Tuesday, August 31, 2004


John LeBoutillier says Bush's Freudian slip during the Republican Convention is a big boost for John Kerry:

"Day - and Night - One of the GOP Convention in New York was devoted to extolling President Bush’s conduct of the post-9/11 War on Terror. That is why former NYC Mayor Rudi Giuliani and Senator John McCain were selected by the convention organizers as the main speakers. But then something unexpected happened: President Bush told Matt Lauer on the TODAY SHOW that, on the very same topic - the War on Terror- 'I don’t think we can win it.'

"Can’t 'win' it?

"In Mr. Bush’s standard stump speech every day he talks about what we are doing to win the War on Terror! But suddenly he let his hair down and admitted we 'can’t win it.' By last night the Kerry/Edwards ticket - down for weeks due to the Swift Boat attacks - were re-energized. ABC’s NIGHTLINE lat night was devoted to this incredible misstatement/admission/blunder. It is unbelievable to think that on the very day of the Convention devoted to the War on Terror, GW Bush contradicts himself and thus undercuts the very premise of his re-election campaign!

"You can bet that John Kerry tomorrow in Nashville when he addresses the American Legion National Convention will use this blunder against President Bush. And you can bet that the Democrats will go on a full offensive with this “can’t win” statement.

"Their rejoinder?

"“We must win the War on Terror and we are going to win this war.”"

"Thank God that George Bush is Our President"

From CNN, a transcript of Rudy Giuliani's speech to the Republican convention.

Lileks on Giuliani

In The Bleat:

"But what Giuliani did was completely typical: aggressive graciousness. It's why people who disagree with many of his positions admire him greatly, and why he spoke Monday night. And dang: he was good. He was hard: first time I've heard someone get up and slam Arafat by name in such a context. A sharp elbow at Germany. A Kerry section played mostly for laughs. An amazing last 10 minutes - dodged nothing. It was like watching a blacksmith at work while he whistled opera "

Did the KGB Kill Lord Mountbatten?

From Mosnews:

"The Committee for State Security (KGB) of the Soviet Union was involved in the assassination of Lord Louis Mountbatten, cousin of the British Queen, Vlast weekly magazine writes... Lord Mountbatten was killed on August 27, 1979. He went fishing on a boat with his relatives near his Irish estate. The bomb, weighing 50 pounds, was put into a box with lobsters. The lord, one of his twin grandsons, Nicholas, 14, and a 15-year-old Irish youth employed as a boat boy, Paul Maxwell, were killed. The assassins were soon found. The Irish Republican Army (IRA) admitted carrying out the attack. However, the bomb was given to them by KGB officials, the weekly wrote quoting former security members. The KGB had links with the secretary general of the Irish Communist Party, Michael O'Riordan, who was connected with the IRA. It was well-known already that the USSR had helped the IRA and its communist wing. Joseph Stalin said once that "the Irish movement against British imperialism is a democratic movement--and that the Soviet Union m'ust support this movement.'"

From the Archives of Rudolph W. Giuliani

It was a very impressive speech that Rudy Giuliani gave on behalf of George Bush last night. He must have been a heck of a prosecutor in court, a real performance. Sometimes he didn't seem to fully believe everything he was saying, yet still he said it with tremendous panache. It certainly should help Bush. Too bad that Giuliani isn't at the top of the ticket, himself. Most notable were his repeated references to support for Israel as an important ally in the global war on terrorism. Giuliani went out of his way to talk about the Munich Olympics in 1972, the Achille Lauro hijacking, the failures of the European response, and the need for a consistently strong anti-terrorist stance. It's not a new position. Here's an old speech along similar lines from the Archives of Rudolph W. Giuliani .

Monday, August 30, 2004

The Patriotism Problem

By James Taranto.

Live, from New York

It's Roger L. Simon's Convention Blog.

France Stands Firm on Headscarf Ban

Won't give in to hostage-takers, says TurkishPress.com:

"Asked if there was any chance of the headscarf ban being suspended, Cope told Canal Plus television: "That is not the way to look at the problem. Our aim is to reject any link between the two issues and to emphasize the fact that the values of the French republic are a reference for the world... French newspapers gave blanket coverage to the hostage-taking on Monday, many stressing the sense of national unity that the crisis has provoked. 'War is ugly. But the absurd terrorism that today threatens Georges Malbrunot and Christian Chesnot is something else -- monstrous and indescribable. It is an entire vision of the world -- the freedom to speak, to describe, to inform -- that is at stake,' said Le Figaro in an editorial."

David Frum on the Franklin Case

From National Review :

"Somebody sold CBS News, NBC, and the Washington Post a grand conspiracy theory of sinister Zionist influence in the Pentagon based on -- well on what really? The theory alleges that
a) Two years ago, some Pentagon planners wrote a draft memo suggesting that the US adopt a tougher policy toward Iran; b) One of those planners then supposedly informed a friend at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee about the memo -- who in turn informed the Israeli embassy. Can we pause to consider what an amazing non-story all of this is? The memo in question - a draft of a proposed presidential policy directive for Iran - was essentially rejected. The Bush administration has opted since 2001 for a policy of engagement and attempted compromise with Iran. For all practical purposes, the memo was an expression of something close to a purely personal opinion. And even if the memo had been adopted, it involved no spycraft, no technical secrets. It simply offered a vision of what US policy toward Iran ought to be: a series of policy options. Discussing policy options with knowledgeable people -- and even with allied governments -- is not espionage. Which is why, after 18 months of investigation, the investigators were about to drop the matter. It looks as if whoever leaked the story of the investigation leaked it precisely because he or she was annoyed that the investigators were concluding that the whole thing was much ado about nothing. "

High School is Harder Than Ever

Instead of hanging out at the drugstore soda fountain, kids today are publishing research in scholarly journals. From The Washington Post:

"Across the country, new emphasis on rigorous college-preparation programs has resulted in thousands of high school students succeeding at the kinds of scholarly research that master's degree candidates tackle, educators say, even as some worry about the strain placed on 17-year-olds. A leading indicator is the growing number of high schools using the International Baccalaureate program, which includes a 4,000-word paper, called an extended essay, among its requirements. About 10,000 of these papers were written this year in the United States, six times as many as in 1990. In the Washington region, at least 20 public high schools have IB programs, and several more public and private schools are encouraging long research papers in selected classes."

Happy Birthday to the Internet

The Internet is 35-years old, according to this story from the Associated Press [via Matt Drudge]:

"Thirty-five years after computer scientists at UCLA linked two bulky computers using a 15-foot gray cable, testing a new way for exchanging data over networks, what would ultimately become the Internet remains a work in progress. University researchers are experimenting with ways to increase its capacity and speed. Programmers are trying to imbue Web pages with intelligence. And work is underway to re-engineer the network to reduce spam and security troubles. All the while threats loom: Critics warn that commercial, legal and political pressures could hinder the types of innovations that made the Internet what it is today. Stephen Crocker and Vinton Cerf were among the graduate students who joined UCLA professor Len Kleinrock in an engineering lab on Sept. 2, 1969, as bits of meaningless test data flowed silently between the two computers. By January, three other "nodes" joined the fledgling network."

The World Wide Web of Classical Music

From The Philadelphia Inquirer[link via Artsjournal]:

"While music lovers here and in other major cities weep at the decline of classical radio, something more stimulating has popped up when backs were turned: Web radio. In these dog days of August, a click of the mouse takes you to veteran pianist Alfred Brendel playing his final BBC Proms concert at Royal Albert Hall, Simon Rattle conducting the Wagner opera Das Rheingold with historically accurate instruments, and Audra McDonald singing an electrifying monologue from John Adams' still-in-progress opera, Doctor Atomic. And that's only London's BBC Radio 3. RAI 3 in Rome, RTBF Musique 3 in Brussels, and Radio France France-Musiques in Paris all generate their own distinctive programming, but also share among themselves, which means the BBC Rheingold you missed on a Thursday turns up weeks or months later in a Webcast from Lugano, Switzerland. There's so much music rattling around in this huge, global rotation that, with the proper home equipment, you can even access Placido Domingo in Poland - on video. And then there are the radio stations in Brazil. And Russia. As with shortwave radio, you can eavesdrop on the world."

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Why Bush Will Win

By Mark Steyn:

"So the most likely outcome this November is an increased Republican majority in the House, a couple of extra Senate seats, and a second term for Bush. I might be wrong. Anything is possible. But the reluctance of the British press to admit the possibility that Bush isn't a loser suggests that they too have over-invested in John Kerry's very weak hand."

Defeat Bush, Save the GOP

Niall Ferguson declares a Bush victory would paradoxically only help Democrats, in OpinionJournal :

"It is doubtless not the most tactful question to ask on the eve of the Republican convention, but might it not be better for American conservatism if George W. Bush failed to win a second term?"

Michael Ledeen on the Franklin Case

In Newsweek:

"NEWSWEEK's efforts to reach Franklin or a lawyer representing him were unsuccessful. But a close friend, Michael Ledeen of the American Enterprise Institute, said he believes the charges against Franklin are 'nonsensical.' Officials say that Franklin began cooperating about a month ago, after he was confronted by the FBI. At the time, these officials say, Franklin acknowledged meetings with the Israeli contact. Law-enforcement officials say they have no evidence that anyone above Franklin at the Pentagon had any knowledge of his activities."

Juan Cole on the Franklin Case

It's about Iran, says Juan Cole

Franklin Case Background: The 'Dual Loyalty' Charge

Nathan Guttman explains:

"If the case of a 'mole' in the U.S. Department of Defense turns out to be true, it would be the most grievous blow to the American Jewish community in years. As depicted Friday evening on the CBS television network, the story managed to touch all the most sensitive aspects of the status of Jews in America and Israel's role in the machinery of American foreign policy considerations. It breathes new life into the assertion that Israeli and not American interests led to the war in Iraq. It revives the old charge that Israel is not an ally but a treacherous country, and the old saw that American Jews have a 'divided loyalty' problem in their preference for Israeli over American interests.

