G. A. Cerny
Friday, April 30, 2004
  Peeling away Sullivan
Andrew Sullivan just linked, as he often does, to an Onion headline: "Suicide Bombing A Cry For Help, Vengeance Against The Infidel"

Yeah, that's funny. But, Andrew, since we know that you saw this week's issue, you had to catch:
Bush To Iraqi Militants: 'Please Stop Bringing It On'
WASHINGTON, DC—In an internationally televised statement Monday, President Bush modified a July 2003 challenge to Iraqi militants attacking U.S. forces. "Terrorists, Saddam loyalists, and anti-American insurgents: Please stop bringing it on now," Bush said at a Monday press conference. "Nine months and 500 U.S. casualties ago, I may have invited y'all to bring it on, but as of today, I formally rescind that statement. I would officially like for you to step back." The president added that the "it" Iraqis should stop bringing includes gunfire, bombings, grenade attacks, and suicide missions of all types.

Andrew, remember what you wrote at the time Bush said "bring it on"? I do:
No, I don't think it's merely rhetoric. One of the many layers of the arguments for invading Iraq focused on the difficulties of waging a serious war on terror from a distant remove.
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
  Remember when we were liberators?
I don't know that it's worth the effort to debunk Barbara Lerner's little piece on NRO that argues that it's Colin Powell's fault that the occupation of Iraq has been such a mess:
The latest post-hoc conventional wisdom on Iraq is that Defense Secretary Rumsfeld won the war but lost the occupation...it's not Rumsfeld's occupation; it's Colin Powell's and George Tenet's.

When someone argues, as Lerner goes on to do, that our failure was that we didn't back Chalabi strongly enough, why bother? You can argue with that guy on the Metro talking to himself about UFO's if you want to; there isn't much of a point.

But, even anyone addled enough to this seriously (and I found the link through Reynolds) must acknowledge that if you want to blame the Secretary of State and the CIA director, you are blaming their boss. The guy who hired them, took their counsel, and implemented their policies. You know, like, the president.

Lerner writes that "it's painfully obvious that much is wrong with this occupation."

When did the right-wing start to acknowledge this? Back in the day, when Glenn Reynolds linked to a story that suggested that things were going less than swimmingly in Iraq, it was only to debunk it. Hell, only people gullible enough to believe the mainstream press thought like that.

Roger Simon has always been optimistic about Iraq. Today, he writes about "the present mega-depressing situation this morning."

Andrew Sullivan's wild mood swings need no elaboration here.

This isn't an "I told you so." The stakes are too high for that. What do we do now? Lerner's answer: reprisals!
It is not yet too late for us to recognize these facts and act on them by dismissing Brahimi, putting Secretary Rumsfeld and our Iraqi friends fully in charge at last, and unleashing our Marines to make an example of Fallujah. And when al Jazeera screams "massacre," instead of cringing and apologizing, we need to stand tall and proud and tell the world: Lynch mobs like the one that slaughtered four Americans will not be tolerated. Order will restored, and Iraqis who side with us will be protected and rewarded.

Presumably, those Iraqis who don't side with us-- or with Chalabi-- will be punished. Reynolds does not give an opinion on Lerner's piece, but earlier in the same post where he linked to it he wrote:
...in my lifetime, at least, the United States has generally erred by not being violent enough, rather than by being too brutal.

I had no idea that Reynolds was younger than I am. I was born in 1972, when the Vietnam War was still underway.

I've never compared Bush with Hitler or our occupation of Iraq with the Nazi's crushing of Europe. Those comparisons are as sickening as they are ridiculous.
But now these same people who wanted to liberate the Iraqi people are urging that we be more brutal in bending them to our will.

The US isn't a fascist empire, but it seems that some people want us to become one. They deserve all the scorn we can give them. 
  Czech porn star HIV positive
Various papers are reporting that "Jessica Dee", a Czech-born star of American porn videos, has tested HIV positive. I don't like to link to this type of thing, but you can see her indulging in what health authorities call high-risk behaviour here, if you are so inclined.

The Times reports:
"She's been counseled," said Ms. Mitchell, the director of the Adult Industry Medical Health Care Foundation. "No one is ever very happy about getting H.I.V., but she's taking to counseling very well and she is already on antiretroviral therapy, early H.I.V. meds."

While not much of a fan myself, I've never been one to be judgemental about pornography. But this outbreak, which has virtually shut down the San Fernando Valley porn industry, has got to take some of the fun out of masturbation for those who are fans. Or will I get a lot of hits when people google "Czech porn star"?

I'm a libertarian about most things, including sex and the sex industry. Do I have to turn in my Adam Smith neck-tie because it bothers me that, on the eve of joining the EU, it seems as though our women are what the Czech people seem best at selling
Thursday, April 29, 2004
  Hack Heroic Statues
I saw this woman's artwork advertised on Instapundit's blogads, and I was reminded of one of Budapest's finest tourist attractions
  The snakehead again rears its...snakehead.
No, not a Jim Carville reference. The snakehead is a type of fish that acts a bit like a rabid aquatic ferret. Today's Sun reports:
The 19-inch snakehead...lived up to the aggressive reputation of its species: as it lay covered in plastic wrap shortly after Wintermoyer landed it, the snakehead bit into the steel-tipped boot of a passer-by.

Well, mostly aquatic.
Besides devouring other fish in their environment, snakeheads are known for surviving out of water for long periods and moving on land with their fins.

The Land of Pleasant Living is also awaiting this summer's return of the cicada, basically a locust which breeds on a 17-year cycle. I don't trust anything that shows up on a schedule based on a prime number.

Local opinion, a low-grade panic, is summed up here
  Tammy Faye on the Volga
This story will be news to you only if you've never dated Russian women. 
  This headline is from The Washington Post, not, I repeat, not, from The Onion:
"Patriot Act Suppresses News Of Challenge to Patriot Act" 
Wednesday, April 28, 2004
  Andrew Sullivan appears to be making a full recovery.
GOOD NEWS IN IRAQ: From Kurdistan, of course. But Kurdistan matters for the future of Iraq - just as much as Fallujah.
FALLUJAH AND NAJAV: As David Brooks noticed today, these two cities contain the entire future of the attempt to break the back of Islamist terror and Muslim autocracy. Right now, they're the only stories that really matter.

Yep. Full recovery. Back to normal. 
  Variation on the theme of "man bites dog"
For a truly great newspaper, the NY Times can be really provincial. It's difficult to imagine another paper profiling someone for eating lunch at Red Lobster. Hell, I've read the damn piece twice now, and I still can't imagine the Times doing it.
When Atoosa Rubenstein, the editor in chief of Seventeen magazine, gets to choose the location for a lunch meeting, she simply descends from her 13th-floor office on Broadway and does a quick diagonal across Times Square to her favorite restaurant. One of New York's youngest and most sought-after editors, Ms. Rubenstein gets a big welcome from the maître d'hôtel and then steps into a huge chrome and glass elevator to the second-floor dining area, where she is framed by a tasteful mobile of fish seeming to swim in the air. Just last week, she settled into a big cushy booth there a little after noon.

"Welcome to Red Lobster," said the waitress. "May I bring you something?"

A bright young thing eating prole-food! What a great moment in journalism.

No doubt, it is her status as rising young magazine editor that produced this gushy not-quite-a-profile piece in the Dining Section (!) by David Carr. There's nothing NY publishing types like better than blowing each other in print. Perhaps that's not just a metaphor. Carr recounts a visit to the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company with Rubenstein:
When the Blue Lemon Up arrived, she attacked the aqua swirl at the top with her tongue, bringing it down to size in a few short seconds.

Carr, did you learn anything from her technique? 
  Speaking of political art, but in a far more horrible, even Orwellian way, Steve at PragueBlog finds this in the Guardian:
North Korea's state-run media today claimed that many of the 161 people who died in last week's train explosion in the town of Ryongchon had struggled heroically in the last moments of their lives to save portraits of the ruling family. 
  The Tijuana Ayn Rand Velvis!
It pretty much says everything you need to know about why political philosophy is not a sound basis for art. It also shows you what Amber Pawlik wants on the side of her conversion van.
(Thanks, Scotty.) 
Tuesday, April 27, 2004
  A Spanish Solution?
Spain will discuss with anti-war allies Germany and France how to find a solution to the conflict in Iraq within the United Nations framework, a Spanish government source said Tuesday.
"The idea is to see if Spain, France and Germany can help the United States find a solution in Iraq...and devise a formula for an international presence there that would not be perceived as an occupation by most of the population," the source said.

Does it matter now if you were for the war or against it? What the US must do now is to restore something like legitmacy to the occupation, and a greater international presence might help.

