Friday, October 29, 2004

Drinking the Haterade

Galley Friend M.L. sent along a link to this item from Andrew Sullivan, which was posted last Saturday:

"The unutterably cool Bob Mould has put together a live blogjam in DC tomorrow night. A bunch of us will be reading from our blogs live, followed by Bob's now famous Blow-Off night. There's me, Wonkette, Geekslut, Vividblurry, Dog Poet, and many more. It's at DC9 at 1940 9th Street NW, starting at 7 pm. Come have fun. Meet sexy bloggers. Dance. Forget about this damn election for a couple hours. See you there."

What to say? In the Blogger Bible's Book of Genesis, it is written that the blogosphere arose in answer to the vanity, pomposity, and self-regard of old-media journalists. What do you think the blogosphere would say if Tom Friedman, Dana Milbank, and Adam Nagourney announced that they were getting together at the Kennedy Center and have a jam session, where they would read--live!--from their newspaper reports? (Followed by dancing and a chance to meet "sexy" reporters, of course.)

On Sullivan's behalf, at least you can say that he's an interesting and engaging writer. Still, one doesn't need to hear him read "Begala Award Nominees" in person in order to grok the essence of his craft. But check out some of his fellow blogjammers. Take GeekSlut, for instance. Here's a sample from GeekSlut's last posting:

The need for seed. Once a natural part of queer culture has become a sleazy kink. We glorify it. We enjoy it. I guess its payback, you know. After spending years, our cocks wrapped in plastic marching to the "Safe Sex" rhythm. That didn't work. It was doomed from the start. We're human beings. Men. We're not above nature, we ARE nature.

Seed is a gift, it's love, it's acceptance. Taking a man's cum [in your ass, down your throat, rubbed into your skin - whatever], even if you don't know his name, is
closeness. It's an act of love and trust. Even if yawl just met! Both the bottom and the top walk away smiling . . . and content. Now it's a sleazy affair that boys get cracked out of their minds for. Like it's an embarrassing nasty secret thing to want. This is so fucked.

The Old Media is dead! Long live the blogosphere!

There's more, of course. There's always more in blogland, because "more" is the internet's central comparative advantage. Galley Friend M.C. sends along this link to blogger Matthew Yglesias.

You may recall Yglesias from the last time we visited him during the Republican national convention. Classy kid. And now he's blogging about sitting in a Starbucks while German television cameras film him:

Okay, now we're going and there's demand for me to write something so here it is. "Something!" I assume Germans all understand about the evils of Bushism, so there's no particular need to emphasize the point in this context. And then, you post the thing.

Boy, am I glad we have bloggers around to teach those old-fogey journalists a lesson.

This Changes Everything

Forget the election. Click here and play the internet's best new game, "Walk the Drunk Home."

Not to go out on a limb here, but I suspect Vic is going to be the office champ on this one.


"HRC is a bipartisan organization," says the website of the Human Rights Campaign. Passing by this morning, I noticed their preemptive get-lost to Bush ("You're Fired") had been taken down.

The late, great John Peel

Been reading the postmortem praise for John Peel, all of it well-deserved. Slate has a nice piece on this legend of British radio.

I first heard Peel around four in the morning. In the little Hell's Kitchen apartment I rented with two friends during my first post-collegiate year. My roomate Sully and I stumbled out of Rudy's, a stridently-divey dive known for its hot dogs and brooding patrons, and came home to play darts until our other roommate insisted we stop. At which point we retired to Sully's room, where we stayed, sitting up, switching eventually to coffee, and savoring the last few hours of night listening to The Smiths or New Order.

Then we went to work. I to my job as a freelance editorial assistant working on K-2 readers for the textbook division of McGraw-Hill. He to some law firm downtown that specialized in tobacco litigation.

I used to wish that America had its own John Peel. I don't anymore because I think we have one in Nic Harcourt on KCRW in Santa Monica. His recorded sessions of up-and-coming bands on the show Morning Becomes Eclectic have made me significantly less envious of British radio listeners, though I'd still love to hear some more Peel sessions.
The latest Washington Post tracking poll shows President Bush retaking the lead over Senator Kerry, 49 percent to 48 percent. Of course the headline on CNN/Netscape News reads: "Bush Lead Crumbles; Race Tied."

They just can't wait to get him out of there. But if Bush does, in fact, win, which of the following headlines would we most likely see?

Kerry Still President To Most Americans

Low Voter Turnout Leads To Reelection

Voter Fraud Casts Doubt on Bush "Win"

At Least He Has the Right Enemies

Gerard Baker makes what might be the best case for Bush: He has the right enemies.

Very true. The converse is also true: The best reason not to vote for Kerry is the people who are championing him.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Tired Pop Culture References in Politics

The new banner (approx. 10 feet high, twenty or so across) hanging in the window of the Human Rights Campaign building in downtown Washington is lacking in inspiration. Addressed to George Bush, it says, "You're Fired." Hmmm. Also: Isn't it a little early for such triumphal fist-pumping? I wonder what the creative minds at HRC will do if Bush wins.

Black Blog Ops

Back in June, Hugh Hewitt speculated that some politicos would use blogs for dirty tricks during the course of the campaign. To run a Black Blog Op, Hewitt wrote, "Build an audience via tried and true techniques . . . and then, late in a campaign, have the blog turn on candidate X."

Hugh Hewitt: Prophet! The group Yes, Bush Can has been bopping around for a while, running a guerilla campaign that seemed to support George W. Bush. Today, I get an email from the group announcing that "as we traveled across America campaigning for Bush, we learned more than we wanted to know about Bush's policies. We came to see that this administration is a catastrophe for most people. As a result, we are abandoning our support of Bush and officially endorsing John Kerry for President."

Now the "Yes Bush Can" campaign was never really pro-Bush. Sure, they said things like "President George W. Bush is ready to lead us through these difficult times, but liberals don't believe our citizens are ready to face hard choices." But if you kept reading, you found that they were being, like, waaay ironical.

Still, only people paying close attention would have noticed. Now that they've "officially" renounced Bush, I won't be surprised if some gullible journalist bites and does a story on how this "grassroots" group is turning on the president they "supported" just five days before the election.

Bush by 8? Are you nuts?

Perhaps. My election predictions are up now. Before anyone emails telling me I'm crazy and in the tank for Bush, let me say (1) I may be crazy; (2) I certainly might be wrong; (3) Whatever the case, this isn't wishful thinking on my part.

Jane Espenson: Hero

For the four of you out there who pay attention to TV writers, Jane Espenson is the real deal. She's one of the four or five superstar writers to emerge from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and she is finally getting her own pilot on Fox. Let us hope that Fox shows better judgment with this than they did earlier this year with Tim Minear's Wonderfalls.

For those of you who don't pay attention to TV writers and want to know what's so great about Jane Espenson, see this interview, where she displays much talent, wit, and charm. Sample:

Question: How big a Star Trek geek are you?

JE: Only medium sized. I loved original Trek and TNG, and watched the early years of DS9, but then I kinda stopped. Here's a measure: I know who wrote THE TROUBLE WITH TRIBBLES. I know who invented the warp drive. I own a copy of Brent Spiner's album. I think I remember Spock's mothers maiden name. But I don't know who played Tom Paris. I don't know what the nacelles do. I don't know the name of the episode where Kirk switched bodies with the woman and spent the episode swanning about and getting hysterical.

My Fuzzy Math

Wrote my election prediction for the Standard. Here are my Electoral College totals: Bush 271 to Kerry 267

Of course, it would take only a medium-sized news story over the weekend to cause an electoral landslide. A shift in voter sentiment worth less than 5 points could allow either candidate to take off like a struggling kite that finally catches some wind.

However, I’m calling this small win for Bush in the belief that no new vote-killing stories—like Bush’s DUI or anything from the Kerry Vietnam and/or antiwar files—are left to break. My operating assumptions buck only the conventional wisdom that late undecided voters break for the challenger.

In my electoral tally, I award Pennsylvania and Ohio to Kerry, the latter because he has more intensity there—more campaign and candidate presence and more voter-registration workers. Michigan, too, goes for the senator. When I was in Detroit a few weeks ago, the local radio station was running a contest in which, instead of direct cash prizes, winning callers would see their worst household bill paid off by the radio station. To me, that says "Democratic territory." Also, the Dems’ get-out-vote efforts in Michigan in 2000 were impressive and made all the difference. Kerry’s pander on the Yucca Mountain nuclear-waste controversy in Nevada, I am guessing, will work. And Minnesota, where the polls seem to favor Kerry, seems ripe for an anti-Bush vote.

Inversely, I believe the hype about Bush taking Florida. Where security issues and terror get big play, I think Bush enjoys an advantage and I’m heartened by the importance the good citizens of Florida have attached to the issue of Sami Al-Arian.

