Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Kos, Geraghty, and Fraternity

Soxblog has a fantastic post on a strange bit of blogospheric glasnost.

The motivation behind the post is that Soxblog thinks Jim Geraghty is passing out kudos to Daily Kos undeservingly, but the best stuff is Soxblog's deep reading of Kos:

"After reading [Kos] closely for a few months I no longer have the same impression of him that I initially had or that many conservatives still have. I’ve decided that Kos is in many ways a left wing internet version of Rush Limbaugh. Rush is first and foremost an entertainer. While I think he believes his own stuff, ideology is a distant priority compared to Rush’s number one task--shrewdly creating and maintaining a media empire. Rush has an audience he has to please, and please it he does. I think the same can be said of Kos."
Even Coyne Maloney has a pretty tough assessment of the Nick Coleman-Power Line tussle.

Eating in New England

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. My travels up and down the Northeast corridor, first through New Jersey, and now in Connecticut, have curtailed my blogging. On the other hand, driving to New England has allowed me to reflect on the state of diners in America. On Interstate 95 past Stamford, I saw a welcoming sign for a 24-hour diner. Directly below that sign was another that read "and vegetarian enclave." Diners are famously known for their vast array of entrees, some with meat and some without. Do vegetarians really need an "enclave" to protect them from those insufferable carnivores?

On the other hand, if you ever find yourself in bucolic Essex, I highly recommend a stopover at the Revolutionary War-era Griswold Inn, with its 15th-century firearms and original Currier-and-Ives prints adorning the walls. And what better to have at the "Gris" than a warm crock of French onion gratinée and the Inn's trademark "1776 Sausages" with sauerkraut and warmed potatoes on the side, all the while swigging pints of John Courage. I hear they're remodeling the Steamboat Room and turning it into a winebar. But still no word on a vegetarian enclave.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

The New Republic's Jonathan Kiefer positively knifes Sean Penn in his review of The Assassination of Richard Nixon:

"One wonders what might have become of the real Sam Byck had he the means to take out a page in the Post instead of sending tape-recorded rants to one of its reporters, and to luminaries like Jonas Salk, Hank Aaron, and Leonard Bernstein. Conversely, one wonders what sort of trouble Penn--whose own antisocial tendencies have fortified his cult of personality--might have gotten into had talent, fame, and privilege not been bestowed on him."

Whoa. Is this part of Beinart's purge?

Oh come on. We kid because we love.
I've written nothing about the terrible earthquake or tsunamis because I simply have no words. If you wish to help, check out this clearing-house blog for help contact numbers and links to charities.

The Importance of Being Blog

Hugh Hewitt has the first grand unified theory of the old media collapse that I've seen. It seems like a good place to start.

The piece ties into Hugh's very fine new book, Blog. I've praised Blog before and I really do think that it's an important book for people interested the blog world's history and future. But it strikes me that Blog is also important as a thing: Hugh's book is of tremendous importance to bloggers.

Print media has come to terms with the blogosphere relatively quickly--co-opting bloggers for copy, reaching out to blogs for ideas--even integrating blogs into their presence, a la the Dallas Morning News blog.

Television is also coming to grips with blogs, albeit a little more slowly. Bloggers are now swimming with the school of baby pundits for whom cable news bookers trawl. MSNBC even has their own stable of bloggers working on their website.

So the book business is the last sector of the media to figure out what to do with bloggers. A few bloggers have managed book deals from their work, but so far as I can tell, none of those books represents a conversion of online to offline the way Hugh's book does.

If Hugh Hewitt's Blog succeeds, it will represent the first substantive step of the Internet's colonization of the publishing world. And subsequently, bloggers will find even more doors opening to them.

It's just one more reason for the entire blogosphere to root for Hugh.

Doubting Toms

Tom Maguire has a post speculating that the decrease in reader complaints to the New York Times is more a function of reader frustration than Times accuracy. Maguire says that readers such as himself may have simply stopped emailing the Times with corrections since they are mostly ignored.

Let's assume for the moment that the New York Times actually does have some sort of ostrich-like policy on corrections sent in by readers. If people like Maguire give up on pointing out the errors, doesn't that mean that, from the Times's point of view, their policy has succeeded? After all, journalism functions not on Kantian principles of Truth, but on the Glass Rule: If you can't find an error, it doesn't exist. (And don't forget the Kinsley Postulate: If you find the error, it doesn't exist until you can definitively prove the writer wrong AND the New York Times sends a team of reporters to duplicate your proof.)

Maguire and others shouldn't let a lack of feedback from the Times get them down. All writers make mistakes. And at the end of the day, all writers are better off for having their mistakes noticed.

Mickey Kaus: Genius!

See, I told you he was really, really smart. Kaus has a pithy post about how Democrats should respond to the charge that they're stuck defending the status quo. His #3 response is very perceptive, certainly a point worth discussing, and maybe even true.

Season of Giving

Reading Bill Sammon's article in today's Washington Times, I found myself agreeing with a major U.N. official's disdainful comments concerning the United States. Guess there's a first time for everything.


Monday, December 27, 2004

Reggie White, RIP

Billy Lyon has the best remembrance of the Eagle great: "Ever the model of compassion, Reggie White would help the dazed man to his feet, dust him off, point him in the direction of his own bench, and say in that rasping voice: 'Jesus loves you.'"
Chris Suellentrop notes the bum rap Harry Reid gets from the media, and cites Matt Continetti's generally favorable profile of him. Can I get a what-what?

Ed Driscoll has a list of the top blogging moments of 2004.

Friday, December 24, 2004

In Defense of the American Prospect

Winds of Change reports that the American Prospect is throwing around legal threats at a blogger and anyone who even dares to reprint his "defamatory and false allegations."

The particulars of this are messy and the blogger in question, one Steve Sailer, doesn't seem like any angel. Still, is this how media outlets are supposed to act? No.

But of course the Prospect isn't really a media outlet and the folks who work there aren't really journalists--they're political activists. Not that there's anything wrong with it!

I only point this out by way of suggesting to Winds of Change, Glenn Reynolds, and others, that this action from the Prospect shouldn't be much of a surprise. (Consider the "journalists" the Prospect employs.) And unlike actual journalists, activists owe no particular devotion to honesty, objectivity, or free speech--except as it suits their interests. They should be free to use legal intimidation however they see fit.

So please, let's not have any hand-wringing over the American Prospect's "crushing of dissent." They’re not being hypocritical or unseemly or anything else bad. They’re just doing what they do.
M.E. Russell has a pretty devastating review of Fat Albert. This movie has bounced around in Development Hell for a while, and lost a director or two along the way, so I'm unsurprised that it's so awful.

Santa and NORAD

When Galley Mom AMJCL was little, the Jersey City radio stations used to do alerts on Christmas Eve, telling kids where Santa was and hurrying them into bed. Today we have the NORAD Santa Tracker. It's probably too late for you to share with your children tonight (unless you're on the West coast), but even if it is, give this site a look and bookmark it for next year. It's a classic.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

You know it's bad when I'm the one defending the blogosphere. John Hinderaker points us to two pieces by David Paul Kuhn, of In the first piece, Kuhn elliptically hints at the need for FEC regulation of blogs, while in the second he makes a few factual errors himself. CBS News, Hinderaker points out, isn't subject to any regulation, and would scream bloody murder if someone tried to impose regulation on them.

I'm four-square with Hinderaker on (a) the foolishness of regulating blogs and (b) the hypocrisy of old media types who want to do so.

There's just one wrinkle: The example which bothers Kuhn isn't the Swift Boat Vets, but the South Dakota Senate race where bloggers Jon Lauck and Jason Van Beek were surreptitiously on the Thune payroll.

By any estimation, Lauck and Van Beek are a black-eye on the blogosphere. But what they did probably isn't illegal. Unless it is, of course. Blog law is going to evolve and the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance reform laws (restricting political speech is hard work, you know; thanks President Bush!) aren't going to make it any easier for free speech to win out.


I've never been particularly impressed with Lloyd Grove, but this column about Paris Hilton is so good it could have been written by Lisa de Moraes. (Yes, it's that smart, funny, and mean.) Sample:

I admit that Paris and I have been snared in an ugly web of mutual addiction: She to all the lurid ink, me to all the pointless drama.

But on the "Today" show this morning, I'm planning to announce my New Year's resolution: going cold turkey. No more Paris Hilton.

Far be it from me to advise other practitioners in the gossip game, but I'm through with her.
We're a better country than that.

Iraq is a better country than that.

Not that it matters, but I'd like to join hands with Grove on this one--just on general principle.

But before we throw her overboard, if anyone has a link to the devastating Vanity Fair piece on the Hiltons from a few years back?
There's a bunch of excellent stuff up this morning. Start with Hugh Hewitt's dissection of the New York Times's Richard Stevenson (he's a reporter!).

After that, move on to Tom Donnelly's interesting argument about why, despite everything, we were right to disband the Iraqi army after the fall of Saddam.

