Friday, February 28, 2003

More good stuff from the Economist

From “The Iraqi Endgame

As to American power, Mr Chirac has won glowing reviews as the man who is doing a fair job of taking the superpower down a peg or two. France would not be France if its president did not occasionally try to puncture the grandiosity of an America accused as ever of taking the acquiescence of smaller nations for granted. But what if, now that he has picked this particular fight, Mr Chirac proceeds to lose it?

This could now happen in very short order. America and Britain have given themselves only a couple of weeks to pass their new resolution. Should they fail—either because they cannot muster a majority or because another of the permanent five casts a veto—Mr Bush will almost certainly feel compelled to fulfil his promise to go to war anyway. If the war goes badly, bringing disaster all round, Mr Chirac will be able to claim a barren sort of vindication. But if it goes even half-way towards achieving Mr Bush's vision of a democratic future for the Middle East (see article), France will have absented itself from a history-changing intervention in a part of the world where it has long claimed a special influence. It will also have demonstrated the impotence of the Security Council, the very institution from which the French (and British) derive so much standing by virtue of being veto-wielding members.

As Glenn Reynolds would say: “Indeed”
The beef-eating ale-swiggers at the Economist explain anti-Americanism

Key graf:

Self-assurance is often the difference [between anti-Americanism and anti-Europeanism]. Americans do not define themselves in opposition to Europe, as Europeans sometimes do to the United States. American capitalism is not the alternative to the European social market. America, to its inhabitants at least, is just America, the city on the hill. Opinion polls show that Americans are more patriotic than most Europeans, and alongside that patriotism goes a sense of superiority. We're the best. Europeans are not so lucky, but neither are Canadians, Mexicans or anyone else. This self-confidence takes some of the edge off American hostility, just as it sharpens Europe's.

This dovetails nicely with a sentiment in Charles Krauthammer’s superb Washington Post article today: “A Costly Charade at the U.N.”

Months for the opposition to mobilize itself, particularly in Britain, where Tony Blair is now hanging by a thread. Months for Hussein to augment his defenses and plan the sabotage and other surprises he has in store when the war starts. Months, most importantly, that threaten to push the fighting into a season of heat and sandstorms that may cost the lives of brave Americans. We will have France to thank for that.

France is not doing this to contain Iraq -- France spent the entire 1990s weakening sanctions and eviscerating the inspections regime as a way to end the containment of Iraq. France is doing this to contain the United States. As I wrote last week, France sees the opportunity to position itself as the leader of a bloc of former great powers challenging American supremacy.

That is a serious challenge. It requires a serious response. We need to demonstrate that there is a price to be paid for undermining the United States on a matter of supreme national interest.

This is the infuriating nature of the U.S.-France rift. There’s almost nobody (at least that I’ve seen) who believes the French are acting out of some principled pacifism. It’s all too obvious that Chirac is trying to position France as the anti-American power in Europe, Iraq and the U.N. be damned.
Morning observations

Six out of the top 10 references on Blogdex today are about Mister Rogers, including the top four slots.

The Economist has a lot of updated articles on their web site today, including a couple I'll probably be commenting on once I read them. How can you ignore an article titled "Burger-eating War Monkeys"? I just passed 10,000 unique visits! I started this page - well, actually I was dragged into blogging by Moe - on January 1st and I've been having a great time. Hope you all enjoy reading as much as I enjoy writing.

Thursday, February 27, 2003

Name the media source

Take a guess where I found this article taking the Arab world to task for the problems in the Middle East. Here's an excerpt:

There are assuredly many evils in today’s Arab world. We need to look closely at the situation and discover who is responsible for the myriad evils which plague us. The biggest responsibility lies with those politicians — in the region and beyond — who allowed tyrants such as Saddam Hussein to seize power and remain in control. Not only did such people come to power but they did so by killing and torturing their own people. Once power was in their hands, they also dealt deathblows to the fabric and infrastructure of society.

A portion of responsibility must also be laid at the feet of the so-called intellectuals, thinkers and media-created personalities who hailed and praised the dictators, feeding their egos and telling the tyrannical maniacs what they wanted to hear. And certain others who must also share responsibility simply turned their heads, looked away and went on with their private lives and equally private agendas.

Wow! Was it the National Review? The Washington Times? Nope - it was the Saudi-based Arab News in an article by one Khaled Al-Maeena called "Let's Listen to What Youngsters Say". Catch the whole thing before it gets "archived."

It's obvious that Henry Hanks put a lot of work this great post deconstructing and demolishing anti-war musicians, so pay him a visit.
I'm a huge Spinal Tap fan (I even have "Break Like the Wind") so I would be remiss if I failed to cite this excellent mini-parody on Silflay Hraka.

"The review for the album Shark Sandwich was only two words...."
Warning: Simpsons spoiler ahead

From the NY Post gossip page:

The [upcoming] episode will also feature "Lord of the Rings" star Sir Ian McKellen, the paper said.

The family goes to see him perform "Macbeth," but bring him bad luck by saying the play's name aloud - in defiance of theatrical superstition.

This leads to the actor being hit by scaffolding and getting struck by lightning.

As Lord Admiral Nelson would say: "Haw-haw"
Moments in great timing

Yesterday, Little Green Footballs had this post: Special Alert at MEMRI: a warning from an Islamist web site about an imminent Al Qaeda attack inside the US—apparently within ten days.

So then what happens today? Terror Alert Level Lowered to Yellow

Fittingly, here's a part of a post on Tapped an hour before the terror alert status was lowered from orange to yellow:

Also, Mary Lynn F. Jones explains why we're likely stuck at orange on the color-coded terror alert system for the near future.

Heh-heh. The "near future" being the next 30 minutes or so, right?
Estrada update

Some steam is building behind the Estrada nomination as big-guns Robert Novak and George Will both weigh in with columns this morning. Novak, in an apparent scoop, reveals what the Republicans and supporters of Miguel Estrada have suspected all along:

The Democratic filibuster against judicial nominee Miguel Estrada has little to do with the 41-year-old Honduran immigrant. It is part of a grand design to talk to death a succession of conservative judges selected by President Bush. Democrats are intent on keeping the Senate from voting on any appellate nominations that do not meet the party's specifications.
This extraordinary design, without precedent in two centuries of judicial nominations, was launched Jan. 30 in the office of Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle. Present were Assistant Leader Harry Reid and six Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats. With all pledged to secrecy, the fateful decision was made to filibuster Estrada's nomination.

At the Jan. 30 meeting in Daschle's office, the eight senators agreeing to filibuster the Estrada nomination did not discuss his merits or demerits as a nominee for the District of Columbia appeals court, second in importance only to the U.S. Supreme Court. Rather, the objections to Estrada were political and procedural. His confirmation, they agreed, would set a precedent that appellate nominees need not answer detailed questions and would make it hard to stop him as a possible future Supreme Court nominee. The senators talked about slowing down a Bush ''assembly line'' of conservative nominees and cited support from an energized Democratic base.

Emphasis added. Unbelievable. They “did not discuss his merits or demerits as a nominee” – they don’t care. All this nonsense about “not answering questions,” this obstructionism, this pettifoggery; Bush could have nominated Solomon to the D.C. court and they would have filibustered.

George Will, for his part, frames the issue as one of constitutional crisis:

If Senate rules, exploited by an anticonstitutional minority, are allowed to trump the Constitution's text and two centuries of practice, the Senate's power to consent to judicial nominations will have become a Senate right to require a 60-vote supermajority for confirmations. By thus nullifying the president's power to shape the judiciary, the Democratic Party will wield a presidential power without having won a presidential election.

Will also points out Senator Charles Schumer’s curious incuriosity towards Estrada’s opinions, despite his repeated demands the Estrada answer more questions:

Estrada, whose nomination has been pending for almost two years, and who has met privately with any senator who has asked to meet with him, answered more than 100 questions from the Judiciary Committee, an unusually large number. Only two of 10 committee Democrats exercised their right to submit written questions to Estrada for written answers. Schumer did not.

Of course he didn’t. As Novak’s insider information shows, it was never about Miguel Estrada’s fitness for the federal judiciary; it was always about setting up an unprecedented barrier to a President’s judicial nominees. In summary, I really couldn’t improve upon the final words from Will’s opinion piece.

Given the cynicism and intellectual poverty of the opposition to Estrada, if the Republican Senate leadership cannot bring his nomination to a vote, GOP "control" of the Senate will be risible.

And if the president does not wage a fierce, protracted and very public fight for his nominee, he will display insufficient seriousness about the oath he swore to defend the Constitution.

Both of these columns were found on the indispensible Real Clear Politics.
A cloudy day in the neighborhood....

Rest in peace, Fred Rogers

I was listening to NPR on my commute to work this morning, and the passing of Mr. Rogers was the first story they read on the top-of-the-hour news update. Consider for a moment that the U.S. is on the brink of war in the Middle East and the first thing reported on the news is the death of a mild-mannered host of a PBS children's show. I think that says something about both Fred Rogers and America.

