Friday, December 31, 2004

Happy New Year!

Here in Moscow fireworks, and car alarms, have already been going off all over town. Kids shoot off rockets from streetcorners, they explode right in front of our window on the street. BANG! and then the car alarms follow.

Strange, considering the pervasive fear of terrorism, that they sell fireworks all over Moscow--and not just cherry bombs, lots of giant rockets--almost everywhere, and they are shot off in parks, on streetcorners, almost anywhere.

Putin announced his big Novi God present for Russia--ten days of paid vacation from January 1st to 10th for all workers. Everyone is very happy about that, as Russian Orthodox Christmas is on the 7th and New Year on the 12th. All offices and government buildings will be closed, but concerts, museums, and cultural activities, such as the Russian Winter music festival at the music conservatory and Tchaikovsky Concert Hall, will continue as usual.

We can't give you ten days of paid vacation, but we wish all our readers a happy, healthy, and peaceful New Year. May your dreams come true in 2005...

Monday, December 27, 2004

The Tsunami Tragedy

Russian television news has broadcast extensive coverage of the tsunami in the Indian Ocean that has killed thousands of people so far, leaving many more homeless.

The Russian government is shipping aid to Southeast Asian nations affected by the killer wave. TV news features massive Russian cargo planes being loaded with supplies. It's not just politics. Among the victims were Russian tourists, spending the Novi God holiday in the warm climates of India, Thailand, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives. TV news featured Putin meeting with is minister of emergency affairs, other ministers, spokespeople for travel agencies, and the families of loved ones lost in the worst natural disaster in years. When Putin gets involved personally, on TV (they show him talking to his ministers at a little table, actually discussing the actions government will take, not simple photo opportunties like in the US), it is a high priority for the government of Russia. Russia also has a history of friendly relations with India and other nations in Southeast Asia (remember Vietnam?).

The footage of death and destruction Sri Lanka has been affecting, particularly since two years ago we stayed at the Bentota Beach Hotel, in the southern part of the Island. Our rooms was on the ground floor, right on the beach, and we can imagine the horror facing tapped tourists in their last moments. There are very few roads in Sri Lanka, and it would have been difficult to evacuate the coastal villages, even with proper warning. The tragedy is all the more horrible because Sri Lanka has faced years of civil war between the Hindu Tamil Tigers and the the Buddhist majority. That is why our hotel cost only $20 per person, while a similar room in the Maldives cost about a thousand dollars.

It was Tamil tigers who pioneered the use of suicide bombers. And they kept at it until India dropped support after the assasination of their prime minister by a Tamil extremist (the Tamils originally come from Tamil Nadu, a state in India also hit by the tsunami). Without state support, the terrorism and extremism dropped off. A lesson for our own war on terror, and a reminder that suicide bombers are not peculiar to Islam.

By the time a temporary cease-fire took effect a couple of years ago some 60,000 Sri Lankan's had been killed in Tamil Tiger violence.

Rothschild's Fiddle

Last night, saw a theatrical adaptation of Anton Chekhov's short story,Rothschild's Fiddle, at the Moscow Theatre of Young Viewers.

The show was directed by Kama Glinkas in a very un-Stanislavsky style, more like contemporary New York-- lots of mugging and prancing around on big symbolic set that looked like Samuel Beckett as furnished by Ikea. The theatre program didn't have much information, but published a rave review from the New York Times, which give you some idea...

Chekhov's story is a parable of Russian-Jewish relations, and while this production was kind of distracting (there is also an opera and a film, my google search shows) it was thought-provoking and worth seeing.

Moscow is not exactly a Jewish city, but there is still a Jewish presence, even after years of emigration. Mayor Luzhkov was on TV lighting the Hannukah menorah with Russia's Chief Rabbi, Beryl Lazar, who looks like a Lubavitch from Brooklyn (though the sect originated here). The old choral synagogue in Kitai Gorod has been restored, and a gleaming steel and glass new synagogue is under construction near fashionable Tverskoy Boulevard. A holiday television special featured Russian Army soldiers holding hands and dancing to a rendition "Hava Nagila".

And yet, somehow, "Rothschild's Fiddle" reminds one that Russian-Jewish relations are complicated, have not always been nice, and subject to sudden change...

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Irony of Fate

Last night the Russia TV channel broadcast IRONY OF FATE, OR ENJOY YOUR BATH! a 1975 romantic comedy directed by Eldar Ryazanov. This films is the "It's a Wonderful Life" of Russia, shown every New Year (yesterday was only the Western Christmas, Russian Christmas is January 7th). The story is about two people who accidentally meet, against all odds, as a result of the soulless conformity of Russian architecture and urban planning, when a drunken surgeon flies to St. Petersburg after a night drinking with friends in a banya. He gets in a taxi and goes to his home address (from Moscow), puts his key in the door, opens it--and meets a lonely 34-year old Russian Literature teacher who becomes the love of his life, after some stormy confrontations with her, her boyfriend, and her mother...

It is Russia's favorite movie, and says a lot about the strength of the human spirit in an oppressive and inhuman environment, understandable even to an American with only rudimentary Russian...

Happy Holidays to Roger L. Simon: More Moscow Musings...

Roger L. Simon: Mystery Novelist and Screenwriter ran a nice plug for us on his blog, which has shaken some writer's block--no doubt caused by Culture Shock and adaptation to the Russian Winter.

So, as turnabout is fair play, take a look at his analysis of the AP's problems in covering the war in Iraq.

And since Roger says he likes reading what I have to say about Russia, here are some more thoughts:

Of course, almost everyone in Moscow is on the side of the AP, viewing the toppling of Saddam Hussein, the bombing of Yugoslavia, the support of Georgia and Ukrainian independence as American agression against Russia. Iraq was sort of Russia's Saudi Arabia, an oil partner and Middle East ally, so it sort of makes sense from their point of view. But they don't understand that American's don't see it the same way.

The problem is the same as the one De Tocqueville described in 1835:

There are, at the present time, two great nations in the world which seem to tend towards the same end, although they started from different points: I allude to the Russians and the Americans. Both of them have grown up unnoticed; and whilst the attention of mankind was directed elsewhere, they have suddenly assumed a most prominent place amongst the nations; and the world learned their existence and their greatness at almost the same time.

All other nations seem to have nearly reached their natural limits, and only to be charged with the maintenance of their power; but these are still in the act of growth; all the others are stopped, or continue to advance with extreme difficulty; these are proceeding with ease and with celerity along a path to which the human eye can assign no term. The American struggles against the natural obstacles which oppose him; the adversaries of the Russian are men; the former combats the wilderness and savage life; the latter, civilization with all its weapons and its arts: the conquests of the one are therefore gained by the ploughshare; those of the other by the sword.

The Anglo-American relies upon personal interest to accomplish his ends, and gives free scope to the unguided exertions and common-sense of the citizens; the Russian centers all the authority of society in a single arm; the principal instrument of the former is freedom; of the latter servitude. Their starting-point is different, and their courses are not the same; yet each of them seems to be marked out by the will of Heaven to sway the destinies of half the globe.

This insight was repeated 175 year later by Dmitri Simes, in "After the Collapse: Russia Seeks its Place as a Great Power," when he observed:

Russia derived little material benefit from its imperial possessions. This was a consequence of the fact that Russian empire building was primarily driven by the needs of an absolutist government to expand its reach, not an outward flow of merchants or settlers. Its dynamics were precisely opposite to the building of the American nation.

Until Americans and Russians realize they are still using different "operating systems," misunderstandings between the two nations are bound to continue.

Just yesterday, an educated Russian told me that the solution to the Ukraine crisis will be for the Crimea to secede--since it was a mistake for Kruschev to give this historically Russian territory to Ukraine in the days of the Soviet Union. This was not government propaganda, but dinner table conversation...

Friday, December 24, 2004

Merry Christmas from the Diplomad

The Diplomad reflects on the meaning of Christmas in an American Embassy:

"As an American Jewish kid I just assumed I was destined to grow up to be worshipped or be Master of the Universe. But, sigh, I took the Foreign Service exam instead, and got married, and have voted straight Republican since 1972. I know, I know, I am a disappointment to my people, all those hopes and dreams . . . shattered!

"Life's too short. Everybody enjoy and let others enjoy the great freedoms we have. And every Jewish kid in America should have on his wall the names and pictures of the greatest friends the Jewish people ever had: Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Adams, Reagan, Bush and the millions of GIs who tore the guts out of Hitler's war machine and whose grandchildren continue to keep us free."

Leon Aron on Ukraine's Election

In Moscow, it would seem that many here agree with whatLeon Aron writes about tomorrow's election in the Ukraine. The country is divided between Russian-speaking Orthodox in the East and Ukrainian-speaking Catholics in the West. (This religious division is one of the fault lines in Samuel Huntington's Clash of Civilizations):

"By the same token, those among Yushchenko's more radical supporters in Ukraine and the West who advocate the abrupt removal of Ukraine from the Russian sphere of influence must face the facts. In addition to the cultural, linguistic and ethnic bonds (there are 8.3 million ethnic Russians among Ukraine's 48 million citizens), economic imperatives are straightforward.
In what amounts to perhaps the world's largest, albeit unheralded, bilateral assistance program, Russia supplies Ukraine with oil and gas at prices that are way below the world market's. The precise size of Ukraine's overall debt for oil and gas is anyone's guess, but conservatively it cannot be less than $2 billion to $3 billion. (By contrast, the U.S. annual assistance to Ukraine is $150 million.)

"Millions of Ukrainians work in Russia (often illegally) and their remittances provide a significant although largely uncounted portion of the Ukrainian gross domestic product.

"To his credit, as an underdog Yushchenko has been very considerate of the feelings and preferences of his Russian-speaking compatriots. As a favorite going into the new election and, especially, as the victor, he must redouble the effort of projecting moderation, restraining his more radical supporters and proffering the olive branch to those who voted for his opponent. He might, for example, try to assuage fears of 'de-Russification' by saying that regions themselves ought to decide if Russian should be their second official language.

