Sunday, October 31, 2004

They Really Don't Get It, Do They?

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

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

Pew Survey: Bush Ahead 48-45 Percent

From Pew's voter survey:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mark Steyn on John Kerry's Endorsements

From The Chicago Sun Times:

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

Stop John Kerry Before It Is Too Late...

From The Diplomad:

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

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

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

ENDORSEMENT: Tom Dawson for DC School Board

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

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

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

Sounds ok to me...

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Another Returned Peace Corps Volunteer for Bush

Nathan Hamm endorses the President:

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Red Sox World Series Roundp


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

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Down to 5 States

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

Monday, October 25, 2004

Hitchens Endorses Bush

From The Nation [link via]:

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

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

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

Ivy League for Kerry

An account from dissident professor Ruth Wisse in Opinion Journal:

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

Boston Red Sox : The Official Site

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

What Would Patton Say?

From Victor Davis Hanson's Private Papers:

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

RealClearPolitics Poll Posted by Hello

Bush Leads Kerry 48-45

From Reuters [via Powerlineblog and RealClearPolitics]:

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

Mark Steyn's Election Fun and Games

From SteynOnline:

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

Sunday, October 24, 2004

American Candide

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

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

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

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

Putin Endorses Bush

Reports The Washington Post:

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

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

Saturday, October 23, 2004

The NY Times' New Book Critic

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 22, 2004

US State Department Funded Al-Qaeda-linked NGO

According to the SITE Institute:

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

Bin Laden Still on Saudi Payroll?

Yes, says Roger L. Simon:

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

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

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

Why American Jews Should Vote Republican

From The Diplomad:

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

NGOs Hurt the Poor

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

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

Roger Kimball's The Rape of the Masters

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

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

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

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

Jeff Danziger's Racist Cartoon

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

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

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

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

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

Are International NGOs Out of Control?

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Marco Polo in the Cornfields

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

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

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

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

Art in the Cornfields

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

Florida's Terror Factor

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

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

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

The Diplomad Endorses Bush

From The Diplomad:

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

Team America: World Police

Reviewed by OpinionJournal - Best of the Web Today:

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

A Short History of Assassins

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

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

News Flash: Kerry Talks Like Bush

From Language Log:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Glenn Reynolds on Bush

From The Guardian :

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

Mark Steyn on the Debate

From SteynOnline:

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

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

From Our Ironies of Fate Department...

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

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

Solizhan Sharipov Returns to the Cosmos

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

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Mark Steyn on Ken Bigley's Murder

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

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

Putin Goes To China

From Mosnews:

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

Middle East Quarterly on The Arab Mind

From Middle East Quarterly:

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

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

Giuliani on Kerry

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

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

Why the Afghan Election Matters

From The Argus:

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

Monday, October 11, 2004

Roger L. Simon on the American Media

Roger L. Simon: Mystery Novelist and Screenwriter:

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

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

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

Nathan Hamm on the US Elections

From Holland's Amerika kiest:

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

Who Is Matt Bai?

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

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

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

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

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

Nathan Hamm on the US Elections

From the Dutch websiteAmerika kiest:

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

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Mark Steyn on Friday's Bush-Kerry Debate

From The Telegraph:

"And, if you want to know the real difference, after 90 minutes of debate it came in the final exchange of the night: 'The truth of that matter,' said Bush, 'is, if you listen carefully, Saddam would still be in power if he [Kerry] were the President of the United States.'

Kerry replied: 'Not necessarily.'

That's John Kerry: the 'not necessarily' candidate. Saddam might not necessarily be in power. He might have been hit by the Number 37 bus while crossing the street at the intersection of Saddam Hussein Boulevard and Saddam Hussein Parkway in downtown Tikrit. He might have put his back out with one of his more vigorous concubines and been forced to hand over to Uday or Qusay. He might have stiffed Chirac in some backdoor deal and been taken out by some anthrax-laced Quality Street planted by an elite French commando unit."

Saturday, October 09, 2004

From Our "Your Tax Dollars At Work" Department...

