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Denofcinema.com: Saturday Night at the Movies by Dennis Hartley review archive

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Saturday, March 08, 2003

For All of Your Boycott Needs

I keep reading about how the public is getting really charged up about this "grassroots" boycott of French products. They are going to give up eating that smelly cheese, and drinking that icky wine and guzzling that fancy water.

But, I would hate for them to miss out on the opportunity to boycott the traitors who help line the pockets of those French batards in Old Europe by continuing to work for the perfidious company known as Universal...oh wait....Vivendi Universal.

We know that good Americans never buy the products of sick and twisted liberals like Sheryl Crow or U2 anyway, but I think they should get out their phones and start dialing radio stations, because they're going to want to persuade them to stop playing Shania Twain, Hank Williams Jr., Willie Nelson, Trisha Yearwood, Vince Gill, Reba McIntyre, Earl Scruggs, Mark Wills, Tom T. Hall, Lee Ann Womack, and George Straight.

Fortunately, Lee Greenwood has released "God Bless the USA" on virtually every one of his albums since he originally recorded it for Universal MCA in 1985, so when they wear out this years tape they can just be sure to buy it on one of the newer CD's.

(They should also be prepared to hold the line by not seeing "The Hulk" or "Bruce Almighty" when they come out and I'd hate to be the one who has to break it to the President, but "The Cat In The Hat" is out, too.
No, "Law and Order", "Blind Date" or "Nashville Star," either. And, I'm afraid that long held dream of being featured on "Jerry Springer" is just a memory, too.)

It's a big sacrifice, but good Americans will be more than willing to make it. Surely, they can live without all those Reba and Shania records. And by the time we need ole Hank's football song, we'll probably have nuked France back into the stone age!

I'm just sure that Rush and Sean and Neal and Mikey are going to get right on this considering their clout on Clear Channel and Premiere Radio. They should put their foot down and demand that their stations stop playing the entire Vivendi-Universal Music Group roster (the biggest in the world.)

It's the patriotic thing to do.

Mr Big

As reported in The New Republic:

Expecting such consistency from intellectual columnists, however, is another matter--and George Will, as the blogger Atrios (atrios.blogspot.com) has noted, isn't living up to expectations.

When is Santorum up for re-election?

You're Just Mentioning This Now?

Thanks to Atrios for sending me in the direction of Jonathan Alter's new piece (web-only, needless to say) headlined "Totally Unconvincing."

It's great to see that the somnambulent press corp have started to stir and all, but I am gobsmacked that they are only now bringing attention to something that has been glaringly obvious since Junior was unveiled as the Official Brand Name of the Republican Establishment 2000:

His habit—on display again Thursday night—is to simply assert, assert, assert until the message sinks in. It’s as if war supporters believe that if they repeat the Saddam-Al Qaeda connection enough, people will eventually believe it.

I understand that this works on the sub-rational superstitious types that make up a large part of his base, but why the liberal media haven't gotten fed up with it by now is truly a mystery to me.

The classic example, of course, is the "Who's your favorite political philosopher?" question in the primary debate. Everyone remembers that he said, "Christ. He changed mah heart," after which he smirked, shifted and did his little curt dismisssive nod. But, what is forgotten is that the questioner actuallly followed up and asked if he would elaborate. He replied, "Well, if they don’t know, it’s going to be hard to explain … when you accept Christ as your savior, it changes your heart, it changes your life.”

None of this assertion as argument is new. The following are quotes from the presidential campaign. He's always done this.

"I’m a person who does in office what I say I will do.

As friends begin to work on my behalf around the country, I hope the people of
America will learn what the people of Texas know: that I base decisions on a
set of core, conservative principles from which I will not waver.

As Governor of this great state, I have proven I know how to lead. I know
that a leader must clearly see a better tomorrow. A leader must make
decisions based on principles. And a leader must be a uniter, not a divider."

I've been underestimated before, and Governor Richards regrets it. (Laughter) I understand labels and how the politics works, and the only thing I know to do is to lay my record out, share my heart as best I can, and in a system that often times gets filtered, I know that. That's why these town hall meetings are important for me. And you can take a look. You can take a look and... and you can say, I trust him. I trust his judgment. Or, you know, got a nice mother, but maybe he doesn't hack it. When I first got going, people said he doesn't want to come to our state that much. But it took a while. I knew it was going to happen. Then they say, he didn't say anything. And now they're not saying that. And now they're saying, you know you know, whatever they said George Bush, you know, he's not smart enough. Well, as I said, I'd rather be underestimated."

"I mean, I'm a doer. I'm a problem-solver. I get things done."

"No, I believe the people are going to elect me president because I’ve got what it takes to be the leader. I’ve got a clear vision. People know that I have a uniter not a divider, that I’ve got a solid record of setting goals and leading people to achieve those goals.

But the point is, my record shows that I’ve been the governor of the second biggest state in the union, and I’m going to talk about that proudly, and I’m going to have Democrats stand by my side and talk about that proudly. But in order to get elected, this country needs somebody to set a positive vision for America. Somebody—people of both parties can understand where I want to lead."

I'm interested in solving problems. That's what a leader does."

As glad as I am that the media has taken its first baby steps to discussing what has been obvious from the beginning, it's hard not to stand up and shout "Where the hell have you people been!"

He's always been completely inarticulate, he's always used circular logic and argument by assertion, and he always repeats his Karen Hughes bumper sticker slogans in a boring matra as an answer to any question no matter how irrelevant. The Emperor has been doing a lap dance on American public but until now, nobody bothered to mention that he was stark raving naked.

oy vey.

Friday, March 07, 2003

Best Line of the Week

The human race sometimes makes me feel as if they're playing the violin with my plumb line.

Julia commenting on Emma's great post.


Nitpicker expresses what is at the bottom of the burgeoning depression that's coming over me:

As you'll notice, I haven't written in a couple of days. I apologize to my faithful reader. I'm sorry, Mom. However, I just wonder whether it's worth it at all anymore. Honestly, people, we are currently living in a country where people are recommending pre-emptive nuclear strikes on North Korea, where it is now argued that we may have to go to war with Iraq just because it would make us look bad if we didn't go ahead and kill a bunch of their people, and guys who probably vote Democrat are saying that we should be allowed to torture people for information.

Good God.

Doesn't the whole idea of who we are as a nation have to change now? I don't mean once these things are done, either, but just because there are people in power who aren't disgusted by these arguments?

Yep. We aren't even paying lip service to decency anymore.This isn't the nation I have believed in for my whole life. I feel like I've been duped. We're just another wealthy, conquering military power getting drunk on our own ambition.

Jim Henleysays it too, in a different way:

Welcome to the Southern Cone - Why shouldn't we have people like Khaled Sheik Mohammad tortured, even though they are mass-murdering scum? There are various prudential reasons, which I went into last year. Twice. But there's a more important reason.

Because we're the fucking United States of America!

I weep to think that we ever took it upon ourselves to criticize Argentina for the "dirty war" of the late 70s. Evil as the junta was, it was at least responding to a concerted campaign of urban guerilla warfare. ("At the time, political kidnappings, violent strikes and bombings had become commonplace," notes the Christian Science Monitor.) How little it took, really, to bring far too many Americans down to juntahood - a single, terrible, terrible morning. Perhaps al Qaeda already got its weapon of mass destruction, a virus capable of making all infected forget the most basic facts about who they are, or at least who they were supposed to be. We even know when they used it. From here out, we may live or die, may win or lose, but not as Americans.

He's Resigned To Being Caesar

I just noticed this letter written by one of Andrew Sullivan's fans. You can hear the heartfelt regret that this Bush worshiper and budding Imperialist feels at the loss of allies that have existed since the dawn of the Republic now that they are with the terrorists.

He just seemed very, very sad that it must come to this. Very sad to have to admit that France and Germany are likely never going to be 'allies' of ours again. Forcing the vote will force their hands...they will reveal whether they are with us or the terrorists...then there will be a break. Bush seems full of regret that this break will happen. I think he's disappointed in Putin, too, whom he trusted. But he didn't seem defeated to me. Howard Fineman said it best. He was grim, somber, inexorable...he was Shane, the reluctant cowboy, strapping on a gun to protect his family. I didn't think he looked tired...just terribly regretful and thoughtful.

Brings a tear to the eye doesn't it?

And they are right about one thing. Sleepy boy woke up all bright eyed and bushy tailed one time during the conference and it was to say:

No matter what the whip count is, we're calling for the vote. We want to see people stand up and say what their opinion is about Saddam Hussein and the utility of the United Nations Security Council. And so, you bet. It's time for people to show their cards, to let the world know where they stand when it comes to Saddam.

Yep. With us or agin' us. Show yer Cards, you lily livered yellow bellies.

Orrin Hatch: Drug Lord

Senator, His Son Get Boosts From Makers of Ephedra

Orrin Hatch has kept regulators at bay and benefited via campaign donations. Lobbyists linked to his son have received $2 million.

