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June 30, 2004

Pornography for Bush-haters

I laughed. I cried. Then I watched the movie.

Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9-11 is pornography for Bush-haters. It appeals to the basest instincts of its audience while demanding nothing in return. Mind you, I don't object to pornography in general, but please, let's not harbor illusions as to what we're doing when we engage in such guilty pleasures. And perhaps the liberals who lined up in droves to see this film could be more tolerant of our brethren on the right whey they engage in similar acts of self-gratification, such as listening to Sean Hannity, or reading Ann Coulter.

Beyond that, I cannot understand why this movie is such a big deal. Yes, there are distortions, inaccuracies and cheap shots, but I was so underwhelmed by the entire package that I cannot even bring myself to be offended. The first half of the movie was compelling enough, but haphazard and unfocused. The second half, was, simply put, boring.

The movie begins with a rehash of Bush "stealing" Florida. We've heard it all before, but Moore's new twist seems to be that the "theft" was perpetrated by Fox News. There was, of course, help from Poppy Bush's "friends" on the Supreme Court. That Justice Souter, a Bush 41 appointee, dissented in Bush vs. Gore is one of those inconvenient facts that Moore counts on his audience not knowing.

Moore then spends much time discussing the connection between Bush and the Saudi royal family via a holding company called the Carlyle Group. What conclusions Moore expects us to draw from this relationship is unclear, but we're just sure it must be something sinister. The movie does deal at some length with the flights that spirited certain high-profile Saudis, including members of the bin Laden family, out of the United States in the days following 9/11. Richard Clarke seems to have cleared up this mystery himself, however, after Moore's movie was filmed.

Perhaps the film's most egregious inaccuracy was Moore's confusing the themes from The Magnificent Seven and Bonanza, but there was some pretty flagrant deck-stacking as well. Most annoying to me was Moore's "roll call" of the coalition, beginning with Palau, Costa Rica, and Iceland, and some other nations that lack armies and weapons altogether. The list then peters out, and the viewer who didn't know better would be allowed (even encouraged) to believe that the alliance comprised only the United States and a few insignificant pissant countries with no standing army at all. Why didn't he mention, say, England, Australia, Spain, Poland, or Italy? Palau is funnier! Moreover, it helps Moore make his point that the entire coalition is merely a sham. England and Italy are not useful to Moore's thesis, so they are simply ignored.

Another favorite bit of mine was a cameo by a gum-chewing Britney Spears, who said we should simply trust our president and support his decisions. Get it, folks? If you support the president, you're like Britney Spears!

And speaking of deck-stacking, was ultra-leftist Jim McDermott really the only congressman that Michael Moore interviewed for this film? It would appear so.

The second half of the movie was excruciatingly boring, particularly an interminable sequence in which two marines are wandering Moore's hometown of Flint, Michigan searching for recruits. The movie's plunge into tedium is odd, as it occurs exactly when the movie finally begins to tackle its ostensible subject matter -- Iraq.

The most powerful sequences are, without a doubt, those involving grieving relatives of the war's casualties, both American and Iraqi. While these images are tragic and heartbreaking, they are the images of any war, and they tell us nothing about the injustices of this war in particular.

All in all, I can't see why this movie is a big deal. Yes, it's a singularly partisan smear job. Yes, it's riddled with distortions and straw men. But even though it sets out with a single goal in mind, unencumbered by facts or balance, the movie still falls short. I cannot imagine that any hearts or minds will be changed by this, on either side. Bush's opponents will likely enjoy it. His supporters will likely get angry. I think that's about the extent of its impact, however.

I approached this movie fully believing it to be capable of tilting the electoral balance towards Kerry in a close election. I no longer believe that to be the case. Moreover, I think the Democratic Party needs to tread carefully with Mr. Moore. No doubt they are grateful to have someone of such prominence to serve as a conduit for their anger and frustration. But if they become too closely linked with the likes of Moore in the minds of the public, it will not be helpful in their quest to regain the White House next year.

So that's it. My official review is: "no big deal."

Look Mom, I'm a movie critic! Hackwriter, eat your heart out. :-)

HRC's true colors

Last week I wrote how my nascent nostalgia for Bill Clinton was cut short in the wake of the recent publicity surrounding his book. It proved a worthwhile reminder of everything I didn't like about the man.