From Unixdude, this item about a recent grant from the National Endowment for the Arts:

"$35,000 NEA Grant Funds Musical About A Killer!
NEA -- the National Endowment for the Arts -- is giving the La Jolla Playhouse thirty-five thousand dollars to 'develop' a musical based on the life of San Diego gay prostitute turned serial killer Andrew Cunanan. Cunanan as you might recall killed fashion designer Gianni Versace as the last (himself not withstanding) of his many victims. The musical, titled 'Disposable,' will be developed by three Playhouse associates ---- playwright Jessica Hagedorn (whose 'Dogeaters' went from the Playhouse to off-Broadway a few years ago), composer Mark Bennett (creator of the score for the Playhouse's 'Eden Lane' last year) and director Michael Greif (who ran the Playhouse as artistic director from 1994 to 1999).
Is this really how we want our government spending our tax dollars? Not mine, thank you. It seems that the NEA is linked quite frequently to Insufferable Art. So whether you want to see dancing vaginas or a guy nailing his tiny johnson to a board [one moment, please, while I wince in pain], the NEA can 'help' us all! Unfortunately, the artists that receive NEA funding are no more an 'artist' than the guy down at Subway that makes my sandwich. Further, the NEA is way beyond the point of reform. It must be abolished."

Kerry on Record Against Kyoto Protocol

Nathan Hamm found this article from the Grand Forks Herald, and shared the link with, evidence Kerry is against Kyoto :

"BOSTON - During the presidential primaries, Sen. John Kerry quietly renounced support for the Kyoto treaty on global warming. More recently, as it readied itself for the Kerry lovefest in Boston, the Democratic Party surreptitiously removed from its platform support for Kyoto - a treaty, in large part, personally negotiated by its last presidential candidate Al Gore. John Edwards, Kerry's running mate, who supports Kyoto, should be forgiven if he is surprised by Kerry's position, which essentially is now the same as President Bush's. Delegates to the recently convention were confused as well. Indeed, the general public could be forgiven for not knowing Kerry's stance on Kyoto. After all, none of the major media outlets have highlighted his rejection of Kyoto and his campaign has gone to great lengths to portray Kerry's position as pro-Kyoto. For instance, Teresa Heinz Kerry recently boasted that Kerry had attended more Kyoto conferences than any other major politician. Kerry, as usual, wants to have it both ways. He wants to appear pro-Kyoto in public before the camera's, while actually rejecting the treaty as a policy matter. But I digress, this is not to pan Kerry's apparent hypocrisy but to praise his decision to reject Kyoto and to call on him to reject other proposals that would require U.S. companies to unilaterally reduce greenhouse gas emissions."

The Diplomad on the Australian Election

From The Diplomad:

"The Diplomads are dancing with joy! Normally a horrible sight, but forgive us for today is one of great joy! Howard has won!!!!!! Our Diplomad in the Pacific is watching (Aussie) ABC and reports that the media types look positively glum -- grasping and gasping for an explanation of how the hated, stoooopid, ignorant, lying Howard has crushed the opposition and made the pollsters look, well, stoooopid! PM John W. Howard has pulled off one of the great electoral victories of our time and is on his way to becoming the longest serving Australian PM. Congratulations to PM Howard. And heartiest congratulations to the Aussie electorate: they ignored all the nonsense screamed about Howard -- one of the three most vilified men on the planet along with Bush and Blair -- and proved that Australia is not Spain, not Canada, not the EU, it's, it's . . . . Australia! And it doesn't get much better than that."

Andrew Sullivan on the Debate


"A DRAW: That's my basic take, although the debate was more interesting than that makes it seem. On style, the president was clearly far better than in the first debate. I think he's woken up and realizes he can lose this thing. He was aggressive, clear most of the time, had a good rapport with the audience and, as the debate went on, became more relaxed. There were moments early on, however, when he seemed to me to be close to shouting; and his hyper-aggressiveness, having to respond to everything, went at times over the line of persuasiveness. Early cut-away shots weren't helpful either. He tended to look up at Kerry blinking fast, twitching a little, and occasionally smirking and even winking to friends in the audience. Not presidential. He was strongest on stem cell research, where most of his work was done by the questioner. But his clear formulation - 'to destroy life in order to save life is one of the most difficult moral concundrums we face today' - was eloquent and correct. I'm with him on this one. I also found his response to the abortion question better than Kerry's. How you can respect human life and be in favor of partial birth abortion is simply beyind me. Bush is also clearly right that the war on terror cannot be restrained merely to police work against al Qaeda. On all these things, his performance was immeasurably better than last week. "

Roger L. Simon on the Second Presidential Debate


"I thought this was a big win for Bush, but I admit it, I can't stand John Kerry. I find him the most fake candidate of my lifetime. LEt's see how the pundits spin it."

Mark Steyn on the Second Presidential Debate

From SteynOnline:
WINNER: BUSH! (and whoever loaded his percolator)
The unasked questions: Is there anything you can ask John Kerry that he doesn't have a plan for? Is his plan to have a plan for everything? If you ask him whether he's concerned that something might come up that he doesn't have a plan for, does he have a plan to deal with things he hasn't planned? Has he planned for the possibility that he might misplace one of his plans?"

