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War and Freedom
 How to Have Both
- Sunday Times, (November 13, 2005)

The End of Gay Culture
 And The Future of Gay Life
- The New Republic, (November 1, 2005)

An American Hero
 Ian Fishback Steps Forward
- Sunday Times, (October 2, 2005)

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 Copyright 2001 Andrew Sullivan


Wednesday, June 30, 2004
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "May god keep Bush and Allawi, because Bush threw out Saddam and Allawi will give us safety and security." - Kathem Moula Asim, 75, retired but working as a local guard in the market. The BBC found several Iraqis and asked for their opinions about the new government. They were all positive. If the BBC reports this - they must have scoured Baghdad for hostile quotes - things may be looking up in Iraq.

THE LOOMING REPUBLICAN WAR: The current tussle in the Congress over the budget is just a precursor to what I think will be outright Republican civil war after this election. If Bush wins, it will cripple his ability to get anything done. If he loses, the recriminations will get vicious. The fiscal conservatives will be fighting the "deficits-don't-matter" crowd. The realists will be out to topple the neocons. The Santorum-Ashcroft axis will continue to wage war on any Republicans not interested in legislating either the Old Testament or the dictates of the Vatican. (The FMA battle now looks more and more like an attempt by Santorum to identify Republican social moderates so he can use primary hardliners to challenge them in the future.) The battle lines are deep and sharp - and the future of American conservatism is at stake. Bush has proven himself unable to unite a party that includes Tom DeLay as well as Arnold Schwarzenegger, John McCain and Bill Frist. Whether the coming civil war is about who lost the election, or who will exploit the victory, it's going to be nasty and enduring. No single party can be both for individual liberty and for theologically-based social policy; both for fiscal balance and drunken-sailor spending; both for interventionism abroad and against moralism in foreign policy. The incoherence is just too deep, the tensions too strained. And with the war on terror itself a point of contention among conservatives, geo-politics will not be able to keep the coalition in one piece.

SPONSORED BY NATIONAL REVIEW: The latest monument to Ronald Reagan is unveiled.

- 10:41:33 PM
FROM HAMILTON FISH: "Small point, because I think Serra's drawing is important and was happy he bought the back page of The Nation, but the pleasevote.com site is registered to Richard's operation and the contact information referring to me is erroneously attributed. Acting on my own, I helped one of his assistants find the site name months ago, and only discovered yesterday when I started getting angry e-mails about the drawing that he had experienced difficulty with the registration process and had left my e-mail in the contact sections.
The Bush Administration is openly stonewalling the torture investigation, the press as usual is asleep, all the while American values abroad are facing their biggest test since My Lai. When a great American artist and patriot expresses his rage via his medium and tries to shake people into realizing what is at stake, I am grateful." All I have to say is that outrage at Abu Ghraib is something I share. I just don't think portraying the president as eating the heads of live babies is a decent way of expressing it.

THE LIES OF FAHRENHEIT I: Just one Dowdified quote from Condi Rice.

THE LIES OF FAHRENHEIT II: This one on the Unocal "conspiracy."

THE LIES OF FAHRENHEIT III: On the Carlyle Group and how the Saudis allegedly bought the Bushes.

- 10:40:55 PM
SPLENDID ISOLATION: If you want proof that Jacques Chirac would never, ever have acquiesced in the removal of his old buddy, Saddam Hussein, you only have to look at his decision to prevent any NATO cooperation in Iraq, now that sovereignty has been transferred. He has one central plank in his foreign policy: the obstruction of American power. If that means hoping for the failure of Iraqi democracy, so be it. If it means turning a blind eye to terror, so be it. But even Le Monde is beginning to see through his cynicism. Here's an extract from their editorial today, translated by my France-watcher:
"For the 15 months since the beginning of the American-British [notice avoidance of the Vichy expression "Anglo-American" -- translator] intervention in Iraq, Jacques Chirac has been working on the solution to a difficult diplomatic equation: how to maintain his opposition to the war without seeming to be shamefully nostalgic for Saddam Hussein -- something the Americans have hinted at on several occasions -- and while also fulfilling his obligations as an ally of the US. . . . In Iraq, the United States has two goals: to give international legitimacy to its intervention and to replace a portion of its troops with NATO forces. France has conceded the first point in voting in favor of the recent UN resolutions. France still resists the second, but without having been able to block an involvement susceptible of leading, sooner or later, to the presence of the trans-Atlantic organization in Iraq. This is a rear-guard battle that illustrates Chirac's dilemma: he must not oppose the reconstruction of a "sovereign" Iraq while at the same time not appearing to give the lie to his own [anti-war] policies. This is also a position of watchful waiting, permitting cooperation with John Kerry, if he wins the Presidential election, and also permitting living with George Bush, if reelected."
But it's so nakedly self-interested it's self-defeating. Chirac is already being isolated within Europe, and is striking out at potential rivals in his own party. He's a tired, pompous, corrupt hack. Always has been.

WHAT THE MEDIA WON'T BROADCAST: Oh, they'll find out details of people's sex lives and sue to publish and broadcast them, and they'll show endless footage of Abu Ghraib abuses. But terrorist beheadings? Nah. Here's a classic statement of the journalist elite, from the Los Angeles Times:
"Any news outlet — or any private individual, for that matter — who makes available footage of the actual beheadings is, to my mind, an accessory to the crime itself," says Kunkel, dean of journalism at the University of Maryland. "Those are the individuals who are essentially finishing the work of the terrorists, by delivering their grisly 'message.'"
And why isn't the broadcasting of the Abu Ghraib abuses also adding to the humiliation of the victims? Remember that the acts occasioned shame (which was, in part, the point) and the shame is immeasurably amplified by repeated broadcasts. I think the answer is that the media will broadcast anything that will embarrass Americans or America. But they will give terrorists a pass. No surprises there, I guess.

- 10:38:15 PM
A HENDRA ACCUSATION: I don't know what to make of this. But it's a painful addendum to a wonderful book.

- 7:52:48 PM
EMAIL OF THE DAY II: "I could not resist bringing to your attention this delicious little typo-slash-Freudian-slip, from a reader review of "Fahrenheit 9/11" at the NY Times website (to which I was referred by your blog):
'I was expecting a sloppy, fuzzy, highly manipulated treatment. Instead, Bush Administration damns itself through its own actions, its own words, its own lies...all documented for prosperity.'
Yes, pseudo-proletarian Michael Moore's prosperity -- indeed."

- 4:16:12 PM
THE NYT ON MOORE: Check out the reader reviews. I think they're all five star raves.

- 2:25:10 PM
PRETTIFYING DERBYSHIRE: Weird event on National Review's website. John Derbyshire wrote one of his usual posts, celebrating a Scottish bed and breakfast for refusing to give a gay couple a double-bed. He delighted in the fact that someone somewhere was taking a stand against the evils of "oppressive tolerance," and quoted the piece at some length, especially the owners' abhorrence of "perversion". A short time later, his post was truncated to a small blurb; and the quotes from the linked piece removed entirely. Does this mean that NRO actually thinks that celebrations of anti-gay intolerance are not something they want to endorse? But why start now? Derbyshire is on record supporting prejudice - pure prejudice - against gay people, proudly describing himself as a mild homophobe; he supported the abuses at Abu Ghraib with the immortal words "Kick one [a prisoner] for me;" he has proclaimed his refusal to live anywhere where there are large numbers of African-Americans; and on and on. NRO think they can prettify this by the occasional retroactive edit? Here's the story that warmed Derbyshire's heart:
Tom Forrest, owner of the bed-and-breakfast accommodation in the Scottish Highlands, where a sometimes stern Presbyterian spirit remains strong, had other ideas.
He would be happy to rent the couple a room with twin beds at the guest house in the village of Kinlochewe, "but we will not condone your perversion" with a double bed, he wrote in an e-mail, the Times newspaper said Wednesday.
Angry at the response, Nock replied by suggesting that Forrest was bigoted.
"Bigot? No. Respect for other guests," came the reply.
"Homophobic? No, I have no hatred or fear of poofs, etc -- I just do not approve of unnatural acts being performed in my home."
Nock in return asked the Scottish tourism board to remove the guesthouse from a list of recommended accommodation on its website, saying that the prejudice had "depressed" him, the report said.
The tourism board asked the guest house owner to act differently, but he has refused to back down, saying he ran a "respectable" establishment.
"I have had bent people coming to stay, but they have had a twin room and respect our wishes," Forrest was quoted as saying.
Notice that it is not homophobic to call gay people "poofs," or "bent". Maybe NRO merely didn't want those words on its website, which is commendable. What is less commendable is their desire to endorse the sentiment that makes sense of them.

- 12:59:33 PM
EMAIL OF THE DAY: "Your article about William Raspberry's review of Moore's movie is right on target. Unfortunately, as I can tell you as a black person, Raspberry's irrational views are shared by many black people. I've never seen so many people who I always respected and always considered to be intelligent say so many crazy things, "Bush is the same as Saddam." "Saddam was not as bad as Bush." "The U.S. is the worst country in the world to live in." I kid you not. In the meantime, not one liberal or black person has anything to say about what Arabs are doing to black people in North and East African. The whole thing is very disturbing. Objections to Bush and the U.S. as a whole have gone way beyond any realistic criticsm of anything that is wrong. It's just hatred and a wish for destruction, after which I guess we will all live in brotherhood under Muslim rule! I just listen to people. I've given up trying to discuss it. People become enraged and start telling me I'm a self hating black, Uncle Tom, etc." - more feedback on the Letters Page.

- 12:02:15 PM
MORE ON THAT AD: Yes, I know it's a Goya parody. So? Bush is eating his own son? This is simple demonization. I was worried that it appeared in the Nation. But now I'm less surprised. Guess who registered the domain name for pleasevote.com, the site sponsoring the ad? The contact listed is hamfish@nationinstitute.org. Sometimes you don't need Michael Moore connecting the dots, do you?

- 11:54:47 AM
JACKASS UPDATE: The initial returns of "Fahrenheit 9/11" were less than "Jackass." But the adjusted returns show F9/11 inching ahead of the boys with the toys. Let's see if Moore's propaganda beats out "Jackass's" total $64.2 million.

- 11:12:34 AM
MORE ON THE TRIB: Something I didn't know, but should have. One of Jack Ryan's rivals in the Republican primary was one Andy McKenna Jr. Ryan beat him. Then there's this: "His father is Andy McKenna Sr., chairman of Schwarz, a minority investor in the Chicago Bears, a former chairman of both the Cubs and White Sox and a former director of Tribune Co., which also owns the Chicago Tribune." Hmmm. (My italics). Maybe it's not a huge surprise that the Trib exposed Ryan's private life and will leave Kerry's alone.

- 11:02:53 AM
A QUESTION FOR THE PRESS: If Jack Ryan's sealed divorce papers are legitimate objects for perusal (and you are prepared to force the issue in court), why not Kerry's? Can't you just wait for the Chicago Tribune to explain why they won't pursue the story? Here's the Trib's specious justification for their witch-hunt:
This nation has a long tradition of open courts. There's good reason for that. A court shrouded in secrecy is a court far more at risk to be corrupted or abused, a court that is more likely to favor those who are wealthy, powerful or politically connected.
That is why court files are open, unless a compelling interest tips the balance in favor of secrecy. Juvenile Court records are one common exception. Divorce records are not.
Last week, a California judge ruled that the Ryan divorce files should be unsealed to maintain that principle of openness.
"The public interest is for the fair, efficient and open operation of the court system," Superior Court Judge Robert Schnider said. "The openness of court files must be maintained so that the public can ... be assured that there is no favoritism shown to the rich and the powerful. Protection from embarrassment cannot be a basis for keeping from the public what is put in public courts."
That standard of openness is all the more crucial when it comes to information regarding candidates for public office.
Now tell me how that doesn't apply to Kerry. In some ways, the Kerry divorce may have more public ramifications, because Kerry was also granted an annulment, indicating that the marriage, strictly speaking, was never fully valid in the Catholic church. Why? Was this special treatment for a powerful pol? On the Trib's reasoning, isn't that worth investigating? On the privacy matter, Kerry's marriage is also further in the past than Ryan's. Kerry's daughters are grown up, while Ryan's son - forced to endure public airing of his parents' marital conflicts - is still a kid. (Yes, we know how the Tribune feels about the sensibilities of a young, utterly innocent boy: screw him.) Let me be clear: I think Kerry should be left alone. But the press has absolutely no good reason to do so, now they have trashed any semblance of human privacy that we might still be entitled to. So we will now see the real ethics of the Chicago Tribune: that they are a partisan attack machine, shredding people's privacy for their own political agenda.

- 10:46:08 AM

Tuesday, June 29, 2004
A NEW LOW: It seems to me that the far left could help win this election for Bush. Here's the latest obscenity. It was an ad on the back-page of the Nation this week. Do they have no shame? (Hat tip: Petrelis.)

A MARINE VERSUS THE POST: Here's a military take on the Washington Post's Iraq reporter, Rajiv Chandrasekeran
Chandrasekeran’s meta-narrative admits of no ambiguity. For him and his reporters, they report in straightforward, declarative sentences, with none of the caveats that Bennett mentions. The Americans are still bumbling, the Iraqis continue to seethe. So it shall be in the Washington Post, until Iraq succeeds and they can no longer deny it, just like journalists were forced to admit reality at the end of the Cold War. Or else their words will have their effect, and Western journalists have to flee the country as it disintegrates. Since I saw Rajiv Chandrasekaran's integrity up close, I haven't believed a word he writes, or any story coming out of the bureau he runs. You shouldn't, either.
The writer is a marine. And he has more to back this up.

RIGHT, LEFT AND IRAQ: The paradoxes continue to mount up. Peter Berkowitz beautifully illustrates them.

POSEUR ALERT: "Admittedly, Midge Decter's biography of Donald Rumsfeld may stand the test of time as a classic achievement in the literature of coprophagia; the vivid yet bulimically svelte anthology of paranoid slanders Ann Coulter has given us in Treason has added something innovative to that small, delectable canon of hallucinatory works that also includes Céline's Bagatelles Pour un Massacre and the unjustly anonymous Protocols of the Elders of Zion; and the eloquent-as-a-treacle-tart Christopher Hitchens, in a prodigious outpouring of books and articles, has rendered the mental process by which intellectual prostitutes magically change form in alignment with shifting power formations as legibly as few besides Curzio Malaparte have managed since the fall of Mussolini." - Gary Indiana, Village Voice.

- 10:33:49 PM
DERBYSHIRE AWARD NOMINEE: "Once the courts recognize gay marriage as equal in all ways to heterosexual marriage, then everyone else - including churches - has to recognize gay marriage as equal, too. Any opposition will be deemed hateful by definition, and anyone who opposes gay marriage will be a hatemonger. Given that many religions and denominations teach that homosexuality is a sin, church attendance alone could suggest you're homophobic. To the extent that one believes or preaches scripture, one is a bigot.
Hence some of the deep concern among legal professionals, as well as theologians. A secular world that ratifies homosexual marriage would provide a legal foundation that would open the floodgates to civil litigation against religious leaders, institutions and worshipers. In such an environment, churches might be sued for declining to provide their sanctuaries for gay marriages, for example. Ministers could be sued for hate speech for giving a sermon on moral behavior. Churches that protest homosexual unions could face revocation of their tax exemption status." - Kathleen Parker, Townhall.com. Hello? Wouldn't it be slightly more convincing if she had been able to name a single "legal professional" who believes that marriage rights for gays means the end of religious freedom in America? To take one simple analogy: civil divorce is now endemic. Yet the Catholic church refuses to recognize it. Does that mean that the feds are barring priests from preaching against divorce? Or against legal abortion? This kind of inflammatory rhetoric, scare-mongering and distortion is what happens when you have lost every other argument.

GEPHARDT OR EDWARDS?: Dan Drezner weighs them up.

JACKASS BEAT FAHRENHEIT: Yep, the movie with all those hot young straight dudes shoving toy cars up their posteriors actually beat out Michael Moore at the box office. F9/11 wasn't the biggest grossing documentary. Jackass was. It was non-fiction, and about as informative as Mr Moore. And a lot more to look at.

- 10:17:22 PM
JUSTICE COUPLES: An interesting analysis of how often various Supreme Court Justices vote one another. Scalia and Thomas are way down the rankings. Isn't there hint of racism in some liberals' contention that Thomas cannot think for himself? (Hat tip: Volokh.)

MORE ON MOORE: An "exploitation-movie-maker"? Jon Haber explains.

OKAY, OKAY: I was a little dismissive of Senator Clinton's enthusiasm for raising taxes. Obviously, some taxes are necessary. But I'd cut spending before I touched any tax increases. Why cannot Hillary end agricultural subsidies, abolish corporate tax shelters, or means-test social security and Medicare? That would be for the common good. But it's easier to raise taxes. Her invocation of her agenda with the "common good" is also part of what galls me. But, hey. I was a bit off the cuff. She does that to me. I'm trying to control it, but it's hard.

EMAIL OF THE DAY: "I have been silently lurking on your blog since its early inception, thanks for that. But I was very moved by your last comments on the little harbor.
As a young boy, 40 years ago, we always spent a few weeks down the road in Eastham (old Cape), and every year when the rain day came we would head off to PTown for the penny candy, the Army Navy store, walking the pier and other tourist stuff. Typically our grandparents were in charge of bringing us there until they grew too old for 3 little boys, then our parents started accompanying us.
A very clear memory were the young townie boys who would climb the wooden pilings on the main pier and cajole tourists into throwing coins into the water so they could dive down to get them. The water was that clear! My brothers and I would wrap small flat stones in shiny gum wrappers and toss them in to fool the other boys.
And PTown taught me something about my grand-dad. Born and raised on the streets of Southie, WWI Marine, staunch union man who worked the presses for the Post and Globe well into his seventies. He would bring us to PTown with its latent wildness and a sea of people unlike anything we could witness in the suburbs, and would never say a thing. Like it was just another day.
Many years later as a young adult I was walking mainstreet with my brothers again and stumbled onto my grandparents sitting on a bench watching the world go by, we did not even know they were on the Cape. The town was much more open at this point, my grand-dad a very old man. But he would smile and tip his hat to every lady and transvestite that walked by. Just another day.
God I loved that man." - More feedback on the Letters Page.

- 10:11:58 PM
YOU WON'T READ THIS: ... in the New York Times. So here it is, from the indispensable Iraqi blogger, Omar:
The hall was busy and everyone was chatting and laughing loud. They had Al-Jazeera on (something I never managed to convince them to stop doing). Then suddenly Mr. Bremer appeared on TV reading his last speech before he left Iraq. I approached the TV to listen carefully to the speech, as I expected it to be difficult in the midst of all that noise. To my surprise everyone stopped what they were doing and started watching as attentively as I was.
The speech was impressive and you could hear the sound of a needle if one had dropped it at that time. The most sensational moment was the end of the speech when Mr. Bremer used a famous Arab emotional poem. The poem was for a famous Arab poet who said it while leaving Baghdad. Al-Jazeera had put an interpreter who tried to translate even the Arabic poem which Mr. Bremer was telling in a fair Arabic! "Let this damned interpreter shut up. We want to hear what the man is saying." One of my colloquies shouted. The scene was very touching that the guy sitting next to me (who used to sympathize with Muqtada) said "He's going to make me cry!"
Then he finished his speech by saying in Arabic, "A'ash Al-Iraq, A'ash Al-Iraq, A'ash Al-Iraq"! (Long live Iraq, Long live Iraq, long live Iraq).
I was deeply moved by this great man’s words but I couldn't prevent myself from watching the effect of his words on my friends who some of them were anti-Americans and some were skeptic, although some of them have always shared my optimism. I found that they were touched even more deeply than I was. I turned to one friend who was a committed She'at and who distrusted America all the way. He looked as if he was bewitched, and I asked him, "So, what do you think of this man? Do you still consider him an invader?" My friend smiled, still touched and said, "Absolutely not! He brought tears to my eyes. God bless him."
Another friend approached me. This one was not religious but he was one of the conspiracy theory believers. He put his hands on my shoulders and said smiling, "I must admit that I'm beginning to believe in what you've been telling us for months and I’m beginning to have faith in America. I never thought that they will hand us sovereignty in time. These people have shown that they keep their promises."
Now let's keep our deeper promise and stand by the Iraqi people as they struggle against Jihadism toward freedom.

- 3:32:13 PM
THE PASSION 9/11: Many left-liberal movie critics loved Moore's movie for the very reasons they despised Gibson's. I despised both - for the same reasons. (Hat tip: Taranto.)

- 3:23:27 PM
THE ESSENCE OF TODAY'S LIBERALISM: "We're going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good." The "we", of course, are the Clintons. They know far better than you do how you should spend your money. Because they are morally better people than you are.

- 1:14:27 PM
BUSH VERSUS CHIRAC: A delicious exchange of views.

- 12:47:24 PM
CORRECTION OF THE DAY: "An account in the Soccer Report column on June 22 about Ethan Zohn, a former player in Zimbabwe who won $1 million on the CBS reality show "Survivor: Africa" in 2002 and has capitalized on his moment of fame by starting an international nonprofit AIDS awareness foundation on the continent, misstated a word in a comment he made. Mr. Zohn said, 'We can make value judgments all we want, but through some cultural differences it has been all right for men in Africa to have multiple sex partners' - not 'all right for me.'" - New York Times today.

- 12:41:39 PM
BORING HEADLINE WATCH: Not much change in Canada. All that hyperventilation about a political earthquake turned out to be ... well, hyperventilation. David Frum exhales here.

- 12:35:04 PM
QUOTE OF THE DAY I: "Many think it not only inevitable but entirely proper that liberty give way to security in times of national crisis-—that, at the extremes of military exigency, inter arma silent leges. Whatever the general merits of the view that war silences law or modulates its voice, that view has no place in the interpretation and application of a Constitution designed precisely to confront war and, in a manner that accords with democratic principles, to accommodate it." - Antonin Scalia, eviscerating the Bush administration's detention of terror suspects without charges or trials.

QUOTE FOR THE DAY II: "With the benefit of minute hindsight, Saddam Hussein wasn't the kind of extra-territorial menace that was assumed by the administration one year ago. If I knew then what I know now about what kind of situation we would be in, I would have opposed the war." - William F. Buckley Jr., in the New York Times.

IRAQIS GOVERN THEMSELVES: There will be plenty of cavilling that the new Iraqi government has to rely on Coalition forces. Well, what was the alternative ever going to be? There will also be complaints that, without elections, the current government is only a puppet-regime. But again: what is the alternative? Allawi is right to want elections sooner rather than later - however imperfect they might be. And the possibility of martial law is also something that should not be ruled out - if it is the only means to give ordinary Iraqis some sense that order is returning. No, this is not yet democracy. But even now, it is far more democratic than anything in Saddam's police state; and soon, the insurgents will be revealed more clearly as would-be thugs and theocrats. There are many pitfalls ahead. But, despite all the errors, this is clearly progress of a sort. And if we care about winning the wider war, we owe this experiment our total support - whatever position we took on the war itself. Critics should take out their anger or criticism on the president and prime minister, if they so wish. They should wish the Iraqis the best. And that goes for Mr Chirac and Herr Schroder as well.

AMERICANS GOVERN THEMSELVES: As usual, the best expert commentary on the rulings yesterday can be found on the Volokh blog. Eugene Volokh provides a terse overview. He also notes the extreme differences between Justices Thomas and Scalia on this matter. Always in lock-step, huh? By the way, you can read the opinions directly here.

- 12:46:41 AM
CANDOR FROM THE LEFT: Here's William Raspberry on some liberals' embrace of Michael Moore:
But why did the mostly liberal crowd at last week's Washington premiere -- people who like to think of themselves as thoughtful and fair-minded -- applaud so unrestrainedly?
They applauded, I suspect, for much the same reason so many members of the black Christian middle-class applaud the harangues of Black Muslim minister Louis Farrakhan. Some of his facts may be wrong and some of his connections strained, but his attitude is right. What's more, he'll say in plain language what nice, educated people cannot bring themselves to say: The man is a devil.
Moore as Farrakhan. Yep, that's about right. And Raspberry thinks of this as a good thing? My fisking of his column can be found here.

MOORE AND GIBSON: Some more thoughts on the Gibson/Moore parallels. It occurred to me as I witnessed the unanimity in the audience watching "Fahrenheit 9/11" that I had been in a similar situation before. Yes - this was exactly what it felt like at an early showing of Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ." Both movies were designed for people who already held - as theological certitude - the basic line of the work. Both used the most egregious devices of propaganda to reinforce this point. Gibson used extreme and constant violence - as if to say that recoiling from that horror was proof that his vision of Christianity was correct. The loving camera shots of pure pornographic pain and gore were devices to end thought, short-cut any audience autonomy, and reinforce orthodoxy. And that was Moore's device as well. The long views of the faces of various villains; the camera edits to create menace; the emotional manipulation of a bereaved mother; the swelling, ominous orchestral swoops. All we didn't have was a Pieta scene. One was designed for the unthinking hordes of the far right; the other for the unthinking hordes of the far left. Both were deeply depressing indicators of how far our culture has curdled into unthought and emotional extremism. Neither sought to convert or explain or persuade. Both were designed to bludgeon the viewer into ideological conformity. And if you resist? You are a heretic or a dupe. Whatever happened to "intelligent viewer"?

- 12:45:39 AM
THE TRIB'S LAME REASONING: Try not to gag as you read the Chicago Tribune's pompous defense of outing seamy details of Jack Ryan's sex life. (The site is registered, alas. But it's free.) The argument is: all court records should be open to the public, even divorces; there could have been something in those files that voters might consider pertinent to Ryan's ability to serve in public office; and, "because we could." Here's a particularly loathesome sentiment:
Voters need information about the views, background and character of the people they elect to office. Voters can't make informed decisions about a candidate's positions or character without such information.
That's why, as part of their coverage of candidates for political office, reporters seek a wide range of documents and opinions to help voters understand the candidates.
Case in point: the once-sealed divorce files of former Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Blair Hull. After the Tribune reported that Hull's ex-wife had sought an order of protection against him during their divorce proceedings, Hull relented to the release of his divorce documents.
Many voters took into account the revelations in those documents that his ex-wife said he had struck her and threatened her. Hull was leading the field before he released the file. He finished third in the primary in March.
So taking a wife to a sex club is now equivalent to beating her? You'll notice not one word in the editorial about something called privacy. The very concept doesn't exist for the Trib editors. Well, one response to this would be to investigate the private married lives of journalists and editors at the Chicago Tribune. Readers could call them up and ask them about their sex lives. They hold a public trust. Shouldn't the public have a right to know if the editor or reporter had some difficulties in his marriage years ago? The next time the Trib's editor appears in public for questioning, he should be asked whether he has ever committed adultery. Why not? The stunning aspect of the Tribune's self-defense is that it admits that it was on a fishing expedition. They had no reason to believe that there was anything in a sealed divorce document that could be in any way related to someone's ability to hold public office - except, of course, something privately embarrassing. Well, they got their scalp. On to the next one.

THE TRANSCRIPT: Part of it now exists on the web. Fisk away.

- 12:45:35 AM
"I DON'T CARE": The Republican governor of the most populous state in the country says he doesn't care "one way or the other" on the legality of marriage rights for gay couples. You think he'd be able to say that at the Convention? Meanwhile, Bush's Vatican lobbying seems to have paid off. And Presbyterians move in the opposite direction.

- 12:44:40 AM

Monday, June 28, 2004
PTOWN MOMENT: The view from one of my windows on my Provincetown wharf has been particularly stunning this summer. As I sit here typing, the water encroaches into the great coil of the harbor - always a different color, depending on the time of day, the tide and the weather. In front of me is a patch of reclaimed beach, an up-turned kayak in the dune grass, Poor Richard's Landing - another old wharf building - behind it. And in the middle, a patch of bare sand that has become an impromptu wedding place. I've witnessed three weddings there in four weeks - all between two women, some with kids, some formal, some New Agey. It seems quite routine now, but it was only ten years ago that I sat down on this very beach to figure out "Virtually Normal" and came to the conclusion that civil marriage was the lodestar of homosexual equality. Now it happens when I'm not looking, or when I'm napping, or walking the beagle. And life goes on. And the tide comes in again.

- 7:33:31 PM
REPUBLICAN PORK AND SPENDING: More evidence that the GOP cannot be trusted with your money. Subsidies for tobacco and rum?

- 1:02:06 PM
A BLOGOSPHERE CHALLENGE: It's been extremely difficult to get a full transcript of the Michael Moore movie. So here's a thought: why doesn't some enterprising blogger take a tape recorder to a screening, transcribe the narrative, and post it? Then it's a fiskathon. On your marks, get set ...