I have just undergone a similar epiphany regarding his wife. As a resident of New York for these past four years, I'd been forced to grudgingly concede that Ms Clinton has executed the duties of her office in a fairly competent, moderate way. Then, in an unguarded moment, she said this:

Many of you are well enough off that ... the tax cuts may have helped you," Sen. Clinton said. "We're saying that for America to get back on track, we're probably going to cut that short and not give it to you. We're going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good."

Her leftist core may be buried, but it's not dead. I won't forget that again.

June 29, 2004

Sidewalk vendor to the rescue!

Ah, Canal Street in Lower Manhattan, what an amazing place! The vibrant entrepreneurial spirit here has helped me out of a conundrum. People have been asking me when they can expect my review of Fahrenheit 9-11, but I haven't seen it yet. It's a disgrace for a blogger, really.

My problem was two-fold:

  1. I was reluctant to further enrich the fatuous Mr. Moore by buying a ticket
  2. I was reluctant to waste hours of my time standing in long lines of drooling Manhattan lefties to buy a ticket

The way I saw it, I had two options:

  1. I could whine, like Ted Rall did, about how I should have been invited to the premier (the liberal solution)
  2. I could take matters into my own hands (the conservative solution)!

I chose the latter, and here I am with my brand new, shrink-wrapped copy of Fahrenheit 9-11. Isn't capitalism great? (I also got a cool-ass Rolex for ten bucks!) I'll give it a watch at first opportunity, and post my thoughts as soon as I've digested it.

Iraq begins its downhill slide

They have talk radio.

June 28, 2004

Iraqi handover

I'd rather link to this post from Iraqi blogger Sarmad than any of the news media accounts I've read thus far.

Great moments ,great time ,here in Iraq , The transfer of power to Iraq sovereignty has been completed 2 days in advance ,this was ,a great news for the Iraqis .
From this moment we started to celebrate ,and people ,all over here conciliation each other ,this is a great moments ,I resaved calls from all over the world greeting me for this happy moments .
Thank you Mr. . primmer ,for being great president for Iraq all this time, Thank you for great job you did for Iraq ,we will never forget you , you will be always in our minds and harts.
Thank you united state of America for your great Job you done here .
Thank you coalitions forces for you brave work and supporting good.
Thank you all Brave mans ,who lost there life here ,your bloods will be the river of hope for us .
Thank you all good friends out there ,thank you for being with us all the way , minute by minute ,day by day ,living our sadness and happiness ,standing beside us ,encouraging us
Supporting us ,worry about us ,we always felt that you are there beside us ,with us .
Thank you all brave Iraqis who stand out there to fight for better future and freedom.
I will go now to celebrate with all people for this happy moments ,it has been long time since we celebrate .
Bye for now .

Yellowcake from Africa revisited

The "uranium from Africa" claim was never more than a minor bullet point in a laundry list of Iraq's offenses. Nevertheless, the issue was made into a big deal and a major news story by the president's critics, when it was believed the claim was a hoax. Our friends on the left will forgive us, then, if we point out that Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair appear to have been correct after all.

Until now, the only evidence of Iraq's alleged attempts to buy uranium from Niger had turned out to be a forgery. In October 2002, documents were handed to the US embassy in Rome that appeared to be correspondence between Niger and Iraqi officials.
However, European intelligence officers have now revealed that three years before the fake documents became public, human and electronic intelligence sources from a number of countries picked up repeated discussion of an illicit trade in uranium from Niger. One of the customers discussed by the traders was Iraq.

June 25, 2004

Those dreaded neocons...

...have obviously taken over the New York Times.

Iraqis, Seeking Foes of Saudis, Contacted bin Laden, File Says

Contacts between Iraqi intelligence agents and Osama bin Laden when he was in Sudan in the mid-1990's were part of a broad effort by Baghdad to work with organizations opposing the Saudi ruling family, according to a newly disclosed document obtained by the Americans in Iraq.

As if they had nothing better to do...

...the senate just voted 99 to 1 to increase FCC fines for "indecency."

On the bright side, I guess such a lopsided, bi-partisan majority will preclude any charges that the Republicans, beholden to the religious right, are waging an all-out assault on the first amendment.

HA HA HA HA HA HA!! I kept a straight face as long as I could.

Here come da judge

I guess the New York Post lives for headlines such as this one:


A sicko jurist regularly masturbated in court as he presided over criminal cases, state officials in Oklahoma charged yesterday.

Sapulpa District Justice Donald Thompson allegedly used a male enhancement pump, shaved and oiled his private parts and pleasured himself behind the bench.