March 5, 2003

WASHINGTON -- For more than a decade, the dietary supplements industry has counted on Sen. Orrin G. Hatch to fend off tighter regulation of products such as ephedra, the controversial stimulant linked to more than 80 deaths — most recently a young Baltimore Orioles baseball player.

Among other things, the Utah Republican co-wrote the 1994 law that lets supplement makers sell products without the scientific premarket safety testing required for drugs and other food additives. That law has proved a major obstacle to federal control of ephedra.

For its part, the supplements industry has not only showered the senator with campaign money but also paid almost $2 million in lobbying fees to firms that employed his son Scott.

From 1998 to 2001, while Scott Hatch worked for a lobbying firm with close ties to his father, clients in the diet supplements industry paid the company more than $1.96 million, more than $1 million of it from clients involved with ephedra.

Hatch has been one of the most fervent believers in keeping the "supplement" industry free from regulation. He has no problem with the selling of mind altering herbs over the counter as long as one of his campaign contributors is making a bundle.

Perhaps the medical marijuana advocates should just start paying off politicians directly. Clearly, Americans are free to do as many drugs as they want, as long as they go through channels and get the ok of medical experts like Orrin Hatch.

The drug war isn't about illegal drugs, per se. It's about who gets a piece of the action.

Tortured Logic

For any of you who think that torture is ok because we can be sure of our righteous good intentions, because we know when and where it is right and wrong to do it, because bad guys "deserve it" and we always get only the bad guys, please read this powerful piece by Emma.

None of that makes any difference. By not understanding the ramifications of going down this path, there are many who are one short step away from becoming what they claim to abhor.

Leap Frogging

I heard a long discussion on CNN about who the Bush administration will be putting in charge of the three areas they plan to designate within the "Iraq federation." The names, where they will be stationed and how they plan to "administer" the various areas until elections can be held were all discussed in some detail.

Apparently, the war is over. Hip, hip hooray.

The Better Rhettor deconstructs the latest Bush rhetorical ploy --- "Leap-Frogging" --- and finds that it's a tried and true Karl Rove special.

It’s a bait and switch. Rather than continuing to argue for the merits of their position—an argument they have concluded they cannot win—they now want to shift the terms of the debate. They don’t want to talk anymore, in other words, about whether we should invade Iraq. We are supposed to accept the fiction that this has been already settled, and we are now in the "next phase" of discussing what to do in post-war Iraq. That way they can shift the discussion, aided by our feckless media, away from their losing hand and onto another topic—one that presumes the Bushies won the original debate.

Read on. You'll learn that as with everything else with these guys, it always comes back to Florida.

Post Mortem

Uggabugga has the definitive word-for-word rundown on the press conference.

And check out the new blog Vote Quimby on Timmy Russert's bizarre and inexplicable endorsement of Bush's move to single handedly amend the constitution.

Timmy said: He laid out the case in his way - an interesting way. He said something very straightforward, that he has analyzed all the information, all the intelligence, all the data. That he had concluded as commander-in-chief that Saddam Hussein is a risk to American security and that he has made a decision. Therefore he has to act and has a constitutional duty to act.

You can not argue with that premise. You can argue that he is misinterpreting the data or the intelligence or he should have reached a different conclusion. But, the president will counter saying, “I’m sorry, you have a right to disagree with me. I have made this decision.”

I can't? Watch me.

Although the President was extremely careful to avoid using the word "war" to describe the methods by which the United States would force Iraq to disarm, virtually nobody believes that an attack on another country that has its own stable government would not constitute a war.

So, although G-Dub put his hand on the bible (didn't you just love that touch?) and swore to protect the Constitution of the United States, he cannot do so by attacking Iraq. If he wants to protect our Constitution, he will ask Congress to declare a war, which he will then prosecute as the Commander in Chief of our armed forces.

There. See how easy that was? I didn't have to quibble with Bush's interpretation of the data one iota. Hell, I could make the argument even if I granted the presupposition that Saddam's Iraq poses a threat. Regardless of how seriously Bush takes his oath o' office, war is simply not his call. Yes, Congress voted to cede that authority a few months ago, but again, the Constitution makes no provision for a branch of government signing away its authority on any matter, much less the gravest matter a nation can undertake. Which is to say, it wasn't their call, at least not then.

Yeah, it's an "interesting" new take on the whole "congress shall have the power to declare war," constitutional thing. The congressional wimps may have abdicated their constitutional responsibility to the President in the case of Iraq , but they haven't gotten around to giving him that power under the constitution yet. Perhaps they are saving it up for when they "constitutionally" declare him King.

William Saleton says that Bush knows the difference between a lie and the truth but that's all he knows. Uh, Will, don't think so. Bush definitely doesn't know the difference between a lie and the truth. This means that we are back where we started. Bush doesn't know anything.

And Tom Shales has the temerity to actually report on the elephant in the East Room (and I'm not talking about Karen Hughes.) The former hard-partying, frat-boy, mean drunk may be on prescription drugs:

The contrast between the foggy Bush of last night and the gung-ho Bush who delivered a persuasive State of the Union message to Congress not so long ago was considerable. Maybe Bush thought he was, indeed, coming across as cool and temperate instead of bored and enervated, and this was simply a rhetorical miscalculation. On the other hand, it hardly seems out of order to speculate that, given the particularly heavy burden of being president in this new age of terrorism -- a time in which America has, as Bush said, become a "battlefield" -- the president may have been ever so slightly medicated.

He would hardly be the first president ever to take a pill.

Not that there's anything wrong with that mind you. Those Dr.'s Feelgood over at Walter Reed prescribe only the very best. (Just so long as it isn't something really bad that requires the use of certain paraphernalia, if you know what I mean.) It is actually a citizen's patriotic duty to use mind altering prescription drugs because it creates jobs in the pharmaceutical industry.


TBOGG informs me that the probable drug in question is called "Weazac," a sedative used on weasels and press secretaries. I did some research and it is a new combination therapy that is usually prescribed to counteract a Viagra and Ritalin addiction which is apparently becoming epidemic in the flabby, middle aged Republican doughboy population. Good to know.


I think that says it all.

Thursday, March 06, 2003

Nobody Does It Better

Atrios links to a mutual hero, Charles Pierce subbing for Eric Alterman


This overripe piece of faith-based palaver has been on the newsstands for four days now, long enough for the rot to endanger whatever honest journalism may be placed next to it on the shelf. For sheer sucking up to established power, Howard Fineman makes Larry King look like Thomas Paine, and there is so very much in this with which to make happy sport. (Cover your ears, Nick Kristof.)

Let us begin with the obvious: there’s absolutely no goddamn way how to know how genuine someone’s faith is. Perhaps W does spend every morning with a book of sermons. (The Bible, after all, has all those inconvenient passages about rich men, camels, and the eyes of needles.) It doesn’t matter if he spends it playing handball with the ghost of Thomas Aquinas. What goes on in his mind — insert cheap joke here — as regards the family Deity is so far beyond empirical proof that you might as well assert as fact that he’s leading the country based on his dreams.

There's more where that came from

A Lazy Schoolboy

OK. He's doing what he always does. He repeats his bumper sticker bullshit over and over again in slightly different ways, taking his time, speaking very slowly and in tententious tones, not making any real sense, but with an attitude of seriousness. The clock ticks while he says nothing. Freedom, God, Security, Oath, blah, blah, blah...

A few questions, he says nothing, the pundits say he hit a home run, Churchill is back.

He is like the 6th grader who didn't do his homework and is called to the front of the class to tell us what he's learned. "The first president of the United States was George Washington. He was called the father of our country. He was called the father of our country because he was the first president. And the first president is known as the father of our country because he was first. His name was George Washington. He was the first and he was the father and he was the President. amen."

He should just memorize Tony Blair's answers.


"The North Korean nukular weapons might end up in the hands of dictators."

Boy, I sure hope not. That would be awful. They might even have ICBM's and be able to hit the United States. I hope they can talk Kim Jong Il out of making any and selling them to...say, dictators.

And he really did say that "we will disarm Saddam Hussein" line.

This was bad.

And Tim Russert just ejaculated.


Chris Matthews just said aloud that Bush repeated himself endlessly. That was a big mistake. He's going to be replaced any day now with the new Lyndon LaRouche show.

Sorry, he wasn't Churchill.

Fineman tells us he is "Shane, strapping on his six-guns to protect his family.The rejection of the UN is a badge of honor. He swore an oath on the Bible to protect the American people."

Much better. He's not a rootin' tootin' cowboy, he's a reluctant cowboy.


It's kind of scary when the borg over at the Corner are unable to pull out a rah, rah for the Cheerleader in Chief.

"He's tired," they all say. He's a tired and sleepy little cowpoke and that makes him somber.

And repetitive. And rambling. And stupid.