I'd like to ask supporters of the war: do you think the current president is the man for that job? Discuss. 
  Fred Kaplan on taking Fallujah by force:
Bush rationalized invading Iraq on the basis of U.N. resolutions (even if the U.N. Security Council disputed his interpretation). The U.S.-led occupation authority has justified its existence and proclamations on the basis of Iraqi interests. But on what authority, with what faction's approval (or even tacit wink-and-nudge), can the United States resume full-scale warfare against Iraqis? The 'coalition' forces certainly have the right to take all necessary actions, including offensive actions, to create a secure environment. But it's a large leap from stabilization and self-defense to storming a city as populous as Boston
  Klaus on EU entry. Again.
"The original European idea was clear and logical: to secure lasting peace after World War II by opening up the continent," [Klaus] told the German business daily Handesblatt.
"That is also my vision -- I want to live in freedom, in an open society. This vision is seen differently by us, who were imprisoned for 40 years, than by many in Western Europe.
"But the EU reality is something else. It is not freedom and openness, but bureaucracy, interventionism, regulation and harmonisation.
"State intervention will be strengthened on an international level at the price of freedom."

Now to the German press, as if his MFD piece wasn't bad enough. Klaus has positioned himself to take the credit for any success that the Czechs have in the EU, but he's also managed to preemptively shed the blame if anything goes bad. What he hasn't done is actually propose any, like, policies to improve the Czech standing in the EU, nor did he ever dig his heels in and urge the people to vote against joining.

The very model of his career. 
Monday, April 26, 2004
  Funeral Tourism
Elderly Germans looking for low-cost farewells are have begun opting for a trip to the Czech Republic to arrange a budget departure from the material world.
The Prague financial newspaper Hospodarske noviny on Monday cited a popular crematorium and graveyard in a northern Czech village as an example of a "funeral tourism" trend among Germans.
  18 years since the disaster at Chernobyl
An excellent time to link to this: one woman's tour of the scene. Incredible.
(via Goodfellow
  RIP: The Boston Celtics, 2003-04 Season
Nothing became their season like the leaving of it. They were whipped like dogs, rented mules, and red-headed stepchildren. It was ugly. They lost four consecutive games by 16, 13, 23, and 15 points. But the games weren't as close as the scores indicated.


The Boston press tried to do justice to the carnage of the four game sweep.
Bob Ryan, the dean of b-ball writers:
...the Celtics are finished for the year. The time to dissect this carcass is now.
First of all, let us stop with this nonsense that there was any great benefit in making the playoffs, other than the opportunity for management to open the doors two more times. Everything about their participation was, capital E, Embarrassing. They "clinched" their spot as the eighth team in the Eastern Conference playoffs while in the midst of a five-game losing streak. They didn't have the worst record to make the playoffs since the current format was instituted in 1985, but with 36 wins they were close. Now try this one: they did own the worst home record (19-22) of any team that has made the playoffs since the NBA went to an 82-game schedule in 1967.
They did not belong, OK?

Ryan's Boston Globe colleague, Shira Springer
Mercifully for all those involved, all those pretending to care, and all those still watching, the Celtics' season ended yesterday against a backdrop of empty seats and darkened luxury boxes at the FleetCenter. With the notable exception of a few clutch 3-pointers by Reggie Miller, nothing about Game 4 even remotely resembled a playoff contest. Half-hearted cheers came from the crowd of 16,389 only at the urging of the Jumbotron. Laissez-faire body language could be seen on the Boston bench.

For Jiri Welsch, the playoffs were a sour end to what had been a promising, if inconsistent, year. Since coming to the Celtics as part of a controversial trade with Dallas, Welsch emerged as the undisputed bright penny shining in the gutter that was Boston's season. He'd gone from the bench to the starting line-up, and his shooting skills weathered the transition from guard, where he'd played his entire hoops life, to small forward.

In the regular season, Welsch started 68 games, despite battling various nagging injuries. He could light it up as a scorer, and was a better rebounder and defender than a European shooter is supposed to be.

The playoffs were frustrating for him. In the first game, Ron Artest abused Welsch, scoring on him on three consecutive possessions. While Jiri is a game defender, he was helpless trying to contain Indiana's formidable front line on the inside. His best defensive moment in the front-court was when he drew blood with a sharp elbow to Jermaine O'Neal's forehead. When Boston's coach, who was fired yesterday at the end of the playoff series, sat him down in the first quarter, it was a mercy.

But Welsch can shoot. Watching him in the series, I got the impression that if he played on a team that had a real interior game to create open perimeter shots, Welsch would be the poor man's Peja Stojakovich. Actually, if he played on a team where it looked like the players on the floor had been formally introduced, or even one where they looked like they'd played with each other before, maybe he'd get some open looks at the basket.

As it was, Welsch never scored in double digits in the series against Indiana.
He saw his minutes go down, as the Globe's Springer reported after the third game:
[The coach] contemplated starting Ricky Davis in place of Jiri Welsch. But he also knew poor starts were not a problem. That said, Carroll gave more minutes to Davis later in the game, at the expense of Welsch. Davis led the team with 16 points in 35 minutes.
"I thought after the second quarter we needed something else," said Carroll. "I love Jiri Welsch. I love him as a player, but I thought we needed something different."
Welsch did not expect the move. And the starting small forward was puzzled by his 21-minute stint, though he still finished with 11 points and 2 rebounds.
"I didn't play much, but you have to ask Coach, because I don't know what happened," said Welsch. "They made a decision and they went with it. I'm a player and I cannot do anything about that. I am frustrated about the game, but not about [playing time]."

If nothing else, Jiri has learned to use that important basketball phrase, "I only care about the team winning." It translates into English as "I need to get on the fucking floor."

Welsch will get more of a chance next year. The Celtics amount now to Paul Pierce and lawn furniture, but Welsch is, in the opinion of fans and the media, is a special player, one who can contribute.

Personally, as a Jiri Welsch partisan, I'd like to see Welsch go to another team. He would be a super-sweet delux bench guy coming in for twenty minutes a game on a good team. Even on a great team. But because he is one of Boston's only skilled guys, it seems as though he'll spend the next few years battling on behalf of a losing cause. 
Sunday, April 25, 2004
  We have a winner...
In the category of "Most Idiotic Travel Piece on Prague."

Ladies and Germs, I give you the Kansas City Star with "Czech, please: Four penny-pinching days in Prague provide valuable lessons" by Allen Holder.

You'd think that it would be a tough category, what with Ian Fisher's "Happening Zizkov" but Holder sets a new standard. Fakt.
I had arrived in the Czech capital hoping to experience the city as fully and as inexpensively as possible. But an hour later I had already parted with $28 and hadn't seen one significant site.

It gets better:
The tour, called “Prague Intro” ($11.51), began under an enormous statue of St. Wenceslas, who is astride a horse and looking out over the busy shopping avenue called Wenceslas Square.
That's an appropriate starting place, I thought. Good King Wenceslas, who reigned in the 10th century and was murdered by his brother, is the patron saint of the region. Are there many more historic figures in the 1,400-or-so-year story of Prague?

Do you ever wonder who actually pays to see those hack classsical music performances advertised on the handbills that they force on you in Stare Mesto?
...I had already decided I couldn't, really, leave Prague without attending at least one musical performance. Besides, I had saved several thousand crowns by now — enough to pay for the performance — by buying lunch every day from streetside vendors.
The question was, which one? Tchaikovsky? Dvorák? Gershwin? Several performances were going on the next few nights all over the city.

Read the whole damn thing
Saturday, April 24, 2004
  The price of talent
Somebody on my blogroll might see her insurance rates go up
Friday, April 23, 2004
  Everybody knows
Amy Langfield gets at the root of pretty much every newspaper scandal:
I can tell you that in every newsroom I've worked in - sometimes as soon as the first day -- you start to figure out which reporters and editors play loose with the facts. And it tends to be common knowledge among the reporters, desk editors, copy editors and even the photographers. Depending on how hands-on the managing editor and executive editors are -- and that's a decision they make for themselves -- they also will know which reporters to watch. Seldom is it a secret. You find out in a lot of ways. Sometimes there is another reporter or photographer at the same event, an editor finds a reporter who repeatedly can't back up his sweeping lead and has lots of holes in the stories, a copy editor calls a reporter to clarify a quote and it turns out that quote isn't quite in the reporter's notes. Sometimes a reporter's work is frequently contradicted by every other media outlet covering the story. More than once I've seen an editor deem a star reporter's work untouchable, and in one case that reporter was later caught and fired for making up quotes. 
  The World Cup is just another Bud Bowl
Budweiser, as I'm sure you all know, will be the only beer available at the next World Cup in Munich.
I've read that story several times since I saw the link at the Prague Monitor, and now I've typed it out myself, but I still don't believe it. In Munich...damn.