It looks like the judge was trying his own case of assault on a friendly weapon. I want to know whether this is some kind of new trend.

By the way, isn't this what the judge's chambers are for?

June 24, 2004

...and the horse you rode in on

I've always assumed that language like this is the coin of the realm in today's politics, and probably has been for at least a few decades (witness the Nixon tapes). My question has always been, when did this start? How far back does the tradition go? We don't have tapes of Jefferson saying, "Fuck that Hamilton! We've got his nuts in a vice now, that prick!" although it may well have happened.

Still, they should probably reserve such flights of rhetoric for the back rooms. Cheney saying "fuck you!" to Senator Leahy was a bit unseemly, although I can certainly understand the temptation. I think the veep owes the American people an apology. As for Leahy? Fuck him.

Fritz on Iraq

Boy, you sure can tell that Senator Confederate Flag Hollings (my former senator, by the way) is not running for re-election this year. Otherwise, I doubt he'd be willing to get quoted in the South Carolina newspaper saying stuff like this:

"In the war against terrorism, we've given the terrorists a cause and created more terrorism. Even though Saddam is gone, the majority of the Iraqi people want us gone. We have proven ourselves 'infidels.' "

June 23, 2004

Kerry misses another vote

John Kerry, who served in Vietnam, cancelled a campaign appearance to make it back for some crucial vote -- and missed the vote anyway.

Somehow this is all the Republicans' fault. Apparently they're supposed to alter the way the senate does business to better allow Kerry to pretend he's still doing his job.

Sen. John Kerry yesterday canceled a day on the campaign trail and went back to the Senate in hopes of voting for veterans' health care, but Republicans pulled the rug out from under him by stalling the vote.

Kerry (D-Mass.) finally gave up about 6 p.m., complaining, "I know how this place works," and ripped what he called the failure of Republicans to extend a "courtesy" to Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle and allow a speedy vote.

A defense of neo-conservatism?

That's what some would call it, but Michael Brandon McClellan's new column is a bit narrower in focus than that. It offers up a limited defense of the doctrine of regime change and democracy building. This policy has proved extremely costly in terms of lives, treasure and our international relations, but McClellan examines the practical alternatives and finds them to be, well, not very practical.

June 22, 2004

Paul Krugman whines...

...while Ashcroft arrests terrorists. Krugman's complaint is not that Ashcroft was derelict in his duties (the terror plot was thwarted), but that he didn't throw a big pat-yourself-on-the-back pep rally afterwards.

I'd say that Krugman should stick to writing about economics, but with the recovery proceeding apace, I guess it's just no fun to write about that anymore.

In April 2003, John Ashcroft's Justice Department disrupted what appears to have been a horrifying terrorist plot. In the small town of Noonday, Tex., F.B.I. agents discovered a weapons cache containing fully automatic machine guns, remote-controlled explosive devices disguised as briefcases, 60 pipe bombs and a chemical weapon -- a cyanide bomb -- big enough to kill everyone in a 30,000-square-foot building.

Strangely, though, the attorney general didn't call a press conference to announce the discovery of the weapons cache, or the arrest of William Krar, its owner. He didn't even issue a press release. This was, to say the least, out of character. Jose Padilla, the accused "dirty bomber," didn't have any bomb-making material or even a plausible way to acquire such material, yet Mr. Ashcroft put him on front pages around the world. Mr. Krar was caught with an actual chemical bomb, yet Mr. Ashcroft acted as if nothing had happened.

Clinton's book

I haven't read it, but I have a confession to make. During the past three years or so, I had developed something akin to a sense of nostalgia about our 42nd president. But when the recent hype surrounding his new book began, I suddenly remembered what I'd disliked about the man.

When viewing his administration in hindsight, we have a natural tendency to focus exclusively on the one big lie. But deceit and dishonesty, far from being an aberration, are at the very core of Clinton's nature.

Does anyone actually believe, for example, that Bill Clinton slept on the couch for months after his affair came to light? This is the White House, for God's sake! Are you telling me there wasn't a spare bed to be had anywhere? (Although, as my friend Mal pointed out, it might have been busy season for donors at the time.) And does anyone actually buy his claim that he views his impeachment as a "badge of honor"? I mean, I can accept that he (rightly) views the proceedings as tainted by partisanship, but still, it's not exactly the Medal of Valor. I'm not buying it, and I won't be buying his book, either.

