Monday, February 28, 2005


From Newsweek:

It was meant to be a heart-to-heart: just the two presidents and their translators, sitting alone inside the historic castle that overlooks the Slovak capital of Bratislava. Four years earlier, in another castle in Central Europe, George W. Bush looked Vladimir Putin in the eye and saw his trustworthy soul. But what he saw inside Putin last week was far less comforting. When Bush confronted his Russian counterpart about the freedom of the press in Russia, Putin shot back with an attack of his own: "We didn't criticize you when you fired those reporters at CBS."

Bush wishes. No, I mean it, he really wishes.


- Chris Rock was tame, which I personally found offensive. You could almost see the internal battle being waged between ambitious, hardworking player Rock, who knew that a credible hosting job would solidify his Hollywood A-List credentials, and old school attack-comic Rock, straining to puncture the pomposity of the thing. Now it's over and Rock can go back to being America's greatest working comedian.

- Thank god that Leonardo DiCaprio didn't win. But it's only a matter of time.

- Julia Roberts is neither as sexy nor as talented as everyone seems to think she is.

- I've seen too few movies this year.

- Charlie Kaufmann won, proving there is some measure of justice in the universe. Of all the movies I did see this year, "Eternal Sunshine..." was easily the best.

- I'm not familiar enough with the other nominated scores to say that Thomas Newman was robbed, but I think he is the most consistently interesting film composer around.

- Sidney Lumet: Word. Al Pacino probably should've had someone wake him from his nap more than five minutes before he had to present, though.

- Best bit of the night: An obviously drunk and/or medicated Dustin Hoffman presenting the Best Picture Award with handler Barbra Streisand. Awesome.

- For next year: have drunken Dustin Hoffman host the entire show.

Saturday, February 26, 2005


Glenn Reynolds is caught. Here he is blatantly misrepresenting the view of the New Yorker's Rik Hertzberg in an attempt to demonstrate the reasonableness of his own belief that the GuckertGannon story is a non-story:

Actually, I have blogged about Gannon/Guckert quite a few times, as a simple search would illustrate. But I agree with Rik Hertzberg that it's a nothinggate.

Okay, let's see what Hertzberg actually wrote:

One might imagine that all of this had the makings of an old-fashioned, months-long, television-friendly Washington scandal—not as important, obviously, as, say, the Iran-contra affair of the nineteen-eighties, but more so than, say, the flap about the dismissal of several employees of the White House travel office in 1993. One would probably be wrong. The non-Fox cable news outlets began to pick up on it last week; MSNBC even assayed a special logo, “Gannongate.” A better name for it, though, would be “Nothinggate,” because nothing is what is likely to come of it. What all the memorable scandals of the past thirty years—real and fake alike, from Watergate to the Clinton impeachment—have had in common is that the opposition party controlled at least one house of Congress, which gave it the power to hold hearings and issue subpoenas. If Bush ends up having an easier time of it in his second term than any of his two-term predecessors since F.D.R., it won’t be because the scandals aren’t there. It’ll be because the tools to excavate them are under lock and key.

It's quite obvious that Hertzberg thinks it will turn out to be a "nothinggate" not because there's nothing there, which is what Reynolds clearly implies, but because the Democrats have no power to hold hearings or otherwise mount a significant investigation into the matter. Let's wait and see if Reynolds makes a correction.

And then there's this trash from Andrew Sullivan:

The real scandal is the blatant use of homophobic rhetoric by the self-appointed Savonarolas of homo-left-wingery. It's an Animal Farm moment: the difference between a fanatic on the gay left and a fanatic on the religious right is harder and harder to discern. Just ask yourself: if a Catholic conservative blogger had found out that a liberal-leaning pseudo-pundit/reporter was a gay sex worker, had outed the guy as gay and a "hooker," published pictures of the guy naked, and demanded a response from a Democratic administration, do you think gay rights groups would be silent? They'd rightly be outraged. But the left can get away with anything, can't they? Especially homophobia.