"In the end, only courage, imagination and hard work will stave an upheaval."

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

S'novim Godim!

Moscow is ablaze with decorations--Grandpa Frost and Snow Princess riding in troikas, giant evergreen trees sparkle with blue lights at major intersections, shops and businesses atwinkle with tinsel and flashing displays.

Also, lots of roosters, chicks, and even little bunnies, as well as babushkas selling dead branches that bloom when placed in a vase of water.

New Year, seems to be a secular Christmas and Easter combined. The Russian calendar takes from the Orient as well as the West--the coming Year of the Rooster is of Chinese origin--and one becomes aware that Eurasia is not just a figure of speech, but a real place, where East and West (contrary to Kipling) meet. For example, Moscow has so many seasonal displays because it is required by law. Shops and businesses that don't put up a holiday bush or colored lights by December 1st are subject to a fine. Which makes for some interesting sights. Such as the Tsimmis Shtetl-themed Jewish restaurant (it has a kosher kitchen) featuring two Christmas trees (Hannukah bushes?) at the entrance--one inside, and one outside...

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, November 28, 2004

WiFi in Moscow

I'm blogging from the Amerikanski Bar and Grill near Mayakovsky Metro station, a five-minute walk from our house. Moscow is really a study in contrasts. This place has an 11 Mbps WiFi connection c/o Yandex (a Russian Yahoo) and IBM. But they only seem to be found in restaurants--not the many coffee shops (no Starbucks here yet) where it might be more convenient.

From our house we only have a dialup connection, via RussiaOnline, at 44 k,and only a pulse dial phone, no touch tone.

Two realities at one time--modern Western and old Soviet.

As far as the Ukraine goes, it dominates the news here.Since the Kievan Rus founded Russia, and the TV has had coverage going back to the time of Mazeppa (an opera in repertory here), so the perspective on events there differs a little from the BBC world news coverage.

Lots of talking heads about America wanting a puppet state, western agression, a replay of same script used in Yugoslavia, Georgia, etc. The geopolitical angle looms large, rather than the fraud allegations made by the BBC. It is taken for granted that the Western powers are backing the nationalists. Also not forgotten are the scars from WWII, when Ukranian nationalists sided with the Nazis against Russia.

So stay tuned, there may be some twists and turns in the days ahead...

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Mission to Moscow

Am in Moscow, teaching American Studies at Russian State Humanitarian University until March, have to use an internet cafe, since the free internet concept for students and faculty hasn't yet arrived here, so blogging will probably be more hit-and-miss. It costs about $2.00/hour.

With the falling dollar, and rising ruble, Moscow is much more expensive than Washington, DC, at least so far. There are lots of shops, but there still seems to be a strong Soviet legacy. A film about Stalin was on TV the night we arrived. Karl Marx's statue is still in Revolution Square. Marx, Engels and Lenin's bas-reliefs are still on buildings. And there is a familiar Soviet quality recognizable from Tashkent. We went to Red Square. It was depressing, as was the GUM, which is now modernized and full of empty boutiques with high-fashion clothes and shoes. We walked by Lubyanka prision, still forbidding.

On the other hand, there are lots of shops, newspapers, people seem very free and open, lots of laughter, fashion, noise and about a million casinos and strip clubs. Robert Venturi's "Learning from Las Vegas" seems to have been the inspiration for many "New Russians." Many restaurants, some like theme parks,including one near our university split between an Uzbek theme and a Jewish shtetl theme (downstairs Uzbek, upstairs, Jewish). Big supermarkets,department stores, even an IKEA...

We arrived on Revolution Day (still a holiday) and yesterday was Militia Day (celebrating the police). Spectacles on TV, of course.

More later...

Sunday, November 07, 2004

And The Oscar Goes To...

Team America World Police!

Saw it last night, and all we can say is that it is the best comedy Hollywood has ever made about terrorism in the aftermath of 9/11. Seeing it restores one's faith in America.

The members of Team America are high-tech, foul-mouthed, Keystone Kops, who save the day only because the bad guys are worse. Writers Trey Parker, Matt Stone, and Pam Brady stick it to action heros, dictators, terrorists and peace activist actors, along with psychics, women who value their friendships, and America's intelligence community. Those who call the picture right-wing propaganda don't know what they are talking about.

I grew up on Thunderbirds, a 60s-era British ITV serial, which looked sort of like this: marionettes flying jet airplanes to defeat evil villains. Of course, Team America is 100 time better. Maybe 1,000 times better. Maybe even 2,318 times better. What is really incredible in this picture is that the puppets show more emotion than the Holllywood stars the filmmakers parody. They are better actors, I guess.

Team America has another moral, delivered by an old coot in a bar when our hero, Gary Johnson, hits rock bottom. In case you don't get it the first time, it is repeated at the very end, after a recovered Johnson saves the day from a crazed Kim Jong Il, by out-acting Alec Baldwin. Pure genius.

Seeing Team America was particularly satisfying because, like Team America's Gary Johnson, I had to debate Alec Baldwin in the 1990s, while he was spokesman for the National Endowment for the Arts's lobbying efforts (though we never shared a stage, as the puppet Baldwin does with Team America's Johnson at the North Korean Peace Conference). I also interviewed Michael Moore early in his career. So it was very nice to see the makers of Team America got both of them exactly right.

For chutzpah, imagination and their sense of humor, the makers of Team America World Police deserve the Academy Award.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Frank Luntz on Why Bush Won

From The Washington Times:

"Some will claim that Mr. Bush won on Tuesday because he waged a campaign of fear. The exact opposite was the case. Americans turned to him precisely because they saw him as the antidote to that fear. Polling over the past few months and the results on Election Day itself illustrated an essential principle of electoral success: It is no longer enough to say no. Voters need someone who will say yes. Mr. Kerry became a symbol for voters opposed to the president's policies and procedures, but not much else. Conversely, Mr. Bush became the vehicle for those who wanted an affirmative, proactive, preventative approach to homeland security. Americans will tell you that it was Mr. Bush, not Mr. Kerry, who offered the hope that personal security could be restored. And in this election, hope won. When it came to the war on terror, Americans knew where their president stood and exactly what he believed. They simply did not share the same level of confidence in Mr. Kerry. The events and aftermath of September 11 may not have changed everything, but they certainly changed the outcome of the 2004 presidential race. In the end, principle trumped polish."

Van Gogh Murder: "Find the expert on Islamic law..."

From an interview with Professor Hans Jansen on Radio Netherlands:

"... I think they should look for the accomplices much closer to the home of the murderer. I mean, Muslim assassins that kill in the name of Islam usually consult a Muslim lawyer - a Mufti or legal specialist of Islamic law - and ask him for his advice and for his opinion. Because otherwise, it would mean that the commands of the Koran to fight the unbelievers would simply boil down to one believer killing an unbeliever, which of course would not work - it would create chaos and total idiocy."

"No, you can only wage Jihad, engage in holy war, or whatever expression you prefer, once this has been analysed and permission is given by competent Muslim legal scholars."

"The Amsterdam prosecutor said on Friday that  the charges against the seven suspects arrested on Tuesday included "participation in a criminal organization with terrorist aims" and "terrorist  conspiracy" for the murder of Van Gogh as well as plans to kill liberal politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali "and others"."So, when you look at it from the outside, it would be against the laws of Islam - and the laws of Islam are very strict – to act against this. Now, this man wants to pose as a super-Muslim, so he probably obeyed the laws of Islam. Accordingly, it's really very important to find the expert on Islamic law who gave him permission to commit this act. Because this expert is of course as guilty as the murderer himself."

US State Department on Bush's Victory

From The Diplomad:

"One of our Diplomads has burrowed deep within the bureaucracy at HQS back in Washington and sends us the following emailed report on reactions to the Bush win. We have edited out anything that might give the enemy information to identify our agent:

I was telling a friend who voted for Kerry my theory as to why so many State Dept weenies (Note: a technical term) have it in for Bush.

Most State types, deep inside, believe that the primary purpose of American
diplomacy is not to advance our country's geo-strategic interests, but to provide for them a prestigious career in which their unusual talents (e.g. foreign languages) and interests (foreign lands) are properly valued and appreciated (Note: there's precious little demand in the real world for experts on the history of Venezuelan political parties). This is a mindset that makes too many diplomats contemptuous of most ordinary Americans, who, in their view, are narrow-minded and boorish. You see the looks of bemused disbelief around the conference table - especially an AID one - whenever anyone suggests that a policy decision should be governed by the interest of the American taxpayer.

So, we were all minding our business one fine day, when one of these very boors - from Texas, no less - turned our little world upside down. It's not that Bush is a Republican, or conservative, or overly aggressive. It's that he's NOT a member of the club of Those of Us Who Understand These Things. As such, he had no right to redefine our foreign policy and security doctrine overnight. Certainly not without first commissioning many feasibility studies and blue-ribbon panels informed, of course, by Us. As a result 'all our allies' hate us, and our international relations have been set back years.

Now look at the "mess" he's made in Iraq and Afghanistan! Too many junior officers at post, not enough from PD (note: Public Diplomacy) and worst of all - the DOD (Note: Department of Defense) people aren't even under Chief of Mission authority! On the home front, Bush's misadventure has completely screwed up the assignments and promotions system, damn him! And we have "the military" speaking up at all sorts of interagency policy discussions where they simply don't belong. In essence, to the career diplomat, Bush's crime was in being an outsider who refused to stay in his place - outside. None of our esteemed colleagues who holds this view would articulate it this way. But it's there. They express it in euphemisms, when they think the audience (their peers) is receptive. It's in the snide remarks, the rolling eyes, the upturned noses. And yesterday, in the gnashing teeth...