"A major Jewish figure said Saturday he felt positively relieved when he learned that Larry Franklin, the suspect in the case, is not actually Jewish. At least the charge that Jews in key positions are not sufficiently loyal won't stand up in this case."

Franklin Case Targets Wolfowitz?

So says Haaretz :

"'A government official who has been briefed on the investigation said that F.B.I. officials had earlier expressed an interest in interviewing two of Mr. Franklin's superiors, Douglas Feith, the under secretary of defense for policy, and Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy defense secretary...'"

More on the Franklin Case: CIA v. DoD?

By Laura Rozen, et al, in The Washington Monthly

"Alarm bells about the December 2001 meeting began going off in U.S. government channels only days after it occurred. On December 12th 2001, at the U.S. Embassy in Rome, America's newly-installed Ambassador, Mel Sembler, sat down for a private dinner with Ledeen, an old friend of his from Republican Party politics, and Martino, the Italian defense minister. The conversation quickly turned to the meeting. The problem was that this was the first that Ambassador Sembler had heard about it.

"According to U.S. government sources, Sembler immediately set about trying to determine what he could about the meeting and how it had happened. Since U.S. government contact with foreign government intelligence agencies is supposed to be overseen by the CIA, Sembler first spoke to the CIA station chief in Rome to find out what if anything he knew about the meeting with the Iranians. But that only raised more questions because the station chief had been left in the dark as well. Soon both Sembler and the Rome station chief were sending anxious queries back to the State Department and CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia, respectively, raising alarms on both sides of the Potomac."

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Laura Rozen on the Larry Franklin Spy Case

From War and Piece:

"For months, I have been working with my colleagues Paul Glastris and Josh Marshall on a story for the Washington Monthly about pre-war intelligence. In particular, the component I have been focusing on involves a particular series of meetings involving officials from the office of the undersecretary of defense for Policy Doug Feith and Iranian dissidents.

"As part of our reporting, I have come into possession of information that points to an official who is the most likely target of the FBI investigation into who allegedly passed intelligence on deliberations on US foreign policy to Iran to officials with the pro-Israeli lobby group, AIPAC, and to the Israelis, as alleged by the CBS report. That individual is Larry Franklin, a veteran DIA Iran analyst seconded to Feith’s office.

"Here is what I was told in the days before the FBI investigation came to light.

"A source told me that some time in July, Larry Franklin called him and asked him to meet him in a coffee shop in Northern Virginia. Franklin had intelligence on hostile Iranian activities in Iraq and was extremely frustrated that he did not feel this intelligence was getting the attention and response it deserved. The intelligence included information that the Iranians had called all of their intelligence operatives who speak Arabic to southern Iraq, that it had moved their top operative for Afghanistan, a guy named Qudzi, to the Iranian embassy in Baghdad, that its operatives were targeting Iraqi state oil facilities, and that Iranian agents were infiltrating into northern Iraq to target the Israelis written about in a report by Seymour Hersh. According to my source, Franklin passed the information to the individual from AIPAC with the hope it could reach people at higher levels of the US government who would act on it. AIPAC presented the information to Elliot Abrams in the NSC. They also presented the part that involved Israelis who might be targeted to the Israelis, with the motivation to protect Israeli lives.

"A couple weeks ago, my source told me, he was visited by two agents of the FBI, who were asking about Franklin. My source couldn’t tell if Franklin was being investigated for possible wrongdoing, or if the FBI was visiting him because Franklin required some sort of higher level security clearance or clearance renewal, perhaps in order to get some sort of new position or posting abroad. My source soon after ran into another official from Feith's office, the polyglot Middle East expert and Bernard Lewis protege, Harold Rhode. My source mentioned the FBI meeting and asked Rhode if Franklin was in trouble. 'It's not clear,' Rhode allegedly told my source..."

You can read Rozen's whole story here.

More Evidence of a Power Struggle?

Here's a 2003 newspaper article about Larry Franklin mentioning antagonism between Colin Powell and Donald Rumsfeld:

"Administration officials said at least two Pentagon officials working for the Undersecretary of Defence for Policy, Douglas Feith, have held 'several' meetings with Manucher Ghorbanifar, the Iranian middleman in United States arms-for-hostage shipments to Iran in the mid-1980s. The officials who disclosed the secret meetings said the talks with Mr Ghorbanifar were not authorised by the White House and appeared to be aimed at undercutting sensitive negotiations with Iran's Government. A senior Administration official said the US Government had learned about the unauthorised talks by accident.

"The senior official and another Administration source said the ultimate objective of Mr Feith and a group of neo-conservative civilians inside the Pentagon is change of government in Iran. The immediate objective appeared to be to 'antagonise Iran so that they get frustrated and then by their reactions harden US policy against them'. The official confirmed that the Secretary of State, Colin Powell, complained directly to the Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, several days ago about Mr Feith conducting missions that went against US policy.

"A spokesman for Mr Feith's Near East, South Asia and Special Plans office, which sources said played a key role in contacts with Mr Ghorbanifar contacts, ignored an emailed inquiry about the talks. The senior Administration official identified two of the defence officials who met Mr Ghorbanifar as Harold Rhode, Mr Feith's top Middle East specialist, and Larry Franklin, a Defence Intelligence Agency analyst on loan to the undersecretary's office..."

Who is Larry Franklin?

Here's the entry from Co-Operative Research on the man the FBI has accused of being an Israeli spy at the Pentagon:

"June 2003: Complete Iraq timeline: The Pentagon Office of Special Plans sends two Defense officials, Harold Rhode and Larry Franklin, to Paris where they secretly meet with Manucher Ghorbanifar, an Iranian arms trader who had been a central figure in the Iran-Contra affair. Michael Ledeen of the American Enterprise Institute is said to have arranged the meeting, which is not authorized by the White House. [Newsday, 8/9/03; Washington Post, 8/9/03 Sources: A senior official interviewed by Newsday] It appears that the purpose of the meeting is to undermine a pending deal that the White House is negotiating with the Iranian government. Iran is considering turning over five al-Qaeda operatives in exchange for Washington dropping its support for Mujahadeen Khalq, an Iraq-based rebel Iranian group listed as a terrorist organization by the State Department. The Office of Special Plans is reportedly interested in using this group to help destabilize Iran?s government. [Newsday, 8/9/03; Inter Press Service, 8/7/03] When Secretary of State Colin Powell gets wind of its activities, he complains directly to the office of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, saying that Feith's missions are against US policy. [Newsday, 8/9/03; Washington Post, 8/9/03] People and organizations involved: Michael Ledeen, Manucher Ghorbanifar, Larry Franklin, Harold Rhode."

What does this mean? Perhaps that these spying charges are part of a power struggle within the Bush administration over Iran policy...

Chalmers Roberts' Life and Death Decision

Long-time Washington Post Correspondent Chalmers Roberts reflects on why he decided not to have a major operation. From The Washington Post:

"I could be dead when you read this. But I thought it might be worthwhile to put down my thoughts about how I decided to skip a lifesaving heart operation. I am a 93-year-old man with congestive heart failure. The operation I'm skipping would replace a heart valve that has given up on me with a new pig's valve..."

Friday, August 27, 2004

Happy Birthday Instapundit

And he's stopping blogging because of it:

"IT'S MY BIRTHDAY, which means no more blogging today unless something rather major happens. If you're bored tonight, check out the InstaWife's TV show Snapped on the Oxygen Channel. If you happen to be a Nielsen family, please invite several dozen of your friends to watch with you. . . ."

Do Americans Cover Up Terrorist Acts Better Than Russians?

Canada's National Post says American Airlines Flight 587 was a victim of terrorism, although the US denies it:

"'In discussions, Abu Abdelrahman mentioned AL QAIDA was responsible for the assassination of Massoud, the Northern Alliance leader,' the report says. 'According to the source, Abu Abdelrahman added that the 12 November 2001 plane crash (btb American Airlines flight 587) in Queens, New York was not an accident as reported in the press but was actually an AL QAIDA operation."

Saving Strauss from the Straussians

Thomas G. West argues that Washington neo-conservatives are not true Straussians:

"Quite a few of President Bush's critics maintain that since some prominent members of the administration and their defenders are known to be former students of Leo Strauss or of Straussians, one can trace Bush's foreign policy to Strauss's political ideas. Straussians in Washington tend to be neoconservatives, and, in foreign policy, prominent neocons like William Kristol and Robert Kagan advocate a policy of 'benevolent hegemony.' In their argument, a benign American imperialism is justified for two reasons. First, it provides security against foreign attack; that is, it delivers 'strategic benefits.' But their real enthusiasm is reserved for its second purpose, which is democratic reform of the rest of the world. That stance, they argue, not only serves American interest; it is a moral imperative. The policy of benevolent hegemony will 'relish the opportunity for national engagement, embrace the possibility of national greatness, and restore a sense of the heroic.' Kristol and Kagan also argue that their view is supported by the principles of the American founding: 'For conservatives to preach the importance of upholding the core elements of the Western tradition at home, but to profess indifference to the fate of American principles abroad, is an inconsistency that cannot help but gnaw at the heart of conservatism.' My impression as an outside observer is that Straussian influence in the administration has been grossly exaggerated. But let us assume for discussion's sake that it is strong. Since Strauss has been wildly accused of everything from being an admirer of Hitler to being a devotee of Wilsonian progressivism, I think it high time to clarify Strauss's understanding of foreign policy. I shall argue that although there is some common ground, Strauss's overall approach is quite different from that of Kristol, Kagan, and other prominent neoconservatives in and out of the administration."