- 11:58:30 AM
THE RAPE OF PRIVACY: John Kerry will be the next victim. It's no use complaining. Every intimate detail of his first marriage will soon be dissected on the web and elsewhere. And liberal papers, having delighted in exposing the consensual adult sex of Jack Ryan, will not be able to resist. Get ready.

- 1:16:14 AM
FAHRENHEIT TEDIUM: Well, I broke down and went to see the Michael Moore movie. I was expecting to be outraged, offended, maddened, etc etc. No one told me I'd be bored. The devices were so tired, the analysis worthy of something by an intern in the Nation online, the sad attempts to blame everything on Bush so strained and over-wrought even the most credulous of conspiracists would have a hard time giving them the time of day. This won the top Cannes prize? Only hatred of America can explain that. The one thing that did interest me was part of Moore's technique. Much of the movie focused on various objects of hatred: Bush, Cheney, Bush pere, et al. The camera lingered for ever on their facial tics, it used off-camera moments where anyone looks awkward and dumb, it moved in with grainy precision in order to help the audience sustain and nurture its hatred. It was like the "1984" hate sessions. Cheap shots would be an inadequate description. This was tedious propaganda, using the most ancient of devices, and reflective of a pathology that can only be described as unhinged. (In that respect, eerily similar to Mel Gibson's recent piece of hackneyed, manipulative pornography.) I'd address the arguments, if there were any. There weren't. There was just a transparently failed attempt to construct conspiracy theory after conspiracy theory on the flimsiest of circumstantial evidence, and when the entire framework was teetering into absurdity, the occasional necessary lie. I left before the end. A bar in Ptown on a Sunday night was more interesting.

WHAT NATURAL LAW IS: Garry Wills had, as usual, an interesting piece in the NYT yesterday. It's indisputable, I think, that there is no Biblical treatment of the question of when a fetus becomes a human person; and equally indisputable that, within the Church itself, there have been many different views throughout history. But Wills' most interesting point is about "natural law." This tradition of reasoning, essentially pioneered by Aquinas, and resting on Aristotle, posits that there are some truths that are available to anyone who looks at nature with an open mind. (And this reasoning is self-evident to non-blievers as well.) But, of course, what was available to Aquinas, let alone Aristotle, was a deeply inadequate biology. A new natural law would try to absorb all that science has since told us about fetal development, heterosexual intercourse, evolutionary biology, other species, etc. But the Church does not always spend enough time absorbing scientific developments - especially when they conflict with established dogma. Case in point: there's an obvious distinction between personhood and life - as Wills points out. Sperm is life, but it is not a person; fertilized eggs are routinely aborted naturally (is nature murderous?); miscarriages are a sad but permanent part of our biology; intuitively the abortion of a two week old fetus does not seem to us as equivalent to the abortion of one at six months; and so on. To my mind, life and personhood are so important as values that considering conception as their mutual origin is the safest moral option. But I wouldn't insist on baptizing or formally burying a miscarried fetus. And I can see perfectly well how others might disagree on when personhood begins; indeed, how the Church itself once disagreed. This makes the issue not one of theological certitude but of moral judgment. And that's why I believe that in the political realm, keeping abortion legal in the first trimester differs from condoning it. It's a balance between women's control of their own bodies, the prudential difficulties of making abortion illegal, the allowance of a free people to make such moral judgments for themselves, and the need to retain respect for human life - even if it is not indisputable that a person is at stake. If I were a public official, that judgment alone would make me ineligible for the sacraments. And that shows how rigid the Church has now become.

- 1:08:06 AM
HMMM: Isn't it telling that the Bush administration wants McCain, Arnold and Giuliani as prime-timers for the convention? They're the three Republicans least in sync with the Bush administration. McCain is as close to a dissident as you can find. And Arnold keeps Bush at arm's length. A more representative selection would be: Santorum, DeLay, Ashcroft. And then you see why the Bushies won't let them hog the limelight. Too much honesty could wreck the campaign.

NO THIRD WAY: Britain's experiment in keeping marijuana illegal but refusing to police it is making life impossible for the police. How are they supposed to respond when stoners blow smoke in their faces? The answer, of course, is full legalization of what is a far less harmful drug than alcohol.

BORING UPWARD: Kerry's stealth strategy: to win by default. Again.

FEDERALISM AND MARRIAGE: How can I believe that marriage is a fundamental civil right and yet allow for each state to decide for itself? It's not an easy balance. But here's my best shot at explaining the conflict.

BOOKS FOR SUMMER: I've been reading two great books these past couple weeks. I'm a little biased because they're both written by old friends from Oxford days but that doesn't mean they're not worth checking out. John Micklethwait's and Adrian Wooldridge's "The Right Nation" is a really helpful, crisp, smart look at the conservative movement in America. I have a feeling that the phenomenon is past its peak but the past few decades are still worth remembering in lucid Economist-style prose. Then there's Niall Ferguson's latest, "Colossus," an examination of the necessity and impossibility of American empire. Challenging, smart and essential. Everything Niall writes is.

- 1:06:35 AM
AN EAGLE TWOFER: Socially liberal and fiscally conservative? Then same-sex marriage is a two-fer. According to an authoritative CBO report, allowing for marriage rights for gay couples would affect outlays "by less than $50 million a year in either direction through 2009 and reduce them by about $100 million to $200 million annually from 2010 through 2014." Cut spending and advance civil rights. No wonder today's Republicans are so opposed.

NYT VERSUS NYT: "Stretching across four columns of the front page, the June 17 headline "Panel Finds No Qaeda-Iraq Tie; Describes a Wider Plot for 9/11" caused some readers, including Vice President Dick Cheney, to accuse The Times of "outrageous" (Cheney's word) distortion of the 9/11 commission's staff report. I don't buy "outrageous," but "distortion" works for me - specifically, the common newspaper crime of distortion by abbreviation. The staff report was largely concerned with attacks on United States soil, whereas the headline bore no such qualification. The headline also leaned on two of those words whose brevity makes them dear to all newsrooms: the resolute "no," and the imprecise "tie." Assistant managing editor Craig Whitney, who oversees the front page, argues that "tie" in the headline is "a correct shorthand summary" of the report's conclusion that there appeared to be no "collaborative relationship" between Al Qaeda and Iraq. ... Willful distortion? I don't see it. Misstep? Sure. Is an apology needed, as Internet columnist Bob Kohn, one of the paper's most forceful (and, often, most incisive) critics on the right, demanded by e-mail? No. Good reporting and careful presentation are what's needed." - Dan Okrent, New York Times obudsman, yesterday.

"First Vice chewed out The Times for accurately reporting that the 9/11 commission said there was no collaborative relationship between Saddam and Al Qaeda." - Maureen Dowd, defending inaccuracy - quelle surprise! - yesterday.

KRISTOL ON THE NYT: A gently devastating analysis.

- 1:05:38 AM

Saturday, June 26, 2004
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "But there is an added technique for weakening a nation at its very roots ... The method is simple. It is first, a dissemination of discord. A group - not too large - a group that may be sectional or racial or political - is encouraged to exploit its prejudices through false slogans and emotional appeals. The aim of those who deliberately egg on these groups is to create confusion of counsel, public indecision, political paralysis and, eventually, a state of panic. Sound national policies come to be viewed with a new and unreasoning skepticism ... As a result of these techniques, armament programs may be dangerously delayed. Singleness of national purpose may be undermined. . . . The unity of the state can be so sapped that its strength is destroyed. All this is no idle dream. It has happened time after time, in nation after nation, during the last two years." - FDR, May 26, 1940. I wonder what Roosevelt would have made of Michael Moore, don't you?

THE NYT ON THE SADR CAMPAIGN: They follow up on the Washington Times story. Telling, no?

CAUGHT IN THE ACT: More flim-flam from the liberal press.

- 12:57:31 PM

Friday, June 25, 2004
TAPPER VERSUS MOORE: Some tough questions to which our very own Leni Riefenstahl has no good answers.

- 4:03:38 PM
GORING GORE: No, I don't think Al Gore has lost his marbles. He's as sane as he always was - just proving why he lost the last election, despite massive advantages. Tim Perry compares Gore's latest statements with what he has said before. Two beauts:
"They dare not admit the truth lest they look like complete fools for launching our country into a reckless, discretionary war against a nation that posed no immediate threat to us whatsoever." Al Gore - June 24, 2004

“Even if we give first priority to the destruction of terrorist networks, and even if we succeed, there are still governments that could bring us great harm. And there is a clear case that one of these governments in particular represents a virulent threat in a class by itself: Iraq. As far as I am concerned, a final reckoning with that government should be on the table." - Al Gore, Remarks To The U.S. Council On Foreign Relations, Washington, DC, February 12, 2002.
Tim has more.

- 12:33:29 PM
THAT "SWOOSHING" SOUND: It was a "male enhancement pump" under the black robes. The judge insists: "That's not mine. That's not my bag, baby."

KEEPING DC VOTERS UNREPRESENTED: Michael Barone, himself a DC resident, has this to say:
Here's my argument for maintaining the District clause of the Constitution which gives the federal government control of the District of Columbia.

You said you knew the historical reasons for the District clause, but I think they're worth restating. As I understand it, the Framers were concerned about mob control of the capital city and hence, potentially, the federal government. They had seen mobs in American cities in the Revolutionary period, and they had watched from afar as the anti-Catholic mob in London's Gordon Riots of 1780 took control of the city and destroyed the house of the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Mansfield, in Lincoln's Inn Fields. They would see in the 1790s the mob in action in Paris.

How is this relevant today? My answer can be summed up in two words: Marion Barry. At one point in Barry's reign the Metropolitan Police stopped checking criminal records and hired a fair number of convicted felons. The federal government should not have to stand idly by when this sort of thing happens. You complain that the District is ruled, ultimately, by voters from outside. But this is true of all American cities. Cities are legally creatures of the state, and city governments can be abolished or altered by state governments. Thus in the 1970s New York state government stepped in and asserted control when the New York City government spent itself into near-bankruptcy. In practical terms, this was done with the agreement of city government officials--but they had virtually no bargaining leverage against the state government and the bond market.

Having said that, I believe that Congress should use the power of the District clause with great restraint. I entirely agree with you that Congress should not bar same-sex marriage in a jurisdiction where most voters and council members might very well be in favor of it (though not for sure: some black ministers and black politicians are strongly in opposition). But Congress did step in during the 1990s when the District, like New York in the 1970s, spent its way to near-bankruptcy. The lead Republican on this issue in the House, Tom Davis of Northern Virginia, did take care to consult District officials and acted in tandem with District Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, who in turn deserves great credit for acting responsibly and with no hint of demagoguery. But someone needed to step in, and only Congress could.

On representation in Congress. I support Tom Davis's bill to provide the District with full voting representation in Congress (though the District's population is now below that of the average congressional district). Davis's bill is ingenious: he would add, until the next Census, two members to the House, one from the District and one from the state entitled to the 436th member according to the apportionment formula established by statute. Happily, the 436th state under the 2000 Census is Utah, which means that supporters of Davis's bill can be almost 100 percent certain that it would result in the election of one new Democrat and one new Republican.

As for representation in the Senate, I think it's a little absurd to give two senators to a city whose population is only one-fifth of a single metropolitan area. Would we create Delaware anew if it did not already exist? I say that as one who has lived and voted in the District for 29 years. If I wanted congressional representation, I could move to Maryland or Virginia. (Or even West Virginia, from which some of my U.S. News colleagues commute, which means they have Senator Byrd pumping money into their communities.) No one is forced to live in the District. You could have argued in the 1950s and 1960s that many people were, since black people then found it very difficult to buy or rent houses in most parts of suburban Maryland and Virginia. But that is no longer the case: the Census shows numerous black people in every Census tract in the metropolitan area. Most blacks in metropolitan Washington now live outside the District.

I repeat: I don't want Congress legislating for the District except in the most egregious cases. But I don't want it to lose the superintending control that every state government has over every incorporated city in the United States.
As always, Michael makes some good points against full representation. I'd be happy with one real Congressman and one real Senator. Or transferral to another state. But the original reasons for keeping the capital under control strike me as extremely weak. Marion Barry? That strikes me as an extreme case. But voters have an absolute right to elect fools and crooks if they want, without Big Daddy coming to their rescue. It's also impossible, I think to understand the history of this without appreciating the power of racism. If DC had always been a predominantly white city, this disenfranchisement would have ended long, long ago. Sad but true. In any case, using DC as an experiment, merely to advance a legislative strategy on marriage is obviously outrageous. But, from the leadership of the social right, completely predictable.

- 12:25:16 PM

Thursday, June 24, 2004
GREAT NEWS FROM IRAQ: Well, at least, a respite from the terror. A hefty majority of Iraqis support the incoming government and anticipate improvement in the coming months. The legitimacy test has been passed - for the moment. All the more reason for European allies and others to hang in there and help.

THE CASE FOR EDWARDS: To my mind, the obvious choice for veep for Kerry is John Edwards. Ruy Teixeira explains partly why. Edwards would appeal to a very important consituency - the non-unionized white working class. But he's also more comfortable among African-Americans than Kerry. And, as the primaries show, he has real appeal to independents, who are still deeply resistant to Bush, especially after the president's slavish courting of the religious right in recent months. At a deeper level, it seems to me that Kerry is a world-class crashing bore. It's extremely hard to keep your eyes open listening to him drone on endlessly. Part of his recent success is due to his staying out of the limelight, while Bush self-destructs. And a responsible, tedious, upper-class pandescenderer, while appealing to some voters exhausted by the revolutionary zeal of the man from Midland, needs an adrenaline fix. Edwards, whatever his faults, has plenty of zip. People like him. No one really likes Kerry. Edwards also gets the fact that a successful Democratic candidate has to have soul and passion. He's from the South - something that won't mean much in terms of winning over any Southern states, but helps balance out Kerry's Brahmin Yankeeness.

- 10:26:41 PM
ZEYAD ON THE JIHADISTS: He's getting as horrified as the rest of us. What a gruesome day yesterday - all the worst because we have become numb to the carnage. The hope, of course is that the sheer insanity of these monsters - who are vying to turn Iraq into an even worse dictatorship than Saddam's - will become apparent to ordinary Iraqis. Unless the pathologies of contemporary Islam in the Middle East have already done too much damage. That, I guess, is what we shall soon find out.

WONKETTE DOES WOLFIE: Almost as much fun as when she does Tina.

VOTING RIGHTS IN DC: Thanks for your emails about the colony in the American capital. Here's a challenge: can anyone provide me with an actual argument for the fact that the inhabitants of the capital city have no fundamental right to govern themselves (without some strangers from other states' vetoing or amending their decisions)? Is there even the faintest justification for residents of DC paying federal taxes when they have no senators and only one Potemkin representative in the House? Wyoming has fewer inhabitants and two senators. How does this make any sense? I know the historical reasons for this carbuncle on American democracy. I also know the self-interested reasons for preventing representation (Republicans don't want any more Democrats in the Senate). But when you see people from elsewhere simply using DC as an experiment on a "test-vote", the sheer contempt these people have for democracy and for the residents of their own little colony is overpowering. So I repeat: can anyone defend this? Seriously? I'll publish the best ones.

- 10:25:05 PM
REX REED IS A MORON: Yes, we knew that already. But James Lileks proves it. Can you wait for Roger Ebert's review of "Fahrenheit 9/11"?

MOVE OVER, BECKS: England's newest football star is a hottie. The vultures are moving in.

QUOTE FOR THE DAY: "A recently reprinted memoir by Frederick Douglass has footnotes explaining what words like 'arraigned,' 'curried' and 'exculpate' meant, and explaining who Job was. In other words, this man who was born a slave and never went to school educated himself to the point where his words now have to be explained to today's expensively under-educated generation." - Thomas Sowell, in his latest column.

EMAIL OF THE DAY: "As someone who was born and raised in the Mormon Church (though currently non-believing), I've always been a bit confused by the Latter Day Saints' position on Gay Marriage. To be considered an adult in full standing in that faith, one must be married in the Mormon Temple -- any other marriage is viewed as secular, without the gravity or sanctity of the sacred covenant of Mormon Temple Marriage, which is the only wedding ceremony which seals a couple for time and all eternity. Since Mitt Romney's religious beliefs already view the marriages of non-Mormons as 'second class, one wonders why he won't make allowances for gays to enter into this lesser contract." More feedback on the Letters Page.

BORK 'N ME: The debate on marriage rights, held at the National Constitution Center a while back featured your humble blogger, Judge Bork, law professor Bill Eskridge, Matthew Spaulding and Bob Barr. It's now online.

- 10:23:06 PM
THE RYAN DOUBLE STANDARD: Will Saletan exposes some conservative flim-flam. I think the use of acrimonious divorce papers, revealing legal, consensual sex between adults, to be appalling. But, as we all know, there is no privacy in America any more. It's no use complaining. Every aspect of everyone's private life is now fair game. The press will print anything; and if they don't, the Internet will; and then the press will report on the Internet. You have to be a saint or a born-again former sinner to be a public official these days. Anyone else should stay away from public life - and absolutely public office of any kind - if they care at all about their private life. That's the reality. And there's nothing we can do about it.

- 6:04:27 PM
"LET THE PEOPLE VOTE": This has been the rallying cry for many social conservatives, outraged that courts might uphold minority rights on the issue of marriage. So what are they proposing this summer in the House? Because they apparently lack the votes to pass a Constitutional Amendment banning marriage rights (or any other legal protections) for gay couples, they are considering other options. According to
Amy Fagan
, in the Washington Times yesterday, such options "include ... a measure that would define marriage in the District of Columbia as being between a man and a woman." How about the voters in the District of Columbia? The City Council has a majority that would support equal marriage rights for homosexuals. Voters probably agree. So why should Congressmen from other states dictate social policy for D.C.? As Bill Clinton might put it, because they can. Just please don't tell me that the campaign to prevent gay couples from marrying has anything to do with genuine concern for democracy. In D.C., it's the opposite. Why not let the people vote in DC on marriage rights? Because residents of the capital city are subjects not citizens.

- 1:13:37 PM
JEFF JARVIS ON MOORE: He does a grand job of evisceration (and he's not voting for Bush). I will say this: I will generally go see anything. I even sat through "The Passion of the Christ." But I cannot bring myself to go to this piece of vile, hateful propaganda. I walked out of "Roger and Me" years ago, before Michael Moore was Michael Moore. I know who he is. I refuse to sit in a theater and subject myself to lies and hate.

- 12:57:19 PM
THE SINGHSONS: A South Asian version of your favorite show. (Hat tip: Jonah.)

- 11:57:27 AM
JUST THE LITTLE ONES: Is Clinton full of it about even the origins of Hillary's name? New Zealanders want to know.

- 11:33:31 AM
THE POST ON TORTURE: The Washington Post's editorial on the torture memos seems to me to strike the right balance. (Just compare it to the Bush-can't-win screed at the NYT.) It is indeed a relief to see that the president ruled out anything that violated Geneva principles, and that the defense secretary reversed, after a month, the permissibility of a variety of techniques that he previously sanctioned in Guantanamo. But there's the rub:
The documents confirm that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld approved a number of harsh interrogation techniques for use in Guantanamo in December 2002, including hooding, requiring nudity, placing prisoners in stress positions and using dogs. After military lawyers objected that these violated international law, Mr. Rumsfeld suspended their use a month later. But all these techniques, as well as the restricted practices now approved for Guantanamo, appeared in an interrogation policy issued for Iraq by command of Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez in September 2003. Nearly word for word, the harsh methods detailed in memos signed by Mr. Rumsfeld -- which even administration lawyers considered violations of the Geneva Conventions -- were then distributed to interrogators at Abu Ghraib. The procedures in turn could be read to cover much of what is seen in the photographs that have scandalized the world. How did this spread of improper and illegal practices occur?
That is what we will find out.

- 11:27:50 AM

Wednesday, June 23, 2004
JIHADIST KIDS PLAY BEHEADING: Yep, it gets even more depressing.

ALLAWI ON ELECTIONS: He says he'd prefer them sooner than January. Shouldn't this be a bigger story if it's true?

THE FANATICS WE FACE: The more recent outbreak of Islamist mass murder and mayhem should stir us to remember the real enemy. Here's a posting from a website allegedly celebrating the latest murders in Saudi Arabia. Cited in a terrific column by Aussie Andrew Bolt, it purports to be written by one Fawwaz bin Muhammad al-Nashami, a Jihadist who escaped. Its details comprt with what we know happened. Listen to him:
Al-Nashami says he and his "brothers" shot their way into an oil company compound, where, as police confirm, they killed a British worker and tied his body to their car. He says they drove on until "the infidel's clothing was torn to shreds and he was naked in the street ... and everyone watched the infidel being dragged, praise and gratitude be to Allah." The terrorists then stormed a second compound, and found an "American infidel".
"I shot him in the head, and his head exploded. We entered another office and found one infidel from South Africa, and our brother Hussein slit his throat. We asked Allah to accept (these pious acts) from us, and from him." The terrorists then killed guards at a third compound, where al-Nashami says they found Johansson: "Brother Nimr cut off his head and put it at the gate, so that it would be seen by all ..." They caught other workers and checked their religion.
"We found Filipino Christians. We cut their throats and dedicated them to our brothers the Mujahideen in the Philippines. We found Hindu engineers and we cut their throats, too, Allah be praised ... We utilised the time for (teaching) the Koran to the Muslims who remained."
Please don't tell me that this is not religiously-inspired terrorism. And these people, according to the 9/11 Commisssion, remain "extremely interested in conducting chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear attacks." We are absolutely right to hold Western governments to account for failures, abuses and incompetence. But the government is not the enemy. Neither is John Kerry. And the enemy is still out there.

BUSH ON AIDS: He spoke movingly and powerfully yesterday. History will credit him for caring about this issue far more than his predecessor, Bill Clinton. Maybe because it was my eleventh anniversary of finding out I got HIV but I was moved by his words. Except, of course, for his usual exception in his compassionate conservatism: gay men. The president managed to give an entire speech and - again - never mentioned one of the biggest groups in the country affected by it. Amazing. How do his speech-writers do it? To a black audience, he had a chance to help them confront the homophobia that has crippled the black community's ability to confront the epidemic. But, of course, Bush didn't. Imagine what James Dobson would say. He also said the following:
The second part of a domestic strategy to fight AIDS is prevention. I think it's really important for us to focus on prevention. We can learn from the experiences of other countries when it comes to a good program to prevent the spread of AIDS, like the nation of Uganda. They've started what they call the A-B-C approach to prevention of this deadly disease. That stands for: Abstain, be faithful in marriage, and, when appropriate, use condoms. That's what A-B-C stands for. And it's working. I like to call it a practical, balanced and moral message.
And yet, in one of the populations most at risk from this disease, Bush opposes any measures that would encourage marriage. In fact, he is waging a war to ban such marriages, and erase any incentives for gay men to stick together. Is Bush aware of this lacuna? If marriage cannot be a strategy for prevention among gays, then what is his prevention policy? He has none, because in order to have one, he would have to acknowledge that gay people exist - and that he is their president too. That he cannot and will not do. It's too depressing for words.

QUOTE FOR THE DAY I: "I have not yet read Mr. Clinton's book, but you can bet that my Judicial Watch attorneys will. I have learned that Bill Clinton has repeated his lies about me, and I am sickened by his continued disregard for the truth. Bill Clinton pretends to be contrite, but he continues to bear false witness against his neighbor. He is a national disgrace." - Gennifer Flowers, Bill Clinton's former long-term mistress.

QUOTE FOR THE DAY II: "'Crush your enemies, see them driven before you and hear the lamentations of their women' ... Wait a minute, that's Conan. I stepped out of character here for a second." - Arnold on his governing philosophy, in the New York Times. The very fact that he has set up a smoking tent in the grounds of the California legislature (smoking is banned inside) is yet another reason to love the guy. And no, he won't be stumping for Bush.

ROMNEY AND WELD: They're a contrast of two kinds of Republican governors - one is a Mormon dedicated to keeping gay couples marginalized; the other is a libertarian WASP who actually officiates at a wedding for his old roommate. I know which party I support.

- 11:14:05 PM
AN UNSUNG VICTORY: How the U.S. beat al Sadr.

- 11:47:13 AM

Tuesday, June 22, 2004
THE TORTURE MEMOS: Bottom line: so far so good for the administration. I haven't been able to peruse all the documents but I will wait for other journalists with access to summarize them in time. When I said yesterday that I was relieved that Bush had spoken out so forcefully against torture, I simply meant that I was glad that it was not now official policy. But it still isn't clear that we have all the truly relevant memos. And Gonzalez's statement yesterday was also troubling:
"We're going to be aggressive in our interrogations. There's no question about that," Gonzales said. He insisted that the United States would not engage in torture and said the administration uses the definition of torture provided by Congress as "a specific intent to inflict severe physical or mental harm or suffering."
This still leaves open the possibility of the infliction of "severe physical or mental harm" if the "specific intent" is to gain information. But in general, the Rumsfeld decisions in both December 2002 and April 2003 do indeed appear to exonerate him from approving the worst options. The only technique he approved that is directly linked to the Abu Ghraib horrors is the use of dogs to terrify inmates. Bush's decision to maintain Geneva rules is also heartening. But this story is not yet over. And more will emerge.

THE GOOD NEWS FROM IRAQ: Arthur Chrenkoff offers another essential summary of where we now are. Why, one wonders, couldn't a mainstream newspaper produce something like this?

REAGAN'S HUMOR: Here's a classic from a wonderful essay by Edmund Morris in the new New Yorker:
Perhaps the best of Reagan’s one-liners came after he attended his last ceremonial dinner, with the Knights of Malta in New York City on January 13, 1989. The evening's m.c., a prominent lay Catholic, was rendered so emotional by wine that he waved aside protocol and followed the President’s speech with a rather slurry one of his own. It was to the effect that Ronald Reagan, a defender of the rights of the unborn, knew that all human beings begin life as "feces." The speaker cited Cardinal John O’Connor (sitting aghast nearby) as "a fece" who had gone on to greater things. "You, too, Mr. President — you were once a fece!"
En route back to Washington on Air Force One, Reagan twinklingly joined his aides in the main cabin. "Well," he said, "that's the first time I've flown to New York in formal attire to be told I was a piece of shit."

- 10:24:38 PM
THE WAPO POLL: Why was it conducted with the least reliable sample method? Captain Ed wants to know. UPDATE: Another reader points out that although the sample method was dubious for the entire poll, they did parse many questions using a registered voters criterion. And even by that count, Kerry still had an eight point lead.

THE BBC ON THE BEHEADING: Never averse to presenting the other side in dealing with terrorists who behead innocent civilians, the BBC had this to say about South Koreans' views of yesterday's atrocity and the policy implications:
The South Korean troops to be deployed in Iraq are due to be involved in humanitarian and rebuilding work, and the area they are to be based in, near Kurdish-controlled Irbil, has been largely peaceful. But the BBC's Charles Scanlon in Seoul says that internet chat sites suggest a majority of Koreans believe their troops should not be taking part in what they see as an immoral occupation.
Ah the scientific polling of the BBC. Anything to promote the idea that a war against terror and fascism is futile.

ANOTHER MOORE LIE: This one on Bush's vacations. Of course, the premise is wrong as well. The effectiveness of a president does not inhere in his ability to work non-stop round the clock. It's what he does when he works. Vacations and sleep are integral to a healthy mind and body. Americans need to do more of them, not less. Good for Bush for setting an example.

THAT LIBERAL MEDIA: It's worth downloading and reading this study on media bias. Its merit is that it tries to find an objective measure of right/left positioning by checking citations of various think tanks. This is somewhat limiting, but not nuts. The authors see which think-tanks are cited by which newspapers and media outlets and they compare them with citations by members of Congress. In a very closely divided House, this makes some sense. And the results are that the press isn't just slightly to the left of the American middle - but wildly out of sync. (Drudge, by the way, comes out a centrist not because of his own page's text, but due to the text of all the links he cites. But it shows he cites outlets of all persuasions, even if some, presumably, are linked in order to mock them). Then there's this arresting passage:
These statistics suggest that journalists, as a group, are more liberal than almost any congressional district in the country. For instance, in the Ninth California district, which includes Berkeley, twelve percent voted for Bush, nearly double the rate of journalists. In the Eighth Massachusetts district, which includes Cambridge, nineteen percent voted for Bush, more than triple the rate of journalists. In the 14th California district, which includes Palo Alto, 26 percent voted for Bush, more than four times the rate of journalists.
Of course, what the author doesn't realize is that journalists are uniquely virtuous individuals and never let their internal views dictate the content, placement or subject-matter of stories. Never happens.