Dutch Blog's Summary of van Gogh Murder News

Interesting news roundup at Zacht Ei - Doorbakken kan altijd nog:

Suicide squads?
The same article from De Telegraaf that mentions the hit lists also contains the following sentence: 'The Netherlands are threatened by an Islamic martyr brigade, consisting of youths who have been trained to commit suicide attacks.'
10:30 uur
Reactie(s) (0)

Islamist hit list made public
According to populist broadsheet De Telegraaf, there's a radical Islamist hit list which contains the names of other prominent Dutch that should fear for their lives.
They are:
• Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Dutch M.P., a former Muslim and a vocal critic of radical Islam
• Geert Wilders, Dutch M.P., also critical of radical Islam
• Rita Verdonk, secretary of Immigration
• Job Cohen, the Jewish mayor of Amsterdam
• Ahmed Aboutaleb, the Moroccan vice mayor of Amsterdam
I've writen about Aboutaleb here. He's a courageous guy who dares to criticize his fellow Muslims.
Hirsi Ali and Wilders spent the night in heavily guarded 'safe houses', according to De Telegraaf.

[Thanks to LittleGreenFootballs for the link]

Thursday, November 04, 2004

More Details on van Gogh Murder

From Guardian:

"Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner said Thursday the note, stuck to the body with a knife, contained a ``direct warning'' to the screenwriter, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali-born member of parliament who has outraged fellow Muslims by criticizing Islamic customs and the failure of Muslim families to adopt Dutch ways. She had been under police protection before the slaying.

"Donner said the way the five-page letter ``was presented indicates that it is not from one person, but a movement.'' It was neatly typed and written in Dutch and Arabic. A testament found in the suspect's pocket was titled ``Drenched in blood'' and ``these are my last words.''

"The letter is titled ``Open Letter to Hirsi Ali'' and threatens a holy war against infidels, America, Europe, the Netherlands and Hirsi Ali. ``Saifu Deen alMuwahhied,'' or ``the unifying sword of religion'' is written at the bottom of the last page, apparently as a signature.

"``It is worrying because it gives the impression it is not the message of an individual, but a wider organization,'' Donner said. Security has been increased for individuals considered possible targets, including Hirsi Ali and members of her party, he said.

"The letter read that Islam would ``be victorious through the blood of martyrs.'' It contained apparent quotes from the Quran, and verses of poetry. ``Only the death will separate the truth from the lies,'' it said."

Ann Coulter on Bush's Victory


"Bush won the largest popular vote in history with a 3.5 million margin. Indeed, simply by getting a majority of the country to vote for him – the left's most hated politician since Richard Nixon – Bush did something "rock star" Bill Clinton never did. Bush maintained or increased his vote in every state but Vermont. Republicans picked up seats in the House and Senate, and continue to dominate state governorships. Also making history of a sort, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle lost his election, marking the first time in half a century a Senate leader has been defeated.

"To Michael Moore, George Soros, Terry McAuliffe, Dan Rather, Al Franken and the whole gang at Air America Radio – you were great, guys! Thanks for the help! We couldn't have done it without you!"

Mark Steyn on the Election Results

From The Australian:

"Bush hatred flopped big on Tuesday. That's not a problem for The Guardian's editors, who have to sell papers in Britain, but it is for a Democratic Party that has to sell itself in the US. Michael Mooronification damages everyone who gets it.

"Look at the recently resurrected Osama bin Laden. Three years ago he was Mr Jihad, demanding the restoration of the caliphate, the return of Andalucia, the conversion of every infidel to Islam, the imposition of sharia and an end to fornication, homosexuality and alcoholic beverages. In his latest video he sounds like some elderly Berkeley sociology student making lame jokes about Halliburton and Bush reading My Pet Goat.

"The lesson of Moore's underwear, P.Diddy's 'Vote or Die', Bruce Springsteen's 'Rock the Vote' and all the other celebrity props of the Democratic Party is very simple: having the most popular figures in popular culture on your side does nothing for your popularity. Every time Kerry was seen cavorting with Hollywood A-listers, he was alienating the Z-listers -- the American people."

Who Was Behind the Phony Exit Polls?

Michael Barone thinks it was the Democratic Party...

Is Yasser Arafat Dead?

From today's White House Press Conference:

Q Thank you, Mr. President. I know you haven't had a chance to learn this, but it appears that Yasser Arafat has passed away.


Q And I was just wondering if I could get your initial reaction? And also your thoughts on, perhaps, working with a new generation of Palestinian leadership?

THE PRESIDENT: I appreciate that. My first reaction is, God bless his soul. And my second reaction is, is that we will continue to work for a free Palestinian state that's at peace with Israel. "

Is Bush President Seabiscuit?

From The Weekly Standard:

"Bush and Seabiscuit both had patrician forebears, (Man o' War was Seabiscuit's grandfather), but each seemed a little less elegant, a little more common, a bit less refined. Bush was called a cowboy, as a term of derision; Seabiscuit was called a cow horse. Bush and Seabiscuit both had troubled youths, marked by bad attitude and self-destructive behavior. Both were turned around in the nick of time, Seabiscuit by his owner, his trainer, and jockey; Bush by God and by Laura. Afterwards, both of them burned up the track. Al Gore and John Kerry may have lacked the pizzazz of War Admiral, the magnificent Triple Crown winner whom Seabiscuit beat by four lengths in a match race, but they had all the arrogance of his unpleasant owner, a pillar of the eastern racing establishment who felt himself demeaned and degraded by having his horse run on the same track as this upstart from nowhere.

Once he achieved greatness, Seabiscuit was forced to run under great weights in handicap races. In the 2004 cycle at least, Bush
was forced to race under the weight of the entire media complex--the New York Times, all of the glossies, Michael Moore, Linda Ronstadt, 60 Minutes, CBS, and Dan Rather (with their multiple hit jobs and forgeries), Time, Newsweek, and countless others. Seabiscuit had a habit of trying to taunt other horses, slowing down on purpose during races and workouts, giving other horses the chance to think they could beat him, before dashing off in a spurt.

Don't Bury the Mainstream Media: They're Not Dead Yet...

Instapundit, the Wall Street Journal, Little Green Footballs, and other websites have been commenting on the death of the mainstream media. As evidence, they cite the results of this election. But it seems to me that they are alive and kicking. Dan Rather is still on the air, despite losing some 3 million viewers since his last election coverage. They managed to avoid declaring a winner--because it was Bush, no doubt--until John Kerry conceded. Then they cast doubt on the legitimacy of Bush's win. Last night, on PBS's Newshour, Margaret Warner indicated that the Democrats could have challenged the Ohio results in court. The problem is, Ms. Warner, that such a challenge would have been tossed out and Kerry would have not only looked like a sore loser, but an idiot who couldn't do the math. Because John Kerry lost Ohio by a decisive margin. He didn't have the votes.

Until major media outlets report the Republican victory as a sweep--which it was, with gains in the House and Senate even more dramatic than Bush's close Presidential margin (indicating more doubts about Bush than about Republicans in general)--it indicates that the media has not only not given up, they will continue to snipe and sabotage the administration, like the "insurgents" in Iraq.

If Bush doesn't want this media insurgency to spread, he needs to move more quickly than he did in Iraq.

For example:

* Demand the retirement of Dan Rather from CBS, today.
* Investigate the exit poll scandal by NEP and Mitofsky Associates, paid for by AP and major media, that led to "rumors" of Kerry winning Florida and Ohio. Begin civil action for fraud against the perpetrators.
* Put media critics like Tim Graham of the National Review on the board of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting--to put an immediate stop to stunts like Bill Moyers' claim, on PBS's Charlie Rose show, that Republicans wanted a "coup."

Otherwise, two years from now, Bush could be facing a Democratic House, a Democratic Senate, and possible impeachment.

Dutch Police Investigate Al Qaeda Links to van Gogh Murder


"AMSTERDAM — Police are reportedly investigating a possible connection between the man suspected of killing Dutch filmmaker and columnist Theo van Gogh and the terror network al-Qaeda.

"The Netherlands-born suspect — identified as Mohammed B., 26, holding Dutch and Moroccan nationality — also had contact with eight other men arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of terrorist activities.

"The arrests were made as police raided B.'s house in Marianne Philipsstraat in Amsterdam-Slotermeer and four other homes in the Dutch capital on Wednesday. Police seized computers, videos and literature."

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Dutch Arrest 8 Suspects in Van Gogh Murder

From Yahoo! News:

"AMSTERDAM, Netherlands - Dutch police have arrested eight suspected Islamic radicals as part of the investigation into the brutal slaying of outspoken filmmaker Theo van Gogh, prosecutors said Wednesday."

Extremist Murders Dutch Filmmaker Theo Van Gogh

From Reuters:

"AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The suspect arrested for the killing of a controversial Dutch filmmaker had ties with Islamic extremists and was a friend of a terrorist suspect, Dutch newspapers said on Wednesday. Amsterdam police declined to comment on the information or their investigation. 'He is under arrest, but I can't say where he is or what we are doing,' a spokesman said.
Filmmaker Theo van Gogh, who had been accused by Muslims of ridiculing their religion, was shot dead on his bicycle on Tuesday. Two knives were left in his body, one pinning a note to his chest.

"The Volkskrant newspaper said the 26-year-old suspect, who has dual Dutch and Moroccan nationality, was known to national security services but was not among a group of 150 Muslims the AIVD security service is monitoring. De Telegraaf paper said the suspect was a friend of Samir Azzouz, whose arrest in June provoked a national 'terror alarm' after detailed maps of buildings and weapons were found in a house search.

"A picture on the front page of De Telegraaf showed the body of filmmaker Theo Van Gogh lying on the street with two knives sticking out. Police had no comment on the note pinned to his chest. Dutch media said on Tuesday it contained lines from the Koran, the Muslim holy book.

