Dobry Silvestr, y'all Hope that everyone enjoys a happy and safe end to 2003, and that we all enjoy 2004 at least as much.
For the last ten years or so, I've gotten together with old friends at a party that my buddy and Hooverball teammate Lou throws. We must be getting old; the invite this year specifies that the party will end on the afternoon of January 2. Back in the day, the party used to run for a full week.
Should I survive, I'll be back to blogging this weekend.
¶ 3:31 PM
Tuesday, December 30, 2003
This story reminds me of the opening of Too Loud a Solitude: "A Bronx man was found barely alive in his own apartment, buried under a mountain of books and magazines, fire officials said."
¶ 6:33 AM
Almanacs? Terrorists using almanacs?:
Amid heightened indications that al-Qaida operatives may be planning catastrophic attacks in the United States, the FBI is warning police about a new potential tool for terrorism: almanacs.
An FBI intelligence bulletin sent to law enforcement agencies last week warned that 'terrorist operatives may rely on almanacs to assist with target selection and pre-operational planning' because they include detailed information on bridges, tunnels and other U.S. landmarks, officials said.
It would be nice if we had something slightly more specific to go on, but we may not. Damn.
¶ 3:52 AM
Monday, December 29, 2003
Dean: Dems doomed if he loses nomination:
'If I don't win the nomination, where do you think those million and a half people, half a million on the Internet, where do you think they're going to go?' he said during a meeting with reporters. 'I don't know where they're going to go. They're certainly not going to vote for a conventional Washington politician.'
Is it possible that he's even more arrogant than I thought?
¶ 4:08 AM
Friday, December 26, 2003
Politicians, much like prisoners up for parole, often find their way to the Lord:
Presidential contender Howard B. Dean, who has said little about religion while campaigning except to emphasize the separation of church and state, described himself in an interview with the Globe as a committed believer in Jesus Christ and said he expects to increasingly include references to Jesus and God in his speeches as he stumps in the South. [...]
''Christ was someone who sought out people who were disenfranchised, people who were left behind,'' Dean said. ''He fought against self-righteousness of people who had everything . . . He was a person who set an extraordinary example that has lasted 2000 years, which is pretty inspiring when you think about it.''
I'm not sure that saying Jesus was "pretty inspiring when you think about it," will win him any support from religious voters.
What is troubling, though not surprising, about Brother Howard's profession of faith, is not that he is pandering to change his image for the general election; it was expected, even by his most fervent supporters. No, what bothers me here is that in trying to reach out to middle America, Dean sounds like such a clumsy ass.
¶ 4:00 AM
Bone-rattling, noisy, harmless: That sums up the holidays with my family
Iraqi insurgents and U.S. forces both fired numerous bone-rattling explosive projectiles in and around Baghdad on Christmas day in noisy but largely harmless actions intended to demonstrate their respective strength.
But, alas, the holiday can't last forever. These are the Yahoo News headlines right now, at five in the morning:
• Iranian quake deaths could reach 10,000
• Iraqi mortar attack kills 2 U.S. troops
• U.K. lab confirms U.S. mad cow case
• U.S., British can't locate Mars probe
• Fla. gets nation's first faith-based prison
• Digital movies to hit more theaters in 2004
• Fame takes toll on $315M lottery winner
¶ 2:06 AM
Tuesday, December 23, 2003
The NY Times' high-end, and easy-to-ignore, gossip column, Boldface Names, asked Petra Nemcova:
So, how does a gawky girl from a Czech mountain town grow up to achieve worldwide fame as a fraternity house muse?
"There's something in the water in Czechoslovakia," explained PETRA NEMCOVA, the cover girl for Sports Illustrated's 2003 swimsuit issue.
"There might be other problems there, but the water is magical," Ms. Nemcova explained. "The water and the history of the Mongolians cruising through the country and making a lot of children caused an exotic mix."
¶ 5:00 PM
Monday, December 22, 2003
Endless Christmas Carols Irk Czech Clerks:
Labor unions in the Czech Republic demanded Monday that stores stop playing Christmas carols incessantly or pay compensation for causing emotional trauma to sales clerks.
Some stores here play the same songs all day — and play them loudly. Employees say shifts have become unbearable.
"To listen to it for eight hours a day is not healthy, that's for sure," said Alexandr Leiner, a union leader. "And for the customers, it's almost unbearable as well."
¶ 11:46 AM
And still more on Jiri Welsch: Locate the Czech Republic forward's name on the roster, then pencil in 'mainstay.'
¶ 5:24 AM
The miracle that Karl is alleged to have performed after his death involves a Brazilian nun who was cured of an unspecified "dread disease." Since Karl, while alive, tried but failed to end World War I through negotiation, one must ask if God has His priorities in order when it comes to the answering of prayers.
¶ 4:04 AM
Thursday, December 18, 2003
God Bless Us, Every One A cancerous tumor when she was 11 months old. Twelve years of chemotherapy. A near-fatal car wreck in her high school senior year. Life confined to a wheelchair.
Shelley Webber could survive anything. Anyone who knew her would tell you that.
Anything except this.
Shelley, 24, was found murdered early Wednesday morning, outside the small one-room home she rented from her parents on 116 Dellinger Road.
Police say the cause of death appears to be blunt-force trauma -- in other words, she was beaten to death.
¶ 3:32 PM
Defeatism feels so natural to Democrats:
It's not entirely clear to me why I've taken such an intense dislike to Howard Dean. Yes, I find him arrogant and frequently dishonest. Yes, I'm certain his nomination would lead to a political disaster of historic, and possibly biblical, proportions. And, yes, I'm continuously dumbfounded that a number of highly intelligent people I know have convinced themselves that his nomination is a good thing, or at least that it's not an unambiguously bad thing. But somehow the whole of my loathing for Dean is greater than the sum of its parts. So I've decided to start a blog on TNR's website to indulge that loathing.
The terrible thing is that I agree with him.
¶ 3:09 PM
Jiri Welsch scored 21 points last night -- a career high. Better still, he did it in a nationally televised game, so I finally got to see him as a starter.
He didn't show it on the court. Welsch shot 8 of 12 from the field, including 3 of 5 for three-pointers. His release was so quick and confident that it was eery. Throw in two steals, a block, and just one turnover in 32 minutes. No recorded assists, but the box score doesn't reflect that he's a smooth passer who helped set up several plays and kept the ball moving when he was on the court.
I'd been most curious to see how Welsch would play defense. For some reason, European players are notoriously bad defenders; Dallas' Dirk Nowitski was nicknamed "Irk" by his teammates because "there's no D in his game." Welsch was projected to be the first European back-court player to be a defensive asset instead of a liability.
He's not the young Joe Dumars, but he has great awareness of where his man is on zone D, and he can keep tight with the player he's guarding in man-to-man situations. Jiri can be beaten, but he's a better than average defender. The most important thing is that Welsch looks committed to playing defense and confident that he can do so.
He's bulked up a bit since last season, when he got few minutes with Golden State, but he'll benefit from more time in the weight-room. To his credit, Welsch isn't afraid of the bump-and-grind of NBA basketball; his four fouls weren't for tic-tac contact.
All in all, I am very impressed. On je stary skola.
