Tuesday, November 30, 2004

The Honeymoon Is Over

It's not that I haven't found anything good to blog about lately, but rather that I recently got hitched and was honeymooning in the British Virgin Islands for the last two weeks.

While I was on vacation, I did manage to read an old novel that I am embarrassed to admit, I hadn't read until now: The Great Gatsby. Now there's a book worth reading and rereading. Fitzgerald packs in more detail in one florid sentence than most of us do in one paragraph. So I agree with Mr. Last that this book deserves a reread. Or in my case, a read.

And though I am only half-way through, I will here and now declare one of my favorite books of all time to be Between Meals by A.J. Liebling, a man after my own heart. The New Yorker writer takes us on a culinary adventure through Paris during the early 1900s, the expat-saturated 1920s, and the 1950s. While some of his descriptions are outmoded (such as of clarets and civets), others could have been taken straight of out Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential (another of my favorites). If I may be permitted to quote at length Liebling's return to an old favorite French bistro only to find out he'd been ambushed:

On the ghastly evening I speak of--a beautiful one in June--I perceived no change in the undistinguished exterior of Mme. G's restaurant. The name ... was the same, and since the plate-glass windows were backed with scrim, it was impossible to see inside.... The bar, the tables, the banquettes covered with leatherette, the simple décor of mirrors and pink marble slabs were the same.... A man whom I did not recognize came to me, rubbing his hands and hailing me as an old acquaintance. I thought he might be a waiter who had served me.... He had me at a table before I sensed the trap.

He presented me with a carte du jour written in the familiar purple ink on the familiar wide sheet of paper with the name and telephone number of the restaurant at the top. The content of the menu, however, had become Italianized, the spelling had deteriorated, and the prices had diminished to a point where it would be a miracle if the food continued distinguished.

"Madame still conducts the restaurant?" I asked sharply.

I could now see that he was a Piedmontese of the most evasive description. From rubbing his hands he had switched to twisting them.

"Not exactly," he said, "but we make the same cuisine."

I could not descry anything in the smudged ink but misspelled noodles and unorthographical "escaloppinis"; Italians writing French by ear produce a regression to an unknown ancestor of both languages.

"Try us," my man pleaded, and, like a fool, I did. I was hungry. Forty minutes later, I stamped out into the street as purple as an aubergine with rage. The ministrone had been cabbage scraps in greasy water. I had chosen cotes d'agneau as the safest item in the mediocre catalogue that the [former restaurant's] prospectus of bliss had turned into overnight. They had been cut from a tired Alpine billy goat and seared in machine oil, and the haricot verts with which they were served resembled decomposed whiskers from a theatrical-costume beard.

"The same cuisine?" I thundered as I flung my money on the falsified addition that I was too angry to verify. "You take me for a jackass!"

I am sure that as soon as I turned my back the scoundrel nodded. The restaurant has changed hands at least once since then.

Euthanizing Babies

As Wesley Smith and others have been pointing out for a long time, this is where assisted suicide must, by necessity, eventually lead.

If people want to live in a society where doctors make the arbitrary decisions on who lives and who dies, based upon their own belief as to what conditions or deformaties make life not worth living, then so be it.

But people should not be fooled into thinking that legalizing physician-assisted suicide is the final step. It is merely the next step.

What to Re-Read, Part II

If I read it, I’m apt to re-read it. And though it seems poor hospitality to bore GS readers with the contents of my nightstand, I’ll mention some things I’ve re-read in the last couple of years.

Shakespeare: I’ve been noodling around in Antony and Cleopatra, which I love most for its portait of feminine wiles. Act One, Scene III, the queen sends her messenger to find Antony: "If you find him sad / Say I am dancing; If in mirth; report that I am sudden sick. . . ."

Irving Kristol’s essays, esp. The Autobiography of an Idea collection, though it doesn’t include the indispensable "When Virtue Lost her Loveliness." Irving (sorry but you’ll have to indulge me-few are the truly great individuals I get to call by their first name,) is in my opinion the most eloquent of the great anti-Communists. No other tapped so deeply into the great American essay tradition dating back to the Federalist papers.

I’ve been re-reading, with great pleasure, Florence King’s National Review columns for an eventual essay on the subject of her cruelty and wit, and I tentatively believe—meaning this was my opinion for a while and I wonder if it will survive the re-examination—that she’s the foremost conservative stylist of my lifetime.

Isaac Bashevis Singer’s folkloric stories hold up very, very well, so perfectly wrought are they. I’ve also re-read Enemies, A Love Story not that long ago. What a book! When I learned that Roger L. Simon had written the screenplay for the excellent movie version, I felt like sending him flowers.

A very partial list. In truth I find it very easy to name contemporary writers worth re-reading. Even poets and novelists-whom conservatives seem to loathe almost out of habit.

What to Re-Read, Part I

Jacob Weisberg makes a clever distinction in his Wolfe review, one that Hugh Hewitt picks up on. "You may never put down a Tom Wolfe novel," sayeth Weisberg. "But you never reread one, either."
Well, "you" don’t, maybe, but I do.

I am a Wolfe re-reader, having for instance re-read Bonfire of the Vanities several times and The Right Stuff at least once if not twice. Bonfire, I have no doubt, will remain the quintessential fictional work of the ’80s. An important novel in several ways, it’s also a textbook of writing devices, none less effectively employed than the telling detail.

Take the half-consumed jar of mayonnaise that is hurled at Mayor Goldberg, a Jewish mayor speaking to an angry crowd in Harlem, in the opening scene:

"Something hits the Mayor on the shoulder. It hurts like hell! There on the floor—a jar of mayonnaise, an eight-ounce jar of Hellmann’s mayonnaise. Half-full! Half-consumed! Somebody has thrown a half-eaten jar of Hellmann’s mayonnaise at him! In that instant the most insignificant thing takes over his mind. Who in the name of God would bring a half-eaten eight-ounce jar of mayonnaise to a public meeting?"

The half-coherent image is perfect. Maybe the mayonnaise has something to do with the mayor being a white person. Or not. But, somehow, instead of being left in the refrigerator for future tuna fish sandwiches, the mayo’s been carried to a public meeting and thrown at the Mayor. Comic rage, the weird inscrutability of racial symbolism, the barbarism of democratic politics—it’s all there.

At writing school, they could teach a whole class about this mayonnaise.

Am, incidentally, about a third of the way through I am Charlotte Simmons. So a warning: I will blog more on the subject.

FL 93 and the War on Terror Memorial

Hugh Hewitt is promoting the notion of putting a war on terror memorial at the Flight 93 crash site in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. With all due respect to Hugh, this is a terrible idea.

I've been to Shanksville a couple times and written about the current memorial which lives on that field. If you haven't had the chance to take the long drive up to Shanksville, here's what you see:

After spending an hour or so snaking up and over hills on Route 30, eventually you come to the little Buckstown Road, and from there to Skyline Road, a paved, single-lane way which comes out of the hills and slopes up and out to the fields. Off to your right you can see the hulking, rusting remains of earth-movers, left over from mining which finished years ago.

Then there's a break, and you see little paved parking lots on either side of the road, and off to your left, a 60-foot length of chain-link fence, a couple flagpoles, and a giant wooden cross.

You see, Shanksville already has a memorial. It wasn't planned by the government. It came out of nowhere, as people began making pilgrimages to the Flight 93 crash site entirely on their own. And when they came, they left things: Rosaries, hats, pictures, messages, jackets, shoes, pins--anything they could think of. The townspeople put up the fence so that these mementos would have a place to congregate. And in the three years since September 11, the Flight 93 memorial has grown. There's a large marble plaque which was sent up from a grateful man in Guatemala. The giant cross, which stands next to the Pennsylvania and American flags, was installed. And people from all over America--and the world--who have visited have left messages on every singe surface available: flagpoles, guardrails, and even the port-a-johns.

As it exists now, the Flight 93 memorial is a shrine. Because it has been created, spontaneously, by the people, it has a religious character to it which makes it as powerful a monument as there is in our country. (And while the overwhelming majority of the religious sentiment is Christian, I can't think of a religion which isn't in some way represented.)

There are a host of reasons why a memorial to the war on terror shouldn't be situated in Shanksville, but the best is that it would necessitate the sweeping away of the monument people have already built there--and with the government behind it, the new memorial could not possibly have the same religious character. Shanksville is, literally, hallowed ground. It should stay that way.

Epstein on Capote

Reading Joseph Epstein's lyrical essay on Truman Capote, I'm tempted to call Epstein the best writer of his generation. [These payoffs are reaaallly inside baseball. --ed Yeah, so what.]

Epstein acknowledges Capote's genuine gifts, but is clear-eyes about his shortcomings:

Without In Cold Blood, Capote's name would probably be forgotten today. Although his fiction is never less than skillful, with the element of charm bordering on sentimentality frequently coming into play in such stories as "The House of Flowers" and "A Christmas Memory," it often feels a touch insubstantial, derivative, fragile, and too brightly colored. When Capote published his first novel, Other Voices, Other Rooms (1948), George Davis, an editor of Mademoiselle magazine known for his lacerating remarks, said: "I suppose someone had to write the fairy Huckleberry Finn."

