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April 30, 2004

It's called a "predator", dudes!

Flying Saucer Fever Grips Iran, Theories Abound

Flying saucer fever has gripped Iran after dozens of sightings in the last few days. Fanciful cartoons of alien spacecraft have adorned the front pages.

Democrats for Guns

Ted Rall is just nuts enough so that every now and then I agree with him. In his most recent column, he urges John Kerry to come out strongly in support of gun rights. He makes a good point with the following:

Accepting and promising to defend the Constitution as a whole, including the Second Amendment, could jumpstart the return of the American left from the fringe to the mainstream. Kerry's endorsement of gun rights would not only neutralize a key GOP values issue; it would serve as a cultural signifier that he doesn't view hunters and other gun aficionados with (as Democratic political consultant David Sweet put it) "an urban, sophisticated mentality that sneers at their way of life."

As one of those rare beasts who supports both the ACLU and the NRA simultaneously, I can relate. It's indeed encouraging that Democrats may be finally beginning to take the Second Amendment seriously. Now if we could only get them (and Republicans too, for that matter) to read the Tenth....

Give 'em a break

Some people are miffed that two prominent Democrats, Senator Bob Kerrey of Nebraska and former congressman Lee Hamilton of Indiana, both skipped out early from Bush and Cheney's testimony before the 9/11 commission.

Perhaps it was just a case of spring fever, which, if the weather in Washington has been anything like it's been here in New York, would be completely understandable. I think the critics are overreacting. They seem to be under the impression that this commission is a serious, fact-finding body of genuine importance, rather than a crass exercise in partisan blame shifting.

Kerrey and Hamilton harbor no such illusions, and neither should we.

April 29, 2004

John Kerry on eBay?

Is the good senator trying to raise campaign dough by hawking vintage lucite pures on eBay? Maybe it's just me, but check this listing out and tell me if you don't think "grandma" looks suspiciously like Massachusetts's junior senator.

Pro-Palestinianism defined

An awesome piece by Clifford May.

Consider what's required to wear the label: "Pro-Palestinian."

To start, you have to appear non-judgmental about innocent Palestinian children being raised to become human bombs.

You must refer to those who send such children on suicide/mass murder missions as "political leaders" or, even better, as "spiritual leaders." Call them militants if you must, but never terrorists.

To be thought of as pro-Palestinian, you must cite the plight of the Palestinian refugees as a key motivation for violence, ignoring the fact that there would have been no refugees had Israel's Arab neighbors not launched a war to destroy the tiny Jewish state immediately upon its birth.

Indeed, Arabs who chose to stay in Israel are today Israeli citizens, as are their children, enjoying more freedoms than do the citizens of neighboring Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia or even Jordan. Disregard all this if you want to be seen as someone who cares about Palestinians.

Supporters of Palestinians must point to the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank as another root cause of violence. Avoid mentioning that it was a second Arab war against Israel that led to the seizure of those territories which, at that time, were not called Palestinian territories. Gaza was administered by Egypt and the West Bank by Jordan and no one demanded that they be turned them over to Palestinian sovereignty.

Read the whole thing.

Democratic bait-and-switch?

Some Democrats are growing visibly nervous over Kerry's dismal performance in the campaign thus far. That's the problem with this "anybody but Bush!" nonsense. As soon as that becomes your guiding philosophy, you can end up with... well, anybody.

But check out this piece from the Village Voice:

Look for the Dem biggies, whoever they are these days, to sit down with the rich and arrogant presumptive nominee and try to persuade him to take a hike. Then they can return to business as usual -- resurrecting John Edwards, who is still hanging around, or staging an open convention in Boston, or both.

Fascinating! I'd like to think this prospect is too far-fetched to become a reality, but given the recent Democratic shenanigans with Jean Carnahan and Frank Lautenberg, I'm not reassured.