There is a downside , especially if Welsch continues to play well and the Celtics are able to make the playoffs; hearing his name. Or, rather, not his name, "Jiri Welsch," but hearing announcer Bill Walton, as he did last night, call him "Yeeree Whelch" over and over. You have to imagine it in Walton's voice...vole.
¶ 7:59 AM
Flypaper I hadn't thought about in a while, but this op-ed piece in yesterday's Timesby Bruce Hoffman a RAND terrorism expert, brought it all back to me.
While President Bush was careful to remind Americans that even with Saddam Hussein behind bars, "we still face terrorists," the White House and Pentagon have characterized the arrest as a major victory in the war on terrorism. But is Iraq really the central battleground in that struggle, or is it diverting our attention while Al Qaeda and its confederates plan for new strikes elsewhere? There's strong evidence that Osama bin Laden is using Iraq the way a magician uses smoke and mirrors.
News reports that Al Qaeda plans to redirect half the $3 million a month it now spends on operations in Afghanistan toward the insurgency in Iraq lent credence to the view that it is turning Iraq into center stage for the fight against the "Great Satan." That might actually be good news: Iraq could become what American military commanders have described as a terrorist "flytrap."
But there's a better chance that Osama bin Laden is the one setting a trap. He and his fellow jihadists didn't drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan by taking the fight to an organized enemy on a battlefield of its choosing. In fact, the idea that Al Qaeda wanted to make Iraq the central battlefield of jihad was first suggested by Al Qaeda itself.
Andrew Sullivan had a short, but intense relationship with the flytrap (or, as he came to call it, "flypaper") theory.
It started in July when GW urged our enemies to bring 'em on," in Iraq.
Sullivan ran to the president's defense:
Being based in Iraq helpsus notonly because of actual bases; but because the American presence there diverts terrorist attention away from elsewhere. By confronting them directly in Iraq, we get to engage them in a military setting that plays to our strengths rather than to theirs'. Continued conflict in Iraq, in other words, needn't always be bad news. It may be a sign that we are drawing the terrorists out of the woodwork and tackling them in the open.
He would take up, or sit on, the same tack a week later, on July 7, when he quoted, with approval, another blogger who wanted to make Iraq "a new playground for the enemy."
BRING THEM ON": If this claim is true, Bush's "flypaper" strategy in Iraq could be working
In a September 6 Sunday Times column, "Flypaper: A Strategy Unfolds" he described his intorduction to the idea:
Some time before the Iraq war, I found myself musing out loud to someone close to the inner circles of the Bush administration. We were talking about the post-war scenario, something that even then was a source of some worry even to gung-ho hawks like myself. I don't recall the precise conversation but I voiced some worries about what might happen if an occupied Iraq became a target for international terrorism. Wouldn't U.S. soldiers become sitting ducks? What was to stop al Qaeda using Iraq as a battleground in the war against the West? ...
And what he said surprised me. If the terrorists leave us alone in Iraq, fine, he said. But if they come and get us, even better. Far more advantageous to fight terror using trained soldiers in Iraq than trying to defend civilians in New York or London. "Think of it as a flytrap," he ventured.
Several problems would seem to jump out about Sullivan's new strategy. First, the proposition is non-falsifiable. That is, if Iraq is stable and peaceful, then our strategy is working. If Iraq becomes a bloody mess, our strategy is working really well.
There was also something of the "we're surrounded, now I've got them where I want them," in the strategy. Certain names come to mind; Little Big Horn, say, or Dien Ben Phu.
The occupation of Iraq might give Al Qaeda an opportunity to recruit new members, so that they would be able to fight in Iraq and around the world. A war of attrition, which is what flypaper adherents were in effect calling for, would be doomed if our enemies were able to keep producing terrorists.
But the main peril of the flypaper gambit was to the Iraqi people. If Iraq were to be kept a war zone, then innocent civilians would have to be the victims. Clearly a prolonged war can only impede the reconstruction, alienating the people, and further imperiling America's mission.
Some of these points were made, even by me, when Sullivan was first pitching his pet theory. But events made it clear, even to Sullivan, that the gambit was failing; he just wouldn't acknowledge it.
The issue should be: is what the president doing going to work? I'm not omniscient, but it's simply crazy to deny the real problems we are facing right now and the need for clear and urgent thinking about them. Many Americans who support the war agree. That's not going wobbly; it's doing what any thinking person should do, which is try and figure out what's going wrong and how to fix it. Mercifully, the administration seems to be trying to find a way to make the liberation work, with more international back-up. They're not that pig-headed. The president has no bigger fan in his conduct of the war so far. But my fear is that he is going astray
What were the problems? American combat deaths in Iraq? Those were an inevitable result of...more combat in Iraq. Which Sullivan claimed was a good thing. Perhaps it's the strategy, Sully.
The problems that he should have seen in his pet theory before he began flogging it were now obvious even to him:
we hear two refrains from the White House: a) everything is going fine, actually; and b) this new intensity of terror in Iraq is a good thing because it helps us fight the enemy on military, rather than civilian, terrain. The trouble that we're discovering is that a full-scale anti-terror war is not exactly compatible with the careful resusictation of civil order and democratic government, is it?
He had to discover that?
But Sullivan, even though he now saw the intolerable results of flypaper, still stood by it.
In a letter that he posted on his site, it sounded like one for the ages:
I'm not sure how the 'Flypaper' strategy strikes most readers, but to me it looks like the latest variation of a strategy dating back millennia to Sun Tzu where I believe it was described as taking something of great value from your enemy and holding it. Julius Caesar employed...
I for one am convinced that who ever is behind the 'Flypaper' strategy knows his stuff.
Sullivan also continued to defend flypaper in posts that appeared under his own name ("My friend Will Saletan rails against the Bush "flypaper" speech in Slate...") and he was still capable of claiming, "FLYPAPER - IT'S WORKING:
If this pans out, then the Bush administration really will have pulled off something important: taken the war to the enemy, taken it out of the West, and given us a chance for military victory
But that was, as far as I can find, the last mention Sullivan would ever make of the subject. Evidently, Orwell's Second Coming dropped the flypaper down the memory hole, rather than admit that he had been in error.
¶ 5:19 AM
The hand-written Atta/Saddam memo is, according to Newsweek, almost certainly a forgery:
A widely publicized Iraqi document that purports to show that September 11 hijacker Mohammed Atta visited Baghdad in the summer of 2001 is probably a fabrication that is contradicted by U.S. law-enforcement records showing Atta was staying at cheap motels and apartments in the United States when the trip presumably would have taken place, according to U.S. law enforcement officials and FBI documents.
This isn't at all surprising, of course. It went against everything that had appeared in the press and all of the information the government had released. Most of the mainstream media stayed away from the Telegraph's story.
Front Page, Chron Watch, the Christian Broadcast Network, and the National Review did run with it, and without a hint of the skepticism the story so clearly deserved.
There's a reason the right-wing press doesn't get much respect from those of us who are not right-wingers: they don't merit respect.
¶ 3:54 AM
The Fair Republic nixes final meal info "Texas death row details left bad taste for some" The final meals of executed prisoners are off the menu of the Texas prison system's Internet site.
Texas, which leads all U.S. states in executions since a national death penalty ban was lifted in 1976, has listed details of the meals on the prison system's Web site, www.tdcj.state.tx.us.
But Michelle Lyons, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, said they were removed last week during a redesign of the site.