Budweiser is one of the hardest things for Americans to explain to foreigners. Actually, it's impossible. Bud took out full-page ads in the papers today claiming that their beer is is allowed by the South Beach Diet because it contains no maltose, which is, I gather, something the South Beach Diet is against.

No maltose. Or flavor. And also no body. Yet all too many of my fellow Americans drink it anyway. Some, like this guy, are even quite devoted to it.

Once, on a lark, I took a six-pack of Bud with me to Ceske Budejovice where they make real stuff, and the town from which the St. Louis brewery copped their name. Coals, or horse piss, to Newcastle.  
  Ambassador or procounsul?
Today's WaPo also has a fresh story on sovereignty-- or the lack of it-- for Iraq. It turns out that after the June 30 handover, they won't be able to, ahem, actually pass laws. That's pretty bad in itself, but near the end of the piece there is this fascinating exchange between Undersecretary of State Marc Grossman and the questioners from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the powers that the new "government" will have:
Asked whether anti-American candidates would be allowed to run, Grossman responded: "That's why we're going to have an embassy there, and it's going to have a lot of people and an ambassador. We have to make our views known in the way that we do around the world." The new government will also have authority "to lead Iraq into the community of nations," according to Grossman, including the freedom to establish diplomatic relationships with its neighbors.
When Sen. Jon S. Corzine (D-N.J.) asked what the Bush administration would do "if they start doing things that are in contradiction to what American foreign policy might be," the undersecretary responded as he had earlier, saying that is "why we want to have an American ambassador in Iraq."

Grossman is a representative of the Bush administration, so maybe he just can't answer direct questions. A rather more frightening possibility, though, is that this is actually an answer.

The man that Bush has nominated to head what will be America's largest embassy is John Negroponte, a "veteran diplomat" who worked in Central America during the 80's, when insurgents, and the citizens, were being put down by American approved thugs.

This is bad. Scary bad. 
  A case study in oppression
The Washington Post has a chilling story by Philip Pan on a group of eight young friends in China who formed a "study group" to discuss their country's political and social problems. What happened to them, as reported by Pan, is a rare look at the mechanics of an authoritarian state.

Nearly 15 years after the Tiananmen Square massacre and 13 since the fall of the Soviet Union, the Chinese Communist Party is engaged in the largest and perhaps most successful experiment in authoritarianism in the world. What happened to the New Youth Study Group offers a glimpse into the methods the party uses to maintain its monopoly on power and the difficult moral choices faced by those caught in its grip.
The fate of the study group also illustrates the thoroughness with which the party applies one of its most basic rules of survival: Consider any independent organization a potential threat and crush it.

I urge everyone to read the entire story.

Czechs will remember similar things all too well, and they should pay attention to it elsewhere, especially with Klaus there now to "strengthen ties" between the two countries . 
Thursday, April 22, 2004
  Cuckoo Fate
Milos Forman is being given an award for lifetime achievement in film directing by the San Francisco Film Festival tonight. An article on Forman's career on the festival's website gives a brief description of how he came to make what is perhaps his finest English-language movie:
When the Czech censors banned Forman's anti-authoritarian The Firemen's Ball in 1967, Forman left-and didn't return to film in Prague until 1983, with Amadeus. He tried to employ his Czech filmmaking methods with his first Hollywood film, Taking Off, but while the critics raved over the generation-clash comedy, (which won the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes) audiences stayed away. Crushed, Forman languished at the Chelsea Hotel until Ken Kesey's novel One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest arrived over the transom.

There's a funny addition to the story. In his autobiography, Turnaround, Forman recalls:
When I lived at the Chelsea...the mail delivery was often the highpoint of my day. I was waiting for that one offer that was going to change everything, and in the meantime, I grabbed all the invitations that looked like a free meal.
One day, I got a package from California. Inside was a book I'd never heard of , accompanied by a letter from two producers I'd never heard of. When I opened the novel and started to read, it gripped me immediately. I had no idea that the book had not only been a best-seller but a publishing phenomenon, yet I saw right away that this was the best material I'd come across in America.

The book was, of course, Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Forman went to L.A. to meet the two unknown producers, Saul Zaentz and Michael Douglas. Yes, that Michael Douglas.

Over drinks, I learned that Michael Douglas was the son of the famous Kirk Douglas, whom I had met once in Prague. Sometime in the sixties, Kirk Douglas was travelling around Eastern Europe as an American goodwill ambassador and I was invited to a party the American cultural attache had thrown for him. Kirk had seen my films, and we talked and seemed to hit it off.
"Listen, I'm working on a project that I'm real excited about," Kirk told me. "I'd like you to look at it."
"I'd love to," I replied.
"It's a book. I'll send it to you."

He mentioned the title, but it didn't mean anyting to me, so I promptly forgot it. I gave Kirk my address, and waited to see if anything came in the mail. My English was barely up to reading street signs, so I would have to have someone translate the book into Czech for me. I never received anything from Douglas, which didn't surprise me. He was a big star, and I figured he must have said something on the spur of the moment, and left it right there in the room when he stepped out.

When Michael and Saul Zaentz hired me, I came to California and ran into Kirk again at a party at the Douglases'.

"Mr. Forman, aren't you a real son of a bitch?" was the first thing he said to me. I was shocked. Everyone around us fell silent.
"When I sent you the book, you didn't even have the decency to write "kiss off" back to me. But now that you live here, you're all gung-ho to direct it!"

It was only at that moment that I realized the book Kirk Douglas had been talking about all those years before was One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, so I said, "You know, Mr. Douglas, the funny thing is that I've been thinking the exact same thing about you."

Kesey's novel had almost certainly been confiscated by the Czech customs, but neither of us was informed about it. It had, in fact, been Kirk who'd originally bought the rights to Cuckoo's Nest.
...He then tried for years to produce it through one of the major film studios. No one wanted the project...so Kirk finally got tired of constant rejection and gave the rights to his son.

When, some ten years after Kirk's visit to Prague, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest finally found me at the Chelsea, it seemed an act of fate.

UPDATE: See Steve's blog for another, even better, Forman story. Who knew? 
It's not quite May, and the Baltimore-Washington area sure as hell isn't Bohemia, but the weather, as well as my need to think about something else besides the war, made me think of Hynek's poem. Here's the full text in Czech, with James Naughton's translation into English. 
  Pot:Kettle Pangloss:Sullivan
I've been known, from time to time, to accuse Andrew Sullivan of inconsistency.
This was unfair of me. Let me try to rectify that by paying tribute to Sullivan's awesome, almost mind-boggling, ability to stand by his viewpoint:
To some, I suppose, the hideous slaughter of so many innocents in suicide bombings in southern Iraq is another reason to worry that the occupation is doomed. I have a different response.

April 14, 2004
Al Sadr is cornered. Better still, if this showdown forces the other Shiite figures into a more proactive and constructive role - as potential rulers of Iraq - then we will have found people to whom real power can be transferred. I'm still optimistic.

April 10
I'm going to be writing more about the positive possibilities that are now opening up in Iraq.

April 9
It may be dark this Friday, but Christians are told that a new day will dawn. Not in three days. But in time.

April 1
I'm still an optimist - in the medium term. But the next two or three years could be brutal.

March 11
A SAUDI THAW? More evidence of some positive developments in the Arab-Muslim world after the liberation of Iraq.

March 8
The violence in Iraq - even the horrifying sectarian mass murders last week - have failed to derail the tortuous political process. That's hugely good news.
What we're seeing is something you simply don't see anywhere else in the Arab-Muslim world: negotiation trumping violence. This isn't a path to democracy. In important ways, it is democracy. The first true post-war victory is ours - and, more importantly, Iraq's.

March 1
Good news from Iraq on two fronts. The U.S. military casualties in February amounted to 23 - half the previous month's. It's the lowest monthly number since the invasion and represents a very steep drop-off from the 110 casualties last November. The number of wounded has also hit a new post-war low. Credit goes to those trying to control the Sunni insurgency. There are front page stories when soliders are killed (and rightly so). But there should also be front-page stories when we make real progress. And that's why it's also good to see the New York Times trumpet Iraq's rebound in oil production and revenues. Well ahead of schedule. When you put all this together with Ayatollah Sistani's acquiescence to end-of-year elections and the new cooperation of the United Nations, you have the architecture of real success. Fingers crossed.

