregg Easterbrook is now being slimed. He wrote a couple of sentences that, taken out of context, might sound anti-Semitic. In context, they are an appeal to leading Jewish citizens to take their faith seriously, as Gregg has also written, in an identical context, about Christians. He is an extremely decent fellow; and a superb writer and thinker. He has worked for many years at The New Republic, testimony in itself that he is hardly anything even close to anti-Semitic. Yet it seems as if some are now out to destroy his reputation and his career. Here's part of Gregg's apology:
I'm ready to defend all the thoughts in that paragraph. But how could I have done such a poor job of expressing them? Maybe this is an object lesson in the new blog reality. I worked on this alone and posted the piece--what you see above comes at the end of a 1,017-word column that's otherwise about why movies should not glorify violence. Twenty minutes after I pressed "send," the entire world had read it. When I reread my own words and beheld how I'd written things that could be misunderstood, I felt awful. To anyone who was offended I offer my apology, because offense was not my intent. But it was 20 minutes later, and already the whole world had seen it. Looking back I did a terrible job through poor wording. It was terrible that I implied that the Jewishness of studio executives has anything whatsoever to do with awful movies like Kill Bill.
I fully understand. And I see the deeper point about personal responsibility - Christian, Jewish or other - he was obviously trying to make. Blogging is, indeed, a high-wire act. Looking back, I write about a quarter of a million words a year. The notion that I will not write something dumb, offensive or simply foolish from time to time is absurd. Of course I will. Writing is about being human. And blogging is perhaps one of the least protected, most human forms of writing we have yet discovered. It's like speaking on air, live. Yes, bloggers should take criticism. But they should be judged on the totality of their work, not their occasional screw-ups. Gregg has been attacked enough.
A READER ON FRUM: This just about sums up the case:
Marriage-lite breaks down the institution, but it is the political conservatives who force marriage-lite instead of the real thing. So the story goes: same sex marriage mught be a social good if it were a real marriage, but since it won't be, and we won't let it be, it is bad.
Yep. That's the nub of it. The other part of it is: please go away. We like our society without you in it. If you can't disappear, at least shut up. More feedback on the Letters Page. - 1:41:22 PM
Friday, October 17, 2003 FAIR AND BALANCED: From NPR's Morning Edition. The following is the intro. Can anyone - anyone - deny that this is straight from the left-liberal playbook, under the guise of objectivity:
Bob Edwards: This is Morning Edition from NPR news. I’m Bob Edwards. Increasingly it seems the Bush Administration’s foreign policy is running into trouble. The post-war picture in Iraq and Afghanistan is highly unstable. The road map to peace in the Middle East is in tatters. There’s growing unease over the possibility that North Korea and Iran are pursuing nuclear weapons. Friends of the United States are not supportive. Overall, the policies of the United States are still very unpopular around the world. The Bush Doctrine, a preference for unilateral military action and a disdain for multinational diplomacy, is under scrutiny more than ever. NPR’s Mike Shuster reports.
It carries on in the same vein. - 5:24:25 PM SHUTTING DOWN DEBATE: Soctland's new cardinal-designate is a liberal on some matters like contraception, women priests, celibacy and homosexuality. Well, he was. After making statements like "What I would ask for in the Church at every level, including the cardinals and the Pope, is to be able to have full and open discussion about these issues and where we stand," he was threatened with having his new job taken away from him. He then had to put out a statement:
"I accept and intend to defend the law on ecclesiastical celibacy as it is proposed by the Magisterium of the Catholic Church; I accept and promise to defend the ecclesiastical teaching about the immorality of the homosexual act; I accept and promise to promulgate always and everywhere what the Church’s Magisterium teaches on contraception." Some elements within the Church claimed the statement had been made under pressure from the Vatican, a claim denied by a spokesman for the Catholic Church in Scotland and the cardinal-designate himself, who added today: "Having recently restated my loyalty to the Church, its teachings and the Pope, I would hope that Catholics everywhere would join with me in respecting the decisions of the Pope and demonstrate their own loyalty by not questioning them." An anonymous fax sent to news organisations and Catholic groups said: "O’Brien was told by the Vatican if he did not correct what he said at a mass on October 1 he would not be allowed to become a cardinal."
The question here is not whether Rome has the right to do what it just has. The question is whether matters at the heart of controversy and dissent within the Church can even be discussed and debated. They cannot. The Cardinal sounds like a Soviet apparatchik, parroting official propaganda he doesn't believe in, not a man of the church answering to his own conscience and asking questions that the faithful are also asking. But those are the kind of leaders the current hierarchy wants. And the chilling of all debate is now heading for the deep freeze. - 11:59:48 AM CHIRAC COMES THROUGH: After the Malaysian prime minister's Nazi-like outburst, Jacques Chirac makes sure that the EU's condemnation isn't too strong:
At their own summit in Brussels, Belgium, European Union leaders had drafted a harshly worded statement condemning Mahathir's remarks, but French President Jacques Chirac blocked the wording from becoming a part of a final declaration. The text had said Mahathir's "unacceptable comments hinder all our efforts to further interethnic and religious harmony, and have no place in a decent world. Such false and anti-Semitic remarks are as offensive to Muslims as they are to others." Chirac, however, said there was no place in an EU declaration for such a text. EU leaders compromised by having Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi criticize Mahathir at his closing news conference. Officials said the draft text also would be issued as a separate statement and would be posted on the EU presidency Web site.
The French anti-Semitic? Where did anyone get that idea from? - 11:34:46 AM LIGHT DISH: Not many items this morning. Been traveling and the endless game.
FRUM RESPONDS: The answer to all the questions I asked a week or so ago in the Wall Street Journal was provided by David Frum today. Well, I think it was. Here are some of my questions:
On what grounds do conservatives believe that discouraging responsibility is a good thing for one group in society? What other legal minority do they or would they treat this way? ... What is the social conservative position on civil unions? What aspects of them can conservatives get behind? What details are they less convinced by?
Now see if you can find an answer to a single one of these questions in Frum's piece. All you get is the argument that domestic partnerships, by creating "marriage-lite," undermine the social status of marriage, and are therefore a bad idea. But that was the point I first made back in 1989! The answer is to give gay people marriage rights! But that, for reasons David doesn't elaborate, is off the table. In fact, one of the main reasons we have all these marriage-lites at all is because conservatives refused to offer the real deal; and so others tried to create piece-meal efforts at reform. So we have, I think, an answer of sorts: no marriage rights and no domestic partnership rights. Better to keep a proportion of the population outside of all civil relationship norms than to integrate them in any way. One thing you notice right away: Frum seems uninterested in the fate of gay people, unconcerned about their plight, and doesn't even try to address it. I agree that society as a whole has interests that are rightly part of this debate. But to accord the lives of gay citizens no standing in this debate - to dismiss them as irrelevant as a premise - is really stretching it, I think. Is it really not worth even an aside to nod toward their concerns? Or do we matter that little?
PRICELINE HELL: Strictly speaking, it's my fault. I booked a five-day hotel room stay in New York City for a bunch of commitments, one of which fell through. So having paid over $1000 in advance through Priceline.com, I delayed my trip by a day. But I didn't call the hotel to let them know I'd be a day late, assuming I'd have to absorb the extra day's cost, but still had a booking for four days. (No, free-lance bloggers do not have secretaries and we can be absent-minded.) So I called up yesterday morning to confirm the room for the remaining nights. They were sold out. My no-show allowed them to cancel the entire reservation. Would they refund the remainder? Nope. If my flight had been canceled, I might have had a chance, but I couldn't keep that pretense up. The hotel told me I should call Priceline. I did. They said that my no-show invalidated everything; that, since it was my fault, they had no obligation to find me any other rooms; and I should have read the fine print. So they get over $1000 for nothing; and they have no obligation to help out at all. The woman on the phone, I swear, was almost smirking. "Sucker!" was the tone. My trip has been as jinxed as a Cubs game so far, so I took the turn of events with a certain magnanimity. The BF and I are on some good friends' couch tonight. It's not been a great week for him. One lesson: if you use a service like Priceline, remember to be vigilant. It's a great idea but the profit margin is obviously highly correlated with suckers and incompetents like me.
Thursday, October 16, 2003 WILL DOWD CORRECT? We know there are no fact-checkers for MoDo's columns. But I just want to put in a pitch for the following to be corrected:
The president has tried to shake off the curse with a P.R. push to circumvent the national media and get smaller news outlets to do sunny stories about Iraq. The P.R. campaign shamelessly included bogus cheerful form letters sent to newspapers, supposedly written by soldiers in Iraq. It also entailed sweetening up the official Web site of the United States Central Command. Until recently, the site offered a mix of upbeat stories and accounts of casualties and setbacks. Now it's a litany of smiley postings, like "Soldiers host orphans in Mosul" and "Ninevah Province schools benefit from seized Iraqi assets." You have to go to a different page for casualty reports.
The assertion here is that the president himself coordinated the mass-mailings from troops. From everything I have read and seen, this was a one-off idea from a commander in the field and there is no evidence that the White House had anything to do with it. Yet from the full context of the quote, Dowd is specifically making that assertion. It's untrue. She or the New York Times must surely correct. Or will they let her off yet one more time? - 12:44:12 PM EMAIL OF THE DAY: "You've reported that your boyfriend is a Cubs fan, and while I don't expect this to comfort him, I thought I'd share how I have dealth with the identical malady. From the time I was six or seven in the late '40s and on through the '50s, '60s and '70s, I rooted for the Cubs. My Chicago buddies adopted other teams - an easier, softer way that I found unseemly. Of course, the reward for my die-hard loyalty was zip. Year after year after year after year of dismal disappointment. "Why are you doing this," I asked myself one day. "Why are you going to "beautiful" Wrigley Field, buying their beer, scarfing their peanuts and wearing their logo? If the Cubs are pathetic losers, what does that make you?"
So I quit the Cubs and I quit baseball. I stopped reading box scores and checking the standings. I didn't have the heart to cheer for another team, so I quit the whole thing. This year, I didn't watch a single regular or playoff game. When conversations turned to the Cubs, I absented myself, which in the last couple of months has added up to solitude aplenty.
Did I want the Cubs to win? Sure I did. But I couldn't avoid the certainty that once again they would find a way to lose.
Your boyfriend needs to know that my strategy, while helpful, does not mean the pain will end. I feel it. I always will. But as with a bad tooth, the agony is less when I don't fiddle with it."
Actually, the boyfriend reports under the influence of some beverages late last night that he finally believes he has become a true Cubs fan. Now he knows the true calling, the fundamental identity of the followers of the Cubs. He has been initiated into the fellowship. He has been baptized. - 11:50:58 AM LEAVING THE TROOPS IN THE LURCH: Senator Kennedy kicks the troops in the teeth and betrays the Iraqi people by voting against any aid to Iraq. For what? Pure partisanship. Whatever you feel about this war, leaving the innocent people of Iraq to fight terror on their own is morally unconscionable. Kennedy is a disgrace. He believes we should pay no price, shirk any burden to defend liberty around the world. - 11:45:12 AM VON HOFFMAN AWARD NOMINEE: "Every so often in life you have to go out on a limb. So here goes: Arnold Schwarzenegger will not be the next governor of California. What's more, his loss will represent an important moment in a shift in American politics that has been in gestation for some time now -- toward a politics in which voters make decisions more on the basis of their cultural affinities than in response to a candidate's charisma or fame... And in the week he's been a candidate, Schwarzenegger's numbers sure haven't gone up. His first round of morning talk-show appearances was judged pretty awful. More recently, as the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday, there's been enough grumpiness in the Arnold camp that a fairly major shake-up has already taken place, with people like George Gorton, Schwarzenegger's chief adviser over the last couple of years, relegated to the second tier. When campaigns do that, leaks to the press from the disgruntled faction are the inevitable byproduct. And once a campaign gets a reputation as disorganized or divided, that becomes the scent the media decide to track, and the reputation becomes a difficult one to shake." - Michael Tomasky, August 13, relying on the L.A. Times for news, in the American Prospect (thanks to Mickey). - 11:30:13 AM BAD DAY FOR KRUGMAN: More people are getting jobs. - 11:05:20 AM DOWD TODAY: Don't miss this mini-fisk. (Hat-tip: Glenn.) - 11:01:37 AM "OVERLAPPING REASONS": Some reminders of how some people's memories are short. Here's Maureen Dowd on March 9 of this year:
The case for war has been incoherent due to overlapping reasons conservatives want to get Saddam. The president wants to avenge his father, and please his base by changing the historical ellipsis on the Persian Gulf war to a period. Donald Rumsfeld wants to exorcise the post-Vietnam focus on American imperfections and limitations. Dick Cheney wants to establish America's primacy as the sole superpower. Richard Perle wants to liberate Iraq and remove a mortal threat to Israel. After Desert Storm, Paul Wolfowitz posited that containment is a relic, and that America must aggressively pre-empt nuclear threats. And in 1997, Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard and Fox News, and other conservatives, published a "statement of principles," signed by Jeb Bush and future Bush officials -- Mr. Rumsfeld, Mr. Cheney, Mr. Wolfowitz, Scooter Libby and Elliott Abrams. Rejecting 41's realpolitik and shaping what would become 43's pre-emption strategy, they exhorted a "Reaganite policy of military strength and moral clarity," with America extending its domain by challenging "regimes hostile to our interests and values."
And on June 4, only three months later, we discover that
For the first time in history, Americans are searching for the reason we went to war after the war is over... Conservatives are busily offering a bouquet of new justifications for a pre-emptive attack on Iraq that was sold as self-defense against Saddam's poised and thrumming weapons of mass destruction."
So what was it? An incoherent set of multiple reasons or a single, crude one, i.e. self-defense against the "imminent" threat of WMDs? It doesn't really matter to Dowd, of course. Whatever the Bush administration does, she will criticize it. When it offered many reasons, she lambasted it for incoherence. If it had merely offered one, she'd be making the same inane case today that they weren't complex enough. They can't win. And she merrily goes on criticizing whatever it is they will do tomorrow.
"AN EXPANSIVE VISION": She's not the only one. Only recently, the New York Times cited the "imminent threat" canard as the sole justification used for war. Here's another trip down memory lane:
President Bush sketched an expansive vision last night of what he expects to accomplish by a war in Iraq. Instead of focusing on eliminating weapons of mass destruction, or reducing the threat of terror to the United States, Mr. Bush talked about establishing a 'free and peaceful Iraq' that would serve as a 'dramatic and inspiring example' to the entire Arab and Muslim world, provide a stabilizing influence in the Middle East and even help end the Arab-Israeli conflict. The idea of turning Iraq into a model democracy in the Arab world is one some members of the administration have been discussing for a long time.
Sounds like my retroactive defense of what the White House said and did. But that was, in fact, the New York Times editorial on February 27. How quickly the anti-war brigade changes its tune. Here's liberal columnist E. J. Dionne in January, making a very similar point:
Bush still has a problem that goes beyond style: We don't know if this war is primarily about (1) taking weapons of mass destruction out of Saddam Hussein's hands, or (2) removing Hussein from power, or (3) bringing democracy to Iraq and revolutionizing the politics of the Middle East. Supporters of war argue that all three goals are compatible. In principle, they are. But because the administration has gone back and forth about which of these goals matters most and how they fit together, its policy has been open to easy challenge.