The Straussian Conspiracy

Harry Jaffa defends Leo Strauss in the Claremont Review::

"Hillary Clinton's 'vast right wing conspiracy' seems to have undergone a metamorphosis into a 'vast Straussian neo-con conspiracy,' judging from the outpouring of articles, letters, and radio and television interviews denouncing President Bush's foreign policy as a war-crazed Straussian neo-con plot."

Have Democrats Lost Their Marbles?

Charles Krauthammer, a practicing psychiatrist, says so in today's Washington Post:

"Upon losing a game at the 1925 Baden-Baden tournament, Aaron Nimzowitsch, the great chess theoretician and a superb player, knocked the pieces off the board, jumped on the table and screamed, 'How can I lose to this idiot?' Nimzowitsch may have lived decades ago in Denmark, but he had the soul of a modern American Democrat. After all, Democrats have been saying much the same -- with similar body language -- ever since the erudite Adlai Stevenson lost to the syntactically challenged Dwight Eisenhower in 1952. They said it again when they lost to that supposed simpleton Ronald Reagan. Twice, would you believe? With George W. Bush, they are at it again, and equally apoplectic."

Winners & Losers in Najaf

From Juan Cole:

"I think the big losers from the Najaf episode (part deux) are the Americans. They have become, if it is possible, even more unpopular in Iraq than they were last spring after Abu Ghuraib, Fallujah and Najaf Part 1. The US is perceived as culturally insensitive for its actions in the holy city of Najaf. The Allawi government is also a big loser. Instead of looking decisive, as they had hoped, they ended up looking like the lackeys of neo-imperialists.The big winner is Sistani, whose religious charisma has now been enhanced by solid nationalist credentials. He is a national hero for saving Najaf. For Muqtada, it is a wash. He did not have Najaf until April, anyway, and cn easily survive not having it. His movement in the slums of the southern cities is intact, even if its paramilitary has been weakened."

Olympics 2004 Betting Odds

In case you've got money riding on the Athens games, here's the link for OddsChecker's Olympics 2004 Betting Odds.

CNN's Final Insult

Using footage fed by a Hezbollah propaganda network to cover Iraq. CNN founder Reese Schonfeld explains the problem:

"CNN is crediting Al Manar for some of the footage it is using on the Kufa, Najaf story. Al Manar is an Iranian funded, Hezbollah network--the most anti- U.S. network in the world. It applauds terrorism, recruits terrorists and attacks the United States constantly. Showing Al Manar tape is the equivalent of using Joseph Goebels material during the Second World War. But since the new Iraqi government closed down Al Jazeera, western networks have been forced to use Hezbollah tape from areas where western crews cannot operate. Al Jazeera is a legitimate news network. Al Manar is racism and hate but American television has given it legitimacy."

Containing Terrorism

Robert L. Hutchings, who head President Bush's National Intelligence Council, argues George Kennan's containment strategy towards the USSR can defeat Al Qaeda. (Thanks to Foreign Policy magazine for the link):

"That brings me to my core conclusion: we should not assume that 'we' and 'they' have nothing in common. Usama bin Laden and his followers deplore what they perceive as the depravity and vacuity of modernity. So do many in the West. Terrorists and their supporters rage against the inequities and degradation brought on by globalization. So do many thoughtful critics who would not dream of resorting to terrorism to achieve their goals.

"Many of the grievances that terrorists express and exploit -- economic disadvantage, alienation brought on by globalization, a sense of cultural humiliation, and others -- are remediable, at least potentially. It was one of the core failings of Communist ideology that Marx failed to see that many of the class antagonisms he identified could be--and were--overcome by peaceful means rather than the class struggle he took to be inevitable. (I learned this at the feet of the late Lewis Feuer right here on this campus.)

"Our frame of mind -- even as we are waging a resolute campaign against international terrorism -- should be that we are not engaged in a fight to the finish with radical Islam. This is not a clash of civilizations but rather a defense of our shared humanity and a search to find common ground, however implausible that may seem now. Such an effort is no more possible with Usama bin Laden than it was with Stalin back when Kennan was writing, and it will be an elusive goal for years to come, but we have reason to be optimistic if we take the longer view, as Kennan did.

"Let me conclude, as I began, by citing the X-Article:

The issue...is in essence a test of the overall worth of the United States as a nation among nations. To avoid destruction the United States need only measure up to its own best traditions and prove itself worthy of preservation as a great nation.

"If these words sound somewhat melodramatic, I ask you to remember how vulnerable, uncertain, and fearful we felt as a nation on September 11, 2001. We have come a long way since then, but we still have a long way to go before we can recover the security and tranquility that was so brutally shattered that bright morning two and a half years ago."

Iraq: What Went Wrong?

Coalition Provisional Authority advisor Larry Diamond tries to explain, in Foreign Affairs:

"It now seems unlikely that the weak and besieged new Iraqi government will have the will or capacity to enforce the demobilization plan. In fact, the new Iraqi state is caught in a Catch-22: to be viable, it must build up its armed forces as rapidly as possible. But the readiest sources of soldiers and police are the most powerful militias, which will probably allow their fighters to join the new military only if their command structures remain intact. Thus, if the fledgling Iraqi state hopes to truly defeat the militias, it may have to go to war with itself. That seems hard to imagine. Yet if Iraq tries to hold elections while the militias remain intact (in one guise or another), the campaign is likely to become a very bloody and undemocratic affair. Candidates will face assassination, weaker political opponents will be run out of town, and the electoral machinery will be hijacked by those with the most guns.

"Even if the security situation improves enough to allow elections to go forward on time, Iraq could still get into further trouble if it follows the UN's recommendation and uses a national-list system, apportioning seats in parliament on the basis of nationwide voting, since this would give the big regional and religious parties an added incentive to inflate their numbers through force and fraud. Should that occur, the biggest winners will be the best-armed and most-organized forces-the Kurds in the far north and the Iranian-backed Islamist parties in the Shiite south. The American occupation could wind up paving the way for the 'election' of an Iranian-linked Islamist government in Baghdad."

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Che Guevara Remembered

From The Spectator:

"He was undaunted by the deaths he had ordered and the errors he had made. He had larger dreams than the fate of the Cuban economy. He was excited by the vision of a grand, global confrontation between imperialism and socialism, and he viewed the prospect of nuclear war with equanimity. Speaking to the First Latin American Youth Congress, in July 1959, he stated: ‘These people [of Cuba] you see today tell you that even if they should disappear from the face of the earth because an atomic war is unleashed in their names ...they would feel completely happy and fulfilled....’ During the Cuban missile crisis, Che wanted to fire the missiles at the United States, and was furious that Khrushchev backed down in the face of US pressure."

British Library, Eton College in Anthony Powell Papers Row

From The Guardian (thanks to Artsjournal for the tip):

"Eton College was quietly asked last year to hand over the manuscript collection to the British Library while both bodies put in bids to become the permanent custodians of Powell's work. Michael Meredith, Eton's librarian, personally took the manuscripts to the British Library to hand them over to Christopher Wright, the head of manuscripts."

Republican Bloggers to Cover NYC Convention

From The Wall Street Journal (thanks to Instapundit for the tip):

"Republican Web loggers are getting ready for their shot at posting convention news and commentary, and they say they've learned from their left-leaning counterparts' experience five weeks earlier. At Madison Square Garden, the official blogger group will number about 15, a tiny fraction of the estimated 15,000 journalists expected, and less than half the size of the accredited Boston blogger set. 'That's just the number we landed on,' said convention spokeswoman Alyssa McClenning. She wouldn't discuss how convention planners chose the group, but said the bloggers 'reflected a mix of ideologies.' Adding to the blend are some delegates and traditional journalists who also plan to blog from the convention. In the accreditation process, Republican convention organizers invited particular bloggers, while the Democrats used applications. But the result is the same: a lot of home-team support. Most Boston bloggers were solidly in the John Kerry camp, while most New York bloggers plan to vote for President Bush. A handful of centrist bloggers are attending both."

Controversy Swirls Over National Anthem

From The Washington Post:

"Peter Breiner, whose 204 arrangements of the world's national anthems are being performed at the Athens Olympics, had no intention of wandering into the blue-state/red-state thickets when he arranged 'The Star-Spangled Banner.' But that hasn't slowed critics from reading political philosophy into his genteel, romanticized orchestration of the famous tune. A 'Europe-friendly version of the anthem,' designed 'to play down the notion of the U.S. as a chest-thumping, butt-kicking, jingoistic powerhouse,' sniffed a writer in the Wall Street Journal, quoting an unnamed musician. 'Even our warlike national anthem has been transformed, from blaring horns to peaceful, soothing strings' wrote Maureen Dowd in the New York Times, in a column about the toning-down of U.S. bravado at the Athens games."

Blame Spreads for Abu Ghraib Torture Scandal

From The Washington Post:

"Still, the Schlesinger report, which examined problems throughout the system of U.S.-run prisons in Iraq and, Afghanistan and at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, said that about one-third of the substantiated cases of prisoner abuse took place during interrogations. It also disclosed a sharp rise in the number of cases of alleged abuse -- up to 300, 66 of which have been confirmed so far. Yesterday's findings by Lt. Gen. Anthony R. Jones and Maj. Gen. George R. Fay also helped to substantiate a major pillar of the defense offered by the military guards already facing charges. They have asserted that their actions came at the direction of military intelligence personnel.Although self-serving, these claims do have some basis in fact,' Fay said in his portion of the report."