"Van Gogh, 47, a great grandson of the brother of 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh, had stirred controversy with newspaper articles, books and films voicing his contentious views on Islam after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States."

Bush Won

Bush won Ohio. It is statistically impossible for Bush to lose, with 120,000 vote margin of victory and 51-49 percent division.

Martin Walker on Europe and the US Election

From UPI:

"Any visitor to the capitals of Europe from the United States these days can expect to be interrogated hard on the prospects of the American presidential election. The questions come from politicians and government officials, from business people and casual acquaintances in hotel lobbies and bars, from friends and family. And they all want to know whether they have to expect four more years of President George W. Bush The Europeans read the opinion polls avidly. They know the difference between red and blue America, between safe Democratic states like New York and Bush's solid South. They can distinguish between battleground states like Ohio, which went for Bush last time, and Pennsylvania, which went for Al Gore."

Latest from Ohio

From The Columbus Dispatch - Election:

"Locked in a state-by-state drama early this morning, President Bush inched toward a second term as he and Sen. John F. Kerry awaited the outcome of a historic election that set a new standard for America's participatory democracy.

"The Ohio result -- and the election nationally -- could come down to provisional, military and overseas ballots, which aren't counted for at least 10 days amid eligibility and other issues.

"As Ohio and a handful of other crucial states continued to tally votes past 2:30 a.m., the outcome remained uncertain in an epic battle transformed by a massive voting surge in a politically engaged and deeply divided nation at war.

"With 88 percent of the nation's precincts reporting, Bush held a comfortable 3.5 million popular-vote lead -- an ironic turnabout from 2000 when he lost the popular vote -- but neither candidate had collected the 270 electoral votes needed to win.

"Ohio's crucial 20 electoral votes hung in the balance, although at least two television networks projected Bush would win the state. Bush held a 126,000 vote lead in Ohio with 96 percent of the state's precincts counted, forging a narrow 3 percentage-point lead, 51-49."

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Did Carter's Foreign Policy Lead to 9/11?

Amir Taheri argues in The New York Post that US support for Islamism began in the Carter administration with Zbigniew Brzezinski, who favored Ayatollah Khomeni as an anti-Soviet ally. He sought the "creation of a string of Islamic allies that, for religious and political reasons, would prefer the United States against the 'godless' Soviet empire."

Taheri notes, "The second stage in Brzezinski's grand strategy was to incite the Muslim peoples of the Soviet Union to revolt against Moscow and thus frustrate its global schemes."

Taheri concludes:

The slogan "America cannot do a damn thing" became the basis of all strategies worked out by Islamist militant groups, including those opposed to Khomeini.

That slogan was tested and proved right for almost a quarter of a century. Between Nov. 4, 1979, and 9/11, a total of 671 Americans were held hostage for varying lengths of time in several Muslim countries. Nearly 1,000 Americans were killed, including 241 Marines blown up while sleeping in Beirut in 1983.

For 22 years the United States, under presidents from both parties, behaved in exactly the way that Khomeini predicted. It took countless successive blows, including the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York, without decisive retaliation. That attitude invited, indeed encouraged, more attacks.

The 9/11 tragedy was the denouement of the Nov. 4 attack on the U.S. embassy in Tehran.

[link via Instapundit]

Monday, November 01, 2004

Osama Bin Laden Un-Censored

From Al Jazeera, the complete text of Osama Bin Laden's recent videotape.

Yes, he says he can't deal with the Bush administration, and threatens to punish states that do the wrong thing. Reads almost like a Kerry endorsement... [thanks to Tim Blair for the link].

Mark Steyn on the US Election

In The Spectator he declares:

"If Bush goes, I go."

Sunday, October 31, 2004

They Really Don't Get It, Do They?

Except the dissenter, Al-Sharq al-Awsat, according to BBC News:

"Several Arabic newspapers believe Osama Bin Laden's video appeal to the American people a few days before Tuesday's presidential election will harm George W Bush's chances of re-election.
However, one dissenting Pan-Arab daily sees the Bin Laden intervention as boosting the incumbent's chances."

Pew Survey: Bush Ahead 48-45 Percent

From Pew's voter survey:

"President George W. Bush holds a slight edge over Senator John Kerry in the final days of Campaign 2004. The Pew Research Center's final pre-election poll of 1,925 likely voters, conducted Oct. 27-30, finds Bush with a three-point edge (48% to 45% for Kerry); Ralph Nader draws 1%, and 6% are undecided."

Don't Cry for Arafat, BBC Reporters...

Roger L. Simon has a column that is like something out of a Middle Eastern Evita:

"Some years ago, a Russian woman friend of mine described what it was like in her classroom - she was eight at the time - when Stalin died. She sat there apprehensive something would happen to her while her classmates and teachers wept and sobbed over the death of the man who was probably history's greatest mass murderer.

"I was reminded of this story when I read (via Normblog and several emails from readers) this strange tale of weeping over the departure of Arafat by West Bank BBC Correspondent Barbara Plett. Apparently the Palestinian knew something that Ms. Plett didn't know. They didn't turn out for the caudillo's departure, but the BBC's woman-in-place was somehow moved. Her reason:

"Despite his obvious failings - his use of corruption, his ambivalence towards violence, his autocratic way of ruling - no one could accuse him of cowardice.
I guess you could say the same thing of Stalin, Hitler and Attila the Hun. Kinda brings tears to your eyes, don't it? (I wonder what her defnition of 'ambivalence' is)"

Mark Steyn on John Kerry's Endorsements

From The Chicago Sun Times:

"Reading the media 'endorsements' of John Kerry is like having lunch with a woman who wants to tell you about her great new boyfriend. She spends seven-eighths of the time bitching about the old boyfriend -- cocky, hot-headed, insensitive, never wants to listen, never gonna change -- and in the remaining few minutes tries to come up with the new guy's good points:
'Mr. Kerry himself is not a compelling candidate. But this year he offers a --'
Yes? "

Stop John Kerry Before It Is Too Late...

From The Diplomad:

"In the past two days, we all now have heard this rubbish coming back at us out of the mouth of no less a scoundrel as Osama bin-Ladin, himself. It undoubtedly stiffens the resolve of those fighting our soldiers and marines in Iraq and Afghanistan; those who sit in fetid flats in European public housing projects planning the next attack on an American Embassy or airliner; those crazies in the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, and Malaysia who dream of creating a pan-Islamic empire in SE Asia free of foreigners and their hated ideas and other influences.

"The damage being done to America is real and lasting. And real living and breathing Americans will pay for this with their lives.

"We have to fight this war on two fronts: in the Far Abroad and in the Close at Home. In the Far Abroad our superb military and intelligence services are daily winning victories over the terrorist thugs -- some victories you hear of, others you don't. At home, the Democratic Party must be saved from itself. A good way to start is to administer the Democratic candidate a severe electoral beating, so severe that there can be no doubt of the Bush victory. Then, perhaps the good people will realize what has happened to their party and will wrest it back from the knaves and traitors who now run it. We can only hope."

ENDORSEMENT: Tom Dawson for DC School Board

We saw his statement in the Washington Post, and googled him on the web to find out more about Tom Dawson. We liked what we saw. That is why we are endorsing Tom Dawson for DC School Board. On his web page, which he calls Tom's Letter to You, he posts this simple platform:

If elected, I will work to strengthen all our public schools by:

Establishing rigorous academic achievement standards for students,
Setting subject area competency requirements for teachers,
Increasing accountability for schools by instituting credible performance measurements.
I pledge to work with you to improve the quality of education in our community by meeting regularly with our PTAs and other community organizations and soliciting your input on how to improve our schools.

Sounds ok to me...

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Another Returned Peace Corps Volunteer for Bush

Nathan Hamm endorses the President:

"It often shocks the hell out of people when I tell them that my political realignment since 9/11 has almost everything to do with my service in the Peace Corps. Whether or not that service emphasized already latent biases and beliefs, I can’t say for certain, but it definitely did teach me that those in thrall to the international system as it exists now cause more problems than they solve.

"Even before 9/11, I became convinced that the UN did more to make governments feel good about themselves than they did for the people they purportedly help. I saw that too many Western NGOs were more concerned with what they could put in their annual reports than what they were actually doing to make a difference. I saw that what people really want and need in their lives is more capitalism and the guarantees from their government that they will be able to keep and reinvest what their work earns. I learned that there is absolutely no shame in materialism–it’s a much better provider than comforting progressive ideologies. I heard time and time again that America is admired for its strength, its culture, and its very evident and visible willingness to help without asking for anything in return.

"To sum it up, I saw that the people here who tell me they know how the world works and what the world needs because they spent a few weeks in Guatemala are insufferable fools.

"I tell people time and time again that my primary motivation for voting Bush is that I think we are but on the cusp of a long-term ideological and military battle against a murderous ideology. This fight, if it is to involve international institutions, requires leadership that understands that these same institutions are geared towards the challenges of the Cold War, not the modern world. It requires someone who doesn’t dick around with rhetorical niceties. It requires someone that understands that, as during the Cold War, vigilance and a strategic view of foreign policy are required to secure our safety. It requires someone who recognizes that spreading the gospel of democracy and free markets is not something to shy away from, but absolutely vital as we engage the world. These are all lessons that my life overseas either reinforced or taught me.

"Does Bush satisfy me 100% on all these counts? No, but he satisfies me enough, especially next to John Kerry, that another four years of Bush will push this country in the right foreign policy direction."

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Red Sox World Series Roundp


Pigs can fly, hell is frozen, the slipper finally fits,
and Impossible Dreams really can come true.
The Red Sox have won the World Series "

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Down to 5 States

Electoral Vote map from RealClear Politics shows just New Mexico, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Florida still in play...