We can all remember a time when the American people would not stand for such a last-minute pinch hitter. We'd complain (rightly) that we didn't know enough about (say) John Edwards to elect him president. In the modern era, however, we positively fawn over the fresh-faced political unknown. It is only with increasing familiarity that their poll numbers start to diminish.

Call me paranoid, but I'm afraid I find this Kerry "doomsday" weapon strategy all too plausible.

April 27, 2004

$1,000 haircut??

All right, let me be the first to complain about Matt Drudge's recent headline regarding John Kerry's alleged $1,000 haircut in anticipation of the senator's appearance on "Meet the Press".

All right, I'll admit that $1K is a lot of coin to drop on a haircut, but Jesus, Matt Drudge ought to see what my wife spends on highlights here in New York City! And she isn't even on TV!!

This is such a disappointment

Boston based radio host Jay Severin wants to kill all Muslims. I'm dismayed because I used to like Jay, years ago, when he'd occasionally substitute for Gil Gross. I liked him so much that I'd even log onto msnbc.com to read his syndicated column.

This is unfortunate. Jay is smart enough to know better, and that's what makes it all the more sad.

April 25, 2004

Libertarians in New York

Can all the Libertarians in New York fit inside a phone booth? No, but they can fit inside a relatively small banquet hall, and yesterday that's just what they did. I accompanied Richard Bey, and sometime Pennsylvania Libertarian candidate and office-holder Rich Piotrowski to the New York State Libertarian Convention in Manhattan.

A fine time was had by all. We heard a speech by Gary Nolan, likely LP candidate for president. He was a little slick, but a compelling speaker, who rallied the party faithful to formulate a positive political message and ride it to victory. Being pro-freedom, Nolan says, is a more compelling message than being simply anti-government.

The keynote speaker was Justin Raimondo of antiwar.com. Mr. Raimondo spoke, in part, to balance the national party's controversial decision to invite pro-war small-l libertarian Neal Boortz to speak at the 2004 convention in Atlanta.

Mr. Raimondo made some good points (although I didn't agree with all of them), and was well received by the audience. The majority of those in attendance were stridently anti-war, so I tried to keep a fairly low profile. Even though I might part company with them on certain national security issues, I'll grant them this: had our nation governed its foreign policy according to libertarian principles during the past few decades, the current War on Terror may well have been unnecessary. Still, I'm certain there were many present yesterday who would anathematize me for my hawkish views (as I heard Mr. Raimondo do to Glenn Reynolds in a sidebar), but I still find I have more in common with them that with either of the major parties. Every time I take that silly little quiz that the LP always has on hand, it always puts me squarely in the libertarian quadrant, so what am I to do?

Well, here's one potential answer. This year, for the first time, New Yorkers will have the option to register to vote as a Libertarian. I am considering officially changing my registration. It's not like New York Republican primaries are very exciting anyway.

April 23, 2004

The Palestinian issue in a nutshell...

...courtesy of Victor Davis Hanson.

The issues baffle Americans: Some Arab citizens of Israel, residing in almost entirely Arab border towns and calling themselves Palestinians, were furious about Mr. Sharon's offer to cede them sovereign Israeli soil and thus allow them to join the new Palestinian nation. Others were hysterical that two killers -- who promised not merely the "liberation" of the West Bank, but also the utter destruction of Israel -- were in fact killed in a war by Israelis. Both of the deceased had damned the United States and expressed support for Islamicists now killing our soldiers in Iraq -- even as their supporters whined that we did not lament their recent departures to a much-praised paradise.

Elsewhere fiery demonstrators were shaking keys to houses that they have not been residing in for 60 years -- furious about the forfeiture of the "right of return" and their inability to migrate to live out their lives in the hated "Zionist entry." Notably absent were the relatives of the hundreds of thousands of Jews of Baghdad, Cairo, Damascus, and other Arab capitals who years ago were all ethnically cleansed and sent packing from centuries-old homes, but apparently got on with what was left of their lives.