"Swift Boat Veterans Have Cheapened All Our Service"

Writes August Keso:

"The Swift Boat people have cheapened all our service. What our Commanding Officers and branch of service thought of our performance twenty, thirty, forty and fifty years ago means nothing today. If Kerry’s military records cannot be trusted, neither can mine, nor can yours! Thanks, to the Swift Boat people our honorable service has been denigrated – and when the folks get back from Iraq and Afghanistan, what will their service be worth? They had all better hope that they don’t offend anybody while serving because if they do, nothing their official military records contain will amount to anything. "

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

France Celebrates 50th Anniversary of Liberation

From Yahoo News :

"Parisians turned out to see French and US military columns roll through their capital in an exuberant re-enactment of the day 60 years ago when Allied forces liberated the city from German occupation. 'Vive la France,' cried many of the onlookers lining the streets as the parades -- made up of World War II-era vehicles and extras in period dress and uniforms -- rumbled by to the sound of orchestras playing 1940s tunes. The scenes were colourful highlights of commemorations recalling August 25, 1944 when first French then US troops drove into Paris to take it from German forces who had been battling a week-long uprising by residents and Resistance fighters."

What's Happening At the Olympics (continued)?

From Yahoo News:

"ATHENS, Greece - A windsurfer whose first name means 'wave' in Hebrew gave Israel its first Olympic gold medal ever Wednesday, taking a plunge in the Saronic Gulf to celebrate. Gal Fridman sailed a remarkably consistent regatta, never finishing worse than eighth in the 11-race series. He placed second in Wednesday's decisive race. After Fridman crossed the finish line, he took a victory dip and then wrapped himself in an Israeli flag when he came out of the water."

Gwen Ifill on the Abu Ghraib Torture Report

From The NewsHour:

"GWEN IFILL: Was there an overall view that there should be a tougher effort made to break these prisoners, to get to toughen the interrogation against them after Major Gen. Jeffrey Miller came to visit from Guantanamo and advised them on the tactics that had been used on al-Qaida prisoners there and Taliban prisoners there? And now a new memo has surfaced which I believe the wording was that military intelligence officers said the gloves are coming off, gentlemen, regarding these detainees. We want these individuals broken. Was that an atmosphere that was created that brought this about, as well?"

The Five Pillars of Democracy: Towards an Islamic Reformation

From the RAND Review:

"What the roiling ideological ferment requires from the West is both a firm commitment to fundamental Western values and a sequence of flexible postures suited to different Islamic contexts, populations, and countries. This approach could help to develop civil, democratic Islam while giving the West the versatility to deal appropriately with different settings. The following outline describes what such a strategy might look like. It rests on 'five pillars of democracy' for the Islamic world. The pillars correspond to the postures that the West should take toward the four ideological groups and toward ordinary citizens in Muslim countries.

1. Support the modernists first, promoting their version of Islam by equipping them with a broad platform to articulate and to disseminate their views. It is tempting to choose the traditionalists as the primary agents for fostering democratic Islam, and this appears to be the course that the West is inclined to take. However, some very serious problems argue against taking such a course..."

The "New Russians"

At the same dinner party in the item below, we heard about the "New Russians" from a Moscow family visiting the United States. Where once science, technology, education, culture were at the heart of Russian life, today it is business. We found this article online that explains, interestingly, some of today's business leaders are in fact scientists:

"In the idealistic '60s, they made up the nucleus of the dissident movement, which resisted the regime. The movement was launched by the mathematician Aleksandr Yesenin-Volpin, inaugurated with a scandal that involved 99 engineers and mathematicians, and was led largely by the physicist Andrei Sakharov. In the repressive '70s, when much of the intelligentsia sought refuge in nonpolitical activities, the tekhnari made two of them into full-fledged fads: mountain climbing and folk singing. The first Moscow concert of Vladimir Vysotsky, the folk-singing popular hero of the '70s, took place in the Culture Hall at the Kurchatov Institute of theoretical physics, the birthplace of the Russian A-bomb. In 1981, the same hall hosted Moscow's first rock concert.

Over a decade later, tekhnari lead the way in conquering the newest frontier: business. The man now reputed to be the country's richest, Sergey Mavrodi, is a computer scientist-cum-stock market shark; the country's second-largest bank, Tver Inkombank, was founded by physicists; and small- and medium-size businesses seem downright dominated by the tekhnari. No one has done a statistical breakdown of Russian entrepreneurs by profession, but Ivan Kivalidi, president of the Russian Business Roundtable, an association of entrepreneurs, confirms the impression that business is dominated by tekhnari."

Daniel Barenboim's Quest

Last night we were at a dinner party, and a Palestinian Israeli pianist told us about her admiration for Daniel Barenboim, teaching music to encourage Arab-Israeli peace. At a recent ceremony at the Israeli Knesset, Barenboim explained his project:

"I have always believed that there is no military solution to the Jewish Arab conflict, neither from a moral nor a strategic one and since a solution is therefore inevitable I ask myself : Why wait? It is for this very reason that I founded with my late friend Edward Said a workshop for young musicians from all the countries of the Middle East - Jews and Arabs.

"Despite the fact that, as an art, music cannot compromise its principles, and politics, on the other hand, is the art of compromise, when politics transcends the limits of the present existence and ascents to the higher sphere of the possible, it can be joined there by music. Music is the art of the imaginary par excellence, an art free of all limits imposed by words, an art that touches the depth of human existence, and art of sounds that crosses all borders. As such music can take the feelings and imagination of Israelis and Palestinians to new unimaginable spheres."

Were Russian Jets Terrorist Targets?

To soon to tell, but suspicions run high that yesterday's crashes may be related to the Chechen conflict, although the government is playing down that possibility. For more, see this AP story:

" Officials made conflicting statements about whether the signal from the other jet indicated a hijacking or another severe problem on the aircraft. The Interfax and ITAR-Tass news agencies later quoted an unnamed law enforcement source as saying that the signal was an SOS and that no other signals were sent. Oleg Yermolov, deputy director of the Interstate Aviation Committee, said that it is impossible to judge what is behind the signal, which merely indicates "a dangerous situation onboard" and can be triggered by the crew during a hijacking or a potentially catastrophic technical problem. Sibir airlines, however, seemed to hint at foul play, saying on its Web site that it "does not rule out the theory of a terrorist attack."

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Top US Officials Responsible for Torture

According to this AP report:

"The Pentagon's most senior civilian and military officials share a portion of blame for creating conditions that led to the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal in Iraq, according to a new report. The report, by a commission appointed by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, was presented to Rumsfeld Tuesday in advance of a Pentagon news conference to release the details. The commission was headed by James Schlesinger, a former secretary of defense. A person familiar with the report said it implicitly faulted Rumsfeld and Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, by finding that those responsible for the military prison system in Iraq were operating under confusing policies on allowable interrogation techniques. The person discussed some aspects of the report on condition of anonymity."

Presidential Race Neck & Neck

According to Charlie Cook, here are the latest poll numbers:

Numbers: Bush Approval/Disapproval: Bush Kerry Nader Bush Lead: Bush Kerry Bush Lead (in percentage points)

Aug 3-4 Fox News/Opinion Dyn 43/48: 42 46 2 -4: 43 46 -3
Aug 9-11 CNN/USA Today/Gal 51/46: 46 45 5 1: 48 47 1
Aug 15-18 CBS News 46/45: 45 46 1 -1: 44 47 -3

What's Happening in Iraq?

Zeyad reports :

"In the south, Al-Mahdi and Sadr followers are wreaking havoc and seriously threatening to cripple Iraqi economy. After setting the Al-Halfaya oil field south of Ammara ablaze, they broke into SOC (South Oil Company) headquarters at Al-Asma'i in downtown Basrah. The whole second floor was set to fire after the building was looted. This is deeply troubling, especially when the SOC police station is less than 200 metres from the building and the British base is about 5 kilometres away. Al-Mahdi have threatened to kill SOC employees if they show up at work. The same in Ammara, where governmental employees have been prevented from going to work for days.

"A group of militiamen broke into the Ammara prison setting hundreds of prisoners free under the eyes and noses of Iraqi and British forces. A convoy of 70 trucks loaded with rice and flour sacks belonging to the Ministry of Trade heading to Baghdad from southern ports in Basrah have been held by Al-Mahdi in the city since Saturday. The minister pathetically called Sadr followers in an interview published in Azzaman to return the trucks. Makes you wonder who controls this country, Sadr or the Iraqi government. This country is in deep s*** if somebody doesn't put an end to this farce."

Why Johnny Can't Write: Harvard Business School

So says alumna Paula Throckmorton Zakaria who appears to be married to Newsweek International editor and Harvard alumnus Fareed Zakaria (see his endorsement of Kerry below):

"Part of the ordeal of a meritocracy is constantly having to prove yourself worthy, especially to gatekeepers who stand ready to exclude you from the Next Big Step Up. Any number of twentysomethings, for instance, may feel qualified to attend Harvard Business School, to learn all that its prestigious faculty has to teach about making a huge success of life. But only a very few will get in. What is the secret of their admissions success?

"Impressive test scores and grades help, of course. But something more is required, something self-promoting and yet modestly revealing, something beyond mere numbers--in short, a personal essay. Even the next Bill Gates might pause at this point in the application process and wonder: What if I am a colorless writer who just cannot make a story come alive? What if I don't really have that much to say?

"The answer to such questions is essentially: not a problem. The proof is "65 Successful Harvard Business School Application Essays," a collection pulled together by staff members of the Harbus, the school's daily newspaper. "Upon graduating from college," one essay begins, "everyone expected me to join my father's business because I had been working for him part-time since the age of twelve. However a year before graduation the firm started experiencing financial difficulties that could lead to bankruptcy."

"Balzac this is not. The word "dull" even comes to mind. As for the prose itself, it doesn't take an editor to replace "been working for him" with "worked" and "started experiencing financial difficulties" with "had financial difficulties."

"And yet, the system works. HBS probably did the right thing to admit the guy who wrote that essay and most of the others in the book. The business school isn't looking for stylish and amusing writers; it is looking for good businessmen."

What's Going On At The Olympics (continued)?