Oh good lord. Savonarola? Animal Farm? Homo-left-wingery? Blogging while drunk again? (What the fuck, by the way, is homo-left-wingery?) I'm not aware of, nor has Sullivan provided examples of, any lefty or liberal bloggers who have used homophobic language in discussing the GuckertGannon story. I certainly don't have any problem, and I suspect my fellow liberals don't either, with a fella making money selling his hot military bod on the internet. That's the sort of entrepeneurial spirit that made this country great. The reason why this guy's man-whoring is significant, and I really have a hard time believing that Sullivan doesn't get this, is that it's just way too damn precious that a journalist from a right-wing astroturf news organization, who has been prostituting his services to an administration and party which has a record of exploiting anti-gay bigotry for political advantage, turns out to have actually been a gay prostitute. I mean, is that not just beautiful? It's also very hard to take Sullivan's indignation seriously as he condemns lefty bloggers for "publish[ing] pictures of the guy naked"! Sullivan knows that those pictures were already published, they were on the internet, so maybe he could spare us his Victorian vapors.

Sullivan is probably right, though, that the situation would be different if the tables were turned and a conservative blogger had outed (I question whether "outed" is the correct term, given that this guy was publicly advertising his services on the internet) a former gay prostitute who had been working for a liberal front group and who had been placed in the WH press room specifically to ask softball questions. If that were the case, I doubt you'd have to look very hard to find real homophobia, as opposed to the undercurrent which Sullivan imagines. No, the conservative response to such a story would be a torrent of anti-gay invective, and declarations by Republican after Republican on the floors of the House and Senate that the Democratic Party hates regular American values. William Bennett would be fogging up the talk shows for months. John Derbyshire would insist that gay journalists be made to wear indentifying badges to protect the children. Ann Coulter would write a book with footnotes. Michelle Malkin would get a new perm. And it would be left to others to point out that the real story wasn't the gay hooking, it was that a pseudo-journalist, working for a liberal front group, had been placed in the WH press room specifically to ask softball questions. That's the real story, just as it is now. But, I'm sorry, no matter how you cut it, a former gay prostitute shilling for a liberal administration just isn't as darkly comical as a former gay prostitute shilling for a conservative one. Is that fair? Not particularly, no, but it's a direct consequence of being a party united around writing anti-gay bigotry into law.

AmericaBlog has been mining this story and pretty much owns it. No, it's not Watergate, or IranContra, but it's at least as significant as the majority of bullshit investigations with which the GOP Congress kept Bill Clinton tied up for most of his presidency. And it's also yet another example in a general pattern of mendacity by the Bush gang, typical of the sort of creation of false reality which this administration has raised to an art form.

Friday, February 25, 2005


Have you discovered Discover the Network yet? It's quite a joy, if you derive joy from the hallucinations of stark raving batshit insane neo-McCarthyite David Horowitz, who continues to labor under the delusion that everyone to his political left hates America as much as he used to. Oh look, there's B.J. Honeycutt right next to Mohammed Atta! There's al-Zarqawi right above The Boss! Didn't you know that they were part of a "network"?

Right. This is possibly the most stomach-turningly slanderous thing I've seen yet from the War Party, but it's useful in that we finally have a clear and undeniable picture of the conservative style, which is to contend that anyone who is critical of the U.S. and/or Israel is undifferentiated from those who actually plot and commit terrorism.

These kinds of attacks from the Right, and they are more and more frequent, always present liberals with a quandary. To ignore this pseudo-fascist bullshit would cause its authors to insist to a nodding Fox News head that they're "obviously on to something," while criticizing or otherwise engaging with it would assign it credibility which it clearly doesn't deserve. In any case, Michael Berube correctly points out that crap like this isn't meant to argue any particular point or to engage in reasoned debate, only to intimidate and to slander.

Also, I didn't notice any bloggers on the Enemies List. What's up with that, Dave?