'We had some complaints from people in both the U.S. and abroad that it might be in poor taste to distribute that information on the Web site,' she said.
One of the most frequent requests was for a last cigarette. Per Texas prison policy, those requests were always denied.
¶ 1:07 PM
Delicious bits I remember how, not long ago, I pledged to take a black fine-point Sharpie and fill in the circles of all of the letters and numbers in every book in the Baltimore Public Library system. I abandoned that dream to pursue a more exciting life's goal: to find and burn every existing copy of Prevention magazine. Then I decided that I must find the match to every unpaired sock at Goodwill. Yet all of these dizzying aims pale in comparison to the prospect of eating a big old horse.
I don't usually link to articles in The Onion, but this week's issue is especially funny.
But not as funny as industrial food prep in Eastern Europe. Steve of PragueBlog directed me to the web site of Crocodille, the Czech sandwich company. It must be seen to be believed, but I've spent the last hour looking at it, and I still don't believe it. Could be a product of The Onion if it weren't so horribly real.
The site never does explain how they give the meat that distinctive grey tinge. As the Crocodille credo has it: "Innovation and following new modern trends is our traditional aim."
¶ 12:29 AM
It was the night before Christmas. The house was very quiet. No creatures were stirring in the house. There weren’t even any mice stirring. The stockings had been hung carefully by the chimney. The children hoped that Saint Nicholas would come and fill them.
The children were in their beds. Their beds were in the room next to ours. Mamma and I were in our beds. Mamma wore a kerchief. I had my cap on. I could hear the children moving. We didn’t move. We wanted the children to think we were asleep.
“Father,” the children said.
There was no answer. He’s there, all right, they thought.
Good news: France and Germany back Iraqi debt relief. James Baker, Bush's multilateralist emeritus, came through again, and the decision to bar those and other countries from bidding on reconstruction contracts does not seem to have had fatal effects.
But read the whole story before giving too much credit to the White House. France and Germany gave only "unspecified pledges" to Baker; no statement on how much Iraq's debt ought to be cut.
It might not be a whole lot. Fance and Germany are owed about $5.4 billion by Iraq, but Iraq's debt is $120 billion, plus another $100 billion in war reparations to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
And then there's this:
French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, speaking separately, said debt reduction could take place only after occupation authorities had transferred power to a sovereign Iraqi government. France has repeatedly pressed for such a transfer as the best way to restore peace to the country.
What we have here is a general agreement on the principle of reducing Iraq's debt, but no details or plan for implementing that reduction. As I said, it's good news, but we shouldn't make too much of it.
¶ 9:48 PM
Keep your eye on the ball When I first heard the news of Saddam's capture (from Nicmoc, actually) I felt like ripping my shirt off and running through the streets shouting "GOOOAAALL!" Two days later, I still feel that way.
It's really good to have something to take my mind off of the war on terror.
You might have missed, what with all the excitement, Sunday's other news:
Pakistani authorities suspect the hand of al Qaeda may be behind a weekend bid to assassinate President Pervez Musharraf, officials said on Tuesday.
The chaos that could have brought to Pakistan, which has nuclear weapons, is difficult to over-state.
Evidently al Qaeda has the money to finance terrorism:
Governments around the world are not enforcing global sanctions designed to stem the flow of money to al Qaeda and impede the business activity of the organization's financiers, allowing the terrorist network to retain formidable financial resources, according to U.S., European and U.N. investigators.
And the ambition to strike in theFar East:
Agents from Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda terror network made repeated visits to South Korea recently scouting for US targets, a lawmaker said, citing a closed-door intelligence briefing to parliament.
As they were able to do, quite recently, in Europe:
A Turkish Islamic militant suspected of preparing the truck bombs that killed 62 people in Istanbul last month has confessed he underwent explosives training in an Al Qaeda terrorist camp in Afghanistan, an intelligence official said today. ...
[Fevzi] Yitiz also told police that two other accomplices met with bin Laden in Afghanistan in the summer of 2002 and received his blessing for the attacks, the official said.
According to Newsweek's Isikoff and Hosenball, we might not have disrupted their leadership as much as had been thought:
The investigation into last month’s devastating suicide bombings in Istanbul has uncovered compelling new evidence pointing to a highly sophisticated operation carried out by homegrown militants-but planned by Al Qaeda operatives who may have included Osama bin Laden deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri...
So, anybody on the right (and Senator Lieberman, too) who quotes Howard Dean, "...the capture of Saddam has not made America safer," should quote the sentences in front of that line:
As our military commanders said, and the President acknowledged yesterday, the capture of Saddam does not end the difficulties from the aftermath of the administration's war to oust him. There is the continuing challenge of securing Iraq, protecting the safety of our personnel, and helping that country get on the path to stability. There is the need to repair our alliances and regain global support for American goals. Nor, as the president also seemed to acknowledge yesterday, does Saddam's capture move us toward defeating enemies who pose an even greater danger: al Qaeda and its terrorist allies. And, nor, it seems, does Saturday's capture address the urgent need to halt the spread of weapons of mass destruction and the risk that terrorists will acquire them. The capture of Saddam is a good thing which I hope very much will help keep our soldiers safer. But the capture of Saddam has not made America safer.
¶ 6:09 AM
Monday, December 15, 2003
Seventy years without Prohibition (observed) H. L. Mencken, in his Chrestomathy, introduced a 1922 article he'd written on Prohibition by saying:
This piece, of course, is now of only antiquarian interest, but I am printing it to recall to America what went on during the glaring noonday of Prohibition, when its agents controlled all branches of the government at Washington and in most of the States, and its end seemed far away. There is yet no adequate history of those years. Americans always tend to forget things so disagreeable. They have put the memory of Prohibition out of their minds just as they have put the memory of the great influenza epidemic of 1918-19.
I missed the actual anniversary, December 5, I am afraid to say. That is I missed posting on it, though I did, informally, celebrate it. For some reason, I had thought that the blessed day of liberation, or libation, had happened on December 15, 1933.
Actually, it was ten days earlier.
On that day, Utah became the 36th (out of then 48) state to ratify the 21st Amendment, which repealed the 18th. There is some irony in this, since getting a drink in Utah is harder than it is anywhere else in these United States, but at least they justified their presence in the Union.
I barely slept last night, and took an early train to Washington, so I should probably forego another day of observation; but it is never sound to allow history to fade from memory. And, as a great man once said, "Sleep -- the most beautiful experience in life -- except drink."
Since I can't think of a better place to post them, and because Laura Lippman recently reminded me of them on her site, here are Dan Jenkins' Ten Stages of Drunkenness:
1. Witty and Charming
2. Rich and Powerful
5. Fuck Dinner
7. Crank up the Enola Gay
8. Witty and Charming, Part II
I had thought that there are only three stages:
"I love everybody!"
"I can beat any man in this room."
And, said while staring into a drink, "I have brought nothing but pain to everyone I have ever known."
But I came to realize that there is a fourth, a stage that exists when one is still able to speak, but the mind can no longer form ideas, so that all speech consists of connecting phrases that are not followed by phrases and introductions to topics that you will never meet.
"So, the thing is...what I'm saying...it's, like...what I mean."
(long silence- several minutes)
"What I'm trying to say..."
I first identified the segue stage at a non-stop called U Kotva on Karlova Nam. Two men had, over the course of two hours, a conversation that consisted entirely of the words tak, podivej, hele, and pockej.