So, Kerry gets Pennsylvania, Hawaii, Michigan, New Hampshire, Oregon, Maine, Minnesota, Ohio. Bush gets Florida, Indiana, Wisconsin, Missouri, Nevada, West Virginia, New Mexico, Colorado, and Arizona. I think I’ve counted correctly, though my sloppy notes make me wonder. The margin of error might in my own bad handwriting.
I didn't get a chance to flag Peter Beinart's very good Washington Post column yesterday about the disappearance of the Jewish vote. It's worth a read. (One quibble: Beinart throws an elbow at Ariel Sharon's "hard-line policies"--isn't Sharon the guy bucking his entire hard-line base to advocate withdrawal from the territories? He deserves some credit for this.)

Beinart's piece dovetails nicely with Jody Bottum's sensational essay on The Myth of the Catholic Voter. Jody argues, quite convincingly, that as a political demographic group Catholic voters no longer exist.

Towards the end of the piece, Jody touches on the importance of the "Catholic vocabulary" in politics and how the inclusion of this vocabularly in the cultural lexicon is what gives the illusion of Catholics being a political power.

I really can't say enough about Jody Bottum as a writer, and this long, fascinating piece is worth your time.

Terrorists or the Pentagon: Who Is Telling the Truth?

The front-page story in today's Washington Times about Russian involvement in the taking of weapons from al-Qaqaa could prove a real setback for the Kerry campaign--that is, if it is going to be covered elsewhere at all. For while the Times is running this story by Bill Gertz (and also linked by Drudge), CNN/Netscape News is running this headline instead: "Rebels: US Intel Helped Remove Missing Weapons."

So do we report what the Pentagon is saying or what the insurgents are saying? For some, this is a very tough call.

Seeping In

The Washington Post has an editorial putting the "missing explosives" story in perspective. I'm sure the New York Times will follow suit tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Anglophilia Watch

Have I ever mentioned how much I love the Brits? Charles Tyrwhitt is the patron saint of Galley Slaves and the realm of England is, taken as a whole, bloody awesome. So check out Colin Webber, a British bobby vacationing in New York, who took down a knife-wielding attacker with his bare hands yesterday. Good show.

Needed bumper-sticker for disaffected right-wingers: "Tony Blair is my president."

Chicago Hope?

So perhaps it isn't surprising that most major newspapers' editorials are endorsing John Kerry for president. And, yes, it is disappointing to see the Orlando Sentinel endorse a Democrat for the first time since 1964. But has anyone noticed the swapping of editorial endorsements between the two largest papers in the Windy City? While the Chicago Sun-Times is backing Kerry, the Chicago Tribune has announced it is supporting George W. Bush:

"There is much the current president could have done differently over the last four years. There are lessons he needs to have learned. And there are reasons--apart from the global perils likely to dominate the next presidency--to recommend either of these two good candidates.

"But for resoluteness on the defining challenge of our age--a resoluteness John Kerry has not been able to demonstrate--the Chicago Tribune urges the re-election of George W. Bush as president of the United States."

It's Not Bias, It's Opinion!

Perhaps I'm a little too hard on Slate. Then again, there's more ideological and political diversity of opinion here at Galley Slaves.

For instance, I don't think George W. Bush is the anti-Christ or that he's appointing theocrats to the federal bench. Or that he's trying to repeal the constitutional protection for free speech or the rule of law. And it seems to me that his belief in democracy is actually quite strong. (One might, however, argue that he believes too much in power of democracy to cure all ills.)

But I will say this: Bush's absolute demand of "loyalty" is at best unflattering and at worst repellent. The lastest example comes from a story in the October 18 Legal Times about the future of deputy attorney general James Comey.

Comey is the number two guy at Justice. He has a great background and is, in general, an all-around stand-up guy. Evidently, he's off the list to succeed John Ashcroft because, as Vanessa Blum reports, he "has been insensitive to political concerns."

"Some of [Comey's] early staff picks were vetoed by the White House for not having strong Republican credentials," Blum continues. A former Bush official explains, "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."

The former Bush official continues: "[Comey] has shown insufficient political savvy. The perception is that he has erred too much on the side of neutrality and independence."


"I'm not really an exhibitionist, but watch this!"

Back in 1999, when Nicole Kidman was junketeering for Eyes Wide Shut, she kept telling reporters that she's really a very shy girl, who just happens to appear naked in a lot of high-profile movies. She is not--she said repeatedly--an exhibitionist. Right.

By the same token, lots of journalists have recently taken to public declarations of their voting intentions. Like Nicole Kidman, I'm sure this has nothing to do with exhibitionism.

Instead, as Jacob Weisberg helpfully explains at Slate, it's all about fairness and "the distinction between opinion and bias." I believe him!

That said, it's worth taking a look at Slate's list of staff endorsements. You will be unsurprised to learn that John Kerry is going to carry the Slate offices 46 to 5. What might surprise you, however, are some of the fairly crazy explanations offered by Slaterns in defense of their endorsements:

* Phillip Carter: Bush "employ[s] lawyers to eviscerate the rule of law"

* Sara Dickerman: "I'd like to see the Social Security, due process, freedom of speech, and the right to choose when and if to have a family preserved for my newborn child"

* Mia Fineman: "I don't want to see our government further colonized by the fundamentalist Christian right."

* David Greenberg: "I'd vote for practically anyone instead of Bush, because I don't think he really believes in democracy."

* Jon Katz: Bush "seems to me to be mixing politics and religion, in this case talking to God rather than listening to advisers, foreign leaders, or voters."

* Laura Kipnis: Bush "appoints theocrats and neo-segregationists to the federal bench"

* Dahlia Lithwick: Bush has "lost sight of the fact that what makes Americans both strong and free is the rule of law"

* Charlie Powell: "Bush and Co. stole the 2000 election."

* Dana Stevens: Bush "and his cabal of gnarled trolls have taken our great country (not to mention all of the Middle East) down a path that it's possible no election will ever be able to fix."

* Robert Wright: "[Kerry's] a long way from being the Messiah, but at least he's not the anti-Christ."

Is this stuff nuts? You betcha. But here, once again, is Slate editor Jacob Weisberg, explaining "the kind of journalism Slate practices": "When you advance a hypothesis, you must test it against reality. When you make a political argument, you must take seriously the significant arguments on the other side."

Yeah, that's the ticket. It's not like they just want attention or anything.
Is Christopher Hitchens endorsing Kerry or Bush? He reports, you decide.
I want to take this opportunity to laud the clear thinking and obvious good judgment of Soxblog, who knew, as I did, that these Red Stockings were destined for greatness.

JFD, I'll never question you again.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Reader J.B. writes in with a suggestion for those interested in learning more about minority voting patterns. He recommends Milton Friedman's Encounter essay on the subject, which can also be found in The Essence of Friedman. Fine work.

Any more suggestions from the group?
Reader J.B. writes in with a suggestion for those interested in learning more about minority voting patterns. He recommends Milton Friedman's Encounter essay on the subject, which can also be found in The Essence of Friedman. Fine work.

Any other suggestions?
I'm a terrible flier. My flight anxiety has gotten so bad that I now take this weird herbal drug that my mother found for me at GNC before take off. I fast forward past the plane-crash flashbacks in Lost. I'll never watch Cast Away again. And now this:

"Afterward, Airbus told the NTSB that it included a warning that abrupt rudder movement in some circumstances "can lead to rapid loss of controlled flight," and, in others, could break off the tail."

Ummm, isn't that a problem? Isn't that a big, gigantic, HEY COME SUE US problem? I mean, if moving the rudder abruptly can cause the tail to break off, why allow the rudder controls to move the rudder abruptly? Surely there's a program that could be written to prevent an excessive amount of input from being relayed to the mechanism.

I get the sense that airlines are like restaurants: If you could see what goes on in a restaurant's kitchen ever day, you'd never eat out again. If we really knew how the airlines worked, we'd all take Amtrak.

They Say Pitcairn is Lovely This Time of Year

On remote Pitcairn Island, located somewhere between New Zealand and Peru, six men, including the mayor, have been found guilty of rape and underage sex. Okay, so why is this newsworthy?

(1) For those who may not know, Pitcairn Island was the last stop for the HMS Bounty, after half its crew, led by Master's Mate Fletcher Christian, mutinied against Captain William Bligh in 1789. Most of the island's current inhabitants are descendants of those mutineers. (In fact, the mayor himself is named Steve Christian.)

(2) The six men headed to prison comprise roughly half the island's male populace. (The island's total population is 47.) Barring conjugal visits, the remaining free men will be extremely busy fathering. Or more male tourists will be coming. Or you'll see a spurt in certain kinds of banks.
Over at Four Sides, Scott Foster (imagine Paul Wellstone crossed with Bob Vila) has a good introduction to self-home improvement.