Wednesday, February 26, 2003

The British view from the Economist

The Economist has an editorial about the all-but-inevitable war in Iraq called “In Need of Resolution”. Here are two key paragraphs:

Whether America can win the anti-war countries over will depend in large part on the level of Iraqi compliance with weapons inspectors' demands in the coming days. The inspectors have given the Iraqi regime until March 1st to start destroying the al-Samoud 2 missiles. In an interview with the CBS television network, Saddam indicated that he would not demolish the missiles. This has left some Iraq-watchers bemused, for refusal to comply would almost certainly hand on a plate to America the votes it needs in the Security Council to approve a UN resolution confirming Saddam's overthrow by military force.


Mr Bush says he believes the al-Samoud 2 missiles are “just the tip of the iceberg” in terms of the illegal arsenal that Iraq possesses. Even if other countries refuse to back a second UN resolution, he has said America is prepared to lead a coalition of the willing to topple Saddam. Were other members of the Security Council to vote against the resolution, or use their vetoes, American officials have argued that the credibility of the UN would be greatly reduced, and that the organisation could expect to be bypassed when future crises erupt.

By this point, the vote in the United Nations is not about Iraq, but about the mettle and the mission of the U.N. itself.
Al Sharpton takes a beating today on two fronts: the opinion page of the Washington Post and Andrew Sullivan. Unlike Paul Wellstone, if Al Sharpton suddenly died sometime before the 2004 Presidential election, the conspiracy theorists would be blaming the Democrats.
Quote of the Day

From the Christian Science Monitor: "Since Amr Moussa, the secretary-general of the Arab League, started warning that a US invasion of Iraq would "open the gates of hell," the retort that has been flying around Iraqi exiles' websites is, "Good! We'd like to get out!"
Judith Weiss at Kesher Talk has the new Carnival of the Vanities - check it out.
Slate's Saddameter hit a new all-time high of 98% chance of war today.

I don't think this number can go much higher, since there's always a remote chance of an Iraqi coup. I expect a last-minute "concession" from Saddam to quell the march to war, but it's much too late now.

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Iraqi Disarmament Argument
(based on Monty Python's "Argument Clinic" skit)

USA: (Knock)
SH: Come in.
USA: Ah, Is this the right place for disarmament?
SH: I told you once.
USA: No you haven't.
SH: I’ve already disarmed.
USA: When?
SH: Just now.
USA: No you didn't.
SH: Yes I did.
USA: You didn't
SH: I did!
USA: You didn't!
SH: I'm telling you I did!
USA: You did not!!
SH: Oh, I'm sorry, just one moment. Do you mean full disarmament or just a couple of missiles?
USA: Oh, full disarmament.
SH: Ah, thank you. Anyway, I did.
USA: You most certainly did not.
SH: Look, let's get this thing clear; I quite definitely disarmed.
USA: No you did not.
SH: Yes I did.
USA: No you didn't.
SH: Yes I did.
USA: No you didn't.
SH: Yes I did.
USA: No you didn't.
SH: Yes I did.
USA: You didn't.
SH: Did.
USA: Oh look, this isn't compliance with UN. Resolution 1441.
SH: Yes it is.
USA: No it isn't. It's just defiance.
SH: No it isn't.
USA: It is!
SH: It is not.
USA: Look, you just contradicted me.
SH: I did not.
USA: Oh you did!!
SH: No, no, no.
USA: You did just then.
SH: Nonsense!
USA: Oh, this is futile!
SH: No it isn't.
USA: I came here for a full accounting for destruction of your weapons.
SH: No you didn't; no, you came here for compliance.
USA: Compliance isn’t just saying “I’ve disarmed.”
SH: It can be.
USA: No it can't. Compliance is revealing and destroying weapons of mass destruction in full view of U.N. inspectors.
SH: No it isn't.
USA: Yes it is! It's not just empty statements.
SH: Look, if I comply with the U.N., I must take say I’ve disarmed.
USA: Yes, but full disarmament isn’t just saying “I’ve disarmed.”
SH: Yes it is!
USA: No it isn't!
USA: Disarmament is an open process. Declarations of de-weaponizing absent records or hard evidence of actual destruction of WMDs is useless.


SH: No it isn't.
USA: It is.
SH: Not at all.
USA: Now look.
SH: (Rings bell) Good Morning.
USA: What?
SH: That's it. Good morning.
USA: I was just getting started.
SH: Sorry, the inspections are done.
USA: That was never disarmament!
SH: I'm afraid it was.
USA: It wasn't.


SH: I'm sorry, but I'm not allowing inspections anymore.
USA: What?!
SH: If you want me to allow inspections, you'll have to pass another U.N. resolution.
USA: Yes, but that was never compliance, just now. Oh come on!
SH: (Hums)
USA: Look, this is ridiculous.
SH: I'm sorry, but I'm not allowed to argue unless you've passed another U.N. resolution.
USA: Oh, all right. (passes 18th resolution against Iraq)
SH: Thank you.


USA: Well?
SH: Well what?
USA: That wasn't really compliance, just now.
SH: I told you, I'm not going to allow inspections unless you've passed a U.N. resolution.
USA: I just did!
SH: No you didn't.
SH: No you didn't.

Monday, February 24, 2003

Welcome Carnival patrons! Unfortunately, my permalinks are screwed up. The Monty Python meets Saddam Hussein post is above, so hit "Current" on the left or click here: Current Viking Pundit page

Thanks! Eric

The French are backed into a corner!

Today's NY Times carried this story about Iraq's maneuvering to keep their short-range missiles:

BAGHDAD, Feb. 23 - Iraq publicly held out the hope today that technical talks with United Nations weapons experts might stave off the forced destruction of its most potent short-range missiles. But the country's officials appeared to be bowing toward the inevitable by playing down the importance of those weapons in defending the country against a United States invasion.

Iraq's ambiguous reaction to a United Nations demand made on Friday for the destruction of the missiles came as diplomatic maneuvering intensified ahead of a Security Council resolution to be submitted by the United States and Britain. The resolution is expected to declare that Iraq is not in compliance with orders to disarm and would face military force.

France bluntly demanded that Iraq comply with the United Nations order to destroy the missiles. And Russia sent a former prime minister, Yevgeny Primakov, an old friend of President Saddam Hussein of Iraq, to Baghdad. The nature of that mission was not disclosed.

Emphasis added emphatically. So, the French have made it clear (if I read this correctly) that failure to destroy the missiles constitutes a material breach, non? And according to U.N. Resolution 1441, Iraq should face "severe consequences" - right? right?

So.....what will our Gallic allies say to this from the Guardian:

Saddam Hussein last night defied the US chief weapons inspector, Hans Blix, when he refused to destroy his Samoud 2 missiles and called instead on US president George Bush to join him in a televised debate.

In an exclusive interview with the CBS news anchor, Dan Rather, to be screened in the US tomorrow night, the Iraqi leader denied that the Samouds violated UN mandates and said he would not destroy them.

No transcripts of the first interview that President Saddam has conducted with a foreign journalist for 12 years were available last night. But Mr Rather said: "Saddam indicated he does not intend to destroy the missiles or pledge to destroy them as demanded by Blix."

This past weekend, I had a post (below) which I titled "This is it" because I was sure that Hussein would not destroy the missiles. This news comes on the heels of the U.S. introducing a new resolution to the United Nations authorizing force. How can even the French back down in the face of this defiance? This is it (again) - this is truly the moment when the United Nations stands for something, or morphs into the League of Nations.
What Iraqis say when they get away from Iraq

In this NY Times article, Iraqi-Americans speak their mind about Saddam Hussein – they really really don’t like him.

Warning that there is now only a "small chance" to avoid war with Iraq, with more than 180,000 American forces massed in the Persian Gulf region, [Deputy Defense Secretary] Mr. Wolfowitz appealed to an invitation-only audience of about 250 Iraqi immigrants and naturalized American citizens for their support in reshaping a post-Hussein Iraq.

"We need to work together," Mr. Wolfowitz told an often boisterous anti-Hussein crowd at a Ford Motor Company training center turned civic forum here. "We're on the same team. We have the same goal."

For the most part, Mr. Wolfowitz was preaching to the choir. Horrific tales of relatives massacred or driven into exile by Mr. Hussein's security forces spilled from one speaker after another when Mr. Wolfowitz took questions after his speech.

I wonder what this crowd thinks of the anti-war protests here in America. What would the pacifists say to these people who lived under Hussein’s unchecked cruelty?
A day in the life: Susanna at Cut on the Bias is celebrating her blog-birthday today; meanwhile Sasha Castel got married! Go wish them both congratulations.
Estrada update

Here’s some Donald Lambro in the Washington Times:

One reason Democrats lost the Senate and several more House seats last year is that Republicans boosted their share of the Hispanic vote to 39 percent, a record in a midterm election. Mr. Bush is hoping to capture an even larger share of their vote in 2004. To this end, the White House is promoting Mr. Estrada's story with everything they've got in the Hispanic community.