And then, check out Soxblog's riff on Daily Kos, which goes even further than Oxblog.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

I found this story on Fark, one of the five greatest websites in the world. Browsing the Fark headlines two or three times a day is like mainlining the Onion--it's that funny. Fark's headline for this story: "Alaska man builds 18-foot fighting robot for local race track, military, SkyNet."

Oral History

Jonathan V. Last may have been a little too quick to poke fun at my Georgetown Hoyas' admittedly disappointing defeat at the hands of Oral Roberts University at the Rainbow Classic in Hawaii. As other Galley Slave readers have pointed out, ORU's basketball coach is none other than Scott Sutton, son of legendary Oklahoma State coach Eddie Sutton. The Golden Eagles are also still undefeated at 8-0, having bested other teams in their Mid-Continent Conference including Tulsa. Forward Caleb Green is a force to be reckoned with, having earned Conference Player of the Week twice this season and firing off 26 points against the Hoyas. Last might have thought it a joke, but I am betting Oral Roberts just might make it to the Big Dance come March, assuming they beat conference rivals Valparaiso and IUPUI.

Meanwhile it is a rebuilding year at the Hilltop. Georgetown coach John Thompson III has had to remold the team after years of intransigence. But according to local fans and critics who have seen them play thus far, the general consensus is that the players have returned to fundamentals--passing, dribbling, looking, breathing, and even showing signs of that Princeton-style offense that Thompson learned under Pete Carril.

The Hoyas are currently playing against Long Beach State, a game they should win. If they don't, I'll blame it on jetlag.

This Year's Drug Movie

Allow me a kind word for Maria Full of Grace, which arrived in theaters this summer and is now out on DVD. It is the quietly heart-wrenching story of a Colombian drug mule, who turns to crime after quitting her demeaning job clipping thorns from roses in factory-style plant.

What distinguishes the movie is its restrained use of violence and uninterrupted focus on the drug trade from the point of view of a secondary agent. For every drug lord, of course, there are hundred of small-time operators, helping the business along. This is the perspective of Maria Full of Grace as the 17-year-old main character learns to swallow large pellets of drugs by practicing with grapes.

The little things add up, ultimately to a very good movie, one made of character and fantastic real-life details, and none of the brutality associated with drug movies.

The movie’s writer-director Joshua Marston has avoided making an arse of himself in the press, by, say, extolling the sudden rainshower of blessings that would immediately follow legalization. In fact, the one comment I heard him make during a brief listen to the director’s commentary was that he hoped, after watching this movie, American drug users would keep in mind the black market they were funding and its dehumanizing effects on innocents like Maria.

Drug Movies, Part II

Postscript: If we are to take individual movies as signposts of where the culture is heading, then I would definitely say Maria Full of Grace represents progress over past drug movies. When Traffic came out, I wrote up a memo on how the movie might affect public perception of the drug war and the office of the national drug control policy. In case you care:

"There seem to be two groups of people who take the drug policy very seriously: people interested in criminal policy and people interested in drugs. In the first group, you have liberals and conservatives duking it out over the usual issues, from whether to imprison or treat individuals who are guilty of possession to how America should address supplier countries like Colombia. In the second group, you have users, from pot enthusiasts to junkies, and their friends and family who do not see drugs, primarily, as a policy issue. The vast majority of people, while they may have opinions (even electorally consequential ones) on the subject of drugs, do not consider the issue a national priority.

"Most likely, Traffic’s intellectual influence is negligible. Members of the above first group were probably unmoved by the movie, though those who found its politics agreeable were likely to champion its cinematic importance and may continue applauding it as an important piece of social criticism. As far as position papers go, Traffic isn’t a very good one. But Hollywood isn’t in the business of writing position papers. It is in the business of engaging vast numbers of people. And Hollywood is definitely capable of propaganda. Because of this, Traffic, though it may be irrelevant to how intellectuals and policy people think about drugs, should be thought of as a major cultural point of reference, the biggest, most important piece of dramatic fiction concerning drugs in years.

"Which means that, while Traffic may have almost no influence over the members of the first group, it may have influence over the second group and everyone else. What message exactly has Traffic sent to members of the second group and all other Americans? That drugs have brought to our lives only moral ambiguity and tragedy. The drug traffickers aren’t necessarily bad: Witness Catherine Zeta-Jones’s role as an expecting mother who is compelled to become involved in her husband’s drug business in order to support herself and her children. And the cops aren’t necessarily good: The drug czar played by Michael Douglas is a heavy drinker and a negligent father. Indeed, the dealers have family values, while the czar’s an outrageous hypocrite who doesn’t realize how the drug problem is tearing apart his own household. Such storylines may be laughable, but they take up a significant portion of the only two hours many Americans have recently spent thinking about drugs.

"To see the movie’s message most clearly, we should compare it to the last major movie about drugs. If Traffic is a panorama encompassing everything from international drug trafficking to the families torn apart by drug abuse, then Scarface is a movie about one very bad man. In a world where the problem of drugs is traceable back to a bad guy like Tony Montana, there is a need for a good guy, a sheriff. This is a world in which the idea of a "drug czar" is welcome and makes sense. In Traffic, where drugs do not simply trace backwards to a single villain, the idea of a "drug czar," a sheriff above all sheriffs, is offensive. Incidentally, Traffic is not politically unusual, as drug movies go. Trainspotting, the Basketball Diaries, the recent critically acclaimed Requiem for a Dream all focus on the abuser’s side of the story. Scarface, along with the recent unheralded Blow, are actually the standouts for telling drug stories as crime stories. Traffic and the others tell drug stories as tales of moral haziness and individual human weakness. And weakness, unlike criminality, requires tenderness and compassion, a federal nurse as opposed to a federal narc."

Welcome to Hogue Blog

A hearty welcome to Hogue Blog, the new blog from Sacramento radio talk-show host Eric Hogue. Glad to have you on board, Eric.
David Adesnik has a fitting response to Daily Kos's "Bush Destroys Another 22 Families" post.

Last week a liberal friend argued that I was wrong to lable Kos a "far-left website." My friend--who's one of the best and smartest guys I know--insisted that Kos was pretty mainstream. I hope, for liberalism's sake, that I'm right and my buddy is wrong.

Green with Envy

Still wondering what to get your dad for Christmas? Or perhaps you yourself are unsure of what you want? Well, if you or someone you know is a Scotch fan, I highly recommend getting him or her what will no doubt be a bestseller next year: Johnnie Walker Green Label. That's right, Green.

Only the fifth label to be introduced by Johnnie Walker in almost 200 years, Green Label is a pure malt whiskey resulting from a blend of such notable single malts as Talisker and Cragganmore. Until recently it had only been available in a few markets and knowledge of its existence depended largely on word-of-mouth. But last month, JW's parent company Diageo decided to revamp it and sell it across the country. It's still hard to find, and chances are you won't yet see it at your local liquor store, but you can order it from a few online sites including 877Spirits for a somewhat hefty $88.

Scotch lovers may be wondering where Green falls within the Johnnie Walker family. One Diageo official tells me it comes after Black but before Gold. A few weeks ago, at a Christmas party thrown by one of my fellow Galley Slaves, I had the honor of taste-testing Green Label (thanks to a generous guest who is connected to Johnnie Walker). I would agree it is above Black, with definite hints of peat and smokiness, yet leaving a cleaner, smoother finish. (And no, I am not benefiting in any way from plugging this Scotch--consider it a Public Service Announcement.)

Saddam, Hero of the Left?

You have to scroll down in Wretchard's latest post to get to the truly scary stuff: Namely that Europeans are refusing to investigate mass grave sites because they don't want to turn up evidence that can be used against Saddam Hussein.

Couple this news with an earlier Wretchard post about Paris Match correspondents who were essentially embedded with Iraqi terrorists and went on a mission to report on the terrorists' attempt to shoot down a civilian cargo plane.

And add to this mix the fact that Clive Stafford-Smith, a British "human rights lawyer," is helping Saddam's legal defense. Then finally, figure in that, as Charles Johnson reported, Stafford-Smith is a beneficiary of the George Soros Foundation.

Now, let me just ask: How long is it before Saddam Hussein becomes not an embarrassing, unspoken ally of the left, but an actual hero to them?

It will happen in Europe first, obviously. I suspect that in the run-up to his trial, he will be transformed from monster to victim in the mind of the left. Then, as the trial unfolds and Iraq's mass graves are placed in context next to the abominations of America's Abu Ghraib, he'll mutate from victim to folk hero. Not the sort of fellow you'd invite to dinner, mind you, but an okay sort. Certainly good enough for those people. Before the trial's conclusion, Saddam might be the next Che Guevara.

The real question is: Will this view then infect the American left, too?
Crush Kerry is pondering a Sam Brownback run for 2008. That's a name I hadn't heard on the list before.