Scott will be proud to know that--with a 2" x 4", a sledge hammer, and some professional help--I moved a wall in my kitchen over about 1", allowing me to finally open the oven door on my shiny new range. Next stop: Track lighting in the kitchen.
Galley Friend B.W. has sent along a link to Shawn Macomber's top-notch review of The Librarian. It's a novel about an evil Republican president who causes the terrorist attacks of 9/11, invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, and uses a domestic army to steal the 2004 election. But it's fiction!

Bonus points: The Project for the New American Century figures prominently.

It is my fervent hope that if George Bush wins reelection, we'll have PNAC: The Musical released off-Broadway before the end of his second term.

Blood Sport: Return of the Subservient Chicken

Galley Friend L.B. sends along this link to Burger King's newest chicken promotion: A steel-cage, Ultimate Fighting, chicken fighting video game. Worth your valuable time.
First we learned that CNN's Daryn Kagan is dating Rush Limbaugh. Now we hear from the Washington Post's Reliable Source that NBC's Campbell Brown is "casually dating" former Iraq CPA spokesman Dan Senor. So what is it that draws hot anchors to right-leaning men? Is it some new take on that Revenge of the Nerds motto, "Jocks only think about sports, nerds only think about sex"?

Joel Engel, Superstar

Joel Engel has a dynamite piece about the Jewish vote and why they'll vote overwhelmingly for Kerry, no matter what.

I'm sort of fascinated with minority voting patterns and how, even more than other demographic groups, their party affiliation seems really etched in granite and is tied barely at all to actual policy.

For instance, I imagine that a black Republican candidate for president would be hard pressed to garner even 40 percent of the African-American vote--even if that candidate supported affirmative action. Jewish Americans are clearly in the pocket of the Democrats, no matter that the Democratic party is now home to most of America's ugly anti-Semites. Someone must have written a smart, scholarly treatment of this. Does anyone have some recommended reading?

Pieces of Ashlee

There's more. You should go read the whole Lisa de Moraes column. I won't spoil it for you, but here's one interesting tidbit:

". . . the official word from NBC yesterday was that SNL executive producer Lorne Michaels's position is that its musical guests perform live. To drive home that point, for the West Coast feed the network edited out Simpson's voice from the backup track that had taken her by surprise. Viewers in Los Angeles saw Simpson gyrate, appear to become confused because the band was playing the wrong song, and then walk off. Presto chango, no lip-syncing."

Interesting, no? Are people really that afraid of David Geffen?

A word on Lisa de Moraes: For you kids out there who get all your news from the interweb, you're really missing out. De Moraes is the funniest woman in journalism--and the best television reporter in the country, to boot.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Bush Wins

I'm not convinced of that, mind you. But I do think that one of these candidates is going to win by 6 to 8 points, and it might be Bush. So what next? Howie Kurtz has one of two Washington Post pieces on that topic. (The other piece is here.)

Kurtz quotes Katrina van den Heuvel as saying that, should Bush win, the left "will continue to fight the good fight during what we think is the dismantling of our democracy."

What does that even mean? Does van den Heuvel think that in 2008 a President Bush would cancel elections? Repeal the 22nd Amendment? Install Jeb as president in a military junta? Does she think he would abolish the Senate and scrap the Electoral College, as fellow left-winger John Sperling proposes?

Of course not.

Now this doesn't mean that Bush is a faultless president--or even worthy of reelection. (As Andy Ferguson put it, the thinly disguised secret of the 2004 election is that "Republicans are supporting a candidate that relatively few of them find personally or politically appealing.")

But here's what it does mean: Almost since the day Bush arrived in Washington, Democrats in general and liberals in particular have been incapable of making a case against him without resorting to hysterical, idiotic hyperbole.

The left could have argued that the Bush Doctrine wasn't militarily sustainable after a decade of defense build-down. They could have argued that democracy is not a universal solvent and that cultural differences between El Salvador and Iraq make lessons from the one impractical for the other. They could have argued that while removing Saddam was a noble goal, the risks of a theocratic--or a lawless, terrorist-run--Iraq made war imprudent. They could have argued that Bush and Donald Rumsfeld were overly-concerned with transformation, and failed to commit adequate troops to post-war Iraq. If they really wanted to, they could even have argued that, by failing to pay attention to history and the FAA, Bush contributed to the intelligence failure responsible for September 11. They could have--God knows, this would have been nice--come up with a coherent, detailed, strategy for how to approach a global war against Islamist radicalism.

There has been ample room to criticize this president at nearly every turn during his tenure.

But what has the left given us?

* No Blood for Oil

* Bush went to war for his daddy

* Halliburton

* Bush knew about 9/11

* Bush lied about WMDs

* The Patriot Act is destroying our liberties

* Bush is dismantling our democracy

If Bush wins, it will be in large part because a bilious, irresponsible wing of liberalism hijacked the Democratic party. Yet at the moment of Kerry's defeat, these same forces of insanity will claim that Democrats failed because they weren't tough enough. And these same people--the Sperlings and Kos's of the world--will try to convince to main body of the the Democratic party to crawl further out on a limb with them.

If Bush wins--and I can hardly believe I'm saying this--it will be up to Bill and Hillary Clinton to save the Democratic party from itself.
The Scrapbook has great stuff this week. My favorites:

* Jimmy Carter saying that ". . . in some ways the Revolutionary War could have been avoided. It was an unnecessary war." I don't care what you say, Democrats are not the peacenik party. I swear!

* An elder from Presbyterian Church USA saying, "We treasure the precious words of Hezbollah . . ."

* And more on the goings-on down at Duke.

Celebrity Skin

In case you missed it, this weekend was the best celebrity melt-down moment in many moons. Ashlee Simpson was clearly lip-synching during her appearance on Saturday Night Live. She got away with it during her first number, but when she came onstage for the second time, and began hopping around, the music track from the first song came back on. He voice was broadcast. She looked horrified. Her band looked dumbstruck. She hopped a couple more times, and then walked off the stage. Read the Daily News' account here, or, if you have a couple minutes to kill, check out the video.

There's nothing too exceptional yet, though. We all remember Milli Vanilli. Sure, there's an extra pop of satisfaction since Ashlee Simpson is a product of nepotism and didn't even have to whore her way to fame like Madonna. I mean, celebrity may come cheap in today's America, but it shouldn't be free.

No, the super-duper cherry on top to this story is that after getting caught lip-synching on national television, Simpson "apologized to her fans--and blamed her band for playing the wrong song." That's right: She tried to pin her implosion on the minimum-wage Abercrombie models who pretend to play back-up for her. A classy broad, that Ashlee. Or maybe she's a classy grrrl. I don't know.

But wait! There's more! Not that you'd be caught dead there, but I've taken the trouble of trawling the message boards at for you. There are the normal, idiotic support posts, like Don't Listen To Them Ashlee!!!, where "TeamAshlee2004" says, "You are a Beautiful person Ashlee!! Don't give in to their negative comments. Believe in yourself. Believe in your inner strength. God is on your side. He believes in you. I know there's nothing you can't do. Your real fans will always be with you." And This Post Is For Ashlee's Real Fans, which is also by TeamAshlee2004. In case you were wondering, TeamAshlee20004 claims to be Joshua Ortiz, a 19-year-old New Yorker, who says in his profile, "I'm 19 Years Old and I'm currently living in Brooklyn N.Y. Ashlee Simpson has changed my life . . . She has shown me that its ok to be yourself and to not worry about what other people think, And if you believe in your dreams and know that you can achieve them there's nothing you can't do." Young Joshua seems to be responsible for most of the pro-Ashlee posts since her SNL meltdown. She must be very special to him.

But most of the posts are awfully mean to Ashlee. Abusive, even. I encourage you to read them all.

Suck-Up Watch 4

Bill Kristol catches another revealing Kerry moment. Despite John Edwards's repeated professions of support for Israel, Richard Holbrooke says that President Kerry will "put more pressure on Israel."

More pressure to do what, exactly?

Sunday, October 24, 2004

The Left's Assassination Problem, and Ours

If you've seen this column by Charlie Brooker, then you've probably already read this astonishing paragraph:

"On November 2, the entire civilised world will be praying, praying Bush loses. And Sod's law dictates he'll probably win, thereby disproving the existence of God once and for all. The world will endure four more years of idiocy, arrogance and unwarranted bloodshed, with no benevolent deity to watch over and save us. John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Hinckley Jr - where are you now that we need you?"

By calling for the assassination of an American president, Brooker isn't doing anything particularly shocking. This meme first started on crazy lefty-websites, then migrated into Nicholson Baker's novel Checkpoint. And now, here it is in the pages of the Guardian. Once is chance, twice is coincidence, three times is enemy fire.

Remember that debate over whether Bush hatred was crazier than Clinton hatred? Debate settled.

Two observations: (1) Fellows such as Brooker make it awfully hard for conservatives who don't particularly care for Bush to vote for John Kerry. (2) If Bush is reelected, liberalism may self-destruct. The net effect of eight years of Bill Clinton on conservatives was to push them toward the center. With each passing day under Bush, liberalism is being further radicalized.