So the administration actually provided a whole welter of reasons to go to war; it didn't simply focus on one thing - WMDs - although that was always a part of the case. But, again, if all that is true, how can we take today's one-note criticism seriously? It's not the administration that should be having a credibility problem these days. It's their critics. - 12:57:30 AM BUT FAR WORSE: The disingenuousness of some anti-war critics is a piddling matter compared to the left's now-explicit campaign to leave Iraq in the lurch. Here's a Moveon.org direct email letter sent out this week:
Something incredible is happening. Just a week ago, it appeared that President Bush would get $87 billion for the Iraq war and occupation in a landslide vote. But thanks to hundreds of thousands of emails, tens of thousands of calls, and constituent visits by thousands of Americans, more and more members of the House and Senate are declaring that they will vote No. This is big news. It appears that members of Congress are standing up and demanding that the President face the facts and make real changes to his Iraq policy. Members of Congress need to know that if they take a leap of faith here and do the right thing, we'll be behind them. With the vote scheduled for tomorrow in the House and Friday in the Senate, it's critical that they hear from us TODAY. Over the next 48 hours, we're working with Working Assets and True Majority to deliver a flood of phone calls and emails to Congress telling them to take a stand. Please take a moment to call your Representative and both your Senators right now. Let them know that you expect them to vote AGAINST Bush's additional $87 billion request for Iraq. Over the weekend, Senator John Kerry announced he's inclined to vote against the request. Yesterday, Senator John Edwards declared in strong language that he will also vote no: "This mission will never be successful unless the president dramatically changes course." Even Senate and House leaders Tom Daschle and Nancy Pelosi have signaled that they may well vote against the bill. President Bush and Republican leaders are trying to portray the $87 billion package as the only way to help the troops in Iraq. But it's the President's failed policies that put the troops in harm's way, and it's the President's refusal to work with the UN that keeps them there. It's time for Congress to draw a line in the sand and tell the President that for our national security, the safety of the troops, and the stability of the Middle East, he must change course. A strong vote against the $87 billion will demonstrate just that.
Well, we're working with the U.N. already, and have just reached an agreement with Russia, China and Pakistan. What, one wonders, does Moveon want? They want Rumsfeld fired, immediate withdrawal of American and allied troops, no aid to the Iraqi reconstruction effort, and abandoning Iraq to a United Nations that has no ability to run it. What this means is complete chaos, a chaos in which the Baathist thugs of the old regime, together with their terrorist allies around the region, can use Iraq as a new base for international terror. No sane person of good will can justify that - except as pure domestic politics, with an entire country as a play-ball. This is the morality of the left? - 12:56:42 AM THE TORIES HIT BOTTOM: There's a chance that the British Tory leader may have to resign in a petty expenses scandal combined with general malaise. Is there a Churchill-figure on the wings?
IMMINENCE WATCH: More distortion from Jules Witcover in the Baltimore Sun:
When President Bush went to New Hampshire the other day with his current justification for invading Iraq, he seemed to have forgotten those missing weapons of mass destruction he insisted earlier posed such an imminent threat.
Witcover also archly implies that the president asserted a direct link between Iraq and 9/11. He didn't. Last night, the lie continued on "60 Minutes." According to CBS News:
Greg Thielmann tells Correspondent Scott Pelley that at the time of Powell’s speech, Iraq didn’t pose an imminent threat to anyone – not even its own neighbors.
Wednesday, October 15, 2003 THE GUARDIAN HOSTS ...: A discussion thread calling for the assassination of president Bush. A new low for the anti-war British paper. - 6:11:46 PM EMAIL OF THE DAY: "About Rush. I was very much addicted to Oxy - not by prescription - and it took me two years to finally quit - it's been a year this last July. I never want to go through that again. It's true. It starts out as one or two and can easily escalate up to 10-20 pills a dose depending on the mg. In the '80s I did a lot of powder and was able to just stop when it came time to do so w/out a hitch. But the withdrawls from this pill are the worst and from what I read and experienced the closest thing to actually being on Smack. Odd that being in possession of 1 doobie is deemed worse than having a bottle of this serious drug. Of course you get high. After you take your dose fix for about an hour or two the feeling is an intense sense of euphoria and you are so verbal and happy and warm. Your whole aim is to keep that wonderful high. It's when the drug stops it happy moment that things get ugly and you start planning your next dose. I, too, have been thinking of what Rush was doing, thinking, and feeling during those broadcasts much like I used to think of what events were going on simultaneously while Clinton was behind closed doors no doubt discussing cigars. At this moment Rush is hating life and he can’t sleep, think or eat. All he wants is that good feeling to return. Remember that scene in “Riding Cars with Boys”? The guy forget his name tells his wife Drew Barrymore, after realizing that he can’t kick the habit, that he has it all figured out. His eyes are all glassy and he's happy and on top of the world. 'I just want to take enough to get by' and then all will be well. Excellent example of what’s going on. I'm counting on Rush to be more sympathetic to those whom he's lambasted all these years. A toned down more humble Rush. If he doesn't, then not much has changed, really. I used to look down on those people as weak, and selfish. Not anymore. I've been there." - more feedback on the Letters Page.
THE BBC CORRECTS: They now credit the United States with actually separating conjoined Muslim twins, after a bunch of emails from you and others taking them to task. Here's the email from the Beeb:
Thank you for your email. We have now updated this story to make it clear that the operation took place in America. We did report in the fact box at the side of the page that the boys had flown to Dallas for the operation. Our further coverage of this story did mention the location of the operation. - see links below [here and here]. Thank you for your interest in the BBC News website.
Blogs get results! Keep at it.
ASNER UPDATE: Earlier this week I linked to a first person account by one Kevin McCullough of a conversation he had with Ed Asner. Since it was a first person account, I trusted it. McCullough has now withdrawn the gist of his claim about Asner's reverence for Stalin. It appears he distorted Asner's remarks; and has now partially retracted. He says he misquoted even himself. I apologize for linking. You can read the actual interchange here. McCullough has a radio show. Let's hope he doesn't distort things as readily on the air as he does in print. - 1:14:02 PM BAATHIST BROADCASTING CORPORATION: "But the BBC's Orla Guerin says it is not clear whether the easily identifiable convoy was deliberately targeted." - from the BBC. Even Arafat is quoted as condemning "this ugly crime targeting American observers as they were on a mission for security and peace." The BBC - finding more excuses for terror than Arafat. - 12:08:49 PM
Tuesday, October 14, 2003 HEARTBREAK: I'm no real baseball fan, but that Cubs game was devastating. I used to think the curse was hooey. Now I'm not so sure.
HALEY BARBOUR'S PHOTO-OP: With the nice folks at the Council of Conservative Citizens. Nice to see that, after Trent Lott, the Southern G.O.P. is no longer cavorting with white supremacists, isn't it? Barbour says he "knows nothing about the Council." Who does he think he's kidding? - 11:12:39 PM WHAT LIBERAL MEDIA? Don't miss Jill Stewart's post-mortem on the Los Angeles Times' attempt to destroy Arnold Schwarzenegger by any journalistic means necessary. Here are money quotes from someone Stewart calls a "longtime, respected Timesian involved in the Schwarzenegger coverage":
Toward the end, a kind of hysteria gripped the newsroom. I witnessed a deep-seated, irrational need to get something on this guy [Schwarzenegger]. By Wednesday before it was published, I counted not fewer than 24 reporters dispatched on Arnold, and this entire enterprise was directed by John Carroll himself. Carroll launched the project with the words: 'I want a full scrub of Arnold.' This was fully and completely and daily driven by Carroll. He's as good as his word on being balanced and trying to make this paper more balanced, he really is. But not when it came to Schwarzenegger. Carroll changed completely. It was visceral, and he made it clear he wanted something bad on Schwarzenegger and he didn't care what it was. The air of unreality among people here was so extreme that when they did the office pool, of something like 113 people who put in a dollar to bet on the outcome of the recall and on who would be chosen governor, only 31 bet 'yes' on recall and 'yes' Schwarzenegger to win. All you had to do was read a poll to know how wrong that was, but inside this place only about 25 percent of the people could see the recall coming... The mainstream press critics like those published on Romenesko are asleep as to what has happened here. They are defending the L.A. Times in every way. There should be no defense by media critics of what happened here. One woman did not sleep for two nights after a Times reporter showed up at her door, with the thinnest evidence, demanding to know if her child was Arnold's love child. It never panned out, it was untrue. Why has the L.A. Times become a tabloid, knocking relentlessly on people's doors for tabloid gossip? And would John Carroll have run a front page Love Child story if it had been true? Could we sink any lower?
It was worse than we thought. Which is a good rule of thumb in liberal media outlets. Recall what we now know about the Raines era at the NYT. Then consider what we don't know about what's going on now.
WHAT LIBERAL MEDIA? USA Today says it's looking for a conservative editorial writer. Here's what the ad said: "Looking for a conservative who ca (sic) work to achievie (sic) consensus with a diverse editorial board." Special attention to bad spellers and masochists.
MOORE WATCH: He seems to be leaning toward the notion that 9/11 was a government conspiracy:
MOORE: I'd like to ask the question whether September 11 was a terrorist attack, or was it a military attack? We call it a terrorist attack. We keep calling it a terrorist attack. But it sure has the markings of a military attack. And I'd like to know whose military was involved in this precision, perfectly planned operation. I'm sorry, but my common sense has never allowed me to believe since that day that you can learn how to fly a plane at 500 miles per hour. And you know, when you go up 500 miles an hour, if you're off by this much, you're in the Potomac. You don't hit a five-store building like that.
What on earth is he getting at? - 11:11:57 PM HOW HIGH WAS RUSH? I've been mulling over this question after the Rush Limbaugh pain-killer drug story. The truth about these drugs is not just that they alleviate pain, but that they give you a real high. (That's why the spin about Rush being somehow different from recreational drug-users strikes me as a little strained.) I was prescribed Vicodin once and experienced some of the high. Apparently, Oxycontin is even more intense. All this leads to a simple question people have so far avoided: was Rush actually high during his broadcasts? Given the enormous amount of drugs in question, given their addictive quality, I'd say that the odds that Limbaugh was high when he was broadcasting are pretty good. Some might argue that you need to have your brain on drugs to say the things Rush said. But I'd argue the opposite. In fact, it might be true that Rush was a better broadcaster because he was high. His particular blend of self-mocking, lacerating, funny and fluent commentary reminds me in a way of people on a kind of high. Or maybe this attitude is actually hard to sustain for so long at such a pitch - and so the drugs helped him endure the slog of daily broadcasting the way drugs can enhance athletes' performance. Either way, the drugs may well have helped him do his job well. Obviously, he got addicted in a major way - which is the mega-down-side of such meds. And he may have lost his hearing because of enormous abuse of the pills. But it behooves us to notice the upside as well: that these drugs, far from impairing his ability to do great radio, may have helped him. If there were a way for Rush to use the drugs in moderation without getting addicted, why would that be a bad thing? And how would that differ in a deep way from people on anti-depressants who aren't clinically depressed? Or casual pot-smokers? Or old-time columnists who used to write brilliant columns while under the influence of a triple scotch? (I recall one of my early days on Fleet Street when I asked a brilliant columnist how he could write such stuff after several strong whiskeys in the afternoon. "My dear boy," he replied, "The real question is how I could write without the whiskey." Somehow, I get the feeling these permutations won't be fully developed in our puritan culture. But they should be. There's a reason Rush enjoyed these rushes. And conservatives benefited.
HOPE IN IRAN: Hoder gets excited about Shirin Ebadi's return. The photos are here. - 11:11:10 PM BAATHIST BROADCASTING CORPORATION: Another classic story in which the Beeb goes out of its way not to credit american medicine. They really hate the U.S. over there, don't they?
NPR CORRECTS: A summary of NPR's corrections about the Middle East in the past two years finds something remarkable for being unremarkable. All but one correction rebutted a slander against the Jews or the Jewish state. Hmmm.
MY DOG, ADOLF: Weird story about a dog called Adolf who was trained to give the Nazi salute. Ian Buruma told me a story once about an old Jewish lady in Vienna, if I recall rightly, who similarly called her dog Hitler. But she did it for reverse reasons: she got some pleasure from ordering Hitler around for a change. "Come here, Hitler!" "Sit, Hitler!" "Beg, Hitler!" No word on whether she actually grew to love the little Nazi. - 11:10:32 PM THEY HATE CONDI TOO: More ad hominem insults from the black left. - 6:52:33 PM HOW DID THIS HAPPEN? It seems to me that the anti-Bush crowd has been missing the real story, as usual. Instead of attempting to parse the administration's arguments before the war, they'd do better to focus on the Pentagon's massive incompetence after the war. Two things spring to mind: why weren't forces directed to secure all possible WMD sites immediately? And why were troops not sent to secure Saddam's conventional weapon sites immediately? The Baathist resistance is now fueled primarily by those weapons. The fate of WMDs is unsure - a critical reason for the war in the first place. Did Rumsfeld even think for a second about these post-war exigencies? Why were these objectives not included in the original war-plan as a whole? I have no idea. The pre-war and the war were executed as well as we could hope for. The immediate post-war was a disaster. Shouldn't someone take responsibility? It seems to me that since the left is so hopeless at constructing rational criticism, some of us pro-war types need to get mad and ask some tough questions. - 12:35:45 PM KUCINICH VERSUS IRAQ: He's now closer to the Islamists than the Pakistanis. Let's hope the "Goddess" saves him. - 12:29:15 PM NOT JUST A BLIP: Another poll shows a consistent up-tick in Bush's approval ratings. Gallup thinks that greater optimism on the economy is behind it. Who knows? I think the administration's spirited defense of its Iraq policy - long, long overdue - might have something to do with it. So you ask yourself: what does the future hold? I'd say the economy is headed for strong growth next year (it should after all the money being thrown at it); and that Iraq in a year's time will probably look a good deal more successful than it does now. (I could be wrong about that, of course.) Bottom line: Bush looks remarkably strong at this point - certainly stronger than either Reagan or Clinton at the 3 year-mark. - 12:17:27 PM
Monday, October 13, 2003 PERLE ON IMMINENCE: A very helpful discussion from Richard Perle in February of this year. I think it shows how the way in which the anti-war media have been using the term "imminent" is a grotesque over-simplification:
Let me say a word about what you call the new strategy of preemption. There's nothing new about preemption. If you know that you are about to be attacked, it is certainly sensible if you can act first and avoid that attack to do so. I don't think anybody would dispute that. So then the question is how imminent must the attack be to justify the preemptive response. Here, we need to think more carefully about the concept of imminence. In 1981, the Israelis, after a long and, I gather, a heated cabinet debate, decided to destroy the reactor that Chirac had sent to Osirak, not because it was about to produce nuclear weapons. It wasn't. It was about to produce plutonium and it was under IAEA safeguards so the Iraqis would have had to siphon off small, undetectable quantities of plutonium and it would have taken them time to build a nuclear weapon based on what they would get from the Osirak reactor. But, nevertheless, the Israelis decided to strike some years in advance of the production of the nuclear weapon that they were concerned about.
Now, why did they do that? They did it because the Iraqis were about to load fuel into the reactor and once they did so, they would not have had an opportunity to use an air strike without doing a lot of unintended damage around the facility, because radioactive material would have been released into the atmosphere. So from an Israeli point of view, what was imminent and what had to be acted against in a preemptive manner was not the ultimate emergence of the threat but an event that would lead inexorably to the ultimate emergence of the threat. They had to deal with a threshold that once crossed, they would no longer have the military option that could be effective at that moment. If we think of imminence in that sense, if we think of it as the thresholds that once crossed will so worsen our situation that we can't allow those thresholds to be crossed, then you start looking at how far are they from achieving the means to do the thing that everyone would recognize we were justified in stopping at the moment that action was taken. In the case of Iraq, we're talking about stopping the further development of nuclear weapons, we're talking about new systems of delivery for the chemical and biological weapons Saddam already has, including systems with much longer range. What is imminent about Iraq and what may be imminent in some other situations requires you to look back and decide when a threat becomes unmanageable.