The Palestinians will, in fact, get their de facto state, though one that may be now cut off entirely from Israeli commerce and cultural intercourse. This is an apparently terrifying thought: Palestinian men can no longer blow up Jews on Monday, seek dialysis from them on Tuesday, get an Israeli paycheck on Wednesday, demonstrate to CNN cameras about the injustice of it all on Thursday -- and then go back to tunneling under Gaza and three-hour, all-male, conspiracy-mongering sessions in coffee-houses on Friday. Beware of getting what you bomb for.

Klansman, Republican, what's the difference?

The "newspaper of record" just misidentified a Republican politician as a Klansman.

Thursday's New York Times misidentified GOP Senate candidate Pete Coors as a Ku Klux Klan member who murdered a black sharecropper.

The Coors campaign found the error "so outrageous it's kind of funny," said spokeswoman Cinamon Watson.

April 22, 2004

Those blasé French

I was using the word blasé in a bit of writing today, and I immediately began to wonder whether there was a non-French synonym I could use. The first candidate that came to mind was nonchalant. Also French. Ditto insouciant. What is it with these French, anyway? Why does a language with so few words have so many words for being half-assed?

Thoughts on the Spanish troop pullout...

...from Spanish soldiers and from Iraqis.

First, this:

The official line from officers at the Spanish base in Diwaniyah was that they were simply carrying out orders coming from Madrid and that they were in no position to express any emotion or opinion on the matter.

But ordinary soldiers said the overwhelming majority of their comrades opposed Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's sudden decision to bring home the 1,432-strong contingent based here and in the nearby Shiite Muslim holy city of Najaf.


Some of the same sentiments were echoed on the streets of Najaf, where Sadr has been holed up for the past two weeks despite the presence of Spanish troops.


"I feel satisfied with the five months I spent here. For me it was a great professional experience and I would do it again," said Captain Jose Miguel Garces, who is scheduled to leave Iraq in one week.


But privately some said the "honour of the Spanish army" might have been tarnished by the sudden withdrawal, especially in the light of recent attacks by Sadr's Mehdi Army militia.


Three soldiers manning the checkpoint at the entrance of the base were laughing with an Iraqi labourer who spoke to them in broken Spanish.

"I will miss these guys very much, I have gotten used to them," he said.

...and from one of my favorite Iraqi bloggers:
The hardest thing is that I have to fight more, and I will, but God, please give me the strength. Why should I be strong while watching others run away; Spain, Honduras, Thailand, human organizations, the UN and all the others who want (and it's their right I must say) to avoid the dangers. But why did they disappoint us? Why abandon us in this moment when we really need them? Will they come back when conditions improve? Most likely, but who will need them then!!? We don't need doctors and engineers. We have enough of those and large numbers of Iraqi doctor, teachers and engineers are working abroad. We do export minds, and some of those have returned and are doing their job and some are on their way back. We need political, financial and military support, and once we get rid of the terrorists, WE will show you what we can do, and we will not forget those who helped us, they will remain as friends and allies, that's from a political point of view. As for me, they will remain as my real family, my brothers and sisters.


Others ask me to demonstrate and show my support to the coalition. Ok I'm with the coalition but I can't do it my friends. I'm surrounded by armed criminals who wouldn't hesitate for a minute before shooting me for just speaking out, yet I do speak, and not only on this page.

You, there in the free world, cannot witness against criminals without witness protection programs. We have nothing of this. Just under trained and half corrupted policemen and few newly graduated army soldiers and the law system, we inherited from Saddam and haven't really changed it yet, is far from being efficient. Why do others get discouraged easily? Don't mistake me. I'm upset but will NEVER run away like some people did.