Early evidence suggests the administration's campaign is beginning to pay off, at least politically. The Democrats' obstructionist tactics are stirring bitter resentment among Hispanic voters, according to officials at the more than 70 organizations that are supporting his nomination.


"This is a huge political blunder by Daschle and the Democrats and they are going to pay for it in next year's elections if they succeed in killing this nomination," an administration adviser told me.

Some top Democrats acknowledge that Republicans are making inroads among black and Hispanic voters, so Mr. Daschle's decision to filibuster Mr. Estrada may be one of the worst political decisions that his party has made in the last 50 years.

Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit – Man of many talents

Dedicated Follower of Fashion

At the 45th annual Grammy Awards in New York he wore a brown cap, an olive T-shirt over a gray long-sleeve top.


Anyone hoping for nourishing political commentary had to chew on the oafish Fred Durst's limp biscuit of half-baked inarticulateness: ''I hope we are in agreeance [sic] that this war should go away as soon as possible.''

Inciting others to peace

July 29, 1999 | The Washington Post reports that police say at least four rapes occurred at Woodstock 99, held in upstate New York last weekend. The Post story includes one disturbing eyewitness report of a body-surfing woman pulled down into the crowd and gang-raped during Limp Bizkit's set.

Friend and lover

And reports suggest he has written the song Drop Dead - currently available on his band's website - in retaliation to Spears's comments on MTV show TRL, when she claimed Durst "wasn't my type".

Rock on, Fred!
I didn't bother to read the story, but (based on this headline) I'm happy to see that the late Congressman Sonny Bono is getting his props: Clinton: Bono Succeeded Where I Failed

Sunday, February 23, 2003

I didn't catch Fox News Sunday this morning, but Fox's web page has an excerpt of Tony Snow's interview with Hollywood airhead Janeane Garofalo. I was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt but, upon reading the transcript, it's apparent that Garofalo's background education on Iraq was cobbled together from anti-war pamphlets, high-dudgeon conversations with Susan Sarandon, and scotch tape. It's altogether possible she was just making stuff up on the fly:

SNOW: [Saddam Hussein is] a threat to neighbors, a man who has waged war twice on neighbors, correct?

GAROFALO: Yes, but I don't know that his neighbors think he's a threat now. In fact, I think a lot of people would say his dastardly deeds peaked in the late '80s.

SNOW: Well, Kuwait and Iran both beg to differ, and they've both been on the record recently saying that they'd prefer not to have him in.

GAROFALO: Well, they definitely prefer not to have him in. And nobody's arguing that Saddam should be removed, nobody's arguing that the Iraqi people deserve to be liberated.

Huh? Nobody's arguing that the Iraqi people deserve to be liberated? What is this dimwit trying to say? These Hollywood types really live in a different world.

Saturday, February 22, 2003

From Fox News: "New York City-based Sharpton said he opposes war in Iraq, especially when terrorist mastermind Usama bin Laden is still on the loose. Bush "can't find a man hiding in a cave in Afghanistan," Sharpton said, drawing laughter and applause from the crowd."

Um...yeah, that's a laugh-riot.
I've just updated my Smarter Harper's Index (click on link at left) for the March 2003 edition. This marks my one-year anniversary (blogoversary?) of this webpage, which is a good deal less work than this blog, but it's just as much fun. As always, thanks to everyone for reading.
Blogcritics (where I'm a sometime contributor) has announced the first annual Critiquees awards. Check out the choices from the real music fans, starting with Album of the Year.
This is it

From the Washington Post:

UNITED NATIONS, Feb. 21 -- The chief U.N. weapons inspector ordered Iraq today to begin destroying its Al Samoud 2 missiles and associated equipment by March 1, setting up a major test of whether Iraqi President Saddam Hussein intends to disarm or face a war for openly defying a U.N. order.

This is the final showdown. I severely doubt that Saddam, allegedly bolstered by the peace demonstrations, will comply with this order. Even the French will have to call a material breach a material breach and support military action. (Or not - who can tell with them?)

Friday, February 21, 2003

Weird - I was looking through The Smoking Gun and the copy of the contract rider that Great White uses for small venue concerts. As TSG notes, there is no mention of pyrotechnics, such as the ones that killed (now) 96 people in yesterday's tragedy. Meanwhile, I was listening to a new Elvis Costello cover CD called "Almost You" and what song comes on? "Indoor Fireworks". Creepy.

It would seem that the NY Daily News is copying some of my "Joe Millionaire" puns:

"Joe Millionaire" runnerup Sarah Kozer is fit to be tied over the way she was treated by the blockbuster TV reality show.
"I'm horrified," Kozer - who got the boot from fake rich guy Evan Marriott in Monday night's finale - told the Daily News yesterday. "[I'm] completely embarrassed."

Sounds like she may have been strung along. (OK, that's enough)
French Whine

Last night, as I was savoring some non-French Merlot, I was reminded of a story of a wine competition between French wines and vino from California. I did a Google search and found an article from Business Week titled “The Day California Wines Came of Age” – the subtitle says it all: “Much to France's chagrin, a blind taste test 25 years ago in Paris inadvertently launched California's fine wine industry.”

In a nutshell, a blind-taste-test wine competition between French and California wines was held in Paris in 1976. The greatest sommeliers of France were assembled to rank the wines and – quel horror! – California wines were chosen for the best red and white. The French were puzzled, then outraged, and barred the contest organizer from the country’s wine-tasting tour for a year. Bolstered by the new-found prestige, the California wine industry exploded; in the decade from 1980 to 1990, the number of California wineries tripled.

Read the whole thing, as they say.
Test of Leadership

I don’t write too often about the looniness of Western Massachusetts, although with five colleges in the vicinity, we’ve had our share of vapid anti-war static. Comfortable, well-heeled white students are almost expected to confront authority and buck the system. It’s quite another thing when elected officials – the putative leaders of the land – openly disregard both the letter and the spirit of settled law.

Here in the Bay State, high-school seniors (starting this year) must pass a standardized test known as the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) to graduate. The MCAS is in two parts, testing both math and verbal skills, and is geared to a 10th-grade skill level. If students fail the MCAS in the 10th grade, they can take the test again…and again….and again….and again….sixth time’s the charm….until they pass sometime before the end of the senior year. The law states that if a Massachusetts student fails to pass this exam, they do not graduate and do not receive a diploma.

That is, unless your school district decides to ignore the law. From the Boston Globe “Berkshire District to Flout MCAS Rule”:

A sixth school district has decided to award diplomas to high school students who don't pass the MCAS - a move state education officials say is illegal.

The Berkshire Hills Regional School Committee voted 9-1 last week to give the so-called local diplomas to seniors who meet other graduation requirements but have not passed both the English and math sections of the 10th-grade MCAS.

Beginning with this year's seniors, students are required to pass the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System exam to graduate. But a handful of districts, including Cambridge, have said they'll give their own diplomas despite the state's mandate.

''These students have been in our school and if they do pass all their courses, it does seem like they should be able to get their diploma,'' said school committee Chairman Stephen Bannon. ''We're not snubbing our nose at the Department of Education. We're just in disagreement over what the correct way of handling this is.''

Whatever that means.

Everybody hates the MCAS requirement. School administrators want to move kids through the system, teachers don’t want any objective measurement of educational proficiency, parents don’t want their kids held back and students want to get out of school. But the state of Massachusetts proposed that a high-school diploma should mean something; in the case of the MCAS, that a high school senior can read and do math on a sophomore level. Is that too much to ask?

Apparently so, given the 90% vote at Berkshire to utterly disregard state law.

Thursday, February 20, 2003

McAuliffe is a gift to the GOP

From CNN: "Democrats Unveil Comprehensive Voter Turnout Project"

The computer program also includes technological features that party officials can use to categorize voters to raise money and target mailings, among other things. McAuliffe said the DNC donor list in 2000 was extremely weak. "Something was fundamentally flawed when 50 million people voted for Al Gore and we only had 400,000 donors on our list," he said.

Terry McAuliffe was tapped as the DNC chairman solely for his fund-raising abilities. In the 2002 election, the Democrats had no message, but lots of cash...and lost. McAuliffe seems to think the problem was that they didn't have enough money. Works for me.

Update: From this morning's Washington Times "McAuliffe promises to find enough money to win in 2004" Always with the money.
Blogger bust - I don't understand why, suddenly, everything I posted today is gone. Hmmm...could it be true what I've heard about Blogger? Is there any hope now that Google has taken over? Posts disappear...reappear.