What did Hasek sign on the register at U Valsu? This is a continuation of an earlier post where I tried to answer a question about a pseudonym used by Jaroslav Hasek, author of Good Soldier Svejk, that would mean "kiss my ass" in Czech, but could pass for a Russian name when spelled backward. Doug Arellanes also posted on this, and we have a couple of solutions, but none I feel really good about.
I dug up a copy of Magic Prague by Angelo Maria Ripellino, a mainstay of the English-language section in Czech bookstores. It includes this passage:
When the Russian Army broke through the front in Galicia late in 1914 and word spread through Prague that "people in Nachod have started speaking Russian," Hasek took a room at the U Valsu Inn in Karolina Svetla Street, signing his name in the guest book as Ivan Federovich Kuznetsov (or, in other versions, Lev Nickolaevich Turgenev, or Ivan Ivanovich Ledrpalesik), a Kievan merchant born in Moscow. Purpose of trip: "Inspection of the Austrian High Command." The speechless porter, who thought he had caught a brazen spy, ran straight to the police. At the police station, where he was made to serve a five days sentence, Hasek declared with the open face of a moron that he had simply wanted to make certain that police regulations regarding the registration of foreign citizens in wartime were being strictly enforced.
¶ 9:13 PM
If this story is true, or even has any basis in fact at all, then I owe some apologies:
Iraq's coalition government claims that it has uncovered documentary proof that Mohammed Atta, the al-Qaeda mastermind of the September 11 attacks against the US, was trained in Baghdad by Abu Nidal, the notorious Palestinian terrorist.
Details of Atta's visit to the Iraqi capital in the summer of 2001, just weeks before he launched the most devastating terrorist attack in US history, are contained in a top secret memo written to Saddam Hussein, the then Iraqi president, by Tahir Jalil Habbush al-Tikriti, the former head of the Iraqi Intelligence Service. The handwritten memo, a copy of which has been obtained exclusively by the Telegraph, is dated July 1, 2001 and provides a short resume of a three-day "work programme" Atta had undertaken at Abu Nidal's base in Baghdad. In the memo, Habbush reports that Atta "displayed extraordinary effort" and demonstrated his ability to lead the team that would be "responsible for attacking the targets that we have agreed to destroy".
This is extraordinary, if true. It changes everything that we thought we knew about 9/11.
Either a mea culpa or a criticism of the Telegraph's standards TK.
The NY Times reported today that the Iraqi agent al-Ani denies ever meeting Mohammed Atta, the 9/11 hijacker, in Prague.
The story isn't what you'd call earth-shaking. <Newsweek had it last month. Al-Ani has been in US custody since March; the silence about him made it seem likely that he didn't have much to say, at least on the subject of Atta.
Of course, al-Ani might be lying, as James Risen's story concedes. Confessing to involvement in the attack would be suicidal. But considering the length of time we've had to interrogate him, and the means we've been willing to use to obtain information, if he is lying then his resolve must be super-human.
Leave al-Ani's statements aside. If he met with Atta on the orders of Hussein, there must be someone who knows about it. But not a single source has turned up, nor a single document, that suggests Hussein was involved.
I don't want to say this closes the door on a link between Saddam Hussein and the attack on the World Trade Center; the door wasn't open in the first place. There was only one dubious report from Czech intelligence that was hyped by the likes of Jan Kavan.
Those who have been pimping this story, including Roger Simon, The Weekly Standard, and the Times' own William Safire, should explain why they were so gullible. I'm not betting that they will.
The intriguing question remains to be answered: what was Atta doing in Prague? We still have no idea.
I haven't blogged on the latest White House brilliancy -- excluding countries outside the coalition from taking part in rebuilding Iraq -- because I found it so far beyond comprehension that I had nothing to say. While my blog isn't a model of cogency or eloquence, I don't want to have too many posts that read "you're kidding me," or, "this is fucked."
What was so odd about the decision was that it didn't seem like a policy choice so much as a gratuitous insult. It's GW in his Sonny Corleone mode (remember, Neil is Fredo, and Jeb is Michael).
The timing is especially off, since James Baker, who is a war-time consigliere, had just embarked on a tour to get some much needed debt relief for Iraq from many of the same countries we just dissed. LBJ's dictum about having your enemies inside the tent pissing out, instead of outside the tent pissing in would seem to apply.
I fully expected the White House to back away from this as quickly as possible. But no, Bush stuck to his guns. Sullivan, Easterbrook, and no doubt others of similar distinction, cheered.
The president is right. Let the real allies of the U.S. benefit from the alliance. Let France, Germany and Russia live with the consequences of their own moral bankruptcy and strategic error. The alliance is indeed not what it was. Nor can it be.
wrote Sullivan in the faux Churchillian style he uses for something really stupid. Easterbrook offered:
It's not "retaliation" to decline to bestow money on someone. American taxpayers are ponying up $18.6 billion for Iraq reconstruction. American taxpayers may give those funds to whom they please.
Josh Marshall, who has spent the last few days in a sort of daze at each new failure in Iraq, puts it in simple terms: "The issue isn't that this policy is unfair but that it's stupid."
Marshall cites a Weekly Standard column by Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan:
...instead of being smart, clever, or magnanimous, the Bush Administration has done a dumb thing. The announcement of a policy of discriminating against French, German, and Russian firms has made credible European charges of vindictive pettiness and general disregard for the opinion of even fellow liberal democracies.
This decision is a blunder. We trust it will be reversed.
But that was printed before Bush affirmed the decision. If the initial policy is incomprehensible, defending it would seem mind-boggling. Yet it isn't. The president's men know exactly what they are doing.
No American office-seeker ever lost a vote because he pissed off the French. There won't be many angry letters sent to the White House for excluding German MNC's. Europe's disdain is Bush's political gain.
I have argued before that long-term success in Iraq is impossible unless the Iraqis themselves come to trust and respect our authority. We don't think we're an empire, and we fail to appreciate the importance of not looking like an empire. The Iraqi people have no reason to take our claim of good intentions at face value.
Riverbend, who strikes me as exactly the type of Iraqi that we need to win over, wrote today:
We heard the latest statement from Washington about Germany, France, Russia and Canada not being allowed to have anything to do with the reconstruction. Iraq no longer feels like a country- it feels like war spoils: the winning team gets the pickings. So how is the world supposed to be involved in the reconstruction of Iraq when they are being deliberately excluded?
It's a decision like this one that brings to light the complete uselessness of the Governing Council. Why is Washington calling the shots on the reconstruction issues? This means that even after a military occupation, we'll be under an economic occupation for years to come.
¶ 10:46 AM
Prisoner of Paradise opens today in New York and Brookline, Mass. The documentary tells the story of Kurt Gerron, a German Jew who was forced by the Nazis to make a film on Terezin. Theresienstadt, The Führer Gives a City to the Jews depicted the ghetto as a utopia where the inmates thrived. After it was finished, Gerron was sent to Auschwitz where he perished.
No word on other showings, but I am most anxious to see it. The Village Voice and the NY Times give it strong reviews.
¶ 6:51 AM
Jiri Welsch of the Celtics "juices up offensive mix":
"I think that since we inserted Jiri (Welsch) in the (starting) lineup 10 games ago we're one of the top field goal percentage offenses in the NBA," [head coach Jim O'Brien] said after the C's scored more than 100 points for the fourth straight game - the first time they've had such a streak since January 2001. "So I think it started when Jiri started getting a lot of playing time. It's really tough not to have him on the court for us.''