The lens of time has a way of softening the rough edges around our former leaders. Indeed, it's not hard to imagine a future, 20 or 30 years hence, when Clinton's death will be met, as was Reagan's, with nearly universal praise and acclaim. For that to happen, however, he'll have to stay out of the limelight long enough for us to forget about him.

Somehow, I don't think that's his style.

June 21, 2004

Christopher Hitchens on Michael Moore

I thought the worst movie review I'd ever read was written by John Simon, and then I ran across this:

To describe this film as dishonest and demagogic would almost be to promote those terms to the level of respectability. To describe this film as a piece of crap would be to run the risk of a discourse that would never again rise above the excremental. To describe it as an exercise in facile crowd-pleasing would be too obvious. Fahrenheit 9/11 is a sinister exercise in moral frivolity, crudely disguised as an exercise in seriousness. It is also a spectacle of abject political cowardice masking itself as a demonstration of "dissenting" bravery.


Kerry-McCain dialog...

...as imagined by Ted Rall:

Hey, John, wanna be my veep?

No thanks.

I'm gonna pretend I didn't hear that. So. Shall we print up some buttons?


Come on, man. I need you.


You're kidding! You know the Republicans will never nominate you for the presidency! They hate your ass!

Whatever. I said no.

Dude! Don't be like that. Yes is such an easy word to say. Say it.

Get a life, John. Don't contact me unless it's about legislation. Got it?

Look, I'll be honest. The CBS poll says you'll give me a 14-point boost if you join the team. I gotta have you. I can't take no for an answer.

No means no, John. No. No. No.

Hey, thanks, I appreciate it. I'll call a press conference for noon. Kerry-McCain 2004!

I'm getting a restraining order against you, you jowly bassett-hound-eyed freak!!!

At least one Democrat has the good sense to be embarrassed by this desperate-seeming spectacle. I was wondering when the Democratic Party was going to wake up and realize that McCain was (gasp!) a Republican. I guess now it's finally happened.

American and European standards of living

The Wall Street Journal had an interesting piece comparing the standard of living here in America with that of Western Europe. It should come as no surprise that the U.S. does quite well in terms of GDP per capita (Germany edges out Arkansas, but falls well behind the U.S. average), but what of income equality?

Well, the percentage of Americans living below the poverty line has dropped to 12% from 22% since 1959. In 1999, 25% of American households were considered "low income," meaning they had an annual income of less than $25,000. If Sweden--the very model of a modern welfare state--were judged by the same standard, about 40% of its households would be considered low-income.

In other words poverty is relative, and in the U.S. a large 45.9% of the "poor" own their homes, 72.8% have a car and almost 77% have air conditioning, which remains a luxury in most of Western Europe. The average living space for poor American households is 1,200 square feet. In Europe, the average space for all households, not just the poor, is 1,000 square feet.

Read the whole thing.

Iran captures UK ships

I wish I knew what was going on here:

Iran said Monday it had confiscated three British naval vessels and arrested eight armed crew members. The Royal Navy acknowledged it had lost contact with three small patrol boats on a routine mission in the waterway between Iraq and Iran.

British officials did not confirm the boats were captured or the crewmembers detained.

"I can confirm that three small Royal Navy patrol boats and eight crew have been out of communication since the early hours of this morning," said a British military spokesman in the southern Iraqi city of Basra on condition of anonymity. "It is not unusual for the Royal Navy to be patrolling the Shatt-al-Arab" waterway.

Crazy dream last night

I had the craziest dream last night. I dreamed that the global Muslim community was up in arms about the seneseless slaughter of Paul Johnson at the hands of Islamists. I dreamed that representatives from CAIR and other groups had flooded the Sunday morning talk shows to exhort moderate Muslims to assert themselves forcefully, and make their voices louder than those of the jihadists. I dreamed there was a candlelight vigil in Union Square of Arab Americans who, regardless of their opinions on Iraq, were united in opposition to the blind anti-Western and anti-Jewish sentiment that poisons much of their homelands.

Crazy dream, huh? No more leftover pizza at midnight for me.

June 20, 2004

It's all about sex

No matter how relentlessly bad the news is, Bush's approval ratings hover stubbornly around the 50% mark. Ever wonder why? Simple, according to Mark Ames in the New York Press:

If you didn't know anything about how America's propaganda worked, you'd think that every citizen here experienced four-dimensional multiple orgasms with beautiful, creative, equally satisfied partners, morning, noon and night.