- 10:23:48 PM
"PUNITIVE LIBERALISM": It's a striking phrase, coined in the Weekly Standard, to describe what Reagan vanquished. Or did he? Roger Kimball ponders its relevance to today.

EMAIL OF THE DAY: "Someone's probably already passed this along to you, but in the back of this year's 'Official Magazine of San Francisco Pride' program, there's a short interview with Al Franken.
He's asked 'Best Kisser: Andrew Sullivan or Matt Drudge?' to which he replies 'Andrew, I would think.' Just thought you'd like to know." For the record, despite fantasies of becoming a real princess at long last, I have not and almost certainly never will kiss Al Franken.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I am not new to my conservative principles. No one has ever tried to accuse me of being a liberal Republican or a moderate Republican; I have only been a conservative Republican. And, as a conservative Republican, I have never compromised my basic principles - limited government, the free market, steadfast adherence to civil liberties including the right to keep and bear arms and the rights of the states - in the search for higher office. I appear before you today in that spirit of consistency with conservative ideals... I, along with many other conservative opinion leaders and lawmakers, strongly oppose the Federal Marriage Amendment for three main reasons. First, by moving what has traditionally been a state prerogative - local marriage laws -- to the federal government, it is in direct violation of the principles of federalism. Second, in treating the Constitution as an appropriate place to impose publicly contested social policies, it would cheapen the sacrosanct nature of that document, opening the door to future meddling by liberals and conservatives. Third, it is unnecessary so long as DOMA is in force." - former congressman Bob Barr, testifying on the Hill yesterday against the Federal Marriage Amendment.

- 10:22:48 PM
THE PRESIDENT SEES THE PROBLEM: It comes as a relief to hear these words from the president:
"We do not condone torture. I have never ordered torture. I will never order torture," Bush told reporters in the Oval Office. "The values of this country are such that torture is not a part of our soul and our being."
It also comes as a relief to see that the White House says it is prepared to release all the relevant internal documents to prove the point. This is, indeed, a critical issue, at the core of the meaning of America. It is long past time that the administration proved its innocence on something about which there should be no doubt.

- 5:57:38 PM
OLD TRICKS: Yours truly fisks the Rather-Clinton interview.

- 10:36:34 AM
CLINTON ADMITS PERJURY: Maybe he didn't mean to. But here's a fascinating nugget culled by the Washington Post:
Clinton's own legal battle with independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr accounts for one of the book's more peculiar revelations. In his August 1998 grand jury testimony, Clinton said he began an inappropriate sexual relationship with Monica S. Lewinsky in "early 1996." His testimony, as was widely noted at the time, was in conflict with Lewinsky's story: She testified the relationship began on Nov. 15, 1995, in the midst of a government shutdown.
Starr's prosecutors, in their report to Congress, accused Clinton of lying about the date of their relationship in order to avoid admitting that he had sexual relations with an intern, as Lewinsky still was in the fall of 1995 before being hired for a paying job in the winter.
Without explanation, in his memoir Clinton departs from his grand jury testimony and corroborates her version: "During the government shutdown in late 1995, when very few people were allowed to come to work in the White House, and those who were there were working late, I'd had an inappropriate encounter with Monica Lewinsky and would do so again on other occasions between November and April, when she left the White House for the Pentagon."
So he lied under oath. By his own admission. Does he take responsibility? Nah.

- 10:20:14 AM
BUSH'S CONSERVATISM: Here's a revealing quote from the president on his political philsosophy:
"[T]he role of government is to stand there and say, 'We're going to help you.' The job of the federal government is to fund the providers who are actually making a difference."
He's referring to a government-funded attempt to help people in troubled marriages. It would be hard to think of a realm more private than a marriage, but the president believes that the government has a role there. I'm sure his motives are genuine and sincere. But anyone still deluded in thinking that Bush conservatism means limited government should open their eyes. Bush believes in big government. He just believes it should be funded by debts the next generation will have to pay.

- 10:12:10 AM

Monday, June 21, 2004
POLLS, POLLS: The Washington Post poll shows rising approval of president Bush's handling of Iraq and terrorism, but a widening lead for John Kerry - eight points if you remove Nader from the survey. Hmm. This graph is particularly striking. I'd say that's not too good news for the president. On the other hand, the same poll also shows that the economic turn-around is beginning to be felt. The Wall Street Journal equally shows Bush gaining in a handful of swing states - but the movement is all within the margin of error. What to make of all this? Not much at this stage - but the Post's recording of a big swing away from Bush among independents strikes me as significant. I'm not the only McCainiac rattled by Bush's growing closeness with the religious right and large errors in the conduct of the war. Of course, we haven't seen much of Kerry lately either. No wonder the Democrat is moving up.

THE OTHER ABU GHRAIB STORY: I couldn't agree with Nick Schulz more that the awful record of Saddam in Abu Ghraib merits dissemination in the media. I'm glad that some of the footage was finally shown on Fox News last night. And as readers know, I've been in favor of showing as widely as possible the horrors of the enemy. We have to look these monsters squarely in the face and see them for what they are if we are to sustain the morale necessary to keep taking the fight to them. But this does not in any way lessen the need for us to make sure that the U.S. government hasn't endorsed or practised much milder but still reprehensible abuse and torture. Between those who want to downplay the evil of Saddam and those who want to look the other way at the Bush administration's own conduct, there must be a middle way.

QUOTE FOR THE DAY: "To describe this film as dishonest and demagogic would almost be to promote those terms to the level of respectability. To describe this film as a piece of crap would be to run the risk of a discourse that would never again rise above the excremental. To describe it as an exercise in facile crowd-pleasing would be too obvious. Fahrenheit 9/11 is a sinister exercise in moral frivolity, crudely disguised as an exercise in seriousness. It is also a spectacle of abject political cowardice masking itself as a demonstration of "dissenting" bravery." - Hitch, telling it like it is, in Slate. It's a tour de force, and reminds me that Moore is beneath contempt. Meanwhile, Moore is threatening to sue anyone who criticizes his movie for libel. Shafer eggs him on.

- 11:54:25 PM
MILITARY MADNESS: The latest stats from the military's policy of discharging honest gay soldiers are encouraging in a small way. There's been a big drop in discharges. Whether this is because a Republican is in the White House (no one did worse than Clinton in this respect) or whether we're at war and we cannot afford to lose good soldiers is hard to tell. But consider this: in the last five years, we have lost 49 nuclear, biological, and chemical warfare specialists, 90 nuclear power engineers, 52 missile guidance and control operators, 150 rocket, missile and other artillery specialists, and 340 infantrymen. We've also lost 88 linguists, many of whom are expert in interrogation. It seems to me that this policy is stupid and cruel in peacetime. It's madness when we are at war.

EMAIL OF THE DAY: "In regards to your article "Reagan did not give me HIV" on the Advocate website: Huzzah. Every time I see Larry Kramer's overwrought, specious work, I recall the character of the aunt in the poem "Matilda Who Told Lies and was Burned to Death" (from "Cautionary Tales for Children" by Hilaire Belloc, which is in no way suitable for children). One early stanza in the poem reads:
Matilda told such dreadful lies
it made one gasp and stretch one's eyes.
Her aunt, who from her earliest youth
had kept a Strict Regard for Truth,
attempted to believe Matilda.
And the effort nearly killed her.
I have no desire that Larry Kramer, who tells lies, be burned to death, but I do sometimes think that he will nearly kill me. I do not even attempt to believe him any more: gay loyalty can only go so far. I welcome that there are writers like you still alive in my community, so that I don't have to suffer the agony of shame by proxy for being gay like Kramer. I was lucky to have not become infected with HIV; many of my friends and boyfriends and a few of my heroes died from it. The second man whom I ever shared sex with died from AIDS on 25 June 1992. Joe Albanese was a soldier, secret service agent, political operative, and president of the Washington D.C. Gay & Lesbian Community Center. To me he was a loving, supportive friend from the day we met in 1983 until he died, almost 9 years later. I appreciate that you honor him and my other, dead friends, by writing forcefully, temperately, and truthfully." More feedback on the Letters Page.

- 11:53:57 PM
KINSLEY RETHINKS: Mike Kinsley kills his own editorial. Classic. And good for him. His explanation? "It was an attempt at ironic reflection on the Hollywood decapitation. My editorial page colleagues convinced me it was inappropriate as an editorial. I agonized quite a bit, although looking back the next day, it was a clear case of 'what on earth was I thinking?'" Now if he were blogging ... Sometimes I'm amazed not at my occasional screw-ups, inconsistencies and conflicts ... but that I haven't been guilty of more of them. Hey, it's a new medium. Cut us some slack.

- 3:35:47 PM
CALABRESI'S ANALOGY: Eugene Volokh weighs in.

- 3:25:54 PM
BEGALA AWARD NOMINEE: "In a way that occurred before but is rare in the United StateS ... somebody came to power as a result of the illegitimate acts of a legitimate institution that had the right to put somebody in power. That is what the Supreme Court did in Bush versus Gore. It put somebody in power. The reason I emphasize that is because that is exactly what happened when Mussolini was put in by the king of Italy. The king of Italy had the right to put Mussolini in, though he had not won an election, and make him prime minister. That is what happened when Hindenburg put Hitler in. I am not suggesting for a moment that Bush is Hitler. I want to be clear on that, but it is a situation which is extremely unusual. When somebody has come in that way, they sometimes have tried not to exercise much power. In this case, like Mussolini, he has exercised extraordinary power. He has exercised power, claimed power for himself; that has not occurred since Franklin Roosevelt who, after all, was elected big and who did some of the same things with respect to assertions of power in times of crisis that this president is doing." - Guido Calabresi, judge on the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals.

- 2:08:13 PM

Sunday, June 20, 2004
ELECTROCUTION? Time reports on the deepening mystery of what really happened at Abu Ghraib. We are getting information that electrocution of genitals, rape and murder are also part of the "coercive interrogation techniques" allowed at Saddam's former torture-palace. All the more reason to find out if these methods were approved by higher-ups, all the way to the secretary of defense. I will be harangued for continuing to write about this. But it is a huge deal if torture has been sanctioned by this administration in secret and on the authority of only the president, against U.S. and international law. We need to know what is in the April 2003 memo entitled "Coercive Interrogation Techniques approved by the Secretary of Defense." Did Rumsfeld authorize Abu Ghraib? Is he responsible? Is the administration knowingly scape-goating underlings for doing what they were told? The memo should help clear it up, and presumably exonerate Rumsfeld. So why won't he clear his name? It should be subpoenaed, if necessary.

THE BBC EXPOSED: If you missed Tom Gross's astonishing evisceration of the BBC's news operation, go read it now. It's devastating - and completely true.

BECAUSE THEY CAN: Don't miss the Dallas Morning News' reporting on how child-molesting priests have been protected by the Vatican and moved from country to country to avoid arrest and prosecution. It's sickening, important and vital to keep our focus on.

THE PARTY OF GOD: Republicanism, reinvented as holy war. Or as close as Karl Rove and Ralph Reed can make it. My latest column on how the GOP is abusing faith for political ends, posted opposite.

APPEASEMENT WATCH: The foreign desk editor of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer went to Lebanon and Syria and discovered that the people there want to be friends with us - just not with our government. Stefan Sharkansky sticks the boot in.

- 10:21:03 PM
QUOTE OF THE DAY I: "I'm so conservative that I approve of San Francisco City Hall marriages, adoption by same-sex couples, and New Hampshire's recently ordained Episcopal bishop. Gays want to get married, have children, and go to church. Next they'll be advocating school vouchers, boycotting HBO, and voting Republican. I suppose I should be arguing with my fellow right-wingers about that, and drugs, and many other things. But I won't be. Arguing, in the sense of attempting to convince others, has gone out of fashion with conservatives. The formats of their radio and television programs allow for little measured debate, and to the extent that evidence is marshaled to support conservative ideas, the tone is less trial of Socrates than Johnnie Cochran summation to the O.J. jury." - P.J. O'Rourke, in the Atlantic.

QUOTE OF THE DAY II: "Deborah Solomon: You recently created a stir when you defended the interrogation techniques at Abu Ghraib.

Trent Lott: Most of the people in Mississippi came up to me and said: 'Thank Goodness. America comes first.' Interrogation is not a Sunday-school class. You don't get information that will save American lives by withholding pancakes.

DS: But unleashing killer dogs on naked Iraqis is not the same as withholding pancakes.

TL: I was amazed that people reacted like that. Did the dogs bite them? Did the dogs assault them? How are you going to get people to give information that will lead to the saving of lives?" - From the New York Times Magazine.

THE PEACE PROCESS: I have to say I haven't been so amused in a very long time. At a United Nations ceremony, one of the doves of peace, released by the Sri Lankan public security minister, "was dead before takeoff and 'dropped like a brick.'" They're launching an inquiry. Oil for Food program? Billions in kickbacks. Bosnia? Genocide enabled. Dead dove? Priceless.

KRAMER VERSUS SULLIVAN: Larry Kramer calls Reagan Hitler. I respond. In the Advocate. One reason why I was so surprised by Jonah Goldberg's assertion last week that I was playing to the gay audience with my non-endorsement of Bush is that I have spent much of my career alienating the gay establishment by arguing against some of their shibboleths. I have opposed hate crime laws; I have had reservations about employment non-discrimination laws; I favored the right of the Boy Scouts to practise discrimination (even while I deplored the discrimination itself); I have challenged AIDS orthodoxy: I have battled victimology in the gay world; I endorsed Dole over Clinton in 1996 and Bush over Gore in 2000; I have praised the drug companies' successes in HIV treatment. Very few members of a minority have been as controversial as I have in the gay world. It just happens that I believe that the Constitution is not the place to decide social policy and that civil marriage is a civil right for all Americans, not just the straight ones. I say that to all audiences. Always.

BLOGGING THE CONVENTIONS? It's happening. For my part, I think bloggers could make more of a statement by not going to these elaborate infomercials. All they are are schmooze-fests for journalists, pundits and political types and then many layers of corrupting parties for donors. The only political importance is as television shows, and you can better understand that by, er, watching television. New York might be fun - as long as you hang outside with all the left-wing freaks, as opposed to inside with all the right-wing freaks. Am I rationalizing staying in beautiful Ptown? Er, no. Never. Wouldn't dream of it. Of course not. Are you kidding?

- 10:20:39 PM
THE GAY LIFESTYLE: Here's a list of the occupations of the gay applicants for civil marriage licenses in Massachusetts in the first week:
Acceptance tester, Accounting manager, accounts payable manager, activist, activity director, advertising, administrative assistant, administrator, airline employee, anesthetist, antiques dealer, appraiser, area manager, architect, artisan, artist, arts administrator, assembler, assembly technician, astrologer, at-home mom, athletic coach, athletic trainer, attorney, audiovisual coordinator.

Baker, bank branch manager, bank executive, banquet manager, bartender, billing coordinator, boat builder, book dealer, bookstore manager, buyer.

Cabinet maker, camp director, cantor, career counselor, carpenter, case manager, caterer, cell phone specialist, certified nurse assistant, certified nurse midwife, certified public accountant, chef, chaplain, chief financial officer, chief operating officer, chemist, chemistry professor, child nutrition program specialist, child psychologist, childbirth educator, choreographer, civil engineer, claim analyst, clergy, clerk, clinical chemistry supervisor, clinical coordinator, clinical director, clinical social worker, clinician, college administrator, college professor, community center director, company president, compliance officer, computer analyst, computer consultant, computer programmer, computer specialist, computer systems manager, consultant, contractor, controller, cook, corporate benefits manager, correction officer, cosmetologist, countertop installer, courier, craftmaker, creative arts therapist, creative director, crisis clinician, custodian, customer service.

Data architect, database administrator, designer, desktop publisher, development associate, diagnostic radiological technician, dialysis technician, dietician, director, director of athletics, director of employment, director of membership, director of recreation, director of religious education, director of technology, domestic engineer, draftsman.

Economist, editor, educator, electrical engineer, electrician, electronic technician, emergency room technician, engineer, English professor, entrepreneur, environmental scientist, Episcopal priest, equipment installer, estimator, event planner, executive, executive assistant, executive director, expeditor.

Facilitator, faculty dean, farmer, field service engineer, filmmaker, financial adviser, financial analyst, financial manager, financial representative, firefighter, fitness director, fitness specialist, flight attendant, floral designer, florist, food service manager, forestry technician, fund accountant, fund-raiser, furniture sales.

Gallery owner, gardener, general manager, gifts coordinator, geographic information systems analyst, Girl Scout executive, glazier, goldsmith, golf course superintendent, graphic artist, groomer, group leader, guidance counselor.

Hardware store, hairdresser, hair designer, hair stylist, health and conservation agent, health and safety manager, health care administrator, health care ethicist, health inspector, higher education administrator, historian, history teacher, holistic health counselor, home daycare, homemaker, hospice nurse, hospital administrator, hotel manager, house cleaner, house painter, housewife, human resources, human services director.

Information security consultant, information technology specialist, inspector, insurance adjuster, insurance broker, Internal Revenue Service, inventory control, investment banker.

Jeweler, journalist, judge.

Krispy Kreme manager.

Land surveyor, land use planner, landlord, landscape architect, landscaper, laundry owner, law professor, legal assistant, librarian, library media specialist, library page, literary agent, loan analyst, loan originator, locksmith, logistics manager.

Machine operator, manager, marine biologist, marine service, market research, marketing, massage therapist, medical administrator, media designer, medical technician, mental health counselor, mental health executive, midwife, minister, mortgage banker, muscular therapist, music teacher, musician.

Nanny, newspaper production, network administrator, night receiver, nurse, nurse's aide, nurse practitioner, nursing home administrator.

Occupational therapist, office clerk, office manager, ophthalmologist, optician, optometric technician, optometrist, orthopedic surgeon.

Packer, painter, paper hanger, paralegal, paramedic, park ranger, parole officer, pastor, pastry chef, PC technician, pediatric rehabilitation aide, percussionist, personal care attendant, pet business owner, pharmaceutical manager, phlebotomist, photographer, physical therapist, physician, physician assistant, picture framer, pilot, pipefitter, pizza maker, planner, plant manager, plumber, point of sale coordinator, police lieutenant, police officer, policy analyst, pool manager, postal worker, preschool teacher, principal, private detective, process consultant, produce manager, product designer, production coordinator, project manager, program manager, property manager, psychologist, psychotherapist, public access coordinator, public health director, public relations, publicist, publishing production manager.

Quality control inspector, quality control supervisor, quality coordinator.

Rabbi, radiologist, real estate broker, real estate director, real estate manager, Realtor, recycling coordinator, registrar, religious educator, registered nurse, reproductive biologist, research analyst, researcher, residential supervisor, respiratory therapist, restaurant manager, restaurateur owner, retail management, retired, risk manager.

Sales person, sales manager, sales rep, school administrator, school counselor, school nurse, school psychologist, scientist, security guard, self-employed, senior research specialist, server, service adviser, service manager, shipper/receiver, shipwright, shopkeeper, short order cook, small business owner, social insurance specialist, social worker, software engineer, software quality engineer, soil scientist, special education advocate, special education teacher, specialty food buyer, speech pathologist, stand-up comic, state trooper, store manager, student, superintendent of schools, supervisor, systems analyst.

Tailor, teacher, tech consultant, technical support engineer, technical writer, technician, telecommunications manager, temp, tennis instructor, tester, therapist, title examiner, training consultant, training manager, translator, transportation engineer, travel agent, travel consultant, triage coordinator, truck driver.

Unemployed, union officer, utility cleaner.

Veterinarian, veterinary technician, victim services advocate, video producer, violin maker, virologist, visual artist, vocational rehab counselor.

Waiter, warehouseman, web developer, web marketing manager, website administrator, welder, writer.

Yoga teacher, youth advocate, youth worker.
Here's a challenge. Think of any straight person you know who does a job like this. Now imagine telling him or her that he or she has no right to marry, that his or her spouse is a room mate and his or her children can be taken away by relatives or the state at any time. That's what gay people live with every day. They are treated as sub-human and beneath full citizenship. That must end.

- 10:16:20 PM

Saturday, June 19, 2004
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "... Sontag's elitism has an exclusionary malevolence that goes well beyond the notion of a priestly caste of artists and thinkers. As early as 1964, she attributed the cinema's relative security from hordes of interpreters in part to 'the happy accident that films for such a long time were just movies; in other words, that they were understood to be part of mass, as opposed to high, culture, and were left alone by most people with minds.' That use of 'people with minds' as a synonym for literary intellectuals has always ruffled me, since the unavoidable corollary is that people who aren't literary intellectuals don't have minds. And that's offensive... Sontag is noticeably reticent on the subject of her own family, and the few spots where she does refer to it give off a whiff of contempt... but then, Sontag has always had a low opinion of her fellow citizens, predicated on the embarrassing robustness of American bad taste. For her, vulgarity is a mortal sin rather than a venial one. 'Today's America,' she scowled in 1966, 'with Ronald Reagan the new daddy of California and John Wayne chawing spareribs in the White House,' (as a Southerner, I resent that), 'is pretty much the same Yahooland that Mencken was describing.' Then she got really high-handed: 'After America was won, it was filled up by new generations of the poor and built up according to the tawdry fantasy of the good life that culturally deprived, uprooted people might have had at the beginning of the industrial era. And the country looks it.' That's some fairly supercilious class bias to be issuing from the granddaughter of immigrant Jews, not to mention from a radical (at that point) leftist." - Craig Seligman, from his new book, "Sontag & Kael: Opposites Attract Me," thanks to a diligent reader.

- 2:17:54 PM
CHURCH ABUSE SCANDAL: It's going global - not in the sense that child abuse is prevalent across the world in the Catholic Church (we knew that already), but in the sense that the Vatican and other parts of the Church hierarchy can use their international status to move criminal priests from one country to another to avoid prosecution or discovery:
INSKEEP: When priest sex abuse becomes an international issue, when people are being moved from country to country, whose job is it to police it?

Mr. EGERTON: It's a really great question. International flight is the ultimate challenge for law enforcement. And it often becomes unclear whose job it is. Police, we have found, though, in many cases, haven't availed themselves of all that they could to pursue these folks.

INSKEEP: Yo! u mean haven't taken advantage of extradition treaties and that sort o f thing?

Mr. EGERTON: Right. In some cases, they've failed to pursue extradition. In other cases where extradition treaties aren't present, they haven't made other inquiries to see if something else can be arranged. In some cases, they haven't even gotten to the point of doing anything but filing a warrant in their home country and just filing it away and walking off.

INSKEEP: Were there American priests who were shipped overseas?

Mr. EGERTON: Absolutely. Frequently, what we've seen are priests who worked for a long time in America but remained citizens of another country. They came here and, when trouble arose, there was an easy escape hatch, and that was to go back to their native lands.

INSKEEP: You've already told us of one case where someone outside the United States got in trouble and was shipped to the United States for a while.

Mr. EGERTON: That's right. It...

INSKEEP: Did that happen more than once?

Mr. EGE! RTON: Oh, yes, absolutely. Yeah, we found some folks who are still here, still here.
I've long believed that this scandal goes right to the heart of the current hierarchy in Rome. Good for the Dallas Morning News for pursuing this. (Hat tip: Glenn.)

EMAIL OF THE DAY: "People out there are learning the exact wrong lesson from the shortfalls of intelligence about Iraq. The failure of our intelligence organizations to correctly assess the status of Saddam's WMD programs is actually a powerful argument IN FAVOR of preemptive - or even preventive - national security doctrine.
Sure, it's fair to hold the CIA accountable for this "intelligence failure," and I don't argue that the intel community could have done better. But think about it this way: The question of Iraqi WMD was one of the most critical national security issues for the United States for over a decade, and the US, our allies, and the UN directed vast intelligence collection and analysis resources against it. Regardless of what particular mistakes were made, the degree to which the CIA came up short reveals a larger truth: This type of intelligence problem is fundamentally impossible to solve with the precision necessary to support a security policy based on traditional "imminent threat" criteria. Whether Saddam's WMD capabilties were overestimated or underestimated is a peripheral issue. What is essential is that we didn't - and probably couldn't - know for sure what those capabilities were.
Contrary to the assertions of many who opposed war in Iraq, this epistemological limitation does not argue for the abandonment of a preemptive doctrine. In fact, it argues for yet greater urgency in the preventive (yes, preventive) elimination of regimes that have the potential to use WMD or supply them to other actors. The definitive intelligence issue for this doctrine is not what specific weapons programs, terrorist links, or ill intentions a certain state might possess, but rather the nature of that state. That is a question that is readily answerable and is therefore a more valid guide to ethical decision-making on issues of war and peace.
Just war doctrine has long rejected this line of reasoning, as it could provide pretexts for endless wars of agression. But times have changed. The civilized world can no longer safely permit governments like Saddam's to exist. The precise status of WMD programs (especially bio and chem) in countries like Iraq, Iran, and North Korea are practically insurmountable intelligence problems. The solution lies not in trying to improve the intelligence, but in getting rid of the problems." More feedback on the Letters Page.

- 1:05:27 PM

Friday, June 18, 2004
ANOTHER ATROCITY: Words, of course, fail. But it is important to look at our enemy squarely. Will the networks show these images? They absolutely should.

- 3:24:52 PM
ANOTHER CONSERVATIVE ...: ... gets whacked by the dittoheads for actually thinking.

- 1:01:49 PM
HAND OVER THE MEMOS: Given what we now know about Abu Ghraib, given the murders and rapes of several inmates in U.S. custody, given the fact that the U.S. now allows for "disappearing" prisoners in order to hide them from the Red Cross, is it not incumbent on the administration to release all memos detailing what this administration regards as permissible "coercive interrogation techniques?" (By the way, isn't that term in and of itself chilling? Its plain meaning is the use of violence or the threat of violence against inmates. When a government resorts to this kind of euphemism, you know something fishy is going on.) We really do need to see two in particular:
[T]he documents include a memo from Mr. Rumsfeld to Gen. James T. Hill, the senior officer of the Southern Command, dated April 2003 and titled, "Coercive interrogation techniques that can be used with approval of the Defense Secretary." Another memo dated Jan. 4, 2004, written by the top legal adviser to Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, the senior American commander in Iraq, and sent to military intelligence and police personnel at the Abu Ghraib prison, is titled, "New plan to restrict Red Cross access to Abu Ghraib."
In the first, we can find out what kinds of torture or abuse Rumsfeld has deemed legit. In the second, we can find out how the policy of restricting Red Cross access might have contributed to the horror of Abu Ghraib. If the administration wants to say it has never condoned torture, and that Abu Ghraib was the work of a handful of rogues, these memos could prove their case. So why won't they release them? Hmmm.

- 12:49:28 PM
RAINES AWARD NOMINEE: This one, caught by Mickey, is a beaut. It's CBS' John Roberts on the 9/11 Commission:
It is one of President Bush's last surviving justifications for war in Iraq, and today, it took a devastating hit when the 9-11 Commission declared there was no collaborative relationship between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. ... Those repeated associations left the majority of Americans believing Saddam was involved in 9/11, but the commission today put the nail in that connection, or for that matter, any other al-Qaida acts of terror against America, declaring, 'There is no credible evidence that Iraq and al-Qaida cooperated on attacks against the United States.' The report is yet another blow to the president's credibility as he struggles to find the exit door in Iraq and opens him up to new criticism on the wisdom of taking on Saddam with al-Qaida's leadership still at large.
Astonishingly biased, even by CBS standards.

- 12:27:50 PM
THE BENEFITS OF INCOMPETENCE: Talk about a water-tight defense of the Bush administration's handling of post-war Iraq! Here's Rich Lowry, rightly pointing out the need to be patient in bringing a turn-around in Iraq, but finding a way to excuse mistakes and failures by the Bushies:

Patience, of course, is now in short supply. By the exquisite standards of today's media and the critics of the Iraq War, the men who rebuilt Japan and Germany were incompetents. They had to muddle their way to success through policy failures and bureaucratic infighting. Incompetence can achieve the same success in Iraq, if it's given the chance.
One wonders under what circumstances, if this is the standard, could one criticize the Bush administration? Lowry's convenient answer: Never! Look, I want the Iraq war to succeed with every bone in my body. But I don't think it helps the war effort never to criticize the conduct of it. One reason democracies do well in war is that they can indeed air criticism and achieve correction more quickly than rigid dictatorships. But some on the right are now busy saying that any criticism is tantamount to treason, that torture can be justified, that disasters (such as Abu Ghraib) should be kept from the public (Jonah Goldberg's position), that a vote for Kerry is a vote for Osama, and so on. Such reflexive, brain-dead defensiveness is not a key to success. It's a recipe for failure.