Friday, October 08, 2004

Victor Davis Hanson on Iraq

From VDH's Private Papers:

"In fact, Kerry's only chance for honest intellectual criticism of the Bush administration might have come from the right: stern remonstrations over our tolerance of looting, inability to train Iraqis in real numbers, laxity in shutting off the borders, failure to control arms depots, tolerance for terrorist enclaves in Fallujah, and sloth in releasing aid money to grass-roots organizations. Yet by putting a tired Richard Holbrook or a whining Jamie Rubin on television, Kerry suggests that far from chastising Bush for doing too little, he believes that the president has already done too much.

"The administration's gaffes all share a common theme of restraining our military power in fear of either Middle Eastern or European censure. But once one climbs into a cesspool like Iraq, one must either clean it up or go home, and that means suffering the 48-hour hysteria of the global media about collateral damage in exchange for killing the terrorists and freeing the country. Only that way can we impress the fencesitting Iraqis that we employ an iron fist in service to their own security and prosperity, and thus we — not the beheaders and kidnappers — are their only partners for peace."

Who Is Behind the Taba Bombing?

From Haaretz :

"As in Thursday's attacks in Sinai, the attacks in Bali, Casablanca and Mombasa were characterized by a series of strikes indicating meticulous planning, collection of intelligence and impressive operational ability on the part of the attackers. Another common thread is that the targets were identified with Israel or Jews - the Tunisian synagogue, the Israeli-owned Paradise Hotel, the Arkia flight - as well as attacks on synagogues in Istanbul about a year ago. There were extremist Muslim organizations in Egypt that began to carry out such terror attacks even before September 11, 2001 in an effort to destabilize the Egyptian regime. In 1995, the Egyptian Islamic Jihad attacked a Cairo hotel and killed a number of Greek tourists. In 1997, terrorists from the Egyptian 'Jama'a Islamiya,' headed by Rifa'at Taa, slaughtered 69 Western tourists in southern Egypt. He was later counted among those signing a Osama bin Laden's manifest declaring the creation of Al-Qaida and a war against Christians and Jews."

Who is Elfriede Jelinek?

Here's her biography, from

Elfriede Jelinek was born on 20 October 1946 in the town of Mürzzuschlag in the Austrian province of Styria. Her father, of Czech-Jewish origin, was a chemist and worked in strategically important industrial production during the Second World War, thereby escaping persecution. Her mother was from a prosperous Vienna family, and Elfriede grew up and went to school in that city. At an early age, she was instructed in piano, organ and recorder and went on to study composition at the Vienna Conservatory. After graduating from the Albertsgymnasium in 1964, she studied theatre and art history at the University of Vienna while continuing her music studies. In 1971, she passed the organist diploma examination at the Conservatory.

Elfriede Jelinek began writing poetry while still young. She made her literary debut with the collection Lisas Schatten in 1967. Through contact with the student movement, her writing took a socially critical direction. In 1970 came her satirical novel wir sind lockvögel baby!. In common with her next novel, Michael. Ein Jugendbuch für die Infantilgesellschaft (1972), it had a character of linguistic rebellion, aimed at popular culture and its mendacious presentation of the good life.

After a few years spent in Berlin and Rome in the early 1970s, Jelinek married Gottfried Hüngsberg, and divided her time between Vienna and Munich. She conquered the German literary public with her novels DieLiebhaberinnen (1975; Women as Lovers, 1994), Die Ausgesperrten (1980; Wonderful, Wonderful Times, 1990) and the autobiographically based Die Klavierspielerin (1983; The Piano Teacher, 1988), in 2001 made into an acclaimed film by Michael Haneke. These novels, each within the framework of its own problem complex, present a pitiless world where the reader is confronted with a locked-down regime of violence and submission, hunter and prey. Jelinek demonstrates how the entertainment industry’s clichés seep into people’s consciousness and paralyse opposition to class injustices and gender oppression. In Lust (1989; Lust, 1992), Jelinek lets her social analysis swell to fundamental criticism of civilisation by describing sexual violence against women as the actual template for our culture. This line is maintained, seemingly in a lighter tone, in Gier. Ein Unterhaltungsroman (2000), a study in the cold-blooded practice of male power. With special fervour, Jelinek has castigated Austria, depicting it as a realm of death in her phantasmagorical novel, Die Kinder der Toten (1975). Jelinek is a highly controversial figure in her homeland. Her writing builds on a lengthy Austrian tradition of linguistically sophisticated social criticism, with precursors such as Johann Nepomuk Nestroy, Karl Kraus, Ödön von Horváth, Elias Canetti, Thomas Bernhard and the Wiener Group.

