FauxPolitik

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Wedding Etiquette: I went to this wedding last weekend down in Virginia, which was nice, because unlike 90% of the bloggers out there, I don't live in or around D.C. Anyway, I knew maybe 10 people out of the 150 present. The couple was in their mid-twenties, probably 2-3 years out of college.

In typical form, you had all the bridesmaids dancing with eachother (which is kind of cool, but was not VERY cool unfortunately - if you catch my drift, and I think you do) and the groom's buddies sitting a various tables, drinking, making lewd and loud comments to one another, amusing mostly themselves.

Then there are the obligatory group photos and events. The women all looked lovely and did their best to make their bride-friend look her best. Then the boys. They all hold their drinks and cigarettes fully in front, flashing gang signs (ummm, to be clear, they're all white preppy pretty boys), making more lewd and loud comments.

So to recap. Bunch of hot, apparently single (at least for the night) women looking pretty dancing with themselves. On the other side of the room, literally, we have a bunch of drunk, smelly, rude, posing boys (also all unaccompanied for the night), not dancing.

I may be in the minority, but I'm really happy I'm not twenty-something anymore. I felt like smacking each and every one of the doofuses and instructing them to march on over and at least try to pretend you're not 12 anymore at a middle-school dance. I don't know how women can deal with these guys.

Sorry, Henny. Wimpy Wimby: Well, as I said earlier, if he doesn't win the thing it's time to retire. There are only so many also-rans that the poor Isle can take. 9 years: 4 quarterfinals, 4 semi-finals. That's as good as he'll ever be. Take away his Wimby performances and you'll find hardly any such lofty finishes elsewhere.

He's telegenic (decent teeth), has a nice serve-and-volley game, and tries hard, but he doesn't have a boomer serve, can't nail the inside-out forehand consistently, and isn't super-fast. And he doesn't wear his hat backwards. Cheers Timmy. Time to hang 'em up.

Hillary for VP: Take it with a grain of salt, but I say bully for Kerry. At least it's bold. I've said, on numerous occasions, that picking yet another middle-aged white guy was ridiculous for a party that insists affirmative action is the summum bonum of social policy. It is only for so long that you can tell the blacks, the women, and the chicanos that you really really really are the party of diversity, and then run a ticket like Kerry/Gephardt.

Now, of course, picking VP material based on a quota is a ragingly stupid idea, but at least he's making the gesture -- gesture being the animating force of the modern Democratic party -- and VP is, after all, a nothing job (McCain's pithy description of the job: to inquire daily as to the health of the president).

I don't think it will happen -- too many possible negatives -- but I can't help but quote the top of the ticket on this:

Bring. It. On.

Drudge at it again: The guy has to love the Clintons, they made his career. So, here's some more speculation. I dunno, but it might just work.

See what happens when you try?: 'Member how I boldly predicted that Serena would win Wimby, but only if she seemed interested? Well, try this quote on for size from her remarks on roughing up J-Cap:
``I was really, really focused,'' Williams told the British Broadcasting Corp. ``Jen is an amazing fighter and I knew I couldn't let up on her at all. There are still things I want to work on, like enjoying myself most of all.''
J-Cap won 38% of her first-serve points; Serena: 76%. It's looking good for Serena.

On the mens, I think the seedings will hold and you'll see Federer, Roddick, Henman and Grosjean. If Hewitt was playing anyone other than the Swiss Swiper, I'd be hard-pressed to be so sure, but Federer is just playing out-of-this-world tennis. Put that guy on grass and watch out. A repeat champ would be nice.

More TNR: As usual, after shooting my mouth off I'm forced to qualify my remarks. TNR Online contributor Robert Lane Greene is one of the smartest analysts of international politics and policy, and he has a column on the current crisis in west Sudan, which has all the signs of being another Rwanda, about which all the "thoughtful" international leaders will sit around 10 years from now wondering earnestly why the world did nothing. (Of course, 10 years from now, those leaders will be pointing the finger over Darfur while some equal atrocity happens on thier watch. Nothing new under the sun.) Here's his kicker graf:
It's true that the deaths of tens of thousands of blacks in inaccessible regions of the world create far less urgency than one missing white girl in England or America. But a different kind of race-based relativism is also at work in the near-silence over Darfur. Dark-skinned victims count for less than whites, yes, but they count for less still if they are the victims of other dark-skinned people. It is often said that the reason we bombed Serbia but not Rwanda was because the victims in the Balkans were white, while the victims in Rwanda were black. But it is important to remember that the main perpetrators in the Balkans were also white (and, unlike their victims, Christian) and that the perpetrators in Rwanda were also black. You can be sure that if the Belgians or the Australians, or certainly the Americans or Israelis, were murdering, mutilating, and mass-raping tens of thousands of Africans, you wouldn't have the non-response we hear now over Darfur. Call it the "soft bigotry of low expectations."
I hate to give TNR ideas, but if they ever stop giving away the Greene column for free online, I'll renew my subscription.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

86'd: I just got off the phone to cancel my subscription to The New Republic. No, I'm not offended by anything they wrote. It's not a matter of protest. I just don't have time to read it anymore. But I used to make time for it. TNR used to be the go-to magazine for serious liberal thought, as opposed to the sort of crypto-marxist effluent that pours from the Nation or Mother Jones. It was well-written opinion, good analysis, and the last bastion of Democratic internationalism in the face of the loony ludditism and isolationism that dominates the peace movement, the anti-globalization goofs, and the enviromental absolutists. For those reasons, TNR was a compelling read. But things stand differently now.

On the war, TNR seems mostly cheesed that Bush has adopted (and the Democrats have criticized) a foreign policy with liberal goals. They cannot lay out Bush's international strategy without reminding us that Bush campaigned explicitly against nation building. Meanwhile, though they supported the war, they editorialize against the war itself as a mismanaged, misguided affair. (You'd think we bombed the Chinese embassy or something.) It's getting old.

As for politics, during the primaries, TNR endorsed Joe Lieberman, but they still engaged a writer to give a personal endorsement of each candidate. Except Kerry. Yes, they've criticized Kerry, rightly, on a number of issues; but now they are closing ranks behind the boring botoxed brahmin. I'm not particularly enamored of Bush, but I can at least see that, in the near term, a vote for Bush is closer to a vote for Lieberman (whom I also endorsed) than is a vote for Kerry.

On domestic policy, I've never particularly agreed with TNR, but I've respected the opinions published there. As the magazine has swung behind Kerry, it has adopted the sort of language that doesn't belong in a serious debate. Rolling back the Bush tax cuts? Please. As I've argued, the tax cuts are law. Have the stones to argue for tax hikes if you believe Americans aren't paying enough. Another article about Bush's disastrous environmental record? Ho-hum. The only one on staff at TNR who has made sense on this is Easterbrook, who has wisely praised the administration's trade-off of scope for effectiveness (like dumping counterproductive and impractical mandates in favor of cap-and-trade solutions that may in theory work slower, but in practice make a bigger difference). But the only space he got was in his quasi-official, and now defunct, blog.

To be fair, I ditched National Review earlier this year for similar reasons. (NR's big bugaboo, gay marriage, resulted in some articles that were borderline offensive.) And it's not the partisanship I dislike. (The Weekly Standard is partisan, and a good read to boot. Plus, they frequently, but constructively, broke with their nominal party over the Iraq war.) It is simply that it is becoming an infrequent thing that I pick up TNR (or NR) and read an article that surprises or enlightens me. If I read the first paragraph and can accurately predict the tired tropes of the argument to come, it's not worth my time.

Friday, June 25, 2004

Hewitt/Ivanisevic: This match is about to start. Scores run here. As usual, the BBC page runs a slightly less up to date posting of the score, but with brief commentary on the points of each game. It's the best way to follow the action without a TV.

I'm not entirely sure why I'm gearing up for this one. If Hewitt can make full use of his youth and speed, he should crack the old Croat going away. But Goran, who is retiring after this, has nothing to lose -- his arm could fall off at the end of the fortnight and he'd be pleased with a win. Meanwhile, Hewitt continues to struggle to live up to the promise he showed here in ought-two. Have at it.

More: The Grosjean/Gambill match is proving to be the closer one this morning, contrary to my prediction. Too bad the BBC would never do game-by-game coverage for a frog, even if he is a top-ten frog, unless the frog is playing one of Britain's serial losers of the Rusedski flavor.

Expert Needed: Guest blogger Adrienne at Brooke's page is a glutton for punishment:
On a related note, does anyone have book recommendations for me? I'm looking for some more of these sprawling, male-written, generation-spanning memoirs/novels like A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (by Dave Eggers), Middlesex (by Jeffrey Eugenides) and the Corrections (by Jonathan Franzen). I've already got Atonement (by Ian McEwan) on my list.
There, there, dearie: have some tea and read a couple of chapters of Bleak House. You'll be fine, really.

Now, my attempt to steer you back to the righteous path no doubt dismissed, FauxPolitik does happen to employ the world's leading expert on that sort of fiction. Perhaps Razor could explain the joys of David Foster Wallace. Sans footnotes, preferably.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Speaking of Martina: You were right that Navratilova would not get through the second round. Kudos, though, for her taking the first set from Dulko.

The article you cite mentions some controversy in Venus' loss, but one has trouble generating any sympathy for a 3-seed losing to a who-dat in a tiebreaker. The Williamses are tremendous athletes, but sloppy and distracted tennis players who were never concerned much with fundamentals, relying instead on power and psychology. (To mix my sports a bit, and attempt to draw out Flyer, you can see the same thing in Tiger Woods. Other players on the tour are refusing to be intimidated, while Tiger himself hasn't really hit a slump: No majors as of late, but still a consistent winner, still the top player.)