Geez. Doesn't this guy already sleep about 13 hours a night? He sleeps more than my cat.

Porno and Prayers

Avedon Carol has a number of great posts up from the last couple of days and I urge you to go read them. This one, however, a letter from one of her readers taking issue with the ridiculous numbers used in Nicholas Kristof's article about how the poor Christian right is treated in the media is particularly great.

I've gotta tell you, if Kristoff's numbers were true, then the rest of us are buying porn and drinking whiskey and watching debauched television every single waking minute of the day because these industries are sure as hell making billions off of somebody.

It reminds me of the great story (possibly apocryphal) about a porno store owner in Utah who was busted and tried for violating community standards. However, his defense attorney was able to prove that some huge number of locals watched porno on their cable television and that the local hotels all carried it on their closed circuit systems. Ooops.

This entire line about America being the "most religious" country on earth is belied by what we see every day in our popular culture. (If you define shopping as a religion, then perhaps it's true.) Otherwise, people are quite obviously defining themselves to pollsters as "religious" if they have even a vague belief in God or go to church on Christmas eve. I do not know how many truly devout religious people there are, and I'm sure there are many, but clearly this is not a majority and this constant citing of polls as if they mean something on a subject like this is absurd.

In a nation where the entire congress goes completely apeshit over the words "under God" in the silly pledge of allegiance, is it any wonder that people tell pollsters they are religious? I'm sure they even believe it. They also believe that watching "Secret Co-ed Web Cam" is a sacrament, apparently.

Hell Froze Over?

Tonight at 8 ET, President George W. Patton is having his second prime time press conference since taking office.

He's reportedly going to break news by saying, "if Saddam Hussein does not disarm, with a coalition of the willing, I will disarm Saddam Hussein. I understand there are some who don't believe that Saddam Hussein presents a true risk to the United State and we just have a difference of opinion."

Unnamed White House sources said that the President also planned to tell the American people, "Saddam gassed his own people, he's a cold-blooded dictator."

With respect to al Qaeda, he will publicly reveal that "We've got 'em on the run. We will bring 'em ta justice." But, he is expected to also remind the public, "I told the Murican people they were gonna have ta be patient, an I meant it!"

Reporters will undoubtedly give the president no quarter as they confront him for the first time in the formal East Wing setting since just after September 11th. It is assumed that they will ask such hard hitting questions as:

"Do you feel that exercise is important at times of stress?"

"How much did your heroic experience as a fighter pilot contributed to your understanding of the military planning in Iraq?"

"Do you think that your faith has played a part in your overwhelming popularity among the American people?"

"How does the first lady feel about all this snow?"

"Saddam Hussein is reported to have gassed his own people. How do you feel about that?"

"Is the current planned amount of badly needed tax relief for the hardest working most productive members of society really going to be enough, or do you plan to ease the terrible burden even more, so that this economy will continue to grow as you predicted it would?"

"Now that the United Nations has been proven irrelevant, do you plan to seize its assets and deport the anti-american diplomats who sought to humiliate you and failed?"

"What would you tell average Americans to do when they see a muslim terrorist in their neighborhood?"

"Are you glad that God has chosen you to eradicate evil on this earth?"

It should be exciting. Bush appearing before the public without his cue cards is always suspenseful. But then, he does benefit from the bigotry of low expectations. If he doesn't vomit on somebody, he's already outshown his father.

If you all are praying types, put one in for the washington press corp to grow some journalistic cojones in the next couple of hours. This President only answers wide ranging questions once every 18 months or so. We could be in nuclear winter the next time Karl decides he's in sufficient trouble to require taking the chance that President Pom Pom will break into the "Barney" song and start singing "I love you, you love me" on national television. Let's hope they make the most of it.

A Mediwhore's Gotta Do What A Mediawhore's Gotta Do

TBOGG's back (whew, I was having withdrawal) and he quotes Chris Matthews on Imus:

Matthews: “It's about changing these governments around so that they play ball with us and I think that's what the game has been from Wolfowitz and Feith and Rumsfeld and Cheney -- they're all hardliners. You know, when they get off the air with me they always giggle, 'You know, I hope they don't disarm.' That's their worst fear, that Saddam Hussein will throw all his guns out in the street in front of 'em, then we can't go to war and these guys will be miserable. It's not about guns. It's about ideology. These guys want to change that part of the world and they're damned, they'll come up with any excuse to do it. And look, that's an idealistic Wilsonian notion. I think it's squirrelly. It's going to make every Arab kid grow up to hate our guts for the next thousand years, but that's they're (sic) point of view and I've got mine."

TBOGG: So why doesn't Matthews confront them about their off-screen comments the next time they come on? Is it Hardball or T-Ball?

I think the Boggster was out of town when the MSNBC circular was sent around. It went like this:

Donahue presented a "difficult public face for NBC in a time of war......He seems to delight in presenting guests who are anti-war, anti-Bush and skeptical of the administration's motives." The report went on to outline a possible nightmare scenario where the show becomes "a home for the liberal antiwar agenda at the same time that our competitors are waving the flag at every opportunity."

Chris, of all people, understand that the only thing standing between him and obscurity is a "liberal anti-war agenda." As long as he remembers that he doesn't even have to get ratings.

Bush 'n God

Mary, the estimable Natasha's tag team partner over at The Watch has a nice dissertation on war and religion, Bush style.

I remain dumbfounded that this government would choose to ever discuss this war in religious terms, much less in terms of Bush being anointed by God. The enemy are religious fanatics in case anyone failed to notice. But, I guess we are too, now.

So, is everybody up for a good old fashioned religious crusade with a post modern nuclear twist? Oh goodie.

3/6 3:40: informed of typo. Corrected. thanks.

Promiscuous Girl Monkeys

Calpundit posts an interesting observation about evolutionary psychology today:

"Evolutionary psychology attempts to explain why we do the things we do, and it succeeds better at some things than at others. But it certainly doesn't suggest that innate behavior is either moral or desirable. In fact, since the entire goal of civilization for the past 10,000 years has been mostly to rein in and modify innate human behavior, this should be obvious too, and the lessons of EP can help us in this ancient and worthy effort. If research suggests a reason why little boys do one thing and little girls do another, for example, the lesson should not be that we are forced to accept this behavior even if we don't like it, but that we should try even harder to modify it because it's probably going to be a real bear getting the job done.
As indeed it is, a lesson we all learn daily. If only all those other guys could just listen to sweet reason....."

This is interesting and quite true, but it should also be kept in mind that a lot of evolutionary psychology appears to conveniently uphold certain cultural expectations, particularly as it pertains to gender roles. Since the science is far from conclusive, and so much of it is used to buttress arguments favoring traditional roles, I don’t think it’s out of bounds to be skeptical of much of it for the time being. I have no doubt that it is a field well worth studying and that it will eventually provide some interesting insights into our behaviors, but considering the vacuousness of many of the conclusions so far, I am not signing on to any particular theory. I would imagine that we will be seeing some very interesting work coming down the pike in the next few years, however.

For instance, the excellent science writer, Natalie Angier, in her book, Woman: An Intimate Biography unearths numerous exceptions and alternative explanations to the current conventional wisdom that males are biologically driven to spread their seed far and wide while females are biologically driven to need security. DNA studies, for example, show that female chimpanzees risk "life and limb" and the lives of their offspring to cheat on their possessive mates. If women have lower sex drives than men, Angier argues, it may not be the fault of biology: Cultural mores across the centuries have punished women for their carnal interest.

I have to say that I too wondered why, if the conventional view of male/female evolutionary psychology were true, that so many cultures have gone to such great lengths to subdue female sexuality --- clitoral circumcision being the most blatant and violent current example?

In any case, I agree with Kevin that evolutionary psychology does not make a value judgment about human behavior, no matter what the conclusion. Science isn’t right or wrong, in a moral sense. It just is. But, this particular science is highly speculative, as is much of the field of psychology generally, so there is no great sin in maintaining a healthy skepticism about its sometimes glaringly "obvious" conclusions. It's going to be very hard to know how much biology, as opposed to culture, brought us to the point we are today, particularly since evolution is a reaction to environment rather than a cause.

I'm against policy being based upon this science's conclusions just yet.


Courtesy Brief Intelligence via Barney Gumble

Wednesday, March 05, 2003

Because I Said So

It is truly outrageous that our "President" is not required to hold open televised press conferences and that the press does not adequately cover what this dumbass says in the few instances they let him talk.

Yesterday, he met with several news services for about 35 minutes. What he said was un-befucking-lievable.

Some highlights of our fearless leaders "thinking" on various current events:

"The president alternated between humor, determination, sarcasm and reflection throughout the 36-minute session held in the Roosevelt Room, pointedly opening the interview by calling attention to President Theodore Roosevelt’s Nobel Peace Prize on the mantel over a crackling fire.