Ultimately, Epstein concludes that Capote was destroyed by the celebrity culture he helped create. Really, don't miss this piece.

(Also, not that you care, but it pleases me to report that Epstein's talent is exceeded only by his immense personal decency. As a rule, you shouldn't meet your heroes--unless they're Joe Epstein.)
Also, be sure to catch Glenn Reynolds's review of Neal Stephenson's Boroque Cycle.

On Religion and Politics

Claudia Winkler has a wonderful piece on the role of religion in politics. She points out that the hysterics out there worrying about "Jesusland" haven't been paying much attention to American history. The passage she quotes from Lincoln's letter to Eliza Gurney is well worth revisiting:

The purposes of the Almighty are perfect, and must prevail, though we erring mortals may fail to accurately perceive them in advance. We hoped for a happy termination of this terrible war long before this; but God knows best, and has ruled otherwise. We shall yet acknowledge his wisdom, and our own error therein. Meanwhile we must work earnestly in the best lights he gives us, trusting that so working still conduces to the great ends he ordains. Surely he intends some great good to follow this mighty convulsion, which no mortal could make, and no mortal could stay.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Xmas Values

Galley Friend CS sends along a remarkable exchange from one of those helpful Q & A online sessions set up by the Washington Post. This one's hosted by a local psychologist who discourages parents from teaching their children materialistic values this Christmas. Her interlocuter sees the situation a little differently.

what money can buy

Alexandria, Va.: I'm one of the "materialistic" parents that you talk about, a defense lobbyist who supposedly has "too little time" for my children. I give my kids the iPods and $200 sneakers so they can show these things off. If you live like you're successful, you will be successful. Other kids will naturally follow my kids, which helps my kids be leaders. My kids' teachers think twice before they give my kid a B+, or before they cast someone else as the lead in the school play. That's the extra grease I can give my kids so they follow in my footsteps and be just as successful as I am.

Pat Dalton: We probably raise kids who are a lot like us, and value what we value. It would be hard to do it any other way.
Over at Power Line, Paul Mirengoff and Scott Johnson are trying to get some help for Steve Gardner, the Swift boat vet who suddenly lost his job after criticizing John Kerry.

All Your Base Are Belong to Wretchard

Fine, I give up. I hate anonymous blogging. I think it's at best unhelpful and at worst and invitation to mischief. But I understand that it is also, sometimes, a necessity. In the past I've been converted by the great and powerful Soxblog and now I'm giving up the ghost on The Belmont Club. Wretchard's post on Alexander the Great is about as smart and interesting as anything I've seen written about the movie. It's great stuff.

But I will make a plea that Wretchard come out (so the speak). It would give his writings that much more punch to have a name attached.

Intellectual Pecking Order

A little while ago, we asked people what their
favorite movie lines
were. Showing the difference between men and boys, today Hugh Hewitt asks what novels are worth rereading.

Hugh, who really is a scholar and a gentleman, nominates several worthies--including The Lord of the Rings.

I would add The Great Gatsby. I speak with zero authority on the subject (I'm the most poorly read homo sapiens in this hemisphere, a fact which I blame--nearly convincingly!--on a college education which afforded me the time to read not a single real book), but I love Gatsby the way a 15-year-old loves porn. (If you still need convincing, Chris Hitchens loves Gatsby, too.)

Still, the person we should really turn to here is Skinner, who surely has smart thoughts on all of this. David?

Update, 11/30/04, 4:52 p.m.: Galley Friend K.T. sends in this erudite missive:

* Tongues of Angels, Reynolds Price. If you haven't read it, you should. Price is one of the great Southern writers: lyrical, prolific, deeply religious, and with a way to spin a phrase that will wind you up backwards. He's complex, fascinating, and his writing evidences compassion for his characters, unlike some so-called "great novelists" who prefer to take their characters out for a good thrashing just because critics reward angst. The first read through, it seems childlike. The second read through, it's hopelessly complex. And by the third, you're savoring each sentence and finding nuggets in there you didn't know existed and phrases you'll quote to your friends.

* To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee. Not modern, but worth re-reading whenever you feel a little doubt about the way the world is and should be.

* What the Scarecrow Said, Stewart Ikeda. A beautiful moving portrait of Japanese internment camps and the strange bedfellows that wartime may bring. Reread when you want to feel better about human nature . . . or worse.

* Anything by Anthony Doerr. Tony's one of the young writers of our generation who can make prose sing. He is best known for his collection of short stories entitled "The Shell Collector" but his new book Grace is complicated and interesting and challenging all in one.

What's a club without leather club chairs?

Important New York Sun piece lost over the holiday weekend, concerning interior design changes at the Yale Club in NYC. here (via New Criterion's blog Armavirumque) (Inside baseball note: Article quotes the blog, which then promotes the article when it's published.)

Monday Morning Laugh

Galley Friend B.W. passes along this hilarious post from David Burge about good blue-state families whose children become rednecks. Sample:

Across coastal America, increasing numbers of families are discovering that their children have been lured into "Cracker" culture--a new, freewheeling underground youth movement that celebrates the hedonistic thrills of frog-gigging and outlaw modified sprint cars. No one knows their exact number, but sociologists say that the movement is exploding among young people in America's most fashionable zip codes.

"We first detected it a few years ago, with the emergence of the trucker hat phenomenon," says Gerard Levin, professor of abnormal sociology at the University of California. "At first we thought it was some sort of benign, ironic strain. By the time we realized the early wearers really were interested in seed corn hybrids and Peterbilts, it had already escaped containment."

Levin points to 'Patient Zero,' who in 1997 was a 23-year old graduate student in Gender Studies at San Francisco State University.

"During a cross-country trip to New York, he stopped at the Iowa 80 Truck Stop in Walcott, Iowa, and bought a John Deere gimme cap as a gag souvenir," says Levin. "Within a year, he had dropped out of graduate school, abandoned his SoMa apartment, and and was working at a drive-thru liquor store. Today he is a wealthy televangelist in Bossier City, Louisiana."

The contagion of 'Patient Zero' would prove devastating. Soon trucker hats were appearing throughout trendy coastal neighborhoods like Williamsburg and Park Slope and Portrero Hill, often accessorized with chain wallets and 'wife beater' t-shirts. A new alternative youth movement had emerged, rejecting the staid norms of establishment NPR society and embracing the 'tune-in, turn-on, chug-up' ethos of the Pabst Blue Ribbon underground. Before long, it would broadcast its siren call to an even younger generation--one whose parents were woefully unequipped to recognize it. . . .

There's more and it's full of the funny.


Because he's a flashy--one might even say insouciant--stylist, it's easy to underestimate what a great writer Matt Labash is. And because he's such a great writer, nobody gives him the credit he deserves for being one of the finest reporters working.

Go read Labash's piece about his trip to the Clinton Library. Print it out; savor it. Pure genius.
Tom Wolfe's new book, I am Charlotte Simmons, has been getting mugged by reviewers, so it's refreshing to come across a well-spoken defense like this one in the Wichita Eagle. I'm particularly grateful for the author's use of an Evelyn Waugh quote, in reference to Rudyward Kipling, whom Waugh said was "conservative in the sense that he believed civilization to be something laboriously achieved which was only precariously defended. He wanted to see the defenses fully manned and he hated the liberals because he thought them gullible and feeble, believing in the easy perfectibility of man and ready to abandon the work of centuries for sentimental qualms."

What a perfect description of Waugh himself, among others.

FCC Fudging

Frank Rich--the only liberal Times columnist worth reading--points us toward this Jeff Jarvis post about the FCC's complaint against the show Married by America.

A quick summary: The FCC sued the network which broadcast Married by America for $1.2 million. They cited 159 complaints. Jarvis filed a Freedom of Information Act request and found that there were only 90 complaints, not 159. These 90 complaints were filed, collectively, by just 23 individual people.

And of these 23 individuals, 21 of them sent in a nearly identical form letter. So the FCC was cooking the books.

This is exactly the sort of thing you'd expect in George W. Bush's America: Censorship! And don't let John Ashcroft's "resignation" fool you--he's behind this, too.

This is the perfect liberal morality tale, except for one teensy-weensy problem. The network that aired Married by America is . . . Fox!

So in order for one liberal shibboleth to live, another must die. Oh well. But the next time someone lectures you about how Rupert Murdoch is in the pocket of the Bush administration (or vice versa), point them thisaway.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

The Dry Kiev

Reuben Johnson has another power-packed dispatch from Kiev. Worth reading.

How serious are the Yushchenko supporters? They've banned all alcohol from their tent city, even though it's the dead of winter. That's pretty committed.

And very, very smart.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Vaclav Havel and Ukraine

Glenn Reynolds thinks Havel should replace Kofi Annan at the United Nations--and that the Ukraine election is the perfect moment to do it.

Ukraine Update

Reuben Johnson has a report from Kiev about the attempt from Viktor Yanukovich to steal the election.

I would be worried, but know that we don't have to worry about Vladimir Putin, because President Bush "looked the man in the eye" and "was able to get a sense of his soul." And he likes him!