February 27
There are still many pitfalls - not least of which is the nature and shape of an interim Iraqi government after June 30. But Sistani's agreement to extend the deadline to the end of this year for national elections strikes me as a real coup for the Bush administration. I'm still an optimist.

February 16
HOPE IN IRAQ: The Iraqi police forces could have responded to a recent attack by seeking help from the nearby American military. They didn't. They asked for more ammunition.

February 14
We are winning this war. And only we can choose to lose it.

January 22
I've been chiding myself for not writing more about Iraq and Iran these past couple of weeks. The news strikes me as decidedly mixed.
In Iraq, I found the massive demonstrations by Shiites earlier this week to be somewhat good news. The demos were peaceful; they were pro-democracy; they're a small sign that democracy is possible in that blighted country. At the same time, David Ignatius' troubling report from Baghdad shows the faultlines ahead. The vicious cycle of security breakdown preventing economic revival fomenting more unrest has yet to be broken. The possibility of the much-predicted civil war is now higher than in the recent past.

That last sentence is key. A clear and concise statement of what was going wrong, which Sullivan noted, but which he didn't allow to interfere with his insistent, even shrill, optimism.

I won't bother to go back to the previous year, when Sullivan was really optimistic about the "Flypaper" strategy, because I've already done that.

But I will add one more lengthy passage from Sully's blog, which is, I think, another telling example of what shrinks call projection:
Some of you have queried me for making criticisms of the president with regard to Iraq. I think I've earned a certain amount of credibility on this one. I'm a big admirer of the both the aims and methods of this administration in the war on terror. But that doesn't mean they haven't made some real mistakes. They got the WMD question wrong. The intelligence was faulty and they failed to be sufficiently skeptical about it. They did have elaborate plans for post-war Iraq, as Jim Fallows details in the current Atlantic, but largely ignored them, perhaps dismissing such details as cover for an anti-war agenda. This insouciance led to debacles like the disbanding of the Iraqi army in the middle of last year. I don't think it would kill the administration to fess up to this. They were human errors, compounded by a certain ideological fervor. I think, given the overall achievement, that they were entirely forgivable. And I guess the White House has learned to concede nothing...

...the Bush administration's errors have undermined the crux of their own foreign policy. That's a loss. And, with a little more modesty and skepticism, it was preventable.  
Wednesday, April 21, 2004
  Nicmoc's birthday
Belated, but very sincere, congratulations to Nicmoc, the mysterious but invaluable blogger based in Prague, who turned one yesterday. The blog, I mean, not the blogger. 
  Another blast from Andrew Sullivan's past
In September, 2002, Sullivan "nominated" a piece from the Boston Globe for a "Sontag Award"-- his name for instances of far-left lunacy. This is the quote he ran:
"TEN YEARS from now, will we be looking back asking how the United States could have thought that an unprovoked, preventive war on Iraq could succeed when the signs of danger were so clear and ominous? How the impossibility of accomplishing the mission through air power would lead levels of American casualties not seen since the Vietnam War? How an oil shock and deficit spending for war would plunge the United States and world economies into a major recession? How an administration so focused on getting rid of Saddam failed to create a workable policy to shape a post-Saddam Iraq?"

While not everything in that graf has come to pass (thank God), nothing in it is very far off the mark, and the last question is dead-on. Perhaps Sullivan should have given it more thought at the time.

As SullyWatch wrote today:
...Sullivan should stop acting as if all the negative consequences of the invasion we are currently experiencing weren’t predicted beforehand, particularly the one that prevented this from happening back in the early 1990s: a power vacuum in danger of being filled by Iraqi Shiite fundamentalists under Iran’s sway, and a large U.S. occupying army caught in the middle. 
  More blood, and more treasure
The war is costing more money than we thought, the Washington Post reports today:
Intense combat in Iraq is chewing up military hardware and consuming money at an unexpectedly rapid rate -- depleting military coffers, straining defense contractors and putting pressure on Bush administration officials to seek a major boost in war funding long before they had hoped.

This is not surprising in itself; modern war is one of the most expensive projects that a nation can undertake. Like buying a house, combat usually costs more than even the most sober analysts anticipate, and it was predictable from the Bush administration's relentless optimism about the course of the conflict, as well as their inability to come up with an honest budget about anything, that their initial estimates would be low.

But the next graf is the really important one:
Since Congress approved an $87 billion defense request last year, the administration has steadfastly maintained that military forces in Iraq will be sufficiently funded until early next year. President Bush's budget request for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1 included no money for Iraqi operations, and his budget director, Joshua B. Bolten, said no request would come until January at the earliest.

"January at the earliest"? In God's name, why? Surely, sound budgeting means that we have to find the money-- however much it will be-- as soon as we can. The White House seems determined to put it off as long as possible, like a college freshman hoping that his Discover card will pay itself off before the end of the month.

This is more than irresponsible; it's also hypocritical. CREEP has been running ads slamming John Kerrey for voting against the $87 billion appropriation for Iraq and Afghanistan last year. It's a legitimate issue. I posted at the time in support of the funding measure; hell, I even quoted Andrew Sullivan approvingly, and you know that had to hurt.

I still believe that it was vital to approve the money, if only to impress on the Iraqi people that we were going to try to take our responsibility to rebuilding their country seriously, that we would back our words with dollars. But Kerrey's reason for his "nay" vote-- that there was no real plan for spending the funds, and this adminsitration shouldn't be trusted with a blank check-- seems, in retrospect, to have a lot of merit.

Rather than portraying this as a question of "how much" or "on what", CREEP charecterizes Kerrey's dissenting vote as-- surprise!-- "he...voted against funding our soldiers."

The transcript of the Bush ad also has this:
NARRATOR: “Body armor and higher combat pay for troops?”
SENATE CLERK: “Mr. Kerry:”

Now read this, from the piece in today's Post:
The military already has identified unmet funding needs, including initiatives aimed at providing equipment and weapons for troops in Iraq. The Army has publicly identified nearly $6 billion in funding requests that did not make Bush's $402 billion defense budget for 2005, including $132 million for bolt-on vehicle armor; $879 million for combat helmets, silk-weight underwear, boots and other clothing; $21.5 million for M249 squad automatic weapons; and $27 million for ammunition magazines, night sights and ammo packs. Also unfunded: $956 million for repairing desert-damaged equipment and $102 million to replace equipment lost in combat.
The Marine Corps' unfunded budget requests include $40 million for body armor, lightweight helmets and other equipment for "Marines engaged in the global war on terrorism," Marine Corps documents state. The Marines are also seeking 1,800 squad automatic weapons and 5,400 M4 carbine rifles.

That's from the President's budget. What is he doing to remedy the problem in the next budget? They'll get back to you.

What, they're waiting to see if their lottery numbers hit?

Rep. Curt Weldon (R-Pa.), vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, charged that the president is playing political games by postponing further funding requests until after the election, to try to avoid reopening debate on the war's cost and future.
Weldon described the administration's current defense budget request as "outrageous" and "immoral" and said that at least $10 billion is needed for Iraqi operations over the next five months.

There needs to be a supplemental, whether it's a presidential election year or not," he said. "The support of our troops has to be the number one priority of this country. . . . Somebody's got to get serious about this."

Atrios, who also cites and quotes extensively from the same story, concludes:
My guess is they'll sit on this for awhile, and then suddenly suckerpunch the Democrats by putting a Bill out there and demanding that they pass it right away to "support the troops."
Tuesday, April 20, 2004
  Shocked! Shocked, to find grim reality setting in!
Jason Vest's much-hyped story that came out today (in several publications) is interesting, but not earth-shaking.

The piece is based on a memo written in early March for the Coalition Provisional Authority that is highly critical of the occupation:
Iraq’s chances of seeing democracy succeed, according to the memo’s author — a US government official detailed to the CPA, who wrote this summation of observations he’d made in the field for a senior CPA director — have been severely imperiled by a year’s worth of serious errors on the part of the Pentagon and the CPA, the US-led multinational agency administering Iraq. Far from facilitating democracy and security, the memo’s author fears, US efforts have created an environment rife with corruption and sectarianism likely to result in civil war.

It's a good story, and gives some valuable details on what we've done wrong. Most remarkable, the memo was written by a hawk:
It is also significant, according to the intelligence official [who provided the memo to Vest], because its author, has been a steadfast advocate of "transforming" the Middle East, beginning with "regime change" in Iraq.

Signs of the author’s continuing support for the US invasion and occupation are all over the memo, which was written to a superior in Baghdad and circulated among other CPA officials. He praises Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmed Chalabi, and laments a lack of unqualified US support for Chalabi, a long-time favorite of Washington hawks.

Sadly, there is no clue to the identity of the memo's author, though I'm sure that a blogosphere guessing-game will begin soon.