So the administration did not regard the Iraqi threat as "imminent" in the usual sense of that word. as the NSC document had it, "As a matter of common sense and self-defense, America will act against such emerging threats [America's enemies and their pursuit of WMD] before they are fully formed." That's why Kay vindicates the Bushies. That's why the opponents have to distort history so massively to get the spin they want. (For a full roster of how widely disseminated the lie was, click here. For the new anti-war meme, see this editorial in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Now the spin is that Bush may not have said "imminent threat," may even have disowned the phrase, but he implied it. Nice try, guys. Hat-tip: blogger Chad.)
- 11:19:19 PM DOWD THEN AND NOW: Just an observation on the changing attitudes of a certain New York Times columnist. Here she is October 21, 2001:
John McCain called to try to talk me down. I put aside "Scourge," the book I was reading about smallpox -- "It covered the skin with hideous, painful boils, killed a third of its victims, and left the survivors disfigured for life" -- and listened. "There's nothing wrong with being afraid," the senator said in that soft, reassuring voice. "Every time I heard the guard's key chain rattle when he came to my cell at an odd hour, I felt fear, but it didn't incapacitate me." Easy for him to say. He's a national hero who was tortured in Vietnam. I'm a spoiled yuppie who desperately wants to go back to a time before we'd heard of microns and milling, aerosolization and clumps in the alveoli... I ran into my colleague Judy Miller, a bioterrorism expert, and asked if we should be worried about smallpox, camel pox and mouse pox. "We should be worried for the next few years," she said briskly, "and then we'll be fine." The next few years?
And here she is recently, after the despised Bush administration has wacked al Qaeda in Afghanistan and disarmed Saddam of his infrastructure of deadly weapons:
[W]e know now that our first pre-emptive war was launched basically because Iraq had ... a vial of Botox? Just about the scariest thing the weapons hunter David Kay could come up with was a vial of live botulinum, hidden in the home of an Iraqi biological weapons scientist. This has very dire implications for Beverly Hills and the East Side of Manhattan, areas awash in vials of Botox, the botulinum toxin that can either be turned into a deadly biological weapon or a pricey wrinkle smoother.
She sure has recovered, hasn't she? You won't find a better example of 9/11 amnesia than Ms Dowd, a self-described "spoiled yuppie who desperately wants to go back to a time before we'd heard of microns and milling, aerosolization and clumps in the alveoli." Didn't take her long, did it? - 11:18:34 PM SAUDI DEMOCRACY? No longer an oxymoron, after, ahem, a certain occurrence in a nearby state. All that war did was make things worse, didn't it?
QUOTE FOR THE DAY: "I think one of the big problems in France is that we are anti-American without knowing why. It’s just kind of a natural thing. I mean so many people I meet are anti-war, and they’ll just say that Bush is stupid and the Americans are awful imperialists. It’s just their typical answer, and they never think of why. That’s crazy. I think it’s because we’re all being brought up like that, especially at school. It’s incredible how we’re taught about America -- they’re always explaining, for example in geography or history courses, how Americans are imperialistic." - Sabine Herold, 22-year-old French dissident, in Reason.
THE CONSERVATIVE CLOSET: "With respect to your comment, 'imagine being a right-of-center student at his school': well, imagine working there, or at any other academic institution in the Bay area. I teach at Stanford, which is supposed to be more conservative - when I accepted a position here I was razzed by my liberal friends for my new proximity to that vortex of neocon evil, the Hoover Institution - but here, as everywhere else in the Bay (and academia in general), there is a hegemony of leftist ideology that permits no dissent. I keep my opinions to myself (I do have an instinct for self-preservation) and can 'pass for liberal,' which means that I get to hear how academics really feel about the role they think conservative ideas ought to play in public discourse (none). Their public line is that they are committed to untrammeled free expression and don't know what all this fuss about 'political correctness' is about -- it's all a plot of Fox News to delegitimize public dissent. Their private stance is that, since the Bush administration is 'evil' (I have heard this exact characterization many times) it doesn't matter how one treats the enemy and his ideas; it's a battle of good against evil, after all. It is taken for granted that any sign of conservative politics will ruin a professor's career. If you get an interview, you will not get hired; if you are hired, you will not get tenure. My colleagues will casually allude to this fact, but it does not trouble them unduly. After all, no-one they know is a conservative." - more feedback on the Letters Page. - 11:17:36 PM NOT A FLUKE: Some of you have wondered whether Ed Asner was joking when he said he wanted to play Stalin, and regarded the mass-murderer and tyrant as misunderstood. Nuh-huh. The guy really does have a soft spot for Stalinism.
UNIONS VERSUS KIDS: It's an old story, but this new twist is truly depressing.
FRC RESPONDS: The Family Research Council, a lobby group for the religious right, has answered the questions I posed in my WSJ piece last week. I'm grateful for their candor. The bottom line is that they oppose any civil benefits for gay couples of any kind. That's why their FMA not only bans same-sex marriage but also bans any benefits for gay couples, whether through legislative or judicial means, whether in the form of "domestic partnerships" or "civil unions." Their positive policy on homosexual citizens is that gays should simply stop being homosexual. That's it - straight out of the 1950s. The question is whether there are any social conservatives prepared to take a less absolutist position. Still silence from almost all of them. No enemies to the right, as usual. - 11:16:28 PM GAY CATHOLICS STRUGGLE: A worthwhile piece in the Boston Globe yesterday on how gay Catholics are struggling with a Church hierarchy that has declared war on gay lives and, especially, gay loves and relationships. Since the summer, I haven't written about this much, because it felt increasingly inappropriate to bring such deeply private issues into the public arena. But like many others, this past year has been a watershed for me. The combination of the cover-up of sexual abuse and the extremity of the language used against gay people by the Vatican has made it impossible for me to go back inside a church. I do believe that something is rotten in the heart of the hierarchy, that it is bound up in sexual panic and a conflicted homosexual subculture that is a deep part of the Catholic Church. Until that is dealt with, until a new dynamic of hope and honesty replaces denial and authoritarianism, I cannot go on. Am I still a Catholic? I don't think I can call myself such publicly any more. Privately, I think I always will be in some place in my heart. But I cannot enable the vicious cycle of failure and scapegoating that now animates what amounts to the leadership. And I do not believe, as David Brooks seems to, that the legacy of this pope can be fairly judged without taking into acccount the devastation to Catholicism that has occurred in the West under his watch. He has presided over a collapse in the Church's home-base in Europe, and, I believe, has precipitated the death-throes of the Church in America. No doubt many believe that this is the price for fidelity to the Church's medieval sexual ethics. I beg to differ.
BAATHIST BROADCASTING CORPORATION: Fine story on the separation of conjoined twins. Even more successful attempt at not mentioning where these Muslim children were saved. (Hint: in the bowels of the Great Satan.)
- 11:12:56 PM EMAIL OF THE DAY: "Just now I am reading 'The Constitution of the United States; Its Sources and Application' by Thomas James Norton, first published in 1922, this edition from the early 50s. The author takes the Constitution virtually line by line and explains what is in it, why it's there, and how its provisions have been interpreted by the courts. About the Full Faith and Credit clause, he notes this (p. 156):
Full faith and credit was held by the Supreme Court of the United States (1903) not to have been denied by the courts of Massachusetts in permitting the first wife of a man, rather than the second, to administer his estate upon his death, as the law of Massachusetts made invalid in the State a divorce which he went to South Dakota to procure. Full faith and credit did not require that a decree of divorce granted in South Dakota should be respected and made operative against the public policy of Massachusetts.
In other words, for a full century the law has held that in such intimate matters as family, marriage, and divorce, in contrast to, for example, business debts or public contracts, no state may use full faith and credit to impose its beliefs and policies on another. Those who promote the FMA should be asked to explain themselves in light of this fact." Actually, divorces might in some circumstances be held to be binding across state borders. But marriages? Never. The whole premise of the Federal Marriage Amendment - that the Full Faith and Credit clause of the Constitution mandates that marriage in one state be applicable in every other state - is a lie. But they keep on telling it. - 5:24:44 PM CORRECTION: An emailer lays it out:
You wrote: " Even when 45 percent of California's voters didn't pick a replacement candidate (because they voted "no" on the recall), Arnold Schwarzenegger's votes this time were 3.7 million from the remaining 55 percent, compared to Davis' 3.5 million from 100 percent of the electorate last year. In a conventional race, Schwarzenegger would have buried Davis." This is incorrect. Those who voted no on recall could still pick a replacement candidate. Indeed, this was the entire rationale of Cruz Bustamante's candidacy. For evidence that this was the case, here are the vote totals on Question 1 and Question 2. Note that the number of voters who voted on Question 2 is approx. 90%-95% (tough to tell precisely w/o adding up all the minor candidates) of the number of voters who voted on Question 1.
My bad. I really need to avoid all math questions. I keep screwing them up. - 4:51:32 PM ROCKEFELLER SNOWED: Matthew Hoy has the goods on Senator Jay Rockefeller's amazing incoherence on the "imminent threat." We may just have turned this lying meme around. - 3:44:42 PM
Sunday, October 12, 2003 THE NYT ADJUSTS: One interesting thing to note in the New York Times' editorial yesterday on WMDs in Iraq. They didn't re-use the "imminent threat" meme. It's gone. Instead, they described the threat described by the White House as "extraordinary." That's a stretch too. But at least it isn't a complete fabrication. Tony Snow also helped by grilling Jay Rockefeller yesterday and got him to concede that Bush specifically disavowed the notion that the threat from Saddam was "imminent." A reader's comb-through of the entire White House archives for speeches, press releases and so on doesn't come up with a single administration use of the term "imminent". That's not proof that the White House never used the term, but it's pretty good evidence that it wasn't the administration boilerplate that the press is now trying to imply. I have found one use of the term "imminent" from Richard Perle. But he's not a formal administrtaion official; and he has been a hothead at times.
THE REAL ISSUE: Am I being ridiculously semantic here? I don't think so. Here's why: If the administration had genuinely described the threat as "imminent", then there wouldn't have even been much of a debate. Of course we are entitled to defend ourselves against imminent attack. The debate rather was over what kind of threat could justify a war. The White House argued that it was a grave and growing threat, that it was unknowable, that we'd under-estimated Saddam before and that after 9/11, the balance of judgment had to shift to greater vigilance. Technically speaking, none of this was necessary because of Saddam's flagrant violation of U.N. Resolution 1441 (which, by the way, also did not describe Saddam's threat as "imminent"). The point was less that we knew the threat was imminent, but that we couldn't know for sure that it wasn't. I'd argue that this complex argument is completely upheld by what the Kay report has found so far: a clear, underground system for a biological and chemical weapons capacity, with the possibility of actual weapons yet to be discovered. It may be that the threat turns out to be less than feared. The question then becomes: given that we could not have known for sure at the time, should the president have risked waiting or tolerating Saddam? Would another delay have removed the doubt? Hindsight is easy. But real decisions have to be made without it. If the Democratic candidates want to argue that they would have taken the risk and allowed Saddam to stay in power, then they need to say so clearly. Howard Dean already has. He would have left Saddam in place and hoped that the nightmare of terrorists with Saddam-provided WMDS wouldn't take place. After 9/11, I consider that an act of gross irresponsibility. But some do not. Let's debate that, shall we? It's still the critical question in the coming campaign: whom do you to trust to protect us? - 11:13:40 PM THE GERMANS LOVE HER: The German Booksellers' Association have their own Sontag Award. And it's just gone to Susan Sontag! The Association views Sontag as a lone dissident in an "arrogant super-power." The writer who described the mass murderers of 9/11 as braver than allied pilots is hailed by the German literary elites as having an "exceptional sense of morality and immorality." Her main triumph: standing up to the "hegemonic response" to 9/11. 9/11? Who remembers that any more? Surely not the Germans. (Hat-tip: Eamonn.)
LEFTIES AND TYRANTS: "I think Joe Stalin was a guy that was hugely misunderstood. And to this day, I don't think I have ever seen an adequate job done of telling the story of Joe Stalin, so I guess my answer would have to be Joe Stalin." - actor, Ed Asner, responding to the question, "If you had the chance to play the biographical story of a historical figure you respected most over your lifetime, who would it be?" - 11:13:14 PM ANOTHER CONSERVATIVE AGAINST THE FMA: Money quote from Chuck Muth, Arizona Republican:
FMA is a solution in search of a problem. No state court has yet to rule in favor of recognizing "gay marriages." But even if one or more states do recognize gay marriages, federal law already defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman. And while FMA proponents say the Full Faith & Credit clause of the Constitution would force states to recognize gay marriages from other states, other legal scholars contend it won't. Shouldn't we at least wait to see if something is broken before trying to fix it?
Meanwhile, there's more evidence that the argument for at least some kind of civil union for gay citizens is gaining ground.
MARTIN SMITH, LEFTIST: Interesting background on Martin Smith, producer of the Frontline attack on the Iraq War. Well, actually not that interesting. He's another baby-boom lefty "child of the 1960s" who went into public television and documentaries to advance his liberal ideas:
"I was a Conscientious Objector during the war years. I did alternative service work, and when I came back to school, I went back to New York University Film School. I didn't think that I was going to be making documentaries, but I gravitated toward documentaries immediately, because there was an immediacy to them. You didn't wait around for people to get their make-up right or for the set to get built, and you just went out and shot things... Yes, I was a child of the sixties, and I was at half of the demonstrations, and all the concerts."
Good for him. But please don't try and persuade us he's only interested in the truth. He's an anti-war propagandist of the classic kind. I just wish I didn't have to pay any part of his salary. - 11:12:54 PM THE LIBERAL BUBBLE: The way in which what was once a joyful mix of all sorts of lifestyles in San Francisco has curdled into a leftist, Puritan sect is perhaps best represented by that bastion of political correctness, Berkeley. Here's a little insight into how these people think. It's from Orville Schell, dean of the J-School:
"It strikes me that the better educated people are, more often than not, they tend to be more liberal, and I think this is a very well-educated area ... When you live in a beautiful place, which the whole Bay Area is, you draw people for whom that is important and the idea of preservation, moderation, of walking a little more softly, is important. And I think that creates a kind of liberal mind-set in an environmental sense and in a larger political sense."
Imagine being a right-of-center student at his school! You immediately know that your own dean thinks your political views might be a function of your lower intelligence. And the notion that only statists care about the environment, or about beauty, is so insulting it hardly bears comment. But there you have it.
THE PLAME LEAK: It may have been disgraceful, but probably legal. Here's why. I largely agree with Nick Kristof on this - both sides come out looking terrible, but the administration leaker is a truly odious character. Josh Marshall, however, surely goes a little over the top with his claim that because Plame's cover had already been blown by Aldrich Ames, the White House official deserves to be seen in exactly the same light. He's vile, but not on the Ames level. - 11:12:32 PM
Saturday, October 11, 2003 FRONTLINE CONCEDES: Here's a fascinating encounter with the producer of the Frontline special on the war against Saddam, Martin Smith. It's from the Washington Post's online chat today:
Boston, Mass: Why did Martin Smith at least twice say while conducting an interview in the program that "Americans were sold this war as an imminent threat..." That is a bold face lie, an untruth from beginning to end. In President Bush's state of the union speech, he specifically countered that argument by in essence saying we cannot afford to wait until the threat from Iraq is imminent. For a program with Truth in it's title, that's a big slip up and I heard Mr. Smith say it at least twice.
Martin Smith: I'm glad you asked this question. I believe I may have used the term "imminent threat" more than twice. If you go back to the records you will see that while the president does not use the exact phrase, he talks about a "grave and gathering danger." He talks about Saddam's ability to launch chemical or biological weapons in 45 minutes.