First Rather, Now Moyers

Moyers is dropping Now. Village Voice

Cancer Blog

With an eye for detail and mordant wit, as they call it, this guy's been keeping a semi-regular diary of his struggle and how bad it feels to be alive. Rather moving. subtext

I don't know anything else about him and have come upon his blog entirely by chance.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Better a two than no AP score at all

Even as more colleges take a dim view of AP scores, the experience of taking AP tests, even if a student fails, is a good predictor of whether he’ll graduate college in 5 years. Students who took but failed an AP exam were more than twice as likely to graduate in 5 years than students who didn’t take any AP exams. The indispensable Jay Matthews

The Barbarian Invasions on DVD

Caught The Barbarian Invasions the other night, celebrated by critics for its intelligence and fine acting when it came out in theaters last year. Now on DVD, the movie proves curious, interesting, and with few equals in the one or two areas where it truly excels. Those two areas might be roughly described as politics and the depiction of intellectuals.

The opening shots of a hospital will make you think you’re visiting wartorn Bosnia, instead of Canada the land of socialized medicine. A dying father in Montreal has to be taken to Vermont for a decent X-ray, before the results are transmitted to experts in Europe, so pointless, according to the movie, is it to raise questions with Canada’s health authorities. But don’t get comfortable, because one soon realizes this movie’s title comes from a bit of TV punditry in which a condescending Euro-style intellectual discusses the meaning of 9/11. And still, the movie’s soul is elsewhere, possibly with this dying man and his circle of aging radical intellectuals.

These sweet old farts get a wonderful chance to sit around like old times, lamenting their mistakes—one hilarious scene has them naming every –ism they ever fell for—and celebrating the life of the mind. Even as the movie appears to be rooted in a typically Canadian not-Americanism, America’s founding receives the most respectful treatment in a long, lavish conversation celebrating history’s greatest moments of intellectual alignment. That is, when all the geniuses of an age seemed to know each other and left behind a lasting monument of their combined effort. It’s a bittersweet moment for a circle of brainy people who are leaving behind only a legacy of friendship.

Once I realized the movie was heading toward the dying man’s suicide, I turned away, because I did not want to be subjected to any lectures on physician-assisted suicide (which I oppose). But then, faced with the prospect of returning a half-watched DVD to the store, I gave it another try. And for a movie that does some serious lifting in the ideas department, The Barbarian Invasion proves to have a surprisingly light touch, even in this heaviest of scenes.

Artest and All That

Soxblog has best perspective on Ron Artest's Devil's Night.

Aside from being overly kind about my much-diminished hoop skills, he has a great story about a pack of Boston Bruin players taking into the stands in Madison Square Garden 25 years ago. There, they proceeded to beat down a bunch of rowdy New Yorkers, going so far as to bludgeon one putz with his own shoe. This story is not to be missed.
Charming item on Page Six today. William F. Buckley, on Election Night, commented to the New Yorker’s Ben McGrath that the field looked grim for a Republican presidential candidate in 2008. Running down the list of likelies, Buckley paused over the names Rudy Giuliani and George Pataki. (How strange that the Republican party should look to New York for its future.) Giuliani Buckley hopes will run. Pataki? "No," says the father of modern conservatism, "he’s epicene." Pataki’s office had no comment for the Post about the governor’s alleged condition of being neither male nor female. Probably Buckley meant neither Republican nor Democrat, or simply, not the kind of unmistakably ambitious creature who becomes a contender for president.

In, But Not Of

I don't want this to mutate into some sort of manifesto, but for those of you who keep asking what kind of traffic Galley Slaves is doing, this post from the normally excellent Patterico is why I don't have a site meter:

Traffic has been steadily dropping off. Today was a drastic drop.

What's the deal? Am I starting to suck that bad?

Or is this happening to other people?

Weird that this would happen the same day I top half a million visitors.

UPDATE: You know what this means--another request for you to tell people about the blog!

This is nothing against Patterico, whose blog I generally like quite a bit. But when you're driven to begging for readers, that's just not right. I mean, these things are just blogs, for cryin' out loud. I'll let you in on a secret. Shhhh, lean in closer so I can whisper: They don't actually matter.

Can they be fun? Sure. Can they occassionally be useful? You bet. But to the extent that blogs seduce people into whittling down their dignity--by writing about their boyfriends or their wives or their traffic or their hospital stays or their dogs or their penchant for salted, cured meats, all in the name of keeping the numbers up--they can also be quite pernicious.

Yes, That Jon Klein

It turns out that there's a reason Jon Klein, the blogosphere's own personal Dick Dastardly, hasn't been posting much to his blog recently: It turns out that he's been named U.S. head of CNN. Lisa de Moraes is, as always, so bad that it's good:

. . . after Klein gave the obligatory "it's about the storytelling" speech--really, new hires at CNN should be required to take a pledge not to say anything sounding remotely like "it's about the storytelling"--one reporter opened the Q&A portion of the festivities by noting wearily that CNN has "talked about 'storytelling' the last three rounds of management changes" and asked Walton how many times they thought they could discuss "storytelling" as the reason for an executive change "before it becomes sort of toxic." Walton responded that not every ratings point is created equal; Klein added, "There's storytelling and there's storytelling."

Not mean enough? She adds: "In a statement, Fox News Channel said it wished 'CNN well on their annual executive shuffle.'"

I'd like to say that, contra the blogosphere, I found Klein quite pleasant and responsive in my dealings. Best of luck to him on the new job--and I think it would be great if he kept his blog going while at the new gig. A blog that gave an inside look at how executive cable news decisions are made? That would interesting.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Ted Rall for President (con't)

If you checked out of work early last Friday, you might have missed the news that the Washington Post finally decided to drop Ted Rall. You'll recall our last brush with Rall, when we found him doing his best Mike Kinsley impersonation.

In the midst of the Post flap, Rall asked readers of his blog to email the paper and defend him. One enterprising Galley Slave reader decided, instead, to email Rall and--well, there's no delicate way to put this--rub it in. Our reader's exchange with Rall can be read here.

You may (or may not) be surprised to here that Rall doesn't like having his cage rattled. The man who thinks it's funny to mock women whose husbands were murdered on September 11, who thinks it's amusing to mock Pat Tillman's death, emailed back this whiny, indignant response: "People like you are encouraging lots of creative people--including conservatives--to avoid posting online content. Nice job, fascist." Poor widdle Teddy!

In addition to everything else, it turns out that Rall is a bully, too. He can dish it out, but he can't take it. I hope that other Galley Slave readers will refrain from emailing Rall. We don't want to hurt his feelings.

Those creative types, you know. They're very sensitive.

Camden, Oh Camden

The AP reports that my birthplace, Camden, New Jersey, has been named America's most dangerous city. It's about time.

For years throughout the '80s and '90s, Camden was routinely named America's "worst city" by, I think, U.S. News, or some such magazine. Camden has had three of its mayors indicted in the last 10 years.

You have to laugh at Camden, because otherwise you'd cry. I remember seeing pictures of Camden from the '40s when it was a beautiful, shining town, nestled on the Delaware river across from center city Philadelphia. And if you drive through Camden today, you can still see echoes of the past in the architecture of detailing on old brownstones and brick townhouses.

I've always thought that Camden would be the perfect laboratory for a government that wanted to fix inner-city blight. It has all the afflications of Compton or Detroit, but it's small enough to manage. If someone in either New Jersey or the federal government was serious about figuring out how to rescue America's inner cities, they would start with Camden and try every tool in the box--empowerment zones, school vouchers, broken-windows policing, faith-based community outreach--to see what works.

CIA Madness

Michael Scheuer looks less and less credible with everything you read about him. Steve Hayes has the goods on Scheuer's unsustainable position regarding the connection between Iraq and al Qaeda. Apparently Scheuer did research on this connection and came up with "nothing." Which contradicts everything else we seem to know about Saddam and bin Laden's relationship. (Spare me the email; all available evidence says that the two of them had a relationship; the question is whether or not it was operative.)

Then Matt Continetti has a report on Scheuer's feud with Richard Clarke. Scheuer does not come off looking terribly good.

I'm just digging into Scheuer's books, but I'm struck by one passage from the acknowledgments in Through Our Enemies' Eyes:

At the day's end, I would like to thank those who granted my request and those who opposed publication. Indeed, the latter steeled me to press the issue to a conclusion and not yield to men who, in Mark Helprin's 1998 words, "knowing very little or next to nothing, take pride in telling everyone else what to do."

I understand--and applaud--holding grudges. But this doesn't sound like someone with much respect for opposing judgments. Or someone who's much of a team player.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Republicans Need Not Apply

I'm hardly a fan of the Bush twins--who strike me as the unpleasant end-product of congenital nepotism--but this story from Gawker is disgusting:

"Freemans tuesday night the 16th of nov. the bush twins along with 2 massive secret service men tried to have dinner they were told by the maitre 'd that they were full and would be for the next 4 years upon hearing the entire restaurant cheered and did a round of shots it was amazing!!!"

Could this be true? I don't want to make too much out of it until we have some confirmation, but imagine if this had happened to Chelsea Clinton or one of the Kerry girls in Utah. But of course you can't imagine that. If Chelsea or the Kerry girls showed up at a restaurant in Utah, they would no doubt be fawned over and treated with respect and decorum.