Monday, October 25, 2004

Hitchens Endorses Bush

From The Nation [link via]:

"One of the editors of this magazine asked me if I would also say something about my personal evolution. I took him to mean: How do you like your new right-wing friends? In the space I have, I can only return the question. I prefer them to Pat Buchanan and Vladimir Putin and the cretinized British Conservative Party, or to the degraded, mendacious populism of Michael Moore, who compares the psychopathic murderers of Iraqis to the Minutemen. I am glad to have seen the day when a British Tory leader is repudiated by the White House. An irony of history, in the positive sense, is when Republicans are willing to risk a dangerous confrontation with an untenable and indefensible status quo. I am proud of what little I have done to forward this revolutionary cause. In Kabul recently, I interviewed Dr. Masuda Jalal, a brave Afghan physician who was now able to run for the presidency. I asked her about her support for the intervention in Iraq. 'For us,' she said, 'the battle against terrorism and against dictatorship are the same thing.' I dare you to snicker at simple-mindedness like that.

"I could obviously take refuge in saying that I was a Blair supporter rather than a Bush endorser, and I am in fact a member of a small international regime-change 'left' that originates in solidarity with our embattled brothers and sisters in Afghanistan and Iraq, brave people who have received zero support from the American 'antiwar' movement. I won't even consider any reconsideration, at least until Islamist websites start posting items that ask themselves, and not us: Can we go on taking such casualties? Have our tactics been too hideous and too stupid? Only then can anything like a negotiation begin. (Something somewhat analogous may be true, and I say it with agony, about the Israel-Palestine dispute, which stands a very slightly better chance of a decent settlement if an almost uncritically pro-Israeli Democrat is not elected.)

"The President, notwithstanding his shortcomings of intellect, has been able to say, repeatedly and even repetitively, the essential thing: that we are involved in this war without apology and without remorse. He should go further, and admit the evident possibility of defeat--which might concentrate a few minds--while abjuring any notion of capitulation. Senator Kerry is also capable of saying this, but not without cheapening it or qualifying it, so that, in the Nation prisoners' dilemma, he is offering you the worst of both worlds. Myself, I have made my own escape from your self-imposed quandary. Believe me when I say that once you have done it, there's no going back. I have met a few other ex-hostages, and they all agree that the relief is unbelievable. I shall be meeting some of you again, I promise, and the fraternal paw will still be extended."

Ivy League for Kerry

An account from dissident professor Ruth Wisse in Opinion Journal:

"Last spring, I was surprised by a call from a reporter at the Harvard Crimson asking me to comment on my contribution to the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign. His inquiry was prompted by the disparity he'd discovered in donations by Harvard faculty of about $150,000 for Kerry to about $8,000 for Bush. (The figures have since changed but not the percentages.) I could have filled the whole issue of his paper with reasons for supporting Bush over Kerry, but as we both knew, the real story was the 'herd of independent minds'--the image is Harold Rosenberg's--charging through the American academy. The Federal Election Commission could not have foreseen that when it required employment information on political donations of over $200, it would expose scandalous uniformity in a university community that advertises its diversity. The Sacramento Bee reported that the University of California system gave more to the Kerry campaign than any other single employee group, and that Harvard was second, with only 15,000 employees to UC's 160,000. Campus bloggers computed the percentages of Kerry contributions over Bush: Cornell 93%, Dartmouth 97%, Yale 93%, Brown 89%."

Boston Red Sox : The Official Site

For our readers who are sports fans, here is the home of the Boston Red Sox : The Official Site.

What Would Patton Say?

From Victor Davis Hanson's Private Papers:

"Applying Patton's thinking to today's situation, we can first recognize the so-called 'war on terror' as a misnomer. There has never really been a war against a method other than something like Pompey's crusade against the pirates or the British effort to stifle the slave trade. In fact, we're no more in a war against terror than Patton was fighting against 'Tiger and Panther' tanks. Patton, who understood the hold of a radically triumphalist Nazism on a previously demoralized German people, would have the intellectual honesty to realize that we are at war with Islamic fascists, mostly from the Middle East, who have played on the frustrations of mostly male, unemployed young people, whose autocratic governments can't provide the conditions for decent employment and family life. A small group of Islamicists appeals to the angst of the disaffected through a nostalgic and reactionary turn to a mythical Caliphate, in which religious purity trumps the material advantages of a decadent West and protects Islamic youth from the contamination of foreign gadgetry and pernicious ideas. In some ways, Hitler had created the same pathology in Germany of the 1930s."

RealClearPolitics Poll Posted by Hello

Bush Leads Kerry 48-45

From Reuters [via Powerlineblog and RealClearPolitics]:

"WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Bush holds a slender three-point lead over Democratic rival John Kerry in a tight race for the White House, according to a Reuters/Zogby poll released on Monday. Bush led Kerry 48-45 percent in the latest three-day tracking poll, gaining one point on the Massachusetts senator eight days before the Nov. 2 election. Bush led Kerry 48-46 percent the day before. About 5 percent of likely voters are still undecided heading into the final full week of the campaign, but Bush has opened a 12-point lead on Kerry among independents. "

Mark Steyn's Election Fun and Games

From SteynOnline:

"Electoral college play-offs! Here's your chance to win big in the final moments of Campaign 2004's electoral round before we move, around 9pm on Tuesday November 2nd, into the Campaign 2004 litigation round. If you're of a psephological bent - or just want to pick swing states out of John Kerry's magic CIA hat - we've prizes galore. And don't forget, unlike those of ballot clerks in tightly contested counties, all decisions of SteynOnline are final."

Sunday, October 24, 2004

American Candide

Saw I Heart Huckabees last night, and was pleasantly surprised. It wasn't 100 per cent succesful. It wasn't the best movie ever made, but at least it wasn't all exploding fireballs and shoot-em-ups. An all-star cast in a film about philosophy was kind of fun, the sort of picture we used to see in college, that they don't make anymore. The type of thing Woody Allen did, before he ran off with Mia Farrow's adopted daughter.

What was nice about this David O. Russell (Spanking the Monkey, Three Kings) production? An element of 60's/70's nostalgia. The cast, featuring Dustin Hoffman, Lily Tomlin, and Isabelle Huppert as well as current "It Boy" Jude Law, Mark Wahlberg, and Naomi Watts, was a throwback to The Graduate, Laugh-In, and The Lacemaker.The concerns of the film, the interest in French Existentialism vs. American Optimism (or Leibnizian Monadism, parodied by Voltaire in Candide), with Tomlin and Hoffman as contemporary Dr. Panglosses. There were some 1960s style graphic effects. There were lots of Ying-Yang conflicts: the Good Philosophers v. the Bad Philosophers; America vs. Europe; parents v. children; working class v. business class; experience v. thought; love v. lust; commerce v. environmentalism; skepticism v. religious faith; and even Black v. White. It is about the examined life being truly worth living, and a not-too veiled parable of psychotherapy.

An offhand remark from Lily Tomlin, about "that September thing" in relation to a fireman client, is one clue that Russell's film is in reaction to 9/11. Interestingly, it never mentions the threat of terrorism, yet the re-examination of life goals clearly was prompted by this struggle, just as the disastrous Lisbon earthquake and Spanish Inquisition provide the backdrop to Voltaire's tale.

The message of Candide, to cultivate one's garden, permeates I Heart Huckabees. For those of a philosophical bent, who don't need lots of action, this quirky, personal film is thought-provoking and well worth watching.

Putin Endorses Bush

Reports The Washington Post:

"Yet if the choice in the U.S. elections comes down to Bush the unilateralist vs. Kerry the alliance builder, Russia will still take the unilateralist. President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly made his preference clear in recent months. Even though he too opposed the invasion of Iraq, Putin last summer insisted that Democrats had no right to criticize President Bush, since the Clinton administration had done essentially the same in Yugoslavia. When Democrats bashed Bush for exaggerating Iraqi connections to terrorism, Putin volunteered that Russian intelligence had warned Washington that Saddam Hussein was planning terrorist attacks against the United States.

"And just last week, as if reading from the Bush-Cheney campaign Web site, Putin declared that terrorists in Iraq were rooting for John F. Kerry. "The goal of international terrorism is to prevent the election of President Bush to a second term," Putin told a news conference in Tajikistan."

Saturday, October 23, 2004

The NY Times' New Book Critic

Here's some good news, for a change, from The New York Times:

"William Grimes, who reviewed restaurants for The New York Times for nearly five years, will become one of the paper's three book reviewers, focusing on nonfiction, Jonathan Landman, the culture editor of The Times, has announced. Mr. Grimes, who stepped down as chief restaurant critic at the end of 2003, has spent most of this year writing reviews of consumer products and recounting his experiences under the heading 'Just Browsing.'"

I met Grimes, known to his intimates as "Biff," about a decade ago, as he covered an AEI symposium on American culture hosted by Ben Wattenberg, featuring erstwhile Supreme Court Justice Robert Bork. In the panel discussion, I compared Madonna to Gypsy Rose Lee, the legendary stripper. Bork objected, pointing out that he had seen Gypsy Rose Lee (in the flesh as it were), and that Madonna is no Gypsy Rose Lee. That interchange caught Grimes' ear, was noted in his New York Times coverage, and I was labelled a "pro-Madonna scholar." I think Bork was embarrassed to be revealed as a judge of the stipper's art as well as the Founder's intent. Result: I was never again asked to appear on an AEI culture panel.

After that, in a retreat from think-tankdom, I got to know Grimes a little bit. We had drinks together at the legendary Algonquin's Blue Bar. He did know his mixology! I followed with interest his dilemmas as a restaurant critic, the controversy over some of his negative reviews, the challenges of having to eat out all the time (be careful what you wish for, you may get it), and remaining anonymous; and his final move to a shopping column. When he praised Netflix, I subscribed. Grimes is an author as well as a critic. He wrote a cute, slim, little book, My Fine Feathered Friend about a chicken who lived in his backyard, as well a charming history of the cocktail, entitled Straight Up or On the Rocks; and a food dictionary, Eating Your Words: 2000 Words to Tease Your Tastebuds,

He's one of the best writers at the Times. And, he has a Ph.D. in Russian Literature from the University of Chicago, so can read Anna Karenina in the original.