- 12:18:02 PM
CHIRAC VERSUS BLAIR: The war continues.

- 12:07:03 PM
CHENEY VERSUS THE NYT: The vice-president's direct attack on the New York Times' portrayal of the 9/11 Commission report was a zinger. On balance, i think Cheney is right. The links between al Qaeda and Saddam may not have amounted to a formal alliance, but they existed all right, as the Commission conceded. The NYT itself reported that "The report said that despite evidence of repeated contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda in the 90's, 'they do not appear to have resulted in a collaborative relationship.'" But if there were "repeated contacts" between al Qaeda and Iraq, how can it be true that, as the headline put it, that "Panel Finds No Qaeda-Iraq Tie"? Headlines truncate things, of course. But Cheney is dead-on in describing this headline as misleading. Here's Tom Kean, the chairman of the Commision: "What we have found is, were there contacts between al-Qaeda and Iraq? Yes. Some of them were shadowy - but they were there." Here's Lee Hamilton:
"I must say I have trouble understanding the flack over this. The Vice President is saying, I think, that there were connections between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein's government. We don't disagree with that. What we have said is what the governor just said, we don't have any evidence of a cooperative, or a corroborative relationship between Saddam Hussein's government and these al Qaeda operatives with regard to the attacks on the United States. So it seems to me the sharp differences that the press has drawn, the media has drawn, are not that apparent to me."
The NYT had the gall to demand that Bush and Cheney apologize. In fact, it's the NYT that needs to apologize.

THE DEEPER POINT: But it's also true, it seems to me, that even if there were no contacts, Saddam was still a clear and present danger after 9/11 precisely because of his record with WMDs and links with terror groups. One recalls that Saddam's official press was one of the few to openly celebrate the 9/11 attacks against the "Great Satan." Bush made the right decision - the only decision a responsible president could have made at the time. What frustrates about Cheney, however, is his inability to concede that the intelligence he used about WMDs was embarrassingly wrong. Here's the exchange with Gloria Borger:
BORGER: In hindsight, Mr. Vice President, are you disappointed in the quality of the intelligence that you received before launching an attack against Iraq? Vice Pres. CHENEY: I can't say that, Gloria. I think the decision we made was exactly the right one.
He can't say it. The vice-president would have more credibility when he's right if he could also concede when he's been wrong.

- 12:44:56 AM
QUOTE FOR THE DAY I: "I represent only my own views. As for the Republican establishment, I couldn't be less interested. Neither party seems to take its own ideas very seriously. I'm still conservative, though, which is one of the reasons I often have trouble defending Bush. " - Tucker Carlson, another dissident.

QUOTE FOR THE DAY II: "It's been 29 days since the institution of marriage has supposedly been rocked and torn apart here in Massachusetts by gay people marrying and I'm happy and relieved to report that my wife and I are still married with no plans to divorce. Unfortunately, it appears that "they" got to Rush Limbaugh." - Greg Roach, looking to see if the sky is falling in Massachusetts.

- 12:43:34 AM
BERMAN ON THE WAR: When I read Paul Berman's masterful book, Terror and Liberalism, I found myself drifting more toward the liberal internationalist defense of the Iraq war, rather than the WMD/security argument. Unlike some conservatives who support the Gulf war, I also supported the Clinton war to liberate Kosovo. The mass graves and unspeakable horrorswe discovered in the liberation only confirmed my view that this war was a moral and vital enterprise. If I sound more chastened these days, it is not because I have come to doubt this. It is because, like others, I have become distressed by the way in which the administration has conducted the struggle. I tried for a long time to overlook the obvious failures, mistakes, stupidities and rigidities which have characterized the mission. But in the end, it became impossible. Abu Ghraib - in its cruelty and incompetence - was devastating. And the news since has convinced me that this was not a one-off exception to the rule, but the result of policy-making at the top that deliberately blurred the lines between tough interrogation and abuse and torture. No, Rumsfeld didn't sign off explicitly on those abuses (apart from hooding and the menacing use of dogs). But he did sign off on hiding some prisoners from the Red Cross for reasons that are still unclear. I refuse to believe that in fighting demons, you have to become one. In this respect, Berman makes me feel less alone.

WHAT BUSH HAS WROUGHT: Berman also worries in the new New Republic - rightly - about the future of interventionism in the wake of these scars on America's reputation:
The U.S. failure in Somalia led to a different kind of U.S. failure in Rwanda. There will surely be Rwandas in the future--there is one right now in Darfur, Sudan (where the ethnic cleansers come out of the same mix of radical Islamism and Arab nationalism that has caused so much suffering in many other places, including our own places). Who in his right mind is going to call for U.S. intervention? Doubtless, in the future, when things are not so grim for us, some people will, in fact, call for U.S. interventions, and justly so. And yet, other people are going to say, Oh, right, and let's put Donald Rumsfeld in charge. And this will be a devastating reply.
I fear he's right. Was there an alternative? Of course there was:
We could have applied the lessons of Kosovo, which would have meant dispatching a suitable number of soldiers. We could have protected the government buildings and the National Museum, and we could have co-opted Saddam's army--further lessons from Kosovo. We could have believed Saddam when he threatened to wage a guerrilla war in Baghdad. We could have prepared in advance to broadcast TV shows that Iraqis wanted to watch. We could have observed the Geneva Conventions. (What humiliation in having to write such a sentence!) We could have--but I will stop, in order to ask: What if, in mulling these thoughts, you find that angry emotions toward George W. Bush are seeping upward from your own patriotic gut? Here is the challenge: to rage at Saddam and other enemies, and, at the same time, to rage in a somewhat different register at Bush, and to keep those two responses in proper proportion to one another. That can be a difficult thing to do, requiring emotional balance, maturity, and analytic clarity--a huge effort.
That is what I have been trying to do on this blog, in real time, in imperfect ways. It must be possible to believe in this war but to be dismayed by the conduct of it. I still cannot believe that the U.S. now has a reputation for "disappearing" enemy combatants, for seeing inmates battered to death by flashlights in dark cells, for using "water-boarding" to coerce confessions, and any number of things that we do not know, and if the administration has its way, will never know. I cannot believe that the Justice Department prepared a memo in order to justify the use of any number of inhumane methods in contravention of U.S. law - and then denies any malfeasance at all. This isn't the administration I once trusted and it isn't the America I love.

EMAIL OF THE DAY: "I started reading your blog out of sheer curiousity. I just couldn't quite figure out the quaint oxymoron: "conservative homosexual". I was yet to find a conservative that can articulate his beliefs without falling back on historical prejudices ( racial, gender, socio-economic, and sexual orientation). You are clearly different. Your conservatism is rational and almost delightful - if I wasn't such a radical left-winger, I would seriously reconsider some of my opinions. You've shown, in your own "wobbly" way, that there is something much more to conservatism than white, rich, and heterosexual priviledge.
I followed the link on your blog entry "Over at Lucianne" and I was shocked at the comments. These guys have NO respect for you or for your sexuality. I haven't read such hateful rhetoric in a while. All the same, I am hardly surprised. It's unfortunate that conservatism has been hijacked by bigots. It's even more unfortunate that you still chose to camp out with those who would feed you to the dogs without a second thought. Please stay strong and don't let those rabid, unthinking pseudo-conservatives get you down." - more feedback on the Letters Page.

JUST FOR THE RECORD: A reader reminds me that I wrote in this blog on February 29 that Bush's support for the FMA was a "deal-breaker" for me. Those are the exact words of my subsequent Advocate piece. I don't blame Jonah for missing it. But it's unfair to say I have in any way deceived anyone. I went through a period of turmoil after Bush's endorsement of the FMA and wasn't sure whom I could support. But on reflection, the FMA made it impossible for me to endorse Bush. There was no "extremely significant silence." Just outrage and a period of reflection.

- 12:43:18 AM

Thursday, June 17, 2004
EMAIL OF THE DAY: This one speaks for itself. I think the guy, who's from Tennessee, is onto something:
You would, I think, be amazed at how many people in Middle America (if the Middle Tennessee area counts as that--I think it does) are politically frustrated in much the same way you are. It's not the ideologues--they've picked their sides--people who are both social and fiscal righties are for Bush; people who are both social and fiscal lefties are for Kerry. It's the ones in the middle, people who might describe themselves as center-left or center-right, maybe they are fiscal conservatives but social moderates, for instance, who are as sorely frustrated as you seem to be.

I have talked to many people--professionals from all walks of life who have never missed an election before who are seriously thinking of just sitting this one out. They are not "undecided" as that terms is usually used (i.e., people who haven't been paying enough attention to care and thus don't know anything). They are undecided in the opposite way--they have been paying A LOT of attention and know pretty much everything...not much of it good.

Here's what they want:

1. A President for whom the War on Terror is by far the top priority and who will execute it with cold efficiency and competence. They don't mind if mistakes are made--they even expect them (omelet-making and all)--but by God they wnat someone to 'fess up to them and make them right.

2. A President who doesn't kowtow to every freaking interest group that beats down his door--unions, religious groups, activist groups, etc.

3. Along those same lines, they want a President who has goddamned opinions that are clear, forthright and his own. They don't like Kerry because he really--when you get right down to it--has no principled opinions, and they don't like Bush because listing to him talk wiothout a prepared text (and sometimes even with a prepared text) is pretty excruciating, especially for people in the so-called "creative class" with whom I'm largely dealing.

4. They don't--as hard as it may be for people on both the social right and left to understand--give two sh*ts about abortion and homosexuality one way or other in the context of the presidential election. I talked to one person who said she wanted to go four years without a sitting president ever talking about these two topics one way or the the other. This was a very devout, adamantly pro-life woman. You know that Dennis Miller quote making the rounds, somthing about he doesn't care if two guys get married, he does care about the terrorist who wants to blow up the place they're getting married in? That's EXACTLY how these people feel.

5. The biggest frustration among many of these people is that they feel like President Bush abused their trust. These are people who either voted for Gore or reluctantly pulled the lever for Bush, yet rallied around him after 9/11, often to their detriment, as their more lefty peers heavily criticized them for supporting him. They maintained that support and defended Bush to the hilt through much of last year, especially for the Iraq War, and especially after the capture of Saddam. Now they feel mildly betrayed...since they went out on a political limb for a man whom they feel took them for granted and seems to have no idea that that's the case.

Yeah, there's a lot that can happen between now and November, but right now there are a lot of people ready and willing to stay at home, a concept they wouldn't have even pondered before in their lives.
More feedback on the Letters Page.

- 1:36:13 PM
OVER AT LUCIANNE: Here are some of the sentiments expressed by posters today on Lucianne Goldberg's site. She is, in case you didn't know, Jonah Goldberg's mother, and monitors the site:
This must be a gay thing, something they discuss at the local bathhouse.

Yeah, I used to read Sullivan's blog on a daily basis, until, I don't know, maybe mid-winter last year. He was going wobbly on just about everything, so I removed him from my bookmarks, and haven't thought about it since--simply don't miss his commentary. I suspect his webstats show a major falloff in readership.

I don't say good-bye, I say good riddance. Kudos to Kathryn Lopez for outing the traitor early on.

Long ago when Andrew Sullivan was in vogue and a rising star in ''conservative'' circles, I said that we should not be giving him bandwidth nor touting him as a leader in conservative ranks. That opinion seems reasonable now, but it was not a popular opinion back then. Then again, I am one of those who think that homosexuality is not just immoral, but should also be illegal again. Not a popular opinion today either.

Sullivan said plainly at The Advocate but not on his own blog, that Bush’s positions on homosexuality are a deal-breaker for him (Sullivan). I still want to know why Andrew Sullivan thinks the Boy Scouts ought to allow homosexual scoutmasters. Boy Scouts range in age from 11–18. Even accepting that homosexuality & pederasty can sometimes be distinguished, still where, Andrew, is the bright line between them? You know, Andrew, that there is no such bright line.

If you pay attention to Andrew Sullivan, you have too much time to waste. Nobody, even an obstensive conservative like Sullivan, should take pride in being a pervert.

Look. He's a fag, a limey and he lives in P-Town. To me, that's three strikes and you're out.

When Andrew gets on a gay issue, his progesterone starts kicking in and he rants like a vindictive woman. "Hell hath no fury like a She-man scorned"

It is a sad thing to see the enemy win. I mean, I really feel for the guy. He knows right from wrong, thus his desire to be a conservative. But he's had to surrender it and become anti-American, anti-Bush, anti-good, because of his deadly addiction to homosexuality. Over the months you could see him spiraling (many poster call it wobbling), losing to ground to the seductive, pleasurable evil consuming his soul. I grieve for this loss. He is now dead to us, and has thrown in with the enemy, rather than face down the incredibly difficult, painful choice of giving up homosexuality and joining the ranks of normals.
Some voices from the conservative movement. And people wonder why gay conservatives have a hard time feeling at home there.

FROM A READER: "Just to repeat, from a representative bloggee... Most of your dishees understand the crucial importance which gay marriage (and other gay issues) hold for you. We also know that you are not a single issue person, that you have a vast range of other interests close to your heart. It's your blog, you get to choose the subjects. You can ignore people who say otherwise. Gay marriage is not personally significant for me, but I'm interested to hear what you say about it -- it's your party Andrew, and you get to pick the menu.
Conservatism, at its best, is about abstract principles neutrally applied, and unlocking the potential of each individual -- Thatcherism came much closer to this than Bushism ever did -- and if Bush is stigmatizing gays, then it is Bush who has abandoned conservatism in its purest form, not you.
The intellectual decay on the National Review should make those guys hang their heads in shame. The fine intellectual tradition of conservatism is nowhere in sight. Instead we get "I'm more conservative than thou;" "Vox populi, vox dei"; "I'm a bigot, and I shouldn't have to explain;" and Stanley Kurtz's 5th-grade social science.
I am fairly certain that you have turned on many, many more young people to conservatism than all the other leading conservatives combined.
As for the torture issue, I've yet to hear other conservatives say: "Yes, we have a problem, we have a serious breakdown of discipline, our human resource chain has been overstretched to breaking point, we're subbing out core army functions to mediocre beltway bandit companies, and we've made our noble, worthy cause a thousand times more difficult to achieve." You can make that point without raising the spectre of morals or ethics (although you can raise those too), and you'd still be a conservative."

- 11:58:17 AM
THE INVISIBLE MAN: The story of the Iraqi terrorist who was ordered off the books by Rumsfeld and Tenet makes odd reading. The two reasons given for hiding this captive are a) to make sure his treatment wasn't monitored by the Red Cross (but no one condoned abuse of prisoners, did they?) and b) to keep his location secret (Why? The military cannot keep its own inmate records secret?). Besides, the reason that the suspect was regarded as so important, apparently, was because he "possessed significant information about Ansar al Islam's leadership structure, training and locations." And yet - here's the mind-blowing part - he was only interviewed once in "one cursory arrival interrogation"! Here's a military desperately trying to get information on the insurgency; they go to extraordinary lengths to sequester a key informant; they do something that is "deceptive, contrary to Army doctrine, and in violation of international law," according to the Taguba report; both Tenet and Rumsfeld sign off on this shady business; and then ... nothing! It boggles the mind. Here we have two features of the Iraq occupation that we have slowly come to see close-up: the violation of settled military ethics and international law, authorized by the highest authorities, and complete incompetence. At least that's the only rational explanation I can find for this story as it currently reads. Does Rumsfeld have a better explanation?

- 1:27:00 AM
MAKE THIS KID AN AMERICAN: If you didn't catch this amazing story of an Iraqi teen who risked his life to give intelligence to the marines, then do it now. Somehow, we have to provide this kid with security in the U.S. Make him a citizen?

- 12:53:54 AM
JONAH ON BUSH (AND ME): Jonah Goldberg argues that worrying about Bush's fiscal record when he's fighting the war on terror may be legitimate but shouldn't bar anyone from supporting Bush. He goes on, referring to yours truly:
A blog which soared with high-minded rhetoric about how the war on terror is the test for this generation and that Bush was the right man to lead that struggle, now day-after-day tries to whittle away at reasons to support Bush in the fall as if the war on terror were merely another issue which can be trumped by any other issue you happen to feel more passionate about. Maybe "fiscal conservatives" aren't defined by their fiscal conservatism? Or maybe they think this election isn't a choice about a single issue be it the deficit or, say, gay marriage? Maybe the election is about a choice between George W. Bush and the people he would appoint to staff his administration and the judicial branch and John F. Kerry and the people he would appoint and how those respective administrations would govern across a wide array of issues including first and foremost the war on terror? And maybe most conservatives find that a cost-benefit analysis on that question yields a fairly obvious answer.
Fairly obvious? But Jonah himself recently pondered the following observation: "While I still think it would be bad for America if Bush lost the election to Kerry — and terrible for Republicans — it's less clear it would be bad for the conservative movement." Hmmm. And why would he say something like that? Could it be that Bush has not governed as a conservative in critical ways - and hasn't even governed competently in others? Let's list a few: the WMD intelligence debacle - the worst blow to the credibility of the U.S. in a generation; Abu Ghraib - a devastating wound to to America's moral standing in the world; the post-war chaos and incompetence in Iraq; an explosion in federal spending with no end in sight; no entitlement reform; a huge addition to fiscal insolvency with the Medicare drug entitlement; support for a constitutional amendment, shredding states' rights; crusades against victimless crimes, like smoking pot and watching porn; the creeping fusion of religion and politics; the erosion of some critical civil liberties in the Patriot Act. I could go on. Is there any point at which a conservative might consider not voting for Bush? For the editor of National Review Online, the answer is indeed "fairly obvious." But for people not institutionally related to the G.O.P., the only question is: where would that line be?

THE BEST RESPONSE: Here's an email that says more eloquently than most why some fiscal conservatives might stay with Bush's big government conservatism:
1) Kerry will probably be only slightly more fiscally conservative, and then only because the (presumably) Republican Congress will become seasonal budget hawks when a Dem. is in the White House.
2) Fiscal Conservatism pales in comparison to Getting The One Big Issue Right. In my opinion, Kerry will not take the fight to the enemy. It goes against the grain of his entire career. He learned at the knee of a Realist, and he is a Realist in his soul. And I think it's a way of looking at the world that is inimical to security in a post 9/11 world.
That makes some sense. But I think there are enough Rubinites around Kerry to move him in a fiscally responsible direction even without the prodding of a Republican Congress. And, yes, the war. Obviously. But am I the only one who is far less enthusiastic about Bush's war leadership now than I was a year ago? I supported the war in Afghanistan and Iraq; I support pre-emption as a policy; I believe in taking the fight to the Jihadists at every possible opportunity. But hasn't the last year changed things somewhat? From the fall of Baghdad on, we have seen little but setbacks. Our goals in Iraq now are limited to making the place less dangerous and oppressive than it was under Saddam. If a Democrat had this record, do you think National Review would let it pass? Look, I am far from being persuaded that Kerry can do any better in the war. But I cannot support this president on the war as enthusiastically as I once did - because the mounting evidence suggests a much more mixed record.

THE MARRIAGE THING: And yes, of course, the president's support for the FMA has colored this. How could it not? If you had spent much of your life arguing a) that gay people deserve civil equality and b) that civil marriage is the fundamental mark of that equality, it would require Herculean masochism to endorse a president who wants to enshrine the denial of marriage to gays in the very Constitution itself. I could live with disagreement on the issue of marriage - but not the amendment. Pace Jonah, I have been quite clear in this blog that, in my judgment, no self-respecting gay person could vote for Bush; and I consider myself a self-respecting gay person. In my first response to the FMA, I wrote that "[t]his president has now made the Republican party an emblem of exclusion and division and intolerance. Gay people will now regard it as their enemy for generations - and rightly so." I wrote in a fit of hyperbole on March 3 that Kerry "will get every gay vote and every vote from their families and friends." Get the drift? No that doesn't mean I cannot praise or respect other things the administration does. But it does mean I would lack integrity if I were to endorse the guy. Jonah says that "over the last year," you wouldn't get the impression that I had made up my mind against Bush. He's right. My public piece wasn't published till May 2004 - which leaves ten months for "thinking out loud." And it's still possible to think out loud about the candidates, even if you have ruled one out for support this fall (in my Advocate piece, I insisted I still supported the president's war on terror). So it's hardly an "extremely significant silence." I've said as much to every interviewer who has asked - on television and radio - and many other people who have asked me privately. And besides, I wrote it for the Advocate - to the readership to whom I most owed an explanation for my endorsement of Bush in 2000. I don't post my Advocate pieces as a rule on the website because I get enough emails decrying my discussion of gay issues, and the pieces are written for a specific audience. Besides, the arguments in the piece have been expressed before on this site many times (too many times for most people's tastes). But it's public; there's no mystery; and the notion that if you write something for the gay press, you haven't really written it is, as usual, insulting to gay people. Has this caused me heart-ache? No end. I do indeed feel betrayed, as do many other gay people who trusted this president and paid a price in many ways for supporting him. (I've certainly paid more of a price in my own social world for backing this president than Jonah ever has in his.) My only dilemma now is whether to support Kerry or sit this one out. It still is.

- 12:50:07 AM
WHAT IS SEXY? Eugene Volokh ruminates on what makes someone sexy. He quotes a female friend of his remarking on how women make much more of an effort to be attractive than men do:
I think it's particularly true that most men can learn to be sexy, since women are more forgiving about looks, which are less changeable ... Maybe it's easier for women to cultivate appeal, since we're sort of more raised with the idea of adapting ourselves, rather than just "being," but men can do it.
But most men don't really want to be sexy; they want sexy to be them. I don't mean to man-bash, men are one of my favorite genders, but it's such a waste of resources. Like you, I know tons of great women. They're (list of all the good adjectives), and people want to be around them.
And I know a fair number of (good adjectives) single men, but [it's generally] also clear why they're single. They don't listen, and won't; they won't get a real job; they're boring but don't want to acknowlege it or do anything about it. Hey, if that shirt was "in" when they were in high school, no need to see if any ads/mannequins/humans under 60 wear it today.
Much of this is true - but only for straight men. And that reveals the real source of male slovenliness: women. If women weren't so damn forgiving of slobbiness, if they weren't prepared to look for the diamond buried in the rough of a man's beer-belly, men might have to shape up a little. The only reason gay men are - on the whole - better turned out than straight men is because they have to appeal to other shallow, beauty-obsessed males to get laid, find a mate, etc. The corollary, of course, are lesbians. Now there are many glamorous lesbiterians, but even the most enthusiastic Sapphic-lover will have to concede that many are not exactly, shall we say, stylish. The reason? They don't have to be to attract other women; and since women find monogamy easier, they also slide into the I'm-married-so-what-the-hell-have-another-pretzel syndrome. When straight women really do insist on only dating hot guys, men will shape up. Until then, it's hopeless.

- 12:26:20 AM

Wednesday, June 16, 2004
BUSH'S TAILWIND: Sadr folds up his tent; industrial production surges at a faster pace than anything in six years. Bush has coopted Kerry's position on Iraq; and is busy swapping recipes with Jacques Chirac. (Yes, I got the nautical metaphor wrong first time.)

- 12:47:29 PM
BUSH'S SPENDING RECORD: AEI - hardly a liberal institution - knocks down any notion that George W. Bush is comparable to Ronald Reagan on fiscal matters:
Ronald Reagan sought - and won - more spending cuts than any other modern president. He is the only president in the last forty years to cut inflation-adjusted nondefense outlays, which fell by 9.7 percent during his first term. George W. Bush, in contrast, increased real nondefense spending by at least 25.3 percent during his first term.
Moreover, President Reagan believed that the federal government had usurped private, state, and local responsibilities and consequently thought the budgets of most departments and agencies should be cut. Following are comparisons of budget cuts during each presidential term going back to the Johnson administration:
* President Reagan cut the budget of 8 agencies out of 15 during his first term and the budget of 10 out of 15 during his second term.
* President Clinton cut the budget of 9 out of 15 agencies during his first term but cut none during his second term.
* President George W. Bush has cut none of the agencies' budgets during his first term.
No president since Johnson has been so supportive of big government as George W. Bush. Why are fiscal conservatives still supporting him?

- 12:25:44 PM
GINGRICH ON AMAZON: He's a top 500 reviewer. What a nerd.

- 10:47:59 AM
QUOTES OF THE DAY: "The United States is committed to the worldwide elimination of torture and we are leading this fight by example. I call on all governments to join with the United States and the community of law-abiding nations in prohibiting, investigating, and prosecuting all acts of torture and in undertaking to prevent other cruel and unusual punishment.'" - president George W. Bush, June 27, 2003.

"If you don't violate someone's human rights some of the time, you probably aren't doing your job. I don't think we want to be promoting a view of zero tolerance on this," - an "official who supervised the capture of accused terrorists", from the same story. The worst examples of mistreatment cited at the time were the use of truth-serum, threats to deport prisoners to other countries where torture is common, and sleep-deprivation.

- 10:30:51 AM
TORTURE AND RUMSFELD: This is from the Washington Post this morning:
In December 2002, Mr. Rumsfeld approved a series of harsh questioning methods for use at the Guantanamo Bay base. According to the Wall Street Journal, these included the removal of clothing, the use of "stress positions," hooding, "fear of dogs," and "mild non-injurious physical contact." Even before that, the Journal reported, interrogators at Guantanamo forced prisoners to wear women's underwear on their heads. A year later, when some of the same treatment was publicized through the Abu Ghraib photographs, Mr. Rumsfeld described it as "grievous and brutal abuse and cruelty."
So what is it? Defensible interrogation techniques or something for which the Defense secretary has to apologize? Maybe it took seeing the actual abuse for Rumsfeld to realize how vile it is. But he approved many of the methods nonetheless. If people see nothing wrong with doing what was done at Abu Ghraib, then we need to have that debate. And that debate should be public, in front of the world. If the Bush administration wants to defend torture in an election campaign, it can go right ahead. But it has no right to change the rules of U.S. military conduct in secret, through a series of memos and improvisation, and then, when the evidence emerges, pretend it was all concocted by a handful of thugs. I keep remembering, as Anne Applebaum notes this morning, the look on the faces of those creeps humiliating inmates, and the grin on the face of Graner as he posed next to a murdered inmate. They are the faces of people who know they are doing what they are supposed to do. They fear no retribution. 37 inmates have died - died - in U.S. custody. Do we think they all caught pneumonia? Mercifully, some in the military upheld their own honor and disseminated the pictures. But what would have happened if we had not seen those pictures? Would torture still be going on? How would we have found out? This comes down to a fundamental compact between a government and the people. From all the evidence we see so far, the Bush administration has violated that compact, allowed America's hard-won reputation for decency and fairness to be tarnished, and compromised the moral integrity of the war on terror. What is their explanation?

- 10:08:48 AM

Tuesday, June 15, 2004
WE'VE LOST THE IRAQIS: The latest poll of Iraqis - skewed because it doesn't include the Kurds - is nonetheless bleak news. Paul Bremer will have spent over a year losing legitimacy completely. The Iraqis still have trust in the Iraqi security forces, while they have little or no trust in the CPA (it has an approval rating of 11 percent). (On the other hand, they also distrust the U.N., giving it only slightly higher grades than the loathed Americans.) 81 percent of Iraqis now think better of Moqtadr al Sadr than they did three months ago (but only 2 percent would elect him president). Allawi scores 24 percent support; al Sadr gets 67 percent. A staggering 92 percent view the Coalition forces as "occupiers" as opposed to 2 percent who consider them "liberators;" and 55 percent say they would feel more safe if the Coalition forces left (that number was 11 percent last November). It doesn't get more decisive a judgment than that.

SILVER LININGS? Hard to find - but they do exist. 63 percent are happy to have an interim Iraqi government after June 30; 51 percent feel "very safe" in their neighborhoods; 64 percent say that the conflicts in Fallujah and Karbala have made Iraq more unified; 51 percent are now more interested in joining the Iraqi security forces than they were three months ago; 87 percent believe that the Iraqi security forces will be capable of keeping order without the help of the coalition forces. Abu Ghraib didn't have much of an impact. Most Iraqis say that the abuses are what they expect from Americans (54 percent believe all Americans are like Lynndie England). But the fundamental reason that U.S. forces are opposed is because they are viewed as an occupation, not because of their conduct. Most believe that the violence is a function of a collapse in respect for the Coalition forces and a function of external meddling (which gets it roughly right). The obvious conclusion is that we have lost the window of opportunity to use the good will gained from the ouster of Saddam to leverage a pro-American democracy in non-Kurdish Iraq. But a democracy is still possible, and it's hard to think of a more rational way forward than the one now proposed. The task now is to achieve some kind of workable pluralist, non-Islamist government that will not be a major anti-American force in the region. That's much better than leaving Saddam in power; but it's far less than we might once have hoped for. Maybe in a decade or so, we'll see the real fruits of this noble, flawed experiment. I'm still hoping.