Only in New York.
Scott Johnson (I'm sorry, I refuse to refer to bloggers by their blog handles; it's part of my "in, but not of" approach to the blogosphere) has a very thoughtful post on Natan Sharansky and the differences between politicians and dissidents.

I'm not certain that I agree with Sharansky 100 percent on his assessment of what George W. Bush is trying to do in the Middle East, but that's only because I remain unconvinced that democracy is universally applicable across all cultural borders.

(Mind you, I'm open to the possibility that it is. But it seems to me that, at best, the jury is still out on this maxim.)

Movie News

Two items catch my attention:

(1) Apparently Disney has decided to make Toy Story 3 without Pixar. That'll probably work out well. Maybe even as good as when Coppola decided to do Godfather III without Robert Duvall.

(2) A group of greek lawyers are threatening to sue Warner Bros. over the Oliver Stone movie Alexander. Apparently, they maintaint that the great Greek never, umm, went Greek. If you know what I mean. Hopefully we'll get an update from Galley Friend Pallas C.S. before the day is out.
As is fitting of someone who’s never been mistaken for a bright young thing himself, I take a dim view of the bright young things always being touted at places like the New Republic and the Atlantic Monthly (the latter which, nevertheless, I think may be the best magazine for politics of any of the general magazines).

Anyway, reading Noam Scheiber’s article in this week’s issue of The New Republic only confirms this prejudice of mine. He’s written an entire article bashing what he believes the White House is going to do with Social Security. Every contact the White House has had with Congressional Dems on the issue of Social Security becomes a scene of political theater in Scheiber's telling. It's one of those pieces that's so one-sided you can't imagine the author even believes it.

Not since Dana Milbank wrote a piece on the front page of the Washington Post, bashing the Bush-Cheney ticket for what he said would turn out to be one of the most negative campaigns ever, have I read anything this baseless, preemptive, and, well, petty. (Okay, that may not be true since the river of crap always runs high.) But, judging from the New Republic’s cover story on how the deficit issue is going to lead Dems out of the wilderness, I’m concluding that frantic wild-ass-guessing about what's really going on is going around the office over there like a bad bug.


Just received a PDF of a new e-publication called The Bullpen. Hilarious, Onion-like, corporate newletter parody. First item reads: "—New York, NY Research analyst Micahel Lamatina upgraded unattractive floater secretary Katy Mishaud from"fugly" to "bangable" Tuesday, citing his lack of sexual activity for the past nine months."

I'll post any links as soon as they have em.

Get a Load of This

M.E. Russell, who now holds the title of Best Film Critic in America You Don't Know About (Yet), snuck into a supposedly critic-free screening of Seed of Chucky. He lived to tell the tale and write a funny little essay.

Who Are These Guys?

I finally yield to the Pro-Goss Super Posse, which consists of Steve Hayes, John McCain, David Brooks, and now Matt Continetti. Continetti reports that Michael Sheuer (that's "Anonymous," to you) has revealed who it was at CIA who gave him "carte blanche" to criticize the president in his books: None other than former CIA spokesman Bill Harlow.

Harlow reported directly only to George Tenet. Maybe there really is something rotten going on at the Agency.

TiVo Public Service

In response to a question about an earlier post, here's a quickie description of no-frills Comcast GhettoTiVo:

If Comcast is your cable provider, chances are you can get their DVR service, hereby referred to as GhettoTiVo. It's operating system is not as elegant as TiVo's; it doesn't predict shows for you the way TiVo does; it doesn't let you fast-forward 30 seconds at a time, the way TiVo does; you cannot program it through a remote location, the way TiVo can. But it does have this advantage: You don't buy the DVR (Comcast gives it to you) and the monthly fee is cheap (depends on location, but universally cheaper than TiVo, I believe.

This is good because DVR units, like all hard-disk drives, have a natural life span of around two to three years. So if you want TiVo, you have to spend a few hundred dollars to buy the DVR unit and then you have to spend that money all over again whenever if breaks. With GhettoTiVo, Comcast lends you the unit, and when it wears out, will provide you with another, free of charge.

And the good news is, it works.
Stephen Schwartz says that the Falluja operation has been a success. It's an important piece, you should read it.
An Orthodox Jew executed in Antwerp. There's going to be big trouble for Jews in Europe over the next few years.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Game Nostalgia

Just in case you need a quick work-break, check out this very excellent--and as far as I can tell, complete--list of arcade games. I think every arcade game ever made is included, and most of them have screenshots and little biographies. It's the IMDB of arcade games; an essential resource.

Wretchard on Grozny

I'm congenitally skeptical about anonybloggers, but Wretchard at the Belmont Club is slowly converting me. His post today about how the Russians were defeated at Grozny is very, very good, and should be widely read.

Fuck the South

That's the title of this charming little website. It's not really a website, actually, so much as a one page rant, the driving theme of which is: Blue states = Northeast America = Good. Red states = The South = Bad.

I won't lie--some of the rant is sort of funny (although maybe that's because I'm a Yankee at heart).

But here's my question: Much of the "liberal elite" reaction to the election (see Ted Rall, Michael Kinsley, et al) has settled on this being a North vs. South split. Which is true, except for the other parts of the country that voted for Bush, too: the Midwest, the Great Plains, the Mountain West, and the Southwest.

What should really concern Democrats is that Pennsylvania, Minnesota, and even Wisconsin seem to be trending more and more Republican. If Democrats have to wage pitched battles in these states, it's going to be very difficult for them to win elections.

Sour Democrats should stop obsessing about the South and start worrying about their problems in the rest of the country.

Best Movie Line Ever?

In their continuing quest to debase the art of cinema, the AFI is compiling a list of the top 100 movie lines of all time.

By quotes, the AFI explains, they mean the greatest "quips, comebacks, and catchphrases." Swell.Why pay homage to great writing when you have catchphrases to exhalt?

I'm going to assume that we won't be seeing a beautiful, heart-rending line like "She gets the winter passion, and I get the dotage?" Nah, who needs that when you've got "I'll be back."

So, I hearby commission Galley Slave readers to submit their nominations for Best Movie Line Ever. I haven't thought about this for more than three minutes, but to get the ball started, I'll offer:

"There's always one more thing." --Bridge on the River Kwai

"Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father: prepare to die." --The Princess Bride

"Listen, I don't mean to be a sore loser, but when it's done, if I'm dead, kill him." --Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Update, 1:02 p.m.: SoxBlog emails in his nomination: "'Deserve''s got nothin to do with it." --Unforgiven

Other suggestions keep pouring in. This thread will be updated frequently throughout the day. But if you really want to waste time at work, check out the official AFI short-list of the 400 nominated lines, downloadable as a PDF here. **WARNING** The file is 103 pages long, so print at your own risk.

Pillow Talk

Galley Friend K.T. sends along this story about American Airlines: They're removing all of the pillows from their MD-80 planes. Where's the outrage?

I fly the Super-80 on American fairly often, and I must say that I enjoy the pillows. The public line American is taking is that not having pillows will streamline the cabin-cleaning process between flights, saving the airling "in the mid-six figures" annually. Also, they maintain that the adjustable headrests make the pillows obsolete.

But not so fast: If I remember a helpful article in British Airways' in-flight magazine correctly, the proper place to put your pillow is not behind your neck, but behind your lower back. Surely we have some expert readers to weigh in on this important quesiton . . .

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

We Had to Adopt TiVo, So That We Could Kill It

Now this is real, serious bad news: TiVo is going to start putting pop-up ads on-screen while you fast-forward through commercials. Suddenly, I feel much, much better about having the no-frills Comcast GhettoTiVo.
Sam Karnick has an interesting piece in the American Spectator on the real origins of political polarization.
The Belmont Club has an interesting treatise on war crimes and battlefield ethics.

The Other Shoe?

Over at Power Line, Scott Johnson notes that sarin may have been found in Falluja. If true, this could be a very big story.

Also, if true, this would mean that President Bush's decision not to go into Falluja in April might have needlessly endangered his reelection bid.

Update, 4:50 p.m.: Powerline now has up a bevy of reader input on what the vials in the picture really are. So far, the consensus seems to be not sarin, but either sarin antidote or sarin testing formula. Whatever the case, Scott Johnson is to be commended for being totally vigilant and transparent with this developing story.

Abortion Under Bush

Tom Maguire deconstructs the stat that abortions have been on the increase under Bush.

Homosexuality in the Red States

On November 3rd, we heard a lot about how scared liberals and homosexuals were by the mass of the great unwashed lurking Out There in flyover country. I have contended, repeatedly, that the values divide in America is actually quite narrow. Many of my liberal friends have disagreed with me, particularly on the question of homosexuality and gay marriage. I have been told that bigotry is rampant in conservative America, that it is a "scary" place.

As further evidence of how close we are, I submit this Washington Post story about a gay, Christian, Oklahoma high school student.

His evangelical church rallied around him when a group of nutjobs from a Kansas church came into to town to picket him. (The Kansas church, the Westboro Baptist Church, headed by a fellow named Fred Phelps, runs a website called "GodHatesFags.com." Lovely.)