Reuters reports:

"An Uzbekistan woman shot putter and an Indian female weightlifter have become the first athletes to test positive in tests held since the Olympic Games (news - web sites) started, the IOC (news - web sites) said on Friday."

What Is Going On At The Olympics (continued)?

Yahoo! News - Earthquake Rattles Olympic Venues:

You Sure Do Talk Funny!

From Far Outliers, a map of American dialects:

"Like so many of the old Anglo-immigrant stock along the coasts from Cape Cod to Chesapeake Bay, I say ahnt and peeKAHN. I alternate between UMbrella when I'm not thinking about it and umBRELLA when I stop to think. And, although I pronounce poem in two syllables, my reduced vowel ('barred i') always elicits correction from my daughter. What these dialect survey results show is how mixed-up, scattered about, and network-based U.S. dialects really are. The old regions overlap all over the place."

Big Media in the Kerry Camp

So says Jeff Jacoby [link from Jim Romenesko]:

"With the exception of the Fox News Channel, the liberal tilt of the mainstream media - the major newspapers, the networks, National Public Radio, the news magazines - has long been a fact of American life. No one observing the coverage of this year's presidential campaign with both eyes open can have much doubt that the media establishment is pulling heavily for the Democratic ticket."

What's Going On At The Olympics (continued)?

From Channelnewsasia.com:

"It seems everyone involved is peeved at someone, feeling slighted or robbed, and not even gold medallists are above being caught in the fray of a sport where judging woes abound and even loyal ticket buyers have lost their patience. Competition came to a merciful end here Monday after spectators booed so loudly and so long that they halted the concluding horizontal bar event for almost 10 minutes, upset at low scores for 2000 Olympic winner Alexei Nemov."

What's Going On At The Olympics?

From the Athens Olympic Games Blog:

"A member of the Greek judo team who fell from her third-floor apartment balcony following a quarrel with her boyfriend has died. Eleni Ioannou had been hospitalized in critical condition for more than for two weeks. The Red Cross hospital said Ioannou, 20, died Tuesday in the intensive care unit where she had been treated since Aug. 7 for multiple fractures to her head and body.

"Ioannou, a competitor in the 172-pound-plus class, fell from the balcony after an argument with her boyfriend, 24-year-old Giorgos Chrisostomides. Police questioned Chrisostomides and released him. Relatives and neighbors said he was inconsolable, and jumped from the same balcony two days later. He remains hospitalized in critical condition at Athens' Evangelismos hospital.'"

Mark Steyn on Kerry's War Record

From The Telegraph:

"I've never quite understood the preferred formulation of big-time Democrats – that "of course" they support our troops even though they oppose this war. But in practice they "support our troop" – singular – just Lieut Kerry and the handful of Swiftees willing to appear in public with him. The rest can go to hell and any of 'em impertinent enough to question the Senator are just "sleazoids" wading through their own backed-up latrine. I wonder if the Kerry campaign and its media cheerleaders have really thought this one through.

"Nothing the "sleazoids" say about Kerry is as bad as what he said about them 33 years ago in his testimony to Congress, when he informed the world that his comrades – his "band of brothers" – had "personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads" etc, throughout their time in Vietnam...

"...I said a couple of weeks back that John Kerry was too strange to be President, and a week or two earlier that he was too stuck-up to be President. Since I'm on an alliterative roll, let me add that he's too stupid to be President. What sort of idiot would make the centrepiece of his presidential campaign four months of proud service in a war he's best known for opposing?

"I wouldn't stand for Parliament on a family values platform because I know someone's bound to bring up the 123 gay porn movies I had a bit part in back in Amsterdam in the 1970s.

"How cocooned from reality do you have to be to think you can transform one of the most divisive periods in American history – in which you were largely responsible for much of the divisiveness – into a sappy, happy-clappy, soft-focus patriotic blur without anybody objecting? Most Vietnam veterans of my acquaintance loathe John Kerry, and, if he wasn't aware of that, he's too out of it to be President."

The Cuban-American Michael Moore

"Covering Cuba 3: Elian," banned by the American Film Institute (see earlier postings), got its first national exposure on Fox News Channel Sunday afternoon. Host Gregg Jarrett interviewed director Agustin Blazquez and associate producer Jaums Sutton about the possible impact of their film on the 2004 election. Jarrett seemed to treat Agustin Blazquez as the Cuban-American Michael Moore. Although the Fox network gave Moore a TV series in 1995, "TV Nation, " and hasn't offered anything to Blazquez, at least not yet.

Here's the transcript:

Gregg Jarrett (host): That is a clip from a documentary about little Elian Gonzalez, the Cuban refugee who was fished from the ocean off the Florida coastline and the custody battle that arose over little Elian ended up actually playing a role in the 2000 election and now nearly 4 years later there is a documentary out. It is being released in the U.S. It attacks the way the Clinton Administration handled the case so here is a question for you: “Could the film be as favorable to President Bush in this year’s election as it was in 2000?” Well, lets put that question to a couple of folks. We are talking to Agustin Blazquez, producer and creator of Covering Cuba 3 and Jaums Sutton, interviewer for the documentary. Gentlemen, thanks for being with us and we will get to that question in a moment, but first, Agustin, it move you to the press release because your press release states the following and I’m quoting: “The film offers the opportunity to tell the American people what the Clinton Administration and the U.S. media censored! The media manipulated information to fool the American people.” Now, Agustin, that’s a pretty serious charge and I’m no apologist for the Clinton Administration, but I’m a member of the media. I covered the case. What did we in the media censor and manipulate?

Agustin Blazquez: But, wait a moment. Your station got very good ratings in my documentary and also Diane Sawyer got very good ratings in the documentary. It’s other networks like CNN, Lucia Newman and also. . . .

GJ: What did we manipulate and censor?

AB: Well, there was a lot of information that actually existed that wasn’t released at that time, like for example that the Cuban Constitution actually gives all the custody of the children to the parents—I mean to the state, not the parents.

GJ: We don’t recognize in a court of law the Cuban Constitution. We recognize American law. American law was very clear; both family and immigration law, the biological father, absence of any evidence of abuse, dictates the course of a child.

AB: Absolutely. The problem is that what the American people did not understand is that when that child was returned to Cuba that it was going to be in the custody of the state. That’s why the Cuban Americans were trying to protect that child from going back to Cuba . . ..

GJ: We knew that and we reported that, Agustin. Jaums, let me turn to you. Most of the Cuban American People you interviewed for this documentary were actually born in the U.S., as I understand it, thus they have little or know personal knowledge of Cuba. So, in fairness, what do they really know about the realities of life in Cuba?

Jaums Sutton: They grew up with this from their families. Their parents lived it and have discussed it. It became part of their soul because of their families.

GJ: Agustin, let me move back to you again. You accused the U.S. government of violating the law, that’s in your press release. Now look, I am a lawyer, as I mentioned. I covered it. It was litigated in both state and federal courts, which denied Elian Gonzalez political asylum. Even the U.S. Supreme Court sided with the father and refused to intervene. All those judges were wrong and you’re right?

AB: No I don’t mean that I am right. It seems to be that the justice was violated. You just have to see the documentary in order to understand what the people are talking about and what happened. I think the people in my documentary are very eloquent and speak clearly about the whole thing.

GJ: Yeah. Jaums, back to you. Your documentary clearly tells what is a heart-wrenching story from the Cuban American point of view, so you’d admit that it’s not objective, correct?

JS: Right. The whole point was to get across a side that is—we felt was lacking in the media of the U.S. That Americans needed more information from the Cuban Americans who were closer to it.

GJ: And, Jaums, still with you. Elian spent the last 4 years with those who love him, I mean his father, his, Elian’s brother, extended family in Cuba. He just celebrated his 10th birthday. I mean, we hate communism, we loath it, but whose to say this little boy is not better off with his immediately family in that environment?

JS: Well, he’s physically, we understand from family in the U.S., that he is physically with his family there, but there is also a guard at the front door and a guard at the back door that’s not there to protect him from the outside. It’s to make sure that they can’t get away and can’t do anything, that Elian and his father can’t do anything that the government wouldn’t like. He is the government poster child there. He is not—doesn’t have—a normal life of a child there.

GJ: No easy answers here. Again a heart-wrenching story. Thank you both for being here—Agustin Blazquez and Jaums Sutton. We appreciate it.

Monday, August 23, 2004

An American Tragedy (continued)

Angus Crook writes to tell us that Josef von Sternberg also made a version of Dreiser's classic novel, in 1931, starring Sylvia Sidney, among others.

Jamaat Ansar Al-Jihad Claims Credit for Paris Jewish Center Fire

From The Jerusalem Post ] [link thanks to Little Green Footballs]:

"The group, Jamaat Ansar Al-Jihad, issued a claim of responsibility Sunday evening on the Islamic Web site known for militant Islamic comment. The message said the attack was 'in response to racist acts by Jews in France against Islam and the Muslims and the desecration of Muslim cemeteries by Jews'. It is also meant ... as a simple response to the racist and savage acts by Jews in Muslim countries like Palestine and other Muslim and Arab countries,' it said...

"...Minister-without-Portfolio Natan Sharansky said, "In France the radical Left and the intelligentsia demonize and deligitimize the very existence of Israel... There is a very close connection between that and the existence of anti-Semitism. The government of France doesn't want to acknowledge that and even denies it. Until they see the connection between the demonization of Israel and the deligitimization of Israel, the anti-Semitism will continue, even though they are truly, honestly doing more to combat anti-Semitism than any other government in Europe."