- 10:24:15 PM
SANTORUM MOVES: It appears Senator Rick Santorum will try and get a vote on the Federal Marriage Amendment in the Senate just before the Democratic Convention. The limited goal now is to use this issue against Democratic Senators especially in the South. That, of course, was always part of the game-plan. You will recall that, completely coincidentally, the Defense of Marriage Act was also introduced in the summer before a presidential election in 1996. On the bright side, I don't know many who believe that this can get the necessary 67 votes; and one reason some in the House want the Senate vote is to declare the FMA dead and so avoid ever having to vote on it. But for Santorum, Rove and Dobson, this will now become a bi-ennial ritual - a means to gin up social conservative votes and energy before elections. They're foolish, I think. By introducing the FMA, the Santorumites have changed the topic from gay marriage as such to the topic of amending the Constitution. John Kerry's position - against gay marriage but against the FMA - is not an electoral loser. It's closer to the American center on this subject than George W. Bush is.

- 10:21:57 PM
EMAIL OF THE DAY: "Slave-holding agro-phile Jefferson was not too sophisticated in his understanding of economics. He drove himself into debt for one thing; his friends held a lottery at one point late in his life to raise money for him. Turning to him for a quote on debt is like turning to Larry King for an analysis of hip hop music. How about quoting instead our first Secretary of the Treasury, who said 'a national debt, if it is not excessive, will be to us a national blessing?'" Ouch. More ouches on the Letters Page.

UKIP'S STAR: Here's a useful profile of Robert Kilroy-Silk, the suave British version of Phil Donahue who led the UK Independence Party to 17 percent of the vote in last week's European elections. One thing worth recalling about him. He was fired by the BBC for making allegedly Islamophobic remarks. I wonder if his public support comes somewhat from that. He's a mix of Bill O'Reilly and Pim Fortuyn. Dick Morris advised the UKIP and brags about it (justifiably, I guess) here.

BROOKHISER ON DERBYSHIRE: Just two elegant and kindly put-downs - here and here of National Review's out-and-proud bigot, John Derbyshire.

- 10:19:02 PM
THE "NEW" ZARQAWI MEMO: It reads a lot like the old one.

- 2:26:20 PM
LOOKS LIKE GOOD NEWS: But who knows whence it comes?

- 1:17:14 PM
STEM CELLS AND TORTURE: Now here's an interesting analogy:
With the whole stem-cell debate, the President's rationale (I assume) is that "While you may not care about these little old stem cells, once you start making them and doing experiments you are on the whole slippery slope to killing people for medical research". A position which I agree with, on balance.
Compare this, sadly, to his position on torture, where he did not seem to realise that while it may seem OK to slightly torture some cunning terrorist mastermind, you are then on the same slippery slope to a bunch of soldiers messing with random foreigners just for kicks.
Likewise, as I'm sure we'll hear over the next few years, the Patriot Act is probably being used for all kinds of non-national-security related criminal investigations.
Slippery slope arguments are dubious, to my mind, but I see the point here. The concrete issue we have to figure out is how the special rules for Guantanamo got transferred to Abu Ghraib. The obvious theory: once the insurgency got even more deadly, the Pentagon got frustrated with their lack of actionable intelligence. Some of the Gitmo techniques had apparently succeeded in getting some useful info, so a decision was made to experiment with them more widely in Iraq - against people who might well not have been in al Qaeda or merely in the wrong place at the wrong time. You can understand the motive, but the risks were under-estimated, and the abuses predictable. Well, we'll find out soon enough.

DANISH MARRIAGE: It's the welfare state, stupid.

- 12:39:56 PM
QUOTE FOR THE DAY: "We believe - or we act as if we believed - that although an individual father cannot alienate the labor of his son, the aggregate body of fathers may alienate the labor of all their sons, of their posterity, in the aggregate, and oblige them to pay for all the enterprises, just or unjust, profitable or ruinous, into which our vices, our passions or our personal interests may lead us. But I trust that this proposition needs only to be looked at by an American to be seen in its true point of view, and that we shall all consider ourselves unauthorized to saddle posterity with our debts, and morally bound to pay them ourselves." - Thomas Jefferson, 1813. Alas, the boomers have no intention of honoring their offspring. And the president has added mountains of debt to the future generations. What I like about Jefferson's statement is that he realizes that acquiring long-term debt for no good reason is immoral.

- 11:51:32 AM
DENYING KERRY COMMUNION: Was that what the president lobbied the Vatican about? Was it a subtle attempt to persuade the pontiff to lean on the American bishops, especially Cardinal McCarrick, for partisan advantage? That's Josh Marshall's "suspicious speculation." I don't know. But I do believe that if this was Bush's intent, it was unbelievably stupid. If the bishops decide to bar Kerry from communion - and leave everyone else alone - then it would probably increase support for the Democrat. Most Catholics find such politicization of their faith to be anathema. The hierarchy has less moral authority at this point than in its entire history. If they want to lose the last shred, they'll take sides in a presidential election campaign.

EMAIL OF THE DAY: I haven't received more than a handful of emails supporting my position on the torture issue. But I have received dozens like the following:
I really enjoy your writing and insights and, like you, am concerned that we not torture innocent or non-threatening combatants. But like the old proverb says - "All's fair in love and war" - and this is war. I, for one, hope we intend to win - whatever it takes - if that includes torturing (not just humiliating the enemy) then I literally thank God we have people like Rumsfeld and Cheney with the balls to get it done.
My only question then is: why won't Rumsfeld and Cheney and Bush come out and defend this policy openly? Or maybe they will. Rummy has said he wants to make public all the memos on torture and abuse.

- 11:42:40 AM
TORTURE: Well, we're getting closer to understanding what's been going on. Here's a nugget from Newsweek:
White House officials told reporters that such abstract legal reasoning was insignificant and did not reflect the president's orders. But NEWSWEEK has learned that Yoo's August 2002 memo was prompted by CIA questions about what to do with a top Qaeda captive, Abu Zubaydah, who had turned uncooperative. And it was drafted after White House meetings convened by George W. Bush's chief counsel, Alberto Gonzales, along with Defense Department general counsel William Haynes and David Addington, Vice President Dick Cheney's counsel, who discussed specific interrogation techniques, says a source familiar with the discussions. Among the methods they found acceptable: "water-boarding," or dripping water into a wet cloth over a suspect's face, which can feel like drowning; and threatening to bring in more-brutal interrogators from other nations.
This kind of tactic was designed specifically for a few top al Qaeda captives; but it was apparently transferred to Abu Ghraib as well. That last transition is murky. How did those new relaxed rules get moved from Guanatanamo against high-profile Qaeda terrorists to people dragged in off the street in Baghdad? We don't yet know. But we do know that the administration debated various methods of torture - because Rumsfeld signed off on some and then had a change of heart and restricted some of the more horrifying methods. It's also clear that there was considerable internal debate about the new regulations. The CIA won out against the FBI most of the time. The reason I'm concerned about this is not simply because it is horrifying that the United States now uses forms of torture on captives. I'm concerned because, as Hitch has written, we are about to find out much more about Abu Ghraib, where rape and murder of inmates occurred. As John McCain has put it, "It's just incredible. Why doesn't every nation in the world now have a green light to do everything it thinks is necessary to combat a 'terrorist threat'?" I guess some will dismiss McCain as a wuss when it comes to terror. But I don't. He has a point about another notch downward in America's reputation. And I'm sick of being told that worrying about this is a sign of faint-heartedness in the war. It is a sign of basic decency. Torture is not only horrifying for the victim; it corrupts the perpetrator. I don't want to see America become indistinguishable from some Latin American police state in the way it treats its inmates in this war on terror. There are limits. How we conduct this war is as important as winning it. We cannot lose our soul in the process.

- 2:07:28 AM
UNFREE BRITAIN: The British FCC - OfCom - has censured Fox News' John Gibson for robust criticism of the BBC:
"We recognise how important freedom of expression is within the media. This item was part of a well-established spot, in which the presenter put forwards his own opinion in an uncompromising manner. However, such items should not make false statements by undermining facts," the regulator said. "Fox News was unable to provide any substantial evidence to support the overall allegation that the BBC management had lied and the BBC had an anti-American obsession. It had also incorrectly attributed quotes to the reporter Andrew Gilligan. Even taking into account that this was a 'personal view' item, the strength and number of allegations that John Gibson made against the BBC meant that Fox News should have offered the BBC an opportunity to respond."
But, as Jeff Jarvis has pointed out, all of what Gibson said is demonstrably true.

PILING ON BROOKS: The best explanation of the current fad of bashing David Brooks is professional jealousy. The man is well-liked, has the best column space in America, and has made a fortune writing popular books. Grrr. David Plotz's latest slam-job is particularly harsh, and undeserved. Brooks' pop-sociology isn't meant, as far as I can see, to be much more than a diverting take on current American culture. Is that such a frigging crime? His qualms about the war have been honest and forthright. He hasn't hidden from the consequences of the liberation. On several occasions, I've found Brooks' columns to be calibrated records of a man trying to think things through - not mere wussiness. It's not necessarily a virtue to proclaim full speed ahead when a policy you have championed comes unstuck or frayed. And it's a little trite to link David's "National Greatness" meme so specifically to the war in Iraq. David is a friend, so you can dismiss this short defense if you want. There have been a few columns that I thought were weak - his mash-note about the current Pope struck me as particularly obtuse. But to say he doesn't have enough "anger" to be a columnist strikes me as misplaced. We need more Krugmans? And when was the last time you read a Kinsley column that bristled with anger?

- 2:06:04 AM
EMAIL OF THE DAY I: "My thought can be summed up very well by the late Stephen Ambrose when he wrote in Citizen Soldiers about how in war for civilians the sight of soldiers meant trouble, EXCEPT for the sight of American soldiers. We were the first army in history (with the possible exception of the Tommies) to break that mold. That's what sets us apart from the thugs we are fighting! That's why America is different. We have lost much of that moral power due to the torture at AG and how "enemy combatants" are treated in general. I know that almost all of our troops are upholding our best traditions, but it doesn't take much behavior like AG or shady decisions like the DoD has been making to cancel that out.
It makes me sad to know that the government knew that harsh measures were being taken with prisoners, and did not remember that we shouldnt do that. Our behavior should be dictated by our own standards, not based on who our enemy is or how he might behave." More feedback on the Letters Page.

EMAIL OF THE DAY II: "I'm not going to sit here and, like the pseudo-conservatives of this country, complain about how hard it is to be even remotely conservative in a radical, Massachusetts college town. In short, it sucks. Regardless, I have managed to make somewhat of a name for myself by being the (and it's not only self-proclaimed) 'first intellectual teenage conservative Northampton has ever seen.' After a couple years of trying, myself and a classmate succesfully ressurected our school newspaper. She's a radical beyond even the ultra-liberal Northampton, MA status quo and, me a moderate (socially liberal, fiscally conservative and hawkish) usually classified as a staunch GOP guy, wanted to create a school newspaper that wasn't a rag or an outfit for uninformed, teenage leftists to rant in. We became so attached to this paper that, for the final semester of high school, everything we did was in some way related to producing a thought-provoking weekly. As the paper expanded and became quite popular in our college town of 30,000, my co-editor/ressurector, Hannah and I shared deep intellectual discourse on local, state and national politics. In nine of our issues, we debated a different topic. The two of us taught each other alot but I am ecstatic over one thing that has come about from our friendship: we both read your blog. I turned her on to it and she now feels that there is at least one insightful conservative who is not a religious zealot. As a token of her appreciation Hannah's graduation gift to me was - yup you guessed it - a donation to Andrewsullivan.com in my name. My first year at college will be filled with updates and special features from the Daily Dish. I hope you'll run this letter so that people out there know that honest, intellectual and respectful discourse still exists even if it is only amongst a 17 and 18 year old. Running this letter is also a terrific plug for the importance of donating to the dish." And so it is. I haven't run a pledge drive this year because I'm unsure of how long I can keep this up, but you can help keep this blog alive by donating here.

- 2:05:26 AM

Monday, June 14, 2004
QUOTE FOR THE DAY: "Bill Clinton could always see a better day ahead and Americans knew he was working hard to bring that day closer. Over eight years it was clear that Bill Clinton loved the job of the presidency. He filled this house with energy and joy. He's a man of enthusiasm and warmth, who could make a compelling case and effectively advance the causes that drew him to public service." - president George W. Bush, today.

- 3:30:26 PM
WFB GETS IT: Whenever I think I'm going crazy (having qualms about extra-legal torture while most conservatives are fine with it), I'm relieved to find William F Buckley on a similar wavelength. On Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, WFB gets it right:
The best evidence of the incongruity of Abu Ghraib with American standards is the universal revulsion felt by the American people when those photographs were published. But right now there are only seven soldiers being prosecuted, and the sense of it is that that does not go deeply enough. If what happened was odious, but what happened did so under the auspices of a well-organized military, then you scratch up against the lessons of Nuremberg, which held superiors responsible for misconduct by subordinates. And people are wanting to know what are the relevant jurisdictions, and what tribunals do we have in mind to convoke in order to satisfy ourselves — and the world — that America wants more than merely to punish the people who did it. We need to punish also the people who let it happen.
We have to know who really sanctioned this. And we have to stop it. Just because some anti-war opportunists are getting on this bandwagon does not absolve pro-war advocates from holding this administration responsible.

- 12:58:01 PM
POSEUR ALERT: "We do not expect virtuosity as the outward form of soul-making, nor do we associate generosity and humanity with such sophistication of means, such polished intelligence. Like all genuinely new work, Spencer Reece's compels a reevaluation of the possible." - from the foreword to Spencer Reece's new book of poetry.

THE NEW JIM CROW: Jonathan Rauch evaluates Virginia's new law, forbidding same-sex couples from even setting up their own private contracts to protet their relationships:
Before Thomas Jefferson substituted the timeless phrase "pursuit of happiness," the founding fathers held that mankind's unalienable entitlements were to life, liberty and property. By "property" they meant not just material possessions but what we call autonomy. "Every man has a property in his own person," John Locke said.
It is by entering into contracts that we bind ourselves to each other. Without the right of contract, participation in economic and social life is impossible; thus is that right enshrined in Article I, Section 10 of the Constitution. Slaves could not enter into contracts because they were the property of others rather than themselves; nor could children, who were wards of their parents. To be barred from contract, the founders understood, is to lose ownership of oneself.
To abridge the right of contract for same-sex partners, then, is to deny not just gay coupledom, in the law's eyes, but gay personhood. It disenfranchises gay people as individuals. It makes us nonpersons, subcitizens. By stripping us of our bonds to each other, it strips us even of ownership of ourselves.
Americans have a name for the use of law in this fashion, and that name is Jim Crow.
Yet the social right finds nothing wrong with this. And no anti-gay marriage conservative has condemned it.

THE CHIMERA OF REALISM: A bracing attack on the post-neo-conservative consensus.

- 12:48:36 PM

Sunday, June 13, 2004
A EUROPEAN PROTEST: Gerhard Schroder went down to a staggering defeat in the European elections yesterday. The SPD won a mere 22 percent of the vote to the Christian Democrats' 45 percent. In Britain's local elections, Blair's Labour Party came in a humiliating third - the worst performance for a governing party in British political history. Just as interesting was the surge in support for the new UK Independence Party, a group that, on the latest results, robbed both Labour and the Conservatives of significant backing. It may end up with around 15 percent of the vote. The UKIP wants withdrawal from the EU. The consequences? The UKIP won't amount to much, but its success guarantees that Britain won't join the Euro any time soon, and that the Tories may be drawn further to the right on the European issue. It's no longer inconceivable that the Conservatives could win the next election - and provoke a real crisis in the EU. Some of this anti-Blair voting was doubtless due to Iraq. But there's also the beginning of an understanding that Blair's approach to public services - lots more money, minimal reform - won't and can't work. A future Tory government could get away with a more radical reform of the welfare state, some tax cuts, and a confrontation with Brussels. Goody.

THE MEMO: The Justice Department formally decided last year that torture could be justified in Guantanamo. Now we can have a debate. John Ashcroft and Don Rumsfeld need to explain why this was decided, what torture techniques are now approved, and when and how and where they have been used. I've been inundated with emails all enthusiastically supporting such torture. I beg to differ, but I certainly think it's worth debating. What is not acceptable is for the government to decide for itself what is now legal or illegal, to keep it secret, to use abuse and torture in the name of the American people, and then, when horrors are revealed, place the blame on a few underlings. For his part, the president issued a Clintonian answer to the torture question last week:
Q Returning to the question of torture, if you knew a person was in U.S. custody and had specific information about an imminent terrorist attack that could kill hundreds or even thousands of Americans, would you authorize the use of any means necessary to get that information and to save those lives?
THE PRESIDENT: Jonathan, what I've authorized is that we stay within U.S. law.
But what if his own Justice Department wrote a memo arguing that, because of the war on terror, torture now is within the law, since the commander-in-chief can determine that law in wartime? That's very close to Nixon's statement that if the president does something, that makes it lawful. Look, I don't think we should treat these prisoners as if they had a parking offense. Some are truly depraved individuals. I appreciate the difficult task any president would have fighting an unnamed enemy capable of terrible atrocities. But neither do I believe it is acceptable to do what we have apparently been doing - while keeping it out of the public domain.

- 10:17:13 PM
MYSTIC NATIONALISM: I found this David Gelernter essay in the Weekly Standard to be really insightful. He saw Reagan as a "mystic nationalist," someone truly in love with his own country, and unapologetic about it:
Reagan was a realist, but a "mystic nationalist" also. He did in fact call himself a "mystic," according to Peter Schweizer; and he was certainly a patriot and a nationalist. But mystic nationalism is more than the sum of parts. It is a religion--but one that translucently overlays (without obscuring or superceding) Judaism or Christianity.
Mystic nationalism is a tradition nobly represented in the 20th century by such statesmen as Winston Churchill and David Ben-Gurion. Reagan would have recognized himself in a passage by the poet Rupert Brooke, killed at age 28 in the First World War. "He was immensely surprised," Brooke wrote in 1914 about an unnamed friend, "to perceive that the actual earth of England held for him...a quality which, if he'd ever been sentimental enough to use the word, he'd have called 'holiness.' His astonishment grew as the full flood of 'England' swept him on from thought to thought. He felt the triumphant helplessness of a lover."
"There are a few favorite windows I have up there that I like to stand and look out of early in the morning," Reagan said in his farewell speech, referring to the White House. "The view is over the grounds here to the Washington Monument, and then the Mall and the Jefferson Memorial. But on mornings when the humidity is low, you can see past the Jefferson to the river, the Potomac, and the Virginia shore. Someone said that's the view Lincoln had when he saw the smoke rising from the Battle of Bull Run. I see more prosaic things: the grass on the banks, the morning traffic as people make their way to work, now and then a sailboat on the river."
This love of the physical aspects of one's own country is a very Tory sentiment and Reagan's least remarked ability was to summon up these feelings until they became a "civil religion" of sorts. His week-long funeral was, in some ways, a beautiful ritual of that civil religion - binding us together, setting us apart, lifting us up.

- 10:16:44 PM
TIP-TOE THROUGH THE URINALS: You learn something new every day:
[T]he Taoists laid great store in the ability to urinate effectively, not only as a major tool for detoxifying the body but also as a way of stimulating energy flow to the kidneys and sexual glands. Men, for instance, when urinating in the standing position, should, except while drunk - when operating dual systems of balance and aim is obviously trickier - stand on tiptoes to urinate. This stimulates the energy of the bladder meridian, which runs through the vital organs and down the back of each leg, and is said not only to increase kidney energy production and thus stimulate libido levels but also to help prevent or manage prostate cancer. Obviously this method is inadvisable for women, who should simply lift their heels off the ground as high as possible in the sitting position for a slightly milder but equivalent effect.
Let me know if it works. Actually, on second thoughts, don't.

EMAIL OF THE DAY: "What is it with gays? Somehow you all believe you deserve special attention. AIDS is a disease whose origin is immoral and unnatural sex. Why should such deviancy be rewarded in any way? The cost of this disease to society is huge and yet, gays believe society owes them something. Get over it and do the right thing. We have had enough of your constant selfishness. Gays are the root cause of the death of millions and now are on a pilgrimage to ruin the sanctity of marriage. Your contributions to the welfare of society are well known and it is time you apologized for the havoc you and your friends have caused." More feedback on the Letters Page.

POLICING THE NANNY-STATE: A wonderful newish blog dedicated to covering the way in which our rulers - here and abroad - want to prevent us from experiencing pleasure. If you drink, smoke, gamble, have sex, enjoy porn, or smoke weed, this blog's looking out for you.

- 10:13:37 PM
BUSH AND THE POPE: The attempt by this White House to court devoutly religious voters is getting more and more direct. John Allen is a great reporter so I doubt he's wrong that president Bush lobbied the Vatican to support the Constitutional Amendment to strip gay couples of any rights under the law. The Rove strategy is to use hostility to marriage rights for gays to unite a hoped-for "Popular Front" of conservative Catholics, evangelicals and fundamentalists. Call it the Mel Gibson strategy, or The Last Temptation of Dubya. The president's problem is that the grass roots aren't exactly playing their part. They don't seem to believe that fusing politics and religion is what evangelicalism is all about; and Catholics - even highly traditional ones - are leery of seeing their Church turned into a branch of the Republican party. So, whatever their views on marriage rights, they have been luke-warm about the president's attempt to write gay couples out of the Constitution. Even the president has conceded this. "I will tell you the prairie fire necessary to get an amendment passed is simmering at best," he told Christianity Today. "I think it's an accurate way of describing it." So he's trying to start a brush-fire from above. But how weird that a president of the US would try to persuade the Roman pontiff to take a position on an American constitutional amendment. Sometimes, he is a strict multilateralist, after all.

SONTAG AWARD NOMINEE: "[Bush] is not another Hitler. Yet there is a certain parallelism. They have in common a demagogic appeal to the worst side of a country's heritage in a crisis. Bush is doubtless sincere in his vision of what is best for America. So too was Hitler. The crew around the president -- Donald Rumsfeld, John Ashcroft, Karl Rove, the 'neo-cons' like Paul Wolfowitz -- are not as crazy perhaps as Himmler and Goering and Goebbels. Yet like them, they are practitioners of the Big Lie -- weapons of mass destruction, Iraq democracy, only a few 'bad apples'." - Andrew Greeley, Chicago Tribune, as cited by Arthur Chrenkoff.

- 10:13:20 PM

Saturday, June 12, 2004
RUMSFELD APPROVED: How much higher will the abuse scandal go? Surely Rumsfeld was aware of the new relaxed interrogation methods. He approved of using dogs at Guantanamo:
In January 2002, for example, Rumsfeld approved the use of dogs to intimidate prisoners there; although officials have said dogs were never used at Guantanamo, they were used at Abu Ghraib.
Then, in April 2003, Rumsfeld approved the use in Guantanamo of at least five other high-pressure techniques also listed on the Oct. 9 Abu Ghraib memo, none of which was among the Army's standard interrogation methods. This overlap existed even though detainees in Iraq were covered, according to the administration's policy, by Geneva Convention protections that did not apply to the detainees in Cuba.
But didn't Rumsfeld deny under oath that he had any knowledge of such techniques in Iraq?

- 11:07:58 PM
PTOWN BONES: You've got to love this town. While contractors were trying to build a new driveway last week, they came upon some human remains:
Two human femur bones found by sewer excavators in Provincetown last Wednesday ignited rumors that made their way to Shop Therapy owner Ronny Hazel while he was in New York.
The juiciest details placed Hazel at the center of the skeletal discovery, where it was said teen-agers from the 1970s had unearthed a body and delivered a skull to him for drugs or money and then buried the remains nearby.
This week Hazel joked about receiving at least 50 phone calls about the rumor, with as many variations, some involving a Mafia burial ground.
Hazel said he has sold Tibetan monk heads, imported from Nepal, for at least 20 years. He also acknowledged having a shop in the neighborhood where the bones were discovered. After thinking about it a bit on Tuesday, though, Hazel said any connection to last week’s discovery was "highly unlikely."
But not impossible.

A DOLE CLASSIC: A great come-back to D'Amato at the Reagan funeral:
It was in this vein that Mr. Dole and Mr. D'Amato teased each other, and it was just a matter of time before Mr. D'Amato brought up Viagra, the potency drug for which Mr. Dole is a noted pitchman. Mr. D'Amato told him there was now something even better on the market, called Levitra.
"Does it give you hair?" Mr. Dole asked.
No one does the barbed response better than Dole.

- 12:29:25 PM

Friday, June 11, 2004
BUSH THE ELDER: I should have added yesterday that I thought the best performance of the Reagan funeral service was president George Herbert Walker Bush. He wasn't very coherent at times - he can mangle syntax even when it's written in front of him. But he was so classy. The early focusing attention on the bereaved family - the man was brought up right. Then the concrete and revealing anecdotes:
And then I learned decency; the whole world did. Days after being shot, weak from wounds, he spilled water from a sink, and entering the hospital room aides saw him on his hands and knees wiping water from the floor. He worried that his nurse would get in trouble.
The good book says humility goes before honor, and our friend had both, and who could not cherish such a man?
And perhaps as important as anything, I learned a lot about humor, a lot about laughter. And, oh, how President Reagan loved a good story. When asked, "How did your visit go with Bishop Tutu?" he replied, "So-so."
Perfect. And the choking up: that blorting of WASP emotionality. He made me choke up then as well.

- 10:58:18 PM
THE DOGS WERE APPROVED: The use of unmuzzled dogs to terrify prisoners was approved military practice in Abu Ghraib:
Smith said military intelligence personnel asked him to instill fear in detainees. He said that he would bring his dog, a black Belgian shepherd named Marco, to the tier specifically to scare prisoners after they were pulled out of their cells. At the behest of interrogators, he said, in some cases he would bring the barking dog to within six inches of the prisoners. "Is using the dog in this manner an allowable tool by the MI interrogators?" an investigator asked Smith. "Yes," he replied. The dog handlers arrived at Abu Ghraib in late November, sometime after the abuse of detainees had been captured in photographs, including the images of the naked human pyramid and forced masturbation.
It seems to me to be getting clearer and clearer that Abu Ghraib was not the work of a few rogue soldiers. The dogs are among the least troubling tactics, of course. But when you also consider that up to 80 percent of the inmates at Abu Ghraib were guilty of nothing, you have to wonder who thought this was a good way to win the hearts and minds of Iraqis. Some soldiers are saying that Colonel Pppas, the Military Intelligence officer in charge of Abu Ghraib, directly approved the inhumane treatment. How inhumane?
On Jan. 13, Spec. John Harold Ketzer, a military intelligence interrogator, saw a dog team corner two male prisoners against a wall, one prisoner hiding behind the other and screaming, he later told investigators. "When I asked what was going on in the cell, the handler stated that he was just scaring them, and that he and another of the handlers was having a contest to see how many detainees they could get to urinate on themselves," Ketzer said.
That's what some parts of the U.S. military have been reduced to. I have a sense we're only at the beginning of this story. Check out the Houston Chronicle earlier this week.

AIDS IN CHINA: We can be retrospectively critical of Reagan, but no one in America ever sent AIDS activists to forcible psychiatric treatment. But that's what just happened in Communist China:
When a fellow activist attempted to deliver some AIDS materials to Hu Jia on the evening of June 1, police refused to allow them to meet, and gave Hu Jia a brutal thrashing that resulted in injuries to his head and left arm. On June 3, four police officers forced their way into Hu Jia's home and said they would be staying there to monitor his activities. When Hu Jia objected, they struck him in the presence of his father and mother, then took him away and detained him in a cold, damp basement for three days and three nights. Since releasing Hu Jia on June 6, police have continued their surveillance on his home, cutting off all of the family's telephone access and refusing to allow Hu Jia to leave the house.
The more recent order for psychiatric evaluation is causing considerable distress to Hu Jia and his parents. Hu Jia's parents see absolutely no sign of mental abnormality in Hu Jia, and are well aware that "psychiatric treatment" has been forced upon a number of dissidents and religious practitioners, sometimes resulting in them actually becoming mentally unstable. A source passed HRIC a message from Hu Jia's family and friends calling on the international community to take note of Hu Jia's desperate situation. The message states, "If the police forcibly commit Hu Jia to a mental hospital against the wishes of himself and his family, this constitutes using psychiatric treatment as a form of torture and political persecution."
Yes, a form of torture. But how can the U.S. now take a stand against this, when the president has memos drawn up explaining why torture is sometimes okay?