Which isn't good for any of us. A healthy democracy needs energetic, serious, thoughtful ideological opposites. As these two sides engage, they hone their ideas, present them in the public square and, if rejected, come up with new, better ideas. They compete, we all win.

Conservatives have come up with a pretty big idea: That democarcy is a universal solvent. They have applied this theory to a couple of trouble spots in the world and are coming up with decidedly mixed results. This is the perfect opportunity for liberalism to present an opposing theory. Instead, they have bogged down in seething, churning hatred. Their big idea is assassination.

Democracies need an engaged, loyal opposition as much as they need good leadership. Today's liberals are letting themselves--and the rest of us--down.

WashPost Endorses Kerry

Washington Post endorses Kerry for president in typically thoughtful fashion.

One or two quibbles. The Post says Kerry "understood early on the dangers of non-state actors such as al Qaeda." Not true. In his book, The New War, on non-state actors causing international mayhem, Kerry actually dismissed the Taliban as only interested in drugs. Also, the Post's comments sidesteps a major question raised by The New War and many of the senator's comments: Would John Kerry treat major terrorist activity merely as a law enforcement problem?

Bush charges he would and has plenty of evidence to back him up. Kerry has, on occasion, talked tough, as when he vowed to add two divisions to the United States military, a stand the Post mentions favorably in its endorsement. I, too, would like to see more troops made available to the commander in chief as we proceed in the war on terror and try to leave Iraq in some semblance of order (and to relieve reservists of the oppressive burden they've come to shoulder). But I just don't believe John Kerry is going to be a more energetic scourge of terrorists and malfunctioning, terrorist-encouraging regimes than George Bush.

The pivotal terror question of this election is: Can John Kerry deliver all that he promises, toughness equal to or exceeding that of George Bush, yet complimented by greater diplomatic finesse? I don't buy it. George Bush may be gruff, but his major diplomatic shortcoming is that he really wants to hunt down the bad guys--and will continue doing it his way even if your country objects to his methods (or in many cases the goal itself and the consequences that flow from its realizion). For me, this is the irreplacable asset of the George Bush administration and the number one reason to vote for him.

Can John Kerry also deliver the tax cuts he promises to everyone but the wealthy while keeping the economy on the upswing? Can he deliver fiscal discipline even as dreams of explosive government growth through universal health care and refuses to reform Social Security?

John Kerry wants to be all things to all people, just the kind fo person I don't trust.

Friday, October 22, 2004

For My Good Friend David Tell

Galley Friend P.C. sends along this link. Scroll down for the new angle captured of the A-Rod slap play.

In Search of Subtlety

In response to a reader from North Jersey, herewith my explanation of the debate among Village Voice editors over George W. Bush as vampire:

Says one, "Hey, I got a great idea. How about George W. Bush raping the Statue of Liberty?"

Says the other, "No, no, that would be too obvious. Let's try something more subtle. Like Bush as Dracula sucking Liberty's blood."

(Thanks to another reader for the earlier suggestion.)

Meanwhile, props to David Kaspar of Medienkritik for pointing out this week's cover story in the German magazine Stern concerning the laying off of thousands of Opel (General Motors) factory workers in Bochum. The cover art? A big American cowboy boot ready to step on tiny German employees.

Thank goodness for subtlety.

More on Jon Stewart

I'm increasingly bothered by the coverage of the Jon Stewart-Tucker Carlson Crossfire exchange--which seems to be either the beatification or canonization of Stewart. I can't tell which.

Why is Stewart getting such fawning treatment for doing what, on the civility scale, is the sort of thing you'd expect from Morton Downey Jr. or Howard Stern? Well, I've got a theory.

What bothers me about Stewart's behavior isn't that he called Tucker a dick, but that he trashed Crossfire. I'm not a regular watcher of Crossfire, so I can't testify to the truth or falsity of Stewart's claim that Crossfire sucks--but I do know that the producers and staff of Crossfire invited Stewart on not as an expert, but to help him sell his book. They were trying to help him pay his mortgage. As such, it seems to me that basic politeness dictates that Stewart shouldn't have used that venue to attack the work of the people who were trying to do him a favor.

But this incident has morphed from Stewart's attack on Crossfire to a specific feud with Tucker. And, in case you haven't noticed, Stewart is a liberal icon and Tucker is a conservative. As such, the New York Times & Co. have rushed to take Stewart's side and applaud his bravery and honesty.

So let me ask this: If Stewart had gone on Crossfire and conducted himself in exactly the same way, but he had called James Carville (or Begala, for that matter) a dick, do you think he would still be getting the hero's treatment?
When you read Stephen Hayes, you often get the sense that he's the only guy in journalism who actually reads all of the information about Iraq and al Qaeda. Which makes him a pretty invaluable resource. His take-down of the new Levin report is particularly devastating.

What I don't understand is why Democrats feel the need to be so transparently dishonest about the relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda. If they were more honest, they would grant the connection between Saddam and Osama--which is, as an analytical matter, undeniable--and then say that they didn't find their relationship to be serious enough to warrant action. Then we could have a grown-up debate about preemption and the nature of evidence and threats. Which I think would be pretty good for all of us.

Instead, because most Democrats have circled the wagons around a proposition which is objectively false in order to . . . well, to be truthful, I have no idea why they've chosen this route. Unless they think they'd come out on the wrong side of that grown-up debate on preemption.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Next week: Bush as anti-Christ

Even The Nation will be hard-pressed to beat the cover art for this week's Village Voice, featuring President George W. Bush as a vampire sucking the blood out of a limp Statue of Liberty. The headline reads: "Sucking Democracy Dry."

As one colleague pondered, Can you imagine what that meeting must have been like, when the editors decided this to be a perfectly acceptable cover illustration?

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Knowing is Half the Battle

In a recent interview with Dark Horizons, Team America creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone didn't pull any punches, especially when it comes to their thoughts on Hollywood's "Vote or Die/Choose or Lose" agenda:

Matt Stone: … we thought to encourage uninformed voters to go vote isn't going to help the country that much. If you don't really know what you want to do and not really sure then just don't vote. And this whole idea of you have to vote no matter what, just get out …

Trey Parker: We always said the [election] campaign was about getting informed. I think that just vote or die I just think is ridiculous. That is just our personal opinion … if you don't know anything and if you are just going to vote for George Bush because he is already in office or if you are going to vote for John Kerry because he is on the cover of Rolling Stone, don't vote. And there is no shame in that. The only shame is not really knowing anything, being uninformed and going voting. Because then you are just not helping us all out. It is not funny to rant on and that is what we did. And [Sean Penn] took that and ran with it and this ridiculous, retarded logic of somehow by saying those things we meant that we wanted people to be disemboweled and mutilated overseas. If you read the logic of [Penn's response to the Rolling Stone interview], it makes no sense, it is insane.

The Penn letter appeared two weeks ago on Drudge Report.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Suskind on Bush: NYTimes Says God is Dead

Read Ron Suskind’s New York Times magazine piece on Bush’s "faith-based presidency" yesterday. I’m impressed by the reporting, even as I pick up the constant scent of rhetorical overreach.

What Suskind knows is this. In his twenties and thirties, George Bush was a failure, albeit a rich one, who coasted along on the strength of his family connections. After his fortieth birthday, the president found God in what was the most significant, and perhaps only, major course correction in his pre-presidential personal life and career.
But George Bush turned his life around not after a process of trial and error, nor by turning a skeptical eye on his own lackluster resume and neglected personal relationships. He did it by revelation. George Bush "found" God.

Suskind contends that Bush never seems to have internalized any of the more rigorous methods for discovering one’s own errors and how to fix them: rational scrutiny, the give and take of potentially hostile questioning, trolling for a diversity of views to inform your own decisions. And now that he’s a president who’s as bold as he is, in certain quarters, hated, all that listening and questioning stuff has totally gone out the window. His circle of advisers is closing and often seems to be a circle of one—or rather two if you count the big One, God.

From here it’s easy to see how Suskind constructs his brief against Bush and Bush’s (religiously based) confidence in his own judgment.

But I personally think there is an interesting debate to be had between how we (as Americans, intellectuals, whatever) idealize the decision-making process and what we know about it being necessary to hold your cards close in order to perform well. Suskind appears unable to imagine effective leadership that doesn’t show its cards, expose itself to tough questioning, and do basically everything the college handbook tells you to do as a member of intellectual community. His ideal administration would probably be the first year of the Clinton administration, an ongoing seminar in executive leadership that was too paralyzed by debate to get anything done.

That said, Suskind has come up with some fantastic quotes, none more amazing or less self-conscious than the aide who talked with Suskind after his unflattering profile of Karen Hughes appeared in Esquire.

"The aide said that guys like me were ‘in what we call the reality-based community,’ which he defined as people who ‘believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.’ I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ‘That’s not the way the world really works anymore,’ he continued. ‘We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."