John Kerry's Nuclear Option

John LeBoutillier says the Swift Boat ads controversy is a mere bump in the road, because John Kerry will stop at nothing to become President:

"Knowing Kerry, here is what he is contemplating: he is signaling GW Bush that everything is on the table now. That means that Kerry will take Bush - who he believes is directly involved in the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth campaign - right into the gutter as payback. Past allegations not only about Bush’s Texas Air National Guard problems will suddenly re-surface soon. But - ominously - so, too, may past rumors of Bush’s use of cocaine in his “young and irresponsible years” and rumors of Bush girlfriends having abortions. These have been raised in the past. Look for Kerry to have carefully researched them and prepared some type of attack based on them. In other words, Kerry is ready to go nuclear to win this election.

"All along Kerry has tried to have it both ways on his Vietnam service: he saw himself as a war hero-turned anti-war leader. Anything that gets in the way of that picture infuriates him. And the Swift Boat Vets have gummed things up for him. But, in his pathological brain, he sees the Bush Attack Machine behind this and he is determined to destroy the Bushes once and for all. [emphasis added]

"Look for a MoveOn. org ad - or some other pro-Kerry 527 group - to air devastating negative commercials against Bush. And know that they are operating on direct orders from John Kerry.

"Kerry has been telling people since high school - I know this because my brother was one year ahead of Kerry - that he was going to be President. And Kerry knows this is his one shot; if he loses, he is toast as the Democrats move to Hillary in 2008. So Kerry has to do everything he can to win this election. And he will do whatever it takes."

10 States Will Decide

Charlie Cook says the other 40 states don't matter very much by now:

"At this point, there remains 10 states that are too close to call: Florida with 27 electoral votes, Iowa (7), Minnesota (10), Missouri (11), Nevada (5), New Hampshire (4), New Mexico (5), Ohio (20), Pennsylvania (21) and Wisconsin (10). While too close to call, these states are not necessarily dead even. In Pennsylvania, President Bush, after holding a consistent lead over Kerry, finally slipped behind last month, but not far enough to warrant moving it into the 'Lean Kerry' column. The same case exists in Florida, where a recent poll by a Republican firm for a private client put Kerry up by four points, but no one believes that the state is anything but a toss up. In Minnesota, New Hampshire and New Mexico, Kerry seems to be up by a bit, but again not quite enough to move those into the Kerry column. Bush is ahead in Missouri, but it's a close call as to whether the lead is big enough to justify moving it into the 'Lean Bush' column. In adding up all the electoral votes that are in the safe and lean columns for each candidate, President Bush has a tight 211 to 207 lead in the Electoral College. Bush also has 120 votes in the toss up column. However, if you pushed each of the 10 toss up states to Kerry -- who seems to be ahead by a slight margin -- he would come out on top."

Taxonomy of Road Rage

Yesterday, I was the victim of an aggressive driver suffering from road rage. Driving down a quiet road for a Sunday drive in the country, the other driver pulled behind me honking his horn. So I slowed down. At a stop sign, he pulled up next to my car and began screaming insults at the top of his voice, before driving off. What the heck was he thinking? Afterwards, I found this interesting Taxonomy of Road Rage by Drs. Leon James and Diane Nahl:

"My cumulative research using the self-witnessing reports of hundreds of drivers, reveals an agitated inner world of driving that is replete with extreme emotions and impulses seemingly triggered by little acts. Ordinary drivers can display maniacal thoughts, violent feelings, virulent speech, and physiological signs of high stress.

'Right now I feel scared, anxious, fearful, panic stricken, agitated, bothered, irritated, annoyed, angry, mad. I feel like yelling and hitting. I'm thinking, Oh, no what's he doing. What's happening. How could he do that. and I hear myself saying out loud, @#$% Stupid guy! I'm breathing fast, gripping the wheel, perspiring, sitting up straight and slightly forward, my eyes are open and watching straight ahead.'

This incident involved a car cutting into the lane and forcing the driver to slam on the brakes causing a chain reaction; however, no collision occurred. The self-witnessing reports of drivers routinely contain scary incidents of this sort in which near misses occur. Hence it has become normal and usual for drivers to experience stress and panic under everyday traffic conditions. The following is a summary of the variety of negative reactions routinely mentioned in driver self-witnessing reports.

Extreme Physiological Reactions: heart pounding, momentary stopping of breathing, muscle spasms, stomach cramps, wet hands, pallor, faintness, trembling, nausea, discoordination, inhibition, visual fixation, facial distortion, back pain, neck cramp.

Extreme Emotional Reactions:outbursts of anger, yelling, aggressive gestures, looking mean and glaring, threatening with dangerous vehicle manipulation, fantasies of violence and revenge, panic, incapacitation, distortion, regressive rigid pattern of behavior, fear, anxiety, delusional talk against non-present drivers and objects.

Extreme Irrational Thought Sequences:paranoic thinking that one is being followed or inspected, addressing other drivers who are not within ear shot, script writing scenarios involving vengeance and cruelty against 'guilty' drivers, denial of reality and defensiveness when a passenger complains of a driver's error, psychopathic interactions as when two drivers alternately tailgate each other dangerously at high speed.

These findings raise an important public issue: What is the mental health of the nearly two hundred million licensed drivers in North America? Demographic sampling research with the self-witnessing method is needed to assess the generality of my early findings. We need to create behavioral maps of drivers under varying social and psychological conditions in order to construct a comprehensive theory of driving behavior within the language of drivers, not the language of scientists. Managing the future of driving in our society requires a knowledge of driving psychology because it provides the content needed by instructors, safety officials, law enforcement, and all regulatory agencies in society that administer roads, cars, and drivers. I use the phrase 'driving informatics' (Nahl, 1999) to cover the entirety of information sources society now needs to manage its expanding driving and automotive environment."

How "The Scream" Was Stolen

According to The Guardian :

"The first anyone heard was a crash as the two armed robbers, masked in balaclavas, careered into plate glass doors at the front of the Munch Museum. In their adrenalin-psyched eagerness to snatch one of the most renowned and valuable of modern paintings, the gang reportedly misjudged the gallery's sequence of automatic sliding doors. But the blundering entrance - which startled Sunday morning tourists drifting through the gallery and alerted security guards - was followed by a rapidly executed theft."

Who is Killing Iraq's WMD Experts?

The Washington Times says America is failing to protect those who know most about Iraq's WMD program--even when they are kept in US custody:

"Anti-coalition forces have killed a prominent Iraqi chemical-weapons scientist whom U.S. investigators were questioning at Abu Ghraib prison, in an attempt to unravel the mysteries of Saddam Hussein's arsenal. The scientist's death is not the first such killing, and it has some U.S. analysts wondering whether there is a pattern and also whether the Iraqi insurgents had incredibly good intelligence and a deadly aim "

Arsonists Burn Parisian Jewish Center

From The Washington Times: AP:

"Authorities immediately suspected the fire was set deliberately. Inside the building, investigators found anti-Semitic graffiti and swastikas scrawled in red marker. One message read, 'Without the Jews, the world is happy.'"

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Watch Europe Carefully

Historian Victor Davis Hanson favors American troop reductions in Europe, but warily:

"Anyone old enough to have known the Wehrmacht in the past and the intra-European hounding that goes on in the present does not believe that we are at the end of history — at least not until the nature of man changes and national character is revealed as a mere construct. Germany is united again, but an economic colossus stalled, as its politicians silently gnash about "unfairness" in the EU, and as German Euros go east and south to subsidize "others." Germany, in fact, is in flux, a period of shake-out not seen since the late 1920s, in which the reaction to a failed socialist-pacifist agenda will one day either bring pro-American reform or unpredictable fury, in any direction"

Tolstoy on War

The Kerry medals controversy brings Tolstoy's descriptions of battle in War and Peace to mind. His point then, as it seems clear now, is that battle is complicated and confusing, and that historians are frequently wrong:

"The whole battle consisted in what Orlov-Denisov's Cossacks had done: the rest of the army merely lost some hundreds of men uselessly.

In consequence of this battle Kutuzov received a diamond decoration, and Bennigsen some diamonds and a hundred thousand rubles, others also received pleasant recognitions corresponding to their various grades, and following the battle fresh changes were made in the staff.

'That's how everything is done with us, all topsy-turvy!' said the Russian officers and generals after the Tarutino battle, letting it be understood that some fool there is doing things all wrong but that we ourselves should not have done so, just as people speak today. But people who talk like that either do not know what they are talking about or deliberately deceive themselves. No battle- Tarutino, Borodino, or Austerlitz- takes place as those who planned it anticipated. That is an essential condition.

A countless number of free forces (for nowhere is man freer than during a battle, where it is a question of life and death) influence the course taken by the fight, and that course never can be known in advance and never coincides with the direction of any one force.

If many simultaneously and variously directed forces act on a given body, the direction of its motion cannot coincide with any one of those forces, but will always be a mean- what in mechanics is represented by the diagonal of a parallelogram of forces.

If in the descriptions given by historians, especially French ones, we find their wars and battles carried out in accordance with previously formed plans, the only conclusion to be drawn is that those descriptions are false."

An American Tragedy

A call from a Hollywood screenwriter friend yesterday reminded us that Upstate New York has at least one more literary association, in addition to James Fenimore Cooper and Mark Twain. Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy was based on a real-life murder case in Cortland, NY, which we also drove through on our recent pilgrimage to New York's cultural meccas. The book became George Stevens' film A Place in the Sun, starring Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor. Interestingly, legendary Soviet director Sergei Eisenstein prepared a screenplay of Dreiser's novel, but it was never filmed.

Evidence of Coordination?

Is there more to come on this item from The Washington Post?

"CRAWFORD, Tex., Aug. 21 -- The Bush campaign said late Saturday that it dismissed an adviser on veterans issues after learning that he is part of an independent group that has been running anti-Kerry ads."

The Washington Post Investigates the Kerry War Record Controversy

And finds all sides are hiding something, according to Michael Dobbs:

"In his book, Brinkley writes that a skipper who remains friendly to Kerry, Skip Barker, took part in the March 13 raid. But there is no documentary evidence of Barker's participation. Barker could not be reached for comment.