The nature of Jelinek’s texts is often hard to define. They shift between prose and poetry, incantation and hymn, they contain theatrical scenes and filmic sequences. The primacy in her writing has however moved from novel-writing to drama. Her first radio play, wenn die sonne sinkt ist für manche schon büroschluss, was very favourably received in 1974. She has since written a large number of pieces for radio and the theatre, in which she successively abandoned traditional dialogues for a kind of polyphonic monologues that do not serve to delineate roles but to permit voices from various levels of the psyche and history to be heard simultaneously. What she puts on stage in plays from recent years – Totenauberg, Raststätte, Wolken. Heim, Ein Sportstück, In den Alpen, Das Werk and others – are less characters than “language interfaces” confronting each other. Jelinek’s most recent published works for drama, the so-called “princess dramas” (Der Tod und das Mädchen I-V, 2003), are variations on one of the writer’s basic themes, the inability of women to fully come to life in a world where they are painted over with stereotypical images.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

CBS Responds to Criticism of Dan Rather's Forgeries


"Addressed to founder Michael Paranzino, the email from the CBS -- Black Rock -- headquarters in New York City was brief and to the point:

"A check of the computer-generated email headers provided to track abuse confirms that the email was sent from servers at CBS headquarters ( and ,"

And we thought hate was not a famiy value...

Martin Kramer on Dialogue with the Muslim Brotherhood

He's against it. From Martin Kramer's Sandstorm:

"The wrong Muslims. Now if some of the Islamists today were on a march to power, the case for dialogue might be more compelling. But where are these Islamists? Where is the Khomeini of Saudi Arabia or Iraq? Skeptical as we may be about the prospects for the Saudi monarchy or the Iraqi government, it is difficult to see Islamists who could replace them. And what would we talk about in a dialogue with the kinds of Islamists who seek to seize power in Saudi Arabia or Iraq? Would not such a dialogue merely antagonize and alienate those forces for stability that still have a chance to see the crisis through? And do we really think that were we to facilitate the ascent of any of these groups, they would be grateful for it? Any more so than the Afghan mujahideen?

"In sum, dialogue with Islamists, far from undercutting the jihadists, would undercut their opponents. It would muddle the message of the war on terror--the message that there can be no middle ground, and that Muslims must choose. Islamists not only wish to create a middle ground in the Middle East, but they seek to extend it to American soil. Few things could undermine the war on terror more thoroughly than dialogue with them, because it would facilitate just that.

"The United States has no use for equivocating Islamists. The United States does have use for dialogue with believing Muslims--those who share its vision of a Middle East that is free, and free of terror."

Mark Steyn on the Cheney-Edwards Vice Presidential Debate

From SteynOnline:


Classic Daddy Party performance, underlined by Edwards' closing with his maudlin generic hardscrabble vignettes. Simply by being who he is, Cheney made the other guy look a lightweight. Edwards had one good trick: he worked the format better - using the 30-second add-ons for his sharpest and best rehearsed jabs and leaving Cheney no time for rebuttal. That aside, I don't agree with Andrew Sullivan on much these days, but I'm with him on this: Cheney is way sexier than Edwards, who seems cheesier and emptier every time I see him."

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Frankfurt Book Fair Promotes Arab Authors

From Deutsche Welle | [link from]:

"Many popular Arab authors remain unknown in the West. That may change as the Frankfurt Book Fair invites the Arab League as guest of honor this year. But the nagging issue of censorship might not be touched upon at all. Of the around 120,000 foreign fiction titles translated into German, only about 500 come from the Arab world. It's a telling statement on the lack of information in the West when it comes to the diversity of the literary landscape in the Arab countries. It's usually literary heavyweights such as Egyptian author and Nobel Prize winner Naguib Mahfouz or France-based Moroccan writer Tahar Ben Jelloun who enjoy relative popularity in Europe. But that might be about to change as the spotlight falls on the Arab League at this year's Frankfurt Book Fair. Starting October 6, visitors to the world's largest book fair will get the chance to meet and get acquainted with the works of around 200 authors and artists from 17 countries of the 22-member Arab League."

The Only Thing We Have To Fear...