As deeply hubristic as this kind of talk is—far more hubristic, btw, than any talk I would have imagined was taking place—one should also pay attention to Suskind’s little aside about empiricism and the Enlightenment. Think about it. Ron Suskind, who accuses George Bush of believing he is God’s own messenger on Earth, appears to believe that it’s up to him to represent rationalism and the Enlightenment in response. Ron Suskind’s view of his own little journalistic self is in fact a mirror-image caricature of the one he’s constructed of Bush.

The Real Puppets

Taking Jonathan V. Last's advice, I recently went to a screening of Team America: World Police. He is certainly right about the movie parodying the overblown Hollywood action genre. Last also correctly points out that all sides are victimized by Trey Parker and Matt Stone's sick, twisted, but darkly funny minds. The uber-patriotic theme, "America, F--- Yeah!" will be ringing in your head for days. That said, it was clear on Saturday night at the Georgetown Loews that many in the audience were hoping for another Bush-bashing filmfest. The president wasn't mentioned once. Instead, they were treated to horrific caricatures of Hollywood's outspoken liberal elite: A Michael Moore puppet, hot dog in hand; Alec Baldwin speaking of America's new ally--a man of peace--Kim Jong Il. Not to mention Janeane Garafalo. Tim Robbins. Susan Sarandon. Sean Penn. And they all get clobbered.

Devout disciples of Parker and Stone also came out in droves and applauded the audacity and low-brow humor of the movie (which is obscenity-ridden and quite graphic--even for puppets). But the rest of the Georgetown crowd groaned through much of it, waiting for some humiliation of the president and Republicans that never came. When Baldwin goes on his self-important tirade, there were hisses. I heard one man's voice actually say, "This is wrong."

Maybe it's because conservatives have long put up with their favorite actors and musicians and their opposing political viewpoints that we take most jokes in stride. But these liberals in the audience could barely contain their disgust. As the lights went on and half the crowd applauded, the other half just sat there, some with looks of disgust, refusing to accept this unjust rendering of Hollywood's "political conscience."

Who knew they could be so thin-skinned?

Monday, October 18, 2004

Are Imperialist Troops in Your County?

Having just received the District of Columbia Voter Guide, I thought it important to share with you a viable alternative for voting-in the traditional parties: That's right, my perennial favorite: The Socialist Workers Party. To save you time at the voting booth, here is the party's candidate statement, for your reading pleasure and for your careful consideration:

It's not who you're against, but what you're for!

Workers' right to organize unions. Formation of an independent labor party based on the unions. The right of power-poor semi-colonial countries to acquire and develop the energy necessary for electrification. US hands off Cuba. Immediate withdrawal of US and other imperialist troops from Iraq, and other counties [sic] throughout the world. A massive public works program to meet social needs and put millions to work. Extend affirmative action. A woman's right to choose abortion. Federally funded lifetime healthcare. The root of the problems working people face is the capitalist system.

And if you disagree with the above, it's off to the Gulag you go!

Who Dead?

Osama bin Laden, in all likelihood, is dead, comments Roger L. Simon. "Virtually the only person who believes Osama bin Laden is still alive today is John Kerry." And this is a most cynical belief on Kerry’s part, held without sincerity and only because it allows him to say Bush’s mistakes have enabled the man behind 9/11 to escape.
Interestingly, all of Simon’s correspondents seem to agree that the leader of al Qaeda is "probably pushing up daisies."
Having given no prior thought to the likelihood that bin Laden is now deceased, I’m surprised by how uncontroversial this notion seems to Simon and his peeps. Simon

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Jon Stewart: At least he's still funnier than Herpes!

For almost two years I've been telling people that Jon Stewart isn't funny anymore. Everyone I've preached to has vehemently disagreed with me. But after watching his performance on Crossfire last Friday, I think people are finally going to start coming around. (Read the full transcript here.)

Stewart's problem isn't that he's spun off into lefty-land. It's that all of his Emmy awards have gone to his head--he thinks he's a serious guy now. When Stewart self-deprecatingly calls The Daily Show Fake News, you can tell that what he really means is "Fake" News.

In a way, this isn't entirely Stewart's fault. For some reason, the rest of the media world pushed him into it by doing scads of fawning profiles and including him on panels with Jennings, Brokaw, Rather, and the rest of the silverbacks.

I count Tucker Carlson as a pal, but what bothers me about Stewart's Crossfire tirade isn't that he called Tucker a dick--it's that in doing so, Stewart was about as funny as E.J. Dionne after two cosmopolitans. Or Bill Bennett after a bad night at the Taj.

Memo to Comedy Central executives: Craig Kilborn's available. Why don't you get Stewart a job at The Poynter Institute and bring Kilborn back to The Daily Show? I bet it'll help the ratings.

One State, Two State, Red State, Blue State

My quasi-review of John Sperling's The Great Divide: Retro vs. Metro America is up at the Los Angeles Times. As someone who's quite fond of the Democratic party (at least in principle), I'm always bothered by Dem strategists who think that the real path to victory is for the party to be like Howard Dean, only more so.

Fortunately for him, John Kerry hasn't taken that path. He isn't campaigning as a New Democrat, exactly, but as a sort of Newer Democrat. Of course, that's to the extent that he's campaigning as anything at all--mostly he's just The Not Bush. (Mind you, that may be enough.)

If Kerry loses, the Sperlings of the world will take it to mean that they were right--that Kerry would have won, had he only run waaaaaay to the left. As a purely strategic matter, this seems like madness.

A Kerry loss should bring this intra-party dispute to a head, as the Clinton wing of the party will finally have to engage the Dean wing. A Kerry win would put the fight off, but sooner or later, mainstream Democrats are going to have to confront the Deaniac fringe and do to them what Republicans did to the Buchananite right in the '90s.

Friday, October 15, 2004

I've come, a little late, to this entry from the much-hyped Noam Scheiber:

"I've never thought the chances of John Kerry winning this fall were very good, since it's become clear these last four years that George W. Bush and his advisers are more cynical and ruthless than pretty much any group of politicos in the country's history."

First things first: Anyone who has paid even a little bit of attention to this race since January has known that (a) John Kerry is a much more formidable politician than the conventional wisdom indicates; and (b) George W. Bush has been clearly vulnerable for the last 18 months.

Second, the Bush campaign is the most "cynical and ruthless" group "in the country's history"? Ever? More ruthless than, say, the Clinton braintrust? More cynical than Team Nixon? I mean, if the people behind Bush are such ruthless, cynical, geniuses, how is that that they blew a double-digit lead in 2000, wasted millions of dollars campaigning in California, lost the popular vote, and only won the election on a fluke?

This is the kid who's going to be Mickey Kaus's boss some day?

Abu Ghraib

After little further discussion of the scandal at Abu Ghraib prison, two important publications are touching upon the subject. This week's New Yorker cover shows the American flag with a faint silhouette of the famous image of the hooded prisoner with wires attached to his hands. And today's Washington Post has an editorial complaining of the absence of the subject from the wide range of issues discussed in the recent debates.

Now that they mention it, it is strange that Kerry hasn't harped on this most attention-grabbing scandal of the American occupation.
As if the curse wasn't enough, aren't the Red Sox tempting fate by announcing that Curt Schilling isn't going to start Game 5? I mean, before you start thinking about a Game 5, shouldn't you concentrate on winning Game 3 or 4?

This is the type of mistake that tempts the baseball gods. This is how you get swept.

Team America

My review of Team America is up. The basic gist is that I think it's a funny movie, but not a classic, like South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut. Still, it's worth your $9.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Get Your Slant-o-meter!

The final debate Slant-o-meter is out at Media Tenor. Interestingly, Fox and PBS score the debate similarly. More interestingly, the biggest outlier comes from CBS, who not only scored a Kerry win, but was the only network to have dominantly negative coverage of Bush.

Well surprise, surprise, surprise.

A Poll To Ponder

For better and for worse, polls have been a part of our lives for quite some time now. Recently perusing a New York Times "Living History" book, I came across this headline, from November 28, 1939:

Hitler is 'Greatest' in Princeton Poll: Freshmen Put Einstein Second and Chamberlain Third

Keep in mind, World War II had been raging for almost three months when the results were published. So make what you will of it, take away any lessons you want, but herewith is the entire New York Times item:

PRINCETON, N.J., Nov. 27--Princeton's freshmen again have chosen Adolf Hitler as "the greatest living person" in the annual poll of their class conducted by The Daily Princetonian. Ninety-three votes were given to the German Chancellor, as compared with twenty-seven to Albert Einstein in second position and fifteen to Neville Chamberlain in third.

In answer to a criticism, which suggested the use of the word "important" rather than "great" for the poll, The Nassau Daily pointed out editorially that the dictionary defines "great" as "eminent or distinguished by rank, power or moral character."