Writer of the Year

I realize that this is the year of the blog, and I certainly don't begrudge the fine gentlemen at Power Line any of their deserved accolades. But a handful of bloggers excepted, I'm often surprised by how poor the quality of writing is in the blog world. Even though it is a textual medium, most bloggers pay little attention to their writing. There's a reason, of course: The twin monsters which drive the Internet are "MORE" and "FASTER." The web does not value "beautiful" or "elegant." Such is life. What bothers me is that as the Internet remains ascendant, its standard for the written word becomes more the norm, instead of an expedient exception. You know it's bad when serious people like Jack Shafer start throwing around the names of relative illiterates as possible New York Times columnists. (Read Shafer's list, you'll know who I'm talking about.)

As an antidote to this sickness, I recommend three writers. The first is my friend Andy Ferguson, whose workis as flawless and elegant as you'll find this side of E.B. White. The second is the New Yorker's Anthony Lane, who can do just about anything. Whether he's reviewing bad movies or waxing nostalgic about P.G. Wodehouse, Lane is the real deal. (What's the definition of a good film critic? A writer whose essay is equally enjoyable whether you agree or disagree with his assessment of the movie.) The third is Lane's colleague David Grann.

Grann does gonzo-deep reporting, and recently has turned in masterworks on subjects as wide-ranging as New York City's aqueduct infrastructure and the search for giant squid. In the New Yorker of a couple weeks ago, Grann spun 12,000 words of immaculate reporting and silky-smooth writing on the mysterious death of the world's foremost Sherlock Holmes scholar. None of his work is available on the Internet, and yet Grann is my Writer of the Year.

Which leads me to a larger point: One of the themes often associated with blog triumphalism is the idea that people are increasingly turning off old, dead-tree media. That's fine, as far as it goes; the new media pays my mortgage and I've got nothing against it. But to fixate on the Internet and turn your back on the old media is as foolish as doing the reverse.

So in 2005, do yourself a favor: Make it a habit to shut down the computer and curl up with a magazine every so often. Track down Ferguson and Lane and Grann. Take a break from the now and enjoy the beautiful. You won't be sorry.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Hugh Hewitt, King of All Media

Hugh Hewitt's new book, Blog, has just landed on my desk. I've been browsing through it for a bit and so far, it's really delightful--like a long, comfortable, interesting blog post.

I'm going to read more of it while waiting for The Life Aquatic tonight, but I already recommend it.

Update, 12/22/04, 7:46 a.m.: Finished Blog last night, so I can now recommend it without reservation. An insightful, interesting book that's worth reading if you have anything more than even a passing interest in new technologies.
I should have known better than to provoke you with a Goodfellas reference. When you're right, you're right (about Goodfellas).
As other Galley readers will no doubt point out, David, the pink Cadillac Coupe de Ville did not belong to Frankie Carbone, but rather, to Johnny Roastbeef. (It wasn't even under his name, may he rest in peace.) But yes, it was a terrific shot, so to speak, with Derek and the Dominos playing in the background. I'll never forget it. But then again, the American public is not subjected to this scene five times a day the way they are treated to other Cadillac commercials. If that were the case, I'd be pretty sick of that too. (But since I've only seen Goodfellas 500 times or so, I'm not tired of it just yet.)

But Cadillac is just one example. Remember when McDonald's introduced their new sandwich to the tune of "New Sensation" by INXS? Michael Hutchence would have hanged himself if he hadn't already. Yes, Volkswagen brilliantly used Nick Drake's "Pink Moon" in one of its ads, as well as "Mr. Roboto" by Styx, but the list of songs ruined by overplayed and overbearing commercials is much, much longer. Or so I posit.

Keep The Led In

Actually, Vic, I like the new Cadillac ads. Several years into a very positive design trend for American cars, classics like Mustang and Cadillac are finally rediscovering their inner hot rod. (By the way, have you seen the new Mustang? Wowzers! But I don’t go for that corny Steve McQueen cut-and-past job of a commercial they’re rolling. Such gimmicks are unworthy.)

As for the music, it makes sense to return to the rock and roll that thrilled today’s potential buyers as young men. I don’t think the guys who lusted as teenagers for Shelby G.T.s and Mach Is were listening to much folk music. Besides, what kind of music does Scorcese have playing in Goodfellas as the camera rises on the grill of Frankie Carbone’s pink Cadillac? It ain’t jazz, bep.

Your real problem is this: You think Led Zeppelin is cool, but Cadillacs are not. I used to think the same way, being also from a neighborhood where if you drove a Cadillac, you were almost certainly what we’d call a tough guy. But when I look at the new V series, all I see is a beautiful car.

Funny, I didn’t realize Cadillac’s new motto is "Silence the Sterotypes." Perfect.

Stop Him, Before He Swings Again!

While this shot is glancing, it betrays a sense--for the first time, really--that this Kaus-Sullivan fight may be the real deal. Kaus writes: "Andrew Sullivan goes on vacation and his blog gets better! . . ."

Don't forget: Truth is no defense against charges of stoking a feud. If you are, like me, a great admirer of these two blog-heroes, it's hard to think of anything which could be more satisfying. A real, lasting Kaus-Sullivan grudge-match? It's like Christmas! [What's with all the exclamation marks--do you need more quality time with Strunk and White? --ed The payoffs on this blog are buried so deep that you need to parse the punctuation to find them all.]
If you like to while away the hours at work looking at movie trailers, check out this new one for Sin City.

Who knows whether or not the film will be any good (Frank Miller, of Dark Knight fame is co-directing), but as a stand-alone trailer, this is one of the best I've seen in a very long time.

Rosen Rising

I've been waiting for this Jeff Rosen piece on blogging for a long time. Pure genius, all the way through. Don't miss it.

The Autopen

Is it a small thing that Donald Rumsfeld has been using an autopen to sign letters of condolence, instead of signing them by hand? Yes.

Does it really matter to families who have lost someone? Probably not.

But is it a revealing insight into our secretary of Defense? You bet.

It goes without saying that if this story had come out about a Democratic president's SecDef, the Republican end of the blogosphere would be purple with indignation, and rightly so. As it is, I've seen only a handful of cross words, from a pair of posters on a thread and a few lonely voices at FreeRepublic. No mention whatsoever of the story at the Corner.

While it would have been impractical for the SecDef to sign condolence letters during World War II, the Iraq War is a low-grade enough conflict that it wouldn't take more than 5 or 10 seconds of Rumsfeld’s time every day to put down his John Hancock.

Signing these letters wouldn't change anything. It wouldn't bring back the dead. It wouldn't salve a family's grief. It wouldn't help win the war.

But it would be the right thing to do. And conservatives are supposed to care about that sort of thing.
My fellow Galley Slave David Skinner has written a charming Casual in this week's Weekly Standard about his love for television commercials and, conversely, his distaste for shows like CSI. (But is he referring to CSI: Miami, CSI: Las Vegas, CSI: New York, or CSI: Punxsutawney?) I am partially with David in that there certainly are entertaining commercials such as for Volkswagen, which he mentions, and almost anything produced by ESPN. I also enjoyed those NFL/United Way ads putting supersized players in unconventional situations. (And yes, I am fully aware of the financial turmoil besetting the United Way. Nevertheless, you can't help but laugh when former Dolphins receiver O.J. McDuffie finds himself conned by a 6-year-old during a Pokemon card trade.)

On the other hand, of late, the number of wholly obnoxious on-air ads vastly exceeds the number of amusing ones--for every Volkswagen commercial there are at least ten truly annoying Capital One "What's in your wallet?" promos featuring barbarians, Vikings, snow monsters, barbarian Vikings, barbarian snow monsters, and barbarian Viking snow monsters. And remember when you loved Led Zeppelin's "Rock and Roll"? Now, if you hear it, you half-expect a Cadillac Escalade to come roaring through, leaving behind it a trail of flames and scorched earth.

Consider it a minor dissent.

For Vic

A lot of smart people have been picking Oral Roberts to be a Sweet Sixteen team this year. So it's no shame that the mighty Hoyas lost a squeaker to them last night. You can already tell that this Thompson kid is going to work out just fine.

What rocks!?!
It's not just Sprint, who's doing good deeds with phone cards. Howard Dean's Democracy for America has also just made a large donation. Good for them!

Monday, December 20, 2004

Rather Tasteless

Our friends at the Media Research Center have issued their annual Notable Quotables awards for 2004. (The MRC deserves its own award for sifting through all the detritus just to give us the worst of the worst in a year's worth of reporting.) In the end, the Quote of the Year goes to CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather, who had this to say on March 31, when four American contractors were slaughtered in Falluja:

"What drives American civilians to risk death in Iraq? In this economy it may be, for some, the only job they can find."
My review of Alice Munro's new collection of short stories is posted at the Washington Times. Could make a lovely Xmas gift actually. The book, not the review. Runaway

Bullpen, Second Issue

I touted the first issue of this corporate newsletter parody a couple weeks ago. Since then, the editor's been contacted by the Wall Street Journal, wanting to know who's doing the scribbling. The editor, it turns out, is a friend of mine, but I gather he's being coy about his identity, so for now it's safe with me. Anyway here's a clip from the second issue.