I was sorry to see Elena Bovina forfeit to Daniela Hantuchova. Bovina has a good game and would be a good challenge to Mysinka and Sharapova in their part of the draw.

On the men's side, Hewitt and Ivanisevic advance to round 3. Go Goran! And Sebastien Grosjean should have little trouble with the premature has-been Jan-Michael Gambill for a ticket to the fourth round, where he will likely face a not-at-his-best Ferrero, who had to reach deep to move past unseeded Stefan Koubek. Below that, it still looks like Henman and Roddick on a semifinal collision course. I hope that one comes to pass. It could be a great match, a clash of styles, and -- if Henman comes heavy -- a madhouse in the Centre Court seats. If Henman wins that, look for the British press to suggest deposing the Queen and her flop-eared son to put "Our Tim" on the throne if he can win the final.

By the way, not that it means much, since he was beating up a nobody, but Federer barely got warmed up in his straight-sets second round match. The longest set was 23 minutes. The shortest, 14 minutes. When this guy's on, he's astounding.

Role Reversal: If you were just told that "Martina" was doing commentary on "Martina" at Wimby, you might, if you were not an avid reader of FauxPolitik, assume that Navratilova was doing her studio shtick on the comeback of Hingis. Of course, you'd be wrong.

Instead, we have the 47-year-old Navratilova winning singles matches, while the 23-year-old Hingis walks around, doing clinics, commentary, and quips.
"It took a couple, three months to realize it's kind of over," Hingis told ESPN.com on Tuesday. "It was difficult to accept. It's still in the back of my mind: maybe at 24, 25 there's always a chance to get back.

"I have one career over, but I am lucky. Doors open up for me and I can check in and do whatever makes me happy."
A player whose retirement was never announced, one who you might have figured might be playing some obscure tourneys in anticipation of a comeback, is instead wearing Prada and sort of just...roaming around.

Kind of sad, but it would appear that the lifespan of a female player is really only about 5 years anyway (the other Martina notwithstanding). Once you're 23, 24, it's just about time to hang up the tennies, and start your fashion line.

It certainly appears Venus, for one, is well on her way toward the Vogue hall of fame.

G-mail, Schmee-mail: Precisely zero interest. Got the offer -- on accounta I got this groovy blog, I suppose -- but I care not. Hotmail and Yahoo matched services within an acceptable window. And how great can the front end be?

Your "cool club" comment sums it up. Scarcity in dogshit would result, I think, in a coprophagy trend among the tragically hip. Look on your package of cling wrap or aluminum foil. See that little message? "Warning: Cutting edge is dangerous. Avoid contact."

Good advice in general.

More Iran: And back to that Peters article from the other day:
It's unlikely that Iran's government leaders or the formal policy apparatus in Tehran knew about the plan to take British hostages — they wouldn't have believed it was worth the risk. The hardliners presented Iran's more rational elements with a fait accompli — now backing down will be portrayed as a betrayal of the country's sovereignty and pride.

If the situation is swiftly resolved, it will mean that more-moderate voices won in Tehran. If it drags on, it will tell us that the hardliners' gamble succeeded, at least domestically. Doubtless, tempers are flaring in Iran's chambers of government, a bitter struggle they'll never reveal to the world.

My emphasis. This is a curious formula. I think we can eliminate the possibility that Britain backed down on Iran's IAEA violations. But what if the plan of the mullahs was to make this arrest just to show that they could? A brushback pitch, if you will, to ensure that coalition control over Shatt-al-Arab doesn't impede, say, shipments of centrifuge parts from North Korea.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Prison Iran: Well, they're supposedly being let go. Everyone seems to be playing the party line of a mistaken border crossing. Just some training exercises, really.

Then why show the sailors in blindfolds on national t.v.? Clearly there's the propaganda factor, but if the Iranians weren't going to full bore on the invading infidel angle, why bother in the first place? If that's a warning shot, piss poor job of it mates.

MORE: Well, of course they're not actually being released. Are the Iranians really this stupid?

The GMail Jig: People are clamoring for the GMail invite and already several sites have popped up; each one offering a unique spin on how to get one.

Radley has even fallen prey and is among the acolytes.

Full disclosure: I got one too. As if and when I get any invites I'll be sure to make them available. Eno shall of course have first dibs.

Of course, people only want them because a) Google is hip, and b) they're hard to come by. Other than that, it's just a cool email system. No hidden riches; no entry into a cool club (hell, you don't even get a number associated with your account to show how l337 you are [if you don't know what l337 is, I can't help you]).

Anyway, those who are interested, leave a comment, and I'll pass them along, first-come, first serve.

NOTE: The one thing that is of some value is getting your preferred name before it gets taken. So, I suppose to avoid getting your name squatted, I could see how people would want the early entry.

Lies, Lies! According to Drudge, Al Gore is going to . . .

Oh, who gives a crap.

Soundtracks: This post began its life as a comment upon Viking Pundit's review of the AFI "100 Songs" show last night, purporting to list the best songs of the movies. Here's the list. Eric writes:
Well, I called "Over the Rainbow" as #1 before the show started. And I picked the top three about half-way through. But no "Trouble" or "Til there was you" from "The Music Man"? That's a travesty, with a capital "T"!
No kidding. How could they stiff the second best musical ever (after Singing in the Rain)? Certainly, too, something from My Fair Lady might squeak into the top 100 -- maybe in place of Christopher Cross execrable "Arthur's Theme"? "On the Street Where You Live," "I Could Have Danced All Night," and the the dynamite "The Rain in Spain" all belong above anything from Chicago.

Moreover, how about "Can't Buy Me Love" from A Hard Day's Night? How about "Viva Las Vegas" from the similarly titled Viva Las Vegas? How about, as a favor to this fool for Dusty Springfield, "Son of a Preacher Man" from Pulp Fiction? "Rock Around the Clock," from Blackboard Jungle, caused freaking riots.

I suppose lyrics are required for these "songs," but what about the "Pineapple Rag" from The Sting? I'd call that a song. How about "A Man of Constant Sorrow" and "O Death," from O Brother, Where Art Thou?

More: I can't really stand 90% of Tom Cruise's ouevre, but his idiotic cue dance to "Werewolves of London" in The Color of Money really nails his character's flaws quite nicely. When the gruff, seen-it-all Paul Newman walks in and rolls his eyes upon seeing Cruise showing off -- priceless shot.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Still Wondering: Hugh Hewitt has a good roundup of links and speculation on Iranian motives and the fate of the captured British sailors. Are they trying to force a crisis? Hewitt recalls, as I did yesterday, the Falklands:
Bulletin to the mullahs: Blair ain't Carter. Nor is Bush. Remember the Falklands and keep in mind that a number of onlookers would love an excuse to reduce your nuke operations to smoldering ruins. Of course the reports on internal instability that flow out of Iran with regularity suggest that the powers-that-be (and which may-be-slipping) might need a summer drama to keep the streets full of their goons.
Perhaps the mullahs think a crisis will stir some bit of latent nationalism in the Iranian people, ending their love affair with the West. Not bloody likely.

This odd little situation is the story to watch.

More: Ralph Peters reads FauxPolitik:

It's a repertoire play, an attempt by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps — now a sprawling empire of repression — to recreate its greatest success on the world stage, the seizure of American embassy personnel a quarter-century ago . . .

By snatching the Brits from the waters of the Shatt-al-Arab, the Revolutionary Guards and their allies are trying to excite Iranian nationalism, to resurrect the passions of the past. It's a desperate measure behind a mask of bravado.

I was just guessing, Ralph. I'm still not sure why this isn't front-page, above-the-fold material.

Russians fall out of favor: See, the French roll over for the Russians, but the British; well, they're made of sterner stuff. Safin and Dementieva are already out. Martina and Serena win, but as I sort of worried about, Serena isn't looking all that dominating right now. Martina, on the other hand, cruised to victory.

Best quote so far comes from our favorite Croat, Ivanisevic:
"If I play well, nobody's going to beat me easy, especially since I don't have any goals," he said. "I'm retiring after this Wimbledon. I'm going to enjoy myself every minute on the court. If somebody wants to beat me, he's going to have to play really good tennis."

Not a turn-on when you cry: So the public's "right to know" has triumphed once more. You see, Jack Ryan is running for a senate seat for Florida (when he's not busy tracking down errant Russian submarines - har, har), and like many people, he has a prior marriage. And unlike most people, his ex-wife is this super-hot actress who was on Star Trek and Boston Public.

Annnnnd, when he and his wife were bitter at eachother, they said some not-very-nice things about one another in formerly under-seal court papers. Rampant speculation abounded about what the allegations were, and certaion people in Florida felt absolutely compelled to find out what those allegations were, because of their sense of decency and to protect the people of Florida from electing a senator that just might have the wiff of impropriety about him.

So, they do the American thing and sue for the papers. And they win. And they find out that *gasp* Mr. Ryan wanted his wife to go to some sex clubs with him and maybe make out in front of some other sex club people (something he denies). Oh, the horror.

He didn't beat her, cheat on her, or otherwise commit a crime. He didn't abuse his child or feel up an intern. He just, allegedly, wanted to spice things up in his marriage, and his wife apparently wasn't so keen on it. Like no man has ever been shot down by his wife when trying something "new" ("Honey, you are NOT putting THAT, THERE!").

More to the point, his now ex-wife considers him a "friend" and a "good man, a loving father" and expects that he'll be an "excellent senator".

Yeah, let's keep that guy out of office.

Even FauxPolitik can't have all the answers: For those times when you need the truth, when your self-doubt is growing too strong, or simply when you look up into the sky and wonder what is really going on, I bring you, the Branch Davidian Messageboard.