No one that I spoke to in the administration who supported the war quibbled with the use of the term "imminent threat." It's simply not a quotation - it's a summary of the president's assessment.
Good for you, Mr Boston. What we see here is that Smith has interpreted what the administration said before the war to be an "imminent threat." But the only time I know of that the exact phrase was used was in president Bush's critical State of the Union address before the war. And in that speech, this is what Bush said:
"Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late. Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option."
Yes, that is a "grave and gathering danger." But it is not "imminent." In fact, it specifically makes a distinction that Smith's propaganda elides. Think I'm as biased as Smith? Here's how the leading anti-war Democrat - yes, Howard Dean - described Bush's position on September 29, 2002: "The president has never said that Saddam has the capability of striking the United States with atomic or biological weapons any time in the immediate future." I would say that "any time in the immediate future" is as good a definition as any of the word "imminent." So was even Howard Dean spinning for Bush? Of course not. He was summing up the simple truth. Smith is distorting the historical record to make a fake case against the administration. Perhaps it was intentional; perhaps he was just so blinded by liberal bias he even believed his own untruths. But this time, he's been caught. (CORRECTION: In my original version, I included a final line from the caller from Boston. There was no final line. I mistranscribed commentary from an email about the inter-change and confused it with the transcript. Apologies.)
JUST A REMINDER: Here are a few choice quotes from Democrats in the period leading up to the war to disarm and depose Saddam. They are all almost identical to the Bush administration's statements. None claim an "imminent" threat. All suggest a real and growing danger. Some of the intelligence may well turn out to be wrong. But their concerns were real; and their judgment correct. Again, the imminent meme has to be challenged before the anti-war media make this untruth truth:
"[W]e urge you, after consulting with Congress, and consistent with the U.S. Constitution and laws, to take necessary actions (including, if appropriate, air and missile strikes on suspect Iraqi sites) to respond effectively to the threat posed by Iraq's refusal to end its weapons of mass destruction programs." --Letter to President Clinton, signed by Sens. Carl Levin, Tom Daschle, John Kerry, and others Oct. 9, 1998.
"Saddam Hussein has been engaged in the development of weapons of mass destruction technology which is a threat to countries in the region and he has made a mockery of the weapons inspection process." --Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D, CA), Dec. 16, 1998.
"In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including al Qaeda members. It is clear, however, that if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons." --Sen. Hillary Clinton (D, NY), Oct 10, 2002
"We are in possession of what I think to be compelling evidence that Saddam Hussein has, and has had for a number of years, a developing capacity for the production and storage of weapons of mass destruction... [W]ithout question, we need to disarm Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal, murderous dictator, leading an oppressive regime ... He presents a particularly grievous threat because he is so consistently prone to miscalculation. And now he has continued deceit and his consistent grasp for weapons of mass destruction ... So the threat of Saddam Hussein with weapons of mass destruction is real ..." --Sen. John F. Kerry (D, MA), Jan. 23. 2003.
Friday, October 10, 2003 AND LIFE RETURNS: After Saddam, the Iraqi Marsh Arabs, their lives and traditions violated by Saddam, enjoy the benefits of America's liberation:
The marsh has once again assumed its omnipresent role in the village. Women clad in black head-to-toe abayas wade into the water to wash clothes. The mullet found in the murky depths, though small and bony, is grilled for dinner every night. Swamp grasses are cut to feed the cows and sheep that will eventually be traded for water buffalo. "Everyone is so happy," Kerkush said as he watched his son stand in a mashoof and steer it like a gondolier with a long wooden pole. "We are starting to live like we used to, not the way Saddam wanted us to live."
How can you not be moved by such a story? How can you not be proud of what we have done? - 11:51:39 PM FRONTLINE'S LIE: More imminent insinuation from the left. Frontline, the left-wing arm of liberal WGBH, ran a documentary last week, paid in part by tax-payers' dollars, that threaded the "imminent" meme throughout. (They had the gall to email me to promote it). Here's one question posed to Paul Bremer that simply assumes the lie:
I guess the problem is that Americans cautioned that this aftermath would be difficult, and that we didn't sign up for a humanitarian mission; we signed up to rid ourselves of an imminent threat. Was the war wrongly sold?
The distortion continues relentlessly. And you're paying for some of it. - 6:36:41 PM HERE'S DASCHLE: From October 10, 2002, here's an extract from Tom Daschle's case for agreeing with the administration's rationale for war:
The threat posed by Saddam Hussein may not be imminent, but it is real, it is growing, and it cannot be ignored.
There you have it. Why does the media continue to lie about the arguments made for war against Saddam? They keep moving the goal-posts so the administration cannot win. Just as they did all they could to prevent the war, and to undermine it when it was going on, now they seek to distort history to advance the agenda of appeasing terrorist-sponsoring tyranny. (Thanks to Bo Cowgill.) Keep those "imminent" references coming. We can turn this untruth around. - 6:15:51 PM AH, THE RELIGIOUS RIGHT: Threatening the U.S. government with nukes in a suitcase. - 5:58:06 PM MORE ANTI-WAR SPIN: Who wrote this headline for the Cheney speech? Is it that the more people hear the truth, the more desperate the media is to discredit it? - 5:52:54 PM ONE AUSSIE GETS IT: The vindication of the war in David Kay's report. Maybe if we just keep pointing these things out, people will begin to see through the media propaganda. I hope you didn't miss Charles Krauthammer today either. - 5:50:55 PM MORE 'IMMINENT' LIES: The Associated Press will not stop lying about the case for war against Saddam. Here's a piece about the vice president's speech today. Money quote:
Yet Cheney offered no new evidence that Saddam posed an imminent threat as the administration claimed before the war.
Grrrrr. - 5:10:40 PM A GREAT NOBEL: I can hardly believe I'm writing this (and maybe there's a catch) but the Nobel Commitee seems to me to have done a great thing in awarding it to a pro-democratic Iranian woman. It's a sign that the world understands the plight of people living under Islamist dictatorships and wants to support those who have made a difference in moving the Muslim world toward greater pluarlism and openness. Next year: George W. Bush?
EMAIL OF THE DAY: "I read with interest your post today, Fri 10th Oct, on the poll purporting to show that Fox News viewers are more likely to hold false beliefs. The poll and its associated reporting are evidence of leftist bias, but I disagree with you about how the poll is biased. Notice, all three questions have a false pro-war answer and a true anti-war answer, so that the results are obviously conflating being mis-informed with being pro-war. This is probably not even intentional on the poll authors' part.
Imagine an opposite kind of poll asking, for example:
Did President Bush claim before the war that the threat to the US from Iraq's WMD was imminent?
Do a majority of Iraqis support the US invasion?
Did the US sell significant amounts of arms to Saddam Hussein?
Was the toppling of the Saddam statue at the end of the war staged?
A poll asking these or similar questions would doubtless find that Fox News viewers have the most accurate grasp of reality and NPR listeners the least." - 12:29:25 PM
Thursday, October 09, 2003 THE VOICE OF A SOLDIER: This in an amazing op-ed in yesterday's Austin-American Statesman:
After I returned from Bosnia, I visited the "museum" at Dachau. I saw the rebuilt barracks and new barbed wire, the meticulously restored crematoria and killing grounds. I knelt there in a field that had been used to dump the ashes of the victims of the Holocaust, and lit a candle for the souls who suffered there. I cried and prayed there, remembering what had been done, and thought upon the words "never again." Somehow the thought of it made me cry more, because I couldn't stop thinking about how long it took us to decide to stop the madness in Bosnia. How no one even tried to stop the killings in Cambodia, Kurdish Iraq and the Sudan. How we walked away from Somalia after the tragic sacrifice of American soldiers fighting to build a better world. It occurred to me how much we have forgotten and how empty those brave words had become.
We cannot save the world by ourselves. We cannot stop all the genocides and massacres. We cannot make sure that "never again" becomes a fulfilled promise rather than a hope. But we can return a little meaning to those words, stop some killings and end some suffering. I hope we do, and I would be proud to serve again in Iraq to do so.
But I won't expect those who call for "peace" to help me.
Nope, the pacifists and anti-war crowd are on the side of the tyrants - now as so often before. - 11:15:04 PM WHAT WE HAVE ACHIEVED: Here's a more prosaic account of the extraordinary work that the U.S. armed services have been doing in Iraq. It's from the CPA's new official website. Yesterday, Paul Bremer gave a brief overview. (And, believe it or not, even the anti-war New York Times covered it.) My highlights:
Six months ago there were no police on duty in Iraq.
Today there are over 40,000 police on duty, nearly 7,000 here in Baghdad alone.
Last night Coalition Forces and Iraqi police conducted 1,731 joint patrols.
Today nearly all of Iraq’s 400 courts are functioning.
Today, for the first time in over a generation, the Iraqi judiciary is fully independent.
On Monday, October 6 power generation hit 4,518 megawatts—exceeding the pre-war average.
Today all 22 universities and 43 technical institutes and colleges are open, as are nearly all primary and secondary schools.
Many of you know that we announced our plan to rehabilitate one thousand schools by the time school started—well, by October 1 we had actually rehabbed over 1,500.
Six months ago teachers were paid as little as $5.33 per month.
Today teachers earn from 12 to 25 times their former salaries.
Today we have increased public health spending to over 26 times what it was under Saddam.
Today all 240 hospitals and more than 1200 clinics are open.
Today doctors’ salaries are at least eight times what they were under Saddam.
Pharmaceutical distribution has gone from essentially nothing to 700 tons in May to a current total of 12,000 tons.
Since liberation we have administered over 22 million vaccination doses to Iraq’s many children.
This is what some in this country want to stop. This is what would never have happened if we'd let Saddam Hussein stay in power. It's simply beyond me how anyone can describe this war as about "oil" or about "imperialism" or about "greed" or "militarism." It remains one of the most humanitarian acts in modern history. And, if successful, it could turn an entire region around - a region that has been the main source of real danger to itself and to the West in my lifetime. I'm banging on about this not simply because it's by far the most important issue in our politics right now, but because a wilful and petty disinformation campaign is being waged to distort this achievement, undermine it, and reverse it. We mustn't let that happen. We cannot let these people - and ourselves - down again. (Hat tip: Simmins blog.)
HOW THE ANTI-WAR LEFT SPINS: You might recall the recent news stories where various media outlets gleefully reported that Fox News viewers were more likely to believe facts about the Iraq war that were "demonstrably untrue." When you look at the questions asked, you find one that simply says: "As you may know the Bush administration has said that Iraq played an important role in the September 11 attacks." Huh? Unless you define "important role" as the part played by Saddam in the nexus of terrorists and terrorist-states that threaten the West, then this is untrue; or at least a matter of interpretation. The study strikes me in part as a test of whether the respondents have imbibed liberal propaganda. No wonder NPR listeners did so well. - 11:14:23 PM TELL US HOW YOU REALLY FEEL: The Orthodox church responds to a gay wedding.
THE REAL AGENDA: Focus on the Family is now not only concerned about gay weddings, but about straight civil ones as well. Every now and again, you get a glimpse of what they really want.
In our Bernie Goldberg thought of the day, imagine the howls of outrage from the Los Angeles Times and the dominant media if Karl Rove or some other Republican spent the last 72 hours of the campaign touting — usually on the record! — "internal" campaign polling purporting to show dramatic tightening in a race that was not supported by either pre-election public polling or the election results. Here is the harsh-but-spot-on analysis of what happened from a Brilliant Democrat:
1. Optimism trumps pessimism.
2. Referendum on hated incumbent will produce defeat no matter how flawed challenger is (see: Florio versus Whitman, 1993)
3. Democratic Party does not have moral platform to attack sexually harassing candidates (notice absence of either Clinton during the final stretch, once the charges broke)
4. Was there a real difference between our tracking polls and the Republican tracking polls the final week post-LA Times allegations? If so, pollster problems in Democratic Party (so evident in 2002) seem to persist.
When was the last time a Democrat lost 30% of the African-American vote in any race, any time? This is some achievement for Mulholland, South, Doak et al.
READERS RESPOND: At least a few readers have responded to my WSJ piece. I should add that my mentioning that 67 percent of the 18 - 29 age group in the USAToday poll thought same-sex marriage would benefit society was mistaken. It should be that 67 percent thought it would be harmless or a benefit to society. An innocent mistake, I assure you. And the point endures. - 12:10:35 PM DARK DAY FOR KRUGMAN: Americans' job prospects are looking up. - 10:53:30 AM
Wednesday, October 08, 2003 POSEUR ALERT: "The Kennedys are like that, too: loved for their love of attention, which they gather by dispensing an altruistic other kind of love. Sometimes the love backfires and they behave badly, are seen to be grabbing too much. So, too, did Arnold grope. When speaking of his California, he is sometimes verklempt and inarticulate, the way people get when they talk about their folks getting old. Other times he is grabby." - Hank Stuever, dowding it up, Washington Post, today. - 11:50:02 PM BILLIONS FROM JAPAN: The donors for Iraq are beginning to line up. Money quote from a senior administration official: "The Japanese are talking in the billions. The Europeans are revisiting their earlier numbers. They're all beginning to look at this as a security issue, not a development issue, and they're scrounging for money from other places in their budgets." Imagine that: Iraq as a security issue. Those Europeans. Always thinking ahead of the game. - 11:44:47 PM A NEW TWIST? Dan Drezner parses new reports that suggest that there was only one leak from the administration (not six) and thta it might well have been unintentional. It's plausible - well, about as plausible as any of these scenarios has been to me.
BARONE ON ARNOLD: A judicious round-up, for British readers.
SONTAG AWARD NOMINEE: "The September 11 attacks were probably closer to Dresden or Hiroshima in that a lot of planning and resources were put into deliberately killing civilians in large numbers. The IRA's killing of civilians is equally wrong, but the IRA would argue that it did so by accident. That is no succour to the victims' families, but the IRA was one of the few guerrilla organisations that gave warnings." - Gerry Adams, IRA front-man, interviewed in the anti-war newspaper, the Independent. I love the idea of terrorists killing civilians "by accident;" and the equation of America in 2001 with Nazi Germany or Fascist Japan in the last world war. And then there's this answer to the wonderfully blunt question: "Was the IRA right to try to blow up Mrs Thatcher?" Adams' answer begins, "Well, you have to see it in the context of the time ..." Every now and again, the mask slips and you realize that many people out there are not just anti-American. They are actually pro-terror. - 11:37:40 PM ARNOLD'S VICTORY: If some Dems want to delegitimize Schwarzenegger's triumph, they should surely consider this: in Gray Davis's re-election bid in 2002, he gained 3.47 million votes. Arnold just won 3.69 million votes. The vote to recall Davis garnered 4.36 million. If that isn't legitimacy, what is?
THE "IMMINENT" THREAT: Here's a fascinating nugget. Ted Kennedy, who is now claiming that the administration claimed an "imminent" threat from Saddam, didn't feel that way directly after the president's State of the Union address last January. Here's the money quote from the Los Angeles Times:
But afterward, some said the speech failed to end the debate on whether to go to war. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) said he would introduce a resolution today that would require Bush to come back to Congress and present "convincing evidence of an imminent threat" before U.S. troops are sent to war with Iraq. Congress approved a resolution last fall authorizing Bush to use military force against Iraq, and that measure did not require a second review.
Now, presumably that means that Kennedy himself didn't believe that the president had argued or shown that Saddam's threat was "imminent." Now he's changed his tune. Pure politics, as usual, from the senator from Massachusetts. (In another twist, you'll see that the L.A. Times reporter simply describes Bush's speech as arguing that the threat is "imminent" with no evidence at all. She doesn't even notice the discrepancy between her headline and Kennedy's protestation. I guess people hear what they want to hear.)