Roger L. Simon: Mystery Novelist and Screenwriter realized the Vice-Presidential debate subtext was about fear:

"But we all know that. And for the willfully disinterested who didn't, Cheney pointed it out last night with the one slightly witty line of the first two debates in which he wondered aloud how K & E could stand up to Al Qaeda if they couldn't stand up to Howard Dean. How indeed? Or should I say 'Howard indeed'? But it's worse, because the ghost of Dean and the Deaniacs sits astride all sides in the current conflagration. Consider the endless debate on the number of troops. Can you honestly suggest that the presence of the 'Dean Left' (quotes deliberate) did not influence the size of the deployments? Say what you want about 'military advice'... and I am an agnostic on the number of troops issue... I am certain that the administration, as would almost all politicians, was looking over its collective shoulder at its noisy adversaries as they went to war. And they continued to look over their shoulders as they pursued the peace. Consciously or unconsciously, they wanted to believe that lower numbers were acceptable. War-lite, they thought in the shadow of Dean, would garner less resistance. But like many decisions made in fear, this may not have been in true. Still, Bremer's complaints on troop numbers do not impress me. He is thought not to have distinguished himself as head of the CPA (who knows the reality of this?), so naturally he is looking to CYA, making his criticism suspect. But the overweening problem is being governed by fear, fear of Dean (how ridiculous is that, when you think about it). I didn't need Cheney to tell me that for that reason alone I could not vote for Kerry. "

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

From Our We Hate To Say We Told You So Department: "CBS Says Probe Results Unlikely Until After Election"

You can scroll down to read our earlier post on the weakness of the blogosphere. Now this confirmation of further Dan Rather forgery scandal cover-ups, from Yahoo! News [link via LittleGreenFootballs]:

"NEW YORK (Reuters) - An external review of how CBS News came to use disputed documents in a report on President Bush (news - web sites)'s military record will probably not be concluded until after the November election so as not to interfere with the presidential race... "

Russia's War on Terror

Leon Aron's analysis of Russian policies in the wake of the Beslan tragedy:

"Wars have repeatedly had a decisive influence on Russia's political development, and the present global conflict against fundamentalist Islam is no exception. With the murder of hundreds of Russians at the hands of Chechen terrorists--most notably, the massacre of schoolchildren at Beslan earlier this month--President Vladimir Putin has announced a sweeping overhaul of Russia's political system that would further consolidate power in the Kremlin and damage the country's nascent democracy. The United States and its allies now confront the dual challenge of assisting Russia in its fight against terrorism while simultaneously resisting the erosion of freedom there.

"The French only make reforms in the course of a revolution," General de Gaulle once told Raymond Aron. Of the Russians it may be said that their reforms (and revolutions) are very often precipitated by wars.

"The Crimean War (1854-1856) led to Alexander II's "revolution from above," which included the emancipation of the serfs. The Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905 brought about the 1905 Revolution and the beginning of democratic politics and constitutional monarchy. World War I was the key precondition for the success of the Bolshevik Revolution. The Soviet Union's war in Afghanistan (1979-1988) contributed mightily to the urgency of Mikhail Gorbachev's overhaul of domestic and foreign policies. And the defeat or, more precisely, voluntary withdrawal from the Cold War attended the breakup of the Soviet Union and the democratic revolution of 1991.

"With the murder of more than six hundred men, women, and children by Chechnya-based Islamic terrorists in Russia since late June--including the simultaneous downing of two civilian airplanes and the massacre of schoolchildren in Beslan--Russia is again at war. The historic pattern of wars' profound impact on Russian politics and society is evident in President Vladimir Putin's September 13 outline of political and bureaucratic reforms that would consolidate the Kremlin's power and damage Russia's nascent democracy. The United States now confronts the challenge of a "two-track" policy of helping Russia to combat militant Islamic fundamentalism while opposing the erosion of democracy. "

Monday, October 04, 2004

Why Go Digital?

Charlie Clark, in The Washington Post today,: considers the case of the vanishing reference book:

"In our digitally drenched age, I find myself fascinated by the 'refresh' function on today's more dynamic Web sites. The steadily blinking, disappear-and-reappear changes to and my AOL home page reassure me in a nanosecond that the information I take in is perpetually updated -- with zero effort by me.

"Small problem, however. Computers have so accelerated our thought processes, so raised our expectations and so reduced our patience that nowadays when I consult one of my venerable reference works, I take for granted this same up-to-the-minute 'refreshment.' Instead, it hits me like a punch in the nose when I discover that my research sources are frozen in an era when Jimmy Carter was president, the Bee Gees ruled radio and TV news was a half-hour a day.

"So, you ask, why not go digital? I mean, who still buys their children a heavy shelf of World Book Encyclopedia volumes when you can score a current and searchable version that fits in your coat pocket?

"Truth is, I'm too attached to the glorious objects that give ambiance to my thinking man's study to trade them for a rack of utilitarian plastic and ephemeral data. "

Che Guevara Didn't Ride Motorcycles

Agustin Blazquez let us know that the new film about Che Guevara, Motorcycle Diaries is not only fiction, it is a lie. Agustin shared this email from a friend as evidence that Che didn't ride a motorcycle -- because he didn't know how.