"Brinkley, who is director of the Eisenhower Center for American Studies at the University of New Orleans, did not reply to messages left with his office, publisher and cell phone. The Kerry campaign has refused to make available Kerry's journals and other writings to The Post, saying the senator remains bound by an exclusivity agreement with Brinkley. A Kerry spokesman, Michael Meehan, said he did not know when Kerry wrote down his reminiscences."

Kerry's Comrade-in-Arms Tells His Story

William Rood writes in Chicago Tribune:

"Known over radio circuits by the call sign 'Latch,' then-Capt. and now retired Rear Adm. Roy Hoffmann, the task force commander, fired off a message congratulating the three swift boats, saying at one point that the tactic of charging the ambushes was a 'shining example of completely overwhelming the enemy' and that it 'may be the most efficacious method of dealing with small numbers of ambushers.'

"Hoffmann has become a leading critic of Kerry's and now says that what the boats did on that day demonstrated Kerry's inclination to be impulsive to a fault.

"Our decision to use that tactic under the right circumstances was not impulsive but was the result of discussions well beforehand and a mutual agreement of all three boat officers.

"It was also well within the aggressive tradition that was embraced by the late Adm. Elmo Zumwalt, then commander of U.S. Naval Forces, Vietnam. Months before that day in February, a fellow boat officer, Michael Bernique, was summoned to Saigon to explain to top Navy commanders why he had made an unauthorized run up the Giang Thanh River, which runs along the Vietnam-Cambodia border. Bernique, who speaks French fluently, had been told by a source in Ha Tien at the mouth of the river that a VC tax collector was operating upstream.

"Ignoring the prohibition against it, Bernique and his crew went upstream and routed the VC, pursuing and killing several.

"Instead of facing disciplinary action as he had expected, Bernique was given the Silver Star, and Zumwalt ordered other swifts, which had largely patrolled coastal waters, into the rivers.

"The decision sent a clear message, underscored repeatedly by Hoffmann's congratulatory messages, that aggressive patrolling was expected and that well-timed, if unconventional, tactics like Bernique's were encouraged.

"What we did on Feb. 28, 1969, was well in line with the tone set by our top commanders."

Saturday, August 21, 2004

I, Robot

Just saw Will Smith I, Robot. It really was good, entertaining, moving, gripping, thought provoking, allegorical, operating on a lot of different levels, about everything from Microsoft, to racism, to "contracting out" jobs, to science, love, humanity, identity, freedom, you name it. Lots of exploding fireballs, too many perhaps, car chases, special effects. Afterwards, googled Isaac Asimov (the name is an Uzbek name, I learned in Tashkent, though Asimov was born to a Jewish family near Smolensk, Russia). And there was an interesting link on Wikipedia to the first commercial robot, made by Honda.

Is is called the ASIMO, after Isaac Asimov. So, as Oscar Wilde noted, life imitates art.

AFI's Banned Elian Film Director To Appear on Fox News

This just in from Agustin Blazquez, the producer director of COVERING CUBA 3: Elian, which was banned by the American Film Institute. He will be interviewed tomorrow, Sunday, August 22, 2004 at 3:15 p.m. [all U.S. time zones] by Gregg Jarrett on Fox News Live on the Fox News Channel.

Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry

If you want to see what all the fuss is about, here's where you can buy a copy ofUnfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry, which asks the question: "'Why do an overwhelming majority of those who commanded or served with John Kerry oppose him?'"

How Can Kerry Prove Bush Coordination?

From MSNBC :

"What does it take to prove coordination under the FEC rules? To prove, for example, that an outside group’s ad was coordinated with a candidate’s campaign, any one of the following is required, according to FEC spokesman Bob Biersack:

* The ad being aired by the group was broadcast at the request or suggestion of the candidate, his campaign or an agent of the campaign.
* The group suggested the ad and the candidate or his agent assented to the ad, for example, by saying something such as, “That sounds like a good idea to me.”
* The candidate or his agent was materially involved in decisions about the content of the ad, the times and places where it would air, the medium used, etc.
* The ad was aired after what the FEC calls “substantial discussion” between the person or outside group paying for the ad and the campaign. If, for example, a campaign manager said to the head of a 527 group, “Over the next two weeks, our campaign’s ads will focus on the loss of textile jobs in this state,” and the outside group then ran its own ads buttressing that message, it would be coordination.

'It's very difficult' to prove coordination, said former FEC general counsel Larry Noble, who is now head of the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics in Washington. A case 'is very much reliant on showing that certain types of discussions took place and the only way to get that (evidence) is from the people involved.'"

Mark Steyn on Politics and Show Business

From the Sun-Times:

"But it's not healthy for political parties to embrace the mental state of the Michaels Jackson and Moore. Celebrity supporters are not naturally inclined to supporting roles. That's the trouble with the Streisand-Goldberg-Affleck Hollywood-heavy Democratic Party: Barbra, Whoopi and Ben are the stars, and the party looks more and more like just a slightly bigger than usual entourage."

Good Morning, Vietnam

The new Swift Boat Veterans ad is all about John Kerry's anti-war activism.

Which raises another issue: If Kerry thought the war was wrong, and American veterans were war criminals, why pretend to be proud of medals for participating in an immoral war? Why not say he was against the war then, and is against it today, because of his own wartime experiences, which is what he said in 1971?

That is why this issue isn't going away--because it is reopening the wounds of Vietnam. Kerry surely didn't forget that among the high officials who lost the Vietnam war were then-White House Chief of Staff Dick Cheney and then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

They probably haven't forgotten, either.

Military Medals Are Not Always What They Appear

SaysDavid Hackworth:

"Not that these abuses of the awards system are anything new. The U.S. military’s awards program -- designed to recognize both our combat heroes’ valor and the meritorious deeds by those hard-working supporters who bring up the rear -- has never been exactly fair. In the past, Joe and Jill have often gone unrecognized because there was no one left at the end of the battle to bear witness, or the paperwork got lost or wasn’t written persuasively enough, or some eager-beaver officer in the chain of command stole their glory. I know of two Medals of Honor -- one in Korea and the other with a Navy unit in Vietnam -- that shamefully went to still-living former officers when in fact their above-and-beyond deeds "witnessed" by sycophants were actually performed by grunts.

"In the latter days of the Korean War and in Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Desert Storm and Somalia, such abuses of military honors increased with each battle. In Vietnam, a dog was awarded the Bronze Star, and in Grenada, more medals were awarded than there were soldiers on that tiny island. In Desert Storm, Army infantry battalions that never saw a shot fired were awarded the coveted CIB."

On the other hand, Hackworth comes to Kerry's defense on his own website:

"O’Neill and his chorus of haters are still in their get-Kerry mode. I suspect the decades-long fury is still fueled by Kerry’s high-profile anti-war stance when he returned home. That was a position that was taken by hundreds of thousands of other Viet vets, including myself in 1971 – which, according to Joe Califono's recent book, Inside: A Public Life, almost cost me my life.

"McCain has already asked President Bush to distance himself from this “dishonest and dishonorable” attack. Advice that Bush should take one step further by ordering Vietnam draft-dodger Karl Rove and the rest of the character-assassination squad who zapped McCain and Cleland to back off. And then publicly stand tall and say that this type of behavior insults every vet who’s served America in peace and war.

"As our commander in chief, Bush also needs to bear in mind that the U.S. Navy and its high standards for handling awards are now on trial as well. Hopefully, the president’s righteous actions will expedite that institution’s exoneration along with Lt. John Kerry’s heroism."

What does it mean to say that a dog can win the Bronze star, but the Navy's high standards for handling awards are now on trial? Most likely, that Kerry is probably not the only veteran with some questionable medals from Vietnam...

Jim Lehrer on Kerry's War Record (continued)

From Friday's Newshour:

"JIM LEHRER: And finally tonight, the analysis of Shields and Kristol: Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and William Kristol of the Weekly Standard. David Brooks is on vacation. The rising war over John Kerry's Vietnam War record, Bill. Is Kerry right to blame the attacks on President Bush? Did the Bush campaign influence the ads?

WILLIAM KRISTOL: No. I don't think he's right to blame the attacks on his fellow veterans who didn't like him in Vietnam, particularly didn't like him after he called... after they think he called some of them war criminals in 1971 in his famous testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and to produce this book, John O'Neill who was on last night, no, they're not stooges of the Bush campaign.

JIM LEHRER: Not stooges of the Bush campaign?

MARK SHIELDS: Of course they are, Jim. I mean, the problem with smear campaigns is that too often they work. All we have to see - and there's a modus operandi here. We've seen it before in Bush campaigns; we saw it in 1988, we saw it in '92, we saw in 2000 against John McCain. And this isn't just the fingerprints of the Bush-Cheney campaign, or the footprints; it's the DNA. I mean, it's the funding of it, the people involved in it were involved in McCain; they use exactly the same example to go after the person just as they did with John McCain in 2000.They said John McCain was short tempered, didn't have a presidential temperament. Scott McClellan today said John Kerry's angry, Mark Rosco, the campaign chairman said he was wild eyed. I mean."

Friday, August 20, 2004

And We Thought Hate Is Not a Family Value...

How one family spent their summer vacation, from The Wall Street Journal:

"No!" the husband, who had swallowed his snack, sharply responded. "We're in favor of separation of church and state, and would prefer that those words not appear on our dollar bills, just as we want 'under God' removed from our pledge of allegiance. And you know what we mean," he continued, ratcheting-up the tone. "Bush lied to us about the war in Iraq!" The chairs rocked faster.