But this is hardly earth-shaking. It's been pretty clear to anybody who reads newspapers that the occupation was not going well, and that the US had grossly underestimated the undertaking. Even before the war, it seemed far more difficult than many people who were gung-ho to "remake the region" anticipated.

This really shouldn't surprise anyone.

But, I forgot, some of them don't read papers. Why should they when all they need to know is in the blogosphere? 
  Nostradamus, The Amazing Kreskin, and Andrew Sullivan
These have been heady days for American conservatives and neoconservatives. Vindication doesn't come very often in politics, but the end of the Iraq war was surely one of those occasions. Rarely has the far left seemed so out of it, so discredited, so marginal. And rarely has the sensible liberal left seemed so mealy-mouthed and incoherent.
Andrew Sullivan, April 2003 
  Restoring Dignity to the White House
I don't know if it's true that G.W. Bush asked Saudi Arabia to help him get re-elected by manipulating oil prices. I just don't. But there is one thing I'm sure about: If it had been alleged that Bill Clinton had made such a deal with the Saudis, and if Clinton's flak had been this incoherent in responding to the charge, the right wing would have demanded that the President hang.  
Monday, April 19, 2004
  Happy Patriots' Day!
On the third Monday in April, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts celebrates the start of the Revolutionary War by giving school-children a taste of the coming summer vacation, running a little race, and playing a little baseball.

By tradition, the Red Sox game is scheduled so that the game ends just as the runners are passing Fenway-- leading to much drunken heckling and cheering.

When I moved to Texas as a kid, and tried to explain Patriots' Day, I would often be asked, "Y'all have a holiday for your football team?" 
Saturday, April 17, 2004
  The Chickenhawks are ahead ot the rats. David Brooks admits that mistakes were made:
The first thing to say is that I never thought it would be this bad.

Brooks goes on to say that actually, he did warn in some of his other writings on the risks; and, anyway, it isn't his fault. He knew, other conservatives knew, his friends at The Weekly Standard knew, everybody but the White House new that the war and occupation were being poorly handled.
...over the past two years many conservatives have grown increasingly exasperated with the administration's inability to execute its policies semicompetently.
When I worked at The Weekly Standard, we argued ad nauseam that the U.S. should pour men and matériel into Iraq — that such an occupation could not be accomplished by a light, lean, "transformed" military. The administration was impervious to the growing evidence about that. The failure to establish order was the prime mistake, from which all other problems flow.

It's rather a weak mea culpa, especially since his column last week, alas, no longer available for free, started with, "Get a grip," and castigated "Chicken-littles" who were alarmed by the increasing carnage in Iraq. It was so ludicrously optimistic that some dubbed him "Baghdad Bob" after Saddam's comically deluded mouthpiece.

If the war is so vital, and Bush's conduct of the war is so flawed, how come the pro-war clique hasn't beaten the drums for his removal-- or, at least, a major re-shuffle in his administration-- with anything like the fervor that they had for plunging us into the war itself?

There is nothing that brings greater risk to a nation than war. If a president can't conduct the war even "semi-competently" then it's a disaster. If Brooks, or Sullivan for that matter, really felt Bush was screwing up, then it should have come up a bit more often in his thrice-weekly columns. It should have been the focus of almost every one of them.

I also blame Bush; but the op-ed generals and web strategists who carried water for his war shouldn't get off the hook.

Matthew Yglesias observes
David Brooks offers the first of what I think will be many retrospective I was wrong but I was right anyway articles. The implication here is that though Bush may botch everything in Iraq, Brooks was nevertheless correct to have supported the war because he, after all, was not in favor of botching things.
One anticipates that other people -- Thomas F., or shall we call him T. Friedman -- will be offering similar theories soon. The trouble, however, is this. When George W. Bush is president and is advocating a war and you, too, are advocating for war, then the fact of the matter is that you are advocating that the war be conducted by George W. Bush. That Bush would botch things was a perfectly predictable consequence of said support, based on -- among other things -- the fact that he'd botched everything else he'd ever done.

Andrew Sullivan, of course, has been running this game this for a while now. 
  Yankees Suck!
Well, they did last night, at any rate. The Red Sox won, 6-2.
Tim Wakefield with the W.

Why aren't there more knuckleballers in the majors? It's a junk pitch, so it doesn't take much of an arm, and knucleballers are legendary for their ability to eat up innings and frustrate hitters.

Most knucleballers are pitchers who had to remake themselves after age or injury took away their best stuff. I wouldn't be surprised if some smart GM will buy up a few smart but sore-armed starters on the cheap, and convert them into a cadre of knuckleball pitchers.

See Jim Bouton's memoir Ball Four for more on how teams seem to have a prejudice for heat over the mere ability to get batters out.

My Czech readers probably don't have any idea of what this post means. 
Friday, April 16, 2004
  The President of the United States is no Subserviant Chicken.
But then, who is?
(links via Maccers and MacMillan, respectively) 
  Chocolate Wrappers of the Czech Republic!
And the rest of the world.
(link stolen from Teachout at About Last Night, who calls it "the most obsessive Web site I’ve ever seen.") 
  Great Moments in Music Journalism
Pavel Wlosok once headed a band called the “Helpless Handful.” Now, he’s the assistant professor of jazz at WCU and the catalyst for the second annual jazz festival at the University.

Not bad for a fellow who hails from Czechoslovakia, a region where jazz musicians are as elusive as Bigfoot.
  Thank You, Secretary Ridge!
As someone who takes the MARC train between Baltimore and Washington several times a week, I was more than a little interested to read that:
The Transportation Security Administration plans to begin testing techniques for improving passenger rail security at a station in New Carrollton, Md., that is served by Amtrak and commuter trains that run between Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, according to government officials.
The new program, called the "Transit and Rail Inspection Pilot," or TRIP, will begin next month. Its focus is not guns or knives, but bombs, according to officials. Techniques could include bomb-sniffing dogs or electronic detectors, they said.
New Carrollton was chosen because it is convenient to the Department of Homeland Security's Washington headquarters, and because its platforms are elevated in a way that makes it easy to control access, so passengers could be screened before the train arrived.

Right now, security on the trains is a joke, and one that became a lot less funny after Madrid.

The security measures, so far as I can see, consist of asking passengers buying tickets to show identification. Oh, you also can't buy a ticket on the train anymore, unless you board at one of the stations that doesn't have ticket counter; in which case, you don't need to show any ID.

Impressive, 'no?

It's nice that Homeland Security is beginning to experiment with ways to protect one train station on one route in the northeast corridor, but it's more than a little past due. 
  Free and safe:
Three Czech reporters missing in Iraq since the weekend were released by their kidnappers on Friday, the reporters said.
Reporter Michal Kubal, cameraman Petr Klima of Czech Television and Vit Pohanka from Czech Radio had been missing since Sunday after they checked out of their Baghdad hotel, trying to leave for Jordan by taxi.
''We all are in good condition,'' Pohanka told the Czech radio from the Czech Embassy in Baghdad.
Thursday, April 15, 2004
  The Eternal Sunshine of Andrew Sullivan's Mind
Fact-checking Andrew Sullivan is fairly easy for me, partly because I only do it occasionally (unlike the tireless SullyWatch) but also because it does not require any particular knowledge of current events, public policy, or much of anything else. Oh, I'm sure that knowing about these things couldn't hurt, but it's not neccessary. All you need is some familiarity with his own writings. Since Sullivan doesn't have the vaguest memory of much of what he writes, it takes only a little patience in the Daily Dish archives to find his 'nibs biting his own tail.

There are so many examples. He was able to write on Bush's hyping of the dangers of Iraq's WMD
Now the spin is that Bush may not have said "imminent threat," may even have disowned the phrase, but he implied it. Nice try, guys.

One of many, many posts on the subject that he made last October. He did not remember:
Where are they? It's possible they have been destroyed, or smuggled out, or sold. It's possible the program was far less ready-to-go than we were led to believe. But we were led to believe that there were large quantities of dangerous materials that posed an imminent threat.

(Emphasis in the orignal)

A more recent example is worth an extended look. Sullivan had this blazing insight into the president's press conference:
It's worth saying here what we now know the president got wrong - badly wrong. There were never enough troops to occupy Iraq. The war-plan might have been brilliant, but the post-war plan has obviously been a failure. We needed more force and we needed more money sooner. The president has no excuses for not adjusting more quickly to this fact: he was told beforehand; he was told afterward; but he and the Defense Secretary were too pig-headed to change course. I still favor the war; but I cannot excuse the lapses and failures of the administration in the post-war.