The Princeton yearlings gave most votes to President Roosevelt as the greatest living American, with Charles Evans Hughes and Herbert Hoover in second and third positions, respectively. President Roosevelt ranked fifth, behind Mahatma Gandhi, as "the greatest living person."

A third term for the President, however, was opposed by 368 votes, while only sixty favored it. Most believed he would run but would not be re-elected.

Only 120 Nassau first-year men said they would fight overseas, but 413 would defend this country against invasion. The present war is considered "imperialistic" by 199, "ideological" by only fifty-nine.

The class preferred a Phi Beta Kappa key to a varsity letter in athletics, and thought the chairmanship of the Daily Princetonian was the most desirable campus position.

Bush-Kerry III: Return of the King

My final debate scorecard is posted.

For these debates, I scored each round as it happened and didn't look at the final tally until afterwards. Last, as the debate was in progress, I thought that it was a pretty even fight. But when I went through and counted up the scores, I was shocked to find that Bush had been dominant.

What I suspect that means is that Bush's win won't be fully appreciated for another day or two. So watch and see where the conventional wisdom coalesces over the next 48 hours.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Final Statements

Kerry offers, he says, "tested, strong leadership that can calm the waters of a troubled world." Yet another moment of impressive discipline and forthrightness from the senator.

Bush: We've been through a lot together--yet another personal and personable note from the president, whose had more than his share of grace notes tonight.

My favorite Kerry line tonight

"Frankly, I think we have a lot more loving to do." It's one of those lines so honest that it's ridiculous.

More Soldiers

One of Kerry's strongest talking points for voters who support the president in Iraq, but wonder if we're not still trying to win on the cheap is this talk of adding two divisions to the U.S. military. Whether you believe Kerry will ever out-war Bush is another matter.

Who's Winning So Far?

Maybe Kerry slightly, but Bush is never far behind, and on one or two occasions, Bush has pounded Kerry--about tax cuts, increasing jobs, Social Security reform.


This debate is as steeped in policy detail as Washington, D.C., think tank panel discussion. Here Kerry has a natural advantage, but one that is quickly used up. It doesn't take long for the most policy-conversant brain to become saturated with numbers and disbelieve them all.


Oh, how I wish Bush would take it to Kerry on the absurdity of selling drugs to Canada and buying them back to escape our own regulatory system. Also there is a structural problem in a domestic policy debate between a compassionate conservative and a Massachusetts liberal: The former will never outgive the other.

Another note on the quality of debate: Disagreement and contradiction is happening without much rancor. Both candidates have had occasion to sharply reject the other's characterizations of their positions and experience without getting all snide or angry about it.

A good debate

Both candidates have grown comfortable jousting with the other. Kerry's softened his demeanor, smiling, bemused by some of Bush's points. Bush has beefed up his numbers game, and he goes more often to hardy old sayings--reality versus rhetoric is one--that he feels confident using.

Flu Shots

Kerry rolls out an impressive array of numbers counting how many people have lost health insurance, and then trots out his health care plan, with its signature description of giving every American the same health care members of Congress enjoy. And Bush zinged him with one number, a price tag of $5 trillion over ten years.

Return of the Slant-o-meter

Media Tenor is back with a new Slant-o-meter for the second debate. I thought Bush won the debate on points, the Kerry supporters I know think it was a tie, yet amazingly, Media Tenor finds that the post-debate analyses were more negative towards Bush after the second debate than they were for the first.

Why would that be?

A Different Sort of Bootleg

The digging up of a mob burial ground in Ozone Park, Queens, has finally gotten underway and already the feds have made some grim discoveries. According to the New York Post, "a set of keys, a small gold cross on a thin chain belonging to Philip 'Philly Lucky' Giaccone, and a credit card with Dominick 'Big Trin' Trinchera's name on it, as well as a pricey Piaget watch" were found among the trinkets, in addition to actual human remains.

As mentioned in an earlier post, the murders of both Giaccone and Trinchera were brutally depicted in Donnie Brasco. But as disturbing as that scene was (and the later "disposal" of the bodies), both author Joe Pistone and director Mike Newell do deserve some credit for its grisly portrayal: Just as in the movie, "a boot with tissue attached" was actually found in the excavation. For those who have seen this movie, you know what I am talking about.

research note

Apparently new dads as a group are the most likely to consider switching professions to become teachers. Good hours, good holiday schedule, etc. In Britain, these recently sleep-deprived men are now the target of a marketing campaign aimed at placing more male role models in schools. Guardian

Novelists for Kerry

Just read through the reasons most novelists surveyed by Slate are voting for John Kerry. Not surprisingly, a few emphasize Kerry’s use of language. Surprisingly, one of them, Thomas Beller, author of The Sleep-Over Artist mentions Kerry’s book The New Soldier, in which Beller found "his remarks were compelling."

This is interesting given that Kerry’s "remarks" before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee were heavily edited for The New Soldierin order to remove his most libelous and controversial comments on the U.S. military. I wrote about this a few weeks ago for the Standard.

It’s also interesting how these novelists express political support. In a childish, nanny-nanny-poo-poo voice: "I'm voting for Kerry, because I have a brain and so does he." (Amy Tan) In educated-class blather: "Because in every regard vis-à-vis the policies of this country I support John Kerry instead of George Bush." (Chang-Rae Lee, who I kinda like) Wearing their provincialism on their sleeve: "Like virtually everyone I know, I'm voting for Kerry." (Joyce Carol Oates)

Fellowship 9/11

This spoof, Fellowship 9/11, is going to be gigantic.

You see, the entire preemptive war against Morder was brought about in response to the attack on Helm's Deep. But Aragorn knew about Helm's Deep in Advance. His close friend, Gandalf the Gray was connected to Saruman--the very person responsible for the attack.

As Grima Wormtongue (D-Rohan) explains, "People were afraid after the attack on Helm's Deep. A culture of fear swept Middle Earth. People will do anything if they're afraid. . . . I'm saying Sauron never attacked us--Saruman did. Think about that."

And you see, the war was never about any "One Ring." It was about oil.

Go, watch, enjoy.
Man bit by deadly snake. Michigan police average 110 mph while driving the anti-venom to him. Awesome.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Sharks with frickin' laser beams attached to their heads!

Whether you're a Bush or Kerry supporter, if you were honest with yourself, you'd admit that you, too, would pay anything to hear Bush follow P.J. O'Rourke's suggestions for the next debate.

My personal favorite: "You say that we won the war, but we're losing the peace because Iraq is so unstable. When Iraq was stable, it attacked Israel in the 1967 and 1973 wars. It attacked Iran. It attacked Kuwait. It gassed the Kurds. It butchered the Shiites. It fostered terrorism in the Middle East. Who wants a stable Iraq?"

Also, it might be nice if Bush mentioned Kerry's vote against the 1991 Gulf War. But I'm sure the president has an excellent reason for not bringing it up in either of the first two debates. After all, he has an unbelievably penetrating mind. Karen Hughes says so.

As Howell Raines observed earlier this year, Hughes claims in her recent book that "'what "Bush does best of all' is 'ask questions that bore to the heart of the matter.' She says that during the 2000 campaign she and a 'brilliant' issues staff 'never once succeeded' in anticipating all of Bush's penetrating questions. 'He has a laser-like ability,' Hughes writes, 'to reduce an issue to its core.'"

Atlanta, RIP

A certain DC baseblogger is also an Atlanta Braves fan, and was devastated by last night's collapse against the Houston Astros.

Which brings up an interesting theological question: As a sports fan, would you rather have (a) a team like the Florida Marlins, which craps out 8 seasons out of 10, but then wins multiple World Series championships, or (b) a team like the Braves, which almost never wins the Series, but is always right in the thick of the playoffs?

Being from Philadelphia and not having any experience with either scenario, it seems to me that I'd much rather have the Braves. Year in and year out, you get seven months of excitement and good feeling. Watching SportsCenter becomes a joy, not a chore. You get to hold your head up high until the October collapse, which is painful, but short, and immediately followed by the salve of the rest of the playoffs.

I'm interested in what other people think about this, because the answers, I suspect, are psychologically revealing. I says a lot, for instance, about how a person defines the concept of "winning."

President Bush, I suspect, would prefer the Marlins. And I bet John Kerry would prefer the Braves.

Monday, October 11, 2004

New Jersey and Bush: Perfect Together?

While some polls show John Kerry pulling away from George W. Bush in New Jersey, others, like the Quinnipiac poll, show the president only three points behind. And not even the state's Democratic co-chair is predicting Kerry to win by as large a margin as Al Gore or Bill Clinton did (16 points and 18 points respectively). So why is Bush so close in the Garden State? Some say it is 9/11 and after. Others point to an accumulation of political scandals. It's probably a combination of both. My recent article in The Weekly Standard breaks it down.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Bush-Kerry II: This Time, It's Personal

I should have noted last night that my round-by-round scorecard for the debate is up.