Friday, October 22, 2004

US State Department Funded Al-Qaeda-linked NGO

According to the SITE Institute:

"A U.S.-based Islamic charity received millions of dollars in State Department funds for charitable work in Africa-at the same time that its overseas affiliates were allegedly funneling large sums of money directly to Osama bin Laden, according to newly released government documents. The new information about the Islamic American Relief Agency, and its parent organization in the Sudan, appears to represent the strongest evidence yet that, at least for several years in the late 1990s, U.S. taxpayer money may have been inadvertently used to finance the terrorist operations of Al Qaeda."

Bin Laden Still on Saudi Payroll?

Yes, says Roger L. Simon:

"According to 9-11 panelist John Lehman, Bin Laden is alive and well (?) in the inaccessible South Waziristan region of West Pakistan. Who knows if that's true, but here's the interesting part - George Soros he's not.

Asked how bin Laden was surviving, Lehman said he was getting money from outside countries, such as the United Arab Emirates, and high-ranking ministers inside Saudi Arabia.

'He is not a wealthy man,' Lehman said. 'We ran that information into the ground, and discovered he only receives about $1 million a year from his family's fortune. The rest of what he gets comes from radical sympathizers.'"

Why American Jews Should Vote Republican

From The Diplomad:

"Israel & Terror: President Bush has been a strong supporter of Israel, perhaps the most supportive of any President since Richard Nixon. He has not given into the phony moral-equivalence arguments about terrorism and Israel's response to it that you hear from liberals and Europeans. He has shunned the creepy, murderous Arafat. Now we see that Arafat has come out in support of Senator Kerry, which has Kerry scrambling around Florida's Jewish communities and hoping to win votes by saying 'Oy vey,' which is Hebrew for 'Read my lips, I have a plan.' President Bush has an excellent record on Israel, and should outpoll Kerry among Jews just for that; he does not deserve to lose four-to-one. The fact that President Bush has solid support among Christian conservatives should not scare Jews away--the Christian conservatives are every bit as pro-Israel as Jews themselves. Christians and Jews are in this battle together! On the same side! We would all fare very badly in the Wahabi Islamic Republic of America."

NGOs Hurt the Poor

From Sebastian Mallaby's article in Foreign Policy [link via Instapundit]:

"But it is also a tragedy for the fight against poverty worldwide, because projects in dozens of countries are similarly held up for fear of activist resistance. Time after time, feisty Internet-enabled groups make scary claims about the iniquities of development projects. Time after time, Western publics raised on stories of World Bank white elephants believe them. Lawmakers in European parliaments and the U.S. Congress accept NGO arguments at face value, and the government officials who sit on the World Bank's board respond by blocking funding for deserving projects. The consequences can be preposterously ironic. NGOs claim to campaign on behalf of poor people, yet many of their campaigns harm the poor. They claim to protect the environment, but by forcing the World Bank to pull out of sensitive projects, they cause these schemes to go ahead without the environmental safeguards that the bank would have imposed on them. Likewise, NGOs purport to hold the World Bank accountable, yet the bank is answerable to the governments who are its shareholders; it is the NGOs-- accountability that is murky. Furthermore, the offensives mounted by activist groups sometimes have no basis in fact whatsoever. "

Roger Kimball's The Rape of the Masters

Unfortunately, we couldn't attend today's lecture at the Hudson Institute here in Washington. It featured Roger Kimball talking about his new book, The Rape of the Masters. We found some excerpts at The New Criterion website; the book looks interesting:

"Why do we teach and study art history? A question that elicits a complicated answer. To learn about art, yes, but also to learn about the cultural setting in which art unfolds; in addition, to learn about--what to call it? 'Evolution' is not quite right, neither is 'progress.' Possibly 'development': to learn about the development of art, then, how artists 'solved problems'--for example, the problem of modeling three-dimensional space on an essentially two-dimensional plane.

"Those are some of the answers, or some parts of the answer, most of us would give. There are others. We teach and study art history--as we teach and study literary history or political history or the history of science--partly to familiarize ourselves with humanity's adventure in time. We expect an educated person in the West to remember what happened in 1066, to know the plot of Hamlet, to understand (sort of) the laws of gravity, to recognize The Venus of Urbino when he sees it. These are aspects of a huge common inheritance, episodes that alternately bask in and cast illuminations and shadows, the interlocking illuminations and shadows of mankind's conjuring with the world.

"All this might be described as the dough, the ambient body of culture. The yeast is supplied by direct acquaintance with the subject of study: the poem or play, the mental itinerary a Galileo or Newton traveled, the actual work of art on the wall. In the case of art history, the raison d'etre--the ultimate motive--is supplied by a direct visual encounter with great works of art. Everything else is prolegomenon or afterthought, scaffolding to support the main event, which is not so much learning about art as it is experiencing art first hand."

Jeff Danziger's Racist Cartoon

From OpinionJournal, this item about a racist cartoon distributed by the New York Times syndicate:

"It's no secret that Jeff Danziger is a syndicated cartoonist who leans left of center. But who knew that he also considers himself an arbiter of black authenticity?

"One of Mr. Danziger's recent illustrations features National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice as a semi-literate mammy. Ms. Rice--a Russia scholar, former provost of Stanford University and concert pianist--is drawn barefoot and wearing a housedress. Mr. Danziger forgot to put a handkerchief on her head, but the size of her lips has been exaggerated sufficiently to make up for that oversight. She's sitting in a rocking chair and nursing an aluminum tube as though it were an infant. The caption reads: 'I KNOWS ALL ABOUT ALUMINUM TUBES! (Correction) I DON'T KNOW NUTHIN' ABOUT ALUMINUM TUBES . . .'

"Mr. Danziger, a proud member of the media's 'Bush Lied!' brigade, is making a point about the administration's supposed manipulation of prewar intelligence on Iraq. The caption is an apparent reference to Prissy, the house slave in 'Gone With the Wind' who uttered something similar about babies.

"A substantive debate about the president's handling of the war is something reasonable people welcome, especially in an election year. But it's impossible to see where the national security adviser's race or sex fits in to a debate about what Saddam Hussein planned to do with his aluminum tubes."

Are International NGOs Out of Control?

From Gerald M. Steinberg's article in Middle East Quarterly:

"The horrors of the Holocaust and the outrage over the failure of Allied powers to intervene provided the impetus for the creation of today's international human rights system, anchored in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The United Nations (U.N.) and individual governments were the primary actors in establishing new international norms, but in time, a network of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) essentially privatized this international regime. The most powerful of them--Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch (HRW), the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), and others--exert a tremendous influence in the U.N., the European Union (EU), and Western capitals. The NGO community has prospered and grown. In 1948, sixty-nine NGOs had consultative status at the U.N.; by 2000 their numbers had swollen to over 2000, the majority defining themselves as 'universal human rights organizations'.

"Initially, human rights NGOs did little work in the Middle East. During the 1970s, these groups played a central role in the Helsinki process and in furthering the human rights agenda of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE). Helsinki Watch (which later became Human Rights Watch) and Amnesty International were instrumental in protesting the denial of human rights to Jews in the Soviet Union and the communist regimes of eastern Europe, including the case of Anatoly (Natan) Sharansky.

"The emphasis in this early stage was on the protection of the rights of individuals in repressive systems. But over the last decade, NGOs have expanded their agendas dramatically, going far beyond campaigning against the violation of individual rights. The leaders of these organizations have been able to parlay the platforms and the massive resources at their disposal, to influence "high politics" on behalf of those they cast as the weak and oppressed. NGOs were heavily involved in the politics of the civil conflict between the Colombian government and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarios de Colombia (FARC) guerillas, in the boycott that led to regime change in South Africa, in the debate over the legality of the Iraq war, and in the complex negotiations on the convention to ban land mines. NGOs are also very active in civil-society-building activities that reflect explicitly political and ideological agendas in many countries around the world.

"In the process, they have taken sides in international disputes. Nowhere has that been more evident than in the case of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Major NGOs such as HRW, Amnesty, and Christian Aid, working closely with the media and groups such as the U.N. Human Rights Commission, have been instrumental in promoting the Palestinian political agenda, using the terminology of international law. In 2001, the NGO community set the political agenda and shaped the discussions of the U.N. World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance (WARC, held in Durban, South Africa), a gathering that became an anti-Israeli rally. NGOs also drove the U.N. General Assembly resolution that referred the Israeli separation barrier to the International Court of Justice in The Hague. These NGOs also have gained a great deal of influence in shaping the Middle East policies of the EU, both collectively and as expressed by individual governments, as well as in the U.S. State Department."

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Marco Polo in the Cornfields

Also while I was in Bloomington, I had a chance to hear the Silk Road Ensemble in concert at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater, a lovely old movie house cum cultural center. It was a fantastic evening.

The Silk Road ensemble is:
Rahman Assadollahi - Qarmon (Azerbaijani button Accordion)–absolutely spectacular! A real star, magnificent showmanship, passion, muscisianship, energy, and with a shock of white hair, big moustache, and dramatic flair. He’s from Tehran, and was just wonderful, such pain and sadness and joy and longing all combined in virtuoso solos. The audience went wild, all his CDs disappeared immediately from the sales kiosk in the lobby.
Munish Sharifov-Kamancha –from Azerbijan, excellent, too, played Eastern and Western numbers with great panache.
Novrus Mamedov-Vocal, Saz & Percussion–also Azerbaijani, also wonderful.
Arif Bagirov-Tar & Guitar-born in Azerbijan, he taught at Tashkent Music School Number 1, and was accompanist fro Ilyas Malayev and Mahabbat Shamayeva.
Avner Shakov-Naqara and Doira–born to a Bukharan Jewish family of musicians, he was the Ringo Starr of this group. Not surprisingly, he’s an alumnus of the drum department at the Tashkent conservatory.
Hakan Toker-Piano-from the Turkish city of Mersin, he has a piano degree from Indiana University. He was young and handsome, with a moustache that looked like one on a terra cotta relic from Alexander the Great. He got up and danced, too…
Shahyar Daneshgar-Vocal and Percussion-an Azerbaijani from Tehran, also an IU alumnus–and a lecturer on Central Eurasian Studies. He’s such a good musician, and such a charming MC, I’d believe what he says about the region…

They gave a heck of a performance. The show began at 7:30 and lasted until after 11 pm. There was a big delegation of Azerbaijanis in the audience, the concert was so exciting that lots of them marched up onto the stage and started dancing to the accordion and orchestra.