“Tell them ‘Non’” by the CES Monkees
(sung to the tune of “Tell Her No” by the Zombies)

And if they say inspections are useless
And if they say we should arm Turkey

Tell them “non”
Non non non non non non non non non non non non non non non non non non non
Don’t say a thing for the French will disagree

And if they say Mugabe’s a monster
And if they want to join the EU

Tell them “non”
Non non non non non non non non non non non non non non non non non non non
Don’t say a thing for the French will disagree

I know France is the country that
Makes the U.N. a joke
But they’re so snobbish too
Their men eat quiche, the men eat quiche

And if Saddam vaporized Paris
Just remember who wouldn’t say “oui”

Tell them “non”
Non non non non non non non non non non non non non non non non non non non
Don’t say a thing for the French will disagree

Hans Blix defines "cooperation"

George Will points out these examples of Iraqi "cooperation" according to U.N. lead inspector Hans Blix:

"That Iraq had enacted "legislation" forbidding itself to have weapons of mass destruction".
"That Iraq has provided inspectors with papers that contained "no new evidence" but "could be indicative of a more active attitude" by Iraq".

"Here are some newspapers, Hans. They're kinda old, but we're giving them to you, right? See? Right on your bugged desk...I mean, just desk. See you at site 145 tomorrow!"
Magic Bus (I want it I want it I want CAN'T have it!)

Wow! Thanks to Croooow Blog for the pic.

The morning diversion: Life magazine's list of the top 100 people of the Millennium

Thomas Edison is #1 and Swedish physician Carolus Linnaeus is #100. Oddly, the current King of Europe Jacques Chirac didn't make the cut.

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Involuntary smile of the day

Americans say "Non" to French Products: NEW YORK — Jokes about France are plentiful lately, but many Americans aren't laughing at the European country's resistance to using force with Iraq -- and are fighting back by closing their wallets
Tapped Redux

This past weekend, I took note of a post on Tapped that was flat-out wrong, including this statement: "But Tapped would point out that it is also unprecedented for a president to nominate a man who has zero experience as a judge to the second-highest court in the land..."

I checked Tapped again today and this update was added to the post:

UPDATE. Turns out we misread some of the news coverage of the Estrada fight. Tapped had somehow gotten the impression that circuit court appointees usually have prior judicial experience, and that in this, Estrada was an unusual pick for the president. But most circuit court appointees, we've since learned, do not have prior judicial experience, and of those judges currently active on the D.C. Circuit, only three did. We apologize for the goof. It still seems to Tapped, though, that not answering any questions whatsoever about one's points of view on the law is pretty unusual, and grounds enough for Estrada's filibuster. As the inimitable Al Hunt said on Capital Gang recently, "I mean, at least he could say Dred Scott was a bad, bad decision, it seems to me." Damn straight.

Emphasis added. Of course, as I noted with my comparison to Earl Warren, the lack of "judicial experience" extends to the Supreme Court also, but Tapped apparently saw no need to dig any deeper once their game was exposed. Nice "save" with the last minute Al Hunt dig, Tapped.
Faithful readers - Blogger has been down all day and I'm just getting back on-line now. Stay tuned while I try to remember what I've been wanting to say all day.

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

Told you so

Yesterday, I wrote this (scroll down): "The vilification of the SUV is going to be supplanted by a thousand anecdotes about how the 4-wheel drive gas guzzlers helped doctors/firemen/policemen/electrical linemen/nurses get to work while everyone else was stranded."


A half-dozen shiny big SUVs were lined up outside St. Joseph Medical Center yesterday morning, their volunteer drivers proving to the world that they are nothing like the arrogant, self-centered, fuel-squandering ignoramuses of stereotype.

"You hear it on the news - all about the gas-guzzling hogs driving SUVs," said Jeff Hegberg, climbing back into his $40,000, 7,200-pound, black 2002 Chevrolet Suburban. "Well, on a day like this, what would the hospitals do without us?"

Estrada update

The Washington Post weighs in with an editorial titled, simply, "Just Vote"

THE SENATE has recessed without voting on the nomination of Miguel Estrada to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Because of a Democratic filibuster, it spent much of the week debating Mr. Estrada, and, at least for now, enough Democrats are holding together to prevent the full Senate from acting. The arguments against Mr. Estrada's confirmation range from the unpersuasive to the offensive.

Just vote. Hell, we can even give the Senators from Florida special, simplified ballots.

Monday, February 17, 2003

Weird - I was just checking my referrer logs and there are about a dozen hits for "Joe Millionaire" + Zora + Yugoslavia. What is that all about? Did I miss something?

Well, I tuned in long enough to see that Zora was chosen and Sarah got the foot...I mean the boot. Sarah looked like she was tied-up in emotion; well, it was bound to happen.

And I wish I had posted the prediction I had made months ago to family and friends, but unfortunately not here. I knew that in a Chaucer-esque twist, Evan & (whoever) would be given a million dollars in the end. The show is called "Joe Millionaire" for heaven's sake.
After this winter, MORE global warming!

Does anyone remember when Congressional term limits were a big topic of debate? George Will pontificated on the subject, some Reps and Senators took "oaths" to only serve two or three terms, stuff like that. Then the Republicans swept the House and Senate in 1994 - thus demonstrating that seats can be overturned when the public demands it - and the issue dropped off the radar screen.

So here's my prediction: after this long, bitter, miserable, cold, snow-choked winter, nobody is going to want to talk about global warming. NASA recently put a report noting that the temperature drop in the Eastern United States is an anomaly and, on average, the rest of the world is still showing an overall warming trend ("Where Did Global Warming Go?"). True or not, nobody - at least nobody here in New England - is going to give a damn. The vilification of the SUV is going to be supplanted by a thousand anecdotes about how the 4-wheel drive gas guzzlers helped doctors/firemen/policemen/electrical linemen/nurses get to work while everyone else was stranded. As the heating oil bills accumulate, nobody will propose a carbon tax and maybe there will be a little more support for exploring the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve. It's going to take a lot of hot summer days before the Kyoto Krowd gets people to notice global warming again.
Checking in - now that there's about a foot of snow on the ground, I have to go out and snowblow. Then I'll do it again in the morning. This has been the longest winter of my life.

Sunday, February 16, 2003

Best Sunday morning talk show question this week:

"What's with the French?" - Tim Russert to Condi Rice on Meet the Press

No elaboration necessary.
The NYT (almost) redeems itself

Every once in a while, the New York Times commits a gaffe and publishes a story that supports the argument for action against Saddam Hussein's Iraq. In this case, the story is "Looking at the Enemy as Liberator" which reveals the opinions of Iraqi emigrants who escaped to Jordan. This is really gripping reading as the Iraqis, free from Hussein's secret police, say what they really think about the Iraqi dictator:

Almost to a man, these Iraqis said they wanted the Iraqi dictator removed. Better still, they said — and it was a point made again and again — they wanted him dead. The men, some in their teens, some in their 50's, told of grotesque repression, of relatives and friends tortured, raped and murdered or, as often, arrested and "disappeared."

This just in: the French ambassador has called for more inspections and further noted that "everyone loves magic tricks."

But their hatred of Mr. Hussein had an equally potent counterpoint: for them, the country that would rid them of their leader was not at all a bastion of freedom, dispatching its legions across the seas to defend liberty, but a greedy, menacing imperial power.

Ever hear the one about not doing something to the hand that liberates you?

This America, in the migrants' telling, has enabled the humiliation of Palestinians by arming Israel; craves control of Iraq's oil fields; supported Mr. Hussein in the 1980's and cared not a fig for his brutality then, and grieved for seven lost astronauts even as its forces prepared to use "smart" weapons that, the migrants said, threatened to kill thousands of innocent Iraqis.

Gee, maybe we should disengage from the Middle East and let the United Nations take control

The men refused to accept that their image of the United States might be distorted by the rigidly controlled Iraqi news media, which offer as unreal a picture of America as they do of Iraq. But when it was suggested that they could hardly wish to be liberated by a country they distrusted so much — that they might prefer President Bush to extend the United Nations weapons inspections and stand down the armada he has massed on Iraq's frontiers — they erupted in dismay.

What? What's wrong!?

"No, no, no!" one man said excitedly, and he seemed to speak for all. Iraqis, they said, wanted their freedom, and wanted it now. The message for Mr. Bush, they said, was that he should press ahead with war, but on conditions that spared ordinary Iraqis.

Make up your mind!
The Paper of Record mistakes biased assumption for fact

In today's New York Times is a story about the question of how to dispose of Florida's ballots from the problematic 2000 election. Titled "Florida Ponders Fate of Historic 2000 Ballots", the article starts out with these paragraphs:

MIAMI, Feb. 13 — The contested 2000 presidential election has largely faded into people's hazy memories of pre-9/11 America. But the Florida ballots are still there, nearly six million punch cards and their chads, stowed in boxes, stacked on pallets, wrapped in plastic.
The state has kept them for two years, as federal law requires. Now that the time is up, a pressing question for state officials here is: What do we do with these things?
"How about a bonfire?" said Theresa LePore, the Palm Beach County supervisor of elections, who designed the butterfly ballots that led many Al Gore supporters to vote for Pat Buchanan.