Guess what folks? Last night I went to Lectorium Books in Manhattan for a book presentation. The author who was presenting his memoirs is a Cuban who was on the Gramma expedition and Moncada Barracks attack with Castro. He knew Castro, Raul, and Che personally and up close. When asked by someone in the audience about the "Motorcycle Diaries," he laughed and said that Che did not know how to ride a motorcycle! He said that he unequivocally knows that, because on various occassions he went motorcycling around Habana with Castro and company and Che never went along with them even when asked to accompany them. All that he did was sheepishly wave GOOD-BYE, because he didn't know how to ride a motorbike!

Ah, the mythmaking of the left that ceaselessly lionizes Che! Pretty soon, they'll have him coming down on a cloud!

Museum of Modern Art Ups Ticket Prices

The entrance fee at New York's Museum of Modern Art just went from $12 to $20. My Stupid Dog is annoyed with Terry Teachout's knee-jerk condemnation:

"To call New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg plain-spoken is a bit of an understatement. When queried about MoMa's price hikes, Bloomberg stated with characteristic bluntness, ''Some things people can afford, some things people can't. ... MoMA is a private institution. It's not a city institution. And they have a right to set their own pricing policies.' Bloomberg added that 'If you can't afford [admissions] at any one, you can go to another one.' Journalists have had a field day with Bloomberg's statement, noting that the mayor is one of America's wealthiest men -- of course he won't be affected by a mere eight-dollar increase, with his multi-billion dollar personal fortune.

"Online arts critic Terry Teachout, who usually combines informed connoisseurship with common sense, claims that Bloomberg 'just earned himself a swift kick in the crotch for his personal contribution to the ongoing debate. (Not in the head--that wouldn't hurt him one bit.)' Yet Bloomberg's reasoning is absolutely correct: Private institutions should set their own admissions policies, without interference from government. He neither condemned nor condoned the new admission rates, but he did state that the price of MoMA admissions was not his concern as a government official.

"In the meantime, I wonder what has happened to Teachout's own head. When he accepted a prestigious position with the National Endowment for the Arts, I feared that the moribund institution might alter him more than he would alter it. Once you start to work with government-sponsored arts projects on behalf of 'the masses' -- who presumably are too ignorant to make an informed judgment in matters of taste -- the idea that artists and government institutions should work together to bring art to the people becomes embedded in your brain like a virus. The consequent government-funded art, complete with Uncle Sam's seal of approval, runs the gamut from redundant (NEA's ongoing "Shakespeare in the Suburbs" tour!) to banal ("Piss Christ," anyone?).

"I think the NEA tends to forget that art is not only accessible, it is everywhere. From television commericals to art-house cinema, from down-and-dirty blues music to fun-house postmodern architecture, even the poorest of Americans are sated, even glutted, with products of human imagination and creativity. That may explain why most Americans don't go to art museums: They've had enough truth and beauty for one day, thanks, and staring at colored squares isn't going to do anything for them. When interior designers on cable television can paint household cabinets in the style of Piet Mondrian, it's time for all government-subsized priests of high culture to declare "Mission Accomplished" and call it a day."

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Mark Steyn Still Says Bush Will Win

From The Chicago Sun-Times:

"Those of us who've been sweet on George W. Bush a long time have gotten used to these moments. Four years ago, he stacks up more money and a bigger runaway lead than any other candidate in history, but he can't be bothered campaigning in New Hampshire, so he loses the primary to John McCain. He struggles to catch up, wins the nomination, but then takes the summer off to build his ranch house in Crawford, Texas. Al Gore's ahead on Labor Day, but Bush claws his way back to a small lead, then they drop the last-minute DWI scandal and, instead of rebutting it, he takes the weekend off, and lands us in a month of Florida chad-divining.

"So Thursday was one of those moments. Bush wasn't wrong, but he was in the same state he was in in early 2003, before launching the Iraq war, when he was tired and punchy and stumbling round the country not making a case against Saddam but just droning the same phrases over and over: ''He's a dictator.'' Smirk. ''He gassed his own people.'' In Thursday's debate, his own people seemed to have gassed him. Bush droned, repeatedly, that Kerry was sending ''mixed messages,'' but his own message could have done with being a little less robotically unmixed. He said, ''It's tough. ... It's hard work. ...'' again and again..."