The prize, he said, 'is an interesting tribute to a president who had a vision about how to keep the peace and was willing to take risks to achieve peace.' "

Obviously, Karl or Karen or somebody told Junior that he is going to win the peace prize, like that muscular Teddy Roosevelt, for invading Iraq. TR killed a lot of Fillippinos, to be sure, and he looked mighty good on a horsie, but his "vision" about how to keep the peace was the international tribunal in the Hague, a "League of Peace" and the use of arbitration treaties amongst all nations to avoid war. He won the Nobel for mediating the end of the Russian-Japanese war.

Somehow I don't think President Legacy knows that. And, apparently, the press wasn't inclined to ask him just what the hell he meant when he said it. Wouldn't you think that a reporter would be interested in what the president meant when he talked about an "interesting vision of peace" and "the risks" he was willing to take, on the eve of an unprecedented preventive war? I know I would.

"I believe we can deal with this issue diplomatically by convincing China and Russia and South Korea to join us in convincing North Korea that it is not in their nation’s interest to be threatening the United States.”

But when asked if a diplomatic approach had been successful, the president replied carefully, “It’s in process.”

Reflecting the growing tensions, the president added, “If they don’t work diplomatically, they’ll have to work militarily. And (the) military option is our last choice. Options are on the table, but I believe we can deal with this diplomatically. I truly do.”

One wonders what he would have said if someone had forcefully pressed him on the contradictions between what we see happening with Saddam destroying missiles and what he is saying about North korea. We know how Ari dances around the issue, but I'd love to see Junior try it.

But he insisted that he has paid attention to the protesters.

“Of course, I care what they believe. And I’ve listened carefully. I’ve thought long and hard about what needs to be done,” he said. “And obviously some people in Northern California do not see there’s a true risk to the United States posed by Saddam Hussein. And we just have a difference of opinion.”

There you have it. Smirking smart-ass prick. It always comes through at some point. His essential Nixonness -- the barely suppressed disdain for his fellow Americans. He really is not our president. Not because we say so, but because he does.

Asked about protests overseas, the president initially downplayed the extent of the problems he has encountered with normally friendly nations.

“There are two nations in Europe – France and Germany – who do not see Saddam Hussein as a direct threat. And we just have a difference of opinion. But there are a lot of other nations who do,” he said.

But pressed, the president acknowledged that sympathy for America has diminished since the days immediately after Sept. 11, 2001. He blamed some of the protests on lingering unhappiness over his early decisions against international agreements on global warming and an international criminal court.

“So, yes, I see the protests and I know they’re large at times. But I’m not so sure I’d jump to the conclusion that everybody in those parts of the world are anti-American,” he said.

No, they're anti-Bush, clearly. And, yes his early decisions contributed to the problem, but his biggest problem is that huge majorities of the people in most countries of the world do not support a preventive war with Iraq if inspections are working. He clearly doesn't understand that he is commander in chief of the Armed Services during wartime, he is not the commander in chief of the American people or the rest of the world at ANY time. This is something they failed to get through to him during his civics all-nighter before the inauguration.

“We’ll be disappointed if people don’t support us [in the security council],” he said pointedly.

With the Mexican press full of a debate over the ramifications of a vote against the resolution, Bush added, “But, nevertheless, I don’t expect for there to be significant retribution from the government.”

His emphasis was on the word “government,” raising the possibility of adverse reaction to Mexico from the American business community and average citizens.

Making that point, he cited what he called “an interesting phenomena taking place here in America about the French.”

With many Americans unhappy at French resistance to a war in Iraq, the president said there has developed “a backlash against the French, not stirred up by anybody except by the people.”

Nice. The President is lying blatently about the coordinated GOP movement to "punish" France and Germany, even to the extent that congressional representatives and Senators have taken up the cause. It's a grassroots movement who's roots begin and end at Grover's Wednesday meeting. Looks like Mexico is next on the "hate" list (although it's always been on it with his white supremecist nase.)

What a petty little backbiter he is. And nobody in the press corp says a word.

If Mexico – or other countries – oppose the United States, he said that “there will be a certain sense of discipline.” But he quickly added, “I expect Mexico to be with us.”

Yeah, well people in hell want icewater, too. Last I heard, Mexico was a sovereign nation that was not required to meet the US President's "expectations" or submit to its "discipline." Maybe if President Brat hadn't treated his good friend Vicente like shit, particularly at the meeting in Cabo where he shut down the press conference in a snit, then maybe things would go easier for him. Maybe Vinnie wouldn't look like Bush's abused chihuahua. Somebody (Bar?) forgot to teach Junior any manners.

He said he also is sustained by his own prayers, noting, “I’m reading the Bible every day.”

I'm sure that will make a good recruiting slogan for the islamic fundamentalist terrorist movement. It's a great idea to cite religion as much as possible when we are at "war" with religious fanatics. Let the Bible be our guide. They are on the side of evil, after all, and we shall smite them sayeth the President. Excellent.

He added, “This is a difficult decision for any president to make. I’ve thought about the consequence of doing nothing. I’ve thought about the consequences of military action.”

This is so typically Bush. He tells us he's thought about all this. And we should be impressed that he has done so. Period. No need to discuss it further. It would be wrong for the press to ask for further explanation of those "thoughts." Anti-american, in fact. He is their commander in chief, after all.

But he said the blame for any war falls on Hussein for his failure to abide by 12 years of U.N. demands for disarmament.

The president also insisted that his policies on Iraq are based solely on what is good for the United States. He bristled slightly at a question suggesting he was motivated by Hussein’s past attempt to assassinate his father, former President George H.W. Bush, and current first lady Laura Bush in the early 1990s.

“The fact that he tried to kill my father and my wife shows the nature of the man ... he’s cold-blooded. He’s a dictator. He’s a tyrant,” said Bush. “And the decision I’m making, and have made, to disarm Saddam Hussein is based upon the security of the American people.”

Asked if he harbored personal anger toward Hussein, he replied, “No. I’m doing my job as the president based upon the threats that face this country.”

Well, guess that clears that up. That "he tried to kill my father and my wife" thing sure will make a nice headline in Arab papers, though, don't you think?

I take back what I said. He should be kept from the press at all costs. It can only hurt the country to let him speak.

Tuesday, March 04, 2003

Kurdled Democracy

These damned Islamofascists are really starting to get Hitchypoo hot under the collar, especially the democratically elected allies in Turkey. They are humiliating his hero, Captain James T. Bush who is not to be faulted for selling out those Kurds, oh no. (He is, after all, the only man on the entire planet who who sees the world in the same childlike Manichean terms as Hitch.) Those Turks are imperfect and, therefore, are not worthy of our great goodness.

The situation with the Kurds is extremely complicated. Neither the Turks or the Kurds are our enemies (indeed, until recently they were fervent allies) but we have somewhow managed to make them so with just a few stupid words from Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz.

Of course we shouldn't let the Turks go in and "clean out" Kurds in northern Iraq. But, neither should we even think of abandoning the only real democracy in the region because...well...I thought that was the whole goddamned point!

It may now be argued that, in order to shorten the period of hostilities with Saddam Hussein and minimize casualties, the Iraqi border should be secured from all directions. But the Turks do not propose to help guarantee this border or to protect those who live within it. Rather, they propose to cross the frontier for no better reason than to aggrandize themselves and to prolong the subjection of their own Kurdish population. This doesn't just disgrace the regime-change strategy. It actually destabilizes it. And it's humiliating to see the president begging and bribing the Turks to do the wrong thing and to see them in return reject his offer. He should take their ugly egotism and selfishness as a compliment to his policy, cut off their aid, leave them to put their own case to the European Union, and tell them to get out of Cyprus into the bargain. Then we could be surer that we were really "remaking" the region

Hey, Hitch. Why stop there? Let's remake the entire world in your image. Then it will be a confused, unkempt, incoherant, aggressive mess.

Oh wait...

Thanks for the tip Matthew.

It Gets Worse

Bush Is Undeterred by Opposition to Using Force Against Iraq


And yet Mr. Bush not only sounds more certain than ever that he is about to lead the United States into war — he also talks almost as if Mr. Hussein has already been deposed.

In a deliberate and risky strategy, Mr. Bush appears to be dropping out of the public debate over whether there is value in further inspections or any alternative to ousting Mr. Hussein, or sending him into exile.

"The United States has no intention of determining the precise form of Iraq's new government," Mr. Bush said in his Saturday radio address, skipping past the question of how he plans to remove the current one.

It was one of many phrases, one of his senior aides said this weekend, that "reflect the leapfrog strategy," an effort to jump over French, German and Russian objections, Turkish intransigence, North Korean provocations, anxiety from the Arab League, and hand-wringing by Americans who are nervous about a go-it-alone approach.

"In his mind, the old debate about whether Saddam will disarm is over," one of Mr. Bush's senior aides said late last week. "We're on to the next phase, even if everyone else isn't there yet."