Friday, October 08, 2004

More Clever Left-Wing Satire

Well, not satire, exactly. But a funny joke, passed on from the interweb:

How many Bush officials does it take to change a lightbulb?

None. "There's nothing wrong with that light bulb. It has served us honorably. When you say it's burned out, you're giving encouragement to the forces of darkness. Once we install a light bulb, we never, ever change it. Real men don't need artificial light."
I'm a sucker for clever political satire and this t-shirt is the funniest send-up I've seen in a while. (Advance thanks to anyone who wants to send one of them to me at the offices of The Weekly Standard. I take Large.)
Another Harry Potter character is going to die? My money's on Tonks.

Or Percy.

No Double-Standards Here

Just asking: If Trent Lott had to give up his leadership position because he said kind words about Strom Thurmond, would a Republican politician who called a Democratic rival a "faggot" be allowed to get off with a simple apology? I didn't think so. Where is the Human Rights Campaign when you need them?

But then again, a Republican president who was credibly charged with rape, sexual assault, and sexual harrassment wouldn't be given a pass by NOW, either.

Dishonesty or Incompetence?

The suspicion is that John Kerry will make reference to the Duelfer report no fewer than seven times during the debate tonight. Kerry will most likely try to use Duelfer as a hammer to beat home the theme that Bush is fundamentally dishonest and can't be trusted because he lies. (As opposed to Kerry, whom Bush insists can't be distrusted because he flip-flops.)

I suspect that this tactic will be spectacularly effective. It shouldn't be. As Mickey Kaus notes today, "If a man says he has a gun, acts like he has a gun, and convinces everyone around him he has a gun, and starts waving it around and behaving recklessly, the police are justified in shooting him (even if it turns out later he just had a black bar of soap). Similarly, according to the Duelfer report, Saddam seems to have intentionally convinced other countries, and his own generals, that he had WMDs. He also convinced much of the U.S. government. If we reacted accordingly and he turns out not to have had WMDs, whose fault is that?"

But just because Kerry is likely to pursue a line of attack that's stupid, doesn't mean that Duelfer doesn't expose a weakness in Bush. If Kerry were smarter (or more to the point, if Howard Dean hadn't bullied the Democrats into being the anti-war party), he would attack Bush not for being dishonest, but for being incompetent. If I were Kerry, I'd make the following argument:

The Duelfer report exposes, once again, the scope of our intelligence failure. Under President Bush, our intelligence community didn't see 9/11 coming. Under President Bush, our intelligence community didn't understand the nature of the threat posed by Iraq's WMD program. Now, should we have invaded Iraq? Yes. But the danger of Bush's incompetence isn't that his intelligence apparatus had a false positive. The danger is that this president is so incompetent that we are at great risk of a false negative. World affairs are not a court of law. We do not need proof beyond a reasonable doubt to protect our nation from known evildoers. But we do need to know where the threats really are so that we can deal with them, and, as 9/11, the Kay report, and now, the Duelfer report, demonstrate, this president is not on the ball enough to protect us from our enemies.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: If Kerry was running to Bush's right on Iraq and terrorism, this election wouldn't be close.
Charles Krauthammer has a fairly convincing rebuke to Mickey Kaus's too-clever-by-three-quarters argument that the terrorists really want Bush to win the election.

Friday Night Lights

I saw Friday Night Lights and it isn't worth a full review. I'll just say this: Friday Night Lights isn't the best sports movie ever made (Bull Durham). It's not the best football movie ever made (Any Given Sunday). It's not even the best West-Texas, high-school football movie ever made (Varsity Blues). Instead, it's a mish-mash of every cliché imaginable, all filmed with an annoying, cinema vérité-style shaky camerawork. The result is something like The Program crossed with Kids.

Sadly, there's a good movie in there somewhere. If the script had been reworked three or four times, if the director had made better choices, if the editor had been more disciplined, Friday Night Lights could have been a fine film.

As it is, stay away.
Stephen Schwartz thumps the Nobel committee for awarding this year's prize in literature to Elfriede Jelinek: a semi-pornographic, anti-American, communist hack.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Dispatches from the Front

Tired of news from Iraq being filtered by the mainstream media? If so, I am more than happy to pass on to you a link from a Weekly Standard reader whose husband is serving bravely in Mosul. "It is hard to be just one voice in a maddening sea of negativity about this war," she tells me. "I can hardly bring myself to watch the news because I know that it doesn't accurately represent this war effort. There doesn't seem to be too much interest in getting the military voice heard unless it 'confirms' the negative." For those of us who share similar feelings, this site--though there's nothing fancy about it--is a breath of fresh air.

2004: The Movie has a story about John Edwards's appearance on Regis and Kelly, where he speculates on casting for a movie about the 2004 campaign. Kelly Ripa suggested that Harrison Ford play Kerry. From there:

Edwards responded that someone recently said%A0they had a mental%A0image of him in the movie, A Few Good Men, starring Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson, "me as Tom Cruise and Dick Cheney as the Nicholson character." "Can you see it now, Cheney: 'You need me on that wall, you want me on that wall' . . . and me saying, 'You can't handle the truth!'"

The only problem with this, of course, is that "You can't handle the truth" is Nicholson's most famous line from A Few Good Men.

Be that as it may, I'm now commencing open casting for 2004: The Movie. Suggestions welcome.


If you haven't seen it already, check out Media Tenor's Slant-o-meter. Their breakdown of the Bush-Kerry post-debate analysis shows that two of the Big 7 networks differed wildly from the rest of the pack in their negative comments about Bush and positive comments about Kerry.

If you guessed that those two networks were CBS and ABC, you'd be right. But even more interesting is Fox News. Although you're supposed to say that Fox is homebase for GOP evildoers, compare them the average of the rest of the pack (excluding super-biased CBS and ABC) and they are, dare I say, fair and balanced.
Beldar is worth it just for the story and the picture.

Soxblog: High on Life?

The otherwise brilliant and sensible Soxblog is calling the 2004 Red Sox a "buzz-saw" and comparing them to the '86 Bears. (Psst, hey, Fate . . . over here. Piss off!)

As a newly-minted citizen of Red Sox Nation, I hope he's right. After the three long months I've spent in love with the Sox, I figure they owe me a championship. Has Soxblog taken leave of his senses? Maybe. But this quote suggests he hasn't taken full leave of his senses:

"They are of course still the Red Sox and anything can happen. They play before a fandom that fully expects tragedy to happen imminently and that can't be easy for the players. And for those of you who reside outside New England, it is probably impossible to imagine how the local media pride themselves on being a destructive force. The daily, almost hourly, barrage of negativity and hostility--unless you live in Philadelphia you've never seen anything like it." [Emphasis added]
Professor Bainbridge has compiled a catalogue of the incidents in the recent wave of anti-Republican attacks. He speculates, not unreasonably, that if this same set of incidents had happened to Kerry supporters, it would be national news.

My question is, at what point does the story spill onto the national media? How many more attacks will it take? My guess: Four.
Bill Lyon writes about Tiger's marriage today. He's just tops.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

We now have the answer to the mystery of

It's a for-profit advertising site owned by someone who lives in the Cayman Islands. When the hits started coming, the site's lawyer, John Berryhill, told the AP, they redirected incoming traffic to, "to relieve stress on the service and to express a political point of view."

Sketchy, off-shore Internet hustlers prefer John Kerry!
Speaking of RSS feeds, reader D.W. writes in with another good feed aggregator called Bloglines. You should download one of these programs--it'll change your life.

Paging Matt Labash, STAT

In the tradition of Tupac, Jewelz, and Shaq, Hillary Duff is dropping knowledge on Lindsay Lohan with her new album. From the song "Haters":

You're the queen of superficiality / Keep your lies out of my reality. . . .

You say your boyfriend's sweet and kind / But you've still got your eyes on mine.

It's not quite Dre or Biggie, mind you (Try to jack me up for a 211 / Fuck around and get up in a 187 or What's beef? / Beef is when you need two gats to go to sleep / Beef is when your moms ain't safe up in the streets / Beef is when I see you / Guaranteed to be an ICU).

What the world clearly needs is a magazine-length treatment of the blood-feud between Miss Piggy and the Hilton-in-Training. And there's only one writer in America qualified to do it. Over to you, Matt.
Have you heard of Survivor? Not the Jeff Probst show, the new videogame from Replay Studios. In it, you're placed in disaster scenarios (the sinking of the Titanic, Hiroshima) and have to escape. One of the planned scenarios: The World Trade Center and 9/11.
Curious about the Edwards line that Cheney, "voted against a resolution calling for the release of Nelson Mandela in South Africa," I dug into Nexis. Why did Cheney cast that vote in 1986? In 2000, he explained, "The [African National Congress] was then viewed as a terrorist organization. It was a step that we simply weren't prepared to take."

Turning a negative into a positive: Dick Cheney--ahead of the curve on the threat of terrorism!