A Great Sagging Blimp: Hitchens on Michael Moore and Farenheit 9/11 is a must-read. Moore has had the bad chance to have quoted Orwell in his film, which is then reviewed by a man who knows from Orwell.
Perhaps vaguely aware that his movie so completely lacks gravitas, Moore concludes with a sonorous reading of some words from George Orwell. The words are taken from 1984 and consist of a third-person analysis of a hypothetical, endless, and contrived war between three superpowers. The clear intention, as clumsily excerpted like this (...) is to suggest that there is no moral distinction between the United States, the Taliban, and the Baath Party and that the war against jihad is about nothing. If Moore had studied a bit more, or at all, he could have read Orwell really saying, and in his own voice, the following:

The majority of pacifists either belong to obscure religious sects or are simply humanitarians who object to taking life and prefer not to follow their thoughts beyond that point. But there is a minority of intellectual pacifists, whose real though unacknowledged motive appears to be hatred of western democracy and admiration for totalitarianism. Pacifist propaganda usually boils down to saying that one side is as bad as the other, but if one looks closely at the writing of the younger intellectual pacifists, one finds that they do not by any means express impartial disapproval but are directed almost entirely against Britain and the United States . . .

And that's just from Orwell's Notes on Nationalism in May 1945. A short word of advice: In general, it's highly unwise to quote Orwell if you are already way out of your depth on the question of moral equivalence. It's also incautious to remind people of Orwell if you are engaged in a sophomoric celluloid rewriting of recent history.

The whole thing is devastatingly acute and gleefully truculent.

Party on Plastic: I gave up buying hip hop years ago when PM Dawn turned into a gospel group and the perfunctory jazz licks behind Digable Planets were as far as any group wanted to push the boundaries. I'm typically convinced that the great days of hip hop are over. Do I have to see one more video of guys in black leather waving their money while improbably siliconed women in rhinestone-studded bikinis scrunch up their faces and gyrate atop, around, and inside various Lexuses and Benzes, as though simulating a persistent, low-grade orgasm?

Any why is it that the great melodies that characterized soul and funk have been boiled down to one lick. Don't get me wrong -- I like a good sampled lick as much as the next guy. But where do you go once you've ripped off the best of George Clinton's opera? PM Dawn was one option, drowned out by more and more punks more interested in attitude than art: strident Straight Outta Compton wannabes and vendetta pirates who want to go out like Biggie or Tupac; pseudo-political militants with watered-down Malcolm X tropes on the brain, but without the discipline and the local focus of Public Enemy (think of it as "911 is a joke" versus "9/11 is a conspiracy"); sloppy, stoned party stylers with the marijuana leaf on their caps, coming from behind the beat, but sounding mechanical by ragging time over a computerized drum, instead of a sympathetic rhythm section; earnestly preachy/thoughtful second-generation suburban activist types rapping about fashionable causes; and miniature multimedia napoleons who change their street names at least as often as a frat kid changes his sheets but put out the same awful record again and again.

So my wife (that's Mrs. Enobarbus) has been raving over the OutKast double record Speakerboxx/The Love Below for a few weeks now, so I gave it a listen. Hmmmmm, not bad. A decent mix of R&B sounds, performed with a generous helping of actual musical instruments; more than one rhythm; more self-effacing humor than self-aggrandizing attitude. I honestly suspected, at times, that I might be listening to a remarkably high-fidelity Ween having more genre-bending fun with rap and Prince-style sounds.

Disappearing Court: The intense politicization of judiciary nominations and confirmations has been a hobbyhorse of mine for a few years. I think both parties are hurting themselves each time they use the out-of-power position as a duck blind for picking off nominees simply becuase they can. The Democrats have always been more ruthless (Thomas's porn) and effective (Pickering's "racism"), but the succeed only in nomalizing their own techniques.

Stuart Taylor has the doomsday scenario:

July 1, 2008 -- With the retirement of 88-year-old Justice John Paul Stevens today, the Supreme Court's membership dwindled to four. The remaining two liberals (Stephen Breyer and David Souter) and two conservatives (Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas) are almost certain to deadlock on big issues including abortion, affirmative action, gay rights, religion, and presidential war powers. So any tie-breaking replacement for Stevens would be in a position to rewrite vast areas of constitutional law.
Unlikely, sure -- but what's the alternative? A wishy-washy court of sensible moderates? Nine Steve Breyers? No thanks.

(Link via RCP.)

A Question from Left Field: What the hell happened to the days when coffee was a flavor? And a good flavor, I always thought. No, these days weak coffee is a delivery vehicle for indistinguishable and artificial rasberry-hazelnut-mocha-Irish cream-vanilla flavoring compounds (all of which were manufactured, from petroleum by products no doubt, in a plant down the street from me in New Jersey when I was younger; you'd drive into town and be hit by a gigantic wave of nauseatingly ersatz butterscotch essence). At the very least, a "regular" joe has a half cup of cream and a pound of sugar in it. Even the coffee from the $4/cup joints is a weak, watery mess.

If I hear one more person say, "I like coffee, but I don't like it bitter," I'm going to snap. Coffee is a bitter beverage, godammit. If you don't like it, don't drink it. Go drink some of that foolish chai crap.

Speaking of Rowland: It's about damn time he resigned. His speech carried no note of remorse, only regret for losing his grip on power. It was delivered coldly, but not stoically. He's a lying, dishonorable bastard who should be disgraced, publically ridiculed, and then locked up.

I've tried to ignore his slow burn self-destruction one state away from me, but no luck; each week brought new evidence of a politician, to quote Lou Reed, "caught with his pants down and money sticking in his hole."

Good f*cking riddance.

The Meatheads in the Other Big, White Building: I got my first solicitation today from John Thune, who is running to oust minority leader Tom Daschle from Daschle's South Dakota Senate seat. It made me chuckle, for a couple of reasons: First, I couldn't live much farther from this race, so the appeal came hard-wired to lots of conservative code, like mentions of Hillary, Ted Kennedy, big labor, the trial lawyers, etc.

Second, it arrived in the mail right next to my second appeal from John Kerry, also written primarily in code. The main part of the pitch seemed to be that Kerry needed money to "get his messsage out." Looking more closely at the letter, though, his message seemed to be that he was "getting his message out." Jesus, it's like a Seinfeld candidacy.

Third, it made me sort of nostalgic for the time when Daschle was relevant to the political discussion. The fact that some pipsqueak representative can threaten the Democrats' top legislative dog says it all.

Finally, it set me to thinking: Where would I send my money to help kick out an incumbent who does not represent me? Would I send money to Thune? No. A few years ago, maybe; it is perhaps Dubya's greatest policy accomplishment to have so effectively stymied Daschle's very effective low-key partisanship. These days, politicians I'd pay money to see thrown out of office (or led away in irons) include, in no particular order: Chris Dodd, Tom DeLay, Fritz Hollings, Frank Lautenberg, Henry Waxman, Arlen Specter, Richie Neal, and the now-officially-toast John Rowland.

Monday, June 21, 2004

What's Up With This? From the wire:
Iran seized three British military patrol boats Monday in the Shatt-al-Arab waterway, Iraq's main link with the Persian Gulf, and state media said eight armed crewmen were detained for entering Iranian territorial waters . . .

Monday's incident follows a strain in relations after Britain helped draft a resolution rebuking Iran for past nuclear cover-ups at last week's meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency's board of governors.

It takes some stones to eff with the Brits. Granted, it's not the same country that stood on principle (however unpopular that principle was at the post-colonial studies department at Brown) to fight for the Falklands under Iron Maggie. Still, it's not like the IAEA was going to suggest a three-week ultimatum to Teheran -- hand over the nuke stuff or the U.S. Marines will take the opportunity of Iraqi sovereignty to move next door and pull some beards.

Seems like there's nothing for Teheran to gain from this provocation. Imagine if it were Iran, rather than China, that had downed and captured a U.S. spyplane and its crew. I think the negotiating process would have gone a little quicker -- and with a lot less bowing and scraping by our diplo-crats.

It will be interesting to see what the Brits do.

His Life: So Clinton's $10 million book has arrived. How is it?
The book, which weighs in at more than 950 pages, is sloppy, self-indulgent and often eye-crossingly dull — the sound of one man prattling away, not for the reader, but for himself and some distant recording angel of history.
Figures. I saw just enough of him yammering on 60 Minutes to remember how transparently phony he is.

More: Turning to content:

Part of the problem, of course, is that Mr. Clinton is concerned, here, with cementing — or establishing — his legacy, while at the same time boosting (or at least not undermining) the political career of his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton. He does a persuasive job of explicating his more successful initiatives like welfare reform and deficit reduction, but the failure of his health care initiative, overseen by Mrs. Clinton, is quickly glossed over, as is the subsequent focus of his administration on such small-bore initiatives as school uniforms and teenage smoking.
Well, welfare reform was a GOP initiative that a Democrat-run Congress stonewalled for since Reagan's time, and deficit reduction was an incidental part of the boom. (Look at Bob Rubin's contemporary writings. They never expected to balance the budget; it took the Clinton administration completely by surprise.) That leaves a failed Middle East peace plan, a failed medical bureaucracy plan, and some Oval Office skull from a thong-snapping roundheels. I think that legacy will need a bit more work.

Friday, June 18, 2004

North Korea: Vaclav Havel says that the free world should unite against the specter of totalitarianism -- in the form of Kim's North Korea.
Kim Jong Il is able to blackmail the world with the help of his huge army, nuclear weapons, long-range missiles, and the export of weaponry and military technology to like-minded dictators around the world. He wants to be respected and feared abroad and to be recognized as one of the world's most powerful leaders. He is willing to let his own people die of hunger, and he uses famine to liquidate those who show any sign of wavering loyalty to his rule. Through blackmail, he receives food and oil, which he distributes among those loyal to him (first in line being the army).