White House aides argue that the president cannot talk about casualties without scaring Americans. If, however, either the war or — after the presumed American victory — the occupation of Iraq goes badly, such a failure to hint at the problems may come back to haunt the president.

Nonetheless, Mr. Bush has been relentlessly optimistic. In his speech last Wednesday and again on Saturday, he talked of an occupation that would resemble the American liberation of Germany and Japan. But both of those were well-defined nations before their conflict with the United States.

Iraq is not — and could blow apart. "Of course, in our internal discussions we raise the Yugoslavia analogy," one administration insider said.

"We talk about what happens if there is score-settling. But this isn't the moment for the president to be talking about that risk."

It doesn't seem as if the President is much interested in talking about any risks.

It's not relentless optimism. As Thomas Carothers of the International Endowment for International Peace said in last Sunday's NY Times Magazine, "It's called Magical Realism, Middle East style."

(with Pegger Nooner)

By Guest Contributor
The Farmer

Celebrated Dada author and diviner of notions, Peggy Noonan, reveals to viewers the intimate thoughts of unwary fares as they motor along with her, in the her magic taxicab, through the busy streets of the nations capitol. This week, Peggy channels the convictions of an aging Republican supply-sider couple visiting from Charlotte North Carolina, who silently long for the bygone halcyon days of right wing latin American death squads, Jim and Tammi's waterslide and the lost splenders of the Shining City giftshop on the Hill.

Next in the cab is a black couple from Baltimore, who reveal to Peggy, through a series of psychic gospel rhythmns, their soul deep regrets at ever having heard of that philanderer priest Jesse Jackson or Tavis Smiley or the NAACP, and their quiet agonized yearning for the buccolic lost splender of the plantation porch swing.

Next Peggy mirrors for us the supressed regrets of an old hippy who wrestles with horrific naked lunch flashback nightmares of long ago candlelight peace vigils and lurid fleeting Hollywood images of a scantily clad tattooed Goldie Hawn wiggling around like a distempered sex-viperess on the Rowan and Martin Show.

Peggy excitedly babble-channels the expectations of a yet unborn child when an unwed nineteen year old lesbian playwright enters the cab and alarms Peggy with the opinion that Bill Bennett is a fat old patent leather busybody pecksniff with tiny feet and big old stupid sanctimonious puritanical morality fetish. Peggy becomes unglued when the young woman's twenty year old blonde haired girlfriend from Lincoln Nebraska begins recounting their previous summer adventures bartending at the Pied Piper in Provincetown and their brief encounter with arch media blog-feind Andrew Sullivan and his French sailor-friend who were slobbering over garlic knots in front of Spritus Pizza at 3 am. Now clearly distressed and half crazed with the haunting shrieks and tortured wails of long ago buried Daughters of the American Revolution chickenhawk dinners Peggy unloads the giggling Sapphics in front of the Washington Memorial, takes a couple of swigs of Old Gipper, points her cab at the sniper alley I-66 Western road... and careens through the early autumn night toward an undisclosed secret destination in Fort Royal Maryland.

I have no idea what happened in Fort Royal. My psychic eye has gone dark. I hope the Peggy is ok, all alone out there in the wilds of the Shenandoah, with the roving Marxist wolves of labor and the bong pirates and the camo-hillbillies for a better whup-ass Jesus. We're praying for you Peggy. Praying like jerkers in the service of the Reign of our Sovereign Lord, Rove Inc., Texas and Kennebunkport the forty first, and of Crawford the forty third. Anno Domini, 2003. (or whatever)

And, casting about for you, with our minds eye.

"Just when I think I'm out, they pull me back in."

Via Atrios and reader Matthew Davis I find that my previous post praising the enlightenment of James Pinkerton was so threatening to his position as a member of the Borg Collective that he has gone into full retreat and written the most sickening ecomium to Bush's heroic manhood since Howard Fineman penned that breathless valentine praising Junior's magical ability to wear both epualets and ermine.

These guys may be complete failures at running a government, but they are excellent enforcers.

Maybe He Should Be Sent To An Unnamed Third Country For Questioning

The indictment of a former Florida professor on charges of being a Palestinian terrorist has cast a very different light on some past punditry.

After flying to Tampa to interview him, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote last year that the University of South Florida's attempt to fire Sami Al-Arian shed light on "what kind of universities we desire, how much dissent we dare tolerate and how we treat minorities in times of national stress." He noted that the proceedings began after "Bill O'Reilly invited Mr. Al-Arian on his Fox News show and virtually accused him of being a terrorist."


O'Reilly says that "we took a lot of heat. And when it comes our way, no fruit basket. We had this guy dead. . . . The game being played now in the media, if you're in a minority group, is that if you can't win the debate, you demonize the person reporting the story by calling them anti-whatever. I'm not playing that game."

I guess they repealed that pesky presumption of innocence thing in the Patriot Act. Or has The O'Reilly Factor been deputized by Ashcroft to act as a fair and balanced military tribunal?

Monday, March 03, 2003

Peggy: A Case Study

Name of blog notices Safire's gone all Noonan using the tiresome trope of channeling the dead for convenient conversations supporting their positions. Normal people call this fiction writing, but hey, in this Republican world we live in, it’s called journalism.

Which brings me to La Noonan’s thoroughly bizarre piece today, a “letter” so twisted that I am forced to conclude that this person is in need of some psychiatric intervention of the political kind.

Political Projection is an involuntary process motivated by emotions wherein a person imposes a subjective feeling or a thought on the other political party. Patients like Peggy are unaware of 'projecting' or how and why they do it. There is such an emotional need and frustrated feeling involved in such 'emotional-mental' projection that when you read one of these”advisories,” it’s looking into the psyche of a very wounded and troubled woman.

When read correctly, we can see that Peggy is deeply unhappy with the Republican Party. Let’s try to see beneath the words and help Peggy understand the hidden feelings and emotions that drive her to constantly analyze the Democrats and innappropriately offer her counsel:

"In the Democratic Party now, and for some time, I have not perceived that they are trying to get us to a good place. They seem interested only in thwarting the trek of the current president and his party, who are, to the Democrats, 'the other.'"

Clearly, Peggy is extremely guilty about the 8 years of coordinated and malicious character assassination that she and others like her perpetrated against the last President.

"You have grown profoundly unserious. This is the result of the win-at-any-cost mindset."

This is a recurring theme of Peggy’s writings since George W. Bush was anointed to the office of President through a patently legalistic technicality rather than a clear mandate of the people. She is obviously deeply troubled by her driving desire to see the Republicans win by any means necessary in 2000.

"Democratic leaders, on the other hand, have by and large approached Iraq not with deep head-heart integration but with what appears to be mere calculation. What will play? What will resonate?"

Karl Rove has done great damage to Peggy’s fragile psyche with his intervention into the foreign policy of the country for electoral advantage and the obvious political calculations he uses to distance the president from his father, the “wimp.” Peggy is ashamed of her complicity in using GOP talking points and advancing an agenda for purely political reasons. Peggy should stay very far away from Karl, for the sake of her delicate mental health.

"You have become the party of snobs. You have become the party of Americans who think they're better than other Americans."

Here we have the case of someone who lives a life far away from the ordinary Americans she purports to represent and who feels that she is betraying her roots. Yet she is also one who quite openly presumes to write this criticism of the 50% of Americans who vote with the other party. She is becoming confused and irritated. Her self-hatred comes to the surface.

Her piece then devolves into a long remembrance of her history, that of a working class girl who became disillusioned with her chosen party because it ceased to care. It stopped being serious. It became radical and rude and mean, forcing old ladies to lose all their money on the bus and taking her hard earned money in taxes. She says,

“All of it came together bit by bit, and I started to become a conservative, and in time a Republican. And for the very reasons that my father was a Democrat.”

Oh my. Are we close to a breakthrough?

But no, she digresses into a long dissertation on gun control and abortion, veritably begging the Democrats to adopt the position of the Republican Party. She says,

"Democratic leaders are radical on abortion because they live in fear of--brace yourself, more snobs coming--a pro-abortion lobby that has money, clout and workers, and that can kill the hopes of any Democratic aspirant who doesn't toe the line. And that pro-abortion lobby is largely composed of the professionals, journalists, lawyers and operatives who long ago showed such contempt for America."

Read that again. Journalists, lawyers and operatives who long ago showed such contempt for America. Peggy has just disowned her public self.

She then gives the Democrats some concrete advice:

"Look at the clock. Know what time it is. Half the country is wondering if we are in the end times. (Excuse me, I mean they fear man may be living through a final, wrenching paroxysm, the result of man's inhumanity to man and of the inevitable culmination of several unhelpful forces and trends.) So wake up and get serious."

Half of the people are wondering if we are in the “end times.”

The Democrats need to wake up a get serious.