If I were I musicologist, I could tell you what it all meant. But all I can say was the show was great, the musicians were great, the MC was great. If the Silk Road ensemble ever plays near you, run–don’t walk–to the ticket office…

Art in the Cornfields

Last weekend, after giving a talk at an academic conference at Indiana University, I took a short drive along twisting country roads to Nashville, Indiana. The town is an art colony, and since the 1920s has been a favored retreat for painters from Indianapolis. It is nearby the historic home/studio of T.C. Steele (1847-1926), founder of the "Hoosier Group" of artists. Nashville is a little bit like Carmel, California, with a midwestern accent. Nowadays, the town is pretty touristy. There is a fake train that pulls visitors on tours through the streets, lots of scented candle shops, and a gallery/shop dedicated to the work of Thomas Kinkade, "painter of light". Those sort of tourist traps aren't worth a detour. Luckily, there is much that is worth seeing and experiencing. For example, I had lunch at a fish fry under a big white tent, sponsored by the Volunteer Fire Department. Along with the fried fish sandwich I got an ear of fresh roasted corn (they ran out of apple cider), no doubt picked at a nearby farm. Down the road from the fish fry was the municipal Brown County Art Gallery, founded in 1926. It displayed a lot of works, in a variety of styles. And while Nashville, Indiana isn't Greenwich Village or Paris, it is a very nice spot to stop for lunch on the road from Bloomington to Indianapolis. At this time of year, the fall foliage was turning, so the ride featured colorful splashes of reds and golds around every turn. And artists still live in the area. From October 1-31, Brown County offers an artist's studio tour.

Florida's Terror Factor

According to Daniel Pipes, the terror factor is making a difference in the Florida senate campaign:

"Both candidates 'are consumed with al-Arian,' notes Marc Caputo in the Miami Herald. But there the symmetry stops, for the public so far has penalized Ms Castor and rewarded Mr. Martinez. It recognizes that for Mr. Martinez, Mr. Al-Arian was not an issue while Castor for six long years failed to handle the problem the professor presented. According to a Mason-Dixon poll, Ms Castor's soft treatment of Mr. Al-Arian ranks as her 'chief weakness.' A Martinez advisor reports that when asked, 'Who do you think is better on terrorism?' voters favor Mr. Martinez 2-1. Mr. Martinez has also enjoyed a 20 percent increase since August of voters who view him favorably; Ms Castor won just a 4 percent increase. The 'all Al-Arian all the time' campaign has several implications:
As Islamist terrorism grows in menace and capabilities, how American politicians deal with it is becoming more central to their attractiveness as candidates and their stature as leaders. The American voter rewards a tough policy toward those suspected of ties to terrorism. Both major parties must ignore those activists (Grover Norquist for the Republicans, James Zogby for the Democrats) who argue for courting the Islamist vote. It is unclear who will win the tight Florida race; it is clear, however, that politicians who coddle terrorists have adopted a losing electoral strategy."

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

The Diplomad Endorses Bush

From The Diplomad:

"The Old Europeans and the NY Times bunch don't have a clue about how the world works. They think that words equal action; that feel-good resolutions and pronouncements at the UN, the International Criminal Court, or some other international fora will make evildoers reconsider. In fact, it's worse than that; they can't bring themselves to acknowledge the presence of evil, for them disputes are just misunderstandings open to resolution by men of goodwill. The Euros and their American imitators deny that Western civilization survives because the hard-pressed American taxpayer maintains 12 aircraft carrier battle groups, an incredibly lethal air force, and divisions of superbly trained and motivated marines and soldiers ready, willing and demonstrably able to reach out and 'touch' any corner of the globe. The same crowd who told us the USSR was a superpower with whom we needed to reach an accommodation, now tell us that the USSR was never really a threat and that it 'imploded' on its own, not because of anything the USA did. Likewise, they tell us that we are 'overreacting' to 9/11 and that, as a consequence, we have lost the sympathy of the world. They deride our patriotism and reverence for the flag, and snicker when we stand at attention at the playing of the Star Spangled Banner. They believe in the Michael Moore version of America. They simply cannot comprehend how it is that rock-and-roll addicted, video game playing, orange-haired, suburban teen-age 'mall rats' will respond to their country's hour of crisis, enlist in overwhelming numbers, and then in weeks take apart the 'fierce warriors of Afghanistan' or roll into Baghdad while hardly breaking a sweat. These people don't have a clue, and we must not elect a President who takes them seriously."

Team America: World Police

Reviewed by OpinionJournal - Best of the Web Today:

'"The Feel-Good Hit of the Season: This column doesn't normally do movie reviews, but we just have to let the world know how much we adore 'Team America: World Police,' which we saw Saturday night in a big-screen IMAX theater on Manhattan's Upper West Side. Seeing an audience in deep-blue Manhattan cheer the destruction of the Eiffel Tower restored our faith in American unity. Be warned: This film will not be everyone's cup of tea. It's rife with obscene language, explicit sex (albeit involving anatomically incorrect puppets) and fake vomit. Reviewer Ed Blank of the right-wing Pittsburgh Tribune-Review calls it a work of 'crude excess' that widens 'the abyss between satire and garbage.' But the sanctimonious left-wing twit Roger Ebert also pans it; he's especially aggrieved by the song 'Everyone Has AIDS,' which even Andrew Sullivan says 'deserves to win an Oscar.' If the gross-out elements don't put you off, you will find 'TAWP' heartwarming, hilarious, inspiring and patriotic. And, as New York Times reviewer A.O. Scott acknowledges, 'the movie has an argument.' Unfortunately, we can't tell you what the argument is, because it rests entirely on vulgar anatomical references, and this is a family newspaper's Web site. We will say that the argument is simple yet profound, making the case for the war on terror in a way that ought to be especially appealing to immature males. If this film continues to do well at the box office, it could give President Bush a boost with the youth vote."

A Short History of Assassins

Martin Kramer argues that assassination must be understod in the context of a struggle between tradition and modernity, in Middle East Quarterly:

"Until modern times, there existed no form of legitimacy in the Middle East outside of Islam. Rulers ruled in the name of God; assassins struck them down in the name of God. The assassinations of the early caliphs and the struggle between the Sunni rulers and the Assassins in the Middle Ages took precisely this form: each side claimed to act in accord with divine will, revealed in divine texts. Religion played a crucial role in the rationale of assassination, but it also played a crucial role in the rationale of government, law, and warfare--indeed, of everything. This invocation of God by the ruler and his assassin characterized the entire pre-modern period in the Islamic world, right up to the end of the nineteenth century. Assassination in modern times may be divided roughly into three sequential stages, in which the rationales shift dramatically. In the first stage, rulers continued to rule in the name of God as they always had, but their assassins claimed to act in the name of the nation. In the second stage, rulers themselves claimed to rule in the name of the nation; the assassins also claimed to act on behalf of the nation in striking them down. In the third stage, the present one, rulers still claim to rule in the name of the nation, but it is now assassins who claim to act in the name of God. This essay will briefly illustrate these three stages with examples."

News Flash: Kerry Talks Like Bush

From Language Log:

The thing is, I don't believe that George Bush's public speaking is nearly as different from John Kerry's, in terms of linguistic coherence, as (many) people think.

Let's start out by noting that the arguments about coherence go both ways. Bush has been stereotyped as linguistically and cognitively inept; but Kerry has been stereotyped as distracted by details, unable to articulate the forest for parenthesizing about the trees. When Kathleen Hall Jamieson told a NYT reporter that "the language of decisiveness is subject, verb, object, end sentence", she was supplying quotes to bolster the reporter's theory that "Kerry has a tendency to ramble, when an audience wants punchiness", and that he uses too many hedges, "words and grammatical constructions that imply uncertainty or qualification".

If you think about it, the two men's different stereotypes can be applied to exactly the same behavior, giving alternative and roughly opposite explanations for the same facts. If Bush sputters or rambles, it's because he's got some sort of linguistic or cognitive deficit: he's not intellectual enough. If Kerry sputters or rambles, it's because he's trying to be too nuanced, not responding from the gut: he's too intellectual.

But roughly as often as not, the stereotypes don't fit. For example, consider this passage from Kerry's side of the second presidential debate:

And I believe ((that)) if we have the option which scientists tell us we do
of curing Parkinson's
curing diabetes
uh uh a- a-
you know
some kind of a- a- of a-
uh ((s- p- th- you know))
paraplegic, or quadraplegic, or
uh uh you know a spinal cord injury, anything
that's the nature of the human spirit.

This is hardly a paragon of linguistic facility, either syntactically or phonetically. There's that embarrassingly long (almost 7-second) delay in lexical access. If George Bush had experienced a lexical-access breakdown like this, we'd have commentary all over the "internets" about early senile dementia and the like. There's also a pronunciation issue here -- an extra schwa between [p] and [l] in paraplegic and quadraplegic, similar to the extra schwa in Bush's much-discussed "nucular" pronunciation of nuclear.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Glenn Reynolds on Bush

From The Guardian :

"'God forbid a success story: 'US political blogger Glenn Reynolds says the media are doing their best to ignore the implication of elections elsewhere: that George Bush may have been doing something right."