Shockingly, the U.N. Commission on Human Rights has criticized the North Korean regime for its gross violations of human rights only twice since the commission was founded. Less shocking, but also disturbing, is the fact that the North Korean government has yet to implement any of the commission's recommendations.

Now is the time for the democratic countries of the world -- the European Union, the United States, Japan, South Korea -- to take a common position. They must make it clear that they will not offer concessions to a totalitarian dictator. They must state that respect for basic human rights is an integral part of any future discussions with Pyongyang. Decisiveness, perseverance and negotiations from a position of strength are the only things that Kim Jong Il and those like him understand.

I'd love to hear John Kerry's thoughts on this.

Helluva Piece: Krauthammer today, on the intifada that went nowhere.
Israel is now defining a new equilibrium that will reign for years to come -- the separation fence is unilaterally drawing the line that separates Israelis and Palestinians. The Palestinians were offered the chance to negotiate that frontier at Camp David and chose war instead. Now they are paying the price.

It stands to reason. It is the height of absurdity to launch a terrorist war against Israel, then demand the right to determine the nature and route of the barrier built to prevent that very terrorism.

He's long-term hopeful, short-term pessimistic. I think he's right.

Gain 3 inches while you lower your cholesterol!: From cereal boxes to infomercials to spam, we are promised all kinds of benefits from using products. Bought any iced-tea with ginseng in it? Did you walk around later feeling like you were just a touch more mentally healthy? Been suckered into "fat free" breakfast products which helps you justify your two cheesesteak lunch?

Well, you're not alone. Now, here's the science.

Wimby: Finally, we get to the second half of the Slams. You know, the ones that actually mean something. I mean, the Aussie is nice and all, but no one is even aware it's going on because it's in January when you're not supposed to be playing tennis, and because of the time difference. The French, well, it's interesting b/c anyone can win it (anyone that's not in the top 10 that is), but still, it's the French.

Looking at the Mens: Roddick is given number 2, which I suppose makes as much sense as Henman at 5. Neither has done a whole lot this year, albeit Roddick has higher expectations, so you have to view it relatively. Federer, the returning champ, has a fairly easy draw until the Quarters when he could face Hewitt, who was bounced in Rd. 1 last year, but everyone keeps expecting him to win, so he's always viewed as a tough challenger. I'll keep buying into that for now. Federererererer could face Moya before Hewitt, but I can't see that being a problem. Here's Federer's problem instead: he already won the Aussie, and the past five years shows us that no slam can be won by a person who has won of the four previous slams.

More interesting is Roddick's draw. He's going to possibly face Nambaldian (in the semis) who took it nearly all the way two years ago, and he's fashionably Argentinian. If Roddick beats him at that point, then he's got to be playing very, very well. Sadly for the Brits, if Namby is in the semis, he's already put it to Henman a round earlier. This should surprise no one, and I think then Henman should retire. He's not getting any younger.

There's guys like Phillipousis, Safin and Ivanisivec as well, but those guys are like female drivers - impossible to predict (I'm ducking now). Any of those three could win it or flame out. Pointless to discuss.

Womens (sorry, "Ladies") is crazy. Too many withdrawals, and too many Russians. Eno is right: Russians may be stylish picks like Argentinians are over in the Mens, but we have no idea if there's any there, there. With Serena and Venus supposedly mostly healthy, it's hard to count them out. The key is they don't face eachother until the Finals, which is bad for everyone else. Other former champs stand no chance: Davenport = done (that balky knee is never going to be right); Martinez (hasn't won since she beat...); Navratilova (your Rd. 3 pick is nice and all, but she won't get past the 2nd - possibly Dokic, possibly Dulko [yet another Argentinian, and who beat Martina in the French last month]).

J-Cap doesn't have it too bad early on, but she's the female equivalent of Safin et al. I'll stick with Serena - but only if she appears interested.

This is called pandering: Imagine you had a conference, and the subject was about offering more equality to a certain section of your populace that was traditionally offered very litte in terms of individual rights. Things like driving a car, walking unescorted, or *gasp* having your head un-covered. Simple stuff really.

You'd think that such a conference might allow that oppressed sector to stand up, be seen, and speak openly. Well, you'd think wrong. Okay, it's pretty clear that we're talking about Saudi Arabia; no real surprise here.

The women attending this conference were kept in a separate room from the men, and only seen via video-conferencing. Fortunately, at least, they were taken seriously. Some comments:
From the conservative camp, Mohammed al-Arifi, a theologian, ridiculed calls for women to be allowed to drive or appear in public without "covering their heads properly."

At least one man spoke out for women. Writer Yeha al-Amir brandished a copy of a high school textbook that he said included a passage describing women as "weak creatures. If they are left alone without guidance they will be corrupt and corrupt others."

"How can we teach our children that women are a source of corruption?" he demanded.
How, indeed, can they?

Listen, you want to be part of a crazy religion that makes you wear tin-foil beanies? Fine. But when you're without a choice as to being a part of that religion (given that if you try to opt out, you'll be banished by your family or perhaps maimed and/or killed), then that's where the argument about "respecting" the traditions of others falls short. But they have the oil, so...

On the other hand, maybe the conservatives have a point. If they start to let things slide, with the genders freely mixing, who knows what might happen. As one conference attendee put it: "What is next? Shall we see them one day sitting in a cafe and drinking tea together?" Shudder to think.

Revised Revised Revised Revised Standard Version: Kerry has now clarified his position on a war that he didn't support, but voted for, and would do differently if he were president:
Democratic presidential challenger John Kerry said Thursday that the Sept. 11 commission's report clearly shows President Bush "rushed to war for a purpose that it now turns out is not supported by the facts."
What a relief to know where he stands on this! No doubt he'll repudiate his vote for the war now. Here's more from the human weathervane:
"I'm a citizen of the nation and a senator and in both respects, I believe that we were misled about this administration's intentions about how it would go about this, building an international coalition, respecting the United Nations process and now it seems the fundamentals of the rationale," he said
You recall how the Constitution says (I forget where exactly) that the Senate, especially in matters of war, should be a rubber stamp for the president, and never, ever look into intel or national security matters on its own. (The Senate committees meant to serve those precise purposes are, no doubt, a formality -- mere window dressing.)

That Time Again: Bleach the whites, exercise your overbite, and polish your upperclass twit accent, it's Wimbledon! Taking a peek through the men's draw, things look wide open, baby. Federer is the defending champ, the top seed, and the likely favorite -- although round one makes the first two academic. Federer's quarter doesn't look too tough. He'll get a challenge from Marat Safin, and maybe Lleyton Hewitt can be bothered to show up for his matches. Goran Ivanisevic is limping in for one final bow, I see. And Henman gets his usual gift-seeding (#5 this year) despite a bare trophy shelf this year. (To his credit, he went further in the French on pure determination than any other volleyer.) Agassi is out with an injury, putting off his last hurrah until next year, when he will be 35. Andy Roddick has pulled off only a couple of minor wins this year, a big letdown after being the hot hand toward the end of last season. But he did win the Queen's Club tune up this year. Both Srichiphan and Grosjean, my perennial dark horses, made it to the quarters there. Either one could finally step up to take a slam trophy here.

On the ladies' side, Serena took the top seed, despite having a season characterized mainly by injury so far. Maybe this means that she's healthy. Who knows? Henin, too, has had trouble staying healthy this year, and she will miss the Championships because of it. (Perhaps that brings Serena up in the seeding somewhat, but first is still a stretch.) Anastasia Mysinka rides her Roland Garros win to the number two slot. I think iot's still a buyer's market for Russian futures; Mysinka is a good pick, as is Svetlana Kusnetsova. I've revealed my prejudice against Dementieva previously, and she's frustratingly inconsistent, but she's certainly got the raw talent to win here.

Surprises? Just guessing here: Martina makes a Conners-like run to the third round, spanking some spoiled girls half her age on the way; Hewitt beats a seeded player; at least one clay-courter ends up in the men's quarters (Ferrero maybe?); and McEnroe hypocritically clucks his tongue at poor sportsmanship no less than thrice.

Over to you, Razor.

Greenspan, Again: Alan Greenspan, freshly confirmed by the Senate, will be a delphic oracle on Capitol Hill for at least another two years.
Bush had let it be known a year ago that he planned to nominate Greenspan for a fifth term when his current term ended in June 2004.

Friends say Greenspan has told them that he plans to serve less than half of the new four-year term, choosing to retire on Jan. 31, 2006, when his separate 14-year term as a Fed board member is to end.

Greenspan's been a great Fed chairman. Plenty of valid critiques of the man, sure. But we've grown accustomed to decent leadership from the Fed, first from Volcker under Reagan, now from Greenspan. It's worth remembering that wrongheaded and ineffective Fed leadership has been common in the past.

I Don't Get This: Kerry's being oddly prickly over the media's "veepstakes" speculation:
John Kerry sought to curb rampant speculation Thursday about his vice presidential search, taking issue with leaks from campaign aides "who don't know what they're talking about."

"I'm the only person who knows when I will" announce a running mate "or what even direction I might take. And I intend to keep it that way," the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee said as fresh clues about his intentions emerged.