A PERFECT POST: On Austria's new pride. - 11:34:26 PM RADIO SILENCE: Not much public engagement yet from the social right on my WSJ piece yesterday, as Jonah noticed. Well, maybe in time, I'll get an answer of sorts. My questions about what conservatives are actually for with regard to gay citizens weren't meant to be purely rhetorical. So why no answers? Here's my inference. A hefty part of the opposition to same-sex marriage is based on purely religious grounds. Some on the social right do not make any real distinctions between Biblical law and civil law. Or rather, they don't on matters pertaining to homosexuality. So they're against everything to do with gay rights, period. Secular opponents of marriage for gays may well be in favor of some sort of civil union that isn't quite marriage, but (with some noble exceptions like Jonah) they avoid saying so in order not to offend their fundamentalist allies. The anti-gay marriage forces are, in fact, more conflicted than the pro-gay marriage forces. The left's former hostility to the idea has largely evaporated within the gay world over the last decade. But the fundamentalist right's opposition to any recognition of gay relationships at all is as strong as ever. That means that no conservative compromise - internally or externally - looks possible. Or am I wrong?
AND ON HATE CRIMES: Some of you who read my WSJ piece asked whether I support them. Nuh-huh. I find them horrifying. But I simply cannot see how an intellectually honest person can support them for everyone except gays. That's Bush's position. It's intellectually absurd. If hate crimes are thought-crimes, it doesn't matter to whom they're directed: they're all wrong (my position). But if they're legitimate ways to deter crimes of violence and hatred against minorities, then excluding one minority that everyone acknowledges is a common victim of "hate" makes no sense. Some might argue that homosexuality is a choice. Well, so is religion, and that's protected. Can someone give me a reason for the gay exclusion?
POOR ALTERMAN: His loony thesis that the media is right-leaning isn't shared by many. Hey, but what do the viewers know? They're just morons, aren't they?
FIGHTING BACK WORKS: The minute Sharon started taking the fight back to the terrorists, something strange happened. Terrorist deaths dropped by almost a half. (For some reason, I screwed this item up yesterday.) - 11:33:34 PM EMAIL OF THE DAY: "My two boys were adopted, each at seven. They were raised with prayer every night and most mornings until they were fifteen. They grew up heterosexual and are both married. They adore me and my monogamous spouse. So do our grandkids.
Some “religious” conservatives, who could be very sympathetic to the heterosexuals that dumped these boys into the world, rail against those of us who took them and continue to sacrifice for the kids. Some even wanted to take my sons away from me, and they could have when being gay was criminal.
Thank you for protecting my family!" - more fresh feedback on the Letters Page. - 4:20:32 PM FAWLTY TOWERS SPARED: The hotel which was the inspiration for John Cleese's genius sit-com has been saved from demolition. The hazing of guests will apparently continue. - 1:05:57 PM HINDSIGHT BIAS: As he often does, the incomparable Jon Rauch homes in on the central distortion in the current discussion of the Iraq war:
Iraq is ridden with hindsight bias. For instance, the Bush administration should have -- must have -- seen the gaps in its prewar intelligence (they are pretty evident now). And the notion that the occupation could be run with a few divisions -- how naive was that? And wasn't it obvious that the military would need to patrol the streets from the day the war ended?
Hindsight bias raises false expectations and nurtures conspiracy theories. Perhaps worst, it leads to ricocheting errors as people look backward through distorted lenses and then overcompensate looking ahead.
War critics who today revel in hindsight bias might do well to recall an earlier instance: the claim that the first President Bush's failure to march to Baghdad and unseat Saddam was a gross error. It was not. In early 1991, the smart money was on Saddam's soon being toppled, and the first Bush wanted to avoid precisely the sort of ugly occupation that the second Bush now finds himself conducting. The second war grew partly from hindsight bias in evaluations of the first.
The solution is pragmatic muddling through. That's what Condi is now trying to coordinate. It's the essence of good government. And we have many months to judge its effects - with as little hindsight bias as possible. - 12:56:59 PM NOT TAKING IT WELL: Some at the Los Angeles Times are not too happy this morning. - 12:34:06 PM DANGER CALIFORNIEN: The French establishment is rattled by this thing called "democracy." Le Monde's editorial today - from the front-page headline, "Danger Californien - continues, highmindedly:
"California is known for its capacity to innovate. Every new trend from Los Angeles or San Francisco generally ends up crossing the American continent from west to east, and then the Atlantic. The trend launched on Tuesday October 7 is worrisome. . . . [Mr. Schwarzenegger's substance doesn't worry us.] No, it's the process that led to "Arnie's" victory that should worry us. Here's a state with 35 million people and a GDP about the size of France's. . . . And yet here's a state where, at a cost of millions of dollars, voters can dismiss a sitting governor barely eleven months after his election. . . . Laboratory of the United States, California has been no less a testing ground for democracy itself over these past 20 years: more and more, by means of referendums and "citizens' initiatives," direct democracy has stolen a march on representative democracy. Thus Mr. Schwarzenegger, like his predecessor, will have his hands tied with respect to something like 70% of the state budget on account of constraints imposed by successively restrictive referendums. This state of affairs results, to be sure, from the electorate's distrust of the political establishment. Schwarzenegger's populist victory is but a further illustration of this point.
Some of these points, are, of course, valid. But one of the pleasures of this victory is watching the Europeans squirm, harrumph, and privately marvel. - 12:10:16 PM REPUBLICANS AND GAYS: In the Wall Street Journal this morning, I ask a simple question: in terms of gay rights, what are Republicans for? - 12:06:17 PM THE "IMMINENT" ISSUE: Tom Maguire backs me up. With more data.
- 12:01:46 PM THE MEDIA VERSUS THE WAR:Ralph Peters lets it rip. (Hat tip: Instapundit.) - 11:45:52 AM AHNULD! Not just a victory but a landslide. Mickey explains far better than I why this is a good thing. Roger Simon gets the basic point: the Eagle revolution. It's a potentially excellent development for the state of California, for punishing a certain type of interest-group-beholden Democrat, and really, really good news for the future of the Republican party nationally. (Can you imagine how gloomy Alan Keyes is this morning?) Money quote:
Bruce Cain, the overquoted Berkeley professor, was just on television sneering that the recall doesn't get California any closer to solving its problems. What an idiot. Schwarzenegger as governor will have weapons Davis doesn't have, the most important of which is the ability to go over the heads of the legislature and rally public support--behind an initiative, if necessary. He might even be able to threaten to go into legislator's districts and campaign against them (although the state is so heavily gerrymandered there may be no unsafe "swing" districts left). You want to amend the state Constitution to get rid of the paralyzing requirement that two-thirds of the legislature approve any budget? Schwarzenegger is the man who can do it. You want a tax increase if cutting the budget isn't enough to close the deficit? Schwarzenegger's the man for that too. As a nominal Republican, he is in a position to attract at least some Republican votes for a budget package that includes both taxes and cuts. And if even an anti-tax candidate like Schwarzenegger tells the voters some increases are needed, they're more likely to accept it from him than from a Democrat whose first instinct is to pay whatever it takes to avoid public employee layoffs.
But Arnold also shows that Eagle politics can work - fusing low-tax conservatism with social tolerance and a tough foreign policy is the great missing politics in America. We may have just found our first truly charismatic candidate. - 12:57:29 AM WHAT AN EVENING: Not so heavy dish this morning because I spent one of the most enjoyable evenings in a very long time. Lecture by Steven Pinker at AEI, dinner afterwards, then off to "Lost In Translation," the sublime Sofia Coppola movie. Then home to news of Arnold's triumph. You have to savor days like this. Now to walk the beagle ...
RAINES AWARD NOMINEE: "Behind a seemingly calm facade, with Damascus toothless to respond militarily to the deepest Israeli air raid in Syria in three decades, the Arab world was reeling Monday from the idea that yet a third major conflict could erupt in the Middle East. Already, the region is traumatized by the open wound that Israeli-Palestinian clashes have become and by an American-occupied Iraq teetering on the brink of bedlam." - Neil MacFarquhar, New York Times. The "brink of bedlam?" And what evidence is there of that? None given. Gee, do you think MacFarquhar was opposed to the war? More anti-war spin from the NYT. The spirit of Raines is back. - 12:56:53 AM CLINTON'S CLAWS GO DEEPER: The first casualty of the Clintonista Manchurian candidate is, er, the campaign manager. Not exactly a good sign.
THE TURKS COME THROUGH: Important progress in the military stabilization of Iraq. Safire's right about the position of the Iraqi neo-government. This is time for conciliation and support. - 12:56:01 AM FIGHTING BACK WORKS: The minute Sharon started taking the fight back to the terrorists, something strange happened. Terrorist deaths dropped by
WHEN LESBIANS BLINK: Eugene Volokh follows up on the born-gay story.
THE IMMINENT LIE: "David Kay, the head of the US team of 1,200 experts scouring Iraq for weapons of mass destruction, reported to Congress last week that he found none of the nuclear, biological or chemical weapons that President George W. Bush (news - web sites) said Saddam had and were an imminent danger to the world. The threat from these weapons was cited in Washington as the main reason for the US-led war that toppled the Iraqi leader." - Agence France Presse, October 7. - 12:55:47 AM ANTI-AMERICANISM: I've just received Jean-Francois Revel's new book on anti-Americanism. I haven't had time to read it yet (the blog takes more and more hours out of my day). But here's an extract worth perusing from the New Criterion.
EMAIL OF THE DAY: "Arnold is no Eagle; he's a power hungry Vulture. I notice you didn't mention any of his fight back speech posted on Drudge's site. He's all upset because these allegations are so close to the election. Must be a vast left wing conspiracy. He said why didn't the women come to him, he would have "apologized." We should be cool with that after all it's like you said, "once and out." This is as bad as Gloria Steinem's "one grope" rule established to defend Clinton. How dare you? As I woman and a conservative, I find that thinking vile. I found Clinton's behavior vile and I find Arnold's vile. The only difference between Arnold and Clinton, besides the rape allegation, is Maria: she's prettier than Hillary. But like Hillary, she stands by her groping husband. But then again, Kennedy women have experience with power hungry, sexually abusive husbands, don't they. I could go on, but I won't. I'll just leave with this. He released part of the book proposal to explain why he admired Hitler so much. He said Hitler and Kennedy could walk into a room and command it. They would speak and the people would follow. He liked them because of their power over people; he finds this exciting. This is just more evidence to me that he's no Eagle. He's a power hungry Vulture, preying on the weak minded and women. And shame on you for supporting and defending him." - more reader feedback on the Letters Page. - 12:55:29 AM
Tuesday, October 07, 2003 THE MEANEST AD YET: Click on the link to see the full TV ad, for the right effect. This is almost NAACP territory. Vote Arnold. - 12:46:01 PM DERBYSHIRE AWARD NOMINEE: "On all the matters that touch upon the critical moral issues, Arnold Schwarzenegger is on the evil side. This is a fact. A mere list of the positions he supports is enough to make this plain: abortion as a "right," cloning of human beings, governmental classification of citizens by race, public benefits for sexual partners outside of marriage, disrespect for property rights against environmental extremism, repudiation of the right to bear arms – no more need be said to show that this candidate is wrong where human decency, human rights and human responsibility bear directly on political issues... The worst enemy Republicans face in the political realm is not the Democrats, but the power of evil that lurks in all hearts. In the context of this true reality, the decision to vote for Schwarzenegger is not a clever tactical calculation. It is a strategic blunder. Troy did not fall until the Trojans brought the horse into their city. The Greeks offered them a false victory, and so destroyed them. The leadership of the California Republican Party does not appear much wiser than the Trojans', nor, I fear, will its fate be any happier." - Alan Keyes, describing the leading GOP candidate in California as an accomplice to "evil." - 12:24:15 PM IT'S FIFTY-FIFTY: Another poll on same-sex marriage finds yet more evidence of rapidly growing acceptance. In the fifteen years I've been arguing for this reform, I've never seen numbers like these. When you look at the younger age-groups, especially those in their twenties, the debate has been strikingly won: 67 percent support the reform. What I particularly liked about this poll was that it asked the important question: will this change hurt or help the broader society? A tiny majority said it would help. What chance does a Constitutional Amendment have that cannot even get a simple majority in most polls? Close to none, I'd say. - 11:59:30 AM LEFT, RIGHT, ARNOLD: Why is it that both the left and the right have it in for Arnold Schwarzenegger? (I'm not referring to the last-minute dirt-dump by the L.A. Times/Gray Davis/CodePink brigades. The alleged behavior strikes me as boorish, gross and wrong. But that's not unknown in the heterosexual lifestyle, no one has sued, no one was actually screwed, he has apologized, and I'm a tolerant, inclusive kind of guy.) AS's candidacy, however, is far more than a classic political event. It's a cultural event. What he represents is best displayed, to my mind, in the classic movie, "Pumping Iron." That movie is about cunning, wit and irony - as incarnated in the larger-than-life figure of an Austrian super-star who is more American than millions of native-borns. But it is also about the 1970s - an era of sexual freedom, bravado, excess and pleasure, especially pleasure. Arnold is far, far more in touch with that ethos - and with the culture of the generations that came after it and have been permanently altered by it - than most contemporary politicians. Check out this account of an AS rally by Weintraub:
Arnold Schwarzenegger plays guitar while Twisted Sister singer Dee Snider sings the campaign anthem, "We're not gonna take it." The rally at the state Capitol drew about 10,000 supporters and was a rainbow of ages, races and social status. No wonder the Democrats fear Schwarzenegger.
And no wonder some uptight Republicans do as well.
CULTURE VERSUS POLITICS: This color, this cultural sympathy, this comfort with pleasure and irony and laughter, is made even more dramatic in contrast with the dry, political paste represented by Governor Davis - a spectacularly bland and corrupt hack who seems to come from some political factory. That Arnold should represent this and the Republican Party is threatening to all sorts of people: to the joyless, paranoid scolds who run the Dixie-fied GOP; to the professional political class (although AS will likely coopt and manipulate them to no end); and to the new left that likes to believe it has a monopoly on politicians who aren't horrified by sex, drugs and rock and roll. There's no one else in today's Republican or Democratic parties who comes close to this. Who else could enrage both Rick Santorum and Katha Pollitt? Clinton is and was a schlubby, sexually guilt-ridden Rhodes Scholar who desperately associates with Hollywood dreck in order to get some smidgen of cool rubbed off on him. Hillary's even more frumpily puritan. Dubya is relaxed but in a post-recovery, Bible-class kind of way. McCain came close to being real and genuinely cool, but has nothing like Arnold's pop-cultural draw. In this universe - where your options are drones like Kerry or Lieberman - Arnold is a cultural revolution. I don't know whether he's going to be a decent governor but he's said a few of the right things and it's hard to think of anyone being worse than Davis. What I do know is that his election would do an enormous amount to ameliorate the disconnect between culture and politics in this country. His election would be a sign of a tectonic plate shifting in the culture. About time. I hope he wins - not least to warm up the frigid soul of the Republican party. - 12:17:55 AM MICKEY PUNTS: It seems to me that a good blogger or pundit may legitimately stay above the fray for an election campaign, leaving whom he'll support till the last minute. Well, it's election eve as I write this and Mickey Kaus, who has devoted his entire blog to the California recall, still won't say who he's supporting. I can understand neutered blogger, Daniel Weintraub, staying mum. The Sacbee might fire him for endorsing a candidate. But what's Mickey's excuse? Is it that he either has to say he'd vote for AS and have all those neolibs and Dems screaming at him for being a neocon, Republican stooge? Or is it because he'll reveal that, like most neolibs, he's a partisan Democrat who just thinks his party is often wrong but can't bring himself to pull the GOP lever? C'mon, Mickster. Don't be a wuss. - 12:11:55 AM AGATHA CHRISTIE, CONSERVATIVE: A stimulating little essay. Money quote:
Christie’s ouevre up until, say, ‘Cat Amongst the Pigeons’ in the late 1950s is an intriguing – if conventional - study in Burkean philosophy. What makes her more than that – what pushes her work into a higher realm – is that she was a clever enough woman to realise that the Burkean order she loved was becoming less and less tenable as social change accelerated. Often, the novels she wrote as an old woman from the 1960s until her death in 1974 are dismissed as inferior to the more famous early works, and it is undoubtedly the case that the plots are less sharp and imaginative. But I have always believed that they are the most intriguing: they chart the nervous breakdown of Burke’s England, and the intellectual bankruptcy of a conservatism derived from Disraeli and Baldwin, better than any other writer I know.