Pure fiction. The belief that Florida voters mistakenly voted for Pat Buchanan may be an agreed truism at the NYT and the DNC (is there a difference?) but as a matter of journalistic fact, it is both unproven and unprovable. Don't they have editors over there? The NYT is in serious need of an external ombudsman.

Saturday, February 15, 2003

Bill Whittle is back from hiatus and has an essay on flight, Columbia, and America. It's called "Courage". Go. Now.
Den Beste surveys the landscape and holds forth on the danger of called bluffs. The Yugoslavia comparison is apt.
Liberals against Estrada bend the truth again - continued

Yesterday, The American Prospect's blog "Tapped" had this to say about Miguel Estrada (excerpt):

One other thing. As Byron York points out in National Review, it's unprecedented for the Democrats to request copies of the position papers written by Estrada while working for the Solicitor-General's office; those papers are generally considered privileged, and all seven living former Soliciters-General have written in complaining to Judiciary Committee Democrat Patrick Leahy. It's a fair point. But Tapped would point out that it is also unprecedented for a president to nominate a man who has zero experience as a judge to the second-highest court in the land, and even more unprecedented for a nominee so untested to refuse to answer almost any questions about his views on the law. Bush started this fight; the Democrats are only responding in kind.

The intellectual sloppiness of that statement is telling, not just for Tapped but for most of the liberals lined up against Estrada. I assume Tapped has access to, oh I don't know, the Internet, to perform a little research? Because the first thing that popped in my head upon reading that graf was male stripper/Chief Justice Earl Warren (that's a joke...see below). Here's his biography: district attorney, attorney general then governor of California, NEVER a judge. Appointed to the HIGHEST court in the land.

Wrong again, Tapped - when will we see the retraction and apology?

Worst Simpsons list ever

In anticipation for the Simpsons' 300th episode, herewith is my list of the top 10 Simpsons episodes:

Homer and Apu – Apu loses his job at the Kwik-E-Mart and must travel to India to get it back. At Kwik-E-Mart headquarters, the Indian CEO/guru sits under a sign reading "The Master Knows Everything except Combination to Safe."

Homer: "Apu, if it'll make you feel any better, I've learned that life is one crushing defeat after another until you just wish Flanders was dead"

Lisa's Rival – Overachiever Lisa must accept that there might be somebody more advanced than her. Two reasons why this is a great episode: Ralph Wiggum "My cat's breath smells like cat food" and Homer's pile of sugar.

Rosebud – Mr. Burns, as Citizen Kane, will do anything to get his bear Bobo back. "Mmmm….64 slices of American cheese." The Ramones sing "Happy Birthday" to Mr. Burns.

Bart the Lover – Bart poses as a love interest for Mrs. Krabappel, who falls in love with "Woodrow." After Bart sets her up and Edna waits in a restaurant for the non-existent Woodrow, Bart sees his dejected teacher and says: "I can't help but feel partially responsible." Classic.

Marge on the Lam – So many great moments in this one: Marge goes out with next-door neighbor Ruth Powers and they end up in a "Thelma and Louise" chase. It was nice to see Marge bond with another woman. Meanwhile, Homer has to watch the kids and refer to the card in his pocket which reads: "Always do the opposite of what Bart says." My favorite scene: Homer and Chief Wiggum are chasing Marge and Ruth on a darkened highway, when Ruth turns off the lights on her car. Chief Wiggum slams on the brakes, terrified at the "missing" auto, and yells "It's a ghost car!"

Lisa on Ice –Bart and Lisa are at each others throats all the time, so I really like the ending of this one where they skate off the ice together after a bitter and violent hockey game. Includes another great Ralph line: after he receives an academic warning for English, he says "Me fail English? That's unpossible."

Homer: "Oh my God, Marge. A penalty shot, with only four seconds left. It's your child versus mine! The winner will be showered with praise, the loser will be taunted and booed until my throat is sore."

Bart Sells his Soul – Starts out with Bart handing out "hymns" at church and everyone sings "In the Garden of Eden" (actually "In-a-gadda-da-vida") by I. Ron Butterfly for 19 minutes. Rev. Lovejoy: "This sounds like rock and/or roll!" Also, the most improbable Bart quote: "I'm familiar with the poetry of Pablo Neruda." The whole episode is a sly commentary on the nature of religion…well, except for the part where "Uncle" Moe opens a family restaurant.

Marge vs. the Monorail – Mr. Burns is forced to pay a huge fine for illegal dumping, and the town is duped into buying a monorail. Includes the great "Monorail Song" and Leonard Nimoy, to whom Mayor Quimby says: "May the force be with you."

Selma's Choice – Selma feels a longing for children, but changes her mind after taking Bart and Lisa to Duff Gardens. Classic moment: "Homer, have you been eating that sandwich again?"

[Bart is hanging upside down from a rollercoaster at Duff Gardens]
Selma: "Can't you do something?"
Surly (one of the "Seven Duffs"): "Hey, Surly only looks out for one guy – Surly"
Selma: "Sorry, Surly"
Surly: "Shut up"

Itchy & Scratchy: The Movie – Homer forbids Bart from seeing the Itchy and Scratchy movie. In the future, Homer and Chief Justice Bart finally see it – "Mmmm….soylent green"

Marge: "Do you want your son to become Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, or a sleazy male stripper?"
Homer: "Can't he be both, like the late Earl Warren?"

All episode summaries, along with a lot of other great stuff, can be found at the incomparable Simpsons Archive at

Andrew Sullivan goes on a rampage. Some excerpts:

But those resolutions - specifically Resolution 1441, demanding immediate Iraqi compliance with disarmament - have been revealed as meaningless, in as much as those countries that signed on to them have no intention whatsoever of enforcing them. The notion that inspections are working is simply ludicrous on its face. The fact that that position was warmly applauded at the Security Council today is a signal that it has decided to engage in unreality.

The body is now a joke of immense proportions. If it cannot enforce a resolution it passed only a couple of months ago, it cannot enforce anything. If it cannot read the plain meaning of its own words, it is an absurdist theater piece, not a genuine international body. It isn't in danger of becoming the League of Nations. It now is the League of Nations.

The Old Europeans will regret this deeply in the years to come. They have just told us in no uncertain terms to ignore them. We should. We will. And in the post-Saddam settlement, we must actively shut out the French and Germans from any slice of the economic action and tear up whatever contracts they had with Saddam. They have told us how highly they value the lives of American citizens.

Putting aside his emotional tone, is there a single untruth stated here? I don't think so.

Friday, February 14, 2003

Comedian Mark Russell on Miguel Estrada:

"We want more information on Estrada," [Democrats] say. Which is political-speak for, "We want to give him a fair trial before we hang him."

Estrada is an immigrant from Honduras and the Democrats go crazy when they find a Latino who is not one of theirs. They have asked immigration authorities to be on the alert for more conservative Republicans trying to sneak over the border.

I'm working on my Simpsons list, but it's taking a little longer than I expected. So many memories! So many lines!

When I'm at work, in conversation, I'm sometimes accused of using an extravagant word when a more simple one will suffice. My standard response is: "Well, that's a perfectly cromulent word."

From "Lisa the Iconoclast"
Jebediah: [on film] "A noble spirit embiggens the smallest man."
Edna: "Embiggens? I never heard that word before I moved to Springfield"
Ms.Hoover: "I don't know why. It's a perfectly cromulent word."

Ben Domenech posted his top 10 Simpsons episodes, and suddenly I'm ashamed I haven't posted mine, since I'm the biggest Simpsons fan in the country. That's right...I'm #1. Don't even try to doubt it.

Anyway, here's some more France-bashing from the episode "You Only Move Twice":

Hank Scorpio: "By the way, Homer, what's your least favorite country: Italy or France?"
Homer: "France."
Hank: [chuckles] "Nobody ever says Italy." [sets the coordinates of a giant laser gun]
United Nations: RIP 1945-2003

Wash Post: After the presentations, French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said U.N. inspections, which resumed in November after a four-year break, "are producing results" and should continue. His address was greeted with applause, rare for Security Council speeches.

So, far from showing any kind of shame for their pusillanimity, the Euro-creeps are actually going to conspicuously snub the U.S. Fine. Americans still say "Remember the Alamo" - we're not going to forget this anytime soon.
Liberals against Estrada bend the truth again

Michael Kinsley’s Washington Post article “Estrada’s Omerta” is a dense slab of unformed twaddle. It’s possible it was ghost-written by Chuck Schumer since it follows the Senator’s muddled rationale for blocking Miguel Estrada: he refuses to contradict the Supreme Court and he declines to give personal opinions on topics that would indicate he has a personal bias above the law. Estrada simply refuses to torpedo his own nomination – the insolence! However, this little piece of sophistry from the article is baldly misleading:

“President Bush fired the American Bar Association as official auditor of judicial nominations because the ABA gave some Republican nominees a lousy grade. Now [Judiciary Chair Senator Orrin] Hatch cites the ABA's judgment as "the gold standard" because it unofficially gave Estrada a high grade.”