- 10:13:06 PM
BLAIR GETS HAMMERED: In local and European elections, the Labour party has been pushed into a humiliating third place.

- 4:54:55 PM
THE SERVICE: Elegantly, simply done, I thought. Thatcher's eulogy was the finest - and most interesting. The sheer beauty of the honor guard's ritual took my breath away: this, I thought, really is a civil religion. Bush's eulogy was good, but not quite as good as I'd hoped for. Maybe it's because Reagan's rhetorical skills were so fine that everyone else comes up short. Mulroney was a bit of a bore, but every funeral should have one. And tell me if I'm wrong, but wasn't Bill Clinton asleep while W was speaking? Or at least with his eyes closed?

- 1:37:51 PM

Thursday, June 10, 2004
WHAT THEY SAID: In honor of president Reagan's funeral, here's a useful corrective to the notion that his legacy was always celebrated. Today, almost everyone concedes his historical significance. But that wasn't what was said at the time. Here's a smattering of commentary from the 1980s.

"A few years from now, I believe, Reaganism will seem a weird and improbable memory, a strange interlude of national hallucination, rather as the McCarthyism of the early 1950s and the youth rebellion of the late 1960s appear to us today." - Arthur "Always Wrong" Schlesinger, Washington Post, May 1, 1988.

"I wonder how many people, reading about the [Evil Empire'] speech or seeing bits on television, really noticed its outrageous character… Primitive: that is the only word for it. … What is the world to think when the greatest of powers is led by a man who applies to the most difficult human problem a simplistic theology – one in fact rejected by most theologians?... What must the leaders of Western Europe think of such a speech? They look to the head of the alliance for rhetoric that can persuade them and their constituents. What they get from Ronald Reagan is a mirror image of crude Soviet rhetoric. And it is more than rhetoric: everyone must sense that. The real Ronald Reagan was speaking in Orlando. The exaggeration and the simplicities are there not only in the rhetoric but in the process by which he makes decisions." - Anthony Lewis, New York Times, March 10, 1983

"Something like the speech to the evangelicals is not presidential, it's not something a president should say. If the Russians are infinitely evil and we are infinitely good, then the logical first step is a nuclear first strike. Words like that frighten the American public and antagonize the Soviets. What good is that?" - Rick Hertzberg, New Yorker macher, quoted in the Washington Post, March 29, 1983.

"President Reagan has substituted a mindless militarism for a foreign policy, rattling arms from El Salvador to Saudi Arabia, frightening our friends from Japan to West Germany. He proposes a 50 percent increase in ‘defense expenditures.’ Much of it will be dissipated in the self-defeating spiral of an open-ended nuclear-arms race that poses a greater threat to our own internal and external security than all the Communist propaganda that ever emanated from Moscow. Already, the cost of Reagan policies is devastating to our country in economic strength, in diplomatic influence, in national security, in moral stature." -- John B. Oakes, former senior editor, New York Times, November 1, 1981.

"All evidence indicates that the Reagan administration has abandoned both containment and détente for a very different objective: destroying the Soviet Union as a world power and possibly even its Communist system. [This is a] potentially fatal form of Sovietphobia… a pathological rather than a healthy response to the Soviet Union." — Princeton Professor Stephen Cohen, 1983.

"'We've really got to start talking,' says George Ball, undersecretary of state in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. 'The fact is we've let these fellows get away with murder, and the situation now is much too serious for that.' To ideological men like Ronald Reagan, new information is only useful if it confirms old prejudices. Though he is shrewd enough to bend and budge under pressure (hence, for example, his abandonment of old positions on Taiwan), in his heart Reagan knows he has always been right about the nature of the world, of communism, of America's proper role." - Robert Kaiser, Washington Post, October 30, 1983.

"Are we rushing headlong into the next step of those 40 years of progressions by which we do something then they do something, by which we pretend that we're going to build this and it will somehow strengthen our deterrent then they do it, and low and behold, the next thing we know is, the President of the United States is addressing the nation saying, ‘My fellow Americans, I hate to tell you this, but the Soviet Union is deploying more of these, and we have to respond, and I'm asking the Congress for more money in order to respond.’ Star Wars is guaranteed to do that, and it's guaranteed to threaten the heavens -- the one line we haven't yet crossed with weaponry: the heavens." – Senator John Kerry, on SDI, the program that brought the evil empire to its knees, August 5, 1986.

"In his distaste for bilateral efforts to manage the superpower rivalry and his instinctive predilection for unilateral ones, Reagan is counting on American technological and economic predominance to prevail in the end. The most striking, and questionable, theme in his star wars speech was his apparent belief that the U.S. could mobilize its scientific community and its economic resources in quest of an impenetrable antiballistic-missile shield over the entire nation without triggering perilously destabilizing countermeasures, both offensive and defensive, on the part of the U.S.S.R. Reagan's views notwithstanding, there is little reason to hope that the many handicaps of the Soviet economy will be decisively advantageous to the U.S. in the long run, allowing the U.S. to ‘beat’ the U.S.S.R. in an arms race." -- Strobe Talbott, Time, April 18, 1983.

"Ronald Reagan came to Europe to persuade people that he is not the shallow, nuclear cowboy of certain unkind assessments. Said White House spokesman David Gergen, on the eve of departure, ‘Some in Europe do not know or understand him.’ But now that the president has been among them for over a week, Europeans may think they got him right the first time. In Rome, he made a stab at identifying himself as a ‘pilgrim for peace.’ But by the time he got to London he had reverted to type as a cold warrior. And yesterday in Bonn, he reiterated his commitment to ‘peace through strength’ – which is fancy talk for continuing the nuclear arms race." - Mary McGrory, Washington Post, June 10, 1982.

Rest in peace, Mr President. And know that after all these years, you were right - and all these people were clearly, emphatically, embarrassingly, wrong.

- 10:33:51 PM
EMAIL OF THE DAY II: "Perhaps I'm something of an anomaly, but I'm a progressive liberal--no lover of Bush--who wholeheartedly supports our efforts in Iraq. Indeed, one of the reasons I'm so opposed to a second Bush term is that I believe his administration can't be trusted to continue to manage the Iraq mission.
I have been awfully upset by the Abu Ghraib revelations, the White House's response to them, and now the memo scandal. (I heard Ashcroft on NPR yesterday--it was shameful.) And I didn't even know about Sean Baker until I read your blog this morning." Richard Cohen also makes some good points this morning.

FRED ON REAGAN: I've long admired Fred Barnes for his honesty as a reporter (and his general menschness as a human being). He loved Reagan, as I did, but he wasn't above criticizing him (which for some reason now seems to be regarded as the equivalent of disrespecting him). Here's a useful passage from a piece Fred wrote at the end of Reagan's presidency:
[H]is presidency would have been a lot more successful had Reagan not been so lazy--he said he'd been assured hard work wasn't fatal, but why take a chance?--and risk-averse. What if Reagan had concerned himself with personnel? I don't mean he should have fussed over every political job in the administration, all 6,000 or so. But what about treasury secretary and White House chief of staff? Reagan swallowed without a moment's reflection the job swap that sent James Baker to Treasury and Regan to the White House. Regan lacked the political skills to be an effective chief of staff, which might have occurred to Reagan if he'd taken the time to think about it. Regan also let the president take the one big risk of his second term, the arms sale to Iran, and it was a dumb one. Baker wouldn't have allowed it. Reagan didn't pay much attention to his national security advisers either. Had he, he'd have noticed that Bud McFarlane was cracking under the pressure and that John Poindexter, a fellow who blithely lied to the press about the Grenada invasion, was singularly unsuited for the post. Reagan couldn't be bothered.
All true. Jon Rauch also made the point that Reagan got the big things right - the economy and the Soviet Union - but was uninterested in much else. Hence the S&L debacle, the Iran-Contra fiasco, and so on. I think that gets it right. He was a great man, a generous spirit, and a brave leader. But he was also human and made mistakes. It isn't disloyal to remember that.

NOT JUST 1982: Some of you have made the fair point that in October 1982, not many people knew what AIDS was, and so some of Larry Speakes' cruel jokes at the expense of the sick might be understandable. It's also true that his interlocutor was Lester Kinsolving, a crack-pot of the far right. But here we are in another transcript two years later on December 11, 1984, with the same questioner:
Q: An estimated 300,000 people have been exposed to AIDS, which can be transmitted through saliva. Will the President, as Commander-in-Chief, take steps to protect Armed Forces food and medical services from AIDS patients or those who run the risk of spreading AIDS in the same manner that they forbid typhoid fever people from being involved in the health or food services?
MR. SPEAKES: I don't know.
Q: Could you -- Is the President concerned about this subject, Larry --
MR. SPEAKES: I haven't heard him express--
Q: --that seems to have evoked so much jocular--
MR. SPEAKES: --concern.
Q: --reaction here? I -- you know --
Q: It isn't only the jocks, Lester.
Q: Has he sworn off water faucets--
Q: No, but, I mean, is he going to do anything, Larry?
MR. SPEAKES: Lester, I have not heard him express anything on it. Sorry.
Q: You mean he has no -- expressed no opinion about this epidemic?
MR. SPEAKES: No, but I must confess I haven't asked him about it. (Laughter.)
Q: Would you ask him Larry?
MR. SPEAKES: Have you been checked? (Laughter.)
Someone should ask Speakes about this. He's been on some TV shows.

- 4:39:14 PM
EMAIL OF THE DAY: "Terrorists are not POWs by ANY international legal precedent. ALL of the prisoners at Gitmo AND Abu Ghraib fail the test. They are not uniformed members of organized State-sponsored regular military units with an established recognizable chain of command. In World War II and Korea such free lancers were routinely treated to summary execution as saboteurs, spies and provocateurs. And what you think you see in those photos from Abu Ghraib are MOSTLY humiliation techniques -- albeit done gleefully by oafish ghouls who are being punished. You seem to mistake this for a law enforcement endeavor like most Democrats. Containment did not end the Cold War and has not served us well in the War on Terror. Preemption is the only viable strategy for success. Humiliating a few cutthroats in order to preempt the death of another Westerner does not bother me in the least. The enemy repeatedly refers to this as a jihad. You need to understand what that means for your kith and kin. You can't be a hawk on the war and then selectively shrink from the bloodshed inflicted by our side, and from the non-violent coercive means of extracting useful information from TERRORISTS. You are not in a position to critique the proceedings from any base of personal experience; and your knowledge of military history is apparently nil. But there you go trying to hamstring the experts. Makes you a chicken hawk from where I sit." My favorite phrase from this email is "non-violent coercive means." Like what happened to Sean Baker in an exercise? And even "unlawful combatants" are supposed to be treated humanely. Murdering them doesn't fall into that category, in my book. But what do I know? And yes, I can support a war but criticize illegal torture - which ultimately undermines that war. And no, it's difficult to be a "chicken-hawk" when the military bars any gay patriots from serving in the first place.

- 12:03:34 PM

Wednesday, June 09, 2004
CHIRAC VERSUS ARAB DEMOCRACY: You can't sum up Gallic indifference to reform in the Arab world better than this:
"There is no ready-made formula for democracy readily transposable from one country to another. Democracy is not a method, it is a culture. For democracy to take root solidly and durably in the Arab world, it must be an Arab democracy before all else."
And where would the model for that be? Of course, the model for Arab democracy has to be imported to some extent. I think Chirac is getting worried that Iraq might blaze a trail. And what would that say about France's historic support for tyranny and colonialism in the region?

- 10:46:55 PM
CONDONING TORTURE: The lame responses by John Ashcroft to the evidence in leaked memos that the Bush administration condoned torture with the personal approval of the president are damning. It's even more damning that Ashcroft will not release a critical memo, prepared by his department, making the point that some forms of torture, if approved by the president, would not be illegal. I'm hoping to write at length about this, but let me say one thing. I should have spoken up earlier. The signs were there - including the decision to ignore the Geneva Conventions with regard to al Qaeda in Guantanamo. In a very small number of cases, this might have been a debatable question. But what we have clearly seen is a green light from the very top condoning at best mistreatment and abuse of prisoners of war in a whole slew of cases. We'll see as more facts emerge what the truth is. But the brutality of U.S. forces against prisoners in their care and custody is now public record - and a permanent mark of shame for the United States.

BAKER AND ASHCROFT: Take the case of Specialist Sean Baker. He was permanently wounded by other U.S. soldiers in a simulated exercize where his fellow soldiers assumed he was an Iraqi or a terrorist. Here's what happened:
"They grabbed my arms, my legs, twisted me up and unfortunately one of the individuals got up on my back from behind and put pressure down on me while I was face down. Then he — the same individual — reached around and began to choke me and press my head down against the steel floor. After several seconds, 20 to 30 seconds, it seemed like an eternity because I couldn't breathe. When I couldn't breathe, I began to panic and I gave the code word I was supposed to give to stop the exercise, which was 'red.' ... That individual slammed my head against the floor and continued to choke me. Somehow I got enough air. I muttered out: 'I'm a U.S. soldier. I'm a U.S. soldier.'"
Baker went on to have seizures and permanent brain injury. The military, after lying, now concedes that his injuries were a result of intentional physical violence. Now ask yourself: what if he were not a U.S. soldier? Would he be dead like several other prisoners under U.S. supervision? The evidence of American-sanctioned torture and abuse of prisoners is mounting. It seems to me that those of us who support this war should be most outraged. This administration has violated the Geneva Conventions - not just in a few cases, but across the board. It has erased some of the distinction between who we are and what the enemy is, a distinction central to the moral case for this war. It has done so secretly and with no public debate, resting on the notion that presidents are somehow above the law (or can get legal advice from a pliant Justice Department telling them that the law doesn't count). Ashcroft still won't release unclassified documents pertinent to the matter. Why not? What is he hiding?

KERRY'S LEAD WIDENS: I don't think this has anything to do with Kerry. It has to do with a collapse of confidence in the president's competence. I'm unsurprised.

- 10:26:22 PM
REAGAN AND AIDS: Sorry to continue about this, but I just got sent the following transcript of a press conference by Larry Speakes, presidential spokesman, on October 15, 1982. It speaks for itself:
Q: Larry, does the President have any reaction to the announcement from the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, that AIDS is now an epidemic and have over 600 cases?
Q: Over a third of them have died. It's known as "gay plague." (Laughter.) No, it is. I mean it's a pretty serious thing that one in every three people that get this have died. And I wondered if the President is aware of it?
MR. SPEAKES: I don't have it. Do you? (Laughter.)
Q: No, I don't.
MR. SPEAKES: You didn't answer my question.
Q: Well, I just wondered, does the President ...
MR. SPEAKES: How do you know? (Laughter.)
Q: In other words, the White House looks on this as a great joke?
MR. SPEAKES: No, I don't know anything about it, Lester.
Q: Does the President, does anyone in the White House know about this epidemic, Larry?
MR. SPEAKES: I don't think so. I don't think there's been any ...
Q: Nobody knows?
MR. SPEAKES: There has been no personal experience here, Lester.
Q: No, I mean, I thought you were keeping ...
MR. SPEAKES: I checked thoroughly with Dr. Ruge this morning and he's had no - (laughter) - no patients suffering from AIDS or whatever it is.
Q: The President doesn't have gay plague, is that what you're saying or what?
MR. SPEAKES: No, I didn't say that.
Q: Didn't say that?
MR. SPEAKES: I thought I heard you on the State Department over there. Why didn't you stay there? (Laughter.)
Q: Because I love you Larry, that's why (Laughter.)
MR. SPEAKES: Oh I see. Just don't put it in those terms, Lester. (Laughter.)
Q: Oh, I retract that.
MR. SPEAKES: I hope so.
Q: It's too late.
Nothing I could write could be more damning than this, could it?

WILL SAUDI ARABIA SURVIVE? A useful analysis from the indispensable Belmont Club.

SONTAG AWARD NOMINEE: "The rhetoric is principally used by political and religious leaders to galvanize resistance to what Palestinian Arabs consider to be the patent persecution of their people by Jewish immigrants to the Middle East... As unquestionably hate-filled and thus morally reprehensible as such language is, when Palestinians refer to Jews as 'descended from apes and swine' or encourage support for those who 'kill Jews,' they do so with the reasonably justifiable self-image of victim and persecuted, not of victimizer and persecutor." - Scott Alexander, a Chicago researcher in Mideast studies, in expert testimony in the trial of Fawaz Mohammed Damra, a Muslim cleric in Cleveland.

- 10:25:57 PM
O'ROURKE ON TODAY'S CONSERVATIVES: P.J. hits some homers in his latest Atlantic piece. Money quote:
[Ann] Coulter begins her book thus:

"Liberals have a preternatural gift for striking a position on the side of treason. You could be talking about Scrabble and they would instantly leap to the anti-American position. Everyone says liberals love America, too. No they don't. Whenever the nation is under attack, from within or without, liberals side with the enemy."

Now, there's a certain truth in what she says. But it's what's called a "poetic truth." And it's the kind of poetic truth best conveyed late in the evening after six or eight drinks while pounding the bar. I wasn't in a bar. I was in my office. It was the middle of the day. And I was getting a headache.
Ah, yes. Modern populist conservatism. O'Reilly is another case. When I listen to him blather on, I'm reminded of a drunk Irish uncle at Christmas, who can't shut up and cannot be argued with. Switch him off.

WRITERS' BLOCK: A lovely Joan Acocella essay in the current New Yorker. I certainly think "writer's block" is essentially b.s. But then I have written a quarter of a million words on this blog this year alone. I'm sure there are plenty of you out there who wish I had a bit of writers' block. Sorry, guys.

EMAIL OF THE DAY: "The email you got about mini bottles in South Carolina was absolutely incorrect. I lived in SC, too, and can tell you that, ironically, the use mini bottles there originated with the intent to limit free pours. It was the temperance crowd that wanted them. The great irony now is that the same folks want to get rid off them because, as the emailer pointed out, mixed drinks are so strong in SC since entire mini bottles are used in them, effectively meaning much more alcohol than usual in, say, your black russian. You can find this history easily with a quick search, but here's one source.
Anyway, the laws were NOT designed to protect the drinker, but to limit consumption. Why the bother over the details? Well, I went to Bob Jones University and the attending the school practically drove me away from Christianity. I know how much the religious right affects things there, having lived there for a good 15 years.
I lived in Greenville, SC, which I believe is still the only city in the United States which denies its county employees the right to celebrate MLK day." - more feedback on the Letters Page.

- 10:23:22 PM
REAGAN AND AIDS: The last couple of words. Here's an email from Bob Roehr, one of the best gay journalists who has long covered HIV:
To my mind, the important questions concern whether the role that the President plays or doesn't play has a long-term impact on the course of the epidemic. I think that in most cases it does not.
In the 1980s activists made the case that Presidential leadership, a greater sense of urgency, and the spending of more money could have a dramatic impact on the course of the epidemic. Their arguments were focused on "a cure" for those already infected, with prevention being a decidedly secondary note. From the perspective of time, and with different leadership and the expenditure of vast sums of money, it has become clear, at least to me, that the crucial issues with regard to a cure and an all-important vaccine are scientific ones that still have not been resolved despite applying all of that time, effort, and resources to them. I have little reason to believe that a different course of action by Reagan would have significantly altered the scientific state of knowledge. And those who continue to throw those charges against him only do that, they build no plausible scientific case.
The one area where leadership has made a difference in selected countries is in prevention activities, and the Reagan administration can be faulted there. BUT that was not the core of the activists' case against Reagan, it was the "cure." Furthermore, knowledge of HIV and how to avoid contracting it has been widespread within American society for a very long time, dating at least from the mass mailing by Reagan Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, yet people still continue to become infected. We all know that there is a very large element of personal responsibility in the transmission of new infections, a fact that too many activists continue to downplay.
If the activist case against Reagan were valid, then it would be equally valid to lay medical successes at the feet of the sitting President. When was the last time that Eisenhower got credit for the miraculous polio vaccine? The fact is, we give credit to those who actually do the work or significantly impede it. With the benefit of a longer course of history, it is clear that Reagan did little of either. I feel that the news coverage is largely justified.
I tend to agree. For the record: Reagan didn't give me HIV. Another gay man did, with my unwitting consent. I did practise safer sex, but it obviously failed. That is my responsibility and bad luck - no one else's. But it is equally true that Reagan's silence for so long was inexcusable. He was silent because he and Bill Bennett and Gary Bauer believed that gay lives were not worth as much as straight ones. There is no other explanation. If an epidemic had broken out affecting, say, elderly women, is it conceivable Reagan would have said nothing for four and a half years? Nope. In my practical defense of the Reagan administration, I do not mean to provide a moral defense. As even Jesse Helms came to realize, there is none.

- 4:58:53 PM
THE BEATLES AND DRUGS: A mystery deepens. "Got To Get You Into My Life" was about pot?

IN DEFENSE OF GLUTTONY: A truly wonderful little gem of moral reasoning - buried in the New York Times Magazine.

- 11:10:03 AM
THE TITANIC: Bunnified in 30 seconds. If you need to procrastinate ...

- 10:48:34 AM
EMAIL OF THE DAY: "As a yankee who lived in South Carolina for almost four years, I find the idea of a theocratic republic of South Carolina - especially one with stricter liquor laws - quite amusing (since of course I don't take it seriously).
Did you realize that SC is the only state in the union where liquor laws are designed to protect the drinker? At least as of five years ago, when I lived there --
SC was the only "mini bottle" state. This means when you order a mixed drink at a bar, it's poured not out of a fifth bottle, but from an airplane-style mini bottle. That's so you know you're getting a full draw of non-diluted spirits. (Actually, more than full: a mini bottle holds more than a shot of alcohol, so your G&T will be extra heavy on the G.)
Also, SC was the only state where there is no per se limit on blood alcohol content for DWI. Which means that if you can keep it together while blowing a 1.5, say, then you aren't breaking the law. (The problem here, of course, is your SC state trooper, who may or may not have it in for you. As much as I dislike per se limits, especially combined with random traffic stops, I'm not sure I trust the discretion of the police more.)
I'm reminded of Petigru's famous statement about SC's secession from the Union:
James L. Petigru (1789-1863), a staunch South Carolina unionist, reportedly responded to the Palmetto State's actions by saying that his state was 'too small for a country and too large for an insane asylum.'"
Well, no one said the Bible Belt was consistent.

- 10:40:35 AM

Tuesday, June 08, 2004
THE ENEMY: In the wake of the U.N. resolution backing the new government in Iraq, it's useful to remember that this will only intensify the violence against us. That violence is not entirely indigenous. And it is being directed and supported by the theo-fascists in Tehran. We are at war with those mullahs, even if we do not want to believe it. Or rather: they are at war with us, and with any chance that liberal democracy can take root in Iraq. Here's a fascinating interview with some of the Iranian elite. Khameini is particularly revealing:
[T]he Americans are convinced that they will easily win the war in Iraq. But they will not see that day. As the Imam [Khomeini] said, 'One day the U.S. too will be history.' In light of what happened in Iraq, we can see now that he is right, because such events move the U.S. down the slope, and they will taste the bitterness of sure defeat."
And Khameini will do all he can to ensure that defeat, won't he? (Hat tip: Tim Perry.)

- 10:50:33 PM
NO RACY ADS NEAR MOSQUES: More p.c. hell from Britain.

SECESSION: Speaking of theocrats, some of the nuttier parts of the religious right are now advocating actual secession from the Godless United States. Catholic cleric James McCloskey once rhapsodized about this idea as well. But he was dreaming of bigger things than "Christian Exodus." They've decided to encourage Christians to go to ... South Carolina. What would the new paradise look like? The message board has some pointers:
"Well on one hand I kinda favor a 'don't ask, don't tell' policy. But should homosexuals speak up, they should be deported, sanctioned, or held in jail," said one person, discussing whether their new 'country' should endorse or permit lifestyles they believe go against biblical teachings.
Other visitors had ideas on what laws might be applicable in their new South Carolina home. "No alcohol sold on Sundays at all. All entries into the town would be policed with random checks for alcohol abuse, breathalyzers mandatory. No places of business open on Sundays. All schools, public, private or otherwise would teach creation, have the Ten commandments placed and say prayer before classes start. No landlords allowed to rent to couples just living together ... Abortion would not be legal in any circumstance."
Not everyone wanted the new "Christian" republic to be quite so rigid. But you get the idea. Any takers? Mr Rove?

- 10:49:53 PM
SLATE ON REAGAN: An avalanche of hostility. Could they have found a single person to say a single good thing about him? Nah. Just don't call them a liberal magazine.

BOBBY VS RONNIE: Here's a fascinating transcript of a 1967 debate between Bobby Kennedy and Ronald Reagan. (Thanks to a devoted reader.) I'd say Reagan does extremely well. How was it that a man who could out-debate Kennedy was soon to be described as a moron? Here's his discussion of racism:
I happen to believe that the greatest part of the problem lies in the hearts of men. I think that bigotry and prejudice is probably the worst of all man's ills the hardest to correct... Now we've found it necessary to legislate, to make it more possible for government to exert its responsibility to guarantee those constitutional rights. At the same time, we have much more that can be done in the area of just human relationships. I happen to bridge a time span in which I was a radio sports announcer for major league sports in our country, in athletics, many years ago. At that time the great American game of baseball had a rulebook whose opening line was: "Baseball is a game for Caucasian gentlemen." And up until that time, up until World War II, there'd never been a Negro play in organized major league or minor league baseball in America. And one man defied that rule--a man named Branch Rickey of one of the major league teams, and today baseball is far better off and our country is far better off because he destroyed that by handpicking one man and putting him on his baseball team, and the rule disappeared. Now I don't say this is the only answer, but we must use both, and I think the people in positions like ourselves like the Senator and myself, like the President of the United States, can do a great deal of good, perhaps almost as much as proper legislation, if we take the lead in saying those who operate their businesses or their lives on a basis of practicing discrimination and prejudice are practicing what is an evil sickness. And that we would not knowingly patronize a business that did such a thing, and we urge all right-thinking people to join us and not patronize that business. Soon we will make those who live by prejudice learn that they stand alone ..."
Yes, Reagan was a skeptic about legislating tolerance. But these are not the words of a racist.

- 10:48:45 PM
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Society has always regarded marital love as a sacred expression of the bond between a man and a woman. It is the means by which families are created and society itself is extended into the future. In the Judeo-Christian tradition it is the means by which husband and wife participate with God in the creation of a new human life. It is for these reasons, among others, that our society has always sought to protect this unique relationship. In part the erosion of these values has given way to a celebration of forms of expression most reject. We will resist the efforts of some to obtain government endorsement of homosexuality." - Ronald Reagan, July 12, 1984. That's a useful reminder to me not to get too carried away by Reagan's differences with Bush-style conservatism.

EMAIL OF THE DAY: "You refer to Adam Clymer as a Bush-hater. Wouldn't it be better to say that Bush is an Adam Clymer-hater? After all, it was Bush who called Clymer a "major league asshole." But if Clymer doesn't care for Bush because of that, I can't say I blame him.
You must remember, dislike of Bush is not, as many conservatives seem to think, some irrational mental disease affecting loony partisans. Bush brought this on himself. The whisper campaign against McCain in 2000; uncompromising on his agenda after an election where the other guy got more votes; the ads questioning the patriotism of Max Cleland; saying some in the Senate "didn't care about the security of the American people" because they backed a different Homeland Security Bill from Bush's (after Bush fought the very idea for months); campaigning ferociously and indiscriminately even against the Democrats in congress who supported him on the big issues of Iraq and tax cuts -- these and other actions caused a lot of bad feeling for Bush, and it's a big reason why the Democrats are so united against him.
You've already rightly pointed out the many ways Bush pales in comparison to Reagan. In that same line of thought, can you envision Reagan behaving in a similar manner as the examples above?" - More feedback on the Letters Page.

- 10:47:00 PM
I LOVED THE '80s: My memoir of discovering Reagan as a teenager in Britain.

- 1:18:55 PM
REAGAN AND THE RELIGIOUS RIGHT: Cal Thomas remembers how he ignored them.

- 12:34:52 PM
THE ITALIANS ARE RESCUED: A great event in Iraq. Kinda like this one. You can barely find them in the papers. If hostages had been captured, or Zarqawi had killed again, it might be another story.