The wretched truth is that America is an erogenous no man's land. Most white males here (at least the straight ones) have either dismal sex lives or no sex lives at all. As bad as this hurts, the pain is compounded every time you expose yourself to the cultural lies that await you at every turn--that is, every waking hour and during deep REM sleep, when the subliminal messages kick in. This wretchedness leads to a desire for vengeance, to externalize the inner famine--it leads directly to the Republican camp.

So now we know.

June 18, 2004

The question of Iraq-al Qaeda "linkage"

Headlines are funny things. Casual readers of stories like this one might come away with a message approximating its headline: 9/11 Panel Disputes Iraq Link to Attacks. Stands to reason, right? The "no Iraq-al Qaeda link" has become a mantra of the antiwar crowd. Then, 20 paragraphs down (count 'em) we find this:

The commission report said that bin Laden, then in Sudan, met with an Iraqi intelligence officer in 1994 to request space for al-Qaida training camps and assistance in obtaining weapons, "but Iraq apparently never responded." The meeting occurred even though bin Laden opposed Saddam's secular government and had sponsored anti-Saddam operatives in Iraq's Kurdish region.

Interesting. We have an admission that bin Laden himself met officially with agents of the Iraqi government in Sudan on at least one occasion. To my mind, that's significant in itself. It's brushed aside, however, with a breezy "but we have no evidence that it resulted in a formal alliance."

Granted, we have no evidence that Saddam was in any way involved in 9/11, but President Bush has been very forthright about that. But can we please, please dispense with this bogus "there is no link between Iraq and al Qaeda" meme once and for all? The exact nature and the full extent of the linkage are still open for debate, but the fact of its existence is not.

This is certainly interesting

I want to know more about this. It's sort of ironic, coming after a week of news about the 9/11 probe, which tore Bush a new one for not doing enough to "connect the dots" and prevent a terror attack. It sounds like connecting the dots is exactly what Bush did in Iraq, but of course he got criticized for that too, and by many of the same people.

Russia warned the United States on several occasions that Iraq's Saddam Hussein planned "terrorist attacks" on its soil, President Vladimir Putin said Friday.

"After the events of September 11, 2001, and before the start of the military operation in Iraq, Russian special services several times received such information and passed it on to their American colleagues," he told reporters.

The Kremlin leader, who was speaking in the Kazakh capital, said Russian intelligence services had many times received information that Saddam's special forces were preparing terrorist attacks in the United States "and beyond its borders on American military and civilian targets."

Not their fault

There are more blacks in prison than in college, John Kerry says, but it's not their fault.

Talking about education yesterday, Mr. Kerry also told the largely black crowd at the day care center that there are more blacks in prison than in college.

"That's unacceptable," he said. "But it's not their fault."

So who's fault is it exactly? Round up the usual suspects.

Rather than the inmates, the former Boston prosecutor blamed poverty, poor schools, a dearth of after-school programs and "all of us as adults not doing what we need to do."

Not enough midnight basketball, or some damn thing. Isn't this exactly the kind of blame-society-first liberalism that was no longer supposed to typify today's Democratic Party?


Another example of spectacular timing by the Democrats.

The opening night of next month's Demo cratic convention in Boston is set to feature an emotional party tribute to hometown hero Ted Kennedy, who has served in office longer than every other senator but one.

Guess no one at the Democratic National Committee took a close look at the calendar: That July 26 salute to Teddy just happens to coincide with . . . the 35th anniversary of Chappaquiddick.

June 17, 2004

Scooped by the Weekly Standard

The Standard tells us Newt Gingrich is an amazon.com Top 500 reviewer. The funny thing is, I had noticed this while browsing books a while back. I didn't think much of it, because I assumed it was probably just some goof with a bogus login name. Well, that couple with the fact that I didn't really consider it "news".

But it merited a link on Drudge, so shows what I know!

June 15, 2004

Good economic news

Something tells me the Kerry campaign won't be celebrating this, however.

NEW YORK - U.S. companies are gearing up to create jobs at rates not seen since the height of the 1990s boom, a survey released Tuesday showed, adding to evidence that job growth will keep the U.S. economic recovery rolling.

'Undisclosed site' disclosed

Time magazine reveals the whereabouts of Dick Cheney's "undisclosed location", so prominently discussed in the aftermath of 9/11.