Senator Hatch does no such thing: he only cites the rating because Senate Democrats have insisted that the opinion of the American Bar Association is the standard by which judicial nominees should be measured. That is, Hatch is underscoring the Democrats’ mendacity when it comes to judicial nominations. And, just for the record, the ABA officially gave Estrada the highest grade of “well-qualified” on a unanimous vote. Kinsley tries to belittle this as a “gentleman’s B” when in fact it was a hard-earned “A+”.
Please don’t throw me into that campaign finance reform briar patch!

From today’s Washington Post: “Republicans have a huge edge in Campaign Cash

Republican campaign committees are positioned to raise at least twice as much as their Democratic counterparts, enabling them to help GOP candidates up and down the ballot by expanding the party's successful grass-roots organizing efforts and coordinated advertising campaigns.

"The spending advantage will be enormous," said veteran Democratic strategist Harold Ickes. "Not overwhelming -- because that means it's hopeless -- but enormous."

The Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy at Brigham Young University, which studied campaign spending in the 2002 elections, concluded that the GOP's hard money advantage provides "an ominous warning for Democrats in the 2004 election cycle."

Ironically, much of the Democrats' financial dilemma stems from their success in passing the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law last year, party fundraisers believe. The measure, which received minimal support from congressional Republicans, prohibits the national political parties and federal candidates from raising and spending "soft money" contributions.

Terry McAuliffe: here’s a big fat Nelson “Ha-Ha!” for you.
A Greener Bush?

With regard to this experiment called America, the British magazine The Economist is (for the most part) a disinterested outside observer, so its opinions can be refreshingly clear-headed sometimes. In this article, they argue that President Bush is perhaps a little greener on the environment than his opponents give him credit for.
Rev. Chapin on American Realpolitik also has the NY Post graphic and this astute observation:

Absolutely nobody in the cabinet, including Powell, gives a rat's ass what the UN security council will say today. The UNSC decision has more to do with the future of the UN than it does the upcoming war on Iraq. The game is afoot.

All the subtlety of a sledgehammer

From this morning's New York Post: "February 14, 2003 -- WASHINGTON - Weasel so-called allies France and Germany will hear fresh evidence today of Iraqi stonewalling, at an 11th-hour showdown with the United States in the U.N. Security Council."

There's also a front-page graphic of France and Germany portrayed as actual weasels, which I can't post, but you can see it at Occam's Toothbrush. Too funny. I hope they deliver the Post at the U.N.

Thursday, February 13, 2003

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. - Benjamin Franklin

From today's Fox News: Democrats Prepare for Estrada Filibuster

From George Will, a couple of days after the midterm elections handed the Senate back to the Republicans:

The president's political aides believe that two Democratic actions handed Republicans election-turning issues. One was the promiscuous opposition to the president's judicial nominees. And regarding homeland security legislation, Senate Democrats' boundless subservience to organized labor has made them refuse to grant the president organizational powers granted to every president since Jimmy Carter.

Emphasis added. I so glad I remembered this makes me feel so much better.
This is a joke, right?

From Rantburg:

“Zimbabwe has turned to China for help in restoring its agricultural productivity after two years of land seizures which are largely blamed for causing a famine now threatening more than seven million people.”

The Chinese. Well, I guess if you’re looking for advice from a country that knows a thing or two about starvation, China’s the place to turn.

“Harare has not revealed how much it will pay China for the development of the huge agricultural scheme, which calls for the company to establish a costly irrigation system. Because of Zimbabwe's drastic shortage of hard currency, it is believed that payment will be made with tobacco, which China buys in large quantities from Zimbabwe each year. But the land seizures have also reduced tobacco production.”

Tuesday night I was flipping around the channels and came across a show called “Independent Lens” on PBS. This particular show, called “Off the Charts,” was about the song-poem industry and, God help me, it was just about the funniest documentary I’ve ever seen. In a nutshell, this “music” business asks people to send in their poems which are then set to music for a modest fee. Your very own song for $79.99. The poems are awful. The music is perfunctory crap. Put them together and you get songs so bad, it’s good. Here’s a sample lyric from the song-poem classic “Blind Man’s Penis”: “Warts love my nipples because they’re pink.” Oh yeah!

Normally I wouldn’t interrupt the punditry to take note of this, but then I’m reading Lileks today and he’s talking about a new CD: “The American Song-Poem Anthology” (including “Blind Man’s Penis”!) This must be some kind of divine intervention, so I’ll be on Amazon tonight placing my order. I can’t wait to hear “Jimmy Carter Says Yes” and “I Like Yellow Things.”
It’s Bizarro America!

A Democrat presidential candidate holds a fundraiser at the home of a Confederate slaveholder
A Republican president proposes a huge spending increase in the Federal budget
Democrats in the Senate are filibustering against an Hispanic nominee to a federal judgeship
Al Sharpton is emerging as a Democratic nominee for President
The most popular rapper in America is white
The best golfer in America is black

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

Last minute C-Span update: The Republicans (specifically Judiciary chair Orrin Hatch) have the floor on the Estrada nomination and they're running through all the arguments for Estrada's approval to the D.C. Court of Appeals. As I predicted, just about every other word spoken is "filibuster." "Unprecedented" is popular as is "unfair." The Republicans must smell blood because they're lining up to ask questions of Hatch like: "Are you aware Estrada received a "well qualified" rating from the ABA?" "Yes," replies Hatch "a unanimous well-qualified rating, too!" Stuff like that, so it will be on record. Only a handful of Democrats descended into the lion's den, where Hatch quickly disposed of their carcasses - several times he rose his voice very passionately - he's not going to back down on Estrada.

Estrada update

Byron York, who has been superb in his coverage of the Estrada nomination, runs an afternoon article titled: “Estrada: Now It’s War.” Some key excerpts:

“…Daschle, along with Patrick Leahy, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, sent a letter to President Bush demanding copies of legal position papers written by Estrada when he worked in the Justice Department during the Clinton years. The letter also demanded that Estrada answer more questions from Democrats”

“Although not surprised by the demands, some Republicans are amazed at the audacity of Democrats to keep making them. As far as the documents are concerned, the Justice Department has maintained that the papers are "highly privileged." While some Democrats might attribute that position to politics, it is supported by all seven living former Solicitors General, who last June sent Leahy a letter saying that "we do not think that the confidentiality and integrity of internal deliberations should be sacrificed in the [confirmation] process." The letter was written by Seth Waxman, who served as Solicitor General under President Clinton, and it was signed by not only Waxman but by Walter Dellinger and Drew Days III, who also held the post under Clinton; Kenneth Starr, who held it under the first President Bush; Charles Fried, who was Solicitor General under President Reagan; Robert Bork, who served under President Nixon; and Archibald Cox, who served under President Kennedy.”

I’m genuinely surprised the Democrats have taken the fight this far. Miguel Estrada, with his Horatio Alger background and “well-qualified” rating from the ABA, is the last person the Democrats should be blocking. Their reasons for doing so are paper-thin. The Republicans will make sure everyone knows the Senate is being stalled with a Democrat filibuster and, no matter what happens with Estrada, the public will be exasperated with the Democrats’ intransigence by the time a Supreme Court nominee comes around. My feeling is that the Donks are running on sheer petulance in that, much like France, they want everyone to know they still matter. Bill Frist should call their bluff and force the roll call vote; stand up, be counted, and bear the consequences.
Slate's "In Other Magazines" section has this quip today about an upcoming issue of The New Yorker:

A piece on the major players in the Augusta controversy includes the following tidbit: a possible protest at this year's Masters by "columns of women marching in green burkas—symbolically equating the green-blazered men of Augusta with the Taliban".

Oh, please.
Mark Steyn on my Smarter Harper’s Index bete noire, Lewis Lapham (editor of Harper’s):

"It's the pomposity of American print guys that's so breathtaking: I'm often quoted disapprovingly in American papers by columnists who go "someone by the name of Mark Steyn", "one Mark Steyn", "a Mark Steyn". What's up with that? Lewis Lapham did it a while back. I'll bet my weekly readership over his any day of the week. All he has to do is do a Nexis search and in ten minutes he'll know who I am. But these fellows are so status conscious that the effortless superiority is essential to their sense of themselves."

Precisely [said with pinkie extended]
John Keegan is to warfare as Bernard Lewis is to Islam: when they speak on their respective subjects, it would be well-advised to listen. The British Keegan is the author of numerous books on war including “A History of Warfare” (which I highly recommend) and is widely considered as the expert in his field. Here are some excerpts from an opinion piece that ran in UK’s Daily Telegraph yesterday, titled “Old Europe has gone too far this time.”