Oh Peggy

"Don't 'position' yourself on issues like Iraq, think about your position on Iraq and be guided by a question: What will be good and right for America and the world? Reach your conclusions and hold to them as long as you can hold them honestly."

Peggy obviously feels uncomfortable with the myriad lies and distortions that have been told by this administration. She doesn’t like the fact that the administration position is best called the “unilateral-regime-change-disarmament-exile-UN-coalition-of-the-willing-we’ll-go-it-alone-because-they-have-nukes-drones-terrorists-evil-gas-his-own-people-moral-clarity-doctrine-everybody-in-the-whole-world-hates-Bush-Doctrine.”

"Stare down the abortion lobby, the gun-ban nuts, etc. Be moderate. Make progress."

Peggy is telling the Republican Party that they need to listen to the few remaining moderates in the party. Poor Peggy.

"Be pro-free-speech again. Allow internal divisions and dissent. A vital political party should have divisions and dissent."

More of Peggy’s discomfort with the mechanical Borg-like message machine of the GOP organization. She remembers a Republican party of old that held views from Rockefeller to Goldwater. Her envy of the diversity and tolerance of a party that holds views from Kucinich to Lieberman is palpable.

"Develop a new and modern Democratic rationale--the reason regular people should be Democrats again. Stop being just the We Hate Republicans Party. That's not a belief, it's a tic."

Those Clinton hating dittoheads are getting on Peggy’s nerves. She’s tired of hearing the daily ranting of those who blame all the problems in the world on “liberals.” She yearns for the day when Republicans can let go of the Neanderthal hatred of the “other.” She hates herself for being part of something so ugly.

"Stop being the party of snobs. Show love for your country and its people--all its people. Stop looking down on those who resist your teachings."

And by this letter of advice she embodies the very thing she imputes to the Democrats. Has there ever been a woman who was less self aware?

"Stop taking such comfort in Bill Clinton's two wins. Move on. He was a great political talent, but he won by confusing the issues, not facing them. That's a trick that tends to work only at certain times and only with powerful charisma... Ask him to stay home. He reminds people of embarrassment. He uses up all your oxygen."

Peggy has a powerful attraction to Bill Clinton and it discombulates her considerably. She is distracted by his presence and finds it hard to breathe. He makes her think dirty thoughts.

"Stop the ideology. A lot of Democratic Party movers and intellectuals have created or inherited a leftist ideology that they try to impose on life. It doesn't spring from life; it's forced on life, and upon people. Stop doing that--it's what weirdos who are detached from reality do."

Peggy has truly grown to despise the likes of Grover Norquist, Bill Kristol and Newt Gingrich. The “movement ideologues” make her sick, she thinks they are wierdos who are detached from reality. She feels that they are imposing themselves on her. It would seem that she feels imposed upon by many men. (Although she only describes one as having “powerful charisma.”)

"And by the way, I'd like it if you started smoking again, at least for a while. Democrats were nicer when they smoked. Then they let all those Carrie Nation types in the party beat them to a pulp, and regular Democrats stopped feeling free to be regular flawed messy humans."

This is a cry for help. Peggy is clearly nearing a suicidal crisis. She feels flawed and messy and horny and she can’t live with it. It may be time for an intervention.

"You're still one of our two great political parties. Show some class, the good kind. Throw your cap over the wall as JFK said, and boldly follow."

Yes. Become Republicans. The very existence of the Democratic Party is painful and frustrating to Peggy Noonan.

Earlier in the piece she said the Democrats of the 60's adhered to the following credo:

"We do not love this place; we prefer leaders unsullied by the grubby demands of electoral politics; we are drawn to the ideological purity of Ho, Fidel, Mao. And by the way we're taking over: Oppose our vision and we'll take care of you by revolutionary means."

These words come from the heart. She does not love this place. She prefers leaders unsullied by such grubby demands of electoral politics as adhering to the notion that a duly elected President should not be “unelected” by a partisan impeachment for a personal indiscretion, or grubby demands that votes be counted. She is drawn to the ideological purity of McCarthy, Father Coughlin, Perle.

And by the way, she’s taking over: Oppose her vision and she’ll take care of you by revolutionary means…like paperless voting machines.

Willful Misapprehension

Thank you Matthew Yglesias for blogging what I have been screaming at the television since Saturday in response to the smug argument coming from certain quarters that the capture of Khalid Sheik Mohammed somehow proves that the US can successfully wage war against Iraq and al Qaeda:

But no. We're not at war with Iraq right now. And yes, the administration could be more preoccupied with Iraq than it is today. We could, for example, be waging a shooting war against their army which, I hope, would attract some attention. You also need to consider that the bulk of the terrorism-based anti-war argument has to do with the notion that a war will inflame public opinion against us, which really has nothing to do with this arrest.

In fact, one could argue that the high profile arrest, coming on the eve of the invasion may have the exact opposite effect that it is designed to have --- that is to cow the tremulous terrorists into throwing up their arms in surrender at the sight of our massive martial superiority.

I am in favor of arresting al Qaeda terrorists and bringing them to justice (and by that I do not mean the kind of justice Judge George W. Bean endorses, i.e. the "they won't be bothering us any longer heh, heh, heh" kind.) A series of these high profile arrests, with the aid of countries from all over the world, particularly Muslim countries, and a transparent open legal proceeding would have been the way to deal with the issue. By framing it as a "war" it played into the megalomaniacal mindset of the terrorists. Had they been designated as global criminals in dry legal language, rather than with the religious rhetoric as the personification of "evil" they would have been somewhat marginalized as martyrs and it would have allowed the Muslim nations to respond with more vigor.

But then, a megalomaniacal mindset is not confined to terrorists, is it?


Fineman Gives Bush the Big Lewinsky in front of God and everybody.

Rated NC17

The LA Times has lately been running some highly critical news analysis of the Bush administration. In fact, the Times is out front on a lot of issues pertaining to the mid-east, largely because of its fine expert Robin Wright, who is one of the most insightful analysts of the politics of the region around.

Today, the LA Times has two interesting reviews of the Bush administration’s “diplomacy”, the first being a global analysis of how their blunderbuss technique is perceived both overseas and domestically, and the second is a scathing indictment of Paul Wolfowitz’s obviously inept diplomacy in Turkey:

The World Casts a Critical Eye on Bush's Style of Diplomacy

By Doyle McManus

"If we're an arrogant nation, they'll view us that way," George W. Bush said during his 2000 presidential campaign. "But if we're a humble nation, they'll respect us."

Little more than two years later, the world's verdict on President Bush's diplomacy is split -- between critics who see it as arrogant and allies who support its goals but sometimes wonder where the "humble" went.

The leaders of France, Germany, Russia and China, all nations Bush hoped to count as allies in the confrontation with Iraq, have joined to resist the president's drive toward war, with complaints over what they see as American highhandedness.

Even staunch allies such as Prime ministers Tony Blair of Britain and Jose Maria Aznar of Spain have sent word to Bush that some U.S. bravado -- like Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's dismissal of "Old Europe" -- has done more harm than good.

Bush and his aides, not surprisingly, push back.

"What you have here is a president who is willing to point out what's right and wrong, maybe sometimes undiplomatically," said a senior administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity.


Can you believe this? I'm going to have to begin to give more credence to the idea that President Gantry actually believes that he has been chosen by God to lead this Crusade. He alone is endowed with the wisdom to proclaim what is right and what is wrong.

This is precisely the kind of provocative fundamentalist sloganeering that plays into bin Laden's hands while offending the more modern rationalists who make up the moderate muslim factions in the mid-east, not to mention our allies and cultural compatriots in the rest of the world.

They really are two of a kind.

Turkish Vote Is Study in Miscalculation

By Richard Boudreaux

Early last month, Vice President Dick Cheney telephoned Turkey's prime minister with an urgent message: The Bush administration wanted the country's parliament to vote within days-- just before the Muslim holiday of Bayram-- on a request to base U.S. troops in Turkey for an assault on Iraq.

The timing of the pressure struck a raw nerve here, one that was still aching when Turkish lawmakers finally took up the request Saturday and dealt it a surprise defeat. As Turks offered explanations Sunday for this stinging defiance of their strongest ally, tales of American insensitivity were high on the list.


"The Americans kept giving ultimatums and deadlines, asking Turkey to jump into a barrel of fire," he said. "They seemed to think we could be bought off, but we had real security concerns about what Iraq would look like after Saddam. They never addressed those concerns."


For their part, U.S. officials believed the Turks could not afford to turn them down. On the assumption that Turkish leaders understood this, officials led by Paul D. Wolfowitz, the deputy Defense secretary, kept pressing hard for a decision. When Turkey balked, U.S. officials, in private comments to reporters, often questioned the country's value as an ally.

"The disinformation campaign against Turkey played a big role in upsetting national feelings," Erdogan told reporters Sunday.