More sanity from Johann Hari.
THE MEDIA VERSUS THE WAR: Bret Stephens goes for the jugular about the domestic enemies of success in Iraq.
BORN GAY? More evidence for something I have long suspected.
FINALLY, SEXUAL PARITY: Why did it take so long for this to be developed? - 12:10:32 AM SPINNING THE PRE-WAR: A reader sums up one way in which the anti-war left is still fighting the war - by trying to create a new narrative of the pre-war. Of course, the analogy is from the Simpsons. The argument about the war is a little like Apu's citizenship exam (my reader paraphrases from memory):
Exam Giver: "What was the cause of the Civil War?" Apu: "The split between abolitionists and secessionists had come to a head in in The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 when..." Exam Giver: "Just say slavery." Apu: "Slavery it is, sir!"
"What was the reason given for the war against Saddam?" "Well, the previous Gulf War's truce required Saddam to give up all WMD research and development and weapons, and U.N. Resolutions ... " "Just say we said he was on the brink of killing us with nukes!" "Weapons it is, sir!"
So we get the baldfaced untruth that the war was because Iraq posed an "imminent" threat. It wasn't. Or that it was about a causal link between Saddam and 9/11. It wasn't. Or that it was based in intellgience from Niger. It wasn't. Technically, the war was a continuation of the last one, and was fully supported by umpteen U.N. resolutions, including a 15-0 Security Council vote to force Saddam to comply. 9/11 made a war far more conceivable because it revealed the U.S.'s vulnerability to fanatical terrorists who might get hold of WMDs from Saddam. The casus belli was not proof of Saddam's existing weapons, but proof of his refusal to cooperate fully with U.N. inspectors or account fully for his WMD research. Nothing we have discovered after the war has debunked or undermined any of these reasons. And the moral reason for getting rid of an unconscionably evil regime has actually gotten stronger now we see the full extent of his terror-state. But the anti-war left sees a real advantage in stripping down the claims in people's receding memories to ones that were not made but which can now be debunked. It's propaganda, to which the media in particular seems alarmingly prone to parroting. We have tor esist it at every stop - because this war has not yet been won, and the really crucial battle, now as before, is at home.
THE "IMMINENT" LIE: Two AP stories that keep up the "imminent threat" lie: one from John Lumpkin on October 2; and one by Jim Abrams on October 4. Please send in any new post-October 6 versions of the lie. The Associated Press is particularly important, since it is so widely disseminated in local papers.
EMAIL OF THE DAY: "I have e-mailed you and disagreed with you many times, but please do me one favor: STOP WRITING ABOUT THE CUBS!!!!!! YOU ARE GOING TO JINX IT!!! DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA OF WHAT YOU ARE MESSING WITH????!!! THIS IS 95 YEARS OF PAIN YOU'RE F***ING WITH!!! I PROMISE TO NEVER DISAGREE WITH ANYTHING YOU SAY AGAIN, JUST PLEASE STOP WRITING ABOUT THEM UNTIL THEY......... gulp." - 12:10:10 AM
Monday, October 06, 2003 THE NIGER CANARD: How's this for a quick round-up of untruths: Time (for whom I write a column); the Christian Science Monitor; CNN; the Associated Press; and the Financial Times. I should tip my hat to lefty-blogger, Bob Somerby, for pioneering this point in a far more precarous spot than I am. (But we agreed about Gary Condit as well, way back when.) Somerby gets to the pint quickly enough:
As everyone on earth surely knows, Bush didn’t say, in his SOTU, “that Iraq sought to buy uranium from Niger.” He referred to alleged attempts to buy uranium from “Africa,” of which Niger is one tiny part. What was the context for Bush’s remark? The October 2002 NIE referred to attempts in Congo and Somalia as well as Niger, and when the Brits released their intel in September 2002—the intel to which Bush’s speech explicitly referred—the British press focussed on Congo, not Niger. Meanwhile, Wilson only said that a sale couldn’t likely be completed in Niger (due to extensive oversight). He didn’t prove that Saddam had never tried to make such a purchase. In short, Wilson’s report, on its face, does not shoot down what Bush said in his speech.
The point is: the media has in fact made this untruth true by constant repetition. And they have done this in an effort to show that Bush was being untruthful. That's projection, not journalism. - 3:23:38 PM THE TORIES' MESSAGE: "Rich or poor, straight or gay, black or white. Whatever you are, wherever you're from, the Conservative party is for you," - the British Conservative Party chairwoman, Theresa May, earlier today at the Conservative Party Conference. Why can't a leading Republican say the same thing? Why has president Bush not been able even to say the word "gay" in three years in office? The excuses are wearing thin. - 2:41:07 PM ANOTHER ONE! Of course, this is from veteran Bush-hater, Elisabeth Bumiller:
In the summer, the conflict broke into the open when Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, said that Mr. Tenet had been primarily responsible for not stripping from the president's State of the Union address an insupportable claim that Iraq had sought to buy uranium from Niger. Mr. Tenet and his allies were enraged, and Stephen J. Hadley, Ms. Rice's deputy, eventually took the blame.
Untrue: the claim was about Africa, not Niger, for the umpteenth frigging time. And, of course, the claim was not insupportable. It was, in fact, supported by British intelligence agencies, who still stand by their work. Correction? Don't bet on it. - 2:35:55 PM THE MEME SPREADS: From Newsweek:
Wilson's report seems to have vanished into the bureaucratic maw. In his January '03 State of the Union address, President Bush, citing British intelligence reports, repeated the charge that the Iraqis were trying to buy uranium from Niger.
Not true. He said Africa. There's an important difference. The writers of this story are excellent journalists. If they cannot get this right, what hope for the rest of the crew? The truth is: they have internalized this stuff. They don't even see their own biases any more. Please keep sending me media mentions of Bush's citation of Niger in his 2003 SOTU. If we can't stop them spreading untruths, we can at least monitor them. - 12:34:56 PM WHO'S BEHIND THE SMEAR? Some disturbing details about some of Arnold's enemies. - 12:29:15 PM BAATHIST BROADCASTING CORPORATION: Worth watching what the BBC does on its website. It often dramatically alters copy after it's posted - and not for legitimate reasons, like typos or minor amendments. In an earlier draft of this piece, for example, the following sentence appeared: "Syria is, of course, Israel's enemy. The two countries are still in an official state of war, caused by Israel's occupation and illegal annexation of the Syrian Golan Heights." Now it reads:
Syria is, of course, Israel's enemy. The two countries have been in a state of war since the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. The Israelis have long charged that Damascus uses the Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah as a proxy army to launch attacks along Israel's border with Lebanon. And since the beginning of the Palestinian uprising, Israel has increasingly focused on the Palestinian opposition groups hosted by Syria. It accuses the exiled leaderships of planning attacks carried out by their military wings in the occupied territories, and accuses Syria (as well as Iran) of backing them.
An improvement, no? But still no mention of the 1967 or Yom Kippur wars. What you see in the first draft, I think, is what the BBC really believes: that the Jews are responsible for all the ills in the Middle East. But even they feel obliged to respond to public pressure. Which is good news, after all. If we can't get rid of them, we can at least moderate their extremism. Keep sending me BBC lies and propaganda. Exposure works. - 12:18:18 PM CUBS FANS ARE A LITTLE DIFFERENT: "While the players and their bats had a lot to say about the Cubs 5-1 victory, the fans, their love and positive vibes, deserve at least a bit of credit. Not to mention the array of superstitions. Take Marianne Scott of Tinley Park, for example. In the left field bleachers of Turner Field in Atlanta, she gripped her good luck charm, a hollowed-out baseball that holds her mother's ashes." - from the Chicago Tribune. - 12:10:30 PM NEWSPAPER ON THE BALLOT: Hugh Hewitt on the Los Angeles Times and the recall. - 12:04:20 PM BABS FOR DAVIS: Pity she can't even spell his name right. - 11:56:42 AM EMAIL OF THE DAY: "It's me. I'm still alive." - the boyfriend at 11.44 am. These Cubs fans are a strange bunch, aren't they? - 11:51:45 AM QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I'm sort of amazed at what was powerful information about both their intent and their actual activities that were not known and were hidden from UN inspectors seems not to have made it to the press. This is information that, had it been available last year, would have been headline news." - David Kay, Fox News. - 11:48:57 AM THE CRITICAL POINT: From a balanced assessment in the Washington Post today:
The apparent absence of existing weapons stocks, therefore, does not mean Hussein did not pose a WMD threat. In fact, fragments of evidence in Kay's report about ongoing biological weapons research suggest that Hussein may have had a quick "break-out" capacity to threaten his neighbors and, indeed, the United States with biological agents (possibly including infectious agents).
The author goes on to say that the presence of actual WMDs widely assumed before the war has nevertheless been debunked (at least, so far). What we need is an analysis of why we got wrong what we got wrong. There's no question that we were led to believe that there were stockpiles of WMDs unaccounted for in Saddam's Iraq before the war. And we still don't have a good explanation for that. But this does not mean that the war was not justified in the terms under which it was waged: that Iraq had an obligation to account fully for its WMD program (it didn't), that it cease all such research and development (it didn't), that it stop deceiving U.N. inspectors (it didn't), and, above all, that it posed a threat, via intermediary terrorists, that was intolerable after 9/11 (it did without a shadow of a doubt, as the Kay report shows). Is this kind of nuanced assessment - important for our future intelligence and war-making capacity as well as democratic accountability - possible in today's polarized culture? We better hope it is. - 12:42:26 AM BLAIR, BUSH, ARNOLD, THE BBC: How's that for a combo? What they have in common was suggested to me by this very thoughtful and, I'd say, important piece by John Lloyd in the Financial Times over the weekend. Lloyd is writing about how one of the factors leading the BBC into its current state is the general media culture in Britain as a whole, and in particular its approach to politicians:
All of British public life has grown much more harshly questioning over the past two decades. In part this is a reflection of the well-discussed decline in public manners and deference. In his rooms in the Commons, Peter Mandelson - who has been forced twice from cabinet office after media revelations - told me that, "everyone is now treated in the same way: politicians, celebrities, sports people, without discrimination. The standards of manners and courtesy have dropped. Politicians, it seems, are regarded as being for the use of the media, purely and simply, to be used and abused."
Used and abused. One of the saddest stories of the weekend was Matt Drudge's photographic display of Maria Shriver in the headlights. Now, Shriver is a hardened journalist herself, but the toll of what now passes for politics had clearly taken their toll. But the ratings are surely up. The most popular - and lucrative - discourse now consists of both sides vying to call each other traitors or liars. This is not to say that the media should be what goo-goo types or Jim Fallows wants. Sharp elbows, wit, excoriations, sarcasm, polemic all have an important place. But big media organizations also have another obligation (which free-loading misanthropes like me can legitimately avoid). Lloyd sums it up well:
Public-service journalism is primarily concerned with one "output": better informed citizens. In an organisation as rich as the BBC, this could be done by deploying journalists to report on the complexity of the world. The broadcaster could underpin, not seek to replace, democratic politics. It should assume that all power, including political power, can tend to corruption and it should investigate any possible abuses. But it must also do what the British media does not do: recognise that the media has become one of the largest powers in the world, and thus needs investigation itself. In that way lies some hope of trust, even in a cynical world.
The coverage of Iraq mainly as a means to bash Bush and Blair, the hounding of the private life of a pol like Schwarzenegger (or Clinton, for that matter) and the disguised conflation of reporting with opinion are all signs of a media in some kind of crisis. The popularity of blogs is, in some ways, related to this. But we are only a very small part of the solution. A deeper, wider cultural change is needed. - 12:19:36 AM A SILVER LINING: Not everything sucks, of course. Here's a judicious essay in the Washington Post Outlook section on the mix of good and bad news in Iraq, with more emphasis on the slow return to normality and even signs of prosperity. It manages to convey good and bad news in ways that help us make sense of what's going on. Money quote:
It may seem strange, but this city is suddenly throbbing with street life, even as the guerrilla insurgency drags on. Baghdadis have become tired of waiting for order to be restored, and have decided to get on with life. Traffic jams are monstrous, as drivers burn nickel-a-gallon gas. Some drive used, spit-shined BMWs and Mercedes Benzes imported - basically tax-free, since there's no government - from relatives or salesmen in the rich Gulf states. Many mornings, it can take an hour to drive from the shopping districts of east Baghdad to the leafier residential neighborhoods west of the Tigris River. Last week, U.S. officials shortened Baghdad's curfew by an hour, making it from midnight to 4 a.m., saying that the city's security had improved. Telephones in Baghdad have barely operated since American missiles shattered the main communications centers last April. Yet across town countless signs in store windows and on walls announce new Internet cafés linked to satellite receivers. A hand-painted banner across one street in east Baghdad advertises new Internet service with "bowsin and chatin 24 hour," notwithstanding the curfew. In late September, workers began repaving Firdos Square - where Saddam's giant statue was hauled down on April 9, marking the war's end - and replanting the central island where Iraqis celebrated that day.
Even the Observer in London is beginning to acknowledge that the Vietnam scenario - so longed for by some - isn't coming to pass:
"The degree of transparency and cooperation in the work of the council is impressive," says Rend Rahim Francke of the Iraq Foundation, a non-governmental organisation working for democracy and human rights. "Self-government, long advocated for Iraq, appears to be working well when put into practice." For the first time in almost half a century, Iraq has no executions, no political prisoners, no torture and almost no limits on freedom of expression. Having a satellite receiver no longer means imprisonment or even death. There are almost 200 newspapers and magazines that require no police permit and suffer no censorship, and more than 70 political parties and dozens of NGOs. Old professional associations have held elections and new associations have sprung up. People can demonstrate freely - and do.
Yes, some of this will redound to the benefit of Mr Bush and Mr Blair. But that's no reason to begrudge Iraqis their enw freedom and their latest signs of progress. - 12:18:01 AM LITTLE DARK CLOUD I: Creeping Raines-ism is back at the NYT. Blogger Rantingprofs compares two stories from Kirkuk - one in the Philadelphia Inquirer and one in the New York Times. The stories were filed within days of each other. Cori Dauber comments:
Not a single step taken by the US troops to facilitate security, stand up the police stations, get the place moving again, none of the innovations noted in the Inquirer's article are mentioned by the Times. Did their reporter not see these things, not ask, or not think they were worth reporting? It's unlikely all these things developed in the few days between the one article and the other. Compare the two articles side by side and ask yourself: which one seems like more balanced reporting, and which one leaves you feeling more informed about how things are going in Iraq?
And which one is more designed to undermine domestic support for the effort in Iraq?