Welsch went for 17 points and four assists in 25 minutes in last night's 126-112 triumph over Seattle...
¶ 4:33 AM
The French act very French, as a new government report urges a ban on religious symbols or attire in public schools. A report delivered to President Jacques Chirac on Thursday called for a new law banning the wearing of "conspicuous" religious symbols in French public schools -- large crosses for Christians, head scarves for Muslim girls, or skullcaps for Jewish boys.
The recommendation was the most striking in an official reassessment of how to preserve the principle of the separation of religion and state in France in light of such developments as the rise of a large Muslim population and a new wave of anti-Semitism.
That principle, the report said, would be guaranteed by impartiality and the banning of all conspicuous religious symbols in official institutions, but individuals using those institutions would not be barred from wearing "discreet symbols like, for example, medallions, small crosses, Stars of David, hands of Fatima, or small Korans."
How do you wear a "small Koran" anyway? Who else but the French could fight anti-Semitism by banning Jews from wearing skull-caps in the schools?
Of course, there is always the private school option. Or maybe not:
French Close 2 Islamic Day Care Centers; Cite Scarf on Girl, 3 "What we had there were people who were openly proclaiming their faiths and their desire to teach it to their children," [local prefect Michel] Delpuech said. "We found many teaching items at the centers that marked a strong link to Islam. This is not, of course, a crime in any way, but the state must make sure that establishments that welcome children are safe and healthy. I had an obligation to close down these schools."
There is something of the just-catching-himself when the local official says, "this is not, of course, a crime in any way," no?
¶ 4:15 AM
Marines Plan to Use Velvet Glove More Than Iron Fist in Iraq The entire story is worth reading. I am very glad that the military, or some in the military at least, realize that our current tactics are going to lose the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people.
Marine commanders say they do not plan to surround villages with barbed wire, demolish buildings used by insurgents or detain relatives of suspected guerrillas. The Marines do not plan to fire artillery at suspected guerrilla mortar positions, an Army tactic that risks harming civilians. Nor do the Marines want to risk civilian casualties by calling in bombing strikes on the insurgents, as has happened most recently in Afghanistan.
"I do not envision using that tactic," said Lt. Gen. James T. Conway, the commanding general of the First Marine Expeditionary Force, who led the Marine force that fought its way to Baghdad and will command the more than 20,000 marines who will return to Iraq in March. "It would have to be a rare incident that transcends anything that we have seen in the country to make that happen."
I had a conversation on this subject with a friend, a Marine non-com, back in October. He assured me that the Marines would take fewer casualties in Iraq than the Army, but the Marines shouldn't get a big piece of the occupation. What he said, in essence, was that the Marines would kill lots of people. Anyone who presented a threat, or looked like they might up and decide to present a threat someday, would be fair game. My friend was fairly confident that the Marines would be able to cut down on attacks, but would completely alienate the Iraqi people in the process.
I hope General Conway is able to pull this off. But I'm not real optimistic...
Staff Seargent A------, USMC, wrote:
You are correct, I do have a concern with the U.S. Marines being able to restrain themselves, but interestingly enough, have more than enough confidence in the leadership being able to recognize what wins hearts and minds and what doesn't. I have read the small wars manual, and certainly parts of it are applicable in Iraq. Insurgencies are alike less in root and more in deed - the deed being the focus of the manual. An enemy that lacks diplomatic means and state-fed supplies is, in its makeup and tactics, similar to another army that faces similar limitations... that is where the manual will apply. Obviously I do not think the conflict in Iraq ia similar to the small wars fought by the Corps at the turn of the century in Central America.
The Administration is NOT using the Corps to implement a kindler and gentler occupation - in fact, Washington does not get involved in tactics much, this is left to the field commanders. The Army (dumb as they are) thinks that an eye for an eye strategy will work, where as the Corps thinks that precision strikes mean more. Also, the Corps is well versed in pacification efforts, remember the CAP (Combined Action Platoons) of Vietnam? We were quite good at mixing with the local population and producing results.
¶ 3:50 AM
Iraq to Stop Counting Civilian Dead:
Iraq's Health Ministry has ordered a halt to a count of civilians killed during the war and told its statistics department not to release figures compiled so far, the official who oversaw the count told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
¶ 8:54 AM
Merciful God, not again... Six children were killed during an assault by U.S. forces on a compound in eastern Afghanistan, a U.S. military spokesman said Wednesday, the second time in a week that civilians have died in action against Taliban and al-Qaida suspects.
The Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra played in Washington last night. From Tim Page's review in the WaPo:
You've heard of show trials? Well, last night's appearance by the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center was a show concert.
The State Department flew 60 musicians the 6,200 miles from Baghdad to Washington to play for less than an hour in tandem with members of the National Symphony Orchestra. As Winston Churchill might have put it, rarely have so many traveled so far to do so little.
¶ 11:49 PM
'Ledrpibilop' spelled backwards I got this rather odd e-mail today:
A quick question, if I could. I don't speak Czech and I don't know anybody who does, so I was hoping you could help me. In the introduction of The Good Soldier Svejk Cecil Parrott wrote: "He (Hasek) decided to fool the authorities by taking a room at U Valsu, which was notorious for being half-hotel and half-brothel, and registering himself there as a Russian. The name he wrote in the visitors book sounded Russian enough, but when read backwards in Czech it became "Kiss my ass."
Do you know what Hasek wrote...? Best I can come up with is: Polibi prdel, for the fake last name of 'Ledrpibilop'. Is there another possibility?
Thanks for your help.
After I recovered from my shock at actually having a reader that I don't link to on my blog, I gave it a litte thought.
Vyliz me rit. or, backwards, "zilyv emtir." It has to be, 'no? Sounds a bit like a Russian name.
Anybody know what Hasek wrote? I know the story of Hasek's joke, but never heard the part about the name he chose, other than that it was Russian.
I should also add that this is one of the reasons why someone needs to do a better translation of Svejk than the terrible Cecil Parrott version.
¶ 4:09 PM
This, even more than the Paris Hilton video, is what the internet is all about.
(via Ken Layne)
¶ 3:01 PM
Matt Welch makes a point at Reason about George Soros and his critics similar to the one I was trying to argue, but with more eloquence:
Soros is at turns a fascinating and infuriating man, eminently ripe for the criticizing...especially now that he's thrust himself at the forefront of the 2004 presidential election. But he's neither socialist nor shylock, and calling him so reveals more about the prejudices of the speaker than the faults of the man.
¶ 2:44 PM
The primaries may have just ended. Is the primary system dead? Al Gore endorses Dean- shocking, especially if you're Joe Lieberman.
Dean has the lead in the polls, lots of footsoldiers, and lots of money. His nomination is not quite inevitable. But does anyone want to make a bet against it? Me neither.
It's going to be Dean.
The only scenario where he can be stopped is for Wesley Clark (or somebody else, but he has the best chance) to win South Carolina on February 3. Maybe Arizona or New Mexico, too. If Clark picks up those primaries, becomes the beneficiary of an "anybody but Dean" movement, and gets a huge influx of cash after February 3, and manages to put together an organization to challenge Dean in Wisconsin (Feb 17) and Michigan (Feb 24)...we've got a race. That's quite a few ands.