So he grasps the obvious; we should give him a cookie?

It was close to what Sullivan had written about an earlier Bush speech on Iraq, though less optimistic:
It was a good speech, well delivered. The only unnerving feeling I got was when the president said he didn't want or need more U.S. troops. I remain unconvinced - but, hey, I'm open to persuasion.

To be fair to Sullivan, he has written variations on this criticism of the occupation for some time. The point was obvious to anybody who read newspapers and magazines, it wasn't original to him, but he did actually manage to grasp it.

On some days, at least. On others...

Sullivan has surrounded his more sensible observations with bursts of sunny optimism that diluted any impact that his warnings might have had.

Thus, a year ago:
Chaos. Looting. Disorder. Losing the peace. It's not that there won't be some truth to these stories; and real cause for concern. The pent-up fury, frustration and sheer anger of three decades is a powerful thing, probably impossible to stop immediately without too much force. And the last thing we want is fire-power directed toward the celebrating masses. The trouble is that they could become the narrative of the story, especially among the usual media suspects, and erode the impact and power of April 9. By Sunday, or sooner, you-know-who will probably have a front-page "news analysis" that will describe the joy of liberation being transformed into the nightmare of a Hobbesian quicksand of ever-looming cliches.

Or in June
This isn't to say that we don't have a hell of a task in Iraq and that some of it won't be tough on soldiers. But in the broader view, there are a handful of encouraging signs in the Middle East, all of which suggest that the Bush gamble on remaking the region is again defying skeptics.

And a month later:
There's still plenty of time to make this work- and to transform Western prospects in the Middle East for a generation. That promise remains. Bush needs to ignore the nay-sayers and focus on the task at hand.

Over and over again: all is well, God save the President, and damn the press.

He wrote:
Of course, as you read this, the press will be touting the new "disaster" of post-war chaos. The refrain of "losing the peace after winning the war" will be deafening. But those chanting the new mantra are chanting it for the same reasons they chanted the anti-war mantra. They were wrong then. They're wrong now.

Didn't stop him from writing:
All the signs are pointing to a serious screw-up. Patience is one thing. But the reporting from the country, including this devastating account from a pro-war writer, suggests that the state of affairs there is spiraling out of control. Even if the voters won't punish Bush for finding no WMDs, they sure as hell will hold him responsible if Iraq collapses into chaos or civil war.

I don't think most Americans feel the president lied his way into war. He didn't. But his post-war strategy both in Iraq and at home has been dismal. Rummy's intransigence over the need for real troop support after the war created a security vacuum from which Iraq is still reeling. Rove's strategy of egregiously milking military victory for short-term political gain gave the impression that everything was over, done with, finished. So when conflict continued - as anyone who noticed the melting away of the Republican Guards would have predicted - it looked as if Bush was not in control.

And yet it wasn't because of a lack of effort:
Obviously, money isn't enough - cultural, social and ethnic factors may well be more critical in determining Iraq's possible emergence into the civilized democratic world. But no one can claim the Bush administration isn't committing enough resources.

"Chaos" is a cliche used by anti-war partisans; Iraq is in chaos. It's the press and the "naysayers" who would have us change ourpolicy in Iraq; our policy is flawed. Things are going well; perhaps we can avoid disaster.

And so on. Sullivan is Winston Smith, yet also his own Big Brother.

It's not that Sullivan isn't capable of touching on the truth; it's that his relationship to the truth is like a moth's relationship to a lightbulb. Battered and no wiser, Sullivan blogs on, growing ever more frantic. His ravings and wild oscillations are outside the realm of foreign policy discussion. They belong to the psychologist.

Speaking of psychology, SullyWatch has long argued that the concept of projection is essential to understanding Sullivan. A textbook case, in fact:
A defense mechanism in which the individual attributes to other people impulses and traits that he himself has but cannot accept. It is especially likely to occur when the person lacks insight into his own impulses and traits.

Consider this take by the poor sick fool on Wesley Clark:
This is getting dizzying. See from this FAIR report, how many positions Wesley Clark has had on the Iraq war over the last twelve months. He changes his mind every five minutes. How can an anti-war candidate have been so pro-war at times? How can a man running against president Bush on the war have said so many laudatory things about the way Bush coordinated the conflict?

Dizzying, yes?

His response to the President's press conference was not the most common one:
I've just watched the press conference later on C-SPAN. Not only was the transcript encouraging. I found the president clear, forceful, impassioned, determined, real. This was not an average performance. I found it Bush at his best. He needs to do it more.

I'll leave aside the merits of Bush's presentation. De gustibus and all that.
It is striking, however, that Sullivan gave Bush high marks but did not comment on the question that stayed with most other viewers:
One of the biggest criticisms of you is that whether it's WMD in Iraq, postwar planning in Iraq, or even the question of whether this administration did enough to ward off 9/11, you never admit a mistake. Is that a fair criticism? And do you believe there were any errors in judgment that you made related to any of those topics I brought up?

Bush's answer was, well, a Bush answer. It makes sense that Sullivan would defend a president so incapable of admitting error. 
Monday, April 12, 2004
  Three Czech journalists in Iraq are missing and at least two of them are believed kidnapped, officials said Monday.

Czech Television lost all contact with reporter Martin Kubal and cameraman Petr Klima on Monday morning, and unconfirmed reports indicated they were abducted while traveling from Baghdad to Amman, Jordan, said spokesman Martin Krafl.
A third reporter, Vit Pohanka, of Czech Radio, has been unaccounted for since Sunday, according to the head of the radio station's foreign desk, Jiri Hosek. Pohanka might have been traveling with the other two reporters, according to unconfirmed reports, Hosek said.

I will try to update this if anything else comes in. 
  "I shall link to it immediately-- in the name of freedom!"
Roger Simon, the popular blogger and mystery writer, has posted "a wakeup call for the blogosphere," in which he urges a greater awareness of the "fulcrum of Islamic fascism itself Iran."

Since Simon doesn't actually have any concrete suggestions about what we should do about Iran, there is nothing to criticize, or to agree with, in his views on Iran. I am also for freedom and against theocratic tyranny, so I guess Simon and I agree, but I don't think that's exactly what he's getting at.

But I must mention what I expect is a high-water mark of blogger triumphalism:
It is the job of the blogs—freelance, unfettered and (mostly) unpaid—to keep the focus on what’s really consequential, the future of civilization.

The tone of the post reminds me of that Tom Tomorrow cartoon a few months ago: "I'm waging war on the Islamo-fascists-- on my blog!" 
Sunday, April 11, 2004
  It's good to be rich
"The priveleges I have are vast. I've got all the money I could ever need. I mean, I'm not talking grandiose, but just to live like Elvis Presley on crack, all right?"
--Quentin Tarantino 
Saturday, April 10, 2004
  Easter Sunday
I never could figure out the connection between the rabbit and the eggs, to say nothing of how either could be tied in with the resurrection of Christ. Even as a kid it bothered me.

Evidently, I'm not the only one:
It may not have been as gruesome as Mel Gibson's movie, but many parents and children got upset when a church trying to teach about Jesus' crucifixion performed an Easter show with actors whipping the Easter bunny and breaking eggs.
People who attended Saturday's show at Glassport's memorial stadium quoted performers as saying, "There is no Easter bunny," and described the show as being a demonstration of how Jesus was crucified.

Ah, Easter in Mel Gibson's America.

I was raised by Czech parents, so it goes almost without saying that I did not have a religious upbringing. Easter was a holiday with chocolate; it was self-justifying. It's great significance was that I'd made it to the home stretch of the school year and was almost to summer vacation. What did it matter that the symbol, the avatar, of the holiday was a giant white rabbit, often with pink highlights?

It was perfectly clear, even to the dimmest child, that the Easter Bunny, or Peter Cottontail, was pretty lame. Couldn't even be compared to that brash, suave, and wascally American icon Bugs Bunny. Bugs would be too disgusted by Cottontail to even bother to screw with the cheerful little simp.

The other animated rabbits I knew, the ones from the movie version of Watership Down, would have, quite literally, torn the Easter Bunny a new asshole.
(Does anyone remember that movie? Some fairly shocking violence; some of the images still linger in my mind 25 years later. The bloody imagery comes from the book, but still remarkable that kids saw screaming rabbits get their throats torn out in what they and their parents must have assumed would be a cartoon about bunnies. I loved the movie myself.)

While I have little in common with the Pennsylvania religious fanatics who went medieval on the Easter Bunny, this story does make a certain case for battering people in giant rabbit suits:
"Hi, Easter bunny!"
T.J. Morrow, aka the Easter Bunny, was mischievously peeking around a tree in the backyard of Bay Park Early Learning Center in San Diego on Friday morning when his audience of about 30 children spotted him.
"I can't hear you!" Morrow teased as he walked in front of them and prepared to perform his magic show.