LITTLE DARK CLOUD II: One of the tactics of some journalists these days seems simply to invent what the administration said before the Iraq war to discredit them today. We've seen the classic argument, insinuated in the New York Times news pages, that the Bush administration claimed that the Iraqi threat from WMDs was "imminent," when the clear indication of every speech Bush gave was that we should act before the threat was imminent. Here's another one. A day after Dana Milbank and Dana Priest spun the Kay report to say precisely what it didn't, they came up with the following sentence:
[H]ours after Bush spoke, Kay provided a more mixed assessment of his finding. He said his team had turned up "no conclusive proof" that Iraq had tried to buy uranium ore from Niger, a controversial allegation made in Bush's State of the Union address.
Now what was the claim in Bush's State of the Union? The famous sixteen words are: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." Not Niger - Africa, a critical distinction. And, in fact, Kay did come up with evidence of a uranium link from Africa to Saddam, with the subtle distinction that nothing was bought and the offer was unsolicited. Still, Priest's and Milbank's claim, as written, is false. Correction? - 12:17:54 AM EMAIL OF THE DAY: "Let's face it - intelligence is the new morality. For the left there are no long-term historical precidents to cite or follow. They are all rooted in a misogynic and racist western culture. There is no transcendent truth because that demeans the individual and takes away individual liberty. By what standard then do you judge an individual and determine their worthiness? Not by character ... not by integrity ... but by how bright they are. This intelligence of course is demonstrated by embracing the tenets of the left. Personal morality, sound legal judgement and basics such as keeping one's word do not have be followed as long as one is bright enough to to see the world from a left perspective. All other failings are excusable. What a terrifying concept! History is littered with bright people who made horrific moral decisions. Intelligence is not conscience and an intelligence uninformed by a conscience (a real honest to goodness sense of the reality of necessary demarcation between good and evil) ultimately becomes a slave to the pale substitue of one's political ideology and the expediancy of its accompanying agenda. All it takes to understand this to see the moral bankrupty of the feminists in their differing reactions to Bill and Arnold. Expediency rooted in the new morality rules the day. Give me 'dumb' and principled any day." - more reader feedback on the Letters Page.
THE NYT AND BLOGS: An attendee says that Allan Siegal, the new "ombudmsan" at the NYT said the following at Brown a few days ago: "We're not happy that blogs became the forum for our dirty linen, but somebody had to wash it and it got washed." Was that a thank-you? - 12:16:08 AM
Sunday, October 05, 2003 MODO GETS ONE THING RIGHT: "Feminism died in 1998 when Hillary allowed henchlings and Democrats to demonize Monica as an unbalanced stalker, and when Gloria Steinem defended Mr. Clinton against Kathleen Willey and Paula Jones by saying he had merely made clumsy passes, then accepted rejection, so there was no sexual harassment involved. As to his dallying with an emotionally immature 21-year-old, Ms. Steinem noted, 'Welcome sexual behavior is about as relevant to sexual harassment as borrowing a car is to stealing one.' Surely what's good for the Comeback Kid is good for the Terminator." - from her column today. Sorry, Democratic-party-hacks-pretending-to-be-feminists. (That means you, Pollitt, Steinem and Streisand.) One grope and you're ok. Them's your rules. I stand by the distinctions I made yesterday.
RAINES AWARD NOMINEE: The David Sanger DNC talking-points on Friday was a worrying sign of the pro-left reflexes that can take over a paper when it is written by people who have rarely met a Republican, let alone listened to one. But the extraordinary puff-piece on Joe Wilson today is staggering. In a piece discussing this man's agenda, they couldn't even mention his avowed intent to bring down neoconservatism and frog-march Karl Rove out of the White House. Don't those quotes deserve a teensy bit of attention to balance the Wilson-as-national-hero tone of the piece? Not if you haven't even heard of them, I guess. - 12:34:02 PM
Saturday, October 04, 2003 BILL AND ARNOLD: What's the difference, some ask? Item one: Clinton was faced with actual civil lawsuits, claiming sexual harrassment. Once private life gets dragged into the courts, the press has no option but to cover it. Item two: most of Clinton's sexual targets were women who worked for him or were under his direct authority. Some of Arnold's targets were on movie sets where he certainly had social power but where he was, as far as I know, not the owner or direct boss. Item three: none of Arnold's incidents involve actual sex, or exposure of sex organs, or alleged rape, whereas Clinton's did. Item four: Arnold has fessed up. Clinton lied under oath. Item five: Arnold hasn't exactly gone around saying he is a champion of women's rights and the dignity of women. Clinton did. Item six: all of Arnold's incidents were one-off. Clinton, for the most part, pursued the same women over time. That said, they're not entirely different. If Clinton hadn't had to deal with a lawsuit or two, I'd have had a very similar response. In fact, in the early days, I refused to cover the Gennifer Flowers stuff at the New Republic for exactly those reasons. But when the lawsuits occurred and the full extent of Clinton's abuse of public office for sexual harrassment purposes became clear, I think the situation changed. Clinton used state troopers and federal buildings to abuse and manipulate women. So far, Arnold has been a private citizen. Moreover, after the early Sixty Minutes interview where Clinton telegraphed that all this was over, I was more than happy to let this stuff pass (remember I endorsed Clinton in 1992). But it was when it was apparent that he had lied in that interview and continued his lies and sexual abuse in office that I realized we had a sociopath in the White House. So here's a promise: if Arnold gets elected and any of these incidents recur, I'll hammer him. Until then, his honesty, apology and promise get him a pass from me. May the Eagle win.
THE LEFT AND INTELLIGENCE: Fantastic quote from a "feminist" activist at the anti-Arnold rally yesterday. Film producer and Codepink activist Patricia Foulkrod explained why she was so fervently pro-Clinton and so outraged by Arnold:
"The difference is that Clinton was so brilliant... If Arnold was a brilliant pol and had this thing about inappropriate behavior, we'd figure a way of getting around it. I think it's to our detriment to go on too much about the groping. But it's our way in. This is really about the GOP trying to take California in 2004 and our trying to stop it."
Ah. The principles of liberalism today. I'm constantly amazed at how so many of the new class left believe that intelligence is the supreme human virtue. I guess this is because being smart has been their own ticket to power, wealth, etc. If I had a dollar for every liberal friend who couldn't vote for Bush because he's so "dumb", I'd be as rich as Terry McAuliffe. And during the Clark boomlet, I kept hearing, "But he's so smart." As if that were a sufficient argument for electing a president. And then when you ask the same liberals if they approve of intelligence testing or whether people sould get into college on the basis of test scores, they look horrified. Go figure.
GOOD NEWS FROM IRAQ: In Kirkuk, the future has never looked brighter, thanks to the coalition.
DISCUSSING LAWRENCE: The chief lawyer for the winning side in Lawrence vs Texas discusses the issues of the case at the Cato Institute. It's a video.
DERBYSHIRE AWARD NOMINEE: "Surely one factor in the rise of prison rape - which I feel sure was wellnigh unknown a generation ago - has been the striking down of the very strong social taboo on male-male buggery. This taboo was universal across all cultures, primitive and civilized, and even including those that tolerated male-male erotic bonding, until the rise of the "gay rights" movement in the modern West. I'm not saying that this is the only factor, or even the major factor, but it must surely be **a** factor." - John Derbyshire, National Review Online. Even for Derbyshire, this is a stretch. Male-male rape and sex in prisons, boarding schools, and coerced all-male environments has been so widely researched, discussed and reported across cultures and centuries that the notion that prison rape is somehow connected to the rise of gay rights is just bizarre. Much of this behavior is either a function of power-structures in prison, committed by heterosexuals against heterosexuals, or a way to vent sexual needs in a context where no women are present. When there's a homosexual subtext, it's almost always driven by hatred of fags, and a desire to humiliate the rape-victim. The notion that a movement to raise awareness of homosexual dignity is somehow a cause of men committing violence against other men because of their perceived homosexuality (or any other reason) is just nuts. It could only occur to someone so consumed by fear and hatred of homosexuals that he has to find a way to attack them in any context he can. - 1:14:52 PM
Friday, October 03, 2003 ANOTHER WORD ON ARNOLD: A reader synthesizes a little, and I tend to agree with her:
I find the Arnold debate very interesting. In response to today's letter of the day, I have to say that my reaction to the flap is more like yours than like that letter-writer, and I'm a woman, so I have to disagree with the letter-writer's implication that if you only checked with a few women you would find out how wrong you are. I do agree that unwelcome sexual advances, especially if they include touching, are not to be discounted or dismissed. It is a serious thing. Unfortunately, it is not rare. That's one of the things that was so mind-bending about the Anita Hill testimony - to hear Orrin Hatch ranting and raving as if it were really unusual for women to be subjected to humiliating conversation was just maddening given the reality that women are sexually attacked all day long in this country. Unfortunate as it may be, that is the context here: our culture is still very full of actions and values that are demeaning and damaging to women. It seems to me that we have to summarize it something like this: Arnold is as much of a pig as is average in our society. It would be nice if he were less of a pig, but it's also nice that isn't more of one. I agree with your assessment that Clinton was much worse, and look at how little it seems to have gotten in his way. Arnold seems to have a lot more integrity than most politicians and most movie stars. Maybe that's a sad commentary, but if we're looking for the truth I think we need to acknowledge that these things are relative.
Go Cubs. Go Arnold. - 6:04:03 PM THE PREZ GETS IT: This is from his speech this morning:
"Mr. David Kay reported to the nation. I want to thank him for his good work. He is a thoughtful man. He and his team have worked under very difficult circumstances. They have done a lot of work in three months, and he reported on an interim basis. The report states that Saddam Hussein's regime had a clandestine network of biological laboratories, a live strain of deadly agent botulinum, sophisticated concealment efforts, and advanced design work on prohibited longer range missiles. The report summarized the regime's efforts in this way, and I quote from the report: 'Iraq's WMD programs spanned more than two decades, involved thousands of people, billions of dollars, and was elaborately shielded by security and deception operations that continued even beyond the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom.' That is what the report said. Specifically, Dr. Kay's team discovered what the report calls, and I quote, 'dozens of WMD-related program activities and significant amounts of equipment that Iraq concealed from the United Nations during the inspections that began in late 2002.' In addition to these extensive concealment efforts, Dr. Kay found systematic destruction of evidence of these illegal activities. This interim progress report is not final. Extensive work remains to be done on his biological, chemical and nuclear weapons programs. But these findings already make clear that Saddam Hussein actively deceived the international community, that Saddam Hussein was in clear violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1441, and that Saddam Hussein was a danger to the world."
The president needs to make a ferocious speech soon expanding on these facts and take the truth to his opponents' deception. This is vital. He has nothing to apologize for and huge amount to be proud of. So go get 'em, Mr President. What's holding you back? - 5:52:33 PM EMAIL OF THE DAY: "I continue to be mystified by your dismissive attitude toward the revelations concerning Arnold's behavior. You have charged that the reports are politically motivated and that Gray Davis is guilty of worse. Assume you're correct: so what? That hardly makes the reports untrue. And indeed, Arnold has not disupted their accuracy. Now, consider the substance of the revelations. If it had been revealed that, for example, he had a mistress, or had occasionally slept with a co-star, we might well take the attitude that while the behavior showed him to be something of a cad, this was essentially a matter to be resolved between Arnold and Maria. But what he has done, on repeated occasions (do you really think that the women who spoke to the LA Times or Premiere magazine are his only victims?), qualifies as sexual assault. This is certainly *not* a purely private matter. You might ask women you know how they would feel about a man coming up to them and sticking his hands down their dresses to fondle their breasts. I find your cavalier attitude toward such behavior dismaying, to say the least. Furthermore, the attitude displayed by Arnold in these incidents (and I would urge you to read the Premiere article which I've pasted to the end of this email if you haven't already) -- that because of his power he could get away with treating those around him however he wished, no matter how outrageous his conduct -- is positively Clintonian. And this is someone you think we should give even *more* power to? Next, consider Arnold's supposed "apology." It is, at best, totally insincere. Has he ever made an effort prior to yesterday to make amends to his victims? No. Do you really think he would have ever apologized were he not running for governor? Furthermore, consider what he said: that he had engaged in behavior that he considered "playful," but that he now realized "some found offensive." Again, I think you will find if you sample women you know that very few of them will find it "playful" if a man approaches them and starts fondling their breasts. And it is simply assinine for Arnold to claim that he didn't realize this: This is behavior that took place when he was an adult (some of it as recently as 2 or 3 years ago), not when he was in sixth grade. And, again, his behavior was not merely "offensive." It's not as though he told an off-color joke that some found in poor taste. Grabbing women in the way that he did is assaultive behavior. It is certainly unfortunate that Californians have such poor choices on October 7. But that does not relieve us of our obligation to speak the truth. And the truth about Arnold is abundantly clear: he is a scumbag." - more reader feedback on the Letters Page.
- 1:59:23 PM READ THE REPORT: If you think that David Kay's report on Iraqi WMDs can be adequately summarized by idiotic headlines such as: "No Illicit Arms Found in Iraq," then you need to read this report. If you believe the following "news analysis" by David Sanger in today's New York Times summarizes the findings of David Kay, then you need to read this report. Sanger's piece is, in fact, political propaganda disguised as analysis, presumably designed to obscure and distort the evidence that you can read with your own eyes. His opening paragraph culminates in a simple untruth:
The preliminary report delivered on Thursday by the chief arms inspector in Iraq forces the Bush administration to come face to face with this reality: that Saddam Hussein's armory appears to have been stuffed with precursors, potential weapons and bluffs, but that nothing found so far backs up administration claims that Mr. Hussein posed an imminent threat to the world.
That is not what the administration claimed. (The Times has even had to run a correction recently correcting their attempt, retroactively, to distort and misrepresent the administration's position.) The administration claimed that Saddam had used WMDs in the past, had hidden materials from the United Nations, was hiding a continued program for weapons of mass destruction, and that we should act before the threat was imminent. The argument was that it was impossible to restrain Saddam Hussein unless he were removed from power and disarmed. The war was legally based on the premise that Saddam had clearly violated U.N. resolutions, was in open breach of such resolutions and was continuing to conceal his programs with the intent of restarting them in earnest once sanctions were lifted. Having read the report carefully, I'd say that the administration is vindicated in every single respect of that argument. This war wasn't just moral; it wasn't just prudent; it was justified on the very terms the administration laid out. And we don't know the half of it yet. - 12:15:00 AM THE MONEY QUOTES: If you don't have time, here are my highlights. First off:
We have discovered dozens of WMD-related program activities and significant amounts of equipment that Iraq concealed from the United Nations during the inspections that began in late 2002. The discovery of these deliberate concealment efforts have come about both through the admissions of Iraqi scientists and officials concerning information they deliberately withheld and through physical evidence of equipment and activities that ISG has discovered that should have been declared to the UN.
Translation: Saddam was lying to the U.N. as late as 2002. He was required by the U.N. to fully cooperate. He didn't. The war was justified on those grounds alone. Case closed. Some of the physical evidence still remains, despite what was clearly a deliberate, coordinated and thorough attempt to destroy evidence before during and after the war. Among the discoveries:
* A clandestine network of laboratories and safehouses within the Iraqi Intelligence Service that contained equipment subject to UN monitoring and suitable for continuing CBW research.
* A prison laboratory complex, possibly used in human testing of BW agents, that Iraqi officials working to prepare for UN inspections were explicitly ordered not to declare to the UN.
* Reference strains of biological organisms concealed in a scientist's home, one of which can be used to produce biological weapons.
* New research on BW-applicable agents, Brucella and Congo Crimean Hemorrhagic Fever (CCHF), and continuing work on ricin and aflatoxin were not declared to the UN.
* Documents and equipment, hidden in scientists' homes, that would have been useful in resuming uranium enrichment by centrifuge and electromagnetic isotope separation (EMIS).
* A line of UAVs not fully declared at an undeclared production facility and an admission that they had tested one of their declared UAVs out to a range of 500 km, 350 km beyond the permissible limit.