Dean also has the advantage of being able to focus his campaign's considerable resources on those remaining primaries while his opponents are trying to get some traction in the must win states. Dean has already begun to gear up for the South.
Josh Marshall wrote today:
I've always thought this race would quickly settle down to Dean versus some other candidate who turns out to be the anti-Dean. I think this will greatly accelerate that process, thus providing a benefit to whomever that anti-Dean candidate turns out to be. But it's not clear to me that any of the candidates in the race have generated the traction to move into that role and make something of it. One or perhaps two are positioned to manage it -- but the jury is out.
Exactly. The "other eight" fight for second place, while Dean consolidates his hold on first place.
The parties used to nominate at the conventions. Adlai Stevenson wasn't even an announced candidate in 1952 until he was "drafted" at the convention. The "smoke-filled rooms" of legend come up with decent candidates, and the nominees seemed to represent the will of the party faithful. There were caucuses and primaries, but they didn't have the same weight that they do now, and candidates often didn't bother to campaign for the few delegates that they could assign. The delegates weren't bound at the conventions, so there was little point. Primaries were little more important than deluxe straw-polls.
In 1960, John Kennedy needed to demonstrate that he could compete outside of his northeast base, and that his Catholic faith wouldn't repel Protestant voters. He did in the West Virginia primary, helping give birth to the modern system.
In 1968, the Gene McCarthy insurgency campaigned in the primaries, and effectively demonstrated that Lyndon Johnson had lost the support of rank-and-file Democrats.
The 1968 Democratic convention was the last one that actually chose the nominee. Indeed, it was the last one that even began with any real question about the nominee's
From McGovern in 1972 up until Clinton in 1992, the party selected its candidates through primary and caucus results. It was presumed that a man who could win lots of little elections would be able to win the big one in November. Considering that the candidates included McGovern, Walter Mondale, and Michael Dukakis, it may be debated how well the system worked, but at least the people had more of a voice in the nomination process. As Mo Udall put it after conceding a primary loss in 1976, "The people have spoken. The bastards..."
In 2000, that began to change. Al Gore had so much money and name recognition that only Bill Bradley challenged for the nomination. Bill Bradley may have been the worst speaker in the Democratic party at the time. He also was just as much of a centrist as Gore, so he wasn't even that much of an alternative. Bradley was only token opposition.
Democrats can, if they like, blame Bill Clinton. It had been the tradition that sitting presidents would not endorse or campaign for anyone until the convention had formally selected a candidate. Reagan, for instance, didn't do anything to help Bush I until he managed to win a rather difficult nomination battle.
Clinton, however, basically turned his election operation to Gore after he was re-elected. Gore, with the help of Bill, essentially won the nomination by acclaim. Ironically, Gore would keep the president off the campaign trail for the general election, fearing that he would be hurt by association with the Lewinsky scandal.
The primaries were not allowed to do what is perhaps their primary function; to weed out weak candidates. I don't know how well the system performs that function, but it must be said that it kept Al Gore from winning the nomination on two previous occasions; the results of the 2000 election strongly suggest that Gore shouldn't have been the candidate the third time around, either. The election may have been stolen in Florida, but Gore had already lost it. I don't know why so many voters had such visceral feelings of dislike for the man, why he seemed to repel so many people, but Al Gore did.
Now Howard Dean is the prohibitive favorite for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States of America.
Dean is, in person and on television, an bad speaker. That's is not fatal; look at Bush. But Bush is, at least to many Americans other than myself, likeable. Bush projects affability. The only emotion that Dean is able to project is anger. Worse, Dean seems to think that it is a good thing, and he has stepped up attacks on Bush, and their disdainful tone, even as he has gotten closer to the nomination.
This is, I think a mistake. The American people are not angry with GW; they are worried about where he is taking them. There's a big difference, but Dean and his most fervent supporters don't seem to grasp that.
Having heard both Dean and Clark, I think that the general would wipe the floor with the governor in a one-on-one contest. I could be wrong; many find Wesley Clark wooden and Dean charismatic. But I think that it needs to be put to the test.
I want to see Dean tested, to find out if he has what it takes to beat a sitting president.
Dean's brilliant use of the internet (and it has been brilliant) and his open opposition to the war have effectively ended the primary season before the question was asked, let alone before primary voters were able to answer it.
Of course, there are eleven months until the election. Much can happen. Alot always happens in a presidential election. But if Dean can't adjust his message and his presentation to win voters who aren't committed liberals, it will be a very long and shrill eleven months.
I don't even want to think about the four years that will follow.
¶ 10:51 AM
Sunday, December 07, 2003
Andy Card Calls Prewar Intelligence Woes 'Moot':
President Bush's chief of staff dismissed as ``a moot point'' any lingering question about whether Bush relied on faulty intelligence to justify the invasion of Iraq.
Overall intelligence has been ``very, very good,'' Card said Sunday. But, he added, ``Intelligence is a collection of dots, and then an analysis on how those dots might be connected. Some of those dots may not be what they appear to be, and some of the connections may not have been what people would have suggested.''
Well, I'm glad that's finally settled.
I found the entire transcript on CNN. You'll have to scroll down a bit to find the bit with Card, but it's worth it, if only to read how difficult it can be for the White House Chief of Staff to answer even the simplest question. Note also his reliance on rote, meaningless phrases, as in a pagan priest making an incantation.
[CNN anchor Wolf] BLITZER: Was it a mistake when the president appeared on the USS Abraham Lincoln May 1st, declared major combat operations over, and there was a huge banner, as you remember, saying "Mission Accomplished"? Looking back on the White House role, you're the chief of the staff for the White House, was it a mistake for the White House to be involved in putting that banner up on the Abraham Lincoln?
CARD: Well, it was a spectacular visit by the president to the troops on that ship that had accomplished an important mission for their country. And the president was there to celebrate the successes of those particular sailors and Marines and the great work that they did. They were on an unusually long deployment. And they were the ones who requested that slogan; their mission had been accomplished. And yes, the White House did produce the banner, but it was produced at the recommendation of the request of the sailors and the Marines that were on the ship. But, you know, it was a spectacular event. And those men and women who wear the uniform of the United States services perform noble service for their country, and I think it was appropriate that the president pay tribute to them. And, yes, it did celebrate the end of major conflict in Iraq, and now we have ongoing security operation in Iraq, but, thankfully, the major conflict is over.
I wonder if the letters of condolence to the families of our dead- over 190 since the "the end of major conflict" -- will use the phrase "ongoing security operation in Iraq?"
Follow along with Card as he attempts to explain the President's space policy. Note the importance of the cryptic phrase, "bold agenda":
BLITZER: A final question. The president supposedly looking for some big idea right now, as he enters his last year in the first term, perhaps sending a man or a woman back to the moon. Is this something that's realistic right now, given the $400 billion, $500 billion budget deficits that you now have?
CARD: The president has called for a bold agenda for America even when he was first running for president, and in his first and second year of his term and the third year of the term, we've called for a bold agenda. And he will continue to have a bold agenda for this country.
But I'm not going to go into specific programs. The president understands that we do want to continue to explore space. After the disaster with the space shuttle, the president said that we would not give up on space exploration.
But really, he will have a bold agenda for this country that will center around, first of all, winning the war against terror, securing the homeland and returning our economy to full growth so that people who are looking for a job can have a job.