I like this line later:
Stepping into his seven-year-old white bunny suit, Morrow begins a quick transformation from mortal to mythical figure, complete with clown shoes, white gloves and a big pink bow tie.

I hope that whatever the author of this piece did to piss-off his editor enough to get assigned to the Easter-Bunny beat, it was worth it.

And, while not myself religious, I would like to think that the creator of the header "Hip-hop artist: Easter Bunny has rabbit following" will face some kind of terrible judgement beyond the grave.

Tak, Vesele Velikonoce!

ALSO: Sadly, No! passes on Mel Gibson's Cassoulet Lapin au Romarin recipe
  Andrew Sullivan. Yes, again, damnit.
I was sort of trying to be clever when I referenced the old saw that "every cloud has a silver lining"; I didn't think that anyone would be so trite as to use the phrase without irony. But no cliche is below Sullivan anymore. His new post, "THE SILVER LINING":
I'm going to be writing more about the positive possibilities that are now opening up in Iraq.
What we need in Iraq are future leaders, who have real followings, and can deliver them in a political process.

This is as vague as it is obvious. Let's hope that we-- and the Iraqis-- get them. But is there any reason to think that those leaders are likely to emerge any time soon? Is there any earthly reason to suppose that the fighting taking place is going to make pro-American leaders more likely to spring up?

Juan Cole notes:
There are rumors that many of the 25 Governing Council members have fled abroad, fearful of assassination because of their association with the Americans. The ones who are left appear on the verge of resigning.

This is consistent with news reports.
Sullivan then quotes, at length, an Iraqi blogger in Baghdad who echoes some of his own views. I won't go into his take on the situation; being there, he has a right to an opinion in a way that Sullivan and I don't.

But there are other bloggers in Iraq. Sullivan has quoted several of them before. Let's see what one of them has to say:

A whole year has passed now and I can't help but feel that we are back at the starting point again. The sense of an impending disaster, the ominous silence, the breakdown of most governmental facilities, the absence of any police or security forces, contradicting news reports, rumours everywhere, and a complete disruption in the flow of everyday life chores.
All signs indicate that it's all spiralling out of control, and any statements by CPA and US officials suggesting otherwise are blatantly absurd.

Healing Iraq

The issue isn't which of the Iraqi bloggers you should believe. The question is why does Sullivan only link to the one, written, as Sullivan notes "in not terrific English," that shares his own incredible optimism?

But even Sullivan isn't an optimist anymore:
[Iraq the Model's analysis is] one possible scenario. It's just as possible as the gleeful predictions of calamity now being broadcast far and wide by opponents of the war, like NPR and the BBC.
(my emphasis)

A safe and free Iraq is now "just as possible" as something like total disaster. A coin-flip, as it were.

For this we fought the war?

And, no, I'm not the least bit gleeful about this. Not at all
Friday, April 09, 2004
  Great Moments in Sports Journalism
I ran into Jagr and fellow Czech player Martin Straka at Kennywood. They had just arrived and had stopped by the Log Jammer. As Jagr watched people splash down the ride's final drop, his eyes widened.

A girl in her teens recognized him and begged him to go on the ride with him. No way, he said. He wouldn't budge. This big, strong pro athlete who played a rugged contact sport was absolutely terrified.

They didn't have anything like American thrill rides in the Czech Republic, he explained.

Perhaps his NHL experience has been a little too much like one of those rides.
  This is why she gets a gazillion hits a day:
Justice Scalia has been getting some flack about how a federal marshal demanded that reporters erase their tapes of the justice's speech. We feel this is unfair, especially in light of the extreme scrutiny the FCC is giving broadcasters these days: Scalia's speech was about the Constitution, and there's no way he could talk about that without admitting how much he loves to fuck with it.

On your knees! Bow down before Ana Marie Cox! 
  The Evolution of "Historical Perspective" on the War
Glenn Reynolds has a post today called "PERSPECTIVE"; many links all pointing out that the American casualties this week, while tragic, are insignificant in number compared to what we suffered in past wars:
Every death is a tragedy, every war a source of sadness. But when I see newspapers calling 12 deaths in a day "heavy casualties," I know that this war isn't anywhere close to the scale of past wars -- or of the war we're likely to see in the future if we falter in our efforts now.

The argument is facile, even ridiculous. "Heavy" is a relative term; the fighting is heavier than it has been in the previous months of the occupation, or even in the previous weeks. The number of casualties is heavier than one would hope for in a country that is supposed to be on its way to peace, security, and democracy.
It is proper to refer to heavy fighting this week in Iraq, no matter how many fell at Okinawa or Shiloh or the Battle of the Boyne.

This isn't the first time that certain parts of the blogosphere called for historical perspective on Iraq. In September, Instapundit was all over Michael Barone's comparison of the occupation of Iraq with the post-war chaos in Germany. Whenever anybody dug up a newspaper or magazine article about the problematic Allied administration of Germany or Japan, it got passed around the blogosphere.

Even Condoleezza Rice, months before she declared that there were no "silver bullets" that could have prevented 9/11, claimed that there were Werewolves in Germany.

I argued, several times, that the comparison was flawed and misleading.

It's a year in. You don't see a whole lot of bloggers comparing Iraq in 2004 to Germany in the spring of '46, a year after World War II anymore, for reasons that are, I trust, all too obvious.
But never mind that now. If you buy the analogy, then an unavoidable conclusion follows: we're moving in the wrong damn direction.

In six months, Reynolds and other defenders of the occupation have gone from making comparisons between post-war occupation strategies during peace to making comparisons between the number of combat casualties.
What else do we need to know about the success of the occupation?

Can I get an "indeed" from someone? 
  Havel Won't be in Washington
Former Czech President Vaclav Havel has postponed a planned visit of several months in the United States because of ill health, his aide said Thursday.

Havel was scheduled to leave this month, but because he only recently recovered from a bout of bronchitis, the trip was delayed at his doctors' recommendation, aide Jakub Hladik said. Hladik said it took Havel until last week to recover from bronchitis he developed in January, forcing him to cut short a trip to Asia, and that doctors didn't want to put him at risk.
It was not immediately clear when Havel will leave for the United States. Hladik said the timing of the trip would depend on his condition.
  The Italians Are Coming:
Deputy Industry Minister Adolfo Urso has indicated that CESKY TELECOM, which has monopoly over the Czech telephone system, CEZ, the state electricity company which ENEL has shown an interest in, UNIPETROL, the major power company and CSA, the state airline, as well as companies managing the major coal mines in the country, "are the main privatisations in the Czech Republic for which Italian companies can bid thanks to their know how and competence in the areas". Urso is responsible for Foreign Trade and judges in a positive way the effects of the extension of the European Union to the east and including the Czech Republic.

Everything but beer and banks, it seems.
  The Baltimore Sun has appointed a "public editor"-- or ombudsman.
[Paul] Moore, 53, begins his new role May 3. He will write a regular column that critiques the newspaper and the industry, listen to readers' concerns and speak to the public on how and why the newspaper makes its decisions. He will also be involved in newsroom education focusing on ethics and values.
Moore said he will be a "reporter inside the paper" attempting to "demystify" its workings for readers.

First question: why do hacks like Susan Reimer and Kevin Cowherd have jobs?

Alas, probably not going to see that:
"It's not intended to be a forum for justification, where we justify what we do. Explain yes, justify no," Moore said of his new job.  
Thursday, April 08, 2004
  If they don't break 10% with this...
If black or ethnic voters want to know what George W. Bush has done for them, here's the answer: lots of pictures of black people on his web site. Actually, all of the pictures on the photo gallery on the "Compassion" page feature what Republicans do not usually refer to as "people of color."
(Thanks to Jeff Morrow
  One Man's Flypaper Is Another Man's "terrorist Disneyland."

Andrew Sullivan wrote today:
Like all of you, I have been trying to make sense of the various reports emerging from Iraq about the escalating violence there. There's no point in attempting to ignore this or spin it away.

He then goes on to spin:
In some ways, it seems clear to me that the Sunni hold-outs and the Sadrists were always going to be trouble. Better that they play their card now than after the handover of sovereignty.

So it's a good thing! Sullivan is too bright to be that blunt-- note the "in some ways." But I dealt with that meme yesterday.

So he calls for continuing, even intensifying the war effort. What's the downside?