CREEPING SECTARIANISM: The attempt by Karl Rove to turn organized fundamentalist Protestantism into a wing of the Republican Party continues apace. It is as insulting to religious faith as it is counter-productive.

ANOTHER ANNIVERSARY: June 7 was the fiftieth anniversary of the suicide of Alan Turing, one of the forefathers of modern computing who was also critical in cracking the Nazi Enigma Code that helped win the war against Hitler. For these achievements, he was persecuted, given estrogen injections and threatened with jail because he was homosexual. Just another gay man fighting for his country only to be treated with contempt and cruelty - like so many American servicemembers today.

MORE 'FATUOUSNESS': Another writer - from California - sees some parallels between Arnold and Ronnie:
Reagan is gone but, perhaps fittingly, California's new governor is a spiritual clone, another immigrant who sought his fortune in Hollywood, who ousted an incumbent Democratic governor with a color in his name (Gray instead of Brown) on the promise to clean up the mess in Sacramento, whose political skills are sometimes underestimated, and who out-Reagans Reagan in exuding can-do optimism.
Arnold is certainly far closer to Reagan's spirit than Dubya.

EMAIL OF THE DAY I: "I think your points on Reagan's AIDS record are well taken. But what about Reagan's record on civil rights? What do you make of his opening the 1980 campaign by declaring his support for states rights in Philadelphia Mississippi, a town whose only claim to fame is the murder of three civil rights activists in 1964? There's a reason the Republican Party hasn't been able to win more than 10-15 percent of the black vote since 1964, despite the widespread social conservatism of many black voters. Reagan's legacy is one of indifference or outright hostility toward African-Americans, a hostility signaled by his naked appeals to white Southern voters using racial coded messages. Imagine if George Bush opened the 2004 campaign by leading a rally against gay marriage in Laramie. No one would have to think hard about what kind of message he was sending to gay voters."

EMAIL OF THE DAY II: "Schwarzenegger's pro-choice stance as governor of a state that is overwhelmingly pro-choice, in a time when abortion remains legal in all fifty states, is admirable but can hardly be described as courageous. Ronald Reagan, on the other hand, signed into law a bill decriminalizing abortion as governor of California, at a time when such a bill was still quite controversial, particularly within his own party. He later said that he regretted his own decision to sign the bill into law, but actions in the end are what matters, no rhetoric. Reagan, like Nixon, Ford, and Bush Sr, all pandered rhetorically to the cultural populist instincts of the south and sunbelt, but were in practice for the most part cultural libertarians. George W Bush seems quite intent on reversing that trend, and it will be the downfall of the post-Goldwater conservative movement, and the Republican majority. Mark my word on it."

- 12:15:24 PM
ALLAWI DELIVERS: Yesterday's announcement by the increasingly impressive interim prime minister of Iraq, Ayad Allawi, that most of the militias in Iraq have agreed to disband and be absorbed within the new Iraqi army is obviously good news. I'm not sure what to make of the fact that Sadr's Mahdi Army and the Fallujah brigades are not part of the deal, but the momentum toward a new Iraq seems to be continuing. It is probably too much to hope for that the most recalcitrant parts of the insurgency should formally disarm at this point - but they are looking more isolated as a result. Allawi's statements last week, together with his announcement today, are tentative signs that we may have a real leader in the making here. Here's hoping.

WHY BUSH IS IN TROUBLE: Take a look at this analysis from Adam Clymer's NAES outfit and Ruy Teixera's take on it. Yes, Clymer is a Bush-hater - but the polling is sound, and shows how weak Bush is at this point in the race in the swing states. Swing voters are highly alienated by Iraq and the economy. Maybe they'll change their tune. But time is running out.

- 1:23:14 AM
TWO NEW POSTS: My review of Tony Hendra's 'Father Joe' and account of George Tenet's resignation are now both posted to the left.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "In 1983, I was confined to an eight-by-ten-foot prison cell on the border of Siberia. My Soviet jailers gave me the privilege of reading the latest copy of Pravda. Splashed across the front page was a condemnation of President Ronald Reagan for having the temerity to call the Soviet Union an "evil empire." Tapping on walls and talking through toilets, word of Reagan's "provocation" quickly spread throughout the prison. We dissidents were ecstatic. Finally, the leader of the free world had spoken the truth - a truth that burned inside the heart of each and every one of us." - Natan Sharansky, in the Jersualem Post.

NOT SO FATUOUS: Ramesh Ponnuru dissents from my view that Ronald Reagan was more socially liberal than much of the Republican Party today. He writes that
Some people, eager for a Reagan in their own image, make it sound as though he were a social liberal - as though he had never written "Abortion and the Conscience of a Nation." To compare Reagan to Arnold Schwarzenegger is fatuous.
Hmmm. I did not describe Reagan as a "social liberal." (I wrote that "If Reagan has an inheritor, it isn't George W. Bush, but, in a limited sense, Arnold Schwarzenegger...") Reagan was opposed to abortion, and regarded Roe vs Wade (rightly, in my view) as terrible law. He did precious little to advance civil rights. But he was definitely more easy-going about modernity than the current Republican leadership. He barely mentioned abortion in his eight terms of office, and never addressed a pro-life rally in person. He rarely went to church as president and was the first president to have an openly gay couple sleep over in the White House. He and his wife were no strangers to male homosexual company. Reagan also appointed the first woman to the Supreme Court, and in Anthony Kennedy, gave birth to the judicial father of the gay rights revolution. His biographer, Lou Cannon, wrote that Reagan was "repelled by the aggressive public crusades against homosexual life styles which became a staple of right wing politics in the late 1970s." In 1978, Reagan put his career on the line opposing the Briggs Initiative in California that would have barred gay teachers from working in the public high school system. In an op-ed at the time, Reagan wrote:
"Whatever else it is, homosexuality is not a contagious disease like the measles. Prevailing scientific opinion is that an individual's sexuality is determined at a very early age and that a child's teachers do not really influence this."
That was 1978 - a very enlightened position at the time. You might quibble with this analysis, but describing Reagan's cultural and political similarities with Schwarzenegger is by no means "fatuous". Both Schwarzenegger and Reagan hailed from California; both came from the socially liberal world of Hollywood; both were and are conservative pragmatists; both managed to reach across regional and cultural lines to win support. Bush, in contrast, is a Texan, culturally moored in the religious right, with limited ability to reach voters in socially liberal milieus. That's my point. I think it stands.

- 1:22:27 AM
REAGAN AND AIDS: I have been upbraided for not mentioning Ronald Reagan's AIDS legacy in describing him as my hero. The basic argument from the gay left is that Reagan was single-handedly responsible for killing hundreds of thousands of people by negligence. This, however, borders on loopy. Reagan should indeed be faulted for not doing more to warn people of the dangers of infection early enough (Thatcher was far better). But the truth is that it was pretty obvious very early on that something dangerous was afoot as AIDS first surfaced. Just read Larry Kramer at the time. Many people most at risk were aware - mostly too late, alas - that unprotected sex had become fatal in the late 1970s and still was. You can read Randy Shilts' bracing "And The Band Played On," to see how some of the resistance to those warnings came from within the gay movement itself. In the polarized atmosphere of the beleaguered gay ghettoes of the 1980s, one also wonders what an instruction from Ronald Reagan to wear condoms would have accomplished. As for research, we didn't even know what HIV was until 1983. Nevertheless, the Reagan presidency spent some $5.7 billion on HIV in its two terms - not peanuts. The resources increased by 450 percent in 1983, 134 percent in 1984, 99 percent the next year and 148 percent the year after. Yes, the Congress was critical in this. But by 1986, Reagan had endorsed a large prevention and research effort and declared in his budget message that AIDS "remains the highest public health priority of the Department of Health and Human Services." In September 1985, Reagan said:
"[I]ncluding what we have in the budget for '86, it will amount to over a half a billion dollars that we have provided for research on AIDS in addition to what I'm sure other medical groups are doing. And we have $100 million in the budget this year; it'll be 126 million next year. So, this is a top priority with us. Yes, there's no question about the seriousness of this and the need to find an answer."
But the sad truth is also that there was never going to be an easy answer to HIV in the Reagan years. Throwing even more money at research in those days would not have helped much. Anthony Fauci's NIH, goaded by heroes like Larry Kramer, was already pushing for focus and resources; FDA red tape was loosened considerably; and the painfully slow scientific process continued. The fact that we got revolutionary drugs in trials by the early 1990s was itself an heroic scientific achievement - arguably the most miraculous progress in a medical emergency since the polio vaccine. Should Reagan have done more? Yes. Were people like Bill Bennett and Gary Bauer responsible for delaying a real prevention response because only gays were dying? You bet. But was Reagan ultimately responsible for so many tragic, early deaths? No. HIV was. Viruses happen. It's a blemish on his record, but not as profound as some, with understandable grief, want to make it out to be.

AT LONG LAST: Three vital new websites: "Queers against Terror", "Conservative Punks," and a whole blog devoted to debunking Noam Chomsky. Yay!

- 1:20:04 AM

Monday, June 07, 2004
PAYING HOMAGE: This image put a catch in my throat.

- 4:04:22 PM
EMAIL OF THE DAY: "Your essay in Time reminded me of who I was, and what the Republican Party was, in the 1980s.
In 1983, I slapped an 'Another Student for Reagan Bush' bumper sticker on my dorm room door, and wore Reagan buttons on my denim jacket, right next to the U2 and Black Flag pins (go figure). The three people I most wanted to meet were Reagan, the Pope, and Bruce Springsteen (again, go figure). I took a lot of heat for what my contemporaries viewed as 'simplistic' politics, and I learned then something that has held me in good stead since: when the sophisticates can't defeat common sense, they resort to intellectual dishonesty and ad hominem attack. Take Clark Clifford's 'amiable dunce' comment as an example. I'm sure at the time this consummate insider's quip struck the cocktail crowd as dead on. Now, many years later, it seems incredibly mean spirited and, in light of the Reagan correspondence, wrong. The irony is that while Reagan will encompass chapters in history, the so-called intelligent critics won't earn footnote status.
Reagan's appeal can be summed up in one word: freedom. Freedom for enslaved peoples, freedom of the marketplace from government regulation, freedom from judicial tyranny and judges telling us how to live, freedom from oppressive taxes, and freedom from the intellectual imprisonment of government telling people that they cannot achieve anything without government help.
I miss Reagan already, and I feel like a part of me, and a part of the soul of the Republican Party, has passed away."

- 2:48:30 PM
ALWAYS WRONG: Arthur Schlesinger, who has racked up perhaps the most impressive series of completely wrong judgments about politics for decades, comes back to memory in this posting from Virginia Postrel's blog:
Arthur Schlesinger, just back from a trip to Moscow in 1982, said Reagan was delusional. "I found more goods in the shops, more food in the markets, more cars on the street -- more of almost everything," he said, adding his contempt for "those in the U.S. who think the Soviet Union is on the verge of economic and social collapse, ready with one small push to go over the brink."
Yes, they really did think like that. They really thought that the Soviet Union wasn't evil - even admirable in some respects - as late as 1982!

- 12:52:40 PM
THE CIVIL CONSERVATIVE: My take on Ronald Reagan, from Time.

- 12:46:38 PM
RE-WRITING HISTORY: Here are a few odd sentences in the Wall Street Journal, dealing with Reagan's legacy of massive budget deficits:
Mr. Reagan's unique contribution was to stick to his economic program, and to support Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, in the face of enormous political pressure to turn tail on both. Growth resumed as he expected, and tax revenues actually increased faster than GDP from the low point in 1983 through 1989. As for the deficits, they did finally vanish once defense spending fell after the Cold War ended and a GOP Congress slowed the growth in other spending for at least a couple of years in the mid-1990s.
What the Journal doesn't mention is that Reagan, Bush and Clinton all had to raise taxes to accomplish this. Reagan, we should recall, raised taxes, after his initial cut. He was not an abolutist. He also helped reform the tax system in 1986, an idea now anathema to today's Republican party, which is busy funneling as many tax breaks to interest groups as it can.

- 12:39:18 PM
THE SOUL-MATE: How Thatcher helped make Reagan possible, and vice-versa.

- 12:31:07 PM
INSIDE THE D-DAY PROTESTS: Yes, there were anti-American protests at the D-Day celebrations. Some German bloggers infiltrated.

- 11:50:09 AM

Sunday, June 06, 2004
REAGAN NOW: I don't have much to add to what I have written before about Ronald Reagan. He was and is my hero, my political inspiration, the reason I was proud to call myself a "conservative," when I first came into political consciousness. My first twenty years were spent in England and so he will always take second place to Margaret Thatcher in my understanding of what political courage means, but I was proud to wear a "Reagan '80" button in my English high-school, an act that, at the time, was akin to admitting to being a mass-murderer. I was proud at Oxford to greet the arrival of Pershing missiles in Britain with a champagne party. And when I came to America in 1984, it was in the midst of his triumphant re-election campaign. I even got to go to a rally where he promised to raise our taxes. It was a gaffe. We didn't care. We loved him. But it is insufficient, I think, to be nostalgic at this point in history. What does Reagan's legacy demand of us now?

SAVING REPUBLICANISM: I have no doubt that Reagan would have endorsed the war to liberate Afghanistan and Iraq from theocrats and tyrants. As he put it of a previous liberation, "When our forces marched into Germany they came not to prey on a brave and defeated people, but to nurture the seeds of democracy among those who yearned to be free again." He would have seen the attack of 9/11 as an atrocity that required the kind of leadership that George W. Bush and Tony Blair have provided. And there is much of Reagan's optimism and faith in freedom in the president's current speeches. But Reagan's Republicanism was far more expansive, anti-government, generous and optimistic than today's. He would never have presided over the massive increases in domestic spending that Bush has; he would not have signed onto a new entitlement for Medicare, a program he first opposed in its entirety; he would not have played the anti-gay card that Karl Rove has; and he would never have recast his party into one where only fundamentalist Christians are ultimately, fully at home. Unlike Bush, Reagan was a man of ideas, an intellectual, a man who had thought long and hard about the world and developed keen ideas about what was needed to fix its problems. So he was able to argue, to make a case, to concede a point, to embrace a synthesis. President Bush, alas, can only make a case - in words given him by others. I have never witnessed him in public acknowledge an opposing argument or think on his feet. Those aren't his strengths. But they sure were Reagan's.

THE UNITER: If Reagan has an inheritor, it isn't George W. Bush, but, in a limited sense, Arnold Schwarzenegger, a self-deprecating, theatrical Californian who combines faith in freedom with stunning pragmatism in politics. That Reagan Republicanism, holding on in Sacramento, is now under siege, if not on the verge of being eclipsed in the GOP as a whole. The old man bears some responsibility, of course. He courted the South assiduously, unleashed Ed Meese on the porn industry, dropped the ball on AIDS, and exploited the religious right when it was an insurgency rather than the Republican establishment. But he also, unlike Bush, had a real sense of the MidWest and West - and had a vernacular that could speak to all Americans, not just a few. He embraced life and pleasure and humor and fun. A divorced man who campaigned against homophobia and rarely went to church, he also had an effortless sense of the Almighty that came through when needed, and so bridged some of the cultural gaps that his successors have failed to do. In some ways, this is a reflection of his immense talents and complex personality rather than his successors' weaknesses. But it is a task that is more necessary today than ever - and one our current president, alas, is singularly incapable of. Reagan made me laugh often and well; he made me hope more than was warranted; I trusted him and saw the growth of freedom under his benign, chuckling steeliness. It is a long road from there to the dour cynicism of Karl Rove and joyless puritanism of John Ashcroft. There was always the old Democrat in Reagan's new Republican, a deep sense of civility, a wry sense of humor, a faith leavened with skepticism, a conservatism informed by liberalism's faith in the future. It is not too late to rescue this legacy from the clutches of today's acidic, sectarian GOP. But time is running out.

- 11:04:50 PM
WHAT REPUBLICANISM NOW IS: Just read this story about the Texas Republican Party. Their convention began with prayers and invocations, as any religious gathering might do. One pastor who spoke to the group said the following: "Give us Christians in America who are more wholehearted, more committed and more militant for you and your kingdom than any fanatical Islamic terrorists are for death and destruction. I want to be one of those Christians." Then read the platform, proposing, among other things, "new restrictions on lawsuits brought over exposure to asbestos" and making it a felony for anyone to perform a marriage for a same-sex couple. If you want to know why someone who loved Ronald Reagan can no longer support the Republican Party, then the extremism of George W. Bush's own party in his home state is Exhibit A. Republicans who say that these people do not represent the GOP as a whole can prove this by taking them on. But they won't, will they? They never do.

BUSH HATRED WATCH: "[T]he hegemonic grim spirit of the age being incarnate in our thought-disordered bloody, greedy, little plutocrat-slash-soulless-theocrat of an unelected President," - Tony Kushner, playwright, New York Times.

BEGALA AWARD NOMINEE: "No U.S. president, I expect, will ever appoint a Secretary of the Imagination. But if such a cabinet post ever were created, and Richard Foreman weren't immediately appointed to it, you'd know that the Republicans were in power. Republicans don't believe in the imagination, partly because so few of them have one, but mostly because it gets in the way of their chosen work, which is to destroy the human race and the planet. Human beings, who have imaginations, can see a recipe for disaster in the making; Republicans, whose goal in life is to profit from disaster and who don't give a hoot about human beings, either can't or won't. Which is why I personally think they should be exterminated before they cause any more harm." - Michael Feingold, in the Village Voice.

- 11:01:43 PM
QUOTE FOR THE DAY I: "I think it is very interesting when you reread the history of the late Thirties and the Second World War, the degree to which there was a very big disagreement between people as to how to deal with the Nazi threat. Not disagreement that it was a threat, but how to deal with it. And it seems almost extraordinary to us now that there were people arguing throughout the 1930s that actually the way to deal with Hitler was to make a gesture of disarmament. Now we look back and say, 'How on earth could anyone have thought that was sensible?' But that was for a time in fact the predominant view.
The second thing is how big a gamble politically President Roosevelt was taking in committing America, first of all to helping, and then to committing forces. It is sometimes forgotten that in the prewar presidential elections each of the candidates had to line up and say, 'on no account will we get drawn into any European conflict'. And that's why this transatlantic alliance is felt so keenly on their side as well as ours." - Tony Blair, understanding how the Anglo-American alliance is as critical to the survival of freedom today as it was sixty years ago.

QUOTE FOR THE DAY II: "The last war showed only too clearly that we can have no faith in imperialist crusades to bring freedom to any people. Our entry into the war, under the slogan "Stop Hitler!" would actually result in the immediate introduction of totalitarianism over here ... The American people can best help [the German people] by fighting at home to keep their own liberties." - John Dewey, William Carlos Williams, Meyer Schapiro, and other leading American intellectuals, in Partisan Review, Fall 1939. (Thanks to David Gelernter in the Wall Street Journal.) Reads just like the New York Review of Books today, doesn't it?

SACRED INSTITUTION WATCH: J-Lo gets hitched again. It's her third exercise of her civil rights, and she's only 34. Her husband just got a divorce from his previous wife last Monday. The heterosexual lifestyle is destroying marriage, isn't it?

- 10:59:48 PM
EMAIL OF THE DAY: "I hope you will forgive this sentimental note. I have been greatly saddened by the death of President Reagan and felt the need to commemorate his passing by writing a few lines in his memory. Having grown up in communist Czechoslovakia, I have seen, first hand, the material and, more importantly, spiritual devastation that socialism brings. Generations of people in Eastern Europe were impoverished and their morality and sense of self-worth annihilated by a corrupt, inherently dishonest and tyrannical value system. Thanks to Reagan, people like me were set free at a young age. Untainted by socialism, we were allowed our most basic right – to pursue happiness in a place and manner of our choosing. But, it did not have to happen that way! Were the Soviet bloc allowed to continue in its miserable existence for another two decades, my generation would have morphed into that great-gray mass of people that the historians write off as 'lost.' It is not a hyperbole to say that Reagan gave us our freedom and for that I am eternally thankful." - from a Czech friend. The battle against socialism continues, of course. In this country and around the world.

- 5:22:08 PM
THE FAR LEFT CELEBRATES: If you want to see how depraved the far left has become, read this disgusting thread on Democratic Underground. I wish I could be surprised. Meanwhile, at an ANSWER march - the main organization behind the anti-war movement rallies - cheers go up at the news.

- 4:23:13 PM
REAGAN I: I'll write more tomorrow. He was the greatest president since FDR, a man who did more than restore America's self-confidence and defeat the great lie of Communism. He re-conjured our understanding of the central, animating role of liberty in human affairs. He saw that what was strangling America was the suffocation of big government and high taxation; he paid respect to religion but never turned Republicanism into what it is today - a repository for sectarian scolding; he saw that the use of military force was sometimes necessary to defeat tyranny; and that the greatest weapon against the creeping march of cynicism was self-confidence and optimism. With Margaret Thatcher and Karol Wojtyla, he changed the course of world history for the better. He was the towering figure of my adolescence, a beacon of hope in what was a brutally debilitating time. I'll be lucky if I live to see another political leader of his stature, grace or fortitude. May he rest in the peace he brought to so many others, and in the joy he so richly deserves.

REAGAN II: "It takes time to recognize greatness and it sometimes appears in the oddest of forms. A B-actor from Hollywood, a cold fish, a man unknown even to his own children at times, a hack-radio announcer for General Electric, and easily the finest president of the last fifty years. When he dies, this country will go into shock. For Americans know in their hearts that this unlikely man understood the deepest meaning of their country in a way no-one else has done for a generation. He gave them purpose again, and in return they still give him love. For what it's worth, let me now add my own." - from my appreciation of the great man in 2001.

- 3:36:06 PM

Saturday, June 05, 2004
EMAIL OF THE DAY II: "Dear 'Freak' (your word not mine):
In response to your rhetorical question 'what were opponents supposed to do?'
How about this option:
Accept the judges’ decision as good law-abiding citizens and go about their lives. It's now been several weeks since gays were legally wed in Massachusetts and I have yet to find a single heterosexual marriage that has crumbled because of this historic event. I have yet to find ANY heterosexual whose life has been significantly altered in any way.
Yes, I really don't need love to sanctify my love for my partner either. In fact, I don't think any couple needs the sanctity of marriage to tell them what they already know. What I do need are the legal rights that come along with that "sanctity." It seems to me you are confusing the terms "marriage" and "civil unions." I could care less about the religious blessing and guess what ---- we're not invading people's churches and demanding acceptance. This is a pure government, civil argument. So, if you need to separate "marriage" as a church function go right ahead. But please do not concede any civil rights for me and my partner.
One more thing - the following quote of your really irked me:
"If marriage is primarily about a family, then it excludes ALL gays, except those who inseminate and hire surrogates which I believe is drastically wrong when there are needy children who can be adopted."
So, families with adopted children should not be considered a family? Infertile heterosexuals should be denied marriage? What exactly are you saying? How about infertile heterosexual couples who hire a surrogate to have children?"

- 1:46:59 PM
NYT BIAS WATCH: The New York Times' Edward Wong has provided some great reporting from Iraq but occasionally, he writes material that has one scratching one's head. Here's a classic:
"Still, there were some who derided this government, just like the old Governing Council, as a puppet of the American occupation. And all the Iraqis who were interviewed said they wanted the interim government to have full sovereign powers, a demand that is being debated at the United Nations. It is irreconcilable with the Bush administration's position that the new officials be endowed with only very limited powers."
Funny. I haven't read anywhere of the Bush administrration severely restricting the ability of various Iraqis to run their own ministries, control their own police forces, use their own revenues, etc. Yes, there's some delicate negotiation about the Iraqi control of other countries' armed forces - but tha strikes me as far from the notion that the new rulers "be endowed with only very limited powers." Wong's piece is, in fact, very heartening for the Bush administration, which is why, perhaps, Wong felt it incumbent to find some way to spin it as a failure or as a conflict between Iraqis and Washington. So here's the question: what does Wong mean by "very limited powers?" Could he or the New York Times elaborate?

- 12:28:08 PM
LIVING IN BAGHDAD: I came across a very vivid blog by a photographer in Iraq, Stephanie Sinclair. Her despair at the chaos in Baghdad is moving, especially since she is no apologist for Saddam and a lukewarm war-supporter. What I think we may have missed is how the poor security situation made everything so much worse - made coalition soldiers jumpy and trigger-happy, which alienated Iraqis even more, which fed more distrust, and so on. The mistake was early on - when order was not restored after liberation, the borders were left unsealed, and mayhem allowed to unfold. We are still recovering from that early Rumsfeld-designed disaster. Then there is the impact of terrorism in Iraq itself:
I had the misfortune of spending the last two days stepping around pieces of dead bodies after two suicide bombers detonated themselves outside a police station and army recruiting facility in Iskandariyah and then in Baghdad. I can’t really begin to explain what it is like to see this type of pain and suffering and carnage. Even worse, I can’t even imagine what it must be like for the families that had to go to the morgue and sift through decapitated bodies, torsos without limbs, burned bits of clothing to identify their brother or son. I just sat there wondering how I would feel if I had to see someone I loved burnt and in pieces. It hurts to just write that and this was the reality for more than 100 families here in Iraq this week. To say it is sad is an understatement. One young guy in his 20s showed up at the morgue and was so upset he could barely stand because he was shaking so badly, overcome with fear and grief. Another young Iraqi police officer went into convulsions while watching the bodies being moved around, falling into a pile of burnt debris and garbage. This was worse than anything I saw during my experience covering the war. The most frightening part of all this is the local response to the explosions. At each scene Iraqi civilians accused the Americans of staging the attacks. In Iskandariyah hundreds of people were convinced that an American plane shot a missile at people applying for jobs the police station. Then they said that the police were cowards for cooperating with the Americans and started breaking the windows of one of the new police cars. Shortly afterwards a police officer shot about 30 gunshots in the air to disperse the crowd and of course at least one bullet hit a bystander and they had to be taken to the hospital. At the second site, the locals claimed the American soldiers set off the explosion and that is why all the soldiers were behind the concrete barrier when it happened, resulting in Iraqi casualties only. Of course this is crazy Iraqi talk, but it shows the lack to trust the local people have in the coalition forces here. Even Alaa started to wonder if this was as true and he is a college graduate who speaks three languages and has so far loved the Americans. The whole situation here is worrisome.
With any luck, the new government will ease this problem.

QUOTE FOR THE DAY: "The only way we ever found [Saddam] is finally somebody put enough pressure on enough people to find out that somebody had an idea where somebody might know somebody who might know somebody who would know where he might have been," - Donald Rumsfeld, in classic form.

EMAIL OF THE DAY: "Here I am, your freak. A proud gay man who votes Republican more than not, and will be voting for Bush. I don’t give a rat's ass about the Federal Marriage Amendment because gay people suddenly think it’s fine for judges to impose their beliefs as law. They forced this. Instead of letting the American people decide (and there’s a good chance they'd have decided in our favor), they had people imposing their views, forcing people who were against it, feeling powerless, to play the same way. How can you not acknowledge this? I am not saying two wrongs make a right, I am saying this - what were opponents supposed to do? I don't agree with the FMA (doesn't seem like reason enough to amend the constitution) but it isn't illegal and I understand where it's coming from. And I don't need marriage to sanctify my love for my partner. I think civil union benefits makes more sense, it isn't separate but equal, gays and straights ARE different. If marriage is primarily about a family, then it excludes ALL gays, except those who inseminate and hire surrogates which I believe is drastically wrong when there are needy children who can be adopted. You can't shove gayness down people's throats. We've had to endure the ugly stereotype of trying to convert straights and now it seems to be realized. Instead of trying to convert them, we want to coopt an ancient tradition that really doesn’t fit homosexuals who don't procreate and we are utterly intolerant of Christians who don't break laws but think we’re going to Hell (instead of just saying to Hell with them). Just remember Andrew, there are different types of people out there in the world, please stop painting in such broad strokes. I hope you will print my letter so people can know that gays come in more flavors than they can imagine." Well, I did. There's more feedback on the Letters Page.