His account of 9/11 and its aftermath is studded with new details, including some about the undisclosed location known as Site R, an underground bunker on the Maryland-Pennsylvania border where the Vice President spent much of his time in 2001. Deep under Raven Rock Mountain, Site R "is a secret world of five buildings, each three stories tall, computer filled caverns and a subterranean water reservoir." It is just 7 miles from Camp David.

I eagerly await the outrage from the parties who were so incensed about the "outing" of Valerie Plame.

I'm waiting....

June 14, 2004

The Democratic National Convention

Power Line offers us a preview.

Florida recounts, 2004

This is terrible! How will the Democratic functionaries on the election boards be able to do their "Carnac the Magnificent" trick, to divine voter's intent to vote for Kerry based on ambiguous paper ballots?

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Touchscreen voting machines in 11 counties have a software flaw that could make manual recounts impossible in November's presidential election, state officials said.

Michael Moore, self-aggrandizing ass

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

Filmmaker Michael Moore said Friday he wasn't sure he did the right thing by saving footage of U.S. American soldiers' cruelty toward Iraqis for his controversial documentary, "Fahrenheit 9/11,'' instead of releasing the evidence earlier when it might have helped halt such abuse.

No kidding!

Reagan on money

As expected, a number of people have floated the idea of putting Reagan's visage on a coin or bill. I suppose the reflexive liberal opposition to the idea was equally predictable.

For the most part, opponents of the idea hid behind tradition. They claimed the idea was okay in principle, but that it would be wrong, for example, to remove FDR from the dime, or Washington from the quarter, even though he also has the one dollar bill. The problem is if you want to put somebody on a coin these days, you either have to come up with a new coin or bump somebody. Is their position that once someone appears on a coin or a bill, they should stay there in perpetuity, never to be removed? After all, it's been done. Kennedy bumped Benjamin Franklin. Was that justifiable? Maybe Reagan could have the half dollar? That Indian babe bumped President Eisenhower. Did anyone complain about that?

I think their cover finally gets blown when they adamantly oppose replacing Alexander Hamilton on the ten. Hamilton founded the New York Post, for God's sake. That should be reason enough for the liberals to want him gone right there. He died in a duel, and before you object that such behavior was sanctioned at that time, remember that it was illegal in New York (then the capitol) and Hamilton and Burr crossed the Hudson to duel in Hoboken, where I now type these words. And does the fact that he practically "invented" banking really speak in his favor? Those guys are charging a buck for blank deposit slips, for God's sake!

I'd ask the liberals to quit hiding behind tradition and be honest. They don't want Reagan on money, and that's it.

June 11, 2004

Mea Culpa

As I'm sure my tens of loyal readers have noticed, blogging has been light this week, ever since I returned from vacation. This has been the result of a combination deadlines, commitments, obligations and negotiations, together with the onset of a summer cold.

I've had some thoughts to share about Reagan's image on coins or currency, recent poll numbers, and other news, but it will probably have to wait until next week. Today I leave for a wedding in Massachusetts (no, not a gay one), after which life should return to normal.

June 06, 2004

Ted Rall is an asshole

This doesn't really require any comment, does it?

How Sad...

...that Ronald Reagan didn't die in prison, where he belonged for starting an illegal, laughably unjustifiable war against Grenada under false pretenses (the "besieged" medical students later said they were nothing of the sort) and funneling arms to hostages during Iran-Contra.

Oh, and 9/11? That was his. Osama bin Laden and his fellow Afghan "freedom fighters" got their funding, and nasty weapons, from Reagan.

A real piece of work, Reagan ruined the federal budget, trashed education, alienated our friends and allies and made us a laughing stock around the world.

Hmmmm...sounds familiar.

Anyway, I'm sure he's turning crispy brown right about now.

Go to hell, Ted.

June 05, 2004

So long, Gipper

"Above all, we must realize that no arsenal, or no weapon in the arsenals of the world, is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women. It is a weapon our adversaries in today's world do not have."

--Ronald Wilson Reagan, 40th president of the United States.

Ronald Reagan, RIP

There are times when words fail me.

When one becomes a blogger, it is in part for moments like this. I would love to make an eloquent post eulogizing this man who has meant so very much to me in the formation of my political identity. Anything I could say, however, would be woefully inadequate. Perhaps in days to come I will have something more compelling to say about Mr. Reagan's passing, but in the meantime, I seem to be able to do little more than sit in front of the TV and cry.

Because of the insidious nature of his disease, the process of losing the president was a gradual one. I had no idea that it would hurt this much when it finally, inevitably, happened. But it does.