The enormous risk, of course, is that such a strategy could actually alienate the mainstream Shiites and make a rational transition to democracy essentially impossible. This is what Sadr is banking on: that the pathologies of the Middle East can be inflamed sufficiently to destroy any semblance of what might be thought of as modern or representative government. (I'm waiting for the first moron to start calling this violence an Iraqi intifada.) The anti-war movement in the West, which has long believed that the Arabs are incapable of representative self-government, will say this proves the entire enterprise is misguided.

Pay attention to what Sullivan does here. He notes that the policy he is proposing, and has proposed since 9/11, may eliminate any possibility of a liberal and humane government emerging in Iraq. He then drops the topic. He doen't offer any hint of how we can avoid dire outcome. Still less does he address the important question of what we'll do if it comes to pass that democracy in Iraq is impossible-- what exit strategy then?

Instead, Sullivan attacks the anti-war left for racism because they doubted-- for reasons that had nothing to do with race or culture-- that the war would bring a liberal and humane government to the people of Iraq. The anti-war left is to be blamed, in other words, for anticipating the exact scenario that Sullivan now contemplates.

But, remember, no spinning. This isn't the time for that.

I should probably take a break from attacking Sullivan as I've done this last week. We need answers to our situation in Iraq far more than we need anger at the optimistic fools who led us there. If I had any answers, I'd certainly give them, but I don't have any, anymore than Sully does. At least I won't blather on and make references to Hobbes and try to save face.

Perhaps Iraq-- and some better future for its people-- can still be salvaged. I hope so. I would like nothing better than to admit that I have been wrong, and owe Sullivan and others my apologies.

What do you suppose it would take to get Sullivan to admit that he has been wrong? Not just on Iraq, but on anything of significance-- what would it take? 
  I want Condi, I want Condi!

But she's testifyin' that the warning didn't come down.
Ain't no finer girl in town.
She's loyal and bland, just what the Preznit ordered
So sweet, she makes his mouth water.

We want Condi, We want Condi!

--Sadly, No!
  Prognosis vs. The Prague Post: Year 13
Nicmoc reports:
Lisa Frankenberg writes in her reflections on Alan Levy: "Alan came by the Prognosis office to offer his services, but he was rebuffed by callow editors as 'too old and not our style.' I was flabergasted that anyone would turn away such a gifted writer and I expressed my apoligies to Alan. A couple of months later, I left Prognosis with the vision of starting an English-language weekly newspaper..."

I don't buy this story for one damn moment.*

Here's the link to the story in the Post.
The full sentence that Nicmoc ended with ellipses reads:
A couple of months later, I left Prognosis with the vision of starting an English-language weekly newspaper called The Prague Post that would be more serious and professional.

Using an obituary to dis a paper that she left over a decade ago...Christ. That's just pathetic.

Revealing, in a way that I'm sure that Frankenberg did not intend, is this anecdote:
Perhaps because of the age difference, others often assumed erroneously that I worked for Alan. Sometimes this created friction between us, but it was always temporary. He continued to freelance along with his job as editor-in-chief and once wrote an article for the American Airlines in-flight magazine where he referred to me as his "child boss." I was furious and Alan apologized, but he said he knew it made for great reading. That was Alan.

Perhaps the phrase Levy should have used was "childish boss."

Instead, after trudging up the 111 steps to our newly rented offices just off Old Town Square and listening to the beginning of my spiel about the new paper I wanted to start, he interrupted to proclaim, "I would give anything to be your editor-in-chief!"

Alan Levy, The Prague Post, 9/29/99:
Fifteen minutes into our meeting, Kent [Hawryluk] and Lisa asked my advice. We have enough financing to guarantee the first year and there's plenty of talent right here on the ground in Prague that's ready to work for us, Lisa told me, all optimism. But Kent added cautiously: We could launch on Oct. 1 if it weren't for one element that's missing. To get a newspaper off the ground, we need an experienced editor-in-chief and we were wondering if you had any recommendations. We're looking for an older person - in his or her thirties, perhaps. ... I held my tongue and just asked a few questions about salary and conditions. Then I said: If you could improve the pay [in Czechoslovak crowns] by about 50 percent and include a piece of the action [a share of the proceeds, if any], I'd be your first applicant.

Matt Welch has a comment below and a post on his website that makes clear that Levy's meeting with the Prognosis editors was a bit more complicated than it is in Frankenberg's telling of it-- or in my instant and uninformed reaction to her story. 
Wednesday, April 07, 2004
  Peter Coors Runs for Senate
From the people who gave you Zima, among other things
  The Fog of War
After the midday call to prayer, chants continued to emanate from minarets, calling on God to protect Fallujah and end the fighting. Iraqi translators working for the Marines here said the chants called on residents to be patient and stay home, but some Arabic-speaking journalists said they had called for holy war against the American invaders.
Washington Post 
  "An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup."
H. L. Mencken 
  A silver lining means that it's going to fucking rain
The news from Iraq isn't getting better. I don't think that's a particularly controversial statement. But for some, the glass is half-full. Always and forever half-full.
It was Andrew Sullivan (I can quit any time I want to) who, I think, started this peculiar interpretation of recent events:
No, this is not a quagmire. It's the brightest opportunity for real change in the world since the end of the Cold War. We have to seize it.

I noted that line when I first read the post, but let it pass because I couldn't quite bring myself to believe that he was saying that this was the world's "brightest opportunity" because of the outbreak of violence that was the subject of his post. I decided that it was just a statement of resolve or something that got away from him into hyperbole. And maybe that's all that it was.

But then I saw Reynolds' (who also quoted Sullivan's post) take on the situation at Instapundit. In a long post, he quotes several e-mails from his readers arguing that the uprising in Iraq is, if not the best of all possible outcomes, pretty close:
Look, this latest series of events in Iraq are a good thing. If that statement surprises you (which I suspect it does), then you really need to get in front of this subject.
Let me back into this for you: We invaded and occupied Iraq with a loss of American life roughly equivalent to the city of Chicago's annual murder count. That is far too low considering the accomplishment. It has been so low precisely because we deferred some of the major combat. We are now having to engage in that combat, and that is unfortunate, but it is far better that we do so now than allow it to happen later.

Reynolds' correspondent concluded:
...being able to thin the Iraqi gene pool of these knobs before the handover is a good thing.
Nobody wants to come back later and "finish the job" yet again, right?

Another Instapundit reader chimed in:
...to have deliberately brought on last-ditch mayhem from extremists while full troop strength would be present - rather than a year from now - is a brilliantly calculated risk. Al-Sadr, particularly, was basically handed the brush to paint himself with crosshairs.

Reynolds also quoted Jonah Goldberg of NRO, who was more equivocal:
I don't know that much about all of this but I bet you I'm right when I say this is all a big deal, but not that big. And, it may prove to be good news or bad. If Sadr's forces are smashed and arrested, that could result in a worse climate or a better one. It's just too soon to tell.

Thanks for clearing that up, big guy!

And then, just now, I read Michael Totten's latest:
These people are idiots. They are minority factions disliked by the majority. Now they’re going to get themselves killed and conveniently remove themselves from the scene. To paraphrase Christopher Hitchens, if they want to be martyrs, we’re here to help.

Does the name Custer ring any bells for y'all?
Evidently not.

It goes without saying that I would like nothing more than for the people I've quoted to be right. I would love to believe that things have gotten so dark only because the sun is about to pop up over the Middle East.

But I don't.

I've done a post or two on the Marines being deployed to Iraq and how they were planning to use a lighter touch with the Iraqi population than the Army's approach.
I had high hopes that the Marines, as good as they are in a fight, would be able to employ tactics that would lower the tensions.

Perhaps this uprising can be quelled quickly, and some progress can be made. But it appears that the Marine's plan to win the "hearts and minds" is another idea that wasn't equal to the situation in Iraq.

UPDATE: Sullivan really did mean that. Or not. I'll admit that I don't understand this:
I feel it's necessary for me to write something about what's going on in Iraq but this is also one of those moments when the reality is so opaque and events so fluid that it's hard to know what to say. I'm not ducking this. It looks both terrible and also an opportunity. Better these tnesions flare now than later. But the flaring could also become a wildfire. More tonight when the facts are clearer.

"It's hard to know what to say," is the only clear idea in the graf. It's a terrible oppportunity that he will understand when the facts become clearer, which Sullivan expects to happen in the next seven or eight hours.
Perhaps he'll spend the time studying entrails, or CNN, to try to come up with something coherent.
But the situation is "opaque." How novel.
Things were so clear to him for so long as he beat the war-drums, but now that we are in the war, he's not sure what's going on. Needs to think a bit.

Now he tells us. 
"historical, FYI, trivia-for-the-hell-of-it backfill"

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  • Condi on Werewolves
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