Here's my point: Even out in the most conservative, evangelical precincts of America, the GodHatesFags crew was able to field just nine protestors. According to the Post, the Oklahoma church arrayed some 500 members of its conservative, Republican to defend the young man. In a perfect world, would there be groups like GodHatesFags? No. But even Out There, the ratio of good-hearted Christians to wacko bigots is something like 500 to 9.

Memo to Krugman, Ivins, Dowd, et al

If you want to beat up on George W. Bush, you should ignore Michael Moore (and Michael Kinsley, for that matter) and study George Will. His column today is devastating. He poses a river of rhetorical questions for Condoleezza Rice, including:

Did you see the television coverage of Yasser Arafat's funeral -- riot as mourning, gunfire as liturgy? Is it reasonable to expect that in the Jan. 9 elections to choose Arafat's successor, the Palestinian polity will select what the president called (June 24, 2002) a necessary condition for progress -- leadership "not compromised by terror"?

The president says it is "cultural condescension" to question "whether this country, or that people, or this group, are 'ready' for democracy." Condescending, perhaps, but is it realistic? Tony Blair says it is a "myth" that "our attachment to freedom is a product of our culture." Are there cultural prerequisites for free polities? Does Iraq have them? Do the Palestinian people, after a decade of saturation propaganda inciting terrorism and anti-Semitism? Does the United States know how to transplant those prerequisites?

If you can believe it, it gets tougher from there.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Bottum on Wolfe

Jody Bottum has a fantastic review of the new Tom Wolfe book. I haven't read I Am Charlotte Simmons yet, but Bottum's essay is so good that at times it feels like he's channeling Wolfe:

THERE'S AN ENVY to Tom Wolfe's usual run of detractors, of course, but something more than envy--a resentment, an ache, a fury: If I could write like that, a small cat snarls inside each of their heads, I'd . . . I'd change things in this rabid, racist, right-wing world. I'd zola the rich bastards until they burbled for mercy. I'd dickens the corporate polluters until they drowned themselves in their own sick sludge. I'd thackeray, I'd balzac, I'd dostoyevsky everyone who doesn't get it--it, IT, the ineffable IT of political conscience, the mystical rightness that lets a Princeton professor be a revolutionary and, well, a Princeton professor at the same time. God--or Charles Darwin, maybe, or some freak of perverse genetics--put a sword in Tom Wolfe's hands, and the oblivious creep won't use it to smite the ungodly. The man doesn't deserve his sentences. Prose belongs to us, by divine right and right of conquest. And here comes this white-suited fake dandy, this reporter, to set up camp right in the middle of it, like John Ashcroft--or Gary Bauer or, I don't know, Elmer Gantry--buying the prettiest summer house on Martha's Vineyard.

Wonderful stuff.

Brooks Piles On

Sigh. Now add David Brooks to the chorus of smart people on Porter Goss's side of the CIA fight.

The Smart Theory is that this is a high-minded conflict about the future organization of the CIA. Maybe it is. But from the information on the table, it still looks to me like your typical Washington bureaucratic fight. And again, the fact that it is Goss's aide--not Goss himself--who is rubbing people the wrong way suggests that either (1) Goss's people are feeling their oats out at Langley, or (2) if this is a principled fight, Goss is waging it by proxy and trying to make the CIA career people's lives unpleasant, instead of just forging ahead and changing the things he wants changed. If you've spent any time in an office environment, surely you've seen this sort of passive-agressive warfare waged by the underlings who serve new management.

In sum: I remain unconvinced! (But I am going a bit wobbly.)

The Dutch, Up-Close

R. Scott Rogers has a fascinating and persuasive post on big picture of Theo van Gogh's murder. Rogers is an American living in Amsterdam and his observations are must-read.

Among his conclusions:

* "The problem today is not Dutch tolerance. It is that, for the first time since the Inquisition, a significant religious minority actively rejects pluralism and wishes to use violence to force others into submission. Dutch pluralism is not the problem. It is the victim."

*"Almost all of the 'reprisal attacks' committed against the Muslim community in the Netherlands have amounted to penny-ante vandalism. The 'firebombs' described in the American press have been the sort of ineffective improvised devices American high schoolers regularly build for pranks. These have mostly been dead-of-night events, the breaking of a few windows here and there when no one could get hurt (or caught). . . . There have been a few cases of serious arson, but those have been committed by Muslims against Christian churches and schools."

* "In the United States, we have had terrorist attacks and we have popular resentment of unassimilated immigrants. But we have not had terrorist campaigns waged against us by resented immigrant groups. Imagine that Mexican Zapatistas assassinated the governor of Texas. Of course there would be reprisal attacks against Mexican immigrants if that happened. . . . how much worse would it be if the Mexican community harbored a massive fifth column of terrorists and their sympathizers bent on overthrowing the U.S. government and destroying Western civilization? So the 'reprisal attacks' and rising resentment of Muslims in general does not prove European moral hypocrisy. It simply demonstrates the greater immediacy of the terrorist threat in Europe."

In Search of a Punchline

The AP reports on beavers who found some stolen cash and wove it into their dam.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Asked and Answered

Galley Friend (and high-powered Washington lawyer) K.T. weighs in on the question of state-sponsored gag orders. K.T. reports that government injunctions against free speech are frequently part of criminal plea agreements and that this arrangement most commonly is used to prevent criminals from profiting by talking about their crimes. K.T. also insists that there is nothing novel in this and that the government frequently limits speech as a matter of course.

Bou, You Whore

Blogger/ex-barista Kathleen Nelson goes on the funniest and most informative blog tirade I've read in months. It's about the difference between Starbucks and Caribou. I won't tell you whose side she's on, but the essay culminates in this cri de coeur:

"Honestly, some days it was like being a sommelier at a five star restaurant and having to convince people that no, Night Train is not what wine is supposed to taste like."

I understand that Kathy's blog isn't solely about coffee-related matters, but maybe it should be. I need to know what her position is on Illy.

[You're not calling this nice lady a "whore," are you? -ed No, you doofus; rent Mean Girls.]

Sacre Bleu!

French lefties and communists (I mean that descriptively, not pejoratively) want to name streets after Arafat.

I'm sure this has nothing to do with anti-Semitism. It's just that they respect how he empowered the powerless!

More Pro-Goss Sentiment from Smart People

It seems that John McCain also back Goss. He says that "a shake-up is absolutely necessary."

Battered by Hayes and McCain, I now find my position--that this has all the earmarks of political hackwork--supported only by Jane Harman (Jane Harman!) who says that the resignations were caused by Goss's "highly partisan inexperienced staff." Thanks for the help, Congressperson Harman.

Still, I maintain that this smells like the type of petty bureaucratic infighting practiced all over Capitol Hill and in the Bush administration by people like Galley Enemies B.C. and M.G. (You know who you are!)

And I remain unconvinced that a better leader, like Bob Mueller, couldn't have shaken things up without sparking a revolt. Of course, I'm open persuasion if someone wants to argue that the institutional culture of the CIA is markedly different than FBI.

As one of America's most beloved figures once asked, Why not the best?


Steve Hayes makes the case (contra me) that Porter Goss is actually intent on reforming the institutional culture of the CIA, and that the two resignations are just the CIA trying to make a big stink in public. Hayes is, I should mention, loads smart on this stuff and has the benefit of having done actual reporting.

And if this is the case, I'm all for it: The CIA's track record over the last four years hasn't been the best. But I'm still unconvinced. A couple things leap out at me.

(1) As I said before, the conflict here isn't between Goss and career subordinates, it's between Goss's congressional minion and his career subordinates. Is Patrick Murray just Goss's stalking horse? Maybe. But if this is a serious fight, Goss should be waging it himself.

(2) There seems to be an assumption that transforming an intelligence agency necessarily means pissing off the career guys. As Robert Mueller has shown during his tenure at FBI, this is a false choice. A skilled executive can transform, and bring the rank-and-file along. We should have a skilled executive at CIA.

Tenet, Goss, Bush, and the CIA

This is lovely. After keeping George "Slam-dunk" Tenet on for longer than any reasonable executive would have, President Bush replaced him with Porter Goss. At the time, it seemed that the change would, by the necessity of averages, be an upgrade. Not so fast.

On Friday, John McLaughlin, the number two man at CIA resigned. He was a 32-year veteran of the Agency. The deputy director of Operations, Stephen Kappes, also resigned on Friday, although he has agreed to postpone his final decision until today.

If Goss really needs to "clean house" at the CIA, as one anonymous source told the New York Times, that's one thing. And he should have a free hand to make command decisions. But what is worrisome is that these two fellows were pushed to the brink not by Goss, but by Goss's chief minion, Patrick Murray. And the complaint is not about systemic reorganization, but that Murray was "treating senior officials disrespectfully."

Murray came over to the Agency with Goss from Capitol Hill, where he was Goss's chief of staff. Anyone who has spent more than six months in Washington knows four or five (or more) people like Murray: The officious, sycophantic seat-sniffers who follow semi-important people around for a career, hoping to hit the big time one day should their principal get a high-level job. Washington is, sadly, full of these people. I don't begrudge these little men and women their fun. After all, without them, Chris Buckley would have nothing to write about.