I just saw our current president on TV, speaking live from Paris. Few would argue that our current president has modeled himself, successfully or otherwise, more after the pattern of Ronald Reagan than after his own father. That is a singular, striking fact, and I think it says it all.

More later, I'm sure.

I'm back

I'm back from my undisclosed location in the North Carolina Outer Banks. Thanks to CRB for keeping up the blog in my absence. It's a great feeling to go on vacation with no worry but that the blog is in good hands, and that I don't have to return to New York with the news that Cynical Nation has endorsed John Kerry.

Thanks, dude.

June 03, 2004

Tenet Resigns as CIA Chief

As Director of the CIA, George Tenet presided over the greatest intelligence failure in United States history on September 11, 2001. The only question I have is why wasn't he fired sooner?

I guess we will have to wait for the inevitable tell-all book, but based on what is currently known, I say good riddance.

June 02, 2004

Don't Touch The Petroleum Reserves!

As some politicians call for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to be tapped to ease gasoline prices, The Economist weighs in with a special report on Saudi Arabia and oil.

The current light sweet crude spot price of $40+ per barrel is not due to a shortage of supply. While the booming world economy has caused supply to tighten, there is an $8 to $10 "terror premium" built in because of market worries about the Saudi oil infrastructure being the target of al Qaeda terrorists. And since the Saudi production reserves are what buffers the world oil market, a disruption of Saudi oil would be immediately felt around the world.

John Kerry is wrong, we shouldn't dip into our strategic reserves to ease $2 a gallon gasoline. We need the reserves in case this happens:

James Woolsey, a former head of America's Central Intelligence Agency, is unimpressed by talk of improved security (of Saudi oil infrastructure): "Guards and fences are easy to put up, but they don't defend against the real threats." Trucks have to come in and out of facilities, he observes, and Aramco employees and security guards have to move about. He thinks that several attacks, if co-ordinated by terrorists who have infiltrated Aramco, could cripple the Saudi system.

How, exactly? Robert Baer, an intelligence expert, offers some suggestions in his disturbing recent book, "Sleeping with the Devil". He reckons that Ras Tanura, a port on the Gulf, is a vulnerable terrorist target. With an output of perhaps 4.5m bpd, this is the biggest oil-exporting port in the world. Mr Baer thinks a small submarine or a boat laden with explosives (as happened in October 2000 with the attack on the USS Cole off the coast of Yemen) could knock out much of Ras Tanura's output for weeks, or even longer.

An even scarier possibility raised by Mr Baer is the crashing of a hijacked aeroplane into Abqaiq, the world's largest oil-processing complex. If done with the help of insiders, he speculates that the facility's throughput (nearly 7m bpd, on his estimate) would be choked off to as little as 1m bpd for two months—and might remain as low as 3m bpd for seven months.

Mr Woolsey adds that an attack using weapons of mass destruction (especially "dirty bombs") would be even more devastating than one that used mere aeroplanes. All told, the pessimists reckon that well-co-ordinated attacks could take as much as 6m-7m bpd of Saudi output off the market for weeks, and perhaps longer.

Gasoline might currently seem expensive, but the loss of Saudi oil for several months would drive up the price of practically everything. The strategic reserves should be saved for that crisis.

June 01, 2004

American al Qaeda Plot Revealed

CBS News reports that according to documents released today, American al Qaeda member Jose Padilla, sought to blow up high-rise hotels or apartment buildings.

The plot was a simple one. Padilla and an accomplice were to rent 2 apartments in as many buildings as possible in New York City or Washington DC. The key was a natural gas hookup to their rooms. The plan called for each apartment to be sealed up, the gas turned on and a timer device used to ignite the gas leveling the buildings. The timers would allow several buildings to be attacked simultaneously for maximum effect.

This differs from the original claim that Padilla's main plot involved setting off a radiological "dirty" bomb in a metropolitan setting. Apparently al Qaeda didn't believe Padilla could pull that one off.

Here are the released documents.

Jimmy Hoffa Mystery Solved?

It now seems that the case of the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa almost 30 years ago has finally been solved. Eric Shawn of FoxNews reports that forensic tests appear to confirm the death bed confession of Frank Sheeran, a local Teamsters president from Delaware who was close to Hoffa.

Sheeran claims that he shot Hoffa in the head in an empty house in Detroit back in 1975 and that the body was later cremated.