Network Anchors Rally Behind Dan Rather's Forgeries

According to The Washington Post network anchors are supporting Dan Rather in the scandal over his forged documents:

"NEW YORK, Oct. 2 -- Dan Rather, vowing to resist any 'smear' campaign against him by the Bush administration or other critics, said Saturday he would not 'give up the fight' and intends to remain in the CBS anchor chair. Rather, who has apologized for reporting on National Guard documents about President Bush that the network now says it cannot authenticate, twice declined to comment on the controversy at a forum hosted by the New Yorker. He made clear he had been muzzled by management, saying CBS News President Andrew Heyward had asked him to stay quiet while an outside panel investigates the matter. The other network anchors at the forum stood by their longtime rival. NBC's Tom Brokaw accused Internet critics of 'a kind of political jihad against Dan Rather and CBS News that is quite outrageous.' Although he called Rather's '60 Minutes' story 'a big mistake,' Brokaw said it had led to an attempt to 'demonize' Rather and CBS through 'demagoguery.'"

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Al-Zawahri Calls for US Attacks

From Aljazeera.Net:

"'In Palestine, we are not only facing the Jews but also the anti-Islam international alliance headed by the US crusaders.So, fighting Jews and leaving America without being attacked will not make the Americans or the crusaders lessen their aggression against us.'"

The Botox Factor

President Bush's facial expressions have come under attack from the Democratic National Committee, which posted selected clips from the Bush-Kerry debate on their website. But the Texan's more mobile face might simply be a sign that he hasn't used quite as much Botox, while the impassive rigidity of Kerry's lower-jaw might give credence to the notion that the Boston Brahmin has indeed been cosmetically enhanced, his skin paralyzed by the Botulism toxin.

That's what reports on the website seem to indicate, at least...

Don't Call Me a "Blogger"!

From Wizbang:

"I've always hated the word... Blogger. Even without referencing its auditory resemblance to gelatinous masses ejected from nasal cavities, I still don't like it. Blogger. Say it aloud. It sounds as if you are talking with a mouth full of food you are trying to prevent from escaping. Or perhaps it sounds like some did escape. Either way, what does it mean? One who has a weblog? Look that up in a hip glossary and it does not cover what I do. This is no 'on-line diary.' People outside the blogospehre don't like the word either. After all, bloggers (as we all know) don't have the systems of checks and balances like they have in a traditional newsroom. It was my adventure debunking Professor Hailey that lead me to an epiphany. I no longer what to be called a blogger and neither should you. We are not bloggers, We are independent, peer reviewed journalists.

"It was the phone call to the head of Professor Hailey's department that made me see the light. He said something to the effect of, 'Certainly Dr. Hailey's work needs to stand up to peer review.' But who exactly is Dr. Hailey's peer? Apparently some guy sitting in his pajamas who has a blog. The simple act of 'getting things right' is important to society. Politicians must get things right so have have voters keep an eye on them. Lawyers must get things right so we have juries. So to must scholars get things right, so a system of 'peer review' was born. I can think of no other entity than the traditional media whose only review system is internal. Multiple people have tried to make the case that the blogosphere is more accurate than the mainstream media. Heck, search this blog and you'll find I've done it several times. What we have lacked is a way to explain our system of checks and balances to people outside the blogosphere. The phrase 'Peer Reviewed Journalism' does that."

Charlie Cook on the Debate

From The Cook Report:

"While I personally thought that Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry's performance in last night's debate was awful and that he has been badly damaged by the flip-flop argument, I am clearly in the minority. Data (polling, focus groups and dial tests) from both parties and the media show that Kerry won debate, though it remains unclear as to whether the ballot test moved much. Personally, I thought that Kerry sounded like Thurston Howell III, the snooty and condescending millionaire from 'Gilligan's Island,' but more people were comfortable with that than they were with the President's stammering and halting delivery and repetition of same phrases and arguments... "

Why Kerry Will Lose

From Victor Davis Hanson's Private Papers:

"So Kerry flip and flops like a fish out of water, suggesting that his heart is with Howard Dean while his mind concurs with George Bush -- and thus his schizophrenia is on the verge of leading his party to a landslide defeat in the electoral college, and the loss of all branches of government with it. Americans simply have never voted for leaders who insult their allies on the battlefield, claim that their soldiers are losing, and shrug that the war is about lost. And they surely won't this time either."