But while it's fine for them to muck up the Commerce Committee or the RNC or even the EEOB, should they be allowed to use bloody CIA as a battleground for their bureaucratic power-piss matches? Doesn't someone at the White House have their hands on the wheel?

CBS Takes Action!

I know that some of you out there surfing the interweb had talked yourselves into believing that CBS News' little forged document scandal was politically motivated and that CBS would never punish anyone danrather for the mishap.

But CBS can get tough. Just a few days after she made the call to interrupt CSI: NY to report Yasser Arafat's death, CBS has fired the producer who made that call.

Even Columbia Journalism Review's Campaign Desk was outraged by this rush to judgment. How could CBS fire this poor woman without the consultation of an independent commission? And if breaking into CSI with real, non-forged news is a firable offense then what about . . . oh, never mind.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Friday Joke

I love good corporate-techie backbiting. The new MSN search engine has interesting results for the query "more evil than god".

Surprise! Firefox and Google make the list.

Gag Orders and the Death Penalty

While I enjoyed taking the LSAT in a fit of college-senior insanity, I opted not to go to law school. So everything I know about the legal system, I've learned from watching Law & Order. Thus, I found this statement about the new Matthew Shepard report worrisome:

"The interviews [given by Shepard's killers] apparently violate the plea agreements the two men signed at their sentencing. According to reports, the men agreed never to talk to the media about the case as part of the agreement that spared them the death penalty."

This sounds like what amounts to a non-disclosure agreement being attached to a criminal proceeding. Is that SOP with pleas? And if so, why? Doesn't that make it harder for wrongly-convicted people to prove their innocence? Hugh, Beldar, Glenn, SoxBlog, Law Jedi, help me--you're my only hope!

Note: I am NOT suggesting that Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson--the men who brutally murdered Shepard--are innocent. They're obviously guilty and deserve their fate. Although I'm intellectually (if not emotionally) glad that they weren't given the death penalty, since some of us theocons really are bothered by capital punishment.

(And yes, contra Andrew Sullivan, I'm not wild about Gonzales's record--or Bush's pre-presidential glibness--concerning the death penalty. But what Sullivan seems not to understand is that Gonzales was upholding existing law, which is what he gets paid to do. What good theocons would prefer is to change the law, not tut-tut in disapproval of people who faithfully execute laws we don't like.)

Religion of Peace!

This International Herald Tribune story is most notable for the following section:

"Islamic scholars have generally prohibited the discontinuation of life support machines, since the Koran advises: 'Don't throw yourself into death.' Nabil Shaath, the Palestinian foreign minister, reacted violently to press reports yesterday that Palestinian officials had arrived in Paris to 'pull the plug' on Arafat."

So the Koran says "Don't throw yourself into death"? This section of the book should, perhaps, be more widely publicized in the Middle East.

Someone's Got To Do It

Yes, this is a little awkward: I'm the only one willing to go out and defend John Kerry against his newly-minted Democratic detractors. I should get hazard pay for this.

My argument is that Kerry was a pretty good candidate who ran a flawed campaign. He was probably the best option on the table for Democrats and, although he lost, he didn't wreck the party, and by the way, it probably isn't entirely his fault. I know, faint praise.

But I'd like to further posit that I don't know if it's going to be possible for any Democrat to win the White House with the crazy Michael Moore left hanging like an albatross around their neck. In order for the Democrats to become a viable national party again, they're going to have to excommunicate the rabid, nutball left. And that's going to require a pretty ruthless political mind.

Can a Democrat pull that off? Let me just say this, if Bill Clinton had been running in 2004, he wouldn't have had a Sister Soulja moment--he would have a Michael Moore moment.

Conservative Samizdat

What's going on over at weeklystandard.com?

Peter Berkowitz has a piece on how Bush should reach out to Democrats; I have a piece defending John Kerry; and Terry Eastland is launching what appears to be a subtle attack on Alberto Gonzales. It's madness, I tell you!

Eastland's gentle complaint about Gonzales is that he has no big-pond management experience and has very little on his résumé to recommend him for the job of attorney general in a post-9/11 world. That sounds about right to me. Particularly since there were two other obvious candidates on the table: Larry Thompson and Jim Comey.

You'll remember that Bush telegraphed his opposition to Comey a couple weeks ago, on the grounds that, while he was highly qualified for the job, he wasn't loyal enough. In case you're struggling to remember the exact words, here they are, courtesy of an anonymous Bush official: "The White House always wants to make sure the administration is staffed with people who have the president's best interests at heart. Anyone who resists that political loyalty check is regarded with some suspicion. The objective in staffing is never to assemble the best possible team. . . . [Comey] has shown insufficient political savvy. The perception is that he has erred too much on the side of neutrality and independence."

Larry Thompson does not seem to have similarly raised the Austin hackles. So let's hope that his passing over is because the president has larger things in mind for him, perhaps even the Supreme Court.

But back to Gonzales. While his actual qualifications may be a little on the thin side, he does have two things going for him: (1) He's a long-time Bush confidant; and (2) He's Hispanic.

The first part speaks for itself. But as for the second, Gonzales closed his introductory remarks the other day with a troubling sentiment. He said:

"Finally, to our President, when I talk to people around the country I sometimes tell them that within the Hispanic community there is a shared hope for an opportunity to succeed. 'Just give me a chance to prove myself'--that is a common prayer for those in my community. Mr. President, thank you for that chance."

The job of attorney general is bigger than an individual--this appointment isn't about advancing Gonzales's career and "proving himself" (or at least it shouldn't be). That the incoming attorney general sees his appointment this way is troubling. That the president is taking "a chance" with one of the most important jobs in the fight against terrorism is, too.

Thursday, November 11, 2004


Scott Johnson gets a good start on the debunking of Arafat. Unfortunately, this is a task which is going to require lots of work (hard work!) from people over the next several days to put Arafat's life in perspective.

To Anonymous

Anonymous is "curious to know why I don't hear more from conservatives over the need for ensuring accuracy and transparency of new technology voting processes. Aren't accurate vote counts fundamental to a democracy and in every American's interest?"

Good question--to which there is only a less than satsfactory answer: Conservatives are loath to boss around local governments and insist on some uniform technological standard when there's no clear need for one. Miscounts can be corrected, recounts required by legislativea action, and so on.

Also, the only way of guranteeing a perfectly accurate count everywhere is to insist every locality use the same perfect machine. But for one thing, perfect machines don't exist.

Anything less than a perfect vote count may be, technically, a violation of the democratic principle, but only in the rarified realm of abstraction, where the perfect need not bother with reality and human fallibility.

In reality, nowhere is democracy in better shape than here in the United States. We are long past the time when ballot-box stuffing, dead-men voting, vote purchasing, and actual vote suppression were all practically routine and resulted in distortion much, much greater than the glitch-type problems we see today.

Victorino isn't around to note this story since he's going to the chapel to get ma-a-ar-ried. But if China's sending a boomer into Japanese waters, isn't this just one more indication of Chinese military boldness that should worry us?

Correction, 11/11/04, 5:04 p.m.: As alert reader C.G. notes, this is not a "boomer," it's a fast-attack sub. Having spent waaay too many hours playing the PC version of Hunt for Red October, I have no excuse for this mistake.

Developing Story?

MoveOn.Org is casting about for support in its effort to throw suspicion on the election outcome. An email to its peeps says, "Question are swirling around whether the election was conducted fairly or not." Also, I've heard anecdotal evidence that inside the Kerry family, the legitimacy of the outcome is not entirely believed. MoveOn's email links readers to a Nov. 5 letter from six members of Congress asking the Government Accountability Office to investigate irregularities in Florida (Palm Beach and Broward county), Ohio (Warren county), Nebraska (Sarper county), and North Carolina (Guilford). The letter also directs the comptroller to complaints lodged at a website, voteprotect.org.

letter to David Walker, Comptroller

Oh, as they say, it's probably nothing. Okay, they only say that when it's about to become something, but so far this seems to be just a little case of sour grapes.

Bush, Gonzales, and Affirmative Action

The Washington Post carries a fairly shocking editorial this morning. In regard to Alberto Gonzales's appointment to Justice, they write: "We respect some of his views, particularly his stance on affirmative action, for the same reason that conservatives might have opposed his nomination to the bench."

Get that? The Washington Post respects some of his views--namely the ones with which they already agree. There's a word to describe that sort of outlook: provincialism.

But let's leave the Post aside for a moment and ask the following, impolite, question: In the last 50 years, which U.S. president has done the most to promote minority leadership in America?

The answer is George W. Bush, by a mile and a half. Bush has given America a black secretary of State, a black national security adviser, a Chinese secretary of labor, and now a Latino attorney general. This president has promoted minorities--and women--at every opportunity during his tenure. He has given tacit support of legal affirmative action and has clearly conducted his own, informal, quest to make certain minorities are in positions of great power within his own administration. It is obvious that at a personal level, it is important to George W. Bush that his administration looks like America.

Let's leave aside the question of whether or not all of this is for the good. The real question is, will Bush ever get credit from minority grievance groups for doing more for the cause of minority leadership than any president in recent history?