Headline: Engagement Used as Excuse to Announce New Job in Alumni Magazine

New York - Penn alumnus Ryan Hathaway (W '01) used his recent engagement to Karen Anson (C'00, L'03) as his excuse to detail his many job successes in the Penn alumni magazine The Pennsylvania Gazette, Hathaway reported Monday.

"I've been dying to let everyone I didn't know at Penn that I've recently moved to an elite long-short hedge fund after two successful years as an analyst in JB Morgan's number one ranked M&A group," Hathaway stated. "Thank God Karen said yes to my proposal, because the last thing I'd want to do is look obnoxious by just sending in my accomplishments and nothing else to go with it."

Hathaway and Anson have yet to set a date for their wedding because Hathaway needs to get a "better sense" of how long it is going to take to become partner at his fund. "I would really like to tie our wedding day announcement ot a big promotion," Hathaway noted. "If it take three years to make partner, then Karen will just have to wait three years to get married."

In case you'd like to subscribe, it's being offered free. Drop my anonymous friend an email at thebullpenreport[at] Warning: The Bullpen ocasionally indulges in crude humor, but nothing beyond the pale of, say, Victorino Matus.

In case you missed the party for the last episode of "Now"

Here's Tom Shales to tell us about the stepping down of Bill Moyers, fighter for truth and dignity and righteousness. Make that self-righteousness. Shales is a lovely writer and a sharp, sharp observer of television talent. Too bad about his soupy politics.
Courtesy of Newsweek, here's a site that's worth checking out. Send a soldier a letter or a care package, and let them know how grateful you are for their sacrifice and heroism.
Rachel DiCarlo has an excellent piece about Maryland governor Bob Ehrlich's feud with the Baltimore Sun. Piqued at stories in the Sun, the Ehrlich administration has banned all state officials in the executive branch from speaking with two Sun writers. Read the entire piece to get the particulars.

Ehrlich's actions may not be the most arrogant and offensive dictums ever issued by a politician, but I can't come up with anything worse off the top of my head. Being a governor and complaining about bad press is like being a moviestar and complaining about autograph seekers: If you can't handle it like a grownup, you're in the wrong line of work.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Let's Play the Feud!

You may already be tired of the Kaus-Sullivan spat, but I'm not! Kaus keeps swinging and brings up Sullivan's infamous "power-glutes" post.

You know Mickey, if you don't want to get your hands dirty, you could always email those things to Galley Slaves as a Sullivan Award nominee.

Europe's War

There are few American writers who understand modern Europe as well as Christopher Caldwell. His reporting on France's Islamist problem is nearly definitive (if you haven't read it, begin here and here).

Now Caldwell has turned his attention to the Netherlands, with similarly penetrating results. His piece, "Holland Daze," is not to be missed.

Caldwell writes:

But with the killing of van Gogh, the Dutch immigration crisis--which, as elsewhere in Europe, is a polite way of saying its Islam crisis--has moved to a higher pitch than in any other country in the West. . . . the Dutch public is being presented with an interpretation of their crisis that other publics in Europe are not. Namely, the view that the problem is not "radicalism" or "marginalization" or "fundamentalism" but Islam--that Islam and democracy don't coexist well."

Evaluating Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the woman who is next on the list of Theo van Gogh's killers, he notes, "she is aware that her outsider status makes her a natural leader for a society that fears it will die if it does not change, but would rather die than be accused of racism, gay-bashing, or Islamophobia."

And what Hirsi Ali is doing is this:

Hirsi Ali appears to many Muslims as the country's premier moral monster, and to many Dutch people as something like Joan of Arc. It is her position on women's issues that is potentially most explosive. Many European countries, notably France, are trying to recast arguments about the wearing of the Muslim headscarf as a matter of women's rights, as if that will somehow mollify fundamentalists by moving the discussion from a religious plane to a political one.

What we have here is an interesting dichotomy: Much of Europe refuses to confront the military threat of radical Islamists. The United States is happy, if not eager, to wage this war.

But you will find no one in America--not a single leader of any note--who is willing to confront the cultural threats of Islamists. Even America's quick-trigger cowboy president refuses to direct anything but kindness towards Islam. To George W. Bush and everyone else in the States, Islam is "peace." Those bad men who praise Allah and cut the heads off of infidels? They don't practice "the real Islam."

Yet Europe is fast awakening to the challenges presented by radical Islam, and seems able to confront it in ways which would make even the most hawkish Americans uncomfortable. Consider this: In the Netherlands--land of gay marriage, euthanasia, and legal pot--Geert Wilders, a politician whose platform is constructed almost exclusively for dealing with the wages of Islam, has a political movement poised to capture almost a fifth of the seats in parliament. In America, Wilders would be dismissed as a xenophobic crank.

Europe will likely continue to harden in this culture war. France and Germany do not have glorious track records when it comes to absorbing the foreign. And while American military might will continue to oppose the military threat of Islamist terrorism, European chauvinism may stiffen to confront the cultural perils of Islamism in ways which would be impossible in the United States.

It is not clear which front in this war is more important.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Kinsley Award Nominee

The first Kinsley Award nomination goes to the New Republic's Michael Crowley. Over at Slate Crowley ponders the U.N. oil-for-food scandal and concludes: "Everyone here deserves some blame for Saddam's outlandish thievery. But what was the ultimate damage? . . . The greatest tragedy of the oil-for-food program may be that, for all its Byzantine corruption, we never realized just how effective it was."

The principal defect of Kinsleyism is that it makes a fetish of counterintuition, nearly to the exclusion of every other virtue. This often makes for entertaining reading. It also often leads to obvious wrongness. Conventional wisdom is conventional because, more often than not, it's right.

Anybody can be wrong on any given topic. But it takes a particular combination of intelligence and intellectual unseriousness to arrive at wrong conclusions in the manner which the Kinsleyite does.

So from here on in, I inaugurate the Kinsley Award, for the shunning of truth in the pursuit of cleverness.

Three Cheers for Sprint

Besides being my wireless carrier, Sprint is also full of pretty good people. After a call for phone cards went out a few days ago, Galley Reader J.M. sends along this internal notice from Sprint:

Team, some of you have been receiving notes and/or hearing of requests about [the need for phone cards are Walter Reed] . . .

For your information and to share with other Sprint employees, Sprint Prepaid Solutions has prepared a generous donation of approximately 2500 prepaid cards for the special needs of our troops in Walter Reed. Their request has not fallen on deaf ears here at Sprint. Russ Everhart and the promotions team are taking the lead at identifying a contact at Walter Reed to handle the distribution, and Jenny has prepared the cards and extended the expiration dates. Russ and Luke are working out the details associated with the public relations aspects of the donation.

Concurrently, Prepaid Solutions is working to find corporate and business partners who are willing to make a donation as part of our American Red Cross program. Our unique program with ARC enables a far broader range of corporations to help when previously they had not clear options or mechanisms to help our troops.

So far as I can tell, Sprint hasn't mentioned any of this publicly--they aren't looking for applause. While I admire that a ton, this company (and the employees who made this happen) deserves some pretty serious kudos. (And so does Hugh Hewitt, who got this ball rolling.) It sure makes me feel good about using Sprint PCS. If you're looking for a wireless phone this Christmas, you should consider giving Sprint your business.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Paging Tom Wolfe, STAT

Social mores have taken a sudden, unimaginable turn: Italy's Paris Hilton reveals that, in an attempt to cover up a botched plastic surgery, she lied and told the press she had herpes.

I'm not sure what, exactly, this says about the culture. But it must be something big.
Again, not that you care, but my review of Return of the King: Extended Edition is up now.

Vice Verso

It's the moment you've all been waiting for: The Verso spring 2005 catalogue has just arrived, and, in light of the commander-in-thief's recent reelection (just barely!), the latest offerings from "The imprint of New Left Books" is sure not to disappoint:

There's Professor Michael Mann's Incoherent Empire, which Choice describes as "a devastating critique of the confused, dangerous, self-interested, and antidemocratic imperialistic policies of the current Bush administration." Meanwhile, the main themes of Afflicted Powers are "September 11, blood for oil, permanent war and illusory peace, the U.S.-Israel relationship, revolutionary Islam, and modernity and terror." This book is written by a group called Retort, "a gathering of antagonists to capital and empire, based for two decades in the San Francisco Bay Area." (I don't suppose there's a term for "antagonists to capital"?)

And finally, out in paperback this April, is Bushwomen: How They Got Their Man in the White House by Laura Flanders from Air America Radio. "[I]t's a terrific read and just what we need--an accessible account of the far Right's drive to power, and the women who front it," says Susan Sarandon. (Yes, the Susan Sarandon!) Verso calls it "the only book to unmask the most powerful women in the U.S., and to reveal what W really stands for." (I'm guessing "white.")

Spring can't come soon enough.

Thursday, December 16, 2004


Picking back up on their budding feud from a few weeks ago, Mickey Kaus continues his jihad against Andrew Sullivan, blaming Sullivan's desire for a clash of civilizations on--surprise!--gay marriage. [What else could it be based on? --ed Beats me.]

But wait, there's more!