Friday, October 01, 2004

Mark Steyn on Golda's Balcony

From The New Criterion:

"If you can't be a Zionist on Broadway, where can you be? That surely is one lesson to be drawn from Golda's Balcony, which has been playing at the Helen Hayes for almost a year now. That's a remarkable run for a solo show on a serious subject not exactly in tune with prevailing fashion, so I felt I ought to see it before it turned into Cats or The Mousetrap. The play is a new work by William Gibson, one of the old lions of the Anne Frank era: he made his name in the Fifties with Two for the Seesaw and The Miracle Worker. In his later career, he's found himself circling back to earlier hits: The Miracle Worker (1959) was about Helen Keller's young life, Monday after the Miracle (1982) was about her later life. Golda (1977) was a big-budget biodrama starring Anne Bancroft as the Israeli Prime Minister supported by a cast of dozens. Under the constraints of Broadway economics a quarter-century on, Golda's Balcony covers much of the same terrain but as a one-woman monologue for Tovah Feldshuh. Miss Feldshuh, as made up by John Caglione, Jr., with a prosthetic nose and thickened legs to suggest phlebitis, is a persuasive Golda Meir, especially in profile.

"In Gibson's monologue, Golda has, in fact, two balconies--one at her apartment in Tel Aviv overlooking the Mediterranean, the other an observation deck above the Israeli nuclear-weapons facility at Dimona. It's October 1973 and a seventy-five-year-old woman is pondering whether to unleash a nuclear holocaust. The events of Gibson's play are, within the bounds of dramatic license, historically accurate: it was the Yom Kippur War and the Prime Minister faced a tough decision on how far Israel was prepared to go in order to survive. As Gibson tells it, the bombs were loaded and the planes were ready to fly, awaiting the order to take off and nuke Cairo and Damascus. At the last minute, the Nixon Administration provided sufficient assistance to enable Israel to defeat its enemies with conventional weapons.

"Still, it’s riveting material for a dramatist. 'What happens when idealism becomes power?' Golda wonders. 'To save a world you create, how many worlds are you entitled to destroy?' What amazes in such situations is that the Prime Minister or President has only a few hours to make the right call. He or she needs to be able to concentrate, to see through every angle of the question, knowing there’s only one chance to answer it correctly."

John LeBoutillier on the Debate

From Boot's Blasts:

"Overall prediction: the race is now going to tighten a bit. How much? A bit. Kerry has reversed his downward momentum. Whether he can generate upward momentum is the next question. But this race is not over."

CNN: No Clear Victor in Debate


"Did the debate change many minds? Not according to the poll. After the debate, the same percentage of those interviewed -- 54 -- said Bush would be better on Iraq than Kerry.
The story was almost the same on who would be a better commander in chief -- 55 percent said Bush would be better before the debate, 54 percent said so after the debate. Although Kerry made a better impression on some basic measures and may have been successful at re-introducing himself to voters, the poll showed he might not have changed many minds on Iraq and military matters.

"Because the poll talked just to debate watchers, only subsequent surveys will be able to determine whether Kerry gained any votes. Four years ago, a plurality of debate watchers thought Vice President Al Gore, the Democratic nominee, had done a better job than Bush in the first debate. But when the dust settled Bush was the one who picked up a few points in the horse race. Gallup has asked the question about who did a better job in the debate in five previous elections, and in four of them the candidate who 'won' the first debate did not win the election in November."

An Australian on the Debate

From The Command Post:

"Kerry won the debate, hands-down. Now that's not to say he's particularly wonderful at debating. He's not, at least, not from this performance. Any of the top 6 teams in the GPS (Greater Public School) Debating competition in Sydney, Australia would have him as, at best, a second reserve. But in terms of a debate, he did all the right things, made all the right moves, moves which are as stylised and formalised as anything in Olympic diving or gymnastics. So many points for eye contact, so many points for gestures at the right time, so many points for inflection and expression. Not a perfect 10, or even a solid 8, but a pedestrian 7.5. Kerry's performance was quite reasonable for a High School or College debate, though even I in my hayday could have made mincemeat of him - as could many people.

"Bush's, on the other hand, wasn't. He didn't behave like he was at a debate at all. He was comparatively inarticulate, halting at times, and confined his argument to only one main point : that whatever qualities he may have had, Kerry had shown himself to be incompetent to be a Commander-in-Chief. I got the impression he wasn't trying to engage in the highly formalised verbal combat that is debate at all - though repetition of a main them can be very effective in the right hands. When Bush did it, by the fourth or fifth time it was starting to grate on my nerves. Still, my impression was that Bush wasn't particularly interested in Kerry, nor Lehrer, nor even the studio audience. He was using this so-called 'debate' as a tool to communicate with the American people, confident in the belief that if they heard what he had to say, and got to know him as a man, a President, and a leader, that he'd garner more votes than with mere bardinage and verbal fencing. Arrogance or merely the courage of his convictions? If that was his aim, I think he succeeded. He came across as honest, plain-dealing, and straightforward. As the old saying goes : “The most important quality in Honesty : if you can fake that, you’ve got it made.” Well, he’s really good at that, because after listening to him, I’m not sure he’s faking."