Thursday, February 24, 2005


Posted by Hello

For those interested in sending gifts, the couple is registered at Crate & Barrel and Lockheed Martin.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005


Reading Michelle Goldberg's article about this year's CPAC conference, the premier venue for stark raving wingnuttery, it occurs to me that liberals and progressives have no comparable event that I'm aware of. Why is this? Surely we've got enough batshit insane activists on our side to fill a convention center for a couple of days?

Tuesday, February 22, 2005


It's good news that Palestinian MPs are demanding a break from the corruption and cronyism of Arafat's Palestinian Authority, but one sentence in the BBC report jumped out at me for some reason:

Correspondents say Arafat was known for picking his cabinet on the basis of candidates' loyalty rather than their competence.

Sounds like a President I know...


Right on time, National Review posts a pathetic "good riddance" piece on Hunter S. Thompson. Demonstrating once again the pop culture tone-deafness that has endeared NR to cranky old rich white men everywhere, the poor writer brought in to do the hack job couldn't even get Thompson's motto correct. The correct quote is "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro."

Somewhat surprisingly, Tom Wolfe turns in one of the best obituaries for Thompson that I've read, nominating him as "the century's greatest comic writer in the English language."

Steve Gilliard also has an excellent commentary on Thompson, his significance in modern journalism, and how Thompson's work relates to the blog phenomenon.


A report from occupied Palestine, via Electronic Intifada.

Monday, February 21, 2005


A couple of interesting posts from Marshall Whittman and Matt Yglesias on Bill Clinton's legacy.

Contrary to the current conventional wisdom, Clinton also had a philosophy of government. In short, it was the modernization of liberalism or - progressivism for a conservative country. Through innovative initiatives such as the EITC, welfare reform and Americorps, Clinton employed reformed governmental means for progressive ends. As the Moose can attest, by 1997, Republicans were frustrated that they had no means to counter this "Third Way."

Then came Monica and impeachment. Clinton lost all momentum and was forced to rely on the left of the party to defend against the forces of impeachment. Unlike Tony Blair, Clinton was not able to transform his party.

I think Bill Clinton did, to some extent, transform his party, but much of that transformation was dependant on the force of his own personality, and unlike Reagan Clinton's successor didn't win election and thus didn't have a chance to consolidate those changes. And even during the 2000 campaign, Gore seemed to run from Clinton's personality as much as he ran on the successes of Clinton's presidency.

The real question that both Whittman and Yglesias are getting at is whether or not Clinton left his party better off. My answer is that he left his party very well off for the future most of us imagined in January 2001, but not for the post-9/11 future. He left office with the Democratic Party prepared to do battle over the environment, over entitlements, and over abortion, but not over national security.

I guess Clinton assumed that things would continue as they were, that international terrorism would continue to be dealt with as essentially a police matter, and that the Democrats could continue to keep national security on the backburner. But given the intelligence he was privy to and the knowledge of the gathering al Qaeda threat, I don't think it's unreasonable to think that he might have taken more significant steps to gird the Democrats for eventual battle on the national security front.


Via the Arabist Network, a new English language publication out of Cairo.


Several good articles on Israeli West Bank "outposts" (future settlements) over at Bitterlemons.

Sunday, February 20, 2005


Shit. This sucks in a lot of ways. Sucks that he's gone, sucks that he went out like that, and sucks that the usual social conservative finger-waggers will try and make the tragic death of this monumental goddam artist into a morality tale about drugs and the 60s.

Hunter S. Thompson was a brilliant reporter and observer of America and Americans. I'm sure this will be well recognized over the next few days, but it's worth mentioning here: he invented a new journalistic language, delivered some of the funniest, most astute political commentary ever put on paper, and brooked no bullshit from anyone. Also, he was a damn skilled writer. Anyone who tries to tell you that it was just a lot of drugs and weirdness with him is full of crap. He had serious game. Along with a hell of a lot of drugs and weirdness.