Kaus not only pulls on Sullivan's hair, he swings his purse (again) at Peter Beinart. Is Kaus still so smart he's wrong? Yes!!! He says:

"Maybe Democrats will ultimately have no choice other than dissembling or declaring a clash of civilizations. But why race to that point? At the moment, I don't see why we can't have a Democratic party that openly a) refrains from force-feeding gay marriage to the public b) has room in it for patriotic Iraq War skeptics and c) as a consequence of a) and b) is better positioned to wage an effective military and ideological battle against Islamic terrorism."

What has Kaus's flackseed-oil-enhanced superbrain missed? Umm, September 11? In case he missed it, a not-insignificant-portion of one civilization has already declared war on Western civilization in general, and the progressive end of liberalism in particular. In many ways, Bush is fighting a war in defense of Big-D Democratic values.

If Democrats want to continue to oppose Bush while he fights on their behalf, they need only look to Europe to see where that road leads. Is this what Kaus wants? Surely not. [But he's really, really smart, right? --ed You bet!]
Not that you care, but I have a mini-review of the Barney Cam series over here.
My good friend Jeffrey Gedmin, director of the Aspen Institute Berlin, recently gave an interview for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. His commentary is as deeply disturbing as it is informative. Gedmin talks about his personal encounters with anti-American and anti-Israeli critics, many of whom claim to champion the cause of tolerance while at the same time yelling at him and telling him to go home. Once, Gedmin confided to me, a man in a car rolled down his window and shouted to him up close, "Du Arschloch!" (You a--hole!)

"Can you believe that?" he asked. I replied, "It's unbelievable. This guy doesn't even know you and he's using the informal tense!"
Now this story scares me. A lot.


I always thought it to be a terrible coincidence that my parents' wedding anniversary (April 20) happened to also be Hitler's birthday and the day of the Columbine massacre. In addition, I recently learned that a friend had given birth to her son on September 11, 2001. But just when I thought my recent wedding had escaped unscathed by such unfortunate timing, I learn today from the Washington Post that it will also be remembered as the day rapper legend Ol' Dirty Bastard passed away. (You can thank him for popularizing the urban phrase, "N---a please!") Making things worse, the toxicology report now states he had cocaine in his system. Who knew?

And so, with every wedding anniversary to come, I'll be pouring a glass of champagne for me, my wife, and ODB.

Merry XMas

Last month I sang the praises of XM satellite radio--nothing less than a beacon of hope for those who have tired of obnoxious five-minute long commercials. And I still love my XMRadio and continue to explore its more than 120 stations. Currently two stations are playing Christmas music around the clock, presumably from now until New Year's. This is great but it is not enough. The Christmas genre is actually quite broad and these channels simply cannot accommodate everyone from Duke Ellington and Tchaikovsky to Run DMC and Merle Haggard. The result has been chaos. On one night I was enjoying the London Symphony Orchestra's rendition of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" followed by a beautiful, almost ethereal performance by a woman soloist singing "Ave Maria." I glanced at the display to find out who this angel was and to my horror discovered it was Celine Dion. Feeling ill to my stomach, I immediately switched to the Alternative '80s channel, listened to some INXS, and cleansed my spirit.

P.S.: Thanks to Galley reader "jk" for pointing out XM has four stations devoted to Christmas. But how about one for jazz and crooners?

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Kristol vs. The Corner

Bill Kristol doesn't need me to defend him from Mark R. Levin, but I'll do it anyway. Just 'cause.

Levin predictably assails Kristol for having the temerity to question the infinite wisdom of "The" Donald Rumsfeld. In many corners of Bushworld, the president's nectar of infallibility trickles all the way down to SecDef.

The crux of Levin's argument is: "At no time does Kristol, or his Senate friends McCain and Hagel, explain where the additional troops will come from. It's very odd that those who supported the war from day one now complain about troop strength, when surely they knew at the time that we didn't have another 100,000 to 150,000 troops to deploy to Iraq."

Kristol has, of course, been agitating for more troops since five minutes after the dawn of time. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but Levin should peruse it nonetheless:

* November 19, 2001: "Right now we simply do not have enough troops or weapons to carry out these missions. We will need to recruit more soldiers and procure more weapons--or risk losing the war on terrorism. But more troops cost money. As Thomas Donnelly of the Project for the New American Century has noted, recruiting, training, and equipping an additional 50,000 active-duty soldiers for the Army alone will cost an additional $15 billion per year. Right now, the president's total request for an increase in defense spending is $20 billion. There will have to be much more."

* February 4, 2002: "In the coming months and years this war will require the U.S. armed forces to fight wars both big and small in a variety of different theaters--in East Asia and Central Asia, in the Persian Gulf, in the Horn of Africa, and who knows where else. . . . Victory in the larger war will require not only that the United States rid other countries of dangerous terrorists and the governments that support them, but that we also take on the difficult task of providing long-term security afterward, to allow nation-building to proceed in those countries where terrorists once found haven. . . . It will require increasing the number of men and women under arms."

* September 1, 2003: "It's true that, unfortunately, we don't have many troops to spare. . . . We should have begun rebuilding our military two years ago. And it is true that increasing the size of our forces, both in Iraq and overall, is unattractive to administration officials. But this is the time to bite the bullet and pay the price."

There's more where that came from.

In fact, Kristol was urging more troops way before 9/11. In July 2001, Kristol and Robert Kagan wrote an editorial calling on Rumsfeld to resign so as to focus attention on "the impending evisceration of the American military."

All hail the blogosphere. Spout first, think second, research some other time. [Okay, now that's out of bounds; Levin's a great guy. --ed I know, I already feel guilty about it. Sorry Mark.]

Pour One for My Homies

This article will bring much sadness to Galley Friend M.G.

Teaser: "Lindsay isn't the skin mag type: It's `not who she is' . . ."

Suck-Up Watch 7

Kristol has a fantastic, dead-on piece about Rumsfeld in the Washington Post. If Republican dominance is going to last, Republicans are going to have to do a good job of policing their own ranks. John Podhoretz's excellent work on Tom DeLay and Kristol's on Rumsfeld are encouraging signs.

Sullivan Award Nominee II

Galley Friend D.B. sends along a link to author/blogger Thomas P.M. Barnett. High marks for self-regard intertwined subtly with self-promotion:

"The prophet is never welcome in his birthplace, and you can never go home again.

"Then again, Washington, which we abandoned almost 7 years ago (itch, itch), seems to like me more and more the longer I stay away.

"This morning I got a call from David Ignatius. After what he saw in Central Command during his trip last week, he's convinced PNM is the little book that roared. He was amazed to find out that neither the Post or Times had reviewed it!

"So he's devoting his entire op-ed column tomorrow in the Post to correcting that oversight.

"Then later in the day I hear from C-SPAN: the decision has been made to broadcast the brief taped at the Highlands Forum on Monday night, 20 December, at 8pm EST, with my live, call-in segment to follow from 9:30 to 10:30pm. Then the whole thing gets run again once or twice, with probably one of them coming immediately after the first showing in order to catch the West Coast crowd (the 11pm to 2am EST slot).

"Am I holding my breath? No. But I will be working out plenty between now and then to tighten my gut as much as possible.

"Got the first serious edit of the Wired piece I wrote for the February issue on the question of how to fight this Global War on Terrorism using the out-of-date rule set called the Geneva Convention of 1949. They rewrote the first paragraph quite a bit, as editors often do, but it was just a juicier restatement of my original opening (I suck at openings, I will admit, and as Mark Warren constantly reminds me {he rewrote the opening of the upcoming Feb article in Esquire too}). The rest of the piece reads fundamentally the same. All in all, I would have to say that my first writing assignment with Wired was really quite easy, meaning I'd love to do it again.

"Of course, having pieces in the Feb issues of both Esquire and Wired should lower my standing at the college to new depths.

"Really, what was I thinking writing for such magazines with wide circulation?"--Thomas P.M. Barnett

Sullivan Award Nominee

Galley Reader C.L. sends in this classic:

"THE CURSE OF 2001: It ended in typical fashion. I made it to the Lord of the Rings, only to find it was sold out. After a Mickey D's Number 2, I rented a movie and watched it with the beagle. At approximately 10.45 pm, my toilet exploded. It had been dripping for a couple of days but this was hardly the weekend to call a plumber. I figured I would find one after New Year's. Then as I plopped myself innocently down on the porcelain, a fizzing sound behind me became a gushing sound and water was suddenly pouring into my apartment like a geyser. I tried to turn off the valve through the torrent - but it was the valve that was broken. My wonderful neighbors, enjoying a New Year's Eve bash next door and upstairs, took control and started bailing the water into my trash can. It was filling up every 45 seconds or so. One of them finally shoved a pen into the pipe to stop the flow. Pity it was a red ink pen. It exploded too, and my neighbors look a little pink today. We tried again with a ballpen. More success. After about half an hour of my acting like Shelley Winters in the Poseidon Adventure, I called a friend in construction and he showed up like a Guardian Angel in a few minutes and managed to locate the cold water switch in my apartment. (I know, I know. I'm clueless). Old Faithful subsided, and I gave my savior some Moet and took him out to a dance-club for the night. I got back around 6am, crashed and woke up an hour ago. I have a hangover, but still have no water and it's New Year's Day and even the gym is closed. I'll use my next door neighbor's shower. Thank God I live in a condo building. My only consolation is that this particular piece of comedy can still be psychologically attributed to 2001. May the new year get better."--Andrew Sullivan

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Rocco Buttiglione Visit

Rocco Buttiglione, the recently rejected Italian nominee for the European Commission was in Washington last week for whatever is the opposite of a victory lap. He was rejected from the Commission for his Catholic beliefs on abortion and homosexual marriage. The traditional defense of the believer who applies for office—that he will uphold the laws, even those that contravene his faith—proved insufficient.