He knoes the media will watch this game closely, so what's the problem? The leaks from his staff? That seems to me to be an internal campaign matter, and Kerry's airing of it to the press simply makes him look like a boob who can't control his underlings, as the story notes:
Kerry, a four-term senator with a history of publicly chastising his staff, smiled and chuckled as he recalled that he "read with amusement about aides who don't know what they're talking about with respect to my schedule" for announcing a running mate.
That just doesn't sound right to me. I'm thinking that there must be a reason Kerry's handlers told him to say something other than the polite version of "No comment" on the veep question. My guess? It's because one of the leaks pretty closely approximated Kerry's veep strategy. He doesn't want to confirm it by pointing out which one (obviously), so he'll "chuckle" about them all and dismiss them together. You can bet there's no chuckling in the war room over this, though.

Saddam & Osama: Sullivan gets it right today, in a big way. The wording from the 9/11 commission on the Iraq-Qaeda nexus is being sold by the media as a definitive refutation of the Cheney thesis. I think it was Laurie Mylroie who phrased it thus, employing the terms more strictly: We don't have proof that Saddam and al Qaeda cooperated, but we do have evidence. The media has simply said, "There's no evidence . . ." That's just false.

it's worth noting that the tone of a lot of coverage of the 9/11 panel seems to indicate that they will sit around and look pleased with themselves for telling the several agencies of the government what they did wrong. Should we make changes at the FAA? Obviously. But terrorism exploits weaknesses, and it depends on surprise. That is how the few can fight the many. And so the masterminds of terror must have known that using airplanes was a one-shot deal. As flight 93 showed, even before the day was done, the effectiveness of the hijacked missile strategy was used up -- thwarted not by the FAA or air marshalls, but by passengers who got the gist and fought back.

My guess is that sleeper agents in the U.S. already have their next target planned. Looking back should be about 1% of the panel's mandate. The rest should be asking, "Where will the next strike come?"

Thursday, June 17, 2004

The Day After: Well Bloomsdayhas come and goneand I don'tfeel anymoresurrealordirtyor"modern" than the day before.

Okay sorry about that - just my tiny tribute to the crazy one-eyed Irish ex-pat.

I've picked up "Ulysses" twice. Once to buy it, once to read it. I confess however to being one of those who didn't get through the first 50 pages. I then put it down, where it sits on my shelf, cursing at me.

Now, I'm not shy about dense, modern books. Hell, Eno knows well my love for the post-modern genre (although Ulysses is technically just "modern"). From "Gravity's Rainbow" to "Infinite Jest", I have not ducked those thousand page books, with their footnotes, thrice-removed derivative references, and hallucinatory excursions.

With Ulysses, I just couldn't get my foot far enough in the door for it to latch hold. Well, I'm going to try once more. Not because I intend to brag about it, or that my self-image as a man of all seasons needs burnishing. Just because I want to understand what all the fuss is about. Maybe I won't like it; and if that's the case I'll be man enough to admit it. But I should try, at least.

Once I finish my current book "Whirlwind" by Clavell (no slouch himself in the page number department) I shall once again embark on Joyce. It may be a while, but I will fill you in on my findings.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

"Bush is a lock": Tim Cavanaugh goes for the balls-out, unqualified pick for November.
I am saying publicly what I have been repeating privately for a year, and doing so now, when the polling seems to look good for Kerry, so I can't be accused of capitalizing on the news. Just to reiterate: It doesn't matter how much gas costs, how poorly things are going in Iraq, what new torture memos surface, or whether there are new terror attacks inside our borders. John Kerry hasn't got a whore's chance in a convent, Bush is going to kick his ass all over the United States, and when we see the results in November, the idea that anybody ever thought Kerry had a prayer will seem as quaint and absurd as the brief flurry of "excitement" for Dukakis (or was it Kakdukis?) back in Old '88.
Mmm-kay. But 130-some days is a looooong time in politics. If they are anything like the past 130-some days, Bush still has a lot of freefall room. Also, it's worth remembering, as we stagger toward the voting booth a few months from now, that the lawyers will be suiting up for the aftermath. One way or another, let's try to have a good, clean kill this time.

The Newdow Decision: As the story says, kind of anticlimactic, eh?
The Supreme Court allowed millions of schoolchildren to keep affirming loyalty to one nation "under God" but dodged the underlying question of whether the Pledge of Allegiance is an unconstitutional blending of church and state . . .

The outcome on Monday does not prevent a future court challenge over the same issue, however, and both defenders and opponents of the current wording predicted that fight will come quickly.

Now, I'm undisturbed to see "under god" go away. I'm not attached to the phrase, and it seems tacked on to the rest of the pledge -- for which I also have no particular use of affection. On the other hand, I'm not bothered if the phrase stands. I certainly don't feel victimized by it. I know that most people in this country believe in a god of one sort or another, and they like pinning their partiotism to religious conviction. As long as the pledge is non-compulsory, I see no constitutional issues. (All this crap about an environment of implied compulsion (taken down here) is too touchy-feely for me: Don't call the arbitrators, call the multicultural emotion-sharers. We'll talk about how the pledge makes us feel for a while. Never you mind what the law says, if Uncle Sam makes me feel uncomfortable, then the pledge should be struck down!)

It doesn't pay to look at this stuff too closely, or you end up having to rule on every silly thing that comes along (crosses on county emblems, "In God We Trust" on coins, etc.). A true, full separation of church and state would take some serious policing. I'm not in favor, but should that day come, I for one would argue that any belief that can't be demonstrated at a reasonable level of scientific evidence should fall into the category of religion. Perhaps then we can get government disentangled from such faith-based concepts as diversity, the social security trust fund, central planning, agricultural price supports, fetuses that aren't actually "alive," recycling, and the notion that every third-rate artist in America deserves to make a living from that art, no matter how risible it is.

More: Dana Mulhauser says liberals got the best deal available, though by "liberals" I think s/he means secular absolutists. Elected Democrats famously walked away from their principles on this issue -- as did, Mulhauser admits, the ACLU. So when Mulhauser says, "Yesterday's ruling . . . granted liberals a chance to fight the issue another day," we need to throw the flag and ask for some clarification on the categorical term liberals.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Just Musing: This obviously isn't an original thought, but I've been turning over the idea of entitlement block grants -- granted to citizens.

Let's say that, on the day of your birth, the government deposits $100,000 dollars (the amount is debatable, obviously) into an FDIC-insured account for you. It earns interest -- not whopping, but nice -- and becomes your property (principal and interest), tax free, on your 18th birthday. This money is now yours to do with as you please: stocks, bonds, college, trade school, travel, investment in your own business, down payment on a house, savings, whatever. If you lose your job, it's money to retrain. It can fund a retirement nest egg. It can pay for a battered wife to pick up and leave, or a widow to make a new start. With some wise planning, it can do quite a few of these things over the years.

Here's the catch: This will represent the entirety of federal benefits for your lifetime. In return for this investment, the U.S. government removes itself from the entitlement racket for good.

Secondarily, states, counties, and towns are free provide relief, as they see fit, through that wonderful system called federalism. Want to move to a town that offers unemployment insurance? Your choice, and you'll pay for it in your city or property taxes. Obviously, it's imperfect -- one may not have unbounded choice of where to live -- but it sets up a situation where towns can essentially bid for residents, who then purchase, via taxes, the level of services they want.

There are certainly things that would need ironing out, but I think it's a workable idea. It would certainly save money.

Razor?

Shut Up and Read, Already: Jon Rauch on Iraq and a long transition.

The strawberries-and-cream-joke was already made: Wimby is widening its 22-inch seats, effective 2009, to accomodate either its patrons' expanding waistlines, or their expanding demands. While every government official, doctor and periodical is telling us we're all getting fatter, there is no question we are also a more comfort-attuned populace, that expects service above-and-beyond mere utility.

Go to your "average" baseball stadium nowadays. We can't just have seats and a view. You have to have 14 different restaurants (each with distinct theme), wireless networks, playgrounds, ferris wheels, and booming rock music acknowledging the entrance of every closer. Steve Rushin wrote a good piece in this week's SI titled "Take me out to the...whatever" about just this issue. You need to subscribe to SI (and not for free) to read it, but I'll give you just a snippet:
But never before have so many paid so much to watch so little. You can now go to a raffle and see a baseball game break out: The Blue Jays run a lottery at the stadium for weekend games, in which a $2 ticket buys you a chance at 50% of the day's total pool. (The other half goes to charity.) Baseball's most famous pool is 385 feet square and shares space with a hot tub in Bank One Ballpark in Phoenix. Detroit's Comerica Park has a Ferris wheel (behind third base), a carousel (behind first) and a tavern with a 70-foot bar, so that Tigers fans can spend afternoons a) twirling or b) hurling.

And so, with its raffle tickets and merry-go-rounds and bikini-topped bleacherites glazed in cocoa butter, baseball is one part carnival, one part Carnaval. Carney Lansford is a distant memory.
Carney who?

Now tennis is still pretty far removed from those monstrosities, but it's only a matter of time before we have neon lines, electrified nets, and robot umpires (insert joke here).

The Godfather: James Brown was always the godfather of soul, but if rock and roll had a godfather, it was Ray Charles. He took all the lines of influence in rock and brought them together in one original sound: country, soul, R&B, gospel, and blues, along with an effortless knack for song styling that only a few can claim. He was a writer on par with Lieber and Stoller, fused to a performer with few peers.

The first Ray song I heard was "What's I Say?": I was about 12 years old, and I was floored. Oh, I suppose I had heard "Hit the Road, Jack" earlier, but this was this was the moment I opened my ears. Music doesn't come much funkier than that. "Come Back Baby (Let's Talk it Over)" was another one that killed me, along with "Here We Go Again," a song that only one other man could have nailed as well as Ray -- George Jones. I always preferred Ray's voice alone; the backing vocals on much of MSiC&W are way, way too much -- songs like "I Can't Stop Loving You" suffered for the heavy arrangements.