Welcome, Four Sides

My good friend Scott Foster has just started the blog Four Sides. Bookmark it now. Scott's incredibly smart and funny and Four Sides is going to be your one-stop shop for liberal politics, home improvement, legal affairs, and child-rearing tips.

The Respect He Deserves

I am sure I speak on behalf of my fellow Galley Slaves in offering respects to comedic legend Rodney Dangerfield, who passed away last night at age 82. A man who mastered the art of self-deprecation, Dangerfield will always be remembered for his famous line, "I get no respect." But let us not forget some of his other memorable zingers:

"Maybe you can help me straighten out my Longfellow."
Thornton Melon to an attractive poetry major in Back to School.

"I hear this place is restricted, Wang, so don't tell 'em you're Jewish."
Al Czervik to his Asian friend in Caddyshack.

"My doctor said, 'You're crazy.' I said I want a second opinion. He said, 'You're ugly too.'"
Rodney Dangerfield from any number of his stand-up routines.

The man will be missed.
Soxblog, drunk on the BoSox big win, channels John Kerry's thoughts about last night's debate: "What were you doing, auditioning for the role of Atticus Finch in your community theater's forthcoming production of To Kill a Mockingbird?"

Cheney ♥ Soros?

Am I the only one who noticed that the website Cheney told viewers to go to to learn about not to the University of Pennsylvania, but to

Isn't this sort of a big deal? Shouldn't someone lose their job for putting that in his briefing book?

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

"Rope-a-dope," or "No mas"?

No live-bloggin, but I did write an actual piece: "Rope-a-dope," or "No mas"?

See also Steve Hayes on the questions no one asked John Edwards.

Mob "Plots" Uncovered

Big news for organized crime buffs: Today's New York Post reports that the FBI has just uncovered a "Gambino graveyard" in Ozone Park, Queens. The backlot, overgrown with weeds, is between three and four feet thick with concrete. But beneath are the remains of possibly 15 victims of both the Gambino and Bonnano crime families. If authorities are correct, the bodies are a Who's Who for mob aficionados, including Tommy DeSimone, the real-life "Tommy DeVito" played by Joe Pesci in Goodfellas, Bonnano capos Dominick "Big Trin" Trinchera, Philip "Philly Lucky" Giaccone, and Alphonse "Sonny Red" Indelicato--their murders were portrayed in Donnie Brasco--and, sadly, doomed neighbor John Favara. The latter was not a gangster, but driving on his way home one day in 1980, Favara accidentally hit and killed a kid riding on his bicycle. The kid happened to be the son of John Gotti. Shortly after, Favara disappeared.

Welcome, DCBaseBlog

My friend and colleague Richard Starr has started what is going to become the definitive blog about DC's new baseball team--DCBaseblog. If you have a rooting interest in the new squad (I hope they're called the Grays), you'll want to bookmark it now.
Lots of blogs--including this one--are analyzing the debates in real time in a fairly analogue way. Media Tenor is doing some interesting statistical analysis in real time, and will be worth checking out tonight.

Late to the party, again

You're probably already down with RSS feeds, but just in case you're a tech know-nothing like me, go grab this RSS feeder. It's like a bookmark menu for news, so that instead of surfing the blogosphere, blog posts come to you. Very cool.
As a reward for sitting through Friday Night Lights this morning, I'm going to see Team America: World Police next week. In the meantime, anyone who loves South Park should check out Mike Russell's excellent interview with Trey Parker and Matt Stone in In Focus.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Poll Position

The latest Pew Research Center poll shows George W. Bush leading John F. Kerry, 48 percent to 41 percent among all voters. The president holds a slightly narrower lead over his opponent among likely voters, 49 percent to 44 percent. And the newest ABC News poll has Bush edging out Senator Kerry 51 percent to 46 percent, also among likely voters.

And yet, for some strange reason, the headline at CNN/Netscape News still reads: "Bush Slipping Fast in Polls."

The Star Wars DVDs

If you haven't forked over your $60 to George Lucas yet, I've got a piece up about why the Star Wars trilogy DVDs are a sham and an attack on everything we hold dear about Star Wars. Matt Continetti, on the other hand, has chimed in with a fan-boy's defense of Lucas.

Friday, October 01, 2004

The Secret Lives of Subservient Chickens

Reader J.B. writes in with this link to, which has an exhaustive entry on the Subservient Chicken. Including, if you'll believe it, a list of commands that he responds to.

Second Thoughts

I kept a lengthy scorecard as the debate was happening and the conclusion I came to (without listening to any other analyses) was that they each won 9 of the 18 questions, making it a draw.

Of course it's more complicated than that. There is the overall gestalt of the debate, and in analyzing this, each candidate can plausibly claim a tactical victory. Kerry looked presidential, didn't sound condescending, and appeared to have a grasp of small details. His problem was that some of these small details were flat wrong. For instance, he criticized the president for shutting down the NY subway during the convention--which never happened.

That might have been a mental hiccup, but another one of his mistaken details was simply dishonest: Kerry criticized Bush's transformation of the FBI, pointing to the 1,000 hours of untranslated intelligence tapes and saying that the key clue for stopping the next 9/11 could be somewhere in this pile. Let's look at the facts: For one thing, Bush has transformed the FBI from being a law-enforcement agency to a counter-terrorism agency. No one with a serious grasp of what the FBI does could fail to see the magnitude of this sea-change. Where the FBI used to have 35 joint-terrorism task-forces before 9/11, it now has 100. In just three years, the FBI created and made operational the Terrorist Screening Center and Terrorist Threat Integration Centers. By the end of this year, there will be more than 50 FBI Legat offices overseas in terrorist hotspots like Yemen. On September 10, 2001, the FBI was primarily concerned with the mafia and the drug trade. It is now America's equivalent of MI-5.

But back to those untranslated tapes. Since 9/11, the FBI has hired more than 700 new linguists to translate intelligence and the Bureau has put in place a complex system to prioritize incoming intelligence. All al Qaeda intercepts are reviewed and translated within 24 hours. Either Kerry was self-consciously demagogueing the FBI, or he has no idea what's going on inside America's primary domestic counter-terrorism agency.

As for Bush, he hammered the theme that his campaign believes is the key to the election: Kerry is a flip-flopper who doesn't know his own mind and can't be trusted to be commander-in-chief during wartime. We'll soon see if that line of attack has any resonance. If it does, then Bush will have done real damage to Kerry with his single-minded focus.

The problem for Bush was that he looked a bit like the angry Al Gore from that 2000 debate. He sighed and made strange noises. He was tart and, at times, peevish. The message he seemed to be projecting was, Hey, I'm trying to protect the free world against nut-ball terrorists and you want me to debate this guy? Just go ahead and vote for me already.

I'm not sure how that sort of confidence and superiority will play with the voting public--it's entirely possible that they like it. But by being so superior, Bush did save Kerry from himself. Next to the Bush we saw last night, Kerry didn't have to worry about looking like a condescending, know-it-all Lurch.

Kerry Lies!

There is no Pottery Barn Rule.
Soxblog make the smart point that pundits don't decide who wins a debate--polls do. And the Gallup numbers aren't all that rosy for Kerry.

Racconto dello Squalo

Besides last night's debate, there is one other pressing issue I would like to bring to our readers: The opening of DreamWorks SKG's star-studded Shark Tale in theaters near you and complaints about the film's stereotyping of the sharks (who are the villains) as mobbed-up Italians. To wit, the predators bear names like Luca and Gino and use phrases such as "ma'donn" and "capeesh."

So what's the big deal? After all, it's just one of those animated cartoons for kids, so who cares? Well that is exactly what bothers Lawrence Auriana, president of the Columbus Citizens Foundation. In a statement regarding the movie, Auriana insists that Shark Tale "introduces young minds to the idea that people with Italian names--like millions of Americans across the country--are gangsters. Shark Tale creates in its audiences an association between gangsters and Italian-Americans that will become imprinted in the developing minds of children…. In part because of DreamWorks’s portrayal of gangsters in Shark Tale, in both the movie and the related books now available across the country, thousands of Italian-American boys and girls will feel a similar pain."

Auriana's organization (which performs important charitable works across America) has asked Steven Spielberg and his company to remove "Italian names from characters," eliminate Italian-related phrases and slang, and even remove "physical gestures and customs found in Italian and Italian-American culture."

I'm guessing this is an offer Spielberg can refuse. Still, some of this is understandable. After all, kids say and think the darndest things. But shouldn't Auriana and others be more alarmed by other atrocities committed against the Italian-American people? What about that abbondanza of evil known as the Olive Garden? What about Joey?

Besides that, if the movie takes place entirely underwater, who will the fish be sleeping with if they can no longer be sleeping with the fishes?


A reader queried a line I attributed to Kerry last night. I just found it in the transcript.

"KERRY: I have no intention of wilting. I've never wilted in my life. And I've never wavered in my life."