While in town, Buttiglione visited the offices of the Weekly Standard for a conversation with the staff, so I was lucky enough to meet and hear him out. (As a matter of fact, it was like Bring-Your-European-Intellectual-to-Work Day at the Standard offices. I didn’t see him, but later, Bernard Henri Levy also stopped by—with entourage.)

A sociologist and philosopher, Buttiglione is the author of the major work on the philosophical thought of Karol Wotja, the current pope, Pope John Paul II. I highly recommend Christopher Caldwell’s article on the Buttiglione affair and the EU’s showdown with Catholicism.

Anyway, here are some of my notes and thoughts on Buttiglione’s stimulating comments.

He opened by contrasting what he described as the two main democratic traditions vying for dominance in Europe. One, the liberal tradition is rooted in respect for the dignity of the individual. The other is fascist, "not liberal, but in the end totalitarian." Fascism Buttiglione described as the "consequence of the most modern ideas of liberalism"—what one might call a triumph of subjectivism and the absence of those overarching beliefs that distinguish and humanize the other democratic tradition.

As he spoke, I thought maybe I was listening to a sophisticated, European version of Jonah Goldberg, whose coming book sounds rather like it is founded on the same idea (modern liberalism=facism).

Buttiglione said he doesn’t believe in homosexual rights because, he asked, how can homosexuality have rights. Only human beings can have rights. But his own position of non-discrimination of homosexuals, he said, is inadequate by the standards of the EU’s governing class. Yet, he pointed out, popular sentiment in Italy and Germany supports his position on these issues and opposes the EU’s.

For me the most striking aspect of his conversation concerned the Church and falling birthrates in Europe. The modern European state is not just explicitly anti-Catholic in its positions on aboriton and homosexuality, according to Buttiglione; it is structurally anti-Catholic. You cannot, he said, have a flourishing church where the state claims over 50 percent of your income. People cannot, under such conditions, afford to—and they are not in the habit of—supporting religion. This Buttiglione called "a connection between tax caps and religious freedom."

But Buttiglione is optimistic and believes a correction may be in the works, though it’s many years off. This correction would lead to rising birthrates and a return to religiosity. Europe—said this man from Italy which has the lowest birthrate in the world according a late ‘90s UN report—was "fifteen to twenty years behind the United States."

This is radical stuff. American and European political thought sometimes does but mostly does not see America as the definition of what’s modern. If you were to check most social science textbooks for a definition of modernization, you’d learn about a spectrum of political and cultural development with poor tribal, religious African dictatorships at one end and the secular Scandinavian welfare state at the other. Political liberalization, secularization, and the coming of the non-traditional family all seem to go hand in hand in the broad strokes of contemporary social science.

Buttiglione was saying that it’s America instead that is modern. And that is why Europe reacted so hysterically to Bush’s victory—because to them it meant the modern might also be religious. That the modern might coexist comfortably—even necessarily if it’s not to be undermined by Islamic fundamentalism—with religiosity and Western tradition.

Moby Dick

"The hard thing to talk about is how involved I was in the Kerry campaign. . . . It was a little bit painful. Not just to get beaten, but to be beaten so badly."

Endquote Moby, speaking of his debut in backing presidential wannabes, during a live in-studio session at KCRW’s Morning becomes Eclectic on Monday.

The producer-musician-songwriter talks of his involvement with MoveOn and Americans Coming Together—a relationship that continues, even after Election Day apparently. Laura Dawn, the "creative director" of MoveOn, in fact, sings on several tracks of Moby’s new album, Hotel.

Which is funny, of course, but less ironic than it seems. Moby knew Laura Dawn as a musician and fellow activist before she went to work for MoveOn to become event and cultural director, a job the MoveOn website says involves organizing artists, musicians, and filmmakers—work in which Moby seems to have been intimately involved.

Laura Dawn, Moby also says, was once a member of a New York underground (Moby’s word) band called Fluffer (I don’t want to know who’s word that is).

Another odd thing from the interview: Moby played a track called "Spiders," which he wrote when he heard that his idol David Bowie had suffered a heart attack. "I wrote this song thinking he was possibly going to die," said Moby.

So nice of him to release it then, considering Bowie didn’t die.

Chopper Wars

In light of GS reader Grady's comments, I ought to point out that one of the chief spokesmen for the Sikorsky VH-92 (what would become the next Marine One) is the furthest thing from a Bush fan and yes, he is a hulking figure who was shot at as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam. So no, strong men (or the American flag for that matter) are not solely symbols for the GOP. As another reader pointed out, you do have Jack Germond (and he should count for at least two).

But while we're on the subject of what's known as the VXX competition, a member of the Lockheed team called me today, saying he knew everything discussed on our trip to Stratford. (He even knew of the Sikorsky rep who, after explaining that part of the Lockheed aircraft would be assembled in Italy, proceeded to call Berlusconi a socialist. This reminded me of John Belushi's speech in Animal House when his character asks, "Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?" In other words, he was on a roll.) And based on the meetings with Sikorsky, the Lockheed rep gave a strong rebuttal to each of the opposing arguments. He also said he hadn't dealt with such a "disingenuous" competitor until now. The other side's feeling is no doubt mutual.

With a month to go before the Pentagon makes its final decision (actually the Navy Office of Procurement), the mudslinging has only just begun.

Madden, EA, and Future of Pro Sports

This story isn't getting much attention, but it represents a seismic shift in sports merchandising. There will be unintended consequences. Will they be for good, or ill?

Introducing: The Sullivan Award

Having already weighed in on the grand potential of blogs, I hereby introduce a new recurring feature, where readers can send in examples of the most self-indulgent writing in the blogosphere. While naming the award was a very tough call indeed (there were two chaps in the running, can you guess who the other one was?), Andrew Sullivan has run away with the honors thanks to this morning's seminal post:

"CPAP UPDATE: I have a little piece in this week's Time special on sleep about my apnea diagnosis and treatment. But there have been some subsequent developments. In general, I haven't had the amazing burst of energy I had after my night in the hospital. Maybe the psychosomatic explanation holds up. But my sleep has been better; and longer; and deeper. I'm told it takes time to feel the cumulative effects; I do feel more rested; and sleeping itself has been much easier than I anticipated. But one side-effect has surprised me. It probably shouldn't have. It makes sense, after all. I'll give you a subtle hint: when you have air being pumped into you with a face mask for eight hours a night, and when there's nowhere for it to escape, except some small holes in the top of the mask, then the air finds other outlets. So now, I officially have hot air coming out of both ends. The boyfriend has to choose between being deafened or fumigated. But my sleep is heavenly."

I encourage readers to send in their own nominees. There's certainly no shortage.

One last thought: Can you imagine what the blogosphere's reaction would be if one of those Big Bad Old Media types--say E.J. Dionne or Robert Fisk--published something like this? The entire internet might collapse under the harrumphing.

Update, 6:32 p.m.: I should say, in light of Sullivan's Self-Parody Watch item from yesterday, that I don't mean this to be any way negative. Andrew Sullivan is, objectively speaking, a blog hero, too!

The Future of the DVD Rental

I've long been impressed by how arrogant and stupid Blockbuster has behaved as an institution. They had a near monopoly on the video rental business and a chance to extend that monopoly as the market changed, first with the DVD, then with the internet, and finally with the supremacy of sales over rentals. And at every step, instead of innovating and adapting, Blockbuster sought to fight the future and maintain the status quo.

Today Blockbuster announces that it is dropping late fees. Instead, after a week of being late, they'll simply automatically charge you for the sale of the DVD let you keep it. It's a fine idea, but too little, too late.

P.S.: If you follow these things, look for Netflix to be bought by Amazon in the coming months.

Monday, December 13, 2004

No Ma'am, Just a Dolphin

Yes, the picture is crazy, but don't miss the caption: It "took off towing the 42 foot fishing boat backwards through the water at about 7 knots. . . "
While I've got my annoying, artsy-fartsy writer's hat on, let me hollar about Maureen Dowd's unbelievable excuse for a column yesterday. Again, this has nothing to do with politics: But Gail Collins should be ashamed of herself for letting this see the light of day.

As penance, Dowd should get the May 1999 issue of Esquire and read Tom Junod's profile of Lil' Bow Wow, which is written--all several thousands words of it--in verse. It might shame her into actually trying.