One of the things that always struck me about Thompson's work was that he was never quite able to conceal how much he loved this country, even though it broke his heart every day, even as he slogged year after year through the mendacity and corruption of the men who ran it. From Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72:

The tragedy of all this is that George McGovern, for all his mistakes and all his imprecise talk about "new politics" and "honesty in government," is one of the few men who've run for President of the United States in this century who really understands what a fantastic monument to all the best instincts of the human race this country might have been, if we could have kept it out of the hands of greedy little hustlers like Richard Nixon.

McGovern made some stupid mistakes, but in context they seem almost frivolous compared to the things Richard Nixon does every day of his life, on purpose, as a matter of policy and a perfect expression of everything he stands for.

Jesus! Where will it end? How low do you have to stoop in this country to be President?


Tuesday, February 15, 2005


Douglas Kern really deserves some sort of "special kind of dumb" award for this item at TCS:

The problem isn't chickenhawks -- people who support the war but never served in the military, and probably never will.

The problem is stateside armchair philosophers who oppose military action and military policy, even though they never served in the military. The problem is anti-war punditry from intellectuals who think that an IED is a contraceptive and couldn't tell the difference between bounding overwatch and watching Baywatch. The problem is intellectuals who think their education and politically-correct ideology lets them know what the military needs -- better than the military knows it.

The problem is chickendoves.

Oh, come now. The idea that it is people who opposedthe war who are the real problem, whether or not they served or whether or not they happen to ignorant of military jargon, is just fantastically silly. Funny thing, though, you could change Kern's paragraph just slightly and come up with a substantial reason why Iraq is such a mess:

The problem is stateside armchair philosophers [and members of the Bush administration] who [support] military action and military policy, even though they never served in the military. The problem is [pro]-war punditry from intellectuals who think that an IED is a contraceptive and couldn't tell the difference between bounding overwatch and watching Baywatch. The problem is intellectuals who think their education and [stark-raving nationalist] ideology lets them know what the military needs -- better than the military knows it.

That is what brought us to where we are: ideologically driven war planners who refused to listen to the advice of military experts, scholars, and diplomats, many of whom were war supporters themselves, who insisted that troop levels needed to be higher that a post-war plan needed to, well, exist, and that a general familiarity with the realities of Iraqi tribalism and nationalism might help matters.

That aside, I've never been too impressed with the "chickenhawk" argument myself, especially when it's used to disparage anyone supported the Iraq war. The idea that military service should be a prerequisite for any citizen to express support for any military action is, of course, stupid on its face. The chickenhawk charge is rather more pertinent when leveled against people like Tom Delay, Dick Cheney, and George W. Bush, all of whom claim to have supported the Vietnam War while at the same time doing everything they could to avoid the combat draft, content to let poorer, less-well connected kids go off and fight and die in their place.

Currently, the chickenhawk issue has come up again as a result of the Juan Cole- Jonah Goldberg spat, in which Cole charged, among other things, that Goldberg should enlist to fight in Iraq since he was a vocal supporter of the war. I actually thought that was the weakest part of Cole's response, which otherwise largely succeeded in revealing Goldberg for the smug, ignorant, over-privileged buffoon he is. But I don't think the chickenhawk charge really means much when applied to someone like Goldberg. And there are more than enough legtimate reasons to dislike him and the other right-wing goofballs.

Friday, February 11, 2005

JUST DOING MY PART... keep this whole Guckert/Gannon ball rolling. Rigorous Intuition (via Metafilter)has some interesting related details.

It's amazing to me how the press can work as a single unit in missing the point entirely, as the Poor Man illustrates. Note to Howard Kurtz: You're a very silly man.

Interviewer: Good evening. I have with me in the studio tonight one of the country's leading skin specialists - Raymond Luxury Yacht.
Raymond: That's not my name.
Interviewer: I'm sorry - Raymond Luxury Yach-t.
Raymond: No, no, no - it's spelt Raymond Luxury Yach-t, but it's pronounced 'Throatwobbler Mangrove'.
Interviewer: You're a very silly man and I'm not going to interview you.
Raymond: Ah, anti-semitism!
Interviewer: Not at all. It's not even a proper nose. (takes it off) It's polystyrene.
Raymond: Give me my nose back.
Interviewer: You can collect it at reception. Now go away.
Raymond: I want to be on the television.
Interviewer: Well you can't.