I wasn't like this before. I was afraid most of the time. I have always looked for safety above all. I lost faith in the whole world and I wasn't ready at all to make the slightest sacrifice for the sake of others. I was trying to leave my country and find a better job in a safe place, BUT, The brave solders (who don't hold shares at Halliburton or Bechtel) who crossed seas and oceans and came to my country to fight for our freedom -and don't anyone dare say the opposite, as I met so many of these soldiers and had hundreds of letters from them and there families and I know their motives; they fight for their country's safety and for our freedom and they are proud of what they are doing- gave me the faith and showed me that man should not care only about himself, his family or his country, these are not enough to make a human being. These guys are MUCH better than me because I have to fight for my issue and they fight for me. They deserve the respect of the world and so do the people who support them. They always give me hope to go on no matter how difficult it seems.

April 20, 2004

Campaign finance news

Remember all the hand wringing we heard from the reformists about the "obscene" amounts of money that were being raised by Bush-Cheney? I'm eagerly awaiting their anguished reaction to the news that the Kerry team is currently outpacing them by 2 to 1. Hey, I think I'll hold my breath!

Now Mubarak's joining the chorus

The same ol' crap (emphasis mine):

"Today there is hatred of the Americans like never before in the region," [Mubarak] said in an interview given during a stay in France, where he met President Jacques Chirac Monday.

"At the start some considered the Americans were helping them. There was no hatred of the Americans. After what has happened in Iraq, there is unprecedented hatred and the Americans know it," Mubarak said.

Get that? Before the developments in the Middle East of the past few weeks, there was "no hatred of the Americans" in the Arab world. Give me a fricken break, Hosni!

Jesus Christ

Is this what Doonesbury has come to? Remember the good old days when the strip was something a little more substantial than crass propaganda, and as a result, actually funny?

A main character in the "Doonesbury" comic strip will lose a leg while fighting in Iraq, one of two strips published this week that feature soldiers getting injured in the war.

In Monday's "Doonesbury," B.D., a football coach-turned-soldier, was injured after being reactivated in the Army at the end of 2002, following a losing football season.

Later this week, he will wake up to find his left leg amputated, according to Universal Press Syndicate, the strip's distributor.

Ha ha ha! That's a real boffo gag. What's next, Mr. Wilson's prostate exam? Peppermint Patty's abortion?

Bush support holding...

...at least according to one poll.

President Bush has maintained his lead over Democrat John Kerry in the USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll despite two weeks dominated by a deteriorating security situation in Iraq and criticism of his administration's handling of the terrorism threat before the Sept. 11 attacks.

The survey, taken Friday through Sunday, shows Bush ahead 50% to 44% among likely voters, a bit wider than the 4-point lead he held in early April.

I understand that polls don't mean very much at this point, but what struck me about this one is the reaction to it among my Democratic friends. They are, without exception, totally mystified as to how this could be the case. To me, this is further evidence that many among their number simply do not "get it", and it's precisely the reason I will be unable to vote for Kerry during wartime.

Honduras leaves Iraq

It looks like Honduras is going to follow Spain in bailing on Iraq. My question is this: How many of you knew that Hondurans were even in Iraq until you heard they were leaving? As usual, favorable news from Iraq is mumbled, while negative news is shouted through a loudspeaker.

Now Jordan hates us too

Jordan is pissed off at Bush for his "new policy" regarding the Middle East. Jordan, you see, is deeply committed to the cause of its Palestinian brethren... so long as they're Israel's problem, and not Jordan's.

Remember in 1970, when the Palestinian refugees were focusing on Jordan as a solution to their plight, rather than Israel? This was not an unreasonable notion, given the heavily Palestinian makeup of Jordan's population and their historical control of the West Bank. The movement, however, was brutally suppressed by Jordan with a savagery that the Israelis have never approached.

Cry me a river, King Abdullah. You want to help the Palestinians? Offer them a homeland within your borders. Not only are these your people, but your country is four times the size of Israel. If you don't want to help the Palestinians then fine, but please shut up.

Republicans are from Mars, Democrats are from Venus...

...or something. In any case, the New York Times reports on some fascinating MRI studies that may lend some understanding to partisan politics. It seems that our brains are more apt to react emotionally to a candidate of our party, and intellectually, as if girding for debate, to a candidate of the opposition.