Ted Rall for President

Just kidding. What I find funny about Rall's latest tantrum (which sounds unsettlingly like Mike Kinsley's rant on the same topic) is that Rall assumes that actual Democrats agree with him.

Everyone caught up in this monstrous Red / Blue divide misses, I think, the essential point: Only a very tiny percentage of Americans would have found themselves rendered incontinent by either result last Tuesday. Most Republicans would have been fine, if unhappy, with a Kerry presidency. Just as most Democrats are, I suspect, fine, if unhappy, with Bush's reelection. What Rall and Kinsley and the rest of the leftist hysterics don't understand is that 48 percent of the country doesn't actually agree with them on anything more than the narrow preference for Kerry over Bush. Most of the 48 percent of Americans who voted for Kerry aren't going to leave the country, don't hate their Republican-voting neighbors, and don't think the world is coming to an end.

The Rall-Moore-Kinsley left is a much, much tinier minority than they suppose.
Hugh Hewitt keeps fighting the good fight for Arlen Specter. In his latest essay he fast-forwards four years to see what might happen if Republicans throw Specter overboard now. Thankfully, I think this fight is all but won.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Teen Angst Lawsuit

Curious story about N. Va teen who sues the bullies who made his high school years a living hell. Washington Post
No one thinks more highly of Michael Kinsley's intellect than I do. Only someone as smart as he is could have made such a lucrative career from out-thinking themselves. In his latest effort he implores Republican readers: "There's just one little request I have. If it's not too much trouble, of course. Call me profoundly misguided if you want. Call me immoral if you must. But could you please stop calling me arrogant and elitist?"

Is this crazy, or what? Objectively speaking, Kinsely is supremely arrogant and elitist. That's his whole schtick! This is like Tom Brady asking sportswriters to stop calling him accurate and calm under pressure.
Chris Wavrin notes that the Kerry '08 idea is bunk. And he's right. The days when a candidate could lose a presidential election and live to run again are over, if for no other reason than presidential campaigns have become so expensive, that a party simply can't afford to trust one to a man who's already crashed and burned.

How Good Is Hitch?

He's so good that I read this assault on my faith:

I was instructed . . . that the Enlightenment had come to an end, by no less an expert than Garry Wills, who makes at least one of his many livings by being an Augustinian Roman Catholic.

I step lightly over the ancient history of Wills' church (which was the originator of the counter-Enlightenment and then the patron of fascism in Europe) as well as over its more recent and local history (as the patron, protector, and financier of child-rape in the United States, and the sponsor of the cruel "annulment" of Joe Kennedy's and John Kerry's first marriages). As far as I know, all religions and all churches are equally demented in their belief in divine intervention, divine intercession, or even the existence of the divine in the first place.

And I don't even notice that he's slagging off on the Church I hold so dear. Well, I notice, but I don't really mind it. The difference between a polemicist and a hack is that when the former wields a rapier, you can admire the artistry even if you're the target.

Hitch is that good.

Going Dutch

The BBC is reporting on a prolonged standoff in The Hague. What started with the Islamist assassination of Theo van Gogh last week is quickly becoming a more wide-spread culture war. (Please, when we talk about "culture wars" in America in reference disagreements over offensive artwork or views of gay marriage, let's remember that there is an actual culture war going on where people want to kill Westerners because of their culture.)

After the van Gogh killing, a series of Muslim and Christian buildings were targets of violence. Now Islamist radicals are engaged in pitched battles with Dutch police and using weapons such as hand-grenades. So what's next?

The European response to Islamist radicalism is by no means set in stone. Europeans may dislike America and they may make a fetish of multiculturalism and moral relativism. But it would be a mistake to underestimate the power of European cultural chauvinism: Once it becomes clear that Islamists are intent on destroying their way of life, too, Europeans may well decide on a hard line. Let's not forget, European pacifism is a relatively new phenomenon. Historically speaking, this is not a group of cultures which shy away from confrontation.

So when will they turn? Who knows. The French became highly agitated a short while ago with Bernard Lewis observed that by the end of the century, France could be a Muslim nation. Tolerance only goes so far.

The good news today is that the Dutch seem to be waking up. The BBC report explains: "Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende told parliament that extremism was undermining democracy. 'We cannot let ourselves be blinded by people who seek to drag us into a spiral of violence,' he said, according to the Associated Press news agency. . . .

"The Dutch Immigration Minister, Rita Verdonk, has warned that EU countries are at risk, because of an increasing radicalism among young Muslims. She said member states must act urgently to improve the integration of foreigners. The minister, whose nation holds the EU presidency, said countries must ensure that immigrants learn the local language and accept Western values . . ."

The Europeans may not be serious about integration yet. But it's a start.
Galley Friend J.E. writes in about Matt Continetti's civil war post:

"[Smiley] points to Quantrill's raid as an example to bolster her argument that the red states are evil and ignorant. Yet her assignation of "red" to the Confederacy is completely invented. One could much more easily conclude that the South was comprised of blue states; after all, abolitionists were likely to be Republican and religious. And abolition was a religious concept."

Good point.
Peter Byrnes joins the chorus of those who expect Michael Moore to win an Oscar for Fahrenheit 9/11. I wonder . . .

My initial inclination is to agree. But it's not show friends, it's show business. Hollywood understands winning and losing and, as Hollywood screenwriter and Galley Friend E.H. said almost a year ago, "They're really spooked by the Dixie Chicks." We'll see.

Quality of Life Issue

I used to listen to NPR, but they lost me about two years ago. It wasn't their politics that turned me off--it was my discovery of sports-talk radio in DC. During my morning drive, the local sports-talk network carried an ESPN radio show hosted by Tony Kornheiser which was the best radio program I've ever heard. Bar none.

Then something happened between Kornheiser and ESPN. They cancelled his radio show, he left the judges panel on the ESPN TV program Dream Job--it seemed as though they had turned on him.

But this morning Kornheiser is back. If you find yourself driving around the DC metro area in the mornings, do yourself a favor and click over to 980 AM. (You can also listen to Kornheiser's show online.)
Matt Continetti--who is, so far as I can tell, the only "rising-young-star journalist" in America who actually does reporting--finally lets go with a rant today. And it's a good one!

Matt does a survey of the crazy left's newest wacky idea: Secession. The new liberal meme is that America is on the brink of civil war. Right. Again, I'll point out that liberal and conservative America are much, much, much closer than the left seems to think. The ideological distance between an average American liberal and an average American conservative can be measured in feet: Should homosexuals be allowed to have marriage, or civil unions? Should city hall be allowed to have a crèche and a menorah on its front lawn, or should those displays be reserved for private property?

What liberals should worry about is the ideological distance between Americans (liberal and conservative) and Islamist radicals, which has to be measured in parsecs. The differing sides in this debate ask: Should homosexuals be allowed civil unions, or should they be jailed and/or executed? Should various religious symbols be allowed civic public expression, or should all non-Muslims be forced to convert and all faiths save Islam be outlawed?

The other key difference: Islamists have demonstrated not only a desire, but an ability to mass-murder American liberals and conservatives.

Why is it that the liberal fringe seems more worried about Red America than they do the Islamist Middle East?

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Our Favorite German?

I recently attended a press breakfast with Otto Schily, Germany's interior minister and, as I've written earlier, a good friend of Attorney General John Ashcroft. It's a friendship that surprises many on the left and right since Schily is a former Green lawyer who once defended terrorists in court while Ashcroft is a conservative Christian fundamentalist. But the two see eye-to-eye on fighting the war on terror. (Could he possibly be the Ron Silver of Germany?) During the breakfast, Schily expressed his annoyance at some of the press coverage of Iraq. "Some of the press's wording I find irritating," he said. Asked to elaborate, Schily went on, "They talk about these 'insurgents' but they should really be called terrorists. It doesn't matter if they are Iraqis or foreigners. They [inflict] brutal attacks on innocent people, mostly Iraqi people. These are terrorists."

Some German Greens I've spoken to chafe at such pronouncements and are horrified that he could be friends with Ashcroft (the two recently attended a concert at the Kennedy Center). What with Schily's proposals for more stringent security measures, including fingerprinting, facial recognition technology, and retinal scans, I can't imagine they'll have much else to like about the man. But for the Bush administration, Schily may be their best ally in the Schröder government.
Popping around looking for info on the DC baseball stadium, I came to this excellent blog on sports and economics: The Sports Economist. I heartily recommend it.

And while we're at it, another Galley Friend has started a truly excellent blog. Go check out the Law Jedi at Liberty Files. Hurry, before the Clone Wars start.