- 12:42:57 AM

Friday, June 04, 2004
A MARINE REPORTS: Hugh Hewitt directed me to this marine's postings from the area around Fallujah. They're fascinating. And the latest is particularly revealing:
As far as Falluja goes, we have not been allowed to get back in there with any real numbers yet. Initially, it was confounding.  However, a very interesting dynamic has developed. Since we have stayed out of Falluja and focused elsewhere, the mujahadeen have had their run of the town. As they have had no one to fight, they have turned their criminal instincts on the citizens. The clerics who once were whipping these idiots into a suicidal frenzy are now having to issue Fatwas (holy decrees) admonishing the muj for extortion, rape, murder and kidnapping. It is unfortunate for the "innocent people" of Falluja but the mujahadeen have betrayed themselves as the thugs that they are by brutalizing the civilians. There are, in fact, reports of rape, etc from inside the town. While the muj are thugging away inside the town, we are about 1/2 mile away paying claims, entering into dialogue and contracting jobs. The citizens come outside the city for work and money and are treated like human beings. They go back inside and enter a lawless hell. In short, the muj have done more to show the people what hypocrites they are in a few short weeks than we could have hoped for in a year. The result is more and more targetable intelligence. If we are given the green light, we can really go to town on these guys (no pun intended).  However, as much as we would like to do just that, the optimal solution is to empower the Iraqis to take care of it themselves. That is precisely what we are doing.
Because of men like this - and my gut belief that people anywhere will choose freedom over slavery, given a real chance - I'm still a proud supporter of this war and an optimist about its future.

WHAT ROVE HATH WROUGHT: I've known David Catania for years, and count him as a friend and a bit of a hero. He ran as a white gay Republican in Washington D.C. for the city council and has been re-elected, and become something of a legend in the city. He's an inclusive, tax-cutting, bureaucracy-terrorizing, rising political star. But he won't be endorsing George W. Bush in November, for the obvious reason. So he's been barred from being a delegate to the Convention. Here's a money quote from an interview in Salon:
Whether or not a few [gay] leaders stay with the party until they drop dead isn't the issue. The fact of the matter is, there ain't no there there anymore. The constitutional amendment issue is kind of a watershed moment. It reminds me of the 1964 election, and this is why: In 1960 Richard Nixon won 26 percent of the black vote. We forget that it was 44 years ago, but the Republicans were still winning a quarter of the African-American vote. That went from 26 percent in 1960 to 12 percent in 1964. What made that happen? [Nominee Barry] Goldwater was opposed to the 1963 Civil Rights Act, and the African-American community viewed that as a betrayal. For 40 years, we have never as a party recovered from that.
In 2000 George Bush won 25 percent of the gay vote. You see the parallels? The president decided to trot out a constitutional amendment to remind us, even though we are already reminded daily, that we are second-class citizens. In case we harbored any illusions that we were equal, he wants to write this into the Constitution. He'll be lucky if he gets 12 percent [of the gay vote] in this election.
12 percent? I'd say 5 percent. Not that Rove cares. There isn't a pretense any more that gay people are even worthy of consultation in the Republican party. Catania exonerates Bush. I think he's being too kind. I've no doubt that Bush wants to believe he's a tolerant, nice guy; and I'm sure he conducts himself admirably with people of different backgrounds. But he does not even remotely understand the social revolution of the last two decades. He thinks gay people can be treated as they were in the 1950s and that's a measure of tolerance. It's this blindness that rankles. Who, for example, did Bush talk to about the constitutional amendment? Richard John Neuhaus. Did the president talk to a single gay person? Nope. Is there a single gay Republican or gay conservative willing to defend the constitutional amendment? I have yet to find one. I think David under-estimates the extent of the damage.

- 12:33:21 PM
WRONG AGAIN: Here's Clinton's apparently subtle description of George W. Bush: "If you go back and read what (Bush) said in the campaign, he's just doing what he'd said he'd do. You've got to give him credit for that." Huh? Isn't it the most remarkable fact about this president that he will be remembered primarily as a radical interventionist in foreign policy, while he campaigned in favor of moderate, realist isolationism? And wasn't he supposed to be a "uniter, not a divider," reaching out to the socially moderate center? Yet he has governed domestically as a member of the hard-core Christian right and polarized the country more deeply than even under Clinton. Sorry, Bill. Try another back-handed compliment.

- 1:10:28 AM
BUSH'S COLORADO SPEECH: I feel bad for not writing about it sooner. It was a terrific call to arms. This passage was particularly affecting:
This is the great challenge of our time, the storm in which we fly. History is once again witnessing a great clash. This is not a clash of civilizations. The civilization of Islam, with its humane traditions of learning and tolerance, has no place for this violent sect of killers and aspiring tyrants. This is not a clash of religions. The faith of Islam teaches moral responsibility that enobles men and women, and forbids the shedding of innocent blood. Instead, this is a clash of political visions. In the terrorists' vision of the world, the Middle East must fall under the rule of radical governments, moderate Arab states must be overthrown, nonbelievers must be expelled from Muslim lands, and the harshest practice of extremist rule must be universally enforced. In this vision, books are burned, terrorists are sheltered, women are whipped, and children are schooled in hatred and murder and suicide. Our vision is completely different. We believe that every person has a right to think and pray and live in obedience to God and conscience, not in frightened submission to despots. (Applause.) We believe that societies find their greatness by encouraging the creative gifts of their people, not in controlling their lives and feeding their resentments. And we have confidence that people share this vision of dignity and freedom in every culture because liberty is not the invention of Western culture, liberty is the deepest need and hope of all humanity.
But I am still left wanting to hear something deeper: that the president understands where he has gone wrong, why he has made mistakes, and how he is going to correct them. Alongside this stirring speech, with which I agree almost completely, was the president's bizarre, surreal announcement yesterday that George Tenet was resigning. How can you describe Tenet's record in the glowing terms that Bush used and hope to retain the kind of credibility you need to be an effective war leader? Instead, the president appeared yet again divorced from anything vaguely representing reality. That is not a good thing for a nation at war. Ask yourself: do you trust Bush to deliver bad war news if it's necessary and if it requires his taking responsibility for his own failures? I don't any more. The Democrats bear some responsibility: the way they have exploited the few times the Bushies have admitted error has been a case study in politics conducted by people who really do not grasp the threat we face. But Bush's response - to clam up, admit nothing, and refuse to take any real responsibility - is very damaging to his credibility and therefore to the war effort as a whole. It's not a pretty cycle.

- 12:23:23 AM
DON'T CALL IT TERROR: The anti-Western left has come up with a new term for a terrorist. It's "commando." Check out this strange story on Salon. It's a memoir of a young Palestinian terrorist by a young woman who knew him while he was being protected in the 1980s by Yugoslavia's Communist regime. The essay attempts to show how the young man came to recognize at one point the humanity of those Israeli civilians he was about to murder. But the euphemisms in the piece are priceless. Take this sentence:
The recent (and bumbling) Achille Lauro assault, during which young Palestinian commandos hijacked a Mediterranean cruiser and killed an elderly, wheelchair-bound American tourist, coupled with those ghastly shootouts at the Rome and Vienna airports, had made a mockery of the Titoist soft spot for resistance groups and rendered dinner chats with Western diplomats unbearably awkward ...
The problem with the Achille Lauro hijacking was that it was "bumbling"? If only they'd killed more Jews more effectively! Notice also that it was somehow "during" the "assault" that a murder took place. Hmmm. Wouldn't it be more, er, accurate to say that the hijacking occurred in order to murder civilians? Notice also here the unequivocal use of the term "commando" for "terrorist." One reader emailed me to say he thought that "commandos" were more plausibly viewed as those who try to rescue hostages, not those who try to kill them. Such silly distinctions! Elsewhere in the piece, the terrorists are called "operatives." Like Valerie Plame. The author knew that her friend was about to kill innocent civilians but glosses over this ugly fact by saying:
Looking back now on that snowy afternoon at Abu Moses' place, the last time I would see him, it took longer than one might expect for me to comprehend what the trip to Cyprus meant. Indeed, months of denial and doubt.
It appears those months of denial and doubt are now indeed years. And denial has morphed into excuse. And excuse into euphemism. Who is the author? We are told: "D.N. Rosina is the pseudonym of a Bay Area writer now reporting from the Middle East." So there's a reporter out there who thinks that terrorists are commandos. Who is she reporting for? Why has she decided to remain anonymous? And why have the editors of Salon decided to grant her that anonymity?

- 12:21:19 AM
"HARD LEFT": Here's a revealing sentence from National Review's profile of Roger Simon, ex-lefty blogger: "[When] it comes to social policy, he continues to lean hard to the left. 'I'm very liberal on social issues: pro-gay marriage, pro-choice, separation of church and state,' he says. 'I think racism and sexism are the greatest evils in the world.'" So allowing women to choose to seek an abortion is now a "hard left" position? And encouraging gay couples to have stable relationships is "hard left"? And being deeply concerned about racism and sexism is "hard left"? I won't even touch "separation of church and state." But I will notice that this assertion comes at a time when Karl Rove is deliberately trying to involve church congregations directly in Bush's re-election effort. Disturbing.

COUNTRY FOLK AND ABU GHRAIB: Two contrasting responses to my hunch that rural voters were affected by Abu Ghraib:
I don't know how you knew it but you nailed it. Rural voters are DEEPLY ashamed of Abu Gahraib. I just visited my rock-ribbed Republican former farm wife Mom, now living in suburban Kansas City. If there's an echt American heartlander 'don't try to help me, Mr. Roosevelt' Republican species of genus Americanus, it's Mom. Civil War on.
I was amazed how deeply ashamed she was of Abu Gahraib. It just wasn't like her to be so moved. I asked her why and she said "that's not American, what we did there."
My theory? Mom has never seen the Jerry Springer show, and didn't really realize the extent to which the gleeful embrace of vulgarity by what she would never actually vocally call white trash has coarsened the traditional military-serving American working class.
America has tolerated the vulgarization of its yeoman class on TV. It's quite another to see it in a military uniform. (I guess we sophisticates know it was always there, but that doesn't cut any ice with Mom.)
You nailed it, Andrew.
Then there's this view:
Country folk in general could care less about Iraqis and their plight really. They don't know them and don't feel that our boys should be dying over there helping them build anything. They are very, very isolationist. As long as the military is blowing things up they are supportive, that's what the military does and they understand that mission. But as soon as it becomes a humanitarian focused mission, support will begin to erode. Especially when what they perceive are Iraqis who don't seem to appreciate what has been done for them anyway. They look like a bunch of whiners.
The mission itself is nuanced and hard to understand. Saving the world from terrorism is too obtuse, not focused enough. They would be much more supportive of a proxy war and not direct US involvement. As long as its a proxy war, it would have support.
A long-term strategy would be to finish up Iraq and use special forces and more clandestine methods that aren't so publicised. They would support that for the long-term, but if troops have to be involved in police work for a long time (in our culture that's about 6 months) then support will not be solid.
There's more diverse feedback on the Letters Page.

- 12:21:15 AM
GAYS RUIN JAPANESE MARRIAGE: Very soon, I suspect, Stanley Kurtz will publish a Very Important Piece, following his latest Very Significant Essay, establishing that allowing gays to marry has destroyed the institution of marriage in Japan. The evidence, after all, is overwhelming:
Japanese are postponing marriage or avoiding it altogether. Weddings dropped last year for the second straight year. Fifty-four percent of Japanese women in their late 20s are single, up from 30.6% in 1985. About half of single Japanese women ages 35 to 54 have no intention to marry, according to a survey in January by the Japan Institute of Life Insurance. In fact, Japan's divorce rate rose steadily to 2.3 divorces for every 1,000 people in 2002 from 1.3 in 1990; it appears to have dropped a bit last year, partly because fewer people have been getting married. (The divorce rate in the USA was 4 per 1,000 people in 2002.)
You can, in fact, draw a direct connection between the liberalization of marriage laws in Liechtenstein and this collapse in marriage in Japan. And the turning point came at exactly the moment that Richard Hatch won "Survivor," putting another nail in the coffin of heterosexual marriage. Secular humanist skeptics will no doubt quibble that there is no such thing as gay marriage in Japan, that Japan is, in fact, a deeply homophobic society. But can they prove no connection with Holland's slide toward Gommorrah? Hasn't greater Western tolerance of homosexuals seeped through in Japan? Didn't the "Bird Cage" do pretty well over there? You have been warned. Unless you amend the American constitution, the Yellow-Lavender Peril will be here before you know it.

FLATULENT PUSBAG FOLLOW-UP: The ad I linked to yesterday was, in fact, a parody of MoveOn's Bush-hating ad contest. You can read about it here. My bad.

- 12:20:43 AM

Thursday, June 03, 2004
ZEYAD ON THE NEW GOVERNMENT: A useful Iraqi view of the new government in Baghdad:
Yawar is known to have good relations with Kurds, is trusted by the Shia, is respected by other Arab nations, has a clean record, and belongs to a powerful wealthy well-known Iraqi family that leads the Shimmar tribal confederation, one of the largest tribes in Iraq, with both Sunni and Shi'ite clans, and spanning several neighbouring countries (such as Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey). That may be a unifying factor and one that Iraqis need badly at this moment of their history. After all the presidency is almost a symbolic title.
The cabinet is impressive. We now have 5 female ministers, which is an unprecedented step in the region. Just as Iraq was the first Arab country to have a female minister in 1958, it is now also the first Arab country to grant a larger role for women in the government. I expect a much larger percentage of women in the future National Assembly or parliament. The majority of ministers are independent politically, they are mostly technocrats, and come from all Iraqi social, ethnic, religious, and sectarian backgrounds. Many old players are absent such as Chalabi's INC. Also another interesting observation is that four of the ministers are also tribal figures.
So, perhaps I'm a bit optimistic today? Maybe. But Iraqis need to be optimistic at such a critical moment. There is no use in shrugging your shoulders and saying "I don't care.." anymore. You will be left behind along with the dark forces that insist on killing more Iraqis and disrupting the new changes. I'm confident that the Arab world is now watching Iraq with eyes wide open (or wide shut).
He has some reservations as well.

- 12:00:04 PM
A "FLATULENT PUSBAG": The Bush-haters are beginning to make Clinton-haters look subtle. (Hat tip: Mickey.)

TO CHEER YOU UP: An Exorcist re-make by cartoon bunnies.

- 11:24:25 AM
TENET GONE: For "personal reasons." Like he personally presided over two of the biggest CIA failures in modern history. Thank God Bush never actually fired him. That would mean taking responsibility, wouldn't it?

BUSH: "I never apologized to the Arab world." That was his message to the editors of Christianity Today about the Abu Ghraib abuses. It speaks volumes about Bush's sense of personal responsibility. He is a walking example of the following culture: "If it feels good, do it, and if you've got a problem, blame somebody else." But he just can't or won't see it.

- 11:07:53 AM

Wednesday, June 02, 2004
LET THE RACE BEGIN: The Iowa Electronic Market began its 2004 Presidential Market yesterday. Bush is ahead.

- 10:32:39 PM
CONSERVATIVE DEFECTIONS: The fascinating thing about the slide in Bush's support in the polls is that much of it has come from Republicans defecting. Ryan Lizza, citing Stan Greenberg, points out that the biggest slippage is among rural voters:
These rural voters, referred to as "Country Folk," represent 21 percent of the electorate. In 2000, 63 percent of Country Folk backed Bush. Yet today, only 58 percent support him and only 51 percent want to continue in Bush's direction; 47 percent want to go in a "significantly different direction."
An overall drop of 5 points in the Republican presidential vote among these voters may not seem like a major shift, but in a country at parity it could provide the margin of victory. This impact is amplified by where the Country Folk live: they are concentrated in the battleground states, like Iowa, Missouri, Louisiana, New Hampshire and Minnesota.
But why are these Bush-base voters defecting? Bruce Bartlett has some plausible theories. My own hunch is that these voters do not like a massive increase in government spending, a huge jump in public debt, and a post-war policy in Iraq that seemed blindsided by reality. But here's my other belief, and it's about Abu Ghraib. The images from that prison shamed America in deep and inchoate ways. Traditional conservative patriots in particular were appalled. The awful truth is that this president presided over one of the most damaging blows to American prestige and self-understanding in recent history. He may not have been directly responsible; but it was on his watch. And he ensured that no one high up in his administration took the fall for the horror. I think traditional patriots were saddened, shocked and horrified by the abuse and, to a lesser extent, the Bush administration's self-protective response to it. For me, at least, even though I am fully committed to the war, the images from Abu Ghraib are indelibly part of my memories of the Bush administration. I can move on in my head; but my conscience will be forever troubled.

CHRISTIANS AND ABU GHRAIB: Christianity Today laments how few leading Christian groups publicly protested the abuses at Abu Ghraib. Money quote: "It would seem that American soldiers, Graner included, at Abu Ghraib failed on at least two accounts — working counter to the purpose of peace, and if some reports are true, failing to disobey orders that no Christian could in good conscience follow." That much is an understatement. But I didn't hold my breath for the leaders of the religious right to make a fuss because, well, they're the leaders of the religious right. When you're primarily devoted to the pursuit of worldly power, it is hard to criticize its abuses.

A CANADIAN WATERSHED? The best analysis I've yet read of the big political shift in Canada is on Collin May's excellent blog, Innocents Abroad. Check it out.

- 10:32:28 PM
THE COMMUNION WARS: An insightful homily from an extremely good new theo-blog.

NADER ANNOUNCES ...: ...for the presidency of Iraq. Sunnis and Shiites denounce "spoiler."

RAINES AND MOORE: Left Coast blogger Lee finds some uncanny similarities between Howell Raines' worldview and Michael Moore's. Of course they see the world the same way: America as a con-job on the permanent poor. Western Front blogger, however sees nothing that different in Raines' worldview:
While Raines' partisanship is blinkered, it is also entirely unremarkable. If you take Raines' mien as something singular or asymmetric, I would submit, respectfully, that you are missing something about contemporary liberalism in places like Manhattan or Seattle or Amherst.
I am a conservative (of some kind) and I work daily for people who could have said everything in Raines' column today - and much worse... I can tell you without any hesitation that outing myself even as a nominal conservative would be professional suicide in my milieu. So my choices are
1) keep your mouth shut and adopt a de facto "Don't ask, don't tell" policy when you are in professional company, or
2) abandon any reasonable hope of finding either regular work (as a freelancer) or advancement (in a full-time job).
Of course, it's not a lot better being a conservative and favoring, say, gay civil rights. Try getting a job at a conservative institution with those views. But most conservatives don't control institutions like universities, publishing houses, major general interest magazines, or Hollywood. They police their own openly partisan institutions - not others' or the public realm. As another reader wrote me: "I can in fact imagine being a conservative employee of someone who could write a column similar to Raines'. It's called being an employee in the political science department of a state university." I'm afraid she's right.

- 10:22:22 PM
WHAT RAINES BELIEVES: Fascinating little column by Howell Raines. Reading it is a very useful insight into how he turned the New York Times into a crusading left-populist pamphlet. Take Iraq. Of course Raines opposed the war. The notion that he might have supported it under any circumstance while Republicans were in power is ludicrous. No doubt he takes the New York Review line that we should get out now. But then he's criticizing the Bush administration for a "cut-and-run" strategy:
White House strategists are betting that leaving Iraq in 30 days - no matter what chaos ensues in that country - will leave them time to revise history between now and election day and, more importantly, get on with the work of destroying Kerry's image.
Let's look at that quote again: "... leaving Iraq in 30 days ..." The question is: does Raines believe this? If he does, he believes keeping up to 140,000 troops in a foreign country is the same as "leaving" it. Now imagine that the Bush administration decided not to transfer sovereignty and remain in control of Iraq for another year. Do you think Raines would support them? The truth is: Raines would oppose any policy in Iraq as long as it was pursued by the Bush administration. And that was indeed the rule during his editorship: the Bush administration was wrong and evil, whatever it did. Now get a load of Raines' loathing of the American market economy as a whole:
As Al From of the Democratic Leadership Council noted, Americans aren't antagonistic toward the rules that protect the rich because they think that in the great crap-shoot of economic life in America, they might wind up rich themselves. It's a mass delusion, of course, but one that has worked ever since Ronald Reagan got Republicans to start flaunting their wealth instead of apologising for it. Kerry has to understand that when a cure is impossible, the doctor must enter the world of the deluded.
What does this mean in terms of campaign message? It means that he must appeal to the same emotions that attract voters to Republicans - ie greed and the desire to fix the crap-shoot in their favour.
The only reason people vote Republican is greed and a desire to screw other people over? Has this guy got through his sophomore year yet? And the notion that people can actually make it big in this country is "a mass delusion, of course." I love that: "of course." All Guardian readers, from that wonderfully socially mobile country, Britain, know that only socialism allows people to better themselves, as long as that socialism is managed by enlightened souls like Raines. Then we have this:
As matters now stand, Kerry has assured the DLC, "I am not a redistributionist Democrat." That's actually a good start. Using that promise as disinformation, he must now figure out a creative way to become a redistributionist Democrat.
So the aim is to deceive voters about what you want to do. This might be amusing coming from a Dick Morris or a Karl Rove. But didn't Raines spend a year and a half lacerating the Bush administration for, er, lying? And now he thinks it's an essential tool for governance? Not all Bush-haters are as dumb or as crude as Raines. But it's useful to see how decadent the left-liberal mind can be in one of its more prominent exemplars. The American people are stupid, craven greed-hounds; lying is good if you can get away with it; American capitalism is a rotten, hollow promise; and even the Democrats refuse to take the advice of the few enlightened people who can help them, like Howell Raines. Well, that makes one thing to be grateful about.

ONE OTHER POINT: Can you imagine being a conservative of any kind and having to work for someone who could write a column like that one? Raines' sheer contempt for opposing views is gob-smacking. And can you imagine anyone writing a column like that deciding to edit the New York Times as objectively as possible? They key to Raines is the method he endorses in this column: "disinformation." That was his modus operandi for a year and a half: to hijack a newspaper and turn it into a means of disinformation. His only regret is that he didn't get away with it for much longer.

- 12:20:31 PM

Tuesday, June 01, 2004
BUSH'S ECONOMIC RECORD: Josh Marshall and Noam Scheiber both lay into David Brooks over Bush's economic record. Josh's point is that the big Bush tax cut that probably did avert a full-scale depression in 2001 - 2002 should not be counted in the president's favor. Why? Because Bush didn't intend the cut to boost demand during a threat of worldwide deflation, and had crafted it years before, anticipating a surplus. Josh is surely factually right about intentions; but intentions aren't everything in politics. Whatever Bush's intentions, the effect of the tax cut was obviously the right thing at the right time, and may have prevented a global economic disaster. But of course, the conditions for the demand-boost have now abated, and the economy is growing again. Now is the time for serious spending cuts to match the tax relief - at least that would be my preference. Josh would surely be better off criticizing the Bush administration for its prospective fiscal policy rather than its past economic success.

CHENEY'S HAD ENOUGH: He finally walks out on the president:
According to the vice-president, the Cheney Administration would be much more streamlined and efficient than Bush's administration has been. "Let me tell you this: It'd be a lot easier just to give a speech myself and do it right, rather than spending six hours trying to explain everything to the president—only to have him botch it anyway," Cheney said. "That 'I don't know what you're saying and I don't care' look in his eyes when I start talking policy drives me absolutely bonkers. And he wonders why the reporters are so hard on him."
When he's losing the veep, things have got to be bad. Of course, this was the Onion.

THE VIRGINIA LAW: I missed an enlightening exchange of views about the anti-gay Virginia statute that, on its face, appears to ban any private contractual arrangements between two people of the same gender. Here's Ramesh Ponnuru's defense of the law; here's Wally Olsen's response. Ponnuru's defense of the law would be more persuasive if the law hadn't passed the Virginia legislature after a virulently anti-gay debate. Ramesh's friends on the social right in Virginia are not interested in nuance here. They are interested in doing whatever they can to stigmatize, marginalize and criminalize gay relationships for religious reasons. That's the sad reality.

EMAILS OF THE DAY: Two diverging views on my post yesterday:
"If someone had said in February 2003 that in June 2004 there would be: 140,000 American troops in Iraq, just a smattering of foreign troops, heavy fighting leading to significant monthly causalties, debate over increasing the number of troops instead of decreasing them, thousands of troops diverted from Korea due to a troop shortage in Iraq, a lack of Arabic speaking and appropriately trained special forces in Afghanistan due to their necessity in Iraq, a significant presence of foreign fighters and terrorists, an increased capacity for terrorists worldwide to recruit new fighters due to increased worldwide hatred of America, a huge prisoner abuse scandal threatening the already troubled American image overseas and specifically in Iraq and the jobs of the Secretary of Defense and other top military leaders, no WMD's, no progress in the Israeli-Palestenian conflict, no progress in relations with the rest of the axis of evil, oil prices over $42 a barrel, over $120 billion spent on the war, over 800 soldiers dead, over a hundred American civilians killed in Iraq, over 4000 casualties ... well, I think you would come to the conclusion that the war had been an extraordinary ... failure. And you'd be right. Yes, there have been enormous successes; and yes, so much less could have been achieved without vast steadfastness and the bravery of our soldiers and many Iraqis. But it's worth acknowledging that, with a little perspective, our current back-patting is over-blown."
Funny, I haven't seen much back-patting. Here's another:
You asked "If someone had said in February 2003, that by June 2004..."
Good question, but you forgot to add that, in addition to that amazing list of accomplishments, Libya essentially sued for peace with the US and Britain days before the invasion of Iraq and then completely capitulated to our demands a few days after Saddam was yanked out of that rat hole. Their capitulation consisted of surrendering their extensive WMD programs and revealing details of a frighteningly advanced clandestine nuclear program run out of Pakistan (one that is now shut down).
Changing the behavior of the other state sponsors of terror was always one of the most important reasons to topple the murderous tyrant in Iraq. Had we not invaded Iraq, we'd be blissfully unaware that nuclear weapons were secretly spreading to states like Libya that sponsor radical Islamic terror. But that frightening problem was revealed before it was too late, and the problem has been effectively addressed (which was the whole idea). Nuanced diplomacy, by itself, never would have achieved this.
Opponents of the war keep asking for an explanation of Bush's strategy and complaining that he doesn't have one. As they watch freedom unfold in Iraq and former state sponsors of terror throw in the towel, those opposed to the liberation of Iraq may wish to consider the possibility that it is they, themselves, who have a strategy problem. They don't have one (unless speaking in broad, feel-good generalities is a strategy that will defeat al Qaeda), and they can't see one when it is staring them in the face. Either that, or they just refuse to see it.
More feedback can be found on the Letters Page.

BLOGS IN BRITAIN: An essay asks why they haven't taken off as they have in the U.S.

- 10:52:38 PM
SHOULD RUMMY RESIGN? The Onion surveys the American street.

- 1:46:10 PM
JUST A QUESTION: If someone had said in February 2003, that by June 2004, Saddam Hussein would have been removed from power and captured; that a diverse new government, including Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds, would be installed; that elections would be scheduled for January 2005; and that the liberation of a devastated country of 25 million in which everyone owns an AK-47 had been accomplished with an army of around 140,000 with a total casualty rate (including accidents and friendly fire) of around 800; that no oil fields had been set aflame; no WMDs had been used; no mass refugee crises had emerged; and no civil war had broken out... well, I think you would come to the conclusion that the war had been an extraordinary success. And you'd be right. Yes, there are enormous challenges; and yes, so much more could have been achieved without incompetence, infighting and occasional inhumanity. But it's worth acknowledging that, with a little perspective, our current gloom is over-blown. Stocks in Iraq have been way over-sold. I even regret some minor sells myself. Now watch the media do all it can to accentuate the negative.

WHAT THE MEDIA READS: This blog comes out first in terms of media influence, according to Dan Drezner.

A MUSIC BLOG: The brilliant young music critic and writer, Alex Ross, now has a music blog. Everything he writes is worth reading.

JUDICIAL TYRANTS: Yes, those figures in black robes once violated basic principles of self-government and forced vile and disgusting marriages on unwilling majorities. No one had a say - except nine dictators in the Supreme Court. And the public was overwhelmingly opposed, according to Gallup:
In 1968, only 20% of Americans approved of marriage between "whites and nonwhites." By 1983, 43% said they approved of marriage between blacks and whites, and in the most recent survey conducted for AARP, 73% of Americans expressed approval toward black-white marriages. This percentage is up significantly since Gallup last asked the question in June 2002.
While a majority of black adults have consistently approved of marriage between whites and nonwhites since Gallup began asking this question of blacks in 1968, only 17% of whites approved in 1968. It wasn't until 1997 that a majority of whites expressed approval toward black-white marriages. According to the latest survey, 70% of whites and 80% of blacks approve of marriage between whites and blacks.
Younger Americans are more likely than older Americans to approve of marriage between blacks and whites (approval ranges from 85% among the 18- to 29-year-olds to just 47% among those 65 and older).
It wasn't until 1997 that a majority of whites approved of inter-racial marriages! The public approval of marriage rights for gays today is close to double the approval of inter-racial marriage in 1967. Judicial tyranny was worse then, wasn't it?

- 1:26:11 PM

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