Nevertheless, there must be a feeling in Washington that what Donald Rumsfeld calls "old Europe" has this time gone too far. The American offer to Turkey of missile and early-warning defence can in no way be seen as warmongering. The French and Germans, not to mention the insignificant Belgians, seem simply, like tiresome neighbours, to be demanding attention. In so doing, they are inflicting damage on the organization that secured their safety during the Cold War, and affronting the ally that guaranteed it, to a degree that cannot easily be forgotten or forgiven.


The events of this week suggest at least a grave lack of responsibility in the foreign policy of "old Europe." France and Germany do not seem serious about denying weapons of mass destruction to rogue states, and seem positively frivolous about preserving what is still the most important military alliance in the world. Perhaps they are serious about the war on terrorism but, to fight and win that they need the unstinted support of the United States. They are frittering it away.

Thanks to Real Clear Politics for the link.
Feast or famine

A couple of days after winning “Best Unknown Blog” (an “honor” shared with Possumblog), Viking Pundit faces a wave of links! Well, maybe it’s just a ripple.

The linkers include: Phillip Coons, Winds of Change, and Jon J. Ray who has the brand-new Carnival of the Vanities. It’s all good.

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Sopranos Realpolitik: Iraq is Ralph Cifaretto

I think I've formulated the perfect analogy for Iraq. Iraq is Ralph. Fans of the show "The Sopranos" know that Ralph is a morally-stunted creep. He kills a stripper in one episode and (allegedly) destroys his horse to collect the insurance in another. He invites the wrath of Johnny Sack when he makes a fat joke about his wife. He berates everyone under him, belittles everyone at his level, and doesn't show Tony the proper respect demanded from a mob boss. It's pretty clear he's skimming off the top and making other backdoor deals. Everyone wants him knocked down a peg; Tony and Johnny both want him dead.

But over and over, whenever that scenario is contemplated, the same rationale comes up for keeping Ralph around: "He's a good earner."

That's right, Ralphie, despite his faults, brings in the fat envelopes stuffed with dead presidents. He keeps everyone in suits and mistresses and Italian meals at Arties. He's a good earner.

Now, on the cusp of war with Iraq, the United States is forced to restate what should be abundantly obvious: Ralphie…I mean Iraq…has violated the terms of U.N. Resolution 1441, which stated that any violation of any part of the resolution (including non-compliance) would bring about "serious consequences." France, Germany, and Russia seem to believe that those consequences mean another resolution and more inspectors. But what is their interest? Iraq is a good earner.

France's oil giant TotalFinaElf has huge development contracts with Iraq that they want to see honored, one way or another. Russia has $40 billion worth of oil contracts with Iraq. Iraq's Dec. 7th declaration indicated that German firms made up a large portion of the suppliers for Saddam Hussein's development of weapons of mass destruction. The United Nations doesn't want regime change in Iraq because the U.N. collects millions of dollars in administrative costs by running the "Oil for Food" program. Everybody's getting fat envelopes from Saddam Hussein.

If Tony Soprano is the United States, Saddam Hussein will meet the same fate as Ralphie. The cash won't roll in like before, but we'll all be a little richer to have lost him.
That's the night that the lights went out in California

From Political Wire: "An attempt to recall California Gov. Gray Davis (D) is "gaining traction," according to the Sacramento Bee. "Other efforts to recall California governors quickly fizzled. What makes this different is Davis' current unpopularity with voters, and mounting belief that some wealthy Davis critics are interested in financing the effort. Those mentioned most prominently are Kathleen Connell, a Democrat and former state controller, and Richard Riordan, the former Los Angeles mayor and failed gubernatorial hopeful who ran as a Republican moderate and is seen as a bipartisan force."

Bill Simon - you blew it.
Estrada update

It looks like Byron York was spot on in his column yesterday "The Estrada Trap". Democrats aren't going to launch a real filibuster; instead, it looks like they're going to engage in a weaselly talk-fest and continuously request more time for debate. To his credit, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has stated: "We're willing to stay today, tomorrow, tomorrow night, the next day, the next night, possibly Saturday, possibly into the recess" and a filibuster of Estrada would have "dramatic political fallout" for Democrats.

The Democrats have become so self-destructive, I wonder if they've been secretly replaced by Republican aliens (like Kang and Kodos) so they can destroy the party from within. Works for me!
Just for fun - here's the Simpsons episode with our favorite quote:

Bart: [walking into nurse's room] Lunch Lady Doris? Why are you here?
Doris: Budget cuts. They've even got Groundskeeper Willy teaching French.
Willy: "Bonjourrr", you cheese-eating surrender monkeys!
Byron York on National Review’s Corner has given notice that we should know just about now whether the Democrats have the nuts to filibuster Appeals Court nominee Miguel Estrada. As George Will said this past Sunday: “Let them filibuster – put it on Univision.” I’m hoping they will (although fear they won’t) because a filibuster of a judicial nominee, especially one rated “well qualified” by the ABA, will look like so much petty carping and is sure to blowback on the Dems.
Another new high for the Slate Saddameter: 97% chance of war.

Here's a key excerpt: "France and Germany reportedly discuss proposal to beef up inspections instead of war, but Blix undercuts them by echoing U.S. position: "The principal problem is not the number of inspectors but rather the active cooperation of the Iraqi side."

Monday, February 10, 2003

Mark Steyn stars in a major newspaper article titled "Let's Quit the U.N."

So I say: go ahead, Jacques, make my day. Wield your veto, and let the Texan cowboy and his ever-expanding posse go it ‘alone’. I don’t know whether a haughty Gallic ‘Non!’ would be enough to finish off the UN once and for all — these institutions are like those nuke-proof cockroaches — but I do know that another UN-sanctioned war would enshrine the principle that only the UN can sanction war.

Well put.
Be Seeing You

My son loves a book titled "Goofy's Big Race" where Goofy and Donald Duck get into a rabbit & turtle-style race. The book is #4 in a Disney series and he always reads the front cover as "Goofy's Big Race" by Number Four.

I always want to scream: "I am not a number, I am a free man!" Ah, he probably wouldn't get it.
Screw you, Rupert Murdoch!

I was waiting to see if Joe Millionaire was going to choose stand-offish Zora or bondage babe Sarah - and FOX pushed it off until next week! I was mislead! It's an outrage! If you can't trust a show built on duplicity, who can you trust?

Side observation: is the rise of reality TV a sign that people are getting fed up with celebrities? (See below)

Although always an insufferable part of American society, celebrities have engendered a new wave of ridicule as war with Iraq grows imminent. Barbra Streisand spews hot air on Iranian [sic] president Saddam Hussein and her buddy Richard Gebhardt [sic]. Sheryl Crow informs that to solve our problems we need to have no enemies. Sean Penn travels to Baghdad and (surprise!) discovers poverty and privation. Dustin Hoffman, Janeane Garofalo, Viggo Mortensen, Madonna, Richard Gere, Alec Baldwin, Susan Sarandon, Woody Harrelson, Dave Matthews – not only do they all hew to the liberal worldview, they feel compelled to make sure the public knows how they stand.

At this point, it’s become too easy to pile on the celebrities, the same ones who owe their creative freedom to the liberties enshrined in the Free World (try a concert in Riyadh, Madonna, and you’ll see what I mean.) But one question that’s unasked and unanswered is: why are celebrities hard-wired to a liberal ideology? Sure, there’s the rare exceptions like Charlton Heston and Arnold Schwarzenegger; but for the vast majority of Hollywood, Americans just aren’t being taxed enough, are too belligerent, and can never spend enough on breast cancer research.

I have a theory.

This theory is based on the “bread and circuses” policy of ancient Rome. The idea was that if you kept the masses fat, dumb and happy with food and entertainment, they would have no need to agitate for political change. Thus, to keep the Romans complacent, the emperors offered the circus with chariot races and gladiator fights. For hundreds of years, the Circus Maximus was the site for Ben Hur-type chariot races, holding upwards of 100 competitions a day occasionally punctuated with animal fights.

To some degree, movie stars and rock musicians must understand that the work they do is frivolous and trivial. They’ll never cure cancer or design a building, but worse than that, their lifework is a distraction, a diversion, a sop to the masses. They are the modern-day extension of the Roman circus, entertaining on a stage and helping people to forget their troubles. Make ‘em laugh, make ‘em cry, sleep now sleep.

So, for celebrities, it’s never enough to make people happy with their performance. They need to justify their inflated self-worth, and the most accessible way to do that is to be liberal. As P.J. O’Rourke noted:

The principal feature of American liberalism is sanctimoniousness. By loudly denouncing all bad things—war and hunger and date rape—liberals testify to their own terrific goodness. More important, they promote themselves to membership in a self-selecting elite of those who care deeply about such things.... It’s a kind of natural aristocracy, and the wonderful thing about this aristocracy is that you don’t have to be brave, smart, strong or even lucky to join it, you just have to be liberal.