In the end, Washington tried to bargain for Turkey's loyalty with the promise of an aid package that would include $6 billion in grants. The deal nearly fell apart last week when Turkey balked at one of the conditions-- that it agree to strict International Monetary Fund guidelines for reform of its economy.

By week's end, the government had accepted the condition, but it had no time to explain and sell the accord to lawmakers, many of whom felt that Turkey had been shortchanged.

"The time pressure put on Turkey did not help the Americans' case," a senior Turkish diplomat said, because it forced the government to call a vote prematurely.

It is not surprising, when you think about it, that the Bush administration has little patience for the needs of a democratic country to heed the will of its people. There is a strong undemocratic streak running through the modern Republican party that has been becoming more and more obvious over the last 10 years. They are simply not very attuned to the needs of politicians who feel that they must adhere to the wishes of their constituents. This is just as obvious in the way they are treating elected American representatives as in their treatment of overseas allies.

It's also another reason why we should not place too much store in their professions of desire for democracy throughout the mid-east. This is one concept where practicing what you preach is truly a prerequisite for requiring it of others.

Sunday, March 02, 2003


Today, in his ongoing quest to find some way to reconcile his sophomoric cheerleading for the past year with the fact that the team he’s cheering is simultaneously more cynical and more incompetent than his idealistic, childish view of them ever dreamed, Tom Friedman is reduced to sports metaphors. But, he is clearly having a problem letting go of the fantasy that his team aren’t Knights of the roundtable, they are reckless buffoons.

He frames the coming war as a “drama” to which he’d love to pull up a chair and pop up a big bowl of popcorn and just enjoy for the sheer pleasure of watching George W. Bush (professional cheerleader) throw the long bomb. (Has there ever been a less appropriate metaphor? It’s enough to make the stomach churn --- even more so if you have a loved one in the military or you happen to be an unfortunate Iraqi likely to be on the receiving end of Bush’s throwing arm. What was he thinking?)

But the truth is that Friedman doesn’t really see this as a dramatic sporting event. He’s no jock, and it shows. He sees it as some sort of medieval morality play in which George W. Bush is Strength, Saddam and bin Laden are Satan and Evil and the Middle East is a democratic Paradise waiting to be born. Strength and Force (with a little help from the comical Crazy) will lead a Crusade to teach the twins, Ignorance and Poverty, that Democracy is their Savior.

But, the long litany of mistakes and miscalculations that Friedman subsequently narrates --- what he calls his “dilemma” --- is so unintentionally hilarious that it is obvious that what we are seeing is actually a Mack Sennet Keystone Kops farce. Friedman says he thinks the “plan” to spread wholesome democratic capitalistic all-American goodness would have been better served if the Bush administration hadn’t angered all of Europe by trashing the Kyoto treaty, hadn’t alienated the Russian national security elite by trashing the ABM treaty, or hadn’t proposed one radical tax cut on top of another one on the “eve of a huge, costly nation building marathon abroad.”

And Tom thinks Bush made a mistake in not rallying the country for energy conservation, and should have initiated a Manhattan Project for alternative energy. He should have also been deeply involved in resolving the Israeli Palestinian conflict even to the extent that we would threaten to withdraw funds from Israel if they did not cease building settlements. And needless to say it would have been better if the administration had put the Arab countries (like Saudi Arabia, perhaps?) on notice that we would not sit idly by while they tolerated extremists.

It’s actually difficult to watch someone flail so helplessly against that undertow of realism that flows though his column today. He frets that because of all these errors in judgment that “Bush has told us the right thing to do, but he won’t “be able” to do it right.” It apparently doesn’t occur to him that people this inept are highly unlikely to complete a hail mary pass. In fact, President Quarterback hasn't connected even once in the entire game.

This wishful thinking is running amuck among people who are even less dazzled by the President’s manufactured machismo than Tom Friedman. They cling to the idea that even though this administration has fouled up every single foreign policy initiative, that they wasted all of the U.S. moral authority emanating from 9/11, that they have been proven over and over again to be the boldest and most shameless liars to ever occupy the White House, that somehow they “Just Have To” do this one right. The long bomb “Just Has To” connect.

I think it’s time for everybody to start considering just what we are going to do in the event this thing, like every single other thing this administration has done, goes wrong? What are we going to do when the "It Just Has To Work" theory of geopolitics fails?


David E.gives Gridiron Tom a damned good fisking.

Saturday, March 01, 2003


Courtesy Brief Intelligence via The Agoniste both of which I have sadly neglected to add to the blogroll until today.

I have also added the fine blogs:

Wampum Blog
Tom Moody
Reveries Of The Solitary Blogger
everything is wrong
Nobody Knows Anything
Byzantium's Shores
Something's Got To Break

The Sack Of Iraq*

I imagine that a lot of us have picked up our copies of "The Guns of August" in recent weeks. There is a sense of things hurtling out of control, nothing going quite the way anyone conceived it. Hubris and belligerant confidence seem to overrule rational analysis in much the same way that the great powers miscalculated and overreached in the early days of WWI.

Vaara points out in a very interesting essay that this is not surprising --- that our feelings of deja vu are because the coming invasion, rather than being a "Project For A New American Century," is really the final chapter of the last one.

It's a very provocative and interesting piece.

* Phrase also coined by Vaara, but I plan to use it liberally.

My Poor Eyes

I received an e-mail this morning from blogger Centerpoint who kindly pointed me to his site where I could learn how to make my print more readable. Being HTML impaired, I appreciate all the help I can get.

I learned that blogger does not require me to set the font size, which means that everyone can adjust the font on their browsers to the size most comfortable for them. On the larger and largest font sizes on Explorer, the print is quite large and in bold. I hope this helps.

I also changed the font to Ariel, which is the font that I have always preferred for letters. I hope this helps, too.

Friday, February 28, 2003

We Don't Need Your Stinking War

Monkey Media Report has a very interesting post up about the alternative to war:

Not sure why I haven't seen more discussion of this one in the blog world: With Weapons of the Will: How to Topple Hussein Nonviolently by Peter Ackerman and Jack DuVall. It's a 'must-refute' for those in favor of a costly U.S. invasion/occupation. Originally published in Sojourners magazine last September (and linked approvingly in a fascinating 3-part analysis at One Hand Clapping), the article points out that civilian populations have risen up a number of times to overthrow dictators who were at least as willing to engage in mass murder as Saddam:

"It's essential to understand that unless a regime wants to murder the entire population, its ability repressively to compel a population's compliance is not infinitely elastic."

According to the authors, the key to sparking the kind of resistance that overthrew Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu in Romania and Augusto Pinochet in Chile is breaking the stranglehold of fear that keeps the people in check. Once that happens - look out, dictator:

"No one doubted the willingness of Pinochet's regime, in the 1970s and early 1980s, to use terror as an instrument of repression in order to assure the regime's control: Disappearances, brutal killings of dissidents, and arbitrary arrests had silenced most dissenters. But once that silence was broken in 1983 in a way that the regime could not immediately suppress -- through a one-day nationwide slow-down, followed by a nighttime city-wide banging of pots and pans in Santiago -- the regime was no longer able to re-establish the same degree of fear in the population, and mammoth monthly protests were soon under way."

In the case of Romania in 1989, it was the population of Timisoara that lit the bonfire:

"[Shoot to kill orders] arrive in Timisoara that afternoon. At 17:00 water cannons and tear gas are used against the people, tanks and APD's enter the streets and the shooting begins at about 18:00. They fire indiscriminately into the crowd. This was the watershed of the Revolution - differentiating it from previous demonstrations such as strikes in the Jiu valley and the 1987 riots in Brasov. News spreads quickly, especially by foreign TV and radio transmissions from neighbouring countries. The scale of the massacre becomes more and more exaggerated with reports of up to 60,000 dead in Timisoara...That same night there are sporadic anti-Ceausescu riots in other towns..."

Yep, that's how successful popular revolt usually works. It's interesting that when President Bush went to Romania last November, he called upon the memory of Ceausescu to drum up support for invading Iraq. "From that balcony, the dictator heard your voices and faltered," Bush said, while failing to mention that no foreign army had been necessary. (It should be added that Soviet hands were probably pulling strings behind the scenes in 1989, just as U.S. hands would pull them in Iraq today).

Ackerman and DuVall also note a key point about Saddam's rule that may make it easier to bring down than the regime of someone like Pinochet:

["Saddam's] hold on power is even more reliant on personal loyalties and their reinforcement by material rewards and mortal penalties. As such, the frequent reports of his repression should be seen not only as a sign of his brutality, but as evidence of the disaffection that his capricious, personal style continues to breed: He would not have to crack down if there were no one who might be disloyal."

In other words, if Hussein started ordering mass executions of crowds in broad daylight - a likely move - a military mutiny like the ones that took place in Romania and Chile would be an even more likely countermove. And it turns out there's also a strategic advantage from the perspective of a hawk like Rumsfeld:

"[If a campaign began with] civilian-based incidents of disruption that were dispersed around the country and that did not offer convenient targets to shoot at, any attempt to crack down would have to depend on the outermost, least reliable members of Saddam's repressive apparatus".