Michael Tomasky has a good article in the American Prospect on the situation of American liberals, asking the salient question: What constitutes necessary rethinking, and what constitutes selling out?

One of the Democratic Party’s biggest problems these days is that people don’t know what they stand for, and just standing for something -- anything! -- is better than always appearing to be backtracking, soft-pedaling, trying to prove they’re just as tough or patriotic as Republicans. It’s a pathetic thing to watch. And here’s one point on which I want to be very clear: Self-examination does not mean inevitably moving to the middle. Adopting a centrist pose can be every bit as knee-jerk and shallow as insisting that nothing’s changed since 1974, and it can be even more debilitating politically than going (or staying) left.

But the historical analogy to the 1960s conservatives breaks down here. In 1964, conservatism was not in the position that liberalism is in today. Conservatism at that point had never been the country’s reigning ideology for a long period of time. Of course, the America of the 1920s, and of the 19th century, was a very conservative country by today’s standards. But in those days, conservatism wasn’t yet an ideology in the way it became in the 1950s, under the leadership of people like William F. Buckley Jr. and others. Movement conservatism of the sort that nominated Barry Goldwater and elected Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush didn’t really exist until the postwar period.

In other words, the conservatives of the 1960s had never been in power. So they didn’t have a legacy to contemplate, because they hadn’t been in the position to make one.

This is the latest salvo in the "where do we go from here?" conversation that liberals desperately need to have, and which I'm surprised is moving so slowly. Hopefully people won't take Tomasky's could-be-construed-as-less-than-favorable mention of Michael Moore and use it as an excuse to brand him a traitor.


An interview with Khalil Shikaki of the Palestinian Center for Survey and Policy Research.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

JIMMY SMITH, 1925-2005

One by one, the giants leave us...

Saturday, February 05, 2005


Thank you, Al Gore, for inventing the internet, otherwise I might never have been able to see Jonah Goldberg get his ignorant ass handed to him by Juan Cole.

Friday, February 04, 2005



LONDON (Reuters) - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice began her first foreign tour as America's top diplomat with a double-edged pledge Friday that Washington had no immediate plans to attack Iran.

"The question is simply not on the agenda at this point -- we have diplomatic means to do this," she said when asked if Washington was considering military action to force compliance from Tehran on its nuclear program.

Translation: we have not yet decided upon a firm date for the bombing. When we do, Condi will put a frowny face there on her Palm Pilot.


I listened the SOTU while suffering a fever of 103.9, which is probably not far from what Congressional Democrats were experiencing. The speech was the same jumble of economic slight of hand, freedom kitsch, and general mendacity as I've come to expect from this president, only this time was accompanied by strange visions and cool geometric patterns whenever I closed my eyes.

Regarding Bush's lies about Social Security (Daily Howler's got the goods), to state the obvious: at this point discussions of Bush's dishonesty take place only within liberal circles, as conservatives have decided once and for all that they like him, they like his agenda, and thus are fine with, and will even help to facilitate, any dishonesty deemed fit to see that agenda advanced.

And if anyone was wondering why the Democratic Party has been largely ineffective in countering the Republicans, look no farther than rebuttles like this one. I don't think Karl Rove could have written a more mealy-mouthed, meandering satire of a bloodless Democrat. As always, it's not that what Pelosi and Reid said isn't true, all of it is, and all of their critiques of Bush are completely sound, it's just that they (or their speechwriters) seem congenitally unable to weave those negative critiques into a narrative which is on the whole positive.

Above all, when it comes to the war on terror, Democrats are still refusing to walk onto the playing field, and essentially forfeiting the game to Republicans. Note to Democrats, your response should go something like this: "Yes, there's a war on terror. Yes, it is the defining conflict of our era. And here's why George W. Bush's plan for fighting it is dead wrong, and here's our better plan."

How many more elections will it take for Democrats to realize that national security is the issue?