I guess none of this is really a surprise, but it is worth bearing in mind that we all have a tendency to view our own less critically than we do our opponents. I'm perpetually amazed that many of my friends and I can share so many of the same principles, not to mention the same pool of facts and data, and yet arrive at such markedly different conclusions. This helps, in part, to explain why.

April 19, 2004

Do as I say, not as I do...

Remember John Kerry's ridiculous posturing from last month, when he asked the richest Americans to voluntarily pay their taxes at the higher, pre-Bush rate?

Well, I guess he doesn't think that's a good idea after all. At least not for the Kerry-Heinz household, in any case:

Weary of liberals always clamoring for higher taxes on other people, an anti-tax group managed to place a line on the tax form giving Bay Staters the option of paying at the old, since-repealed 5.85 percent rate, rather than at the current 5.3 percent rate.

For two years now, John Kerry has had the opportunity to pay his "fair share." But like some Benedict Arnold CEO, the Democratic Party candidate for president has taken the money and ran.

I wonder whether TeRAYsa chose to pay her "fair share"? Since she steadfastly refuses to make her return public, I guess we'll never know.

April 18, 2004

Some more thoughts on the Middle East

I've been taken to task for my "gleeful" commentary on the Israeli assassination of Abdelaziz Rantissi. I'm told that (get this) America's tacit endorsement of the action will cause the Palestinians to hate us. Yes, that's right, our good Palestinian buddies who danced in the streets and burned American flags on 9/11 will now begin hating us unless we issue a forceful condemnation of Israel's action.

I like to be liked. Everybody does. But if the cost of being liked is pretending to be outraged when a terrorist leader is summarily dispatched then it's not worth it. Moreover, I'm absolutely convinced that

A. Nobody who liked us before the Rantissi strike is suddenly going to start hating us now, and

B. Nobody who hates us now will suddenly start liking us if Bush yells at Sharon enough.

Still, that's the kind of fantasy that dominates much of western opinion regarding the Palestinian issue. The fact that Bush's simple statement that "Israel has the right to defend itself" can be viewed as "provocative" illustrates what a sorry pass we've come to.

Critics also worry that every time you kill a terrorist you create ten more. There may be some truth to this, but I'll bet Hamas is going to find it harder and harder to recruit new leaders if Israel keeps up this pace. My God, can you imagine what their life insurance premiums must be?

And as long as we're on the subject of the Palestinians, I'd like to use this space to share with you some of Mark Silverman's thoughts on the matter. I think he asks a damn good question. Props, Mark!

As long as we are handing states out...

Why do the Palestinians get to jump ahead of the Kurds?

I was thinking about this, and the Kurds meet all of the qualifications to get a state. They are a cultural and national group with strong ties to the land on which they live. They've been persecuted mercilessly for a long time (much worse then the Palestinians, FWIW), and even better, they have quietly gone about building the institutions of statehood and a civil society pretty much on their own.

So, if you want to talk about ethnic groups that deserve a state of their own, the Kurds ought to be at the top of anyone's list.

Oh, one other thing. The Kurds have never blown up any busses full of civilians, never desecrated religious shrines, never mutilated 'enemy' corpses, never machine-gunned elementary schools, never sent teenagers in bomb vests to kill other teenagers at restaurants and coffee shops, and as far as I know, they have never tried to make a bomb filled with rat poison or HIV+ blood.

Perhaps the Kurds should do all of those things. Then they would be rewarded with diplomatic recognition, become the toast of the entire Arab world, and be fawned over by university professors, guilt-ridden Westerners, and European diplomats. People would say that there can be no peace in the Middle East until the Kurds get a state, and Kurdish leaders would be seen as heroes, even as they massacre 'enemy' civilians by the hundreds ever year.

That's the problem with the Kurds. They spend their energy and talents on things like economic development, education, and infrastructure. They justy go ahead living their lives, farming, raising their kids, passing along their culture to new generations. If they just taught their kids to hate, and turned their whole society into a psychotic death cult, well, a state would practically be thrown at them!