Why is this not the plan on the table in the White House? Why are we spending billions of dollars and endangering the lives of, for instance, my roommate's brother-in-law? The authors' final paragraph says it all:

"Regimes have been overthrown that had no compunction about brutalizing their opponents and denying them the right to speak their minds. How? By first demonstrating that opposition is possible, peeling away the regime's residual public and outside support, quashing its legitimacy, driving up the costs of maintaining control, and overextending its repressive apparatus. Strategic nonviolent action is not about being nice to your oppressor, much less having to rely on his niceness. It's about dissolving the foundations of his power and forcing him out. It is possible in Iraq."

Sound like pie in the sky?

Tell it to Nikolae and Elena

This would have worked. With modern media and a concerted effort in other countries in the region, it would have worked. But, it would not effectively establish our reputation as the meanest muthafuggahs on the planet and that, after all, is what this is all about.

"You Will be democratic, and I mean now" is an interesting, if completely incoherant, concept.

Read the entire post. He has many great links to the subject. This, it seems to me, was the real alternative to war.


Matthew Yglesias has an interesting post up about the propaganda efforts headed up by Westwood One in the mid-east. He says:

You want to convince people that the United States is not determined to destroy their traditional values, and that democratic procedures and basic human rights are compatible with a variety of cultural forms, and this program sounds like it's doing the exact reverse.

The problem, of course, is that the only values the United States has been very interested in promoting are the values of capitalism. And those values, while fine as far as they go, without an equal emphasis on democracy, freedom and opportunity have helped to sow the resentment and hatred we are now seeing. Everytime we broadcast about our opulent way of life to a bunch of poor people with little hope living under a tyrannical despot, we are asking for their rage to be turned toward us.

The Westwood One executive is quoted as saying:

When we play a song by Jennifer Lopez, we talk about all the difficulties she has overcome," he says. "Those are great stories about the kind of things that can happen to you when you live in a democracy." As long as ratings are Pattiz's first and last concern ("don't lead with what makes us unpopular," he lectures me), METN will do little more than pander to the lowest common denominator in his trademark, Pepsi-Generation style.

Sad to say that because of their circumstances and experiences in life, the average youth in the mid-east is a much more serious person than that. And we should be much more serious about giving them something more than consumerism because they don't have the money or the inclination to buy if that's all we're selling.

Which brings me to this most disturbing article from today's LA Times. If this is any indication, Richard Perle is gonna have some splainin' to do when we are greeted with terrible hostility rather than a road to Baghdad strewn with rose petals.


Here, in the middle of the desert, closer to the Saudi Arabian border than to Amman, Jordan's relatively cosmopolitan capital, it is easier to hear the unvarnished sentiments and frustrations of this Arab country.

"Maan is a case study for Jordan. It reflects how we think in this country," said Taher Masri, an urbane former prime minister who remains close to the government. The confrontational statements, he says, are part of a complex philosophy common in this part of the world.

"Saddam is not liked for himself. He is liked, if he is liked, because he stands up to America and Israel -- and it has developed that the source of power for Israel is America and this is, of course, what" Al Qaeda's Osama bin Laden has been saying.

"And what you will see in the streets is not support of Saddam, it's anti-American, anti-Israeli feeling," Masri said.

The confrontation in Maan also suggests how far even moderate Arab governments might go in responding to further unrest that could be ignited by a war in Iraq. It demonstrates that when moderate Arab countries repress the most vociferous Islamist voices, they run the risk of inflaming anti-American sentiments because the repression appears to be in the service of U.S. interests.


They love us. They really love us.

What a terrible, terrible mess.

3/4 - I apologize for the misspelling of Yglesias's name again. I know someone with the "I" spelling and it seems to be a block. But, I'm sure that a guy who occasionally makes a typo or two, as Mr. Yglesias does, won't hold it against me.


Atrios links to this article by Michelangelo Signorile on the Koufax matter and his comments section has a very lively debate going on the subject.

I think that Signorile and some of the commentors are dancing around another issue, but I'll get to that.

First, I don't agree with whole "public figure" aspect of this argument at all. If somebody makes an issue of their sex lives, then it becomes an open topic. Similarly, if you make public pronouncements about other people's sex lives then you have opened up your own for scrutiny. But, if you are just living your life, (as a long retired athlete, for instance) you have a right to have keep your sex life private, period. The issue with the media is sexual privacy no matter what the gossip item refers to, whether it has to do with being gay or having blow jobs in the oval office.

Tabloids are exploitive, lying, piece of shit rags that feed the base nature of everybody who reads them and as much as I believe in free speech I can't say that I wouldn't feel gleeful at the sight of a pile of New York Posts going up in flames. They are a destructive force in our culture and if you don't believe me then just turn on
television news for 10 minutes and you'll understand what I'm talking about. It is no coincidence that Bill "Enemy of the State" O'Reilly came from that bastion of respectable journalism, "Inside Edition." It is a pervasive influence in our politics and has been instrumental in the dumbing down of our national media and the trivializing of our political system to such a degree that an ignorant sock-puppet could be elected President because the news media were obsessed with the superficialities of the candidates to the exclusion of everything substantive.

The argument should not be about whether there exists a double standard, but why there aren't more standards to begin with.

But, with the case at hand, there is more to it than that, isn't there? From what I can tell, people are dismayed that the issue was blown up because of the nature of the "charge" --- that is that he was accused of being gay and it was treated as if he had been a "child molester." This is true. But, there's a little Claude Raines action going on here, too. It is wholly unsurprising that in the macho world of sports that an item like this would gain attention and approbation. But, it's not fair to say that the sportwriters across the board find it "contemptible" that someone would be accused of being gay. After all, they didn't react to the original blind item at the time and the reaction to the Mike Piazza rumor was far less energetic.

Part of what they are reacting to (and I don't doubt that there is quite a bit of homophobia involved as well) is that this is Sandy Koufax, a legend and notoriously private man, who has been falsely accused of making a deal with an author contingent upon her not revealing that he is gay. It's not just the gay thing, it's also the idea that he was portrayed as an underhanded liar. A lot of people admire Sandy Koufax, for more reasons than his pitching arm, and that hurt. But, to be fair, they also reacted strongly when Koufax quit the organization and a lot of them said that it was "wrong" for him to be accused of being gay by using rather obtuse language.

Which brings us to the heart of the matter. In some of the commentors's arguments the idea is bubbling that because there is nothing wrong with being gay, that a public figure of integrity should not object to being called gay, whether he is or not. One could correct the record for accuracy's sake, but it really shouldn't be much of a concern because, after all, there's nothing wrong with being gay so what's wrong with people thinking you are?

This is a fatal error, I think, because it supposes that people, gay or straight, should not mind if others misrepresent their sexual orientation. If it is not ok to force gay people to publicly live as if they are straight, is it really much different to ask straight people to behave as if it doesn't matter if they are perceived as being gay?

I realize that there are many people who have an ambiguous sexual orientation and that is a perfectly natural state for them. But, for many others, sexual orientation is an intrinsic part of who they are and it is fundamental to their identity. To assume that it should not matter to people how they are perceived in that way is asking to change something very basic in human nature. This seems to me to be the very essence of the gay rights movement. It's not just about being who you are --- after all, you have no choice in the matter --- it's about being seen and accepted for who you are.

Sandy Koufax, rightly or wrongly, will now be the Hall of Fame pitcher who will be known for his blazing fastball and also the guy about whom it will be said "he was gay." The truth or untruth of that is certainly not relevant to his standing as a legendary athlete. But, to him, as a person it might matter a great deal if it is not true, not because he finds being gay "contemptible" but because it is a fundamental misrepresentation of who he really is.

One should not have to be willing to have the world believe one is gay, in order to be completely open and accepting of homosexuality. I don't think we can ask people to live a lie, or to acquiesce to lies told about them, no matter what cause it purports to serve. Nothing good can come of it.

(For the record, I've been called gay by wing-nuts in comments sections and in e-mail many, many times. When idiots call someone "gay" on the internet, it is so stupid that one can only laugh in return. I don't consider morons hurling "gay" as an epithet the same as normal people misperceiving someone as being gay when they are not. A fine distinction, but a distinction nonetheless.)


In retrospect, I think I was unfair in categorizing Signorle as one who thinks people should accept a designation of gay to further the cause. He clearly states in his article an admiration of the way Mike Piazza handled the situation, which was to deny that he was gay and shrug it off while offering support to gay players. And, he further stated clearly that he thought one of the issues that needed tending was the sensitivity of athletes. To that I can only agree, but one couldn't confine it to the gay issue. Jocks are about the most insensitive humans on earth. It's a big job.