Mark Steyn on the Debate

From SteynOnline:

1) Bob Schieffer is a terrible moderator: The questions are so much worse and so much more pompous than those from audience members last week. That lame-o 'poverty' question is a classic: It's fair enough to talk about poverty, but the assumption that the way to lessen poverty is to increase the minimum wage is reflexive leftie laziness.
2) 'Do you believe homosexuality is a choice?' Do you believe choosing dumb questions is a choice or socially conditioned by 73 years in the CBS newsroom?"

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

From Our Ironies of Fate Department...

Thanks to OpinionJournal, this fascinating history of the link between the Baghdad Opera House and Arizona State University, from The Observer:

"In his fading years, the American architect Frank Lloyd Wright embarked on a final grand project. Invited in 1957 by King Faisal of Iraq to design a new opera house, Wright expanded the brief into a plan for Baghdad complete with museums, parks, university and authentic bazaar. Dispensing with his 'prairie style', he peppered the scheme with domes, spires and ziggurats. The 1958 revolution meant that none of it was built. But the ever-resourceful Wright simply offered the design to a new client. And today, the Baghdad opera house is the Grady Gammage Memorial Auditorium at Arizona State University: an example of Wright's versatility and the forum for next week's presidential debate. Under the arches of a lost Iraqi skyline, George W Bush and John Kerry will meet in debate for the final time. "

Solizhan Sharipov Returns to the Cosmos

Ferghana.Ru reports that Solizhan Sharipov, an ethnic Uzbek Russian citizen, from Kyrgyzstan's Ferghana Valley, will blast off on October 14th.
Soyuz-TMA-5 commander Sharipov is a Russian cosmonaut from the Ferghana Valley. This is going to be his second space flight. In 1998, he was a pilot on the ten-day Russian-American Endeavor expedition to Mir station. On a request from Uzbek Academician Shavkat Vakhidov and this correspondent who accompanied him to Cape Canaveral, Sharipov took state flag of the Republic of Uzbekistan and pennant of Uzbekiston Khavo Iullari (national airlines) with him to the orbit. Sharipov was decorated for the flight - a NASA bronze medal, order Hero of Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbek order Buyuk Khizmatlar Uchun. Sharipov received the Russian order For Service to the Fatherland (IV degree) at a later date. Rukhaniyat international foundation made Sharipov the Man of 1998 and presented him with a Kyrgyz racer (it lives at Sharipov's dacha near his native Uzgen nowadays)."

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Mark Steyn on Ken Bigley's Murder

Here's the Mark Steyn column banned by The Telegraph:

"Paul Bigley can be forgiven his clumsiness: he's a freelancer winging it. But the feelers put out by the Foreign Office to Ken Bigley's captors are more disturbing: by definition, they confer respectability on the head-hackers and increase the likelihood that Britons and other infidels will be seized and decapitated in the future. The United Kingdom, like the government of the Philippines when it allegedly paid a ransom for the release of its Iraqi hostages, is thus assisting in the mainstreaming of jihad."

Putin Goes To China

From Mosnews:

Russian President Vladimir Putin, accused in the West of backtracking on democracy, turns East this week, the Reuters news agency reports. Putin will visit China which many in the Kremlin camp see as a model of an economically-successful autocracy. Some Chinese analysts also see Putin’s trip, starting on Thursday on the heels of one by French President Jacques Chirac, as a sign that China’s new leader Hu Jintao is seeking stronger ties with Europe and Russia to balance those with Washington. Putin’s three-day trip comes a month after he proposed to nominate rather than elect regional governors and change the rules of parliamentary polls —- moves, criticised in the West, that would strengthen his already tight grip on Russia. “In the eyes of foreign investors, the centralisation of political power can make Russia much more similar to China, which has the best investment climate among developing countries,” the business daily Vedomosti wrote."

Middle East Quarterly on The Arab Mind

From Middle East Quarterly:

"While critics skimmed [Raphael] Patai's book for generalizing quotes, they skirted the book's premise, as restated by De Atkine: culture matters and cultures differ. The realization by Americans that culture counts explains the commercial success of several cultural handbooks, addressing the very issues that concerned Patai. And while there is no reason to believe that The Arab Mind had the specific influence Hersh attributed to it, the resulting publicity has sent its sales soaring, further extending the life of the book. The following is De Atkine's foreword to The Arab Mind, reprinted here...

"...Finally, in his 1983 edition, Patai takes an optimistic view of the future of the Arab world but adds a caveat to his prediction with the comment that this could happen "only if the Arabs can rid themselves of their obsession with and hatred of Zionism, Israel, and American imperialism." In the eighteen years since those words were written, none of these obsessions has been put to rest. In fact, they have increased. The imported 1960s and 1970s Western ideologies of Marxism and socialism have given way to Islamism, a synthesis of Western-style totalitarianism and superficial Islamic teachings, which has resurrected historical mythology and revitalized an amorphous but palpable hatred of the Western "jinns." Nevertheless, many astute observers of the Arab world see the so-called "Islamic revival" with its attendant pathologies as cresting and beginning to recede. Ultimately, the Arabs, who are an immensely determined and adaptable people, will produce leadership capable of freeing them from ideological and political bondage, and this will allow them to achieve their rightful place in the world."

Giuliani on Kerry

Responding to quotes from Matt Bai's New York Times article, Giuliani takes on Kerry:

"'So I think this is a seminal issue, this is one that explains or ties together a lot of things that we've talked about. Even this notion that the Kerry campaign was so upset that the Vice President and others were saying that he doesn't understand the threat of terrorism; that he thinks it's just a law enforcement action. It turns out the Vice President was right. He does and maybe this is a difference, maybe this is an honest difference that we really should debate straight out. He thinks that the threat is not as great as at least the President does, and I do, and the Vice President does.'"

Why the Afghan Election Matters

From The Argus:

"If you haven't heard by now, the big fuss about yesterday's election in Afghanistan was over the use of the wrong ink. As the above picture shows, there were different methods for inking the thumbs of voters.* Now, I have no information either way, but I have seen nothing to indicate that all or only one of the two kinds of ink washed off. Regardless, the election is hailed as a major success, free of major irregularities. And, you know what, thank goodness that what everyone is complaining about is ink. Complaints about inks, ballot design, and what have you are the kinds of things that happen every day in democracies. That's not to say that Afghanistan has arrived, but it took a major step. Pictures of voters defy many of our stereotypes about what a democratic citizenry looks like, and to see hands emerging from beneath the folds of burqas to drop ballots into boxes makes for a pretty powerful image if you ask me. The success of yesterday's election lies in that it happened, that the Afghan people were enthusiastic about it, and that 'violence was the exception, not the rule.' Instead, there was excitement and celebration across the country (via Robert Tagorda)."

Monday, October 11, 2004

Roger L. Simon on the American Media

Roger L. Simon: Mystery Novelist and Screenwriter:

"Bad Fiction: I confess I paid little attention to ABCNEWS Political Director Mark Halperin's memo to his staff until a friend reminded me to look late last night. I did a double take. Are these people actually paid to do this? Even if journalism school (or whatever training Halperin took) is essentially meaningless, you would think that, after Rathergate, basic common sense would dictate you didn't put nonsense like this on paper, even internally:

The New York Times (Nagourney/Stevenson) and Howard Fineman on the web both make the same point today: the current Bush attacks on Kerry involve distortions and taking things out of context in a way that goes beyond what Kerry has done. Kerry distorts, takes out of context, and mistakes all the time, but these are not central to his efforts to win. We have a responsibility to hold both sides accountable to the public interest, but that doesn't mean we reflexively and artificially hold both sides 'equally' accountable when the facts don't warrant that.

Oolala. Talk about arrogance and bon chic bon genre... not even the pretense of journalistic even-handedness is made. It's almost self-parody. In fact, it is. Allow me to be blunt. These buffoons of the mainstream media as presently conceived must be upended and destroyed, their objectivity be revealed as the farce that it is. They are writers of fiction - and bad fiction at that. Strike that. Make that horrendous boring propaganda worthy of this building [ed. note, in Moscow during Soviet times]."

Nathan Hamm on the US Elections

From Holland's Amerika kiest:

"Needless to say, I'm disappointed with both candidates. The world stands at a turning point, and the times call for an extraordinary leader. Instead, our choice in America is between two ordinary men, neither of whom are doing anything to help make clear to Americans the gravity of the choice they will make next month."

Who Is Matt Bai?

The blogosphere is buzzing with reaction to Matt Bai's profile of John Kerry in the New York Times Sunday Magazine yesterday. So we looked him up, and found this biography at 1990 Tufts graduate, 1994 Columbia Journalism School product, so he knows his East Coast Liberals.

Bai's Kerry profile was genuinely interesting, and had some nice character moments, such as the time John Kerry told his aide to get rid of the Evian water and replace it with something American--Saratoga water, it turned out, after some prodding from Bai. "Sometimes I drink tap water," Kerry admitted. A Marie Antionette let-them-eat-cake moment, if there ever was one. The article quotes Yale's John Lewis Gaddis on the history of American pre-emption, and sketches out what a Kerry doctrine might look like, if Kerry could ever explain it. Basically, it's Bush-lite, the war on terror without the military.

Best of all is Bai's account of Kerry's apparent Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Symptoms include uncontrollable rages, generalized hostility and paranoia, and frequent flashbacks to killing people in Vietnam, a subject Kerry repeatedly raised with Bai.

Overall, an article well-worth reading, and not quite the sycophantic pablum that one has come to expect from The Times Magazine. Bai has a future ahead of him.

The same paper also has an almost pornographic front-page story of Kerry's wealthy childhood, summers spent in a French chateau, and Lifestyle of the Rich and Famous existence today as a neighbor of George Soros and Arnold Schwarzenegger. The Times story makes Kerry sound almost like Citizen Kane. All he needs is a sled called "Rosebud"...