Nevertheless, his sound is indelible. Once you've listened to Ray, you hear him everywhere. To take a couple of obvious examples, listen to Billy Joel's "New York State of Mind" -- it's a northeastern "Georgia on My Mind." Listen to the organ groove and Stevie Winwood's vocal work on Spencer Davis's "Gimme Some Lovin'" -- it's the spitting image of the Ray Charles sound. Joe Cocker's covers of McCartney's "She Came in through the Bathroom Window" and the Box Tops' "The Letter" from the Mad Dogs and Englishmen show are clear nods to Ray, as was the very structure of that show at the Fillmore East, a big-band rock and roll revue.

So my hat's off to Ray today, knowing that he was stepping on stage to lead the band in musical Valhalla before his last breath had even fluttered to the sky.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Mr. Shoe, Meet Mr. Other Foot: Boston liberal columnist Joan Vennochi doesn't like the way the Democratic Convention in Boston is being "held hostage" by unions. (See Viking Pundit for continuing coverage and commentary on this.) Says Joan:
It is a scene out of old Boston, old labor, old politics. You can smell the cigar smoke, even though no one is actually smoking one. You can imagine the leg-breaking, even if none actually takes place. It is the kind of old-fashioned, old-style labor politics that turns off young and independent voters. Could the timing be worse? At the very moment the nation is celebrating the memory of a president who stared down labor in the form of air traffic controllers, Democrats are celebrating union thugs?
I don't remember many Democrats seeing the PATCO firing as a cause for celebration, though. Why the sudden resentment of union muscle? After all, this is the way unions have always done business. Oh, wait:
[L]ooking at the bigger picture, it's hard to understand how a scene like this benefits the Democratic Party and Democratic presidential nominee Kerry . . . There's a bigger urgency at stake: not just showcasing Boston, but the Democratic party.

Show some collective courage, Democrats. If you can't stand up to Tom Nee, how do you stand up to Jacques Chirac, Yasser Arafat or Al Qaeda?

The unions are a wonderful and glorious thing . . . until they start making Democrats look like idiots. Off with their inconvenient heads! I smell the possibility of some union households drifting GOP this year.

Breaking News! "Research Finds Dogs Understand Language," says the AP headline. Further research indicates that dogs think humans talk too much and about idiotic things.

70s Soul: So, I'm home last night, feeling a bit under the weather, channel surfing and I come across my local PBS station doing one of its money-grabs. Of course for your money you get some sort of gift (in addition to commercial-free programming, that is). The gift they're hawking (and using Jerry Blavat to do it I might add) is a DVD of 70s soul crooners who were all gathered together in Atlantic City for final hurrah. Each act did 1-3 of their top hits to a crowd of boomers.

You had artists like George McCrae ("Rock Your Baby"), and The Stylistics ("You Make me Feel Brand New"), The Manhattans ("shining Star" - of course the group was from New Jersey!), and Sister Sledge. Now, this music has never been high on my must-listen list, but as I watched the now-aged performers re-living the good old days, and looking out at the audience getting down in their own funky way, I was immediately cheered. You could just see everyone harkening back 30 years to those days in the clubs or at parties, when they were dancing to the cutting-edge sound that was coming out of Philly, London, and NYC.

That music had none of the ironic, bitterness that we cherish today. No one was mad at their parents, no one had a drug problem (well, in the song anyway). These were songs about love, about freedom, and most importantly, about dancing - which no one does anymore (just look at any MTV event - it's all about preening and grimacing).

I was certainly born too late to have been part of that crowd, but just for a moment, I wish I was with them.

AIDS and Reagan: Reagan has taken a lot of shit in his life for his supposedly slow reaction to the AIDS crisis of the 1980s, and it's still coming. I think this is wholly unfair to the former president -- and proves the shallowness and moral idiocy of HIV activists. I probably won't win many friends for saying this, but here it is: Reagan was generous with AIDS research. Deroy Murdock laid out the numbers last year, during the Reagan movie flap. (Along the way he debunked the "Reagan homophobia" lie.)

Reagan was generous for two reasons: First, since so little was known about AIDS, researchers barely knew where to start. From Murdock's piece:

"You could have poured half the national budget into AIDS in 1983, and it would have gone down a rat hole," says Michael Fumento, author of BioEvolution: How Biotechnology Is Changing Our World. "There were no anti-virals back then. The first anti-viral was AZT which came along in 1987, and that was for AIDS." As an example of how blindly scientists and policymakers flew as the virus took wing, Fumento recalls that "in 1984, Health and Human Services Secretary Margaret Heckler predicted that there would be an AIDS vaccine by 1986. There is no AIDS vaccine to date."
Second, except for rare cases of contaminated blood supply or rape, those who contracted HIV did so by engaging in an unsafe activity, either sex or needle sharing. (One of the first things known about the disease was how it was spread, back when it was still a "syndrome," when the virus had not been identified.)

Compare that with a disease like cancer. How do people get cancer? Some people smoke and get lung cancer. Some people never smoke and get lung cancer. Some elderly people are likely to develop cancer. Sometimes children die of it. Evidence points to strands of genetics, environment, behavior, and infection mysteriously intertwined in cancer. If you don't want to die from cancer, what can you do? Pray, I suppose. But if you don't want to die from HIV infection, and you don't engage in unprotected sex and don't share intravenous drug needles, you have just sealed a 99% deal that you won't get HIV. How simple is that?

Look, I'm not cold to the suffering of those with HIV. I've had relatives and friends succomb to the virus, and it is a terrible, terrible thing. But it's preventable. Therein lies the difference. Imagine an enormous protest in Washington, with the protesters angrily declaring that the government is not doing enough to find a cure for cancer. Already I find it ridiculous. It's not the job of the government to cure diseases. Still, imagine that all these protesters are smoking. Worse, imagine another protest, this one featuring activists rather casually waving around and firing loaded guns, and damning the government for not funding research on gunshot wound treatment. You'd laugh, wouldn't you?

HIV is no more sacred than any other disease, cause, movement, or special interest. Political correctness notwithstanding, HIV should be way down the list. Like I said, it's an awful thing. So is the terrible indignity of Alzheimer's disease (as we've been reminded so often this week), which takes more lives per year than HIV. As do heart disease, cancer, stroke, chronic lower respiratory disease, accidents, diabetes, pneumonia and flu, kidney disease, and suicide -- none of which boasts the sure-fire prevention policy that HIV has. (Imagine if there were a prophylactic that made cigarettes safe.) Even at its peak, in 1995, HIV was causing roughly half the deaths of pneumonia and flu.

In the article cited above, Dr. Marcus Conant says he lobbied the administration in 1982 to start an AIDS program. But in 1982, 453 people died of AIDS. Tragic? Yes. National emergency? No, and certainly not proof that Reagan didn't act because he was happy to see gays die. Ten times that number died from hernias that year. More than that died from ulcers. By the time the trends were clear, in the mid-80s, when it appeared that AIDS cases were roughly doubling every year, funding began to keep pace.

This campaign to vilify Reagan, to apply base motives to wholly consistent and defensible health spending priorites, is unsurprising. The entire HIV campaign has featured the same kinds of distortions. If you grew up in my generation, you remember how it was around 1984 or 85 -- suddenly it wasn't safe to have sex, and that AIDS was moving quickly into the heterosexual community. It wasn't true, of course. Yes, AIDS was a risk -- but it was a pretty small one, and one that went to near-zero with some basic behavior changes. But political correctness was finding its voice about the same time as AIDS activism, and the two combined in a startling way to create misperceptions that the activist community did nothing to correct, and often even encouraged. Remember being told, for example, that AIDS is an "equal opportunity killer"? I do. Later we found out that, no, in fact, there is a continuum, from female-female sex (extraordinarily low risk of transmission) to male-male sex (extraordinarily high risk). The idea was to make AIDS "everyone's problem," even if it meant propaganda.

As HIV cases show declining trends, it would be nice to think that the issue is behind us. It probably isn't, in a number of ways. First, the HIV problem is not abating in Africa. Second, I doubt HIV will be the last disease that could spark intolerance and fear of many kinds (like the SARS quaratines of last year). Nor is it likely to be the last fashionable cause. Remember that part of the big push for AIDS research was that otherwise healthy, middle-class types were getting it. It wasn't tuberculosis, which, confined to zones of poverty, still quietly and invisibly kills those not quite rich, successful, or pretty enough to be on the news with any frequency. This sort of hypocrisy is rarely examined in favor of blaming cold-hearted politicians for not fully taking the risk out of our lives.

More: Sullivan's "moral" judgement is predictable:

[Reagan] was silent because he and Bill Bennett and Gary Bauer believed that gay lives were not worth as much as straight ones. There is no other explanation.
You can admire the man or not, according to your tastes, with no serious beef from me. But Reagan was, after all, a conservative -- and a fairly libertarian one, as GOP presidents go. Thus, it's contradictory to admire the man for his small government principles, as would be the likely case for a Republican like Sullivan, and simultaneously admonish him for not playing health advisor and chief of medical research for a nation of 250 million. Further, Sullivan's long-standing defense of pharmaceutical companies makes it clear that he understands this distinction, and that the power the free market has to achieve medical advances dwarfs that of the state.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

That Los Angeles County Seal: More on the cross removal from Cathy Young here:
Many Americans today believe that secularist forces in this country are implacably hostile to all things religious, particularly Christian, to the point of wanting to purge our culture and our history of all traces of Christianity.

This exaggerated perception is exploited by religious extremists who really would like to undo the separation of church and state—who believe, for instance, that same-sex civil marriage should be illegal because the Bible condemns homosexuality. When secularists go after a tiny cross on a county seal or Christmas decorations at a firehouse, they lend substance to the "religious persecution" complex — and play right into the extremists' hands.