He's Just the Writer

The New Donkey is a promising centrist Democratic blog which I'm enjoying quite a lot so far, except for this silly post.

The Donkey (and whoever you are, will you please drop the anonymous handle; it's distracting and unnecessary) talks about the Jack Abramoff scandal and mentions Andy Ferguson's brilliant piece about Abramoff in The Weekly Standard. Donkey then goes on to essentially ignore Ferguson's work except for interpreting it for deeper institutional meaning in the conservative world.

Reading pieces as institutional signals and not individual expressions is a pet peeve of mine. When an institution wants to weigh in with something, they do so with editorials. Writers are not automatons scribbling away at the behest of their editors. And their work should be evaluated as an individual's work--not as a signal of some larger master plan. To do so is insulting.

This is a non-political point--Lord knows conservatives and liberals are equal-opportunity offenders. My cry here is for greater respect for writers in general. When you read an article in a magazine or newspaper, you should credit your admiration or displeasure to the writer, not the institution. The guy slaving away at his keyboard deserves at least that much respect.
Galley Friend Mike Russell has a sensational offering over at CulturePulp. Russell, who's a geek's geek, does reported, non-fiction comic strips (in addition to very perceptive film criticism). This medium is not unheard of, but it is off-speed enough to deserve notice. And the skill with which his strips are executed deserves applause. Go check out the CulturePulp.

Also, see the Fark thread which immortalized this week's strip.
In case you care, my Where Are They Now? on Howard Dean is up now.

Office of Strategery

I haven't met many people in the Bush administration who are either smart or nice, let alone both. But Pete Wehner sure is. He is truly one of the good guys. Be sure to catch Dan Balz's excellent profile of a guy who will be doing interesting things for a very long time to come.
Jonah Goldberg has a great column up at NRO about the liberal response to Peter Beinart's call for liberalism serious enough to take on Islamo fascism. Keeping up the cheerleading for Beinart's side, George Will and Paul Mirengoff have also rallied to his side.

I'm sad to say that Beinart is looking awfully lonely out there.

Don't Question This Man's Patriotism!

Whatever you do, don't you dare question Robert Jensen's patriotism. He loves America just as much as any red-neck, homophobic yahoo who has a "traditional" view of patriotism.

Just because Professor Jensen says:

* "The United States has lost the war in Iraq, and that's a good thing. . . ."

* "as a U.S. citizen, I welcome the U.S. defeat . . ."

* "When we admit defeat and pull out -- not if, but when -- the fate of Iraqis will depend in part on whether the United States makes good on legal and moral obligations to pay reparations and allows international institutions to aid in creating a truly sovereign Iraq. . . ."

* "The planet's resources do not belong to the United States. The century is not America's. We own neither the world nor time. And if we don't give up the quest--if we don't find our place in the world instead of on top of the world--there is little hope for a safe, sane and sustainable future."

Keep your neocon grumbling to yourself; this man is a patriot!
Dept. of Obvious: "Polls: Europe Negative on Bush Re-Election."

Friday, December 10, 2004

Believe it or not, I had actually heard about this story a few weeks ago when Gonzales was first nominated. I decided not to move with it not out of any affection for Gonzales, but because his stepson, Jared Freeze, is a young graphic designer and this job working for Hustler was his first gig out of college. Right or wrong, it seemed to me that he didn't deserve to have his life ruined because of his step-father's job.

Still, now that it's out, I'll be interested to see the reaction.

It was like Airwolf but better

This past Tuesday I had the opportunity to tour the Sikorsky helicopter facility in Stratford, Connecticut. The company is locked in a fierce competition with Lockheed over who gets to make the next Marine One. I won't take a position (yet) on which contractor's chopper best suits the president, but I do admit the tour of Sikorsky's main factory was impressive. "Connecticut is a blue state, but this installation is all red," one of the reps told me. And I believe it. Enormous American flags hung from the hangar lofts while burly, bearded men donning American flag t-shirts refined blade spindles and assembled gearboxes. About 40 Stratford plant employees have served or are currently serving in the Middle East.

Seven other journalists and myself were then taken through a hangar where EH-60 Blackhawks were being worked on--some of them destined for Iraq, a few for Colombia. I asked one of the vice presidents about the Blackhawks in Iraq (the Army owns more than 1,500 of them). "We're constantly trying to improve their flaw tolerance," he told me, but added that almost every single Blackhawk that returns to its base comes back with at least one bullet hole in it.

We then entered the Executive Transport Center and stood less than 100 yards from the super-secret sector classified as "Yankee-White-Clearance." Beyond that the rest of the reporters and I speculated on what we saw. The Sikorsky officials wouldn't even acknowledge there was anything there, as if it were invisible. Said one, "I ask that you don't write about that." And so, in the interest of national security, I won't. (But I think I saw two pilots who looked a lot like Jan Michael Vincent and Ernest Borgnine.)

Rush to Judgment

Galley Friend M.L. sends along this transcript from Rush Limbaugh. M.L. says he's shocked that our friends in winger world were going to turn the welfare of soldiers into an LMB case, saying, "Al Franken hasn't been right about anything for 10 years, except for one thing: Rush Limbaugh is a big, fat idiot." Here's what Limbaugh said yesterday:

Drudge has just splashed something fascinating. I don't want to--I probably shouldn't say this, but I want to say it because it's the honest truth. As you know, we have not talked about this on this program. We have not talked about this question, series of questions about armor on the vehicles that Rumsfeld got. We had audio yesterday, and in fact I was all prepared to have fun with it. I'll tell you what I was going to do. Here's the news. Apparently a reporter set up Rumsfeld, had a conversation with the soldier. The reporter was mad that Rumsfeld wasn't taking questions from the press, and so the reporter suggested these questions to the soldier, and the soldier asked the questions about lack of armor on vehicles that the reporter wanted to ask, but since Rumsfeld wasn't taking questions, he had no choice, and the journalist who engineered this says, "I just had one of my best days as a journalist today. As luck would have it, our journey north was delayed just long enough so I could attend a visit today here by Rumsfeld. I was told yesterday that only soldiers could ask questions, so I brought two of them along with me as my escorts, soldiers. Beforehand we worked on questions to ask Rumsfeld about the appalling lack of armor their vehicles going into combat had."

So the reporter set up Rumsfeld and suggested questions of the soldier. Remember, the soldier did not come up with these questions himself. Had it not been for the reporter the soldier would not have asked these questions. Now, I'm not telling you that I'm clairvoyant or anything of the sort. I just thought there was something about the story, just my instincts, I didn't go with this story yesterday because there's something about this that just struck me as odd. And what struck me odd about this was those of us who have employees, we all have meetings with them and we all let them blow off steam, but we do it in private. This stuff doesn't happen in public and it doesn't happen in the military. The soldier's wife is out there saying (paraphrasing), "Yeah, well, we voted for Bush and we're big gung-ho but it's just my husband. I just can't shut him up. I mean, he's going to ask what he wants to ask." He's a National Guard soldier. But it turns out here--that's what bugged me about this. This just doesn't happen. It just doesn't happen. You just don't see that kind of near insubordination among rank and file military to the secretary of defense.

I didn't talk about this, and I had no clue what the truth of this was. There was just something about it that rubbed me wrong, and I'm not going to help feed the fire with this because there's something about it. So I was going to work out a bit yesterday. In fact, I brought Snerdley in here, and I said, "You've seen this Rumsfeld story?" He said, "Oh, yeah." I said, "Well, I tell you, I want to do something. I want to have a little fun with this today." I said, "At some point I'm going to talk about this story and I'm going to bring you guys in here and say, 'Look, if it's a new policy now that employees have their bitch sessions in public, I'm going to bring you and Dawn and Brian in here and I want you to start complaining about the fact that the ice machine doesn't fill up every day, that you still have to sometimes wait for it, that your new 30-inch computer display monitor hasn't come in yet and you're still slaving away your 23-inch display," seventeen-inch display; sorry, Mr. Snerdley, and Dawn wanted to explain that the dishes in the dining room are not the right shade of white and gold that she ordered, and what are we going to do about it.

All these, you know, crazy complaints, because nobody that works here has any. They don't. (staffers grumbling) You don't have any complaints. (laughing) Mr. Snerdley really wants his 30-inch monitor. Seventeen inches is too small. Yeah, and he needs a high-definition TV. His 30-inch Sony Trinitron is old-fashioned. He was complaining about that to me the other day. So we were going to work this out, just to have fun with this because something about this just struck me as unusual. Well, I'm not sure yet who the reporter is. I'm still waiting on the information on that. I just have the first wave here, if you will, of Drudge exit polling data on this. (Laughing.) He just now splashed it up on his website, and so I wanted to pass this on to you. If you're just joining us, apparently--in fact, this is what the journalist actually wrote: "I just had one of one of my best days as journalist today. As luck would have it our journey north was delayed just long enough so I could attend a visit today here by Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. I was told yesterday that only soldiers could ask questions so I brought two of the soldiers along with me as my escort (sort of like an embed reporter here) and beforehand me and the soldiers worked on questions to ask Rumsfeld about the appalling lack of armor their vehicles going into combat had."