"How's that?" I replied. Before he could answer, I added, "Saddam Hussein used weapons of mass destruction three times, once against the Kurds in the north of Iraq, once against his 'marsh' people in the south, and against Iran. And every intelligence agency in the world, including the French, believed he had WMD, and that he was trying to acquire nuclear materials in Africa. If it was an intelligence miscalculation, all Saddam had to do was comply with U.N. inspections, but he refused. There was no lie, at worst a mistake that removed a brutal dictator who supported terrorism and who killed over 1.5 million people during his reign of terror."

"Screw you!" someone shouted from across the porch. My daughter's head swerved to the yelling miscreant, then back to me, somewhat fearful of my reaction..."

Zakaria in the Kerry Camp

In Newsweek, the former editor of Foreign Affairs, and student of Samuel Huntington, says why:

"The more intelligent question is, given what we knew at the time, was toppling Saddam's regime a worthwhile objective? Bush's answer is yes, Howard Dean's is no. Kerry's answer is that it was a worthwhile objective but was disastrously executed. For this "nuance" Kerry has been attacked from both the right and the left. But it happens to be the most defensible position on the subject."

Dallas Festival Screens AFI's Banned Elian Film

From The Wall Street Journal:

"Nearly four years after the Thanksgiving Day when Elian Gonzalez was fished out of the waters off the U.S. coast, pundits continue to debate whether he'll be as helpful to President Bush in Florida in 2004 as he was in 2000. Meanwhile, in Dallas, plans are afoot to screen a documentary next month about a much-neglected backstory: the media portrayal of Cuban-Americans during the Elian affair.

"The film is Agustín Blázquez's "Covering Cuba 3: Elian." Though it has been out since last year, this summer Mr. Blázquez created a minor stir when he accused the federally subsidized American Film Institute of "political bias" for turning down his film for its AFI Silver Theater in Maryland."

You can watch a clip at this website.

Julia Child's Legacy: The Food Network

From MeAndTed.com's Reese Schonfeld, founder of CNN and The Food Network:

"Julia Child died last week as all of you must know by now. She was one of the grandest women I’ve ever known. She was a creator and among the things she had a hand in was the creation of the Food Network.

"We bought Julia’s old shows from WGBH in Boston as soon as we started the network. Because Julia was nobody’s fool she had kept a large piece of the rights for herself and to my great pleasure much of what we paid to WGBH went to her.

"Went we were on the air, she signed up for a weekly commentary on Food News and Views. Every thing she said was right on and rightly said. Her appearance gave the Food Network credibility in the food world. She made us respectable."

Errol Morris Gets Political

Philip Gourevitch in the New Yorker on another Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker for Kerry:

"Errol Morris, whose inventive and stylized documentaries include 'The Thin Blue Line,' 'Mr. Death,' [Note to the New Yorker's famous fact-checkers: the title is acutally 'Dr. Death'] and an Oscar-winning portrait of Robert McNamara, 'The Fog of War,' is also a prodigious director of TV commercials—the ultimate message movies. It’s a lucrative sideline in which he takes considerable pleasure. He’s made successful advertisements for such brands as Miller High Life, Adidas, and Volkswagen, although some of his favorite spots—one for Quaker Oats, for example, which shows an orangutan spooning porridge into his mouth, then setting aside the utensil and blissfully plunging his face into the breakfast bowl—have never been broadcast. A few years ago, Morris directed Apple’s enormously popular 'Switch' campaign, which consisted of vignettes about real people who had abandoned PCs for Macs. And, while he has never before been involved in electoral politics, this year Morris decided to make a series of documentary political ads featuring Republican switchers, people who voted for George W. Bush in 2000 and will vote for John Kerry this time around.

"Morris, who lives in the echt-liberal enclave of Cambridge, Massachusetts, didn’t actually know any such people, but, he told me, 'the pollsters said they’re out there—in America—and I’m really interested in what they have to say.' After all, the outcome of the election is expected to hinge largely on swing voters, and, Morris said, 'these ads are a way of talking to them. It isn’t pollsters talking through actors. It isn’t longtime Democrats talking to themselves. It isn’t longtime Democrats hectoring Republicans. It’s thoughtful Republicans—many of whom have decided to remain Republican—saying it’s not us who are abandoning Bush; he’s abandoned us, abandoned the Republican Party we’ve supported all these years. That is a very powerful message.""

I met Morris several years ago, and he was kind enough to tell me at that time that he thought my film, Who Shall Live and Who Shall Die?, "was the best documentary I have ever seen."

So what can I say, other than read the New Yorker story?

Are We Losing Iraq?

Michael Rubin thinks so:

"If the National Security Council wants to put their hope in Ayad Allawi, they will be sorely disappointed. Allawi is a former Baathist. His close association with the Central Intelligence Agency, Britain's MI6, and Jordanian intelligence have not helped him among a Shia population in which he has little if any constituency. The Kurds also distrust Allawi, who, in 14 months of Coalition rule failed to engage in any serious way with the Sunni community. Najaf ends Allawi's honeymoon. The CIA may sing his praises to the president, but Langley's assets seldom make good leaders. They certainly don't make good democrats."

Youssef Chahine's Love-Hate Relationship With America

The Egyptian filmmaker's new release, "Alexandria...New York," is profiled in The Washington Post:

"Chahine said that he, like many Egyptians, is disturbed by the relentless violence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as well as Iraq. "All the time I am faced by these scenes, every night on TV. We Arabs feel rejection. But if it was only us, it may not matter. It seems it is also 1 billion Muslims are being rejected," he said.

"He says he longs for the days of Busby Berkeley musicals, Fred Astaire dance numbers and Frank Sinatra crooning. Instead, he finds exploding cars and computerized robots. "All we see is Spider-Men and musclemen like Stallone and Willis," he said, referring to action stars Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis. "America has become violent like the new movies."

"Alexandria . . . New York" opens with the Arab filmmaker character deciding to travel to the United States despite his unease over its support for Israel. "It's hard to rip my deep love for America out of my heart," the character says."

Composer Elmer Bernstein Dies

From the Washington Post:

"Pot-bellied, with a mop of shaggy gray hair, Mr. Bernstein worked much of his career in a filthy West Los Angeles apartment.

"Music is a romantic art," the composer said. "It's an art of shades and sounds and it's an emotional art. It deals with feelings rather than intellect. But the making of it is an intellectual exercise. And therefore it can be done in any surroundings. "

Jim Lehrer on John Kerry's War Record

A really interesting segment on the NewsHour last night about John Kerry's decorations:

"JIM LEHRER: More now on the charges and counter-charges over John Kerry's war record. John O'Neill is co-founder of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, the group that sponsored the ad against Kerry. He also wrote 'Unfit for Command,' a book critical of John Kerry's service in Vietnam. And we're also joined by Boston Globe columnist Tom Oliphant, who has covered and written extensively about John Kerry. Mr. O'Neill, are you doing President Bush's dirty work for him?"

Lehrer is a former Marine, and does a good job with military issues. Certainly, it is unseemly for supporters of a President and Vice-President who avoided military service, who have no medals of their own, to make an issue of John Kerry's medals. While it is legitimate for them to make an issue of his throwing his decorations away as a protest against the Vietnam war, his casting aspersions on Vietnam veterans as war criminals, his subsequent efforts to have it both ways, or whatever else is a matter of principle.

Likewise, Kerry might want to come up with something he has done since fighting in Vietnam--which was some 30 years ago, after all. Lots of people won medals, and are not qualified to be President. It takes something extra, and Kerry hasn't shown it, yet.

After all, Bob Dole was a war hero, Bill Clinton wasn't, and the American people elected Clinton.

On the other hand, the Kerry critics have some juicy tidbits to bait him with...

You can watch the whole Lehrer segment here.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Iraq: Democracy Can Be Fun

Zeyad reports on the National Conference:

"Watching the proceedings of the controversial National Conference for the last three days, most of it transmitted live on Al-Iraqiya channel, has been an enjoyable experience. I have to mention here that the majority of Iraqis are unfamiliar with the rules of parliamentary sessions. The closest thing we had to a parliament was abolished in 1958 with the introduction of 'Revolutionary' Republican rule. Whatever the level of political maturity Iraqis had accumulated at that stage, it slowly disintegrated year after year under the successive totalitarian ('Revolutionary') regimes. Today, 45 years later, we are back again at point zero.

"Under Ba'athist rule, proceedings from the so-called National Council were televised from time to time. The Revolutionary Command Council was the sole source of legislation, so basically the National Council had no other function but to approve and stamp the endless amendments. Votes were always unanimous. It was a joke really. A farce.

"The National Conference also looks like a farce on the surface, but of a totally different kind. Here you have 1000-1300 delegates from all over Iraq, from all ethnicities, religions, sects and social backgrounds. A curious mix of people all put together in one room to try and choose 81 individuals that are supposed to represent Iraqis.

"Young and old clerics in black and white turbans, groomed men in suits and carefully pressed shirts, tribal Sheikhs traditionally dressed, women shrouded in black abayas, others in the latest hairdressing style and glamorous fashion trends and some in headscarfs of every imaginable colour. Doctors, dentists, lawyers, judges, engineers, professors, teachers, generals, businessmen, artists, actors, activists, priests, imams, even sportsmen and a musician...."

Mark Steyn Remembers Fay Wray (1907-2004)

In The Spectator:

"Born in Alberta, raised in Arizona and Utah, and sent at the age of 14 to live with a male friend of her sister’s in Hollywood, Fay Wray had no reason to wind up a movie star other than her own determination: she was good-looking in the way the gal serving you hash in the greasy spoon back in Arizona might be. She was a smart, largely self-taught woman who loved writers. Between them, her husbands and lovers wrote the screenplays of Wings, The Dawn Patrol, It Happened One Night, Lost Horizon, You Can’t Take It With You, Golden Boy, The Big Knife and Rhapsody In Blue. After acting, Miss Wray turned to playwriting herself – her last work was premiered in New Hampshire a few years back – and also came up with a very beguiling memoir with a Kong-alluding title, On The Other Hand."