Of all the arguments for not making a secularly bowdlerized seal, this one is the best, I think. Making a point that secularism can be reasonably accomodating goes a long way to undermining the religious right. If you take a look back at my posts on Judge Roy Moore's Ten Commandments controversy (here for example, point 1), I think you'll see that this was the point I was making. I personally opposed Moore's motives and actions, but I worried that the argument against him had to be a little more sophisticated than, "Separtation of church and state, dude."

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Things Change: It does seem that, only a few weeks ago, most of the media had written off Iraq. Civil war seemed inevitable, U.S. soldiers were sitting ducks for militants, and we should leave Iraq right away and hand over control (this last opinion usually coupled with a snicker that the administration didn't even know who would receive that authority).

Quite a different scene today. The latest draft resolution appears to be sailing through the security council. The oil industry (recall the "blood for oil" formulations?) is fully in Iraqi hands. Italian and Polish hostages were rescued today. Nine Iraqi militias are willing to disarm. The media is pushing the slant that this doesn't include the the biggest militia threat, Sadr's Mahdi Army, and is thus not so much of a victory. To the contrary, it shows that Sadr is more and more isolated.

Bad news mixes with the good, of course, but the interim government seems to be starting out with some marks in the "wins" column.

Two More Things About Reagan: First, all the liberal sites are talking about how this helps/hurts Bush (or Kerry). TNR is doing a lot of it. The Times went for the political angle pretty quickly. Jesus, wait for the body to reach room temp, guys. The same kind of speculation zoomed out when Paul Wellstone died in 2002. The left held a rally on top of Wellstone's dead body, and the right loudly wondered if this helped or hurt their chances to pick up the senate seat. It was hideous then, and it's hideous now. Grow the hell up.

Second, yes, Bush has a huge tribute to Reagan up on his campaign web page. There's nothing wrong with that. Reagan was Bush's hero. You can say, "But it's not up there because Reagan was his hero; it's there because Rove knows it will get votes." But this only shows the dread fear liberals have of the power of the Reagan legacy . . . over liberals! The "amiable dunce" pulled so many voters from the other side that a name was given to them, Reagan Democrats.

Besides, if using dead iconographic presidents for political gain were a disqualifying sin, every Democrat would have to give back every vote gained by shamelessly humping JFK's ghost for the past 40 years.

New Strategy? Just in case Muqtada al-Sadr lands with a thump on the CPA's doorstep, skinned and trussed, with multiple arrow wounds, it's worth noting that Ted Nugent is in Iraq.

Hugh Hewitt has more:

One of the doors on the Humvee kept slipping ajar, and in a move reminiscent of any Lance Corporal, Ted whipped out his Gerber multi-tool and jimmied with the hinge until it was fixed to his satisfaction. Furthermore, Ted kept telling me that if we took incoming, "my Glock 10 is loaded and I'm ready to rock and roll!"
I saw Nuge in Detroit years ago -- this was when his big entrance was to swing onto stage on vine, dressed in a skimpy Tarzan loincloth that emphasized his, uh, Gerber.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Meanwhile: On the distaff side, I was delighted to see a new face among slam winners. Anastasia Mysinka may be a real contender or a flash in the pan, but the Williams, Williams, Davenport, Capriati domination that was so real a couple of years ago is now under fire from more than just the Belgian duo.

I was so surprised that Dementieva made it to the final, I began to regret my prediction that she would fold up like a cheap lawn chair. Of course, she did in the end -- 1-6, 2-6 (red-6, blue-6). A top-ten seed offering only token resistence to a roughly equally matched opponent is pretty embarrassing.

On the men's side, your guess is as good as mine. I expected Coria to streak by the unknown Gaudio. The rule stands, though: take the guy with the most vowels.

The Good, the Bad, and the Argentinians: What an odd mens' finals. First set = blow-out; Second set = semi-competitive, but Coria seems destined for a three-setter; Third Set = Gaudio finding his stride, letting Coria make mistakes; Fourth Set = cramp city for Coria, and Gaudio gets a breather; Fifth Set = cramps lessen and we go 8-6, with Gaudio fending off two match points.

The fourth set was clearly the weirdest, with Coria limping around and Gaudio not wanting to show him up too badly, actually managed to lose points against a guy whose first serve was reduced to 60mph, and who couldn't run ... at all. But I'll take that over set 2 where there was simply shocked disillusionment over how badly Gaudio was playing.

What's clear is that once Gaudio began to loosen up (the crowd sustaining a 5 minute "wave" started it all) and have fun (several Connors-like moments playing to the stands), he began to win. Coria was just miserable from the middle of Set 3 on, and he never seemed to even acknowledge that the crowd would have probably gotten behind him had he seemed a bit human (he was eerily like Sampras in that regard).

Strange, strange tennis. But then again it was Roland Garros.

When Reagan had his A-game: Reagan was not stupid; nor was he an evil mastermind. Reason published an interview it had with Reagan back in 1975. It's really quite good, and gets into to some significant degree, his views on libertarians. In this interview, you see that Reagan was really on-the-ball and had a definite personal philosophy that we rarely heard him enunciate. Yes, he did act in a way that reflected this mindset, but when a President is speaking, its politics, not philosophy. Here it is in two sentences:
So, I think the government has legitimate functions. But I also think our greatest threat today comes from government’s involvement in things that are not government’s proper province. And in those things government has a magnificent record of failure.


Anyway, the notion that he was an empty head is simply propoganda. I will reserve what I think about Reagan the politician for another time. I do respect his memory, even if I'm not quite ready to canonize him.

Oh, and link props to Radley.

That Great Man: If there is a single iota of politics about which I am not cynical, it is Ronald Reagan. Not that I am one of the starry-eyed, Noonanite worshippers; for me it is because Reagan so consistently laid out those who sized him up cynically. George Bush has a little bit of that skill -- his "misunderestimation" thing, or whatever -- but Reagan had it in spades, deuce to ace.

What will stick in my mind the most was that history bore out the Reagan vision rather quickly, but Reagan was never needed to tell the world, "I told you so."

I came of age during the Reagan presidency, and I am well aware of his shortcomings. (I voted for Dukakis in 1988. Is there a greater act of repudiation of the Reagan revolution?) I came around later, realizing that while most presidents have great talent and ambition, few are actually great men. (For example, handed a nascent post-Cold War world awaiting a bold move and a mandate from the victorious and unchallenged superpower, Clinton pursued micro-policy and trolled for oral.) Reagan will be remembered in the same breath with FDR, a man who transformed the world according to his vision.

More: Read Sullivan for the deep-think on Reagan and America.

More: TNR posts its 1981 commentary on Reagan's first hundred days. That's gutsy: It is a document, in the truest sense. Take this quote:

In his first press conference, on January 29, Reagan slipped automatically into his simplistic anti-Soviet patter. Soviet leaders, he said, "reserve unto themselves the right to commit any crime; to lie, to cheat . . .," and so on.

Friday, June 04, 2004

Song Parts: Here's one site's list of the "50 Coolest Song Parts" ever. Not songs themselves, just those parts that stand out and stick in your mind. After a thorough read-through, I'm sure I'll have a comment or two.

Smarty's Ass: I don't know what the rest of the country is like, but ever since the Kentucky Derby, Philly and its environs have been punch-drunk in love over Smarty Jones. The Inqy has been running stories on Smarty every day from about a week leading up the Derby and ever since. Sometimes you get three in the Sports section, one in the Front Page, and another scattered in the Magazine or Business section.

Philly has a well-known inferiority complex (that city between New York and D.C.), which is no doubt helped by the fact that our sports teams seem limited to one or two championships each, and nothing in the past twenty years. Meanwhile, NY can buy one fairly regularly, and then, even more maddeningly, cities like Tampa Bay and Miami get them with upstart expansion teams, or their perrenial loser suddenly turns champeen.

So, with the Flyers having recently gone down to TAMPA BAY and all that city's glorious hockey traditions, we're banking on Smarty (and by the looks of the 2-5 odds, so is everyone else).

Of course, we know deep down that he won't win. He can't. He's actually from Philly. We don't win. Not the big ones; not when it really matters. But that knowledge doesn't stop us. See, we can't stop ourselves; we leave that up to our opponents.

So, I can't tell you who will win, but I can say with certain conviction that Smarty will throw a shoe, get bumped, or (more fitting to our sense of self-loathing) run in the wrong direction. Put your money elsewhere, I tell you.

All Growed Up: Jon Last thinks the new Harry Potter movie is the best one yet. I liked this witticism about the choice of Alfonso Cuarón as director:
The good news is that at no point during Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban do Harry and Ron head out to the Hogwarts swimming pool.
That's a good line, if you've seen Y Tu Mama Tambien. But here's the part I don't understand:
By slowly trading up in directorial talent, Warner Bros. is ensuring that each movie is better than the last, thus hedging against any letdown. By book seven, we could have Michael Mann directing.
Like anyone wants to see incredibly drawn out shots of brooding Harry Potter characters staring meaningfully at nothing in order to show they have an interior life. Give it to David Lynch. By that time, Harry will be old enough.

By the Way: I'm not really bothering to examine the Tenet departure. Traditional Washington "long walk, short pier" deal, of course. But having Tenet leave without a perceptible nudge from Bush or at least some acceptance of responsibility from Tenet (for the "slam dunk" thing, at least) means that this is not a political boost for Bush.

If anything, it's a loss. Tenet hung around too long, and when he finally left, Bush wasn't seen pushing him out the door. Sure, Bush is a loyal guy. But a boss has to fire people. If you can't handle that, the top job isn't for you.