So it seems safe to assume that had the reporter not be fishing around with the soldiers, that these questions might not have been asked. Now, don't get upset about this, folks. This is just another Dan Rather moment. This is the kind of thing that is happening. It may be a journalistic coup for this guy, but this is not the kind of story that the American people are going to stand up and say all of a sudden we hate Rumsfeld. Now, Maureen Dowd's column today, I think she got her Christmas present. This story was her Christmas present: This soldier standing up and complaining to Rumsfeld about the lack of armor on their vehicles. The first line in her column today, one of the first lines, blah, blah, blah. Well, it's somewhere. I can't find it, but she's just all excited that Rummy got hit. She is just thrilled to death that Rumsfeld got creamed, so she's got her Christmas present now. So it's "Gotcha!" It's gotcha journalism. It's exactly what I said at the beginning of the program. There's still this arrogance. There's still this condescension.

I think I'm with M.L.

Fighting the Wimp Brigade

The LA Times editorial page boldly comes out against the conflict-avoiding extremists who would ban dodgebal and any other competition that separates winners and losers.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

We Must Protect This House

In the scrum surrounding Peter Beinart's important article about the future of the Democratic party, one of the lines which has emerged is John Judis's contention that Beinart misunderstands

Judis's line was carried even further by the impenetrably smart Mickey Kaus, who informed us that "Michael Moore and MoveOn don't even represent the vast mass of their own followers, let alone of anti-war Democrats."

Now Galley Friend P.H. sends along a link to this story which has excerpts from email making the rounds. What do the MoveOn types have to say for themselves?

"Now it's our party: we bought it, we own it, and we're going to take it back."

Let's see what happens when the votes are counted.

Advise and Consent

After being betrayed by the Sega Dreamcast I'm finally ready to get back on the video game horse. And I need your help. Do I get the PS2, the X-Box, or do I wait for a next-gen system? (And if next-gen, which one?) I've found gaming websites--even the vaunted Gizmodo--unhelpful on this question, so I'm appealing to you. Any and all advice will be much appreciated.

Euphemism of the Day

From the invaluable Lisa de Moraes: "Before Martha left for West Virginia, we promised her we would find the parties who would accomplish this," Lynn said, adding that Stewart is "very pleased."
This is a new program by the Department of Defense to get messages of support out to the troops. Worth a visit.
The Cake Eater Chronicles have moved onto snazzy new Movable Type. Best of luck to Kathy as she figures it all out.

Dude, That Was So Not Me

Fascinated by the report yesterday in the Post that three Texans are suing their sometime acquaintance, the filmmaker Richard Linkletter, who, they say, wrongly appropriated their names and aspects of their high school experience for his pothead classic, Dazed and Confused. Malcolm Gladwell wrote a very smart piece on this problem in the New Yorker recently, discussing a case in which details of a real woman’s life story were, as a court found, wrongly appropriated for a fictional play.

Gladwell observed that what most upset the woman were not the parts of her own story that were put on stage, but the other parts that were not her story. The actual fictional parts, that is, those not taken from her own story. These guys from Texas, too, are upset about things "their" characters do in the movie that they didn’t do in real life.

And yet--as Gladwell observes and many others have remarked in the Texas case--how cool it would be to see your character pilfered a little for a Broadway production or a popular movie. Reminds me of another story. A friend told me about a young author she knew who'd taken up with and then moved in with an older, more established author before writing a novel about a young author who takes up with a more established author and enjoyes some success as a result. My friend's comment to him was that she was really impressed by how he could use his own life to make literature. Oh no, he assured her, the novel was totally fictional.

Denial, you have so many faces.
The Bull Moose has a fittingly nasty post on the Washington Post's story of Rumsfeld in Iraq:

"Mr. Rumsfeld, seemingly caught off guard by the sharp questioning, responded that the military was producing extra armor for Humvees and trucks as fast as possible, but that the soldiers would have to cope with equipment shortages. "You go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time," he said.

"Specialist Thomas Wilson, a scout with a Tennessee National Guard unit set to roll into Iraq this week, was the first to step forward, saying that soldiers had had to scrounge through landfills here for pieces of rusty scrap metal and bulletproof glass - what they called "hillbilly armor" - to bolt to their trucks."

The Moose goes loose, saying:

Rumsfeld went on to explain that pure "physics" is the reason that the troops could not be supplied with sufficient armored vehicles. Pretty neat, huh? Maybe "physics" can replace "the dog ate my homework" as the universal excuse that students give their teachers for uncompleted assignments. Perhaps, in a face saving move, the President can just shift Rumsfeld over to the Education Department where Rummy can apply his novel notions of accountability to the nation's schools - the students will love the lowering of standards.
Dick Meyer has an acidic column that looks like the pain of the scorned sports fan. He dismisses a number of reasons for the outrage about steroids, but misses one which I think is crucial:

If steroids are allowed in sports, they create a barrier-to-entry to aspiring professional athletes that I think society will find unacceptable. But what's worse than that, is that if steroid use becomes legal, that barrier-to-entry will almost certainly slide down from professional sports, to college sports, to high-school sports. You and I may not care whether or not a linebacker from Texas has to take steroids to make the NFL, but we will care if little Jimmy has to take steroids if he wants to make his high school's squad.
Scott Johnson points us to Stuart Taylor's piece about the harmful effects of affirmative action on black lawyers. This could be the beginning of the end for racial preferences.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Help Is on the Way

Hugh Hewitt has an email from a friend of his in the Navy:

The number ONE request at Walter Reed hospital is phone cards. The government doesn't pay long distance phone charges and these wounded soldiers are rationing their calls home. Many will be there throughout the holidays. Really support our troops--Send phone cards of any amount to:

Medical Family Assistance Center
Walter Reed Medical Center
6900 Georgia Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20307-5001

They say they need an "endless" supply of these--any amount
even $5 is greatly appreciated.

Sounds like an excellent idea.

Hollywood misc.

Galley friend CS just told me about this intriguing ABC Primetime Live segment that ran last Thursday. Basically a softy promo job for the upcoming release of Ocean’s Twelve, it had a couple of very revealing exchanges with the cast.

Andy Garcia on Cuba:

"DIANE SAWYER: (Voice Over) And finally, there's Andy Garcia. He, too, from a loving family but with a searing memory. His father was a wealthy businessman in Cuba, who lost everything under Fidel Castro and was forced to flee to the US. The family, with three children, had to live in a one- bedroom apartment, everything else left behind in Cuba.

"ANDY GARCIA:Part of the thing when you left there was they took everything off of you, you know. I remember specifically, my sister had a -this gold rings on her hand. And she had grown into them and they couldn't get them off her hand. And as a child, I just remember this image of this -going through and these people are dressed in militia uniforms and beards and there's guns everywhere. And they were trying to get this thing off her hand before letting her through. I'm going, "'oh, my God. They're going to cut her hand off.'"

How refreshing to hear from a Hollywooder with serious credentials on Cuba. Take that Oliver Stone, Leonardo DiCaprio, Danny Glover, and, well, all the rest of them. Here’s the other worthwhile exchange.

Matt Damon on George Bush:

"DIANE SAWYER: In the last election, [Brad] Pitt, [Matt] Damon, [George] Clooney and [Don] Cheadle, openly supported John Kerry. And Damon says, that was going to cost them millions, since Kerry would raise taxes on the rich.

"MATT DAMON: This President is giving me millions of dollars. Do you think I need that? Voting for John Kerry was financially the stupidest thing that we could do, you know. And it was worth it to us because we felt that strongly about the difference that he would have made to the country."

Bragging about your wealth in an effort to show how politically virtuous you are. How gauche!

Man at Work

If you are bothered by the bizarre strain of argument which has arisen to defend steroid use, George Will is a tonic: "Athletes chemically propelled to victory do not merely overvalue winning, they misunderstand why winning is properly valued."

Commemorating the Bulge

Next week marks the 60th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge. Out in bookstores, just in time, is Alex Kershaw's The Longest Winter, the story of one American platoon that faced impossible odds in that struggle and miraculously survived. (It also makes for a terrific holiday gift for history buffs.) I recently reviewed the book in the Wall Street Journal and found it to be almost as good as Kershaw's previous history, The Bedford Boys. It is especially relevant now, with our troops in Iraq, their resolve being tested every day. The Longest Winter is a tribute to that American resolve in times of battle.
FIRE, one of the good guys in watching out for academic freedom, is fighting on behalf of University of Oklahoma professor David Deming:

"Professor Deming has filed a federal lawsuit after OU removed him from his department, stripped him of most of his classes, and moved his office to a converted basement lab, all while claiming to respect the principles of academic freedom.  Public records requests have uncovered damning evidence that OU administrators schemed to marginalize and isolate him for his attempts at whistleblowing and for his political expression."

At least they didn't take his Swingline stapler.