And yes, we're going to be fiscally disciplined. We know that the taxpayers' money is the taxpayers' money. And we're going to get the deficit cut in half within five years. And we're going to have spending on the domestic side that won't be any different than the spending in your home.
BLITZER: But is the president weighing, considering the option of sending someone back to the moon?
CARD: We have lots of suggestions that are being made by members of the president's Cabinet and administrators like Sean O'Keefe at NASA. And the president will make a decision, but I guarantee you he will have a bold agenda for this country.
Can we all agree that an air attack is not the best way to target a specific individual? Is it not obvious that dropping bombs from a great height has the potential for disaster?
As the number of errors rises, they become harder to excuse as "tragic accidents." A more accurate term might be "negligence," or even "callous disregard for the lives of civilians."
Certainly, that is the way that this will be spun in the Arab media, which is read by those that we are trying to convince of our good intentions.
¶ 6:31 PM
French generals are said to always try to re-fight the last war. Evidently so do Democratic presidential candidates; they seem to think that the Florida recount will matter in 2004. I really want to see Bush beaten. I think the Republicans were more concerned with winning Forida than with getting an accurate count of how the people of Florida voted. The Supreme Court decision that ended the recount was a scandal.
And I don't care. MAybe I would if I had time. But...
Al-Qaeda, Iraq, Afghanistan, poor relations with our allies, global warming, free trade, growing economic inequality, surging deficits, the future the Supreme Court, tax cuts, corporate welfare, North Korea, the Patriot Act, education, Social Security...
These things I care about. Live in the now.
¶ 3:06 AM
Pearl Harbor Day Bush omits reference to Japanese in Pearl Harbor statement:
In the statement released on the eve of National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, Bush said, 'America was attacked without warning and without provocation' on the morning of Dec 7, 1941, but he did not say who the attackers were.
I'm sure that the left blogosphere will pick up on this directly, as we say in the South. Actually, I don't have a problem with it. As much as I dislike the Bush Administration's selective use of history, and as irritating as I find the passive voice, there is no reason to dwell on Japan's past aggression; nor must we do so in order to remember the victims.
When we speak of German crimes from the period, we usually replace "German" with "Nazi", particularly in official proclamations of remembrance. It's more sensitive to our friend and ally, but it's also more accurate. Unfortunately, we don't have an equivalent substitute for "Japanese"-- "Tojo-ist" really wouldn't work.
Here, btw, is the text of FDR's famous speech after the attack:
Yesterday, December 7, 1941 -- a date which will live in infamy -- the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.
The United States was at peace with that Nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its Government and its Emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific. Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in Oahu, the Japanese Ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to the Secretary of State of form reply to a recent American message. While this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or armed attack.
It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time the Japanese Government had deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.
The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian Islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. Very many American lives have been lost. In addition American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.
Yesterday the Japanese Government also launched an attack against Malaya.
Last night Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.
Last night Japanese forces attacked Guam.
Last night Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.
Last night the Japanese attacked Midway Island.
Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our Nation.
As Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense.
Always will we remember the character of the onslaught against us.
No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.
I believe I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost but will make very certain that this form of treachery shall never endanger us again.
Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory, and our interests are in grave danger.
With confidence in our armed forces -- with the unbounded determination of our people -- we will gain the inevitable triumph -- so help us God.
I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December seventh, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire.
Tough New Tactics by U.S. Tighten Grip on Iraq Towns:
As the guerrilla war against Iraqi insurgents intensifies, American soldiers have begun wrapping entire villages in barbed wire.
In selective cases, American soldiers are demolishing buildings thought to be used by Iraqi attackers. They have begun imprisoning the relatives of suspected guerrillas, in hopes of pressing the insurgents to turn themselves in.
The Americans embarked on their get-tough strategy in early November, goaded by what proved to be the deadliest month yet for American forces in Iraq, with 81 soldiers killed by hostile fire. The response they chose is beginning to echo the Israeli counterinsurgency campaign in the occupied territories.
¶ 3:34 PM
"For the record, I like cheesy music," Petr Bokuvka admits. Since he goes on to praise The Rasmus (winners of MTV Nordic's "Best Nordic Act") and has earlier written that he is happy that his infant son is being exposed to Alizee, it's hard to argue with him on that.
[For my American readers, Alizee is Corsica's answer to Brittney Spears, but with less talent, and, I kid you not, less soul. Actually, she may be the worse thing that Corsica has done for Europe since Napolean.
Forgive the digression, but I can't resist quoting from her web site's account of her first artistic triumph:
At the age of 11, she entered a drawing competition by colouring in an airplane and won first prize. Not only did she win a marvellous trip to the Maldives, but a life-size reproduction of her drawing was also featured on the cockpit of an airplane which was to be named "Alizee". This marked the beginning of a wonderful, artistic career.]
For some time I've wondered, why Czech taste in popular music is so awful. How did the nation that gave the world Dvorak and Smetana come to produce Karel Gott and Lucie Bila? Jak je to mozne?
Petr's taste is actually better than that of many of his countrymen. He writes:
Czechs in these amateur-singer TV shows [like Caruso Show] make me wanna cut both my ears off and stick pencils to both of them after having eaten the erasers
I don't mean this in a spirit of Czech-bashing, but as an honest question, and would be grateful to anyone willing to share their thoughts on the evolution, if that's the word, of Czech musical taste.
¶ 2:02 PM
After Bush's Thanksgiving in Baghdad, one of the most elaborate, and effective, photo-ops in the history of American election campaigns (with the bizarre story about the fake turkey), it's good to recall how the right reacted in the past to liberal photo-ops.
Return of the Reluctant writes:
On June 6, 1994, Clinton was in Europe to recognize the 50th anniversary of Normandy. And like any President, he staged the predictable photo ops. Clinton gave a speech. He walked lone along the beach of Normandy, preparing a cairn. Hardly surprising. All politicians are forced to embrace artificiality at some point. It's only the most gifted politician who can make every moment feel natural.
And it's hardly the kind of thing that someone would use as backup material for the shameful liberal cabal. But that didn't stop Limbaugh. He tore into Clinton as if the photo-op was the very embodiment of evil. He declared it an insult to the men who lost their lives. Clinton should be ashamed of himself. And why hadn't 'the mainstream media' picked up on this? To this very day, it is one of Limbaugh's textbook examples of Clinton's 'phoniness,' ironically enough, standing comparatively against Bush's honest and sterling nature.
¶ 12:36 PM
Friday, December 05, 2003
Reagan over Roosevelt? Conservative Republicans angry over an unflattering television movie about Ronald Reagan want to put his image on the dime in place of Democratic icon Franklin Delano Roosevelt. ...
Supporters of the "Ronald Reagan Dime Act" said Roosevelt and his government-expanding New Deal represented decades past, while Reagan's conservative, anti-communist administration ushered in society as it exists today.
What amazes me is not how ridiculous the proposal is -- though putting Ronny on the ten-cent piece is pretty fucking ridiculous -- but that House Republicans seem confident that it will be popular. They may even be right. Have I really fallen so far out of step with the country?
This is as good a time as any to bring up my favorite paranoid conspiracy theory of the 2000 election. The rumour was that Ronald Reagan had died in 1998, but that the GOP had his corpse on ice so that they could wait until a couple of weeks before the election to announce his death. The ensuing national mourning would sweep GW into the White House.