Nothing to it. The ego is salved with a red ribbon on the lapel. Any lingering guilt is wiped away with a healthy donation to PETA and, for the truly self-absorbed, a public statement of condemnation. The topic doesn’t really matter as long as it’s not too complex: war, AIDS, fur coats = BAD / education reform, farm policy, war on terrorism = HUH? As long as you can stir up a frothy batch of self-satisfied indignation, you’re in the club. See you at Sardi’s after the benefit dinner.

It’s been said that a conservative is a liberal who’s been mugged. In the rarefied world of celebrity, where a tax increase doesn’t matter when you have four homes, these prattling personalities never have to worry as long as their tuxedoed bodyguards are nearby.

I am getting exponentially annoyed at headlines like this: Blix: No breakthroughs but new ‘positive attitude’ by Iraq

The inspections process is not a dimmer switch where, day-by-day, we turn up the light a little more. The United States wants an on/off light switch marked disarm/don’t disarm. All this talk about a “I’m beginning to see some positive attitude” (Blix) and “We are leaving with a sense of cautious optimism” (ElBaradei) is meaningless.

Slate’s “Today’s Papers” had it exactly right this morning:

While the Post's lead sees the inspectors' meeting with Iraqi officials as a bust—"U.N. INSPECTORS FAIL TO WIN KEY IRAQ CONCESSIONS"—some of the other papers disagree. According to USAT, "U.N. INSPECTORS DESCRIBE 'CHANGE OF HEART' BY IRAQIS." The Post feels more on target: While some of the papers play up the mushy messages from inspectors Blix and ElBaradei—ElBaradei referred to "hopefully the beginnings of a change of heart"—the WP nicely skips past the talking points and emphasizes what actually happened: Nothing. The Iraqis didn't deliver. They handed over some documents about old weapons programs, but Blix said the papers didn't seem to contain any new info. Nor did they agree on U-2 overflights; they say they're still thinking about it.

What an…. honor?

This blog has picked up the coveted “Best Unknown Blog” in Right Wing News’ First Annual Warblogger Awards. Hooray?

I suspect my lonely votes came from Moe at Occam’s Toothbrush and Bruce at American Realpolitik (and mayyybe Dr. Weevil and Robert Musil at Man without Qualities). Thanks guys! My hits may skyrocket into triple digits today! (But if that happens, will I have to return the award, a la Milli Vanilli?)

Sunday, February 09, 2003

Speaking of looks like the chance of war with Iraq have just shot up to 99%

From the Washington Post about an hour ago:

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Feb. 9 -- The top U.N. arms experts said tonight that they were unable to reach agreement with Saddam Hussein's government on several key weapons issues they had traveled here to resolve in a bid to build support for continuing inspections.

The two chief U.N. inspectors, Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei, failed to come away with the top three items on their wish list during meetings with high-level Iraqi officials on Saturday and today: significant amounts of new evidence about Iraq's past weapons programs, safety guarantees from Iraq for reconnaissance aircraft they want to fly over the country; and a high-level declaration criminalizing the production of nuclear, chemical or biological arms.

What will the defenders of continuous inspection (I'm looking at you, France) say now? What justification is being cooked up to buy Saddam Hussein more time - always more time - to build his arsenal? Now that the U.N. inspectors have been rebuffed again, what will Kofi Annan say? Tom Daschle? Jacques Chirac? What can they possibly say?

In today's NYT, Tom Friedman noted (talking about France): "How the World of Order deals with the World of Disorder is the key question of the day. There is room for disagreement. There is no room for a lack of seriousness." And I'll leave it at that.
What are the odds?

Last night, I wrote a book review for Blogcritics of Andy Bellin's "Poker Nation". Tonight I'm flipping channels and reading the NYT business section, where I find this story: "Executives Ante Up, and Win Some Skills". It's about how the skills and instincts used in poker translate to executive business decisions. Then, I land on ESPN, and what are they showing? The World Series of Poker.

Viking Pundit: always ahead of the curve!
People who write letters to the New York Times are different from you and me

A couple weeks back, the New York Times magazine had an article by Bill Keller titled "The Radical Presidency of George W. Bush". Broadly speaking, the piece contrasted the style and policies of Dubya vs. Ronald Reagan and found much in common. Of course any remotely positive mention of Bush is like waving a red flag in front of NYT readers, and today's magazine had this beaut of a letter:

"Bill Keller's article on George W. Bush was the slyest piece of political satire I've read in years (Jan. 26th). In this bitter winter of our latest discontent…."

Let's stop right there. Already I'm choking on the pretentious prep-school puffery. Right off the bat, the author wants to make sure you understand that he's a great connoisseur of satire and sophisticated enough to quote Shakespeare.

"…he has given us the much-needed relief of belly laughs. Gems like "The president has little hesitation in invoking the war on terror on behalf of just about anything" are priceless!"

Terrorism! It's a laff riot! Didja hear the one about the president who wanted to defend the country?

"That Bush 43 has added the populist trappings of the Marlboro man to his native peculiarities of speech – the meandering malapropism – is hardly surprising in this new era of anti-intellectualism."

Rest assured: anyone bemoaning anti-intellectualism fancies himself as an intellectual. I'm sure prep-boy, with his perfect diction, is a real gas at dinner parties recounting (for the hundredth time) how his Yale forensics team beat Harvard while debating the effect of Smoot-Hawley on the prime rate.

"What's surprising is the number of Americans who don't see past the politically expedient disguise, as Keller most obviously does."

Why can't everyone be as perceptive as me and Bill Keller? It's rare to find a letter so jam-packed with smugness, self-love, superciliousness, and super-silliness.

[signed] BARTON SPENCER BROWN, Clinton, Conn.

The "satire" on Saturday Night Live is pathetic. Every skit is one joke repeated ad nauseum and more often than not that joke is how everyone is smoking pot. It's funny once, maybe twice; after that, it stinks of the desperation of writers trying to appear cooler-than-thou. I miss Phil Hartman.

Saturday, February 08, 2003

Woman on Trial for Killing Husband Says She Was Aiming Mercedes at Lover's SUV

Prosecutors say Harris, 45, intentionally ran down her husband last July after confronting him at the hotel with his lover. A medical examiner has testified the orthodontist was run over at least twice.
Clara Harris insisted the collision was an accident. She also said she had been working tirelessly to save the 10-year marriage since learning of his affair the week before, quitting her job so she could have sex with him three times a night, cook his favorite meals and schedule breast enhancement surgery.

This lady must be guilty since I don't believe any woman would do all that for any man. C'mon, sisters, am I right or what?
Feb. 7th: The Slate Saddameter hits a new all-time high of 95% chance of invasion.
Today (2/7) the Bush administration raised the terrorism threat level from yellow to orange, indicating a "high risk" of potential attack.

Today (2/7), the Washington Post (print edition) carried this story:

Gate-Crasher Hands Bush 'Message From God'
The Rev. Richard "Rich" Weaver, nicknamed "Handshake Man" because of his knack for getting up close and personal with the high and mighty, struck again yesterday morning.
The Post's David Montgomery reports that the 57-year-old Weaver, a nondenominational Christian minister from Sacramento, crashed the National Prayer Breakfast at the Washington Hilton, breezing through the ballroom entrance without a ticket and handed President Bush what he later described as an eight-page typed "message from God" about Iraq.

Montgomery had to pass through a metal detector, but – without an invitation – he simply sat down at a table and waited for the right moment. Then he handed President Bush a letter packed with weaponized anthrax…oops!...nope, just an anti-war missive.

I just got back from a trip where I had to place my jacket, shoes, and laptop in separate trays while a TSA officer waved a wand over my groin. Meanwhile, in Washington, a man walks into the National Prayer Breakfast and just walks up to the President. What is wrong with this picture?
First, John Kerry's wife, Teresa Heinz, suddenly decides she's a Democrat.
Now, she decides to go by "Teresa Heinz Kerry" at least during her husband's presidential campaign.

What's the next compromise to become First Lady? Here's a guess: bags and bags of Heinz family money.

Friday, February 07, 2003

I'm back!

I have to relate this one little story from my trip: We're meeting with some potential customers and somebody from the company says: "We'll have to run this by Robbie Roberson." [Or Robinson, or some other surname that sound suspiciously like the former guitar-player for The Band, Robbie Robertson.]

I say: "Ah, formerly of The Band".

Blank stares…except for one guy who smiles and nods approvingly at my joke.

That made my day.

More posting later tonight. I have to plow through the news.

Thursday, February 06, 2003

I'll be a business trip for the next two days, so posting will be on a brief hiatus. In the meantime, I beseech you, please read/reference/link this page. I'm starting to wonder if it's worth the trouble for barely a hundred hits a day. C'mon, isn't this good stuff? Didn't anybody like my Saudi unemployment/Mayor Quimby comparison? That's gold!

OK, OK, I'll give you little cretins what you really came for: True Porn Clerk Stories! Enjoy!