Obviously, the big name being touted to run the CIA is Giuliani. He's probably do a fine job, but I wouldn't want him working for me. He's a hero, yes; he's also a prickly, maneuvering Machiavellian. (Just ask George Pataki what it was like dealing with Rudy -- and Pataki is a liberal Republican like Giuliani, by god. And, as we are told all the time, Dubya is the super, ultra, extra-strength, jackbooted fascist kind of conservative.)

He's just not great cabinet material, I think.

Taking the Fight to Them: Read at least the first half of Victor Hanson's piece in TNR. It's called "Stop Talking"; what he means is "Start Shooting":
A year ago, we waged a brilliant three-week campaign, then mysteriously forgot the source of our success. Military audacity, lethality, unpredictability, imperviousness to cheap criticism, and iron resolve, coupled with the message of freedom, convinced neutrals to join us and enemies not yet conquered to remain in the shadows. But our failure to shoot looters, to arrest early insurrectionists like Sadr, and to subdue cities like Tikrit or Falluja only earned us contempt--and not just from those who would kill us, but from others who would have joined us as well . . . in the long term, such complacency has left more moderate Iraqis to be targeted by ever more emboldened murderers.
Of course, it's not lost on me that Hanson is a registered Democrat, writing in a partisan liberal magazine. I don't doubt that Hanson is committed to such tactics -- he's written as much elsewhere. But I am pretty sure that, had Bush taken the initiative and "pacified" Fallujah a few weeks ago, and had something gone terribly wrong (as things do in war), resulting in the deaths of either Iraqi civilians or significant numbers of U.S. troops, TNR's lead editorial would currently be titled, "What the Hell Was Bush Thinking?"

Hats off to TNR for being hawkish and all, but that doesn't mean they're not drooling for a Bush loss in November, on whatever grounds.

Tango Atlantico: Still in the hunt for UN legitimacy (honestly, why?), Bush is getting snubbed again by the French -- this time over the status of foreign troops.
"Although [the draft resolution] is a good basis for discussion, it needs further improvement to affirm and confirm the full sovereignty of the Iraqi government, particularly in the military domain," Mr Chirac said of the new draft.
Having spent the better part of his career kissing Saddam's ass, how much could Jacques Chirac truly care about the sovereignty of a free Iraq? Not much. Since France will never really bless our actions in the middle east, Chirac is at liberty to ask for something totally unreasonable: that we relinquish military control right away, at the most dangerous time, and despite the fact that the new government of Iraq is asking for less than Chirac. (Note, too, that getting UN peacekeepers out of the Balkans has proceeded on a similarly rapid pace, and that things continue to go just swimmingly for the French effort in Cote d'Ivoire.)

To top it off, given that Kerry's Iraq strategy rests on "getting the world [read: France] involved," I think we can be pretty certain he would capitulate to Chirac.

More: Denis Boyles is well worth reading on the subject of Europe and the D-Day anniversary. I wouldn't be surprised if the frogs soon ask us, s'ils vous plait, not to show up at their doorstep on that day in June anymore.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

More Veeping: Above all, I don't understand why Kerry's campaign is kicking around the coals-to-Newcastle name of Wesley Clark. For one thing, Kerry has so unrelentingly emphasized his military experience that attempting a gravitas transplant in that department could show Kerry as the emperor without clothes. The other uncomfortable thing about Clark would be the jarring cognitive dissonance it would require Democrats to suffer. Clark's military record makes Kerry look like George W. Bush. Plus, Kerry came home from Vietnam, after a brief tour of duty, and protested the war; Clark, on the other hand, became a career officer. In other words, Clark is exactly what Kerry was rejecting and protesting against.

The Bill Richardson boomlet appears to have ended, mostly by Richardson's own hand. But did anyone ever really know that he was (part) Hispanic anyway? Maybe some latinos in New Mexico, but they're in the bag for Kerry anyway. A Democrat won't pick a latino running mate to pick up the latino vote, but to pick up the white, suburban vote. (As the papers trumpet, "Look how inclusive John Kerry is!" Note that this kind of framing never comes along for Bush, who has put four blacks [one of them a woman], two Asians [one of them a woman], and several Hispanics in cabinet or quasi-cabinet positions. If this were John Kerry's cabinet, the press would be falling all over themselves to pat him on the back for it.)

And what about John Edwards? I'm on record saying that I think he's got it locked up. Kerry desperately needs some Q-rating on his ticket, and it's for damn sure Kerry himself won't provide it. A young, handsome southern senator who gives good stump in an aw-shucksy accent reminiscent of Clinton, but less unctuous, is pretty much the picture on the page in Webster's when you look up "ticket-balancing." Now, it may, in fact, be possible that Kerry despises Edwards. It's beyond possible, hovering between likely and settled. (It's not reported as such in the papers, but it has been implied pretty clearly.) That should have little actual effect. The truth is, Edwards has been a bust as a senator, and he needs a political patron. He needs to run with Kerry; otherwise he'll likely slip into obscurity or end up running for governor of North Carolina -- similar fates, in fact. (I bet Flyer, even though he lives there, can barely come up with the current NC governor's name.)

Edwards may not get Kerry across the finish line; but if you're going to put a honky and a honky on the ticket, make sure that honky number 2 adds something honky number 1 doesn't have. Like charm.

Kerry's List: The topic on Opinion Duel this week has been Kerry's VP candidate list. (It's been all talk over who, by the way, and no talk about when. I'm of the opinion that Kerry should make his pick sooner. He needs the boost, for various reasons that we can discuss, if you're interested.)

Some names kicking around: Gephardt, Sam Nunn, Tom Vilsack. Yawn city. Granted Mike Crowley and John J. Miller, Opinion Duel's debaters for this subject, make a couple of interesting points as to why these men are safe picks. Says Miller:

Another rule of veep selection is Do No Harm. In other words, don't pick someone who will put a drag the campaign . . . Nobody fulfills this requirement better than Gephardt.
And:
If Kerry loses — and especially if it's a close race — his veep candidate immediately becomes a frontrunner for the next Democratic nomination. This opportunity to become the un-Hillary would apply only to up-and-comers like Edwards, Locke, Richardson, or Vilsack. I can think of three guys who might run with Kerry this year but won't pose a threat in four years: Gephardt, Glenn, and Nunn. Kerry will feel some pressure to keep the Clintonites smiling and choose from this list, or one similar to it.
Thus, says Miller, it should be Gephardt.

I know that there are people in the Kerry campaign paid big bucks to think this way. But frankly this is loser thinking, and Kerry should avoid it. Gephardt makes the Dem ticket a couple of white guys who are squishy about abortion. Both voted for the war; one voted for the $87 billion for Afghanistan and Iraq, and the other famously voted both for and against it; both voted for the Patriot act.

Kerry needs to make a bold pick instead. It should be a woman or a black (or minority), or both. Miller mentions the Asian-American Washington governor Gary Locke. That's a start. Do something, anything, to make the Democrat ticket look like Democrats. I'm not really a proponent of the idea that any institution should "look like America"; but when you come down to it, that's the Democrats' brand, for god's sake, their famous slogan. If the voters want a flaky boomer in the oval office with a connected-out-the-wazoo beltway insider for vice president cum eminence grise, let them vote for Bush/Cheney.

Obviously, I don't have the ability to vet candidates the way a campaign can, but here's a list of names, just for starters: Locke, Harold Ford, Janet Napolitano, Maria Cantwell. Get some new blood into the party. Yes, we all remember the Geraldine Ferraro debacle, but the top of that ticket was as much of a problem as the veep. The Democrats have spent the past 20 years gun shy of bold VP choices because a paleoliberal who pledged to raise taxes, and just happened to have a controversial and slightly goofy broad as a running mate, got torpedoed by the USS Reagan. Move on, godammit, or the GOP will have the first female VP and/or president. How will that look for the party that carries the mantle of women's rights?

Cash for Crash: I was listening to Howard Stern this morning during my 5 min. drive to the train station and he had a "9/11 Widow" on with her new boyfriend. Of course, she was there to show off her breast implants, but Stern, as is his (other) wont, got into 9/11 and the effect on her and her three children.

Turns out to have been quite the financial windfall. I don't mean to be crass. I would never presume that money can make up for the loss of a loved one. However, this woman said that her kids got millions and she got millions. A random sample of statistics bears this out. And I'm happy for them. Losing a father and husband is no doubt a terrible emotional and financial crisis. But people lose their fathers, husbands, brothers, daughters every day to acts of violence. Where are their millions?

I understand the emotional rush our country went through; rage at those who did it, overwhelming sympathy for those who lost family and friends. In that rush, we decided to dole out hundreds of millions of dollars to those who survived the deadly day, and to those family members of people who didn't make it. I just don't understand how our government can be so capricious about these awards. I think this was a rather arbitrary, and peculiar precedent-setting decision.

Remember Daniel Pearl's widow applying for some of those funds...and being denied. Apparently, payment only comes if the victim died in NY, PA or DC on 9/11/01. Which seems kind of crazy. Either victims and families of terror get money, or they don't. The day on which the death occurred seems like a crazy way to decide who deserves compensation. What about Berg's family? The guy is murdered for trying to help re-build Iraq (an Iraq our military helped dismantle). Sorry Mr. and Mrs. Berg, you see, he didn't get his head cut off on the right day, month and year.

What about Oklahoma City? Remember that incident of domestic terrorism? Funny, Jim Traficant did. But don't listen to him, he's a nutcase felon.

What happens if we have 9/11-type attacks every day for a month? Do we pay all those victims' families too, or are we now sufficiently hardened to terrorism against our own, so that we can focus on what's really important: "Friends" going off the air. Do we have to say that while we feel really bad, we just don't have the money to pay that many people? Plus, you see, they didn't die on the right day.