* Continuing covert capability to manufacture fuel propellant useful only for prohibited SCUD variant missiles, a capability that was maintained at least until the end of 2001 and that cooperating Iraqi scientists have said they were told to conceal from the UN.
* Plans and advanced design work for new long-range missiles with ranges up to at least 1000 km - well beyond the 150 km range limit imposed by the UN. Missiles of a 1000 km range would have allowed Iraq to threaten targets through out the Middle East, including Ankara, Cairo, and Abu Dhabi.
* Clandestine attempts between late-1999 and 2002 to obtain from North Korea technology related to 1,300 km range ballistic missiles --probably the No Dong -- 300 km range anti-ship cruise missiles, and other prohibited military equipment.
Would you be happy, after 9/11, if the president had allowed such capabilities to remain at large, and be reinvigorated, with French and Russian help, after sanctions were removed? I wouldn't. But Howard Dean and Dominique de Villepin would have happily looked the other way rather than do anything real to enforce the very resolutions they claimed to support. - 12:14:55 AM THERE'S MORE: One of the crazy premises of the "Where Are They?" crowd is that we would walk into that huge country and find large piles of Acme bombs with anthrax in them. That's not what a WMD program is about; and never was. Saddam was careful. He had to hide from the U.N. and he had to find ways, over more than a decade, to maintain a WMD program as best he could, ready to reactivate whenever the climate altered in his favor. Everything points to such a strategy and to such weapons being maintained. The bio-warfare stuff is particularly worrying:
With regard to biological warfare activities, which has been one of our two initial areas of focus, ISG teams are uncovering significant information - including research and development of BW-applicable organisms, the involvement of Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS) in possible BW activities, and deliberate concealment activities. All of this suggests Iraq after 1996 further compartmentalized its program and focused on maintaining smaller, covert capabilities that could be activated quickly to surge the production of BW agents.
Mustard gas in a matter of months. And concealment all the time:
A very large body of information has been developed through debriefings, site visits, and exploitation of captured Iraqi documents that confirms that Iraq concealed equipment and materials from UN inspectors when they returned in 2002. One noteworthy example is a collection of reference strains that ought to have been declared to the UN. Among them was a vial of live C. botulinum Okra B. from which a biological agent can be produced. This discovery - hidden in the home of a BW scientist - illustrates the point I made earlier about the difficulty of locating small stocks of material that can be used to covertly surge production of deadly weapons. The scientist who concealed the vials containing this agent has identified a large cache of agents that he was asked, but refused, to conceal. ISG is actively searching for this second cache.
When you read this kind of information, you can see why the president has ordered more money to go to this effort. We need every cent. We have to show to the world - and to the appeasers at home - the extent of the threat that this monstrous regime potentially represented. - 12:13:58 AM A FRACTION SO FAR: As for actual munitions, absorb this fact:
There are approximately 130 known Iraqi Ammunition Storage Points (ASP), many of which exceed 50 square miles in size and hold an estimated 600,000 tons of artillery shells, rockets, aviation bombs and other ordinance. Of these 130 ASPs, approximately 120 still remain unexamined. As Iraqi practice was not to mark much of their chemical ordinance and to store it at the same ASPs that held conventional rounds, the size of the required search effort is enormous.
Here are Kay's conclusions:
1. Saddam, at least as judged by those scientists and other insiders who worked in his military-industrial programs, had not given up his aspirations and intentions to continue to acquire weapons of mass destruction. Even those senior officials we have interviewed who claim no direct knowledge of any on-going prohibited activities readily acknowledge that Saddam intended to resume these programs whenever the external restrictions were removed. Several of these officials acknowledge receiving inquiries since 2000 from Saddam or his sons about how long it would take to either restart CW production or make available chemical weapons. 2. In the delivery systems area there were already well advanced, but undeclared, on-going activities that, if OIF had not intervened, would have resulted in the production of missiles with ranges at least up to 1000 km, well in excess of the UN permitted range of 150 km. These missile activities were supported by a serious clandestine procurement program about which we have much still to learn. 3. In the chemical and biological weapons area we have confidence that there were at a minimum clandestine on-going research and development activities that were embedded in the Iraqi Intelligence Service. While we have much yet to learn about the exact work programs and capabilities of these activities, it is already apparent that these undeclared activities would have at a minimum facilitated chemical and biological weapons activities and provided a technically trained cadre.
Could we have contained this indefinitely? If we'd wanted to continue to starve an entire country, make a mockery of U.N. resolutions, give new life to one of the most vicious dictatorships on the planet, and leave open the risk of this shadow but viable WMD program coming into the hands of any terrorist faction Saddam wanted to entertain. Were there risks of action? You bet. But most of the enormous risks did not come about: no use of such weapons, no massive destruction of oil wells, no fracturing of the country, no terrorist revenge or resurgence.
FOR THE FUTURE: But Kay makes a more important point at the end. He notes that our ability to examine this entire edifice in a liberated Iraq, to see where our intelligence failed and where it succeeded, is a hugely helpful task in the broader war on terror. Over to Kay:
[W]whatever we find will probably differ from pre-war intelligence. Empirical reality on the ground is, and has always been, different from intelligence judgments that must be made under serious constraints of time, distance and information. It is, however, only by understanding precisely what those difference are that the quality of future intelligence and investment decisions concerning future intelligence systems can be improved. Proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is such a continuing threat to global society that learning those lessons has a high imperative.
Of course it does. I've waited a long time for this report, and kept my peace until it came out and we had some empirical data to measure. But what we now see may not impress those who are looking for any way to discredit this administration and this war. But it shows to my mind the real danger that Saddam posed - and would still pose today, if one president and one prime minister hadn't had the fortitude to face him down. We live in a dangerous but still safer world because of it. Now is the time for the administration to stop the internal quibbling, the silence and passivity, and go back on the offensive. Show the dangers that the opposition was happy for us to tolerate; show the threat - real and potential - that this war averted; and defend the record with pride and vigor; and fund the reconstruction in ways that will make it work now not just for our sake but for the sake of those once killed in large numbers by the weapons some are so eager not to find. - 12:13:36 AM WHAT THE LOS ANGELES TIMES WON'T PUBLISH: Money quote from an old New Times L.A. article, now floating around the web:
Perhaps you are among the millions never told of Lieutenant Governor Davis's widely known - but long unreported - penchant for physically attacking members of his own staff. His violent tantrums have occurred throughout his career, from his days as Chief of Staff for Jerry Brown to his long stint as State Controller to his current job. Davis's hurling of phones and ashtrays at quaking government employees and his numerous incidents of personally shoving and shaking horrified workers - usually while screaming the f-word "with more venom than Nixon" as one former staffer recently reminded me - bespeak a man who cannot be trust with power. Since his attacks on subservients are not exactly "domestic violence," they suggest to me the need for new lexicon that is sufficiently Dilbertesque. I would therefore like to suggest "office batterer" for consideration as you observe Davis in his race for governor.
Go read the rest. It makes Arnold look restrained in comparison. It was published six years ago. Funny how the L.A. Times didn't wait till five days before the election to run with it. - 12:12:39 AM
Thursday, October 02, 2003 SOMEONE QUALIFIED: Weighs in on the racial aspects of the Rush ESPN story. Cool sports blog, I think. And brand new. - 6:09:20 PM RUSH ON OXYCONTIN: Apparently, he discussed the drug once on his show a couple of years' back. According to this news thread, "The talk was mostly about the abusers of the drug, and that it was a shame that the abuse affected people who really need it." The date given for the show is July 30, 2001. Someone should find the transcript. - 3:43:47 PM WAS IT ILLEGAL? Taranto unearths some details that cast doubt on whether the leaking of Plame's name was, strictly speaking, illegal. It doesn't make it any ethically or morally better, in my book. But it's still interesting. - 3:22:58 PM ARNOLD IN CONTEXT: Some interesting observations from old Hollywood hand, Roger Simon. - 3:16:14 PM RE: RUSH: I'm not commenting on the prescription drug stuff because no charges have been filed against Limbaugh and we don't know what the truth is yet. And I haven't commented on his ESPN firing because, well, when you know as little about football is I do, it's hard to judge whether Limbaugh's comments were valid or not. But a couple of things are worth saying: this isn't censorship. The government is not involved. Rush had freedom of speech a week ago and he still has today. His whining on this point was silly and worthy of Susan Sontag. Similarly, I don't have much sympathy for ESPN. They hired Rush Limbaugh, after all, not Jim Lehrer. Didn't they expect something like this? He's designed for controversy. And he has to quit the minute he causes some? Denial all round, if you ask me ... - 3:10:25 PM NICE RESPONSE, ARNOLD: Schwarzenegger's response today to the smear campaign orchestrated by the liberal Los Angeles Times struck exactly the right note. In general, I believe the women in these cases. Almost always, the men have behaved badly. For the record, I believed Anita Hill (though I would still have supported Clarence Thomas for Supreme Court Justice); and I believed almost all the women who came forward to accuse Bill Clinton of sexual abuse and harassment. But there is a distinction here between illegal sexual harrassment and legal sexual grossness. There is a distinction between a named accuser and an anonymous one. There is a distinction between a public lawsuit and a private incident. And there is a distinction between public and private life, a distinction which we have now effectively abolished to the detriment of our entire civil compact. One of the best aspects of the Schwarzenegger candidacy is therefore that he might actually get to be governor of California, having used drugs, taken steroids, had group sex, said all sorts of outrageous things, and lived a lively and not-always admirable private life. Maybe he'll prove that the smears can't work any more. And because privacy is essentially over in this country for any public figures, Arnold's path may be the only one we now have. So I'd say: vote against the Los Angeles Times. That means: vote for Arnold. - 2:53:34 PM CLOSING IN I? Why is this not big news? It's an AP report, after all.
CLOSING IN II? Encouraging news from Iraq about Saddam's increasing isolation. - 1:06:37 AM THE SMEAR MACHINE: The Los Angeles Times, clearly concerned about Arnold Schwarzenegger's lead in the polls, unleashes an astonishing piece of reporting invective against him. This reeks of a politically motivated smear-job. All of these women were sought out by the Times itself. None came forward at the time or subsequently. And although the behavior is, to my mind, gross and offensive, it doesn't rise to the level of legal sexual harrassment; and no legal action has been sought. Moreover, four of the six women are anonymous. So a candidate now has to answer charges about his private life leveled for the most part by anonymous accusers, sought out by a newspaper that is campaigning against his candidacy and that waited a week before the recall to unload the details. The press just keeps getting classier, doesn't it? (Bonus points to Mickey for predicting the Times' anti-Arnold shoe-drop strategy. He was ahead of the curve by one day, 2 hours and 26 minutes. In the blogosphere, that's an eternity. Mazel Tov. He'd get even more points if it weren't so frigging predictable.) - 1:05:22 AM THE PRESS UNITES: Both the New York Times and the Washington Post use their news pages to promote the idea of an independent counsel. It's the only way to keep this story at the top of the page for Day Four. The predictability of all this sinks in. The administration should simply accede now rather than later, it seems to me. In the way that such scandals operate, this will be used by the Dems to do all they can to trash the liberation of Iraq, undermine any thought that Iraq had WMDs, and generally try to hammer this president. You can see why they have seized this opportunity. It's a big break; and they'd be crazy in purely partisan terms not to exploit it. All of which is to say that if anyone in the administration did this stupid, petty, criminal thing, he or she deserves everything they get. - 1:03:52 AM A PERFECT D.C. STORM? There is also something surreal about the whole event. This, after all, is about telephone conversations which one party will almost certainly deny and the other party likely won't reveal. What are the odds that we will ever find out anything for sure whoever investigates? Even a pissed-off third party in the CIA or White House can't prove what was said in such telephone conversations. And doesn't everyone involved in this - including those calling for an independent counsel - know this already? The point, then, is to besmirch what has so far been a relatively scandal-free administration, with little chance of our actually finding out what actually happened and why, and maybe get a resignation or two if you're lucky. A kind of perfect Washington storm - about something that will never formally become much more than nothing. I could be wrong, of course; and it doesn't mean the investigation shouldn't take place. But it does make it all seem a little ritualistic.
AND WHY? Like many others, I'm still baffled by the rationale. Okay, so let's say it's meant to intimidate other potential CIA dissidents. How was this information conveyed exactly? I mean: can you imagine what was actually said in the phone call? "Hi, Dana. This is Karl. You know that guy Wilson who gave us such grief over Niger? Maybe you'd be interested to know that his wife's an undercover CIA agent." So? Why are you telling me this? What's that got to do with anything? The only thought that makes any sense to me is if someone in the administration was trying to placate neo-con or conservative reporters or pundits, who were miffed that such a partisan lefty as Wilson was deputed to investigate Saddam's ties to African uranium in the first place. "Well, Brit, his wife's an expert in WMDs at the CIA. She knows a lot about the region and the subject and it seemed a good idea at the time." That's the only way I can think of such info being slipped into the conversation. Maybe the leaker knew she was undercover; maybe he didn't. I'd guess the latter, mainly because I find it hard top believe that anyone in this White House would be either so stupid or so petty. In other words, it was a malevolent leak but not a self-consciously criminal one. Look, I don't know. I'm just trying to make sense of this. Right now, I'm going to stop speculating and wait for an actual new, live, breathing fact before weighing in again. - 1:02:50 AM
Wednesday, October 01, 2003 WILSON - LIABILITY?: Are the Dems backing off a little? One thing this Washington Post profile strongly suggests: this guy is a world class meshuggena pain in the ass. The more he gets on television, the better for Bush. - 11:57:56 AM A CRUCIAL LINK: I haven't linked to Bob Novak's column today. In case you haven't read it, here it is. To my mind, the key points he makes are that he doesn't believe that this was a coordinated leak (which doesn't bear on its illegality); and that its investigation is a routine one:
The Justice Department investigation was not requested by CIA Director George Tenet. Any leak of classified information is routinely passed by the Agency to Justice, averaging one a week. This investigative request was made in July shortly after the column was published. Reported only last weekend, the request ignited anti-Bush furor.
Interesting. - 11:39:58 AM ONE EXPLANATION: Some readers have argued that Larry Johnson's description of Plame as having worked undercover "for three decades" could have meant that she had been active in the 1980s, 1990s and the current decade, which is just possible if she started in her mid-20s. So Johnson might have meant - "in the last three decades." Well, Johnson can easily clear that one up, can't he? Stay tuned. - 10:46:04 AM THE GUARDIAN'S SPIN: They agree with the Wall Street Journal. The British anti-war paper simply asserts that the only suspect in the Plame affair is Karl Rove. They don't mention either the White House's clear denial or even Joseph Wilson's back-tracking on it. More evidence that this may indeed be the point of the whole exercise. But it remains the case that if a crime has been committed, a crime has been committed, whoever is responsible. - 10:26:35 AM SINCE SHE WAS TEN? Drudge pulls together an obvious discrepancy. Former CIA guy Larry Johnson claimed on PBS' Newshour last night that he had worked with Valerie Plame as an undercover agent for thirty years. But she's forty. That's some early recruitment. Here's what we can say for sure: whenever she was recruited, outing her was criminal and wrong. But everything else looks murkier and murkier. Obviously, I deeply suspect Joseph Wilson. He's a guy happily calling pro-war types "right-wing crazies" well before the war, yet is asked to perform a critical intelligence mission for the Bushies. How? Why? The WSJ has a good point on this, although I find their dismissal of the basic charge to be gratuitously partisan. It would be nice if an editorial board like the Journal's, that pioneered all sorts of (often worthy) investigations into the Clintons, could work up a smidgen of concern that someone's CIA cover had been illegally blown. - 10:12:11 AM