April 17, 2004

A moral and ethical dilemma

Arrggghh, do not tempt me so!!

Wednesday night is the second meeting of a class I've recently enrolled in. The problem is that one of my favorite bars in Manhattan, David Copperfield's, is hosting a special tasting by Rogue, makers of the outstanding Dead Guy Ale, and one of my favorite brewers in America. They're going to have on tap the "radically hopped" I2PA beer Imperial India Pale Ale.

Gods, why must you mock me?!? It's only a ten-week class, and I'm already going to miss one of the meetings in June due to a previously scheduled trip, but I'm such a hop-head, this sounds like an event not to be missed. Help me out guys, what should I do?

Maybe I should turn this blog into a kind of ethics-based web reality show....

Another one bites the dust

Nice work, guys! Keep it up.

Abdel Aziz Rantisi, the leader of the militant group Hamas in Gaza, was killed today when his car exploded, hospital officials said. A huge explosion was heard in Gaza City. Rantisi was appointed to head Hamas -- which the U.S. has named a terrorist organization -- in Gaza after Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin was killed in an Israeli missile strike in Gaza City.

April 16, 2004

Is this appropriate or what?

Air America is back on the air in Chicago... because of a court order. Sound familiar? Liberals fail to achieve their goals through conventional means (e.g., popular demand), so they run straight to the judiciary. Par for the course.

April 15, 2004

Andy tells it like it is

My favorite Andrew Sullivan post. Ever.

MEMO TO OSAMA: Re: the "truce." Go fuck yourself.

Paul Berman nails it

Please, please read Paul Berman's Op-Ed piece in today's New York Times. I've been making a similar point for a year now. There is no reason the Democrats should cede the issue of the War on Terror to George W. Bush. If the opposition party were to take this editorial to heart and put forth a coherent, compelling, liberal case for war (imagine an American Tony Blair, for instance), Bush would be in big, big trouble.

I'm quoting some of my favorite bits, but read the whole thing.

The Sept. 11 attacks came from a relatively small organization. But Al Qaeda was a kind of foam thrown up by the larger extremist wave. The police and special forces were never going to be able to stamp out the Qaeda cells so long as millions of people around the world accepted the paranoid and apocalyptic views and revered suicide terror. The only long-term hope for tamping down the terrorist impulse was to turn America's traditional policies upside down, and come out for once in favor of the liberal democrats of the Muslim world. This would mean promoting a counter-wave of liberal and rational ideas to combat the allure of paranoia and apocalypse.


The whole point in overthrowing Saddam Hussein, from my perspective, was to achieve those large possibilities right in the center of the Muslim world, where the ripples might lead in every direction. Iraq was a logical place to begin because, for a dozen years, the Baathists had been shooting at American and British planes, and inciting paranoia and hatred against the United States, and encouraging the idea that attacks can successfully be launched against American targets, and giving that idea some extra oomph with the bluff about fearsome weapons. The Baathists, in short, contributed their bit to the atmosphere that led to Sept. 11. Yet Iraq could also boast of liberal democrats and some admirable achievements in the Kurdish north, which meant there were people to support, and not just to oppose. Such were the hopes.

As for the results -- well, in one respect, these have turned out to be, in spite of everything, almost comically successful. Baathism's super-weapons may have been a figment of the universal imagination; but as soon as the United States elevated this figment into a world crisis, astonishing progress was made in tracking down weapons programs and trafficking in Libya, Iran, Dubai and Pakistan. Some people will go on insisting that sudden progress on these matters has nothing to do with Iraq, and the dominoes tumbled simultaneously by sheer coincidence -- but some people will believe anything.

Nobody can doubt, however, that even in its planning stages, the invasion and occupation of Iraq were depressingly bungled. The whole thing was done in an odd mood of hysteria and parsimony, a bad combination. It is tempting to conclude that, all in all, we would have been better off staying out of Iraq altogether -- and maybe this will turn out to be the case.