2008 Watch: John Edwards?

So it falls to me to help Hillary Clinton's cause. Okay, quick question: How helpful was John Edwards in helping Democrats down south? Granted, Kerry lost every Southern state, but Edwards must have helped in the precincts that know him best, right? Not so fast. Galley Friend P.C. sends along this interesting data:

Edwards's home precinct, Precinct 111, Raleigh:
Kerry-Edwards 362 - Bush-Cheney 847

Edwards's home county, Wake County:
Kerry-Edwards 162,750 - Bush-Cheney 172,563

Edwards's home state, North Carolina:
Kerry-Edwards 1,488,278 - Bush-Cheney 1,919,903

Edwards's boyhood home, Robbins, N.C.:
Kerry-Edwards 13,360 - Bush-Cheney 24,420

Edwards's birthplace, Oconee Cty, S.C.:
Kerry-Edwards 8,326 - Bush-Cheney 18,715

Edwards's state of birth, South Carolina:
Kerry-Edwards 648,443 - Bush-Cheney 920,072

A few caveats: This data is changing because the provisional ballots are still not all counted; these numbers are as of last weekend. Also, as George Will points out running mates don't often influence elections or even carry their home states.

But surely running mates who want to make a claim on their party's nomination in the future have to do better than this.

Smiley Face

Was hesitant to leaf through the latest New Republic. I had taken a few days off, during which I resisted, pretty successfully, the temptation to revel in the other side’s sobbing and tantrums.

What did reach me during this quiet time—Jane Smiley’s fanatical anti-Americanism for instance—only encouraged me to return to my housework and catch up on my fiction reading (which did not include A Thousand Acres).

The not-so-militant truth about this opinion journalist is that I find real partisan hatred, when I’m aware of it, stultifying.

But I had to laugh when I saw the New Republic cover of this woman with raccoon eyes, weeping over the Kerry defeat. I assumed it was unintentional self-parody--until today, when I gave the new issue a good going-over (quite different from an actual read-through).

Jeff Rosen has an ultra-civilized piece (sorry, offline only) on what it’s like being married to a Republican (the talented writer Christine Rosen). Mr. Rosen bemoans our culture’s "addiction to emotions and images." He says it makes our political differences "worse by encouraging voters to evaluate politicians in personal terms." And: "This leads people to exaggerate their hatred for any candidate to whom they don’t feel personally connected." It’s not hard to imagine the Kerry supporter on the cover felt some of this.

I also enjoyed Ryan Lizza’s election night piece and Jason Zengerle’s article on the Democrats’ get-out-the-vote effort in Ohio. Lizza is to be congratulated on his embarrassing disclosure of Election Day euphoria as Kerry appeared to be sweeping Bush, though he’s got be kidding when he writes: "Like Al Gore in 2000, Kerry was at his best and most gracious in defeat."

That’s not the Al Gore I remember in 2000. And it’s not the Al Gore we read about in The New Yorker recently.

As for Brian Kennedy’s piece on hackers (to answer JVL’s query), it seems like a solid article. It informs me on some issues I wanted to know more about, though I found the lede graph very confusing. Truth is, I’d rather see the New Republic publish interesting work like this and demonstrate their Stephen Glass shame by, say, not painting themselves as innocent victims of a very bad kid by promoting films that acquit them of any wrongdoing.

Miss Jackson, If You're Nasty . . .

While I'm sure you wanted to, I'll bet you didn't page through CBS's 78-page response to the FCC. Lisa de Moraes did. She's got all the amazing CBS denials. Here's a tease:

The commission in September referred to MTV.com's pre-show "news" story in which Jackson's choreographer promised that her performance would include some "shocking moments."

In its response, CBS said the "out-of-context quotation" that appeared in the online story "did not suggest that anything untoward might take place, nor did it put the network on notice that it should take precautions beyond those already in place."

CBS also said that MTV management personnel who reviewed that online story believed the "shocking moments" promise was a reference to the fact that Timberlake was going to be Jackson's surprise duet partner.

De Moraes has more.

Does Not Count as a Trend

For those of you who carry irrational ill-will towards Ana Marie Cox in your hearts, Tom Maguire continues his polite, gentle, yet firm, mini-jihad.

Hugh Hewitt: Right Again!

This must drive Andrew Sullivan just nuts: Hugh Hewitt called the election from a mile away, got the correct analysis of the first debate, and understood the ongoing political realignment in the face of all contrary opinion. For his trouble, people have tried to brand him as some sort of Rush-clone.

And now Hugh is leading the charge to save Arlen Specter.

You can find Hugh's extended argument here. I find it quite persuasive. The costs of replacing Specter as chair of the Judiciary Committee are quite high, and have a good probability of coming to pass, should the assault on him succeed. The benefits of replacing him seem to be mostly psychological--and hence quite fleeting.

But there's more: Replacing Specter would be a signal that Republicans might be headed down the same path towards moral absolutism that Libby Sternberg rightly sees as having hobbled the Democrats. If Republicans are going to be a majority party, they have to continue to tolerate--and even encourage!--some level of internal dissent.

Hugh Hewitt is right: Leave Specter alone.

Big, Brass Balls

The New Republic has a piece up today by Brian Kennedy called Going Pro: Hackers Sell Out. Wow. Good for Beinart & Co. for not being spooked by that little problem they had last time they did a story on a computer hacker who went to work for corporate America. You know what they say: Gotta jump right back up on that horse.

Does Skinner have anything more to say about this?

Moral Absolutism

Libby Sternberg has a very interesting piece up about how the Democrats have become the party of moral absolutism. It sounds counter-intuitive, but I think she's right.

If you go down the list of values issues from the last election--gay marriage, abortion, stem-cell research, affirmative action--the Republican party really was the big-tent party. There are prominent Republicans who disagree with the party line in every instance.

This heterodoxy gives Republicans a two-fold benefit. First, as Sternberg makes the case, it presents a show of tolerance to voters who aren't comfortable with moral absolutes on these complicated issues. Second, it allows Republicans to have a vigorous, internal debate on the issues--something the Democratic party hasn't had since welfare reform.

I've long suspected that one of the keys to Democratic revival is for the party to drop its all-or-nothing stance on abortion. The Democratic shunning of Bob Casey was a seminal moment, and one which needs to be righted.

Democrats don't need to become a pro-life party. But as a party, they need to countenance and be able to embrace pro-life Democrats. This would be a first, and healthy, step towards reentering the political mainstream.

Monday, November 08, 2004

America the Beautiful

Once upon a time I wrote a little essay about Maine's Rumford Falls Times, my favorite American newspaper. The editor of the Falls Times, very kindly comped me a subscription. So now, every Monday, I get to sit at my desk in Washington, put my feet up, and spend a few minutes catching up on the comings and goings of Rumford, which is about as idyllic a place as there is in our great land.

Today's edition carries this wonderful front-page headline: "Doctor waits 86 years before Red Sox win another World Series." The story, by Bruce Farrin, will warm your heart:

If you've been a faithful Red Sox fan long enough, you've no doubt used a phrase common to all of us--wait til next year.

Dr. Peter Aucoin is one fan who, it seems, has been forever hopeful. Now 101, he remembers Boston winning the World Series back in 1918, and has been patiently awaiting a repeat for 86 years.

But that all changed last Wednesday when Boston completed a four-game sweep of St. Louis. Watching each and every inning was Aucoin.

Beautiful, right? It gets better.

"I was surprised to see them win in four games, but if this was repeated, you have to wonder what would happen," [Aucoin] said, adding that he felt bad for the Cardinals in the World Series, which had one bad thing happen to them after another . . .

He watched the Red Sox religiously in 1986, in 1975 and in 1967, when they lost Game 7 of the World Series to the New York Mets, Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals, respectively. Aucoin cheered them on in 1946--which was his favorite Red Sox team--when they lost another Game 7 heartbreaker to the Cardinals.

And then he remembers the 1918 World Series when the Red Sox won the World Series against the hapless Chicago Cubs.

At the time, Aucoin was a 15-year-old student at Assumption Prep in Worcester, MA, waiting in line to read the Worcester Telegram so he could follow the Sox in that World Series. . . .

"My brothers made a Red Sox fan," he said, noting he was the tenth of 12 children, and they all were Red Sox fans.

Aucoin also remembers the winter of 1919-1920 when Red Sox owner Harry Frazee sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees for a then large dollar figure of $125,000.

"That's his property. If he wanted to sell him, that was entirely up to him. It wasn't a mistake as he needed the money. But I didn't agree with him," said Aucoin.

Rumford and Dr. Aucoin--America at its best.

Indiana Regional Office Of The Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy

Ah, those lovable Hoosiers! Jason Blosser has pointed me towards his excellent blog, the I.R.O.V.R.W.C.. In case you're wondering, that's "The Indiana Regional Office Of The Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy."

Unity at Soxblog

Soxblog is talking about how most Democrats are people of goodwill and suggesting that Lieberman and Gephardt be included in Bush's new cabinet. (I suggested the same thing in my Last Word column last week in The Weekly Standard newsletter. I was thinking Lieberman for Homeland Security and Gephardt for Defense. Soxblog goes me one better: Lieberman for State. Can you imagine how meshuggeneh he would drive the Arabs and Europeans? Advantage: Soxblog.)

Just asking: Had Kerry won, do you think prominent lefty bloggers would be talking this way?

A moving tribute to the blood of heroes.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Bush Photo Slug

Presumably everyone has seen the story about Netscape giving a picture of the president the file name "asshole.jpg."

While I certainly don't condone this kind of thing, come on. It is sort of funny.

I mean, if Bush had lost the election, it would have been tacky. But a 4 million vote cushion should be enough to let Republicans chuckle.