Didn't happen, of course. Never believed it would happen. Not even for a minute.
But, if we have a close race in 2004, and Reagan kicks in mid-October, then I want a public inquest.
¶ 8:40 AM
Das ist eine Sensation! Christmas Music is one of the worst aspects of this most wonderful, and damned near interminable, time of the year. The traditional carols are quite bad enough; they are made more loathsome still by by the seasonal hoodlums who come to the very door of your home. Singing. Isn't it supposed to be a "Silent Night"? Yet, if you were to shoot them, even a warning shot, or a simple knee-capping, the law would actually blame you.
But the traditional Christmas faves have nothing on the misbegotten attempts to update them. There are people I know who never recovered what they lost when they saw the David Bowie/Bing Crosby duet of "Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy" -- pa-ram-pam-pam-pam.
In my youth, I was subjected to the British "Let Them Know It's Christmastime". Since the point of the song was to feed the starving of Ethiopia, a predominantly Muslim country, letting "them" know it was Christmas seemed a bit daft. For that matter, the sentiments expressed were not exactly eh, Christian:
...And the Christmas bells that ring
There are the clanging chimes of doom
Well tonight thank God it's them instead of you
The whole "Band-Aid" project was the work of Bob Geldof, whose charity work earned him fame that the Boomtown Rats could- most justifiably- not ear through their music. The super-group of British music stars was hurt by the fact that even the most gullible kid knew damn well that "stars" like Status Quo, Paul Young, Spandau Ballet, and Heaven 17 were not long for the pop-culture firmament.
The crowning, and least funny, idiocy was that little of the money that Band-Aid raised actually got to the hungry. As is usually the case, the mass starvation in Ethiopia was caused more by politics and war than by famine. The food that they bought never made it out of the capital.
More sentimental than effective; treacly lyrics; ridiculous pop star self-importance. Of course Michael Jackson had to import it to the United States. "We are the World" set new standards both for sales and solipsisim.
I didn't think that it would be possible to surpass Band Aid's "Let them know it's Christmas"; even Jackson's reply doesn't match it. But I had not taken into account the Germans. The TV Allstars - the finalists from Teutonic Idol - the TV Allstars' "Do They Know It's Christmas?" is in a class by itself.
I should say that I got the link from Petr at the Daily Czech. I love Petr's blog, wish nothing but the best for him in Slovakia, and his family, especially Patrik, has my fondest wishes for the coming year. But, Petr's taste in pop music can be gauged by what he wrote as he "highly" recommended it: "Considering the fact that these guys and girls aren't professional singers... WOW..."
"Wow" indeed. Or, as the web site puts it:
Das ist eine Sensation! Das ist einmalig in der deutschen Musikgeschichte! 14 Bands und Sänger, die Creme de la Creme der Deutschen Popszene, haben sich zusammen getan, um ein gemeinsames Charityprojekt zu verwirklichen!
I am going to start drinking, listen to it a few more times, and then get my gun.
And wait for the Christmas Carolers.
¶ 9:54 AM
It came out a few days ago, but don't miss this story on one of our new gambits in the occupation:
The U.S. civilian and military leadership in Iraq has decided to form a paramilitary unit composed of militiamen from the country's five largest political parties to identify and pursue insurgents who have eluded American troops and Iraqi police officers, U.S. and Iraqi officials said Tuesday.
The party leaders regard the formation of the paramilitary force, which had initially been resisted by the occupation authority, as an acknowledgement that the Bush administration's strategy of relying on Iraqi police officers and civil defense forces has been insufficient to restore security. The leaders contend Iraq's municipal police departments and civil defense squads are too ineffective to combat resistance fighters.
Although the new battalion is significantly weaker than the force the party leaders had hoped to create, the unit would nevertheless give the five political organizations an unrivaled role in the country's internal security. That advantage has riled some independent members of Iraq's Governing Council, who fear that it could be used after the U.S. occupation ends to suppress political dissent or target enemies.
Two of the leading Iraq pessismists, Juan Cole and Josh Marshall, were quick to weigh in. Cole noted:
It is scary that the force will include members of the Badr Corps (trained by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards). Western news agencies are not reporting, as al-Zaman does, that one of the five paramilitaries providing fighters is the Communist Party of Iraq! So, the last best hope of the US for an effective anti-terror campaign in Iraq rests with hardline Shiites and Communists?
Marshall, after suggesting that we may not have any alternative, wrote:
The reasons for not doing this are almost endless -- not least of which is the fact that these militias aren't exactly pure as the driven snow operations, and they are based in most cases on rival political factions that would probably be fighting each other if we weren't still there with a hundred and fifty thousands of our guys and gals. (Add to this the fact that the leaders of several of these parties are reaching for almost any expedient to perpetuate their power into the post-occupation period -- and this looks like an awfully good way to do it.)
Did any of the ever-optimistic pro-war bloggers have a different spin on this?
¶ 7:15 AM
David Brookson our soldiers in Iraq:
Soldiers in all wars are called upon to be heroes, but our men and women in Iraq are called upon to define a new sort of heroism. First, they must endure the insanity of war, fighting off fedayeen ambushes, withstanding the suicide bombings and mortars, kicking down doors and searching homes.
But a day or an hour or a few minutes later, they are called upon to enter an opposite moral universe. They are asked to pass out textbooks, improvise sewer systems and help with budgets. Some sit in on town council meetings to help keep the discussions on track. Some act like foundation program officers, giving seed money to promising local initiatives.
Trained as trigger-pullers, many are also asked in theater to be consultants and aldermen. They are John Wayne, but also Jane Addams.
Can anybody think of another time in history when a comparable group of young people was asked to be at once so brave, fierce and relentless, while also being so sympathetic, creative and forbearing?
Consider the implications of Brooks' question: no nation in recorded history has succeeded at what we are trying to do in the way that we are trying to do it.
(for the record, I am ranking on Brooks and his feeble rhetoric, not on the virtues of our soldiers in Iraq, nor on our long-term prospects in Iraq)
¶ 6:11 AM
A few site notes:
Very sorry for the lack of posting, but the holiday, followed by a violent fit of work-related activity, kept me off-line.
This is one of those times when I wish that I had cool handle, something that I could use in the third person. Writing, "we here at gacerny.blogspot..." seems grandiose, if not schizophrenic. But, anyway, the staff here at gacerny plans to resume daily ramblings.
If, btw, it looks like this is in bold type, then it's not just me. No idea why it's doing that.
The lay-out department will take care of it during gacerny's long awaited site re-design.
UPDATE: ok, fixed it. Q: is there a good Czech-keyboard on the web? Any suggestions?
¶ 4:42 AM
Kid Radical and I go way back... Kid Radical is editing the Prague Post this week.
KidRad is filling in, I think, for Andy Markowitz, the acting executive editor.
When Andy Markowitz came to Prague, he wrote for the late Prague Pill.
The Pill was then run by Jeff Koyen and Alexander Zaitchik, who left Prague to helm the New York Press.
The NY Press was founded by Russ Smith, who quit editing it (he still has a column there) and came back to Baltimore where he writes a column for the City Paper, which he founded in 1977.
Andy Markowitz, before he left for Europe, was the editor of the City Paper, where, a couple of times, he edited me.