But everyone who feels drawn to that conclusion had better acknowledge its full meaning: the unavoidable implication that we would be better off today with Saddam Hussein in power; better off with economic sanctions still strangling the Iraqi people; better off with American army bases still occupying Saudi soil (Osama bin Laden's original grievance against us); and better off without the progress on weapons proliferation in the Muslim world (unless you believe in the sheer-coincidence theory, in which case, you think that progress would have happened willy-nilly). That is a pretty horrifying set of alternatives.

Some common sense in the Middle East

Finally, a dose of reality in the Middle East. In what appears to be a first, the White House has acknowledged that any future two-state solution will not revert back to the 1949 armistice lines, but will take into account the reality of significant Israeli population centers within the West Bank.

This new posture will no doubt be greeted with scorn and criticism, not only by the Palestinians, but by the intellectual elite and the anti-Israeli lobby in America and Europe as well. Still, what alternatives does one have when only one side is willing to participate in the "peace process"? Having spurned an offer of 98% of the West Bank, how open can the Palestinian Authority be to meaningful, realistic negotiation?

The uneasy stalemate that has obtained in the region for so long was untenable. The unilateral action by Israel, now endorsed by the United States, is regrettable, but with only one side willing to work toward a solution, there's little else to be done. The Palestinian howls of outrage are predictable, but hollow. Even without a presence at the bargaining table, they are being accorded all of Gaza and the vast majority of the West Bank. All in all, the deal seems more generous than the PA deserves, given its track record since the inception of Oslo.

Our Kurdish allies

I don't always like Ralph Peters's op-ed pieces, but I did find this one to be an affecting portrait of our most stalwart regional ally. Almost without a friend in the world, they are one of the few bright spots in a very troubled corner of the planet. I hope we do right by them this time.

A few loose ends

As my tens of loyal readers know, I've recently missed an entire week of commentary during what turned out to be a very busy news cycle. There's no sense in belaboring matters ex post facto, but for completeness's sake, I'll briefly address the two major news stories of the past week.

I was dismayed to learn the situation in Iraq had not improved during my absence, but I found the transcript of the president's speech to be somewhat encouraging (with this president, these things always read better than they sound). Bush certainly understands that his re-election hinges on gaining control of the situation in Iraq, and if that requires additional troops then so be it. It's unfortunate that it seems to require an impending election to coerce this administration into reexamining some of its decisions, but there you have it. I understand the oft-repeated maxim that no war plan survives contact with the enemy. The American public understands it as well, and they are willing to forgive a flawed war plan if it's coupled with a willingness to adapt and modify tactics and strategy in response to current realities on the ground. Many of the president's most ardent supporters in the war have been discouraged by the White House's pig-headed obstinacy in refusing to admit to any miscalculation. We're not asking for the kind of public mea culpa that the press corps solicited as fodder for a Kerry campaign ad, but simply a tacit acknowledgment that things, as they stand, are not working. I think we got that in the president's speech. It was belated and grudging perhaps, but I view it as a positive development.

There's not much I can say about the 9/11 commission. I am disappointed yet not surprised that such an important proceeding has degenerated into a crass, partisan blame game. I suppose we expected too much.

Yet another political quiz

I've seen ones like this before, but this one asks a wide variety of different, specific questions, and is perhaps more accurate than its predecessors.

To all of my friends who think I'm a zealous right-wing crypto-fascist, I'm proud to report that I'm a slightly right-of-center moderate libertarian. What's depressing, however, is the complete lack of prominent political figures in my quadrant!

April 14, 2004

Tanned, rested, and (almost) ready

Well, the wife and I just returned from a one-week trip to sunny Jamaica, and now we're back in this hell-hole! I'm slowly in the process of getting my act back together, but I get the feeling that I've got a lot of catching up to do. During the past week, I had absolutely no access to or interaction with the internet, a television, a radio, a telephone, or even a newspaper. I have to admit, it was kind of nice. It would seem, however, that I've missed a busy week and have quite a backlog to plow through.

Jamaica was very nice. The swimming, the snorkeling and the diving were all excellent, as was the food. (Jerk chicken kicks ass! Ackee, saltfish and bammy kick ass! Ital stew kicks ass!) The only real downer note of the whole trip was on our first full day there, when I stepped on a sea urchin, and some of the quills broke off and embedded themselves in my foot. We don't really have anything like sea urchins in New York City, but they're kind of like large, obnoxious, aquatic sandspurs, the bane of my boyhood existence in Waycross, Georgia. I won't go into specifics concerning the nature of the "cure" proffered to me by the locals, except to say that at first I suspected them of having me on (a cool joke on the Yankee tourist!). But by God, it seemed to work! By the very next day I was hopping around as if nothing had happened.

So now it's back to the grind. This post is to let both my loyal readers know that I'm back in one piece, and ready for action. It may be another day or so before I can comment intelligently on world events, however (insert sarcastic comment here).

April 05, 2004

Anomalous Jobs Data?

Okay, I'm really leaving soon, I swear, but there's one last thing I had to share.

EconoPundit asks some interesting questions concerning jobs data. Were employment figures systematically inflated in 2000? Recall at that time that jobless numbers were well below what most economists had previously considered "full employment". He doesn't seem to be implying deliberate deception, but rather that updated census figures skewed the employment models. It's an interesting read with lots of implications. How many of the "1.5 million jobs lost" never existed in the first place? Check it out.

One more thing

Yeah, I know I'm supposed to be going on vacation, but I had to share this little diversion first. It's a quiz that purports to tell you which New York Times columnist you're most like. Turns out I'm Tom Friedman:

You are Thomas L. Friedman! You're the foreign affairs expert. You're liberal on most issues, except you're a leading voice in the pro-war movement. You're probably the most popular columnist at the Times, but probably because you play both sides of the Iraq issue and relish your devotion to what you call "fanatical moderatism." You sure can write, but you could work on your sense of humor.


I'm going to be taking off about a week for a vacation, to recharge my batteries. It's best not to expect any news posts until sometime around the middle of next week. Something tells me, however, that there'll be a lot to talk about when I come back.

Take care, all. See you soon.

April 02, 2004

Krauthammer on Clarke

Charles Krauthammer's latest column is, as always, worth a read. Here's my favorite paragraph:

What exactly was the failure? What was Bush supposed to do to prevent Sept. 11? Invade Afghanistan? Clarke has expressed outrage at Bush's preemptive invasion of Iraq. So: Bush deserves excoriation for preemptively invading Iraq based on massive, universally accepted intelligence of its weapons, to say nothing of its hostility and virulence; and, simultaneously, Bush deserves excoriation for not preemptively attacking Afghanistan on the basis of . . . what? Increased terrorist chatter in the summer of 2001?

Strong jobs data

This is encouraging.

U.S. employment rose last month at the fastest pace in nearly four years as hiring increased across a wide array of industries, the government said on Friday in a surprisingly strong report that stunned financial markets.


Non-farm payrolls climbed 308,000 in March, helped a bit by the return of workers after a labor dispute at California grocery stores ended, the Labor Department said. This was the biggest gain since April 2000 and well above the 103,000 rise expected on Wall Street.

Now expect Bush critics to ignore this and focus on the unemployment number, which just ticked up slightly from 5.6% to 5.7%. Never mind that for more than a year now, they've been dismissive of the relatively low unemployment numbers and focused only on jobs growth, or the lack thereof.

Randi Rhodes

I kept hearing how good Randi Rhodes is, but the first day of Air America I got so turned off by Al Franken that I didn't continue to listen.

I have heard some of her since, and she is indeed much much better than Franken. I liked her "interview" with Ralph Nader. You can hear it here.

Heh heh, she pretty much tears him a new one, but I think Ralph made some pretty good points. I might not agree with her, but at least I find her entertaining, and someone I could listen to.